Thursday, December 31, 2009

Kanji's Birthday Party

I don't know why he doesn't get sick of the same thing every year, but he loves it! I think he's started to really look forward to our little ritual. This year his band changed from the Nakatsu Sex Pistols Metabolic Syndrome to Bug Spray. The above is my rendition of a bug spray can in chocolate cake and chocolate icing, with FU MA KI RA ZU (Fuma Kirazu/killers or Bug Spray) in licorice.

The Birthday Boy and his little treasure our Amaembo princess Erica

Lena eating her curry, with the bread and cheese platter (to keep Mum happy).

Amy and the sashimi


A clearer look at the bug spray

Divine Leftovers

I'm the queen of leftovers. I've never met a leftover I couldn't cajole into becoming a main dish. (though I'm having some challenges with overcooked coconut ice and broken candy canes. Suggestions anyone?). Turkey of course, is the king of leftover food. In fact, I commented to Kanji on Boxing Day that the only reason I really roast turkey anyway is so I can have turkey sandwiches for the next week. That day, we had a roast re-hash, and it was SO much yummier than the night before, when I was rushed and chatting and had had too much champagne. Turkey sandwiches that night, with a soup made from the giblet stock I made on Christmas Day, but didn't use in my gravy, as the gravy was so damn perfect!

On the 27th I took some to a party with two other Kiwi mums and their leftovers. Sandwich again for me on the 28th, as we had lunch at a friend's house and the girls went out with friends for dinner.

On the 29th the day finally came to dismantle the everlasting bird (no matter how many sandwiches we had, it didn't seem to diminish in size at all). I made a turkey quiche (left) and turkey fried rice (right) then divided the remainder into large chunks and small chunks to be frozen and used at a later date. I orginally intended to cook them up into a sauce, which would freeze better, to make turkey pie later on, but I ran out of time. I'll let you know if it works to freeze turkey dry! One more tiny little bowl in the centre is the dry pieces of meat from the edges that were good to nibble on, a kind of turkey jerky.

The bones, skin, some but not all of the fat, and some chunks of leftover stuffing went into the big pot with some onions, garlic, sage and bay leaves to make a stock for soup. I added soup mix (lentils, split peas and barley) then all the leftover veges - kabu (a kind of turnip), carrots, an onion, sring onion, 2 small potatoes and one neglected tiny sweet potato plus some beans, mushrooms and celery I bought specially.

Turkey sandwiches again last night! And turkey soup for lunch. With luck it'll all be gone by tomorrow, though I might keep a plate aside to make a sneaky turkey sandwich, as I might need a break from all that cold seafood and soy flavored Japanese New Year food!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Dinner

We had a massive roast turkey, with roast potatoes, pumpkin and sweet potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli with cheese sauce and peas. And gravy. A simply divine gravy I made from scratch, from pan drippings only, not a drop of packet mix anywhere, and it was SUPERB, the best gravy I've ever made.

As usual I'm too busy eating, drinking and running around getting stuff to take many photos, but here's one with the main elements - turkey and champagne! The turkey being carved by a guest, since Kanji chickened out and I was too busy microwaving mashed potatoes and decanting gravy.

Dessert! From the top, Bailey's cheesecake, Christmas cake, cookies and donuts, pavlova with strawberries, kids' trifle with pink sprinkles and Sherry trifle with chocolate drops being stolen by Erica. At least she fed them to me after she stole them. Note the barely touched turkey...

Cameron and Georgia going to work on the big bird

Left, Cameron the turkey man, right, Cameron and David with Erica the chocolate thief

Kanji's friend Ken, wife Riko and son Sora. Daugher Shido was playing Licca dolls so intently with Amy and Lena that when they left, they left her here! She stayed with Lena in the big bed and game was resumed in the morning. On the right - I really was seriously photographically challenged this night! This is best, the ONLY shot of Cameron and Georgia doing the aunt and uncle thing and playing a game of Life with Amy


Santa got quite a fancy treat this year! Chocolate milk, TWO cookies and a peppermint! He must have been hungry cos he left only one gingerbread man leg and a button (or was it an eye?)

Christmas Morning. I could hear the presents rustling in the sack well before dawn, and soon after heard the tiny peep - can we wake up yet? Lena models her new fluffy blanket. She said this was her favorite gift! It has buttons so you can wear it as a shrug or a wrap, or use it as a knee rug (young women in Japan often take fluffy character knee rugs to work or school to throw over their legs while they sit, it's definitely not an old-lady thing to do here!). They also like to wrap it around their pillow. Erica slept through the chaos. Amy in her fleece nightie, fluffy wrap and matching Care Bear.

Breakfast was choco-crispies (cocopops), here are three of them tucking in, while Lena preferred to draw on her new ice-cream shaped pad with her new mechanical pencils.

Lunch was our traditional Christmas breakfast, ham and eggs. Usually I do this for breakfast, then a big roast late lunch, with leftovers or dessert for supper. This year I decided to have guests over in the evening, so we could have Christmas Day to ourselves and give me more time to stuff the turkey and whip the cream. So I shifted the ham and eggs to lunch and made it special with a Christmas table setting.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sweet Treats for Christmas

Mince pies glistening on a mikimoto pearl plate. I ate the last one on the 30th.

The cookies I sent to NZ, including tricolor coconut ice, 'Christmas Trees' with white chocolate 'snow' (turned into weird-shaped lumps I'm afraid!), and bourbon-chilli truffles, which my sister heartily declared to be the worst thing she'd ever tasted! Oh well, I'll eat them ALL next year, I love chilli chocolate. And some marbles (pebbles, smarties) for the kids.

Cookies for the cookie exchange I did with a few friends. Afghans, 'no-bowl' slice, chocolate fudge, peppermints and my favorite, walnut balls.
The spread for a party we had on the 23rd. Clockwise from top left: mince pies, ginger thins, chex mix (from a cookie exchange partner), chewy fruit cookies and sugar cookies (from cookie exchange), peppermints, walnut balls and coconut ice, bourbon chilli balls, failed coconut ice that made a not-half-bad biscuit, and the Christmas cake in the centre.

Traditional Christmas treats.

Getting Ready for Christmas

Our real Christmas Tree - well not quite real, the tip of a forestry cedar. I'm thrilled to get anything real though, and extra happy this year, because we read The Fir Tree, by Hans Christian Andersen, which made Lena BAWL her eyes out with pity for the poor tree. So I was able to tell her this isn't a whole tree whose life was cut short, it's the top of a whole tree, and the rest of it is 'probably' still standing in that forest in the middle of the island of Kyushu where it came from. And even if it isn't, don't you think this tip would be so much happier to come to us and be our beautiful Christmas Tree instead of just sitting on the floor in the forest?

Above is the tree all green, below it's started to brown, so we attacked it with canned snow. I might have to research how to keep trees alive, or get it a bit later so it's still green at Christmas time.

Other things to do with fake snow, when you don't get enough of the real stuff:

Left, our entrance hall. In front is the ponsettia Kanji won in a bingo game at his monthly drinking club party. Behind is the little fake tree, this tree gets a matched selection of ornaments and red trimming, while all the hand-made, specially bought, received-as-gifts, historical and totally random ornaments go on the big real tree. On the cabinet is our Advent Calendar/Tree, you take a tiny ornament out of a cupboard for each day of December. Next to it is a My Little Pony advent calendar we also had this year. On the right, a little glass nativity set I picked up at a flea market years ago, and a Christmas village I got off a friend returning to Canada last year.

Left, a few weeks into December and the Santas are guarding an increasing pile of PRESENTS!!! Finally a little fairy who discovered the chocolate cake cooling on a rack in the kitchen.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Toddler Talk

I thought I'd post a little test of toddler talk, for anyone who's interested in taking it, or for us in years to come to see how much I've forgotten!

See if you can figure out what she's saying:

In English:

kissis cheea




door-she-daisho (a character)

gween boon




This one is a movie, see if you can guess which one:


Extra Bonus points, as these ones are REALLY hard - she had to go find a book and show me a picture before even I could get the third one!






EEmon (a character)


Saturday, December 12, 2009

This week's mystery


Japanese speakers will see this and recognize it as somewhere between 'big brother' and 'demon'. This little word, uttered by our two-year old, has been our collective family mystery for the last few weeks. Erica is articulate and has an impressive vocabulary (of course!) but she is also, of course, only just gone two, so most of what she says is incomprehensible babble. Including this little gem.

She has no big brothers, so it can't be that. And when she talks about real 'oni' demons, she adds 'kowai' or 'scary' and hides behind someone. Then I thought it might be Jiichan, if Aunty Toyoko called him o-niichan (big brother), but she doesn't, she calls him 'shatcho' (boss). It wouldn't be such a mystery if she didn't use it ALL the time!

Then finally the penny dropped.

I went upstairs to get her one night when she was crying, and when I entered the room I clearly heard her say 'I neeed you!'. Or, 'aniiju'.

She's saying 'I need some'. Now that's we've clicked, we've noticed that she says it when she's hungry, or wants something.

It's all English, and I was just imagining that she was speaking Japanese. And to think, I get annoyed at strange baachans who assume she's speaking English because they can't understand her babble. Oops.

Ms. Onichan, mystery solved.

Her sisters are known as Ms. 'wait!' and Ms. 'That's What I Thought'. (Lena and Amy respectively)

Friday, December 04, 2009

This Week's Menus

Just a totally random 'What we ate this week' thing. For future reference, or inspiration. I'd love to see other people's menus too, to give me inspiration!

Monday - nabe. Because we had nabe last Thursday only I had just had a horrendous dental treatment and couldn't enjoy it!

Tuesday - chicken and moyashi stir-fry, mashed sweet potato, the rest of the frozen cauliflower and broccoli that won't fit in the freezer in anymore since I put the turkey in there, with cheese sauce, rice and miso soup that no-one ate because there was too much vegetables in it and it looked gross. Even I thought so.

Wednesday - quiche. With all the leftover veg from last night! Such a simple menu after the night before.

Thursday - Amy's 'choose' day and she chose shio saba (salted grilled mackerel). Kanji cooked. He did the fish, tuna sashimi, miso soup (edible this time) and a cabbage stir fry.

Friday - oden. Seemed like an easy option for busy/relaxed Friday. Kanji cooked again. I think he quite likes going shopping and doing the cooking on my work days. I'm not complaining! Even Erica's learned to aim her 'oishii' at him, not me!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

My Work Week

It's Thursday, the middle of my work week (work, that is, the stuff they pay you for, see this for what I do on my 'day off' ha ha).

I hate Thursday because it's a long and busy day, and because it's in the middle. Wednesday has the virtue of being very light - I call it Easy Wednesday to remind myself that work on that day is really not a big deal. And Friday of course, is Friday, with the wonderful bonus feeling at the end of having FINISHED.

Of course, my weekends are usually busy and the kids are home all day demanding snacks, so it's not exactly a holiday, it's more having my mind freed from the responsibility to be somewhere, or to be planning or preparing lessons.

On Wednesday morning I drive all the way out to a tiny country school to teach one 45-minutes class. The drive is 20 minutes each way! But I love this school. There are only 14 students in the school, eight are studying English, rotating between two 1st Grade students and six in a mixed 3/4th Grade class. AND it's this school's last year of operation before it closes and the students have to go to a bigger nearby country school.

This means I have pretty much total freedom in these classes - the small class size means I can do so much more with crafts, and can monitor their individual learning. And being the final year gives me the freedom to splash out and spoil them a bit, since I'm not laying down any expectations for next year! So we iced cupcakes for Halloween, and I was able to bring my own collection of Halloween costumes for them to wear. And I was able to afford to give them a really nice gift pack with sweets and a pencil set and a tiny deck of Halloween playing cards. So I'm having great fun, and I enjoy the drive too, especially when I bring my iPod!

On Wednesday afternoon, I teach a one-hour conversation class with no text book at the City Hospital. I teach the residents, who rotate through the different departments of the hospital every month or two. There are only two at the moment, which makes for a very intimate class - and often no class at all, if they are busy. Yesterday no-one came. That can feel a bit lonely, and you wonder if it's you...but I like to continue the classes because it gives me a forum to ask questions about the system here, as well as an insight into the hospital where my daughters are treated for asthma. For example, I was recently able to ask them about the influenza vaccination schedule.

Thursday morning is the class I look forward to the least, two in a row at a much bigger primary school, with 25-30+ students in each class! This limits what I can do, because even games, with that many kids, take a lot of setting-up and policing and always get rowdy! Plus it's a new class, so I still don't feel very confident about what I am doing and where I'm going, since I'm taking over from someone else, trying to use and adapt her routine and plans.

Thursday and Friday afternoon are classes at OIT, the classes I lost for a year. I kept expecting something else to come up, but nothing did, so I am very grateful to have them back! I missed the little touches, like knowing about what music and clothes young people preferred, and I used to always check out young men on the street - just to make sure it was/wasn't my student, but I'm sure it looked like I was checking them out! I used to have to check the wait staff at the places I went to eat and drink weren't my students too. I was beginning to feel out of touch! And I just like students that age. So, suitably humbled, I am both enjoying, and putting more effort into these classes, well aware that it may only last until February anyway (short contract, and we have no idea what the school's plans are after that - I feel like I'm on trial!)

Friday morning is a Day Care centre, I teach a class of 23 5-6 year-olds. They will be going to school next year, so their class is run more like a kindy. I still can't get over the bare rooms kindies have here, none of the bright colors, loads of toys and play stations they have in NZ kindies. Or are NZ kids being over-stimulated and undisciplined? Who can say. Anyway, they enjoy their English class with the unbridled enthusiasm of kids up to about age 8.
I have a text that I work very loosely from, just for curriculum basically, and then fill ine gaps between targeted language with songs, books, and games.

And that's it! Not much listed, and it's a mercifully short week. Friday night I often have a few drinks anyway! I usually run errands on Monday and do a big cleaning job on Tuesday so it does feel like a full week. Then back to the start again!