Saturday, December 27, 2014

I don't make New Year Resolutions, because they are the same every year and I can never keep them. In case you are wondering, they are 1) drink less alcohol on weekdays 2) eat less potato chips when I do drink 3) exercise more 4) work harder at my day job 5) work harder at being a good parent.

I do make year end/ beginning holiday resolutions every year. This year's are:

1. limit the late night alcohol and chip sessions to no more than every other day
2. engage in at least some kind of physical activity every day, even if it is, say, something like 25 pushups and 25 squats and planks
3. alter the Pumpkin Prince's comforter cover (it was a child's size, and I want to widen it so that it's a twin size)
4. alter my navy blue Zara blazer
5. take the Pumpkin Prince and Princess ice skating
6. take the Pumpkin Princess clothes shopping
7. do some year end/ beginning housecleaning
8. read some work-related material every day

(hmm…sounds a lot like my nonexistent New Year Resolutions!)

So today was the first of 9 consecutive days off this year. I did lapse into alcohol and Doritos, but I did do the pushups and squats, cleaned the kitchen duct fan, and read about work stuff while the Pumpkin Princess did her winter holiday homework. I'm off to a good start!

A long holiday

Chouki kyuuka

The calendar gives us a 9-day long year end/ new year holiday this year, so I'm hoping to efficiently use the time to get stuff done AND relax/ have fun with the Pumpkin Clan (what a concept!).

Right now, I'm slacking off to make this half-assed blog entry, the Pumpkin Prince is playing with one of his Christmas gifts (a radio-controlled toy tank), the Pumpkin Princess is doing her winter vacation homework essay, and the Pumpkin Daddy is fixing his hair.

Sunday, June 8, 2014



For the past 4 years or so, I've bought tomatoes called "rosso rosso." They are a cooking tomato shaped like pumpkins. They suit the Pumpkin Palace garden because they are hardy, taste good both cooked and fresh, and look interesting.

This year, I went online to pre-order them and found that they were only sold in sets of 6 plants, 4 of which were a variety I wasn't really interested in. I kind of hemmed and hawed and thought about getting ordinary tomato plants from the local home improvement center. One day I found a dried up, shriveled rosso rosso tomato on the ground. There were seeds in it, so I tried burying it in an empty pot of potting soil.

A few weeks later, this is what I have.

The plants were about 400 yen each last year. Think I should start a business?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Get well soon!

Hayaku yoku natte ne.

So apparently Paul McCartney got viral gastroenteritis or something and cancelled his Japan tour. He's been hospitalized, and I'm thinking he's probably in either one of the big-name private university hospitals in Tokyo, or St. Luke's Hospital.

And while all these hospitals are very professional, I'm amusing myself (in a 5th grade boy bathroom humor kind of way) at the thought of the Beatle's, um, gastroenteritis, um, symptoms showing up on Yahoo Auctions or eBay.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Taking pants in at the waist

Zubon no uesuto wo tsumeru

I really really wanted a pair of bright red pants. After some searching online, I found them at Banana Republic. And then they went on sale. So I ordered 2 pairs of them online in different sizes, tried them on, picked one pair, returned the other when I got near a store during a work event. 

(...and let the pair I kept sit in my closet for several weeks. Story of my life…)

They are Banana Republic Hampton Ankle pants. I got them at 50% off. This means they cost about 2 to 3 times as much as I usually spend on pants. They fit nicely at the hip and thighs but were about 3 cm too big at the waist. 

They've got waist darts above the pocket, so I decided to take in 5 mm each at the darts on either side, and 2 cm at the back center seam.

5 mm at the waist darts means 2.5 mm inside the original seam.

For the back center seam, I marked 1 cm inside the original seam at the top. Then I sketched a natural-looking curve that joined the original seam.

The waistband was taken in 3 cm. I folded it at the center, and measured, marked, and stitched 1.5 cm from the fold. Then I cut on the fold.

I ripped and cut the interfacing from the seam allowance. This let the waistband lie flatter. Then I pressed the new seam open, and stitched the whole thing back together at the waist.

For the first time, I remembered to sew the tag back on.

The result was pretty good. An experienced sewer (or a generally nitpicky person) would notice that the stitching around the waistband is crooked and the re-stitched belt loop isn't perfectly straight, but otherwise, they look OK. Much better than they did when they were 3 cm too baggy.

One thing I learned…you get what you pay for. These high(er) quality pants had interfacing at the darts and waistband, and lining material around the waist band seam (logo jacquard, no less). The Uniqulo chinos I altered a couple months ago didn't. This is probably the most expensive item I have ever altered.  I have altered items that were costly when I bought them, but they were bachelorette items I did work on to see if I could get them to fit a post pregnancy (x2) body. These pants were bought new, and altered after a single washing. I am getting better and faster at this. I'm making the clothes fit me, and not the other way around, and it feels good.

Remember, it's not your fault the clothes don't fit you in the fitting room.

Monday, February 24, 2014

For the first time in history

Shijou hatsu

2 weeks ago, we had snow on the ground that stayed there. This was the first time this winter that the snow stuck around over the weekend. It was the most snow we'd had in almost 20 years.

When something happens for the first time in 20 years, you take advantage of it.

Hey, it's Saturday. The grownups can deal with the shoveling, right? The Pumpkin Daddy bought snow chains for the Pumpkin Prius, so I could go grocery shopping. The kids had fun sledding in the front yard, and the worst of it melted by the time Monday rolled around. 

The Friday after that, it snowed again. And it kept snowing right through Saturday night.  I think the city schools had their first snow day in recent history. And when I say recent history, I mean since I started living in this city circa 1986. And when I say snow day, it's not a "wussy city freaking out over three inches of snow" day. Sapporo/ Minneapolis/ Chicago would have a snow day if you woke up in the morning and it looked like this.

I think we had something like 70 cm on the ground by the time it was done snowing. Apparently this is some kind of record. It's the first time in nearly 120 years that it has snowed this much…and they're saying about 120 years because that is when they started keeping records about how much it snowed. And it was wet, sticky, heavy snow. Pumpkin City doesn't have a snowplow fleet. It contracts local construction businesses to get out there and plow the streets. And of course with snow like that, they couldn't get the bulldozers out from the parking lot into the streets, so the city basically shut down. When it got semi-moving again, people tried to go shopping but there was nothing to buy. It was like post 3-11 quake/ tsunami all over again. At least we had water and electricity and gas the whole time (although the snow got on the power lines and they snapped from the weight and some communities in the prefecture lost electricity too…how terrible for them…)

Our neighbor's car port caved in with the weight of the wet, sticky, heavy snow, so the Pumpkin Daddy decided to do what he could to keep it from happening.

He's our hero. Our cars and car port are intact.

I thought about getting a snowblower just in case, but for the kind of snow we got this time, snowblowers are not very helpful (they're good for dry, powdery snow from cold temps like they get in Chicago). 

So I think I will just buy a few more snow shovels. I'll tell the Pumpkin Prince and Princess they're grownup snow shovels that are a privilege to own and use. Think it will work?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Just a little shorter

Mousukoshi mijikaku

I think I bought this skirt about 12 years ago at Zara, back when Pumpkin City didn't HAVE a Zara. Probably one of those times when I went to Tokyo for work stuff. That was my thing back then (other than scuba diving). My friend and I would look for chances to go to Tokyo for workshops and conferences. Sometimes we'd have our travel expenses covered, sometimes we wouldn't. We almost always went shopping before/ afterward. My friend was of medium height, moderately busty and had a very slender waist. Me…none of the above. Back then, I didn't understand that clothing off the rack wasn't supposed to fit, so I always tried a few things on and decided I didn't want new clothes, I wanted a new body. But I felt bad about having dragged my friend through the shops in search of the "perfect" item, so sometimes I would just buy stuff to make it seem like I was shopping. Like this skirt.

The color is classic, the pattern is interesting. It's a bias cut on a lightweight fabric that gives it an attractive drape. The skirt was about 10 to 15 centimeters too long. The knee-jerk reaction would have been to hem it, but the hem is serged and rolled. This gives it a pretty "flutter" that regular hemming would remove.

So for a dozen years, it got very little use. When I did wear it, I would roll it up at the waist, cover the rolls with the shirt or sweater, and sometimes put a belt over the rolls to hide and flatten them out. The elastic waist insured its survival during post-pregnancy semi-depression fueled clothing purges (anyone who has given birth probably had one of those).

I finally got tired of rolling…plus, my post-two-baby/ lady of a certain age waistline needed all the help it could get to look flat. So I shortened it at the waist. I marked the "top of waistband" with basting stitches (the basting stitches also helped hold the lining in place during the alteration.) Then I gave it a new elastic waistband. I stitched all around on the "knit" setting of the sewing machine (it's basically a narrow zig-zag stitch).

Now it sits at just-below-knee length, perfectly hiding my middle aged knees but showing the taper at the top of my calves. My current favorite way to wear it is with my olive brown Uniqlo crew neck sweater, beige ponte jacket (part of the skirt suit I bought to wear to the Pumpkin Princess's first day of school) and olive brown heels.

Next up…the jacket I bought last November at H&M for 1500 yen (I think!)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Don't they fight?

Kenka shimasenka?

Yesterday we went to one of the local malls. I scored a navy blue blazer from Zara at 70% off. So, yay! While I was there, I spotted a bulletin about the "letters to Santa" that were displayed during the Christmas season. The main gist of the bulletin was that the letters to Santa brought joy to many and that they were sent to the local Shinto shrine where they will probably be burned (burning things is a way to send things to the gods. See Dondoyaki.)

So there's Santa, which is…an European tradition based on a blend of Christian and pre-Christian beliefs, and Shinto shrines, which are, well, a blend of animism and sun and ancestor worship.

The letters have probably already been answered in the form of presents, so it probably doesn't matter what happens do them…but I wonder what would happen if you put Santa Claus and Amaterasuoomikami in the same ring?

Friday, January 31, 2014

They can tell (even if you don't want them to)


The other day, I realized I'd left the house without…um, feminine hygiene products. So I stopped at a 7-eleven on the way to work and bought a pack.

The nice young male clerk put the pack in a brown paper bag, and put the brown paper bag in a plastic bag. He did this before I had the chance to say "I'll just toss that in my big work bag beside my laptop, I'm an old married lady and I don't care that people know it's my time of month, in fact, maybe it'll warn them to stay out of my way and the world will be a better place for it!"

This is over-packaging is fairly common in Japan for condoms and feminine hygiene products. And the thing is, it just screams horny or bleeding because nobody packages anything else this way anymore.

So, non-Japanese friends, is this environmentally unfriendly nod toward discretion common outside Japan? 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

(misguided) Parental Pride


Me: If there were 40 Pumpkin Princes and 40 Pumpkin Princesses, I would have someone to cuddle all day.

Pumpkin Prince: But then you would have to cook dinner for 40 people. Wait, it would be 40 of me and 40 of Pumpkin Princess, so that would be 80 people. And you and Daddy, so that's 82 people. That's going to be hard work!

My almost 5 year-old is a mathematical genius!

Now if I could get him to stop kicking my friends…um, between the, um, legs, we'd be good.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year's Money Gift!


I haven't made New Year's resolutions in quite some time now. If I did, they would be

1. Do everything in my job description

2. Be more patient with the Pumpkin Prince and Princess

But 1. since my job involves a lot more than my job description, obviously some things that are IN the description are going to suffer, and 2. I think I am more patient than I used to be, but no way am I ever going to hit 100%.

So there.

But I do try to get things done during my New Year's holiday. This year, it was 9 days long, which is probably some kind of record since I started getting paid to show up every morning. I set goals, and I usually meet them about half-way.

This year's holiday goals:

1. Read 3 books about work. Not done. Got about 1/3 through the first book.

2. Watch Season 4 of Big Bang Theory. Not done. Almost done with the first disc (of 3).

3. Exercise at least 4 times. Not done. Did Ripped in 30 twice, and went skating with the Pumpkin Prince and Princess. The latter involved a lot of pull-ups, as in "pulling up a 16 kg child when he falls on the ice."

4. Take the Pumpkin Princess skating. Done. See 3.

5. Sew something. Not done. At all.

6. Self-color hair. Not done, but I guess I still have tonight to do it.

7. Cut Pumpkin Princess's hair. Done.

8. Do a bit of work e-mailing. Done.

So that's it for my 9 days. The Pumpkin Daddy took the Prince and Princess to Toys 'R Us to spend their otoshidama (New Year's gift money from friends and relatives), so I had a few moments to write. They're still not back, so maybe I should see how far I can get through the book in 1…

(Update: I colored my hair and read an additional 20 pages of my book during the wait time. And my arms are very sore. The Pumpkin Prince is to blame, not Jillian Michaels.)