Friday, September 26, 2008

Celebration - Part 1

We have heard about this Korean barbecue place from a few people and thought we would do the family thing there tonight. We don't know if this is the actual one people have told us about because no one really knows the name or an address and there are plenty of Korean bbq places, but this was great and it was a 5 minute walk from our house. It was called Spice Bar and we will definitely be going back.

They bring plates of meat and vegetables to your table and you grill your own food.
Judy and Jerry doing their thing.

Jack and Jerry trying to figure out what and how much to order...that took about 10 minutes between the two of them and the language barrier....

Judy, Jerry, their youngest daughter, and the big 40.

Stay tuned for celebration #2. Jack and I will be going out Saturday with some friends to The Love Nest for dinner and Karaoke. Our friends picked this place. I'll be sure to bring my camera, but not sure what I'll be able to post!

Finally 40!

Brigitte and Betty or Duncan...

So back in Minneapolis I had all these plans to celebrate my 40th with this group of friends, that group and a trip to Chicago with my best friend from high school and our moms. Obviously all of those plans have changed. Instead, I spent my 40th birthday with Nicholas's first grade class on a field trip to The Museum of Western Art. Pictured above are Nicholas's buddies from the US, Holland and Korea.

I didn't let my birthday go by without Betty though. And thanks to my dear friend Pam back home, I was able to bake myself a cake. She sent along a care package with Judy and Jerry including Betty Crocker and the frosting! I was thrilled until I realized that our oven's lowest temperature is about 375 degrees. I needed it to be 325, hmmm. So our oven now not only is too small for 'western' size cookie sheets, it also can't be used for baking! One more reason to visit all of these wonderful bakeries in town. So, halfway through the cooking process I turned the oven off and then turned it back on a little later. It's amazing! The cake didn't burn and it cooked all the way through, still moist and delicious. It was even better than Connor's million dollar cake.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Nothing in particular...

Can you guess what this is?

We went to The Children's Castle on a very rainy Sunday. This room had some Japanese band singing kids songs and then all of these instruments for kids to play.

Nicholas with his class at the Monday morning assembly. Parents attend especially when their child's class performs. It was Nick's class's turn. Very cute. Very first grade.

Kate with her class. She was just there to watch and listen.

So, Melissa requested an explanation of the buttons on the toilet. I'll put it in Nicholas's words, although he'll probably disown me when he is older if he learns that I wrote this...

Giggling he says, "Mom, the sprayer comes out and sprays water on my butt, then this one sprays the water higher and harder. (oh dear) Then, I push the other button (orange wavy lines) and it blows air! Then I push this one (square one) and it turns off. Now you know. So if he's in the bathroom for a long time now, I should probably check on him. By the way, I tried it too. That's all I am going to say.

I am waiting for our first Tokyo guests to arrive - Judy and Jerry. My mom will be here for two weeks and my dad will stay for the week. They were on stand-by for Business class, but got coach. I think I better go get Judy's drink ready. Hotel Malone is open if you can stand the flight.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Spoke too soon

Well, Nicholas discovered the buttons last night on the toilet and pushed all of them and laughed a lot and then dragged Kate and Connor in to see the show. Oh well.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


For Gretchen and Sarah - I don't take anything completely off. I've only used them once. Often there is a choice of toilets in the places like the aquarium or department stores. The older people I imagine don't know anything other than squatting. I've seen some elderly people squatting in the park feeding the 'wild' cats and once I saw two elderly women squatting on the sidewalk having a conversation sharing some craft sort of thing. So, it's probably a pretty natural and comfortable position for them. That's all I got.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Potty Training and a Haircut

Okay, so this is one of our toilets and I still haven't pushed any buttons. The toilet is plugged into the wall! There are interesting pictures on the side there - They each have a little diagram. I particularly like the ones in blue of a shapely rear end. And then there is the one that says 'videt' - not sure if they just don't get the b's or what...I'll post something once I get the nerve to try....not to worry I will be discrete and not graphic.

And then there is the Japanese toilet that we often see when we are out and about. This picture is not upside down it is correct and you are looking at the floor in a women's bathroom. Here ladies you squat ALL the way down. Maybe that's why they wear so many skirts and dresses - it's much more convenient to lift a skirt than to pull down pants in this situation. I must say that it is easier to squat all the way than just halfway with a western toilet - that is if you choose not to sit on the public toilet. Then you just flush with your foot. They are plenty powerful as Connor has proved because as luck would have it he has had to poop almost every time we are out and he pretty much takes off everything and squats. I spared you that picture, thought I would wait until he flushed.

On a cleaner note, Connor got his first haircut at the Barber down from the apartment. It's the closest we might get to a Minneapolis 'Kid's Hair' experience. The barber pulls out his booster and takes his VHS player out of the closet and had a selection of Japanese and English videos to choose from. Connor chose Thomas and sat completely still the whole time. However, we still have to work on the not so natural smile for pictures these days.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It's the plumber, I've come to fix the sink

Never a dull moment. As I stumbled out of bed at 6:15 this morning I heard a dripping noise. I tracked it down to the hallway only to look up and see water trickling down from up above. Unfortunately, I was familiar with this situation when in Minneapolis Nicholas decided to leave the sink running and we realized it when we saw the water dripping from the ceiling onto the living room couch. I thought maybe the same thing happened here, but I couldn't very well go knocking on our neighbors door this early and try to talk to them, uhh in English - I am pretty sure everyone in our building is Japanese but us. There are 9 or so neighbors all with Japanese characters on their mailbox and then there is MALONE. We haven't met any of them, just the occasional bow/nod here and there. So anyway, we called our tenant support person and pretty much within 15 minutes there were 5 or 6 guys in the building. By the time we left for the bus stop there were more men and they were mopping up water all over the building. Some pipe somewhere clearly had broken, but they were sure to tell us - at least 3 times - that is was clean water - clean water - yes, clean water...Things get repeated once you realize you understand each other. When a couple of men came to our apartment Jack is trying to say he thinks it's from the upstairs bathroom. He tries to tell them other things, but clearly nobody is getting it - us or them. So they came into the apartment later - 4 of them and soaked up the water, apologized, brought in a fan and towels to help finish the job and said once again - clean water. I can handle this - this is easy. Something breaks - somebody or many men come to fix it right away. And then they put their shoes back on and quietly leave the apartment.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Shopping in Shibuya

You are looking at a famous crosswalk in Shibuya, one that apparently has a couple thousand people crossing here on the weekend. This was just lunch hour and the picture doesn't do it justice. I went there with a list I might otherwise be bringing to Target, but instead was directed to another 7 floor store, Tokyu Hands. This one also had A, B and C levels in between. I was amazed I found my way out without getting lost. You could even get lumber cut here. I just needed a child's swim cap, some drawer organizers, clocks, and whatever else I saw that I thought I needed, but no lumber this trip.
Connor and Ariana celebrating their birthdays at preschool. There is a no sugar policy, so Ariana's mom got really creative with this truck o fruit.

After walking home from school on one of our hot hot days we stopped at the shaved ice van/stand that sits in the parking lot across the street from our apartment.

I went across the street to the market and saw this man standing there, carrying an American flag asking people if they were American. I got a little nervous, because of course he was going to ask me. And does he ask everyone unless they are Japanese? I was kinda curious who he decided to ask...In any case, he asked and I said yes with a bit of hesitation. But he was a democrat making sure we had the info to get our vote in from overseas. Hooray! He is a good man doing a good thing.

Jack and I were able to go out for dinner last night. Jack first made a reservation at a restaurant that didn't have an English menu and I decided that wouldn't be a good idea. Most know that as much as I like to cook and to eat I am a picky eater, so blindly ordering wasn't what I wanted to do. Instead, we went to Beacon - an urban chop house - and it was delicious. This menu was in English and I STILL couldn't read it because it was dark and the writing was tiny and I didn't have my reading glasses! Forty is fast approaching...I squinted and found plenty to choose from, but even in English I still had to consult my Japanese phrase book to understand some of the food. I played it safe with wild snapper in a fantastic sauce with a name I can't recall. Jack ordered the filet that melted like butter in your mouth. The avacado and tuna tar tar was so tasty- I ate most of it and Jack says to me, "I thought we were sharing that!" Oops. Everything was delicious and it was so nice to have a meal sans kids. We were in Omotosando, near Shibuya (that first pic) so we walked there after dinner to see what the scene was like at night. We crossed with all of those people and it wasn't as scary as I thought it might be, now maybe if the kids were with us that might be a different story. It was far more crowded than the day before. There were hundreds of hip 20 something's going every which way. But Jack and I decided that we have no idea what truly hip Japanese fashion is although leg warmers, boots, short skirts, tight pants and layers that don't seem to work but seem to work for them could very much be 'it'. We came across some Karaoke bars around there, although they are everywhere. The ones we saw close at 6AM. We were home by 11.
Once again, my kitchen was clean, the kids asleep in their own beds and the sitter did some ironing that I conveniently left out as well.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Our new alley

On our way to pick up Nick at the bus stop. This is the quiet back way from the apt. It's about a 3 minute walk.
The kid's bus. I was reading with the boys last night and pointed to the word 'is' for Nick and Connor says, "That's the word on Nick's bus!"
On our way home they expect a 100Yen soft serve cone on a daily basis.
Thought I would throw in a pic of the 100 Yen shops (aka The Dollar Store). This is usually Kate's daily request. Again, on the way home from the bus.
A produce market across from 100 Yen, but we think it sells fruit/veges that pretty much need to be eaten that day...some of it is a bit questionable
I LOVE the area we live in. I love that I am in the kitchen, living room or dining room and can watch the people pass by Arisagawa Park - groups of school kids , business men, joggers, Nanny's and strollers, pregnant women, everyone on bikes. It's nonstop, but still quiet enough. I love that I can get to the market and grab a few things all in about 15 minutes door to door. It's officially one week in the new place. This Saturday will be almost a month. Jack and I will have an opportunity to go on a much needed night out on the town. The big question is where? And how do we get there?
Today I believe we hit a milestone. Nicholas got on the bus without any hesitation, then came home told me about a new friend, then told me he could walk home from the bus alone and THEN pushed Connor's bike home so Connor could eat his ice cream cone. Could someone pinch me? Maybe I won't need a drink tonight! And, it was the first not so hot, sticky, sweaty, I can't stand to be outside anymore day today. And there are only 3 boxes left to unpack. Today is a good day. So maybe I should have drink to celebrate.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Boxes, Brownies and Bargains

Moving Day

We are almost out of boxes now on the 4th day since the big move. I am down to mostly the boxes filled with stuff that we don't have a place for or wish we didn't bring...I have been excited with some of the 'good find' boxes - those boxes with items that you wish you had on day one or nice surprises of things you forgot that you brought...or the 'Oh, I've been looking for that...'kind of box. Yeah, but now I think I'm all out of the fun boxes, now it's just stuff - lots of stuff. The movers did unpack whatever we asked them, but there came a point when every surface was piled high with things - especially in the kitchen. I reached a point where I just had to say, "Open the box, but don't unpack...because really, do they need to unpack my underwear? Thanks, but I'll take care of that box. The movers were incredibly efficient. They were here at 9AM, and gone by 2:30PM, including a lunch break. All the furniture was unwrapped, in place, and tons of boxes unpacked! If they saw me dragging a box or trying to rearrange some small furniture piece they quickly took over the job and wouldn't let me lift a finger. Amazing.

A good find...

We were happy to find the box with the 4 boxes of Brownie mix from home. Connor and I decided to bake some before Kate and Nick got home from school. Normally, I would spray the pan with Pam - but that stuff costs 2500 Yen a can ~move the decimal two places and you get the general dollar amount~$25! So butter was actually cheaper in this case. I did find a different kind of butter at the market for about half the price, but it was in Japanese and the label also said one per customer - I would have bought them out. I'll let you know later what it tasted like - but I digress. Back to the attempt at baking brownies. I was happy to have my standard measuring cup, but had to work a bit more when it came to the gas oven. My choices were 1-8. Now, if I had to guess I'd pick 4, but I think that ended up to be about 450 I got out the apt. manual of appliances, a daily read, and studied the chart. The chart equated each number to something in Celsius, so then I had to google the conversion to Fahrenheit from there. Finally, I figured that I was going to bake these at #1! They actually turned out okay, a little crunchy around the edges, but the middle was chewy and delicious.

Cheap eats

So, I obviously can't get over the prices for food - 1200 Yen for cantaloupe. Somehow I feel better if I buy a quarter of one because it seems less expensive - I realize it's not. I saw a jug of maple syrup tonight for 4500 Yen! But, there are these wonderful bakeries everywhere, two of them close to the apt. I picked up a sandwich and then grabbed my diet Coke or Coke Zero from one of the million vending machines in the city and ended up with a total bill of 510 Yen. Now that's my kinda bargain. I think sometimes it is actually cheaper to eat out than in.

To go or not to go...

Another hot and sticky day today. We realized at the bus stop that Kate forgot her swimming stuff. They swim for PE each week for 1 1/2 hours. Nick gets to do it twice! It's fantastic. The pool is right next to the playground. If I were in Mpls, no problem, grab her stuff and run it over. Not so easy here. I really debated on whether or not to take it to her. But it was so hot and she would just have to sit there wishing she could be swimming. So, I decided to taxi it there due to time - 1000 Yen -and then subway it back 290 Yen, and my first time alone on this route. The subway system is so manageable and English friendly, but it still took 45 minutes to get from school to my door. I think I will learn the bike route next week. It's cheaper and faster. I just have to get up the nerve to ride in this city.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Weekend park visit near Tokyo Midtown...Jack was not happy when I couldn't remember how to get us there from the apt - he should know better by now
Nicholas looking for fish using a plastic bag with a hole...he got a few laughs and stares from passerbys
A cemetary in the middle of the city, these are tucked away here and there - the photo was taken through a chain link fence

The worst invention ever!

Home Sweet Home

We are moving tomorrow to our new 'home' at Arisugawa Park Mansion. Things I will miss about our temporary living in the Oakwood Residence Roppongi T-Cube Apartments...

Maid service 3x a week
The view of the incredible endless city from the 22nd floor
The service at reception who helped us countless times with the Japanese instructions for all appliances and electronics
Heated toilet seats
The 7-11 at the bottom of the building
DVD library at reception
Fitness Center that I didn't use as much as I would have liked to
Complimentarty coffee/juice boxes every morning

Things I will not miss...

The combo washer/dryer that takes all day to do one load and the clothes still aren't dry
The toilet lid that goes up every time I walk by
The song the combo washer/dryer plays when it is finished
The 100's of light switch pads because I can never find the right one to turn on/off any single light - even though they are labeled
The 5kg limit of clothes in the washer/dryer combo for washing at one time
The endless escalator rides and subway passages to the bus stop
The 3kg limit of clothes in the washer/dryer combo for drying at one time
The fear that my kids are going to break/ruin the furniture
And did I mention the combo washer/dryer?