Monday, 28 January 2013

Listmania 2

This week we were asked to list '5 things I am loving about the current season (+) and 5 things I could easily live without (-)'. Being in a positive mood, I'm going to do it the other way around, to leave on a high note. So...

5 things I could easily live without, in winter in western Japan (in no particular order):
  • The snow. Pretty to look at, and welcome to fall up on the mountains, but I hate to have to venture out in it, especially by car. Luckily we don't get too many very snowy days here, and I'm hoping that I can get through the last 2 weeks of the semester without a snowy university day. Fingers crossed for no-snow-Fridays please!
  • The indoor cold. I don't really mind that it's cold outside; it is winter, after all. But indoors should be warm, cosy and centrally-heated in my opinion (open fires optional). Our heating comes from individual air-conditioning units in all the main rooms,which do a barely adequate job of warming things up, and absolutely no heating at all in the halls/toilets/staircase. We also have a heated carpet in the living room, and I am wearing 2 pairs of socks and tights under my jeans.
  • The dry atmosphere. Although I'm quite keen on the lack of rain (see below), the low humidity, combined with the air-conditioning, plays havoc with my skin. Every year, my hands become dry and chapped, cracked and bleeding. There's also loads of static electricity, so my hair stands on end and my clothes crackle. Overall, not a good look. Here's the thing I can't understand though: snowy days are among the driest. Isn't snow made of, you know, water?
  • Washing rice with cold water. Not much fun. Don't tell any Japanese people, but I let the water run to lukewarm first. And you know what? No-one has ever said to me, 'This rice tastes a bit funny. Did you wash it in warm water??'
  • Over-heating in public places. Despite it being quite chilly in my house, in shops or restaurants it tends to be horribly over-heated. I usually leave my coat/scarf/gloves in the car if I can. The thing is, if it were naturally that temperature, they would put the air-conditioning on to cool it down....

That pretty much all came down to 'the weather', didn't it? So, on the other hand, here are 5 things I love about winter here:

  • Bright, sunny days. Compared to mid-winter in the UK (still dark at 8am!), the days here are long and, thanks to the lack of rain, we get a lot of cloud-free, blue-sky days.
  • Winter clothes. Despite my grumbling above, I would be quite happy if I could wear thick tights, boots and scarves all year round. I wear skirts much more in the winter than I do in the summer; my pasty white legs are much more presentable when encased in tights.
  • Hot springs. Around here we have a lot of natural hot springs where you can take a bath, many with an outdoor section. Relaxing in a pool of hot water in the open air (falling snow a bonus) is wonderful. Nowadays, with the 2 little monkeys about, I don't go as often as I'd like to, but our bath at home is pretty cool too (if not outdoors). One push of a button and it fills to a preset amount at a preset temperature.
  • Nabe. A lovely steaming pot of ingredients, cooked at the table and constituting a complete meal. Tasty, warming, healthy, easy, flexible and social - we have it about once a week in winter. (Picture found here)

  • Mount Daisen. Our local mountain, the 'Fuji of the west', looks wonderful topped with snow. And did I mention that you can see it from our house? (Photo found here)
    I'm linking up today at Home Life Simplified. Pop over there if you'd like to see some more lists!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


Recently I found a new-to-me blog, Home Life Simplified, and I am just in time to join in with a new project there, Listmania. You love lists too, right? I love lists.

I'm aiming to link up each week, and hope that it'll help me to blog more. Oh, and I'm also doing it because it'll be fun (for me, at any rate).

I'm a bit late for the first one, but here goes...

Currently I am:

Reading: The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood, the January edition of Reader's Digest (UK) and a free copy of Heat magazine that I got at the airport. Although I hardly know who any of the 'celebrities' in it are...

Listening to: the peace and quiet of our living room once the boys are asleep. The air-conditioner is whirring, the kettle is about to boil, and H is clicking his mouse (that's not a euphemism)...

Laughing at: T's sense of humour. He likes to deliberately get it wrong when you ask him to touch his head/ears/nose/whatever, and to try every hole in the shape-sorter (murmuring 'no, no') until finally choosing the right one (yes!). The other day, in the car, he pointed to a random man walking down the street and called 'Daddy! Daddy!' I played along, asking 'Is that Daddy?' He looked at me as if I was a fool, and dead-panned 'No'.

Swooning over: my new diary. I realise that's pretty pathetic, but I love choosing my new diary for the year, and have strict likes/dislikes; this particular one is perfect.

Planning: lots of decluttering, some classes and a collection 'party' to gather clothes to send to tsunami survivors.

Eating lots of: chocolate from Christmas. When I was a child, I once eeked it out until Easter.

Feeling: pleased that I did my first walk/jog today and that it wasn't too strenuous.

Discovering: that I really do feel better if I go to bed earlier.

Looking at: a big pile of catalogues, aiming to at least flick thorough them before they expire at the end of February. And, in the daytime, snow-capped Mount Daisen.

Wearing: jeans, 2 pairs of socks, slippers, black T-shirt, dark red checked shirt, beige pullover and grey zip-up hoodie. It's pretty cold here, you know.

Cooking: whatever Yoshikei delivers to me. Tonight it was stir-fried pork and vegetables, and potato salad.

Wondering: if I'll be able to make it to the last 3 university sessions without having to face snow.

Trying out: waffle recipes, after finally buying a new sandwich toaster with waffle plates too. Got a good recipe? Let me know.

That's it! If you like this kind of thing, you can find links to what other people wrote for this here.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

My newest toy

I lead a pretty technologically-backwards life. I don't have a smartphone, an iPad, an iPod or a Kindle. I don't have anything that you would term 'a device'. As a result, I don't really know anything about these things, and often feel a bit out of touch with the modern world. I'm not really a technophobe though; it's not that I'm not interested in these things, it's just that I know that I don't really need them and can't justify the expense.

Lately though, I've leapt into the, well, 1990s. I bought an MP3 player. Not an iPod, or another maker's equivalent, but one of those little flash-memory-sticks-with-earphones. I tried looking for one at a big electronics store but the shop assistant looked at me pityingly and informed me that they don't sell those anymore, and that Sony don't even make them anymore. She suggested an iPod Shuffle, but why would I want something where I can't even choose what to listen to?

Anyway, I got one from Amazon: 8GB, with earphones, neckstrap and free delivery, for under 3,000 yen. That's more like it, especially as I used a gift voucher I got with credit card points. I ordered it on Thursday night, got it on Saturday, and used it on Sunday, listening to Radio 4 podcasts on the train to Matsue. (Yes, it's that time of year again. I'm doing children's English interview tests in Yonago, Matsue and Izumo).

The main reason I got it now though, is that I have decided that this year I will join Cian and others in a fun run. Every year, he suggests I run 5km, and every year I just laugh at such a ridiculous idea. Mind you, I've been pregnant or breastfeeding for several of those years! So, I've downloaded the Couch to 5km programme from the NHS and I've got my MP3 player and trainers ready. I got up at 6.30 this morning to go out before the boys got up, got dressed, and was heading downstairs when I noticed it was raining. Really raining. Rather hard. I did consider going out anyway, but then decided to sit down and write about it instead. I'll try again tomorrow...

Friday, 18 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Hello, remember me? I used to write a blog around here...

I'm still here, and all is well in the Monkey household. Blogging simply slipped down the to-do list. The busier things are, the more there is to write about, but with less time to do so. Under (self-imposed) pressure to document everything, complete with photographs, blogging was starting to become a chore. And of course the longer I left it, the less I felt like doing it...

I do want to keep it going though, so here I am, back again with New Year's enthusiasm. Looking back through the archives, I noticed that my earlier, more frequent, posts were shorter, with less photos. So I'm going to remind myself that if a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing at all, and doesn't have to be perfect.

Over Christmas and New Year, we went to the UK. I'm not going to promise photos which I will never deliver, or long blog posts covering the trip in detail (see above). Instead, know that we spent just over 2 weeks with my parents, enjoying the Christmas spirit. There was a visit to Father Christmas (more popular with K than with T), the making of a Christmas cake, looking at Christmas lights and a Christmas Eve church service. There were visits to my grandmothers, my aunt, and old friends as well as a visit from my sister and her partner and a big party gathering most of the people I know in the area! There was lots of Christmas morning excitement, presents galore and seasonal gluttony. There was a day at Newquay Zoo, and a day at Trethorne Leisure Farm. There was shopping, go-cart riding, dinner and a film for H and I, CBeebies watching and even some sock monkey making. There were also some Very Long Flights with some Very Restless Children, but we'll gloss over that.

So now we're back in Japan, and regular programming has been resumed. If you are one of the many people who I never even knew read the blog but who recently popped up to say 'You haven't written anything lately...', then do please comment. A simple 'Happy New Year' or 'About time too!' will do...