Monday, February 15, 2010


Or, maybe, Setsu-buns.  A bit late (Setsubun was the 3rd), but it's my favorite festival (apart from all those Japanese festivals featuring slim young men in loin cloths, or less, which never seem to take place anywhere close enough for me to get to...).  There's just something deliciously wacky about standing in the doorway throwing beans outside while shouting "devils out!" (an appropriate sentiment after being shut up all winter).  When you throw beans back inside whilst shouting "happiness in!", you're supposed to eat one bean for each year old you are.  So Koshi ate 9, Teddy ate 7, Cici ate 6, and Mommy declined because she didn't feel like eating *that* damn many beans...

And since we live in the Land of the Eternal Cute, I figured I should share pics of the cream buns I found at the pastry shop.  Little oni buns, love it:

Horns, fangs, and custard cream filling!  Happy setsubun!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Do you Look Like Yourself?

My eldest was at home today because he'd hurt his neck (playing with papa, of course) the day before. We sat and looked through a book of his baby/toddler pictures, something he doesn't normally show much interest in doing. Come to think of it, I got the book out for him to look at when I was putting away his sister's baby book. For some reason, the younger two love looking at their baby pictures and having me tell them how cute they were--not Koshi. Embarrassing. I knew this, so I said, "wait--here's mommy's favorite" so he'd look. Then we went back to the beginning with the 5- and 6-month old photos, and kept looking, up through 9 months, a year, a year and a half, two, almost three. At which point, he suddenly said, "That looks like me!" Circa 2-going-on-three he finally thought the little boy in the photo looked like the little boy he sees in the mirror every day. Of course, I, who have seen him every day of his life, think that all the pictures look like him. But it did give me a queer feeling. Those photos weren't taken all that long ago (he's only 9), but still, I suppose an immigration agent wouldn't be able to connect his now face with that darling (sorry) baby face. It started me thinking about the snapshots we carry around in our heads of all the people we know, some of whom we see all the time, some of whom we haven't seen in ages. It's such a shock to suddenly think of someone you haven't seen "for a while", and realize that the three-year-old you taught English to must now be....(do the math, that was a decade ago)...13. Or 14. A teenager for crying out loud.

So...if she...weighs the same as a duck... I'm...41. Setting that thought gingerly to the side, I start thinking of other people for whom I have no updated mental snap. Step carefully around wondering what their mental snap of me looks like. Would the people I spent a year in Germany with think I look like me? I usually think I look more or less ok, but then I probably engage in a certain amount of mental photo retouching without really realizing I'm doing it. What if I actually look like somebody completely different now?

I had a dream about my mom and my grandma (who rarely comes to my dreams). We were in the kitchen in the house I grew up in. I looked at my mom, then at my grandma and thought, "wow--mom looks so much like grandma. When did she start looking so much like grandma?" Then my grandma walked out the backdoor. And I was terrified that my mom would follow her, because I knew if she went out the backdoor that I'd never see her again. I woke up crying and afraid. I never told anyone about that dream. About a year later, my mom told me she'd had a near death experience around that time.

Do I look like myself? Or sombody else and I just don't know it?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Weekly Origami--Ice Cream

Today's origami uses almost the same folds as the house, just going a different direction.  If your little one (around 3 to 4) can do the main 3 folds, mom or dad can nick the corners back to give it that rounded "scoop" look.  Use different colors of paper for different "flavors"--make lots and play "ice cream shop":))

So, first fold your paper in half and make a mountain (big triangle)--colored side outside if you want vanilla ice cream, colored side inside if you want a "flavor".  Then unfold--guide fold made!  Like this:

I'm making "chocolate" in the photo.  Next, fold one corner over to the guide line, carefully matching up the side edge to to guideline:

and fold the other side the same way in to the middle...

Done!  Chocolate ice cream in its simplest form, sans calories.  If this version satisfies your youngun', leave it at that.  If not, mom or dad can nick the corners back for the "scoop" effect, like this:

Make 31 Flavors and play "Ice Cream Store".  Put them away in an envelope and play again tomorrow:)  Or until they fall apart, get slobbered on, tear, or get eaten by the dog.

Don't think about fine motor skills--it'll spoil the fun.  Just make a bunch and enjoy!

Mata asobou, ne!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

And now for something completely different...

This has nothing to do with anything in particular, except I figure everybody needs a laugh.  Two things--
USB flash memory sticks and Kindergartners,  both of which have to do with Sushi.  (eh?)  Yes, sushi. 

Let me explain.  First, the kindergartners.  You wanted to see pics of 4-year-olds with sushi strapped to their heads, didn't you?  I thought so.  That's why I took some pics of the little first year kids at my daughter's kindergarten, even though I didn't know a one of them.  They were darling, jumping up and down and dancing to a song about Sushi going on a Picnic--every one of them with a different type of sushi strapped  like a hat to their heads.  The teachers *hand-make* all of those costumes out colored plastic trash bags, I'll have you know.  They work so hard, I figured somebody should know about it.  Here they are:

So the kindergartners have, what?, to do with USB flash memory?  Well, later the same day, I went up to Yodobashi Camera to look at a new video camera for us (since the old one is, well, Pre-Cambrian....) and serendipitously got off on the wrong floor.  Right in front of the media cards and USB stuff.  And there they were--only in Japan, I swear (I'm thinking about getting my sister one for her birthday:)):

Ikura, futomaki, ebi, shake--yeah , baby!  Take your pick.   I'm betting it's a toss-up between the ebi and the ikura for my sis...  I'm swimming in sushi today!  Which must be my excuse for this post. Ok, that's all the silliness anybody needs for one day--Thanks for having a look.

Mata asobou, ne!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How to Get Kids to Eat Spinach

Something that used to mystify me living here was how all the kids seemed to eat vegetables, more or less without quibble.  I remember watching a 5-year-old and his 3-year-old brother eating raw octopus like candy.  Wow--how do they do that?  I *know* I wouldn't have eaten octopus when I was 5...or 15... so how do they *do* that?  Mostly, I think, lack of pressure combined with "allowing" kids to eat what the grownups are eating.  But more than that, they tend not to overcook things (obviously not in the case of sashimi), especially vegetables.  They also tend to let kids learn to like things in their own time frame, which, now that I think about it, is pretty much what my mom did and the reason I can eat a wide variety of foods now.  Thanks, mom!  I know there were times she despaired of getting me to eat this or that, but she gave up, finally, on asparagus.  I didn't like asparagus till I was 23 or so.  The first time I came home and chowed down on asparagus, I thought my mother was going to collapse in shock.  "What?!  You don't *like* asparagus!  You *never* liked asparagus!!"  Why did I suddenly decide I liked it?  Lack of pressure combined with a different dippy sauce, I think.  So keep the faith!  My mom's trick for getting us to eat spinach was to use it raw in salad without telling us what it was until *after* we ate it and said we liked it.  Which worked pretty well--I still like fresh spinach better than iceberg in a salad (good one, mom!). 

I never cared for cooked spinach until I tried it in Japan.  Here's the receipt that my kids eat like candy (really!):

Goma Horenso (Sesame Spinach)
One bunch spinach, washed
2Tblsp  ground white sesame seeds
2tsp sugar
1Tblsp (scant) soy sauce

Boil the spinach for 30 or 40 seconds (stand there and count so it doesn't overboil and taste gross), dump water, rinse in cold water
Squeeze out as much water as you can, then cut the whole mess into 1/2 inch pieces
In the serving bowl, combine the ground sesame, sugar, and soy sauce (last).  Mix to form a paste.
Put in the spinach and toss around in the sesame paste until it's all more or less coated
Lick fingers and wash hands :))

You can adjust the sugar amount to taste, or probably substitute Splenda (I don't have any over here, but I don't imagine it would taste any different).

I'm still thinking about how they get kids to eat so many different things.  I'll write about it when something comes to mind.  Till then, I'll try to post some easy receipts that I've had good luck with.  Try the spinach--it's really good!

Mata asobou, ne!

p.s.--I forgot, you can use the sesame paste on fresh green beans (goma ingen) or broccoli:))