Gaijin Housewife in Japan

Bringing you every day life in Japan to your part of the world.

Monday, 29 June 2009

To the Designers at Schick

To the Designers at Schick

I recently purchased one of your products, with the racy name of: "Quattro 4".
First I would like to point out that "Quattro", actually means 4, so you seem to have named your product the "four four".
I believe there was a car made by Audi, that was also called a "Quattro", surely that was not the image you were looking for. When I hear "Quattro" I also immediately think of a pizza. You may know the Quattro Stagioni or the Quattro Formaggi.
So despite being reminded of pizzas and cars from the 80s and that your spokesperson, Ikko, has way better legs than I do, I decided to purchase your product anyway. Oh, I do have to mention that my main motivation was that your razor and refill blades are the cheapest on the market, or at least where I shop.

So I got home, and decided I would open up the package in preparation for actually using the razor. However, my efforts to open the packaging were thwarted by the plastic outer layer which is so tough only attacking it with a pair of strong scissors enabled me to get the damn thing open. I also tried to use the deceptively handy looking perforated lines on the back which seemed to be the only possible way to get the package open, but after repeatedly stabbing it with a knife even that didn't help.
What exactly is the point of making the packaging that is so bloody difficult to get open?
You can't seriously think that you have public safety in mind, because I actually think the packaging itself is a safety hazard. I have nearly lost two fingers and almost stabbed myself in the hand trying to get the packaging open. AND having finally managed to prise it open, I now face the risk of cutting myself on the sharp edges whilst I dispose of the plastic.
Also, you sell refill blades packaged in little flimsy cardboard boxes!!

I am aware that it is common practice in the razor market to make the packaging almost indestructible, but really it might be time to use a tad fewer non-renewable resources, and think again when you name a razor a four four, that makes customers think of pizza.



Thursday, 25 June 2009

Staying away from the stove Part 2: Nikujaga made in microwave

Here is the next instalment of my "Cooking with the Microwave" series.
Today I am made Nikujaga which roughly translates to "Potatoes and Meat" - of course flavoured with soy sauce etc.

So here is an easy way to make Nikujaga in about 20 minutes. I wouldn't recommend this for making a really big serving though.

3 potatoes
100g thinly sliced beef
half a carrot
1/4 of an onion
2T of soy sauce, sake and sugar
(If you want to make more, probably need to cook it for a bit longer)

Peel and cut potatoes into quarters. Put them in water to sit for about 5 minutes
Prepare other veges - cut carrot into chunks and onions too.
Put beef in a bowl with soy sauce, sake and sugar.

Get a microwaveable bowl, put the onions on the bottom, followed by the beef and the sauce, then carrots and lastly place potatoes around outside of the bowl on the top layer.
Cover loosely with wrap.
Microwave for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked, then stir the mixture, replace wrap and leave it to stand for 10 minutes.

The one I made had way more potatoes etc but just the same amount of sauce which was probably a little on the too little side. However, I only used half the recommended sugar and it was too sweet for me and probably K won't be too keen on it. So do experiment with amounts depending on if you prefer a strong or weak flavour.
Otherwise I felt it was a quite passable.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Staying away from the stove: Butakakuni made in the Microwave

Summer really is not a great time for standing in front of the gas stove and cooking up a storm. But now you can do it with your microwave, save yourself time, money on gas (which is way more expensive than electricity where I live) and you don't have to get all hot and bothered.

These recipes were found on a TV show that was on last Sat morning I think, so I can't take the credit for any of them, I am merely passing them on to you all. I will post them as I try them out myself.

Today's recipe is Butakakuni or blocks of fatty pork stewed. My husband LOVES this dish, but I would never cook it for him as it takes about 2 hours of stewing.
But now you can create a fairly decent version in your microwave in about 20 minutes.

200-300g of Pork belly (バラ肉)
some coca cola
2.5T soy sauce
2T sake
a piece of spring onion stalk
some ginger
a microwave safe bowl and baking paper

Cut pork into blocks (not too big, about 1.5 cm thick) , poke with a fork. Put into microwave safe bowl and put in enough coke to cover the meat. Also put in a few slices of ginger and a spring onion stalk. Cover with wrap and cook on high for 2 minutes then on low for 5 minutes.

mix sake and soy sauce in bowl with pork and some of the juice. Cover the mixture with cooking sheet or baking paper, press it down so it is right on top of the liquid.
Then cook for 8 minutes (I did it on low).

I left it to stand in the microwave for a while afterwards to let the flavours develop.

I don't usually like this dish at all because it is so greasy but I had to try it myself and it was very tasty!!! The meat wasn't soft like real butakakuni but I guess that is to be expected from this type of cooking process.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Summer rant - a posting for people who are not so keen on summer

If you are a summer lover, you might not want to read this. Summer is probably last in my list of favourite seasons - I prefer winter - I am an 暑がり- someone who feels hot easily. Unfortunately K is a 寒がり, someone who feels cold easily.

Summer is definitely here today in my little corner of the world. We have been suffering some rotten weather recently. On Sunday it poured with rain all day, yesterday was so humid though not hot but everything feels wet, even our bed - yuck. Today it is going to be stinking hot and humid. Thankfully I watched the weather report yesterday so I will not be caught unawares if the temperature goes up to 30 as predicted.

The thing that peeves me off at this time of year is laundry. You wash your clothes, hang them out to dry, and they end up stinking worse than they did before you washed them. Grr. I can only use one type of laundry detergent for my sensitive skin so I am reluctant to use those detergents which are specially designed to keep your clothes from being too stinky in the rainy season. I have even tried ironing some of my clothes as the heat from the iron is supposed to kill the bacteria that cause the odor. Well the bacteria that had taken up residence in my pyjamas were not going to be easily killed by my iron, so it is back through the wash again. Hopefully one day soon there will decent sunlight to get rid of them.

I live in a very windy place, often gale force wind type wind...that is until it gets hot, then the wind becomes dead calm.

Oh and my extremities swell up when it gets hot, so I can't wear shoes comfortably, my fingers get all fat and my rings feel too tight. Actually the only jewelry I can stand is earrings.

Oh yeah and my husband elbowed me in the boob last night and then in the face, while we were sleeping. That doesn't have anything to do with Summer but just annoyed me.
Well actually it does. In summer our bed seems way too small. It's a queen size one which is actually quite big but in summer I can't stand anyone getting near me when its hot. Maybe I can convince darling husband to buy me one of those gel pad mattresses for summer that keep you cool.

And don't you just love it how when you try to do any housework at all, you end up dripping with sweat!

Oh and I really really want to go to the library. One, because they have aircon there. Two, because I actually want to borrow some books. But I can't go because the bastards have closed the library for TWO WEEKS! For book management apparently. Going to the library where I live is THE thing to do. We have a brand spanking new one, it has lots of places to hang out, heaps of new books in English for moi and free internet etc. Also you can park in the middle of town for 2 hours for free if you go and get your parking ticket stamped at the library. Sweet!

I suppose there are some good things about summer.... Ummm....Oh yeah, you can eat ice cream every day because that is what you do in summer. And I get lots of yummy fruit from Parents In Law. And.....there is that big holiday in August for a whole week! Festivals like Tanabata and Obon which means Takoyaki and flavoured crushed ice. Oh and there is the odd typhoon which usually never pass directly over where I live, so we just get some exciting wild weather, which I love! As long as I am safely at home and don't have to go anywhere, I love typhoons, thunder and lightening, hail, snow storms.

OK I feel much better now.

Monday, 22 June 2009

My poor poor body

Today I am having a rest day. That is because yesterday I subjected myself willingly to a day long kids event. I was the "guest teacher", who was in charge of leading the kids in an English Play time type class. It has been a while since I have done this and I have never taught/played for almost a whole day before.
For those of you who have taught English to kids, you will know that you need A LOT of energy, and you can leave your self consciousness at the door. You have to be 120% energetic. For those of you who know me in person, will have a very hard time imagining me dancing, singing, leaping around as I am a calm person. My husband was complaining last night that he really wanted to see me teach as he couldn't imagine it.

So yesterday involved 5, 40 minute classes with groups of kids aged 5-12 or so. When I got home the first thing I did was climb into a hot bath and then spray my already sore muscles with that muscle pain relief stuff. This morning I woke up, tried to get up and walk to the loo, but calf muscles wouldn't function properly. Pretty much all muscles on lower half of my body have gone on strike today and refuse to work. This what happens when you do too many "Blast off!!s without rigorous training before hand(imagine being a rocket ship and counting down to zero when you shout blast off and do a star jump from crouched position).
So now I know the pain 200 minutes of jumping, skipping, hoping etc can cause. But I take heart in the comments that I heard from the kids who were participating which included:
-Gee I'm sweating just from that (running around the room)
-I'm so tired

Yes kiddies, aren't you glad your sweat glands are still under developed and you only had 1 class today instead of 5.
I hope the parents appreciated that I tired their children out so when they got home they probably crashed out.

But I have to say I did have a bit of post-exercise euphoria whilst sitting on the train on the way home and I did have kick-ass sleep last night.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Recycling your Nikujaga to make Lasagna

This recipe I saw on the tellie the other night, some "Carisma shufu" or housewife who used to be a J-pop idol (actually a member of Morning Musume) showed how to create easy meals with left over Nikujaga (Meat and potatoes flavoured with soya sauce, fish stock, sugar, salt etc.)

So here is an easy way to make a tasty dish that somewhat resembles lasagna.

You will need: left over nikujaga
a block of silken tofu
"powder cheese" or Parmesan cheese
a packet of gyoza skins or wrappers, depending on what you like to call them
a gratin dish
grated cheese.
tomato ketchup or a packet of ready made bolognaise sauce

Mash your nikujaga together with the ketchup or bolognaise (to taste).
Put half of the mix in the gratin dish, then a layer of gyoza skins.
Then put the other half of the mix in with another layer of skins.
Put this mix in the microwave for about 3-4 minutes to heat through.
During this time put the tofu, about a table spoon of mayo, 2tablespoons of powder cheese and pepper (to taste) into a blender then blend the mix, you will get a nice creamy looking sauce.
Spread this over your lasagna and top with grated cheese.

Then grill in toaster oven until cheese is nice and golden.

Ta da! That should take a maximum of about 20 minutes to do and what I really like is that there is no cutting involved. Just kind of mash everything together.
I really have to get better at taking photos, it doesn't look particularly appetising does it?
K did say that it was good and thought so too. There was a slight hint of tofu in the "sauce" but for 1/3 of the calories of a real white sauce, I'm not complaining.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Working with weird flowers

Yesterday I arrived for my flower arrangement class to find that my "materials" for the lesson were 2 flowers that looked like mutant psychedelic toilet brushes, some other part of a tree that resembled a feather duster and a lily.


How on earth could these three things go together and whats more look beautiful.

When I first started doing Ikebana, I would often turn up to a lesson and be floored by the colour and flower combinations. After I while I got used to it, but yesterday reminded me again.

So here is what the flowers look like:

Don't ask me what they are called because I have no idea. I really should learn the names but they just seem to go in one ear and out the other.

And here is what I made with them. Kind of similar to the style from two weeks ago, but quite a different effect due to the different vase and flowers.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Moving in the wake of the Soccer World Cup.

I could be moving to South Africa.

You see, it is only 1 year to go before the Soccer World Cup starts there.
In 2002, the SWC was held in Japan. I moved to Japan 1 month after it finished.
In 2006, the SWC was held in Germany, which I also moved to one month after it finished. So I am wondering what possible turn of events could mean that I end up moving to South Africa one month after the SWC is finished.

Perhaps I should lobby for the SWC to be held somewhere I want to live in the future since I seem to follow it around the world.

Moving to somewhere just after the SWC has finished is a bit of a downer. Sure the crowds and rowdy fans have all gone home and people don't drive around all night honking their horns relentlessly because their country won. But then everyone is still reminiscing how great it was, how it was the best summer ever and what not. I think Germany was particularly proud of how they hosted the SWC and how they were able to show the world their best attributes - for example their wild party animal side: think hundreds of people of all ages singing and dancing on the tables, absolutely trollied, holding a litre of beer, at 2 in the afternoon on a Sunday.

If I somehow manage to get out of moving to South Africa, I wonder where the World Cup Soccer Organiser group people will be sending me next. I think its Brazil.

Check out my Melons!

Today's post is about actual melons.

Today the courier arrived with a large box from K's family. His parents grow all kinds of yummy things down where they live and they love to send up stuff to us "city slickers" (they really live in the sticks, we only live in the semi sticks). They are so wonderful to be sending us all this stuff but they always send so much that I get stressed out trying not to let it go to waste.
Today's box contained about 8 melons. We also got a similarly large box last week containing 6 very big honey dew melons.
The yellow one is called a Cleopatra melon and the green one may look like a honey dew melon but it is in fact a Peruru melon, which is a type of honey dew melon. The yellow ones are not so well known at least where I live. I took one to my flower arranging teacher who was wondering why I had brought her a pumpkin in summer.

K doesn't do sweet food and fruit falls into that category so I have to eat them all by myself or give them to various people as presents.

Today I was also given some "black tomatoes". They look more kind of dark dark green than black. I was told that they can be used just like regular tomatoes. I am still somewhat suspicious.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

It's Japanese Bill, but not as you know it

Sorry to any readers who don't speak Japanese, you may find the following post quite boring.
A small story on the TV this morning about Young People's Japanese prompted me to investigate this theme a little.

I know that everywhere in the world young people are modernising language to suit their needs and experiences. This modernised language often sounds like gobbeldy gook to people outside that generation but it seems to me that Japanese youth are out to mutilate Japanese into a mere shadow of its former self.

The two whole words that were presented today were as follows:
New version: ときとば Real Japanese: 時と場合
朝ダチ:A friend you walk to school with in the morning.

あけおめ: this one is fairly well known, even amongst grown ups.
あぶい あぶない: one can guess this without stretching the imagination too much.
大人婚: supposedly when someone who is older than 30-35 or so gets married!
あざーす: ありがとうございます

This one I found on the net somewhere, I have no idea if anyone actually uses it, but I like it
FMG: Father からmoney getto.

Have you heard any interesting 若者語 recently?

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

An open letter to moron drivers in my town

Dear drivers

I would like to remind you all of some very basic but very important road rules.

First. When you see a garbage truck on your side of the road, and traffic is coming towards you, you are obliged to stop and wait till it is clear before over taking. You do not have the right of way to drive down the middle of the road and make oncoming traffic swerve into the gutters or worse - a ditch. This also goes for cyclists and any car that is randomly parked on your side of the road.

Second. Is it possibly too much to ask for you not to try and drive right up my behind? Not all of us want to drive 20kms faster than the speed limit at all times you know. That is why you don't have a gold licence and I do.

Third. Yellow light means slow down and get ready to stop. Not speed up to get through. Red means you should have stopped by now, not speed up to get through. Red also means wait until green. If you go before the light actually turns green you will get hit by some other moron racing through a red light. Get it?

Fourth. For crying out loud strap your kid into their car seat. Do not let them hang out the window or climb all over the seats. All the money you spend on things like cell phones to track them on their way home from school in case they are abducted will be wasted if they go flying through the windscreen. And while you are at it. Stop talking on your phone or sending texts and get rid of the curtains, feather boas and mountains of soft toys that are blocking your view of oncoming traffic.

That is all.

Safe driving.


Sunday, 14 June 2009

Keeping your "face" on during summer

I have to say trying to buy makeup is quite tricky.
1) I don't know any of the vocab in Japanese when it comes to make up
2) K doesn't know anything about make up either so he is even less help
3) Sales people will do almost anything not to have to help me
4) Chances are that they don't have a colour that matches my skin tone

I mentioned in a previous post about how in Japan having white skin is deemed to be beautiful. However, the reality is that many people don't have fair complexions with pink undertones like myself.

Yesterday I went to the cosmetic section in my local drugstore, looking for a refill for my foundation compact. After steering my cart round and round past the makeup ladies several times, who just watched me with amusement I might add, one of them finally asked K what he was looking for and we got pointed to the right area. I usually buy Shiseido UV White brand foundation. I've been using this stuff for about 3 or 4 years so I thought surely there must have been some developments in makeup technology in that time. So I asked silly makeup lady if there was any foundation she recommended for summer - something that doesn't disappear half an hour after you apply it etc. She pointed out some other type of shiseido brand but they didn't have it in "Pink" only ochre or beige. So she asked me if I would like her to put some on my face for me to see how it would look. So away she went. First she turned one quarter of my face a funny yellow colour, then another quarter a funny brown colour, then made me look washed out with another colour. The other make up lady was hanging around watching the gaijin being turned funny colours and couldn't help but exclaim how white I am. Aren't I lucky. Damn lucky that Shiseido UV white is still making Pink number 10 - if this colour disappears from their lineup I am in serious trouble.
So in the end I said I would stick with my original foundation. I did have to go home with 3 different colours of foundation on my face though. Grr.
One thing I DID get was this:
Maquillage Styling Keep Base UV(化粧下地). It is supposed to help your foundation to stay on your face during summer but can be used all year and since my skin seems to absorb make up I thought I would give it a try. So far so good. Today hasn't been too hot, but makeup has held up well considering. I also felt that makeup went on more smoothly than usual and looked less patchy, so it gets a thumbs up from me.

Anybody else got any fab products to recommend?

Saturday, 13 June 2009

My name is Shufuinjapan and I'm married to a car Otaku

I have been married to a car otaku (enthusiast) for 5 years and during that time we have had to buy and sell several cars due to being sent overseas and then sent back to Japan again.
When we found out that we were being sent back here, almost 1 year before the event, the first thing K said was: Gee, what kind of car are we going to buy when we get back??? Um, how about where are we going to live? This started 10 months of intense research and late night conversations with me about which car, if we really need 2 cars, if we only have one car what kind and so on. You would be amazed at how many hours of conversation can be squeezed from this topic.
Now we are back in Japan, we have a large number of car dealerships to make the rounds of, peruse the models, test drive and more lively debates about whether we need a big second car or if a small one will last us for the next ten years.

Tonight, K has a fellow car enthusiast friend over for a "home party". Right now they are 3 sheets to the wind and we have been discussing cars for the last 2 hours straight. I am quite capable of keeping up with this conversation as I have spent many many hours being dragged around car dealers and debating the pros and cons of various models, I can tell you what the kms/l for each model are, engine types all of that rubbish. I have also developed quite a critical eye for cars that goes beyond what colour they are.

Tonight's big topic is "Why would you buy a Prius or a Insite?". These are two models of Hybrid cars that are selling like hot cakes at the moment. They have calculated that it would take 6-10 years to get the difference between a hybrid and a normal car back.
If you buy a car that has a special eco mark you are able to apply for a 100,000 yen payment from the government, 250,000 if you trade in a car that is more than 13 years old. This offer only goes until March 31st next year or until the budget for this money runs out. Just so you know.

So have you guys inadvertently become experts in something by being married to your husband or wife?

Friday, 12 June 2009

Read it before it disappears -Update

I hope you read and enjoyed the scary washing machine advertisement I posted yesterday. I was talking to my mother today who said that she had read my blog (good mummy!) and that her boss at work had also sent her an email about the ad. Then Close Up, a news show in NZ, even went round and visited the guy, and he has had 270,000 hits or something on his ad, and I just checked and the most recent bidding price has gone up to $800, which is not far off what one would pay for a brand new washing machine.
So this is obviously NZ's latest online craze thing...wonder what will be next.

This week's creation

I know you have all been waiting with baited breath for my latest ikebana attempt. So here is what I made yesterday. This is one of my favourite styles as it really does try to present the flowers like they would be in a "perfect garden".

I was not alone this week, as one of fellow students also did the same class with me. We had exactly the same amount and type of flowers but look at what she created (sorry photo is not so good).

There are set rules as to the positioning of the main flowers (in this case the tallest ones in each little group of flowers) and of course there are some differences in the flowers themselves, but it is fascinating how you can actually express yourself even though you are bound by some rules. I have to admit, M (the other student) had a head start as she got there before me, so I did cheat a little and look over at what she was doing! :)

So now you are all well on your way to becoming experts in ikebana appreciation!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Whims of the Birthday Boy

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Today is K's birthday. Last night, his birthday started unofficially by me baking his birthday present for him. I didn't bake him a cake because he hates anything that is sweet, so I baked him a loaf of Italian bread instead, which is his favourite. Unfortunately it didn't turn out as I had hoped and I blame it on the soy milk that I used which is a different type from normal. Anyway, last night I asked K what he would like to eat for dinner on his birthday. He replied after humming and haaing that he would like エビチリ or prawns with chili sauce. So I said, but do you want that for dinner on your birthday, or on the weekend? What if you end up having dinner at work? So he says: "If you are cooking that for dinner I can get home at 7:30"...So it appears that work is subject to baseball games and prawns with chili sauce for dinner.

Over the years we have been together, K has learnt about being the "Birthday Boy", or when it's my birthday the "Birthday Girl". On one's birthday, one gets to chose what they want to eat and they can do whatever they want and the other one has to go along with it. So last night my husband poked me in the bum and shouted "kancho!" or enema!, when I protested that I didn't enjoy being poked in the bum, he replied "だって、バースデー・ボイなんだもん!” - But I'm the Birthday Boy!(and therefore I am allowed to do what I want). So I think I am going to have to revise the rules on what constitutes being allowed to do whatever you want.

When I think of a birthday cake, I remember my mother creations - usually a banana cake shaped into a giant purple spider or a number 7 or something. K's idea of a birthday cake is a "Muscat Cake". I'm not 100% sure, but I think this is a regular sponge cake, covered with cream and then decorated with green grapes. He lived in Okayama when he was younger and apparently they grow special muscats there.
What is the equivalent of a birthday cake for someone who doesn't like sweet food?
Maybe I could stack cans of beer into a tiered cake shape and put a candle on the top?

Read it before it disappears!

I found this advertisement on a NZ auction site called trademe. This person is selling a scary washing machine....
It is very funny, but you will have to be quick - the auction only goes until next Thursday.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009


I went out for a walk today along the river, past lots of fields that are home to some of the giant insects I talked about it another post. As I was wondering along minding my own business, this massive thing flew past my face, way to close for comfort. Then I saw what it was, a スズメバチor according to Wikipedia a Vespinae? = humongous wasp!
You can't see the size of it from this photo but they are three time longer than your average honey bee, about half the size of a sparrow and they EAT honey bees for breakfast! This photo doesn't give you a good look at it's face but they have THE meanest looking faces I have ever seen. Unfortunately I saw several of these giant things on my walk which terrified me as I don't like regular wasps at all!

So now I'm wondering if I am cut out to live in the Japanese country side, if I can't leave the house without being terrified of being involved in a collision with one of these horrible things.
Now that it is warmer and we have our windows open at night, there have been insects climbing all over the netting trying to get in! So we treated the netting with a spray that seems to work and most of them fly away pretty quickly now. Once again I am so thankful for my insect screens.

An encounter with koyadofu

I am a bit of a fan of Akira Hokuto, the ex female pro-wrestler turned celebrity chef, who specialises in easy and cost effective cooking. She has several favourite ingredients that she uses, one of them I already introduced to you in my earlier post: The Best Hambagu Ever, called Ofu お麩.

Her other favourite ingredient is こうや豆腐, koyadofu - dried out tofu brick. Last night I attempted to use this for the first time, to make サイコロステーキ, or cubed steak with cheaper thin strips of beef wrapped in the tofu to give the impression of steak...

Although they looked quite good, I have to say that I must have done something seriously wrong and when I bit into it, I kind of got the feeling like I was trying to eat a dish sponge wrapped in meat...I reconstituted the tofu as directed but it was still obvious that it was tofu and not meat. An hour or two after dinner I started feeling a bit seedy, surely from that damn tofu. I think my mouth was somewhat traumatised from having being subjected to "dish sponge", and still hasn't forgotten the sensation. My tummy was also not impressed, so I had to take some stomachache medicine to calm it down. Today is not much better, I feel like the dish sponge has formed in my stomach - which it probably has.
So needless to say I have two bricks of tofu left that I will be saving for the day I need to biff something at someone or something because I certainly wont be using them for cooking!:)

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Where pastyness is beautiful

Today I would like to discuss being sun smart.

Although the sun in the southern hemisphere is very dangerous, having a healthy glow that a sun tan brings is still considered beautiful or fashionable - at least that's the impression I get (Ozzies feel free to disagree with me if this is no longer the case there).
Here in Japan, women especially will go to great lengths to avoid getting a sun tan and bemoan their "dark skin".

When I was living in Europe, every Summer I saw multitudes of people lying around in the sun roasting themselves to a crisp in parks, squares, even at cafes with their own make shift beaches. I would look like some kind of weirdo sitting in the shade with long sleeves and a sunhat on.
K and I went on a fantastic trip to Crete for 5 days, where the aim was to eat, drink and sit by the pool (in the shade) the whole time. So we would go down in the morning about 10, get a spot under a big sun umbrella and watch everyone else slowly fry themselves. There was one couple that we named the yakitori fufu (grilled chiken kebab couple). They stayed by the pool ALL day every day and did absolutely nothing except work on their tans. They were the most zealous but by no means the only ones doing this.

Why am I anti the sun? Well if you have skin a few shades away from "white" like me and burn in under 10 minutes, it is quite clear that nature didn't make me to stand around in the sun. Sun damages the skin and causes premature aging. I already look older than I am so I don't need the sun adding to this.

What made me think about this today was my bike ride to the post office and the supermarket. It was a nice sunny morning, so the first thing I did, like many Japanese women who are going out in the sun, was cover myself from head to toe. This included a wide brimmed sunhat, sunglasses, long sleeved t-shirt etc, AND gloves! By gloves I mean white, cotton, special "driving gloves", that I got from the 100 yen shop. These can be used when you drive as they have grip on the palms. Haven't tried them in the car yet. Since I do a lot of biking, I thought I should at least try to stop my hands getting sun damage like I make an effort for the rest of my body.

So as I was walking out the door I caught a look of myself and I must say I looked quite comical.
Then I had a thought. If I was at home in NZ or back in Germany, I would never dream of going biking wearing white cotton gloves and big sun hat, even though the sun is much more dangerous in NZ than here.

At least now I am back in Japan and my naturally pasty white skin, which needs no "whitening products" is considered beautiful here and other women are extremely jealous of it. I have even invested in a parasol (sorry Kelly, I didn't get the flower shaped one after all). All the women here have one if they care anything about their skin. Even the old ladies working out in the fields are completely covered from head to toe.

Something I learnt today is that sunhats are not good for bike riding (duh) unless there is absolutely no wind, will wear baseball cap next time with extra sunscreen.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Totally Hilarious Music Video

Thank you to my friend who sent me a link for this clip. I had a good laugh so I thought ya'll might enjoy it too.

Yummy Recipe

I found this recipe on one of my favourite cooking blogs. It looks so simple and yummy!
I don't have a broiler unfortunately...I wonder if a fish grill would work.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

How to get a litre of coffee for free

That is one thing I love about Japan, all the things you get as a "service"= free.

Today K and I set off to town to do a variety of boring chores. First stop was the coffee bean shop. K thinks he is rather a connoisseur when it comes to coffee, wine, beer etc. so we can't drink any old coffee, must be beans roasted to his specifications. While we wait for our beans to be roasted we always get a cup of coffee to drink whilst we wait as a "service".
After that we went to the car dealership where we bought our car. It was time for it to have a check up and then afterwards they kindly washed it for us as a "service". While we waited for the car to be finished we got another service cup of coffee.
Then we decided to go for Kappazushi - 100 yen sushi where you just take what you want from a conveyor belt. There the tea is also "service".
Then we decided to go and annoy the people at another car dealership, because we may or may not be in the market to buy a second car. We test drove three different models, then we also got given another cup of "service" coffee whilst we chatted to a salesperson who knows us since K bought a car from him before. When we left we also got given a kind of mug that keeps your drinks hot or cold and some kind of machine that will cool down a can of beer in minutes...the guy obviously is pretty sure we are going to buy a car.
So apart from buying coffee beans and spending 1,000 yen on sushi we had a relatively cheap day out and I won't need to drink any coffee for the rest of the week!

Friday, 5 June 2009

Why I am thankful to live in Tohoku and not Kansai

I don't have anything against Kansai. I always really enjoy going there. The people are so much more relaxed than where I live. I am also fascinated by Kansai dialect. Although I would never try to speak it myself as I would never pull it off, I am at least getting to understand it. My husband's home town is in Tottori Prefecture, not that far from the Kansai area so their local dialect is very similar. Therefore, I also need to understand Kansai dialect.

The reason I am thankful not to live there is because my husband is a big baseball fan. Since we live in Tohoku, we only get games broadcast which involve the Tokyo Giants. Since my husband is a Hanshin Tigers fan, it follows that he absolutely hates the Giants. So this means that we only have to have the baseball on when the Giants are playing the Tigers. On the rare occasion that these two teams are playing, K will move hell and high water to get home to watch it. This usually involves him bursting in the door about 7pm and shouting "Remocon! Remocon!" - or "Give me the remote!". So I now know that this means "Darling, could you please let me watch my favouritest team in the whole wide world without distraction for the next two hours, except of course if you want to replenish my beer and bring me energy reviving snacks while I leap, cheer and clap vigorously for my team?".

I grew up in a house where sport was sacred. Sport on TV that is. If there was a game of rugby or cricket or lawn bowls on that got first priority. So I often used to spend winter afternoons watching rugby with my dad and learning the rules. I like watching rugby now, although I don't get a chance to see many games here obviously. Baseball I have not managed to warm to. During our time in Germany I used to be so thankful that there was no baseball on TV...or golf....only Formula 1 racing which I was forced against my will to watch so I could translate what the commentators were saying for K who never learnt German. I was thankful that the F1 puts him to sleep. Not sure if its the noise of the cars or just the cars going round in circles that makes him sleepy but he is usually asleep by about lap 30 or so.

I wonder what would happen if I just flat out said "Bugger off, I'm watching (insert silly quiz show name here)"...probably wouldn't go down too well at
So that is why I am glad to live in Tohoku, where Hanshin Tiger games don't dominate the telly every night of the week and I can watch my silly quiz shows in peace!

Useless Stuff

I was looking through a catalogue today that a company so kindly sent to me along with a product I ordered from them online. Just out of curiosity I wanted to see what else they sold and what kind of prices they had. This company is well known in Japan for its cosmetics and supplements. Anyway whilst looking through the catalogue I came to the conclusion that there certainly is a lot of stuff out there for sale that we really don't need. Not a new idea I know. But this item reminded me. I'm sure I can paint my nails without the help of that. It also costs a whopping 800yen!
Is it just me or does Japan have so much more of this kind of unnecessary stuff than other countries?
Maybe it's just my childhood in NZ when all technology was 5-10 years behind Japan. Even now, there is a still not much variety in the kinds of goods one can find in the shops there. I put this down to NZ being located at the end of the line so to speak - you can only go to Antarctica after you get to Nz- and a tiny population of 4 million doesn't make it a worthwhile market. To put it in perspective, there is no Ikea there...yet and Louie Vuitton is probably more well known for the big yacht race they sponsor than the luggage/handbags they make. However I am not an expert on my home country anymore as I have not actually lived there for a long time now, I am merely speaking from what I notice when I go back there on underwear and shoe shopping trips once a year or so. Oh and of course to visit my family and friends :)

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Something to cheer you up

Here is something I made for you guys today that might cheer you up a little. ;)

The sunflowers are supposed to make you feel happy. Also notice the way that the different stems are perfectly balanced in that tall vase. If you looked inside you would see some strategically placed toothpicks holding those sunflowers in the exact angle required to get this effect. One false move and it can all go to custard so it requires a steady hand and a lot of patience.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Slave to the carbs

I have been trying to come off the carbs for a week or so now. I was going to go cold turkey but that has only ever worked for me once and since then I have had many relapses. I do remember a period of low carbs and I do remember that I did feel fabulous. So in an attempt to get back to that state again I really want to at least seriously cut down my carb intake.
You might be wondering why I am talking about carbohydrates like they are an addictive drug, well that's because to me they are! But in a less dangerous kind of addictive way than heroine or morphine obviously.
I have many reasons to reduce my carb intake, one of them being that I tend to eat carbs and forget the other major food groups like fruits and vegetables!
So I have been doing ok most days until approximately 3pm when I get a serious craving for a carb hit. At the moment we do not have any ready to eat carbs in our house (no cereals or bread) so today I found myself coming up with all kinds of excuses why I needed to go to the convenience store... As you can imagine, this standoff ended with a piece of baumkuchen being devoured but at least now I am floating on a little cloud of carb induced happiness instead of scrounging around in the kitchen looking for breadcrumbs. And I do have to say that Japan really does do an excellent Baumkuchen. Really, I think the Germans need to come over here and take some lessons.
Anyway. I resolve to do better next time. Isn't that what all the junkies say?

Are there any non-carb dependant people out there who can tell me how to get through this?

Monday, 1 June 2009

Warning: This post contains references to periods, stomach cramps and hormones!

Yesterday was one of those not so good days. Nothing particularly bad happened to me, except being immobilised by stomach cramps, again. My poor long suffering husband had a well timed "play date", I mean game of golf organised with some mates, so he was able to escape my foul temper for most of the day. There is some justice in the world, in that it hosed down with rain all day, so I didn't mind being stuck inside whilst K sloshed his way around the golf course.
K said he would go to the supermarket on the way home from golf and that I should send him a text to say what I wanted. He said he would be home by about 3, so just before 2 I sent off a text message. Amongst the things that were on the list was dark chocolate. I don't know what it is about dark chocolate but it usually makes me feel so much better at this time of the month. K arrived home about 3 and gave me the shopping to unpack...NONE of the things that I put in the text were in the bag but a bunch of random other stuff that must have been on sale. After slamming the eggs into the fridge and just about smashing them all to smithereens,
K says: Your text was too late. This leads me to believe that he had read the text, then why didn't he stop off somewhere and at least get chocolate to calm the beast waiting at home?
So here is where I went wrong. I should have written: You can forget everything else on this list but do not under any circumstances come home without dark chocolate.
When I get into a hormonally induced grump, I usually just go off and fume by myself for a while, so I climbed into bed and promptly fell asleep (thanks to being awake all night with cramps). When I woke up, I did feel less crotchety and even managed to be civil for the rest of the evening. About 8pm I had a craving for some bad food which I mentioned to K, who finally suggested that he could go to the convenience store to get some chocolate for me...
So I learnt something this weekend: Be specific about what you want, especially when a bar of chocolate has the potential to be a catalyst to an emotional meltdown.

I'm sure or at least hope that some readers will identify with the above situation. I really wish that every cycle was not such huge thing involving 5 days of severe pain, emotional roller coasters and a terrified husband! Unfortunately doctors in Japan and Germany are at a loss as to why this should be so because I am otherwise healthy. Now I have a little machine that predicts when that time of the month will arrive so I can plan my life around it (My period dominates my schedule), but before that my husband used to say, "You're going to get your period soon". "How do you know?" I would ask. "Because you have been a bit mean to me recently", he would say. At least now I can say: "Please be aware that I can take no responsibility for my actions over the next week or so". ;)