Saturday, 27 February 2010

Just in time

I just managed to make something for K within Celebrate the Boy month. Not anything from any of the great tutorials though, just a simple pair of trousers and a decorated T-shirt. And no, I did not make the T-shirt. That would just be silly...

I was guided by 3 things in making these trousers:

One, shop-bought trousers that K already has, for size.

Two, the trousers I made for him from one of my old T-shirts last year, for construction method.

And three, the principle that they're just a pair of trousers for playing in, and don't have to be perfect. For my sanity.

When I first saw this fabric it just shouted out 'applique!' to me, so I got a plain T-shirt and had a go. I encouraged a bit of fraying around the edges for a bit of rough, boyish charm, and so that when disparaging busybodies point out that I haven't done a very good job, I can claim that it was meant to be like that.

It's K's birthday next week so I'm going to wait and give this to him then. I did want to try the trousers on him before sewing up the elastic though, so I left them on the back of a chair in the kitchen. When K came down in the morning he spotted them there and made a beeline for them, even ignoring the open lap-top! That made my day :-D

Friday, 26 February 2010

Ten things I learnt this month

  • K can reach the drawers with the CDs in

  • my everyday shoes leak

  • so do my boots

  • Goldie is great

  • having a cold + a Goldie gig + a night out ending in karaoke = very little voice

  • Shrove Sunday is just as good as Shrove Tuesday

  • there's a reason why trousers that are higher at the back than at the front have a waistband

  • people who like fabric, love free shipping

  • too much of the music I like to listen to includes words K shouldn't hear

  • it can be warm enough to go out in short-sleeves in February, but people will look at you funny...

Thursday, 25 February 2010


I came home yesterday to find a familiar purple package waiting for me; a parcel from paper and string! I had finally given in to temptation and ordered some lovely wool blend felt. I had to choose the 10 colours I wanted from the 45 available so I just picked out a variety that I thought would be useful.

It wasn't until I was playing around with it taking photos that I realised I had chosen black, white, cream ... and the colours of the rainbow:

I also got a sample card, a felty work of art in its own right, to help with the inevitable future orders...

Lovely stuff. Thanks Sarah!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Signs of spring

I know I may be tempting fate, but I think spring may be here. Now I'm not one of those people who hate winter (in fact I can bear the winters here a lot better than the hot and humid summers), but who doesn't love the first signs of spring?

Evidence gathered today:

1. It's warm! For several days we've had bright, sunny days with warm breezes and cloudless blue skies. Today I saw temperatures of (get ready for it) 17 degrees!

2. Our plum tree is flowering:

3. Farmers are working down the ground:

4. Small boys are running around parks without coats:

And just to help you understand my excitement about all this, here is the view we had from our dining room last Thursday:

Monday, 22 February 2010

Baby monkey

This little cutie is on her way to welcome the arrival of Baby S, due next month. I think little purple stripey sock monkey is a newborn too; she has short little arms and can't touch the top of her head! She's lovely and soft and cuddly though and will hopefully the two little babies will be the best of friends...

Friday, 19 February 2010

Blog world fame!

I was very excited the other day to see that my little shop had been featured on Made By Rae!

Rae had offered to feature shops that had some kind of Celebrate The Boy promotion going on, and she kindly included the free shipping I'm offering this week (still happening by the way ;-D). Not only was that a fantastic bit of advertising for my shop, it was also just Really Cool! As I commented on Rae's blog, I felt like I was hanging out with the cool kids...

And as a result of all that, I had a bumper trip to the post office today with lots of orders winging their way around the world as we speak. I also had some new visitors here (hello!) and some lovely comments.

So this weekend's main jobs have now become Get More Fabric and Get More Packaging Supplies! Thank you so much to Rae for featuring me and to everyone who read it and popped in here or to my shop! Y'all come back again, y'hear?

Activities with K

Last week we tried out a few new activities. Firstly I gave K a big metal bowl filled with those flat glass marbles you put in vases, and a ladle. He had great fun scooping them up and pouring them out again; the marbles made a lovely sound against the bowl and felt nice and cool to the touch, as well as being a beautiful blue colour.

Of course it soon degenerated into 'tipping the whole lot onto the floor', but that then evolved into 'putting them back into the bowl via a kitchen roll core', so all was well.

Then there was the making of the Valentine's Day card for H. I drew a heart on the front of the card and filled it in with gluestick. We tore up the red and pink bits of some old flyers and K stuck them onto the card.

It was his first go at this type of thing, and I think it went down well. When the heart was finished we got the crayons out and wrote 'messages' inside.

I also finally got around to putting together a little collection of things for dressing up. Recently K is always keen to wear big people's shoes, gloves, hats and anything else he can get his hands on. His first little dress-up was quite restrained and tasteful...

... but today he really went for it. Yes, that's a pair of H's underpants :-)

Residents of Japan, worry not! Those shoes he's wearing are the ones I used to wear when I helped out at a primary school, and have never been worn outdoors. Phew.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

International fabric swap anyone?

One of the first blogs I started reading regularly was Jo's A Bit Of This And A Bit Of That. Like me, Jo is British and is living in Japan with her husband and little boy. Her blog is far superior to mine though! It's where I first heard about Montessori, and is a great source of creative inspiration.

From time to time Jo organises swaps, usually Montessori-related, and this time I've signed up! Actually this time we're swapping fabric so it's not specifically Montessori, and anyone can join in as long as you're willing to ship internationally. Each person will send out and receive a total of one and a half yards (or metres, if you prefer!) of fabric. Jo is still on the lookout for more participants so pop into her blog here, get the details and sign yourself up!

(Have fun at Jo's blog. Just don't be so enamoured that you never come back here...)

Celebrate the boy with free shipping!

Have you been inspired by all the great tutorials and ideas Dana and Rae have come up with for their Celebrate The Boy month? Itching to make lots of lovely things for the little man in your life?

Well, I have been busy updating my shop with some boy-friendly prints, including the ones above. And as my contribution to Celebrate The Boy, and to reward my loyal readers (er, hello Mum!), I'm offering free worldwide shipping until the end of the week. Just write 'Celebrate the boy' in the 'Message to Seller' box and I will refund the shipping fee to you. Of course, the automatic discounts for buying 4 or more fat quarters still apply too!

This offer is valid until 8am Monday, Japanese time. Thank you!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Valentines Day

Did you have a good one?

Here in Japan, women give gifts to men on Valentines Day, usually chocolate. As well as giving things to people you actually like, you are also expected to hand out little gifts to men you work with too, especially those senior to you. There's even a name for those presents - giri-choko, meaning 'obligation' or 'duty' chocolate. Then on 14th March, White Day, the men return the favour.

No giri-choko around here, but I did make some mini chocolate chip muffins. H had some fresh out of the oven for breakfast and then we both had some mid-afternoon while K was napping.

H also received a little Valentines card lovingly made by his wife and son...

... and in the evening we had cheese fondue, as requested by the man of the day.

Happy Valentines Day H! We love you.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

20th Century Pears

After our stay at the hot spring last weekend, we called in at the Pear Museum before making our slightly snowy way home. While it would be an exaggeration to say this this area was famous for anything really, 20th Century Pears are one of the best known exports. These pears look more like apples really; big, round rather than pear-shaped, and light green or golden in colour, and their flesh is crisp and juicy. They can be very expensive to buy but, around here, you tend to get given more than you know what to do with when they are in season...

There was a tasting area at the museum and this month, in honour of Valentines Day, you could dip your pieces of pear in a chocolate fountain. Yum.

I think K was happier with the plain pear really, but it did make for a fun photo opportunity.

I wasn't sure how interesting a museum devoted to fruit farming would be to the smallest member of the family, but it turned out to be great fun. Downstairs at the museum there were displays on the history of the 20th Century Pear, pears from around the world, the tasting area and some computers to allow you to try your hand at virtual pear-growing. K loved that bit - computers that he was actually allowed to play with!

We made our way upstairs, around the big pear tree in the centre of the building, and came to a play area designed to make you feel as if you were a little insect among the roots of the trees.

There were rather creepy-looking caterpillars to ride on...

... and some tree root tunnels with strange green growths in to explore.

If you are my friend on Facebook, you may also know that there were beetle costumes to try on too... I think I'll refrain from re-posting that picture here :-)

The best part was this giant Velcro wall, and its pieces of rope - just like Fuzzy Felt! K spent ages playing here, with great concentration. First he pulled off all the pieces of rope which someone had left on the wall, and then he carefully stuck all the pieces back on again.

When he'd finished he then took them all off again and carefully put them all away in the little storage boxes on either side of the board. This wasn't always easy, especially with long pieces that kept slithering out before he could get it all in, but he persevered.

After all that exploration we moved on to the 'Kids Corner' (so where had we just come from?) where there were various non-pear-related toys and colouring available, before heading off to find lunch. For 300 yen each for me and H (with free pears and chocolate!) it was a great way to spend a couple of hours with a toddler on a cold winters day.

Then lunch, a bit of shopping and the drive home again, notable only for these railings beside some roadworks we saw (it's not a good photo, but bear with me):

Yup, the railings are held up by big yellow rabbits. Only in Japan, I suspect...

Friday, 12 February 2010


Goldie, the king of drum and bass, is currently touring Japan. There are just 4 dates on the tour: Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka and ... right here in Yonago. Bear in mind that this is a small city in the least populated prefecture (like a British county) in Japan!

It seems that Cian decided that, rather than traipsing down to Osaka to see Goldie, he'd get the man to come and do a gig here. And he did. And I went. And it was fantastic.

The venue was a bar with a small dance-floor on the second floor and a lounge area on the 3rd (which had been a storage room until the day before...). I think the word for the gig was 'intimate' - each floor is not much bigger than the main living area in my house. Pretty much all the foreigners I know in the area were there, giving it the feel of a big private party. And the, shall we say, 'compactness' meant that lots of people got to have a chat with Goldie, take photos with him (except for the idiots who forgot their cameras...) and generally hang out.

Notable points of the evening:
  • Cian's perma-grin (well done mate!)
  • The unexpected playing of 'Teen Spirit' - that got'em going
  • Goldie taking photos of the other acts and the crowd - oh, the tourist...
  • The lads getting their shirts off - remember, I said notable points not highlights
  • Goldie initiating a conversation with me
  • The fact that he seemed to be enjoying it almost as much as we were, and that he promised to come again next year!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


Friday started with a root canal, so the day could only get better, right? We did a few errands around town and then the three of us headed off to Misasa, a hot spring resort about a 90 minute drive from here. If you've been reading my blog for a while you may remember that we went there last summer - I wrote about it here if you're interested, or just want to see how much K has grown!

We arrived at the hotel at about 4, and then went for a walk before dinner. Last year we only managed a short stroll but this time K walked all the way to the town, bringing his pushchair for the return journey...

This is a view of the main bridge in the town. If you look very carefully (or just click on the photo to see it bigger), you can see what looks like a bird-watching hide under the bridge on the right. It's actually an open-air hot-spring bath, but more on that later...

We walked along the old main street of the town, filled mainly with Japanese-style inns.

Part-way along there was a little steaming bath, where you could sit and soak your feet if you so fancied. K had a little splash - I think he was surprised that it was hot!

By the time we reached the end of the main street and turned back it was getting rather dark and a little snowy too. K admitted defeat and rode in the pushchair, wearing my gloves since we'd left his behind...

On the way back we noticed this little shop which seemed to sell wood carvings. On closer inspection it turned out to be, not a shop, but a room displaying carvings made entirely from blocks of freeze-dried tofu (koyadofu). How bizarre...

... and yet very impressive.

Back to the main bridge, and you can see that little open-air bath again. There's a natural hot spring that bubbles up right at the edge of the river and anyone can just wander down there and take a dip, naked, completely visible from the road. I have been in a few times, but always under the cover of darkness. To take this photo I posed H and K just out of shot and then zoomed in past them, in order to seem slightly less suspicious :-) Click on the photo to see old men washing themselves!

Finally we popped in to a little display on a traditional event held in the town each year. They make 2 huge ropes (each weighing about 2 tonnes) out of wisteria vines, link them together in the middle and have a massive tug-of-war contest. If one side wins (I've forgotten which) it'll be a good harvest that year and if the other side wins it'll be a good year for business. Win win really, I think.

After that it was back to the hotel for dinner. K ate 3 fried shrimp and a piece of fried chicken, a bit of crab, about half of that beefburger, some rice, a bowl of soup (with a spoon. By himself.) and some fruit.

We were seated in a tatami area, meaning no shoes. When it was time to leave K insisted on wearing my shoes (very popular nowadays) so I was left to walk back upstairs in my stockinged feet...

Then it was bath time. Last year K went in with H but this year he joined me in the ladies communal bath. There were hardly any other guests there, so we were able to do all the things you're not supposed to do in hot springs, like swim in the outdoor bath. Obviously I couldn't take pictures there, but have a look at the hotel's website here. It's lovely.

Just like last time, K went to sleep surprisingly well despite having free range of the room and lots of lovely tempting things like phones and vases to play with...

And, just for fun, here he is on the same futon in an identical room last summer. Ah...

Garden update

It looks like all the bulbs I planted have come up, and the snowdrops are already flowering. They've got very short stems though, so you only really notice them if you get quite close, or lie on the lawn :-)

A couple of weeks ago our resident garden supplier (aka H's dad) came round with some more additions for the garden. He's planted a small flowering cherry in the back garden, and a kyouchikutou. As always, I had no idea what that was in English, so Yahoo dictionaries came to the rescue - an oleander. I'm glad I looked it up, because I learnt that it is very poisonous...

At the front of the house we gained a rengyo on the left here (which turned out to be a forsythia - I've heard of that!), a lemon tree in the middle and a pine tree on the right.

The pine tree is nearly 40 years old and used to be kept in a pot as a bonsai. I think it's pretty cool.

In other garden news, the mass of broccoli leaves have finally started to form centres! Maybe we'll actually get something edible from them after all...

(Message to Dad - the tree that looks like a stick still looks like a stick)

Monday, 8 February 2010

All singing, all dancing

K still doesn't talk, apart from the occasional 'bye-bye'. Even that is more often directed at lorries or planes than at people. He does chatter a lot though, and I'm sure his stories would be very interesting if I could understand them.

What he lacks in speaking, he makes up for in singing. Although the words are gobbledy-gook, you can identify the songs by his timing and intonation. He also claps or taps his foot and dances along to the music.

There are some songs that K manages to get the words right for though. He replies 'Noah, Noah' to 'Who built the ark?', and his version of Old MacDonald goes E-I-E-I-E. Recently he's been 'Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba' Barbara-Ann-ing along with the Beach Boys when we've been out in the car...

What we've been up to lately...

Not a lot really.

January seemed to pass by in a haze of cold weather, dentist visits, stomach flu and working on weekends. There was a lot of Doing The Minimum and very little socialising, yoga or making stuff. Blah.

But February will be different! Last week I made a start on a lovely fluffy sock monkey for a friend's baby due in March, visited the English School boys one afternoon and took K to both the play centre and the mother and toddler group. H took a day off on Friday and we went off to Misasa for a little overnight trip (more on that later) and then last night I went along to a little party for people who helped out at Tondosan.

Today we made it to the play centre in the morning and K is now actually napping! Hurrah! All in all a good start to the month.

Thursday, 4 February 2010


Yesterday was Setsubun, the day halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox. Setsubun literally means 'division of seasons', and it is supposed to mark the beginning of spring. There are actually 3 other Setsubuns throughout the year marking the start of the other seasons too, but only the spring one is really celebrated.

The big thing to do on Setsubun is throw beans at oni. Oni is usually translated into English as 'demon', but I don't think oni are really quite as evil as that. They are usually red or blue, have horns like a bull and wear tiger-skin shorts. People throw dried soy-beans and say 'Oni out, good luck in!'. It's also traditional to eat the same number of beans as your age.

Another Setsubun tradition in some areas is to eat rolled sushi, without speaking, while facing the direction deemed as lucky for that year. The shops here cash in on it and you can place an order for rolled sushi in the lead-up to Setsubun. I've also heard that an old tradition is to hang holly and dried fish on your door to keep the oni away.

We, along with other members of the local mother-toddler group, went over to the local day-care yesterday morning to join in their Setsubun festivities. The teachers dressed as tigers (this year's Chinese zodiac animal) and oni, threw beans and led the children in songs and dances. K enjoyed watching it all and dancing along with his version of the actions...

In the evening H came into the room wearing an oni mask. K was rather scared and ran to me for protection... I saved the day by throwing some beans at the oni, who recoiled suitably. When K saw the effect the beans had on the oni, he happily joined in:

Luckily, K also enjoyed picking all the beans up again afterwards!
(Don't ask why the little oni has no trousers on, or why I'm wearing a hat...)

Later it was K's turn to be the oni. He stomped around making growling noises, scaring us all. I put the mask on too for a while; at first it was OK, but then K got scared. He ran and grabbed my legs for me to save him. So he obviously knew that it was still me behind the mask, but didn't like it nonetheless.

I'm not sure that we can quite call it the beginning of spring yet, as there have been fluffy flakes of snow fluttering about today. The bulbs have all come up though, and the snowdrops are flowering so it won't be long...