Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Kitchen reform

Many, many months ago I listened in on a free webinar by Jacqui and Joanna at Build and Thrive Academy.  I can't remember the exact wording, but one of the concepts discussed was related to how you can make your workspace a more pleasurable space to work in.  There was also a lot of talk about decluttering.  Of course I lay there nodding (it was late at night Japan time!) and thinking I would jump out of bed the next morning and clean out the entire cottage kitchen and make it much more user friendly.  Of course the next day arrived along with the zillion essential jobs that needed to be done that day and the beautifying and decluttering was put off and put off and put off.

Yesterday Tom finally finished replacing the rotten boards on the cottage deck and the sight of him with the electric drill spurred me into action. I got him to put up some wire racks on the cottage kitchen walls and then spent an hour or so hanging all the things I use all the time and putting all the things I don't use so often away in the cupboards.  Gotta love the 100 yen shop at times like this... very cheap space saving solutions!   

Hopefully there will be far less swearing during my next baking session as I will be able to take out bowls etc. without a zillion different things falling all over the floor in the process!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Cookie basket playing

For those of you who don't know, I have a small cookie business.  I currently supply 3 different shops with small amounts of cookies each week on commission - if they don't sell I bring them home and don't get paid.  The business has been building over the last year or so and I now have many regulars who will ask for certain kinds etc. and will buy a pack or two every week.  Bringing home unsold packets is becoming a rarity. 

Lately I have been asked if I can do gift baskets for people.  I am a bit torn by this prospect as my main philosophy with my cookies is that I want people to be able to buy them regularly and eat them like a daily snack, rather than an occasional indulgence.  This to me means reducing the price and also the pretty packaging.  I really hate all the rubbish that is associated with Japanese packaging.   But... I live in Japan where packaging is everything. 

Because I have been approached so many times I know there is a market for more beautifully wrapped cookies, so I have decided that I will take my business in two different directions - I really want to continue with the basic packs I have, but then add in a gift basket range too - on a make to order basis so I don't waste time and money on expensive packaging only to have to bring it home again. 

I love the idea of making things interesting, but every time I try to make proper baskets they end up looking very amateur.  So last week I took some cookies to a friend who is a florist to see if she could give me some basic ideas for making a basket look good.  Today she called me and told me she had so much fun thinking of ideas - playing around with arrangements etc. so I went to pick up the finished products.  I found it really interesting to learn a few of the small tricks of the trade - how to roll up a bit of extra paper to make things stand up, the tiny bit of shredded paper to tie it all, how to use cellophane effectively etc.

Now that I have the basics I will try with different sized bags of cookies etc. and properly drop the soft toys... I just can't justify an extra 100 yen for a soft toy that is likely to be thrown out anyway!  I hope to have a basic range ready just in time for Christmas - anyone who needs something a little different and very special to give to workmates etc... just let me know!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Garden wander

I'll write a proper post about it later, but the moment I am in the middle of helping to organise a new market in our town.  It is called the "Apple Crate Market"and will hopefully be held 4 times a year.  It is a lot of fun to see your dream start to become a reality, but also a lot of hard work and lots of headaches!  Fortunately all involved are very realistic about the whole thing, and realise that it will not be a huge success the first time, but starting small and enjoying the process (while not forking out lots of money!) are our main goals for now. 
Of course in 10 years time we are hoping it will be the best market in the world, with books written about our success, stall holders on 3 year waiting lists, customers having to buy entrance tickets in advance just to get in the gate etc., but for now we are happy if we can get a few stall holders who have the same ideals as us and a few customers who will come and put smiles on our faces!  November 29th... if anyone is in the area!

A lot of the preparation for the market involves computer work so I have been trying to take a few breaks and at least go for a wander around the garden.  I am always surprised by how many flowers there are around at the moment - all self seeded of course! 
Here are a few pictures of things that are going on here at the moment
Today's flowers from the garden


Make shift eggplant house!  Will it last more than a week?  I doubt it, but it was fun to make!

Kiwifruit ready to pick

Passionfruit flowering in the tunnel house

Passionfruit... I doubt they will manage to ripen, but one can only hope!

Beautiful rice fields ready for harvest last week... now all the rice is gone!

Friday, October 09, 2015

One year on...

This time last year we had a junior high school group come to stay.  The day after they left it was my birthday and I treated myself to a trip to the hospital to check out a very sore neck that had been bothering me for a few days.  This was the start of a downward spiral which ended up with me in hospital for close to 2 months dealing with an autoimmune disease.  It took six months, but I got off all the medicine and am now back to "normal".  Because they could never diagnose the cause of my illness I have been a little paranoid that it was environmental factors combined with stress and therefore this season may result in me falling sick again. 
Tomorrow is my birthday again and this year it looks like I will be celebrating with a trip to a coffee shop with a puzzle book to relax while my son is at athletics rather than a trip to the hospital.  I said goodbye to a group of 5 girls today who had been with us for 3 days... I looked after them virtually alone and have come out the other side very tired, but still healthy.  Things are looking up.  In celebration of surviving their visit I've put together a short slideshow of their time here.  We did many more things, but these were the main highlights... most importantly I made it out the other side and am at home to tell the tale!  Long may it last....

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Extending the Kingdom

The chicken kingdom has finally been extended and bets can currently be placed as to how many minutes/hours/days it will take for the chickens to find a way out of it!  The other question is whether they will dig under or fly over the fence first.  And if they don't do either of those, whether it will be a ferret or a cat which has a snack first..... 
The fence is all a bit rough, but I am just happy that they will be able to move around a little more and eat all my weeds - saving me both weeding time and money for feed. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Holy Cow!

Today on the way home from picking up my son I thought there was a fire in the mountains... and then we looked a little closer and realised that it was actually the cedar trees letting off a bit of steam... or pollen in huge quantities.  I have been sneezing a bit lately and thought that the pollen season must be almost upon us... today's spectacle confirmed it.  The tissue companies must love this season!!!!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The chickens are back!

After far too long without chickens they are now back!  We picked up 20 80-day old chickens this morning and they are quickly settling into their new abode.  The punk rocker at the bottom has already established herself as the Queen of the brood and enjoys taking pride of place on the warm concrete steps up to the chicken house.  Hopefully they will grow fast and we will be collecting eggs for breakfast in the very near future!