30 December 2007

Dream School

I wish I'd gone to this school!


Snow, pack, blog, pack, hot drink, pack, hot food, pack...

Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.

Pretend it's Fiji, baby!


Traveler's Notebook
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.
I've been weighing up whether or not to buy one of these for about a year. I've always wanted a leather journal for travelling that would get all worn in and filled with character as it aged and got thrown into and out of my pack, carried on dusty trains, and dropped in the sand at the beach. A Japanese company, Midori, came up with this idea of selling the cover with refillable parts inside. I've chosen to have a blank book for journalling, a week-view diary, and a business card holder so far.

Knowing that this is only available in Japan and Hong Kong at the moment (so I almost went for Moleskine instead...also an awesome product), I was worried about buying replacements, but I've decided that if worse comes to worse, I can always make my own inserts.

If you want to see inside, I made a short video while having a coffee http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgBwCbywHZo .

Thank you to Mr. P for a brilliant Christmas pressie!

Big Day Out

We spent the 28th with Shino in Niigata City having a look round all the little shops in the older part of town. Furumachi still has mostly old narrow shophouse style buildings which don't always look much from the outside, but they are really cool inside and full of character.

First, we had lunch at Marilou Cafe. It's a macrobiotic cafe run by only one woman. Shino had rung the day before and reserved. There was only us three, a pair of women at another table, and couple more women each at their own table. Everything was ready together and nothing is microwaved. Of course, Japanese food is not all served hot, so everything was prepared in just the right way for serving. There is only one choice and it is a set. It was really good food with lots of different flavours even though there was no oil, dairy, and I can't remember what else. Of course when we walked in Mr. P goes, "This looks like a New Zealand Cafe!". He loves that style of cafe with a hodgepodge of old furniture and tables and mostly associates it with NZ beach cafes. 07-12-28_12-332

There was a really cool wallhanging behind one of the tables and I was just about to take a photo when two women walked in a sat there. This is when I realised that I'd carefully charged my camera and emptied the memory card to be ready for the day, only to leave the memory card in my computer. So, I had to use my keitai which has crap quality. Anyway, I did take a pic of Shino who decided to lean way over so I could get the wallhanging in sneakily. (Later they left, so I got my pic in the end).

After lunch, we wandered in and out of secondhand kimono shops, postcard shops (where, I bought up, of course!), a chopstick shop and a couple of antique shops. Lots of fun.

Finally, we ended up in a teashop with only one table...very cozy! Later we found out that there were two more tables upstairs so we climbed up the tiny starcase to have a look. It really reminded us of Vietnam and how the houses and shops are all so narrow. Mr. P was telling Shino about how they are taxed by what's in front and so that's why Vietnamese houses are stacked up rather than sprawling. She said it was the same here and that they sometimes refer to them as "eel houses". I love it!

I'm going to miss Shino so much. We worked in Thailand doing Habitat for Humanity together and had such a laugh in the evenings. We both have a passion for Thai food and, in particular, Khao niao ma muang, sticky rice with mango which we ate PLENTY of! Unfortunately, we hardly ever see each other at work since we have different class times and Shino is involved in all sorts of committees, etc.

Shino, don't forget to come to New Zealand and visit!!

Marilou Macrobiotic Cafe Niigata

28 December 2007

Irony not lost

What's with all the shaking? Last week Gisborne had a pretty good sized earthquake that did more damage than had been previously thought, and then a few days later there were a couple in the Aluetian Islands off the coast of Alaska. Thinking how ironic it is that I can't wait to get back to slightly more solid ground after living in Japan for three years, and then finding that my "solid ground" isn't so solid, I started looking into this. Yes, it is the same plate. I looked it up. I know it's the ring of fire and all, but I didn't realise that it was the same monstorous plate. So, just for good measure and not to be left out, it starts shaking round here. Just a quick jolt...after lunch, but before afternoon tea...you know. Apparently it was in Yamagata which is next door to Niigata Prefecture. As always, you just hope it stops, and it did (touch wood). So now today I fire up the internet and there is a report of an earthquake in Taupo. Let's just all calm down and talk it through, OK?!

23 December 2007

Waiting for waiting to begin

Lotus bud
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.
I've been waiting for my classes to finish for the holidays so that I could finally get started on packing everything up. I've now got two weeks off until I go back for my final week of classes and then we leave on the 17th of January. The problem is that now I'm waiting for ME to get into it.
I seem to be like a deer caught in the headlights. I can see all the stuff that needs to be done, but I just can't do anything yet. So far, I've managed to update my Flickr page and my blog, e-mail some people who can't even remember who I am since it's been so long, watched a couple of DVDs with Mr. P, and moved some stuff from one room to the other and back again. I think I'm overwhelmed!
My production level was actually higher while I was teaching because I kept fitting in little jobs in between classes. But now that I don't have to fit things in, I appear to be burnt out.
This can't happen. I've got to get moving. So far, it's only halfway through the second day of holiday but I know how these things progress. Progress isn't the right word...maybe grind to a halt. OK, one room at a time, keep calm...here it goes...

18 December 2007

Geography test

I tried to put it on here but it just doesn't work, so follow this link to test your traveller's IQ.

07 December 2007

Tea and Literature Swap

Just finished Although my high school French fails me in undeniably monstrous proportions, I sometimes peruse a few French blogs. I find the presentation tools they can get on their Blogger- type sites really nice.
I recently came across this person's blog and her post about doing a tea and literature swap. How cool I thought!
Of course there is no way this is going to come to fruition in the near future as I am knee-deep in boxes, but when I get settled back in NZ I definitely want to organise one of these. Anyone up for it?

29 November 2007

Running from cameras and getting a bit numerical

I love this bloke. http://runningfromcamera.blogspot.com/
He's so random. I mean, how do people think of something like this? And where does he find the time to do it?
OK, so here's my "original" idea, even though I know it's not original, I just can't remember what gave me the idea. I was standing at my hundreth train station for the day in Tokyo (where I've been for the last two weekends) and suddenly realised that there were some cool looking numbers around. Now, I am not normally a "numbers" person as I tend to class myself as being more of a "letters" person. But standing in a train station will do that to ya. I mean, you're surrounded by times and tracks. So, slowly I plan to collect the numbers 1 to 100 and put them on my Flickr stream. I say "slowly" because I'm doing about a thousand other things at the moment so I haven't set any kind of deadline for myself. Deadlines for creativity...ha! I laugh in the face of deadlines when I am being creative! Actually, I laugh at deadlines in whatever mode I'm in, but that's beside the point. I'm getting off track (No. 1) here. Anybody want to join in? Just create a set on your stream and start adding the numbers...race you! (Not!)

22 November 2007

I've been spending a lot of time doing this lately

And then another person I know has been sitting next to me in sports reading, chocolate eating heaven!

21 November 2007

First Snow

It started snowing at the beginning of this week. Now it's gone to yucky rain, but it's definitely filling up the higher areas as they are all covered in a dusting of snow, and the ski run we can see from our front window is white like two veins pumping down the side of the mountain. The mountains look so much more majestic when there is snow on them. The white against the black really defines them. Here is the view from our flat in which Mr. P is heading off to work on his dissertation someplace warmer than ours!

10 November 2007

hot tea cold day

hot tea cold day
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.
I'm still hoping for snow so we can go skiing, but I'm just remembering how freezing the flat gets. It's still fleece weather, not down jacket weather or anything, but it's always colder inside than out. For some reason they don't believe in home insulation here, and so you can put the heater on, then the tiny rooms get to boiling point very quickly, and then you turn off the heater and the temperature drops within minutes. It's all very exciting and I guess, keeps you moving if nothing else. You can go hang out in the mall (blah) where they put the heating on to a temperature where you can wear shorts, but you know you have to go home sometime.
So, it's pots of tea and hot water bottles all round!

09 November 2007

08 November 2007

Thank you Ambassador of Studistan!

Remember that YOU told me to change your screen name to this??
The CD is sweet! Very chilled out. Thank you!

31 October 2007

Happy Halloween!

Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.
No costume this year since I couldn't make it to the Habitat Party (although I did buy a ticket in support!). But, I've been enjoying getting my students interested in Halloween with a few language related activities. I think they actually just wanted to win the sweets that were on offer. And who could blame them. I actually found some pop rocks! I thought they'd long since been banned for some ridiculous reason or another, but there they were in my local supermarket, made in Spain. Good ol' Spanish! those guys know how to live.
I've been noticing that the pumpkins in the US are now huge. I was only hoping to find a minikin to carve since Japanese pumpkins, kabocha, are too hard. But, as Mr. P says, "Everything's bigger in America.". http://www.bigpumpkins.com/viewarticle.asp?id=115&gid=32

BTW, although it is cooling off, we are still waiting for snow so we can go skiing.

29 October 2007

Nostalgia Monday

This is what's going to get me through the week!

13 October 2007

Pixies Saturday

Just needed a little of this with my morning tea.

And now for something a little different...
I came across this while perusing the net, as you do, by a Mr. Fraser Lewry. I don't know him from Jack, but I spent a bit of time looking at his blog, and I hope he doesn't mind me linking to this page. This bloke is awesome for just thinking up a stunt like this. He's made a giant Scotch egg from an ostrich egg. Check it out. http://www.blogjam.com/2005/05/15/scotch-ostrich-egg/
I once got recruited as omelette chef at an ostrich egg party, and didn't sit down to eat my own portion of the meal until I had cooked up no less than 12 omelettes! "Sure, I'll cook."...stupid me! The egg cracker actually used a drill to get in. It was pretty fun, though.

10 October 2007

Harvest has begun

Harvest has begun
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.
The sunflowers are withering, the rice is halfway harvested. It seems to go from unbearably hot to coldest cold within a couple of weeks here. Now the temperature is just right for a good night's sleep with a fluffy duvet, but the sun doesn't rise early enough to wake you up. So, it's easy to just snuggle in and sleep deeply until the alarmclock is no longer patient.
I love cups of tea at any time of year, but this is surely the beginning of deep mug o' tea season. I've been scheming to buy just the right flask to take to work with me, even though we have a kettle there I can use. I just like tea and all it's accoutrements, what can I say!

02 October 2007

Finally a coolness in the air

The weather has been slightly cooler, touch wood. It did cool off before, but then got very hot again, but I'm hoping it's here to stay now. It really feels like time is getting on finally. I'm no longer stuck at the "6 months until departure" point and it seems like I'll be very busy right up until New Zealand time. I've got two conferences to go to in Tokyo, and then another trip to Tokyo for a New Zealand festival sponsored by the NZ Embassy. All that travel plus the Habitat for Humanity Halloween party fundraiser, writing an article for the uni bulletin, and applying for NZQA assessment for my course is going to keep me a very busy monkey! I guess it's better than watching the grass try to grow through concrete!

17 September 2007

Transition time again

After a long hot summer it's almost time to go back to work. I've been trying to take it easy so I can lower myself in gently but I can feel the stress mounting already. The good thing is that I know time will pass more quickly while I'm working. That means we'll be back in New Zealand in no time at all, I hope.

We went shopping in "Kitchen town" in Tokyo where restauranteers shop for bits and bobs and it was lots of fun. We've bought a whole set of (8) blue Japanese pottery plates to take back home and also some gorgeous ramen bowls and a few other things. In the 15 years we've been together we've only ever had $2 shop types things so it's lots of fun to get a few nice things that we'll actually want to keep. before it was always, "Oh just get something that looks OK but we can bear to part with when we move on". Hopefully in a couple of years we can buy a house to put this stuff in so that we can keep it all when we go off travelling or working abroad. I guess living in this tiny space has left me craving "stuff" and "places to put stuff".

It often feels like we are camping here. We roll out our futons and bedding every night and pack them away in the morning, we use a little two burner camping type cooker (Thankfully we don't have to pump it like the old camping cookers!), the lack of insulation so the gales blow freezing wind through in winter and it's oven-like in summer, we have to chop one ingredient at a time for lack of cooking space, and we actually have a real foldable camping table set up in the kitchen in an attempt to make more surface area, lastly, we mostly sit on the floor. It's really fun for a while, but three years is a bit much and we're ready to have a real, full-sized sofa, chairs, and a bed. Oh, and I'd love to do sun salutations without having to work around the ceiling lamp!

21 August 2007


Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.
Here it is! The theme for the next postcard project is "red". Interpret away!
If you'd like to join in, please send me a Flickrmail or email with your full name and address. You are welcome to ask me anything about it and please check out my photos on Flickr (link on the right hand side of this page) from the last project and also the rules as previously stated in the July project http://shantiwallah.blogspot.com/2007/05/invitation.html. It was cool!

Here are the dates:
Deadline for joining the project - Friday 7 September 2007
Deadline for sending out your postcards- Friday 21 September 2007

The day after the joining deadline I will collate all names and send out to mailing list to each participant so you should get a good two weeks to work on the postcards.

16 August 2007

Down in Fraggle Rock

The Fraggles!

Y en Espanol!!

15 August 2007

All I could do was to have some more sake...

It is seriously hot as hell in Niigata right now. Japan really sucks in the summertime as it is so hot and humid that all you can do is sit on the tatami and sweat...and drink ice cold sake. This is one of my favourites which is from a local brewery called Kikusui (Just like it says on the label, right?). This is a personal size bottle but I actually sent a regular giant sized one to my brother last year for either Christmas or his birthday. I haven't heard his verdict, but if you ever see this in your local shop, I'd recommend it.

Other than that, nothing much is going on here. It's Obon this week. It's something like Christmas for us in that there is holiday from work and families get together. In our town that means they hang out at the mall which is exactly what we've been doing in order to give our little aircon unit a break. But at night people go to the temples to pay respects to the deceased. http://www.flickr.com/photos/89183164@N00/472335406/in/set-72157600217483730/

I'm also gearing up for the next postcard project. I've almost decided the theme and will post soon.

08 August 2007

Earthquakes, final exam marking, and Chinese food scares

In my own personal style I let my final marking hang over my head for a good two weeks before handing the grades in at the last minute. To my credit, they were still waiting on at least one other terribly unconscientious person to hand in her grades that I know of. Woohoo, I wasn't the last one! Also to my credit, I had to wait for one of my classes marks to come back as it was marked by a machine (NOT my choice I might add!). So, the point is...I'm finally a free woman and can now get down to doing all that shit I complain about not being able to do because I'm too busy with school.

Another reason I put off doing my marking is that I was scared shitless (Wow, two of that word in one post!) because my flat kept shaking. Yes, that earthquake that you all heard of off in distant lands was actually quite close to here and this place was a bit like a ride at a funfair, only not fun, for a couple of days. Happily, it seems to have settled down for now (touch wood). I just hope they get that nuclear power plant leak stuff sorted out. I hate eating glowing veggies and seafood as much as the next guy.

Speaking of food, I'm feeling distantly amused by the whole "Chinese food scare". Most of us in Australasia are already well aware of the dangers of Chinese food and it's lack of regulation regarding pesticides, etc. The thing is that all of our food is so Frankensteinised (ie. GE/ GM crops) and pesticised and hormoneisised, yes that IS a word, these days that it's hard to know exactly where you want to gamble. But I've been eating Chinese foodstuffs as well as Japanese and New Zealand, and anywhere else's it's imported from for a long time. I feel OK so far even though I'm not that happy about the lack of control of it. But without a superbudget that allows me to buy organic, local food as well as get a variety, what's a "foodie" like me to do? Of course I dream of the day when I can plant a garden again and be content in the fact that a lot of my food growing has been overseen by yours truly, but until then, I have to eat what I can afford. It sucks but that's life! I can only try to eat the best I can and no get too paranoid, right?

And then, speaking of imported items, I'm now enjoying a bottle of icy cold Babich Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. It was 36C today, so that's one import I'm not going to complain about!

23 July 2007

Trying a new onigiri method

I liked this idea, even if it's not very green. But if you are in a hurry, making everything in one tidy packet is much quicker than trying to keep your hands wet so the rice doesn't stick to them. You also don't have to mess around with the onigiri form.

1) Mix the flavourings that you want into hot rice and turn it over a few times to cool it a bit.

2) Line a teacup or rice bowl with plastic wrap and fill with a handful of the rice mixture.

3) Push a little well into the centre and add your filling. I've used umeboshi (Japanese style pickled plums).

4) Twist the ends of the wrap together and form a ball with the rice working it together a little bit.

5) Using your first two fingers, form the three corners of the triangle.

6) Then you can untwist the plastic wrap and wrap it around the onigiri nicely so that it can be packed for lunch.

16 July 2007

Real soap

Syrian soap
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.
I just love a real bar of soap. Shower gel is convenient and everything, but there's something romantic about having the real thing. You can take your time smelling them all in the shop to get just the right one. And then, when you open the paper, there's always just a little bit of soap dust that falls out onto your sleeve that you might rediscover later in the day. Sometimes, it's the wrappings themselves that are beautiful. They can be ornate or just simple and stuck together by hand with bits of glue that has squished out between the layers of paper.
This one is obviously hand-cut, and has been pressed with unknown (by me anyway) and intriguing language. It's an olive oil soap from Syria that was given to me last week by another teacher I work with who has spent time teaching in Oman. Thanks スー!

15 July 2007


My postcards in the flat
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.
I've got most of my postcards from the project now, so I've finally decided to put them on Flickr. It's been really exciting waiting for the postman everyday! I'm planning another postcard project in about a month or two, so if you're interested, just say...aye!

14 July 2007

Matto's Birthday present

Matto's Birthday present
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.
Yes, you will get this sometime soon, Matto, even though your birthday was last week. This is evidence that it IS actually being made! Are you excited?

Cycling along the rice paddies

Last weekend we had a respite from the tsuyu rains, and so took advantage and went out for a cycle round. I love going down this road because you are surrounded by rice fields. It's the closest you get to being in the wilderness around here. I've now lived in Japan for 2 and a half rice seasons.

06 July 2007

Du pain?

This is how the bread came out. It was really lovely and I'd use the recipe again. Today I had a sandwich made with it for lunch. That was about the nicest part of my friday!

Daisy bicycle

When I got to uni this morning and went to lock up my bicycle, I found that these little daisies had somehow attached themselves to my front wheel mudguard. Must be the end of term!

03 July 2007


This is another sort of onigiri with cool (but not very green) wrapping that keeps the nori separate from the rice until the last minute. Sorry, no video this time!

Kuroneko Yamato man, I love you!

Relief is at hand! We've received our long-awaited shipment of Vegemite. And just in time to adorn the real bread we made at the weekend!

01 July 2007

Sunday Morning

Sunday Morning
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.
I love the feeling you get at the end of Saturday when you realise that you actually have one more day before you have to go back to work. Although i'm still conditioned to wake up early, I try to stay in bed as long as possible drinking tea, scribbling in a journal, or reading the book I've been trying to get through for 6 months.

30 June 2007

An amazing bird

In case you've never seen this. This is an incredible moment by Sir David Attenborough where he'd captured a Lyre bird on film imitating various sounds (Click on title of this post).

And, in case you've been living under a rock and have no idea who this incredible man is, have a look at this tribute.

28 June 2007

onigiri video

Have a look at my onigiri film!


I've now got four cool postcards!!

Oh sweet elixir of life!

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry. ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

My beautiful Laken bottle, of which I have a few in various sizes and colours. I take it to every class with me when, after many weeks of wonder, a student will finally muster up the courage to ask me, "What's in that bottle?". As I sip it throughout each class, I would've thought it obvious that it was not anything sinister. However, if I'm feeling particularly sarcastic on that day (and I think the student can handle it), I sometimes reply, "Vodka...Polish.". To which I often get an underwhelmed, "Oh." before said student returns calmly to his seat to wait for class to begin.

25 June 2007

Postcards are go!

Whew! Without a minute to spare, my postcards have left the nest to fly off to their respective destinations. I've even received one from another member of the group already. It's beautiful! But I can't post any photos yet lest I ruin the surprise for others. Stay tuned!

24 June 2007

Suspicious parcels arriving

This came today after my cry for help that I could no longer get one of my favourite teas here. My Mum very kindly sent various spicyteas she had to tide me over until she could get her hands on the real thing. And then it arrived today smelling lovely even before i could work out how to get the thing open. Thanks Mum!

22 June 2007

Indian Wine?

India's wine industry has been growing by "30 percent annually for the past three years" says Palan Blakrishnan of Indian Ink (link in title).
Seeing two of my interests in one headline in the NZ Herald I had to read more. It seems that people are slowly cultivating (get it?) a small wine industry in the Nandi Hills of south India. It all makes sense when you think about the growing middle class in India who are likely to drink the stuff. I thought the best part of the article was when the writer quantified the annual consumption per capita of wine as teaspoon each. I wonder what our annual per capita consumption is in NZ?

Do you drink red or white with a saag paneer?

17 June 2007

Working on Sundays

It really shouldn't be allowed, but since they'd offered to pay me I really couldn't refuse. My nametag and schedule of events was already in my mailbox by Monday morning. Maybe they thought I'd forget or try to make a break for it. So, I got up this morning and put on my Sunday best. That's as opposed to my Sunday 'normals' which are pretty much jeans and whatever t-shirt I can find and my hoodie if it's cold. I made my lunch, well actually, Mr. P made it, and cycled off. I made it through the day and am now back and should be working on my postcards.

Last week I was really in the creative groove, but of course the muse is gone now that the pressure's on. So I'm just going to enjoy this coffee and lovely pepparkakor (I love those things!) and hope she returns. Except that I stupidly volunteered to make dinner and it's now 6pm...doh!

10 June 2007

Tomato tarte tatin

Tomato tarte tatin
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.
And this is adding the pesto crust. After baking it is all inverted onto a plate so the glorous red tomatoes sit on top of the crust for serving.

Tomato, blue cheese, tarte tatin

Last night my partner made a wonderful tarte tatin a la tomate from my new cookbook (See http://www.chocolateandzucchini.com ). I was very excited to get the book as I have followed her blog for a while, and an super-pleased that Mr. P has broken it in already. He altered for being in Japan, as we usually have to do. So, pesto rather than tapenade, and run-of-the-mill Danish blue rather than goats cheese. But it was fabulous!

Sunday morning coffee

Sunday morning coffee
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.
Ahhhh Sunday morning. If we weren't in Japan we'd still be in bed with coffee, croisants, and the Sunday paper. Well, at least we can have the coffee!

07 June 2007

The aftermath of one America's cup race

My partner was up all night listening to the America's Cup sailing race on the net. I found a trail of destruction that ended at this empty jar of Bonne Maman marmalade. I guess he ate the whole thing.

Team New Zealand are definitely in the lead to qualify now as they have won about two thirds of the Louis Vuitton races. If we get the cup back we get to host the next race which is really great for New Zealand. Last time there was such a good atmosphere and all sorts of events going on. There were parties and full bars and restaurants every day in Auckland. You could really feel the excitement. Go Team New Zealand!!

01 June 2007

That Friday feeling

I love Thursdays at the moment because I only have two classes which are one hour each, and are in the morning. So if I concentrate my efforts and plan my Friday lessons in between classes, I can be relatively free by lunchtime. However, having my laptop on the desk is a hazard as I attempt to stop myself looking at blogs, or worse...Youtube (You can't just look at one!). I was quite pleased with myself yesterday as I DID in fact focus my efforts and got home for a late lunch, internet surfing, reading with a cuppa and some chocolate, cooking a green curry, enjoying aforementioned curry with my partner, and getting to bed at a reasonable hour. Lovely!

However, this does mess with the "Friday feeling" that I used to enjoy so much because I have a full on day today that I have to get through. And so can't really get excited about the weekend yet. But, my classes are planned so I'll try to pace myself through the day to get my Monday planning finished before nightfall. Yes, teaching is a neverending, vicious circle of "plan and deliver"!

24 May 2007


OK, yes, I've officially taken leave of my senses. I've been trying to claim back some creative time by attempting to be more efficient at the stuff I really HAVE to do so I can have more time for the stuff that keeps me sane. It's sort of working, but I'm taking it day by day. Today I'm feeling a bit less busy and so I'm going to exploit that feeling and organise a postcard exchange.

This is not my brilliant idea as it's going on all over blogland. I love the idea that it is where new technological correspondence and olde worldy correspondence meet. So, I'm organising this through the net so that we can get down to using some of that old fashioned stuff known as...(gasp!) paper! Yes, you read it correctly. You have to go out and find some real paper and make some postcards.

I think these things usually have a theme, but since I can't really come up with one that I like at the moment (and if I think too long, I might bail on the project altogether!) I've decided that the theme will just be a friendly "hello" and an introduction of yourself if you don't know the person you are writing to.

Here's da rules:

1. If you want to participate, send your street address to my e-mail address with the subject, "Postcards!" by the 7th of June 2007.

2. No premade postcards!! You must make the postcards yourself by buying blank ones or cutting up card and decorating one side in your own lovely little way, and writing the address of the recipient on the other (duh!).

3. You can design the cards in any way you like as long as it is a postcard and nothing more (ie. nothing in an envelope). Go crazy and let your creative juices flow. This is a chance to get away from the humdrum of the daily grind and let yourself go. Nobody will judge your art. Use markers, stamps, stickers, paint, crayons, you name it. Make it plain or outrageous, serious or goofy. Just enjoy the process.

Once I have received all the addresses, I will send out the list of participants to all so that we can send postcards by the 14th of June (I just like numbers divisible by seven). If we get more than 10 people, I will divide us into groups so nobody has to send more than 10 cards. After you've been to the postoffice to send off your little beauties you can just sit back and wait for the fun to arrive from all over the world.

If you think you know of someone who would like to join in the fun, you may forward this message and my e-mail address (But obviously, please don't give my e-mail address to anyone who might be a potential ax murderer. That's just in case you know any of those.).

I'm checking my inbox now...ready...GO!

04 May 2007

A well-needed rest!

A well-needed rest!
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.
We've been hanging out at our friends' cabin up in the mountains near Nagano (Remember the winter Olympics?) on Lake Nojiri. It's been so great to just sit around reading, talking and cooking and eating some great food and wine. We are all foodies (What are the chances, I ask you?) and so it has been great dreaming up menus for the evening in our morning hangover hours, going shopping for ingredients, taking turns being the chefs du jour or on cleanup and then tucking in.

Yesterday we ate lunch in a lovely Italian place down by the lake and then went to looking for an onsen (hotbaths) for an afternoon scrub and soak.

This area is really interesting. It's a somewhat communal community that was started as holiday cabins in the early 20's by missionaries. These days it's a mix of foreign families and mixed foreign-Japanese families, missionaries, academics, etc. etc.. The people are very interesting. They all belong to an association and have to volunteer for something from time to time. It's quite cheap to buy a cabin up here, but you have to rent for a while first to make sure that you are aligned with the ethos of the community. Any changing of cabins or flora or fauna has to go through the committee first, which has generally been successful in preserving the natural beauty and "wildness" of the area. It's a real "get away from it all" place from hectic life in Japan.

22 April 2007

Memories of my youth

I've recently rediscovered these teas that I drank when I was a teenager. They must be the two oldest flavours from Celestial Seasonings because I think I remember my Mum having a box of Mandarin Orange Spice in the cupboard even when I was a kid in the seventies. I imagine some of the participants in the old hippie trail across Europe to India in the sixties brought back the idea. I'm blogging alongside my last cup of Bengal Spice, kicking myself for not seeing this coming. I have to order them from an import company and it can take weeks.

These days I delight in making my own chai when I have time and sometimes even chai rooibos, if I'm feeling a bit caffeine-free. It works well.

The best chai I've ever made was back in Auckland and I had got ahold of a carton of local 100% whole organic milk that just made it taste so authentic. After a trip to one of our many Indian shops, Spice Invaders, I excitedly carried home my little bag of chai masala while munching on a packet of bhuja mix. Then I found that a friend had left me the organic milk and I was in heaven.

In India, there is nothing like rocking up to a chaiwallah and asking for a cup. It's been stewing all day and it's served in a little unfired clay cup that you crush on the ground after you finish drinking the elixir. Totally green!

There are as many recipes for chai as there are people who drink it and I never really make it the same twice as I never have exactly the same ingredients, but here's one good way...

1. In a medium-sized pot, bring to the boil, water and sugar if you like (I usually add a couple of teaspoons, but an Indian chaiwallah would add about two cups!). Actually you can add sugar or honey later, but if you're sure everyone wants sugar who's going to drink this batch, there is a nice caramelly flavour if you add it first.

2. As it's heating up and the sugar is beginning to melt, add some spices.

A) Using a masala (mix)- If you buy spice masala at an Indian shop, you should just add a tiny amount like an eighth of a teaspoon the first time you use it. It usually has black pepper in it and can be very potent! You can adjust to taste next time when you are used to your vendor's mix.

B) Using your own spices- I like one or two cardamom pods crushed just enough to expose the seeds, about 5-10 clove buds, a couple of sticks of cinnamon, and a shaving of nutmeg (be careful, not too much of this one or you'll be hallucinating!). Simmer it together for a few minutes.

3. At this point you can put in either 3-4 black teabags (or rooibos bags) or the equivilent of loose tea (i.e. 3-4 teaspoons) and turn the heat right down.

4. When it's looking pretty dark, add the milk to the pot. Usually I make it about 1 part milk to two parts tea, but half and half is luxurious and delicious. If you want to use soymilk DON'T ADD IT NOW as it will separate! Wait until you have strained the tea and just mix it in the cup.

5. Strain the whole lot and serve in cups.

20 April 2007

Fight Hunger: Walk the World

The UNWFP is soon to have their annual fundraising walk around the world. I'm hoping to attend the walk in Yokohama. Basically people around the world will be walking on the 13th May 2007 to raise awaerness of hunger and also to raise needed funds for the World Food Programme. Being an educator I am most interested in the School Feeding Programme http://www.wfp.org/food_aid/school_feeding/index.asp?section=12&sub_section=3 and also the Food for Women Programme as "7 out of 10 of the world's hungry are women and girls".
You can visit the site by clicking on the banner I've put on the right here or the title of this entry. It would be great if you could give a donation, or join a walk. Nearly a hundred countries participate so check out the interactive map on the site and see if there is one near you.

10 April 2007

Teachers Helping Teachers Pics on YouTube

Here is a link to some pictures provided by a colleague from the seminar.

07 April 2007

I can cycle 40 minutes quickly for a curry

We cycled out to our only Indian (actually Pakistani run) curry restaurant today because it was a beautiful sunny day. The staff were happy to see us again and we also ran into two of the students that came to Thailand with us. It takes about 45-50 minutes to get there, but when we are really curry-hungry, we can make it in 40. Having been away for so long, I've lost my cycle legs so it was a struggle, but of course I made it since I was in dire need of something spicy. The minute that place goes out of business, we are outta this small town. How is it that this native English speaker (as we're known in the business) orders her Indian curry in Japanese from a Pakistani waitress ?

Today I came across this awesome blog. http://www.nandyala.org/mahanandi/
This is a woman after my own heart as she not only talks about Indian food, but also posts the full recipes as well as good photos. This could rival my all time favourite (although another genre altogether) blog by Clotilde Dusoulier called Chocolate and Zucchini http://chocolateandzucchini.com/. The beauty of her site is that it has a lot of writing to go with the food and food porn (In case you didn't know, that's the photos that make you want to eat alll this lovely food.) as well as a forum. I love the message boards. I was on one of my favourites earlier and suddenly felt a craving for marmalade. Since it's now 10.30 pm, I'm trying to control myself but these things are definitely dangerous! I've really got to get to bed now so I can get up and have marmalade on toast for breakfast...if only we could get good bread here!!


Lao text
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.
I've posted some new photos on Flickr. I'm quickly using up my free space. So THAT'S how they get you to start paying for Flickr!

03 April 2007

Missing you already!

I'm already missing the array of food that reminds you that your tongue can detect numerous flavours and sensations, sweet, salty, sour, pungent, spicy... The exciting thing is that the two airmail parcels, as well as the two seamail boxes of spices and pastes have already arrived and we've been cooking away. I was welcomed with a comfort food meal of burritos with all the trimmings. But, before that, we'd spent a night in Tokyo and went to a restaurant run by a surfer who'd spent time in Hawaii. We all went for the fish and chips with homemade tartare sauce. Good kai!
It seems like all the busyness I left behind is rapping at my door. I've been hiding in the flat so I don't get sucked into the vortex of never-ending work. But I'm still getting e-mails, phonecalls, txt messages, and visitors. Plus, I was so inspired by my trip to get on with things in my field that I don't know if I'm coming or going. I haven't even started classes yet. Who's got time for that!?