Monday, December 01, 2008

My Sister is a Pop Star

If you are family, friend, or relative of the Japanese branch of the Elliot clan, you'll want to click on the above link and listen to Track 2: Song for Erin/Anna

Sister #1's former employers at Hummingbird English Academy started their own music studio where they teach music and produce CDs. This year they produced a CD with six moms singing songs that they wrote for their kids. Sister #1 was invited to write and sing the only English number in the album. You can even purchase a copy of the CD by clicking on this link to visit the Pauole Hauoli Music homepage.

My Niece Erin, Averting Her Face from a Scary Bowl of Raw Tuna

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Radio Taiso Before Breakfast

Every morning before breakfast we obediently submit to the instructions delivered in this video.

Like So . . . Although We Don't Seem to Be Very Coordinated about It

And Grace Sometimes Slacks Off . . . Slacker!

Usually She Puts Her Back Into It, But I Guess the Presence of a Camera Was Too Distracting

When I was a healthy little school kid in Japan I thought rajio taiso was pretty silly because it really didn't seem like much of a work out. Some people would say that it was never meant to be a work out--that it's primary purpose was to nurture herd behaviour and group think. Be that as it may, now that I'm a thirty-something ojisan, doing rajio taiso 1 & 2 makes my body crackle and creek like a barn on a windy day.

Faith Doesn't Do Radio Taiso Yet, But She's Getting Bigger

Friday, October 17, 2008

Kazamaura Report: Another Strange Food

An Ostrich from an Aomori Ostrich Farm
(or should I say, "ex-ostrich")

I'm guessing that eating ostrich meat per se is not unheard of in the English speaking world. In fact, I understand that it is quite popular in some circles.

But What About Eating It Raw?

. . . At a Happy Little Ostrich Eating Party with Friends?

Not to Mention the Grilled Guts

Again, not a big deal in the English speaking world since eating animal offal has a long and (I suppose) noble history there (can you say "Rocky Mountain oyster," "head cheese" or "chitterlings"?). Nevertheless, I do not share in that tradition and, while I ate my fair share of raw ostrich, I took a pass on the intestines sizzling on the grill. Incidentally, if you are an ex-pat living in Japan, please take the time to explain to your Japanese friends and colleagues--in lengthy, vivid and nauseating detail--that the West has just as long and illustrious a history of eating animal guts and seafood as Japan does. I'm getting really sick of the phrase "only in Japan" (especially since in Toronto I often heard the phrase "only in Korea" applied to many of the exact same things). Yes, we might all eat our animal guts in slightly different ways, and perhaps with greater or lesser frequency as the case may be, but we're really not all that different after all. "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?"
I did not plant peppers this year, but there you are. All kinds of marvellous things sprung forth from my compost disposal area this year, and although I pulled most of the tomato, squash, pepper, and miscellaneous other plants along with the weeds, this one somehow escaped. I originally weeded out all of the spontaneous vegetable growth because I was given to understand that it wouldn't amount to anything, but there are at least four peppers on this plant and they have grown to quite a respectable size now.

Visit to Hokkaido Jiji and Hokkaido Baba (as Opposed to Aji-Jiji and Aji-Baba Whom We See More Often)

Grace Loves Grapes, and Jiji Has Some Grape Vines

Enjoying Hokkaido Jiji's Roses

Enjoying a Late Night Barbecue
with Cousin Souki and Cousin Yua

Faith Meets Double-Baba
(a.k.a. Great Grandma Nakamura)

This Was the First Time that the Cousins Were Old Enough to Play Together in Reasonable Ways

Showing off Their Ponytails
(I Have a Question: is it correct to say "wearing her hair in two ponytails," or is there a special term for two ponytails?)

Meeting the Cows at Satoland (さとランド)

Quadricylce Ride

Cousin Yua is Going to Be a Big Sister Soon, so She Was Very Interested in Faith

Family Photo
(first one in a very long time)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

September in Brief

Yuko got a Nice Face Massage

Our Local Park was Rebuilt

We Had Some More Barbecues

Grace Rode a Bike for the First Time
(Sort of--Her Feet Can't Reach the Pedals Yet)

I Voted in the
2008 Canadian Federal Election

We Rode the Ferry to Hokkaido to Visit Yuko's Family
(but more on that in the next post)

Later in the Month We Went Down the Sai Coast for a Picnic and . . .

. . . to Take a Look at Some of the Beautiful Little Fishing Harbours
(Ushitaki, which can roughly be translated as
"Cattle Falls")

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I'm Back . . . Again . . . .

For the last several months, ever since my hopelessly cheep Averatec fried its electronic brain out, I've been stuck using my wife's 7-year-old PowerBook G4. It looks really cool, and its still great for surfing the Internet and watching DVDs, but it has proven itself absolutely useless when it comes to managing photos (tiny hard drive; absolete software). Thankfully, I had a surprise opportunity last week to pick up a departing JETs Dell Inspiron 8500 for a very reasonable price, so I am back in business. After messing around a couple of days with the Windows XP operating system it came with, I did the only logical thing and installed a flavour of the GNU/Linux Ubuntu operating system called Kubuntu. Ubuntu and Kubuntu have really come a long way since I last used them a year ago. The latest version is 8.04 (Hardy Heron) and with it I can play my cell phone video files and manage my iPod Shuffle no problem--everything just WORKS (after installing the usual extras, such as wine and win32codecs, of course).

Anyway, now that I have nearly finished organizing all of my photos using my new laptop, I finally feel motivated enough to finally provide another garden update. This is how my garden turned out this summer. At least, this is what it looked like last week. It looks a lot different now, but that is another story. The marigolds, the basil and a couple of other herbs (the names of which I can never remember) are my doing. The squash, the tomato plants, the pepper plants and some of the mint all sprung forth spontaneously from the compost I tilled into the earth this spring. Clearly I have been ignoring the composting maxim about not composting seeds. Anyway, the winner for this year is--SQUASH. I initially had about twenty squash plants growing uninvited in my neglected garden. I finally got around to pulling all but one of them (following the advice of my Uncle Lenny), but that ONE turned into the monster you now behold. So far it has produced five squash.
Harvesting Abalone (Awabi):
One of the Great Views from Our Back Yard

A Closeup of the Same

A More Artistic Rendering
(At Least By My Feeble Standards)

This month we had a spell of good weather for about a week, and Grace and I were able to sit out on our lawn chairs before breakfast. (The land mass accross the water is Hokkaido.)

Grace In A New Dress;
Faith In A New Diaper

Some differences between Grace and Faith:
1. Grace never threw up. Faith overeats and then throws up on a regular basis. What a Roman.
2. Grace never really needed to burp after a feeding. After a feeding, Faith usually needs to spend the next hour or two doing nothing but burping. Correction, she hiccoughs, too . . . oh, and breaks wind. If we could harness all the gas coming out of both ends of Faith, we would probably not need to buy any propane for our kitchen stove anymore.
3. Grace used to wake up several times a night and fuss to be fed at random times. We put Faith on a parent directed feeding schedule, and she usually only wakes up once a night.

Stop, Guys, That Tickles!

Our Resident Professional Sleeper at Work

Sadly, the weather took a turn for the worse last week and everyone got sick . . . especially Grace. What an evil place this is. It finally gets warm--not hot, mind you--around the last week of July, and by the last week of August the cold rains come and wash away all memory of an almost pleasant summer. Oddly enough, late September and most of October are usually pretty sunny and warm here, so at least we have that to look forward to.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Putting My New Backyard to Work

Anna, Jun and Erin Watanabe

Over the weekend we (our family of four plus Yuko's mother) were joined by Yuko's father and by Sister #1 and her family. In practical terms, this meant a perfect opportunity for me to show off my new backyard campground and barbecue pit.

This photo (capturing the moment after the last of the beef, pork ribs, lamb and chicken were all consumed) manages to make my efforts look like a spectacular success. Sadly, the truth is that it was taken during a break in the clouds.

This photo is also deceptive, in that it attributes a blueish tint to what was in truth a dark, grey, gloomy sky . . .

. . . raining on our fun.

By nightfall it was raining so hard that we gave up on the idea of sleeping in the tent. All nine of us ended up sharing the floor space in our house.

The Morning After Everyone Left
The morning after everyone left, dawn smiled benevolently upon my abandoned campground.

The awabi boats bobbed merrily in the early morning sunshine as Hokkaido emerged from the haze.

Facing the other direction, our house and front yard were framed by blue skies.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Now We are Four: The World Meets Mia Faith Elliot

Our Most Recent Family Photo

I will not even attempt to catch up on all the blog posts I have meant to write but haven't over the past couple of months . . . or at least I won't for now. And I will not simply leave everyone with a link to my online album of "The Birth of Faith" because Yuko still hasn't had a chance to censor it. So for now I will make a little effort (but not so much effort as to drown my motivation) to offer up for the benefit of our long suffering friends and relatives a compilation of select photos of our family's event of the year--with captions and commentary.

The handwritten portions of this sign attached to Faith's hospital bassinet declare, among other things, that the occupant of the bassinet is Mia-chan, that the protagonist of the event commemorated by the sign is Yuko Elliot, that the said event took place in the 20th year of Heisei, July 19, at 9:28 a.m., and that Mia-chan weighed 3,876 grams and measured 51 centimetres at that moment in history. It fails to mention anything about "Saturday," but I will throw that information in for free. Saturday babies are marginally more expensive than weekday babies. Oh, and the pink bunny-eared balloon in the top right corner says "girl-child." I have already explained Faith's name in a previous post, so I will take the short cut of providing a link to it rather than explaining it all over again.

美信 Faith, Approximately 32 Minutes after Being Born
(Click here to View for Comparison a similar Photo of 恵真 Grace taken exactly one year and one week before this photo.)

The very subject matter of photos taken in delivery rooms frequently renders them ill-suited for publication in blogs (although if you followed the link in the previous sentence, you probably realize that I was a lot more "daring" two years ago than I am now). Hence I begin the record of Faith's postnatal life 32 minutes after it actually started, even though I carefully videotaped the first half hour of it, not to mention the half hour leading up to the first half-hour (Yuko pointed out that it would be unfair for Faith not to have a "birthday video" since Grace has one).

After Getting Over Her Initial Shock, Grace Took a Great Interest in "Mee-chan"
I can only assume that up until this moment she thought that "Mee-chan" (diminutive of Mia) meant "big belly" or "bellybutton."

After temporarily getting over her fascination with Faith, Grace developed an equally keen interest in her mother's breakfast. One of Yuko's main complaints about giving birth to Grace was how HUNGRY it made her. For some reason, on that occasion the staff brought her breakfast into the pre-labour room just as she was going into labour and took it away just as Grace was born. Anticipating a similar tragedy, we came armed with power snacks so Yuko wasn't hungry at all. Ironically, this time the kitchen staff brought her breakfast right into the delivery room and left it there all morning.


Don't ask me why everyone is resting on Yuko's hospital bed except for Yuko . . . after all, no one else in the family went through the hard work of giving birth (although I suppose Faith went through the hard work of being born). In Japan it is standard practise for even problem-free births to be followed up with a minimum of 5 days convalescence in the hospital or clinic (fully covered by insurance). No one believes us when we tell them that it is common for mothers in North America to go home the same day they give birth.

At the clinic of our choice (St. Cecilia Ladies' Clinic) a four course meal catered by a local hotel is a part of the deal. The doctor/owner himself comes around to congratulate each couple and pour them a glass of grapefruit juice. I'm pretty sure that that doesn't happen at Mutsu Public Hospital (which is where most people in our village travel to to give birth).

Oops, I guess this is our most recent family photo--taken the day we brought Faith home.

Grace Introduces Faith to Our Living Room
(During the two weeks leading up to Faith's birth, when I was waiting at home alone for a phone call from Yuko telling me her contractions had begun, I had brought Grace's little table into the living room so that I could eat curry and rice night after night while watching movie after movie. Not that I was being totally degenerate. I did try baking bread once--in a home bakery, that is--and I did get a descent day's work in every day. I just couldn't sleep at night, being a two-and-a-half hour drive away from my family).

Grace immediately set about rearranging the living room, including Faith's child seat.

Grace knows that both these chairs are hers, so she likes to use both of them, even though she can only actually sit in them one at a time.

Nap Time