Find Long-Lost Relatives

According to this site via lifehacker, Google seems to have added some sort of facial recognition to their image search. Search on Munday, and see the visages of the Munday Diaspora. It does break down a bit, though, if you have a Stephen Munday namesake who happens to be a sports photographer, whose images are then tagged with his name. I'm sure this is not another Stephen Munday, for example.

Of course, the NSA has bots browsing hosting sites like Flickr trying to spot Osama in peoples' holiday snaps of Barbados, so Google still has a long way to go.

Waking Up Full of Beans

I wish I slept deeply enough to wake up feeling this good!

A Walk in the Park

As you can tell from the wind noise in this video, there was a strong on-shore breeze yesterday down at the park by the harbor in Nishinomiya, but this did not stop Matthew enjoying pushing his little truck around. Nor did it stop Abigail and I enjoying running after each other's frisbee launches. Matthew took some time out to watch us when he was not exploring on the ground, and he reminded me of the net judge at Wimbledon watching the ball go back and forth.

Jen's Top Ten

Have a look at Jen's top ten reasons to grab a bento. Already sold one banana set! Way fast!

Bentos for Sale!

We've had a busy week, and finally the bento lunchboxes are for sale at Bento Yum! Hooray!



One of my friends here in Japan e-mailed me yesterday to say she was dreading the long lines at the polio vaccination place. Every time we take our babies, we have to wait HOURS and HOURS, and the poor tired screaming bambinos and bambinas are enough to drive you bonkers. It's a city-run thing, so every baby born about the same time as yours is there with mommy and sometimes grandma, too, so the lines are outrageous.

Well, I could sympathize with my friend and then brushed the thought aside, but suddenly felt God prompting me to pray that she would have an easy, relaxing time. I kind of thought it was impossible, but I prayed...

And you know what? My friend e-mailed last night to say the lines were SO short that even the nurses were amazed and incredulous. She sailed through the process and was out of there in no time.

Matthew's turn is June 8, so you bet I'll be praying again. I know God hears and cares about every aspect of our lives.

Interview with the Boss

Here's an interview with Stephen's bosses, Jon and Takako French, on Be warned, though: It's all in Japanese!

(I learned something new about them through the interview: Jon proposed to Takako at a garlic ramen restaurant - cute!)

Finished Product

5 liters of plum wine in the making.

Now we just have to wait a year...

Making Umeshu

I've been wanting to make plum wine for a while, and now's the season when the grocery stores stock all the supplies. It was my chance, and I took it. Here's the process:

Buy the plums.

Wash the plums.

Dry each one individually.

Add the fruit to the 5 liter jar, along with 1.5 kilos of rock sugar and 2.3 liters of white liquor (35% proof - yikes!).

Back Again for More

I don't know whether you remember, but a few months ago I prayed for a guy who comes to church sometimes but is not yet a Christian. He had been suffering with neck pain for a long time, but after I prayed for him, his neck was completely healed. Another guy from his company (who has become a Christian through the Alpha course, which the non-Christian boss has our pastor run there - go figure!), told us that everyone knew that his neck was now fine as he used to use a pain-relieving patch on it, which reeked of chemicals, but since he was healed the smell had gone from the office.

Anyway, I saw him at church this morning for the first time in a while, and asked him how he was doing. His neck is fine (yay!), but then he told me that he had been having lower back pain. Well, having been healed once, he did not take any persuading to let me pray for him again. I put my hand on his lower back and afterwards he told me that it had become really warm. No need for any theatrics, just a quick prayer declaring healing in Jesus' name and complete health and wholeness in his back. I asked him how it was, and he looked at me with a beaming face and told me his back was now fine.

International Peekaboo

It's amazing the fun you can have with a webcam and SightSpeed.

Check It Out!

First blog post up at Bento Yum. Obviously more to come...

And bentos for sale soon...I'm excited!

Going Bananas for Bentos!

You gotta check out this post at The Lactivist! Jennifer and I are partnering in a new business and she explains the ins and outs. Evidently there's way more interest in things Japanese in America than I had thought...and so is born...we'll let you know when it's up.

Bento. For your other half. For your kiddies. For yourself. There's no end to this...As I told Jennifer in an e-mail the other day, she's opened a bento box of madness (you know, like the hatch in Lost)...Bwah ha ha!

20 Things

Stephen sent me a link today to a business blog he reads, and I thought what the guy wrote was pretty profound. Rich's main premise in this post is that "most people consistently choose unhappiness over uncertainty," and he challenged his readers to come up with twenty things they really enjoy.

Here's my list (not in any particular order):

1. I know it's gonna sound cheesy, but I really do love smelling roses on my walks (they're out now in full blooming abundance and my nose is in smeller heaven).
2. Making Matthew laugh.
3. Blogging.
4. Snuggling with my hubby.
5. Cross-stitching.
6. Coming up with new recipes using yogurt (how's that for specific!).
7. Copyediting (I do this all the time whether I'm paid for it or not!).
8. Chatting with neighbors.
9. Talking with old friends (preferably in person, but phone times are fun, too, especially now with web cams).
10. Hula and any kind of praise dancing.
11. Reading a good book while sprawled out on the couch.
12. The fragrance of a good cup of coffee.
13. Staring at beautiful green mountains.
14. Cherry-blossom-viewing parties.
15. A thought-provoking movie, the kind you can talk about afterwards and consider all the twists and angles (and one which doesn't involve guns and guts). One of my favorites recently is Lady in the Water.
16. Making meals my boys enjoy.
17. The feeling of accomplishment after organizing a particularly out-of-control area in the house.
18. Reading juicy news-full e-mails.
19. Rainy days when the drops are so heavy you can hear them pattering outside on the balcony.
20. Sunny days when the skies are so blue and the white clouds are so puffy you can breathe in the brightness.

It actually took a lot of thought to come up with all twenty! I tag everybody who reads this.

Shower Hands

Matthew enjoyed drawing soap pictures tonight on the shower door! A little arteest.

Pikachu Playtime

Kissing Pikachu... the office.

Our Little Reader

Welcome Lactivist Readers

Here's a pic of another fellow lactivist I met here in Japan. She and I bonded. We could relate. I'm glad I'm only nursing one kid, though. Mommy Goatess had three.

(Jen Laycock over at The Lactivist tagged me for a meme and included our link, so I thought some of you might come for a visit.)

Taste of Summer

It's hot, it's not too sticky yet but getting there (this is the warmest May I think we've had since we moved to Japan), and I'm already worried about sweat patches, but hey, summer time means mugicha time! 'Tis the season! I've got a home-brewed pitcher in the fridge, and I'm all set.

Meme Time Again - I'm It!

"What do we wish we had been more serious about in life?"

Jen over at The Lactivist has tagged me with the latest meme.

I'm learning so many life lessons every day...but I have to say, I wish that up to now I'd been more serious about fun! I've always studied hard and tried not to get too dirty in life (my mom has told me before she regrets not letting my sister and me play in the dirt when we were kids). Basically, I've been a good girl, you know, the kind next door.

Well, I've got a water gun for Matthew now (well, partly for Matthew!), and I do let him play in the dirt. As a matter of fact, I get down there with him. I love having a son! Gives me an excuse to get my hands mucky.

Actually, I was just praying yesterday, asking God to help me not to take everything so seriously (guess I'm opposite to Jen). Anyway, this prayer came after trying to figure out my stupid taxes and talking to a lady in Pennsylvania at some IRS service center for an hour last night.

Watch out world! Here comes a new-and-improved-funloving Abigail on the loose (guess I still have to do those taxes though - pooper scooper).

I tag Jeanine, Holly M, Sarah, and Teresa . You go, girls!

Park Fun

Yesterday at our local park down the hill...

Matthew's friend Chiaki

New friends the Utsunomiyas: Ayumi, Ryo, and Jin

Deja Pu

When you have a distinct feeling that you've changed the same dirty diaper before, perhaps only a few minutes ago.

This impression is strongest when you are leaving to go someplace and have already gotten yourself and the baby ready, and then your nose picks up a scent it remembers in a vivid flashback experience...

If You're Happy And You Know It, Shake Your Head

Greener Pastures At Last

Yes, finally we have been able to visit the Rokko-san Pasture Land which, if you remember back a couple of weeks, was our attempted destination when we got caught up in a huge traffic snarl-up on the single winding mountain road that services that area. Masochists can read all about that here.

Anyway, apart from the glorious weather, everything about today was different: The petrol tank was nice and full, the traffic sparse, the carpark half-empty and -best of all - the sheep friendly.

Dinner Upstairs

We had a lovely dinner upstairs with our neighbors this evening! Matthew enjoyed all the attention, too.

Kaori san, Keisuke san, and 3-mm-hairstyle dude.

Stephen, Kaori san, Abigail, Matthew (chewing on the camera case, which will never be the same again).

Matthew loved rattling the handles on their traditional tansu chest.

Dinner with Keisuke san.

No Fun

Rei: "Matthew, why are you in the no-fun zone?"

Matthew: "Mommy put me in here for two minutes (which seem like a lifetime) because I touched the computer, but can you find a way to help me escape this prison?"

Happy Hula

Just got back from my first-ever hula class! Sharon, our sensei, is from Hawaii, and there were about ten of us there today. Lots of kids, too, and some of the girls were wearing matching skirts! It was a blast, but I forgot the camera, so more next time...

Matthew and Stephen had fun hanging out together while I was away hula-ing, and apparently Matthew went on the slide for the first time (with a little help).

Fourteen Months

  • Used "uh-oh" appropriately in the shower when he dropped his toy over the edge of the bathtub and Stephen said "Uh-oh, your toy fell in the tub." Matthew responded with "Uh-oh!" (April 20).
  • Backs off the rug in the living room onto the wood floor, but the rug is only maybe 1/8 inch thick!
  • There's a clear ball on his playard with a spinny thing in it, and Matthew has learned to spin it from the inside, then lean over the top of the playard wall to see it spinning from the other side. He's realized he has to spin it fast and then jump up quickly to see it from over the top or else it will stop before he can watch it. (Since I wrote this a few days ago, Stephen taught him to spin the ball with his foot while looking over the wall simultaneously so he can see it spinning in action. Smart baby.)
  • If I ask him if he wants to listen to music, he looks at the speakers.
  • Lately he likes to close doors even if we're on the inside, and then sits in front of the door so it's difficult for us to get back out. Grrr.
  • Likes it when I climb in his big cardboard box and knock from the inside. He knocks back from his outside position.
  • Fortunately this past month he's gotten more into reading his books and less into eating them (though I think he's teething again so the gnawing still does occur on occasion).
  • When he's happy he holds onto the arm of the sofa, bouncing up and down, and making his Mini Kong noises.
  • If I ask him if he wants a drink, he looks at the table where his cup lives.
  • Plays peekaboo with his bib at meal times.
  • Stood unassisted (May 4).
  • Loves to feel Stephen's new goatee.
  • Our pastor's wife calls him "Curious Matthew" (but he's much cuter than George, I might add).
  • Took his first four steps on May 9, while holding onto the living room curtain (wasn't using it for balance, just likes to touch it). Then he looked shocked and surprised that he was actually walking and promptly plonked down on his tushy.
  • Lately he's been shaking his head from side to side and getting a kick out of it (check out the blog for a video to come soon).

The Opiate of the Masses

Stephen has said on occasion that if there's ever a riot, just turn on a big TV screen and everyone will stop fighting and be drugged into submission by the flickering light of the boob tube.

Well, last night we tested that theory, and I have to say it worked a charm! No, we didn't have a riot in our home at 11 pm, but we did have a screaming baby, and it kinda feels similar.

Poor Matthew had some tummy troubles, but even with both parents taking turns rocking him, walking him, rubbing his belly, trying everything we knew to do, nothing helped.

But boy howdy. That pretty lady on the shopping channel selling $2,000 pearl necklaces got his attention. Peace reigned from then on...

Meeting Masano Again

It's hard to believe it's been almost nine years since I've seen my friend Masano! We both stayed in the same house for homestays in Brighton, England: Masano for studying English, and me for taking a TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) course. Ros is our link and our homestay mother/friend, so thanks, Ros, for opening up your home and facilitating such great friendships!

When Masano e-mailed recently to say she and her husband were moving to Port Island, near Kobe, I definitely wanted to see her again! Yesterday she came for lunch, and Matthew fell in love. He loves making new friends! And he was so enamored, he hardly ate any lunch...which is very unusual for our son!

Now, if we can only get Ros over here for a visit...

Picnic Lunch

It's great to be able to work in such a beautiful area - and to be able to have my favorite family peeps drop by to share it with me as I take my lunch break.

Oops, I Did It Again

Another cultural faux pas, that is.

All I wanted was a simple picture with Matthew and his pediatrician, so before his chickenpox vaccine today, I asked her if that would be OK. I told her she's a really kind sensei, and that we've told our families back home about her.

Gosh, you would've thought I asked her to undress or tell me what brand of underwear is her favorite! She went bright red and started waving her hands around, saying (in very polite Japanese) no way, Jose, you can just put that camera away and forget it, weird gaijin.

Yoshida Sensei is a very nice lady, and I don't think we'll be in Japan forever, so I just wanted Matthew to have a memory of her. He does really like her.

I just don't really know what buttons I pushed. Can any of our Japanese blog readers tell me what I did? Did I praise her too much? Was it just totally out of context and threw her for a loop?

On a happier note, Matthew is a joyful baby! He had so much fun at the clinic today playing with the other babies (though there's no separate places for sick babies and well babies, they're just all in together). Our son makes me smile smile smile. That boy is amazing - he brings laughter and makes instant new friends wherever he goes. He's so inquisitive, too, and I had to grab his hand out of a few mothers' purses (he loves their cell phones!).

Eating Your Words Is Good for the Stomach

I've been ribbing Stephen a long time about his natto for breakfast, and I guess it was hard for me to comprehend how natto is such a wonder-drug for the stomach. One time Stephen had really nasty food poisoning in Kanazawa and had to go in the hospital to get strong antibiotics. The drugs and the effects of food poisoning obviously didn't make his tummy feel wonderful, and Stephen had heard Japanese people recommend natto as good for the stomach. He decided to try it, and it immediately did the trick.

Yesterday I had an upset stomach from some oily leftover pasta I ate for lunch (sounds yummy, hey), and nothing worked. I tried natural yogurt and Tums, but they were no help at all.

I gritted my teeth, opened the fridge, grabbed a little carton of the gooey stringy fermented soybeans, held my nose, and dug in. I've had it several times before, and I guess as with Marmite, it has grown on me. I actually even enjoyed it, and you know what? My stomach thanked me. The nastiness stopped almost immediately. Sugoi fushigi!

(Click on the above link and go down the Wikipedia page to read about an Iron Chef episode where one of the chefs combined natto with cola to make a dessert - wow. Intriguing. But not the kind of intriguing I actually want to try.)

Toilet Talk

One of my good friends wanted to know what a Japanese toilet looked like after I saw a picture of her bathroom in Mexico on her blog, so Megan, this is for you.

There's the traditional bowl, the extra-nice addition of the electric seat warmer (absolutely wonderful in winter), and the water-saving feature in the top. The water comes through the little faucet, you wash your hands, and then that water goes down and fills up the bowl. The little white and green ceramic ball thingy houses a green blob of nice-smelling stuff that goes with the water into the bowl and keeps the tiny room smelling of artificial herbs, but better than the alternative of no cover-up scent.

Grand Day Out

Matthew loves pushing his stroller around!

Happy in clover.

The park and the beach are right next to each other, so we hopped down to the shore for some water fun.

Warm sand feels so nice...

...trickling between my fingers!

Breakfast At Lenny's

(Does anybody else remember that commercial? Gosh, how long ago was that?)

We've been having a super Golden Week, and decided to further the celebrations by having breakfast at Denny's this morning, since Matthew wakes up early anyway (this morning he slept in till 6:30).The Little Bean had a huge bowl of oatmeal and then some honeydew melon (his new favorite fruit) for breakfast at home, but didn't mind helping me with my eggs and pancakes once we got to the restaurant. Cute Hobbitses always like second breakfasts, I've heard.

Not This Time

Sadly, my friend from Chiryu (the place we lived when we first came to Japan) and her hubby and baby were not able to come for a visit during Golden Week. They just moved to a place near Tokyo and there were too many things they had to take care of. Her hubby is not feeling well, and they couldn't get bullet train tickets this late, so they would've had to drive ten hours with a six-month-old. I really wanted to see them, but I didn't want them to have to make that trip in Golden Week traffic. So, Fumi san, we are sad that you couldn't come, but look forward to seeing you soon, and to meeting your terrific hubby and cute baby in the near future! Blessings on your family!

Tickle Torture

Listen to these giggle squeals!

Matthew's Favorite Store

I'm crazy about hundred-yen stores here in Japan, but I think Matthew's favorite place is Japan, a discount store with a crazy dude on the sign. He squeaks up a storm when he sees the sign and the guy by the door. Our friend Sherry calls it the Fat Albert store, and I guess from the pictures you can see why.

Feeding the Gas Tank

When we left home yesterday, we debated about getting more gas, but then thought it would be fine to go up the mountain on a third of a tank.

We've always heard horror stories about the traffic jams for tens of kilometers on the expressways during Golden Week, but little did we know (see previous posts) that a mountain road would be just as congested (*sigh*).

Well, gosh, we were getting nervous about that gas needle. I started praying because I know God cares about every detail of our lives, and suddenly felt gorgeous peace wash over me. God was saying to me, Hey, you know what, Abigail? I could feed 5,000 on a young boy's snack, and keeping a gas tank's tummy happy is no problem.

Guess what? We got back from that day trip with exactly the same amount of petrol as when we set off in the morning.

Yesterday: The Rest of the Story

Well, guess what happened when we escaped the parking lot queue at Sheep Land? Yep, you got it! We joined another LONG line of inching-along cars on the main mountain road. We finally got to a parking lot that had one or two spaces free (available, not free as in yen-wise), but it was at a place we wouldn't normally have headed for: Hall of Halls (music box museum, and yes, it really is called Hall of Halls). I think most people were probably only there because it was a chance to get out of the car and walk around. Anyway, it proved useful because it was near Country House, Garden Terrace, and a botanical garden (though sadly, we couldn't go in these gardens because of course, they weren't stroller-friendly). We could walk to all those places, but first...speaking of walking...

No, Matthew has not started walking, but after we parked at Hall of Halls, we went around the back to explore the gardens there, and after I came back from the loo, Stephen asked me if I wanted the good news or the bad news first. My heart skipped a beat. The good news was that I hadn't missed Matthew taking his first steps (because he hadn't done that yet), but the bad news: I completely missed Matthew standing alone for the first time ever! Stephen admitted to having had a proud papa moment, but of course I was bummed. I even cried a little bit, but my sadness at missing this epochal moment was crowded out by my happiness that our son is getting to be a little boy! And I was happy for Stephen because while at work he has missed some of Matthew's other firsts.

Stephen comments:

Matthew had been crawling around on the grass and was always heading off somewhere he should not have been at high speed so that I would have to grab him and plonk him back somewhere safe. Anyway, one of these times, when I picked him up, he had a twig with some leaves on it in his hands. I plonked him down and, instead of immediately getting down on all fours and shooting off in a new direction, he stayed standing there, captivated by the stick he was holding.

At first, I did not realize he was standing there on his own, but after a few seconds I did, and I then watched him to see how long he would do it. Of course, the entire time his attention was focused on his newly found toy he stood with great skill and without looking at all unstable. It was only when he went to chew on it and I took it away from him that he seemed to realize what he was doing and plopped down on his bottom.

So there you have it: It's not that he can't do it - he just needs to be distracted from all the cool stuff waiting to be investigated on the ground long enough to give it a go.

Daddy and Baby in front of Hall of Halls.

We got yelled at by the gardener for letting Matthew ride the horse, but we couldn't let him leave the countryside without actually getting close to one of the animals.

Right before Matthew stood alone.

View from tower at Garden Terrace.

Matthew is a friend magnet (here at Country House, though I didn't see a house in sight).

Traffic Jam for Your Toast?

Since Stephen is off this week for Golden Week, we've been having a blast! Decided to continue the fun times today by heading to Rokkosanbokujou (roughly translated as Mt. Rokko Pasture Place), which is basically a park on the hillside where you can pet sheep and other frolicking animules. We thought Matthew would have a hoot, but as it turns out, every other Japanese person and her grandmother thought their kids would like it, too. We drove up the mountain, and as you can see from these pics, we spent so much time in the car I started snapping shots of us on the inside. The tailbacks were over 3 km, and the parking situation absolutely atrocious. We waited and waited and waited, and saw cars going the opposite direction waiting...and then got to the front of the line, but were we there yet? Nope. What that actually meant was that we had to make a u-turn to join the back of the line going the other way to get into the parking lot, so it was going to take twice as long as we thought. One of the parking attendants told us we'd have to wait about two hours for a space, and I think that was pretty optimistic. All this took place on a tiny mountain road, but one of the parking guys helped us squeeze through so we could actually get back out to the slightly wider main mountain road to escape the traffic zoo. We thought it was all a big waste of time, but tune in tomorrow to find out what happened next...

Check out that buzz.

I entertained Matthew with my lotion bottle while we waited and waited...

Self-portrait. (No, I don't usually ride in the back like a Japanese grandma, but I climbed back there today to give Matthew his in-flight meal, poor bambino.)

The Sound of Concentration

Listen carefully, and you will be able to hear the sounds Matthew makes as he concentrates on his book.

Sightseeing Kitano-cho

One good thing about moving to a new part of the country is that there are new places for us to get out and explore. Now, I know that it has been a while since we moved here (Nishinomiya) from there (Okazaki), but when Abigail was very pregnant or Matthew very young, it was not that easy to get out and do very much.

As Matthew is getting older, we are now venturing further away from home for our little day trips, and since I am off for the Golden Week vacation at the moment, we decided to take one today to the Kitano-cho district of Kobe. This is the area where foreigners lived during the Meiji (basically late 19th century) and Taisho (early 20th century) periods of Japanese history. (Fortunately, this is not true for us, but you can see where the modern foreigners - principally expats servicing P&G - are herded by reading an earlier post about our visit to Rokko Island.)

I don't know whether it was for the views of Kobe or the proximity to mountain greenery, but unfortunately these foreigners decided to have their sumptuous residences built on the hillside overlooking the city, which meant a push up an ever-steepening road, culminating in steps under the hot May sun was in order. Anyway, by the time we had completed a brief stroll around and seen a couple of these impressive houses, Matthew was starting to get antsy and it was time to set off for home ourselves.

The local train was much less crowded than the express trains were - fortunately!


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