Sunday, January 29, 2012

Washing day

Today was one of those beautiful winter days when you feel like spring is just around the corner - at least until you see the forecast which is for snow for the next three days! To take advantage of the beautiful weather I washed a couple of loads of washing and all the blankets, duvets, pillows, cushions etc. were put out for a bit of sun bathing.
I like to use what we have rather than buy new things all the time and our method of hanging washing is no exception. Most people in this area seem to hang their washing on coat hangers on big long poles - but the poles are quite expensive and so are the braces to put them on. So I use our guttering instead. It quite conveniently has a little hook kind of thing under it which fits a coat hanger perfectly. The additional height means the washing dries that little bit faster too.
When we have to hang washing inside we also take advantage of what we have and use the little hollow which is common in Japanese houses just above the doors to hang the clothes hangers from. The fire means they dry overnight. I know that in the past the hollow was used by samurai to hide their swords, but I think our use of it is far more practical!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Only if you have a few spare minutes....

Warning: do not click on this link unless you have a few spare minutes... or want to avoid doing something that really needs doing for half an hour or so!
I think I have posted about the great "Cool Math 4 Kids" site before, but if I haven't and you have children (or actually if there are any adults in the house that like logic kind of games) I really suggest you check out the games section - very addictive, but lots of fun. The latest one that we all love in our family is Snail Bob 2 - fun ideas and not too difficult that you can't get through all the 25 levels in half an hour or so..... Watch the snail's reactions as it gets eaten by eagles, squashed by heavy objects or boiled up in a caterpillar's cauldron.....

Friday, January 27, 2012

Driving to work

When we were in New Zealand I kept thinking how great it would be if Japan used round-abouts at some of their intersections. It would save so many traffic lights and improve a lot of the traffic flow (after the initial problems of people getting used to them.....). And then I got back to Japan and drove to work.... and remembered why there are no round-abouts here! The videos don't really show the narrowness of the streets very well, but a lot of the roads around here are like this - just wide enough for one car to drive through. They are TWO-way streets! There is generally no parking allowed on the side of the streets here - although not many people seem to know that and a trip down these "streets" often results in backing up at least once or tooting politely to whoever is gossiping with the locals and blocking the road. This particular road is being widened at the moment - which has meant pulling down many houses and rebuilding them further back. Apparently they had to do it as no ambulances or fire engines could make it down the streets! Progress in a way, but I guess there is still a way to go till round-abouts make their debut here....

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Purple .... something.

I have a vague memory of buying a seedling of some kind of purple vegetable last year. Today I happened to glance under the butterfly net and discovered that it has grown perfectly! Not a caterpillar in sight, nice tight, big head and definitely purple! The only problem is that I can't actually remember what vegetable it is... I'm guessing it is cauliflower, but it could be broccoli. In the end it probably doesn't matter - any veges at this time of the year are appreciated as to buy them in the shops breaks the bank right now.

As predicted there were problems on the road today as people didn't prepare properly last night.... despite no actual snow it took my husband 1 hour and 10 minutes to get to work today when it usually only takes 30 minutes. He took the back roads so I'm guessing if he had taken the main road it would have taken him almost twice as long - traffic moving slower than a snail for at least 20km. Emily's teacher also arrived at school close to 2 hours late.... perhaps over-reacting is better than under-reacting!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Over reaction... again!

Last year I wrote about school being canceled due to a typhoon that never actually arrived. Today we almost had the same kind of situation due to a "heavy snow" warning. It seems like the whole of Japan is having a really cold snap and last night a message was sent around from school via the area phone tree (as opposed to the class phone tree or the PTA phone tree) that there may be another message sent around the area phone tree in the morning to say that school would be cancelled or delayed if the snow that was forecasted actually eventuated. The hamlet leader was out in the dark at 8pm spreading bags and bags of salt on the road to prevent them icing over so we could all get to work in the morning. I couldn't be bothered preparing for my 8am class because the heavy snow would surely prevent me getting to work - despite all the salt on the road.
And then we woke up to.... a tiny sprinkling of snow on the lawn.... no message via the phone tree, lots of salt left all over the road (great for rusting the bottom of cars....) and no classes prepared. Oops! There is another snowfall forecast for tonight so perhaps if we all presume it won't happen we may actually get a decent dump!

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Before Christmas I gave you a sneak peak of one of my "projects". Now that Christmas is over I can show you the whole thing! This year we decided not to give Christmas presents, but when you have a 6 month old niece you really need to do something so I decided to make her a cloth book. There are some great ideas on the internet which I mixed in with some random ideas of my own and somehow managed to get something together in time. I would like to thank Jacqui, a fellow kiwi living in Japan, who made me the bag to put it in.... I just didn't have the time or the skills to do it! Thank you Jacqui - you can check out her website of great bags here!

The kids decided they really wanted to do something for Megan and Nathan's wedding so they spent a few hours putting little lollies into bags, sealing them and packing them away to use as "wedding favours".

Another project I worked on was to make a visitor's book for Megan and Nathan as a wedding present. It ended up being used as a wedding message book, which was great! Now I just need to make another visitor's book and as there is another niece/nephew on the way soon too I guess I should start thinking about another cloth book too......


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Zealand Trip Part 4

I think I have mentioned before that I am not really a big fan of weddings. Tom and I had a party here for friends when we got married (which we made all the food for) and in New Zealand my family put together a last minute garden wedding which we turned up to and enjoyed without doing anything...
However... the main reason we were back in New Zealand this year was to attend my sister's wedding and I would have to say that it was really enjoyable. It started about 2:30pm (ish....) and we left at about 10:30pm. There were about 70 people there and it was held in a fantastic private garden. After the formal ceremony bit was done there were games for the kids (and big kids) to play - lawn bowls, croquet, swing ball etc., a jazz band to listen to, there was wine to sip, nibbles to nibble and great conversation to enjoy while the couple were off getting photos taken. Eventually "help yourself dinner" was served and the evening was finished off with a great quiz. My husband was more than a little impressed by the casualness of it after attending so many Japanese weddings... Unfortunately I can't access my husband's photos right now so here a just a few from my camera and from the professional camera person too (who I would highly recommend... Anna Cargin). Congratulations Meg and Nate-dog!

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Zealand Trip Part 3

One of the good things about the children growing up is that they remember things from previous trips to New Zealand. There were a few things that they really wanted to do again this time and I think we managed to fit most of them in. There is still a trip on my uncle's yacht that we missed, but I'm sure the weather will cooperate next time we are there!
A few random things we did in the new year were.....

New Zealand Trip Part 2

After a relaxing time with my mother's side of the family we headed to my father's in Christchurch and arrived just in time for a big earthquake - a great welcome! We had quite a few during our time there - but none as big as the first day. Christmas was great - very relaxed with people coming and going all day.
We then collected my husband from the airport on the 26th and spent 4 days on the road seeing parts of New Zealand that were new to him (and for the most part me too!). The first day was spent with family at the pools in Hanmer - absolutely perfect weather and great fun for the kids (and bigger kids....). We then headed off for a night each at Richmond (just out of Nelson), Blenheim then Kaikoura before heading back to Christchurch. We had no real "plans" so it was great to be able to just drive and stop whenever we felt like it - going for some nice bushwalks etc. Unfortunately the weather packed a sad in Nelson and we had continual rain for the last half of the road trip- meaning we had to cancel our highly anticipated whale watching.
I really should go through my husband's photos and get some of the better ones, but...he takes so many that I can never choose. Instead here are a few highlights from my camera.

New Zealand Trip Part 1

I can see that I am never going to have time to do a detailed entry about our trip away, so I'll just post a few photos of the main things we did - looking back it is amazing how much we did over the 3 weeks. The first "stage" of our trip was to my uncle and aunt's wonderful house in Takamatua (just out of Akaroa on Banks Peninsula, Christchurch). We were so lucky to have Mum, Big Kev, Nanna, Pop, Emma, Hannah and Mike and Bec join us for some or all of this part of our trip. We spent the days trying to keep warm (it was "summer"....) and generally having a great time doing things like...

Thursday, January 12, 2012


My new "weather station" is informing me that it is 2 degrees outside (up from minus 2 when I woke up), but a cosy 20 degrees inside. I have to go to work in 20 minutes. I am not looking forward to it!
We had a great 3 and-a-bit weeks away in New Zealand - after a few wintry days we really hit the summer weather and it was fantastic! I think one of the big pluses for me was that my family was willing to travel to where we were, rather than us having to travel to them so it turned into a really relaxing holiday with people coming and going and a short road trip for us in between. I'll catch up on our holiday in the next few days (or weeks...) but for now just a big thanks to all those who traveled to see us and of course those who didn't travel, but did so much to make our trip a great one. It was our first trip back in 4 years and my first Christmas in NZ since I came here over 15 years ago. Very sad leaving, but hopefully it won't be so long until the next one!