Saturday, 29 May 2010

Still here!

Once again I have got out of the blogging routine.

The main reason this week was my not feeling at all well since The Air Show Drenching. I had a strange collection of symptoms including high temperature, fainting, sore throat, and aching neck but as of yesterday I am officially Better. The weather mirrored how I felt - the grey, wet weather continued from Sunday to Thursday, but today we have been back to sunny blue skies.

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week K went to nursery for the day. I was working as usual on Tuesday but, for once, had nothing on in the afternoon and I was running a teacher-training workshop on Wednesday with, again, nothing planned for the afternoon. I'd been looking forward to those afternoons for ages, with ideas of clothes shopping, relaxing at cafes and catching up on odds and ends at home running through my head. Instead I spent them congratulating myself on surviving the morning and lying on the sofa watching TV. It was good that I had that free time to rest, but it was still rather disappointing to spend it that way...

The previous week wasn't much better for Getting Things Done. K didn't nap at all on any of the days that we were at home alone together, or even stay in his cot for more than 5 minutes before escaping out and reappearing downstairs. He also figured out how to unlock the safety gate at the living room door, so I was spending most of my time chasing after him all over the house, trying to prevent him getting his little hands on things he shouldn't...

Now, however, we have a new fence to keep K out of harm's way (although the napping hasn't improved much) and I'm feeling fine again, so it's time to Do Stuff!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Note to self

For future reference, do not go to the local Air Show on a rainy day (or, crucially, a day where it looks like it may possibly rain) unless:

a) All members of the party are fully equipped for the weather including (but not limited to) raincoats, waterproof trousers, Wellington boots, umbrellas and well-protected bags and

b) All members of the party can be relied upon to walk unaided for the duration of the event without the need or desire to be carried (occasional lifting to provide a better view may be granted an exception, at the discretion of the senior members of the party).

Failure to abide by these guidelines may result in soggy shoes and sodden feet, lots of laundry, chills and headaches, aching necks, shoulders and arms, and a story which will probably be amusing after a few days.

*An aside*
While the chances of him reading this are even lower that of me staying up past ten o'clock tonight, I would like to say a thousand thank yous to the be-suited gentleman who was leaving the air show as we arrived and, on spotting K bundled up in my raincoat while I was still wearing it, kindly gave us his small umbrella. Thank you sir.

And so to bed.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Tottori Flower Park

Last Sunday we went for a little day out to the Tottori Flower Park, which means that I can now bore you with endless pictures of K and of flowers. I will try to be restrained...

The park was the largest flower park in Japan when it opened 11 years ago. It covers about 50 hectares, equivalent to about 11 Tokyo Domes - large areas in Japan always seem to be measured in Tokyo Domes! At the centre of the park is a heated dome housing tropical plants...

... and around the main area runs a covered walkway, about a kilometre in length. The walkway is level but the park is not, so that sometimes you are at ground-level and other times you are in the tree-tops.

We took a picnic lunch and ate it at the top of the Flower Hill, with lovely views of Mount Daisen, now completely free of snow. The Flower Hill is replanted throughout the year so that it is always full of one particular flower in bloom, and at the moment it is a mass of poppies...

Until K was born I'd only been to the Flower Park a couple of times, but in the last 2 years I think we've been four times. It's not far from home, not expensive and is not usually very busy; it has lots of space for little ones to run around safely and nice areas to picnic on, oh, and there are lots of lovely flowers!

Our timing wasn't great on this visit though. Saturday marked the start of their Rose Festival but, due to a colder than usual season, there weren't many roses in flower yet. The previous big attraction, the tulips, had pretty much finished so overall there were not as many flowers as I'd hoped.

There were lots of flowers in the dome though, and in the Floating Garden. The spaces between the walkways and flower beds are filled with water, with lots of big koi swimming around...

K's favourite part was probably watching the Flower Trains - actually little tractors disguised as locomotives pulling carriages for tours of the park. There are two running around the park all day, so every half hour or so K would announce 'Choo choo!'...

Outside of the ticket gates, on the way back to the car park, there is a shop selling local produce where H spotted rhubarb! I've never seen it in the supermarkets here and a lot of Japanese people seem to have never even heard of it. I snapped some up and made a crumble on Sunday night. H wasn't too keen but I wasn't offended - all the more for me :-)

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Flower festival

Last Saturday was the Flower Festival at our nearby temple, honouring Buddha's birthday. Most people around here are pretty laid back about religion and will go to Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and Christian churches depending on the event. Our local Shinto shrine has been run by H's family for generations but that didn't stop both his brothers getting married in a church or his dad coming over to take us to the Flower Festival.

You can't really tell in these pictures, but there was a small statue of Buddha standing in a bowl of sweet tea under this little flower-decorated canopy. Everyone took it in turns to scoop up a little of the tea and pour it over the statue.

K had a go too, and even the priest was taking photos of him!

After the tea-pouring we each drank a tiny cup of the very sweet tea and were given a snack cake to take home with us.

According to some of my students, Buddha's birthday was actually last month and according to my diary it's next Friday. Whenever it is, Happy Birthday Buddha!

Friday, 14 May 2010

Golden Week round-up

Everyone's been back at work for a week or more now, so I think that I have to accept that Golden Week is over :-)

We mainly stayed close to home, avoiding the crowds and enjoying the good weather with friends and family. Along with our day at the beach, one of the main events was a barbecue here with friends old and new.

Meiko and David were visiting from New Zealand, Jason and Junko live here in Yonago and Marvin and Ikuno have just moved here from Australia. Between the 8 of us, we have 6 little children so it was quite a lively afternoon...

We also met up with H's uncle, visiting from Hiroshima, one evening and spent another evening at home with Heidi and Lisa playing board games, drinking wine and eating lots of yummy things (including locusts. Not really sure if they should be categorised as 'yummy' though...).

H's mum looked after K one afternoon, so H and I went out for lunch and a movie. We've failed dismally to do that every month, as I resolved back in January, but that just made this day all the more enjoyable.

H did some work in the garden and I got some more fabric for the shop, and we also had a morning at the park...

It was a lovely sunny day and K was finally able to wear the outfit I'd made for his birthday!

He loves going through the big undulating wire-tunnely thing (above), but always wants to hold my hand on the slopes. This time he did all by himself, and he went through a little tunnel that turns into a slide for the first time too.

After that there was no stopping him and he even climbed up to the top of this net by himself, with me hovering worriedly in the background...

That was the last day of Golden Week for us, but in the holiday spirit we took H's mum out for dinner on Sunday night for Mothers' Day. Then on Monday it was H's birthday and we went out for dinner again, plus presents and cheesecake at home too...

Thursday, 13 May 2010

In the garden

The azaleas are in full bloom now. Azaleas are the official flower of this city and you can see them all over the place, but these ones are in our back garden.

Last autumn we bought a couple of little broom plants, hoping they'll grow up and fill in a space that looks right into the neighbour's front door. Not much growth yet, but we do have some lovely flowers now...

A while ago H and I rigged up some bamboo poles supporting a net over the patio area. With luck these little morning glories will grow up the poles, spread across the net and provide some shade so we can actually sit out there on a sunny day.

Round by the front door the tanuki is keeping guard over some little bamboo shoots that have just started to, well, shoot.

Overall, everything is looking so green now (sadly, this includes weeds...). The lawn is greening up nicely and everything is covered in fresh new leaves (except The Stick). A couple of little plants that we put in last autumn don't seem to have survived the winter but, on the other hand, a rose we got from Tim is about to flower! In the vastly over-named Vegetable Patch, the na-no-hana/rape/canola has finished flowering and has all gone to seed, and we have a few new additions: 2 mini tomato plants, 2 more broccoli plants and 1 lone cucumber plant. Wouldn't want to get carried away now....

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Sports Day

Our neighbourhood Sports Day was held on Sunday. Last year the weather was bad and it was held in the primary school gym, but this time it was warm and sunny and everyone gathered at the local playing field (or 'area of sand and gravel' to give it a more accurate name).

As always with these neighbourhood events, the whole day was more about turning up and showing your face than anything else, and the races were as light-hearted as ever. The local area covered by this Sports Day is divided up into 6 smaller areas, and each one competed against the others (we are in area 1). There were tents around the edge of the playing field, 2 for each group, where you could sit and watch the events out of the sun.

H took part in a relay race where each person had to run and then perform some amusing feat. Here he is, rushing to beat the others in downing a bottle of lemonade...

K took part in 'Snacks please!' again this year, this time able to complete the arduous task of walking from A to B and receiving a box of biscuits All By Himself. We were amused to see that he got exactly the same biscuits as last year! Can you spot him in this picture?

Later there was the Centipede Race...

... and then it was my turn. This relay race involved dribbling a rugby ball down the line, round a chair and back to the next person. Look at me go!

After all that hard work, it was time for a free lunch. Each area group provided food for its members. We had boxed lunches ordered from a nearby store, but 2 of the other groups did barbecues, and one even had a candy-floss making machine!

H's parents live in the same area as us, so we were all able to have a little picnic together:

The afternoon events kicked off with a dance! 'Dancers' walked slowly round in a big circle, doing the appropriate arm movements as they went. Variations on this type of traditional dance are found across Japan and can often be seen at festivals, especially in the summer. K loves to move to music and is quite good at copying actions, so we joined in. Most of the other people didn't really know the moves either and were just copying the person in front of them, so that the dance became more and more out of time as you got further away from the people leading it! K seemed to enjoy it, but didn't quite get the idea of staying in line...

This next picture was intended to show H taking part in the Throwing Little Beanbags Into A Basket On A Stick event, but it also demonstrates my main activity of the day, Chasing After Escaping Toddlers...

Everyone who took part got a small participation prize for each event, regardless of who won. I was rather embarrassed that K and I were both given something for joining in the dance! In the end we came home with 2 boxes of biscuits for little children, some custard-filled buns, a ball of string, 3 bars of soap, some clothes pegs and a bottle of bath cleaner. Is it strange that this all seems perfectly normal to me now?

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Happy Mothers' Day!

If it's Mothers' Day where you are today, have a great day!

I made a ruffled summer scarf for H's mum, using this tutorial on MADE. Did I get it done in 30 minutes, as Dana did? No, of course not, it probably took me that long just to cut the fabric. I did get it done in one nap-time though, which is pretty good going around here. Actually K woke up just before I finished, and was keen to help. He had his first sewing machine experience, sitting on my lap and trying to push the fabric under the foot...

If you're looking at the photo above and thinking 'Wow, H's mum must have a really small neck...', then no, that is not the finished scarf. Having insisted that H Hurry Up And Get That Present Wrapped, I then realised that I'd forgotten to take a picture of it. That'll teach me. So what you've got there is a bit that I cut off when things went wrong...

Actually I just ran out of elastic thread on the bobbin when I'd almost finished. I was too lazy to unpick it all and do it again, and it was plenty long enough already, so I just cut off the last bit and re-hemmed it a bit shorter. In the end I liked the look of that end of the scarf better, so then I went and re-hemmed the other side too! For the full effect, you'll have to imagine that bit of fabric twice as ruffly and much, much longer...

Saturday, 8 May 2010

A day at the beach

We live just a few minutes from the beach, but it's not terribly exciting. There's some nice sand and, well, the sea, and that's about it. Go for a drive though, and you can find some really lovely coastline. So that's what we did last Sunday...

The place we went to isn't really noticeable from the road so it's not very well-known, but it's a lovely spot. After walking past the little fishing harbour you come to a grassy area where you can camp or barbecue. We did neither, but did have a picnic lunch and K had a wander amongst the wild daikon (Japanese radish) flowers.

Then it was on a bit further, to get down to the serious business of rock-pool-exploring...

K was rather sad to say goodbye to the starfish, but we were off on a little walk again. You used to be able to walk all around the island (joined to the mainland by a little breakwater), but unfortunately a rock slide had blocked the path. Instead we followed some steps up to the top of the hill and got some more lovely sea views...

K walked a lot that day, including up and down all the steps, and didn't ask to be carried at all. Finally we arrived at the tiny sandy beach and had a little paddle. The water was freezing at first but quite pleasant once you got used to it. It was mainly me doing the paddling though; K spent most of his time putting little shells and pieces of sea glass in his pocket.

I don't know what K is pointing to here and, by the look of my face in the photo, I didn't know then either :-)

By the way, H was there too, taking all the photos...

Friday, 7 May 2010

This and that

How was your week? Was it Golden?

Ours was, not least because we had fantastic weather all week - warm and sunny with only occasional gale-force winds (most notably when trying to light the barbecue...).

I managed to do just about everything on my little list of Golden Goals (more on that later, when I've edited some photos), but now that we're back to the normal routine I've thought of several things that should have been on the list: it's Mother's Day here on Sunday and H's birthday on Monday and so far I have done nothing for either of them...

For now, that picture of K and I on Wednesday, which was Boys' Day. If you're interested in the decorations, have a look at this post which I wrote last year :-)

And finally, a little K anecdote because you can never have too many of those, right?

He has a lovely book of photos of various animals which we've been looking at together recently. One day, K was enjoying 'naming' the animals (usually by their noises) and pointing to animals when I named them. Then he started pointing to the book excitedly and saying 'Mama! Mama!' So, which animal do you think he was identifying with me?

The hippo. Fantastic.

And there's even a follow-up. A few days later K was looking at more books and started saying 'Dada! Dada!', again pointing excitedly. Ha ha! thought I, now H will get the insulting labeling treatment. So, what was K identifying with his Daddy?

A firefighter. How come H gets the cool one and I get, well, a hippo?

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Introducing Mr Squishy

My parcel from Kristen has finally made its way through the Icelandic ash, so I can reveal the details of our pincushion swap! The pincushion above is the one I made for her, using the same Kokka fabric as I used for this zippered pouch and a couple of vintage buttons from my mum's stash.

I knew that Kristen was a knitter not a sew-er (I hate 'sewer', it looks like, well, 'sewer'...) so I wasn't really sure what else to send with the pincushion. In the end, I choose these little goodies:

Some cotton wool (?? obviously not 'cottonwool', but what do you call 'wool' that is actually cotton?), just because I loved the beautiful colour; some buttons covered with traditional Japanese fabric; some funky flowery ribbon and a little book on crocheting soft toys. I don't suppose Kristen reads Japanese but I think the instructions are easy to follow if you can already crochet. And if not, well, I hope she enjoys looking at the pictures of cute little Japanese toys :-)

Anyway, my parcel from Kristen arrived on Friday and I was Very Excited. When I opened the box I saw this little head peeping through the packaging...

...and it turned out to be Mr Squishy! Look at his lovely heart eyes and long dangly legs - I don't know if I can bring myself to stick pins in him.

Next it was time to open all those tempting, sparkly presents...

... some lovely soft tartan fabric (very appropriate, coming from Scotland), the teeniest-tiniest pencil-shaped buttons in a cool little paper bag, some green boiled sweets and a Crunchie! A Crunchie!

*** Note to future international swappers/gift-givers: expats love to receive food! ***

What a lovely collection of goodies! Thank you so much Kristen! And thank you Claire for organising the swap. If you're interested, you can find more pictures from the pincushion swap here on Flickr too.

I wonder what swap I'll take part in next....

Saturday, 1 May 2010

And the winner is....

Thank you very much to everyone who entered my little giveaway. It was lovely to get comments from you all and I'm sure I'll do another one sometime soon.

I put the comment numbers 1 to 8 into this random number generator, and figured out how to do a screenshot of the result (ie I asked H). So, without further ado, the winner is...

Number 1! It's Lisa! Congratulations Lisa! I'm glad my sister didn't win (sorry sis) or I might have had to do it again to avoid accusations of bias ;-)

Lisa wins $20 to spend in my shop, redeemable against anything in the shop or a custom order and valid indefinitely. But that's not all! I want to thank you all for joining in and I feel a bit sorry for those of you who didn't win so, everyone who entered the draw (and anyone else who happens t0 read this I suppose!) can celebrate Golden Week with a 10% discount! Just write 'Happy Golden Week' in the 'message to seller' box, and I'll refund 10% of the sale.

This offer is valid in conjunction with others, so if you order 4 or more fat quarters you'll be eligible for the automatic 'large order' discount and the Golden Week discount. Yeah! This discount is valid until midnight on Wednesday, and all Golden Week sales will be posted on Friday, after the holidays. Thanks again for joining in, and have a great weekend!