well packed

I suck at packing suitcases. Really. Always manage to pack something near the edges that will get damaged in transit, pack far too many pairs of underwear and not enough shoes, or shoes in abundance and no socks etc etc. My packing mantra is- ticket, passport and visa card, all the rest is optional.

My mum is an amazing packer. What she can make fit in a suitcase is worthy of David Copperfield. I see a reality show between us. I do all the before shots and she could come in and do the after ones.

Anyway, I was packing vegetables today. Veggies to send to PIL in Fukushima because we are bursting at the seems with them and they are not gardening this year for fear of radiation so I'm doing my bit and sending up stuff every couple of weeks.

I forgot to take a picture of the bottom layer of corn and eggplants but here's layer two:

Carefully separated from layer 1 with newspaper.

And layer three, the top layer:
Kind of pretty, yeah? I think the space was used well, the tomatoes have been protected, the shishito peppers safe from escapeeism in their own plastic bag, the box full enough that it won't rattle around but not so full that it will burst or squash and the serviettes around the bunch of snake beans is a lovely touch, hey?

If only packing clothes was this easy!


kid's festival in pictures

The local local kid's festival today.

And it was washed out by torrential rain.

The kind of rain we didn't have during the official rainy season and have been having quite regularly since....

Anyway, we got the text that the BBQ had been moved from the local temple's/ neighbourhood baseball ground to the community centre.

The menfolk had rigged up tarps and had the 1/2 44 gallon drum fires roaring for the bbq, the grades 5 & 6 kids had got together at 6am to harvest the corn they planted earlier in the year and then strip the soy beans from their plants as well.

The womenfolk had got together and boiled thebeans, cut tomatoes, top and tailed cucumbers and laid them out with little dishes of straight miso- a little cucumber with your salt? done the obligatory trip to the supermarket to buy insane quantities of cheap and processed snackfoods- need to balance all those nutritious veggies somehow, huh? etc etc.

The kids had gathered again at 4pm to run around like mad things fuelled on a constant stream of sweets and group energy to the point they were all heaving, huffing, puffing, sweaty red faced things.

And then it was time to eat:

Bit of corn maybe?

Waiting for the food to arrive. Look at all the food already there....

A 7 year old on too much fun and sugar....

The fireworks were cancelled but we got to watch the village fireworks from the kitchen windows of the community centre anyway so it wasn't a complete disappointment. And the kids all got take home fireworks instead which Meg thought was a brilliant idea because we can now do it all over again at home!

Minus the processed junkfood though you can be sure!



So, I decided that recipe testing for cooking class using glut veggies to make a zucchini cake for my birthday was a little too multitasking to be special so I decided to make something I used to love to eat when I lived in an inner suburb of Melbourne. You know, the kind of place where you can't escape seeing a cafe from any given spot in the suburb but need to treck three suburbs away to get to a hardware store....

Anyway, I would spend Sunday morning dressed in regulation black (ironically of course) reading the (broadsheet never tabloid- come on) newspaper, drinking lattes (was never quite sophisticated enough to go espresso) and nibbling at a flavour explosion that is tarte citron which is inner suburb dialect for lemon tart.

I used this recipe and it was surprisingly easy. Easy and the ingredients were doable even up here in non-fancy supermarket land.

It was a little too delicious though.

And when M and A said they preferred zucchini cake and K said it was a bit rich for him... well I ended up eating criminal amounts of it.

But then I had to make up for all those years of paying $5 a slice for something that I could have and definitely should have made before now.

And it was almost kind of still within a coo-ee of my birthday, right?

Warning- bad home-made amateur food porn shot follows:


so, you've got no hot water...

Say you wake up one (work) morning and your hot water service is on the blink. No hot water at all and you want to have a shower. What would you do?

a) borrow the shower of a friend who lives three doors up and you know won't object.

b) get in your car, drive 10 minutes down the mountain, pay 400 yen and use the village onsen (read public bath with onsen water- nothing fancy).

Me I would definitely be the a option. And I probably wouldn't even call first so you could hide your dandruff shampoo and put down a new bathmat. Heck, I'd probably even forget a towel and borrow one of those, too. And I'd have to do it sneakily as I wouldn't realise I'd forgot the towel until after I finished my shower and was standing on your bathmat dripping. If I called out then you'd be sure not to hear me and then you'd stick your head tentatively around the door to see what I wanted and ehhhhhh!!!!

K? B. That's b with a capital B. K would absolutely under no circumstances borrow his neighbour's shower. And I was throwing all sorts of circumstances at him- the local onsen is closed, you have a big presentation on at work, the road to the big onsen has been taken out by a landslide and it's winter so you don't want to just use cold water. Even then???

Apparently even then. Wow.

Oh and just so you're not losing sleep worrying- our hot water service is fine, it's not cold outside and there are no local landslides (that I know of anyway).

We did however have a visitor this morning who left looking a little more polished and spiffy than when she arrived.


ohhhh what a big girl

This year feels really momentous. Amy's last year of kinder. I know it's just another year and really nothing in the long haul of first years and last years and graduations and everything but it just feels like a really big jump. I will no longer have kinder pick-ups and chatting with the kinder mums and saying hi to the teacher and all that. There are many plusses to kids walking to and from school but at the same time there are some things I'll miss!

Amy's usually so busy chasing around after Meg and trying to copy her and I'm so busy dealing with the rather dramatic Meg and her myriad of woes and trials that sometimes I take a look at Amy and get a surprise- when did she get that big? When did she learn to do that? (And who taught her??)

Today Amy was lying on the couch and I thought she was talking to herself. Which she does a lot. When she's not singing made-up songs to herself that is... I was listening in and half smiling when I realised I knew the story...

I went over and she was reading herself a picture book. Wow.... my little girl! (And who taught her to do that???) She couldn't read the katakana but she had the hiragana down pat.

And it made me think of all the other things she is doing lately that surprise me. Her first fringe- that she decided on herself- is growing out (she's decided she likes fringes for winter but it makes your head hot in summer), She wears Meg's hand-me-downs without them even going into storage first. She's missing her two front teeth (that is such an incredibly cute and simultaneously woefully short stage isn't it?) and here she is proud as punch with her first completed sewing project. She wanted to make a placemat for kinder. She was going to do all the sewing herself but got frustrated by how long it was taking and so I offered to do the (wobbly and uneven) machine sewing around the edge.

How happy does she look, huh?

We're proud of you Amy girl!


how do you et your watermelon?

Are you the kind of person who takes a nibble and leaves a lot?

Or do you eat carefully down to the last of the red flesh leaving just a skerrick to avoid eating any of the white part?

Or do you like watermelon enough to risk eating a little white pith to get the last of the red flesh?

Or do you get that feeling that you want just a little more watermelon when you get down to the white and just give it a test bite?

Or have you developed a taste for the white as well?

Or do you say "Red? White? What's the difference? And what about green?"

and really get the most out of your watermelon?

We have been getting the leftovers from school lunch at the kinder to feed the ducks. With 210 kids it's quite a bit of food each day. The biggest pickling container they sell 3/4 full.

It's really interesting seeing what goes in the leftovers bucket though and today the variety of watermelon rinds made me giggle. Takes all kinds, hey?

And how do ducks eat their watermelon?

Chopped up, put through the blender and mixed with rice bran which is actually a pretty big job.

But that's another story for another day.



I came into the kitchen to find Amy lying on the floor flailing her arms and legs around and crying 'I don't want white! Not plain white!' and K sitting resolutely beside her.

What's going on?
Daddy said (hic) when I (hic) grow up (hic) I can't have (hic) a pretty (hic) braaaaAAAAA!! Waaaaaaaa!!!
I wanna (hic) PRETTY BRA!!!!!!!! WAAAAAAAA!!!!!
K? (pleading look of incomprehension and disbelief).
No. First bras are supposed to be plain. Beige or white.
Amy, you are not getting a bra till you need one and that will be at least another seven years so you don't need to decide now.
And both of you- Daddy's don't usually go on shopping trips to by their daughters bras.
Really? (hic)


the rice chronicles part 14- the rice

Wow, it's been a while since I wrote a rice chronicles update. Everything is going pretty smoothly. It's just maintenance at this stage. Let the ducks out and feed them in the morning, put them in and feed them again in the evening (and thank goodness they seem to be over their adolescent rebellious stage and go to bed like good little duckies) muster up the runaways each time we go past, keep the grass verges semi-mown so the neighbours don't complain and watch the water level in the field so there's enough water for the ducks to swim in as they prefer swimming to running by a long shot.

The preferring swimming thing is a real bonus actually as it means that when they escape (they are freaking houdini ducks as we have no idea where they get out but get out they do, between one and five a day) they swim around and around the perimeter anti-predator ditch/ moat rather than making a bolt for freedom and the big wide wild world.

The rice is going well:

You can see the anti-predator strings zigzagging around the place (2000m remember!) and if you really look hard in the far left corner and just behind the duck hut you can see neighbouring rice fields and ours aren't too shoddy, hey?

In the spirit of full disclosure this was cropped out of the last shot:

Right by the front fence there is a bald patch belt. I'm not sure if it's because that's where the girls did their rice planting (unlikely as they were doing it the same as the rest of us...) or because that was one of the spots where the water was deepest (again only one of them though...) or because that's where people throw food in for them so here's a lot of swimming and duckie excitement going on there (unlikely as the area around their hut where there is similar frenetic get-me-to-the-food activityis fine) or what it is but it just seems a mystery. If you look really carefully you can see yellowed spindly rice just to the right of centre? that was the rice I re-planted and it still didn't grow properly. Mysterious indeed, huh? But hey, if it all went perfectly the first year there'd be nothing to challenge us next year, huh?

And the ducks?

Crap picture but I keep falling on my butt when I get into the field and I don't think my camera can swim so I'm being careful. You can kind of see how big they're getting though.

And that's the rice update for the moment.


no monkey business

Went out to water the garden around 7:30 in the morning and found this:

Said a few less than complimentary things about monkeys and went up to see co-farmer A and see what we should do.

Her husband and another neighbour farmer-of-a-certain-age-and-mentality were standing out by the road chatting about weather and crops and pests when they saw me approach with my less than festive haul of corn.

What's that?
Corn. I think a monkey got them.
Show me. Hmm.... when did you find them?
Just now.
Did you check last night?
Yep, about 5:30 and they were fine.
Not a monkey then. They don't feed at night.
Ehhh? What then?
Hmmmm, masked civet? raccoon dog?
Ehhhh??? masked civet? Never heard of it. We have them here?
What can I do?
Netting. Go and look at Mr K's corn. And Mr N's, too.

I don't know. I googled and the civet is kind of cute but I really don't like finding there's another garden foe to worry about that I didn't even know about. I would have preferred monkeys I think!


Happy Birthday to me!

Yup, Bday today.

On Friday.

BK (before kids) that was a great day to have a birthday on- you get to go out celebrating and not worry about the next morning at all- well except for worrying about where you're going for birthday brunch and birthday dinner and and and....

PK (yup, post kids) Friday is pretty much the worst day of the week to have a birthday. It's the end of the week, everyone is tired and tired out and tired of it and yeah happy birthday is a big ask.

And K and I both worked so romantic lunch date for two was off the schedule but instead we celebrated with a great slap up meal at home.

The girls helped choose sushi while I grabbed figs and prosciutto and we headed home for a birthday feast:

artfully (?) arranged by M and A. And yes that is a bento box of rice there as well. Because Amy deemed it necessary...

I had made a zucchini cake earlier in the day (with about 6 massive zucchini picked and waiting to be eaten and at least as many more on the plant we are always on the look out for new and unusual ways to eat them) and Meg wanted to decorate it for me. We were out of 100s and 1000s so she used lemon icing and about half a bag of coconut- mmmm roughage! Actually it was really yummy:

Nine candles for some unknown reason but she was very particular about which ones she used and where they went.

Birthday memorial shot. Yes, mum. I look tired. Remember it was Friday, yeah? Oh and I won't diss the photographer but just to the right of my watch? That's the flame from the candle from my birthday cake. I guess subtle allusion to the occasion is called for at my age, huh?


My Uncle's boss is a legend

When March 11 happened I was talking to Cassie and we were both pretty freaked (wasn't everyone??) and she said wouldn't it be great to hear the opinion of someone who really knew what they were talking about and why didn't we know anyone in nuclear energy?

That's when I clicked- but I do! My uncle. He works for a big hydro-electric company in Canada. And whadda-ya-know? He works in safety there!

So I emailed and he sent me a link to a video his boss made about it that was on youtube. And Cassie started a fanclub on facebook and lo and behold the man himself, the Uncle's boss- Duncan Hawthorne, joined and has been updating us with news this whole time.

Now obviously he is half a world a way and works in nuclear energy so is probably a little desensitised to it all and hardly likely to start calling for a stop to nuclear reactors but it sure is reassuring when he writes in.

And so, with apologies for stealing this from facebook, here is the latest instalment:

Hi Everyone...time for a short update....

As i have previously explained there is a lot of activity going on but there will be no "big announcements". The recovery program will take about 3 years. this would be considered stable when the fuel has been removed from the spent fuel pools on units 1,2 and 3. At the present time the water recycling approach is working and water that passes through the reactors is being collected, treated and then returned through the reactors. All temperatures and radiation levels are now stable. There are two short term imperatives. 1. to install a "top hat" over the secondary containment on the units that were damaged. this will prevent any weather related issues that can hamper progress and increase the confidence that there will be no further release of airborne activity. The top hats will also have a set of instrumentation that will provide better data on the conditions at the top of the reactors. 2. to "harden " the plant so that there is a reduced risk of any set back due to further earthquakes, tsunami damage while the recovery operations continue. I am sure those of you in the area are aware of the embargo on beef from the region. this is as a result of cattle being fed from contaminated feed. This of course relates to the initial event and is not part of an ongoing release. i hope this helps and would ask if you have any particular questions please post them and i will respond.

And of course Cassie is a legend for starting the group.

And my Uncle is a legend for sending the link.

But not half as much of a legend as my dad who had nothing at all to do with this but always likes to be reassured that his kids think he is more of a legend than his big brother...


garden update 20 July

The typhoon lashed us with rain but no wind to speak of and no damage (yeah!) The work/ life balance thing is floundering a bit at the moment and gardening has hit the backburner so it's not really a surprise that taking pictures of the garden and blogging about it are so far off the front burner they have fallen off the stove altogether but here's to a new start and I need to take pictures and record it so I can compare next year!

The cucumber arches. We didn't take these down and move them from last year (naughty naughty, planting the same thing in the same place is asking for disease and it means we didn't add anything to the soil either) but we did plant on the outside of the trellis not the inside and to be honest we get so many cucumbers we are not really trying for optimum performance there! The cucumbers are companion planted with marigolds to keep bugs down and we let the self sown shiso live too. There are two bitter gourd (niga-uri/ goya) plants at the far end but you can't see them. No choko this year as the one we sprouted ended up rotting. It was such a hassle and long eked out process I know why they sell them for 500 yen a pop! Oh well, try again next year! The weeds down the middle? I prefer to think of it as lawn thanks.

Got green onions? Yup. Quite a crop this year. Behind that is the sweet potatoes (three varieties) and the pumpkins (four varieties) and some myoga (Japanese ginger), Jerusalem artichokes and burdock that are wild. Oh and the frame of that green house we have been going to build for two years and counting...

From the left a tip of the ground cover tomatoes, the zucchini, soy beans, snake beans, corn (two varieties) and it's not in the garden but you get a peak at the deck coming off our bedroom there, too.

The regular tomatoes. We have red, yellow and black mini tomatoes and red medium tomatoes. We aren't growing large tomatoes as we have the ground cover ones. We aren't growing roma as they were really mealy and flavourless last time. We haven't covered the tomatoes this year as we are experimenting. So far so good. Some have split from the rain, none have rotted though and while they are a couple of days behind the neighbour's covered ones we are without the stress of constantly tweaking the cover to allow for tomato growth and counteract wind and rain so we think we've come out ahead on this one so far- touch wood!

The fennel, eggplants (four varieties) okra, lettuce (four varieties) basil, coriander and parsley and yes, more weeds lawn!

There's also beetroots, pickling onions, carrots and some more cucumbers but they missed the casting call today. Next time!


sneak peek at disaster prep.

I got to kinder to pick up Amy and the entire after-kinder care cohort (about 27 kids) was kneeling down in the middle of the playground. I had been having another heated discussion with Meg on the drive over, can't even remember what it was about now, probably the usual you know- why can't she get high heels/ move into a new house/ walk to her friend's house (about 3 km away) by herself etc etc and freaked out that there had been an earthquake and I hadn't even noticed (we had 37 tremors in the week after the Matsumoto earthquake). I started running and I guess my face gave me away as one of the teachers called out:

"It's ok. It's a drill."


After I got over my worry that monthly evacuation drills would traumatise my kids by making them think about fires and earthquakes and weirdos (oh my!) I am really happy that they are so disaster aware and that the kinder and the school make a lot of effort to organise drills at all different times of the day- morning, during lunch time, while they're in the pool etc etc. This was the first one during after- kinder care and it is a bit different as the kids are not in their age groups, they have different staff (two from the kinder and four to five part time carers who only work the out of hours shifts).

The principal turned to me and quite firmly instructed me to squat down and wait for instructions.

I did.

The 3yo and up group had been outside playing. The 0-2yo had been in their room. When the principal ran out of the office waving a great big red flag (they are practising without the PA in case the electricity goes out in an earthquake) and yelling for the kids to gather the kinder staff (they are all still at kinder just not in charge of kids after 4:30) all blew their whistles (they wear them around their necks) and jogged to the centre of the playground. The after hours staff rounded up the kids and jogged them to the centre where they squatted down. The head of after care grabbed the roll from the doorway to aftercare and came over and reported to the principal how many 3yo+ kids were here, how many regulars and how many pay-by-the-day kids. The 0-2yo came hurtling out in the big wagon (like a cot on wheels with a handle and brakes) with their shoes in a bag hooked on the side. They were having a grand time. The one non-walker was being carried and the teacher put her in a baby backpack as soon as she got to the middle of the ground. The head of 0-2 head of aftercare reported the number of kids. The head teacher reported the number of staff and the principal tallied it up and added "and one parent." That was me.

It all happened so fast and was so well co-ordinated. The roll was read and all the kids in the 3+ group raised their hands and said 'here!' clearly. The teachers quietly and calmly kept the kids from fiddling or wandering away and the principal applauded and then told the kids how well they had done.

"Today you had a drill and you were already outside. And your class teachers weren't out with you. How did you know what to do?"
"We saw the flag!"
"We heard the whistles!"
"Did you hear the PA?"
"Yes! No! Noooooo???"
"No. There was no PA today. If there's an earthquake we might not be able to use the PA but you can hear the whistles and see the flags and you all knew what to do! Good job! Now, there's only a little more time for outside play today so go and have fun!"

It was really great to see. Made me feel safer knowing how well oiled the evacuation machine is. Of course I know that in a real disaster there would be much more panicking but still... And I was glad that the principal did her wrap up without traumatising them about their chances of surviving an earthquake in a thirty yo building with more glass than walls.

If there's ever a big earthquake here I hope I'm at kinder!


My Marine Day hero

Today was a holiday. Umi-no-hi, Marine Day. Lots of people go to the beach to celebrate. We live in a landlocked prefecture more than 3 hours from a beach so we don't.

But what we did do is actually quite in keeping with the spirit of Marie Day. See, Marine Day commemorates the Meiji emperor's voyage into uncharted waters in a steel ship. Well, according to Wikipedia anyway.

After weeks of me losing the battle against the weeds with endless small forays into the great unknown that is the undergrowth out there K saddled up his trusty steed (well brush cutter) and went to work:

There's no before picture so you'll just have to imagine metre, metre and a half high weeds the entire length of that corridor.

I was so grateful and the best bit was I didn't even have to feel so guilty as the grin on K's face showed that, despite all the sweat and grime, having a petrol powered, circular saw bladed, powerful cutting machine and being able to go for broke was not really such a trial!

The Meiji emperor flitting around Aomori and Hokkaido in a steel boat? Nothing on my weed whacking, slashing and destroying intrepid Marine Day explorer!


rather neighbourly Sunday

Today the neighbour over the road's granddaughter was visiting. She's the same age as Amy and lives two hours away but comes to visit sometimes. She's a really quiet kid and tends to hang out in the house rather than be outside playing.

It was a scorcher of a day and once part of the garden was in shade I suggested the girls get their bathers on and play in the wading pool. As we were filling the pool I noticed that little R-chan was doing the same thing with her grandma just over the road.

Thinking it was a bit ludicrous in this kid-desert of a street to be sitting in separate pools facing each other across a road when they could be playing together I suggested Meg go and invite her over.

She looked horrified.

"I don't know her!"

Amy looked peeved.

"That pool is bigger than ours. I want to play over there not her come here!"

So Meg gripped Amy's hand and Amy dragged Meg over the road and asked if they could play together. Mum and grandma were thrilled and said definitely, definitely and opined to R-chan how lucky she was now she had friends to play with in the pool, too!

R-chan said nothing and looked at her feet. She didn't look like she felt too lucky....

The girls jumped in her pool and I brought over our water toys. R-chan only had a face towel and an empty yoghurt container so our array of rubber ducks and non-weapon shaped water pistols went down well.

I was watering the lawn from the roadside watercourse two watering cans at a time so I was back and forth and back and forth but not hanging around watching the girls play. Still, I was feeling a bit bad that maybe we had imposed a little much as R-chan was standing up in the pool scuffing her feet the whole time while my two were laying down and rolling around and having a grand old time.

Suggested they bunch up a bit more and give R-chan space to sit without being crowded. That was when her grandma waved me over to the side and explained that they were using the pool today as R-chan has never gone in the pool at kinder as she's scared of it. Two and a half years down, six months to go and she has never got in the pool... and then my two splash happy amphibians jump in and create a ruckus on her practice day. Poor kid.

"No, no, no! This is great, look she's having a ball!"

Now, I see R-chan about twice a year so I don't know her that well but the blank face and scuffing her foot and not looking up at all just didn't really scream "having the time of my life!" to me....

After pool time they got changed and R-chan came over (of her own accord when invited) to (not) play in the sandpit and (not) do bubbles and (not) play on the tetsubo bar and (not) pick blueberries etc etc... seriously, I was beginning to think we should take the kid back she looked so glum standing around watching Meg and Amy doing everything but it's not like we locked her in and she didn't walk across the road and back to mum and grandma so I just kept going about my watering and just keeping an eye on things.

Precocious and just plain curious Amy suggested they play at R-chan's grandma's house. Amy is very interested in what other people's houses look like....

So for another hour and a bit they played over there. I heard cacophonous piano playing, Meg and Amy's excited babble, the occasional adult voice, a toy that plays music when you press the buttons but not a peep I could recognise as R-chan....

Finally went and herded the girls home for tea and Amy was (literally) jumping up and down with excitement that they had been invited over to do fireworks after tea.

I was sure R-chan had had more than enough of the Fukase girls for one day- probably enough for the year!- but no, mum and grandma were insisting we all meet up again after tea to let off sparklers and hand held fireworks.

And so we did.

And we took over a small to regular sized pack of fireworks to contribute.

And turned up as grandma was unpacking not one but two bumper packs of fireworks into a box for ease of handling. Blimey.

Amy was in seventh heaven:

(In last year's jinbei- bit of a squeeze)

As was Meg:
(In next year or the year after's hand me down jinbei and what with the squat and the geta sandals looking scarily like the kind of high school girl I hope she doesn't become.)

R-chan's brother, Grandma, R-chan, R'chan's mum.

Smoking good fun.

And yes, we were standing on the main road up the mountain playing with fire. Lucky there were three responsible adults in the group, huh?

Finally ran out of fireworks at 8:30, bowed and thanked the neighbours who bowed back and said 'no, no, not at all'.

Said goodbye to R-chan who looked up and half nodded- progress!

Meg asked her if she was staying at her grandma's?

Amy asked if she could stay at R-chan's grandmas?

I dragged them both home before we really overstayed our welcome!

Phew.... we're not really frequently neighbourly with R-chan's grandma but I reckon we sure made up for it today!


super simple

We bought a screen door for the door from our bedroom onto the deck.

I am a leave-the-door-open-anyway-and-risk-a-couple-of-bugs-for-the-cool-breeze person but K is made of more delectable flesh than I am and likes the door closed. Party pooper, huh?

So, off to the hardware and home we come with our super simple door.

Really. It's called the super simple screen door.

Which sounds like great advertising until you open the box.

Pieces the length of the corridor and K's not even there...

Because he's in the kitchen with the rest of the super simple door:

See the hacksaw he's using? Not included in the package.

The super simple version was though:

It's a hacksaw blade with a tube of paper wrapped around half of it. That's certainly super simple, huh?

As for the rest of the operation? Not really all that simple for us after all I'm afraid. And while I am the first to put my hand up in the 'it's not the tools it's me' evaluation, K is an engineer. An engineer and a bit of a DIY whiz so when it takes him an hour, additional tools, a whole lot of sweat and a couple of mild swear words I think it's not that we're the super simple ones but that it's a bit of false advertising going on.


we went to the ballet- Meg's report

Today we went to the ballet thanks to my fabulous boss's generosity. It was a fundraising concert for Tohoku and it was held at the big concert hall in Matsumoto. Not on the global arts map or even the national one but a pretty big deal for us girls!

So, here's Meg's diary report of the event. (She writes a diary report of something that happened on the weekend each week and submits it to her teacher.) I have translated it but left in the commas (she seems to use the ones I leave out!)

On Friday, I went to see the, ballerinas.
It was really, when they turned was really, amazing.
But, at that time, everyone was really, tired, so we went home a little early.
But, it was really fun.
Half way through, my throat, got really dry, but, I put up with it, and I got a mint lolly from mum, but even after I got it, my throat was still, dry.
But, on the way home, I drank lots of water, and juice, and bought, juice and because, of that my throat wasn't dry, anymore and I was really relieved.
So, now, when I go, to shows, and see shows and stuff, I'm going to properly, take water, and juice and drink it properly.
But, it was ok, because I went home, early.
But it's ok, because, even now I'm, drinking water properly.
The best, bit was, we got seats and, we could see, properly and that, was really fun and, I was happy about, that.
And, I think when, you see, various shows you need, to do your best to watch them happily and, go home happy.
I want, to have another, fun Friday.
Please write your reply, on page six.
Because I wrote five pages,
(the next page has been headed 'page 6')

Phew.... glad the ballet got at least a single line mention huh? Never knew just how distracting a dry throat could be...


the haves and the have nots

Have weeded vs haven't weeded (yet) that is:

Have weeded- from front, okra- dwarfs but we are harvesting already, lettuce incubator bed- stripped at the moment as the lettuce have been replanted behind that. Basil bed, parsley and coriander bed gone to seed on purpose so we get self sown baby herbs.

Haven't weeded (yet this week) from the left- snake beans, groundcover tomatoes, regular tomatoes.

Seriously my life at the moment involves weeding, weeding, weeding, harvesting, weeding, weeding, weeding. It's crazy. And the garden is just big enough that weeding sucks up all my free time in a week and spits me out at the end of it with the first place weeded needing re-weeding. Garhhhhhh. And this is not something I can even moan to my neighbours about as they all get it done in 30 minutes with some liquid nastiness... Oh well. Just have to remind myself I get the super yummy organic veggies, right?


cool visitor

I have no idea what it is but I saw this cool bug when I was feeding the chooks and got all excited and grabbed it in Meg's butterfly net (ok mum- just show me what it is when you catch it!) and then housed it in her bug cage (mummmmmmmm! Then where will I put my stag beetle??) As we don't actually have a stag beetle in residence I promised that I would release it the moment she found her ever elusive beetle buddy. (They're not actually that hard to find- it's just K and I aren't exactly that keen on housing them here so you could say our efforts to look for them are less than persistent...)

Unlike Meg I am a fan of catch and release when it comes to bugs so this one is just an overnight visitor but what a wild looking one, huh?


learnt two things today

I had a very educational day today.

Moment of learning #1

I was teaching a kinder class and doing our warm up questions (asking random kids random questions from subjects we have already covered) and I asked a newly five year old boy:
"Can you....... jump?"
He looked at me very seriously and said "No."
"Really? Can you jump?"
Same serious face and "No."
Now, I know this kid can jump because that's the kind of tire-them-out-and-send-'em-home-sweating classes I run.
I also know he knows the sentence pattern so I was puzzled. Thinking he was just having a bit of a hot afternoon induced brain blip I jumped up and
(jump jump jump) "Can you jump?" (The kids aren't the only ones who go home tired and sweaty!)
Credit to the kid, he didn't look the slightest bit peeved as (for the third time!) he seriously and solemnly answered "No."
This time though he elaborated: (in Japanese- I'm not that good of a teacher!)
"I live in an apartment. You can't jump or you'll annoy the people below you."

Ahhhhh now I see....

Moment of learning #2

Teaching boys. A 10 year old kept putting his hands in his pants. After the third or fourth time in 10 minutes I very jovially but firmly asked him to keep his hands out of his pants.

He looked at me very seriously and a little pityingly and explained (in English- but I can't take all the credit):
"When it's hot, boys get sweaty and when they get sweaty they get itchy and I'm not itching that, I'm just itching down near there. It's different and it really does get itchy... Don't your .... ahh ... (gestures at his chest) get itchy? My mum always itches there when it's hot.

Ummmm wow. After I got over my happiness at the barrage of English and got onto the content of the conversation I decided that rather than continue down this (admittedly illuminating) avenue it was time for a subject change and suggested that his mother surely didn't itch in public and maybe we should take our cue from that?

And as I said hello to his mum at the end of class I couldn't help sneaking a glance at her chest and wondering how much was superstructure and how much more endowed than I am you have to be before you get a sweat induced itch and exactly what part of a boy's anatomy gets itchy and why and...

A truly educational day all in all.


village sports day again

Yesterday was the village summer sport's day. K was official photographer for our neighbourhood and I was in the one bound volleyball team so it was all hands on deck. The girls were babysat (along with the two little boys who live down the road and whose parents were also both competing) by neighbour A. She kept them occupiedwith toys and snacks donated by any number of neighbours. It's that kind of event.

The sporting part of the day wasn't very bragworthy for our neighbourhood. Out of about 18 districts we came 16th in the volleyball, 16th in i-go ball and 8th in mallet golf.

What on earth is she talking about? you ask. Well, thanks to K the super journo I have pictures!

I-go ball. It's played on a grid of felt with dips and hills. You use a croquet mallet to heft balls down the mat and onto the board. Five in a row wins, the more in a row the better.

Mallet golf is like mini golf only you play with croquet mallets. this sport is taken very seriously here. Our neighbourhood's team was made up of people who already belong to mallet golf teams. There was a nine hole game and an 18 hole game and the men took their own mallets down there to boot.

One bound volleyball is 5-a-side volleyball with a big triangular pink beach ball. The all has to be touched by three different members of the team before it is passed back over the net.

That's me in the red pants. I was all excited that finally K was behind the camera and there'd be some pictures of me but nope. That's it.

I lie. There was another one of us practising before the game.

Oh and two of us boring before the game but I'll save you from that excitement. K is not really known as a fabulous photographer anyway (doesn't like the zoom button) but he was purposely going for long hots so as to not embarrass anyone too much when he uses their picture in the neighbourhood newsletter.

Despite the pretty poor placings we came back to the community centre for a three hour feast of fried everything, masses of cucumbers, soy beans, tomato slices, tofu and junk food galore. All washed down with copious amounts of beer, sake and shochu at the men's table and tea, orange juice and grape fanta at the women and children's table. And never the twain shall meet!

There was a bit of karaoke singalong after all that food and it seems songs concerning all things Nagano aid digestion...

And that was another Summer sport's day come and gone. Ever onward and looking to the next one.

We do much better at the Autumn Sport's Day's anyway...


who uses the ski field in the off season?

Went up to Hakuba for a fabulous arts festival yesterday. There was jazz dancing and poetry and Irish dancing and belly dancing and fire dancing and comedy and the most amazing Mexican BBQ and the belly dancer was my friend Brenda (who is totally amazing!) and I got to meet up with some of the local AFWJ women again and it was just an all around fabulous night.

Before the BBQ we went for a walk up to the ski resort with the kids (12, 8,7,6,5 and 2) to see what goes on during the summer.

There was a trampoline for the guys practising aerial moves. And an astro-turf ski jump that led into a water jump for those practising their jumps.

And on the slopes themselves?

What are those?


They summer on the slopes and help keep the grass down and produce some pretty great cheese to boot.

And I bet they cause a lot less hassle than the hordes of Aussies who descend on the same slopes come Winter, huh?


a little too successful?

One of the boys I teach goes to a school that's growing rice with ducks.

They have three ducks and a tennis court sized rice paddy.

We swap duck stories and rice growth stories before class.

He goes home and I guess he tells his mum about our conversations as next thing you know his mum's friend (the mother of another student) asked very excitedly if they could come and look at our ducks.

They being both boys, both mums and a younger brother for good measure.

Now, our ducks are quite the local tourist spot. By local I mean neighbourhood and you've got to remember there really isn't a lot of competition but still. Co-farmer (the other) K has great people skills and has encouraged quite an entourage of neighbours to bring down their kitchen scraps and bread crusts, over grown veggies and weeds to feed the ducks when they visit.

I'm a little more timid about asking people to do stuff but I decided that as this wasn't a neighbour and was someone I onlyhave to meet for about 5 minutes once a week I would pluck up my courage and suggest she bring some scraps. I mean she was driving 45 minutes to stare at ducks so I figured she was keen, right?

They turned up and bundled out of the car like a litter of puppies. Well the kids anyway.

'Come and get the lettuce out of the car, boys!'

And so the boys ran back to the car and pulled out this:

Well actually that was only half the haul. We gave one bag to the ducks and co-farmer W kept two bags. They brought nearly 20 kilos of lettuce leaves with them!

I've been to the supermarket and asked for the outer leaves of the lettuce before but I've never rung the supermarket and asked them to keep the next two days of leaves for me!

Think I'll go back to not asking people to help out again...

City kids in the country. The boys and my two spent the entire time hurtling around the neighbourhood between ours and co-farmer W's and the rice paddy and looking at the chooks and the chickens and picking berries and cucumbers and when they were all finally loaded back in the car it was completely dark!


2011 tanabata wishes

Meg- cake shop owner. This is pretty standard for seven year old girls but in her defence she has stuck with this as the answer to 'what do you want to be when you grow up?' for over a year now and she has a pretty impressively detailed plan- three types of cakes, banana, chocolate and strawberry, pretty boxes with bows on them and lots of little frozen packets to put in etc etc.

Apparently she couldn't decide between this and animal feeder at the zoo. What finally swung her was that she can just have lots of animals at home and feed them.

Amy- pet shop assistant. Amy is really great with the animals and is my number one chicken catcher. Seriously she is quiet, calm and very, very determined which seems to be a combination that really gets results when we're rounding up the chickens. She also loves dogs, cats, rabbits, snails, caterpillars, etc etc.

K- don't even need to ask- 'good health for my whole family.' I don't think it's changed since I met him!

Me- work/life balance. Hmmm that sounds familiar, too.

But the award for cutest tanabata wish goes to a little boy in Amy's class. He has an intellectual disability but it's quite mild. He wrote on his once-a-year chance to get your wish come true:

"I want to play with Amy more."



when you don't have time to weed

June 1 2011
The potatoes were coming through. We were fighting the wild boar for them but mostly winning (the gaps are where we 'donated' potatoes to the boar.)

July 6, 2011
Errrr.... yes. If you know what a potato leaf looks like you should be able to see that yes, they are still there. Rather well camouflaged by the weeds though huh? All that in just one month. Won't be able to hold my head up at all around the neighbourhood. The shame. Hang on.... camouflaged potatoes.... Not busy or slack- genius plan! How will the boars even realise there are potatoes in there with all that protective greenery? Fabulous excuse incredible rationale right?

Wrong. That bare patch would be where a boar has stopped for a snack. Obviously not an Atkinsing boar as he ate the 'taters and left all the greens. Hmmm maybe I'll pin my hopes on them getting metabolic syndrome from their high-carb diet?