representing ALL her heritage

I'm half Canadian/ half Australian but grew up culturally 99.9% Australian. No Thanksgiving, no Halloween, no perogies or poutine (thankfully!) It never felt like we were missing out on anything though as we have a big Aussie family and lots of celebrations of our own.

K grew up celebrating all the Japanese events the full-on traditional way and is very committed to having the girls knowing about and being proud of all their heritage. We do Japanese festivals and Australian foods and customs and the girls heads are just a whirling with it all. Especially at this time of the year when we get the incredible double whammy of a big full on Christmas followed a week later by the equal excesses of Japanese New Year. We almost need to adopt a culture that fasts for the week after that!

It can all get a bit jumbled up in the mix sometimes. The girls have come to their own understanding of why Santa comes to our house and not some of their friends. Or why we have birthday parties and their friends don't. K and I are both really careful to be respectful of both cultures when explaining why I do some things that he doesn't (eat polenta or raw mushrooms, walk around barefoot) or vice versa (eat squid guts and fish heads, say itadakimasu even when eating alone) and pretty much let the girls pick and choose.

Sometimes they go Japanese style, sometimes Aussie, and sometimes they forge their own path down a route neither of us are prepared to brave.

And that's what Meg did here:

That's a big thumbs up to a waffle with banana,
sweet red bean,
maple syrup and...

wait for it......



And she said it was fabulous.

10 points for a truly Canadian/Australian/Japanese combo but I'll take your word for it on the taste!


snack time country style

Whenever three or more women of a certain age gather you can guarantee pickles are going to make an appearance. My MIL honestly carries them with her whenever she is going to be away from home for more than a meal. I have seen her bring them out of her handbag at friend's houses, at ryokan's and even plonk a tupperware of pickles on the table at a restaurant.

I thought it was just my MIL until I moved here and started hanging out with older people. It's not that I don't have friends my own age. I do. It's just that I also teach Senior's English classes and learn postcard painting at a senior citizen's centre and live in a neighbourhood with a lot of retirees so yeah, I hang with the pensioner discount set.

And so I eat a fair few pickles.

Here's an example of what happened when three women and I got together:

From bottom left- soy sauce pickled greens, pickled turnips, salt pickled greens and pickled quince. Then cinnamon iced biscuits (my contribution incase you needed explanation), more soy sauce pickled greens (with ginger this time) then more salt pickled greens, pickled red turnips, pickled daikon, more soy sauce pickled greens and some apple slices- salted of course.

Is it any wonder we each go through about 5 cups of tea with that?


What I've been doing recently

The reason I have been sadly neglecting my blog?

I've been working nose to the grindstone with a small but incredibly dedicated and talented women to produce a calendar for AFWJ.

And here it is!!

That's right- it's ready!!!

And I'm back!


unintentional good fortune

I'm the only Fukase who eats more than about 100 grams of meat at a sitting. So I wasn't planning on doing the big turkey dinner. I bought a small chicken and was going to fill the rest of the baking tray with vegetables.

Then I was wandering around a supermarket across town Christmas Eve afternoon and


A fair dinkum all-imported, brined, all American turkey.




No postage fees at all.

And who else was going to buy it really? It would be wasteful NOT to buy it.

And so there was a very last minute very drastic change to Christmas Dinner.

The turkey was so big there was no room for many veggies and I had to make stuffing in the oven toaster.

The turkey was so big it took an age to cook and dinner was quite late.

The turkey was so big we ate leftovers for three more days.

The turkey was so big noone (even me!) was interested in looking at meat anymore. What to do with the poor little forgotten chook for roasting?

And that's when I found this:

I really can't recommend this recipe more. Not only does it taste FABULOUS, is juicy and fragrant and yummy and light (just what you need after Christmas!) but it also only takes 10 minutes to cook.

You read that right- 10 minutes!! (just what you need after Christmas!)

Ok, so there is 1 hour salting time and about 5 hours cooling time but actual hands-on cooking time is really only 10 minutes.

Go on try it- it's worth all 10 minutes of your time!


This season's MVP activity

This season I had the most multi-purpose Christmas activity. It rocked so much I almost hope my schedule gets completely changed around and I get new classes so I can do it again next year (I said almost!)

It was sooo simple, too- paper chains!

But not some fluff activity. Noooo this was English learning paperchains! Tailored to each age/ ability group.

2yo mummy and me class- ask for the colour they want next and I am the paper shop. Mummy helps glue.

kinder class- answer a question (review stuff) and tell me how many of what colour they would like.

experienced kinder class- practice their writing on a worksheet then search for the corresponding letter on pre-written strips. Write names on last strip.

grade 1-2, practice their handwriting on a worksheet then write the letter of the alphabet on a strip before joining it to the chain so they end up with an alphabet chain. The last link they wrote their names.

phonics class- write the letter/ cvc word on a strip and then draw a picture of it on the next one.

four classes of 36 grade 2kids at the elementary school. After learning the Super Simple Songs S-A-N-T-A song (think B-I-N-G-O) I distributed randomly envelopes containing strips of paper with one of the five letters written on the outside (the A's were different colours). As a group of 6 the kids checked all together whether they had a S A N T A. Noone did. Some had 4 T's etc. Then a nominated member of the group (this is Japan so this was easy- group leader, deputy leader, cleaning leader, lunch leader etc) would stand up if they had doubles and the corresponding nominated person from a group without it would come over and say 'S please' then the whole group would chant here you are then 'thank you' etc. Sit down and we start on the next letter. Once each group had S A N T A they opened their enevelopes and made a chain with what they had. If they wanted more they came to me and asked 'more please'. Once each member of a group was finished they made a group chain, then approached the neighbouring group and asked 'together please' (crappy English I know but 'Can we join our chain with yours?' was beyond what I can achieve in 50 minutes!) and then it continued until the entire class had a huge chain.

Phew.... all that for 105 yen worth of paper strips (pre-cut to boot!)

Paper chains were definitely the MVP of this season's classes!

Experienced kinder class at work.


Christmas is making me nostalgic

Last then and now pictures I swear but look at these two monkeys:

Just 4 and almost 2.

3 and 5

3 1/2 and 5 1/2

6 and 8.

Last year, this year, the year before that, too!

We went to the Alps Azumino Park illuminations again. We go every year. The sky is so black. The air is so crisp. The lights are so twinkly. So beautiful!

I just remembered, I posted about going here way back in 2007. And 2008. I can't find 2009 but we definitely went again in 2010.

I was looking at how much the girls have changed in a year. And so here is last year's and this year's illuminations pictures:

And yes, Meg and I are wearing snowsuits while Amy is wearing Autumn weight fleece. But Meg and I value warmth and Amy values style. In fact Amy's outfit was even worse than it looks....

She's wearing tights, leg warmers and a mini-dress. The fleece had to be open so you could see her dress and the only reason she has a hat on at all is because K gave her the 'choice' of hat or his skimask. We carried her snowsuit with us thinking she'd get cold and go for comfort over fashion but nope. Must be the Nagano in her but she rocked that outfit to the end. I was a little worried we'd get a lot of disapproving looks but forgot that Christmas in Japan is for couples not families and 80% of the people at the illuminations were young couples with the girls wearing itty bitty shorts and high heal boots and tottering around the park squealing and grabbing their boyfriend's arm for support. Rather than looking out of place Amy just looked 12 years ahead of her time.

Not that Meg and I minded looking overdressed- we definitely choose warm over stylish!


Merry Christmas to all!

Ever try to remember what life was like before you had kids?

Something not like this, huh?


Toppling sheep for Christmas

I love the local missionaries' Christmas Party.

I love the felt storyboard nativity.

I love the sing-a-long Christmas Carols.

I love the ice-breaker games.

I love the pot-luck dinner.

I love the warmth and love and Christmas spirit that radiates from it all.

But most of all I love the Christmas play put on by the adults' English class.

It is priceless!

This year there were toppling sheep, an archangel whose wings were getting in the way, a lamb-burger eating shepherd and you could just tell they were all loving being involved.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!


sign of the times

The snow dump signs have gone up.

When there's lots of snow and it doesn't melt you run out of room to put it in your yard when you're shovelling. You're not supposed to chuck it on the road for the snow ploughs to pick up. Around here we have big yards and a big snow year just means kids get their own snow parks with snowslides and snow mountains and sled runs etc etc.

But closer to the city where yards are smaller they open snow dumps. This one is the back-up carpark for the castle. People schlep their snow to the snow dump and there it stays gray and grotty until it melts.

A few years ago we had a year of really heavy snow and lots of it. The snow dumps filled up. The snow kept falling. The city designated a whole swathe of playgrounds as emergency snow dumps. This saved money as they didn't have to transport the snow to some other city with more space or pay to melt their snow on private land.

That Spring the council used all that money they saved and then some fixing the play equipment in the parks that were used as snow dumps. The combination of truckloads of heavy snow, salt from the roads and metal play equipment turned out not to be a good one!

Here's to this year being light on snow.

Ultra-light even!


no chance

I am not really known for my DIY skills.

At all.

But I wanted to set up the indoor plant shelving myself as K is really overworked and under the weather at the moment and doesn't really need to be building a mini greenhouse kit to house my friend S's plants that I'm plant sitting.

So, I got the pieces out of the box.

I got the instructions out.

I started putting stuff together.

I re-checked the instructions.

They were talking about screws and washers and nuts.

I re-checked the box.

Nope. We definitely didn't have screws or washers or nuts.

I told K the problem and he said we should go look for something to use instead as it would be a hassle dismantling and re-boxing and returning our greenhouse for eight screws.

Now, I might not be good at DIY but I used to work at a big hardware store and I know how stuff works. I promised him that a receipt was all we would need as the product we bought was the store's home brand and they would just steal a screw kit from a different box.

I also suggested that we take in the mystery wire that was in the box but that wasn't mentioned anywhere in the instructions.

So, off to the hardware store and indeed they opened up a new kit and gave us the screws no problem. When I puled out the mystery wire and showed the guy at the service counter he looked confused and then turned over the instruction sheet and pointed out where the wire was quite clearly explained.

So, how did K and I both miss that?

Well, that's the store's instruction sheet side 2 at the top. And our original version at the bottom.


so, the fact that it took me three days to put together a simple wire shelving unit? Less than stellar DIY skills sure.

But what chance did I have without the screws and half the instructions?

No chance!


This is what's wrong with the picture

Yesterday's picture?

Was taken at Sunday's monkey-fence-building working bee.

Each household 'volunteers' four half days of labour. I say 'volunteer' as while there's no fine for non-participation this time there is a definite air of chip in and do your bit. You know- the sign up sheet where we all have to sign our names against what dates we will attend? Usually K does these jobs. I am not sure what the balance of shielding me from neighbourhood drudgery and shielding the neighbourhood from my frank opinions on drudge work is but I think it's a win-win situation either way!

But this time we have other commitments on on Sundays and couldn't block out four weeks worth so we did double duty to increase our working hours.

Well, quadruple duty really as where we go the girls go, too.

We arrived:

Another sunny Autumn day in k-truck paradise...

And went to work.

The job was thrashing and cutting and hacking a three metre wide clear zone between the forrest and the adjoining farms. Apparently monkeys don't like open spaces and this will deter them. I'm not so convinced but anyway.

all clear

We started at 8:30.

And had our first tea break at 9:20:

That's no mushroom cloud, it's a glove cosvered fingertop

I was a bit miffed as I knew we would be stopping at 10 for official tea time (complete with PA announcement) and felt it was a bit of a waste of time.

So in an act of passive rebellion I continued working.

"Fukase-san. Fukase-san!"
"It's tea time!"
"I'm fine. Thanks."
"No, no, no, no. You need to stop!"

So I did. It was sounding like a decree. Don't want to upset the tea- gods.

Back to work.

Well almost.

That picture? One man working while half a dozen watch?

It was interspersed with one man working while half a dozen stand around talking about apples.

How about watching a man climb a tree?

Despite all the breaks we were finished over an hour early of the designated time.

So we all congratulated each other and went home early.

Yeah right!

We stood around doing more apple discussing, we found three more trees to chop down (including that one up there, where yes, the man was in danger of dropping a tree on himself while six of his neighbours watch...) we faffed about cleaning up pine needles and spent quite a long time discussing the prospect of snow.

So by the time we did get to go home I was thinking there was an awful lot wrong with that picture!


What's wrong with this picture?

Any guesses?

In case the picture is too small to see, the man on the right has a chainsaw.

So... what's wrong with this picture?

I'll tell you tomorrow. ;P


Helen's Brandy and Ginger Fruitcake

There are some people I have never met in real life who I have 'known' for many years online. Some of these are the kind of great writers who just have a knack of expressing things in a way that you laugh along with them and get annoyed along with them and feel their pain when life throws them a dodgy one and I really feel quite close to some of them. One woman who I have 'known' since her late teenage sons were still in elementary school is the Helen of this recipe. I've never met her, I've never even seen her picture. I don't think I've ever even written to her privately. But I have bucket loads of respect for her and the way she lives her life and raises her kids and just all round rocks. (I'm pretty sure she doesn't know about this blog which is why I can write this! I considered just calling her H, but I figure if you're reprinting someone's recipe you should probably give them credit, huh?)

When she posted this recipe on a yahoo group we're both on of course I had to try it and it's now one of our family's Christmas traditions as, while my mum's Christmas cake is still my absolute favourite, this one is doable in Japan without mortgaging the house to buy the ingredients or hitching to Gina's to use a real sized oven which is always a plus, hey? (Not that I wouldn't love to meet Gina- another woman I have grown to 'know' without knowing!)

So.... without further ado here is Helen's amazing Brandy and Ginger Christmas cake:


100g raisins
100g sultanas or green raisins
200g total other dried fruit (pineapple, dates, figs, cranberries)

*50-100g raw almonds if liked, I don't bother skinning them
*extra 50-100g dried fruit if you like your fruitcake to be practically
solid fruit, or for decorating.
30ml brandy (or shochu or rum or umeshu or...)
120ml ginger ale

Cut up any really huge fruits, soak in brandy and ginger ale (overnight,
or till you are ready to bake).

*To Bake*
Preheat oven to 160C and set for 90 minutes.

20g ginger (about half a knob) shredded
Shredded zest and juice of half a lemon

100g butter
60-100g sugar
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
Cream butter and sugar till white, beat in eggs. Add 1 tablespoon from
your measured flour if it looks like it's going to separate/does separate.

170g chuuriki flour (the type that has a picture of udon on the front -
or use kyouriki camellia flour in the yellow pack)
1/2 tsp baking powder
Fold flour into creamed butter/sugar/eggs, then fold in fruit and
liquid. If you used less sugar, your mixture may be dry - add a
tablespoon or two of milk.

Spoon into paper cake mold (they are silicon-coated, no need to grease),
and with the back of a spoon dipped in milk, smooth over the top. Cover

loosely with foil, butter paper etc. Into the oven with it!

When baked, cool in the mold. Not immediately, but while still warm,
pour over 50ml of ginger ale (and/or brandy if liked) , cover with a
teatowel (preferably not toweling, they stick) and pop in a plastic bag

(yep, before it's cold). Next day, pour over more ginger ale and/or
brandy if you like. Should be ready to eat the next day, but if you care
to wrap it in foil and keep it in a plastic bag for a week or two,
giving it a spoon of brandy about twice a week, you won't regret it.

My comments- for Meg's sake I have never made it with nuts so I can't tell you what it tastes like as printed. What I can tell you is that it rocks even without nuts!

I don't know what butter paper is so always cover with foil.

I don't have a paper cake case so get all crafty and fashion a little ring and bottom of paper for my two part cake tin. This works fine but is a bit fiddly. Ok, a lot fiddly!

I am not sure whether you are supposed to cover just the cake or the whole tin with foil but the former seems like it might get messy so I always do the latter and love the result.

I always take the foil off for the last 10 minutes to colour it up a bit.

And here is one I prepared earlier:


Love my neighbour

Pretend you can't see the mess around it and the unswept hearth and check out my new possie by the fire:

I'm in love!!

I usually type kneeling on the floor with my computer on my knee. But now? Lady of leisure that's me.

Rocking chair by the fire?

Just need to learn how to knit and I'll be set, huh?

Neighbour A gave me the chair.

Her brother in law gave it to her.

To give to her mother in law.

But MIL didn't like it.

So neighbour A gave it to me.

And I'm going to be it's forever family.

When I can pry Amy out of it that is!


Before and after 2

On a cold and windy morning I headed in for a haircut. Between my hairdresser's schedule and mine it had been a whole five months between cuts. I was getting really annoyed by having long (for me) hair but- love my hairdresser- the style still didn't look too terrible:

(I really suck at the ubiquitous phone self-portrait. Must be too old, huh?)

and after:

(I suck at webcam self portraits, too. Oh well.)

The most exciting thing for boring old me is she added pink highlights.


I was terrified I was going to look like this:

But I actually quite like it.

It's makes me feel quite festive really.

Which is fitting for this time of year, hey?


Darn cold stuff

Dec 2.

First snow.

Meg's thrilled.

I'm less than thrilled.

Way less than thrilled.

My first-snow-blues lasted ages longer than the first snow.


How many sleeps till Summer?


before and after 1

Yick right?

Post-frost tomatoes scrounged from neighbour A's garden. 20 kilos of them. Why on earth would I want those?

For this of course:

(Sigh, I need to learn how to use photoshop to crop out the crap in the background of my pictures!)
Inside the jar though? Magic. Tomato chutney. It's tomatoes and onions and sultanas and vinegar and sugar and it's fabulous!! In Australia I wouldn't eat a cheese sandwich without it. Or a ham one. Definitely not a ham and cheese one. Here? I love it on rice. I love it on rice with scrambled eggs and bacon and mushrooms. I love it on toast. And ok, I'll be honest, I love it on a teaspoon straight out of the jar. Yummmmmmm!

Definitely not yick anymore.