The last day of 2012

Warm day and the snow started melting.
Then it got cold and the puddles froze into icy nastiness and the snow that was left turned crusty and yuk to boot.  Bah humbug- I hate it when the weather won't make its mind up!

The girls weren't deterred and went out and made a (crunchy and structurally flawed) snowman.

And then they pushed all their snowballs and snowmen together and made a slide fro their sleds.

Then they came in for lunch and mucked around inside for a bit and by the time they went out again it was really windy and icy.

Never fear they got back on their sleds and kept sliding.

I was inside (I mentioned that I'm the sole sane Fukase- the one who checks the weather before deciding whether to have an inside day or an outside one, right?) when Meg opened the front door and bellowed:

MUM!  The sled broke!!
Well, use the other one and we'll have to see if Daddy can fix it or whether we need a new one.
The other one ALREADY broke!


This all sounded a little odd, the sleds are pretty sturdy....

Sighing I bundled up and set out to see what was going on out there.

Well, the sled run was completely iced up and was built so you came down the ramp at great speed and hit the frozen bare ground smack with the front of your sled.

I asked Meg why she thought the sleds broke.

'Coz they're from last year?'

Hmmmm.... I think it's probably because you're using them where there's no snow honey....

We thought of that and tried our scooters but they slipped off the side of the ramp and it hurt.

Good lord.  Great.  And people always tell me girls are easier than boys....

I examined the sleds and determined they were both terminal.

Sad faces all round:

So we came in and got warm by the fire and all was well again.

We have a NY Eve tradition of eating temaki-zushi which is sushi that you assemble yourself.  We first did this the NYE of the year Meg was born so she was 3 months old.  It was when we lived in Saitama and my sister was staying with us that NY and it was just such fun we've done it every year since so 9 years and counting.

Each year it gets a little more family.  This year Amy chopped up and mixed up the natto, Meg bashed up and cut up the cucumber, I did the avocado and the omelette and K did the rice and fish.  A real family affair!
Man, I keep forgetting to move that washing before I take the picture- oh well, reality unedited here!

Amy and her sushi masterpiece.

Egg roll, cucumber and prawn.

And Meg's: eggroll, prawn and avocado.

Amy made an eggroll sushi just like the ones you eat at a sushi restaurant and was very proud of it.

After tea we settled in for the night.  K told the girls they could choose between staying up till midnight and going to the neighbourhood temple to ring the bell or waking up to see the first sunrise.

Their eyes went super-huge and saucerlike and they both said 'midnight??!!' and I knew we had a choice made.  To be honest I really didn't think they'd make it but the lure of lots and lots of tv and snacks and cuddling on the couch and the thought of going to the temple and they made it no problem.

Lots of cuddles and lots of snacks

At 11:30 we rugged up in our snow gear and headed to the temple.  It wasn't snowing but the snow gear was necessary for the wind and cold.  Picking up neighbour A on the way up the hill we arrived and it was like a little party up there.


Every other year we've gone it's been dead.  One or two older people there, the priest and his wife.

This year there must have been 15 people standing around the bonfire and a couple more up on the bell-ringing platform.


The priest's wife explained.
Their son is back home and training for the priesthood and working alongside his father.  He's in his early 20s and has a gorgeous voice for chanting (we heard him at a funeral earlier in the year) and all his friends were there as well as the usual crowd.

She was very proud of him as he had decided they should offer something to the faithful and made some pork and veggie soup himself and was serving it to everyone.  
She was beaming.
We promised to try a bowl after we rang the bell.
Instead of being all worried about how many times the bell had been rung already and how close they were to the 108 necessary for warding off the 108 sins the priests wife shooed us up the stairs telling the  girls to go for it and ring the bell as many times as they liked.

It was really dark and I couldn't get the settings on my phone right but here are Meg and AMy hitting the temple bell:

Amy (I think...)


A flash of orange as Meg went again:

My bowl of soup in the snow:

 It was really good, too.  That's one talented priest!

My favourite thing about our local temple though is that the priest's wife and daughter make the amulets every year.

And they are really sweet.

And instead of charging 800 yen for them like the local shrine does they give them out to everyone who comes to ring the bell.

So Happy New Year from me and this little guy:


pizza party winter style

Winter holidays are the perfect time for slow and involved dinners that we can all cook together.  Nabe hotpot, Korean BBQ, okonomiyaki and of course pizza!!

Amy's pizza, rolled edges with cheese, tuna mayonnaise, and tomato sauce.

Amy LOVES cutting her own pizza with the cool cutter my sister sent.  Thanks L!

Meg's pizza:

She rolled the dough herself so it's a little uniquely shaped and she put great wacking globs of tuna mayo on there which made it a bit soggy but again she was thrilled to make it all by herself and that makes even a soggy crust delicious, right?

My pizza- jalopeno, olives, prosciutto and cheese:

K made a ham, garlic, tuna mayo and cheese pizza.  Everyone shared slices and exclaimed over how great we all are at pizza designing and making.

We had one base left so made a yummy Nagano-in-winter pizza:

Apple cinnamon and brown sugar.  This was FABULOUS!  Just like an apple pie. 

And the bases were made with the brown flour from the wheat we co-farmed and the tomato sauce and garlic from our garden.  All the yummier!


a day...

Woke up to a white out this morning:

Wow.  When did that happen?

I was going to go out and start shoveling.

Well in a fleeting thought kind of way.

Then I looked down at my feet:

and realised I would get all snowy and yuk and over winter before I even made it to the snow shovel...

So I stood on tippytoe and peered over the fence to check the road and realised that (of course) I had missed the chance to shovel the road before the neighbour across the street.  Of course because we've lived here 8 years now and I haven't beat him yet and it's not likely to happen seeing as I wait until it's light before I go outside and all.

So I closed the door and decided against shoveling afterall.

We decided to brave the NY crowds and head out to the shops i the moring which was oh so much fun as both K and I are croud-phobic, Meg and Amy have yet to master the art of walking in a crowded area- Amy skips and swings her arms around and Meg is just a firecracker- you can never tell which limb will fly out in which direction next- so it's always stressful walking past little old ladies, pregnant women, people holding babies and the frail.  All of whom seemed to be out and about in Matsumoto today.  Aghhhhh!

We had to go to the drycleaners to pick up an item that we had received a phone call asking us to pick up and yet had absolutely no recollection of taking there.
Which was really weird.

And even weirder in that in the last couple of months I have been to the drycleaners no less than three times.  
And about a year ago I realised you don't actually need your docket as long as you can remember your name and phone number and haven't even tried to keep one since so each time I go to the drycleaner they ask my name and number and then scurry off to the bowels of the shop and come back with my drycleaning.
So, if I had forgotten to pick up drycleaning surely it would have showed up on the fandangled computer system when I went in for something else?
On the other hand, had it been their miss I would have expected a humble grovelling apology and a free pack of tissues or roll of tinfoil or something, right?  Rather than a brusk phonecall.  
Oh well, mystery remains but mystery drycleaning safely brought home and crowds and snowy roads didn't get the best of us.

Got home to a DIY ramen lunch buffet.

I had homemade char siu pork (sooooo good!), corn, kimchi, boiled egg, seaweed, flavoured bamboo pieces and naruto fishroll at Amy's insistence that it wasn't sweet.

Amy has a different palate than me that's for sure. Blerghhh!

Meg wanted photographic evidence of her ramen- ham, egg, bamboo, corn and egg.

Then it was playtime.

And on and on and on it went.

Till the gloaming:

Then the dark:

If you peer hard at the top centre of the picture you can just see the reflective tape on Meg's ski-hood.

Meanwhile K and I worked on the woodpile. As you do right?  We don't do anything out there for months and then as soon as it's bitterly cold and snowy why not get out there and cut some wood for next season.

That'S right.  We have enough wood and then some for this season but K likes to stay ahead of the game and it's the first day of his holiday so why not, hey?

I am obviously too old for the self-portrait by camera-phone thing but I was out there helping K and ws thinking that my drizabone all weather coat has come a long way from scout camps in the rain in Asutralia to rice planting and wood hauling in the snow in Japan.  It still has my name stitched in the collar, though. And I still leave it around the place so just as well, hey?


Winter holiday fun

I think there is a greater balance to life so that a period of intense business is followed by a period of complete and utter slothdom.  

At least that's the balance I aim for in life anyway.

And so our winter holidays have been very slow and very very relaxed so far.  

We've cleaned the playroom and bedrooms, opened Christmas presents and thrown out wrapping and packaging and had a three-way assault on the vacuuming and dusting but al that was done the first morning and since then we've just been playing and eating and playing and eating some more.

Meg and Amy wanted to make cookies to deliver around the neighbourhood so we made some gingerbread: 

These are mine. Meg and Amy were way more creative but kept asking me to wait to take a picture and then we got to the end and bagged them and delivered them and I realised I still hadn't taken a picture.  Oh well!  
I thought after the cookies were bagged and the necks pleated deliberately and twist-ties and tags attached we would be ready to go on our delivery route but no.

Oh no.

Meg decided she would make everyone lucky-dip fortunes.  This was a very long and involved process that required stamps and stamp pads and stickers and sequins and markers and glue and isn't it lucky Santa brought all that and more?  The neighbours were (understandably) a little confused by the lucky-dip fortunes but played along and then were very nice about the fact that she mixed up the characters for luck and old and was wishing everyone great old and small old instead of fortune.  Oh well, it's the thought that counts right?

In other scintillating Winter holiday news Amy made her first fried egg:

Amy has been making us salads since before she turned three and I always thought I was pretty up there with the letting-your-kids-cook thing until I watched junior masterchef and these two 12 year old twins were raving about how they'd been making pasta since before they could spell it or somesuch.  Anyway, it may not be masterchef material but Amy was thrilled to make her own fried egg.  Cooked through and flipped to boot (blergghh!) but she was most impressed and asked me to take a picture so here it is.

I had all these grand plans of stuff to do during the holidays. Working mummy guilt and all that I thought we could go to the movies or the park or at least go for many brisk walks and the girls could play on their scooters or sleds depending on the weather etc etc.

But the girls had their own ideas.  They got a magnetic foldout case with double-sided backgrounds and a gazillion magnet people and pets and things and have spent absolutely HOURS playing with it.

I am not really seeing the excitement factor myself but they are thrilled and it's cooperative, imaginative play and so quiet and doesn't requires batteries or me to decipher the instructions so everyone's happy!

And it has left me plenty of time to enjoy stollen and ginger tea.

Thank you boss's mum. This is the perfect winter afternoon snack.

Who'm I kidding- and morning snack, post-brekky top-up, pre-lunch fortification and supper to boot.

It's been a nice, quiet, relaxing, warm and yummy winter holiday so far this year.  

May it continue!


Christmas dinner again and again and again

My favourite bit about Christmas dinner is definitely not the hours and hours battling with two burners and a microwave/oven or the time to prepare vs time to eat ratio or the fact that the rest of the family will probably ask for rice or....

Nope.  None of that.

My favourite bit about Christmas is that you eat it on Day 1 and it's delicious:

And then you get to remake it day two and it's delicious all over again:

This rocked and is now definitely on my day-after-Christmas menu.  I chopped up the chicken meat (we only managed half the chicken on the day so there was plenty left over!) and the leftover roast veggies and mixed it all up with some gravy then made another batch of stuffing (coz it's just soooo good!) and used that as a pie topper and yummmmm!

Then of course day three is chicken noodle soup.  Being that this is Japan it's chicken broken-up-udon soup but chicken noodle soup is chicken noodle soup, hey?

And now the bones have been thrown out and Christmas is over.

Oh well, we haven't even started on the Christmas cake!



All I asked was that they stand by the Christmas tree so I could take a picture of the tops Granny sent them (and made!!) for Christmas.

Seemed simple enough to me.

A 10 second job, right?



That the point of the picture was to show Granny the clothes in action seemed to be lost on the two hams and we gave up after this series...

Sorry Mum...

I tried....

On the other hand you can rest assured that the clothes fit and are easy to move in and your granddaughters are healthy and happy and as silly as always!

And yes, Meg has barefeet in winter in Nagano.  See comment above.


Merry Christmas!

Christmas brekky is of course cinnamon rolls.

Then, this being Japan and all, the girls went off to school and K went off to work.  It was a bit of a frightful morning actually as Friday I asked Meg to tell the other third of their walking group that as it was Christmas Tuesday we would be driving them and would she like a lift as well or would she walk down and join a different group?  Little H jumped at the chance to get a lift and that was that.

Until this morning when at 7:00 the doorbell rang.

Fearing a funeral announcement K went down to answer the door while the girls and I continued to eat cinnamon rolls and exclaim over the contents of their stockings.

K came racing back down the corridor and threw open the kitchen door- "It's H-chan!!  She's been waiting outside!"

Poor H.  She had forgotten her conversation with Meg on Friday and I hadn't followed up with a mail to her mum as recently everytime I do the reply is 'yes, I heard from H.'

Of all the mornings too- it was minus 8 and really really windy.  The kind of bitingly horrible weather you don't want to even step out in let alone stand around on the roadside for 20 minutes waiting in.

H is incredibly shy and didn't want to come in and wait 30 minutes till the girls would be ready to go, so K quickly threw some clothes on and said he'd drive her down till they met the next walking group (who would be well on their way by now.)

Only, when they reached the next group they were three girls from Meg's (and H-chan's) year level and as K pulled up to let H-chan out they ran over to the car and started entreating 'Give us a lift too!  Please!  Thank you!!' and K being K and not me, rather than saying 'Nice try! Go on, off you go.' He said OK and gave four girls a lift to school before coming home again.  Weirdly, none of the hitch-hiking three expressed any wonder at the absence of Meg or Amy in the car...

During the day it was Christmas dinner prep with the extra challenge of having a one tray oven that is also my microwave so using the oven means no microwaving will be going on.  Oh and only two burners on the stove, to boot.

No problem.  

I relish the challenge.

And I start at 1pm for a 7pm dinner which significantly lessens the challenge.

I realised that the free softserve coupons we were given for suggesting a name for the local milk factory's cows (Amy suggested K's name for the mother cow....) had to be used by today so, despite the weather and the fact that there was a simply ridiculous quantity of food waiting for us at home we went off and had a rich chocolate soft-serve appetiser:

Meg wanted to eat outside with the cow statues but Amy and I escaped to the (relative) warmth of the car.

After K got home and Meg went to piano practice (just another Tuesday here after all..) we finally had Christmas dinner.  It's really weird for me to have Christmas dinner at teatime but hey, you do what you gotta do, right?  

fabulous picture that includes the light string and some laundry for atmosphere...

We had cranberry and bacon stuffing, roast chicken, gravy, roast vegetables, salad and cranberry sauce.  All washed down with this fizzy sweet abomination called Chan Merry.  There was actually white wine for K and I but it was the classy stuff that requires a corkscrew and wouldn't you know it we couldn't find ours.  Oh well, the girls shared their Chan Merry for a token toast.  That's certainly all I wanted of it!

Amy saw those fancy paper cuffs on the chicken legs somewhere and was desperate to make her own.  I'm not sure any chef has ever made them out of yellow construction paper but Amy was thrilled and that's the main thing, hey?

A little Christmas silliness.

Then it was time for some presents.  Meg wanted to play Santa first and gave out hugs with her presents.  This was the first year she chose all the presents she gave all by herself.  She had a secret shopping list and was a woman on a mission at the shopping centre.

I loved seeing how excited Meg was to see everyone open their presents.

Even stepping in and helping out a bit:

A little more excited than Amy who wasn't sure what she was looking at:

But she was quite thrilled when she worked it out:

It's a light up pom pom set that converts to a light up be-pompomed baton.  Amy loves to make up dances and is always making batons out of advertising fliers so Meg was right on the money with this present!

Then it was my turn (love the light string and towels in this picture... sigh...)

And K:

Then Amy's turn to play Santa:

She chose a notepad and shitajiki (a piece of plastic you put under your work so the writing doesn't indent the page below.  I think it might be unique to Japan...) in a character that is quite popular so Meg was chuffed.

Daddy's turn:

And finally presents for Meg and Amy:

 Merry Christmas!