Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cooking again

My holiday appears to be over... today I had another "cooking classroom" with 3 people for lunch. I don't advertise that I do these, but by word of mouth I have people call up and ask if I can do something for them on a certain day. Today it was the third time for one of the ladies and she brought friends who really want to bring other friends. This kind of "advertising" seems to work really well as the people coming have a pretty good idea of what to expect. I really enjoy these groups as they are very relaxed and they cook our lunch for us! They are more interested in having a fun morning than learning a lot so we have a lot of fun chatting and cooking at the same time. It is always nice to have people go "wow" when you take them around the garden too. It is amazing how small things that we take for granted get big responses - thyme, oregano, dill, artichoke, asparagus etc. I also manage to keep my herbs under control by giving away all the pieces which are spreading too far.
Back to jam making tomorrow too. Thanks Mutsumi for the strawberries!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Osettai again

Today we joined a few other walkers and wandered around our neighbourhood for half an hour or so collecting snacks. As I briefly mentioned last year "Osettai" is a day when different households join together and pay tribute to the priests of the past and provide small packets of snacks to people who come past. I think this is related to the pilgrims in the past who would receive a small amount of food etc. from the locals on their long travels.
It has now turned into a different kind of trek, but basically if you see a red or white flag flying outside some one's house you can go and pray at their house and after leaving a tiny donation you receive a little bag of snacks or in more organised neighbourhoods a plate of rice, pickles etc. I quite like this day as it gives you an opportunity to see inside each person's garden, a little inside their house etc. and is one day where the whole community gets together. We even went as far as to go into someones house this year in a completely different neighbourhood on our way home from a friend's house. I think they were a little surprised to see us, but kindly handed over a nice little bag of snacks which kept the children quiet all the way home!

On a completely different note, I have somehow found myself as the new chairperson of the kindergarten PTA. Apparently while I was away in New Zealand the other PTA members decided that I would be best for the job (in other words no one else would do it) and the head of the kindergarten wasn't really interested in my protests! The price you pay for going away on holiday. It could be a long year.....

On another completely different note. Thank you for all the enquiries about my daughter's arm. The cast was taken off on Thursday and she is on doctor's orders to take care not to bash it around too much and especially not to fall over on it. Hence when I picked her up from school on Thursday I was not so impressed to see that she was trying to ride a unicycle and watching her go crashing down onto the road yesterday when she was racing along in her "high heels" didn't do too much for my heart either! Fortunately only a huge gash in her knee resulted from the fall and the arm is still in 3 pieces not 4!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Passionfruit madness

A couple of years ago I was looking through my seed catalogue and came across passion fruit seeds. The description said "Every home should have one! " so of course I thought I should get one. Unfortunately the only problem with this is that passion fruit vines tend to die in even light frosts so the ones I planted outside all shrivelled up over the first winter. I decided I may as well throw a few of the plants into the greenhouse to see if they liked it there and... a year or so later they have gone crazy! I think there are 4 plants (I say think because I can't actually see as far as the roots so I'm not totally sure) and until today I had let them run wild all over the ground. Today I bravely stood on a rickety box and tied a net onto the roof to give them some extra space and then tried to unravel all the different vines to get them off the ground. It reminded me of someone trying to sort out a ball of wool that the cats (or children... ) had been playing with. Anyway a couple of hours later I had the start of a nice arch and there seem to be quite a lot of flowers on the vines already. Maybe this year I will have to add passion fruit jam to the range!
This morning I helped with the next stage of the sticky potato planting too... turning the piles of dirt into white slugs! Fun, fun, fun!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sticky potatoes

Every year my husband's parents slave away planting sticky potatoes (kind of like very long taro...). With my father in law to check into the hospital for about a month tomorrow there has been a rush this year to get them all planted in time. Of course rain also stops proceedings too, but it looks like they may just get them done in time.
Although they have simplified the process quite a lot since last year it is still very time consuming and back breaking work. First they put long tubes into the ground and pile lots and lots of soil on top of them - making sure to first mark where the ends of them are! Next last year's potatoes are cut and treated with something grey to prevent the ends from rotting then planted so that as they grow they will grow into the tubes - making them easy to dig up in the winter. The roots then go over the sides of the tubes and get nutrients for the potatoes. Well that is the theory anyway!
This year they have planted them just in front of our house so hopefully I will be able to give you a better photo gallery of them than I have managed in the past. That is of course if you are interested of course!
Apart from that I am trying to catch up on seed planting, but made a vital mistake yesterday when I mixed some great organic fertiliser into my garden... only problem was that it had whole kernels of corn in it which the crows love! The afternoon was spent putting up nets to try and give the seeds a chance to at least germinate... perhaps I should have put the latest edition to our family into that garden to scare the crows. Go Perky the pukeko!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Rainy day entertainment

After some wonderful spring days the winter weather that we missed while we were in New Zealand seems to be back.... cold, wet and windy!
So when it is impossible to do anything outside what better thing to do than redo the paper windows in the tatami room. This is necessary due to the fact that they are made out of paper and we have children in our house. I'll let you work out the rest! Unfortunately it is not a completely easy process.
First you have to strip off the old paper and remove all the glue so the new paper will stick properly... fortunately there is a special paper window glue remover which helps things along a little.
Now you are left with the wooden frames...and a lot of mess on the floor.

Next is the fun bit... trying to glue the paper onto the windows so that it is as tight as possible. Not as easy as it sounds sometimes!

After cutting all the excess off (again not always as easy as it seems when you are working with soggy paper...) the windows are finished - or at least until another little child puts their fingers through them!

As soon as the rain stops and the puddles dry out enough our next project needs to be started. The chicken garden! After living with chickens wherever we went in New Zealand we have been more motivated than ever to get some of our own. This bottom garden (currently known as the weed garden) is going to be converted into a chicken garden... if all goes to plan! Any willing helpers greatly appreciated.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Home again

Sorry if there is anyone out there who has been checking this to make sure that we made it home safely... Yes - we did make it back to Japan in basically the same number of pieces that we left in and are now back into our "normal" routines here. Unfortunately the camera is broken right now so I can't show you any pictures of the beautiful spring colours, the weed piles, the seeds I have planted etc. You will just have to imagine them!
It is really good to be back, but of course it was very sad to leave New Zealand too. We had a wonderful time and I am so grateful to everyone for helping to make it so good. Thanks - please let us repay your generosity sometime soon. The cottage is waiting for you all!
The children are back at school/kindergarten and my current complaint is the very early finishing times.... my son goes to kindy at 9am and is home at 11am all next week. My daughter went to school at 8am and finished at 11am more than once last week. As I am sure I have mentioned Japan is crazy about ceremonies, so the first day back at school consists of going to school in the morning, greeting the teachers, officially starting the term and then going home.... And then of course there is the official entrance ceremony for the first grade students which finishes at about 11am so then all the other students go home for the rest of the day. And then of course there is every Wednesday when the teachers have a meeting so the students finish at 2pm. There has been some comments lately by teachers that they think it is necessary to bring back school on Saturdays in order to cover all the work expected of the children. I am guessing there are other ways around this!
Oh and for anyone worried about my daughter's arm it is now in a full plaster and should be fully mended in about 6 weeks - hopefully with the cast coming off in less than 4 weeks. Hopefully the novelty won't have worn off by then!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Farewells and .....

Almost all the farewells have now been said. The children had their last day at school today and both classes joined together to have a party lunch for them. The school has been absolutely fantastic so both children are really sad about leaving all their new friends and teachers. Hopefully they now have lots of penpals now though!
Unfortunately one thing put a slight damper on our last day though.... we spent all afternoon at the hospital. Emily managed to fall out of bed (while playing) last night and although the doctor at the emergency doctors last night looked at the x-rays of her very sore arm and told us there was nothing wrong I was called this morning to be told that it is in fact fractured and needs to be put in a cast for 6 weeks. Slight problem ... we leave tomorrow and you can't fly if you have a cast on. So... after a bit of problem solving she now has a temporary brace which needs to be replaced by a full arm cast when we get to Japan. Nothing like losing all the mobility in your right arm when you are right handed! At least we will be entertained at the security checks at the airport when she sets off all the machines!
Think of me over the next 30 hours or so taking my two little darlings back to Japan.....

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Butterflies and circus

Our last weekend in New Zealand has been and gone and with only 2 days left here we are really counting down quickly! It will be really sad to leave here, but also good to get "home" too.
Our last weekend was filled with fun things as always. We started by going to the new butterfly house at the museum. The children had been there with school so were keen to show us all the things they had learnt about. They loved having the butterflies land on them but were also impressed with the air hockey machines in the discovery world at the entrance. I guess a balance in life is always very important!
On Sunday we all trouped off to the circus and after we resolved the issue of other children jumping up and down the metal steps very loudly beside where we were sitting (for the entire first half) we managed to enjoy some pretty good acts. Not fantastic, but still a fun afternoon out.