Friday, March 6, 2009

Sam's Birthday

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We took the boys to the National Children's Castle for Sam's 5th birthday. It is an entertainment complex in Omotesando with a play area, arts room, music room - all with drop-in activities. The art room has a 20 foot wall that kids can paint on! There was an art activity set up for girls day that I really wanted to do, but - no girls in our party except for me, and I was too shy to stand in line (with no kids) to get the kit to make the origami dolls. 

There are computers with games (some in English, thank goodness), computers to explore music, and foosball and pool for older kids. There's a gym, a pool, and an outdoor roof garden with tricycles to ride on. It is definitely geared toward younger children - Chris was quickly tired of the set-up, but a very good day out for the younger boys!

On the way to the Children's Castle, we spotted an amazing bakery with the most beautiful fruit tarts I have ever seen. There were gorgeous confections of mango, green melon, all sorts of berries. There was a tart with soba noodles and strawberries sprinkled with white sugar - and one with whole pears, peeled, sliced and fanned with the stems still attached. Another with mochi rice cakes in pink and white studded around the edge. Well, Nick's birthday was in 4 days, I was absolutely cupcaked out after Sam's birthday, so we stopped and ordered a mixed berry bavarian creme 15 cm tart for Nick's birthday. If you send me an email, I will tell you the price! I am too embarrassed to post it publicly. But I will post a photo of the most beautiful, tasty tart - Mixed berry with bavarian creme and chocolate straws... yummmm.Add ImageAdd Image

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Enough to be Dangerous

Many of you know that I started taking Japanese lessons about 5 weeks ago. It's coming along ok, I guess. Learning Japanese is so different from learning a European language. I have absolutely nothing to anchor the words to - everything must be memorized. 

For example, in English, cat, hat.
In French, chat, chapeau. (Dr. Seuss fans, anyone?)
In Spanish, el gato in a sombrero.
In Japanese, neko, and kubo.

So many words in the European languages are familiar to English speakers, that much of the basic vocabulary is not completely new. Not so with the Japanese!

My tutor is a very sweet young woman who is studying for her PhD at a university in London, and she received her undergraduate degree from Carthage University in Minnesota. Saito-sensei has started me with the basics I need to find my way around and do my basic shopping. I am learning how to ask for directions, ask WHAT things are (very important), WHERE things are, how to tell the time, etc.

One of the sentences she taught me to use is: Kore wa nihongo/eego de nan desu ka? - What do you call that in Japanese/English? Frankly, I wasn't sure how useful this would be, but I have dutifully learned it. 

A couple of weeks ago I went to Tokyu Hands, an amazing shop that carries just about anything. Think of it as Target meets Home Depot with a healthy dose of Michael's - with a Tokyo price tag, of course. My goal was to hang some of the pictures we brought with us from the states. Our apartment has a very modern wall gallery set-up with a picture rail and hooks set into the ceiling. The only thing missing is the wires and special hooks to use on the picture rail. I was told they were at Tokyu Hands, so off I went after dropping Sam off at school. 

Well, I found them, and selected what I wanted - only one wire plus hooks, just to make sure I had the right thing. I knew I would be coming back to purchase more if everything worked out, so I carefully asked the sales clerk, "Kore wa nihongo de nan desu ka," wanting to know what to ask for the second time around.

Well, she looked at me like I had just stepped off Mars, and then said to me very carefully, as you would to the village idiot, "Kore wa hooku desu." This is a hook. And so it was.