Sunday, November 30, 2008

9th Wedding Anniversary




We went out last night for dinnner to celebrate our ninth wedding anniversary. This year, no kids, but we got the dreaded phoone call beofre the main course arrived! Lena had a fever, and Erica didn't have any nappies. Sigh. We convinced Baachan to hold the fort while we finished dinner - which took ages, because I think the chef went out and shot the bird for the coq au vin - in France.

However our plans to go to Tropicoco for a drink after, chat to Rachel about her wedding, and Raoul about the New Year concert that Kanji's band is perfoming in there, but we had to skip that.

It was delicious food, but too slow and not enough! I don't usually complain about small servings, as it allows you to have several courses, but the gap between the courses was so long that there was no chance to fill up. I think EITHER you have to have small servings, served fairly promptly in the Japanese way, so that the meal is completely over within the hour, OR you can take your time between much larger courses. But waiting AND small sizes just resulted in me arriving home hungry.

The wine was excellent though. A French Bordeaux, not as fine as NZ's chardies and savvy blancs these days, but damn good anyway!


I think the appetizers was my favorite! On the left, Kanji's choice, the duck liver pate, which was very good, and on the right, my choice, blue cheese with honey! Mum would have loved it!



Ceasar Salad. And yes, it was better than Joyfull's, although I think they both use the same dressing from Costco! But the croutons were better and the ham was gorgeous premium ham.

Above, Kanji's main choice, the fish, which was so tender and soft, served in a sauce with sea urchin. On the right, the Coq au Vin, also very delicious. I love those French sauces!




Above, I really wanted the creme brulee, but it was unavailable, so I went for this chocolate cake and 'purin' set. Those are berry puree drops around the edge, they were nice, but the purin was a bit bitter, and just didn't feel very special, since a similar thing is available for 100yen from any convenience store! Kanji's choice was more inspired, so I ate half of it. A poached banana, ice cream, and a divine caramel sauce.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

ABC of you

A - Age: 37
B - Bra/booot size: 12 D, 10
C - Cats or dogs? (Or no pets?)no pets but I want a cat
D - Drivers License Weight - truth or lie? thank god we don't have to put our weight on our licence in Japan or NZ! But I would definitely LIE!
E - Emergency Room visits: one, age five, broken arm
F - Fruits or Veggies? fruit!
G - Google your exes? done.
H - Habla Espanol? only a few words
I - Ice Cream flavor? chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. Plus chocolate sauce
J - Jobs you've had in your life: teacher, nurse aid, barmaid (six hours), door-to-door encylopedia sales (two days), jewellery store sales, asparagus picker (one day), research assistant for a former POW imprisoned by the Japanese in Changi, envelope stuffer, babysitter, proofreader.
K - Kindergarten teacher...do you remember his/her name? Mrs Spragg, but I prefered the other one whose name I've forgotten.
L - Loves you've had (yes..I know you love your kids and your pets...I'm talking IN LOVE): C,J,M, and no, C does not stand for Colin. A and G, sadly unrequited.
M - Manicures, pedicures, or neither: once in a blue moon, done myself
N - Nap? If I can!
O - Oceans you've swam in: Pacific, Pacific, Pacific.
P - Person you would LOVE to meet: Obama
Q - Question you'd like to ask your baby/pet/someone in heaven - Will you admit it's bad for you NOW?
R - Republican, Democrat, or whatever: Green baby, green
S - Smoke (now, then, never)? then, lots, now, sadly on occasion
T - Type with fingers on the "right" keys? all the correct keys!
U - University, College, or none? university
V - Vacations planned: NZ in spring, Mediterranean cruise very soon I hope!
W - Weight you'd like to be a year from now: 58
X - Xcited? no, pretty subdued actually
Y - Younger men/women or older men/women: older men, 40 sounds good!
Z - Zoos you LOVE: Singapore Zoo

Another meme - these things are addictive!

Outside my window...lies my garden, lawn freshly murdered by the gardener. Okay, if I made more effort to care for my 'lawn' this wouldn't happen, but still...
I am thinking...that I should get another cup of tea before I have to go to work.
I am thankful for...everything and nothing.
From the kitchen...chocolate fudge, I messed up the first batch, perfected the second, and now I can't repeat the miracle.
I am wearing...pink t-shirt and brown pants, exaclty the same as my baby, oops!
I am creating...a Christmas card to send to my family.
I am going...out to dinner this weekend with my husband, as soon as I find a nice place to go!
I am reading...Sazae-san, Annabel Langbein, Star Trek manual, a novel called 'Spirit Writing' by an NZer with Asian theme, "Sophie's World" - philosophy lite, three NZ magazines - Little Treasures, Memories, Cuisine; a parenting book; Christmas magazines and books; and an art book in the toilet!
I am hoping...to get more work soon
I am hearing...that the fuel surcharges might go down again - too late for me, but fingers crossed anyway
Around the house...are piles of stuff that I must must must be rid of by Dec 31
One of my favorite things...NZ sauvignon blanc, sitting BESIDE my fridge because I don't know if could resist drinking it if it was chilled.
A few plans for the rest of the week...make coconut ice, send Christmas cards, vacuum my bedroom,
Here is a picture thought I am sharing...

In a Word...


1. Where is your cell phone? floor

2. Where is your significant other? work

3. Your hair color? brown

4. Your mother? work

5. Your father? heaven

6. Your favorite thing? chocolate

7. Your dream last night? sleep

8. Your dream/goal? SOMEthing

9. The room you're in? study

10. Your hobby? books

11. Your fear? flying

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Mediterranean

13. Where were you last night? sofa

14. What you're not? empty

15. One of your wish-list items? neatness

16. Where you grew up? hara

17. The last thing you did? breastfeed

18. What are you wearing? jeans

19. Your TV? CNN

20. Your pet? spider

21. Your computer? crap

22. Your mood? medium

23. Missing someone? plenty

24. Your car? tiny

25. Something you're not wearing? shoes

26. Favorite store? sussan

27. Your summer? o-matsuri!

28. Love someone? naturally

29. Your favorite color? green

30. When is the last time you laughed? now

31. Last time you cried? October

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ice Skating



First Ice Skating of the season! Amy and Lena are starting to really love it, and both are getting quite good too, at least they no longer need to hold on to the rails the whole time. In fact, I spent too much time off the ice taking care of Erica (more on that later) that she far exceeded me and WON when we had a race later in the day. And no, I wasn't being easy on her! In fact I went at it hell for leather and fell on my bum. But even when I wasn't falling over, I still couldn't catch up to her!



Of course Erica couldn't go on the ice, so she stayed at the sidelines, having great fun dancing, playing peek-a-boo, getting carried around by her Daddy, and playing with a little dog. Taht is, until she chased said dog down a flight of steps - and Daddy was too slow to catch her. She took it in the face, and her nose bled too, the only injury of the day! I was surprised that the office had nothing resembling a First Aid kit, and had trouble even finding us tissues. I mopped up the nose with a nappy I just happened to have in my pocket. More providentially, who should turn up in the locker where I took her to feed her and calm her down, than the pediatrician! Not out main one, but the spare one who goes to the same clinic on busy days to help clear the back-log. He said she'd be fine, just needed some antibacterial cream on her cuts.

Scarecrow soccer

There is a scarecrow festival in Yamakuni. There's not much going on in this tiny mountain village, whose claim to fame is a skating rink and a famous chicken dish at a road-side restaurant. So they invented this annual scarecrow extravaganza. For several years there's been the odd few scarecrows in a field near a restored country cottage, but they really outdid themselves this year, with scarecrows all over the place, fishing from the river, sitting outside shops, and here, a whole game of soccer complete with cameramen and supporters.





Erica was very confused and frightened by these beings that resembled people, but had no faces. How scary for a little baby!

We also stopped here for a photo op while on the tour for the AFWJ mini convention.






Monday, November 24, 2008

Hadaka Matsuri - Naked Festival


That's Kanji above in the dead centre, half naked in the freezing river. The mikoshi, or portable shrine, is in the river behind him, and at this point in the proceedings, all the participants are offering a prayer to towards the shrine before moving on again. I do have a closer photo, but it's a little too revealing! Suffice it to say, he looks quite good in a fundoshi (Japanese loin cloth). And they are, as you can see, nowhere near naked, they get to wear a shirt as well, though that probably makes them even colder, as they get that shirt wet but are only up to their waist in the water most of the time.

The festival is 1200 years old, but this river crossing is 'only' 900 years old. Story goes that for some reason they were unable to get the mikoshi across the bridge, so they had to take it through the river. On Friday they take it to the shrine across the river, on Sunday they take it back home.


Left, the massive taiko drum, and on the right, the biggest straw torch in the world - it's set up in the actual river, and is lit with a flaming arrow.



Above left, the group entering the river with the mikoshi. On the right, a better view of the mikoshi itself. Kanjj's wearing a white headband, after that, you're on your own, your guess as good as mine. I was lucky to find him at all for the picture at top, while I was snapping that, I was trying to point him out to Lena and a friend, neither of whom could pick him out!


Amy decided not to come. She was comfortably ensconced under the kotatsu (heated table) at Baachan's coloring a picture. I think she regretted that decision later on. Here are Lena and Erica mesmerized by one of the bonfires.



Kanji finished and exhilarated! We were lucky to meet up with a friend who took a photo of us, crowded at the river's edge waiting for them to come up out of the water.

Erica dancing to the taiko drum:

video

Entering the water:

video

The taiko drum and massive torch - sorry for the sideways angle, I'm not sure how to realign movies off my camera - if anyone knows, please teach me!

video

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hachimenzan

(This type of Buddha is called 'ojizousama' or 'jizo'. He takes care of lost babies in a special heaven. Chris and Deb wondered if the 'tear soup' I sent them was a Japanese custom - it's not, but this is. Grieving parents commission a Jizo statue to stand in a temple or a cemetary, where they are offered incense and flowers.)

On Wednesday we went to Hachimenzan, the mountain near my city. I've been there many times before, but it's been a long time since I went to the summit. The drive up is steep and curvy, and while I've been as far as the lake several times recently, this was the first time I went further since I walked around the summit about 10 years ago!

We were rewarded with snow. It was fluttering around up there, and had settled on the trees and the stumps and tables at this picnic spot.











I also went to see the sleeping buddha again after about 10 years! And for the first time, explored the hill behind, which is dotted with buddhas and jizos, including several adorable little treasures.





Close-up of the Buddha's companions grieving at his passing. Of course, in reality he was entering Nirvana, not something to be upset about. Their grief thus displays their own unenlightened state.



The scene on the way to the sleeping Buddha. A bridge leading to an island. The bridge is the stone where the red writing is. I'm reminded of the 'Chinese garden' in King Edward Park, Hawera, only this is so much better!



Jizos in graduating sizes. Look very carefully to the left for a very tiny one.









Wednesday evening we went to the 'San sui kai' with Kanji. That's the monthly beer-drinking party. One hectic hour of eating and drinking as fast as you can!





Some more wonderful statuary from the mountain:


This Jizo is holding the baby. Very much like a catholic Madonna and child. It could also be Kannon, another bodhisattva who is often depicted holding a baby. However, Kannon usually looks female, and I think this guy looks like a bloke, so it's probably Jizo.













Many of the Jizos wear bibs. This statue is actually wearing one too, only it's so old and mouldy that it's stiff as stone.



Then half way down to the peace park, we found this adorable little baby on a rock. I couldn't resist it, I took it home.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Usa Jingu

On Tuesday we went to Usa Jingu. I had forgotten how beautiful it is there in the autumn. We had lunch at a small restaurant there, Chelsey had soba noodles, and I had dango-jiru, a miso-based soup with vegetables, pork and fat noodles. It wasn't very good, I'll have to make it at home again. Then we had ice cream. Chelsey studied animal training, can't you tell:

video

That evening we had a rather impromptu nabe party, with the piano teacher and our near neighbor Rachel and her new hubby. Chelsey baked a delicious pie using the persimmons which are abundant at the moment. She made it up and it worked really well, with a sweet crust base and a custard made from condensed milk and egg yolks covering the persimmons. Yum! Here are some more photos of the shrine:



The treasure house and tea rooms behind a gorgeous maple in full red autumn bloom.




The lake has been taken over by moss and lilies but it looks wonderful next to the yellow leaves



Either that's a very big tree or a very little baby. Or both.



My favorite building at Usa Jingu. I love the mature trees and the moss growing on the thatch roof.








Curiosity!



Erica getting excited about the ducks...which Chelsey and I wanted to murder as they kept stealing the fish food, and we wanted to see the carp!











A fascinating but shockingly sad outdoor gallery - why leave these treasures to fade away and rot outside?



Scary!!!!...







...that enormous demon mask up there!