not a banana phone

We were given a great cd (thanks L!) by Raffi with a song called banana phone. It's really catchy and a bit of a car trip regular.

The girls and I like to play what if and discuss all the great things about banana phones- you could eat your phone if you got hungry, it won't break if dropped, they're very cheap to replace, they smell good etc etc.

A couple of days ago our phone died.

And so I went to the shop and thought I would just pick up a simple phone and be out in 10 minutes.


Phones are so high tech now!

I had fun playing with the one with the touch panel screen so you can handwrite the names in your address book and send handwritten looking faxes without you know, writing it on paper by hand.  But as I don't ever fax anyone and prefer computerised kanji to my handwritten ones anyway it was not really in the running.

And I looked at the ones that have a button to ask the caller to state their name before you pick up the phone- for people who have blocked their number from being displayed but I can't work out how that isn't just the same as picking up the phone and asking the person's name so I put that one back, too.

And skipped the ones that can be hooked up to your door bell camera as we don't have one of those anyway.

And the ones that can be hooked up to a window security sensor so the phone sounds an alarm when a window is opened? Well, our windows are usually open anyway so that one isn't necessary...

In the end I went with this one.  It has a cordless main phone as well as the second cordless set.  I can check the answering machine from the second set, too.  Because you know it will save me walking into a different room to hear a message.

I told K about all the specs and made it look like I made a savvy decision based on complicated technical specifications.

But look at the picture- the antenna glows blue when there's a call coming in.

And I reckon that is pretty cool, yeah?

It's not a banana phone but it's still pretty cool...


feeling lucky?

I'm in Kobe for the night.

AFWJ board meeting.

I'm staying at a hotel.

Nice normal business hotel.

Tiny bath, teeny room, no storage etc etc.

I have a single room.

Says so on the docket- single room, one occupant one night.

But when I came in there were two pillows.

Oh well, I guess some people like a spare...

Hmmmm?  Two pairs of slippers?

And then I just found two toothbrushes and two towels and even two razors in the bathroom.

Guess they're thinking I might get lucky tonight?


Just an onsen with my (girl!) friends then bed.

With my two pillows.




 No.  Not skiing.

Plenty of time for that later.

Like it or not.

Today I was skiving.

A hundred and one things I should be doing in the garden but S invited me to go walking up Mt Hikarujoyama.

And I'm so glad K convinced me to go as it was FABULOUS!

Great conversation, great walk, great weather and at the top:

GREAT view!!

I love where I live. 


the good bit of a bad situation

Chemical free gardening is a series of negotiations and hard worn settlements between me and nature.

Beetles, aphids, snails, slugs, ants and caterpillars all want a piece of the spoils.

While the neighbours go out on a chemical blitzkrieg at the sight of a single bug I just sigh and start plucking the little critters off.

But sometimes I din't get them all.

And they get the veggie leaves.

And I get beautiful butterflies.

Not so bad, right?


frozen fun

My first ice-cream cake.  The caramel was store bought and had honey in it.  It didn't freeze properly and ended up spilling out the sides and kind of collapsing that layer but everything else was great.  From the top it was vanilla, chocolate cake, chocolate choc-chip, caramel, vanilla, a layer of melted chocolate and then choc-chip.


But the birthday girl loved it and that's the main thing, right?


Oops! flashback to September 2

Just posting about Amy's birthday and I realised I never posted about Meg's!!

Happy Birthday Big girl!!

Meg's requests:
Pancakes for brekky. 'Proper pancakes in a stack with butter and syrup.  No wholegrain.'

Slightly pleased with her 'just like on tv' pancakes!

And gyoza for lunch.

With Uncle James and Auntie Louise- yeah!!!  Great timing and thank you guys!

I can't find a picture of it but Meg's present was a 10 person three room tent.

It is HUGE!

Now we're looking forward to going camping.

Happy birthday 9 year old Meg!

For mum and dad

Someone was very very happy with her present.

Thank you!

And the breakfast of birthday champions:

Fairy bread!

As we had to leave for school at 6:40 that is all the birthday celebrations we had time for this morning and the rest will be held after school.



Nagano is a hiker's heaven.

At certain times of the year the trains here are so full of be-backpacked and be-belled, head to toe Paddy Palin wearing, gartered and booted, carbon fibre stick toting retirees it's surreal.

I like hiking.

I've lived here for eight years.

Despite all that I've never been hiking here.

No particular reason, just busy and not really knowing where the trails are and more than a little afraid of bears but anyway....

Friday S asked me to join her o a walk to Hachibuseyama.

It was pouring rain Friday morning.

But we decided to go anyway and it was a great decision as the weather cleared and the forest was really beautiful.

Unfortunately we didn't make it all the way to the top of the mountain as it was supposed to be a 2 hour hike and after hiking for 2 hours we came upon a sign saying '1 hour 45 minutes to the top' so made the executive decision to turn around.

Oh well- next time!


before and after

6:00pm Saturday evening:

5:00pm* Sunday evening:

*times may have been fudged due to the fact you aren't allowed to use the community kitchen after 5pm. Let's just say I got home just in time to watch the evening news....

Yup, saucing over for another year.  It was not the best saucing day I've done by a long, long shot.  More something you'd see in a bad comedy movie actually.  From the help who cut her hand before she even arrived (and then didn't turn up at all), the woman who had to leave to take her dog to the groomers, then leave again to go pick up the dog, the broken jar that we had to leave as we were too busy bottling and therefore ground into the floor with our boots and spent an eternity cleaning up.... the extra delivery of apples that arrived after we were finished adding veggies and then the powers that be decided to use anyway... 

Oh well.... 

The sauce tastes amazing and I'm sure once I regain use of my muscles again I'll think it was all worth it.

Until then I can always drink sauce through a straw from my bed, hey?


welcome home daddy festival Sep 9

K went to Taiwan for work.

And he came back.

In the week he was away Amy had borrowed this book from the library:

It's called 'Welcome to my home party'

And so we had to have a home party.

A welcome home party!

Teriyaki chicken, cucumbers with sweet chili sauce, mini tomatoes, pineapple slices and pineapple boat fruit salad.

Pineapple boat fruit salad

Then it was time for the festival games:

Scooping superballs out of a tin full of water with a cup:

Lucky string pull game:

Some of the prizes you could win:

Origami pockets to put your prizes in:

Amy decorated paper cupsfor us:

And of course festival attire was skirts and crop tops:

Last was the lucky dip:

Complete with a cup and cup holder:

My favourite was the lucky dip papers.  You had 'win' 'lose' and 'you choose'.  I like the idea of choosing your own luck!


I was only away 10 days....

Ten days in Australia this summer.

Ten days when the temperature was over 30 degrees every day (we went 32 days over 30 in a row this summer, not even close to the record of 52 in Kofu.) 10 days with sudden evening downpours they call yudachi and I'm not sure what we call in English as we don't have them where I'm from in Australia.  It's a summer phenomenon where it is hot and muggy all day and then around 4 or 5pm suddenly you get thunder and lightening and torrential rain for a very short time (anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes) then it's all over again.  Back to hot and sticky and muggy.

Anyway, that weather seems to be the perfect growing weather for weeds.

I was really busy leading up to going to Australia and the weeds were ankle height.  I was thinking to mow them again.  (This year with the expanded garden we started just mowing the pathways rather than properly weeding them to save time.)

Didn't get around to it and came home to this:


In there is a whole row of lettuce and a bed of basil.  And to the left are beans.

Only three days of heavy weeding later (I lost feeling in my fingertips from so much weeding!) and it was back under control but wow.  

Lucky I only went for 10 days, huh?


purple giants

J and I have a lot in common.

We're both not Japanese.

We both married Japanese guys.

We both have kids in grade 1 this year.

They both have older siblings.

I have known J since her son started kinder the year after Meg did.

We would hang out in the playground and roll our eyes and talk in English.

I know that sounds a little rude but you do what you have to do to survive and here that isn't just living in your second language or a foreign culture but the particular isolation and xenophobia of a small rural community.

Many of the women hanging out in the playground after kinder went to school together.

Right here.

And their husbands did too.

And their families are all so intertangled it's like a big bowl of knotted spaghetti.

People who come from the city 30 minutes away are considered outsiders here.

So those of us really from the outside?

Well, we stick together, hey?

Two years ago when we started readying the rice paddy co-farmer W rented J and I found something else in common.

She works with her ILs on their grape and apple farm.

One of their fields is right next door to our paddy.

And so, on days when we're both working out there, at the officially sanctioned 10, 12, 3 break times we'll pop up or down and say hi and roll our eyes and talk English together.

Just like old times!

Well, anyway, all that was a preamble to say that tonight J came over with her kids to drop off some grapes.

They are so delicious.

And the purple ones are HUGE.

Meg immediately asked me 'are these Kyoho?' having far more faith in my knowledge of grape varieties than she should.

Amy called them purple giants.

And I reckon that's as good a name as any!

The green grape is the size of a regular grape:

So thank you to J for the fabulous grapes.

And the friendship.

And especially the English chats and eye rolling!


Not your average socialworker

So yes,  we went to Disneyland.  First time in 20 years for me, 25 for K and ever for Meg and Amy.

It was mammoth.

I will post some pics once I sort through them all.

But I have to post this while I remember the details.

So, I went thinking Disneyland would be like 10 Sanrio Purio lands smooshed together.  10x as many pushy parents and their spoilt children.

But nope.

What instead surprised me was how many non-family groups there were.  Young gaggles of twenty-something women and couples of various ages seemed to be the majority.

We lined up to go through Mickey's house and meet Mickey.

Amy managed to spill popcorn all over Plutu's bed while she was doing some vaguely headstandy move there and I was horrified as Disneyland is impeccably, pristinely clean.  

I was sure someone would come running.

But nope.  

We seemed to be in a strangely staffless area (there are thousands of staff.  Seriously, you only have to look a smidge lost and someone is hovering waiting to help) and by the time I got to the end of the line to tell a staff member we had passed through four more rooms.

But the woman was really sweet and friendly about it and reassured Amy that Pluto would enjoy his snack and they wouldn't tell anyone.

Anyway, all this is going on and I'm kind of distracted and before I know it it's our turn to go into the final studio room and meet Mickey.  Meg is beside herself.  She is glowing and sparkling.

We now have only four groups of photo-ees before our turn.

Somehow I must have missed the information that you were allowed only one picture (to keep things moving) but unlimited heart-to-heart time with the mouse himself.

Now, I'm not one to knock the beauty of a little magic.  I mean I manage to do the tooth fairy, Easter bunny and Santa in a country where there is no group support going on, right?

And so when Amy told me that the fairy godmother was real and had sprinkled real magic on her I was all for it.

And wen Meg told me that obviously the gorillas and zebras in the jungle cruise were fake but that the snakes and crocodiles could be real I said sure- they could.

But you know they are 6 and 9.

When the adults in line in front of me started pouring their hearts out to Mickey I had to bite my tongue.

Because you know, someone who believes a random actor looking through dark mesh in a foam mouse suit is going to help you with your work ills and MIA boyfriend you probably need all the Disney magic you can get in your life, right?

But the woman right infront of us took the cake.

She was there with her husband.

They posed for their pic and then she starting choking out her story through tears.

She was pregnant.

And every month (?!) they are going to come to Disneyland and line up (it took us about 40 min) to see Mickey and have their picture taken.  And they will collect all these pictures and see the progress of her bump in the different 'with Mickey' pictures.

And of course once the baby is born they will continue to come and show Mickey their baby.


Just wow.

Mickey doesn't speak.

But he comes with a support staff member who does.

And I swear she was thinking we were incredibly patient when it was finally our turn as we ended up getting the picture, high fives, Mickey's signature on the girls hats and even nose kisses from Mickey all before we left.

And it really is a cute picture:

If you go to Disneyland I highly recommend it.

But if you are older than 10 years old and feel the need to share your problems I really recommend seeing someone whose qualifications are in socialwork rather than greetings and characterisation!


Guess where we are tonight

Hint 1: the huge smiles
Hint 2: the keycard meg's holding
Hint 3: Amy's 'hearting' the spot on the globe
Hint 4: the globe topper...


The September scenery

Autumn is so beautiful around here.

I really have to take my real camera down to the rice paddy and not just rely on my camera phone as it really doesn't do the colours justice.

It really is beautiful though.

Just kind of squint and imagine:


My apologies to any unlucky people I know

I found out today I may have been the bearer of bad blessings. Of ill-fortune and certain misfortune.

And I swear I had no idea.

The actual details on what will befall those I have cursed are a bit sketchy.

FIL was filling me in and I get the feeling I am the first person he knows to ever do anything this heinous and therefore there is no precedent to go on.

And what unspeakable action was it that I am guilt of?

Surely it should be obvious by now?

The bed in our guest room/ graveyard for superceded computers/ grain storage area has the headboard to the north wall.

It wasn't actually an aesthetic choice, more that it avoids people having to climb over the headboard to get into bed or sleep with their head in the alcove for the old built-in kero heater which was taken out after I recognised it in a poster for a recall of heaters that could gas you a few years back (now that would have been very bad luck!)

Anyway, I was helping MIL open her new bottle of pre-bed eye goop last night and FIL was all chatty asking me if we ever use the computers anymore and how much rice we think we'll get this year etc etc and mentioned that he hoped he could sleep after the sun came up what with an east facing window right by his head.


That's north. The east facing window is all shaded out by the bamboo grove. DOn't worry about it.



Other than the bitter midwinter North wind I couldn't think of any problems with this particular direction and therefore any reason FIL was getting so excited about this.

Heather. In Japan you should NEVER sleep with your head facing North. And you should definitely not make me face with my head to the North!!

As I am pretty used to FIL by now (he mentions at least once a trip that Meg's kanji name doesn't have good balance. But he does realise that it's really hard to balance anything with Fukase... I haven't asked what exactly a 'balanced' name looks like because I'm sure I wouldn't agree with it anyway as I think Meg's name is just fine, right?)

Anyway, I calmly asked what exactly was wrong with sleeping with your head to the North and FIL explained that bodies are laid out North/ South at wakes here so sleeping that way is a huge no-no.


I once had a complete stranger practically attack me in a ryokan to change the direction of my robe as I had it on the dead people way...

And I have been guilty of sticking my chopsticks into my rice vertically too which is only for feeding dead people.

I guess I'm some kind of only-in-Japan goth or something, hey?

I pointed out to FIL that he has stayed in that very bed on numerous occasions, as have many other people, and as far as I know they are all happy, healthy and still speaking to me so I think he should be alright.

FIL was not mollified and had to call K in.

How could he have done this?

Why did he tell FIL all that time ago that the bed was placed facing East???

K thought about it for a moment...

'Oh... I've just realised that's not East....'

We've been living here seven years now.....

I'm pretty sure the sun has risen in the East on every one of those days...

And I haven't told FIL that actually all the beds in the house face North...

I don't think he could take it at the moment...


How control freaks handle the summer holidays

This one's for Jo at A bit of this and a bit of that:

Yup, our summer holidays run on a schedule too! Every morning we'd wake up at 6 and while eating brekky I would go over the day's have to events (work/ dentist appointments etc) and Meg and Amy would decide when they would do their homework and cleaning chores and it was all written down on the schedule and stuck on the fridge.

It was a FABULOUS idea as Meg is a bit of a stickler to routine and tends to get easily irritated on the holidays when I suddenly announce we're going out or that it's time for homework. Having it all written out on the fridge for all to see and check made it so relaxing around here- even moreso now that they can read it themselves and not keep asking me what comes next.

I know this kind of heavily scheduled holiday would be a nightmare for some (many? most?) but hey if it works don't knock it, right?

I did veto Meg's schedule that had everything in 5 minute increments though.... future lawyer in training?


Amy's hairclip broke

Amy's hairclip broke.

No big deal. We must have another hundred or so around the place.

But it reminded me of when I bought that clip.

We were shopping in a small town (village by Japanese standards) while my dad was at the doctor. There is a particular boutique in this town that Meg and Amy love. Really. It's a small shop but it's one of the highlight of their trips to Asutralia.

Anyway, we were in there and I noticed there was a new owner but only as an aside as I was busy being called here there and everywhere to check out the girls' discoveries.

I am not under any illusions that Japanese is a secret language in Australia.

I mean I started learning Japanese in Australia.

But I did say that no I wouldn't be buying that as it is too expensive when Amy showed me some hot pink feathered flipperty-jibbert thinguymmy in Japanese as it was a small shop and it seemed a bit rude to say in English.

And the owner piped up- hey, you guys speak Japanese?

Ahhh, yes. (busted!)

Is their dad Japanese?

Yes. We live there.

Oh really? I lived in Japan for 6 years.

Really? Where?

Aomori, Iwate and then lastly Gunma.

Ahhh, we live next door in Nagano! Were you a teacher?

No. I was dancing.

Ahhh... (there's no Disneland or USJ in any of those places... and I read Yukiguni about the women entertainers at hot springs and guest houses...) that must have been interesting.

Yeah, the audiences were really different than here.

Less boisterous?

Yeah, it used to freak out the new girls, we'd be doing a Vegas style dance shaking our boobs in their faces and they'd be chatting and eating.

Wow. Really? Right! Time to go.

And so I grabbed whatever the girls were holding (Meg had a headband and a bangle and Amy a bangle and this hairclip with a gazillion bits of bling on it) and paid and left, still making pleasantries but trying to keep it G-rated!

I was a bit worried how much the girls had taken from the conversation but as we left Meg was very busy admiring the pink shopping bag she was given and Amy wanted to know how you get your hair pink like that? (The owner had streaks.)

Dodged a bullet, huh?

Certainly not the kind of shopping conversation I have everyday!


Goodbye ducks.

Look how big they got!
(August 12, the day before they left.)

Knock on wood or fingers crossed or whatever you like but duck-shepherding was much easier this year than last. They were really quite well behaved and/ or our fences were better or something. Absolutely know runaways for a start!

And now they're gone.

Another duck goodbye to ducks, another season almost over....

And rice harvest ahead of us...

exhibit a, exhibit b

Squid is ridiculously cheap here.

I can get three fresh sashimi grade squid for less than 200 yen.

I love squid.

And at that price why not eat it a lot, huh?

K loves squid, too.

But he doesn't love it the way I do and I certainly don't love it the way he does!

Exhibit A, exhibit B:

On the left squid as I like it: flash fried with olive oil, garlic, lemon and greens of some sort.

On the right- squid K style- raw, in squid guts with nothing but salt as flavouring.


But we're both happy so each to their own, huh?