New Year’s Cards (年賀状)

日本語版は↓

Wow! I can’t believe a year has passed since I wrote here.

First I’d like to say that for those of you who send/ receive new year’s cards, please know this- I know I am always late, but I really LIKE to send them. I just can’t get them done in time. Please forgive me.

December is busy at work. I have to make school new year’s cards. Then there is the New Year’s cleaning at work. Somehow, in the middle of all this, I have to get Christmas ready for two kids who (thankfully) still believe in Santa.

DSC_0260As soon as the presents/ presence of Santa are forgotten (about 1 hour after the gifts are opened), I have to prepare for DD2’s birthday who graced us with her presence right between these two big festivals. Once the cake dishes are cleaned,  I start year end cleaning and my cooking marathon of Japanese osechi (traditional Japanese New Year dishes).

On January 1st we usually climb DSC_0283a local mountain to watch the first sunrise then I come home and sit at my computer with a good cup of coffee. This is when I relax and catch up with old and new friends.

 

年賀状を送るのはいつも遅れます。本当に申し訳ないです。でも許してください。実は年賀状作りがすくですがタイミングが難しいです!

12月 どこでもの年末は忙しいと思いますが家はとくに忙しい。まずは会社(パフィン)の年賀状を作ってサインやメッセージを書いて送ります。次は会社のお掃除があります。

会社の方が終わったら 家のお掃除が始まりますが 全部終わらないです。何故かクリスマスの準備があります。カナダではクリスマスって年の一番大切なイベントです。日本人から見るとお正月と同じかな?25日クリスマスが終わったら家のお掃除が続きます。30日娘の誕生日パーティーも行います。31日おせちマラソン。前とし新しいおせち1品を作ってみます。今年なんと8品作りました!

やっとお正月が始まります。主人が年越しそば作りして Happy New Yearになるように。。。

1日初日の出を見るために大道山を登って 帰りに人麿神社に寄って やっとお家に付きます。コーヒーを用意してコンピュータを出して 座ってやっと年賀状作成が始まります。1月1日いろんなお友達の年賀状を読んだり作ったりして楽しい時間を過ごします。

「作りたくない」 「やる気が無い ではなく ただ間に合わない。遅くてもいいなら私が喜んで作って送ります。

Happy New year everyone

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

inadvertant insult

As you can see by my “Looking Back on 2014” you can see that I spent a busy day in the kitchen on New Year’s Eve.

Here I was in the thick of cooking the major new years feast. I had a kitchen full of exotic veggies and stuff (well exotic to an expat Newfoundlander) in there, it all has to be cut in various ways. I was orchestrating various dishes and was muttering to myself and my sous chef (DD2) “now where did I put that chunk of daikon (radish)?” DD2 (the memory of this house) says “right there behind the bowl. Mommy, you’re such a loser (as in one who loses things)”

Then, I dashed from the kitchen to the computer in DH’s “cave” to look up a quick recipe only to sit in front of the machine muttering again “Now what was I supposed to look up… what did I want to cook?… crap I can’t…” When DD1 chimed in humourously “yuck! don’t cook any crap.” I’m proud of her. She’s the kid with no sense of humour. Maybe there IS hope.

Posted in Kids Say the Darndest Things | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

2014 Looking Back

2015finalHappy New Year!!!

It’s the year of the sheep.

Here I am, as usual, sitting in front of my computer on January 1st trying to make the New Year’s cards that should have been finished by December 25th (according to Japan Post). I am always late making these things, even though, I actually LIKE making them. I simply don’t have the time to make them before January 1st.

December is full of events for us. Every Japanese family has various things to do and loose ends to tie up. You have to prepare for the year end, get the house cleaned, attend year end parties… Our house is no exception, BUT we have to add a Canadian style Christmas on top of that, quickly followed by DD2’s birthday. I’ve also decided to add Japanese New Year’s cooking to my list of challenges.

That all done, I’m ready to sit back with a good cup of coffee and get New Year’s cards sent off (better late than never).

But first I’d like to look back on 2014…

I’m happy to say that 2014 was a safe and happy year. At this age that’s all I really want. We were also blessed with a few fun events as well to add a little spice to life.

January

201401As usual, I started the year by climbing Odo-yama. DH seemed content with doing that only once, so at 5 am when the alarm went off, he declined and reclined. He and DD2 stayed home while DD1 and I did our New Year ritual of heading out before the crack of dawn. It was the first time in 3 years that we didn’t have snow on top of the mountain! We didn’t see the sunrise (as usual).

NCM_0557  DD1 turned 8 and wanted a sleepover. I let her have one friend stay over and a small gaggle of girls came for a party the next day. We made pizzas together and played spin the bottle – the kid version- with silly commands to pull from the bottle.

February

DD2 had her kindergarten concert in 2014mPageantFebruary. It’s a huge event and this year was no exception. They are just so cute in all their outfits but these outfits were the best. The 4 -5 year old girls danced about with fans.

I finally gave up being 29 so I turned “39” this year.

March

NCM_0605  Around this time, a cat adopted me. I really didn’t want or need a cat but she kind of grew on me. She is still with us but the dog hates her. If anyone wants a very friendly cuddly cat, let me know.

At the end of March, our neighbours moved. We find it quite lonely without them. TheNCM_0634y were a friendly lot, and their youngest son and daughter often played with my my two. The son often helped me around the garden. I have fond memories of sitting around a fire, roasting marshmallows with them or sitting on our step eating snacks or drinking tea.

April

201404The new school year. In our neighbourhood they have a special cermony to bless the new kids going off to school. Older kids do a special dance called “Mikomai”. DD1 was finally able to participate. Usually you have to be much older but there are so few kids around here now that she was eligible (She’s a 3rd grader).

DD2 stepped up to the “senior class” of kindergarten. She is now an “elephant”.

CA3I0281May

We tried archery! It was certainly a lot of fun. Even DD2 could have her own bow and target. She managed to get the hang of it too. DD1 went out on the trail with her father and friends. I stayed back on the practice range with the wee one.

As usual, I spent Mother’s Day waiting for DH to complete his 200km cycling event. Fortunately, we have friends up in the town now so I spent a lovely sunny day hanging out in fine company while DH tried to kill himself on a bike. He completed his 200km without complaint. Actually the only thing he said at the end was “oooahhhgh”.

NCM_0713  This year, I just didn’t have it in me to plan a big camping event, so we spent May 24th in our “back yard”. Our “back yard” serves as a perfect nature park. We set up tentNCM_0718s and lit a fire in my fire pit and we were ready. We felt like we were way out in the woods even though the house was only about 50 m away.

June

June is one of those months that drifts by every year. The only event was a kindergarten “beach party”. It was cold and drizzled and the kids didn’t even swim as they usually do so even that was a less eventful than usual.

July

NCM_0763  For the first time in 4 years I got back home with the girls. There is simply too much to write here, so it would be better to jump back to this entry. Canada 2014

August

After a little over a week in Newfoundland, we hopped across the country to Vancouver to see my brother and his family for a week. Ours kids are all under 9 so they all got on pretty well together. We did a LOT of stuff there too. Every day was an adventure and it was especially important for the cousins to get to know each other. I’ve just realized that I never posted about that leg of the journey. I’ll have to work on that one.

September

DSC_3365  September had beautiful weather- perfect for being outside in the garden so we did a lot of that. We also squeezed in a little horse riding lesson. DD2 was too young to get on a horse by herself but she was allowed to ride a pony. She seemed pretty content with that.

DSC_3384DSC_3386DH finally made a dream come true! He has been talking about doing a triathlon for ages and he finally signed up for one. It was on the base in Iwakuni, and sadly, security is so strict there that he was not permitted to take photos. He has no neat picture of him crossing a finish line or anything. He did complete it. He grumbled about his time but he finished! Shouldn’t that be enough?

I didn’t go because it was on the same day as DD1’s sports day. This is an equally big event for her so I cheered her on. DH is big enough to deal with crossing the finish line alone. DD1 needed someone there to cheer her on. I got this great picture of her giving it her all.

October

DD2 is an “elephant” so this was her last sports day in kindergarten. They get to steal the show and are in lots of events.  They did acrobatics with a parachute, showed off various “poses” such as helicopters and centipedes and pyramids. They raced, we carried them in makeshift rickshaws with monkey hats and lots more. It’s always lots of fun

This year the WHOLE family ran in the Iwami Airport Marathon. (in Japanese) Usually we just cheer Daddy on but since DD2 is an “elephant” we decided that the “elephant class” and parents would run for charity. We gathered sponsors and did our run. I’m proud to say that we gathered almost $1100 for the local children’s home and we got to run on the runway!!!

DD1 and her grade 3 class sang in the local Grand Toit Hall.  They sounded pretty good too but DD1 is a serious sort. If her teacher tells her to practice, she takes it to heart. I had to spend months listening to “Tomorrow, Tomorrow…” from Annie. She sang it just about everywhere. In fact, she sang it so much that DD2 can sing it too.

Halloween is officially a work event for me. Our English School puts it off every year but it is becoming a huge event in our school. The girls take part every year and this year they both got on local TV. Actually the whole family did! It’s in Japanese of course.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jm6k-CsDI9E

November

NCM_0801 I went to Osaka for an English teacher’s convention. It’s an annual event but this year I changed the venue. Well actually DH signed up for yet ANOTHER marathon on the same day as my usual venue so I had to make a sudden change of plans.

DD2 starts school in April and tradition in Japan is to buy the kid a desk . DD1 inherited my “desk” (aka my sewing table) so Dad got to work making a replica. He did a really good job too.

December

As I saDSC_3563id earlier, Christmas has become a big event in this family lately so I was busy preparing for that. I know it’s a really busy time, so I actually got going early and was pretty much ready for Saint Nick this year.

I took them to Christmas Eve Mass. I’m not Catholic and I’m not even sure is I can claim to be Christian but I feel it is just not right to celebrate “Christ Mass” without knowing why. Luckily, my two see it as a social event and DD1, being the ever serious kid, listens as best she can to the priest’s message while DD2 giggles away with her little friend and enjoys the carols.

Christmas morning went smoothly but I had to wake the kids up. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? This is Japan though. I kept DD1 out of school so she was determined to get that extra hour of sleep.DSC_3559

We opened presents and then went out for a lovely, slow brunch together. We leisurely walked the beast, did a little shopping and went home so I could get started on Christmas dinner.

By the time Christmas cools down, I have to jump into the next festive event. DD2’s birthday. Same as last year, she opted for a day at the skating rink. DSC_3624She invited her giggling friend (from mass) and big sis invited one friend (this was to keep big sis from bothering the birthday girl and her friend). We had a nice day of skating complete with break for birthday cake. By the end of the day we had a posse of “skater friends” playing tag with us.

NCM_0835

Then the next day, I jumped back into the kitchen to prepare the new year’s traditional foods.

I realized this year, that this is my annual challenge. DH enjoys destroying himself in sporting events. I try to destroy myself in the kitchen.

This is not like annual Christmas baking full of familiar sweets. This is a completely foreign thing to me. I have to look up recipes on the net and then try them out and HOPE they are right. One time I fed something to a bewildered husband. “Here” stuffing mashed sweet potato glob into his mouth… “so…?” I waited for an answer and he looked at me quizzically. “So… what?” “Is THAT kurikinton?” I asked. I had no idea if this glop in my bowl was kurikinton. I was simply asking him if this was it? “Oh! I see… yes”

The above picture shows that I have come a long way.

NCM_0828   Meanwhile, I make DH make buckwheat noodles for New Year’s Eve dinner. He does so without complaint. I guess he can’t say much after he sees me in there all day.

This year after dinner, we went to a hot  spring, cleaned the kids and let them fall asleep in the car on the way home. We rang in a quiet new year in the kitchen.

I hope 2015 can be as peaceful as this last year.

Posted in Letters to Friends and Family | Leave a comment

Persimmon Chutney!?

IMGP0104

Persimmon Chutney

As I said in my previous post, we have bumper crop of persimmons this year. Now I hate to see nature’s bounty go to waste but even my two fruit monsters can’t keep up with the persimmon crop this year.

Luckily, I was thinking about what to make for dinner this evening and was considering a nice curry when (as my great grandma used to say) “something struck I in the far head (forhead)”.

I used to make a delicious apple chutney in my single days. The family didn’t much care for it but recently DD2 seems to enjoy that sweet and sour taste I so adore. So I thought, “why not try persimmon chutney?” Besides my friend had given me a lovely bottle of malt vinegar for making chutneys and I hadn’t gotten round to last summer.

I did and it worked! It’s delightful. The Indian spices go very well with persimmons. I didn’t have any raisins this time but I’m sure they’d be perfect in there.

Chutney is a far better way to use up these persimmons than the jam I tried last year.

Here is a simple recipe I used

1 onion
50 cc malt vinegar

2 persimmons
50 gram raisins
20-50 gr sugar
1 tsp pickling spice
1/2 tsp salt

chop onion and heat with vinegar. Add other ingredients and simmer until soft. Add a few mint leaves, bottle and voila!

Posted in At Home | Leave a comment

Fall

Ah, autumn is quickly setting in and as I type this, I can see the persimmons on the tree. They are ready for picking and we have a bumper crop this year. I never knew of this fruit until I came to Japan and now I have 3 trees of sweet persimmons and 4 trees of the bitter ones. The bitter ones I dry every year for winter snacks.

The sweet ones we usually eat before they actually ripen. They have a lovely crunchy apple texture and a taste that seems a cross between an apple and a pumpkin?? Now that I actually have trees, I’ve learned that persimmons are best when left to ripen. They have a jelly like texture and are oh so sweet and gooey. Unfortunately, they can’t be kept for long like this.

Anyway, while picking our persimmons this year, DD2 reminded me of some stories from previous autumns. Several years ago, I was picking persimmons with the kids and the neighbour kids when one of these very ripe persimmons fell down and SPLAT! landed right on the neighbour boy’s head. He had gooey, sticky orange bits all over his head and shoulders. It was quite funny at the time.

Then DD1 reminded me of how last year another neighbourhood boy had gone up to the chestnut tree with DD1 and thought it would be a good idea to shake the nuts out of the tree. They were doing this and watching for their bounty to fall when WHAP! a chestnut still in it’s spiny shell fell and hit him right between the eyes. It’s funny now when we look back on it.

I guess that’s why they call it fall.

Posted in Kids DO the Darndest Things, Life in Japan | Leave a comment

Reading to Big Kids 2 (Charlotte’s Web)

charlottesweb-1 The web seems to have brought me full circle.

When I was pregnant with DD2, I loaded up my MD player (yes MD player!) with music by Sarah McLachlan, after all I wanted something soothing to help me through labour. One of the songs was new to me. It was “Ordinary Miracle” from the Charlotte’s Web soundtrack. I listened to it again and again and sang it to DD1 as a lullaby and when DD2 was born I sang it to the two of them. Then my voice went through a long period of hoarseness and I couldn’t hit those Sarah notes and I stopped singing it. I eventually forgot all about it.

When I started reading children’s novels to the girls I decided to get Charlotte’s Web for our trip to to the motherland. I had never read it either so I was glad to have a new story. Quite honestly, I had been interested in it myself. We read it during our trip to Canada and even Nana read a chapter or two to them. We read a couple of chapters with Cousin T (the bright lad in my previous post about reading) too. This book is now loaded with memories about home.

When we got back Japan, we rented the movie (in which Sarah sings that beautiful song) and the girls immediately remembered the lullaby, even DD2 who was only a baby when she heard it. I had forgotten most of the lyrics but quickly looked them up.

Now DD2 sings the song to herself, or to me or with me. It is so cute to hear her off playing something and singing away. Things have come full circle thanks to a little spider and a pig.

Posted in Letters to Friends and Family, Raising Kids | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Reading to Big Kids

The kids are bigger now and I actually have time to myself, but I sort of got out of the habit of writing this blog. Maybe I should come back.

When the girls were little, I read to them a lot. Especially DD1 because I just seemed to have more time then and could actually get through a book without falling asleep myself.

I remember that my brother was reading something to his son that was quite difficult for a little 4 year old (at that time) but he has quite an exceptional little lad. I went on with my kiddie books for my kiddies and then I seemed to get out the habit of reading to DD1 since she could read on her own. She does, however read in Japanese and not English. Try as I may, I couldn’t get her to read in English so I just started to give up.

Then one day I took a slightly longer young reader’s novel home from the classroom library. We read a chapter or two a night. Both girls loved it. especially DD1, since the story was more appropriate to her age group.

I’ve realized that this not only brings the joy of reading back to us, it gives us that important time together and she has learned a lot of new vocab and possibly grammar from the books. I used to think that once she went to school she would no longer enjoy being read to but that is certainly not the case.

We’ve recently enjoyed Charlotte’s Web but I’ll save that for another post. Right now I have to go read Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.

Posted in Raising Kids | Leave a comment

Home At Last

I finally got a chance to bring the kids home. There is this culture that they don’t even know but are slowly learning. There are tons of relatives they have never even heard of but are slowly meeting. Then there is this vast environment filled with things to see and feel that they are discovering. Every day is filled with new sights, sounds, tastes, smells and even new sensations. I think they are having a good time. I know I am.

These are the pictures we are sending to Daddy who couldn’t join us on this trip.

 

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

DSC_3021

DSC_3072

root cellar in Elliston

DSC_3067

Bird Island

DSC_3066

Elliston from Bird Island

DSC_3070

we thought that this rock looked like a puffin too.

DSC_3058

DSC_3060

we got this close to puffin

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

A sandy beach in Elliston

DSC_3078

A delightful lunch with a great friend. We haven’t seen each other in 7 years

DSC_3082

DSC_3087

DSC_3093

capelin. A real delicacy in Japan. Free around these parts.

DSC_3077

Exhausted!

Posted in Letters to Friends and Family | 1 Comment

Learning to live with critters in the country

I’ve been cleaning up old emails and stumbled on this weird thing that happened way back last fall…

Fall is upon us and every fall is the season of the stink bug! These nasty things get into everything especially your clean laundry and well… stink! As long as you don’t disturb them they are fine, but given that putting a hand into a pile of laundry to transfer to the washer or to fold if it is clean constitutes a disturbance, these “miniature skunks” are often going off.

The other day, I pulled DD2’s notebook out of her nursery school bag to write a note to the teachers and there it was- a stinkbug. These days I have taken to flushing them down the toilet so I gently brought the notebook with it’s passenger to the toilet.

MUCH to my surprise, something moved in the toilet!!! It looked about the size of a gecko so I figured one had managed to fall in there. NOPE! it was not a gecko. It was a MOUSE!!! I have NO IDEA how he go in there. He must have fallen in. Lucky for him, these newfangled eco-toilets aren’t filled with water like they used to be so he was sort of hanging on for dear life to the dry “shore” of the bowl and hoping for the best. SO Mr stinkbug was forgotten as I went to the kitchen and dug out an old plastic cup. I lay it down near the little guy to push him in but he very willingly leaped into the cup to safety. I covered it and after showing him to DD1 and DH and insisting that we NOT keep him as a pet (DD1 wants to keep EVERYTHING as a pet) we released him to the back yard so that he may come back some day and maybe eat up our rice or cookies or something. I couldn’t hurt the little guy.

Ah life in the countryside… always full of surprises. The other day the wild boars did the job on my broccoli! Yup they didn’t even eat them, just dug up the whole garden hoping to find something good and left the broccoli uprooted. Little devils! Time to move the dog’s house to the veggie garden or get a hunting license. Of course I wouldn’t have the heart to actually shoot if I couldn’t even flush the mouse down the toilet. And then there are all these tasty pheasants strutting around in plain view… Sheesh!

 

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Golden Week

In Japan, uniformity is the rule. Even holidays are generally uniform. Everyone is off at the same time clogging the roads and attractions which have to make most of their money during those few peak times and then they sit relatively dormant for the rest of the year.

Golden Week is one of those peaks. From April 29th to May 5th A LOT of Japanese people have several days off (the lucky few have all that time off) so most of the big places are chock a block full of Japanese people “relaxing” during their few days off a year.

 

For this reason, I have been trying to avoid going very far for this holiday and I DREAD the time when the kids get big enough to realize what I have been doing, and, they too, wish to join the pilgrimage to Disneyland or Universal Studios.

 

Luckily DH loves “hunting”. He follows his manly instincts to hunt via Yahoo and for the last few years he has managed to successfully find little unknown gems in the nearby area. We have ridden little trains in tunnels with glowing images made by the local kids; We have run around a labyrinth cave looking for the clues to the mystery; We have found reasonable accommodation and this year he found archery!!

Image

What poise! What grace!

 

After watching Brave, DD1 has convinced herself that she IS the Japanese Merida. We have the wig and dress. Daddy made her a bamboo bow and she can shoot rubber suction cup arrows pretty successfully at the target on our patio door. So when Daddy found real archery, they both got pretty excited.

 

I was much less excited. I can’t aim and luckily I don’t have to hunt for dinner. I was an outfielder in high school softball because I had a helluva strong arm. I could bring the ball in from way out there, but nobody knew where it was going (including me) I’d catch it and lob it in to the team. They were all on alert and ready. So here I was, about to spend my day with a dangerous weapon on a shooting range!!

 

We got there and they set us up with our bows, and a quiver full of arrows. I found out that I’m “left-eyed”! I didn’t know that could be, but it turns out the if I aim with my left eye I should shoot left handed! THIS may have something to do with my poor aim?!

 

We went to the beginner range and stood about 3m from the targets. They told us the rules, how to actually shoot and then we all had a go. After about 30 minutes we all had the hang of it. Even I was hitting the target. Notice, I said “target” and not the bull’s eye. I was still pretty thrilled.

After about an hour the big kids and the Dads went off to the trail and shot at targets while walking around the course. It was like golf with a bow instead of a club.

 

Meanwhile, I stayed back with DD2 and my friend decided to stay and keep me company. We were chatting and shooting as if this were so completely natural. I may have even eventually hit a bull’s eye but it was just so fun to be outside doing something so interesting that I never really noticed how I was doing.

 

The most amazing thing, however, was looking over and seeing the 5 year-old casually taking an arrow out of her quiver and shooting it off as if this is what all 5 year-olds do. I recently read about “50 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do” and I’m going to see if archery is on the list.  I just looked and “throw a spear” is on there so archery counts. Hmmm that book looks interesting. I also found this guy’s blog. My quest has begun!

 

 

Posted in Japanese Festivals and Fun, Travel in Japan | Leave a comment