Monday, 30 November 2009

My, what big eyes you have!

Do you remember a sneak preview of some cute Little Red Riding Hood fabric a while back? Well, here's what I made with it...

But where's Little Red Riding Hood I hear you cry! Surely not just this little button loop?

Ah, there she is.... Watch out for the wolf!

There's an inside pocket in the brown check material too, but I forgot to take a picture of that :-)

This bag, perfect for carrying goodies for your poorly grandma, is destined to be a Christmas present, but I may make another for the shop sometime. What do you think?

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Hanging out with Vivian

My lovely friend Vivian has been keeping me entertained and out of mischief these past few days.

Earlier last week she invited me and a few other friends to a Thanksgiving-inspired lunch at her place on Friday. However, on Thursday she found out that she had to work on Friday morning... To cut a long story short, the party was still held and Vivian still cooked but the venue was changed to our place! H had a doctor's appointment in the morning and then took the rest of the day off so he was able to join us too, and K was in his best Charming Little Boy mode. In the end 'our' only other guests were Travis and Mio, but that did at least mean that we could all sit around the table! We had a lovely lunch, and as assistant host I got to keep all the yummy leftovers...

Then today Vivian and I had a booth at an international festival, selling toasted sandwiches. As usual, Vivian did all the hard work (shopping and making the sandwich fillings in advance) and I just showed up. By 3.30 we had sold all 130-odd sandwiches! When we had a bit of free time we checked out the other booths and sampled all kinds of tasty treats - spring rolls, spicy tom yan kun soup from Thailand, Taiwanese sausages, deep-fried bananas from the Philippines and more. Oh, I'm getting hungry again just thinking about it all!

There were also stage performances throughout the day. My favourite was a performance by a Mongolian exchange student who played a traditional 2-stringed instrument called (according to, yup, Wikipedia) a morin khuur. The music was hauntingly beautiful and the range of sounds that such a simple-looking instrument could produce was incredible. At times it was hard to believe that we were listening to just one instrument as it seemed to be harmonising with itself!

Of course, I forgot to take the camera with me today so no pictures I'm afraid. Instead, here's a bit of Youtube morin khuur fun for you (although I think today's was better...). Enjoy!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Daddy took us to the zoo yesterday! (sort of...)

Monday was a public holiday here, and a bright and sunny one at that. We 3, plus Uncle H, headed up Mount Daisen to a little petting zoo there. K loves spotting cats and dogs when we're out and about, but he's not too keen on dogs barking or getting too close. I thought we'd just look in at the animals from outside the enclosures....

I was wrong!

Yup, that's K feeding a kangaroo. I couldn't get over how completely unafraid K was!

(And doesn't it look like they're in someone's garden?)

For the goat/sheep/pot-bellied pig enclosure we stayed on the outside though. I'm wary enough of goats for the both of us.

After watching the pig racing, we went and met some guinea pigs and rabbits. K fancied playing with a little black rabbit, but it just wouldn't let him catch it. The guinea pigs though were easier to corner:

We also saw a llama, some hens and a strange-looking giant rodent apparently called a mara, or Patagonian hare. The most popular section at this place though is the dog enclosure. I'm not a huge dog fan, especially in large numbers, but these guys were incredibly quiet and docile, just lying around in the sun. I even wondered if they'd been doped...

Not a single one barked or jumped up, so K was quite happy trotting around after the few that were actually moving...

All in all, a nice, relaxing, low-key day out.

And I still can't get over that kangaroo-feeding...

Monday, 23 November 2009

You know Christmas is coming....

...when the Colonel gets his Santa suit on.

Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets across Japan have a statue of Colonel Saunders outside, and during the festive season he does double duty as Father Christmas.

KFC has become the standard Christmas food in Japan. They are taking orders now, for particular time slots throughout Christmas week. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day the road in front of KFC is always clogged up with cars waiting to go through the drive-through and collect their orders. I suppose it's the closest most people can get to a roast chicken, let alone turkey...

I, on the other hand, have just ordered two turkeys online; a little one for Christmas Day itself, and a bigger one for the annual Monkey Household Potluck Christmas Party. Consider yourself invited!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Garden update

This afternoon I finally found an hour when it wasn't raining or blowing a gale, I had nothing urgent to do and, crucially, K was asleep! So I nipped outside and planted those bulbs - yes, those same ones I was going on about not having planted yet about a month ago. A couple of clumps of grape hyacinths, a couple of crocus clumps and one of snowdrops. I hate seeing those kind of flowers planted singly, in rows, so I tried to make natural-looking groups. However I put them though, they seemed to make straight lines from one angle or another! So now they'll probably just look as if they were planted in rows badly....

While I was out I took a few photos of the garden. Back at the start of October, Mum and Dad very kindly bought and then planted some shrubs for us. At the same time, H helped his Dad dig up some things from his garden and wheelbarrowed them over here (for Mum and Dad to put in!). I, er, supervised...

So now, at the side against next-door, we have: a couple of little broom plants, a great big camellia from H's dad, a nobotan (Asian melastome according to Google), another huge camellia from H's dad, a straggly purple-flowering thing, the third and final camellia from H's dad and a little hydrangea in the corner.

From the corner, looking back along the end of the garden: another, bigger, hydrangea, a cherry tree (currently well disguised as a dead stick), a murasaki shikibu (Japanese beauty berry according to Wikipedia!), another nobotan, a satsuma tree and another cherry tree (slightly less dead-stick-looking).

Those photos were pretty useless at showing the plants though, weren't they? Mainly you can just see the stakes supporting the 'trees'. Still, it'll be good to look back and compare pictures in the future, and writing all this down will help me remember what we've got where. Or rather, it will be here to refer to when I've forgotten...

You can also see that the lawn has filled in quite well now. There are still lines between the pieces of turf, but no real gaps. This type of grass is very resiliant and can survive the very hot summers here better than the type you usually find on English lawns, but it does go brown and dead-looking over the winter. I'm assured it will green up again in the spring!

While we're at it, here's the Japanese garden:

Can you see some pink flowers on the biggest tree there? It's a sasanqua, similar to a camellia, and it is absolutely covered in buds...

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Don't go eating them all at once!

When you were little, were you the type to scoff all your Christmas chocolates by Boxing Day evening? Or were you the one eeking them out until Easter? I was, and still am, definitely an eeker. A couple of weeks ago we finally opened a box of biscuits that Mum and Dad had brought over with them in the middle of September. I'd been saving them, and looking forward to them - Tesco's Finest Half Coated Chocolate Brazil Nut Cookies. Yum, right?

In the box, a measly 8 biscuits. Oh well, never mind. And here they are (notice anything odd?):

The 4 still in the box, yup, fine. But look at the ones on the plates! 2 are only half half-coated (quarter-coated?) with chocolate, one is 3/4 half-coated (3/8 coated I suppose...) and the other one is not chocolate coated in any fraction at all!

So now I'm thinking of writing a disgruntled e-mail to Mr Tesco. You never know, I might be able to wrangle some freebies! What do you think - a natural response, or have I truly become A Grumpy Old Woman?

(and yes, I really did once manage to make my Christmas chocolate last until Easter...)

Monday, 16 November 2009

Sewing Sunday

Yesterday I finally finished this lovely blue sock monkey, now available in the shop:

With K being on long-term nap-strike, I hadn't had much time for sewing recently. Yesterday though, H took care of K for an hour in the morning and then put him down for his nap in the afternoon (and he slept. It seems that it's only me he won't sleep for...). Meanwhile, I snuck upstairs to my little room, put on the heating and some music, and sewed. Lovely.

I also made a bit of a start on my next little project, although who knows when it'll be finished. Here's a sneak preview:

Saturday, 14 November 2009


Lately we have been having real autumn weather - sunny, warm days with cold nights alternating with wet and windy days when it never seems to get completely light. On the good days we've been making the most of it by spending a lot of time at our nearby park.

K is big enough to actually do a lot of things there now, and this park has lots of things to entertain even the littlest ones. The other day he went down this slide all by himself for the first time, which led to many, many repeat performances.

The maze is one of my favourites...

These pictures were taken last Friday in the mid-afternoon, when we went to the park after realising that K was not going to have a nap. We've had a lot of those days in the last couple of weeks... It did mean that we had the park pretty much all to ourselves though, since everyone else was either still at school or having a nap (grrr...).

This yellow hill is great. The surface is very dense foam, making it a bit spongey and bouncy. K needs help to walk up it (hey, so do I sometimes...) but he goes down the slide alone. There are four tunnels leading into the centre of the hill and after going through them with me a few times he now does that on his own too.

One of the tunnels connects to this:

K needs to hold onto something, usually my hand, to make it up and down the slopes but he's getting more and more confident all the time.

There are also some spring-mounted-animals (?) that K loves to rock back and forth on, especially the dolphin. We have a rocking horse at home too and he's very into that sort of thing at the moment. The jury's still out on the swings though; he usually looks a bit worried while swinging, but then wants to do it again as soon as he gets down...

It looked pretty grey when I got up this morning but now, at just after 8, the sun is peeping through the clouds and I see blue sky. Another park day?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Next time, I'll lock the doors...

A little while ago I ran a one-off, 'taster' English class at the local community centre. Most of the 15 people there were from this neighbourhood, including the old man who grows vegetables next door. To be honest, my heart sank when I saw him there - although he's a very nice chap, he's also quite deaf, must be 80 if he's a day and has obviously never studied English in his life. I knew when he was unable to complete the sentence 'My name is ...' that it was going to be a long, long class...

However, during the first activity (a get-to-know-you exercise involving getting up and walking round the class) he and 2 others (including the woman who lives next door to H's parents) took the opportunity to sneak out and run away! I felt really bad that I'd made the class so difficult or intimidating for them that they couldn't even bear to stay until the hour was up. I had been dreading running into them again (but knew that I would), but I saw 2 of the 3 at the community centre on Sunday morning and we all employed the classic, face-saving 'behave as if nothing happened' technique. Phew.

Anyway, the 12 people who actually stayed for the whole session seemed to enjoy themselves and I decided to set up a regular weekly class (despite the miserable, power-gone-to-her-head old biddy who works there. Be glad you don't have to listen to that rant). Today we had our first proper class, with 7 people, and yes, there were still 7 there at the end too :-)

Monday, 9 November 2009

Out and about

Normal autumn weather has returned and we headed up to Mount Daisen on Saturday. There was still some of that early, unseasonal snow on the very top of the mountain and by the sides of the roads, but the day was very warm and sunny with temperatures in the mid-20s.

I'd seen a flyer for an interesting-looking 'Burger Festival' being held that day on Daisen, so we went to check it out. The flyer promised lots of unusual and tasty-looking burgers to sample, all created by popular local restaurants. However, when we got there at 11.30 there was already nowhere to park and long queues snaking away from the most popular stands. As we waited in traffic we heard announcements that several of the most tasty-looking burgers had sold out. So without even getting out of the car we turned around and went to a restaurant attached to a micro-brewery for lunch instead. I had a lovely mushroom and shrimp risotto and a delicious glass of their own pale ale, so I really don't think I missed out on anything :-)

After lunch we continued our drive through the mountains. The photo above shows a tree heavy with persimmons in the foreground, and persimmons hanging from above a window to dry, both common sights at this time of year.

We headed to H's grandparents' house but there was no-one home so we went to a nearby park to run around for a while (cue obligatory cute shot of K).

(And another one just for good measure)

Back home again I headed out in the evening to celebrate Heidi's birthday at Gul's new restaurant (where Fran Fran used to be, for those who know), with a big buffet of lovely Pakistani food and even some left-overs to bring home for H ;-), followed by a bit of karaoke of course.

Sunday was just as busy for me - in the morning we made a quick appearance at the local community centre's 'festival', a bit like a parish show in the UK. I have just started an English class there and I am of course a very visible member of the community so I knew it would be noticed, and noted, if I didn't go! I spent an hour wandering around the flower arrangements, matched sweet potatoes and various handicrafts, bought some cheap stuff I didn't need from the bazaar and ate some festival food. After that it was time to go again, as I was working all afternoon in Matsue (helping at a children's English party/presentation).

And last night, after K finally went to sleep, I lay on the sofa and watched TV....

Friday, 6 November 2009

Good morning, sleep well?

We've always considered ourselves very lucky that K is a good sleeper. He started sleeping through the night at a very early stage and he's been going to sleep on his own for a long time now - I just put him in his cot and say goodnight and he smiles and waves as I leave the room. Lately though it seems that our luck is wearing thin...

About a couple of weeks ago K started screaming the moment he was left on his own in his cot. Not a gentle, sad little cry but full-on screams. At first I tried a little Super-Nanny style 'leave him to it and he'll soon get over it' but that wasn't working. I couldn't bear to hear him cry like that and if I popped in to reassure him it just set him off all over again. So now I'm back to sitting with him until he falls asleep, both at bedtime and naptime. I don't have to actually do anything, just be there, so I can read or play with my new DS game (thanks Mum!), but I have been known to fall asleep first myself at bedtime and wake up hours later with a stiff neck...

The biggest problem though is the early morning waking. K has generally been sleeping from about 9 till 7.30 most days, but recently he sometimes wakes very early in the morning, with a scream and a wet nappy. It wouldn't be so bad if I could just change his nappy and he'd go back to sleep but of course I can't leave him on his own... I've tried sitting with him again but he just stares at me with big round eyes until I'm desperate to get back to bed and take him with me. Sometimes he (and I) will sleep a bit then, sometimes not. On Tuesday he was awake at 5am and neither of us got any more sleep, and yesterday it was 4am. We did fall asleep again at 6 but then my alarm to get up for work went off at 6.30...

Of course K is able to make up for any lost sleep at naptime, but I'm reluctant to give up that valuable lesson prep/computer/sewing/anything-I-can't-do-with-K-around time, especially as I'm losing it in the evenings now too. I've resolved to get up before everyone else and have half an hour on the computer each morning but of course that too is dependent on K sleeping till a decent time. Today, at least, it worked :-)

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Winter already?

Autumn around here is lovely. I've been meaning to take some pictures and write about the beautiful autumn leaves, warm, sunny days and crisp fresh air - but somehow I haven't quite got around to it. Then, as soon as we hit November - wintery! Sunday and Monday were horrible dark, rainy, windy days and we needed to put the heating on. Yesterday was still cold, but it was at least sunny and bright. And look what I spotted! The first snow on nearby Mount Daisen. I'm sure it's much earlier than usual. Daisen is the biggest mountain in Western Japan and has a lovely mountain-drawn-by-a-small-child look. It's about the same height as Ben Nevis (around 18oo metres?) but much easier to climb because you can drive about half way up.

Actually though, I've never climbed it, despite living here for years.Don't tell anyone...

Monday, 2 November 2009

Happy Hallowe'en!

A few days late but, hey, I'm just making it last longer. Don't you think I look scary in this picture?

It was taken at the annual Hallowe'en party round here. Apparently this year was the 20th one, which made me feel old because I realised that I've been going for the past 13 years...

I helped out at a kids' Hallowe'en party on Saturday afternoon and then joined a potluck dinner before heading on to the party, so I was out and about looking like this from about 4pm onwards. I even went into a convenience store - and no-one batted an eyelid. How disappointing.