Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving....Gobble Gobble

As I mentioned previously, the Stanley's of Tokyo were in charge of hosting our American Thanksgiving for our friends over here. It was the very first time that we've hosted the holiday and as we all know I do not profess to be much of a cook. However, it turned out so great and we had the best time.

The celebration was postponed a few days and was held on Saturday since all of our significant others (and Kate our friend) didn't get the holiday for obvious reasons (we're in Japan for those that were still scratching your heads). We started the turkey preparation on Friday night. John, who is the cook in our house, was in charge of the bird. We started off thinking that there would only be six people including a vegetarian, so a ten pound turkey would be sufficient, but then we discovered some new friends so now we were up to seven meat eaters, so after much debate I also ran out and grabbed a French times. John did his research and decided that we would brine the turkey. So, we had to boil water and add all of the pricey spices and let the bird sit until morning.

On Saturday, we woke up early to make sure the turkey and chicken were lookin' good. I made up the pumpkin pie and we cut up some fruit salad, prepared the guacamole (a house favorite), and prepped the house and fixed up the crab dip. Our friends came over around noon, we ate around 1:00 (which was pretty amazing). Everyone that came brought over some of their favorite dishes. Needless to say it was just like Thanksgiving at home...way too much food, but all delicious!

The event didn't end until midnight after several rounds of Apples to Apples and Catchphrase. It was so amazing and I'm pretty sure my mom would have been proud....I cooked, woohoo.

Until Next Time.....Jenn

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Best Birthday Present....Hong Kong

So, as many of you may know at this point, for John's birthday we decided to go to Hong Kong. First of all we had the best time....the best. After some begging, a little pleading, and assurance from reviews of other travelers John consented to letting us spend a little more mula and get a room with a view of the harbor. Let me just say, the view is awesome both during the day and at night. And little did I know, but we ended up in a perfect location for all the things that we wanted to do.

While I was frittering away my time before our trip and glanced only briefly at our travel book, John was totally on the ball. By the time we got there he had an appointment with the tailor, had us purchasing Octopus passes (metro cards) for easier travel access, and had the map all figured out.

So for his birthday, John got the trip, but his other big present was a hand tailored suit. He was so cute about it. He had done all this research on the right one to use including asking others, internet reviews, and pouring over our travel book suggestions as well. In the end we went with one of the premier (meaning, not as cheap as one originially assumes) tailors that actually visits the states three times a year if you need any alterations or want a new suit. I have to say they were really good. After a day the suit was already coming together nicely.

To give you an idea of what happens when you get to the area where the tailors are...picture every five seconds you encounter yet another person asking you if you are interested in a hand tailored suit. "Pretty lady" need nice dress? The best was when one of them told John that "nice suit would make you more handsome". It's a little annoying, but hey everybody has to make a living, right? Needless to say, the tailor John picked did not have a hustler out on the street. Although, on our first visit I had a few reservations as the office is in what one can only describe as a bombed out building up a very narrow staircase.

So after the tailor, we both decided that of course he needed some personally tailored shirts too. However, went with a different tailor for totally across town. I have to say, we got to Hong Kong on Thursday so found the shirt tailor on Friday and left with four tailored shirts on Tuesday. It's amazing how fast they are there.

Now other than the tailor there were some fun sights.....we hit up the Tram to Victoria Peak, which had a fabulous view of the city. We also made the trek out to see the Big Buddha...and when I say Big I mean BIG. We wandered around Stanley Market and realized that neither one of us is a very good bargainer. There were all sorts of Chinese goods to be had at the market and it was just fun to play the game even if we probably over paid for everything that we bought. In addition, we traveled a million and one times on the Star Ferry from the Hong Kong side to Kowloon, and even saw the Symphony of Lights, which is a really cool light show put on by buildings on both sides of the harbor. Aside from that we just wandered around the city, ate some great Dim Sum and Thai, and generally just enjoyed the perfect weather.

I hope that you all have a very Happy Thanksgiving! We aren't celebrating until Saturday since no one has the day off. As we're hosting (yes, small gasp since we all know that I'm not much of a cook) there is sure to be a blog post to tell you all about it.

Until next time...Jenn

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Birthday To You...Happy Birthday To You...

Happy Birthday dear John....happy birthday to you! I just wanted to send a little lovin' to my honey on his 35th birthday. Sadly for him, we were traveling ALL day long. Of course, we were in Hong Kong (to be discussed in a later blog) to celebrate, so no need to feel too sorry for us.

My personal birthday philosophy is that no matter how old you still get to be a kid on your birthday. John was thrilled to don the party hat and blow out the candles as you can see....ha! But hey...thanks to one of my new friends that's made a trip home already...we had pre-made frosting this time, which was a good thing since I had to whip John's b-day cupcakes after getting home tonight.

Until next time...Jenn

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Japanese Experience...Kendo

One of my friends recommended that I join the College Women's Association of Japan, so I decided to go to their information session and the luncheon that followed. It is really a great organization, so I went ahead and joined. I am missing the volunteering that I used to do with the kiddos at the hospital, so I'm hoping this group will help me find a way to get involved in the Tokyo community a little more.

The group meets for lunch once a month and after each meal, they have some sort of speaker or cultural lesson, etc. Today's topic was Kendo, which is one of Japanese martial arts that involves the use of swords (made of wood or bamboo in this day and age). It was a really interesting speech and demonstration, but one key thing that the speaker told us was about zanshin, which in it's simplest form means a state of constant alertness. The speaker mentioned that while this is a very important aspect of Kendo, this is also something that we should try to achieve in our lives....constantly being aware of our surroundings and ourselves, which I think is a very good idea.

We are off to Hong Kong tomorrow, so until next time....Jenn

Monday, November 17, 2008

Just another hair pulling shopping experience....

Okay, so Sunday John and I were on a mission to complete our apartment and purchase some bar stools. We don't have a dining table, but we have this great huge counter top that can serve as a eating locale especially since we are hosting a little Thanksgiving gathering in two weeks. So...after a little local searching we decided that we must hit up IKEA in order to find some that weren't going to bankrupt us.

We were forewarned in advance how daunting a task that this might be since we have some friends here that purchased a lot of their furniture from IKEA. They spent 11 hours (one of which was after the store officially closed) with the very hospitable IKEA staff, dined at the restaurant and generally had one of the most frustrating experiences of their lives (note, this was not due to the staff by any means, just circumstances). But, let's just say that my friend vowed to never set foot in another IKEA for the duration of her lifespan and I wholeheartedly believe her.

But, we were desperate since we were running out of time we had to go this past weekend to make sure that there was plenty of delivery time, etc. So, John looks up all the information on how to get there. We have to take the train to a station that we'd never been to, nor will we probably ever go to again and then wait for the shuttle. Shuttle times were posted, but we didn't know how long the train would take to get there, so we were just really crossing our fingers that all would work out because the shuttle comes round only once every 40 minutes on the weekends.

We get there at 12:10 by our watches and think...this is awesome, the shuttle is supposed to get there at 12:20. Ten minutes after 12:20 we decide that we obviously missed the shuttle and it must have been early. So we try and decide what to do next since the next shuttle won't be arriving until 1:00. Like your typical impatient Americans we decide that it would be worth it to leave now and hop in a cab. We go to the taxi line, get in one and ask if he could please take us to IKEA. He had no idea whatsoever as to what we were talking about. John was trying to use the phrasebook and then look it up on this phone to show the address.....let's just say this was such a frustrating moment. Frustrating in the fact that we just listened to him really try to understand us, but there was no communication going on. It made me really frustrated that I didn't know more Japanese (hopefully we will correct that in the New Year).

So, after accepting cab defeat we go back to the line for the shuttle which has grown considerably. The shuttle arrives like 15 minutes later and we wait and watch people get on and on and then....after watching the woman behind us originally in line get was declared that there was no more room on the bus. I could have cried. So after yet another 40 minute wait we finally got on the shuttle and 30 minutes later set foot in IKEA.

I can't tell you what this store was was a mob scene. It was literally like the mall the day after Christmas where you can hardly move for all the people. Not to mention, this store is like a big maze...once you get inside it's hard to get out again. Thankfully, since we already knew exactly what we needed, we went straight there and then tried to find our way to the check out...we stalked one of the workers that looked as if he knew English to understand the process for delivery and were on our merry way. All that and then we got to finish it off with the highlight of the trip...a hot dog. I've eaten more hot dogs here than I did the last four years in Dallas combined!

Needless to say, barring complete disaster I too have made the vow to never again set foot in IKEA.

Until next time...Jenn

Friday, November 14, 2008

5 years and counting....

So, I know that some of you are scratching your heads and thinking...hmm, they've only been married for 1.5 years and you would be right. However, on this day 5 years ago John and I had our first "date" or that might be stretching it....our first time to "hang out" during our get to know you stage. It consisted of eating chips and queso for dinner and then going to this local Dallas neighborhood bar called Cosmo's. It was pretty great...obviously.

So to commemorate this event each year we always go to the same Dallas Dive for burgers and of course the queso (which is more like melted cheese..not much in the way of a bowl) and then walk to Cosmo's for a few drinks. Of course this year isn't going to be quite the same, but I have lined up a Mexican restaurant where we can at least get queso...albeit it comes in a tiny serving bowl and the basket of chips is maybe 10 chips strong...and there is no such thing as free chips of course, but in Tokyo it was the best I could do. So, I'm hoping that maybe instead you guys in Dallas can go to our dive and get queso and a stiff drink sometime this help us celebrate of course.
I've promised John that since we're married, no we don't have to do anything over the top for this day, but I'm a little sad that we aren't carrying on our la vie....

Until next time...Jenn

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Japanese Comedy...Rakugo

So, today my friend Nikki and I decided to check out one of the cultural programs offered by one of the women's groups here in Tokyo. This program was basically a very traditional form of Japanese comedy, but with a was all in English. Basically, in 1996 Dr. Kimie Oshima started a program to spread the art of Rakugo internationally. To be honest I didn't know what to expect at all....would the Japanese sense of humor be different than my own? Would I "get" the joke?

I'm excited to say that I was really entertained and thought it was hilarious. It was exciting being able to understand something that is so very Japanese. She mentioned that the serious Rakugo masters aren't all on board with performing the Rakugo in English, but she told us that she tries to use the California Roll analogy....she tells them that serious Japanese sushi chefs and lovers don't consider the California Roll sushi, however, the reason most of the world likes sushi is because they tried the California Roll first. I thought that was a good way to look at it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My 4 Year Old....Otherwise Known as John

So, I have to say that my husband keeps me constantly entertained and that's an understatement. Today we discovered the beauty of grocery delivery. Usually, I tell myself that my arms can use the workout and the mile or so walk home with a loaded down grocery bag on each arm isn't too bad, today I found out just how much I was kidding myself.

First, just so you can capture my full excitement let me give you an idea of my grocery shopping experience. As John and I have both mentioned before there is a store called Don Quixote like two blocks or so away from our apartment. Inside is an impressive bevy of offerings from certain grocery items, to beauty products, electronics, and even "costumes for the most creative and discriminating individuals that come with shall we say instructional videos". This is where I go for some of our staples....bread, milk, eggs, snacks, cleaning supplies. However, when meat is on your menu or pictures simply won't help you out in knowing whether or not you've gotten the right ingredient, I go to the international grocery store. I had such a trip last week and I just had a this amazing desire to get salad dressing despite not planning on making salad just so that we have it. But you can't do that when you live live without a car and walking uphill home must be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not you really need that extra item. I have to say that while the prices are high, they are not the main prohibiting factor to my shopping habits, weight is.

All that being said, we trekked to the store and signed right up for delivery. If you spend enough money it's free...yippie. So we spent an insane amount of money, but I was so excited to be able to buy whatever I felt like and know that it'll get to my apartment without my arms in pain by the time I got there. The groceries arrive shortly thereafter and guess keep our cold items cold, they put dry ice in little baggies...I cannot tell you how excited my husband was about this. He immediately goes to the sink, puts the ice in a cup and adds the water and voila...smoky greatness. As you can see, he was thoroughly entertained and let's face was I.

Until next time...Jenn

Crazy Tokyo - Volume II

Okay, so as promised...I am constantly on the lookout for interesting things to share. So as John and I were walking home from dinner one night I spotted these babies (the boots) and thought that my viewing public needed to know that they were available.

The crazy thing was when we went to London we saw these again and realized that they were in fact Gucci and most likely cost this VERY fashionable lady a very pretty penny.

Until next time.....Jenn

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

London Bridges Falling Down...Falling Down...Falling Down

So, John calls me up one random Friday and says hey...what do you think about London. Well, I proclaim...I don't really think about it. And then he pops the big news....well you better start thinking about it, because we're going there next week. What, whoa......we're going to London....woohoo. It appears that he had to attend a meeting there last Thursday and since there happened to be a Japanese holiday (I know crazy) that next Monday, we decided to make a vacation out of it.

So, last Wednesday we headed out to Narita (our international airport in Tokyo) where we discovered that we could provide a little assistant with some local Japanese school kids practicing their English at the airport. They were in the 6th grade and they were such cuties. They came up to John and I separately to ask us if we had a minute to answer a few questions. The questions were actually a little challenging if you are just learning English. Of course they asked where we were from and our names, but then they asked what we did for a living (my answer was a bit confusing to the kiddos), what we had dreamed of being, what type of Japanese food that we liked best and what we thought of Japan. Then afterwards they took their picture with us and gave us a special gift that they had made is John showing his off.

Then we were off...I have only been to London for a day, literally, and John hadn't ever been. So, we got there after a lovely 12 hour plane ride last Wednesday. Hotel #1, which was provided by John's work was lovely and interestingly enough catered to Japanese guests. While John spent the day in a stuffy meeting, I spent my day taking advantage of all that Oxford street had to offer. Gotta love shopping where the all the clothes don't look like they are made for barbie dolls. No offense to the Japanese women of course...just means that they are all tiny...darn them. Anyway, I took some advice from my friends Elaine and Sam and hit up Top Shop and Selfridges. Then I wandered down to Picadilly Circus (why it's called a circus I have no idea). They proclaim this to be the "Times Square" of London, which I didn't quite get from being there, but oh well....I don't think that one flashing billboard on the side of a building quite captures Times Square, but what do I know.
Then I meandered over to the National Portrait Gallery, where I rediscovered that I'm not really into Spanish paintings around the 1500-1600's. I do however have a complete love of all things from Monet and they had quite a few great works of his including one of the water lily pond paintings, which is one of my favorite pieces ever. And Van Gough's Sunflowers were there too. Then I hit up the Texas Embassy for a little snack. Gotta love the fact that you can find a little bit of Texas everywhere.

The next day of course the real sightseeing began with John at the helm. After dropping our bags off at Hotel #2, we hopped on one of the double decker tourist buses and saw all kinds of major sights over the next two days. Some of my personal highlights were seeing Jane Austen's tomb at Westminster Abbey along with Queen Elizabeth I's of course, going to the Whispering Dome at St. Paul's Cathedral, reading some of the graffiti left by prisoners at the Tower of London, St. James park and all the fall leaves and seeing Big Ben with the River Thames as it's backdrop from the London Eye. We really loved London. There is so much to do there and I think we could have spend at least a week more and still not seen it all. Here are some of our picture highlights below in the slide show for those of you that have never been and for those of you that have...we hope these trigger some fun and happy memories.

Until next time.....Jenn

We hope you enjoy these!!