Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Giveaway in the shop!

I'm planning a little free-gift-with-purchase special offer in my Etsy shop and thought I'd offer it to all my lovely blog readers first. I'll be opening it up to the general public in time for the weekend, but for you it's available now!

I've got some cute letter sets and some rather nice Hello Kitty stickers whose listings will expire in a week or two and that I don't really want to relist. So if you spend 20 dollars or more (not including shipping) in the shop, you can have one for free! Just write in the 'Message to seller' section what you would like (choose from the letter sets and stickers listed in the shop). Offer is valid until the listings expire or while stocks last.

And I've just listed some new fabric too.....

Saturday, 26 September 2009

More treasure!

This time for K...

Mum and Dad brought lots of goodies for K, including some very cute T-shirts and some great charity shop finds, especially books. This is the pile after K had already laid claim to several that took his fancy:

Most of them are a bit 'big' for him yet, but I'm looking forward to bringing them out little by little as they become more age-appropriate.

Mum also brought 4 jigsaws for when K is bigger, including two that were hers when she was a little girl. I remember playing with them at my grandmother's house when I was little and I'm thrilled that Gran has passed them on to K.

They both have a really cute vintage feel, don't you think? And it's lovely to have these family things....

As well as all these goodies, Mum and Dad also brought Christmas presents from family in the UK, which we will of course put aside until then. Of course we will.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Treasure haul

When Mum and Dad arrived last week, they did so with a Very Large Suitcase, as well as a normal suitcase and a couple of carry-on bags. Their own personal luggage was minimal; it was mainly presents! Over a period of several days Mum has been bringing out all manner of goodies for us all. For me personally there was a book on sock creatures and some very cute socks to make them with, odds and ends I wanted from the UK (OXO cubes, deodorant, teabags...) and, most excitingly of all, this:

What an amazing charity shop/thrift store find! It's a stationery case and it just about fit into (and completely filled) one carry-on bag. Mum knows that I love all those chests with tiny drawers that you get, apocathary chests and so on, and suspected that I might like this. And she was very right! Here's what you see when you open the doors:

And then the top part hinges up and there's a little drawer at the bottom, plus a secret compartment down the back of the whole case. Except now I've told you all so I suppose it's not really a secret anymore...

Isn't it great? Thank you so much Mum and Dad, and thank you for carrying it half way around the world to me!

Now, you don't think they would forget their one and only grandchild in all this lovely loot-sharing do you? Stay tuned for some more great finds!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Vogel Park

So, what would you expect to see at Vogel Park? Go to the top of the class if, unlike me, you remember any German that you've ever learnt and know that Vogel means 'bird'. Today we all went off to Vogel Park for the day and did indeed see many birds...

The park, just over an hour's drive away, has a large waterbird house, another house for tropical birds, a lake with ducks, swans and pelicans and various smaller enclosures with emus, rheas and similar birds. There're also 2 lots of penguins and a large collection of owls, plus a huge greenhouse with begonias, geraniums, fuschias and lots of other plants that I can't name.

And now for some birds that I can't name either, including one with a hairstyle rather like K's...

This one I do know - a Barn Owl, or Masked Owl in Japanese, taking part in the Owl Show:

K enjoyed watching the owls, and joining in with the applause. He pointed out various birds throughout the day with the little 'Oooh!' sound which means 'Look! A cat/dog/living creature of some form!'. It can also mean 'Look! A plane/truck/noisy machine of some form!' though...

K also enjoyed playing with the little lion glove puppet that his Gran had wisely thought to bring along to entertain him with...

Friday, 18 September 2009

They're here!

Mum and Dad are here! They arrived safely yesterday, though not on the bus I was expecting them on, which had me going for a while... At the moment they, and K, are all still sleeping peacefully.

I'm not sure if Mum and Dad being here will mean more time to blog and work on my shop because they'll be able to help with K, or less time because I'll be spending it with them. I suppose we'll all see over the next few weeks...

We don't really have many things planned yet for their stay, apart from a few days in Himeji next weekend. I'm also hoping to have a few day-trips to places nearby, have a barbecue at home with some friends, take Dad to the beach to have a swim and sneak out without K to have a haircut! The main activity though will of course be playing with K :-)

Just for fun I thought I'd better add a photo. Here's K doing a bit of shopping:

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Rice harvest

At the weekend Mr and Mrs A harvested most of the rice growing behind our house. You can see here that the grains had ripened and changed colour and that the stalks were bowed with their weight. And in the background you can see our house :-)

All the water from the rice fields has gone now but the ground is still very soft. The rice was harvested using a little combine on caterpillar tracks. It cuts the rice stalks and separates the grain from the straw.

And here it is in action! The rice grains go straight into sacks to be taken away and dried in some kind of drying machine. After that they are polished completely to produce white rice, or partially for brown rice.

Meanwhile Mrs A was cutting the corners of the next field by hand, so that the combine could turn.

Here are her nice little bundles of rice.

Traditionally the rice is cut by hand and then hung from wooden frames to dry. There are still quite a few of those drying frames about so if I see some I'll take some pictures for you...

Monday, 14 September 2009

Still here!

Yet another week has gone by between blog posts! And I don't really have time to write much now either, but I just wanted to pop in and say Hello, I'm still here!

Random things I've been doing lately: gearing up for the arrival of my parents on Thursday, monkey-making, joining the 5 year memorial service (and all-day party...) for H's great-uncle, helping at a friend's cooking class and then celebrating her birthday, teaching, dancing, buying cool fabric, yoga, hanging out with K...

Things I need to be getting on with: monkey-making, house-cleaning, rice-photographing, shop-updating, photo-organising...

And more pressingly, seeing to a noisy little boy who has finished his breakfast! Bye!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

K is 18 months old!

He likes...

... cats and dogs

... trucks and airplanes

... playing with balls and balloons

(is it very bad that this reminds me of a dung beetle?)

... reading books

... going out

... dancing

... playing with my magnets and noticeboard

He doesn't like...

... crashing waves

... hand dryers

... mushrooms and leafy greens

... salad (except for tomatoes)

... having to go back into the house after playing outside

... being carried up and down stairs

He can...

... climb over the sofa, onto the kitchen table, onto the computer desk

(yes, that is the lap-top he's sitting on)

... go up and down stairs by himself

... walk confidently and almost run

... point to his own head, tummy and feet on request

... do simple jigsaw puzzles

Saturday, 5 September 2009

The grand total!

Thank you to everyone who entered my little giveaway. The total number of mini-tomatoes we picked by the end of August was ......(drum-roll please)....... 1,381!

That means the winner of the giveaway is Aik, who guessed 1,000 tomatoes. She has chosen this letter-set and these stickers from the shop:

Congratulations Aik! I will send you an e-mail soon but if you read this first, please send me an e-mail with your address.

Thanks again to everyone who entered, it was fun to get lots of comments!

Friday, 4 September 2009

Let sleeping babies lie

Ah, K is asleep! He normally has a nice long nap every day after lunch but he hasn't slept in the daytime at all for the last three days... I was beginning to panic that he would never nap again, but today he fell asleep instantly. It must have all caught up with him at last! Now maybe I can get on with a few things that I can't do when he is around: anything on the computer, paperwork, sewing, or maybe just having a cup of tea and a few minutes peace and quiet...
And no, that photo was not taken today. You don't really think I would be so foolish as to risk disturbing him now do you?
(Tomorrow I'll announce the grand total from the tomato harvest and the winner of the giveaway. There's still time to enter!)

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Rice update

The rice is coming on nicely now, although the field nearest the house is a bit behind the rest. You can see a clear difference between that plot, still bright green and upright, and the next one where the rice is starting to ripen and bow over.

This photo was taken on a rather overcast day, but it gives a nice overview of it all.

As well as the nets, there's now a scarecrow to keep the birds away too.

On the subject of harvests, there's still time to enter my little giveaway!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Join us...

...on a little walk to our nearest supermarket, only about 5 minutes away. Here's the road outside our place, complete with large shadow cast by our house. You can see that it's a reasonably quiet, reasonably old neighbourhood, with lots of ugly electric lines...

The house across the street from ours is quite typical of those all around us (although the built-in garage is rather unusual). Many of the houses around here were built about 25 to 30 years ago, making them quite old by Japanese standards. Lots of houses here have these orangey-brown roof tiles and complex roof shapes. The brightly-reflecting thing on the lower roof is a basic solar water heater.

A bit further down the road and we find the entrance to the shrine, marked by this stone lantern (shame about the TV antenna):

And then the shrine itself, where H's uncle is the priest:

I love the roof shapes of shrines in Japan.

Finally, some pine trees. H's dad tells me that 30 years ago this whole area was covered in pine trees. Now it's mainly residential and there are just a few trees dotted around the place...

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

New month, new government

As you may know, we had a general election here in Japan on Sunday. The left-of-centre party previously in opposition won, ousting the right-of-centre party which had pretty much been in charge ever since the end of the Second World War!

The previous government had earned a reputation among many as arrogant, complacent and full of jobs-for-the-boys. Many people came to think that it was time for a change and I think that many of the votes on Sunday were 'not for X' rather than specifially 'for Y'.

I agree with many of the policies of the new government, but they do seem to have a lot of contradictions too. They are going to increase child allowances, but scrap tax deductions for dependents. They have pledged to further cut CO2 emissions, but also to get rid of tolls on highways and reduce tax on petrol. Some of their plans seem more right than left-wing, and their plans to reduce various taxes leave people wondering how they are going to pay for all their pledges, particularly as Japan as a country is quite heavily in debt...

Overall I can't help thinking that this party was so determined to win that they promised everything to everyone and that the population was so eager for a change that they voted for the opposition without paying too much attention to their manifesto. Still, it's quite exciting and it'll be interesting to see what happens next. And it makes a change from blog posts about sock monkeys, tomatoes and cute little boys, right?