"Osoji" & "osechi"...
Well, it's done (mostly). In order to celebrate New Years Japanese-style, today I engaged in two very important activities: "osoji", which means the new year cleaning, & "osechi ryori", which is cooking the new year food. To be honest, the "osoji" was not as comprehensive as it would have been in Japan, where the house is turned upside-down, bookshelves are emptied, moved, cleaned behind, dusted, & reloaded (as an example), etc... What I have been doing for the past week-ish is making mental notes of the messy, trouble spots around the house & dedicating myself to putting them to rights. Today I tackled one of the worst- a particular long shelf in the kitchen that collects every piece of junk imaginable until things are no longer distinguisable from each other... (& the cookbooks that sit behind the junk are not accessible). It is no longer so, thanks to "osoji". In fact, I keep stopping to admire the clean lines of a shelf full of cookbooks & almost completely lacking clutter. The recycling bin is now full of old magazines & papers that were useful last spring & summer & I found some things I've been looking for (in a desultory fashion) for months. Hooray!! Charlie & Brendan steered way clear of the osoji- smart guys.
Tomoko arrived for a lesson, with osechi ryori to follow, at 2:00. Our lesson was of InuYasha & friends telling each other "Happy New Year" ("akemashite omedeto") in different ways & making new year resolutions. We talked about some of the activities that families do on New Year's Day in Japan, like playing games & flying kites. Brendan has decided that he wants to go kite-flying ("takoage") & according to the weather forecast, it should be fine weather for it (although weird weather for January 1st in the northeast US).
After lesson Tomoko & I got to cooking ("ryori") some osechi (new year food) for tomorrow. We decided to focus on making "nimono", which is "boiled food". We prepared some of the japanese veggies we'd found at the asian markets on Wednesday, such as renkon (lotus root) & satoimo (a sort of potato), & also some ninjin (good old carrots :). We also added shirataki, which are noodles made from yam starch, shiitake mushrooms, & koyadofu, which is freeze-dried tofu to the pot, & simmered it all in dashi (fish broth), shoyu (soy sauce), mirin (cooking rice wine), & sugar. We tasted the broth from time to time & I learned alot about how it's supposed to taste by tasting the evolution of the broth. We also made tamagoyaki, which is a rolled omelette. Tomoko's mom had sent from Japan some foods she'd made, too, like pickles, which we'll add to the jubako (box for the new years foods) tomorrow. There were also a couple traditional foods which won't make the box, being too strange for even my adventurous tastes, although I did try a little bit of them. One was masses of fish eggs that looked like pale, pinkish lungs. It was very crunchy, but exuded an odd liquid when chewed, with a fishy flavour. The other was little, dried, candied fish. They tasted really good but looked kind of tortured... Tomoko giggled when I told her that. I will take a picture of the box tomorrow when we've got the food in. I actually have to give the nimono another round of simmering tomorrow morning- it's supposed to be better after simmering twice...
Tomoko had to leave before dinner, but I was able to put-together the traditional New Year's Eve soba noodle dish- long noodles representing wishes for long life. I used a mild konbu-dashi (kelp-only broth) because Charlie & Brendan aren't fond of the stronger fish-based ones (unless it's used to make miso soup, which Brendan loves). I cut some carrots into flower shapes & simmered them in the broth. Then added soy sauce, kamaboko (pressed fish cake slice), & tamagoyaki to my bowl (I'm the only one who'll eat these) & then loaded all the bowls with soba noodles & broth. It was very filling & yummy. Charlie & I split a Belgian lambic beer- just to make it a truly international experience :)
Throughout the day Brendan bounced from coping quite well with life (& the funny smells coming from the kitchen :) & then becoming paralysed by OCD thoughts & needing a lot of help getting past them. Charlie & I were able to work with him each time, but it was clear that these OCD thoughts were making him miserable & were taking a lot of his energy. At bath time this evening I heard moans coming from his room so I went up & Charlie was trying to problem-solve with him. He couldn't figure out where Rufus should go during his bath, so I volunteered to watch him... but then I had to stay upstairs (I'd begun this blog entry, but saved it to finish later)... then he needed both of us in the bathroom (I turned my back while he changed into his swimsuit)... & finally he was in the tub & washing. Whew. Afterward, we had decided to watch our favourite InuYasha episode (called "Shippo Gets an Angry Challenge", from Season 3) together, but Brendan got stuck in his room because his ExoForce lego guys weren't in the "right" positions & he said it was like a physical pain to see them that way... After repositioning the offending guys, we helped him downstairs, moaning all the way, & revved-up the dvd. Within moments of the show's beginning he was fine & we giggled our way through the episode... Whew!! He was a bit squirrelly getting into bed, but settled down as soon as I started reading to him. I gave him a "quick minute" after reading a chapter, & he coped with some restlessness & hiccups before finally falling asleep. Charlie & I agreed that it's time to start the afternoon dose of klonapin that his psychiatrist recommended earlier this week. Poor kid needs a break!!
Tomorrow we'll reap the rewards of osoji & osechi (yum!) & Brendan will have some otoshidama (New Year's gift for children). So, if you haven't heard it yet, let me be the first to wish you "akemashite omedeto gozaimasu!" (あけまして おめでと ございます！). Happy New Year!!