Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Do I have a brain?

Sometimes I really question my sanity (some of you are probably questioning my use of the word "sometimes"...). This morning a group of mothers from the kindergarten my children used to go to arrived at 8:30am to make over 70 cakes for the kindergarten Christmas party tomorrow. No, we no longer go there, but we are the only person within a 50km radius that has an oven! We got them finished and the mothers out the door by 11:30am, just in time to stuff a dozen boiled eggs, cut a chocolate fudge cake and race out the door to have a joint lunch with my son's kindergarten class from last year. It was great to see them all running around for a couple of hours outside while the mothers sat around eating and chatting!
We finally got home at about 4pm - in time for a quick blob out in front of TV before getting tea ready and getting the kids into bed. And then comes the stupid part..... I decided that although I can never seem to get my mother online at the same time to get her new Christmas pudding recipe I just had to make a steamed Christmas pudding... so I did..... but of course it needs to steam for at least 3 and a half hours.... and I have just put it on to steam... on top of the fire.... and it is already 8:30pm.... you can do the maths! All I can say is that it had better be worth it. Meg and Nathan - I don't care how much you hate steam pud you can smile and nod and eat at least one mouthful!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas number 1

Yet again I have failed to write about half the things that have been happening lately.... and of course now I have forgotten what we have done. Sorry!
The weekend was a busy one - we woke up to the first real snow on Saturday morning, but it had all melted away by lunch time. On Saturday night we had 6 friends come for dinner, three of whom stayed overnight. It was great to have some good conversation and a practice run for Christmas dinner! I had bought 2 turkeys this year - not really sure why... just thought they might come in handy and they are really cheap at Costco so I cooked up one and they all had fun trying to carve it! They even managed to eat enough of it that we only have left overs for one or two meals. After dinner our new craze - find the differences books were well studied and proved frustrating for some.
On Sunday morning we left the guests to themselves to have a quiet time talking in the cottage and went to the end of year concert at the kindergarten that my children used to go to. It was great to be able to watch the children without worrying about having to go and get my own children changed, worry about if their costumes were going to fall off half way through their dance etc.
Today I have no "work" so have been enjoying making desserts for Christmas. I think I have put on about a kilogram just licking the spoon! So far we have white chocolate icecream, chocolate and mint icecream, chocolate mousse, passionfruit marshmallows... and I still have a few days to make some more!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Open Home

Today we lost half our privacy... Unfortunately I didn't realise exactly how much of the forest between us and the road was going to be destroyed so didn't manage to get a "before" photo, but the after is pretty sad! Until now we haven't really been able to see any other houses from our back yard/deck and the road has been pretty much blocked out by huge trees. And then today they cut them ALL down.... I wandered onto the deck and the neighbour waved excitedly from the road above just to show that we are now visible to the world. Everyone thinks it is great. I beg to differ! I am hoping that they were the trees which are used to grow shitake mushrooms that had got a bit too big - if this is the case then they are likely to grow back relatively fast, but not to the size they were this morning. It looks like they will be just left to rot on the ground.... why they cut them down I really have no idea... but I do know that I will have to be a little more careful about remembering to bring all my clothes to the shower!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Spreading the Joy

On Friday night I took Nathan and Megan to an amazing Japanese drumming concert in Oita. The group is based in Oita prefecture and is called Tao. They do a lot of touring around the world and if they are ever in your city I HIGHLY recommend you go and see them. It is hard to describe what is so wonderful about drumming, but to me I just sit there completely in awe of their ability to not just stay in time with the others while drumming at amazingly high speed, but to be able to drum with the energy needed for such long lengths of time. They even did the Maori Haka! The website is worth a look, but doesn't compare to the real thing!

I didn't opt to take the children with us, but managed to bring them a bit of excitement this afternoon when I showed them the video letters that Santa had sent them! This is an amazing idea that I stole of "Kuri" - yes, I do read your blog often, just never quite get around to commenting!
Anyway, if anyone wants to see if my children (and me...) have been good or bad this year check out the following video letters!
My children were SO excited when they watched them today - nothing like bringing joy to the world at this cold time of year!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The problem with lying....

Our community consists of elderly widowed women, a few elderly couples and... us! One of the elderly women used to cry when she talked to me because she was so appreciative of us staying in the area and bringing up our children here. Her own children have lived in the "big city" for years and are never likely to return to live in the area. She hates it when we go back to New Zealand for holidays because the area is so quiet - she even seems to enjoy hearing us having our very loud "discussions". Recently she has taken to bringing us her "speciality". I am not exactly sure what it is - kind of like a VERY fat pancake. Unfortunately I made the mistake of saying thank you and that the children thought it was delicious once..... and have since received one almost every week for the last month or so. The problem is it is not delicious! In fact it is more like a hard frisbee that my son almost got blisters trying to cut with his spoon the other night.... I have started warming it up, cutting it in half and smothering it in raspberry jam and then either soaking it in milk or making custard. It is then edible... just! I think next time (I know there will be a next time!) I will try making it into tiramisu or perhaps tempt the chickens with it by soaking it overnight in hot water! I guess I will never learn to tell the truth when it comes to pleasing old ladies!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Juggling the easy way

I can't believe I am actually posting a second entry within 24 hours! Yesterday this week looked like a logistical nightmare. In my diary for this week we had 5 girls arriving today for 2 nights, the children's PTA day at school today, English lessons at 2 schools and one kindergarten, piano lessons, swimming lessons, gymnastics, outdoor education programs to teach, drumming concerts to go to, a Christmas party at school on Sunday as well as a cultural festival to go to at a different school on Sunday etc. etc. My husband took today off so we could somehow deal with the junior high school girls and the school PTA overlap, and make some loud grunting noises about the classes etc.
Then yesterday the 20 sharped knives I was juggling turned into 5 nice soft balls... all by the "cancellation" of our junior high school students. There was a message on my answer phone yesterday when I came home from a morning of teaching, going to the post office (not a "quick" trip here!) and some stocking up at the supermarket for the girls visit to say "2 of the 5 girls in your group will no longer be coming because they have the flu. Another 2 of the girls are absent from school today and although they have not been diagnosed with the flu they are sick, but are still really keen to come so a decision will be made in the morning whether they are allowed to come or not. The final girl in the group is best friends with all the other sick girls so is likely to break out into a fever the minute she steps through your door". As much as I'd love to say that I am a professional and put my business first I put my foot down and told them last night that we weren't very impressed about the situation and didn't feel like risking our children by exposing them to the girls.... I'm sure my children will eventually get the flu - although the school seems to be still under control for now, I just don't feel like putting them directly in a mixing bowl for the sake of a few yen. A phone call this morning confirmed that someone else was able to take them so after dropping the kids at school I went and got my haircut! A far better way to spend the morning than getting the cottage ready for the girls and searching out all my masks!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Climbing "our" mountain again

On Sunday we climbed the mountain in our backyard for probably the last time this year. Megan and Nathan wanted to climb (well Nathan did ....) and the kids are always keen to take people up. My son talked constantly all the way up about where they dropped something three years ago and found it again on the way down, which stone they tripped over 2 years ago, which tree fell down in which typhoon etc. etc. They have been climbing the mountain since they were 3 or 4 years old so are now great guides! I haven't climbed it very much recently so did more huffing and puffing up the 529m than anyone else, but despite the strong winds at our house there were great views from the top and I don't have sore legs... yet!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

More random gifts

I don't think I will ever get used to the completely random gifts I get given in Japan. Earlier in the week we went to look at a new car for me - my current one is about to die and because it is over 13 years old the government will give a reasonable subsidy if we buy a brand new one before March. We are still very much just looking and thinking, but as we were leaving we were given bags of gifts - not the usual tissues and green tea, but potatoes and spring onions! Why a car sales yard would give away potatoes and spring onions is beyond me, but I guess I should be grateful that they are things that can actually be used. I hate to think what they might give us if we actually decide to sign on the dotted line.....

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Another group down... one to go

Sometimes the logistics of having a group of students to stay as well as continuing on with my children's daily activities is almost too much to cope with, but the latest group seemed to time things perfectly and we had a great 3 days. They arrived on Sunday afternoon so my husband was able to help out a bit more and had the fire built when we got home so they could munch on some yummy baked sweet potatoes and toast some marshmallows. I always try to do at least one new "activity" when students are here - for my own sanity!
As usual everything was a "first" and they were keen to try anything, got excited over things like pulling a daikon, laughed in all the right places and cried when they had to get on the bus to go home. Another successful trip! The chickens got a bit of a battering, but they all laid perfectly so perhaps they enjoy the attention of being lifted up by screeching girls....
Just one more group next week and then a break from Junior High students for a few months.