Mmm, it was good soup. Posted by Hello

We made pumpkin soup and served it in real pumpkin bowls. Posted by Hello

Look what they gave us at the Halloween party! Posted by Hello

Pumpkin and pirate Posted by Hello


Sniffles All Around

L has been home from kindergarten all week with a cold and now the girls are sniffling as well. The girls are all getting ready for the school drama festival which will be held in November. Mom and Dad attended J's festival four years ago. This year the first graders are doing a Japanese folk tale and N will be kappa no. 17 of 23 kappas, fictional turtle-like almost human prankster creatures. M's grade will do a story about elephants in pre and post war Japan. She'll be a circus acrobat with no solo lines. J will be in the music pit for their production of the Wizard of Oz. The teacher asked the children with the book at home to bring it to school so they could share and read to get a good idea of the entire story. Nobody wanted to share with J because we only had a nice reproduction of the original book in English but J was glad to have such a nice copy.


J plays a game Posted by Hello

Fishing for kiddies (with marshmallow bait) Posted by Hello

L and friend Posted by Hello

M, N and friend at a Halloween event Posted by Hello


Earthquakes - We're OK

There was a series of big earthquakes on the other side of Japan this evening and even our place in Tokyo was shaking for a few minutes several times. The kids all scrambled under the table right away for the first three quakes but didn't seem to notice any of the smaller, later tremors.

A special news bulletin has replaced the show the kids wanted to watch, and it looks like there has been some damage from loose (from all the rain we had last week and this) soil on hills avalanching and a single car was buried. Two deaths from fallen ceilings and 30 injuries have been reported. There is apparently no threat of tidal wave damage. One of the high speed bullet trains was lightly derailed but none of the passengers were injured.

The cameras in Tokyo showed swaying horizontal motion, but the Niigata cameras were jumping up and down. I am glad the damage is as small as it is, the quakes are similar in magnitude to the Kobe quakes which killed 6,400 people early one winter morning 9 years ago. At dinner time today, more people were awake and ready to follow their emergency plans.


A Busy Weekend

Our nephew and his wife and children decided they'd like to stop by on Sunday and were kind enough to call on Saturday and confirm that we'd be around. I told them that we'd be out in the morning supervising security at the annual kindergarten bazaar until at least 2 p.m. and that S would be gone all day, administering the autumn Standardized Tests of English Proficiency at our classroom. We decided that 3 p.m. would be OK and L and I baked a pumpkin cheesecake to cool and chill overnight.

Fritz called Saturday night with the news that he'd have some time Sunday afternoon after all and I gave him instructions to get the trains to our station. Then I went shopping to get some pork and vegetables to make a big pot of miso pork soup, like the soup we served at the "Welcome to Japan F&J Judo Rice Cake Drum Concert Jubilee" in case the nephew and his family decided to stay for dinner. S came home after the kids' judo lesson and asked me to press a white dress shirt for Sunday as the university judo club had asked him to referee at an inter collegiate judo meet after the English tests. I found a fairly fresh permanent press white shirt hanging in the closet and eliminated the ironing task from my list of things to do (like washing the big glass doors to the balcony and folding the pile of laundry that had accumulated after 6 rainy days).

Sunday morning I prepared a batch of rice, chicken and vegetables to cook in my rice cooker in a light broth of dried bonito and soy sauce, a little sake, salt and a dash of sugar so we'd have something to eat with our soup for dinner. After breakfast, S went to the classroom for the testing and the kids and I rode our bikes to the kindergarten to hang around from 9:30 to 1:30 shopping, playing games, eating and making sure there were no problems with kids climbing where they shouldn't, shoplifters or armed robbery (the tin box full of change would be a little noisy during an escape).

On our way to our bikes after the bazaar, the bazaar committee announced that the unsold items were available for the taking and N and L rushed over and grabbed a box each of Christmas decorations. J didn't appreciate the big boxes of Santa and a musical duo which looked like Barbie and Ken with instruments strapped on the back of her bike on the way home. I did find a few good costumes for Halloween for L & N; Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. J & M got lots of yarn for their cardboard box knitting project and also a bag full of Hello Kitty stuffed dolls (just like the grungy ones I threw out a few weeks ago, but in brand new condition).

We rushed home in time to vacuum and answer the phone to find that Fritz was on his way. I asked him to call from a closer station so I could meet him at our station and continued to rush, putting all the stuff that the kids brought home from the bazaar away before their cousin and his family arrived. When Fritz called, I told the kids to stay home and wait for the cousin while I went to the station. I met the cousin on my way out to the street and explained where I was off to and that I'd be back soon.

The kids were all playing happily with their cousins (once removed) when I got back with Fritz and some fried chicken and wakame (seaweed) and octopus salad we bought at the deli (thanks, Fritz) to compliment the soup and rice. Nobody noticed the large clear bag full of Christmas presents from Grandma and Grandpa which were carried to the back room and hidden in the closet with all of the laundry that I hadn't been able to fold on Saturday. I worry about the durability of the paper door holding all of these things behind it.

We decided to eat the cheesecake first in case Fritz had to leave before dessert to get back to the base. 3 o'clock is snacktime anyway, so the inlaws, who had brought some snacks as a housegift, didn't think anything of starting with dessert. With 10 people crowded around the table, I couldn't maneuver very well so I asked Fritz to cut and serve for me. The kids all had a good time "garnishing" their pieces with whipped cream from a squeeze tube and J had 3 pieces. With more than a pound of cream cheese, I knew the recipe would be good.

In spite of the rich snack at 3, the soup and rice sold well at an early dinner and S even came home for about 90 seconds to drop some things off and say hello before returning to the judo meet and his usual evening classes. I left the kids with the inlaws and walked Fritz back to the station a little after 6 so he could get back to the base a little after 7. The inlaws stayed until 8:30 and carried a big bag full of Hello Kitty dolls home with them on the train (Hurray!). S came home at 9 and seemed surprised but perhaps relieved that everyone had left.

Fritz had plans to fly on Monday, but had to stay put while a mechanical problem was repaired, postponing his flight to Tuesday. We made tentative plans to get together on Wednesday or Thursday.

Typhoon number 23 was working its way through Japan on Wednesday, necessitating Fritz and his crew to fly to another part of Japan late Wednesday afternoon. It looks like we won't see him again this trip. We really enjoyed having him here on Sunday and the inlaws were quite happy to meet him.

L was home Monday with no school after the big bazaar on Sunday.

Uncle Fritz! Posted by Hello


The rain stopped long enough for L and his classmates to go on a picnic today. Posted by Hello

New Bicycle for M

I mentioned to a friend that M had outgrown her bicycle and 3 days later another friend called wanting to know if we'd like the bike her 5th grade daughter had outgrown. They had been ready to call the city trash disposal division to register to have it carted away for 600 yen when they (Oh, oh, oh) heard it through the grapevine that we might appreciate a hand-me-down bike. They called to drop it off today and M was ecstatic about not having to ride the tiny pink toddler bike she'd been using for the past 6 years. I'll bake brownies tomorrow to thank them.

Now I have to see about finding someone with whom to exchange baked goods for a bigger bike for J so she can let N have her clunker. L still rides in the front or back seat of my bike and will probably be wanting a bike soon too. Too bad the old pink bike is too trashed to bother spray painting black not to mention even trying to give away to some little girl. I guess we'll have to accept the 300 yen fee for disposal of children's bikes to clean up the bike parking area downstairs.

It's a good thing that most of the women in our neighborhood don't bake much, even if they have ovens. It makes my brownies a valuable commodity.


L enjoyed his kindergarten sports day. Note the pile of handmade (to kindergarten spec) tote bags behind him. Posted by Hello

N and J drew a losing ticket at a summer festival, but they looked good in their yukatas (cotton summer kimonos) anyway. Cotton candy cures all. Posted by Hello

Korean BBQ

The weather failed to clear up after Saturday's typhoon, forcing us to stay home all 3 days of our long weekend. Trudging home after my Monday afternoon classes, I was delighted when S. gave me 7,000 yen and told me that I should take the kids out for dinner at the Korean BBQ place down the street. He had classes and couldn't join us, but the kids gorged on the spicy grilled slivers of meat and barely had room for ice cream from another shop on the way home.


Typhoon No. 22

A national holiday on Monday, Sports Day, means that the kids have a 3 day weekend. We're hoping to cycle to a large grassy park a few miles away for a picnic but it looks like rain tomorrow. In fact, there have been warnings that utility poles and the likes may be blown over in the impending typhoon. I guess I better bike over to the store in the rain tonight and get some milk and more squid (how could we already be out of squid?!).

If we can get N and L to play together, maybe the girls and I can actually play an entire game of Monopoly.


Here's the "after" shot. As usual, they spent more time with the thinning shears than they did with the shampoo, cut and styling all together. I think the girl got more practice than she was expecting. Posted by Hello

Okay, here's the "before" photo...about 6 weeks before but not so different than this morning (same shape, slightly smaller). Posted by Hello


Grand Openings and free haircuts

A new store of a national supermarket chain had it's Grand Opening today. Two years ago Walmart acquired the majority of stocks so they've been here in Japan reorganizing the franchise. The head honcho and a few high level ex-pats were there with a translator to welcome customers and greet the new staff. One of them admitted to me that Walmart still doesn't really have a grasp on the market here, but are pleased with how the chain has been adapting to the new logistics. I imagine that an entire wall dedicated to fresh seafood is new to Walmart. Squid were only 100 yen each so I bought a bunch to gut, skin and freeze for sashimi.

The guy said that his kids go to the American school near here. He seemed glad to have a chance to talk with a customer without a translator and a bunch of photographers. I was relieved about the lack of photographers in the frozen foods section as my hair is absolutely awful these days; no shape, too much volume (especially the 86 percent of my hair which constitutes my bangs), frizzy out of control...

Anyway, I noticed a sign at a local hair salon recruiting "cut models" and walked in to inquire if my medium short blob (alas, not bob...) could be of any service to their trainees. They said that as long as I agreed to let them cut at least an inch, that they would be glad to practice on me. I'm scheduled for shearing tomorrow at 7:10 p.m., after the store closes for the day. I guess I should take a before picture and an after picture, not that it will make a difference after I wash it at home a few days later. It'll just be an inch smaller all around.

A September bike ride to a neighborhood park. Posted by Hello


More kitchen help. (Mont Blanc cakes made to use the several pounds of chestnuts we picked up on the campus of a nearby university after judo practice) Posted by Hello

Clean up crew member

Cleanup Help '04 Posted by Hello

Pumpkin Fun Posted by Hello

Newbie to blogging

Well, here I am in cyberspace trying to figure out how to post a photo of our previous pumpkin. It may take until Halloween as I'm not as fast as my connection.

A few minutes later and...Whoo hooo! There it is!