Thursday, October 23, 2008


I miss having more time to myself. Time to read. Time to browse the internet. Time to listen to one hour-long program on the radio, uninterrupted. And I feel guilty for wanting all those things because I love my daughter; I ADORE her. I think I'm still adjusting to life with an infant. Having said all of that, I think this helps explain why I'm loving having the opportunity to go to a 習字 class (that's calligraphy if my dictionary is serving me well). I get almost one hour of time all to myself while my husband baby-sits. And when I'm listening to the instructor or concentrating on my own work, it's almost like a meditation. My yoga practice fell by the wayside when I was pregnant and since I had my daughter I've been struggling with some muscle and joint issues making yoga uncomfortable to practice. Finding this as a substitute may not only prove to be a great source of "me-time," but I think it will be a wonderful opportunity for me to have some time for relaxation and, with any luck, will give me even more insight into the culture here in Japan. I'm not the most creative person in the world, but I'm generally quite good at following directions, thus, I think this style of class and "art" really suits me and I can't wait for more.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A picking we will go

We went out on a chestnut picking mission today. Gboy and I loaded Peanut into the car and FIL drove. We headed up into the mountains and passed places for digging our own sweet potatoes and picking our own mikkan. I figured if I wanted to do either of those things, I'd just walk one minute down the road to the family farm. I was on a mission to find chestnuts. After about 30 minutes of driving we located the kuri u-pick place. We stopped the car and my husband got out and asked about the chestnuts. The owner of the place told us we were too late. The prime picking time is early October and as far as he knew, no other places had any chestnuts left on their trees either. ARGH. Luckily as we headed back down the main road, my FIL slammed on the brakes and excitedly gestured toward the tree on the side of the road. He had recognized it as a chestnut tree. Sure enough, when we got out of the car and looked over guard rail down onto the tree, we could see that the tree even had some nuts still on it - not many but a few. Then, when we looked on the ground below, we could see piles of them, looking like little fuzzy Tribbles. It was actually private property we were overlooking, meaning we were unable to pick any of them to take home, but it was rewarding nonetheless.

I asked when we first arrived in Japan on Oct 4th and was told by my in-laws that it was still too early to go pick chestnuts and we should definitely wait for at least a week or two. Finally they figured it was okay to go. And now all the chestnuts are gone.

On the one hand, I'm pleased that we had a nice drive, and did eventually see the chestnuts I went to find. On the other hand, I'm annoyed - with myself for not pressing harder to just GO and with my in-laws for being misinformed. I see this as further evidence of why I must stop trying to be quite so polite and accommodating all the time. I could have very politely asserted that I wanted to go last week and maybe we would have had some chestnuts after all! Regardless, for future reference we now know that early October is best!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

300 Lemons

My father-in-law has something of a green thumb and he likes to experiment with growing new fruits and vegetables. Several years ago he planted a lemon tree or two and over the last couple of years, he has added some more. Now he has a total of five lemon trees and apparently they are all about to bear fruit for the first time. His best estimate is that we will end up with close to 300 lemons. Any ideas on how to make use of LOTS of lemons all at once? I'm thinking of juicing and zesting some of them in order to freeze a bunch of the juice and zest for future use. Additionally, lemonade is one option, but I'm looking for recipes or ideas for using quite a few lemons all at once.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mont Blanc = French for "delicious chestnut"?

This post reminded me of all the wonderful and delicious chestnut treats that I've eaten in Japan over the years. We've visited frequently during the winter months and often around New Year's which is when I'm sure the chestnuts are plentiful. I am enamored of the Mont Blanc. I had never tried this delicacy until I visited Japan. Why do we not have more of these in the U.S.?! We even have songs about "chestnuts roasting on an open fire," etc. but still they are hard to come by and rarely sold or cooked with in the U.S. (at least in my experience). Since I'm learning to be something of a foodie as I get older, and I have a major sweet tooth, this is something I'd say I've investigated quite a bit! In fact, this is a photo I took almost 4 years ago. I just love how soft and luscious that chestnut topping looks.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Multi-generation living

Not only are we adapting to living in a new city (okay, new to me and to my daughter), but we're adjusting to living with an extended family. The family isn't all that big when you consider it's just Gboy's mother and father with whom we're living. But we've moved into their house and I'm now having to learn how to live with the equivalent of roommates, in what is essentially someone else's turf. Never mind the in-law issues that are present.

Thankfully I don't think we have many "issues" but there is no discounting the fact that I feel a little judged (or maybe scrutinized is a better word) when I'm around them. I think I'd feel this way even if they were American (i.e. we weren't from different cultures) but the language and culture differences certainly don't make it any easier. I find myself often wanting to say, "I'm only doing this because...." or "In the U.S. this is how lots of people do this...." or "Drinking 3 beers is totally fine for me even though I'm still breast-feeding some." But my Japanese isn't that good yet (and it just seems easier to not have ANY beer than to try to explain why the half a beer I might really have isn't a problem given the circumstances *sigh*). And the weird thing is that I think my in-laws really do like me and they've never said anything that leads me to believe they question my skills as a mother, but I'm still learning to live with the differences here, and on top of that I'm learning to live with roommates again. It's sort of like living in a fishbowl and it's been a while since I've had roommates in such a tight-ish space. Lucky for me, we (Gboy, me and Peanut) all get a little space of our own on the second floor, removed enough from my in-laws that I feel we all get some of our own space.

Update: After reading this post from an awesome blogger that I follow, I am reminded of all the wonderful things that come from having lots of family under one roof. And for that, I'm immensely grateful. I firmly believe in silver linings and Mel has shown me, perhaps unintentionally, the silver lining here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back from the break: Culture shock

I think it's fair to say that no matter how times I've visited Japan, I'm still experiencing some culture shock now that we've actually landed here in Japan for a long-term stay. We've been here for almost 2 weeks now. I realize that adapting to life here for the next 8 months or so will take some time and patience and I think I have both in spades, but this kind of big lifestyle change is never easy. I'm finding the need to write about my feelings and experiences; multiple changes all at once can be overwhelming. I hope this blog will enable me to reflect on my stay here and perhaps even connect with others in similar life experiences - other moms, other expatriates, others in intercultural marriages, etc.

Please feel free to comment or email me. I'd love to hear your thoughts on kids, travel, living overseas, how to organize that junk drawer that inevitably develops, favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes, you name it!