Thursday, 27 February 2014



Question: So what do you say 
when your lovely Japanese Home stay guests ask 
whether they can make some Japanese food for dinner?

Answer: Yes please, let me get you some chopsticks!

Here is the recipe for their dinner of choice:  

I love sushi, 
it is my favourite Japanese food, 
but I had never heard of chirashi-sushi.

There are many types of sushi, the most famous Japanese dish.
Chirashi-sushi is perhaps the most popular type of sushi 
served in Japanese homes.

I asked our Japanese home stay students to write out the recipe 
for us and here is what they wrote.
We are still learning English every night
This is all their own work, except I helped them with the words 'very quickly'!


I cook rice.
I open it to big dish.
Put on kit in rice.
Cool rice with uchiwa fan very quickly.
Serve with an egg, avocado, sesame and seaweed packet.

The first thing they asked for was the rice cooker.
Luckily having lived in Asia we had one of these. 
Phew didn't want to fail at the first request!

There were lots of things I found fascinating about this tasty dinner.
Firstly the use of chopsticks to beat the eggs
So why had I never thought of using chopsticks?
The omelette was better looking than any omelette I'd ever made,
and cut up it looked like golden chips.

The avocado got the same treatment chop, chop, chop!
These little black hass avos are like gold at the mo.
The price has sky rocketed due to the poor season in Western Australia 
We're paying up to $4.99 AUD ($4.45 USD) each 
which seems a shed load of money...
But totally worth it for this meal.

The uchiwa fan is a traditional Japanese fan. 
Kaho had brought two with her from Japan 
along with the packet of special Chirashi-sushi mix.
It was a lovely thought to think that this meal had been planned 
long before her arrival in Australia, 
along with the thoughtful Japanese souvenir gifts.
I wondered how nervous our students would have been about staying 
with an Aussie family for a whole month?!

The steaming rice was tumbled out of the rice cooker into a dish.
The type of dish, a long reasonably flat one, seemed important...
We had every dish I owned out on the workbench, 
before an old pyrex dish was selected as the best!
Oh no! Not the old pyrex, but then it became apparent
With much flapping and waving of the fans, the mixture was added
and the rice cooled as quickly as possible.
A shallow dish allows the rice to cool quickly.

Chirashi Sushi means “scattered sushi”. 

Each region in Japan serves a slightly different version of 

Chirashi Sushi with different ingredients and toppings.
Ours was served with avocado and egg
It was delicious, we loved it!

Thank you so much to Kaho and Yuki for sharing this wonderful dinner!

Thank you in advance for your comments 
which I love to receive
If you are not on Google+ you can always contact me
via my e-mail link on the sidebar.

I am linking with the following
Alphabe Thursday 
O is for O-Sushi
Thanks to Jenny Matlock for hosting

Thursday Favourite Things blog hop
Thanks to Katherine, Pam and Nina

Monday, 24 February 2014

Decision made - the dog wins (again)

We've had some big decisions to make recently 
which have involved new job offers in Asia.

This would have our family spread over four continents this year!
We have one daughter studying in America, 
Another just leaving for a volunteer project in Africa, 
My son and I need to stay in Australia whilst he finishes school 
and Mr Wren potentially disappearing off to Asia.

Roll on my yoga retreat to Bali in May, that's all I can say.

 However, there is just one small problem
Now own up? 
Which one of you reported us to the RSPCA 
on account of potentially abandoning a dog??

Last weekend's post Doggie Dilemma 
 was all about the Crazy Poodle.
A little timid ball of Cavoodle fluff 
who is adored by all, except maybe cats and possums 
and likes nothing better than to chase flies on the beach
or be curled up at our feet. 
What would we do with the dog if we move to Asia?

Mutt loved your comments last week.
Thank you! 
He has been positively strutting around the park 
with new found confidence
 after reading Gunilla's, Mary Katherine's and Eileen's "adorable" Minoru's, Jennifer's and Rajesh's "Cute
and Tracey and Jeanne's "I love your dog". 

We all especially loved Beth's indignant comment on behalf of Sir Pooch, 
as he's now insisting on being known,
that Mutt is not going to grow up and go to college 
(Ermm he's a poodle you know and they're intelligent ;) 
...and that he expected to be in it for the long haul.

The crazy poodle braves the park with the big dogs!
It was reassuring to hear of Tracey friend's 
who have taken dogs to Dubai 
and I know Neesie recently successfully relocated her dog from 

May bless you too for your encouragement 
that things will work out fine... 
and Linley, Huldra and Judith for your understanding about exactly how tricky this big decision could be... 
and best wishes from Phil (glad you had a chuckle at the sheepdog's mistakes) 

Mid week I posted some details of one of the potential moves:
to show just how tricky the decision was... 

Much as we love the Crazy Poodle 
how fair is it to move the woolly lamb to a stinking hot climate? 
Where he has no garden, let alone an off leash park?
Or where taking him for a pee involves a trip down from the 41st floor?  
A lifestyle where we'd be often away on business trips or visiting the kids...
The crazy poodle would have a very different life in Asia...
Would we be taking him for us, 
to have that wonderful happy, wagging tail and enthusiastic welcome 
to greet us every time we came home
Yes Lina you're right, we need to ensure his happiness is our priority,
I know I couldn't bare to leave him but...

As Pat and Mon both reminded us 
how we would be lost without him, and as 
Mon says, we know that life wouldn't be the same without him.. 
I agree!
The crazy poodle chill'axing on the bridge which is warm with the sun's rays!
Thank you to Eileen and Nessie and everyone 
who offered to adopt him! 
Yes I did have a chuckle 
that perhaps we should send him to Europe 
so we could add in another continent into the equation!

But the news is that Mutt is not up for adoption 
and we are not abandoning him
Nor are we taking him to a foreign climes
We're staying here in Australia
 at least for a little bit longer...

Excitement over, adventure cancelled.
Anyone want to come on a dog walk with me?

As you can see I love to receive your comments! 

I normally reply to each one on my blog 
but this time I tried something a little different!
If you are not on Google + 
you can contact me direct by e-mail from the sidebar
Have a wonderful week!

Linking with the following thanks to 
Smiling Sally from Blue Monday

Smiling Sally
Eileen for the Saturday's Critters meme

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Ni Hao from Xiamen

Here we go again.....
Off to explore the delights of Xiamen, China...
and whether we would like to live there.

Will we get a new Chinese front door?
Decisions, Decisions (part 1)...

Xiamen is considered a second-tier Industrial city in China but first impressions are of water and greenery. We have 36 hours to make a decision about whether we will move there. This would be considered a tough Ex-pat move (well that's what I say!) but it's not exactly a hardship posting. We have moved many times, with five international moves under our belts.

However, compared with the easier options of Hong Kong, Singapore or even Beijing or Shanghai, with greater numbers of foreigners, and a country club lifestyle, not to mention English speaking domestic help, it would be... 

Well, let's just use the word exciting!

Piano Island - Xiamen
Xiamen Island is located on the south-east coast of China, across from Taiwan and not far from Senkaku Islands that China and Japan are in dispute over...

It has all the potential to be hot, steamy and very tropical in temperature. That sweat running down the back of your legs type heat, with the constant need to be mopping a clammy brow. A life where you hope you'll adapt from being a sweaty Betty, into a cool Sheila, but in the meantime you have several changes of clothes, or plan to live in an air conditioned bubble. Winters are respite and relatively mild, with the average temperature about 16C.

Xiamen'ites are proud of their coastal city with a port and an inland lake, and like to live here. Indeed Xiamen is often listed as one of the top most liveable cities in China. It was Gold winner in 2002 Livcom Awards for best Liveable Community.
Hmmm that's a long time ago...

Piano Island Temple - Xiamen

With a small population of only around 2 million, it is less polluted and with less congestion than the more popular work choices of Beijing or ShanghaiWe drove around the island in under an hour, a distance of about 30 km's. 

Now when a Company is trying to impressive a potential new recruit, they whisk the interviewee off to their new whizz-bang purpose built brand new facility in deepest China, and the partner they take on a lovely sight seeing tour.

Xiamen is proud of it's water front lifestyle
We visited two of the Islands top tourist spots - the Fort and Piano Island. Both packed with tour groups from mainland China. It is a jolt back into my Hong Kong past of people everywhere...

A sign says 'Safety first! Please do not run.' I look at all the people and want to leg it, even though I haven't run for years, to break away from the crowd. 

Keep calm, deep breath, focus. Could I live here?

They say driving is easier here than elsewhere in China, but it still seemed chaotic, with no rules, and hard to imagine how you could ever find your own way around without a driver....There is very little English on road signs, or indeed on anything but this is not surprisingly as we saw very few Westerners. 

Keep calm, and carry on...

There is only an occasional sign in English.
When China's property boom reached Xiamen, the island property prices exploded, and people started to move across the bridge into cheaper mainland China. Despite housing here also increasing, some by two thirds in the past seven years, it's lower real estate costs remain attractive and have helped preserve the Island of Xiamen. Although don't get me wrong there is still construction everywhere in Xiamen...

This is China after all.

Water view apartments
We looked at some apartments, around 160 m2. Living looked tough. We're talking high, high rise. The sort of place where even living on floor 33 gets you no-where near the penthouse! Surrounded by other apartment blocks it's a true concrete jungle. 
I'm thinking of the crazy poodle, 
that's one massive journey to take the dog out for a pee. 

I had always fancied a penthouse,  this was not quite what I had in mind.
We are shown some 'suitable' apartments and greeted by a smoking security guard and the stink of cigarettes in the foyer, lift, and well everywhere really. The lift interiors were all covered in plywood to protect the walls, making one hesitant to enter in case it was as flimsy as it looked. 

The hallways and communal areas had chipped tiles, presumable from all the furniture removals, and were covered in that black mold of a tropical climate.

Air conditioning units were fixed to the walls with daylight visible from the outside where cabling holes had been cut. There were massive weird water heaters in the showers and no room to swing a cat.

In the kitchen, there were two gas rings on the bench top for wok cooking, and no oven, which I am told is standard. Although judging by the Betty Crocker cake mixes I later spot in the International Organic Grocery store someone must own an oven!

Some apartments were semi furnished. The beds rock hard (the Chinese love firm beds - good for your back). I'm wondering where the nearest Ikea is? Boy this could take some adjusting, some digging deep to find that inner pioneer. 

Could you make an oasis behind the closed door? 

We are shown some beach front apartments,  the rear view is of the city sewerage
I couldn't help but thinking how spoilt we are in Australia, the average Chinese family would consider this a dream posting and apartment. I've lost the word exciting, I'm back to hardship....

'C'mon where's your spirit of adventure?', I ask myself

I need a coffee. Wow, we are heading off to coffee shop street where people like to gather overlooking Yuandang Lake at the weekends. Things are looking up. There is a Coffee Club and Starbucks. Hooray!

As a resort town, Xiamen boasts long stretches of beaches where the tourists flock, but locals wouldn't dream to swim. It's Ok, I reckon I could cope.

We went to check out some western stores like Metro, Carrefour and WalMart, as well as some modern shopping centres. I felt most at home in the Organic International Grocery store....reminding me how even when living in Hong Kong, we had an Aussie Organics fruit and veggie box delivery. Flown in each week from Perth, not very good for the air miles but gave me peace of mnd over what we were eating! I'd always been rather halfhearted about the local wet market shopping.....This would have to change, or would it?

When a Tesco's van drove past
 I did a silent air punch.
 Sad but true.

Even Walmart and Carrefour were not as I remembered them.
Living in Xiamen, China would have more than its food difficulties. One would be essentially illiterate, with no mandarin I would need to learn PDQ. English-speaking Chinese are very rare on the street and in stores. However, they say as new generations emerge that is changing a bit.... 

I would imagine it could be quite frustrating place to live but it would be an adventure too. It felt safe and would be a great launching point for exploring the Asia Pacific region as well the rest of China. We would learn a huge amount about the Chinese people and Culture. 

It sure would be exciting!

Decisions, decisions... What would you do?

Xiamen is twinned with many cities worldwide is your town here?:
to be continued...

Linking with  Alphabe Thursday
N is for Ni Hao from Xiamen
Thank you for Jenny Matlock for hosting