Thursday, 30 December 2010


Here's something else I didn't get round to showing you until now...

Last month I found the online magazine and blog Rhythm of the Home, just when they happened to be having a giveaway. I entered my name and later discovered that I had won this lovely handmade mistletoe! I've never seen mistletoe in Japan and every Christmas I think I would like to have some - and now I do!

This mistletoe was created from wool and recycled wool felt by Kendra of by hand at home, who I have just noticed had a baby on Christmas Eve! Thank you Kendra and congratulations!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Demolition, done.

Actually the demolition work next door was all finished a few weeks ago, but I'm only now getting round to showing you. The house itself was knocked down and cleared away in just a couple of days...

Adding extra earth and levelling the site took longer. K loved watching it all, every step of the way...
We can now see straight out to the road from our kitchen and dining area and K still enjoys standing by the window and watching the traffic. Last week they came and moved an electric pole in the middle of the site's road-side, which entertained K for another hour or so.

Notice anything strange about the digger driver in this next photo?

Have a closer look...

When the men were packing up on the last day, they asked if K would like to ride on the digger. I imagined just sitting in the driver's seat, but the guy had him pushing and pulling the levers to go forwards and backwards, spinning around, tilting the bucket, blowing the horn... K looked very serious at the time but was grinning for the rest of the day and spent several days telling anyone who would listen 'K drive digger!'

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Christmas Wrap-up

How was your Christmas? I hope you had a relaxing time with friends, family, lots of lovely presents and yummy things to eat.

We had Lisa and Vivian here for lunch on Christmas Day, and Lisa stayed for a few board games too. In the evening H's parents came over for tea, and we had a couple of nice Skype chats with my family too.

Of course, there were presents too. K was very pleased to get his 'Maisy doll', and he has also been enjoying doing his new puzzle, riding his hobby horse, and undressing his baby doll. Both K and H have been wearing their new dressing gowns too - over their clothes, in the daytime...

My best present was, unusually, from H (sorry H). I always covet those sets of perfume miniatures you find in duty free shops, and H remembered that and gave me a set of Dior scents! I assumed he got it online, but H said no. Then the penny dropped; he bought it at the airport in Paris on his way back from the UK in August! Thank you H :-)

In the days leading up to Christmas I was busy in the kitchen, making quiche, sausage rolls, cookies and desserts. We're still eating some of those things now, but I'm not complaining. It's been lovely to have a supply of tasty things ready to eat, with no cooking required. Today K and I had the last of the turkey in sandwiches for lunch, and the bones have been cooked down in readiness for a soup tomorrow.

It was great that Christmas Day fell on a Saturday this year, as H was home and we could also have a proper Boxing Day on Sunday too: eating leftovers, playing with new toys and lazing about watching TV. There won't be much of that last one going on for the time being though as our TV, which has been threatening to stop working for a while now, has completely given up. It looks like we may be hitting the electrical stores in the January sales... It's rather pathetic that we feel that we need a TV. Still, when I told a friend about it today, he was incredulous that we only had the one set in the house!

H was at work as usual yesterday and today but from tomorrow, Wednesday, he's off for his New Year holidays. It always seems funny to me - my big winter holiday preparation and cooking rush is over now but everyone else around here is just getting started on theirs. New Year is the biggest holiday of the year here, but nothing really seems to happen... We'll spend New Year's Day at H's parents place but, other than that, we have nothing planned for the next week. I'm hoping to strike a good balance between getting some useful things done (so that I don't feel guilty and time-wasting) and having fun (so that I feel like I've had a holiday). Catching up with my blog a bit is one of the things on the to-do list!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Eve

Over the last week...

... I finally sent off the last of the Christmas cards. They're going to be terribly late but, seeing as most of them are going to the UK, I'm going to blame the bad weather there for the delay :-)

... the last of the Christmas present shopping was done. Yeah for late-night shopping at Jusco without K!

... the 3 of us went to K's pre-school Christmas party on Saturday, and then went to look at Christmas lights afterwards.

... I helped out at a workshop for medical interpreting on Sunday, playing the role of a pregnant woman. Not too much of a stretch for me at the moment.

... all my classes for this year have been finished, apart from a private lesson next Tuesday which just consists of having a cup of tea and chatting.

... I finally finished that dinosaur soft toy last night, for K tomorrow. It's not very well-made, but I'm hoping he'll like it anyway.

... over 60 cookies were baked, some to give to H's parents as a little present and the rest for us over the holidays.

... K has been getting more and more excited about Christmas, telling H that he wants a 'Maisy doll' from 'Farmer Christmas'.

Today's plan is to do a bit more baking and food preparation for tomorrow, take those cookies over to H's parents and watch a Christmassy film. Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, 20 December 2010


I've been meaning to show you our Advent calendars since the beginning of December and time is now fast running out! The one above is the star of the show this year, a gift from my friend Chieko. She had it delivered directly to our house from the store (Muji), addressed to K. It arrived on November 30th and, thinking it was a Christmas present, I wondered whether to open it or not. It was labelled as 'food' though, so I thought I'd better open it just in case... In each little drawer there was a sweet, but I took them all out (and, with H's help, ate them...) and replaced them with tiny wooden cars, lorries and buses that I bought a long time ago (also at Muji!). I happened to have 23, so number 24 is still empty. I'd better find something soon to put in it, or I could probably sneakily take back one of the cars K has already had and have him find it again! He wouldn't notice, he's only 2... On the 3rd day, H realised that if you put the drawers back in backwards once they had been opened, they formed a Christmas tree. It's a great Advent calendar and I'm looking forward to using it again in future, assuming I can find things small enough to fit in it!

This Nativity scene calendar was sent over by my Mum and again it's one I want to keep for future Christmases. Aside from it being an Advent calendar it's a lovely, simple view of the Nativity and I think it would make a nice decoration. This year I haven't really introduced the true meaning of Christmas to K, partly because I don't want him thinking that our baby will be arriving on Christmas Day!

Mum also sent this joke Advent calendar too, full of cracker-worthy jokes such as the classic 'Why do birds fly south for the winter?'*

Our fourth and final Advent calendar is this fabric one, hanging in our hallway. Everyone who comes here comments on it. I need to fix the loops on some of the little ornaments - see if you can spot the red ribbon attached to the tree purely by the magical sticking power of felt-on-felt...

When we opened the first part of each calendar on December 1st, K was determined to open all the others too and got quite annoyed when we wouldn't let him. He soon got the idea though, and there have only been 2 occasions when temptation got the better of him. He knows, without looking, what number we're up to and greeted us this morning with '20 today! 21 tomorrow'. He's also grasped that it ends on the 24th and that the 25th is Christmas Day, although I don't know what he thinks will happen then...

*'Because it's too far to walk'.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Party, party, party

Last Sunday we held our annual Christmas party. Like last year, I roasted a turkey and prepared a few other things and all our guests brought something to add to the table. People came and went all afternoon but we always had a full house and I think about 30 people came altogether.

As always, H was chief turkey-carver, carefully monitored by K and Holly:

H worked hard throughout the party, clearing up as we went along and helping Emerson with his pasta...

Here, for example, you can see him 'clearing up' the pavlova!

K had a great time, playing to the crowd as always. He's quite the little socialite. I think he really enjoyed himself all afternoon, whether he was reading Bob the Builder books with Chan...

...pulling crackers with Pamela and Shuko...

...or just wandering about looking cute :-)

I just had to include this photo of Lisa apparently reading 'Maisy Big, Maisy Small' to Cally too, especially as I just noticed Cally is playing with a toy helicopter at the same time...

I really enjoyed the day; lots of lovely food and great company, including some people who I hadn't met before. Thanks for coming everyone!

And of course, that's not the only party of the season. The previous weekend I met up with some other 'foreign wives' for a little potluck party, and tomorrow afternoon all 3 of us will be going to K's pre-school Christmas party. This evening H has his work end-of-year party, staying overnight at a hot spring about an hour away from here. Tonight was also the night of the English School Christmas party. At first I thought I'd have to miss it since there was no-one to take care of K, but then I decided to take him along. We had a quiet afternoon so that he'd be able to stay up later than usual, and went along right at the start of the party at 8.00. How uncool. There were a lot of people there but K wasn't fazed at all. He seemed to have a great time, didn't seem overly tired, agreed at 10.30 that it was time to go home and was asleep withing 5 minutes of setting off in the car...

Friday, 10 December 2010

For Mary Beth...

...who writes one of my favourite blogs, Salt and Chocolate

When I saw these biscuits for sale, I had to buy them to show her. Well, and because I thought they might taste nice too. They did.

Mary Beth also recently wrote about making paper bag monsters with her boys. I had just acquired a large brown paper bag myself (they're not so common in Japan), and thought K might like to make one too. I showed him Mary Beth's picture of her little monsters and he was very excited to do the same thing, even declaring that he had to start with purple circles around the eyes, just like Dieter's...

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

An early Christmas present

Recently I commented with envy on the lovely 'opp-shop' (charity shop) finds that Hanna at Craftykin had discovered. Meanwhile, she was interested in the great craft books available in Japan, so we decided to do a little swap. I sent a parcel to her last week but of course, forgot to take photos of what I had included. Luckily it has now arrived safely in New Zealand and Hanna has written a great post about it, with lovely photos, here. Her pictures and comments make it all seem so exciting, even to me who knew what it all was! Thanks Hanna, I hope you enjoy it all.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Getting ready for Christmas

I know it's a bit early, but we put our Christmas decorations up on Sunday. It was the last day all 3 of us had free before our big annual Christmas party this Sunday and I wanted us to do it together. K 'helped' a bit last year but this time he was able to enjoy it a lot more. He spent ages making a little tinsel nest....

... before getting to grips with the serious tree decorating. We didn't really put up many other decorations, just a few little garlands and a string of last year's Christmas cards!

Then it was time to run around with a Santa hat on, looking cute. Well, if you were K anyway...

In other Christmas preparation news, the freezer now holds 2 turkeys (just!), one for Sunday and a smaller one for Christmas Day. This year I'm sending very few presents and have ordered those for people in the UK from the Cancer Research website. I just need to get a few little things for H and K, and a couple of presents for friends around here. This week's main jobs are writing Christmas cards (I've started...) and getting ready for the party on Sunday. In addition to all the usual things to do of course...

Thursday, 2 December 2010

K starts school

Phase One of next year's Operation Spend More and Earn Less (yes, I'm afraid you did read that correctly) has gone into effect; K started at the international preschool today. He went there for a trial day a couple of weeks ago and had a great time, so we decided to suck it up and hand over the cash...

Unlike the all-or-nothing 'normal' preschools, this one is quite flexible so K will be attending part-time. The class for 2 to 3 year olds meets 3 half-days a week, but K will be going for 2 full-days instead. He'll spend the morning with the other little ones and then have lunch and early afternoon activities with the slightly older children. Since he is used to being in an all-English environment with me anyway, it looks like he'll get along fine in the bigger kids class, and I think he'll benefit from it.

'Full-day' actually means 9.30 till 2.30 and I have matched his days at school with the days I am working so all this doesn't actually mean any more free time for me, but I think K will have a great time. Already today he came home singing 'We Wish You A Merry Christmas', and chattering about what he'd been doing at school. Until now he's been spending one day a week at a daycare centre where he is one of the oldest children, and I think he's outgrown it now. When asked what he did, or what happened there, his standard answer is 'babies cried'...

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The house next door

Next door to our house is a house that's been derelict for years. It's owned by an elderly man who lives far away and refuses to sell the land to anyone. His slightly younger brother lives nearby and grows vegetables in the garden. Judging by the current state of it though, I think it's been getting a bit much for him lately...

Recently I've seen surveyor-type people measuring the plot, and workmen assessing the house. It certainly looked like the land was being sold, and we wondered who our new neighbours would be and how it would affect us if a new house was built there. It turns out that the local Buddhist temple has bought it, to use as car parking! That's fantastic news as far as I'm concerned - we won't have to worry about a new house blocking our windows or overlooking us, the people at the temple are lovely and we may even be able to use the space too when we have a party...

Demolition work started yesterday, with a mini-digger knocking down a bit of garden wall and clearing enough space for a small lorry to get in. The workmen have been gutting the house and seem to be salvaging a lot of the reusable materials, including the roof tiles.

I took this sneaky shot from our bedroom window to show you all those stacked tiles, but I think that guy in purple standing on the roof there saw me...

K is entranced by it all and has realised that he can get a pretty good view of what's going on from our dining room window: