green with envy

There is nothing wrong with your computer monitor. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. That really is a green apple. Not unripe- green. As in Granny Smith. Granny Smith!!

To anyone not living in Japan that's about as exciting as watching paint dry but here in the land of the oh so sweet Sun Fuji, the aptly named Shinano Sweet and the occasional not-so-sweet-but-still-swet Jonagold, a fabulously refreshing mouth puckeringly tart Granny Smith is a treasure.

Well to me anyway.

The woman who grows them was less sure.

"They're so sour. My husband planted all these trees of them. So many. And the apples are so sour! We send them to Tokyo to sell them. Can't sell them around here. In Tokyo there's people who've been overseas and they eat them..."

Thankfully all those odd green apple eating Tokyo-ites only get the perfect ones. The rejects have found a new fan right here on the mountain.

I have been eating them night and day and smiling and mmm-mmming every time. They are just sooo good!

I made a big pot of un-sweetened just-so-amazingly-tart-and-good Granny Smith apple sauce for the family.

Meg: "...?"
Amy: "...?"
K: "What is this???"

I got 0 for 3 on the "Aren't green apples amazing???!" taste test.

But I'm not too upset- all the more for me!


For Aunty L and Uncle J

(just in time for the Christmas family snap season Amy has decided she will use her litany of Halloween style grimaces instead of smiling when she sees a camera...)

Photographic evidence that we made the cookie mix you sent. No, rather that Amy made them all by herself. Well, actually it was more ALL BY MYSELF!!!! She had a ball and is now quite the cookie expert and dealing out advice left and right on the best way of doing things. You would have been well proud of her flouring the table technique- after very carefully sprinkling just enough flour quite neatly she gives a little swish swish movement with her hands to spread it around. And spread around it did. Oh and did I mention that ALL BY MYSELF!! doesn't extend to cleaning up apparently? Nah, to be fair she had a good go at cleaning up the table. It was just the seat, under the table, under the seat and the path between the table and the sink....

And as Meg was cookie mix-less and wanted to be involved but couldn't as Amy was making cookies ALL BY HERSELF!!! She made gingerbread cookies for us. So we now have enough sugar to get us through till well into the New Year!

Over two months late but yes, we did use the birthday cookie mix. Thank you!

And please- for Christmas something simple that doesn't need a hazmat team and constant parental supervision like maybe socks and undies, yeah?


I can't believe I got away with it.

Spent the day helping out with the apple picking.

The surrounding fields look like this:

But friend and neighbour A's field still looks like this:

So I helped out a bit:

K was busy so I took the girls with me. They had a great time running around and taking the odd apple and Meg had a book with her and was reading to Amy sitting on a bag of fertiliser. Then they both saw one of the stepladders was free and wanted to climb it. It was only a 4-step ladder so not that dangerous but I still wasn't keen on them climbing simultaneously so I came up with a fabulously fun 'game': One person runs to the end of the row of apples and back while the other climbs the ladder. When the runner returns they swap. I really thought they would see through this little bit of forced exercise in a nano-second but to my amazement- nope. And so for the next 40 whole minutes- until we broke for lunch- they kept up the run, climb, run and climb again game.

Not sure whether I should be proud of myself or rather worried about how easily duped they were....


no artificial colouring....

Meg's class had a bonfire and baked the sweet potatoes they grew this year today. (What with the using of hot glue guns, the hand scythes, the flying fox and now bonfires I am thinking this school is actually in a production f 'Junior Survivor: primary school' or something!)

She had a ball and came home smelling of smoke and without her jacket on. It was 10 degrees and windy so I asked about the lack of jacket.

"It's in my bag. I'm keeping my baked potato warm."

Priorities, huh?

We made some herbal tea and broke open the potato.

I was taken aback:

Bright purple!

We grow sweet potatoes every year. We've grown many varieties but never anything quite this vivid.

It tasted just like a regular sweet potato and we checked and our tongues didn't change colour after eating it but still rather odd to eat something quite that colour without the aid of artificial colouring!


Six degrees of sugary seperation

It's only one month till Christmas!!

I'm such a kid, I love Christmas. I get so excited every year I'm jumping around and playing nothing but Christmas songs and decorating everything that stands still and K is pretty bewildered and even the girls are over it by half way through December but hey, it's Christmas!

One of my favourite parts of Christmas is all the baking. Christmas baking is just so good- gingerbread, rum balls, mince tarts, anything and everything cranberry- the list is endless.

It's funny but the longer I live in low-key Christmas Japan the worse my Christmas hysteria gets. I think maybe I'm compensating. Perhaps even overcompensating.... but hey, it's Christmas!

Even stuff I didn't really like in Australia I am all over now because it's Christmas!! I try to hold out until December 1st but I had the first of my Christmas cooking-in-English classes today so that couldn't be helped now, could it?

I really wanted to make White Christmas. Truth be told I find it unbearably sweet when I actually eat some and usually leave it and move on to the rumballs but for some reason I just convinced myself it was the only thing to make. Well, except that copha seems to be some mysterious Aussie ingredient unavailable anywhere without koalas.

No problem, after a long google session I found a recipe that used melted marshmallows and white chocolate. That sounds suitably off the sweet metre!

I typed up my recipe and emailed it to my boss.

Hmmmm, small problem. There are chocolate covered rice bubbles available everywhere. Frosted ones some places, too. But plain un-adulterated ones? (Because I think even at Christmas marshmallow and white chocolate coated chocolate rice bubbles might just be one step too far...) After a fruitless search it was back to the drawing board recipe wise.

And then I found this recipe.

Only four ingredients! All of which are available right here in the village! Hallelujah and Merry Christmas!

It was a bit of a jump from this:

to this:

And it was really a rather too simple recipe to be teaching but they look very festive, they were yummy (not too sweet at all!) and they were fun to make to boot what with needing to oil our hands before we touched them.

And in the end noone thought it was too simple as none of the five women had ever made popcorn in a saucepan from scratch. Between them they had airpopped, microwaved and some kind of aluminium tray thing that expands on the stove that I am still puzzled about but they had ever made plain old un-preflavoured popcorn in a pan. Then again I made microwave popcorn for the first time this summer so who am I to talk, huh?

Now I'm off to see if there's an easy way to make a Christmas fruit cake without breaking the bank, ohhh and maybe cranberry sauce, too, and I hear stollen is good..


a unique conversation?

"K, are we free Sunday?"
"This Sunday?"
"Umm, in the afternoon."
"What have we got on in the morning?"
"Well, 6am is roadside cleaning, 7 is community centre cleaning, 8 is snow plough maintenance and after that we have a meeting about the agricultural union end of season festival. I should be finished by 10:30 though.... I think we're drinking though so I can't drive but there's nothing else on after that... Why?"

Seriously, I wonder how many other people have conversations like that. What a Sunday!

The level of community involvement here is pretty incredible. It's not just country Japan or old school farming community but a lot of it is specific to this particular neighbourhood, the rather stagnant population movement and huge amount of pride in neighbourhood and upholding tradition.

Next Sunday is a bit of an anomaly having quite that many events on but there are not many weeks without at least one event for the representatives and most months there's something that requires the participation of the wider community as well.

I think a lot of the willingness to be so involved in the neighbourhood is because a lot of my neighbours live, work, marry, grow old, retire (hah!) and eventually die in the same small area. The neighbourhood is their social network, their extended family and their workplace all rolled into one.

As they get older and their children (for the most part) are not taking up full-tme farming but rather combining it with full-time work, marrying partners from further afield and (shock) having hobbies and interests (and making time for them) that take them out of the area I wonder whether many of the traditions and commitments will be scaled back? You can already see it in the children's club. They used to have campouts and bus trips and fishing trips and hikes in the summer holidays. These days we only have a temple sleepover and a bbq.

I'm not sure whether I will miss the community involvement or celebrate my extra free time... but for now I guess it's just the girls and I next Sunday morning, hey?



Yesterday was 小雪 koyuki- little snow day.

There is snow on the Alps.

There is snow on Mt Kinshoji behind us.

This last week we have woken up to snow on the hills closest to us.

We have had snow fall at night- but it was gone by morning.

But- shhhh- as of today we haven't had any snow settle here...

Last year we had the first snow accumulation on Nov 3.

The year before it was November 16.

The year before that was November 27.

We have had heavy frosts, we are into minus temperatures at nights but the seven day forecast is for sun, sun, sun.

And seven days takes us into December.

And that's my goal. To make it to December without snow. Not that I have a lot to do with whether it snows or not but still. It would be nice to think of November as a snow free month, yeah?


the responsible runaway

Meg packed a suitcase to run away from home.

The reasons for her desire to take flight were many and stupendous but included:

Not getting the ok to invite 17 of her friends over next weekend. A compromise of one possibly two was unacceptable.

Being requested to do homework when she'd rather play.

Being told that if she didn't get out of the bath I would pull the plug. (She was planning on sleeping there.)

Phew.... obviously grounds for running away, right?

Although I rather think the new suitcase she was given had something to do with it as well...

So, what did our 7 year old wannabe runaway pack?

Quite impressive really:

favourite teddy bear
hair ties and hair clips
a toothbrush and toothpaste in a ziplock bag
her yet-to-be-done homework
pencil case
an apple

So, while I am rather upset and feeling like a bit of a bad mummy to have a 7 year old wannabe runaway I am rather proud of her packing choices!

Oh and where was she going to go?

To school.

Despite the fact that tomorrow is a holiday....

How's that for a responsible runaway, hey?


I'm no Martha Stewart...

Bit of a big do here today. We had 17 people over for the day. With the four of us that made a total of 21 people for lunch. Wow. Oh and ten of those people? Kids. We had kids of 8,7,7,7,5,3,2,1,1,0. Wow. And something quite unusual for us we had five little boys in the mix.

It was a big day- first guest arrived at 9:30 and last left at 6:45. And as well as eating and talking and more eating and more talking we went down and picked apples. Yup, the majority of the guests were up from Nagoya for a day of apple picking and country fun. And because of the traffic getting here everyone arrived at different times and it took some of them over five hours to get here. That's commitment, huh? But the different arrival times meant the apple picking and eating didn't all happen at the same time either. So sort of like three sittings for lunch but overlapping each other, to boot!

The little boys really seemed to have a ball. They spent the whole day running around and swinging and kicking balls and climbing trees and just having a wild time. Poor Meg was a little overwhelmed I think but she and Amy were thrilled with a very compliant almost 2 year old willing to play baby as they squeezed her into a baby bouncer and patted her to 'sleep'.

K was amazing running the bbq and the pizza oven. I usually moan that it's not hot enough. Well today he got me a good one- the oven was so hot that it buckled (albeit temporarily) the pizza pan and singed my hair when I got too close- not even touching anything! It was rather silly then that I tried to pick up the tray with an oven mitt only to have it burn straight through. Ouch! Still he kept us in constant supply of yummy food while also running back and forth to the different places people had managed to get to but not quite get here. Go K!

It was me that was rather un-hostess-with-the-mostest. Just too much to do and not much space to do it in and I kept forgetting to give people drinks, or cutlery, or you know, incidentals like plates and things....

Still, it was a fabulous day and everyone was very gracious about the long waits on spoons and they all brought so much food as well as the food I made and the food K was keeping us supplied with and I think it went quite well.

Still, I got to the end of the cleaning up marathon at 11pm and felt that I am definitely a few place settings short of being Matsumoto's answer to Martha Stewart...


third time lucky...

Amy lost another tooth today.

And calmly walked over and handed it to me.


Third time lucky and all that, yeah?

But that makes three teeth in less than a month.

A little worrying, right?

I'm thinking we should cut back on the mountain dew and coke in her night time bottle... and maybe re-think the fruit flavoured gum is the same as fruit idea, too huh?

Just kidding mum!!!

I was a little interested in what was going on though so I had a look in her mouth and ahh hahhh- she has two big teeth coming in already so I'm guessing they were pushing the baby teeth out.

Still I think the tooth fairy would appreciate a bit of a break from all the flying up to our house for a little while!


seeing the beauty

Crazy morning this morning. K left for a business trip as the girls were getting up, Meg had to leave 40 minutes later and Amy and I were out of the house 50 minutes after that. And in between there was brekky to be had and hair to be brushed and bento to be packed and chooks to be fed and windscreens to be de-iced and laundry to be hung and so on and so on.

Just as Amy was getting her shoes on and I was checking everything was closed and turned off and all that there was a huge gushing water sound- really torrential- and I raced around all the places I'd just been checking all the taps. Nothing. Amy opened the door and walah- the garden tap was going full bore. I don't really understand the mechanisation but it has an anti-freeze valve as well as the regular tap. During summer we don't worry about it but in the freezing months we have to turn them both on and off- fully on and fully off. Seems the anti-freeze valve wasn't turned off and the temperatures were low enough that it started gushing.

Very very lucky that it didn't happen two minutes later or who knows how much water would have been wasted before one of the neighbours noticed!

Anyway, among all this rushing and flapping I noticed the surface of the water bucket:

And Amy jumped around the lawn singing about warm mittens while I just stood there and looked at how pretty it was. And then she played on the swing while I went and got my camera.

Because I think it is a privilege to have the faculties and the time to be able to appreciate the beauty that's all around us. And that's not something you should waste.

And beauty isn't just the grand and magnificent, sometimes a single leaf, laying in the sunshine on the ice that formed on your water bucket can make you stop in your tracks, forget the hustle and bustle of the every day and just smile and see- and appreciate- nature's beauty for a while.


sometimes life gets in the way

Crazy week this week. No one hideous event but rather minor stressors at every turn. I really missed my nightly blogging but was just too worn out by even ing to string a sentence together. Woe is me. I don't want to dredge it all up as it would be a book and would just get me all stressed again but here's the week's google search history highlights:

Demonstrative pronoun grammar rules
Japanese tax minutiae
Can seven year olds really get PMS and if so are they eligible for hormone treatment for the sake of harmony, well being and world peace?
Climbing rose borer grubs
Jetstar airlines reliability
How to make people listen to you so you don't have to butt your head up against a wall more than five times in a day
Yahoo group email etiquette
What to do when your kid's kinder teacher is an idiot

Ok. I didn't really search all of those but maybe I should have!

Among all that gumph though there were some cute moments:

The girls both had a fabulous time at Meg's observation day. I do believe perhaps Amy even more than Meg:

The highlight was sitting at Meg's desk:

She wasn't even prepared to relinquish the seat when Meg had to write down her homework:

So Meg made good use of her stand-in:

It was so sweet. Meg was explaining each and every letter that needed to be written and Amy was as proud as punch following her instructions and copying it down.

And this was actually quite traumatic at the time but seems funny in hindsight. Amy lost her second tooth. After the incident of the missing lost first tooth I have been telling myself that a second tooth is nearly, almost, kind of just as good as a first tooth. So when there was a great catterwhauling from the bathroom and I ran in to much wailing and garbled stories about swimming practice and wayward flailing legs and saw Amy holding her mouth with blood everywhere and saying 'my tooth! my tooth!' just as I pulled the plug I threw her a towel and raced to reinstate the plug and trawl the water for the tooth. Nothing. I was just wondering whether the chewing gum on a string down the plughole would actually work when Amy managed to choke out that she was holding her tooth in her hand.

and so we ended up with this:

Tears gone in seconds and much speculation about the tooth fairy and whether she would be able to whistle now and whether this latest dental adventure would make apple eating easier or more difficult than it has been with a wobbly tooth.

but also this:

A very sad and sorry big sister who needed a lot more convincing that everything really would be all right and that despite the admittedly a little scary amount of blood she hadn't actually broken her sister's tooth but that, yes, pair swimming in the bathtub is probably something we should reconsider.

And I think that about sums it up.

Here's to a happy, healthy, harmonious and drama-free life, or at least rest of the year anyway!


An Autumnal day

Very Autumnal day today.

My beautiful carpet of leaves in the front yard? Seems there is a small problem with that.

It's been very windy lately.

We have a front fence but it's lattice and there's a 15cm odd gap under the fence.

The leaves don't recognise the fence as a boundary.

There's a stormwater drain running down the side of the road.

At each driveway it is covered by concrete tiles. This allows cars to drive over it easily but limits visibility so it's not really that difficult to not notice leaves accumulating under there.

That is until someone further up the hill turns on one of the big irrigation hoses to wash down his apple spraying machine and the runoff comes flowing down the stormwater drain (yes, we're very environmentally aware around here) and hits the buildup of leaves. And then the water backs up and floods the road and the kids go wild and splash in the ensuing diluted chemical pool but the less playful neighbours- those over the age of eight for example- are not so thrilled.

And so you end up with your long boots on and a bamboo tomato stake in your hand trying to dislodge the leaves while the neighbours cast a disapproving eye at the beautiful yellow and red carpetted yard and you find yourself loudly promising all and sundry that you will immediately rake the rest of the leaves up. Immediately.

And so that's what we did for the rest of the morning. Quite a job, really. And then I got the heavy duty rake out (not the flimsy leaf rake) and cleared up all the icky post-frost yellowed and slimy myoga plants and then while I was at it I pulled all the dead vines out of the trees and even cleaned up all the tomato vines, the sweet potato runners, the marigolds, the okra and pretty much anything that wasn't green and fecund from the front yard, the back yard and the veggie garden.

Then we gathered it all up and had a great big bonfire (lucky we're not very environmentally aware, huh?) and the girls had a fabulous time running around collecting leaves and wrapping up sweet potatoes to bake and jumping from log to log as K split more firewood, and then we were invited to go and pick persimmon and on the way back from there we picked some apples and came home to eat the baked sweet potatoes.

I finally shooed the girls into the house at 6:30 when it was pitch black and K had been at the neighbourhood committee meeting/ wild mushroom soup-and-copious-amounts-of-alcohol do and we had pumpkin soup and fresh bread for tea.

A truly Autumnal day.


points of view

Meg's observation day today. All four of us went along and Amy had an absolute ball as the teacher suggested she sit next to Meg and join in. Well you don't need to suggest that twice!

One of the classes we watched was gakkatsu. I am not quite sure I understand what gakkatsu and seikatsu are (or even why there are two of them- can anyone fill me in?) but they seem to be when the teacher has the freedom to teach something they like. It's also when they fit in the subjects that they study less than once a week (and so are therefore not given schedule space.) Today's gakkatsu seemed to be an ethics class. They watched the teacher do a puppet show about a big grumpy wolf who wouldn't let anyone cross his bridge. He frightened away a poor rabbit, a kangaroo and a cat. Then one day an even bigger animal- a bear- came to cross the bridge. The wolf started out all angry and mean but got scared and was going to run away himself when the bear said 'No need to run away, If I pick you up and swap places with you we can both cross the bridge at the same time.' The kids had a print with some thought bubbles and they had to write what the wolf thought when the bear did that.

The kids took turns standing and reading their responses:

"He was happy the bear was friendly to him"
"He thought he should have been nicer to the other animals"
"He was grateful"

Then it was Meg's turn:

"He was a little scared that the bear was so big"

Kudos to the teacher he didn't correct her but said that yes, the wolf may have thought that, too.


they are difficult boys because they are too sweet

I was tutoring my JHS kids and we are doing the grammar point 'because'.

After the explanation of how to use it, and some horrible bog standard translate/ unscramble the sentence practice we moved on to what I thought would be the highpoint of the lesson- writing their Christmas wishlists. I had imagined something along the lines of 'I want a big TV because my TV is old.' or 'I want a DS lite because I don't want to share with my brother.'

But nope.

My two 14 year old boys sat there fidgeting with their pens and sighing and tapping their papers and just not starting to write. I thought maybe I had made too big a jump from the cookie cutter JHS style questions they are used to to the fully creative DIY sentence so I offered some suggestions: a tv? a bike? a trip to Disneyland?

Nope, nope and nope.

New shoes? a comic book? new skis? A trip to McDonalds?

Nope, nope, nope and nope.

You don't want anything?

Nope. Beginning to think I had misjudged society and actually I was a terribly materialistic person for even having a Christmas wish list I asked why. And their answers?

Boy 1: "I have everything I need. I don't want anything."

Boy 2: "I don't think it's right to get things for nothing. I think you should work hard, save your money and buy what you need yourself."

For real. Wow.... I was very impressed. And think I will ask these two to babysit next time I need a sitter. Would make a change from false eyelash HS girl and my two could use a dose of that work ethic I think!

And after explaining that I was impressed but it was necessary to write something for the grammar practice the stronger kid opted to write why he didn't want a tv/ ds/ new shoes (all very worthy reasons) and the other boy wrote out my Christmas wish list. Not sure what his mum will think if she checks what we did and sees 'I want an onsen holiday because I'm tired' and 'I want some Australian wool slippers because Nagano is cold."


Bucking the seasonal trend

'Tis the season of raking and sweeping and piling up and burning off. The neighbours are all out there industriously removing all trace of Autumn from the gardens and driveways and roadsides.

Matsumoto Castle has some amazingly big cherry trees and the avenue that runs between the castle and a big temple there is lined with various deciduous trees. It makes my ride to work at the moment just looking at all the colour. But there yet again, there's an army of workers with brooms and bags and long handled tongs hurriedly clearing it all away. I saw one conscientious gent shaking a sapling in order to clear up leaves that hadn't even dropped yet!

Among all this seasonal scurrying I'm the exception. In fact I haven't even taken the rake out of the shed yet. And it's not because I'm too busy or too lazy. Nope. I just want to enjoy the beautiful colours while they last. I come from a country of evergreen eucalypts and ti-tree and banksia. That's definitely part of it. But also, once you've cleared up and got rid of all that beautiful colour what are you left with? Brown and barren as your colour palette. That's what.
And so, to the horror of my neighbours, and the delight of the girls who love throwing the leaves in the air and crunching as they jump through them and rolling in them, I am not doing anything with the leaves for now.

Maybe this weekend.

Or the one after...


for people who take their emergency preparation seriously...

The latest FBC catalogue has this gem:

Now it does have 100 pieces, it is a deluxe kit, all you need for not one but two people for a whole 72 hours but I'm still a little suspicious of the price- US$22,900????

Then again, having been through emergency drill here and seen what we will be eating (fish sausage curry) and wearing (slippers made from newspaper) and where we will be staying (on blue sheets in the community centre) I'm thinking a deluxe emergency kit might be a worthwhile investment. The only problem is I can't quite make out the picture well enough to know what I'm getting for my twenty two thousand dollars.

What would you want for that price?

I'm thinking definitely a seven course French degustation menu, real Aussie ugg boots, a three room air conditioned tent (reverse cycle for winter of course!) and the piece de resistance? I'm thinking I'll have Dr Luka please.

Even if I'm not injured.

What would the neighbours think!


If you go down to the town today...

you're in for a big surprise!

A bear went out for a stroll, had similar sense of direction to me and ended up way down in the town in Matsumoto. Not station-and-castle-central-downtown but very definitely big shopping centres, houses and schools rather than mountains area.

They called in the police, fire, city hall and the local shooters group and four hours after the first 110 emergency call they cornered the bear and anesthetized it and released it back in the mountains.

Which mountains? Matsumoto's chosen problem bear relocation location is the mountains right behind us. Well, a fair bit up into the mountains but still, the mountains I can see outside my window...

So, I guess I'll be on the lookout for groggy bears with store cards?


brekky lucky dip

The very creative and ever optimistic (opportunistic?) Meg made this the other day. It's a breakfast lucky dip box. Inside there were a number of breakfast 'tickets'. On each one there was a breakfast option:

hot dog
rice ball
curry rice

I had to raise my eyebrows at some of those options- we never just eat soup or bacon or egg for brekky. And as for hot dogs and curry rice? Never!

So we all took our turn at the lucky dip and came up with porridge (me), bacon (meg) rice ball (amy) and soup (k).

"What do we do now Meg?" I asked wanting to prolong the game.

"We put them all on the kitchen table and go and play while Mummy makes it all!"


Say what?

After I picked my jaw up off the floor I regained my wits and acquiesced on one condition- we add a further option:

no breakfast until everyone has helped clean the house including wiping the windows down inside and out.

Funnily enough there was rapid agreement to shelve the brekky lucky dip idea and settle on a one-meal-feeds-all menu.

Still, ten points for the idea, yeah?


What do you get when you cross 15 foreign women and a Saturday night?

A rocking good time, that's what!

Yesterday after I taught my Saturday senior class- right after I taught my class, K and the girls drove me to the station and I jumped on the train to Nagoya. A mere two hours later (I'm an Aussie, so that doesn't even count as a long trip when there's a beer (or two) waiting at the other end) I arrived in Nagoya, changed from work clothes to out-on-the-town clothes in the toilets and headed out for a fabulous night out with 14 other foreign women. We're all members of AFWJ in this area and had travelled up to 3 hours (and she's not even an Aussie!) for a night on the town. We had members from Ishikawa, Nagano, Aichi, Mie and Osaka (not this area but all welcome!) We just talked and talked and drank some and ate some more and talked and talked and talked some more and it was just a really fabulous night. All the women in AFWJ are married to Japanese men so even when you meet someone for the first time you have so much in common that the conversation just flows. Well doesn't hurt if you are a total chatterbox either of course...

I love where we live and never want to live in the city but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy a night out every once in a while- especially with such fabulous company to share it with!


the frost hardy and the not so

I grew up blissfully unaware of frost.

Then I moved here and started gardening and now one of my first questions when buying plants is 'is it frost hardy?' Because if it's not? One frost is the difference between this:

and this:

Ouch. Stuff that is definitely not frost hardy? Tomatoes, marigolds, choko, capsicum, chilli peppers, basil and-

A whole lot of weeds! I guess frost isn't all bad afterall, huh?


oh what a day

Beautiful crisp, clear, sunny morning today:

I rushed through my morning stuff, got an extra load of washing out even, and then headed down to the school to watch Meg's marathon day. Marathon is a hugely overused word in Japan. They ran three laps of the big playing field. Yup, a real marathon...

Hmmm, that's not Meg running.... Why how observant. No it's not. That's because I took that picture while she was chearing on the boys running. I am not sure why boys and girls can't run at the same time and I am really against un-necessary segregation so I wasn't really thrilled to see that but they had fun cheering each other on and maybe that's the point?

Still I enjoyed seeing them and after the running we did some spur of the moment games with her teacher and the kids had a great time and the mums did their best in their high healed boots and skinny jeans (made me feel so much better for turning up in a jumper, regular jeans and sneakers!)

Meg and her best buddy were supposed to be on opposite teams (see their hats are on opposite colour up) but friendship beat out competition and they were soon hamming it up for the camera.

Raced home from marathon, had lunch, made dinner, got my gear together and headed out for my afternoon classes. Had a ball playing 20 questions with my adult classes (great for practising long and more complicated questions) and then it was the one-week-late Halloween party at the English club I started way back when Meg was 2 years old. They are such great people they let me postpone it a week and cancel class last Friday when MIL was here.

Our Halloween party was Halloween bingo, trick or treat flashcard game (there's a candy card or a spider card hidden under each flashcard. Kids take turns picking up a card, reading it and then turning over the second card to see whether they get trick or treat. They love this game.) Halloween tracing games:

They used the stencils to trace their pictures then raced over to the flashcard table to write out the name of their picture and take another stencil, and group scrabble with Halloween words. They had a great time and at the end all the mums stood around the outside of the room and the kids went through two by two- a big kid and a little one- and just kept saying trick or treat and getting stickers, candy, more stickers and more candy. The kids were thrilled and no-one even mentioned that we were a month late, funny that huh?

It was a really big day but fun and we all got home happy and tired. Happy Friday!


a negative start to the day

It was -1.5 degrees this morning.

That's cold...

And at 6:00 it's not even properly light yet.

Poor Meg was miserable.

I was miserable, too.

And this is just the start of winter. Actually I just realised it's still only Autumn. It's not even Winter proper yet....

I wonder if we have a sister school in Okinawa?


winter greens update

The winter greens mum helped plant are doing great. There are three different leaf lettuces, komatsuna, chingensai, chrysanthemum greens, mizuna and mustard greens. They're all great but I am loving the mustard greens. They really do have a flavour that is just like chewing on mustard. In a good way, I swear! We have been eating them in sukiyaki, nabe, stirfry, salad and even blanched as hitashi with ponzu sauce. And they rock every which way. I can't work out why they don't sell them in the supermarket. Or do they sell them and I have just never noticed? Hmmm maybe there's an unexploited market for me to turn agri-entrepreneur? In all my free time, yeah?


sick kid

Today poor Amy was a little sick.

That was in the morning.

By lunch she was quite sick and by evening she was really sick.

It was nothing serious and we knew what the problem was and we did everything we could do and we just had to wait it out.

But it's just no fun watching your kid in pain and not being able to do anything about it.

And she was so whingey and moany (with good reason but still) that she was difficult to be around.

Which of course meant that she wanted to be held for the entire afternoon. On my lap. For the entire afternoon.

She was sick. And in pain. And she was miserable with it.

And there was nothing I could do and it was just an all round rough day for both of us.

But it was rather nice to have such a big cuddle with my usually wild and incredibly energetic/ un-cuddleable little girl.


for two (not so) little girls in Nagoya

Friday was Meg's whole school music performance. Each class sang a song, played a song on an instrument and then the finale was everyone all together. With 815 kids that was almost 4 hours of music. Wow.... Meg's class sang a song about Autumn and they all wore bandanas. I am not sure whether the bandanas represented the leaves or were to make them look like farmers which are associated with the outside and therefore nature and therefore leaves? Either way I think the effect was pretty cute. As an aside, Meg doesn't seem to have a Japanese sized head though. We tried three Japanese bandannas and while they were doable she wasn't able to tie them herself as there wasn't enough material. Then she tried one we had at work. An American bandanna. And walah! Material enough to tie and still some to spare... weird huh?

Anyway, the kids have been working towards the concert for weeks and they all knew it was A BIG DEAL. They also knew it was going to be recorded. And they would get to watch their classes performance later.

Meg chose her clothes for this tv appearance very carefully. And I thought two (not so) little girls in Nagoya would like to see what she chose:

A one hundred percent from you guys outfit. Well except for the socks but then there weren't any socks in the box!

So thank you again and you can be sure your clothes are being well used and well loved.

Special occasion wear style well loved, even.