yoyogi park

tokyo – day one.  (i’ve done the planning for this vacation with the help of the many people who have taken the time to rate must see attractions in tokyo.)  today we started with yoyogi park.  getting a late start (it was after 12:00 by the time everyone got up and dressed) wasn’t the best for being able to fully enjoy the goings on at yoyogi park, but we still had a great time.

we started our trip out hungry so first order of business was finding lunch.  which meant a walk out of our neighborhood for a little exploring.  right off the bat we came across a picture of tommy lee jones hawking canned coffee.  who knew?

then we found a mirror.

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we walked down ninja alley – that’s not an official name, but since we know we are staying in the ninja district michael’s certain this is where they did their ninja stuff.  just like michael.

a restaurant.  where we had to point and pray that the pictures were a good representation for what we ordered.

not one complaint – everyone left happy and full.  right now we’re all in agreement that japanese food rocks.

 

dr. pepper in japan – what the what??

  

we tackled the train system next.  i didn’t get any pictures of our struggles doing this.  it wasn’t overly difficult, but the language barrier was noticeable and it took a lot of focus to make sure we got headed the right direction.  but once we got where we were headed we came out of the station to see takeshita street and lots of people – including these gals who seemed to be just hanging out.

and then we got lost.  so we did lots of walking.  and this drove by us – i had no idea what they were but the guys got very excited.  from what i could gather from what the boys were saying is that they’re like life size rock ‘em sock ‘em robots.  i can see that they could be pretty cool.

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chan decided to see if he could help.  he took the map and had a seat – a wet seat.  he was a big help – laughter always lightens the mood.

eventually we found yoyogi park.  where we were greeted by some very friendly folks.  we grabbed a few free hugs and high fives, but they were so fast we didn’t get any pictures.

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finally we headed into the park.

it was beautiful.  and cool.  but not too cold.  just right.  there were fish to look at and turtles to watch.

and some not so fancy potties with worrisome signs.

barrels of sake wrapped in straw.  you can read about it if you want.

casks of wine for consecration.

and incredibly we came across the travelocity gnome.

it’s a little known fact that gnomes take all the get-up-and-go out of you.

eventually we did get up and go again.  and – amazingly – we found another mirror.

we finished at the park and headed out for the two other things on my list that we had to do while we were in this part of tokyo.  one was find the hachikō statue.

go us!  and the other was see shibuya crossing.  conveniently, that’s where the hachikō statue is located.

we were all exhausted and hungry so we ate at mcdonald’s.  that was chan’s choice.  he says you’re supposed to try mcdonald’s everywhere you go.  it’s some kind of travel law – or something.  i don’t know what i ordered, but it was pretty good.  everyone else ordered what they would have at any other mcdonald’s and they said it was better than they’d had before.  the only thing i’m certain of is that this extablishment had the best  fancy japan potty i’ve ever experienced at a mcdonald’s.

the button that looks like it plays music doesn’t really.  it plays toilet flushing sounds.  my guess is for discretion.

better with age

last year there was a post on the oprah blog that listed 24 things that get better with age.  24 seems an odd number.  25 would be better.  i’ve got an excellent idea as to what number 25 should be, but first the 24 from her list:

  • Ford Mustangs
  • A wheel of gouda
  • Sea Glass
  • A cast-iron skillet
  • Amish friendship bread
  • Cowboy boots
  • Scrapbooks
  • Single-malt scotch
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Ivy-covered walls
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Blue jeans
  • A rib-eye steak
  • Stereo headphones
  • Your sense of self
  • Love letters
  • Hardwood floors
  • Peonies
  • Sexual satisfaction
  • Chinese century eggs
  • A baseball mitt
  • Diamonds in the rough
  • Your vocabulary
  • George Clooney (this one seems somewhat subjective)

and here’s my suggestion for number 25 -

10yrs

this could also serve as a reminder that 10 years is too long to wait to have pictures taken.

and now the catch up begins

no worries, i’m not gonna try to catch you guys up too much, but you might ought to prepare yourself for the next few posts to be about the mostly recent past – starting as recent as this past weekend…

michael was invited to train a course in muak lek, thailand.  the folks who invited him were kind enough to invite the rest of the family along, too.  c19 had other, more pressing, senior-y type things to do, but a16, s13, and i were game for a weekend at a resort and 24/7 air con.  the other thing we were all looking forward to was picking up krispy kreme donuts while we were at the don muang airport in bangkok – i’ll get back to that.

we flew into DMK – that’s don muang airport.  and were picked up and given a ride to muak lek – a few hours outside of bangkok.  we arrived after the dining room was closed.  but not to be starved we headed out to find some dinner and lucked into a little mookata restaurant – a thai bbq place where you’re in charge of your own grill.

after dinner we checked into our rooms (wish i’d taken a picture, we had a very nice 2 bedroom/2 bathroom with a living room cabin).  we quickly (there might have been a little drama) divided up boys’ room and girls’ room.  turns out brothers and sisters – when they are a 16 year old girl and 14 year old boy – aren’t so keen on room sharing.

michael had to be up bright and early to start teaching, but the rest of us slept in, then breakfast and an entire day of nothing.  i had a little work to do and some reading i wanted to catch up and some air-con i just wanted to soak up.  so it was sort of a day of nothing.

on sunday we got up, headed to worship and then the kids and i ventured out to chet saonoi waterfall.  it was nice and cool and very pretty.

Imagewe hiked around for a bit and then headed out to what see what google said muak lek was famous for – the milky way.  there are a lot of dairies.  big ones.  and farm chokchai is all set up for tourists.

2013-05-05 11.07.30the kids fed calves.  they had ice cream shakes.  really, really good ice cream shakes.  we felt a little guilty about eating burgers.  and we skipped the tour.  i was the only one really interested in it – it was 2.5 hours long and all in thai.  if we’d made prior arrangements english could have been arranged, but since my dairy thai isn’t all that good i figured the kids were right on this one.

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no matter how hard those helpful thai ladies pushed those cows wouldn’t move

and besides, i was coming down with a migraine.  and if you’re gonna have a migraine and take to the bed, it’s very, very nice to be able to do that in an air-conned room.

michael had to train a good bit of monday and then it was time to return to the airport.  michael was a little slow getting through security – he’d forgotten about the 8 pairs of scissors he had in his backpack.  but they were discovered and confiscated and then we were on our way.  we quickly located krispy kreme.  it was open.  and it was donut-less.  not one donut.  there was a little disappointment, but not too much.  everyone knows we’re only weeks away from the land of donuts.

we got home a little late on sunday night and kids returned to school on monday.

there was a little bit of melancholy on the trip as every so often someone found it necessary to comment on this trip for four being what next year would be like all the time.  (it’s possible i’ll work c19’s imminent departure into any posts between now and the day it happens.)

sort of like a field trip

…but without the adult chaperones.

this summer the kids headed to their grandparents’ house in america.  and to get there they had to fly. unaccompanied.  by themselves.  without parents.  i would say without adults, but one of them is an adult. (wow – i have an adult child).  but he’d never flown alone, much less with his siblings in tow.  to get to my parents house they had to manage four different airports, in three different countries.  but at least they were together.

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ticket counter in chiang mai

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security

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passport check

one of the airports was in frankfurt, germany.  where the drinking age for beer and wine is 16 and hard liquor is 18.  and since they were flying lufthansa that was the drinking age on the plane, too.  go c18.

they were there five weeks.  five weeks.  that’s a long time to be childless.  and it seems a long time for my parents, who have been childless for quite a while now, to have kids around.  but i wasn’t worried about that.  they all coped.  and they made memories.  and then they returned.

the oldest two returned together.  they left d/fw a little late.  which put them into washington d.c. a little late. a little too late to catch their connecting flight to germany.  so they stayed overnight.  the airlines put them up in a hotel and gave them vouchers for food.  but at 1am they decided it would be a good idea to head out looking for a 7-11.  i haven’t heard a lot of positive things about the streets of our nation’s capital.  but they were fine.  got some snacks.  made their flight the next day.  instead of germany they went to tokyo.  and instead of about 8 hours in the air they got to fly for 14.  and they got to spend the night in the airport in bangkok.  they arrived in chiang mai a day later than planned, but they arrived.

the youngest returned with michael.  they had flight issues, too.  but nothing major.  their biggest problem was arriving without luggage.  but the luggage had all made it by the time we picked the big kids up.

all three kids made great memories.  my parents were awesome.  they really tried to find something that each kid would enjoy. however… if the occasion every rises for us to send the kids to the states again, we will definitely ask permission before booking the flights.  but i sort of think this was a once in a lifetime kind of thing.  next summer we’ll all be in the states and we’ll most likely be leaving one behind.  and then who knows what summers will bring.

USA, I mean AUS

I am going to Australia.  Alone.

I am going to hug koala bears, box with kangaroos and wrestle with wallabies (because I just know they are on every corner).  I am not going to watch toilets flush the wrong direction (because my friend says they just go straight down, no swirling involved).  And I’m going to hang out with Nicola – she’s a real dag.

She lives in Australia!  Where I am going!!  Yee Haw!  I mean Jingoes!

 

peek a boo

so… where do i begin.

i’m now the mom of a high school senior.  wow.  his brother and sister are now in the 8th and 10th grade.  we’ve completed the school year and we’re all none the worse for wear.  picked up report cards today.  pleased with those.  i’ve got some smart kids.

the last few weeks have been crazy.  non-stop activity.  plays, prom, finals.  and all that they entail.  but how quickly we transition because we’re already in summer mode.  there’s not enough food in the house (true).  there’s nothing to do (not true).  it’s hot (sort of true, it’s been hotter). the summer is already dragging out forever in front of us.   so what do we have planned?

michael has a trip to india and the united states.  and maybe sri lanka.  the kids are going to america and i’m staying here. by myself.  2 weeks alone.  haven’t experienced that in a long while.  and i’m hoping to visit a friend who lives in australia.  (squeeee!)  i’ve heard their toilets flush the wrong direction.  i might spend the whole trip just checking that out.  we can chat while i flush toilets, right?  and at the very tail end of the summer michael and i are headed to bali!  (and by tail end i mean we will be gone for the start of the school year, but the kids will be here and they’re the ones that need to go – so it’s all good.)

i learned something new in the past few weeks.  you can’t travel on a passport that is to expire within 6 months.  who knew?  (i’m sure everyone but me).  this isn’t a problem for michael or me.  but the kids’ passports all expire in september.  and they are traveling in june.  michael and i had to go together to get their passports.  c18 was good to go, he’s an adult, he didn’t need our help.  but, for the other two, it takes both parents to get a passport.  so we applied tuesday.  and they promise a 2 week turn around.  and the kids leave in 16 days from when we applied.  and we need to get their thai visas transferred into the new passports.  i’m sure it will be fine.

just like the good ol’ days

the past few days we’ve gotten to spend quite a bit of time with our old neighbors. we love our old neighborhood and we still own our house in that neighborhood. we don’t love the house and never really have, but the neighbors are fantastic.

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there are two families of kids missing from this picture, one has moved away and one just wasn’t around the day we took the picture. c17 and a14 recognize that the time we have spent here has been a bit different from what it would be like if we actually lived back here. not that we still wouldn’t have great times, but it just wouldn’t be all great all the time. everyone has been on their best behavior and grace is free flowing.

s11 struggles more with understanding this. for him this is heaven and – at least in his head – it was always heaven and always will be. forever and ever, amen. and as delightful as these visits are – and as much as i wouldn’t change anything about them – for s11 the goodbyes are excruciatingly painful. worse than the first goodbyes. and they’ve started.

our time in colorado is drawing to an end and these goodbyes are the what fill up the negative column of living in another country.

CU Boulder campus tour #1

c17 is starting 11th grade this coming fall – that seems impossible – and it’s fairly likely we won’t be back in the states before he graduates high school. so we figured now was as good as any to get in a few college tours. we started with the university of colorado boulder (CU). a good friend of ours attended school there and was more than happy to show us around. he also – very generously – drove us all up there. this required both of his cars and for him and his lovely wife to drive.

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CU has the prettiest campus i’ve ever seen. nestled right into the rockie mountains with lovely open spaces and beautiful buidings. and the 80 degree weather at the end of june is certainly nothing to sneeze at.

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we told him that it’s not likely we’ll see a prettier campus this summer. and he wasn’t really sure what he thought about it – since he’s not really in college mode just yet and this is the first campus he’s seen. we’ve got plans for 4 or possibly 5 more campus visits. we’re hoping that that will give him something to think about. and just in case he does decide on CU and i decide i need to go with him – i scouted out a few houses i could stand to live in.

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dissertations are really long

When making a proposal, consider that committees evaluating PhD dissertation still look for the originality factor. They would want to see to it that you are working on something genuine and also promise great contributions to your field. Your audience has now become professionals with high standards. You are expected to present something that matches or at least comes close to their level of knowledge. This part of taking up the doctoral degree trains you to become a professional researcher yourself  ~ dissertation today

we so totally got this. just start calling us dr. monza and dr. nic.  (aussies do such crazy things with names.)

dr. monza & dr. nic - research can be so grueling

a few months ago, i was having a chat with an australian friend, nicola, about the pros & cons of cadbury creme eggs.  and that got us wondering as to what might be the differences between the ones made in “the land of the free and the home of the brave” and those made in “the land down under”.  and from that little conversation we hatched a ph.d. idea that oozes originality and also promises to be a massive contribution to our field – a mostly undefined field, but i’m pretty sure whichever lucky school we decide to bless with this dissertation will appreciate our need to not be tied down to anything too specific.  and, as if acquiring eggs from two countries wasn’t difficult enough, we upped the ante by making a batch ourselves.  for real.  and, yes, it’s as difficult as it sounds.  or maybe not.

as with any good research project we had our fair share of research assistants from both countries and i don’t think any kind of dissertation writer worth their salt would feel good about neglecting to give credit where credit is due.   the following researcher assistants hail from the land of oz (not to be confused with the yellow brick road oz, this one has ‘roos and outbacks – but not the steakhouse, but maybe those, too)  sue t. answered a desperate plea for corn syrup and posted it, enabling us to take on the challenge of homemade creme eggs.  cath p. and beth l. contributed the australian cadbury creme eggs and cheryl chez a. transported them to chiang mai.  in her suitcase.  research assistants from the land of opportunity include michael (my husband), he transported the initial american contribution.  but, being unaware of the huge scale of this project (and possibly the lack of self control of one or two of the doctoral candidates), more were needed.  bonnie c. answered a frantic facebook status update and mailed plenty more eggs – enough that the good ol’ u.s. of a. didn’t end up with egg on her face.  (egg… ha ha).  and our last research assistant was an american living in chiang mai, laura h.  her role was taste tester – she was very good at tasting eggs.  so with the gathering of necessary supplies we were ready to begin.

our initial observations led us to conclude that the eggs were wrapped differently and that the aussie egg was bigger than the american egg.  (for the purposes of this project bigger is a very exact unit of measurement.)  we were both a bit surprised by these findings, but we double checked and confirmed that they were indeed accurate.  after our initial comparisons we got to work on the batch of homemade eggs.

ingredients

first up was creating the egg innards. i’m not sure if we used the exact technique that cadbury does, but i feel pretty safe guessing that we didn’t.

i’m not up on the exact mechanics of how real chickens go about getting their yellow into the middle of their egg white, but we found it very helpful to have cold hands when it came time to embed (official lingo) the yolk into the white.  luckily, when we’d checked a14 out of the hospital a few months ago we thought to grab her ice pack thing.

time to prep the chocolate.  then coat the eggs.  one thing that we were certain would set the homemade eggs apart from the store bought is the coconut oil we used to help set the chocolate.

we assumed there would be other minor differences, but were optimistic that they might not be too noticeable.  we were working with a handicap – not having molds – but were confident that this was only a slight obstacle, one that we could easily overcome.

 

after we’d created the best replication of a cadbury creme egg we had to let them firm up.  and, not the kind of gals who just sit on our laurels, we went ahead and did some cleaning up.

well, it looks like only one of us was actually doing the cleaning up. maybe i was just sitting on my laurels.

and now for the heavy duty ph.d. dissertation worthy stuff – complete with supporting evidence.  first, a visual examination of the eggs.

wait, wait, wait…  there’s one missing.

that’s better.  upon close inspection it is obvious that one of these eggs is noticeably different from the others.  that’s right, the one on the far left is obviously bigger.  and if you guessed that’s because it’s the australian egg, then you’re pretty smart.

surprise, surprise - the one we made is on the far right

now, we weren’t sure why the australian egg was bigger.  the packaging told us that it weighed 39 grams.  the american egg weighs 34.  but we wanted to know why?  (intelligent types and 2 year olds always want to know why – proof again of our ph.d. worthiness).

again, look at the one on the left!?!  it’s got gobs more chocolate.  we were shocked.  so shocked that we didn’t get out any measuring devices to find out just how much more chocolate it had.  but, for our purposes, gobs is as exact a scientific measurement as bigger.  at this point we noticed that our homemade egg wasn’t an exact replica of either of the others – being the observant lasses that we are.  but we were still feeling like it could hold it’s own.

and now for the results of the taste test.  after some serious deliberation about our personal capabilities we came to the conclusion that for each of us to try to eat an entire one of each of the three different types of egg might prove difficult.  and dangerous.  so we went with eating 1/2 of each of them.  which meant we would be eating 2 whole eggs each.  what?  oh, how did we get that 3 halves make 2 wholes?  well, we added a fourth secret ingredient homemade egg.

that one there on the far right?  it has orange extract in it.  it wasn’t part of the official dissertation.  but rather an opportunity for us to show initiative (i think that’s another ph.d. worthy trait).

so how’d the eggs stack up?

 

we both agreed that the australian egg was better.  the extra milk chocolate seemed to help cut the overpowering sweetness of the fondant egg innards.  we also agreed that we weren’t exactly sure it was a good thing that milk chocolate was cutting the sweet.  the american egg has 10 fewer calories going for it.  you should never undervalue 10 fewer calories.  our homemade egg had an added coconut flavor, from the coconut oil we added to the milk chocolate.  i found this to be a lovely addition.  my favorite might have been the orange egg.  i’m a sucker for orange/chocolate pairings so it was right up my alley.

but i think the most valuable thing we learned was that what goes up must come down – sugar highs don’t last forever.  and coming in a close second was that we could make some pretty good creme eggs ourselves.