I stuffed dinner.....

Seriously stuffed it.

Irreparably so.

And it was delicious!

I have a small problem. I stuffed those green peppers the other day and now I can't stop- every vegetable is whispering in my ear 'stuff meeeeeeeeeeeeee'

I use chicken breast mince as it's not fatty and then I change up the recipe each time. We've had:
onion, turmeric, cumin, garlic, coriander and parsley
cheese, tomato, garlic, onion, eggplant and parsley
tomato, onion, garlic, cumin, parsley and eggplant

I use wheat bran from our wheat and eggs as binding agent and then just whack them in the oven till they're cooked.

I am a pretty haphazard cook when it comes to ratios and measurements and ingredients but seriously this has not failed yet!

Amy told me they eat stuffed peppers in school lunch sometimes but it's miso flavoured Japanese style. I feel another round of stuffing dinner coming on then!


Any weekday morning 6:40am

Japan has an infatuation with group exercise.

If it's not a company warmup before work it's a village Sports Day or a neighbourhood early morning baseball league.

And for elementary school kids summer holidays wouldn't be summer holidays without waking up at 6:00 to get up and dressed and out the door and to the neighbourhood meeting place for 'rajio taiso' (radio calisthenics).

Call me a cynic but I really don't think it provides a terrible lot of exercise for your average active elementary age kid:

But anyway, it's a big deal and the kids have a card to get stamped each morning as they rock up to swing their arms around a little and jump on the spot.

The calisthenics song is broadcast on the radio LIVE from an exciting local calisthenics meetup somewhere in Japan each holiday morning at 6:30.

And this being my neighbourhood and us living on a muscle crampingly steep hill and kids getting more exercise just getting there each morning than they do actually doing rajio taiso we add our own part 3 after the kids do the broadcast part 1 and part 2 exercises.

Monday and Tuesday part 3 is skipping on the spot for 100 jumps or more.

Wednesday through Friday they line up in grade order with the little kids at the front and the grade 6ers at the back and run helter skelter, clothes flapping and bed hair bouncing to the next intersection then back through the intersection where rajio taiso is held, through to the next intersection going the other way and back again.

And so, if you happen to be wandering around my neighbourhood some Summer morning about 6:40 you might glance down a side road and expect to see a rogue dinosaur or Godzilla or at least a monkey pack as every kid between 6-12 in the whole neighbourhood comes racing toward you like their life depends on it: 

It's started!

I try not to buy vegetables. I'm not really hardcore about it, I buy mushrooms year round as we grow them but at the 'ooooo look! A mushroom!' level rather than the meeting demand level, and will buy veggies if necessary but I believe in eating fresh seasonal produce and we grow so much out there if we don't eat it it's a waste!

With this philosophy backing our meals we eat a lot of Chinese cabbage, leaks, daikon and pickles in winter and a lot of leafy greens for much of Spring as they are the first crop to be ready to harvest each year. 

And then, without being able to pinpoint a day that it happens, each year we go from 101 creative ways to disguise the fact we're eating bokchoy and spinach AGAIN to WHOAAAAA- we're drowning in produce and need to start eating six meals a day just to get through it all!

And that's what happened Tuesday. I realised I was surrounded by containers of produce and needed to start blanching and freezing and bottling and canning and all those other jobs that start when the growing and harvesting jobs are finally done.

This season is also a great one for veggie meals. Harvest meals. Summer feasts:

(no, it's not your eyes, that's a blurry pic)

Salted cucumbers, corn on the cob, tomato, runner beans and broad beans, onion, garlic, eggplant, egg, flour and chicken mince stuffed capsicum.

The only thing we didn't grow ourselves was the chicken mince.

A truly satisfying meal.

Now we just need to eat about 100 satisfying meals and we'll clear the kitchen of produce- just in time to harvest some more....

A little too much Masterchef?

I am a sucker for a cooking show- Masterchef, My kitchen rules, Not my mama's meals (the one with Paula Dean and her son), Great British BakeOff, Cupcake Wars etc etc etc.

The girls get really into it too (except for US Masterchef, Hell's Kitchen or any time Marco Pierre White is in a show as they don't like mean people and get a little worked up about being nice and using your polite voice.)

At the moment Australian Masterchef is on and Amy especially is really into it. She keeps arranging her meals more artfully and giving me scores out of 10 for the meals I make. Gee thanks, hun!

This was Amy's breakfast salad the other day:

Hmmmmmm..... a vertical line off centre with a heap of white space there? A little too much Masterchef, maybe?

Little kids, big dreams

Wayyyyyy behind posting but July 7th is Tanabata festival here. It's a complicated star crossed lovers and Milky Way story that I could write out but hey, why put Wikipedia out of work, hey? So here's the background.

Anyway Tanabata was too cloudy for the star crossed lovers to make their way across the Milky Way and meet when the girls checked before bed this year.

The next morning Meg asked if it cleared up overnight.
Don't think so honey.
That's ok, said Amy. They can just Skype.

Ahhhhhhh my little romantic, hey?

Slightly more romantic were the kinder kids who wrote their wishes down for the local Summer festival.

I couldn't help myself, I love little kid wishes so I took some pictures while the girls lined up for their free game and fairy floss (the small business association hands out coupons to all the school kids- great business decision, they get HOARDES!) So here you are (with my translations, don't blame them!)

I hope Yuga and Non and Daddy and Mummy and Granny and Grandpa and Sei and Mr Takano and my other Grandpa and my other Grandma all don't get fevers.

When I grow up I want to be a High School baseball player and I also want to run fast. I'd like to go to Saku Chosei HS and Go to the National HS baseball championships. First I'd like to win a running race.

I want to be Doraemon.

I want to be able to speak English well.

I want to be Tinkerbell

I want to live with Rapunzel.

I want to get muscly and become a firefighter.

I want to be able to go to the toilet by myself.

Aren't they just so gosh darn cute? Except for living with Rapunzel. That's a bit worrying. I mean, she was a prisoner, right???



When my brother was little he went through a stage where he didn't go anywhere without a book.

Meg loves books and has been an avid reader for years.

Recently Amy is getting into reading as well.

Yesterday we went shopping together like this:

Not sure if you can see but they're both holding books.

Meg shopped the way my brother used to do. Trailing around almost following us somehow managing to avoid running into people and reading silently as she went.

Typically Amy had her own way of doing things:

Mummy, how many countries participated in the first modern Olympic games?
A) 14
B) 24
C) 34

Mummy, in gymnastics, what is the difference between men's and women's floor?
A) length of programme
B) scoring                     
C) use of music            

on and on and on for the entire shopping trip. Seriously. And I thought shopping with them when they were toddlers was painful!


which one should I kiss?

There's a little gap between the top of the screen door and the doorframe. 

Usually it's just moths that make their way in but today it was not one but two little green frogs.

They were quite curious jumping around the kitchen exploring the place.

Amy couldn't work out which one to kiss.

And we all worked out first hand why they call the game leapfrog.

Even with three of us on the chase it was a good few minutes before we got them both safely outside again. 

They're so small and so cute but so fast and wow- what a jump they have!


Hachi Birthday to me

Hachi is Japanese for wasp.
One of these to be exact:

And that's how my birthday started this year. Ouch! Poor me!

It had been a big day and I was just unwinding and watering the plants and relaxing into the evening when I got too close to a wasp nest I didn't realise was in one of our sheds. The wasp (or wasps, not sure) got into my hair and thanks to humidity induced volume it/ they got stuck there. 

It/ they were not happy.

As a result I was really not happy.

And worried. Two years ago I was stung by an ashinagabachi (paper wasp) and had an allergic reaction to it. It wasn't life threatening but it sure wasn't fun. This time I got a throbbing headache and the whole side of my face down to my throat went numb which was a bit scary. So back to hospital it was. Well, turns out that when you have an allergic reaction to a wasp sting it's not wasps in general it's wasp specific so my paper wasp reaction doesn't carry across to this time's wasp the kogatasuzumebachi or vespa analis.

Anyway, that made birthday eve pretty crappy.

The next day I had a dull headache and was feeling really knocked out like after having flu so took it easy then my neighbour A called to say her face had swollen up and could I drive her to the hospital.

Poor thing she looked terrible so off we went. The hospital is right next to Starbucks so I went and got a birthday treat at the same time. A told the barista it was my birthday and this happened:


Picked up some ingredients for my birthday tea and taught my afternoon classes.

Birthday tea was a true mishmash but yummy none the less:

Home made felafel with tsatziki sauce ad tomatoes and beans (yeah, beans- we have a glut at the moment so eat them with everything!) and tomato wrapped in tortilla as pita bread is pretty rare around here. 

Followed by lemon tart. Amy kindly informed me that I was too old to have all my candles on the tart so she wrote an H in candles instead:

Meg the joker sang Hachi Birthday (wasp birthday) to you instead of Happy Birthday. Delightful child, hey? 


shhhhhhhhh! They're sleeping

After harvesting the potatoes we need to dry them.


They need to be able to spread out in a single layer.

They need good airflow but shade and absolutely no sun. 


They also need to be able to be picked up and moved inside in a hurry if there's any chance of rain.

That's a pretty strict set of criteria, huh?

Lucky we have a new deck.

I'm pretty sure K was thinking it was for people use but seriously- perfect!

Add some old fitted cot sheets underneath and don't they look sweet out there.

The deck gets morning sun but that's no problem as we have more sheets and now they're all safely tucked up in bed.

Are these potatoes loved or what?


Not low-carbing

Our biggest crops by volume each year are rice, wheat, tomatoes and potatoes in that order. 

So three of the four are carbohydrates. And the fourth- the tomatoes? I bottle most of them as tomato sauce to eat with pasta so that ends up being a carb meal, too.

Lucky we're not low carbing it here, huh?

It has been a REALLY rainy summer so far this year.

That's just two screenshots but there have been plenty of opportunities for more like that. 

We have to harvest the potatoes when it's sunny as they need to 'dry' for a day before we store them so the skins toughen up a bit and they don't rot.

Do this properly and we'll have potatoes through till next Spring. Stuff it up and we'll have a super stinky and gross mess to clean up. 

A rare sunny day and we went to check the potatoes and the top ones were already going a little soft with too much rain so it was now or never. All hands on deck and we harvested them. We planted 2 kilo of Mayqueen, 2 kilo of danshaku and 4 kilo of kita akari on the 30th of March.

We harvested 2 crates of danshaku, 2 crates of Mayqueen and 5 crates of kita akari. 

Not bad, huh?

Now to work on drying them out.... hope the weather holds!


I've got this idea for a tv show....

We'll get these kids- young kids. You know, 2-3-4 year olds.

We'll tell them their mum or dad (usually mum) really, really NEEDS them to go shopping.

(They'll believe us- they want to help their mums and anyway, they haven't got the cognitive development to question how ridiculous it is yet).

They'll probably be scared. They probably won't want to go- I mean they're just little kids afterall.

But that will make GREAT tv, hey?

What's that? You think it's a bit exploitative? Maybe cruel, psychologically traumatic for the wee mites? The public will slam us for using kids fear and anxiety for adult entertainment?

Nahhh mate, trust me. It'll be a hit. Just check out how it works in Japan:

I chose this episode as it has English in it. This is actually a really happy one. The kids seem keen to go, there's no busy road or hairy intersection involved and they didn't take three hours and as many adults to be convinced to go like the one that was just on tv.

Call me someone with zero sense of humour but I just don't get the premise for this show and why people apply to go on.



We are growing rice without ducks again this year. :(

It's just too much work for K and I to do by ourselves at the moment. I haven't given up hope that we'll get back to ducks some time though.

For all that they are a LOT of work to set up for and a lot of work on a daily basis keeping them happy, healthy, warm, fed and dry I really do miss them.

That's why I was so excited to see these guys about a week ago.

Four ducks hanging out together on the side of the rice paddy. The first time I saw them I thought they were probably just visiting.

But then I saw them again. 

And again.

And again!

I think we have some bonus ducks! Bonus as we don't have to feed or house them and they still swim around and eat weeds and fertilise the paddy for us.  They obviously appreciate good, natural, organic farming, hey?

If only they'd bring 40 of their friends with them!


This year's garden

It's a biggun' this year!

I started to listen to audiobooks while I work and suddenly I can spend hours out there without even noticing the time. The result of that is a LOT of garden this year.

We'll have to turn vegetarian to have even a chance of getting through it all!

Blueberries on the left, fennel right foreground then cabbage beyond that. Far right is edamame then peas. 

Stick broccoli at the front, green and purple cabbage. On the right is the empty bed from the onions and garlic and beside that the bush beans. We bought a petrol mower this year which led to the decision to have lawn walkways rather than weeding it all and having dirt. The lawn is fabulous! No muddy shoes just going out to pick some veg anymore.  I am slightly nervous how it will all go in Autumn when we want to till it all in but for now it's pretty sweet.

Climbing frame left: goya, New Guinea beans (which are neither beans nor from New Guinea but will grow to 1m long and sound pretty cool!) snake beans and pole beans.

Climbing frame right: Three kinds of cucumbers. Next to that the pepper row- red, yellow and green capsicums, shishito, jalapeno and chilli.

Token tomatoes under cover so the neighbour's know I know how to do it and stop telling me how to do it. Next to that are the zucchini- yellow, green, "black" (dark green), and white.

This year I colonised the border of our property with the uphill neighbour. They use chemical weed killer so have ZERO unwanted right up to the border. Then it is usually an absolute forest of jerusalem artichoke and butterbur, overtaken by vines and burs in weeks until our garden starts. I got sick of constantly weeding this area and decided this was the year to really go berzerk. It has taken AGES to remove stuff by root and especially the jerusalem artichoke with its superpower of being able to regrow from the incy winciest fragment of tuber but I feel like it's going to succeed. I have replanted with chamomile, rhubarb, strawberries and lemon mint. A big improvement, I reckon.

I used barrowloads of autumn leaves as mulch/ weed mat. Fingers crossed it works!

The greens' beds: mizuna, cauliflower, summer wongbok, basil, kale and dill.

The real tomato garden: I have about 40 plants this year, a combination of Black Russian, Brandywine, Early Harvest and Heirloom variety mix pack. I'm sooooooooooo excited!

Tomatillo!!! These are so pretty! And they grow as bushes which is kind of cool and the seed was given to me by a lovely friend which makes them extra special!

The shade crew: left over itty bitty potatoes I figured would make good fertiliser if nothing else and then they just took off! Then spinach, kale, more spinach. At the back is bok choy and swiss chard.

Finally parsnip, beets, cauliflower, more beets and turnips. Wooooo hooooooo what a garden!


You know that place?

I'm in charge of neighbourhood child safety this year for the neighbourhood PTA. One of my jobs is listing the dangerous areas in the neighbourhood (with maps and photos if necessary) for the school/ police/ village hall to follow up on. The complete lack of street numbers and even street names is killing me as I write locations like this:
Location: The area of sidewalk towards the bottom of Okubo hill next to the plum field next to the Maruyama factory supplementary carpark and particularly the area between the plum field and the family graveyard next to that.
Oh, and we're too rural for google maps to have any info at all on this area of sidewalk so I'm cutting and pasting from a village map book for maps.

I reckon it would be easier just to take my trimmer down and fix it myself!

An Amy morning

Meg gets ready for school, puts her shoes on, takes her bag to the curb (visible to the kids walking down to meet her) and practises basketball with her spare time.
Amy gets up at the EXACT SAME TIME, has the EXACT SAME jobs to do each morning and has never EVER left the house at even approximately the same time as her sister.
This morning was looking good. I was high on excitement like watching the clock tick down to fulltime and your team is ahead by a point when BAM-
Ohhhh I need my lunch apron. She pipes up while sitting in the entrance getting her shoes on.
You must have taken it to school yesterday. Check your PE bag.
I checked there yesterday. It's not there.
Just tell the teacher you thought it was at school. (The walking group has only jusssssssst left. She can make it if she runs!)
I did that yesterday. I'm lunch monitor. I'll get in trouble.
GYAHHHH!!! Mad run dash around living room, behind both couches, under kotatsu and on desk- not sensible places for school lunch kit to be but all entirely possible.
It's not here. I'll rig you up a spare and we'll check afterschool club this afternoon. Convince her my lacy white longsleeve funeral apron is not only the same but BETTER than bog standard school lunch one, grab a mask, K's white taichi shoe bag as a bag (he's horrified- it's a SHOE BAG- I'm beyond caring) and a pink bandana instead of white lunch cap as nothing I have will work as that.
Ehhhhhhhhhh???? A PINK bandanna??????? Ewwwwwwwww. I like blue........
Seriously kid!????
All this time I'm mentally running through Amy's movements since Friday when the lunch kit should have come home..... hang on...... just a minute........ well, of course! In her English bag with her notebook and......
Amy are you missing your pencilcase too?
Oh! YES! Mummy you are a GENIUS!! (Hug hug squeeze!)
Take the new lunch kit I made anyway. This hasn't been washed.
That's ok. I don't care. Thank you sooooooooooo much Mummmmyyyyyyyyy!
Just go already and start running- I need coffee, a nap and alcohol.
Alcohol? what does that do?
Help me forget the stress you induce.
Don't FORGET me!!! she yells as she runs down the road.

(PSA- I don't REALLY drink at 6:40am..... yet- but she is only 9 still.)