Tuesday, 28 September 2010


Lately I seem to be in constant need of snacks, so on Sunday I thought I'd make a couple of things to make a (healthier??) change from crisps and shop-bought cookies. Aided by my trusty assistant, I make some oatmeal raisin cookies and a carrot cake.

K enjoyed smelling the cinnamon. When we were staying with Mum and Dad in August, he would line up all the spice jars on the kitchen floor and walk round with the Mixed Spice, offering it to everyone to smell.

He did a good job mixing. The recipe for the oatmeal cookies is here, but I found it originally on Salt and Chocolate, one of my favourite blogs. The only thing I did differently was to use baking powder instead of baking soda (no-one seemed to notice) and to leave out the nuts.

The carrot cake recipe is this one. As I was making it the amount of sugar seemed huge; I even went back to the website to check that I'd copied it down correctly. I cut it down to just over 300g but could have reduced it even more I think. Other than that I followed the recipe as it is, oh, except that I left out the bicarb. Notice a pattern here? Didn't bother with the topping either. I'm sure it would have been lovely but this was supposed to be a somewhat healthy snack, remember?

One of the great things about both of these recipes is that they only use very basic ingredients, easy to find here in Japan (apart from the baking soda and bicarb...). I'm always on the lookout for simple recipes that don't use golden syrup, or treacle, or crushed pineapple or any of those things which are so hard to come by here. Let me know if you have any, especially if the measurements are in grams or ounces. Why do American recipes always list things by the cup? How exactly do you measure a cup of butter??

And in other baking (?) news, and to see if people really bother to read to the bottom of my posts, I have a bun in the oven myself. Yes, K will be getting a little brother or sister next spring. That helps to explain the urge for snacks, and the lack of energy and enthusiasm for doing anything earlier this month. I'm feeling much better now though, and the cooler weather helps too, so I'm hoping I'll be able to Get More Things Done from now on.

Friday, 24 September 2010

From our meteorological correspondent

As I may have already mentioned, this summer has been very hot, and very long. Luckily I escaped the worst of it by heading to the UK, but many parts of Japan recorded their hottest summer since records began and here in Yonago temperatures of 36 or 37 degrees became daily events in mid-August. Usually by mid-September it is much more comfortable but this year we were still using the air conditioning until a couple of days ago, with temperatures still hitting 30 degrees.

Now the temperature has suddenly dropped and it's almost cold. The last couple of days have been cloudy and blustery, with quite strong winds and occasional rain. While the temperatures have still been reaching 26 or 27 in the middle of the day, it's been about 10 degrees cooler at night and the forecast for tomorrow has a high of just 22. If you're in the UK that probably sounds positively balmy but with chilly winds and compared to what we have been having, it's definitely autumnal. Instead of switching on the air conditioning, we're closing the windows at night to stay warm, and digging out long-sleeved tops and warm pyjamas; which suits me just fine...

Wednesday, 22 September 2010


K loves trains. We had lots of fun in the UK riding on various trains, which I will write about here at some point, honestly... He also enjoyed playing with the train set Mum found for him.

Back in April we bought K a nice wooden train set which has a figure 8 layout:

At that time he was happy to play with it as it was, or just demolish it for the fun of it. Now though, he wants to make his own layouts and keeps asking for 'more pieces!' when he can't join the ends of the track. Last week I finally got 'more pieces' for him, including some points so that we could make some fun intersecting routes.

At first I made this layout; it was surprising difficult to get it all to connect together while using as many pieces as possible and incorporating the bridge/tunnel feature...

K played happily with it until he spotted the 3 or 4 pieces that I hadn't used, and then there was uproar! All pieces of track must be used! And so my lovingly created layout was destroyed and K came up with this instead:

Lovely as these wooden tracks are, they are also rather expensive. As always, H has the solution and has been trawling Internet auctions for second-hand originals and cheaper, compatible knock-offs. Two deliveries arrived today and we will hide them away for the time being, ready for the next call for 'more pieces!'...

Saturday, 18 September 2010

K's blanket

My Mum knitted this blanket for K. Isn't it great? Every square is different, in colour and texture. As well as all the different knitting stitches, she embroidered various shapes and the letters of K's name onto squares too. There's even an appliqued Japanese flag and a St Piran's flag - the patron saint of Cornwall, in the unlikely event that you don't know it ;-)

While we were in the UK, K used the blanket on his bed every night. Our excessive shopping meant we couldn't fit it in our suitcase, but Mum kindly posted it to us and it arrived a few days ago. K opened the parcel and cried out 'K's blanket! Gran and Grandad's house!', before pulling it down onto the ground, wrapping himself up in it and announcing 'Night-night'. I think it's fair to say that he was pleased to see it.

It's still very warm here so we don't actually need the blanket at night yet. Instead it's draped over the sofa for the time being, earning well-deserved compliments from visitors and being enjoyed by K.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Ridiculous places I have fainted...

At a Plymouth department store (I think that one may have been an almost fainted)
During a Home Economics class
At the Witches Museum in Boscastle (and no, I wasn't scared...)
At Donna's house, just after putting down a kettle of boiling water
During a speech by the Minister of Education at a flash hotel in Tokyo - while seated
While teaching an English class at Yonago Kosen

And now, at the entrance to Giardinos restaurant. Doh. I was then helped inside and slumped on the lovely cool tiled floor for a while, making it rather difficult for people to come in. Sorry.

I never seem to faint in the comfort of my own home. No, always somewhere designed for maximum embarrassment and potential injury. I'm sure I've missed some from the list too, so do remind me if you know of others...

Thursday, 9 September 2010

We're back!

Well, we've been back for a week now actually, but I am only now emerging from my haze of jet-lag, travel tiredness and heat-induced laziness. It was quite a shock to the system, coming back to the summer heat and humidity here. I've just been hiding away in the air-conditioned living room for a week...

I had a great time in the UK though. It was lovely to visit family and friends, and to stay with Mum and Dad and be generally spoilt for a month! No cooking or housework to do, and all-you-can-eat bacon sandwiches; what more could I ask for? We did do some touristy things too, especially when H was there, and I will be blogging about that another day - probably....

K had great fun with his Gran and Grandad, and his talking has really developed. Just today he was telling me some (largely unintelligible) story about 'Gran and Grandad's house'. Unfortunately while we were away he also developed the habit of waking at 3am and shouting for Mummy. He has brought that little gem home with him and, while Gran was a good substitute, it seems that Daddy just won't do. Yet another reason for my laziness, and for why K and I have been struggling to get up by 9 every day this week! Last night though, he slept through, so keep your fingers crossed!

********* In other news, I have reopened the shop. I have lots of new things to list too, but that's been put on hold until I get the camera back from the repair shop :-( Watch this space! *********