Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Braving the Dentist in Japan

There will be a lot tired and disappointed soccer fans in Japan today. I have yet to turn on the box and see how badly everyone is taking it. I can only hope that soccer will disappear from our screens very very soon. I feel bad for the team since it all came down to a ball hitting the cross bar and bouncing the wrong way. I also felt bad for my husband who stayed up to nearly 2am to see Japan lose. He had to get up at 6:30. I stayed in bed and snored my head off until nearly 8am.

Today I made an appointment at the dentist. I hate to admit it but it has been well over a year since I last visited one. I had a very negative view of the dentists in Japan. I have mistakenly been blaming them for the state of the nations teeth. There are so many people with seriously terrible teeth here. Now I realise I can't really blame the dentist for that. They can't make people brush, floss and go for regular check ups. One thing that Japan lacks if fluoride in the water, that helps to strengthen teeth and prevent cavities. The other thing is that dental treatment is terribly cheap here, as it is covered by insurance, so most people don't go for regular check ups until there is something really wrong because fixing the problem doesn't cost that much really, so why pay for prevention?
I sometimes see small children with black teeth which makes me shudder. I have also seen Junior high school aged kids with missing teeth, teeth sticking out at all angles or teeth so yellow you would think they had been drinking coffee for 20 years.

So I have decided to get over my personal dislike of going to the dentist and made an appointment with one near where my new house is. My Ikebana teacher lives in the a same area so she recommended her dentist to me. Another benefit of this particular dentist is they have a reservation system. Many don't. You just show up and wait your turn. The last dentist I visited in Japan had 5 chairs in one room and you sat there and waited for someone to come and look in your mouth whilst listening to everyone else get their teeth drilled and what not. My new dentist at least has some partitions so you can have some privacy. I find that infinitely better although I would prefer to have a private room. Oh well. Another thing that is slightly annoying is that even a simple thing such as getting a filling done will take about 3 or more visits, instead of the 1, 2 max in NZ. I'm not sure about the whole process but it can be very drawn out, which must put people off too if they are busy. Who really wants to find time to go to the dentist 3 times! It is bad enough having to show up once every six months.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Early onset of forgetfulness??

I've been doing some rather weird stuff in the last few days.

I have:
  • gone shopping without my wallet
  • left a pair of flower snips at my Ikebana teacher's house and forgot to even take my camera with me
OK, so that is only 2 things but very unusual for me to forget stuff like that, even DH AND my teacher commented that it was very unlike me.
I have been forgetful in the past but that was usually connected to some major life changing event which is apparently normal. However, at the moment my life is reasonably calm and I have no pregnancy/new born baby to blame it on either....can I blame it on my house perhaps? Not that it's causing me a lot of stress right now anyway.

I can remember tons of useless things like what happened in this or that TV show/movie or how so and so was mean to me 2 years ago or anything that involves holding a grudge. Am still pretty good at hanging on to my "baggage".

When did y'all start feeling like you were getting more forgetful??

In other news:

I have just come back from my monthly Ikebana test. I managed to make a really good arrangement or so I thought. The Big Sensei said that "Maybe the main branch is perhaps a tad too long" - which means "Your main branch is too long but I don't want to hurt your feelings because you might quit".
Us students seem to have all the power these days. I sometimes think we practically get points for showing up. (´艸`).

Anyway, lets hope this week isn't as hot as last week but it's not off to a good start so far!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

What would you do

with a half a can of coconut milk left over from making a curry?

I have spent ages on "Cookpad" - the Japanese online "go to" for recipes and came up with lots but none that really really took my fancy.
I ended up making a batch of cookies which turned out ok, but calorific and still half a can left...
Oh yeah and it has to be simple and made with ingredients around the home. (o^。^o)....Any suggestions?

DH and I are having a "gourmet tour of the world without leaving home" thing on the weekends. This is to quench our need to travel to exotic places but since we are both poor and increasingly lazy (and I now have trouble sleeping in beds that aren't my own, and don't even get me started on sleeping on planes), we have been trying to make some really kick ass food in our pathetic excuse for a kitchen. A few weeks ago it was the Seafood Pasta, today it was a "Indian style curry" (she says with BIG quotation marks as have never actually been to India) made with spices and not from a block of condensed sauce called "Curry Roux"as is the norm here. I also decided to attempt making naan. Both the curry and the naan were surprisingly good considering our complete lack of experience. Even the naan kind of looked naanish.... there is a photo but as you may already know my photo skills are such that I am able to make most food look completely unappealing, so you will just have to imagine something brown and curry like with some naan like bread next to it.
The success with the curry has encouraged us to try something else.
Not sure what it's going to be: perhaps a Paella?

Then I had the bright idea that DH should build a brick wood fire pizza oven in the back yard of our new house. How cool would that be?!?!
How long would it take for the neighbours to call the police the first time we tried to use it????
It turns out that various companies now make microwaves/ovens that are like a stone oven and produce real pizzas and crusty baguettes! And they start at about 50,000 yen....
Or I could buy one of these or one of these....
But that would kind of go against my rule of not buying kitchen appliances that only do one thing...

Friday, 25 June 2010

Please let it all be over with quickly

Last night I didn't finish work until nearly midnight. Just in time to start monitoring the NZ vs Paraguay game. At about 00:30 I looked out the window and noticed that every single light in the other houses in the neighbourhood was out. Now that is strange I thought. Why is everyone in bed so early tonight? There are usually a few night owls around here.....*click* They were all getting some shut eye before waking up early to watch the Japan vs Denmark game at 3am.
DH was himself in bed at 9pm.
I stayed up late and watched Italy get thrashed by Slovakia while I waited and hoped for the 0-0 score to change to 0-1 to NZ. No luck there, but we did not finish last in our group, that honour goes to ex-World Champions ITALY!!!
So there is something to be said for not being "Billy"(Billy means "last" in Japanese - not sure why sorry).

The rest of the world may not care be aware, but Japan won it's place in the next round in the Soccer World Cup after a 3-1 win over Denmark early this morning Japan time. So that means that all day we have had replays and news from every single angle,  including the surge in demand for water at 4amish - precisely half time, when Japanese toilets flushed millions of times in however long half time would think they had won the world cup already. Now they are dissecting the Paraguayan team, and I would like to say, as an "Official Armchair Expert on Soccer" since last week, that if NZ can hold them to a 0-0 draw, then Japan had better beat them!

DH was in a good mood this morning and I think he may have even been HUMMING. DH doesn't hum, so I guess he is really happy about Japan's success even though he dislikes soccer immensely.
Me? I hope that this madness doesn't go on for too much longer. I really can not stand having all my favourite programs knocked off the air and replaced with re-runs of games that most people probably recorded anyway. I wonder if there was a surge in accidents of all kinds today due to a nation of already sleep deprived people having had even less sleep?

This Week's Ikebana

Hello Everyone

This week we practiced using tree branches. There is a definite skill to picking a branch, deciding which style will suit it the most, cutting away some of the branch and leaves to show the branch in its best light. I'm still a relative novice at it but with the advice of my teacher I managed to pick a reasonable branch and made a reasonable arrangement.

So here is what I did:

Here is what my teacher did:

As you can see, still a big difference in skill between me and my teacher - which is as it should be!

For afternoon tea we drank some black vinegar.....yes that's right, drinking vinegar is a favourite thing of the Japanese to do, and especially in summer. Drinking 15mls of vinegar watered down (or you will ruin your stomach and throat) is supposed to help ward off summer malaise, reduce fat around your stomach and generally make you healthier. It's also refreshing, especially with a little sugar : ).

Monday, 21 June 2010

Good Work All Whites!

For those of you who don't know, the NZ Soccer team is not called the "All Blacks" like our rugby team but in fact the "All Whites", as they have an all white uniform. Our soccer team consists of several professional players who play in various major leagues and some players who are not even affiliated to a particular club and or have day jobs.
New Zealand ranks 78th in the world and has a whole 25 professional players (as opposed to Italy's 3541 players).
Going into the tournament I said I would be stoked if New Zealand scored one goal during the whole thing. Not only have they done that, they have scored 2 goals and have not been beaten yet (for me a draw is practically a win and it's not like it was 0-0 draw either).
The result of last night's game against Italy was also a pleasant surprise when I woke up this morning.
I couldn't stay awake long enough to watch the game live but now I'm beginning to think that I should probably keep NOT watching them, don't want to jinx them.

So here is my little message to the All Whites: Keep doing what you are doing boys cause whatever it is it is working, be proud but stay humble (a most important quality in the heady excitement of the World Cup).


Sunday, 20 June 2010

Sweltering Sunday

Today was, as the title suggests, rather hot here in Gaijin Houswife Land. We were lucky in that we could escape the heat to the office of the house building company that is not at all stingy with the air conditioning, nor the cups of iced tea or coffee, bless their hearts.

Today we had the mammoth task of finalising the wall paper for each room (including the wall paper they will put on the roof of each room, which we totally forgot to consider during our preparation at home of looking through the wall paper books). People don't tend to paint here so we have to flip through books and books of anaglypter in various shades of white, cream and all the rest of the hideous ones. I had some fabulous ideas which DH kind of freaked out at, so I just said: "Oh ok, we won't do it then". 30 minutes later DH had come round to my idea after all. It involves what colour we will make the ceiling in our tatami (rice mat) room. Now I just have to decide exactly what colour that will be. Easier said than done. We also tried to pick a feature wall colour/pattern for our bedroom but that didn't go too well either. After about 3 hours of looking at wall paper books I was feeling totally over the whole thing, so we are going to leave it for a couple of weeks and come back to it as we have plenty of time.

We have two people who are in charge of our project. One is doing On the Job Training and the other is a seasoned expert on the whole process. When only OJT boy is there we can do very simple things easily enough like decide where to put a light switch but when it comes to choosing colours for anything he is not very helpful, what with all his no experience and all. The other guy who is in charge of OJT boy is amazingly helpful, figures out what will work best in the room that matches what you kind of want. Tells you examples of things that didn't turn out well etc. I pointed out several wall paper kinds that I liked and he said "Oh I have that one in my living room/entrance etc". I'm pretty sure he is not jerking my chain about that so I figure I can trust his sense to point me in the right direction. OJT boy is a super sweetie though so I hope he does well in the future.

Friday, 18 June 2010

This Week's Ikebana

Hi Everyone

We are back to usual programming this week with "This Week's Ikebana".

This week I was practicing for the test at the end of the month using the vase I was having so much trouble with last time and nearly "threw all the toys out of the cot", to use my Mum's expression. I was in a much calmer frame of mind this week and I even got a little out of my comfort zone and did an arrangement I hardly ever do called "Sticking out to the side" style. It's not really called that, just what I call it.

So here is what I did:

Here is what my teacher did:
Same flowers just a different style (called standing up style in Gaijin Housewife speak)

For afternoon tea I had a cold Vitamin C drink and some special gummi type candy from Kyuushuu.

I also go this as a souvenir from my teacher's trip there.

She didn't go to Huis Ten Bosch but this cake is supposed to be really famous ever since someone from EXILE (famous boy band) went on Hanamaru Market (A morning TV show aimed at housewives) and brought this along for everyone to try. I had a piece of it last night for desert and it was yummy.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Buying a piece of land in Japan (not in a big city).

On Monday DH and I became real grown ups and handed over an astoundingly large sum of money for a rather small piece of land. It is all relative though. In Tokyo, our piece of land would have 2 houses squished onto it and would cost double or triple what we paid for it. Our small piece of land is infact big enough for our decent sized house with 3 car spaces to park our one whole car and still a decent sized garden. That is the benefit of not living in a big city. Possibly the only one though. I shouldn't compare it to NZ, but kind of hard not to when that is what you know from growing up there. Anyway, it is all going to be fantastic in the long run and I am going to love living there.

Since the piece of land we bought was owned by the government we had a really cruisy ride to get it. We just rocked up to the office, said: "Hey we want this piece". Wrote down our name and address and didn't need to cough up a single yen until the settlement date about 4 months later! What a great system! On settlement day DH had to transfer various amounts of money which involved going to the bank and filling out 10 pieces of paper which all require you to write your address on them. For crying out loud! Is that really necessary? I think not. How about just writing your customer number? Then we went to the land office place and DH had to fill out another 10 forms and write his address on them all... that I can kind of understand, but really, is that information necessary? Probably not.
Some other ridiculous things: in order to buy the land, we had to pay in addition to the price, a set amount of money to a fund to build a local meeting hall...What a load of crap. That should have been included in the price of the land if it was compulsory. Then there are also a long line of bureaucratic offices that line up to get some money off you for doing sweet F.A..
My favourite part was when we had to buy one of those stamps that cost 10,000 yen (about NZ$150) to pay for some bloody thing or other.

After all the business was over, we got a little "gift" from the land office to say thank you....
Now don't get your hopes up. Remember, I told you guys about the kinds of gifts that you sometimes get in Japan.... products, laundry poweder etc.....

So they gave us a box of:

For those of you who can't read Japanese, from the top it's a roll of baking paper, two rolls of plastic wrap in two different sizes, and zip lock Tupperware container and a box of ziplock bags.
I will be able to add that to the 3 rolls of plastic wrap I was given on various visits to the show home village. I am kind of thankful though as we are going to be a lot poorer in the near future so we can save some money on kitchen products!

We have also purchased our very first tree seedling. The housing company will happily provide us with a decent sized tree for the tidy sum of 35,000 yen if we want but we decided to get our own and plant it when it gets bigger.
So I got a
Kowhai Tree! An iconic New Zealand tree with yellow flowers.

This is what it looks like now:

And this is what it will look like when/if it gets bigger. I'm a bit worried about the name plate it came with: It says Little Baby....does that mean it's a bonsai Kowhai tree? Oh well I don't mind if I have to keep it inside forever.

My other idea for a tree for our garden is a Pohutukawa Tree, also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree, which are also easy enough to get here.
So I am going to create a NZ style garden in Japan. Well as much as that is possible due to the weather here. Thankfully we live in the cooler part of Japan in the summer and it's not that cold in winter...

Friday, 11 June 2010

Flower Arrangement for beginners

I don't have an Ikebana class this week so there will unfortunately be no "This week's Ikebana" post. However, I think there might be a few readers who every week after reading my post wish they could do something with flowers around their house that is easy and cheap and perhaps they might have a few flowers in their garden or be able to snaffle some easily enough from the roadside somewhere.

I was watching DON! the other day at lunch time when they had this segment on arranging flowers using stuff around your house and very few materials.
The first arrangement was using two glasses that one might (and I say might) have around the house. They are placed one inside the other to make an interesting vase. One flower is placed in the outer glass artistically.
The expert then added a little something extra by putting in some bendy straw type grass.
Next they used just a single rose with a single piece of "bear grass". It think the look is rather striking and one anyone could do if they had a spare rose and spare blade of longish grass and a spare long glass vase.
The next arrangement uses 3 different glasses with different levels of water in them (add to the whole thing I think) with just a couple of random flowers plopped in there and a few blades of grass.
Finally he arranged some small branches that anyone with a garden would surely end up with at some point, tied nicely and then a tiny bit of green and cute little flower added and displayed in a dish. Lovely.

So I hope some of you are little inspired!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Gaijin Housewife tries Nordic Walking

A few years ago when we were living in Germany, DH took an interest in the nordic walking poles that a lot of people use when they go out walking in the park. DH usually has back pain after walking for even a reasonably short length of time so I thought he might as well get a pair as I had heard they were good for relieving stress from your back when walking. It turned out that he never really got a chance to use them until last weekend when we were doing a big walk around a park here in town. He said afterwards I should take them out for a spin as he felt like he had worked out a lot harder than just walking briskly for 40 minutes.

So today I got my sports gear on, got the poles and set off round the park. I was probably doing it all wrong but bloody hell, I was puffing lightly on the flat bits which means I was working a lot harder than usual. Walking up the hills was easier than usual as the poles do propel you forward slightly. I feel like my arms, chest, back and tummy muscles got a much better work out than just power walking. I have since read an online tutorial and figured out how to do it better next time...probably should have looked at that first :P

I got a few interested looks from other fellow walkers but when you are already a foreigner, how much more weird is a foreigner with two walking poles?
Last Sunday DH and I were joking that we would start a new trend at our park and soon everyone would have nordic walking poles, 10 minutes later we came across another couple who were both using them. So I guess we won't be the trend setters after all. Now I just have to work out where to get another set from as I thought DH and I could share the set we have but now I don't think I want to go without them when he comes with me, that's how taken I am with them!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

DH attempts Italian

Today DH and I made Frutti di Mare, or Seafood pasta for lunch from scratch complete with squid, scallops, cockels and rather a lot of surimi - but the nicer stuff, not the really fake stuff. Okay so this picture kind of makes our pasta look like crap, but you get the idea, right?

Unfortunately we only had some fettuccine which didn't really match but it was still quite nice.
DH was in charge of standing in front of the gas cooker and stirring everything, adding stuff and was official taste tester whilst I opened cans of tomatoes, cut up squid, etc to be passed to the "chef" along with tidying up as we went throwing out scraps etc.
So in the end we gave ourselves a 6.5 out of 10 because noodles weren't right and there wasn't enough fish stock in it (just as I was saying but DH reckons he didn't hear me - too busy stirring) but we saved ourselves 1,000 yen by not going out to lunch at a restaurant which kind of makes up for it.

I actually enjoy our joint cooking efforts and am looking forward to in 3 months or so when we won't have to crash into each other all the time in our new (slightly more) spacious kitchen.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Saturday with GHW

Today was a big day in the Gaijin House Wife (GHW)household. I went to work and DH went to see our plot of land with our soon to be built house all measured out on it with ropes. So you heard it here first. GHW  is going to be a property owner and soon have her very own abode to clean and moan about the cleaning of.
I was rather peeved that DH and the house builder rep went round the neighbours and greeted them and told them we will be building as of early next month. I wanted to be there for that so they could all get a shock and then have plenty of time to get over themselves before we move in. 

Somethings I saw today that made me chuckle. On my way to meet DH after work I was riding the escalator and saw a bunch of high school boys sitting on some seats on the floor I was just about to arrive at. One had a A3 size hand mirror out and was peering at himself.....I'm not sure if he had an eyelash stuck in his eye or maybe his contact lense was giving him jip but more than likely he was plucking his eyebrows. I wanted to point and and laugh like that kid on the Simpsons who says "HA HA!"
And where on earth did he get a giant hand mirror from? There weren't any girls to be seen and so I can only assume it was either his or one of his friends....

Then on my news website I see the breaking story that Mariah Carey and her hubby have been discussing baby names. Hmmm....DH and I started doing that seriously about 2 years ago and are still DINKS. And I am 10 years younger than Mariah is..... SO I hate to break it to you , ah, Nick is it? Well just cause you started thinking bout names and you are leaving it up to God, well don't expect any results any time soon cause we are way ahead of you guys in line and I've got eggs of a 25 year old and still no love here...

Friday, 4 June 2010

This Week's Ikebana

Yesterday was Ikebana day again.

I struggled with the issue of what to wear. I wanted to wear my walking clothes so I could go to the park straight after and do my big walk but that seemed like it might be a bit of social faux pas. Going outside wearing track pants is usually only for when you are actually exercising. My husband refused to let me go to the supermarket with him wearing trackpants once because it was too embarrasing. So now I at least "dress up" and put on jeans. On the other hand wearing an apron to the supermarket here is completely OK....
So I decided to go with the sports wear and to hell with it. It didn't really matter as there were no other students in the class to impress, only my teacher who never seems to be fazed by my crazy foreign ways.

Today we did a traditional style of arrangement using cala lillies and a kind of peony. I love the combination of the colours.

This is what I did:

And this is what my teacher did:

Just the colour of the vase changes how the arrangement looks.

I had Japanese plum juice and fruit jelly for afternoon tea. Very refreshing and fortifying for my big walk. On my walk I noticed some new signs around the park that weren't there before.....

"Watch out for snakes jumping out"


Thursday, 3 June 2010

Perils of Navigation Equipment

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

This picture took my fancy today as we used to have a TomTom navi when we were in Germany and my husband wouldn't even drive to the supermarket without it....even though he knew the way....and it didn't even give traffic updates. Sometimes we went on really cockamimi routes as DH would ignore the signs and only follow the navi. That is not a great idea. New roads are being built all the time and your navi will only have the maps for what was up to date when you bought it. And sometimes it just gives you crap advice.

Navigating is not fun in Japan. There are very few roads that have a name, the big ones tend to at least have a number. I don't live on a street with a name, I live "On the road that goes behind the 7-11 as you come into town, just past the agriculture/home centre.
After one night on the way back from some amazing (in Japan anyway) waterfall, we followed the navi's suggestion of route to avoid toll roads. We ended up on a road that would more aptly be named a goat track. Was only wide enough for 1.3 cars so you just had to hope that the person coming the other way was expecting to meet oncoming traffic (most people who drive on these roads seem to be terribly surprised to find another car on THEIR road). At one point there was also snow on the road (we were in the back of the mountains, far from help by now) and I fully expected to come across a drug deal, someone dumping a body, or a ghost. Eventually we made it back to the main road, I was not the only one, DH was also quite scared.

So now we navigate as a team. I look at the road signs and compare it with what the navi is saying and then DH mostly ignores me and just does what the navi says and we usually get where we are going but sometimes in a round about fashion.
We usually drive to Narita airport  when we are going overseas together and it always astounds me how, on the way home, DH always takes the same wrong turn that leads us to the parking lot of the big JUSCO instead of heading towards Tsukuba...

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Gaijin Housewife tries Aromatherapy

Have been absent from blogging due to unforseen circumstances. Sorry bout that.

On Monday morning I had my very first ever try at Aromatherapy.

A friend of a friend's friend was running the course, so I went along to "Making a deodorant spray".

Having only dabbled with having an oil burner in my house which DH hates (super sensitive nose and taste buds), I was surprised how much I enjoyed the class. After an hour an a half of being surrounded by different smells I felt distinctly more calm than when I arrived.

The spray (which you can also use as a room or car freshener), was also easy peasy to make. Just some vodka, distilled water and a few drops of our choice of oils. I chose peppermint, orange and bergamot (something that often appears in perfumes). It was quite a fresh smell.

The next class in two weeks time is making a perfume, which will be a lot stronger smelling than the spray I made the other day.

So a new calmer me, here I come!