Saturday, 26 March 2011

And the winner is....

Thank you so much to everyone who entered the raffle here. We didn't quite reach 100, but did manage to sell 97 tickets. In total, on my blog alone, you donated $268 (US), 122 pounds and $10 (Aus)! Wow! I can't wait to see the grand total from everyone involved in this.

But that's not really why you're here, is it?

I numbered each ticket in the order it was bought (eg MeeABee got 1 and 2) and then put the numbers into a random number generator. Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to show that here on my blog (I know, I know...), but you trust me, right?

The winning number was... 29

... which means the winner is seeks!

Congratulations! I'll be emailing you now to see what kinds of fabrics you prefer.

Once again, thank you to everyone who entered, your donations will make a big difference in the lives of many people.

Now, if you don't mind, I think I'm going to go and have a baby...

Thursday, 24 March 2011

What we've been up to lately

March was supposed to be the time for Doing Lots Of Things but, between bad weather and my bad back/hips, not that much was achieved. We have done a few fun things over the last few weeks though, so here's my report...

attempting to pick up H's parents' cat...

  • K and I went to a classical music concert, his first! It was a performance by the Kansai Philharmonic, designed for small children; the poster said 'It's OK if they cry!'. The music was great of course, and they also spent time introducing the different instruments and letting volunteers conduct. A lot of the children did get fidgety, or fall asleep (it was nearly 2 hours long including the intermission), but K was great and seemed interested during the whole thing. The concert ended with a rousing performance of 'Land of Hope and Glory' which was really quite moving, especially when K turned to me part way through and said 'I like this song'.

  • All 3 of us went to the City Art Museum the following day (it was clearly The Monkey Household Week of Culture) to see a display of artwork from the children's books Lisa and Gaspard, and Penelope. K didn't really know the characters very well, but he enjoyed looking at the picture books on display... and then had a total meltdown in the foyer, but the less said about that, the better.

  • K has been brushing up in his computer skills. The other day I came into the living room to discover that he'd switched on the laptop, opened Internet Explorer, was playing a CD and browsing photos. I suppose he's preparing to help Grandad when he gets here...

  • We've had several visits to the play centre (usually greeted by some variation of 'Haven't you had that baby yet?), including a special one yesterday where all the mums had a go at some flower arranging. K enjoys jumping on the trampoline and looking at the Thomas the Tank Engine books, and I like chatting with the other mums and the staff.

    K wishes you all a Happy St Patrick's Day!

  • Lunch with Chieko last week, while K was at pre-school, and then, very decadently, afternoon tea with Lisa on Sunday! We had crepes at Giardinos and they were Very Nice, although we agreed that we could really have done with 2...

  • The cowboy blanket I won in the MADE giveaway arrived! Yeah!

  • K's pre-school had its graduation and end-of-school-year ceremony. Only one girl was actually 'graduating' and going on to primary school from April, but several other children were leaving to go to 'normal', Japanese kindergartens. The children sang songs and put on a play...

and then each child was awarded a medal for their particular strong point. In the little ones class, children were praised for being able to say their name and age well in English, for always tidying up well, and so on. And K's award-winning talent? 'He has the loudest voice in the class'. Hmmm...

And of course, there have been various preparations for the baby, and for Mum and Dad coming. I think now, we're pretty much as ready as we ever will be...

No imminent arrivals...

Tomorrow is my due date, but it doesn't look like baby will be showing up quite yet. I had a check-up this morning and the doctor told me I'm about 2cm dilated. That sounds quite impressive, except for the fact that he's been telling me that for 2 weeks now!

And now we learn that our more reliably scheduled arrivals won't be getting here tomorrow either! Mum and Dad's flight from Heathrow to Tokyo has been cancelled... Apparently, so many people cancelled their tickets that the airline called off the flight. Boo! Now they'll be arriving on Sunday instead, so let's hope baby hangs on until then...

That'll give me time to draw the raffle too! There's still time to enter, go on, you know you want to!

Calling Kate!

Would Kate, who generously entered my raffle, please get in touch with me? You forgot to say how much you had donated so I don't know how many tickets to assign you. There's no e-mail address and your Blogger profile is private so I can't contact you that way either. I would hate for you to miss out on your chance!

There's still time to enter; so far at least 65 tickets have been sold! Isn't that great? I wonder if we can reach 100...

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

A message to raffle entrants

Thank you so much to all of you who have already entered the raffle. There have been so many generous donations and I'm excited to see how much we can raise in total. And of course there is still time to enter here!

I have just one request for you:

Please make sure I can contact you !

I have had several entries with neither an e-mail address nor a public Blogger profile. I have queries for a couple of people and can't get in touch with them and, of course, I need to be able to contact you if you win!

Don't forget that there are lots of other great raffle and actions going on too, each needing their own donation to enter. Jo has also posted about where the money is going; I think it's a great combination of emergency measures and long-term aid.

There are still a few places in Northern Japan where they don't have enough of basic supplies, but in most areas aid is getting through well now. The number of people in shelters has halved since I last wrote about it, as people become able to return to their homes or find family or friends who can help them. Electricity is still a problem for many, whether due to damaged supply lines or the nuclear plants being out of commission. Temporary accommodation is already being built and different areas around Japan are offering public housing to people who have lost their homes. Our neighbouring prefecture which, like many rural areas, is suffering from a distinct lack of young people, is offering free housing and a cash incentive to people who move there! There are a lot of sad stories on the news, but the discovery of an 80 year old woman and her 16 year old grandson, alive and uninjured in the rubble of their home, cheered us all.

And while the future of the nuclear reactors is still unsure and worrying, H told me some reassuring information about the current situation. News reports of double the usual radiation level in Tokyo sound bad but apparently the usual, background radiation level in Rome is 6 times the current level in Tokyo! It all depends on what you define as 'normal'...

Saturday, 19 March 2011

One week to go...

...until the raffle to win 25 fat quarters of lovely Japanese fabric. Thank you so much to all the people who have already donated to the earthquake relief fund and entered the raffle. There are still tickets available though, so have a look here if you are interested. Jo has put together a Master List of all the raffle and auctions going on, which you can see here, there are lots of wonderful things you could win so please do check it out.

And less than a week to go until The Arrivals! Mum and Dad will be getting here on the 25th (Friday), which also just so happens to be this baby's due date. I wonder who will make an appearance first? When I was expecting K, Mum and Dad arrived 3 days before his due date, but he didn't bother to join us until about 10 days after it. Even then he was in no hurry; the birth was induced, which only seemed to result in an extra-long labour as the baby still hadn't dropped down into position. Hopefully this baby will make an appearance before the doctor wants to induce, but ideally not until Mum and Dad are here to look after K...

H took some pictures of me at the park on K's birthday, 2 weeks ago. From the front it's not too shocking...

...but side-on you get the full, watermelon-up-the-jumper effect:

At that time I was having a lot of pain in my lower back and hips, but I'm very glad to report that that has improved somewhat. It's not as painful as before, and the type of pain has changed too. I still feel it every time I walk or move in any way really, and turning over in bed can be excruciating, but at least H isn't finding me sitting on the kitchen floor in tears anymore...

Apart from that (!), I'm feeling fine. The doctor told me that I was about 2cm dilated 10 days ago which prompted a slight panic, but he said the same again on Wednesday so maybe I can relax a little. When I was expecting K I was walking for an hour every day, but this time I'm getting no exercise at all and I can feel the difference. Just going upstairs leaves me feeling quite tired out, so I'm not sure how prepared I am for the task of giving birth!

feeling the baby move, a few days ago

Dr K checks on my baby...

...and his!

At least now I am starting to feel somewhat prepared. This week I did my last private lessons and finished off the transcription work I had, and from now on there is nothing marked on the calendar at all. K is now on spring break from pre-school too, so we don't even have to get up at a particular time. H has brought all the baby stuff down from the loft and is getting it all cleaned up, and I have washed and sorted all the old clothes and bought a few new bits and pieces. I finally packed a hospital bag for me, and a bag for K in case he has to go to H's parents at short notice. The hospital admittance form has been filled in, the cot is set up and I've even managed to make something for the new baby!

OK, so it's only a couple of squares of material with a bit of crinkly plastic in the middle and some little ribbon loops around the outside, but I made it and it is finished. Which is more than I can say for the blanket I'm crocheting, so we'll move swiftly on...

All that's left to do now is get ready for Mum and Dad to arrive, which basically means housework. Oh joy. I'm torn between 'must get everything clean and tidy before they get here' and 'they'll need something to do once they're here, right?'. I know that they wouldn't want me to be worrying about housework on their behalf, but, on the other hand, they don't know quite how bad it is and I don't really want them to either. At the very least I must go through the cupboards and throw out food which expired before K was born, and sew the buttons on the pyjamas that Mum helped me make (everything finished except for, yup, the buttons) in summer 2008...

Thursday, 17 March 2011


Will you excuse a frivolous, non-earthquake/tsunami/nuclear crisis post? Actually, after reading this explanation of the situation by the British government's Chief Scientific Officer, I'm feeling quite reassured. You don't need a degree in nuclear physics to understand it (or even a GCSE in Science), and it's definitely worth a read if you're concerned.

So, is it spring yet?

I thought so. In fact, I started writing a blog post in late February about the change in seasons. The sasanqua was blooming beneath a blue sky...

...the snowdrops were flowering...

... and so were the first of the crocuses.

But then at the end of February we had some flurries of snow, and my declaration of spring seemed premature. At the beginning of March the daffodils (rescued from Tim's old garden) started to flower...

... but then we had a few snowflakes once again. This week though, it must be spring. On Monday it was 20 degrees. 20! K enjoyed playing in the park, and there was not a coat in sight. By then we had a full complement of flowering crocuses, yellow, white and purple, more daffodils and even the plum tree was starting to bloom.

So where are all those flowers now? Under a couple of inches of snow. After a 20 degree day on Monday, today it reached 2...

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Fighting back

I'm not really qualified to write an update on what's happening in Japan right now. In this area life is carrying on as if nothing had happened; in fact if it wasn't for modern media and communications, you wouldn't even know that anything had happened. Just like the rest of the world, I'm relying on the TV and Internet to keep me informed and, just like the rest of the world, I feel helpless and rather guilty to be happily going about my everyday life.

Obviously, things are bad. 500,000 people who survived the earthquakes and tsunami are now living in evacuation centres, in desperate need of basic supplies. Thousands are dead or missing. For people who escaped the direct effects of the disaster on Friday, the nuclear power plants in Fukushima now cause the biggest worry, and lack of electricity is still a major problem for many.

In Japan though, crises seem to bring out the best in people. There's definitely a 'Keep Calm and Carry On' mentality. Yes, it can be hard to decide if reassuring messages in the media are genuine or not, but scare-mongering helps no-one. There is panicked stock-piling of basic food stuffs in some areas, but there is none of the looting or other criminal behaviour we see all too often following natural disasters. Most people seem to be getting on with their lives where they can, and helping others to the best of their ability.

Would you like some examples?

Here is a collection of heart-warming stories of people doing what they can to help. I'll warn you now - some of them made me cry...

Big companies are really stepping up. Sony, Panasonic, Canon, Toyota, Japan Tobacco, Honda, Hitachi and more are each donating 300,000,000 yen - that's about $3 million. Uniqlo is donating 400,000,000 yen and 700,000,000 yen's worth of clothing, while the boss is personally contributing 1,000,000,000 yen - $10 million. Other companies are offering essential goods: $1 million worth of disposable nappies and toilet paper here, 30,000 radios there, 1.4 million cup noodles here, 1,000 generators there. Restaurant chains are distributing meals and convenience stores have been throwing open their doors to people in need.

Ordinary people are doing their bit too. When supplies do arrive, you see people forming orderly queues to get their share. People who have managed to stay in their own homes are taking clothes and blankets to nearby evacuation centres. People further afield are being asked to donate cash rather than goods, due to difficulties in distribution; a 70 year old woman in Osaka has reportedly donated 100,000,000 yen (about a million dollars). News reports show people, who are basically refugees, stoically doing what they can to help the person next to them.

There's a long, long way to go, and Japan will need a lot of help from the rest of the world, but I can't help feeling that the people who rebuilt their country after 2 atomic bombs, and again after the devastating earthquake in Kobe in 1995, will pull together once more and show the world what a true community spirit can do.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Japan Quake Appeal - Raffling Japanese Fabric - CLOSED

*** This raffle is now closed. Thank you so much to everyone who donated! ***

Here in Western Japan the earthquake and tsunami have not affected us at all. Obviously I am so thankful that my friends and family are all safe, but at the same time there is a certain guilt connected to carrying on as usual when so many people are suffering. I feel so helpless here, especially as local governments in the affected area have asked individuals not to donate goods since sorting and distributing those goods increases the burden on an already overloaded system. So, cash donations it is, and if you too would like to chip in, here is one way you can help...

As I wrote yesterday, Jo at A Bit Of This And A Bit Of That is encouraging bloggers in Japan and around the world to hold raffles and auctions to raise money for the relief effort. For my part, I'm offering...

25 Fat Quarters of Japanese Fabric

That's over 6 metres/yards of material in total! This photo is just to give you an idea of the sort of lovely fabrics you might win. All the fabrics will be chosen by me from my shop stock (including some that have yet to be listed there) in consultation with the winner. So if you're particularly interested in traditional Japanese fabrics, or prints suitable for boys, or florals, or a particular colour, or kawaii cutesy designs... I'll pick out a bundle that'll make you smile. Have a browse through the shop if you'd like to see more of the sort of thing you could win.

How to enter:

Go to (United Kingdom) or (United States) and make a donation.

  • Every $5 donation or 3 pound donation entitles you to one raffle ticket.
  • After you have made your donation, come back and leave a comment on this post, telling me how much you donated (ie how many tickets you have bought) and your receipt number.
  • Don't forget to leave your e-mail address in the comment too - you can write it as name 'at' yahoo 'dot' com if you are worried about spam.
  • If you make a mistake or need to change your comment, please go back and delete your first comment and rewrite it.
  • Open to anyone, anywhere in the world!
  • The raffle will close at mid-day Japan time 26th March and the winner will be drawn at random and contacted by email. However, there is a risk that I will be, ahem, giving birth that day, so please forgive me if I'm a day or two late in posting the results here.

For help with the donation you can refer to this post

The raffle being held on this blog, and others around the blogosphere, is held in conjunction with A Bit of This and A Bit of That. We are in no way affiliated with global giving, that's just our chosen method of getting funds safely to the affected area.

Later this week Jo will be putting up a list of all the blogs involved in this appeal, each of which will be hosting their own raffle or auction, each requiring separate donations. So if you're not interested in fabric, there will be lots of other things to tempt you. Do please check out the others and enter as many as you can afford. Let's do what we can to help those in need. And if you blog, or Facebook, or Tweet, or have friends in real life, please do spread the word!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Japan Quake Appeal

Following the terrible earthquake and tsunami in Northern Japan on Friday, fellow blogger, Brit-in-Japan and Etsy shop owner Jo (of A Bit Of This And A Bit Of That) has put together a fund-raising raffle/auction.

Bloggers all over the world will be offering all kinds of wonderful prizes in exchange for donations to the aid effort. Here at Monkey Magic I will be giving away a selection of Japanese fabrics from my shop, chosen to match the taste of the winner. More details here later, after I have it all set up, but please do watch this space (and Jo's space too) and spread the word!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

All's well with us

Just a quick post to let you know that all is well here, following the disasters in Northern Japan.

Luckily for us we are very far from the earthquake and tsunami area, and are not affected at all. The news from that area is terrible though, with entire towns washed away or burnt to the ground, trains missing (swept away?), a nuclear power plant venting to prevent meltdown and huge aftershocks continuing through the night.

We don't usually have the TV on during the day, so the first I knew of it all was when Dad phoned me from the UK to see if everything was OK! We do live near the sea, but it is the Sea of Japan not the Pacific coast, and tidal waves are virtually unheard of here. We did get a low-level tsunami warning at 5.30 this morning, but it's nothing to worry about and everything is going on here as normal. I just wish I could say the same for all the poor people in the north though...

Thursday, 10 March 2011


As you may have heard, I'm going to be having a baby soon, and I have a feeling he's not going to wait until the due date...

With that in mind, I'm going to be closing my fabric and craft supply shop for a little while, but I thought I'd have a *SALE* first! Anyone dropping into the shop can get 15% off by using the coupon code mentioned there but for you, my loyal blog readers, there's 25% off everything!

Enter the coupon code BABY25 at checkout and you will automatically receive a 25% discount. Hurrah! The sale will run until 9pm Monday 14th March (Japan time), and I will send all orders the following day. After that, the shop will be closed for a while, so stock up now!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

K is 3!

K turned 3 on Saturday. Where did all that time go? It doesn't seem that long ago that we took that sweet little baby photo but, on the other hand, it's sometimes hard to remember our life before he came along.

The day started with a pancake breakfast for us all...

... followed by opening cards...

... including one featuring Maisy! Well done H for finding that :-)

Then it was present time. K got 2 different sets of jigsaws, which had to be tried out immediately, with a little help from Mummy and Daddy...

He was very excited to get this dinosaur too, but later declared that he didn't like it. Apparently, he likes 'eating grass dinosaurs', not 'eating other dinosaur dinosaurs'.

Last week I appliqued a couple of T-shirts for him. He wasn't bothered about the one with a tie but I don't mind, it was mainly for my benefit. When he saw the grey shirt, he said 'Ooh! A pig!'. Hmm... Later in the day though he changed his mind, and declared it a dinosaur. Phew.

Note to self: stick to simple shapes for applique. Ties - good. Triceratops - bad.

H's parents and aunt and uncle happened to be going out for lunch so we gate-crashed that, and then we headed off to the park for monkey-watching...

... a visit to the planetarium...

... and general playing.

We went to the same park on K's birthday last year too, although I notice that he didn't need his coat then. Skip over the next photo quickly if you're of a nervous disposition...

A quick stop at the supermarket for speedy party food (mainly pizza, fried stuff and crab) and then back home just in time to greet H's parents, brother and his girlfriend. The crown came out again...

...and the food and drink went down well.

Unlike last year, K was very aware of the fact that his birthday was coming this year, and he specifically requested a chocolate cake (inspired by, yes, Maisy) with 3 candles. When I asked him what he wanted to do on his birthday, he replied 'blow' (as in '..out candles'). So H and I made this cake one evening a couple of days ago, and I quickly whipped up some cream to decorate it just before our guests arrived:

He was Very Excited when we turned down the lights and brought out the cake and, after I demonstrated by blowing out the first candle, he happily blew out the other 2. I think the cake (which he described as 'another present!') may have been the highlight of the day for K - even today I caught him telling someone that he had chocolate cake on his birthday...

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Ups and Downs

It's been quite a good week for Getting Things Done, but with a few annoyances thrown in too. Nothing too bad though, don't worry :-)

Ups (featuring way too many italics)
  • All 3 of us went to the dentist for a check-up on Monday (first time for K) and no-one needed any work done. Yes, even me!
  • On Tuesday I made an impromptu stop at the fabric shop and found some knit fabric on sale. Despite Japan being heaven for super-cute quilting-weight printed cotton, I rarely see material suitable for clothing. And here I found pre-cut pieces (160cm square or bigger) for 300 yen each. I bought 4. No idea what I'm going to do with them, but...
  • I managed to find the time to decorate a couple of T-shirts for K's birthday (which was yesterday; more on that another day...)
  • As today was the first Sunday in almost 2 months when I didn't have to get up before 7am to go to work, I put in a Lie-In Request. H got up with K at 7.45, and I went back to sleep until I woke up again naturally - at 11.50! Eek. Thanks H :-)


  • Lower-back pain, which seems to now have transformed into somewhere-inside-my-left-hip pain. I know that I've been really lucky to get this far through 2 pregnancies with no back pain, but that is little comfort when putting any weight on my left leg hurts so much. I'm glad that it held off until I'd finished work, but so much for March being the month of doing enjoyable things. Instead I'm just trying to avoid anything that involves getting off the sofa. Sympathetic advice from the doctor at my check-up on Wednesday? 'It'll get better when you give birth'. Right. Thanks.
  • At the shopping centre the other day, a little girl (but not that little, maybe around 6) pointed me out to her mother as 'strange'. As in 'Look at that funny woman Mummy'. Is it cos I is white? Or because I appear to have a watermelon stuffed up my jumper? Or because I was hobbling along like someone expecting a telegram from the Queen? Maybe a combination of all 3...

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

A day in the life

Warning - this probably won't be very interesting for most of you. It's really just for me to look back on in the future, when I wonder what I did with all that spare time I must have had when I only had one little monkey to take care of. So here's a snapshot of how K and I spend our days...

Although K sleeps in his own bed in his own room now, he has developed the habit of coming into our bed sometime in the early hours and (usually...) going back to sleep again. He likes to snuggle up close to me, which is lovely most of the time but has resulted in me almost falling out of bed once or twice. You see that tiny space between K and the edge of the bed? That's where I had been sleeping...

Also, he always brings his bedtime stories from the previous night with him. After being hit, poked and prodded by various giant hardbacks, we've now imposed a rule under which bedtime books must be small and paper-backed...

No-one in the monkey household is a particularly early riser, and K usually prompts me ('Wake up Mummy. Get up') to get up at about 7.30. If I suggest that he tell Daddy to wake up he points out, 'No, Daddy is sleeping'. Yes. Quite.

How quickly things proceed after that depends on what day of the week it is. Mondays have no particular schedule, so by the time we've gotten up, dressed, breakfasted and generally ready for the day, it's usually about 10am.

Then K and I are likely to go to the play centre if there's nothing pressing to do, often making a stop at the Post Office on the way. Home again for lunch at about 12.30, and then an afternoon of lesson-planning, shopping and odd jobs around the house that didn't get done over the weekend.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are school days for K, so we change up a couple of gears, leaving home at 9am, with lunch packed for K too.

On Tuesdays I drop K off and then go to a student's house for a private lesson from 9.30 to 10.30 before whizzing back to the community centre for a class from 11 to 12. By the time I come home again, have lunch and clear up after the morning whirlwind, it's pretty much time to go and collect K again at 2.15. On Thursday mornings I'm free so I've been scheduling doctor's appointments for then, and going to maternity yoga on the non-doctor days. After lunch in town I have a class from 2.15 to 3.15 and then collect K at 3.30.

Until recently, Wednesday was university day. I left home at 7.20 and had classes all morning, getting back home again at around 2pm. H leaves home at 8 each day, so his mum came over each week to look after K until I got home again. Meanwhile, Fridays are pretty low-key. I have a private student who comes here each week at 10 (actually 2 women who take alternate weeks) so as long as we're reasonably presentable by then there is no great rush.

What do we do in the afternoons? I'm not really sure, but the time soon seems to slip away. Of course there's often shopping or other errands to run in town, which take twice as long with K in tow. If H is working late we sometimes drive into town in the afternoon and leave the car for him, getting the bus back. K loves taking the bus, but wants to press the button at every stop... If we're just at home we might do a bit of drawing or painting or the like, or if K is playing happily by himself I admit to sneaking off to other rooms to try to Get Something Useful Done.

By about 5.30 we're starting to think about what we're going to have for dinner. K often watches a DVD (Maisy still reigning supreme) while I cook, or he stands on a chair at the kitchen counter and watches. H gets home at about 6 and we aim to eat at about 6.30, though K usually doesn't finish till close to 7.30. Time for a quick play, then it's into the bath for the boys while I have a nice little sit down.

H generally takes care of the bath/pyjamas/teeth routine, and then I take K upstairs at about 8.30 with a couple of (small, soft) books, read to him and tuck him in for the night. Until recently he was happily going to sleep alone, but lately he wants me to lie down with him for a little while ('No, a big while'), which is not really such a hardship. He still goes to sleep by himself though, usually still clutching the book he was 'reading'...

I'm usually free from about 9, and have great plans for what I'll do with the time. All too often though, it just disappears in chatting with H and watching TV. Oh, and in writing ridiculously long blog posts that will bore my poor readers (few, but very valued) to tears...

I won!

Yesterday I got an e-mail from Dana of MADE fame. Just seeing that message in my in-box left me super-excited and somewhat star-struck... Then I opened it and found that I had won a prize in one of her Celebrate The Boy giveaways! A chenille cowboy blanket to be exact, which you can see here. Perfect for snuggling up with little boys I think... Thank you Dana!