New Year’s Cards (年賀状)


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.



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


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Looking back on 2015



She likes her cake

DD1 turned 9!  Our local patissier came up with a brilliant cake.

DD2 had her last kindergarten concert.  They danced; they sang; they did gymnastics, kagura dancing and they donned kimonos in the grand finale.

My brother moved out of Vancouver to the small but beautiful island of Gabriola. He has a house now so I guess they have lots of space for relatives who come to visit from far away countries.


My favorite dog turned 12! and I turned … ahem… a year older too. My best present was a little bundle of “tsukushi sprouts” from DD1 with this message “Happi birsdei. I bringd the spring to you.” She knows I HATE winter so this was a great present for me.


IMGP0137  My baby graduated from preschool! After almost 10 years, it felt like saying goodbye to family.

DH turned a year older on March 11th but, since the big tsunami happened, he keeps low key on his birthday

My parents took a Greyhound from Vancouver to Florida! After a breakdown, lots of great scenery and many days on the road they arrived in the sunshine state.


There was a huge festival at the local shrine. One of the big events for us was the Mikomai Dance. DD1 and the others performed this many times during the festival.  Once was for the ceremony for the new grade one kids. This year DD1 danced for DD2’s blessing ceremony.DSC_3787

It rained for most of the festival so they ended up covering the shrine in plastic and walking around in rubber boots.

NCM_0944  It kept raining when school started too. When DD2 started her first “real” day of school I could not get a picture of her in her uniform. About a week later the sun  finally came out.



As usual, DH cycled 200km in the Iwami Ride while we played around at a nearby mountain park.

We also revisited the archery place. DD1 was only 2 points shy of beating her dad!NCM_0961


DH did a 100km walk. He started at 10 am and about 23 hours later he finished it!



11752463_1440149679648169_4320695554947512656_n  We swam the Takatsu River Marathon. DH was right behind me and someone said “you must be such a happy couple to swim together like that” and all we both thought was “Hell no! I’m not letting him/her beat me!”

Summer holidays started but DD1 and the choir had an important competition a the beginning of August so we didn’t go very far.


DSC_4003    We camped nearby, drove to the competition and met the team there. The kids won first prize and qualified for the regionals. It was the first time their school had done it.


At Obon, several relatives came back to the ancestral home to visit. I expected a boring buddhist ceremony but these folks danced, sang and laughed around the barbeque. The girls have nutty relatives on both sides of the family.

The girls had a weekend riding camp. DD1 is totally smitten by horses and begs us constantly for one.


The kids had their sports day and both girls were on the same team. It made cheering easier. They didn’t win but they seemed to enjoy it.

We officially opened a branch school in the next town. My friend came over to man the fort for us and we took the plunge!


NMS_0060_2  All the family ran the Iwami Airport Marathon. DH (21km) and DD1 (2km) ran separately in their events. DD2 and I were supposed to run the 2km family run together but this was the last I saw her until I crossed the finish line.

We finished October with the school Halloween event. This is our family picture this year.DSC_0119.JPG


DSC_0208  The school concert. It was DD2’s first time. School concerts are pretty simple and the girls did a fine job in their respective roles. DD1 starred as aquarium staff while DD2 starred as a teacher. Here she is with all her “tadpole” classmates.

December  (The month where everything seems to happen).


Here’s to a busy year end.

All the events of the year end began -year end cleaning, Christmas, DD2’s birthday and then a cooking marathon of traditional Japanese osechi.


Using grandpa’s calligraphy tools to do a little homework with big brother

I made 8 dishes this year for the New Year’s feast. DH made the traditional buckwheat noodles too.

Son came home to visit. He stayed 3 nights so his little sisters bonded with him. He helped them do some of their winter homework.

We were fortunate to have had an active healthy 2015. As I sit here and reflect, I am truly grateful.


I pray you all have a happy, healthy and safe 2016 as well.

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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.

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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”.


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 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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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Persimmon Chutney!?


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!

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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.

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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.

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