For lunch I cooked beef olives. I have not had these for ages! I don't know why I suddenly remembered about them about two weeks ago, but I am glad I did. I made a very normal stuffing out of breadcrumbs, finely chopped onion, an egg and some basil, oregano and rosemary as well as salt and black pepper. Japanese beef comes extremely finely sliced, so I made them much smaller than usual, only about a thumb-size wad of stuffing, with the beef wrapped around. An advantage of this very thin beef is that it does not uncurl, so you don't need toothpicks to hold the 'olive' together, which makes browning them much easier.
To accompany it, I cooked frozen peas (which I left in the microwave!) and baked vegetables - potatoes, sweet potatoes and pumpkin. Japanese usually eat sweet potato either cut and smothered with soy sauce and sugar, or whole, roasted in the skin. You peel the skin off to eat it, and Baachan likes to put extra butter on! Dad would have loved it. You know how we have ice cream trucks going round the streets in NZ? Well in Japan, you have whole roasted sweet potato sellers. Japanese usually smother pumpkin in soy sauce and sugar too, so eating both vegetable plain was unusual for them. I reminded them to put extra gravy on them for flavour!
They brought food too - Baachan brought her famous chirashi-zushi, a variety of sushi where the rice is all together in a dish, with a variety of toppings - thinly sliced sweet omelet, shrimp and pickled ginger. She also brought a vegetable dish, and a delicious eel soup. The Aunties both coincidentally brought strawberries, which is great, because I love them and so do the kids.
As I suspected, they all left in under two hours. We ate so much even the kids forgot about the cake. The girls got some presents. Mie got them matching umbrellas, but in different sizes. Good timing because Amy's Barbie umbrella has started to fall apart! We also decided to give Amy her present from Daddy, which was a Precure CD, and a sticker book. Precure is short for Pretty Cure, a fantasy super-heroine anime, very similar to Sailor Moon. Amy LOVES it.
Then the next party began.
Yuu is a little boy who was in the next bed in Amy's hospital ward. He was a darling sweet little thing, so shy at first that he hid in his mother's skirt and poked his tongue out at us (not deliberately, but a kind of shy gesture). But he soon got used to us, and soon him and Lena were inseparable, they even went to the toilet together. When we were discharged, Amy was distraught at leaving him so we swapped addresses and I invited them over today.
I also invited Raoul and his wife and their two boys. Maguno, the baby who was in the hospital with Lena with asthma, slept the whole time. Max was also shy at first, but soon started to play. He preferred me to the other kids though. He LOVES books, he must have 'read' about twenty during the time he was here.
The final guest was Seiya and his mother Chiharu. We have not seen them yet since we got back from NZ. Chiharu has a boyfriend, who likes to stay home Sundays so we have not been able to meet.
But today we had a lovely day, dragging all the toys out of the cupboard, playing outside, eating sweets and cake. Some more presents were bought, for Lena this time. She got a nice pile of cool things from the Leons, and both Amy and Lena got a present from Seiya and his mother - a groovy drink bottle that has a fountain inside and a cap that lights up when the juice from the fountain hits it. Okay, so we might need a photo of that! Yuu's mother brought another cake, a rolled sponge with cream and strawberries, and very seasonally appropriate preserved cherry blossom flowers on it.
We had leftovers for dinner and I managed to get the the room tidy and the kids upstairs by 7:15 - they were alseep in five minutes, I couldn't believe it, they must have been exhausted from all their hard partying! So I even had TIME before my student came at 8:30 (Yes, I scheduled a lesson after such a day! I had to - she usually comes on Saturday, and I had to shift her to go to the Hanami in Yukuhashi, which I had to go to because I promised once already and then cancelled, cos I had forgotten that Friday was the night I was scheduled to do the speech. And yes, I even have a diary - I guess the key is to actually use it...)