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December 31, 2010

Holidays with the fam

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Spent the christmas/winter solstice season at my sister's place near Tokyo. Mona LOVED it. I LOVED it! I hope OScar and Irene LOVED it too.

On christmas day we went out to eat, in order to relieve pressure on my sister. We had big plans for a special restaurant that Tomoe had found online, but it turns out it was for a different place. We ended up at a probably better place randomly chosen from the shopping mall near her house. Best cheesy noodles I have had in a long time!

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Oscar and Irene (my sister's twins, if you can't tell from the photo) loved the pumpkin pie (if you can't tell from the photo).

Mona had a great time and learned a lot! She walks so much better and has other skills improved after watching Oscar and Irene.

The only negative thing was that our new (used) van got keyed - very deeply - while it was parked at my sister's apartment. From this I make the broad generalization that people in Tokyo are not as nice as people in this area, where instead of keying the car, they have secret meetings about all the bad stuff you are doing.

Letting the chickens loose (even though everyone said OK) - No no.
Having a new van close to the road - No no.
letting a pieve of freshly chopped firewood fall into the path of the snow plow - No no. (this one I kinda understand)

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Anyway, it was a wonderful trip to Kelly's, and Mona loved it, hopefully as much as Oscar and Irene and Johan seemed to have loved it.

Among the testivities were building a poorly planned gingerbread house (I am very disapointed in Young Hoon's engeneering skills), and playing with stickers that Mona stole from Oscar and Irene.

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We also got lost when I let Irene guide me home after separating from her mum. That was fun. We found a hippo.

Shopping was kinda fun too. The eggs our Silkies are laying sell for 200 ($2)+ each. Good to make angry neighbors, who never told us they didn't want the chooks free, feel a little bit happier. I think Mona sells for more, but their bar-code reader didn't register her price.

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December 21, 2010

Where everybody knows your name

I actually have no photos this time. I had my camera with me, but was not in the mood.

Long story short: big fight with Tomoe, I had to get out before I said something I would really really regret. I went to the local dinner/trucker dive - the place I always go to in that situation. When I sat down at the bar they said "Again?". They know. They are also a married couple doing business together - for a long, long time. They talk to me. They understand. They talk a LOT. I love going there (even though there is better food at home or other restaurants.)

This village is my place were every body knows my name, and they always (at least act like) they are glad I came. That is why I love it here. In Tokyo I didn't eve know my neighbor or land-lord who lived below me.

December 18, 2010

Shinmai

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Shinmai(新米) means "new/fresh rice". We had a lot of left over rice from last year, so we didn't eat any of our shinmai until today.

Mona loved it.

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Christmas Party Rural Japan Style

Local Children's Christmas Party

I could write about the snow, but I am sure you will see plenty of that later. In the mean time, I will post a few mediocre shots form the village office Christmas party for babies and mommies - and one daddy.

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The girl who is in charge of arranging it had lots of fun activities planned, such as tracing your hand and decorating it (mona and all of the other 1-ish year olds had some trouble with that) to hang on the wall. Mona's masterpiece is in the photo above.

Local Children's Christmas Party

Mona started a fashion trend by putting stickers on her cheeks (I helped a bit) that were intended to decorate a paper-plate wreath that again, the 1-year-olds were supposed to decorate. Soon all the kids had stickers on their cheeks. Mona cared more about throwing colored pencils, BUT, she did learn to play the washboard. The pencil container was made of tin and shaped like an old-fashioned washboard, Mona figured out by herself how to use a pencil and the case to sound just like Washboard Sam.

Even as I play this song, Mona is going crazy with excitement. Luckily we have an old washboard somewhere in the basement. She already plays guitar, organ, and drums, and the beans-in-a-bottle, so I don't know where she will fine the time to practice yet another instrument.

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Then they brought out the just-before-lunch snack/activity of making a lion out of a pancake and lots and lots of chocolate. You could tell which of the kids not allowed chocolate at home because they were literally sucking it out of the cake-decorator-tube. One of the organizers is a nutritionist. Above you see a photo of the pancake Mona "made" while she and the neighbor boy were playing with some toys in the corner and Tomoe and I were trying to hide the fact that we were doing her homework for her.

Just for the record... the girl below is not Mona.

Local Children's Christmas Party

December 17, 2010

Looking for some FREE range

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For a few weeks now we have been milking the goat kept for the local grade school. The teacher is obviously busier than us, and if she doesn't do it no one else will. Plus, we really wanted a goat this year, but it didn't work out.

We have been using the milk to make cheese, and have even started talking about making Goat Cheese our main business. (of course we need a few more goats, and a place to graze them, and a kitchen that is certifiable by the health dept. , etc.)

But, the goat is nice. I can certainly envision keeping chickens - we have some eggs incubating now that would sell for 400 yen ($4) each - for sale of free-range eggs (though we need a FREE range), or hand-raised chicks, or goats for cheese, and just do the bike trips on the side for extra cash and to bring more people to come see our village.

Anyway, we have been making cheese for a few years now, using milk from the dairy farmer down the street. We made cottage cheese, but this time we are actually trying to age it and make proper cheese. It will be a few months before we know the results.

This time we are using actual rennet (an enzime from the stomach of a calf), instead of vinegar or lemon juice. The fresh cottage cheese tastes great, so we have big hopes for the aged cheese.

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December 15, 2010

Smokin'

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Just a very little bit of what is going on. We received some western style BBQ sets from a customer. Although we have no place to put them for the winter (they will be crushed by snow), we thought it would be good for smoking fish before that. So on our trip to the Noto Peninsulla a few weeks ago, we bought some cheap fish to test it out.

I think we have to try again.

The fish and eggs we smoked there didn't turn out so well. They were too salty and sour. Tomoe has been washing them in fresh water and it takes away some of the bad flavor. It is certainly not the fault of the equipment (which we are very grateful for), but this was only my second time at smoking, and sometimes, smoke happens.

As I had lost my confidence, and we had some other fish left that we intended to smoke, we decided to use a method Tomoe read about on some blog or what-not. We just smoked it on the kitchen stove.

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1) Add some tin-foil to the bottom of your skillet to regulate the heat.

2) Add some wood (we used cherry, which is considered to be the best for smoking in this area)

3) Put in some nice protein-ish stuff like fish, chicken, ham, tofu, or eggs, and you have yourself a wonderful tasting smoked protein-ish thing.

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December 13, 2010

December Already?

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Old photos from the end of October when we had a couple come out for our Fall Colors trip. We originally planned to cancel it, because we were just too pre-occupied with other things, but they were Australian, so what can I do?

Unfortunately for them, it rained most of the time there were here. Fortunately for them, at least the first two days, which included hiking to the Mt. Naeba hut the night before they close for the winter, and the hike down were cloudy but rainless. We made it down with time to explore the Akiyamago area, and stay at a great inn with some of the best and most local/natural food in the area. I highly recommend Eenokami

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When we woke up in the morning we were thankful that, while it was raining down in the valley, at least we weren't in the mountain when it snowed that night. There is much more snow up there now, of course. I will be heading up there again in a few days to attend a birthday party for the local grade-school's chickens. I hope to get some more photos of the current state then.

Quick Tip for people who want to climb Mt Naeba in the fall: On the last day of the season, all the alcohol is free. There may be snow, but you will sleep soundly no matter how cold it is.

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December 05, 2010

Nozawana and shagging chooks

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Last year around this time I posted the photo below of a very pregnant Tomoe working in the cold and snow to pickle Nozawana leaves (its hard to tell by the photo). This year it is not so cold and snowy and it is even later in the season. We picked this day because there was another TV camera man here.

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This time we were not the main target. The topic was people who moved to the country, and there is a much more interesting retiree who has opened a Chinese restaurant a few minutes from our house. (wonderful, since going out to eat generally required a car-until now)

Anyway, last year Tomoe had Mona in her tummy while pickling Nozawana. This year Mona stayed in the carriage we received from a neighbor. Both years worked out OK.

I also snagged a few photos of the chooks. They shag every day now (every hour of every day), so we are hoping for some chicks soon.

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