the best laid plans....

On days when I work late I make tea in the morning so it's already as soon as we get home.  Today I made a sweet and sour coleslaw, a potato gratin and prepped some pork for ginger pork.  The rice cooker was set and it all looked A-OK for a fabulously smooth evening.

Of course that kind of pride comes before a fall.

Finished work and went to the afterschool centre to pick up the girls.

They were both drawing and barely looked up at me.

So we faffed around for 10 minutes or so while they just finished this picture and just coloured in this bit and just said goodbye to that friend and just whatever else you suddenly and urgently need to do when your mum comes to pick you up and you didn't think of at all in the 3 hours prior to that....

Finally left the centre and drove home.

K had beat us home and as soon as Amy saw his car in the rive she lost the use of her legs and decided to sit in the car and wait to be carried in.  This is something that doesn't work on me.

You're staying in the car?  You better get the blanket out of the back, it's gonna get awfully cold awfully quickly.  I'll be inside eating tea if you change your mind.

K on the other hand is a sucker for a babytalk 'carry me please Daddyyyyyyyy' and always goes out and gets them.

So Meg and I hauled all our bags inside and I turned the frypan on for the pork and K went out to rescue our princess.

They came back in singing and K asked for the phone number for the afterschool centre.


Amy left her school bag there.

Really?  I'm sure she had it when we left.

Oh well.  So K called the centre (which was now closed) and caught the head of the cenytre who said she would have a look around.

K and Amy drove back to the centre and I turned the frypan off and found out that Meg had not finished her homework?


Well, I was doing my homework and K-chan asked me to come play and well.....

So Meg started her homework.

K called from the centre.

Amy's bag isn't here.

Well, it didn't disappear... did you check the car and the car park down there?

(This is the kid who lost a single shoe- twice- this year...)

Yes.  It's not anywhere.

Oh well, come home, there's nothing else to do and it's getting really late.

So they came home.

And walked in the door with Amy's bag.

Where was it?

In the front yard.


That means both Amy and K had walked right past the bag and not seen it three freaking times.

Seriously, this family drives me crazy sometimes.

So, back to preparing tea.

Oh, by the way mummy, I haven't finished my homework....

How much did you do Amy?

Ummmm, well, I did the maths and then K-chan came over and asked me to play......

So glad I got dinner organised early hey?

By the time we finished dinner and got all that homework done and baths it was 9:00 before everyone was in bed asleep.

Considering 7:30 is the normal bedtime around here that is pretty hopeless.

And I am sooooo looking forward to tomorrow morning when I'll have two overtired and grumpy kids.

Oh yeah!


Ahhhhhh "basketball"

Meg has been coming home from school raving about how much she loves basketball.

Great news!

I'm happy that she's happy.

But I'm also a little puzzled.

OK.  More than a little puzzled.

Meg is not particularly athletic and I know from our early morning summer badminton games that she has unfortunately inherited my (lack of) hand-eye coordination.

How on earth is she enjoying basketball??

Well, Friday was observation day.

The special end-of-year-presentation observation day.

And as well as showing off their class dance, their reading, singing and pianica playing skills they did a whole class skipathon and then played basketball.


Now I get it.

This style of basketball does indeed look fun!

Rather than five a side they play half the class at a time.

And if the ball hits the backboard you get one point.

Hit the rim for two.

A basket from anywhere gets you three.

Not sure what you get if you land a real three-pointer but I'm guessing the issue probably hasn't come up yet!

That's me and another mum giggling watching the game.  We both played basketball at Uni (me badly but hey) and have been wondering how basketball is so much fun for the kids.

Now we know!

And I missed the bit in the video where the ball was passed half the court away and the only girl waiting put her hands over her head and ducked.

Or the bit up the other end where there were so many hands in the air batting at the ball but not catching it it was like at a concert where they throw a ball out into the crowd...

But you know the kids are having heaps of fun and getting some exercise and keeping warm while their playing fields are covered in snow so all's good, right?


Garden gobbles

I am pretty sure Garden Gobbles is supposed to be about celebrating the yummy, healthy, home-grown goodness we make in our gardens and not exposing the tired old veggies we've had in storage for three months but hey, we make do with what we've got, right?

This week's vegetable is the humble daikon.

The giant white raddish.

Back in November and even early december I was excitedly making salads and vinegar pickles and stirfries and soup out of it.

By now I am over it.  Don't even want to see another one.

But we still have four or five left and they are giant so that's quite a few servings of daikon left and they are nowhere near sald-able anymore.  Rather limp to tell the truth.  (This is partly old-age related and partly as they keep freezing in my genkan/ vegetable pantry).

Anyway, I made something the other day that wasn't just meh passabel, pallatable, sigh, I can eat daikon like this I suppose but rather


That's GOOD!

I want some MORE daikon!


So of course I have been making variations on the theme all week. 

I forgot to take a picture until I had loaded the last two slices of the present bunch onto K's lunch box so here you have a bonus picture of K's lunch:

(And don't worry, I filled the gaps with a pickled plum and a block of cheese after I took the picture)

The daikon is cooked in the pressure cooker in a braising liquid until clear and fall apart tender.

So far the braising liquids have been:

soy, mirin, water and sake
soy, star anise, water and sake
soy, chilli pepper, water and ginger
soy, garlic, ginger and lemon

And they ALL taste fabulous!

Seriously, being excited about eating daikon in February is a miracle (in previous years I have been burying them in March as we were so sick of them and there were still so many left!) so I wholeheartedly recommend this recipe.


confessions of a princess

Snow again.


I was working at the Toyoshina school.

It's a fabulous school with HEAPS of space and a really cool layout.

I love the days I teach there as I have my little kids room set up just so and there are enough rooms there that I am beginning to think I am the only teacher who uses it as it is always just the way I left it which suits a control freak like me just perfectly!

Anyway, we have offstreet parking for the mums.  Most classes the kids are just dropped off but I teach the real littlies where the mums often choose to hang around and watch.  As they often step in and ask their kids to settle down I'm all for this system as I get to be good cop and still have a harmonious and productive classroom.

So on my class days a lot of people use the carpark.

And the problem with the carpark is that it collects snow.

And it's surrounded by buildings so it doesn't get a lot of sunlight and tends to hoard its snow.

And it turns out that it was a misunderstanding on my part that if we are paying to rent car parking spaces the landlord would keep them in working and usable condition as part of our fee.

That still seems very reasonable to me.

But alas, it doesn't work that way and one of the tasks when I get to the school is to shovel the carpark.

Not just me of course, all the teachers do this and I have been really lucky and it has been someone else shovelling before me each time I've taught so far.

The fabulously fun and friendly Canadian teacher turned out to be fabulously generous as well and went over and shovelled a couple of weeks ago when there was a huge dump even though it was my day to teach.  Ohhh what a guy, right?  Canadians are keepers!

So, anyway, I was all set to shovel.  Wore my snow boots, waterproof jacket and waterproof gloves, grabbed the snow shovel, made one giant scooping motion to clear a big path and-



What exactly do you do with the snow you clear?

I have cleared snow at home.

Admittedly only occasionally but I have done it.  And I just heave the snow anywhere as I only need a path for walking and the rest doesn't matter.

But a whole carpark?  If I make little paths the way I usually do I will end up moving the same snow again and again and again....


Went for a little walk to see how the neighbouring carparks were looking.

Seems large snow mountains in the corners are the way to go.


Back to it.

Heaving snow over a distance was a lot more of a job than I was expecting!

My snowboots got soggy and wet in the wet snow and my socks were soon soggy too.


My waterproof jacket was sweltering.

My snowpiling was going well but I couldn't see the little parking signs anymore and couldn't remember how many carparks we have out there.... and how wide each one should be...

Realised how much of a princess I've been so far and sent up thanks and apologies to K and the fabulous Canadian.

I only had 20 minutes to shovel as I needed to go in and get ready to teach but I got this far:

Pretty good for a (reformed- well reforming) princess, hey?


In only 25 minutes

Yesterday I went to the dentist.

I have a fabulous dentist.

He has studied in the US, offers all sorts of care (on and off National Health), has a way with injections that you don't even feel them and offers laughing gas via a nose mask for those who still can't hack it.  Oh and he has a ponytail which is by-the-buy but in the straight-laced countryside of this pretty straight-laced country I think that's pretty cool.

So, anyway, I went to the dentist.

I left the house 15 minutes early as a) I like to be early and b) it was pretty snowy out.

The roads were shocking- powder on ice- and I ended up slip-sliding around and driving at about 20km an hour with the wipers on full and leaving masses of space in front of me and watching the cars infront of me slip to know when to be prepared to slip myself etc etc.  It was quite the ordeal and I arrived at the dentist with my stomach in knots and all ruffled.  (and remember this is the dentist I like and look forward to going to!)

After all that I ended up being three minutes late.

I apologised at the desk and said the roads had been terrible and worse than I expected.

The receptionist looked surprised and we both looked out the window:

Hmmmm, I can see why she looked a little surprised... only rain out there....

I shrugged and said I live in the mountains and sat down.  

Then another patient arrived and apologised that she was late but that the snow had been terrible and the drive arduous.

We then all looked out the window and laughed and the other woman and I had a good old natter about mountain weather and mountain roads while we waited to be called.

And I finished at the dentist and drove home and wanted to send the dentist's receptionist a photo.

This photo:

of my front yard....
Or maybe this one of the road outside my house:

Or this one that shows how much snow fell overnight:

Just so I didn't look so tardy.

It really is crazy how different the snow accumulation/ weather is in just 25 minutes drive.

garden gobbles

Well, it's not quite Thursday anymore but.....

On the whole I think home-style Japanese cooking os pretty healthy.

Sure, it's true curry rice made from store bought roux and fried chicken are pretty popular easy go to meals in many houses and not exactly at the right end of the food chain but I think the food philosophy (that sounds more high falluting than I am trying for...) is pretty well-balanced: a meal that consists of rice, a protein, a broth-like soup and one or more veggie side dishes.

Snacks on the other hand are a nutrition black hole.  One of my friend's kids went to a kinder that didn't have their own kitchen so lunch was brought in and snacks were store bought.  That in itself isn't so bad but the snack list (for kinder kids!) included things like individual packs of chips and lemonade flavoured ramune candy.


When friends come over to play they often bring crazy amounts of snacks with them- chocolate, chips, candy, gum...

My poor deprived kids are more likely to be served apple slices, mandarins, veggie sticks and dip, rice balls and pikelets.

Pikelets are healthy?

They are when I make them!

Home-grown, home-ground wholemeal flour, ground oatmeal, egg, baking powder and milk.

Served plain for snacks on the go or with fruit and yoghurt (and cake sprinkles... I admit...) at home.

There's no real recipe.  Just tip in a good hill of flour, add about a cup of ground oatmeal (that's all that fits in my little mini-mixer) add a good shake of baking powder (about 2 tsp I guess, I grew up with self-raising flour and still don't really get baking powder...), crack in an egg and slop in some milk.  Stir.  If it looks like scone mix add more milk.  If it looks like cream add more flour.  If it looks like batter you're on and can start cooking.  Be warned, the oatmeal will soak up the liquid so if you take a while to make these you may need to add more milk part way through the process.

These freeze really well and with those low GI ingredients and milk for calcium and an egg for protein I reckon these are the perfect kid snack!  If you're feeling really wild you can add ground sesame, chopped apple, sliced banana or sultanas to the batter and really live it up!

sick kid 2013 style

Amy had the week off school.

Monday I got the call that 10 kids from her class of 29 were off sick so the class would be closed for the week to minimise the possibility of spreading the lurgy.

Tuesday she came with me to work and drew pictures and did her homework in the staff room while I taught and went out for lunch with my boss and I.

All was good.

Wednesday she woke up late (hey- she's on holiday!) but when she came downstairs her cheeks were red...

oh nooooooo...

and her eyes were tearing up.......

and she just kept sneezing......

Fabulous boss got someone to cover my classes last minute and we went to the kid's clinic.

On first glance I thought it was empty- sweet!!!

We go to a very popular paediatrician and the waiting room is always packed.

I honestly got a little freaked out sitting there alone in the waiting room.

Until I handed back the thermometer they give you on arrival and told the receptionist Amy had a 38.4 degree fever.

Within seconds we were somewhere in the bowels of the clinic on a bed with the curtain drawn.

And I could here all sorts of mumbling and talking and beep-beep of DSing all around us. 

 From that armchair facing the wall over there....

And that bed over there with the curtain drawn....

And that chair over there in the corner, too....


The paediatrician was not empty it was just quarantining everyone with a fever which was 100% of the patient list.

Got to see the doctor, got our nose-invasion test and yup.

Type A influenza.

She was really pretty happy for a kid with the flu.

And after two doses of Tamiflu she was her normal self and wanting to go back to school again.

Only she couldn't as a) she had a compulsory 5 day holiday as she had the flu and b) her whole class had a 5 day holiday.

The conditions of our week off are no public places, no going out wherever possible and stay quiet and do your 11 pages of homework.

So we needed to find something to occupy our little sickie.

We played memory, and did her piano homework, and finished the school homework, and did some English and she made some things out of origami paper...

And that got us to lunch on day 1.....

Then I got the ipad out and loaded up youtube with a whole lot of crafty DIY videos.

And Amy was enthralled!

2013 style sickie, huh?

And that was pretty much the rest of the sickie week.

Well, except for the Sunday which was the last day of quarantine and a rare sunny but not windy and snowless day and K took the girls to the park.

Naughty, naughty but hey a little physical activity is good for you, huh?


south south-east for luck

This year's setsubun (the day before the start of Spring*)'s direction was South South-East.  As luck would have it Meg has been learning about directions this year in Social studies so instead of just telling the girls which way to look as they silently ate their humungous sushi rolls we let Meg go to work with the compass and tell us which way South South-East is.

It was a LONG process.

But we got their in the end and Meg was very proud to inform us that the corner of the fridge was exactly the right place to face.

Not the fridge in general.

Oh nooooooo.

The corner of the fridge.

Here's to a lucky year ahead!

*Spring has by no means started.  Temperatures are still dipping into the double digit minuses and it keeps freaking snowing.  Whoever put the beginning of Spring at the start of February was sadistic and  evil!

this is why it's called the off season

Can you see the wheat we planted?


Look closer....

Reaaaallllly close.

Bottom right hand corner I count 3 1/2 tufts of wheat.

Yeah!  They're alive.

But they really don't need much weeding or stomping and who knows if they need fertilising as I can't even see enough to make that call.

So, at the moment my entire wheat guardianship, my wheat-y farmer-y duties are fulfilled by driving past and nodding hello to it on my way home.

And sometimes I take a picture to feel really involved in it.

But yeah, it's pretty non-hectic right now.


little organisers

There are some things I know I go on and on about here- the beauty of the mountains, the craziness of my neighbours (although I'm sure they'd say the same about me so it's all in good humour) how great school lunch is and adding to that list- my love for the after-school/ holiday care programme here.

Teaching at an English conversation school is a tricky job for a mum.  During the time my kids are at school I am sitting around twiddling my thumbs (well not really but....) come home time and all the kids are let out and.... go to their after school activities which means I get busy.  And my kids?

They go to after school care.

The standard and type and level of care varies between cities and towns I know but we are truly blessed here.

Our after school programme ROCKS.

Firstly it's heavily subsidised and dirt cheap.  And half price for your second kid.  

Second, they are really into organising a programme for the kids.  Depending on the day the kids arrive there anytime from 2pm to 4pm.  Most days of the week kids don't all arrive at the same time as the little kids get off school earlier than the middle school.  Even with all that in the equation they manage to work out a schedule for everyone that includes homework time, outside play, inside active play, inside quiet play, free time, snack time and organised activities that vary depending on the day but include Japanese chess with volunteer teachers, aerobics, rhythm class and seasonal crafts.

A recent addition is 'kodomo kikake' or 'kid organised activities'.  Any kid can get a form from the office and fill out a very professional looking 'activity request sheet' that asks them to state the organisers, participant numbers, materials needed, requests for staff assistance, day, date, time and place of the proposed activity.  After it gets approval they make a poster to publicise and sign up sheet for their activity and wait for members to join.

Meg and Amy have participated in a number of these projects and now they decided to run their own.  I was so proud!  My little munchkins the project managers!

decorating their poster

It's a skipping competition

There are a LOT of very detailed instructions as to how the skipathon will go and what will happen if you go out and it's all written with phoenetic reading guides for the little kids to read along.

They were super thrilled that some kids wanted to sign up as they were writing their poster and had to be asked to wait.  

Go girls!

Amy is in charge of illustrations.


oh deer....

K was given a thank you gift for something.  There are so many thank you gifts flying around I can't keep up with which one is for what...

this was certainly more unique than the ubiquitous handtowel set or tin of cookies though- 

Deer meat!

A supermarket bag of the stuff. @_@  I decided to do some research on cooking deer and needed to know what cuts we had so opened the bag to check.  

Everything was very neatly sorted into categories.  Great!

But they weren't categories that matched up with recipes...

Not many recipes list meat by position quite like this- 'front left leg.' 'back right leg.'

So I asked K to check with the gifter to see how he usually eats it.

BBQ was the answer and so BBQ it was.

Everyone loved it which surprised and pleased me as Meg isn't really known for her adventurous palate and has so far refused to eat duck in any shape or form.

K was having a ball with different marinades and sauces and my idea of freezing half the deer was roundly voted down and we ended up eating deer three days straight.

Very lean, tasty and healthy I'm sure but three days straight....?

Oh deer.....

garden gobbles

This is a really cool idea from veggie gobbler .  I grow a lot of stuff but din't really appreciate it as much as I should when I actually use it and eat it.  It's just there.  So I use it.

But I think consciously appreciating the harvest once a week will be a good idea.  And make me feel the hard work is worth it a bit more, hey?

Cooking from my garden posts in Winter in snow country????



Definitely doable.

In fact eating the harvest takes on a rather desperate pace as the stuff we stored in the Autumn is starting to show its age and begging to be eaten or retired to the chook food bin...

And for us at the moment it's all about eating potatoes.

We have two big apple crates full of potatoes.

The only thing big is the crate.  

After a couple of months of picking over and eating the best potatoes we are left with hundreds of small potatoes that are a bit of a finnicky pain to use so you need to think of really yummy recipes to make it worth your while.

And that's where this is a winner:

salt cod with potatoes, onion and tomato.

The tomatoes I froze whole on the recommendation of a friend.  Hmmm, I'm not sure.  They are quite watery.  But in this kind of dish it's no problem.

Stirfry onion and potatoes, pour hot water over cod to de-salt it a bit, when onion is soft add cod, tomatoes, pepper, 1/2 cup water and 2Tb sake.  Put lid on sand steam/ panfry till liquid evaporates and bottom goes a bit gluey (in a good way!) and potatoes are soft.  If you run out of liquid before potatoes are soft just add some more and repeat.

Totally yummy!

And if it wasn't hidden under snow it would look great garnished with some parsley or chives or something, hey?