Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Toby says Merry Christmas to everybody!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Garden record 2

Planted this year (stars are ratings for how happy I am with it):

- ***mini tomatoes, medium-sized tomatoes (like large mini-tomatoes) and orange medium sized tomatoes. Not bad, but still not as prolific as the ones the landlord had planted the first year we lived here, that I did not tend or tie up at all!

- **daikon. Small but edible. Handier than buying a large daikon and having most of it go to waste.

- ***fresh coriander (cilantro). It does very well here (surprisingly!) when planted in the ground, and in fact, seeds in last year's spot have grown up just as well as the small plants I bought this spring! Both are very tall and healthy, and I let both go to seed. Next year I may not buy any small plants, and wait for these seeds to sprout.

- **cucumber. Only two cucumbers have grown so far. Quite yummy.

- *pumpkin. The small plant I bought is growing alright, but no sign of anything pumpkin-like. Last year I tried seeds from a packet, and the plant never grew more than a few inches. The previous year we had a big pumpkin plant, with many pumpkins, but that plant had apparently come up naturally from veggie kitchen waste that the owners had buried in the garden. It seems that is the way to do it!

- ***green onion. Nice little green onions are growing in the green onion patch. They are smaller and lighter in taste than store-bought ones. Useful for all kinds of cooking.

- ***green chili. Very nice, strong plants this year. Lots of chilies! I put most in the freezer.

- ***potatoes. Plants looked healthy this year. Haven't started harvesting yet!

- *raspberry plant that my friend bought last year. We are supposed to be sharing the raspberries, but so far not many have grown. Another friend has a very healthy raspberry plant of a different species, with larger raspberries, and it is always sending out little shootlets, etc... I want to get a part of that one!

- ***spinach. This went well for a while, and I put some in the freezer and used some for salad. After a while I lost interest in weeding that area, and who knows how those plants are doing now.

- ***edamame. Just started harvesting 2-3 days ago. Going well so far! This kids like this with dinner.

- a small basil plant. This never really did anything useful.

- broccoli. Planted from seeds. Some leaves came up, but no broccoli at all! Caterpillars ate most of the leaves - maybe that was the problem.

- gobo (burdock root). I have no idea whether this even sprouted. I haven't been able to find it.

Things that were planted by our landlords before we moved in - these things seem to grow automatically year after year:

- **asparagus. I usually freeze them so they don't go to waste. They lose there fresh texture, but are still good for putting in coconut curry, wrapping with bacon, or whatever!

- ***chives. Yummy and grows automatically.

- ***Chinese chives (nira). Useful for coconut curry, nira tama (like an omelet with nira and other things), etc.! These plants grow up by themselves very healthily.

- *grapes. Didn't really tend them at all this year. At least one bunch of green grapes is visible.

- **parsley. These plants follow some unusual biennial system, where they alternate between a low, parsley-like shape and a tall, spindly shape. They don't mind being covered with about 3 meters of snow for 3-4 months! The snow is deeper there because all the snow from the roof slides off into the backyard. We have to put wooden slats up to protect the 2 windows back there, and the first winter the pile of snow reached as high as the bottom of the 2nd floor windows! I actually love parsley and used to eat everyone's parsley for them when we went out to dinner, when I was a kid. Unfortunately no-one else in my family loves it, but some can take it or leave it.

- **fuki. Butterbur, or something like that. We don't really do anything with this, but this year our next-door neighbors asked if they could come and harvest it early in the summer, so they did. They seem to have made several different dishes with it. It's sort of like rhubarb, I think.

- **strawberries! This year I discovered these for the first time - a few small strawberries were growing in a quiet corner. Small but sweet and yummy. Only 5 or 6 strawberries, though.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Daddy liked this one...

Yesterday Daddy was hugging older son (age 12), and started joking around and pretending to dance with him, imitating a girl ...

Daddy (with girl's voice): Oh, where have you been all my life? I love you! Do you love me too?

Big son: No.

Daddy (with girl's voice): Why?? Is it because I'm fat??

Big son: Partly.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Book meme

The top 100 books, as voted by the general public (not sure in which country, though...). I like the look of this because it involves hardly any thinking or writing. And I love lists! Saw this on Diapers, budgets & paint, and even though I don't know her, she was kind enough to tag "anyone with time to kill"! The ones in bold are the ones I have read, and I'm also writing when I read it...

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
(read recently - a perfectly good adventure story, isn't it?)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
(read this sometime around college years)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
(got it from my parents' bookshelf, while poking around there in my high school years, as with several others below)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
(read most of these after son no. 1 had had them for a while)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
(on my bookshelf in my room, growing up)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
(high school English class)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
(on my bookshelf in my room, growing up)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
(around college time?)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
(this was on my childhood bookshelf... I read it once quite young, about age 12, but appreciated it much more when reading it again around college age)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
(read these in childhood)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
(high school English class - also Animal Farm, and we used to go around in high school, singing the song from Animal Farm - this is from memory still now, to the tune of Clementine: "Beasts of England, Beasts of Ireland, Beasts of every land and clime -- harken to my joyful tidings of the golden future time. Rings shall vanish from our noses and the harness from our backs. Bit and spur shall rust forever, cruel whip no more shall crack... Soon or late the day is coming, tyrant man shall be o'erthrown. And the fruitful(???) fields of England shall be trod by beasts alone.")
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
(around college age, along with the next couple of books in the series)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. The Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
(not sure - after college?)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt)
(very recently - my husband got it from a friend who liked it)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
(high school English class)
50. She's Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
(high school English class - I wasn't sure, but looked it up on Amazon and saw something about the guillotine and Mesdames Desfarges or something -- brings back more memories of how silly my friends and I were in high school, running around laughing about these English class books all the time... )
53. Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
(high school English class - involves a crazy lady in a wedding dress)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
(high school English class - I actually quite liked this, and ended up reading a few other books by him in college, and wrote a whole bunch in my diary about banana fish or something)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller's Wife (Audrew Niffenegger) ** ETA: have now read this, as of May 2011.
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
(hmmm.. embarrassing, but I went through an "Ayn Rand" phase around age 16. I found this one and one or two others on my parents' bookshelf. I thought I had read Atlas Shrugged, but couldn't recognize the info on Amazon, so if I did read it then, it didn't stick at all, and is not in bold here.)
63. War and Peace (Tolsoy)
(this was great!! One of my favorites, and I had expected it to be dry and difficult to get through, on account of the title and reputation of being a "big, serious book". Read it in my mid-to-late twenties I think)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davies)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller) ** ETA: have now read this, as of May 2011.
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
(high school English class... for our class project, we made a stop-action film with a little doll, of the part where the little girl is forced to go out into the night through the village and into the forest, to get a bucket of water, and the hero helps her to lift the bucket out of the well. We only made the arm of the hero, though, and it looked a little silly reaching in from the edge of the frame.)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones' Diary (Fielding)
(borrowed from a friend sometime after college, I guess)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
(on my childhood bookshelf... a lot of these were those nice old hardcovers that were made in the 1960's or before, and had every so often a special, thicker, page, with a full color illustration on one side, and the other side blank)
76. Tigana (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
(had this as a child)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
(high school English class... gah, more laughing about the various characters...)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard's First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
(don't know, but I know I went through a Jane Austen phase sometime in college or just after)
86. Watership Down (Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
(from my parents' bookshelf, when I was in high school)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
(high school English class - I wrote a good essay about this for a college application)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
(high school English class... don't really remember much of an impression of this, except for the very exciting topic I chose for my project - kanji!! - chinese characters. I wrote a little report involving the kanji for white, tree, man, big, etc...)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)
(read this in a semester-long class on this book only, second semester of my freshman year of college... I had gone through a big James Joyce phase in my senior year of high school, reading a lot of his other books, and talked my way into this class the following year, even though it was supposed to be for jrs. and srs. Well, at least I can say I did read the entire thing, but I don't remember much, and didn't understand much, despite having a whole book of explanations which had to be read alongside the main book. Why is a book like this up here, anyway... it's not like the general public are all reading this and loving it - or was it just me who found it too difficult? was I just too young?)

Other books from my parents' bookshelf... The Tontine, Crome Yellow (can't remember this one, but I remember The Tontine - it was quite exciting!).
Other books on my bookshelf, growing up... Lorna Doon, and a whole set of Mark Twain books that I never really got into.
Other books read in high school English class... A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Moby Dick, The Scarlett Letter.
First real books I read, after graduating from Dr. Seuss, etc... Jonathan Livingston Seagull and then Black Beauty.
Favorite series as a young child (around age 7-10) ... The Black Stallion series. I had them all in hardback, and loved every bit, along with some other horse books like Marguerite Henry's books (Misty of Chincoteague, etc.). Also James Herriot's series! ** ETA: have now reread the James Herriot books, as of May 2011.
Favorite series as an older child (around age 11-14) ... The Dark is Rising series, by Susan Cooper, and the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey.
Favorite authors not mentioned at all here... Nabokov, Proust, Thomas Hardy.
Biggest embarrassment when filling out this meme... I don't think I've ever read Tolkien's books, although I think my sister may have had at least one of them. Must read them.
Okay, I am no good at reading plays so I could never enjoy reading these, but Shakespeare was not mentioned. Maybe plays and poems were against the rules?
Oh, I almost forgot... I tag anyone!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Big 100 yen shopping trip!

I went to a big 100 yen shop today -- a different one that is a little further away than my normal one, so I enjoyed walking around on the various floors and getting this and that! 100 yen is about 85 cents, I guess, or around 50 p. I got (at 100 each, plus 5 yen tax):

1. a set of 3 sports-themed rocket pencils, each with an eraser shaped like a basketball, baseball, or soccer ball (for the kids)

2. an apple scented "nerikeshi" - a large, soft eraser, in a case decorated with apples (for the kids)

3. two packs of large lamune candies, each with a small plastic toy (I *love* lamune -- when we came back to Japan, I used to get a pack of lamune just about every time I went into any kind of shop. )(this was for me, but I gave 2 lamunes to each of the kids)

4. a set of 3 black hangers with swivel-heads

5. a set of 3 black hangers with swivel-heads

6. one more set of 3 black hangers with swivel-heads (this was my official reason for going to this shop, since we needed these and they aren't available at our local 100 yen shop)

7. a sleek and super-modern-looking blue and silver solar-powered calculator, for son no. 1

8. a red decorative hole-punch (makes a heart shape)

9. an orange decorative hole-punch (makes a teddy bear shape)

10. a yellow decorative hole-punch (makes a star shape)

11. a green decorative hole-punch (makes a tree shape)

12. a blue decorative hole-punch (makes a large circle)

13. a pack of 3 rolls of yellow vinyl electrical tape

14. a pack of 3 rolls of black vinyl electrical tape

15. a roll of larger black vinyl electrical tape

16. a small green "cracked glaze" ceramic bowl decorated with a gingko leaf, to match the one my husband bought the other day -- useful for dipping sauces for shabu shabu, zaru soba, etc.

17. a colorful set of 3 packs of gummies - orange, grape, and apple flavored

18. a pack of 2 plain lined notebooks, for son no. 1

19. a B5 sized dark-grey plastic ring binder, for son no. 1

20. a clear plastic 30 cm ruler, for son no. 1

21. a set of two plastic lids for use when microwaving soups, etc... one large, one small

22. a larger domed-type lid, for use when microwaving plates of food - it is cutely decorated with pictures of various types of kitchen implements

23. a pack of two small sauce holders for use with bentos - one is orange, and one is red, and they're decorated with pictures of apples and oranges

24. a black stop-watch with neck strap (this was 150 yen)

25. (this was 150 yen) a large round sock-drying hanger, that you can hang on the laundry poles outside -- it's blue and white and has many laundry clips for attaching small things

26. hmmm... I know there were about 6 more things... a tape dispenser for use with packing tape and the like - to make it easier to tape up boxes. I used to have one of these in England, and they are a great help!

27. a small spray-can of pet smell remover

28. a large, furry, green polka-dotted, bone-shaped stuffed toy for little Toby. He used to have one just like it, and enjoyed snuggling with it, until he ripped it open and tore out loads of stuffing. I had kept it to one side and meant to mend it, but as they are only 100 yen, decided today not to bother!

29. okay, I'll have to go downstairs to check the rest.... a soroban! a large, black and tan colored, wooden abacus. I have always wanted to learn how to use an abacus. I don't see them used much anymore, but when I first moved to Kyushu, Japan, 16 years ago, they were still used a lot by shopkeepers. Now with my 100 yen abacus I can start learning!

30. a pack of 3 different colors of iron-on patching material. Black, blue and white. My jeans are always getting holes in them, and instead of buying new ones I've just been patching them. Must go and search for new ones soon. I looked all around England when we were there for Christmas, but unfortunately all the shops were selling hip-huggers only, and NO, I cannot wear hiphuggers!!! Muri!!! (impossible!).

31. Did I miscount? I looked all around but couldn't find anything else...

So, you can see that 100 yen is a wonderful idea in theory, but in practice you have to be careful not to go crazy with a big, 3300 yen (30 dollar or 15 pound) shopping spree!!! Well, on our budget this is the only chance I have to get that nice "shopping high" that many women love so much... ;)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Only in Hokkaido

A few days ago, as I was walking through a supermarket parking lot with my shopping...

Thinking to myself, "Oh, it's so springlike today! It's warm - I don't need to zip my coat up. The sun is shining! Spring is coming! What's that in the air... oh, it's snowing, too... well, anyway!!"

Things were looking really good, that day and even the next. A lot of roads and sidewalks were clear of snow, and I had switched from boots to sneakers. But unfortunately, spring has now gone away and we have had 3 days straight of snow, more and more each day. This morning I was out clearing snow from in front of the car, up to a foot deep in drifts. Everything is white again. It looks just like we've gone back to January. But not to worry! It can't be too much longer until spring, now!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Funny kids' language

I love the way my kids speak in Japanese now! They sound just like elementary school boys in Hokkaido. This is not the same as the Japanese you will learn in a textbook. Sometimes they say things I have never heard of!

I cannot translate for "sense", so I will only translate for meaning - sorry, but this means this post will not mean much to anyone who cannot speak Japanese...

Dio (now age 12, in 6th grade):

- speaking to his younger brother: "Sassa to ikeya, mireya!" (Quick, go and look!) - he said this so quickly I didn't get it at first (and I had never heard of this -ya), but brother understood, so I was surprised!

- when dismayed or sympathetic: "Arama..." (Oh dear...)

- after asking Daddy if he ever looks at Mommy naked (Daddy said sometimes), and asking Mommy if she ever looks at Daddy naked (I said I try not to): "Eroda! Futaritomo eroda!!!" (accusatorily) (sexy! both of you are naughty!)

- when told he cannot do something because of such-and-such reason: "Ii-ssho betsuni" (It's okay isn't it)

One of my Hokkaidoian friends who is my age heard him saying "Ii-ssho" and so on, and was happy that he is speaking in Hokkaido dialect (-ssho instead of deshou), and asked him if he ever says "Namara". Apparently when she was younger it was a trendy word for "very". I had never heard of it, but he said a couple of the boys in his class (a bit rougher boys?) do use it. After that conversation, he suddenly started using it now and then, too - a bit of posing? Like, "Namara hayee" (really fast), etc...

- To me when I was in his classroom and he wanted me to look at his football robot: "Mite mina." (have a look)

- When I mistook "Tonkatsu" on a bento-shop menu for something else, and asked the girl at the cash register if it was chicken - Dio said quickly, "Tonkatsu-tte kaiteattara, futsuwa tonkatsudesho?" (well, if it says tonkatsu, it usually means tonkatsu, doesn't it?) ...

Jiji (age 7, in 1st grade):

- "UssSO! UsSO ja nee ka kore!" (No way! What a lie!)

- (last year, learned in kindergarten): "Daamenanda, damenanda, sensei ni yuccharo" (in a singsong voice, "that's bad, that's bad, I'm telling the teacher!"). When he first told us this it was garbled and we couldn't make out what he was saying, but when we asked him about it he said he didn't know the words, but it is what people say just before they go to tell the teacher! So we worked out what he was saying.

- "SuggE! SuggEE kore wa!" (Wow! This is great!)

- to his big brother when big brother is posing: "Kakkou tsukeruna." (quit posing) He was trying to shout something like this down from the chair lift several times, when he saw Dio just nicely practicing his snowboarding turns, down below.

Anyway, I just get a warm and happy feeling when I hear them saying these things. It is just so cute that they have learned to talk like school-age boys. Dio gets plenty of practice in "official" or "adult" Japanese from Kumon, anyway (he takes "Japanese" for foreigners, mostly targeted towards teenagers or adults, not kokugo - the poor thing has to read these endless example sentences about "Smisu-san" - Mr. Smith - and his friends, who are visiting Japan for business and tourism. I think they are trying to make the foreign students feel more connected by putting plenty of nice foreign characters in the stories and examples, but it gets a little wearing because it is about a world of Tokyo "fresh-off-the-plane" Anglo-Gaijin that my son knows nothing about! Complete with sharp-looking noses and friendly Japanese helpers... he keeps plugging away, though - maybe it is entertaining for him to read about the adventures of the hapless adult gaijins... ?).

Monday, February 12, 2007

Odd dates

Younger brother Jiji (7) likes to write on our calendars when we put them up at the New Year. Last year we were surprised to see that he had confidently written "Critsmas" on December 5.

Today I just looked up at our 2007 puppy calendar (from the 100 yen shop), and learned that Feb. 28 is "Leap Year". :)

He has also put "Lucky Day" on every Saturday, and "RKT Day" on every Friday (well, up through mid-April on the calendar, anyway, when he seems to have tired of this project).

Saturday is the day of the week they sleep in our bed (one of us has to go elsewhere, as there is not room for 4 of us), and Friday nights if it is convenient, big brother Dio sleeps with Jiji in the lower bunk bed. I'm not sure what the "T" is for, but R and K are their initials. "Together" maybe?? We found it convenient to set a day of the week for these two special sleeping arrangements, because without a fixed day they were always asking just in case, "Can we sleep in your bed tonight??" and it was annoying being asked this all the time. They do well having a fixed day.