Thursday, 31 December 2009
The first one is some kind chains that I think you stand on and then try to swing from one to the next. It looks like something that belongs in SASUKE (which is on TV tomorrow BTW), rather than a playground. The sign says: DANGER! Do not enter.
The second piece of deadly playground equipment was this slide.
The numskull who decided to put a slide near the edge of a very very steep hill should seriously lose their job. If you came off that slide at any speed you would probably break your neck as you rolled down the 100metres or so to the bottom, good luck getting back up again. Unfortunately it is a little difficult to see exactly how dangerous it is in this picture, you will just have to take my word for it.
I wasn't aware of it but today is ALSO a day to have some flash food, not just tomorrow. K alerted me to this this evening when I served him a curry that had NO MEAT in it.!
We then realised that we have had one of THE least expensive days ever today.
Going to the park FREE
BFast, Lunch and Dinner were all leftovery type meals including rice and fruit we got from K's family.
Tonight we are going to top off our "budget day" by reheating last night's bath water for a bath tonight - thats a bit of a luxury for us though anyway, taking a bath - after we have reheated the water tonight it will be used in the washing machine tomorrow, thus completing the cycle of setsuyaku (being economical).
Tonight is a BIG TV NIGHT in Japan.
We have the national broadcaster NHK with their annual singing competition. The women's team vs the mens team. I watched it last year for the 1st time ever and was amazed at some of the talentless people who were aloud to sing....
My DH prefers to spend New Year's Eve watching people beat the crap out of each other in the K1 fighting. So I am blogging instead. We have found out that Susanne Boyle is going to be on about 9pm so K has agreed to let me watch NHK then.
So Happy New Year Everyone, See you in 2010
We received several zip lock bags of home made mochi (glutenous rice that has been pulverised into a tough kind of paste and then dried hard) from my MIL the other day, so K is determined to have have mochi for breakfast tomorrow. It took me a while to start liking mochi. The whole gluey sticky consistency of it when you cook it was a little tough to get used to. But my MIL showed us how to make one of her mochi recipes that is the only way we will eat it now.
It's Mochi Pizza!!!
Get a couple of blocks of mochi and cut it into cubes, about 2cm across is enough. Arrange cubes on a piece of baking paper in a pizza shape. They can be nestled snuggly against each other. Then smear on some pizza sauce, add your toppings, like mushrooms, bacon or whatever you like and then put cheese on top. Then I microwave it for a few minutes until the mochi is soft and starts to puff up. I imagine a toaster oven would also do a really great job.
Then eat. That can be a bit tricky as it kind of turns into a big sticky mess but it tastes good. Don't let any mochi dry onto the chopsticks, its tricky to get off without soaking.
Will post some photos tomorrow of my efforts with our New Year's Day Mochi Pizza.
Wednesday, 30 December 2009
I did enjoy being 100 metres from a variety of restaurants and fast food outlets. I had as many Starbucks coffees as was humanly possible in less than 48 hours. I tried their Assam Black Tea Latte which was very nice, I wanted to buy some of the teabags but was informed that they do not sell them.
We stayed at the Sheraton at Yokohama station as a special treat for not going anywhere all year and the rooms were crazy cheap because no one wants to stay there a few days before new year. New Years Eve is triple the price! I would have to say, IMH but well informed opinion, this hotel is not really value for money. If we had paid the regular price, I would have been very annoyed with the lack of free high speed wireless internet and the ANALOG TV and bad reception on certain channels. The windows were not double glazed so even on the 24th floor I could hear the traffic lights beeping to tell people when to cross the street and in the morning they was so much condensation it wasn't funny. Couldn't even enjoy our view.
Other than that it was nice and staff were perfection. Fabulous location connected to Yokohama station so you don't even have to go outside to catch a train or go out for dinner or breakfast (cause we weren't shelling out 2,000 yen for breakfast!).
We went to China town and got ceremonally ripped off as I knew would happen. In future I will refrain from visiting such places when I am really hungry as my judgement always seems to get clouded.
We also enjoyed the Minatomirai area but found that there just seemed to be so many shops selling stuff to clutter up you living space with. We didn't buy anything at all...apart from coffees.
On our second day we headed back to Tokyo and spent most of the time before we left lining up for stuff. First we went to the Hokkaido Antenna Shop which is what these shops are called that have sprung up around Tokyo selling produce unique to different areas of Japan. So we got some nice looking mozzarella cheese and some great bread (not particularly Hokkaidoish) and then we went and lined up for half and hour to buy Baumkuchen. I couldn't believe I was doing it, but I wanted something nice to send to K's family for New Year. So that is what they are getting. I also bought some for myself and I would have to say that this Baumkuchen is much better.
As K says, It tastes better if you have to line up for half an hour to get it. I like it how the staff have apparently "made this Baumkuchen with all our hearts".
So hope you are all gearing up for a nice New Year's Eve. We will trying to keep warm.
Sunday, 27 December 2009
Today K and I are off to the big smoke of Yokohama for a WHOLE two days to "play".
K went out drinking with some long lost buddies until midnight, so is a bit worse for wear and I'm knackerd from having to go and pick him up at midnight. It seems a good time was had by all though.
I can see our big day in the city coming to a screeching halt around 3 as the lack of sleep catches up with us - oversized babies we are.
At present we are enjoying our JR travelling experience, K has realised he has nothing to read as I didnt pack a book or mag for him...(☆。☆）
Today's itinerary includes eating yumcha in China Town a trip to the red brick storehouse and hopefully not freezing tits off whilst enjoying the "night view"o(^∇^o)(o^∇^)o.
I hope you have all recovered from Christmas!
Thursday, 24 December 2009
This week I have had the same conversation with many students. First they can't work out why I was so excited about Christmas, but despondant at being stuck in Japan away from my family - "It's only Christmas" - a romantic evening with your boyfriend or girlfriend, or an excuse to eat cake and fried chicken.
So I told them to imagine sitting at home by themselves on New Years day whilst their family had a great old time somewhere else. They kind of got the idea after that.
Just doing my bit to improve intercultural understanding!
So tonight K and I are going to have our little Christmas Party which will involve a large pot of curry and a bottle of our favourite Henkels sparkling wine from Germany. Yesterday was the Emperor's Bday and so K had the day off, although I didnt. But when I came home last night I found K had used his day off wisely and had gone and got 2 of these puppies specially for me, WITHOUT BEING ASKED!!! My favourite kind of treat. One I didn't ask for. It's a Giant Shucream BTW. Choux (?) pastry filled with cream and these ones are my favourite. I had one last night and one for breakfast this morning cause since it's "Christmas", you get to eat whatever you want for breakfast right?
Today did not get off to a great start. I was woken up at 7:30 by K.
K: Umm ......Hey... um.....
K: Spilled. (typical Japanese, not including the subject or object that was spilled, just expecting that you will KNOW)
Me:What?!?! You spilled what?
K: I kind of spilled coffee grounds all over the floor.....can I leave it there for you to clean up?
Me: WTF?!!!? I'm trying to sleep!
What he should of said was: I've cleaned up as much as I can but I'm going to be late so could you finish it off, sorry". What I heard was: "Can I leave it for you to clean up?" So the magic from yesterday's shucreams kind of disappeared as I stumbled into the kitchen bleary eyed to find K had managed to spill a whole drip filter's worth of coffee ground sludge on the floor, bench and all down the cupboards. He had cleaned up the worst of it but obviously didn't want to be late for work so I did the rest...so much for my magic day of rest. K has been having a clumsy week. The other day he sloshed boiling water from a pot of pasta all over the bench and all over the floor and on his bare feet....
My day got a bit better, what with the Shucream for breaky and then when I went to the Drs and only had to wait 10 minutes for my prescription to be refilled. Then I came straight home as I decided I was not in the mood to face the chicken, cake and last minute prezzie buying frenzy at any of the shops. I popped in the DVD "He's just not that into you" and had a laugh and a cry. I liked the movie. It kind of reminded me of my all time favourite Christmas movie: "Love Actually" which I will probably watch tonight whilst I digest my curry and polish off the bottle of Sekt.
Sunday, 20 December 2009
Hybrid Monkey Snowman, I think it's the ears
Ageing businessman Snowman with his 70:30 sidepart. This particular snow man got a great response from K who thinks a "side part" is hilarious in itself. If I want to annoy him I just try to make his hair into a side part and he gets stroppy with me.
Ok I promise no more photos of cookies, until next year.
Friday, 18 December 2009
I don't get to use Japan Rail very often as their fares for high speed long distance trains are usually expensive compared to taking the bus.
One example is from my city to Tokyo by bus costs 3,500 yen and takes about 3 hours (depending on whether there are any traffic jams). A ticket on the Superhitachi (not a bullet train) will cost about 5, 800 yen in a non-reserved seat, more if you want to be guaranteed a seat and takes 2.5 hours to reach Ueno in Tokyo.
I heard about JR's discount tickets last week from a friend. The tickets have to be reserved and paid for online and then the actual tickets are picked up at a ticket machine at the station.
We are going to Tokyo next weekend and we got 40% off our reserved seats. I checked out the price for on the way back but that is only 20% off (week day) so we will probably come home by bus as it doesn't matter if we get stuck in traffic for hours on our way home. Another good thing is you can reserve one way tickets, it doesn't have to be return.
So you need to become a member of JR East's site, and then fiddle around to get their えきねっと site so you can access it too. If you also have suica that can be set up too.
Thursday, 17 December 2009
SO this is what I made:
And this is what my classmate made:
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Today I set about making "Ginger Bread Stars" - since that was the only cookie cutter shape left at the 100 yen shop apart from hearts that aren't terribly Christmassy. Not a single christmas tree to be seen.
100g of butter
90g Brown Sugar
1/2 an egg, whisked.
1t baking powder
1t of cinnamon
1t of ground ginger
1t of all spice
1/2t of cloves
1)cream butter and sugar until whiteish, add egg and mix until fluffyish.
2)Then add flour, spices, cocoa and baking powder mix into a ball.
3) wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes
4) sprinkle flour on bench, roll out with rolling pin to a half cm thickness
5)Preheat oven to 150 degrees, stamp out cookie shapes, bake for 12-13 minutes.
Decorate when cooled.
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
I didn't know I was so talented! I made "Snowman cookies" the other day in a moment of pure Martha Stewart channeling (I know she is not dead yet, but how else can I explain it).
Or maybe it was Betty Crocker....
Anyway so here are some of my Snowman cookies which I took to school and my students were so stoked to get.
No really, they were stoked. They weren't just pretending. I got the recipe from trusty "Cookpad", so it was suited to Japanese tastebuds, as in not so sweet, which I now personally like anyway. Okay, so this photo is just some of the good ones. Some of the others had distinctivly wicked faces or pointy eyes and buttons. Some of them I drew on a 70/30 comb over, which no one noticed because they ended up looking like they were wearing beanies.
So here it is in English anyway:
Almond powder 100g
Chocolate pen or icing sugar for decorating
1) Take butter out of fridge to soften and sift the flour
2) Cream butter and sugar until mix turns whiteish
3) Add almond powder, flour and mix. Form into a block, wrap and place in fridge to rest for 30 minutes.
4) Make into snow man shapes, preheat oven to 150 degrees Celcius
5)Bake for 15-20 minutes, take out before they start to brown. Take care when moving to a cooling rack as they break easily when still warm.
6) decorate with pen and sprinkle icing sugar.
Friday, 11 December 2009
So I decided I would ask my wise posse of readers what you think might be a good idea.
First let me give you a run down on my mum so you can see what kind of situation I'm in.
- My mum who is in her mid 50s, works in the middle of the forest as a manager of a catered lodge for hikers. That means no TV, no phones, no radio.
- She also sold her house before she started this job so has no permanent place of abode so I don't want to give her anything that takes up space or can't be "used up".
- She has sensitive skin and can only use certain types of cosmetics and creams.
- My sister is getting her earrings, so that's already taken.
Thursday, 10 December 2009
My teacher said we were "free" to do whatever we wanted. This is not as easy as it sounds as part of Ikebana involves following the "the rules" so not having any rules as such was kind of stressful and hard work. In the end we both managed to create interesting arrangements. We used painted branches, gerberas, baby's breath, some kind of leaves and some funny red flowers I forgot the name of.
Here is what I made:
And here is what we had for afternoon tea:
Monday, 7 December 2009
And I have to say it wasfairly steep too for the smallest size which was410yen.
So in the interest of science and world peace, I thought I should check out Tully's, one of Starbuck`s competitors.
Their Christmas coffee is two kinds of tiramisu flavours at 440yen for a small.
I would have to say Tully`s was nicer.
Google is also supposedly offering 30 mins of freewireless internet at certain Tully`s so I whipped out my ipod touch but that didnt seem to be the case at that particular shop. (~ヘ~；)
I did get a point card and if I drink a mere 15 cups I can get a free one. That should take me several years and about 5000yen!w(°0°)w
Sunday, 6 December 2009
My cack phone camera kicked K's phone's camera's proverbial rear end!
So here are some of my favourite photos from today:
This time we were given 50 minutes to recreate the arrangement I practiced a few weeks ago involving daffodils and mossy looking stuff.
All I have to say is that 50 minutes is so not enough time and when they were calling 5 minutes to go I still didn't have half of my moss in place! So I was panicking a bit and all the other students had left the hall whilst I and my neighbour tried to finish our arrangements as best we could. We didn't get kicked out or anything but it was close!
Then a Big Sensei who gets brought in from out of town specially for the event goes around and gives a score of 85 (not so great), 90 good, 95 very good or an elusive 100 which is "perfect". If you get a score of 95 you get a certificate for your effort. So during this time all students are supposed to have left the room, but thankfully they started at the other end of the room so I just tried to get out of there before they got too close to our section.
So while the Big Sensei is doing his or her work, we students sit out in the hall and moan about how little time we had, if our flowers were not what we were expecting, or something like that until we called back in. If you get a 95 or 100 you get a placard on a stand showing your score to the whole room or you get zip. Today I was pleasantly surprised to see I had got 95 when we went back in, even though I obviously ran out of time.
When all the students are back, the Big Sensei gives a bit of a speech either about the finer points of each level's particular arrangement which is kind of boring or like today the Big Sensei will come around to each student and tell them the good points and possible improvements to their particular arrangement. I prefer this style personally as I'm sure most other students do too. Today I was told that my arrangement was very nicely done and that it would have been even better (100 perhaps Sensei??) if I had cut off one of the teeny tiny flowers at the back that I put between the daffodils. Unfortunately I had so little time I think I just ripped off something that looked half decent and stuck it there so I guess if I had had more time it might have been a 100 (^Q^)/ You can see the offending flower circled in red below (once again I apologise for terrible photography as used cell phone today:
Do I like these tests? Not really. I get rather stressed out with the time limits and having someone grade something you have poured your heart into is not always nice, except when they give you a 95 or a 100! But some good things about dragging yourself out of bed on a Sunday include: Seeing other student's arrangements in your level, seeing higher level students arrangements which gives you something to aspire to and as I progress further and further towards the back of the room (ie: the higher up the levels) I can see where I used to be and the progress I have made which is also gratifying. Today I saw some arrangements by students in the very beginning level and though their arrangements looked - I have to say - terrible to me now, that was me just a few years ago....was I really that bad?
So here is the arrangement the Big Sensei created for us. This photo doesn't do it justice as it kind of looks like a bird made it's nest in the middle of it, but IRL it was very cool.
But there you go, that is it in a nutshell. I hope that clears that up for anyone thinking about joining cause it's always nice to know these things in advance!
Friday, 4 December 2009
Sorry to have kept you waiting for this week's instalment of Ikebana.
Now we only have 2 lessons left for the rest of the year, just so you can prepare yourselves for a drought of Ikebana postings over the Christmas and New Year holidays.
This week we were working with daffodils again. We had to disect and reassemble 5 of them! Talk about painstaking work. My classmate and I managed to accidentally pull off the leaves and break them which was almost a major emergency until our teacher showed us how to use scissors to cut the remaining leaf into the appropriate shape and all was right with the world again. Whew! Sometimes it really is what tricks you know that can make your ikebana look just that much better.
So today's style is called "Narabu katachi" or the "Lined up style" using daffodils and teeny weeny chrysanthymums I have never seen before but are unusually cute and a great colour.
I appologise for quality of photos, I am certainly not going to win "Photographer of the year"!
So here is what I made:
Totally unrelated to this post is my Christmas Tree that I bought yesterday. I found it at ToysRUs for about 2,000yen. I like the fibre optic lights in the tree so you don't have to worry about hanging lights on it and when the bulb goes under the tree you just put in a new one so no dead bulbs on the tree either. It's only 60cms tall which is about all our apartment can handle but I have come to like it even if it is a little cheesy. Especially the little "Merry Christmas" sign. Last night I could have sworn the tree smelt like pine. Today it smells like plastic. Oh well.
Thursday, 3 December 2009
They are also taking orders for Stollen or German Christmas cake!(・・?)Well at least it is something resembling Stollen.
Just so you know. (^-^)
Here are some photos of Christmas in Germany.
This year Christmas day falls on a Friday. This is rather unfortunate as it means my husband will have to go to work because it is just a regular work day here in Japan. Though I guess I should be grateful it doesn't fall on Saturday this year cause that would mean I would have to go to work.
After having spent the last 3 Christmases in Germany, Christmas capital of the world, I am feeling very low about this Christmas this year. No Gluhwein, no cinnamon cookies or quaint Christmas markets. Just rather tacky light displays at the train station and adverts for Christmas cakes that cost 2-3,000 yen.
So I think Japan needs to do more to get ME into the Christmas spirit.
Of course, I don't miss the madness of the pre-Christmas rush of people buying presents and waiting in a line a mile long at the supermarket on Christmas Eve cause no shops are going to be open for 2 days.
So how are you all handling Christmas this year?
K and I have decided to have our Christmas on Christmas Eve I think, at least that way if I drink too much champagne I don't have to go to work early the next day. I'm not sure what we are going to have but it won't be anything of the turkey or chicken variety. Possibly 和牛, Japanese beef since that is expensive and a big treat for K. Maybe I will get some KFC...
In the mean time I am off to buy some kind of Christmas tree today.
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
When I was young, we always had music playing at our house. Nothing flash like classical music played on a piano or anything, just records, tapes and CDs of my parents music playing all the time.
My Mum and her best friend would get together occasionally for a night of dancing, drinking and singing in the lounge - just the two of them blasting music like "Dance to my 10 guitars" and show us their Tahitian style hula skills that my mum learnt way before I was even a twinkle in my father's eye. Us kids would dance and sing along too until we were asleep on our feet. Good times.
Now I'm wondering what music I will subject any future offspring to....
Now my head is a repository for a large amount of country and western songs, old school Irish music, crooner music and every west end musical. Last week a co-worker gave me a CD which had a lot of remixed old school songs. So my current favourite is: Julio Igelsias (I kind of had a crush on him when I about 6 cause he looked pretty hot on his cassette cover and I understand women used to/still do? thrown their knickers on the stage at his concerts) Moonlight lady mixed with Beyonce singing "Lose my breath" - the songs go together surprisingly well.
Songs from my childhood also remind me of cleaning. Mostly cause we would be doing our "Saturday morning cleaning routine" which involved my mum turning up the stereo whilst we all did our chores together. We also had a lot of lip synching performances in our living room for lack of anything better to do in a small country town. It was so much fun and very wholesome entertainment and I must say my 5 year old sister could really belt out Whitney Houston as well as songs from "South Pacific".
Christmas is coming in just 3 weeks. So that means time to dust off the ultimate Christmas album. Yes, that's right.
THE BONEY M CHRISTMAS ALBUM
This cassette was played every Christmas until we no longer had a tape player and that tape was so mangled and chewed. A few years ago my sister discovered a CD version somewhere and now I have my trusty Boney M Christmas Album on my ipod and it is still my family's christmas music of choice.