Thursday, May 21, 2009

House-Cooling Party

You've all heard of a house-warming party, but how many of you have been to a house-cooling? When my sister Becky moved out of her flat, we had a small take-away picnic on the floor of the gutted house. The kids had a ball!

The flew through the empty living room!

The party. Grandma tucking into a chip. Amy, Lena, Erica, Bec, Josh, Jo and Gabi.

In a different light, the children take on corporeal form, though with 'orbs'....but I think they look cooler all wavy.

Grandma with the dogs. Gabi wins babysitter of the year award for skillful handling of many yougsters at once.

The game/performance that developed out of the nothing. Watch to the end, there's a giggle there...they're not all that well coordinated...

I have no photos of the next thing we did. I took everyone on a ghost walk. We snuck through the empty rooms with just a torch, kids screaming, to find the 'ghosts' - spooky window clings of a 'yurei' Japanese ghost, disembodied eyes, fingers reaching around the door, a broken window and an ant trail. All from the 100 yen shop!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

One Night in Tropicoco

We stroled in to the local Mexican bar early in the night, after taking the kids out for dinner, to find it completely empty and some very tempting musical instruments on the stage. We'd missed the acoustic performance the night before that the bar owner's sons had been to, so he let us have a go.

Lena trying out pool

Erica's going to be our drummer.

The fun of bongos!

As long as there's no actual audience to embarrass them, they make quite good pop stars.

Even Erica got the hang of the mic!

Family Band

Erica and her new friend, Mic

Amy and Lena singing the theme song to Pretty Cure, a Japanese TV cartoon.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ballet Concert for Mother

This is what little girls get up to when Mother hogs the TV all day on Mother's Day. They planned, costumed, then put on a ballet, Cinderella, for me.

Cinderella after the ball, back in her Cinder clothes.

Lena was the fairy godmother.

Erica has learned to smile for the camera!

It looks a bit like Erica's holding Amy up...the grand finale of the ballet, great leaps (with the aid of a study desk).

Cinderella hard at work

The Fairy Godmother makes her entrance

Cinderella dressed for the ball

The Fairy Godmother's magic wand

Cinderella back to the drugery, while the fairy godmother tends to her wand

These fairies REALLY know how to fly!

Erica's turn! With a little help from her big sisters. This is the second go - the first time, Amy pulled, Lena pushed, Erica fell off the desk with a thump and Lena fell on top of her - and Erica giggled and laughed and thought it was great fun!

Mother's Day

I had a lovely Mother's Day relaxing with the kids. It started rough, with everyone else lounging on the sofa while I frantically cleaned up, as you need to start with a clean slate when you intend to do nothing all day! But it got better, as Kanji came home from some fish festival he'd gone to with a pot of green carnations for me, and the girls each gave me a pink one. Amy wrote me a handmade card, with this message:

to Mum. mum you R my Supermum. and I Love You. I will LoVE You for ever. you R nice and god and responsible for every thing and I love you.

Yes, I certainly AM responsible for everything! Nice to know I'm a god too, though I think that was supposed to be 'good'.

Erica tore the card, then Lena selotaped it, so all was well.

Kanji bought a big fish at the festival and that was my lunch.

I won't show you the photo I took a few minutes later of the headless fish. This one is just here to justify the next photo...

of my husband wielding a knife and grinning maniacally. Okay, it's actually a rather sweet smile, but that knife...was used to cut very fresh sashimi for lunch. I took some unposed photos of my girls. Amy, playing with a wooden drawing model I bought her to practice drawing, only she uses it as a clothing model for which she sews little outfits.

Lena, mid-thought. And Erica eating Lena's leftover cornflakes - I think she enjoyed using the big spoon and bowl.

I spent the afternoon reading and watching TV - at the same time. And banning anyone else from watching anything they wanted to. NO CARTOONS! For dinner, I took the kids to Joyfull, as Kanji had gone back to work. Not my favorite place, but close, and cheap, and the kids love it, and I do like their chocolate sundaes!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mad Shopper

Okay, I'm fessing up. This is the stuff I bought in NZ, and sent back to myself. So obviously it does not include the last minute easter eggs and chocolate bars, or the huge bag full of souvenir chocolates (a few of which ended up down my throat instead). Some Kiwis and other foreigners will be nodding their heads and saying "yep, you gotta have some of that" at some things, and "WTF? Is she mad?" at others. Jo will be kicking herself for prancing around with JnH'ers and not coming to get her golden syrup and I know Katy will sympathize with the rubber spatula.

Sanitarium weetbix, because the variety you can get through FBC just does not work in the muesli recipe I use (thanks Jo T.). Gingernuts, which I always waver over - scoff them soggy after a dipping in hot tea...or crush them for a sweet dessert pie base. Hmmm....Favourite sweets - I LOVE licorice, all the more since I can't get it here. I'm sure I wouldn't eat it as much if I lived in NZ and could have it whenever I wanted. When I find a source for favorite foods in Japan I often just stop eating them - it's their rarity and elusiveness that is so appetizing. Ditto Continentals and Old Gold. Custard powder, which just isn't the same here, which I use for trifles mostly. Silver cachous, which you can get here in a smaller size. Mixed nuts, UNsalted. I can get salted mixed nuts at Costco, but finding unsalted nuts is a bit trickier, expensive, and in mixes I don't like. Might as well throw some in then! Turkish apricots, for the muesli again. They are sometimes available in the supermarket here, sometimes not, usually not when I want them! Chuck some in just in case. My favorite UV moisturizer. At $15 a bottle, much more economical that the Japanese products, and a lighter lotion style that I like, rather than a thick sunscreen. I use it everyday in summer. The chocolates at the lower left I have no idea what they are! I must go check them out...

In front a bunch of liquid food dyes. The black LEAKED IN THE BOX. Only leaked, thank goodness, not spilled, but enough to dye the labels on all the dye bottles, so now I have no idea which dye is which without a very close inspection of the bottle! More gingernuts, golden syrup and NZ honey. Tomato sauce for me and the kids. Totally not a necessity since we all like Japanese tomato sauce. Favorite chocoate bars, and Cadbury favorites. More from the Alison Holst food bins at Pac'n'Save - this is chocolate-covered crystallized ginger, I think. OXO chicken stock cubes, as while I do like Japanese Maggi consome, I do get tired of it too. Cake decorations and NZ jelly, which is just DIFFERENT. Pitted dates, which are very hard to find in Japan. I think Tengu has them. I would snack on them more if I could find a cheap source. As they are a rarity for me though, so I tend to save them for Sticky Date Pudding - divine! And Instant Oatmeal.

And more instant Oatmeal. Okay, I know oatmeal is something you can get in Japan. At Tengu, FBC and Costco, and I've even seen American Quaker oats in the supermarket (though not last time I looked). I'm having trouble finding the right variety to a) make muesli and b) to make creamy porridge. While I continue to buy and experiment, I like to have something tasty and easy on hand for days when I don't feel like being chief cook and taster in the Great Oatmeal Experiment. BAGS of soup mix - because Erica LOVES vege soup, and it's such an easy and nutritious lunch or dinner for her, and so easy to make with these sachets. The bigger bags are just the beans, for when I'm feeling ambitious enough to do it from scratch and make stock too. Speaking of stock, more stock powder. More golden syrup and brown sugar for baking. I think that's coconut rough in the bin bag. More food dye. More licorice - my new hot favorite, chocoate stuffed licorice rolls. Superb! And TO-DIE-FOR Cadbury creme eggs!!

Another key link in the Great Oatmeal Experiment - Scotch Oats. It's spring, so I won't be testing this theory until at least November. NZ cornflour, since I heard that Japanese starch just won't do for pavs. A vertical potato peeler. Corn forks. Possibly here, probably in some big department store, but I've never seen them, and there they were on a shelf in NZ, so I threw them in. A BIG bottle of vanilla essence, which I use a lot of, and another of peppermint, which I couldn't find in Youme Town last Christmas when I had my eye on home-made peppermint lollies. More licorice, a Lindt Easter Bunny, the kids' favorite NZ snack, Twisties, and my favorite salt & vinegar chips. Would you know, I got back to Japan and guess what I found in the supermarket? S&V chips! Too bad they were vile. Guess I'll be saving up my chippies for my birthday and Christmas after all.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Family Dinner

On the evening of Erica's baptism, the family got together to eat, and the kids got together to play, and in what you will now recognize as a very repetitive cliche, they all got on the tramp.

We were entertained by a fashion show, which even Josh joined in!

He wore the superman suit every time, with various superhero and/or joke accessories.

Amy announcing something, Lena taking a break. Most of the show ended up on video where we can embarrass them more thoroughly in years to come.

Erica taking a shine to her Aunty Deb and Uncle Chris

Sweet girls with sweet flowers, but this photo has a bit more of an interesting story attached - the girls picked up flowers in their hair while climbing tres, and noticing the pretty effect, they decided to finish off the decorating themselves. After showing themselves off to us, as we were chasing them outside so they wouldn't drip petals all over the carpet, Lena heard a buzzing noise. She tried to move away, but wasn't able to. Soon she realized that the buzzing was coming from her own head - a bee had followed the flowers and got caught up in her hair! Uncle Tony came to the rescue and risked a sting brushing and shaking it out. It'll be a long time before she tries that particular method of beautification again.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Shonenji Golden Week Camp

Amy, Erica and Lena on a broad concourse at Asia Pacific University, where we went to pick up a friend to take with us to Miyazaki. Looking all fresh and new after only an hour driving - we sure looked a lot worse for wear when we arrived! Erica was in pyjamas, having lost her lunch all over herself. Amy was looking shattered with her hair all messed up, having lost her lunch as well, though in a bag at least.

Our brief at APU was to chat to and amuse a bunch of high-schoolers in a kind of extra, casual 'lesson', in exchange for a free lunch. This mostly took the form of them fussing over the kids and taking photos. Lena, for all her desire to be a model/actress/popstar/all-round famous person, got sick of posing very quickly.

Dinner on the first night, which happened not long after we arrived. We arranged ourselves around two barbecues plus one extra table, under the carport and a tent by the side of the house. I can't count how many guests there were! About 12 children, 15 or more adults. On the left, Amy, Lena and Sahara talking to a boy whose mother is Tunisian. In front of them, the Tunisian food - chicken and vegetables on couscous; also rice balls, sushi and a cheese and cracker plate (it took four of us to get that cheese platter right!)

Breakfast was in the Rec Room, an old town hall near the property bequeathed to the temple at some point. Bread and fruit and yogurt and bacon and eggs and rice and miso soup.

Out the front of the temple, the kids all fascinated by an irrigation ditch. Erica was calling it a bath, but keeping her distance. They had the most fun throwing balls in at the top and catching them. At this time in the morning, they wanted to go to the river and swim, but we said No, as I had a few things to do first. In retrospect it would have been the best time...

Erica found a dandelion in seed. She was just a little bit rough with it! On the second day, we made Banoffe pie - a banana toffee pie with a biscuit base, which Amy is crushing here. You make the toffee or caramel sauce by boiling a tin of condensed milk for several hours, then top with sliced banana, whipped cream and grated chocolate.

I love this total relaxation shot of Lena! Erica having a go at croquet. We all kept our distance!

Just because babies and flowers are so cute!

Hostess Queen Victoria directing the placement of her canopy of state. Or, shifting the tent in for a lunch on the lawn.

Bubbles in the English Garden

Croquet man-style. Or is this golf? On this beautiful day, eating lunch in the sun, suddenly we heard thunder. I looked up and saw the black clouds swirling over the temple and realized our chance to swim in the river was all of a sudden very, very short! I rallied the kids, we got changed, and off we went, after Erica showed us all how cute her bum is without a nappy.

The girls in the river.

(lfet)"Hurry up, Mum, what's going on!" (right) "I'm in!". It was only a wee bit cool, I'm sure that if the storm had allowed us more than a few minutes of swimming time, we'd have gotten a little wetter.

Sigh, not even the explosive fun of a wild thundery river swim can put a stop to the sibling fights!

"Noooooo, it's too cold!" Lena would not get in. No worries, Amy was happy to jump in!

Dinner on the second night was a bit simpler, in reflection of our general state of tiredness. Just curry and rice, and barbecued meat. On the right, the girls eating on the lawn. That's about the distance I saw them most of the time, if at all!

We had spent the earlier part of the afternoon watching Mamma Mia on a big screen in the temple's main hall. Talk about Abba worship.

Erica tucking into her curry. On the right, Amy having her turn whisking the cream. The electic beater had broken the night before while whipping cream for the trifle, so we took turns whipping with a whisk!

Fire. Meat. Yum.
On the right, Amy at breakfast the next morning, trying a unique new game. That is Erica back there trying to push.

Lena and Sahara meanwhile, were playing in a tent. On the right, the grown-ups, having placated most of the children with a DVD, enjoy a quiet cup of tea in Victoria's kitchen. I love that view!

Lunch on the lawn again. Loads of children again. The mostly all run off after their tummies are full. It took me ages to round them up for the trip home!

How many kids can you fit in one toy car?