Friday, 30 April 2010

Golden Week plans

Actually I don't really have any plans, apart from a dinner out tonight, but here are some plans I would like to have...
  • a barbecue here with some friends - this one is a real plan, as long as the weather holds...
  • a drive to Kaga, my favourite bit of coastline here, for a picnic and to explore the rockpools
  • updating my shop
  • games night with some friends, if they haven't all gone elsewhere for the holidays!
  • a bit of gardening - mainly weeding I expect :-(
  • some kind of outing with H and without K, though that depends on H's mum...

I'll report back next week on how much I managed!


And if you haven't entered the giveaway yet, there's still time! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post - there aren't all that many entries yet which is a bit disappointing for me but good news for you if you'd like to join in! I'll be drawing the winner tomorrow so check back here then to see if you've won!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

May Day

It's Golden Week! Today and next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are all bank holidays here in Japan. Many people have tomorrow off too, giving them a full week of holiday. The weather is usually good at this time of year so it's great to have some free time.

Today H joined the May Day Labour march, despite it being only April 29th. For the last few years the unions around here have held the march early so as not to break up the holidays. Here's the gathering in the park at the end of the march:

Are the workers shaking their fists at the injustices imposed on them by tyrannical employers? Cheering in support of the rousing words of a speaker on the stage? Or are they all playing 'rock, scissors, paper' in an effort to win prizes?

Yup, it's the last one...

K and I went to the park early and played for a while, met H after the march and had a picnic lunch. After that, K had his first bouncy castle experience! Children of the marchers (and, I suppose, any other kids in the park who didn't publicly proclaim that they were not with the march) could bounce around for free for as long as they liked. I thought that K might be a bit afraid, especially as there were quite a few bigger children there, but he loved it.

He didn't move about that much but he had a big smile plastered across his face and, after coming out once, he just wanted to go straight back in again. In fact, he was still there after all the other kids had left, and I had to go in there and get him...

(I didn't mind. I love bouncy castles!)

Finally we headed over to the city-run Children's Culture Centre. They host various events for young children; there's a library and a big hall; there are various games and toys to play with, for all different ages; there are craft activities, crayons and paper available all the time....

... and a planetarium.

If you know H, you will not be surprised to learn that this was his reason for suggesting we go to the Culture Centre! We all lay back on the reclining red seats and looked at the stars projected onto the domed ceiling. K did get up and run around a bit but he was pretty quiet and too short to get in anyone's way, so I think all was well.

And time to head home again. It was a busy day for a little boy.
Dreaming of what else we'll get up to over Golden Week?

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Parlez-vous francais?

Did you know that I used to speak French? I studied it at school and university and even spent some time in France as an English language assistant in a high school. Since coming to Japan though, I have barely spoken a word of French. My French now is not just rusty, it has completely seized up!

But help is at hand! I had heard of a weekly French-speaking tea-and-cake session at a nearby coffee shop and last Thursday I plucked up the courage to go along. I already knew 2 out of the 3 people who were there, which made it both easier and more embarrassing... Everyone was very encouraging though, and I really enjoyed it. I could understand most of what was said but my attempts to speak were really quite pathetic: starting sentences and then trailing off into face-pulling and gesturing, as the others valiantly tried to supply the missing words.

There's no meeting tomorrow as it's a public holiday, which gives me another week to dig out my old dictionary, think in advance of what I'd like to say, and continue my new habit of talking to myself in French while alone in the car!


On a completely unrelated note, have you entered the giveaway yet? There's still time!

Someone will win $20 to spend in my shop, so just leave a comment on the post below this one.

And to respond to some of the comments already received (thank you!), yes the giveaway is open to everyone; I'm sure the pincushion will arrive soon and I blame that Icelandic volcano; and yes sis, if you'd like to send me a present I won't argue :o)

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Look! Free stuff!

I almost missed it, but today is my blogging birthday! Yes, a whole year has passed since I started wittering away here.

To celebrate, I thought I'd have a little giveaway. Leave a comment on this post and I'll enter you in a draw to win a $20 gift certificate for my shop! There are lots of lovely fabrics there to choose from, and a couple of zippered pouches too...

To be honest, it's just a way to bribe you to leave a comment :-) Whether you've left a comment here before or not, whether I know you in real life or not, wherever you are in the world - please leave a comment! The draw will be open until midnight on Friday the 30th April, so that lots and lots of you (are there lots and lots of you??) will be able to leave lovely comments for me.

One comment per person please, and make sure there is some way I can contact you (Blogger profile or email address). Good luck!

Oh, and there is still a little gift waiting for the person who buys the 100th item from my shop! I'm up to 98 sales now so it won't be waiting for long I think...

Friday, 23 April 2010

Neglecting my online duties

Yet another week has passed by with no blogging, no updating of the shop and, worst of all, no sorting of digital photos...

One reason for the lack of online activity was an increase in offline activity - while Nicole was staying with us we had visits from Noriyuki and from Miho; Ritsuko, Tomonori and Ren-kun came over for dinner; and there was a barbecue with The Usual Gang last Sunday. I've also been busy this week with a local TV interview and its preparation, a bit of weeding here and there, and rearranging the furniture to prevent K destroying all the CDs/making international phone calls/climbing to the top of the chest of drawers...

On the other hand, laziness has been a cause too. I've been failing to get up before K most days, therefore losing that precious slot of computer time dedicated to emailing and photo sorting. From March 1st until last Friday I spent 15 minutes a day on photos, doubling up the following day if I missed one. But since Saturday I've done nothing on it at all... The thought of getting a backlog on my backlog-busting is quite depressing, and liable to put me off the whole thing so I have decided to grant a retrospective one week holiday and start afresh tomorrow.

Regular programming has been resumed!

Friday, 16 April 2010

What we've been up to lately

Not blogging, obviously! I'm not quite sure where the last week has gone...

The new school year starts in April in Japan, so I started classes at university again last week. Apart from that there have been no major changes around here but somehow the time has just slipped away. Here are a few of the things we've been doing...

A barbecue with Vivian and friends, the first one of the season. Eek, that was almost 2 weeks ago now! If the weather is OK we might have one here on Sunday.

I finished off my pincushion for the swap, and sent it off with a few other little goodies. There will be pictures later but not until it has been received. I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise!

K's love for Bob the Builder continues, and has now extended into colouring:

H has been busy in the garden, raking all the dead grass out of the lawn. Hopefully it'll soon green up now...

K and I have been investigating all the slides in the area and this one, next to the City Office, wins first prize:

Dinner with Nicole and her dad last week produced this picture that I really like...

Last weekend I met Lisa for lunch and then we went on to a flute concert that one of my students was taking part in. The whole orchestra was made up of flutes, including the very cool-looking bass and contra-bass flutes. No photos though, sorry :-)

Meanwhile, back to K!

We've been trying a few crafty things lately, including pasting...

... and playing with rather sticky playdough.

Nicole finished packing up her house on Wednesday and came here to stay with us until her flight home next Tuesday. We had lunch out together when she arrived and it's been nice to relax and chat with her over the last couple of days.

Oh, and we've been planning holidays too! K and I will be spending the whole of August in the UK and H will be coming for about 10 days in the middle of the month. H will go with us as far as Tokyo when we leave and then he's planning a few days in Bangkok to visit an old friend. He hasn't had a Proper Holiday (not including the UK) for ages, so I'm really glad he's going to do that.

Otherwise most of my time this week has been spent fretting about an upcoming interview for local TV, and picking up Lego.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Old friends

Over the last couple of weeks I've had the chance to catch up with several old friends.

I first met Miki when I originally came to Japan, over 12 years ago, and our friendship has covered relationships and break-ups, births and deaths. We have even worked together. Now she is living in Vietnam with her husband and little boy, and she has another little one on the way. At the moment she's back here visiting friends and family and it was great to meet up with her and little Rento, and hear about their life in Vietnam and the new hotel they will be opening soon.

I hadn't seen Miki for almost a year but my next visitor, Meiko, and I hadn't met for about 7 years! She was also one of my first friends here, but she is now living in New Zealand with her husband and sons. She is also back here visiting now and she brought her 2 boys to our house last Friday. It was the first time for each of us to meet each others children and we had a really nice afternoon together, comparing stories of family life in our husbands countries. Her husband David will be arriving in Japan next week, so I'm sure we'll have another get-together then, with husbands too.

And last but by no means least, Nicole, who is back in Japan for a month or so. I feel like I have known Nicole forever and it's always strange to realise that she has only ever known me as a married woman - a mere 8 years or so! Last Saturday I went down to Niimi to see her and pretend to help her with her moving preparations, the first time we'd met (not including Skype!) in over a year. Then she and her dad came up here on Tuesday for dinner and stayed the night at our place. Next week Nicole will be back staying with us again for a few days until she flies back home to Canada, and I'm looking forward to relaxing and hanging out together.

Quite apart from the excitement of seeing people you haven't met for years, this little flurry of visitors had another positive effect on me; there's nothing like guests, especially overnight ones, to prompt me to do some much-needed housework! Our house is the cleanest it's been in ages (although that's not really saying much), and the spare bedroom and the Japanese style guest room, both famed for their junk-attracting properties, are looking lovely. I may even show you some photos one day...

Zippered pouches

I made this zippered pouch recently as a custom order for a friend. And while I was at it I made a couple more too, now available in my shop...

Which one do you like best?

Monday, 5 April 2010


Hanami literally means watching flowers, but it really refers to picnicking beneath the cherry blossoms. The last few days here have been lovely and warm and the cherries are in full bloom right now so yesterday we did what everyone else in town was doing - hanami.

We took the easy option and just bought some snacky food from the stalls set up in the park. There was fried chicken and chips, octopus dumplings (takoyaki), grilled chicken on skewers (yakitori), noodles, grilled squid, fish-shaped cakes filled with sweet bean paste (taiyaki), toffee apples (and other fruit too), candy floss.... the full range of Japanese festival food.

Trying to avoid the long queue to get into the obviously full car park, we parked in the hospital car park and then climbed over the fence into the park. We found a good spot to set up our regulation blue plastic sheet, had a wander around for a bit and then got down to the eating bit.

Just in case you believe the books and imagine that hanami is a peaceful, relaxing event where one can contemplate the fleeting and ephemeral nature of life, as represented by the beautiful but short-lived cherry blossoms, here's the reality...

Lots and lots of people crowded together under the trees, eating, drinking and barbecuing. Large groups of people send scouts ahead early to lay out their blue sheeting in the best spot available, sometimes even roping areas off to prevent others stealing their place. Radios and children were playing and generators for the food stalls were running but it was still a lovely day to lie back, feel the sun on your face and enjoy the blossoms.

And of course it was Easter! Easter is not celebrated at all in Japan and I've never made any efforts to make a special day of it here. Maybe next year, when K's a bit bigger, we'll do some egg decorating and maybe even an egg hunt but, for now, Easter for us is a few cards and chocolate eggs kindly sent from England. Thank you!

Friday, 2 April 2010

My little monkey

When K turned 2 I intended to write a post summing up 'K at 2'. I never quite got around to it, so here's 'K at 2 and a bit'.

Taking care of him can be a challenge at times, but K is generally a sweet and easy-going little boy. Lately he is really affectionate, coming up to me for a hug or a kiss, or to press his little face against mine. He's good about sharing his toys with other children and will happily offer you food from his plate, but gets upset if things are taken away from him.

K really likes Bob The Builder, but can't stand Pingu. He loves playing at the park and has recently developed a taste for the big slides, climbing up and sliding down all by himself. All the old favourites are still popular - books, puzzles, building towers, playing with anything with buttons and switches. Phones are particularly popular and if there isn't a real one around then pretty much anything will be held to the ear and spoken into: remote controls, calculators, combs..

K is keen to do things by himself, such as getting dressed, but recently he wants me to feed him again. Everyday things like teeth-cleaning, nappy-changing and washing and dressing seem to be easier again nowadays, though mealtimes still descend into Musical Chairs a lot of the time. Unfortunately he's started waking up in the night again sometimes, and won't settle down again by himself. More often than not, those nights end up with the 3 of us all in bed together and I always seem to be the one pushed right to the edge...

K's vocabulary is gradually expanding now. For a long time it was limited to 'bye-bye', 'Bob' and, yes, 'bum' but now he's branching out into words that don't begin with 'B'. He greets H excitedly with 'Dada' and I get the occasional 'Mama' too. He knows that he is '2!' and counts '1,2, 3'. He points out various parts of the body including nose, eyes and teeth, and requests 'up' and 'more', sometimes with an added 'please'. When something is broken, dirty or just not quite right we get a very forlorn 'Oh no...', and if K spots something naughty he scolds 'no no no!' even though he is usually the one responsible... Now and then he manages a little 'hello' and today's favourite game was pointing out all the doors and cars we saw.

Animals are referred to by the noises they make; dogs go 'woof-woof', cats make a rather strange 'wah-wah' and tigers and lions roar. And when I pointed some out at the park, I discovered that dandelions roar too...