Friday, 31 July 2009

Big Bird?

No it's Audrey.

In Japanese they are called Oodori which is the Japanesification of Audrey, but to me I thought it was Big(Oo) Bird(Tori) . I found that out for the first time today. I was wondering why this comedy duo decided to name themselves after a Sesame Street character. Silly Me! Of course they were actually calling themselves "Audrey", apparently from "Audrey Hepburn" according to Wikipedia - not that this makes any more sense.

If you are even somewhat familiar with Japanese comedians, you will know that they usually come in groups of two and sometimes three. This is so they can interact with each other during their witty skits. Occasionally you will see a lone comedian, but they usually have some special talent such as doing animal impressions like Yamaguchi Tomomitsu. And you will also know that they give their "Combi" an unusual name, very often in English. There is "Black Mayonnaise", "Down Town", "Bananaman", "Ninety Nine"...the list goes on and on.

Now, when we got back to Japan in February we were just in time to witness the sensation of Audrey starting to get popular. These guys had hardly even been on TV before the start of the year and now they are one of the most popular comedy duos, especially with young people.
I asked K his opinion on Audrey, and he said he can't figure out what is so funny about them.
I have developed a taste for them as I really like 春日:not pronounced Haruhi, but Kasuga! Why do I like the smarmy looking git in the pink vest, white pants and serious comb-over? I'm not sure. But if you can stand to watch them for a while, you will see that Kasuga although comes across as extremely arrogant with no social skills, when he is not completely in character he seems quite sweet, and he says he likes 熟女 or mature women, something that is unusual and quite refreshing in Japan!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

The big one oh oh

My blog counter thingee informs me that this will be my 100th post!
This is lucky timing since I seem to be having a bit of blogger's block these last couple of days. The only reason I can think of that this would happen is that my new diet, as opposed to the old one I was perpetually on that obviously didn't work, is sucking away my imagination and possibly also my will to live.

Perhaps it was due to the heady highs of eating all those carbs that I could find anything to blog about. Or maybe life seemed just a bit more "weird and wonderful", with the help of a full tummy of rice.

OK so maybe I am having some side effects from lack of carbohydrates, but I'm sure in a few more days this will pass and I will be on to the "Feeling super because not eating mind numbing carbohydrates" phase. Please let this be true!

So I am going to be one of those annoying "On a New Diet" people, who think its the best thing since carrot sticks. I think those people tend to be despised slightly by other perpetual dieters who have temporarily lost their dieting mojo, hit a brick wall or are just plain old sliding backwards.

So highlights of my dieting week include:
  • Not finding myself standing in front of open refrigerator wondering why I am there...so often.
  • Only eating "naughty food" that is offered to me by other people
  • Cutting out caffeine...I thought I was doing great with that, no headaches or anything! ....turns out the sports drink I was drinking instead has caffeine in it but you have to go to the drink's website to find that info out, damn it!!
  • Exercising daily...it helps to picture yourself actually FINISHED exercising and in a euphoric post exercise state before and during tortur- I mean exercise, which is what I have been doing wrong all these years. At least that is my theory for this week.
So now I have confessed to you all that I am in diet mode, I hope-no must be more positive- I KNOW this WILL add to my motivation to stick to it.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Today

Today......

  • I am cooking curry for dinner in the microwave.
  • I may have been suspected of five finger discounting a giant package of toilet paper at supermarket. Of course I had paid for it, the girl just didn't see the "paid for" tape.
  • Another giant bug has died on my balcony, bringing the body count to 2 biggies, 3 middles sized ones and a bazillion tiny ones...must make K clean that up.
  • I got an electric shock from a bunch of asparagus when I picked them up at the supermarket. Asparagus are out to get me...
  • The courier arrived for the second time to try and deliver something just as I was going out in the car so that was good timing for a change (the first time I came home 20 minutes after he had been)
  • I had a similar experience to this cat:
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

except it was my bed that wouldn't let me up from my 15 minute "power nap", I lay trapped for over an hour before I finally managed to negotiate my release.

  • I discovered L&P here in Japan, well pretty close, its actually Herushia (ヘルシア). L&P is one of soft drinks that NZers grow up on. Lemony sugary bubbly goodness...

Monday, 27 July 2009

Ok, no more ice cream for breakfast for me

Yesterday I was having a fat day. Most days are fat days for me, but yesterday was particularly so as I somehow managed to consume rather a calorific lunch that my stomach didn't manage to digest properly until 7pm. You know how sometimes you feel like you ate a bowling ball for lunch? No? It's just me? Oh.
Anyway, so I decided to attempt to reverse some of the damage by exercising and was very chuffed with myself for getting all the way through my Tracy Anderson DVD for quite possibly the first time since I bought it a month or so ago. Then, since K was having similar bowling ball trouble, we went for a walk round our neighbourhood, dodged massive flying bugs and saw a whole 2 other people in our 30 minute outing - maybe everyone else knows about the bugs and doesn't do "walking" -, both of us came home dripping with sweat, I could feel that hirekatsu just flowing out through my pores ;)

After a lovely afternoon tea at my friend's house today, I came home and sweated my way through Tracy's video (during which she doesn't emit so much as an drop, I was creating a river) AGAIN! How good is that! and it hurt like hell way worse than yesterday so I get an extra pat on the back for doing it two days in a row. I barely had enough energy to cook dinner afterwards and fear I may not be able to move tomorrow but I don't have any plans so if I am temporarily paralysed it won't be too much of a problem.

Today I might have over done it on the home made ice blocks and the home made ice cream that Orchid suggested to me the other day and have had upset tummy this evening, which now it has passed, I do feel much better than I have in a long while. Bring on some more of those exercise endorphins, they are my new "crack", replacing caffeine and processed carbohydrates. Oh yes they are! Excuse me whilst I go and do some affirmations.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Ice cream for Breakfast


It is Sunday morning and K and I have been up for a while, it's already 29 degrees in our apartment and a icky warm breeze is blowing in through the window.

Our problem this morning is breakfast. When I got up I realised that K had been up for an hour and hadn't eaten bfast yet, which means that there was nothing in the way of food that K considers breakfast food (and therefore he is waiting for me to organise something for him). By this I mean left overs. So even though its 29 degrees, out came the rice cooker and we are having hot rice for breakfast.

I am happy to have a bowl of cereal, some fruit, yogurt and since today is already hot I'm thinking a few scoops of ice cream wouldn't go a miss either -who says you can't eat ice cream for brekky, its just frozen cream with loads of sugar right? Much better to eat it for breakfast than after dinner before bed. Unfortunately we don't have any ice cream in our freezer, but I do have some Melon Sherbet that I whipped up last night from some of the melons that are slowly decomposing in my refrigerator.
I just CANNOT eat them all by myself, even after I gave some to almost every person I am friendly with. Silly me, 2 days ago I looked at the last 2 melons and thought "Whew! Nearly there!", then yesterday courier shows up with 6 more melons and about 10 peaches!! So now refrigerator is at exploding point and I have had to do some seriously inspired packing to get everything in there. Don't you just feel so sorry for me? No, I didn't think so. So now y'all are very privileged to be able to see contents of my refrigerator...Not too bad, mostly healthy stuff except for the years supply of peanut butter, that mayo is Calorie 1/2 off and the beers aren't mine!
K had brilliant idea yesterday that I should do a "Melon Diet", and then write a book about it and make tons of money. Hmmmm. I am sure I have heard of a melon diet before somewhere and it does sound like hell.

Anyway, now we are waiting for rice to cook so K can have some appropriate breakfast food. Rice, with an egg mixed in with some fish stock, natto and some wheat tea...mmmm maybe I will go to 7-11 after all and get me some ice cream!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Pink and Blue Flowers,Heavenly Cheese Cake

Today was Ikebana day again. You will remember last week I posted a picture of the current Head of our school of Ikebana, the very handsome Hiroki Ohara, apparently he is an exchange student in England at the moment, I found his blog...just in case you wanted to have a squiz. I have high hopes for this young chap, that he will be able to help steer our style of Ikebana into the 21st century a bit more.

Today I did the same arrangement as last week but using different flowers and what is also important: We used less flowers today meaning the mechanics of the arrangement were somewhat different too. It is a bit sad to get in a fluster about only have 3 stalks of one type of flower instead of 5, but that is life in the heady world of Ikebana for you!

Today's materials are the pink Kurukuruma(I don't know what this is called in English sorry), and Rindo (Gentian). These flowers have a lot more power to them so you don't need as many to make a good arrangement.


Another highlight of the afternoon was afternoon tea! Now if you thought last week's blueberry tart looked good, wait till you see this week's treat.

Ta daaaaaaa!

OK, so it's not so easy to see, or imagine how good this baked cheesecake from Gateau de SAKURA was from this photo, but I was very sad when it was all over... I can't believe how many times I must have driven past this shop and not even noticed. And my thighs and hips are probably thankful that it was only today I discovered the existence of this shop and its wonderful cheese cake. 

先生、ありがとうございました!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The Eclipse, a Lady Bird and High School Baseball

Today was the first solar eclipse for 46 years or something to be seen from Japan. I got a text from a friend this morning who had gone to Okinawa to see the spectacle. I was most surprised as he didn't tell us he was even going! At exactly 11:12, I peered outside and it looked cloudy and perhaps a tad darker than before, but it has been so cloudy and grey here today there was no way to see the eclipse at all. The footage on TV was impressive though, with day suddenly turning into night and then back again. It would have been pretty cool to be there.

I got some happy news yesterday that one of my sworn bachelor, "will never be a father ever", friends and his wife had a little girl a few weeks ago. I was also excited that I could go and raid Nishimatsuya for cute girl things. There is so much stuff to buy there, it's like heaven for mothers and at a reasonable price too! I found all manner of clothes for children including a Hanshin Tiger's Jinbe, but for kids and cute little outfits to dress you kid as a duck, frog, hello kitty etc.
I decided I couldn't resist this outfit:
I'm pretty sure my friend doesn't read my blog so it won't be spoiling the surprise.

In other news today, High school baseball is on the TV again. I remember filling in my days when I worked at the junior high school, during summer vacation when I was supposed to be "working" by surreptitiously watching the baseball on TV which was always left on by the baseball club teachers. I always find it funny that Japan is so fascinated with high school baseball and even my husband speaks proudly of when he was a HS student and went to Koshien (The nationals) to support his school's team. There is a lot of blood sweat and tears that goes into preparing for this competition every year. I was also shocked at how many of these boys cry their eyes out at the end of games. From a foreigner's standpoint, this looks like sissyness and "can't handle losing", but here it seems to be the standard reaction whether you win or loose, mostly because those kids have been training SO hard since they first started playing baseball and in the last 6 months, all they have thought about is getting to the nationals, so any loss is the end of their dream/goal. You will often see Japanese people crying in reaction to succeeding or failing at something - usually because they put themselves through hell to get there, and I for one would not have the motivation or the staying power to do something similar. So when I hear "THOCK!"......"THOCK!" coming from across the street every night as a kid practices his pitching, I try not to get too annoyed about it...only a few more years before he stops!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Random things that have happend in the last 24 hours

Last night K and suddenly felt energetic and decided it was a lovely evening for a stroll. So we set off to explore part of the neighbourhood where we haven't bothered to go yet. We were actually looking for a back road that would skirt the main road through our village that is so narrow and used by tons of cars and massive trucks all competing in their own imaginary Formula one race. You would think this would be easy, but there is a river that makes this rather troublesome. We want to be able to ride our bikes into town without risking our lives more than necessary, which one does anyway when one cycles.
In the end we found our way to a road that goes through a bunch of fields. We were walking along minding our own business and it was getting quite dark by this time, when K got a fright at seeing someone moving around down in the fields. This guy looked like he belonged there - he was in his farming gear from what I could see, but I couldn't imagine what he could be doing there when it was almost dark and he didn't even have a torch with him. I was quite surprised that this person seemed to take exception to us being out for a stroll on this road. We just kept on wandering but he came up onto the road from his field and watched us keep walking. Weird. I thought later that maybe he thought we were vegetable field pillagers, which would be so easy to do, go for a wander and whip out a few carrots as you go by. Not that we were in anyway attired for vegetable pinching, both of us were wearing white shirts, quite obvious even in the dark, we didn't even have a torch or cell phone to see where we were going and no bag to carry any goodies in.

This sleepy little village where I live has its very own Oyaji Security Patrol (Grandad patrol) which has its headquarters not far from our house. They have a special car they drive around in that has a flashing light on the roof - I guess the old geezers have to get their kicks some how and perhaps pilfering is becoming a problem. On our walk we passed a giant barn type building full of stuff and junk, that had no doors on it whatsoever, anyone could have walked off with a few pieces of timber, a bag of fertilizer...I guess nobody would dare really as ALL of the windows have eyes round here.

The second thing that happened today was that I had to tell the lady in the post office how to do her job ...again. Silly me, I decided to go to the local one which is about 5 minutes by bike away. My parcels were all nicely packaged complete with customs declarations. I gave them to the woman behind the counter and told her where I wanted to send them. She didn't recognise the custom declaration form and tried to give me some other ones which end up costing you more to send. I told her that it was usual to use this kind of form to send a small parcel. After consulting her boss, she decided I was right. I am a little suspicious of how much she charged me, but in the end I think she did manage to get it right. From now on I will only visit the big post office where they don't even blink when you want to send something to Timbuktu.

The last thing is that I saw a kick ass recipe on telly this morning for ホタテ (scallops)!

2 or 3 large scallops
a 3:7 mix of soy sauce and sake
katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
mayonnaise

dice scallops and mix in soy and sake, place in a gratin dish and sprinkle katsuobushi on top.
Put in toaster oven for about 8mins.
Then if you like, squirt mayonnaise over the scallops and sprinkle more katsuobushi, put back into toaster over for a few more minutes until nicely done.

Any left over sauce can be soaked up with cooked spaghetti.

Sounds yum!
Let me know if you end up cooking it. I will have to try it when I get me a small gratin dish and some scallops.

Hope y'all had a nice "Sea Day" yesterday!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Home Invasion of the mushi kind

Last night was rather traumatic for me.

I went out into the kitchen to get some water at about midnight, flipped on the light and as I went to turn on the tap, out of the corner of my eye I could have sworn I saw something scuttling, in a very cockroach like way, around the back of the dish liquid and down the side of the bench.
Cockroaches are up there in No. 1 position on my "Most Disliked Insect List", which is growing longer and longer by the day this year. I had met this particular cockroach (He was an L on the SML scale of cockroach size) on one previous occasion when I went into the living room and turned on the light to find it perusing my CD collection - I kid you not.
After that incident, I put out several cockroach catchers around CD collection and in the kitchen, just in case it was a regular cockroach that comes in to eat food rather than just critique my taste in music. So it took about two weeks before I saw him again last night. Fortunately the encounter ended well and that particular cockroach has gone on to "a better place"...and if he does come back to life, which they are known to do, it will wake up in a pneumatically sealed garbage bag full of tasty treats to keep it going for the next millenia.

After I had calmed down and managed to go to sleep, I woke up at 4am this morning (4am is such a nice time of day in the Summer isn't it? Pity we are mostly all asleep and miss it)
with all of my arms and legs itching. So my insect proof fortress had been infiltrated AGAIN, by an army of about 2 mosquitoes who had dined out on me and K. So off I went and got the Kinkan.
Kinkan is an ages old remedy for insect bites and what not. It's pretty stinky stuff but it works. I was horrified to see an add for it on TV which was so terribly misleading though. It shows someone putting Kinkan on a kid's insect bite, everyone is smiling and happy - what a load of bollocks. That stuff hurts like hell. It does work quickly though,but the trick is to scratch a lot first so you get a nice opening in your bite so that the Kinkan gets right in there and neutralises the itch with its own stinging powers.

So today I am off to buy some better mosquito repellent stuff and some kind of cockroach spray, what a fun way to spend "Sea Day".

Friday, 17 July 2009

This week's social highlight



Yesterday was Ikebana day, the social highlight of my week. Not only do I get to go out and drive across to the other side of town, I get flowers to take home and my teacher always surprises us with some lovely afternoon tea.


This week's arrangement is called the "Upright style". This style belongs to the "moribana group" of arrangements which fill me with dread as it often feels like I am back in maths class rather than doing flower arrangement. The text book is full of angles and diagrams with squares and rectangles showing the correct alignments.

For flower arrangement it seems terribly scientific to me!


Today's flowers are fennel and dahlias. See I'm learning!






So here is what I created:

And this is what my classmate made:

We used slightly different sized vases, so my classmate's arrangement is bigger than mine, though it is hard to see that in the photos.

There are two things I really like about this arrangement.
1) Even though we only used 2 kinds of flowers, the arrangement looks really good.
2) The water also plays a part in the arrangement. I think it gives a cooling feeling, which is always good in summer time.

After we had put away our protractors (no not really, all angles are measured by sight), we had afternoon tea. Blueberry tart with cafe latte. The blueberries were amazingly fat and juicy and the tart was not too sweet either which was really nice. Afterwards I felt like I had had a treat but not blown the diet, if you know what I mean.

When I got home, I found this guy parked on my window net


I'm not sure what exactly it is, but it's bigger than that white car!
Actually I feel kind of bad as I have treated my window screens with bug killer because of the swarms of insects around here. So I wanted to tell him not to park there, but he didn't understand my Japanese.

I found this photo in my flower arrangement text book today. It shows the curredt Head of Ohara Ikebana (It's hereditary). I'm sorry, but is he (Hiroki) a spunk or what! What a great reason to start Ikebana!


Thursday, 16 July 2009

Who would have thought!

1) That a blog about cakes could be so darn funny!
I have started reading this blog religiously. It's a blog about cakes. Well actually it is a blog about when cakes go wrong. Mostly just the decoration.
If you don't believe me have a look for yourself. Today's "Cakewrecks" are along the baby theme.

2) You could make a reasonable tonkatsu out of 3 slices of pork!
I made this low cost low calorie version of tonkatsu last night which got a big thumbs up from K.
Lay 3 slices of raw pork on top of each other and press down a bit, season, cover with egg and then breadcrumbs,spray a little oil over it to help with browning. Toast in toaster oven at 500w for about 8 -10 minutes. Done. You can also bake it in an oven if you don't have toaster oven.

3) The most popular fashion store with housewives (in a random pole conducted by トクダネ)would be Shimamura! Apparently they have a lot of one offs so you don't have to worry about all your friends wearing the same clothes as you (unlike when you shop at Uniqlo).

4) That anyone would bother to buy, or even invent the Banana Cutter.
Nuf said.

5) That I would enjoy listening to a song with the lyrics: Wow, S&%t shake that ass now move it like a gypsie, Stop wow now back it up and let me see your hips SWING↑- I assure you it is quite catchy and can make washing the dishes just that little bit less tedious. Rationalisation: it is NZ hiphop (SWING! by Savage) so I should support NZ music industry, even if song is about bottoms. Song also encourages hip swinging which has positive effect on reduction of waistline.

6) add your own interesting who would have thought... here.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

I do NOT have a "Wakamechan Cut"!

Today I went to the hair dressers. My hair grows really fast so things were looking quite dire. I really liked what my stylist did last time, but I was not so happy with the back as it was too long and I don't like having hair touching my neck when it's hot. Since it's too short to tie up, it has to be cut off. So I went today with the express purpose of getting the back cut quite short. I could tell that my stylist wasn't so keen on my idea as I had to keep encouraging him to cut more off the back. In the end I came out with what I wanted at the back and about a kilo less hair all over, once he gave me the thinning scissor treatment and then the "3 pairs of scissors at one time" technique my hair was thoroughly thinned out. That is a good thing though as my hair has the ability to go completely limp in about 30 minutes even after careful styling using volume increasing products.

When K got home tonight, I did the stand in front of him and ask "Notice anything different?" act. He replied: My wife has a Wakamechan cut now (how embarrassing).

That is so NOT a good thing to say.
So I said: "KORAっ!" (imagine very angry face), the equivalent of "Hey cut that out".

Wakame chan is a character on a long running cartoon called Sazae san. She has a distinctive bowl cut and so now any person who dares to get their hair cut short at the back is labeled a "Wakame chan cut". Which probably explains my stylist's reluctance to cut it so short,as he didn't want to be responsible for giving someone a Wakame chan cut, which is the source of much amusement apparently.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Making Magical Mugicha

This post is how to make your Mugicha (wheat tea) just that bit better. Since the HP movie is coming out this week, I'm kind of in a "magical" mood...nothing to do with mushrooms.
Last night HP and the prisoner of Azkaban or something was on TV. K and I came across it and we watched it for 5 minutes or so, after which time K says "Even though they are speaking Japanese I have no friggin idea what they are talking about!!". I assured him that if he read the books there is plenty of description what a "Petronus charm", "Dementor" and "Voldemort" are, and since he can't stand HP books, in any language, he should probably not bother watching any of the movies. So the channel got changed and I didn't watch any more, though I could have gone into the bedroom and peered at my cell phone as it does have a v good TV tuner.

Anyway, on to Mugicha. I have never been a great fan of Mugicha, it used to taste like what I imagine dirt and bits of wood taste like if they were made into tea...reminds me of Baldrick's attempts to make coffee in the trenches in Blackadder Goes Forth with dirt, dandruff (sugar substitute) and frothy saliva(milk).


Anyway yesterday K was watching a show (ためしてガッテン)and showed me how he would like his mugicha prepared henceforth. I tasted the resulting tea this morning and it was much better than normal.

Mugicha is the ultimate summer drink. It contains no caffeine so you can give it to small children and since my husband has an aversion to drinking plain water it is his beverage of choice at this time of year. We always buy those big packs of giant tea bags that make a litre of cold tea as it is so much cheaper than buying bottled mugicha.

So take your mugicha tea bag, put it in a bowl or on a plate or something and then pour some boiling water over it, not too much, let it sit for about 1 minute then put the tea bag in the jug with cold water as normal and refrigerate for two hours after which time tea bag should be removed. Also, a small amount of coffee(liquid) can be added to the tea to give an even better flavour. This morning's batch was much less bitter and had a nice mild taste to it. So obviously we have been doing it WRONG. Rather like this lady:

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

Sunday, 12 July 2009

The long awaited 4th instalment to Staying Away from the Stove!

Hello Everyone, I trust you are having a pleasant Sunday. I would be if the Baked potato truck, the recycling man and their loud speakers would bugger off out of my neighbourhood.

So now it's time for the last instalment in my microwave cooking recipe series.

Today we are doing Ebi Chilli or Chilli Prawns!

This recipe only needs about 5 minutes cooking time! I think this recipe is actually much better done in the microwave than doing it in the frying pan. The shrimps/prawns turn out just right, not over cooked and tough like can happen in the frying pan.

Ingredients

Prawns/big shrimps - peeled, deheaded and deveined if not already.
oil
Pre preapared chilli sauce mix that you can get here is good, but here is a recipe I saw on telly. I tried it but it didn't taste that great so you might want to experiment with your own sauce and the amounts depending on whether you like it really spicy or sweeter or what. So I will give you the recipe verbatim but you should fiddle around with the amounts a bit.

4T water
2T ketchup
2T sugar
1t of Chinese chicken stock
1T sake
1T sesame oil (I think 1t is plenty)
1t of Korean chili paste = mild to slightly spicy
1t of potato starch
diced long onion (negi)

Put prawns into microwaveable bowl with the water, cover and microwave for about 2 mins. In a separate bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients together in another bowl.
Then add this mix to microwaved prawns with the water still in the bowl.
cover and cook for 2-3 more minutes.

Done.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Laziness, I haz it.

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

Today is another sweltering day that is slowly sucking my will to live...So far today I have achieved very little asside from finding some new excellent blogs online to add to my list of blogs to read when I need a good laugh. Such as: this one, this one and this one. I was considering going to the Library to bask in their airconditioned coolness for free but then I realised that would mean me having to a) get dressed properly, do hair, makeup etc and b) be stared at which I don't feel like today, so I stayed home instead and sweated...but the good thing about searching blogs is that you can sit still whilst you do it so you sweat less than say, when you walk to the kitchen to get a glass of water.

Today I have also found out that my couch is not very good for nanna naping on. Mainly because it's not really wide enough to put your arms anywhere comfy and you get woken up from nap with pins and needles in your hands. Not fun. So I decided to move my nap to the bedroom, where I then had trippy dream about going to Sth Korea for a holiday...

I have also discovered that my discount coupons for the local 7 11 run out today. Whew! That was lucky spotting, so have to drag myself down there later. But will have to do hair and change out of my skodiest clothes into something a little less skody...and I might wait until it gets dark and all the kids have gone inside for the evening so I don't frighten any of them.

Oh and I have also been busy trying to figure out HOW one of the screens on my windows came to be WIDE OPEN, letting in all kinds of bugs (shivers). So far I have come up with: The wind blew it across (it's a sliding one, so not very likely), someone climbed up a ladder, opened it and then climbed back down (Possible since the guy over the fence is weird and has a ladder), or my husband did it (Probably the most likely of all scenarios but I'm sure he won't admit to it), in which case, why would he open it in the first place, let alone leave it wide open? He knows how much I hate it when bugs get into our house, which is why I am pondering this so much.
Actually, maybe he did it to pay me back for not cooking any rice for his breakfast this morning...

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Singin' my lungs out and flower appreciation

It's been two whole weeks since my last flower arranging class. The last week and a half was spent stuck in my house due to being crook. So, it was rather exciting to go and have some social interaction with real people, who aren't my husband, outside of my house ...that is how sad my social life is at present. I also got to drive the car there, which I enjoy now that I have gotten used to driving again after a 2 year hiatus. AND I got to listen to my new "The Great New Zealand Song Book" CDs, which involved lots of singing at top of my lungs, whilst reminiscing about various times in my life when I used to listen to those songs... Luckily I did manage to get to my teachers house and back without crashing despite the singing and the reminiscing. I'd forgotten how much I like Goldenhorse, Fat Freddies Drop and Brooke Fraser.

So, on to flower appreciation.

This week we were using yellow flowers ( I really have to start learning the names) and pink ones. The style is called "inclining style". Personally I think it should be called the "reclining style".
Here is what I did:

And here is what my classmate did:

This is one of the easiest styles that you learn when you start out doing Ikebana but both of us had a lot of trouble trying to get it right and probably spent twice as much time as we usually do fiddling with those little yellow flowers.

Sensei, if you are reading this could you tell me the names please :)

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Yesterday was Tanabata, Time to get out your Yukata

Yesterday was Tanabata. Tanabata is a festival of the stars. Well two stars in particular. Orihime (Vegar) and Hikoboshi (Altair), these two stars, representing two lovers, only come together on the 7th day of the 7th month.

So that means it's time to close the main roads around the centre of town and fill them up with stalls selling various, somewhat over priced goodies that children all want - candy floss, balloons, gold fish etc. Decorations that look like massive multicoloured octopus are hung from long poles, and bamboo bushes are decorated with colourful strips of paper with wishes written on them. Here in Tohoku, tanabata is postponed until just before Obon, so we get the whole lot in one go.

For many festival goers, it's time to dust off your yukata or jinbe. If you can afford to go to a hair salon, they will do your hair in an upstyle, do your makeup and dress you in your yukata. Most of us don't want to fork out for that, so that leaves us to struggle into a yukata ourselves. There are many books (pretty much all in Japanese) that show you step by step with pictures, how to do it. But I find, that even using these books, it is still impossible to get your yukata looking like a pro has done it. There are several reasons for this. Pros, spend years and years learning how to do it, and perfecting their techniques. I went to Kimono/Yukata classes for a few months so I now know how to put a yukata on properly and can do a kimono at a stretch, so I look back and cringe on some of my early attempts at putting on a yukata.

So here are some of my top tips for women to make your yukata look better on you than before.

1) If you have big boobs, try to flatten them a bit with a sturdy bra. Unfortunately the hour-glass body is not so well suited to yukata. You can also pad around your waist with hand towels under the obi (belt) so there is less difference between your hips, waist and bust. This will give your body a less curvy shape which suits the yukata.

2) When you put on the yukata, make sure the line at the back is right in the middle of your butt, not skewed off to on side.

3) When you wrap it around yourself, make sure you get the left flap on top at the front, otherwise you will commit a major social fauxpas by wearing your yukata how they put it on dead people... Also, when you fold the right flap across your front, hitch up the edge of the yukata a couple of centimetres before securing it to your waist. Do the same with the left flap. This gives the bottom corners a slight upwards incline towards the edge, and gives a tapered look which looks much better.

4) When you come to securing the yukata across your chest, make sure that you leave a fist space gap behind your neck and the collar of the yukata. Also make sure you only leave a small triangle of flesh showing, where the two halves cross over in front, less is more when it comes to yukata. The sexiness comes from revealing your neck. Pull the material down at the back and make sure it is held there snugly by the belt. Then pull outwards at the sides, just above the belt to remove the wrinkles in the back. The back part of the yukata should be completely smooth. I find it helpful to lean backwards as I do this.

I have been searching for some instructive photos to help explain what I am on about, but I can't find any good ones on the internet or in the book I have at home. Unfortunately I am not able to put a yukata on myself as I am still a bit sick, so if I do get a chance sometime soon, I will make sure to take some photos.

Monday, 6 July 2009

I guess they aren't all bad...

I have not been a fan of Japanese doctors ever since I went to one and he told me that an unsightly growth on my jaw was actually a giant zit. We argued about this, and he wouldn't believe me until I let him try and squeeze it...of course it wasn't a zit. I can spot a zit at 10 paces. But this dermatologist was still obviously coming to terms with this after 20 years of practice.

So today, after being in pain for 7 days, but with much dread, my husband dragged me to a gynecologist. First we had to decide which one we were going to. The one I used to go to 3 years ago was about 80 then, so I decided I wanted to go to a hospital with a slightly less geriatric doctor. I wanted to go to one that professed to have a female doctor that spoke English. Unfortunately they aren't open on Mondays. Then we called one that is relatively near our house but they only take patients who have a reservation and they were full up. So finally we ended up going to a clinic a lot further away but one that a friend also uses.

When we arrived I thought the situation looked good as the car park wasn't full. But there was a long line of patients ahead of me. When we got to the reception the lady behind the counter says to me: Hi Shufuinjapan Sensei. I'm Super English Student's Mother, do you remember me?
From my drugged daze I managed to recall her daughter, who was one of my best students a few years ago. Oh how shameful I thought. I can't go anywhere in this town and not bump into someone who knows me.

So we sat down and I proceeded to look very sick, which I was. After about 10 minutes someone called my name. Now that was a surprise. There are still way more people ahead of me, but I thought perhaps I was just being moved from the general waiting area to the "wait outside a particular door" waiting area.
The nurse ushered me into a room with three hospital beds set up and told me to make myself comfy. Which I was more than happy to oblige. Tucked into bed, she then asked me all kinds of questions and then told me to relax and wait to be called for my audience with "The Doctor".
We had to wait an hour, but that was made all the more bearable by my nice comfy bed and private room as no other patients needed the bed treatment it seemed.

The audience with the doctor was both productive and frustrating. Productive in that he did seem to know what was wrong with me, which other medical professionals both here and in Germany couldn't figure out. Frustrating in that he had this really mumbly way of speaking and insisted on mixing Japanese and English words together so neither my husband or myself had any idea what he was saying half the time. So I decided to just be a dumb foreigner and ask lots of dumb questions like: "So you are saying that all this time, taking these pain killers has given me no help whatsoever, and actually exacerbated the situation?!?!". "Are you sure that one measly little pill is going to help me?" etc. In the end I was sent off to have a blood test done - which they also let me lie down for - I love not having to sit up when I feel crap- and the nurse was such a pro I didn't even feel the needle go it.

After that it was "Wait while we calculate how much you have to pay"time. This can also take ages but it was less that 5 minutes and when we went to cashier, Super English Student's Mother slipped me email address to her cell phone and told me she would put me on the waiting list in advance next time I came so I wouldn't have to wait for ages -YAY!- So I guess it's not so bad being a minor celebrity around town after all....

So that was my positive experience at the drs today. Kashima Lady's Clinic Rocks!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Staying away from the stove Part 3: Curry made in the microwave

Here is one more recipe in my microwave cooking series.

I love curry, even in the summer. I don't love having to spend two hours making it though, which is how long it takes to make a really good curry in a pot.
So here is a way you can cook it in the microwave in less than half the time.

Ingredients:
potatoes, carrots cut into bite size pieces
onion
beef, cubed into bight size pieces
curry roux
microwaveable bowl

Prepare your vegetables as usual, but you might want to cut them a bit smaller than you would for a real curry.
Put them in a bowl in the following order: Onions, potatoes, carrots and then meat. Place the meat around the outside edge of the bowl. Put in enough water to just cover the ingredients. Chop the roux into small pieces and push it under the water.
- I put half water and then half vegetable juice and some wine in for extra flavour.

Then cover the bowl with wrap. I don't like using plastic wrap in the microwave so I tried putting piece of baking paper over the bowl instead and that worked fine.

I made enough for about 4 people so there was quite a lot of food in the bowl, it needed about 30 minutes at 600 watts. I put some mushrooms and other easily cooked vegetables for the last 10 minutes. Make sure to leave it to sit for a few minutes before serving.

Another thing I really liked about cooking curry in the microwave as you can just put the bowl in the fridge if there is any curry left over and cleaning the bowl is way easier than cleaning a horrible curry pot.

As for taste, I have a feeling that K did not like it as much as his own 2 hour special curry. However, as this was an experiment I used much cheaper curry roux than we usually have which may have had some impact on the taste etc. I think it came out pretty well. We usually use Zeppin Karakuchi, or when we are feeling particularly "zeitaku" we buy "Dinner Curry" Karakuchi.
I'm also looking forward to comparing my gas and electricity bills this month!

Sorry no pickies today, but you guys know what curry looks like, well just imagine curry in a bowl. :)

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Forrest Girls

I am just watching telly at the moment, which as you know is where I get all my information about life in Japan...
Anyway today's topic is MoriGyaru or Forrest Girls. This is such a new fashion trend that there seems to be very little information or pictures on the internet that I could find.

This seems to be a excellent option to some of the other fashion styles such as your regular gyarus and other over cutified people (actually I do really like Tsubasa as a personality, but I think her mini cute look is unobtainable for most people). Is there anyone else out there who is not a fan of the mini hat or the t-shirt under the sundress look that seems to be popular this year?

A Mori girl is someone who dresses like they could live/be in the woods. This does not mean bush shirts, hiking boots or anything.
Think more along the lines of all those fairy tales that involve someone walking through the woods: Little red riding hood etc. Instead of your regular brand bag, they tote small wicker baskets or woven bags. They wear little makeup and their hair has a very non-fussy, been through a bush backwards then tied it in a pony tale on side of the head type style. It also seems necessary to pin a handmade corsage of crocheted flowers to your head. I also like that they wear simple flat shoes instead of ridiculously painful high heels and their dresses tend to be long, slightly shapeless and in muted colours.

In Japan, there tends to be a fashion trend for just about everyone, and I for one am thankful for a serge in interest in "natural" fashion. I don't do cute. So when I bother to look at clothes in the shops here they all seem too frilly, too colourful and silly for me. But I could see myself as a forest girl...