30 November, 2014

Ministry in the midst of dirty underwear

This morning I stood in a church's car park digging around in a bag of dirty clothes, trying to stop my husband's underwear from falling onto the ground. My agitated son jiggled about next to me, his shorts in tatters.

Earlier I'd walked across the same car park as I attached my official magnetic name-tag to my blouse. We were at the church to represent our mission at their annual missions Sunday. (Something that I'd like to suggest is not a good way to approach promoting missions in your church, but that topic is for another day.)

Our children have always had a nice levelling effect upon us. Our journey as missionaries began very early in our marriage. We first started speaking at events like this when I was pregnant with our first child. It took us a long time to be able to get clearance to leave and our son was 18 months old when we finally left Australia. I used to pray before events that there would be someone who would volunteer to look after him while we spoke up the front. I remember searching for a private space at the back of a large historical, but unfamiliar church where I could breastfeed. That was just a part of our normal life.

Once in Japan and in language school we studied the Japanese language while our son napped. When he didn't nap, we didn't study. Partway through language school I fell pregnant and needed to nap myself, so my study fell behind.

Our second son attended his first school at only a few weeks of age. He accompanied me to my one-on-one Japanese lessons. The boys indeed kept us from devoting ourselves too much to our studies, but they also had us out in the park meeting other families, and sitting in the cry room at church. They had us grounded in the reality that we were just like any other person on this earth, nothing special.

When we came back the first time from Japan our eldest was five and his nearly two year old younger brother's introduction to the land of his citizenship was via visiting churches. The third boy came along only a couple of months before the end of that year in Australia. His first road trip was to visit churches in Sydney and Canberra, his first airplane trip was to Japan when he was not yet three months old.

As we've gone along in this interesting lifestyle they've been a part of whatever what going on. There's been no clear separation between family life and ministry life. Occasionally we've done "ministry" without them, but more often than not they've been in the vicinity.

So it's no surprise this morning that as we set up our table, like we've done many times before, we had a boy come to us with a problem. He'd shredded his shorts. No idea how.

If we'd been at a church in Brisbane, we'd have had nothing to offer except condolences, but today we had our luggage for the weekend stay. Except that our stay was coming to its conclusion and everything we had was pre-worn.

Hence I was dispatched to dig through the bag of dirty clothes in the boot of our car. 

29 November, 2014

What religion is Japan?

Today I'm "out in the field". Well actually I'm sitting in the bedroom I slept in last night at a house I've never been to before. People who knew us, but we didn't remember them. 

This morning we spent 2 ½ hours at their church doing a presentation and talking to people. Only 17 people (not including kids), but as a group they get an "A" for enthusiasm for missions. I had a lady almost in tears as she talked to me (I'm still not sure what that
One of the few times we've been to the beach in Japan.
It was early spring and just a bit chilly, but the boys
enjoyed making sandcastles.
was about). It confirmed to us again the value of encouraging churches to set aside time outside of their Sunday morning worship to hear from us. We have more flexibility and time and can be more personal.

It has meant a whole weekend away for us, though, because we're there again tomorrow morning (though not upfront in the service). However, the bonus is that the ocean isn't far away and there are many choices of amazing quality beaches. As Queenslanders we had no idea that the beaches we have here are spectacular, until we moved away. But anyway, we've been in Queensland for five months and haven't taken the boys to the beach here yet (only in WA). So, it's about time to lather up (we're all very fair) and head down to the water.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with an answer to a question we periodically get when we're doing the rounds:

What religion is Japan?

Most Japanese identify themselves both as Buddhists and Shintoists, while surveys have shown that only one-third of the people profess a religious faith. That’s because many Japanese people don’t understand “religion” in the same way that Westerners do. They practise religion for the functions it fulfils in their lives. Many people are dedicated at a Shinto shrine at birth, get married in a Christian-style wedding and have a Buddhist funeral. Each religion provides different benefits at different times. Please pray that many Japanese people will know Christ as the only One who can meet all their needs.* 

* Adapted from 31 Days of Prayer for Japan, 2nd edition, OMF International.

28 November, 2014

Unexpected Conversations

We spend a lot of time talking with people when we're in Australia. Occasionally we'll hear some unexpected comments about mission.

Last week someone said, "I've never met "young" missionaries before. You're the same age as me!" Wow. That was quite a revelation, but also confirmation that putting our faces in front of people on home assignment as "real live missionaries" is a worthwhile endevour.

A lady we met after a church service who has a soft spot for Japan said, "I"ve never thought of Japan as a mission field." She's no stranger to Japan, she studied the language for six years and even went there on a school trip as a teenager.

The question that flabbergasted us last weekend was posed just after we'd spoken in a church service. At the time we had so many people who wanted our attention that they were almost competing for our attention. He said, "What do you do when you're in Australia for a whole year?"

David and I gestured widely said, "This!" 

I guess it is a bit like people wondering what pastors do, they only work one day a week, don't they?

We spent about six hours visiting this church on Sunday. That included more than an hour's travel each way. I suppose he was wondering what we do with the rest of our week?

Let's see, here's some of the things I've been doing this week:
  • writing two prayer letters (one for adults, one for kids)
    This was a meeting we did in Perth. We had many
    conversations this night.
  • preparing for upcoming deputation appointments
  • contacting people to organise appointments for next year
  • arranging to meet with friends to catch up after not seeing them for years
  • editing a couple of articles of mine for magazines
  • writing a greeting to go with our prayer card mail out in December
  • helping a new friend who's a bit overwhelmed with life
  • writing here
  • reading about writing
  • reading articles and blog posts about mission and other things
  • pondering taking up a new hobby (and reading about it in a book and online)
  • planning Christmas presents
  • looking into purchasing a guitar for my son
  • Facebook (yes, I admit it)
  • editing for the magazine I work with in Japan (they needed some help)
  • attending a Bible study at our home church
  • taking my kids to school
  • grocery shopping
  • cooking for the family
  • shopping for Christmas presents, and for some clothes for myself
  • arranging for pest controller to deal with a wasp problem
  • and yes, investigating a new hobby
Yep, a combination of a stay-at-home mum, writer, and missionary-on-home assignment. I appreciate it that this fellow had a genuine interest, he spoke to us for some time. But the thought that some people may think we are lazing around for a year in Australia is a little disturbing.

27 November, 2014

Thinking about a new hobby

I'm thinking about taking up a new hobby*: weaving and maybe spinning. During our holidays in September we spent several days at my sister-in-law's place. She owns Alpacas. While we were there I had a go at carding (untangling) and spinning. It was fun, but challenging too. I'm interested in having another go when we go back in December. But I'm also wondering if this might be a new hobby that I could take up. I've been cross-stitching for almost as long as I've been married and perhaps it is time for a change. So I'm investigating. 
Spinning on my sister-in-law's
electric spinner.

The big challenge of a hobby for a missionary is that it needs to be something that is portable and not too expensive. For a missionary in Japan it needs to be something that doesn't take up too much room. I don't have a crafting room, or a sewing table that I can just have everything laid out all the time. All I have is a corner, a corner of a not-large lounge room.

I've tried various hobbies like knitting and crochet. Paper craft (quilling, making cards, origami and other similar things). Sewing (clothes, bags) and considered (but never seriously tried) quilting and patchwork.  But nothing has really captured my interest. I'm not good at things that require precision. Sewing I can do, but it isn't very relaxing, actually I get quite stressed at getting it exactly right and usually make big mistakes. 

As a child I wore out the craft volume of our Childcraft encyclopaedias. I loved craft. Now as a woman with lots of responsibilities and a busy home life, I need something that will relax and fit my lifestyle. Cross-stitch does but I'm getting a little weary of it. I'm wondering it's time to try something new and if spinning or weaving would work too?

So, I've been surfing the web and investigating different options. Equipment is expensive! But the other thing I looked for was spinning and weaving groups. I found one only 15 minutes from our house. They meet on Thursday mornings every week. I've been working up the courage to go one day and join them and today was the day.

The ladies were very welcoming and I'll probably join them next year and learn what I can. I'm thinking about buying a simple loom, perhaps a Knitter's Loom, but as you can tell if you follow that link, it isn't cheap. So I'm still thinking. Another possibility is a Inkle Loom, but as a smaller loom, what you can create on it is limited.

If I join the group I'll be able to ask them to teach me things. Much better than learning from a Youtube video (although that's quite a helpful tool too).

As someone with an unusual lifestyle, it is interesting to drop into a group like this. I didn't tell them much about myself, I didn't use the M word. At the end two of the ladies were probing for what I might choose to do, especially joining the group. I explained to them that we usually live in Japan ("my husband works at an international school" is a useful generic line) and that I'd be looking for a craft that's portable and small. They had lots of ideas, including the above looms.

So, I'm pondering.

*Back here I wrote about why I choose to do craft. And it isn't because I've got too much free time, there is a deeper reason related to staying mentally and physically healthy.

26 November, 2014

Avoid a camping-out mentality

I love camping, as you might have guessed if you've been following my blog for a while. But I try to avoid a camping-out mentality in daily life.

By this I mean just living temporarily, "making do". This blog post succinctly describes how missionaries can tend to do that (it's a series, and the previous post is good too). 

It's easy for us to act like that when we're in Australia. We're only here for a year, so it's easy to have a temporary mindset. Getting a balance between that and investing too much isn't easy. In general we're investing ourselves in people, not in stuff. But we haven't skimped on getting a decent fridge and freezer, for example. We have suitable accommodation (even if I long for an extra bathroom somedays). But I'm not buying pot plants or doing any renovations.

I wonder if people think that we live like we're camping-out in Japan? I don't mean literally, rather with an attitude like that. Actually now we've been there 12 years, we haven't heard Australians express the idea that this is a temporary journey as often as in the past.

Most people, if they take the time to think, will realise that our most settled place is Japan. That's where we have most of our "earthly treasures". But it is also where we've invested more time. Next year we'll be moving back to the same house we've been living in for the last four years. That's going to feel even more settled, not at all camping-out.

Have you ever had a time in your life that you had an unhealthy camping-out mentality?

25 November, 2014

Encouraging Friends of Missionaries

I want to encourage those of you who are in mission-minded to be advocates in your church. In our situation we have a number of churches who've tracked with us over the last 15 years. Then there are other churches that we've visited only once or perhaps twice, but had very limited relationship with. 
Being friends with a missionary is a somewhat self-less
activity, given that they'll be absent most of the time.
But it is of great encouragement to the missionaries.
It's hard to express the full depth of encouragement
the above friends have given us.

There are two things that we've noticed that usually makes a difference as to whether a church will maintain an interest in what we're doing.

1. Missions-minded pastor/minister. Without someone in leadership who has this mindset, it is unlikely that a church will maintain much missions interest.

2. Advocate with whom we have a relationship. Do not underestimate your influence as someone who knows a missionary. I know that this doesn't always work, but it can, and it can work very well. 

Just today I approached (via email) a pastor of a large church we'd previously been supported by, but their focus changed a few years ago and we'd lost contact with them. A family friend on his own volition recently talked the senior pastor about the church supporting us in prayer and it looks like we've re-established contact. This probably wouldn't have happened except for the influence of that friend.

Do not underestimate the power of relationship. We missionaries depend on local contacts. People who have relationships we don't have, and can be our advocates in the local church.

For this reason, when we're in Australia, we place a high value on catching up with friends socially. We also pray that God will give us new relationships. The need for this is especially evident after 14 years away. The older folk who were our advocates in the beginning are starting to be called Home.

This could sound like we're using our friends. That's not the case at all. We have friends who, for various reasons, are unable to connect us with their local church. But we're still their friends. We value their prayers and their friendship. Being able to come back to Australia and have people who'll still call us their friends and who'll work patiently with our busy schedule to have us over for a BBQ is a large encouragement.

So, don't undervalue your friendship with a missionary (if you have one).
1. You're friendship is an encouragement to them.
2. You might be able to be their advocate in your local church.

24 November, 2014

Gambling is illegal in Japan but many are addicted

Nearly 5% of Japanese [people] are addicted to gambling...9% of men, despite it being illegal to gamble for money (from here).

This is a statistic I haven't heard before about Japan. But I believe it, because pachinko parlours (a cross between a pinball and a slot machine) are everywhere. We have one near us in Tokyo that we pass on the way to church.

The worry is that the Prime Minister has announced a plan to lift the ban on gambling so that casinos can be built. It could be a bid to raise more money, but at what cost to society? (See the above article for more information.)

* Photo from: "Electric City Akihabara Pachinko" by Tischbeinahe - Own work.

Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Electric_City_Akihabara_Pachinko.

22 November, 2014

Memories in photos

I mentioned that I'd been tripping down memory lane. Not just because I met a friend from high school. It happens every time we come back to Australia and pull out the stuff we've stored here. This time I decided to scan some old photos in. Are you ready? (I've been kind and not included photos of my family here barring the last one, nor is it a long post, only ten photos.)
First day of school. Some of you will remember those
cardboard ports (as we called them).
Early in my school career. This was the winter
uniform. I must show this to my son who
complains about wearing uniforms.
The cover of one of two books that I've found from my
Primary School years. Self published!
Alas the writing isn't brilliant, neither are the illustrations.
First day of high school, year eight.
Love that uniform! I wore that for three years.

Last day of Grade 12.

Grade 12 Ancient History class. Loved that class!
First car! Freedom. This car was older than me. It also still had the
speedo in miles per hour!
My first home. This was in Kingaroy where I had my first full-time job.
Loved this little flat (just the two windows in the middle of the photo).
David at my 21st. He actually stayed the night along with some others, though my
 parents don't recall that (it was a big day). This was more than two years before we started dating.

21 November, 2014

Friday Five

Lotsa stuff going on. Here's a roundup:

1. Blast from the past
I had coffee with a friend from high school yesterday. We didn't know each other very well at high school, but have built a friendship via Facebook (she's an avid reader of my blog too). It was a high octane time, where she asked stacks of questions she's been saving up. Thoughtful, searching questions. Wow! 
This is one of the articles I scanned.

2. High school reunion planning
On top of that she's spearheading the organisation of our 25th high school reunion for next year. So we talked about that a bit too.

I really didn't come away from high school with any friends who I kept up with, but Facebook has been a great place for at least touching base with some. It was amazing to get face-to-face with someone from that long ago! You realise how limited our view of the world was back then and how we only really saw some of each other's lives, but not a holistic view at all.

So we have a closed Facebook group where lots of photos and so on are being posted. I even scanned a couple of newspaper articles and photos to contribute yesterday. I pulled out my school magazines and loaned them to my friend too.

3. Musical instrument dilemmas 
We've finally had all our boys learning an instrument this last six months. As a musician from a very early age myself (4 years old I began piano), it's not been easy to sit back and wait for the enthusiasm needed to take on instruments. 

Our youngest son took up piano at five. He's taken a break this least six months. Unfortunately he's making lots of noise about not wanting to go back to it when we get back to Japan next year. Instead he wants to jump over to trumpet. I'm not sure what to do about this. I'm happy for him to try trumpet, but feel sad that four years of piano will be thrown away.

Our middle son took up percussion last year when his whole class was expected to take up an instrument. He's continued that in Australia and done well.

Our eldest son has not showed an interest until the last 18 months when he's been interested in guitars and other strumming instruments. He's taken up lessons in Australia. It's been a really good move, one of the few things he's looked forward to in school at times has been his guitar lesson. Yesterday he asked if he could take longer lessons next year and today he's looking at the possibility of buying a guitar, because he's had to give the school's guitar back today. That passion makes my heart sing.

4. Pondering writing
I've been working on a couple of articles for two different magazines. They've not been easy to write! 

I'm also rereading Stephen King's "On Writing", a writing book, and finding it quite inspiring. We'll see where that leads.

5. Summer stuff
The cricket is on in our lounge room (same room as my desk) this afternoon. This is like comfort food. Summer sounds. I grew up with this and it's been largely absent in Japan. Wonderful to have this running in the background of our day (though not good for productivity here). Additionally fun is that all the boys are absorbed by it, asking all those sorts of questions about the game that I used to ask my dad when I was a kid.

I've been eating a mango every day. That's summer too, and divine! I haven't had mango for five years.

School is finishing for the year in the next two weeks for our boys. I'm not quite ready for that. Christmas plans are coming together. It's been five years since we've done Christmas this way. We've spent so long in Japan now that Christmas in summer is no longer normal. It seems like a shadow from the past. Familiar, but unfamiliar at the same time.

20 November, 2014

Trying not to give way to jealousy

It is weird dropping into a life in another place for only a year. I have to admit to struggling with jealousy (is that the right word?) on behalf of my kids. Perhaps it is more like regret?
Here we are, as a family, earlier this year supporting
our eldest son and his team at a wrestling tournament.
Something I doubt we would have ever done if we'd
brought our kids up in Australia.

I see them not getting awards at school that I know they'd be able to get . . . if only they'd been around to sign up for the event in question.

I see that they've missed out on time with extended family, time that other members of the family have received, just because they live in the neighbourhood.

And other things . . .

Actually it makes me unexpectedly emotional, even as I sit and type this.

But then I need to remind myself that they're gaining many other things that they wouldn't have if they hadn't lived the life they live:

  • international perspectives
  • multi-lingual experiences (even if they aren't bilingual . . . yet)
  • experiences they (probably) wouldn't have found in Australia, like wrestling
  • travel
  • an extended family that isn't blood-related
  • resiliency that isn't gained by a one-address-in-a-childhood experience
  • an ability to travel cross-culturally in relationships
  • flexibility
And so on. You might be able to add some things to this list. It's easy to see the problems with our lifestyle, to feel the grass is greener in someone else's paddock. It's even easier to feel that way as a parent who grew up in a very stable environment (two schools in 12 years), though I didn't have a close relationship with extended family.

So I need to keep reminding myself of the above. Plus, that I know that God has called us to this, not just David and I, but He's given us these boys and not by accident. He loves them more than we do.

19 November, 2014

Japanese gestures I brought with me

It's taken a long time to learn gestures in Japan. I'm still learning some of them, like how to indicate "me". But now we're in Australia I'm having trouble adapting back, especially for beckoning, counting, and okay. Have any of you seen me making unusual gestures?

Counting is an interesting one. In Japan you count on your fingers by folding your thumb into your open hand, then your index finger and so on. From six, you start unfolding your fingers starting with the pinky. I like this method.

They also tend to not to use the thumbs up sign for okay, rather the circle formed by the thumb and index finger. I find I'm a bit random on which style I use for one, in both countries.

I've put some useful videos below on other gestures, some I didn't know about, others I've guessed at their meaning but not used myself.

18 November, 2014

Never completely comfortable

One of the assumptions we're encountering in Australia this year is that we're totally at home in Japan. That we're fluent and comfortable there. Seems a reasonable assumption on the surface. It's been 12 years, right? Long enough.
This was me trying to smile after snorkelling on the Great
Barrier Reef in our short time in Cairns in July (believe it or
not I did enjoy the experience).
However, the look on my face probably expresses how I feel
often as we live this expatriate lifestyle.

Unfortunately no. We're not fluent according to: "Fluent is defined as being able to speak and write quickly or easily in a given language" (from this interesting article about fluency and accent). Although I've also seen the definition as "speak or write" which is obviously different to "speak and write". In any case, none of us fit either definition, sadly.

Neither are we totally at home with the culture. We manage to get along okay and we're not distressed (the vast majority of the time). We even call it "home" sometimes. But there are vast amounts we don't understand about the culture. Never mind the fact that we stick out like sore thumbs. It is quite different from an Englishman emigrating to Australia where the language and culture isn't too different and the visibly fit in (until they open their mouths).

We don't live there because it's comfortable. We don't do this because we're in love with Japan and Japanese people. We do this because it is what God's called us to do. We do this because Japanese people need to hear the gospel.

I read this post this morning and was encouraged by another missionary willing to say in public that after almost 12 years of embarking on the missionary life, she's still struggling with all it means to live and work overseas. It changes you and just because you've been there awhile, doesn't mean that the changing is completed.

Here's how she describes how she started out in her thinking when she first went to Africa:
I was a mother, wife, Christian, stay-at-homer. I did these things well, or well enough, and thought I could pack up all that faith and talent and knowledge and confidence and replicate it in Somaliland. My outsides might become draped in scarves and my language might change but my insides – ideas about how to live and believe and love and laugh wouldn’t be affected.
She was wrong. I was too. In those early years in Japan I felt like I had two different personalities, my Australian personality that I couldn't show in Japan (except on the odd occasion with foreigners) and my foreigner-in-Japan personality that was an adult at something of the level of a pre-school child. That was very odd and felt wrong, especially for someone who values authenticity and congruity. Gradually over the years those two personalities are getting closer together, but they'll never be the same.

I know our lives are hard for both Australians and Japanese to get their thoughts around. We're neither emigrants nor are we on holidays in Japan. We aren't a mixed married couple where one of us is Japanese and one Australian (that's the first thought most Japanese people have when they meet one of us). 

We're in Japan because God led us there and until the Lord leads us elsewhere or we retire (to Australia).

17 November, 2014

Socialising, again!

The people-meeting continued yesterday. We attended worship at our home church, followed by a good time of hanging around and chatting in the air conditioning (it got higher than 40C on Saturday and Sunday). I even did some Christmas shopping, buying some gifts hand-crafted by a member of the congregation (won't say anymore in case the recipients read this).

Then we drove straight to a lunch meeting, about 30 minutes away, with about 10 people (we ate Japanese curry rice). It was like a house-church meeting, in Japanese and English. The heat made it challenging to listen to a second sermon for the day. While there was a mixed bag of attendees, Japanese and Australians predominated, but we did have an Irishman and a young man from China. Most of us had spent significant time in Japan. We weren't there in any formal capacity, merely participants.

Thankfully our hosts had similarly aged children, so understood that our boys really didn't want to participate in worship time for a second time in a couple of hours. So they played video games on the lounge room TV. That helped moods immensely.

After that we drove home and collapsed in air con for a bit (no air con at the lunch meeting). At around 5 we found a swimming pool! Another family at our home church that has three boys around about our boys' ages. They spontaneously invited us around to enjoy their pool and some food. There is little unplanned in our social lives at the moment so it was fun to suddenly choose (and be able to choose) to hang out with some more new friends. It's a bonus that they also know what it's like to move internationally and have family who aren't in the country, they moved here from Britain a few years ago with young boys.

In addition to all that socialising, both nights on the weekend were around 28/29 degrees in our bedroom and I didn't sleep all that well on Saturday night, so I'm tired this morning. Thankfully I don't have a regular day job that I have to keep up with as well. That would result in a schedule that drove me over the edge. 

15 November, 2014

Relationship building

These last few days have been a lot about people, especially people in our new home church.
One of the big reasons why we packed our bags and came to
Australia for a whole year was so that we could invest in
relationships here. This week it's been encouraging to have
many opportunities to do so, especially in our home church.

Monday night: I went to a fun women's night at our home church (I wasn't leading.)

Tuesday night: David went to a Bible study at church.

Wednesday: met for a few hours with our pastor and an elder in our home church talking about a whole range of things. Very encouraging. Their challenge to us was to get to know as many people as we can in the church so they feel connected to what we do before we go back next year.

Thursday am: I had coffee with a new friend from church. We're doing a lot of this this year, getting to know new people. It is stretching, but very good.
Thursday night: our two oldest went to the youth Bible study. When collecting them David hung out with some of the leaders and supporters (you know, the ones who cook for the teens and clean up).

Friday night: we all went to the Kid's Club/Youth Group Family night breakup at church. It was like a Japanese summer festival wit food and games. David and I helped out (I served sausages in bread most of the night). We've found one of the best way to get to know people is serving alongside them.

Saturday am: David spoke for a short while at our church's denominational state leaders meeting (is that the best way to describe Presbytery?).
Saturday afternoon: a friend of Wendy's from uni days came with her family for afternoon tea at our place. Wonderful to meet up with faithful friends and pray-ers.

Tomorrow am: home church again.
Tomorrow lunch: some more new folk (?maybe some we've met before). People interested in Japan are meeting for lunch and a Japanese-English house church-type meeting.

So you can see that though we've not been doing formal stand-up-the-front deputation meetings this week, we've been busy investing relationships, and, hopefully our future support team.

14 November, 2014

Fun mapping website

I've been having a bit of fun with this website today. Not only will it tell you how far you've walked/ridden/run, it gives you elevation too. So, I can show you what our 3.5km ride to school is like, it's a little different to a flat 3.5km ride!

I've been having fun looking at places back in Tokyo. The distance between our home and the school there is 300m and the change in elevation is about 60cm!

This week I've added an extra loop on the way home from school so that I've ridden more than 40km over the five days. This is what my total ride looked like today.

There are some significant hills where we live! My strength and fitness has improved enough that I'm now getting up most of these hills without walking at all (that last one has been my challenge this week, talk about burning muscles). I don't really have a cycling goal, but just feeling that the riding is getting easier is satisfying.

I've been having a shower after I get home, though, because I'm sweating a bucket-load in this summer heat. (David has it worse, he's riding at 2.30 in the afternoon.) I also drank about 1.5L of water before 9.30am today.

13 November, 2014

Japanese Curry Rice

Japan has its own version of curry rice. This is marketed as a child-friendly meal, with cartoon characters often adorning boxes of the roux in the supermarket. This is the meal that they made at my middle son's kindergarten sleep-over. It's also the first meal the school gave the kids when our eldest son started at Japanese school. This is also a common dish at fast food places, like the roadside stops on the expressway. So, I guess it is a bit like hot dogs or spaghetti bolognese might be considered in Australia?

It's pretty easy to make. Simple in Japan, actually, because you can readily find the curry sauce mix in any supermarket. I've seen them here too, even in Woolworths, but I thought it was worth a try making it from scratch. I combined recipes for the main dish (here) and curry roux (here) and did a little modifying myself.


250g beef chunks [You can use more here, I used 500g. I'm also sure I've used pork before.]
2 onions
2 carrots 
3 potatoes
1 Tbsp oil
3 1/2 cups water (840ml). [I actually used a bit more than this, just adding water towards the end until it looked the right consistency. You don't want it too runny, but it still should be pourable.]
Optional veggies: sweet potato, parsnip, pumpkin, broccoli etc.. [I used the first two last night.]

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 Tbsp. plain flour
1/2 Tbsp. curry powder [Adjust this to suit your family's taste. I put in double this and the garam masala and it was too hot.]
1/2 Tbsp. garam masala
  1. Cut vegetables into bite size pieces.
  2. Heat oil and brown meat in a pot, then take meat out.
  3. In the same pot, fry onions for 8 minutes. Add carrots and potatoes, then cooked meat.
  4. Add water to the pot/pan. After it boils reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 30-45 minutes until the meat becomes tender.
 Meanwhile, make the roux.
  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add flour. Stir constantly until it turns slightly brown (only a couple of minutes).
  3. Add spices. Cook for 30 seconds then remove from heat.
Put it all together:
  1. Remove meat and vegetables from heat and add curry roux. Stir well.
  2. Add more water if it is too thick.
  3. Taste it to check spiciness. Add plain yoghurt or sour cream if too spicy. Add sugar if it's too bitter.
  4. Serve over rice (preferably medium or short grain). Enjoy!

12 November, 2014

Daily photo challenge

My head is buzzing. I could be that my blood sugar got a bit too low before lunch (no, I'm not diabetic, but I do need to eat regularly), or it could be the wonderful meeting we had with two of the leaders of our home church, or it could be the generous gift I received from my amazing husband this morning. But in any case, I'm need some space to do some thinking before I can write anything of significance here. 

Instead, I'll post the photos from the daily prompt challenge that I've been putting on Facebook this month. (Sorry that some are blurry, in order to keep up with this daily, it's easiest just to use my little smart phone.)

Day 1: Something blue. This useful and cute bag has travelled many miles with me over recent years carrying many bits and pieces for self-care like nail scissors, bandaids, and steroid cream.

Day 2: I saw this! In our garden. Our zucchini plants are taking off.
 Day 3: Weather. Today we're enjoying a cool change. Riding to school this morning was a delight. This photo was taken at midday in my kitchen where I'd been baking for about an hour.

Day 4: can't live without. Water! Ever since I discovered as a teenager that water had no kilojoules, I've been a water addict.

Day 5: 8 o'clock. I was riding my "new" bike with the boys to school this morning at 8 o'clock. It's been exciting to feel myself getting stronger in my riding as the weeks have gone on. Today I rode the whole up-and-down seven kilometres with breaks only to cross roads or wait for boys. No walking. Felt great.

Day 6: this made me smile. After my 9 y.o. had a slice of this Cookies and Cream Cake I made he said, "That's the best cake I've ever tasted."

Day 7: on the floor. Our house is carpetless. This rug is loved, therefore, as a great place to lie, do pushups, play games or wrestle.

Day 8: a place. I really do love this place, the wrestling gym.

Day 9: oh yes! Free live cricket on the TV in our lounge room!

Day 10: I do this every day. I spray my hair with water when I get up in the morning and then style it with my fingers.

Day 11: a set. I love this set of tea candle holders that I bought when I was a young adult. It is one of the fun things about coming back to Australia. They live in our stuff here, it's lovely to have pretty things to enjoy here too.