Thanks Sis.

There are some things I like to eat but don't like to cook.

Fish and chips- LOVE it but all that oil and batter and the mess?  No thanks.

Devilled eggs and those fancy flooded icing cookies?  Love them but way too complicated and fiddly for me.


All those different sauces you need.

All that faffing around layering it.

Then you have to wait another 30 minutes while it bakes.

It's really yummy though.

And if I had easy access to lasagna sheets I'm sure I would make it every now and again.

But I don't so I don't.

And then we were skyping my sister and she mentioned she had made a lasagna.

What's lasagna?

You know, lasagna. Pasta. Doesn't mummy make it for you?


You should ask her to make it for tea tonight!

Gee thanks sis.

I should mention it was about 11 am at the time.

But, can't admit defeat to my sister so, challenge accepted!

Drove to three supermarkets and finally found a pack of lasagna sheets.

Grabbed the reddest, least fatty looking mince there was. (Not easy in this fatty meat loving country!)

Came home and after only a couple of hours of faffing with my lovely and ever over-helpful assistant Amy we came up with this:

Not perfect.  A little overcooked.  But considering my 'oven' is a microwave with a convection facility this was pretty good I reckon.

And the girls were THRILLED.

Lasagna is DELICIOUS!

Auntie L is a GENIUS.

Auntie L????

What about Mummy who did all the freaking work???

Thanks Sis!


April 11. Spring?

Pretty sure Spring is not supposed to look like this:

Brrrrr. So much for global warming.

This Spring has been really cold.


Do flowers have feelings?

I say yes. If there's ever been a dejected looking flower, a flower disappointed with the weather, with the environment, with life in general this has got to be it, right?

If flowers could shrug their shoulders in despair I would say that's what this one would be doing.

And I have to say I share those sentiments!


Cherry blossom light up at Matsumoto Castle April 6

Every year when the cherry blossom do their thing at Mastumoto castle there is a light up event in the evening complete with a concert of haunting shakuhachi (bamboo flute) koto and drum music, sweet dumplings or hearty pork and veggie soup and a tea ceremony.

Every year this festival runs for just one week.

And every year I wait for a rainy day as I think the whole thing is just that much more beautiful and haunting in the rain and it is also less crowded as not so many people feel that way.

It's got so that if it starts raining in the cherry blossom season the girls get excited and come running

'It's raining!!  We can go to Matsumoto Castle tonight, right?!!'

Yup, that's right.

It really is beautiful:

It was so cold the rain turned to sleet but that just meant that the lights all got misty and there was a kind of eerie glow.  Just added to the atmosphere.

Trying to get a nice picture of the girls and the cherry blossom turned out to be more difficult than I hoped.....
'There's a light in Amy's face.  Let me try that again.'

Meg, just stand normally...


Yeah, that's much better Amy....

So I gave up and took another picture of the beautiful castle uninterrupted by monkeys:

first paddy participation of the season

April 5th we set foot in the rice paddy for the first time this year.




Can you tell the difference?

Not really, right?

No huge wow! bam! kind of job this one but necessary none the less. We marked the entire field out into squares of the same size then we spread powdered chicken manure at an even rate over the whole field.

The method for doing this is as modelled by co-farmer W:

The bags are lined up at the appropriate spaces along the field and then one at a time we rip the bag open and with a kind of hula-hooping move we spread the manure around.  Some of the bags had rips or small holes so we had to try and hold them as we spread the manure which added a whole new level of difficulty to the exercise. 

I had the super brilliant idea to turn the bag of manure around and hold the hole to my stomach and use my tummy as a stopper while I hula-hooped the manure out from the other end.

True stroke of genius, right?


I think it would have worked if I was a sumo.  But not having that size of stopper-like stomach all it took was one hula twist and I had a stream of powdered chicken manure pouring down the front of my pants.

I'll leave the rest to your imagination but suffice to say it was NOT comfortable and I did NOT look cute trying (ineffectively at that) to remove the smelly stuff from where it had chosen to stay.


To take your mind off that here's a picture of our paddy companion not feeling photogenic:


hello greens

March 30 was the first day I spent out in the garden.

We winter a whole lot of greens and from the end of February I take the snowtunnels off the rows and let them get some light.

Unfortunately it's always the weeds who appreciate this service more than the plants and the growth rate of weeds to spinach and leaf lettuce is always way out of whack.

Anyway, before:

And after.

It's such a disparagingly barren and brown landscape.

Except for the weeds.

Oh well.

Every journey starts with a single step and every garden season has to start with a single weeding session, hey?


Go Jamie!

I am a bit of a Jamie Oliver fan.

OK.  A lot of a Jamie Oliver fan.

But truth be told I consider Jamie more of an entertainer than a teacher.

I love watching his shows, I love the way he talks when he cooks and the stuff he does (separating eggs in his hand and using chopping boards as plates and the like) and the food he makes looks seriously amazingly delicious but for all that I just don't make his food all that much.  A combination of laziness, the limitations of my puny Japanese kitchen and the lack of availability of JO staples like balsamic vinegar/ capers/ anchovies/ fresh mozzarella locally and/or for less than the GDP of a small European country.


I was on youtube and saw a JO episode where he was trying to teach a thousand people or so to make chicken parmesan.  He taught the first group whose turn it was to teach the next group etc etc.

After watching so many people make yummy crispy chicken cheese and ham I decided I would just have to give it a go.

Of course I didn't have prosciuto (or however you spell that) or fresh parmesan cheese but I had tasty cheese and plenty of this stuff called 'nama ham' which is probably pretty close to the Italian p-word stuff as the group of companies K's company is a part of also contains a processed pork product factory and every now and again they are all 'encouraged' to buy some pork at crazy cheap prices.

Anyway- without further ado here is my version of Jamie's parmesan chicken:

Soooooo good!  Seriously.  I'm a convert.

Might just try another recipe, even.


Or I could just make this one again!


Happy Easter!

Thanks to the wonderful Australian Easter Bunny we were able to have an Easter Egg hunt again this year.

There was a HUGE bag of easter eggs and I did get busted by my neighbour hiding them which will just be one more thing to add to the list of ways that I am just that little bit un-hinged by local standards- 'Did you hear she throws food on the ground and has her kids go out and search for it?'

It was a great hunt though and that mischievious Easter bunny hid eggs in the usual places again:

under the swing...

in the bamboo grove (rather overstating it I know but you gotta think big!)

On the broken down dumptruck the girls insist we can't throw out...

in the sandpit....

There was quite a haul in the end:

And as per horrible, mean mummy tradition they counted out their loot and divided it up equally:

and for the record Amy found 6 more eggs than Meg.

Happy Easter!

All by myself

Amy has been wanting to cook 'all by myself' for ages.

I am happy to have her assiste me, or even let her take the lead and assiste her but there has just been something stopping me from letting her cook solo.

I don't know... the knives, the gas, the thought of writing '7 yo cooking alone' on the fire insurance claim form...

But this holiday I decided I needed to just take the plunge.

Well, I'm still a chicken so she used a donut maker (like a jaffle maker but with donut shaped plates) and had her sister read the recipe for her and I sat in the corner of the kitchen drinking coffee and checking the emergency numbers and pretending I wasn't watching them but she did it.

All by herself!


(Yes, we watch too much food tv- she decorated the plate!)

Walking the Torii-toge

During the Spring holiday I had lots of plans for fun stuff to do with the girls.

And we did a lot of that stuff.

But their after-school care centre had a Spring Holiday Festival and they wanted to spend the day at the centre doing that instead of hanging out with me.

Jilted by my kids!

Not to waste a free day my friend S and I decided to head down to Kiso and walk part of the Nakasendo.  This is a historic trade route that used to link Tokyo and Kyoto.

There are some really sad stories along the way.  2000 soldiers died in a battle in one valley alone when they were ambushed.  In February.

What a horrible, lonely and very cold way to go.

It was a really beautiful walk though and one I want to do again!

Learning about Canada

We're going to Canada in June and the girls are super excited.

Super excited but a little puzzled.

What's Canada?

Where's Canada?

Who are our Canadian relatives?

Do we need to learn Canadian before we go?

So, I got busy googling and have put together a tour book about Canada.  Using google maps I even printed out a neighbourhood map of where we'll be staying.

It's been really fun and the girls are having a blast.

By June we are going to be walking Canada encyclopedias!