Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bling for your Thermomix!

You know how you can have your Thermomix in any colour you want, as long as it's white? Well, no longer! ThermoStyle decals make it possible for you to pretty up the front of your machine to suit your kitchen decor, or your personality, or both!

Before. BORING.

After. OOOH LA LA!

100% Australian designed and made, ThermoStyle decals will enhance the look of your machine while protecting it from surface scratches and bumps. They are high quality removable vinyl stickers which are easy to clean -- just wipe with a damp cloth.

Decals are available in a huge range of colours and designs, and you also have the option to create your own design. In addition, there is a Shortcuts for Everyday Basics decal which can be placed on the side of your machine and will provide you with a handy reference to some of the most common Thermomix recipes.

Now I'll admit I'm not usually one for getting excited about bling. I'm a minimalist by nature. But I will happily tell you that I giggled like an excited schoolgirl when I opened my decal package, and got a ridiculous amount of pleasure from seeing Sir Lachlan all dressed up in green after I'd applied the stickers.

The application process can be a little tricky, so take your time and make sure you don't have distractions such as small children running about. The decals are designed to be single-use stickers, however if you make a mistake it is possible to peel them off again for re-application, as long as you do it slowly and carefully. Small air bubbles are easy enough to smooth out too.

At $25.95 each, which includes free shipping within Australia, ThermoStyle decals are a fun and inexpensive way to add a little colour to your kitchen. They're a great talking point for your dinner guests too!

If you like and follow the ThermoStyle Facebook page, you'll also see regular sales and giveaways as well as links to lots of interesting Thermomix websites, recipes and more. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Rhesus Negativity in Pregnancy

Woah... last night's class went at a rocking pace and I found myself challenged to keep up with it. It's a big topic, one I can't really do justice to in a single post when kidwrangling must take priority. At the end of the class I had more questions than answers. But in a nutshell:

If a woman is rhesus negative (i.e. blood type) and she is carrying a positive baby, there is potential for the baby to develop a fatal condition called hemolytic disease of the newborn (HDN), caused by the mother's system developing antibodies to her baby's blood. To prevent this from happening, Rh- women are routinely given an immunoglobulin called Anti-D (Rhogam in the USA) at 28 weeks and within 72 hours of birth. This is a blood product which suppresses the mother's immune system so that it will not attack her baby's red blood cells. The point of giving it after the birth is so that if any blood transfer occurred during the birth process, the mother won't become sensitised to her baby's positive blood and therefore be unable to carry any subsequent Rh+ babies.

It sounds simple enough, but there are many complex issues involved.

Points/questions/considerations I took out of this class:

* There is very little research on the subject as a whole.
* The first documented case of HDN was from a French midwife in 1609 who attended the birth of twins, both of whom died (one at birth, the other a few days later). As a fascinating point of history, she was obviously a literate midwife. Who on earth could she have been, and who were her clientele?
* Fatalities from HDN are extremely rare. Before the routine use of Anti-D, cases were 2.7 in 10000. Now it's 0.9 in 10000.
* Blood from the baby should not cross the placenta into the mother's bloodstream. It happens when some sort of trauma or dysfunction occurs. These can include amniocentesis, CVS, versions for breech babies, abortions, miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies. What implications does this have for standard pregnancy and birth management? Do women having unassisted pregnancies and/or unhindered births experience Rh- issues?
* Having said that, maternal/fetal blood mixing can also apparently occur "during the normal course of pregnancy." I don't really understand this. Why? How? How do we know? And does blood mixing automatically mean the mother will start developing antibodies?
* Miscarriage can cause blood to cross the placental barrier, therefore if an Rh- woman's first pregnancy results in a miscarriage there is still a risk she will be sensitised to Rh+ if the baby was Rh+.
* If a woman is sensitised to Rh+, is it possible for her to carry and give birth to a healthy Rh+ baby? I asked this question in the class but didn't get a straight answer. Seemed to be a lot of "maybe" and "we don't really know" about all of this. See first dot point.
* Anti-D given at 28 weeks because it's thought to last for 12 weeks. This has not been proven, and is obviously based on the assumption that pregnancy lasts exactly 40 weeks.
* Anti-D given within 72 hours of birth because it's thought that that's the window of opportunity to prevent mother developing Rh+ antibodies. Again, no research to confirm this.
* Anti-D is considered a safe medication with no adverse outcomes even if administered to women who don't need it. However, it's made from donations of up to thousands of donors. There are risks inherent to this.
* Anti-D is a very expensive treatment. In Ireland, it is not administered antenatally, as it's not considered worth the expense.
* Anti-D will not completely prevent HDN.
* Rh- women are treated with Anti-D even for their first pregnancies.
* Don't pull on the placenta or clamp the cord after birth. No trauma, no reason for maternal and fetal blood to mix. (But is it that simple???)

So if your head isn't swimming after reading all this, maybe you can help explain it to me again, slowly.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What living in Japan has taught me

Actually, these aren't lessons I learned from Japan as such, but rather lessons learned as a result of living isolated in a foreign culture.

1. Good friends are worth the effort.
Ever had a friend you really really like but don't feel especially close to for whatever reasons are keeping you apart? Maybe they're a long drive away. Maybe they seem to have a lot of other stuff going on in their lives. Maybe you're just not sure how to open up a D&M conversation with them. Or whatever. In these cases, you can expect that your friendship will remain a surface one until one or both of you takes the plunge and makes the effort to get together. Good relationships take time and effort. It can be a risky emotional investment but it's like the financial variety -- high risk, high returns. Closely related to this is:

2. You can't really have a close friendship with someone until you've shared some of the raw, deep and intimately personal experiences of life.
I've had the honour of developing two special friendships during my time in Japan. One of them has been on-line only, nevertheless we now know stuff about each other that either nobody else knows, or at least very few other people know. I consider this woman one of my best friends. The other friend is M, who I've mentioned a few times in passing on this blog. M was very helpful to me in the lead-up to Elliott's birth (poor thing; how could she have ever predicted that she'd meet a crazy Australian who would take her on a grand adventure into the world of freebirthing?), and even more so afterwards when I needed practical support for adjusting to life as mother of two. Later I was able to return the favour in a rather unexpected way; M had a miscarriage, and was able to lean on me for the emotional support she needed to wait out the agonising four weeks between learning that her baby had died and actually having the miscarriage. Her other choice was to have surgery, which she feels she surely would have done, and then regretted, if it hadn't been for my support. After her experience, our friendship took on a palpable new quality, and then when my life fell apart in the last two months of our stay she was there for me in a way I wouldn't have felt comfortable to ask for before. (There's not too many people I'd feel OK to sleep in front of while they watch my kids as well as their own.) Until the last two or three years of my life I've never felt like I had any close friends, but I'm learning to let go of the issues which have historically prevented me from getting close to people, and the result is already so rewarding (see #1).

3. Live church services really are a blessing.
I think this is one of those lessons I already knew in theory, but having lived the reality, I truly understand now. Most of the time on Sabbaths we downloaded sermons off our church's website. Sometimes we were able to hook up to a live church service back home, and we always enjoyed this opportunity to feel a little more involved. But nothing beats actually being there. A human connection is always better than an electronic one. I have a new appreciation of the verse about "not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together" now.

4. It's not better or worse, it's just different.
I must admit that this is one I have to keep reminding myself of, since I left Japan still finding some of its habits kinda irritating, but anyway: So often we can look down on what other cultures do when their practices seem awkward, difficult, inconsistent, gross or just plain weird. Most of the time, though, I think it's just that our comfort zone is being challenged. I started learning this lesson on the very first day we arrived here. We were at Tokyo station and I was busting for a pee. I found some women's toilets and to my mild discomfort realised they were all the squat variety. I had never actually used a squat toilet before, but I was desperate and knew it wasn't worth the effort to go looking for a "Western-style" toilet. So I used it, and it really wasn't that bad. Some weeks later I had to make use of another one and was delighted to discover they're even easier to use when you face the right direction (towards the flush, not away from it). These days squat toilets don't faze me in the slightest. I don't prefer them, but neither do I deliberately avoid them. They're not better or worse, just different. Same deal applies to most things.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Izu-Mito Sea Paradise

About three kilometres down the road from Awashima Marine Park is another aquarium and marine park called Izu-Mito Sea Paradise. It's bigger and a little more slick than Awashima; consequently it costs more to get in (1900 yen per adult at the time of writing this) and the dolphins do more entertaining tricks. Unfortunately none of our photos of the fishies turned out very well, but the aquarium is quite extensive and worth a look. Anyway, here's a sample of what's on offer.

No touristy establishment is complete without the photography service you can pay extra for.

Yep, they're just as ugly up close.

Crush lives here.

I don't know how much extra it costs to don an orange life jacket and see the dolphins jumping from up really close, but I bet it's kind of cool to do so.

The dolphins did some neat tricks with this woman, the most spectacular one being to throw her up really high out of the water (we didn't get it on camera). There's also a show in a different pool featuring seals doing balancing tricks and Pacific white-sided dolphins which swim really fast and do some cool stuff. The interesting thing about that show is that the pool is above ground with a glass wall so you can see what the dolphins are doing under water.

This is less exciting than it looks. But at least it shows you something of what else is there. Other animals include a few varieties of seals, a sea otter and Humboldt penguins (which stink).

Personally I prefer Awashima Marine Park, but this place is still worth a visit if you've got the time. Certainly the dolphin shows here are better, but I think that's the only thing it's got over Awashima.

To get there, take the Kisho bus from stop number 8 on the south side of Numazu Station. It takes roughly half an hour, it's another stop or two past Awashima Marine Park, and it stops on the main road just outside the entrance.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Business negotiations, Japanese style

Our air conditioner and hot water system have packed it in, so after a few phone calls back and forth between our caretaker, landlord, the translating company and Daikin Air, I was told a service person would come around this afternoon so could I please stay home. OK, no problem.

At 3:00 this afternoon I get a phone call from Daikin Air. They are very busy today so they can't come until tomorrow. What time would be suitable?

Well we didn't get showers this morning, and Craig didn't have one yesterday either. So really, today would be suitable. But OK, first thing tomorrow would be great.

What time tomorrow morning?


Until what time?

Huh? What do you mean until what time, I'll stay here as long as it takes you. How long do you expect it to take?

Maybe one hour.

OK. So 9:00 until 10:00 then. (Although I've caught on to what's really going on now... I'm in the middle of another one of those Japanese cultural experiences.)

And what other times would be suitable?

Bingo, I knew it. Sigh. In the afternoon, 1:00 is fine.

Until when?

Sigh. Any time from 1:00 is fine.

OK then. We will see you at 1:00 tomorrow. Thank you.

Well I'll say this much. At least a service person will show up at 1:00 tomorrow (which would not be guaranteed if this conversation was happening in Australia), and at least they called at 3:00 instead of 5:30. Right. I'm off to the park then.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In the manner of a river

I recently learned of a beautiful Japanese phrase. Kawa no ji mitai -- "in the manner of a river". The wider context is kawa no ji mitai nemasu, meaning "to sleep in the manner of a river". How on earth does one sleep like a river?

Like this. The kanji for kawa (river) is:
The two outer lines represent the riverbanks and the middle line is the river itself. Sleeping in this manner refers to co-sleeping; the river is the child, the banks are the parents. Isn't that a wonderful image?

I learned of this because Craig told me about a conversation he had with one of his work colleagues. They were talking about Elliott, within the context of how often he's waking at night, and it naturally came out that Elliott's in bed with us. Craig's colleague then explained that sleeping with babies is such a common practice in Japan that they even have this phrase for it.

Curious to find out if this was true or just what one person was saying, I did a little googling. I found this article which affirms it. It's a sociology essay comparing American and Japanese infant sleeping practices and how they reflect wider values of their respective cultures. And it mentions kawa:
The Japanese... emphasize the value of dependence as the primary socializing experience. The Japanese word for a common cosleeping arrangement demonstrates this value. "The custom of the child sleeping between the parents is referred to as kawa. Kawa is the Japanese character for a river flowing between 2 banks and kawa is therefore used to refer to the child sleeping between the protective support of the 2 parents."

And then I found this blog post which says pretty much exactly the same thing as the essay, only in a much more readable form. I just think that's cool.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A day trip from Numazu to Heda

Heda is a small town on the west coast of the Izu Peninsula. It has a "real" beach, which is its main attraction, and a few other features to keep the tourists coming. A small onsen, a smattering of temples, giant crabs, a museum of... something which I forget now.

We just spent the day walking around. The first hour was spent wandering the streets, stopping to check out the outside of the onsen (boring) and watch a mother and two kids feeding koi (those gigantic goldfish) in one of the local canals. Then we walked all around the bay to the beach area and spent the rest of our time hanging around there, and walking around the head of the bay too.

Heda is an isolated place that's apparently quite difficult to get to. It's only 28km from Numazu by road, but it's a very narrow and winding road so it'll take you at least an hour and probably longer if you get stuck behind someone slow. (Apparently it takes five hours to get to from Tokyo in the peak of summer.) We went by ferry; the "White Marine" departs from the northwest end of the Numazu port, takes half an hour and costs 2000 yen one-way. So it's pricey, but has some novelty value and quite spectacular scenery along the way.

Don't ask me how those people got to those rocks, but I think they were still there on our way back in the afternoon.

This beach gets packed out with people in summer. If it had been a clear day, you'd be able to see Mt Fuji in the background of this photo.

Cos she's a cutie.

Cos the pictures amuse me.

*****     *****     *****
The ferry timetable is hard to find on the internet; even harder to find in English. Your best bet is probably to just head down to the ticket office at the port (the room at the end of the dinky little building across and up the road a bit from the Fishmarket Taproom and Baird Brewery), or you could probably ask at the Taproom itself, since everybody speaks English there. We took the 9:00 a.m. ferry; the next one was at 11:00 a.m., but that was the timetable for spring and summer. It varies throughout the year. Going back, we took the last ferry at 3:15 p.m.