Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Missing Papi

O is gone for 3 weeks of training at the Center for Sustainment of Trauma and Readiness Skills via the Air Force Expeditionary Medical Skills Institute. Sounds pretty impressive, huh? LOL He'll then travel to FL to spend a week with the kids.

E is doing okay so far, he hasn't asked for his dad yet, but is sleeping in the twin bed in O's office every night, snugged up with all of Papi's pillows and blankets, and playing Papi's precious PS3 for a few minutes before bed every night.
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The day before O left, we just lounged in the backyard, enjoying the evening, still-not-quite-summer weather.
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Monday, June 29, 2009

Our day in Tokyo

We got to the hotel around 5p, it was a quick, easy drive, no traffic at all. Ethan was so excited to be at the Sanno, he loves it almost as much as I do! I had planned for us to go out for some dinner, but Ethan didn't want to leave the hotel! Not even when I tried to tempt him with McD's. He said "Let's stay here and have hotel dinner!" So that's what we did.

I didn't have any plans at all, it was really a spur-of-the-moment trip, so even if we hadn't left the hotel at all, that would have been fine. After b'fast the next morning, Ethan reluctantly headed out with me.

When we go to the New Sanno via the expressway (Shuto), just before we take the Meguro exit for the hotel, we pass this really cool looking area, it's a huge building w/ blue-green glass and what looks to be a garden out front, with an outdoor escalator running up the middle. We're usually going about 90 kmh, and I'm usually the one driving, so I've never gotten a really good look at the area, but it's always looked so pretty. The bad thing about expressways in Japan is that the exits are very few and far between, we're talking miles between some exits, so if you pass something you'd like to see, it's not as simple as getting off at the next exit to check it out. Plus, the expressways are evelvated, sometimes as high as 3 stories above the city streets, so you actually have no idea what's under you, no way to easily pick out landmarks to help you find your way back, so I couldn't tell if the building and garden were on a street, if so, which street, or in the middle of a block. And it's really difficult to tell what part of the city you're in as you sail along the highway, are we in Komiyacho? Nihonbashi? Azabu?

Anyway, the last time I drove that route, I caught a glimpse of a sign near the garden: Hotel Villa Fountaine. I googled it and was discouraged to find that there were about 14 different branches of that hotel in Tokyo! Grrrrrrr! But this point, I was determined to find that garden! So I broke out all my Tokyo maps and starting eliminating places that didn't match up with the vague idea I had of where the hotel was located. I finally narrowed it down to Roppongi, more specifically Roppongi-Itchome. Turns out the building/garden is called Izumi Gardens. I had plotted the route we would take to get there, so that's where we headed when we left the Sanno. There was absolutely no point to this adventure, just a chance to explore a little bit more of Tokyo. It's exactly the type of thing O hates to do: wander around with no clear plan, to places we've never been and aren't sure how to get to, for no reason, but it's exactly the type of thing I LOVE to do, so this was the perfect chance to do it!

The Roppongi-Itchome subway station is in the basement of the Izumi Garden building, and you exit into a cute little courtyard, then take a series of 5 - 6 escalators up through the garden to the street level, it's called an "urban corridor". It was really pretty, and despite being directly off the expressway, very peaceful and quiet. We followed the sidewalk through the garden and crossed the street where we found Shiroyama Garden! What a nice surprise! I absolutely looooooovvvveeee gardens tucked away in the heart of a big city. It's like a little green oasis in the middle of all the gray. I especially love the small ones, it always feels like you've stumbled into someone's secrect garden....yeah, I'm a cornball. This garden was so perfect, exactly what I love! I could have stayed there all day, tucked away from all the hustle and bustle, maybe with a yummy coffee and a good book......but not this time. We strolled around for awhile, enjoying the coolness and exploring all the little nooks and crannies, then headed off in search of another subway station to continue on towards Tokyo Station.

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We ended up walking about 10 blocks, making a scenic, winding path to Roppongi station. I could wander around the city all day! I love Tokyo so much! We passed pretty close to Tokyo Tower. Ethan absolutely adores TT! No matter how many times we go there, or how many times he sees it, it's always like the first time. He never gets tired of it.

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We got to Tokyo station around 12:30 and bought tickets for the 14:00 Sky Bus tour. We've never done it before, and Ethan loves riding buses, so I thought it'd fun. Since we had about 1.5hrs to kill, we wandered around the basements of the Mistubishi and Marunochi buildings, where there are all kinds of shops and restaurants. We stopped in at Cold Stone Creamery, only our second visit ever, our first ever in Japan. It was super yummy, but really expensive, Y1000 for two cups of the smallest size!

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We loaded on to the bus promptly at 14:00, surprisingly, we were the only Westerners on board, everyone else appeared to be Japanese! Ethan was in heaven riding up high on top of the bus, with no roof, but it was a bit of a disappointment to me. It was nice to see the city from such a different perspective, but we really didn't see much of interest. The ride was 1 hour long and took us around the Imperial Palace, and down Chuo Dori through Ginza, that was about it! Bummer. But I'm glad we did it, only cost Y1500 for the two of us, so that wasn't too bad, and E really did enjoy himself. I wish they had the "jump on and off" double decker buses that circle the whole city, I've ridden them in Singapore, London and NYC, it's such a great way to get around and really see the city!

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The front of Tokyo Station. They're doing major renovations in and around the station.

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A bridge at the palace.

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Heading down Chuo-dori in Ginza

And Ethan's favorite part? Pulling up next a garbage truck! He even begged me to take a picture!

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Ethan as we pulled up in front of our house.

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It was a really fun day, I swear I could go in to Tokyo everyday and never get tired of it! I've made reservations at the N.S. for 3 days, for my b-day next month. Me, E and my neighbor w/ her four kids. Both our hubs will be gone, so we figured we take the kids to Tokyo. We're planning to go to Odaiba to see the giant Gundam robot (meant to go this trip, but didn't make it) and for a b-day dinner at Kui 'Aina. Yumm-o!

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bad Blogger!

Sorry :( No excuse, just life. Got the rest of the Singapore pix onto O's computer, just need to transfer them to mine. As I was packing for our way-too-quick trip to Hiroshima for O's b-day (post coming soon, I promise!) I found my media card-reader-thingy, so the Hiroshima pictures are downloaded to my computer, just need to sort and edit them.

Ethan and I decided to come into T-town for a night at the New Sanno, no reason, just felt like getting away. O and G couldn't be less interested, as usual, so we just came without them! We'll just poke around the city tomorrow for a few hours, then head home.

Otis leaves on Saturday for 3 weeks in Baltimore + 1 week in Florida with the kids. So, so happy that he's getting to see them again so soon after their last visit in April! Being away from them is the one and only horrible part about being in Japan, we miss them so much. Ethan's going through a really weird seperation anxiety thing with his papi, so it'll be interesting to see how he handles an entire month with him gone.

More posts soon!
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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Out.of.control

I'm obsessive when it comes to travel planning. Really boarding on the need for medication to control my incessant need to scour the internet for every tidbit bit and tiny morsel of information about our destination when we've decided to take a trip.

Weeks before our trip to Singapore, I spent hours, literally every spare minute, surfing the internet, visiting and joining every travel forum and tourist discussion board that offered even a hint of info on anything even remotely related to travelling to/in Singapore. I do this for every, single trip we plan.

While in the throes of trip planning, I even keep a pen and notebook beside my bed because I often wake up suddenly in the middle of the night thinking of something I haven't yet checked out or researched.

I pour over and print out map after map of the area, agonize over hotels, plot walking routes, stake out restaurItalicants, check and re-check pricing to make sure we're getting the absolute best deal for the hotel, meals, sightseeing, souvenirs. At first I'm always really excited, I love the thrill of tracking down the information and putting together a great travel plan, and I always learn tons of really great, interesting stuff about different places that I probably would never have known otherwise, but then I just can't stop, I search and re-search, check and re-check, plan and re-plan. There have been times when I've become so completely overwhelmed with the planning part, that I get totally burned out on a particular location and just cancel the trip all together! And it drives Otis insane!

O and I are planning a trip to Hiroshima next weekend for his b-day, at this point I could probably pop out at Hiroshima station right now and get to anywhere in a 10 block radius with no map or directions! I've even planned the 10 min. route we'll walk from our hotel to Peace Park! We'll barely be in town for 24 hrs, but I'm consumed with the notion that this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip and we have to make the absolute best of every second (I always feel this way about every trip we take, whether it's really once-in-a-lifetime or not).

*Sigh* Back to the internet to check out reviews for Lopez Okonomiyaki........
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Friday, June 12, 2009

Whoops!

Apparently, yesterday was our 2nd wedding anniversary! Yikes! I really thought it was today, the the 12th! We got married very quickly, kind of a last minute thing during our preparations to move to Japan. We we finally got down to actually doing it, we realized that the day we had planned, June 12, was Otis' parents anniversary. We didn't want to steal their day, and the 13th was a Saturday, so we just backed things up a day to the 11th. I knew we were either the day before, or after them, but thought they were the 13th, and I knew we weren't the 14th, so that meant our anniversary had to be the 12th! Except, they weren't the 13th, they were the 12th, which made us..........yesterday. D'oh!

To be fair, I also have to do the math when someone asks me my age, I'm never quite sure. I always get Meg's b-day confused, does she have 3 7's in her b-day, or 3 9's (07.27.1997, or 07.29.1997)? I also always mix up the b-day of my BFF, I know she's either the day before, or the day after Elvis, so it's either 01.08 or 01.09, but even after 25 b-days, I still can't ever remember which is which.

So.......Happy Belated 2nd Anniversary to my sweet soul matey!
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We saw this rainbow after our wedding ceremony

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Memorial Day

May 25th was Memorial Day for us. It's a U.S. federal holiday, so Otis had the day off, and the kids were out of school. Gabi particpated in the base's Memorial Day celebration with her ROTC class. It was the first time I'd really seen her "in action". She looked great and did a really good job!>
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Singapore - Day One

Finally! A gob of the Singapore pix are still on my camera :( and I can't find my media-card-reader-adapter-thingy to get them on to my computer. I have the ones that I loaded while we were still in Sing, so here's just a small part of the trip.
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We arrived at Paya Lebar Air Base (Singapore Air Force base with a small U.S. Navy/Air Force detachment) at 3p local time, cleared customs pretty quickly (there were only 15 of us after all) and went downstairs to call a taxi. The taxi co has some kind of phone location system that gave them our exact location via the phone we were calling from, so I didn't have to tell them anything! How cool is that? After confirming the info, I was connected to an automated voice that told me our taxi would arrive in 7 - 9 min, and gave me an order number to give the cab driver to confirm we were the intended customer. I don't have a lot of experience ordering a cab, I've always just hailed them from the street, so I don't know if other cities have a similar system or not, but I thought it was really cool. It took us longer than 9 min to schlep the kids and luggage out the gate to the street, so we missed our cab and ended up just hailing one from the street anyway. Oh well, it was still neat.
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Our cabbie was super friendly and very informative, giving us the low down on all kinds of Singapore stuff, briefing us on some of their very strict laws (no chewing gum anywhere in the city, they don't even sell it, no tossing cigarette butts on the street, speeding fines are unbelievable) and pointing out areas of interest, etc. Tipping is not allowed at the Singapore Int'l airport, and is highly discouraged in all other places, so I'm pretty sure he wasn't chatting us up for a better tip, he was just a really nice guy.
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We crossed the bridge on to Sentosa Island and we were completely stunned. It was a lush, green tropical island, literally steps from the bustling city! It was so beautiful, it was easy to forget that we weren't in the middle of the Caribbean! We really loved it.
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Arrived at our hotel, the Rasa Sentosa Beach Resort, in about 25 min, our cab ride costing a whopping $10!!!!!! Can you believe that? I pay $10 for a 10 min ride in Tokyo! There was a huge waterfall right in front of the hotel (I never got a picture!!!) and we stepped out the cab into the huge open air lobby, it was really nice, and a true testament to how temperate Singapore weather is, they don't ever need walls or doors for the lobby!
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After dumping our luggage, we headed to the bus stop located right at the bottom of our hotel's driveway. All the busses on Sentosa Island, including the one that takes you back into Singapore, are completely FREE! I'm still amazed at how cheap everything was!
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View from our front door, at low tide

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The first place we went was the Skyride & Luge. You take a chairlift to the top of a huge hill, then ride back down on a gravity scooter (powered only by gravity, equipped with just handle bars for steering and a brake) it was sooooo much fun!
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Ethan and Otis coming up on the chair lift

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View from the chairlift
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Our hotel from the chairlift
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E waiting to hop on the luge, he rode with O
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Gabi made the mistake of stopping on a flat area, so it took a little scooting to get the scooter going! Meanwhile, I breezed on past, trying to catch up with O and E.
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Next, we took the free (there's that word again!) monorail into Singapore, getting off at VivoCity mall, in search of some dinner. This mall was seriously HUGE, with at least 4 different levels. We got lost more times than I can count, even with all the signs and maps in English!!!! There were at least two massive food courts, plus tons of restaurants.
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We finally decided to eat in the basement food court. This was our first introduction to Halal. Halal is basically the Muslim version of kosher. The food court was divided into two parts: the halal side, and the non-halal side. On the halal side, there was no pork, no pork products, no machines or utensils that had ever touched pork, etc. and there were signs at the entrances of both sides telling you not to take food from the non-halal side, or any outside food or drinks, in to the halal side. We saw lots of restaurants all around Singapore with signs reading "No pork, no lard" or "Halal menu" and with Halal certificates hanging in their windows.
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For dinner, I had Chicken Rice, a very traditional and popular Singapore dish, O had a Singapore version of ramen (what else is new?) and the kids had some kind of yummy, coconut chicken nuggets with noodles.
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At most food courts in Japan, you bus your own table when you're finished eating, dividing your trash (pouring your drink/ice down a special drain in the garbage bin, paper in one side, plastic in the other) then returning your tray to the place you bought your food (all the stalls have their own tray return window), even in the U.S. you usually bus your own table, dumping your trash and stacking the tray on top of the bin, but in Singapore they bus the tables for you! You just get up and walk away, like in a regular restaurant, leaving your stuff on the table. That felt really strange to me and I made O ask one of the workers if that's really what we were supposed to do.

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My first meal in Singapore
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On top of the mall is a big play area and wading pools! So cool! A great place to go at the end of a long day of sightseeing, soak your aching feet, relax, and let the kids run of the last bits of energy before heading back to the hotel. (Off in the distance you can see the cable cars going out to the island)

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We were finally ready to head back to the hotel about 9:45p, the last monorail left at 10:00, we were sure we had plenty of time. But we couldn't find our way back to the entrance of the monorail! We knew where the monorail was, we were walking directly above it, and below it, but we couldn't figure out what level it was on, or where the gate was! We ran around and around in circles, up and down the stairs and escalators for a full 20 min, until we ended up missing the last one. Grrrr! No worries, we'll just catch a taxi, it wouldn't cost more than $3 - $4. We walked all the way around the mall, looking for a place to stop a cab, finally came to the taxi pick-up/drop-off area, and the queue was a mile long! Everybody and their brother was there waiting for a cab! We just wandered around after that, trying to decide how we'd get back to the island. We thought we might take a bus, but we couldn't find one that went to Sentosa. We finally decided to take the cable car back, as is ran until 11:00, but it was a little pricey, and we had hoped to take in during the day when we could actually enjoy the view, but it seemed to be our only option, so up we went!

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We got back to the island at 10:25, and then had to figure out how to get to the hotel. There were no taxis, and we weren't sure how far away we were (plus we were all sooooo exhausted) so we really didn't want to try walking. We found our way to the bus stop, hoping we hadn't missed the last one; we walked up at 10:28, and the last bus came at 10:30. Whew! We made it back to the hotel in record time, the bus driver was obviously very ready to end his shift! We watched a little TV (all in English!!!!) and went to bed. It was an awesome first day, we all loved everything about Singapore! I seriously couldn't pick a favorite part, but I love that everyone and everything is English and that there were so many American stores and restaurants, it's like the perfect blend of Asia and America!

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Bloggy babies!

They're everywhere! At the moment, there are 8 blogs I follow regularly whose authors are preggo! What's going on out there?

One blogger I especially love is going pop any second, and she's getting loads of advice on how to get her labor moving. I suggested castor oil. When I was preggers with Gabi, my old, country grandma told me that gulping some castor oil would bring on labor.

Towards the end of my pregnancy, I was getting desperate; the kind of desperate only a woman who's 15 months pregnant in 100 degree weather, driving a car w/ no air conditioning can be. So I bought some castor oil. It was easily the most vile, foul, putrid thing I've ever been stupid enough to put in my mouth!!!!!!!!! But I'm telling you, I.WAS.DESPERATE! So, I bought some Bavarian cream donuts from Krispy Kreme, sucked the cream from the middle, and filled them with castor oil, thinking the yummy, puffy donut-y goodness would help mask the pure raw-sewage-sludginess of the castor oil. (I'm gaggin now, just thinking about it.) It didn't work. I stayed pregnant for another 9 days! And Bavarian creamed donuts were ruined forever. To this day, I can't even look at a cream filled donut :(
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ピンク・レディー

When I lived in Japan as a kid, the group ピンク・レディー (Pink Lady) was hugely popular. I loved them, knew lots of their songs, along with the dance moves! I hadn't heard any of their music in close to 30 years!

Imagine my delight in finding some of their videos on YouTube recently! Now imagine my excitement (and my kids' complete embarrassment) that not only do I still remember all the words, but I still remember the dances as well!

One year, my friend Rene and I were Pink Lady for Halloween, she was Kei, I was Mie, her mom made us the exact outfits in the first video below, although we didn't have those ultra cool boots. I think I still have the outfit somewhere!
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