Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween 2011

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Today was the annual Halloween party at the English school I teach at once a week. To be honest I am not a great big fan of Halloween - it isn't really something we do in New Zealand.... but it seems to be a good excuse for a party here in Japan. Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos of the actual party, but did remember to snap a few before my daughter and I headed off this morning.
We had great friends staying until Friday (hopefully update on that tomorrow...) so I didn't really get around to thinking about what to wear until last night. A friend lent me a costume, but in the end I decided to make something with what we had lying around the house... which in our case is bunches of straw from our wheat and old clothes that my husband refuses to throw out. So I ended up as a scarecrow and my daughter used my son's costume from last year and went as a magician. I think 90% of the students were witches so it was nice to have a slightly different costume! Fortunately it is all over for another year and the hay can go back into the fields!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Question for South Island Kiwis!

We are going back to New Zealand in December this year and are planning a short trip around the top of the south island. I am finally getting around to making some bookings and discovering (as I knew was going to happen) that traveling between December 27th and 31st limits the places that are available to stay at! At the moment our basic plan is to stay at Hanmer, Nelson, Blenheim and Kaikoura for one night each. Does anyone have any "must stay places" or "must do" things around this area? It is not really an area that I have spent a lot of time in, but is an area my husband wants to visit..... Any advice welcomed!

Making lists

This morning my only "work" away from home was to teach at school from 8:15 to 8:30am then my next "job" was to pick the children up from school at 3:40pm and take them to piano. So I had a lot more time at home than I usually do so decided I needed to make myself a list of all the things that I needed to get done rather than just wandering around wondering what to do and then actually getting nothing done at all. I am the Queen of lists....I can make huge lists and manage to get through most of the things on them - taking great pleasure in putting a line through each item as it is completed. The first thing on my list today.... "Make a list"! Nothing like writing things just so you can cross them out again.....
One of the other things on my big list today was to dig some of the sweet potatoes. I had two different patches of sweet potatoes this year and really had no idea if there would be much under the ground or not, but I was pleasantly surprised. All the odds are against me growing good sweet potatoes in my garden. All the books say that you should grow them in very sandy soil., but my garden is an ex-rice field which means it has a very hard clay base - limiting the amount of drainage. (If you want information about how hard it actually is to achieve this clay base check out the archives about Heather's Rice Chronicles at "Shinshu Life"). I threw the plants into the ground and forgot all about them... losing half of them in a drought. I let the weeds get a bit too big before finally removing them. I forgot to keep pulling the spreading vines off the ground so they wouldn't put down extra roots and take away all the nutrients needed to go into the big potatoes. I would have to say that a sandy soil would make harvesting them a little easier, but there are some whoppers in the lot I dug out today and my neglect of them hasn't seemed to have too bad an effect.
Now I've just got to try and pull the rest of them out of the ground.... after trying to get rid of all those lovely green leaves.... I think I'll leave it for another day when I have time to make another list....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Drying the harvest

I have to admit that I am always keen to try to plant something new, but seeing the entire process through to proper harvest is not always my strong point...resulting in lots of lost produce. This year I have improved a little and spent most of today finishing drying some of the things that we have harvested recently (or in the case of the wheat... harvested months ago, but finally removing the wheat from the stalks!). Today the deck acted as a great drying place for wheat, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and chillies (the third batch for the year). Some of the produce will be used to replant again next year, but hopefully the majority of it will actually make it as far as our stomachs this year! Who knows, next year I might get around to not just harvesting all the butternuts that have self-seeded, but eating them too....

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Doorstep gifts

When I first came to Japan my first stop when I arrived home from work each afternoon was my washing machine - which was just outside my front door. As well as being a brand new washing machine that was very capable of washing clothes, it also doubled as a mail box for any parcels that wouldn't slip into my tiny letter box. Care packages from New Zealand were always a huge highlight of my apartment life.
Now I tend to get a very different kind of care packages - usually vegetables from the in-laws or neighbours and very rarely with any kind of message attached to them to indicate who they are actually from - which makes it very difficult to do the very Japanese thing and return the favour with some eggs or excess veges that we have lying around here. Anyway, today we arrived home from piano to a little pile of shitake mushrooms. Actually there were only four of them, but they are HUGE! The last photo tries to show how big they are by comparing them to my son's hand - which is a pretty long hand.... He has just measured them and they are approximately 20cm in diameter! I'm presuming they are from the in-laws and I know I should be really grateful, but.... they are huge! I guess we will be having all kinds of mushroom things for the next few days. My son will not be happy!!!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Birthday Update

I'm having yet another one of those "if I can just get through this week then life will be quieter" kind of weeks that turns into months... sorry about the lack of updating lately. Usually it is a sign of activity rather than in-activity.....
A quick update for all those who wished Emily a happy birthday on Tuesday - she is now officially 11 and for some reason has decided that 11 is the age to start studying and has been spending most of her spare time doing "self study" - not quite sure what it is all about or how long it will last, but if turning 11 means a sudden interest in studying then I'm all for it... until now she has been more interested in comic books and sleeping!
When the children were small I tried to make their birthdays a really special day - party, food and of course cakes. As they have grown older they have opted for no parties and a special day doing something as a family instead. Unfortunately as they have grown older there is less time to spend with them on their actual birthday if it is a school day so it often gets postponed... in Emily's case to this coming weekend. As I had to work in the evening of her birthday I didn't really get to see her, but did manage to get a cake into the fridge and make a quick treasure hunt for them to find it. She had claimed that she didn't need a cake this year, but apparently it was all she could talk about on the way home from school.... "I wonder what kind of cake Mum has made this year!" etc. My husband is getting good at lighting the candles and singing happy birthday in my absence!
I also never got around to posting about Masaki's birthday... his birthday was in the holidays, but turned into a busy day - starting by picking up Mum from Fukuoka and finishing by picking up Emily off the boat from Oita. A late dinner at a restaurant on the way home followed by cake at home. In past years he has missed out on a proper cake because we have been camping etc. so this year I was determined to make one for him so opted for an icecream cake.... only by the time we got home it was really late and no one really wanted to eat cake and the cake was so hard that it took about half an hour to cut it! Oh well, I guess it is the gesture that counts.
There was also a birthday for Jichan (Tom's father) in between - I am getting pretty good at rushed decoration jobs!
Right - I need to get to Oita to talk to 277 high school students about... to be honest I'm not entirely sure what I am expected to talk to them about! I wish I could learn to say no to stupid requests!!!!