Month: November 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

Gobble gobble!

Hey guys!

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday with family and friends.

This year we hosted Thanksgiving again, going on a handful of years now hosting this dinner; which the process is always a lot of fun for me. I look forward to the Wednesday before to prepare the dinner with my mother alone all day.  We have a real good time talking while putting everything together, and crafting new things to try…and she cleans the capon! I hope this is a tradition I can partake in until I am old and gray, well, I won’t ever be gray..maybe blue or purple, maybe pink? hah. Plus, I love to cook, and I love the challenges of putting together a large dinner on my own with all the prepping and different cook times getting it on the table at one time.

This year’s Menu:

Appetizers:

  • Stuffed mushrooms
  • Scallops wrapped in bacon
  • Crostini of goat cheese and caramelized zucchini
  • Chilled shrimp cocktail*

Cocktails:

  • Valeria – Lillet white, elderberry syrup, St Germain and Prosecco floater
  • Poinsettia – Prosecco, cranberry vodka and splash of cranberry juice
  • Michael-  caramel apple martini w cider sugar rim

Dinner:

  • Lemon/thyme roasted capon filled with sausage stuffing
  • Roasted potato spears
  • Pumpkin spiced roasted butternut squash
  • Green beans w garlic
  • Roasted Asparagus w lemon
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts and bacon glazed with maple syrup
  • Braised fennel w clementine zest
  • Mashed potatoes*

Dessert:

  • Squash pie w homemade whipped cream
  • Chocolate chip brownies
  • Chocolate frosted vanilla cupcakes
  • Cream cheese raspberry puff pastry
  • Italian cookies*
  • Sfingi* (Sicilian type fritter)
  • Blueberry pie*

*=brought by family

—–

The best part of my Thanksgiving wasn’t that my kids behaved, or that my house stayed clean, or that the dinner turned out stellar…it’s that I got to sleep in till 8:30AM. Yes, everyone, my kids gave me a Thanksgiving gift by not running to my bedside early. We are on a roll over here!! Haha. I’m jk jk. Well, sorta, sleeping in is like my favoritest thing ever. Starting your day from bed without being poked at, yelled to, creepily stared at, cried to …is pretty fantastic in my Mommy book. Woohoo give it up to my girls.

FAVORITEST is now a word, yes.

Thanksgiving, all joking aside, turned out to be a real nice day with everyone. From appetizers and cocktails to dinner and desserts, it was smooth going and real delicious …if I can say that about my own food? I have so much to be thankful for this year..so here I am spelling it out.

I am thankful for my health and my families’ health. I am thankful and grateful to have clothes on my back, a nice home with food (and coffee) on the table every day and for our jobs that help us make that happen. I am thankful for my family, my loving and supportive husband, my two smart caring children; for my beautiful parents, wonderful big sisters, caring in-laws and all my friends. And even my cat-baby, Gordon! I am thankful to open my eyes everyday to experience life, and feel that life is good without being extravagant or extra, that the simple things are all I need. I am thankful that I can reflect to appreciate what I have..not what I don’t have and I hope my children see what I see, and how beautiful is this life. 

 

 

Here are pictures of our day!

Another holiday in the books, guys.  I can’t believe how fast 2017 is flying by and I hope 2018 goes a lot  …s l o w e r!  Let’s all hope!

Happy Thanksgiving and we will talk soon!

xoxoxox

Tokyo Day 5- Asakusa Sensoji Temple and Our Last Day

Hello World!

We are on our last day here!

Really loved reliving this trip this week, and drafting this last post is making me sad.  Tokyo is a fabulous place, so unique and we experienced so many things that I will hold in my heart forever.

Tokyo Day 5- Isetan and the Asakusa Sensoji Temple

On this day, our last day, we slept in a tiny bit, till like 8AMish.  We needed the rest after the night before, AND, we needed the rest to get us through traveling back home. We quickly packed up the room, got ourselves ready, said goodbye to our room with the incredible Mount Fuji view and checked out.  As I mentioned in the first post, we hired a car service to take us to and from the airport, today he was scheduled to pick us up at 3PM. So, we had a good chunk of the day to spend in Tokyo.  SCORE!!

We decided to go grab some breakfast at Isetan a few blocks away.  They’re the largest and best Tokyo department store, and their food bizarre level is crazy insane!  I saw things (and bought things for family) I never had seen anywhere else in my life.  I am still floored thinking about all the prestigious foods and knowledge I acquired from that area.  My husband surprised me with taking our breakfast up to their rooftop deck, open to eat and relax.  Wow, what a stunning place!  They had a large grassy park flanked by a small shrine and vending machines of course with an incredible view of the city. Definitely recommend this quiet sweet spot.

After chilling roof top, we walked around the city to find some souvenirs for the girls before hitting up one last attraction, the Asakusa Sensoji Temple.  Man, souvenir shopping was the hardest part of the trip.  Oddly, though the Sanrio stores there were big, the sections in toy stores back home were better than their specialty shops in Tokyo.  Surprised?  Me, too.  But I was not freaking out because we still had shopping in Asakusa and the airport.  The airport, by the way, is the best spot to shop for any type of souvenir you are looking for; I scored for the kids there big time!

Finally, we made our way by taxi to Asakusa; it’s about a thirty minute drive.  I am so glad we didn’t opt for a train like we did back in 2004.  We ended up seeing a totally different side to Tokyo driving from Shinjuku to Asakusa, like real life.  Working class people.  Their homes.  Their parks.  Their stores.  No flash.  No lights.  Not a thousand people hoarding around.  Real life.

The Asakusa Sensoji Temple is the oldest Buddhist temples in Tokyo, and was one of my most memorable stops thirteen years ago. A lot of people visit this place, from all over the world.  It looked the same, except there were about 50% more people in the area than I remembered.  But it could be because it was a weekend, I don’t know.  Tokyo seemed flooded with more people than I remembered before in general. The experience, with so many people, was different.  Not bad, just different.  The gates to the Temple are a colorful wonder, with a giant lantern in the middle flanked by two intimidating statues that open to the grounds market.  This place is so great, and the shopping was a lot of fun, grabbed a lot of Japanese souvenirs for the girls here.

The Temple itself is at the end of the market; it was so crowded we didn’t actually have that type of time to wait in the line to go in after walking through the market. I did go inside in 2004, so this time I walked up to the large incense burner right out front where a mass amount of people were there lighting large incense sticks they were buying along the building.  I gently wafted some of the incensed smokey air over to my body, from head to toe I pushed the air around me for a blessing.

Now my trip to Japan was complete.  🙂

We left the Temple to find a taxi, well, first we stopped for coffee then hailed a taxi back to the hotel.  I never mentioned this before, but my husband never drank coffee till last year, and I really love having a coffee drinking partner in crime everywhere I go now!  haha  It’s the little things people.

We got to the hotel just with two minutes to spare!  The driver was there waiting for us, so we grabbed our bags from the Bell Hop to hit the road.  The drive back to the airport was great.  Saw all the fun spots we visited in 2004, and those sights we couldn’t make this trip. Like the tower and of course the big one for me, Tokyo Disney. I saw it on the way in but didn’t want to mention it.  You guys have no idea how much I am still bummed I didn’t make it, because we were staying at an affiliated hotel that had direct bus service, so I literally had planned out a whole day to go for when I was alone while my husband was at work that day.  Up till three weeks before we left I had these plans,  then everyone made me realize how sad that would be for me, no one to share the day with, and riding rides alone…it sounded super lame without anyone else, so changed it to what I did. Which ended up being a lot nicer on my own and was invited out with everyone that night unexpectedly for dinner.  Something I wouldn’t have been able to do if I went to Disney and something that ended up being LESS depressing!  haha

Anyways, I am not bashing it, but Tokyo Disney from the highway above looked real small, sort of like Disneyland shrunk down. The entrance was right near the highway and I saw Cinderella’s castle, which was small.  I think smaller than Disneyland’s!! They had a gorgeous hotel next to it, and it was more beautiful than the castle..so.  Also, by the ads on the hotel TV, not what I researched online, it looked more like an amusement park near my house, Canobie Lake, with Disney themes, than a Disney theme park.  I was reminded many times I made the right choice.

Ok, so back to this day…  We had an extremely nice, comfortable ride and got to the airport in 1.5 hours.  We checked in, grabbed some food for the ride and gift shopped some more, then boarded our flight at 6:10PM Sunday.  We landed in Boston at 4:54PM Sunday.  We grabbed a car home, and we arrived to a wonderful reception of family waiting at the house.  The girls went bat shit crazy seeing us, crying and laughing, and I swear held onto me for a half hour straight!  I wasn’t letting go so.  haha

 

This was an amazing trip!  Every day I learned or was experiencing something new, and that was exciting.  Tokyo is an exciting city, with so much history, tradition, yet so modern and forward, the art, the buzzing crowds, and so many wonderful things to see!  I really didn’t expect to go back to Japan, and I am so grateful I had this opportunity again to visit such a beautiful country.

Thanks for reading along!  Till next time!

xoxoxox

 

To read about the whole trip:

Day 1– Traveling to Tokyo

Day 2– Tsujiki Nippon Fish Market/Taito City

Day 3– Shibuya / Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Day 4– Harajuku / Meiji Jingu Shrine

 

 

 

Tokyo Day 4- Harajuku, the Meiji Jingu Shrine and the New York Bar

Hello friends!

We are steaming along now..onto day 4!  We had been in Tokyo for four days so far yet it felt like we just landed.  We stayed in Tokyo for 5 days total, and we basically ventured in just one ward.  There is so much to do and see that I don’t honestly know how much time is enough to see all of Tokyo.  In 2004, we stayed at two hotels in two districts of Tokyo, but we also ventured out of the city for a day Nikko and Fukushima for an overnight.

I guess we just need to keep going back!  🙂

 

Day 4- Harajuku, Meiji Jingu Shrine and the New York Bar

We started first thing with a train ride from Shinjuku station to Harajuku.  We decided to grab breakfast, crepes, and walk around.  The district is so unusual, this is the most eclectic part of the city for certain.  We saw a whole bunch of fun things right off the bat leaving the train station like the cat, hedgehog and owl cafes, local shops, exaggerated foods, their famed toy stores, then hundreds of people lined up to enter stores that only allowed a few people inside at a time, some lolita and goth girls (which I would totally be a lolita girl if I lived in Harajuku), traditionally dressed women and children, businessmen, and just all the people walking around.

The first stops I was pressed to visit were for my children.  Our girls don’t ask for much, but they really wanted some Japanese character toys, so I wanted to make sure to find some for them.  We stopped first at Line Friends store, which was adorable as all heck.  I definitely was giddy like a child going through.  The first floor was all accessories and housewares, then downstairs it continued to the back where there was a huge space dedicated to Brown Bear’s room to take photos to post on InstaGram!  It was such a large space where people were loving it. We indulged too even though we had NO clue who the characters were from this show.  I didn’t find anything for the kids, so we moved on to Kiddieland.  Kiddieland is the coolest store ever.  EVER. It’s four floors of toys and toys, from Japanes brands like Sanrio to US brands like Marvel to obscure brands.  I had a blast going through the store, and found our youngest a Pusheen mermaid she was vying.

After all this toy hunting, we decided to hit up Takeshita Street.  The heart of Harajuku shopping and people watching; AND MY LORD THE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE.  The street was flanked on each side with accessories/clothing shops, candy shops, and toy shops, but between it was wall-to-wall people walking up the street. It was so much fun.  But we have fun doing anything.  We spent about an hour or two here going through all the shops, then we needed a good break.  Off to coffee we went!  After a small rest, we headed to the Meiji Shrine a few blocks away.

The Meiji Shrine is absolutely beautiful.  The shrine’s gates were so large and impressive, that I felt like I was transported to a different time. It also helped that on the weekends people head to the shrines dressed in traditional kimonos or yukatas on their birthdays. Seeing the beautiful children all dressed up with their hair primped just to walk around and play in the paths.  So colorful and beautiful.  One little girl, who was dressed up, loved playing peekaboo with me.  I tried to get a photo of her because she had the most infectious laugh and sweet smile, I didn’t want to forget her.

Oh speaking of beautiful sights, we made our way up to the shrine complex where an elderly gentleman waved me over to say that we were just in time to see a traditional Japanese wedding!

Actually, we ended up seeing THREE in total during our stay in the complex!

What a sight of beauty, so perfect and majestic a backdrop.  The brides wore traditional white jaquard dresses with domed head pieces while the grooms wore a formal yukata.  The couple was walked down the path with their families and the whole wedding party following.  I was mesmerized by the formality and traditional processional.  Really something to see.

As the day started to turn to dusk, we left the Meiji Shrine to grab a snack before dinner, well actually ‘linner’ because we skipped lunch.  We had planned to check out this highly rated noodle shop that was fifteen minute walk from the shrine, but when we go there it had a line of like 20 people deep.  We got in the line, but it didn’t move for a long while, so we decided to jump from there to walk closer to our hotel’s area. The walk was long, but the sights we saw made it worth it.  Also, I got to show my husband some of the spots I found on my journey yesterday.

We found a noodle shop near the hotel!  This place was fun too.  It was the type of fast service restaurant where you pay/order your meal through a ticket machine at the front!  I have always wanted to eat at a place that did that type of ordering, IDK why! haha   I have such weird life experience desires.  After we ate a little, we headed to the hotel to rest up and get ready for the night.

We made a reservation for the New York Bar before we left home, the jazz bar from the movie Lost in Translation.  It is located on the 52nd floor of the Hyatt Tokyo, about a ten minute walk from our hotel. We were seated at a table smack dab in the middle of the dining area right in front of the jazz band. We were so high up, with 180 degree windows, we were surrounded with the most amazing views.  Gah, what a magical evening.  We ordered a few rounds of drinks, their cocktails list was extensive plus they could make any drink not listed for you. After a lot of conversation, getting tipsy and soaking up where we were, we decided to eat, and we both wanted to try the wagyu burger.  Which I am so glad we did.  Just awesome.  That burger was dream worthy.  haha

After dinner, we took a taxi over to the middle of Shinjuku. We had never hung out in the area so late, which we soon found it was quite different from during the day.

There was a store we heard was a must see, Don Quixote.  What a mess!  This place was so jam-packed with shoppers, and each level was too hard to walk through because of the mob of people. Just insanity.  We walked through then left just as fast as we could.

We walked all around, you can get so lost walking through the many blocks with everything lit up.  Soon we realized that we definitely were not in Kansas anymore …but the red light district.  heehee  It was a lot of fun, well to walk with my 6’3″ husband, cause ladies beware, the men are out in full force at night! ahaha  We stayed out pretty late walking around, then headed back to our hotel because we had another early start tomorrow.

Our departure day :(, which is up next!

Tokyo Day 3- Shibuya and Shinjuku Gyoen Garden

Helloooo there!

And we are onto day three in Japan!  Which was my day alone in Tokyo.

I forgot to mention that the entire week we had lucked out with nice weather, around 65F and sunny (with wind) every day.  We were told this night that we brought the sunshine with us because up till we landed the weather had been quite horrible.  🙂  Which made me smile.

Ok day 3…

Day 3- Shibuya and Shinjuku

My husband had to head off to an all day work meeting bright and early in Roppongi (about thirty min away), so it was my day to venture out in Tokyo on my own.  I was real nervous about this day, being alone in a huge city without knowing the language beyond a hello, thank you or the word toilet  haha. So, I just picked a few things from one of our books that I really wanted to see. Grabbed that free mobile phone for google maps and went on my way.

WHAT A FUN DAY!!

The first thing I did was put on my sneakers because another day of walking 20K steps would feel a lot better in those puppies.  Started off going to a Starbucks I noticed near the Shinjuku station, and it was PACKED.  I was there about 10AM, and it must’ve been rush hour for coffee breaks or something because it was just crazy busy.  I sat outside for a bit (since I didn’t see anyone walking with drinks in the city at all), planned out where things were to walk to and made my way.

My first stop was to a department store, YES shopping!  I smelled a fragrance the day before I really liked, so I was going to treat myself to it as a souvenir.  This department store was in the Takashimaya Times Square building, located right across from the Shinjuku station. I think it is bordering Shibuya.

Can I say wow?  I did, so lemme say it again…WOW!  This is not as large as the department store from the day before, but I saw more intricate jewelry and accessories I didn’t see at the others.  There was one jewelry counter set up that I couldn’t stop looking at because it was designs using precious stones and diamonds but the jewelry used resin to make macarons and donuts; it was so beautiful yet I couldn’t help but think what a waste!!  It is a pretty large store at 8 floors, but the best part of it was it shared the same corridor/bank of escalators with Tokyu Hands!!  A store I read about, was dying to see.

The best way for me to describe Tokyu Hands is if Target had a baby with Ikea that took steroids. The place was HUGE and stocked full all eight floors.  Each floor was unique to the categories they housed, and the items on each floor were just spectacular. I ended up going through each floor and buying a few unique souvenirs for the girls.

After walking through the stores for a couple of hours, I decided to grab some food from the basement level bizarre at the Times Sq building then head out to see the Gyoen National Garden nearby (fifteen min walk).  Admission to the garden is 200Yen, about $1.80USD.  Once you enter the gate, it opens up to two paths that surround a few acre  span of grassy park.  I chose to take a right to check out the tea house.  The garden once belonged to a rich family back when Tokyo was called Edo, which they refer to as the Edo period.

The garden was beautiful, and felt so much like back home in New England. Actually, a lot of Tokyo felt so familiar like home.  The garden grounds were starting to turn for fall-time, just like at home, and it just felt so good to be there. I took my time walking around all the gardens.  They had a traditional Japanese garden, an English garden and a French garden. When I was about to leave I noticed that they had setups where people were crowding around, and it was their Chrysanthemum exhibition.  It was pretty impressive.

After that I decided to sit on a bench to snack and hydrate, soak in the sun and people around me.  Lots of couples, small families and elderly walking around.  It was quite surreal at that moment.  Realizing how far away you are from those you love.  There was a 14 hour difference, so when you guys were waking up, we were going to bed.

I was missing home, my kids, and it was the first time in weeks that I was alone with just myself, my thoughts, no work, no housework, no distractions.  It was probably the most perfect moment I spent in peace this 2017.   Life sometimes gets complicated, or I allow it to at least, so centering myself on this day was just what I needed to refocus.  I felt real good after I reflected upon myself.

 

Ok, so after I spent a few hours at the park, I grabbed a coffee (of course) and grabbed some food to make my way back to the hotel.  I wasn’t planning on seeing my husband till real late, so I was setting myself up to eat in the hotel for the night till he got back.  BUT, when I got back to the hotel he messaged me saying that I was invited out to dinner with the folks he met with for work. …and they INSISTED that I meet up with them.

I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, especially my husband, so I jumped to get ready and hailed a cab to Roppongi.  Alone in a taxi in Tokyo was a fun experience. haha  My driver didn’t speak English, I didn’t speak that much Japanese, but THANK THE LORD I read body language and can decipher some gestures.  And that my husband texted me the full address on purpose!  haha

The dinner was at the Gonpachi Nishiazabu.  What a gorgeous place from the outside to the inside.  My favorite part of the aesthetic, being that it was an old building or at least drafted after one, the front door was very tiny.  I had to crouch down to walk in!  They had a cool room reserved on the third floor for this dinner. As I was led upstairs we had to walk through the second floor dining area, and the view was so pretty and dreamy to the space below.  I later learned that the Gonpachi is the place they shot those major fight scenes in Kill Bill.  When I realized that all of a sudden it became clear where I was sitting! Such a cool place and such great food.

The group of people were pretty great, too.  I can’t explain who they all were in the most precise details w names but it was the President of the Museum with his gf (whom I know), the President of the Japanese company  working with the museum to acquire a newly built The Science Behind Pixar exhibit (the exhibit my husband designed), a few of this Presidents partners, one of the guys from the exhibit build company out of NJ and a translator…then me :).

The President of the Japanese company hosted this dinner, and he was so kind and FUNNY.  One of the best parts of the night, aside from the dinner itself, was the game he had us play at the end.  He handed out sheets of paper that outlined a question, three multiple choice answers, and another outline for up to 13 responses.  Each person had to come up with one ‘hard’ multiple choice question w fun answers about any of these topics: Boston, Tokyo or about Pixar.   Each person then went around the table with their question and answers, and you would mark your paper with the corresponding answers to the person that had that number.  Then at the end you’d hand off your note to the person to your right to grade them. Anyone with the highest number of right answers wins.

Some of the questions I can remember now are:

  • What actor makes an appearance with a voice in every Pixar movie?
    • 1. Bill Pullman, 2. John Ratzenberger, 3. Bill Murray
  • Which is the most popular animal themed cafe in Harajuku?
    • 1. Cat Cafe, 2. Owl Cafe, 3. Hedgehog Cafe
  • Who has the best food in the city?
    • 1. the eel restaurant under the bridge, 2. the scallops restaurant in the hotel, 3. the noodles restaurant in the alley

There were questions about Manga, Godzilla, more on Pixar and even BU and MIT!  My number in the group was two, and my question was:

  • Boston’s Italian district is in which ward? (easy enough right?)
    • 1. South, 2. West, 3. North.

Needless to say, Mike and I tied for first place!  haha I even guessed on some of the complicated Tokyo based ones, but phew!  The top five winners got prizes, which I was surprised about, then everyone received a gift of candy.  It was so sweet and such a great way to end the dinner.

After we taxied away from there, we headed back to our hotel to chill in the lounge and enjoy the views.  We were the only ones in the lounge for a good fifteen minutes or so, which was perfect :).  Then we headed to bed…because we had another full day in Tokyo to experience!

Day 4 up next!

Tokyo Day 2- Tsukiji Nippon Fish Market / Taito City

Hello Everyone!

Here we are on our real first day out in Tokyo, but day two of our total journey.  We did so much on this day, that this post is extra long but rich with photos.

Day 2- Tsukiji Nippon Fish Market / Taito City 

Since I passed out so early the night before, and I’m so happy I did, I was ready to go at 5AM, but I held myself back from getting out of bed until 7AM, because my husband was still sleeping and I didn’t want to wake him up.  This gave me a lot of time to check messages, news, and text the kids.  Once my husband got up, we got ourselves ready for a big day out in Tokyo.  Our plans were to hit the fish market area and just wander around trying to hit the places we didn’t get a chance to see in 2004.

First, let me mention that the hotel gave us a free mobile phone to use that had free wifi and calling across the globe, so we were able to navigate properly everywhere we went through Google.

We started by grabbing some breakfast in Shinjuku near the station.  We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then hit the trains!

Ok, so the train system in Tokyo is a web of so many lines that even if it were in English it would still be hard to maneuver, but in Japanese it is like staring at artwork rather than a train system! And it is an art to get tickets and figure out where the trains actually are!!  Let me explain:

There is an e-card pass system called SUICA to use the transit system (some taxis, vending machines and stores).  It is pay as you go; you put money on the card and it withdraws at every entrance / exit gate.  It is real easy to use.  You touch the card to the turnstile SUICA pad, it pops up with the amount on your card and how much the entrance fee is. When you leave you repeat touch the turnstile with the card and it pops up with how much is on the card and how much the distance fare is. The cards are refillable anytime, and can be done through these kiosks below.  We were advised to purchase a SUICA card with 2000Yen on each card (around $20 USD each). We ended up using it for multiple train rides and even on our last day to pay towards taxi service.

They didn’t have this system in place when we were there in 2004.  The card system made using the subway a lot easier without paper tickets to carry just a credit card type prox card like at home/and in NYC.  The fun part was figuring out that they had this system and acquiring a card!!  hahah Oh the Lost in Translation moments.

My husband is great at navigating around places, even if he doesn’t speak the language.  He knows where to go and just figures it out.  Traveling with this guy is a great thing!  Our first stop was the Tsukiji Nippon fish market.  We took the train straight there, walked down this little incline that opened up to this massive street where there were a handful of alley ways with hundreds of vendors selling food from sushi to dumplings to full restaurants and some stores that only sold cooking items.

Some things that struck me right off the bat… There was no smell in the air of fish or that you were even near the fish market area.  There were hundreds of people working or walking around/eating, yet it was organized.  Not one barrel around, but it was clean!! Also, that people came from all over the area to eat.  It was a pretty great experience and I ate some street food from places I would never dream to eat from.  A definite happy stop on the trip.

After the market we decided to walk through to the Ginza district, which we had visited in 2004, but man, I didn’t recognize it! The Asahi Beer Hall fashioned after a German beer hall, which we loved, was no longer in the district, which was a bummer.  We had such good memories of that place.  Everything just seemed so much larger, so many more people, and just so much more to see.

Our first stop was to the department store Mistukoshi. This department store is one of the largest chains in the country.  Now I know it sounds bizarre, specifically going to a department store in Tokyo, and we visited many this trip, because these stores are like a whole experience that only you would get in Japan.  I have been to some elite department stores in various cities, like Harrod’s in London, Bloomingdales in Beverly Hills, Bergdorf Goodman’s and Saks in NYC, and obviously all those throughout Boston, but let me say they have nothing in comparison to these in Japan. Nothing.  The elegance and refinement of these stores, just at the top of the list of class. Also, the employees working the areas are like old world humble salespeople from a time lost a long time ago.  They care about you, like really they care about you!  You feel like you are somewhere really special.

I have found that the Tokyo department stores are usually somewhere around 8 floors high, and each floor is as big as the next, with furnishings from the elite to the local.  But the best parts are the basement levels..well, if you are a foodie.  They have these food bizarre type levels that just knock your expectations out of the park.  The food is everywhere, fresh, delicious, colorful, and just in a word AMAZING.  This was the first department store we visited this week, and I left in shock and awe at what I saw.

After the department store overload, we relaxed at a nearby Starbucks to figure out where to go next.  My husband had researched an area he wanted to check out, a city area called Taito, which has a few districts; Ueno and Yanaka that he heard were fun. So we hopped the train for Ueno! We got out of the train and walked straight to this area of called Yanaka.  This town has the most old world Tokyo style buildings still standing, spared from the bombings.  It is a tourist stop as they now call themselves the cat sanctuary because of the strays in the area…which I saw none.  haha I did however grab a lot of fun souvenirs for my kids.  It was a sweet area to walk through and shop around.

We left that area to walk a bit aimlessly around, with the mobile phone it made it easier, because this is something we like to do when we are away.  We like to stumble upon local places or people to see how it is off the tourist paths.  This day did not disappoint.  We ended up on this great road where we found a vintage shop chock full of the coolest Japanese and American artifacts.  After this, we trekked down the road where we stumbled upon a stretch of street that had a collection of shrines that were scattered away in the most perfect settings.  We counted about 15 shrines and cemeteries in all!

We had walked a ton so far, but it wasn’t over yet!  I should mention that Tokyo doesn’t have a lot of resting places, like there are not a ton of places you’ll see a bench.  It’s almost like they don’t want people to loiter around.  Which I understand with almost 10 million people in the city, it could get overwhelming.  So if you decide to take a trip to Tokyo, or Japan really, wear sensible shoes and rest anywhere you see a seat because even their parks have like a bench or none per quarter mile.

Then we walked further along and saw on the map that the Ueno public garden/park was not terribly far.  We decided to make our way there.  It is a large park peppered with trees, landmarks and water features.  It was beautiful.  It is the well-known park for the cherry blossoms.  We had a great time walking through the paths holding hands. Seeing all the foliage.  We saw some unusual birds and talked (well I did with gestures) to an elderly couple who wanted to talk to me. It is funny that even with a major language barrier two people can speak (AND MAKE A JOKE) without knowing the other’s language. It was a nice way to spend the evening.

And we didn’t stop to rest, so the walking wasn’t over!

We left the park right about sundown, so we headed to the Ameyoko market street.  Another fun district that has shopping, restaurants and just so many people!  The shopping was good but the people watching was pretty spectacular.  Tokyo is such an amazing place.  The sights. The foods. The people.  They have this wonderful way that they carry themselves, it’s like they have a lot of pride, but are very humble.  I don’t know how else to describe the feeling they give me except that I see them being a very humble and honorable culture. They are a quiet, hardworking people. So respectful of each other and to outsiders like us. It’s quite wonderful.

We finally were hungry so we ended up eating at a tendon place we looked up. Tendon is a tempura rice bowl…which is so good.  Yum.  We ended the night with walking around the city more, then headed back to the hotel for some relaxing and for me sleep! haha.  We clocked over 20,000 steps, so we were beat and needed the rest!

 

Day 3 up next!

Day 1- Traveling to Tokyo

And just like that, I have been around the globe and back.  I was snapping while I said that in case you were wondering.   

 

Konnichiwa WordPressLand!

I am super happy to be home because I missed my children like mad, but, at the same time feel sad because Japan is an amazing country, and five days anywhere away is never enough time.  Especially, after a 13.5 hour plane ride to the destination. Yes, 13.5 hours non-stop! We opted for the direct flight on Japan Airlines from Boston to Tokyo (13.5hrs), and back Tokyo to Boston (12hrs).  As I mentioned in my last post, this trip was a work trip for my husband but a last-minute pleasure trip for myself.  A trip we sort of repeated 13 years ago.

I was a little nervous to fly.  First because we had never travelled this far away from our kids, so that drove my nerves hardcore, but also because I had been having a string of bad luck the week leading up to this day. And when I say bad luck I mean it..  I had a car accident the Friday before (I am ok, but my car is not).   I bumped my noggin pretty hard on my dryer that next night (of all places).  While lighting my jack o’lantern for the town’s make up Halloween Sunday night, the match exploded and literally ignited my finger tip burning it pretty badly.  My youngest daughter ended up coming home early Monday with a stomach bug, which without a car, I had to walk to pick her up in the rain (I felt bad for her not me obv, cause she didn’t feel well but still had to walk home).  Then as I had the house all clean for my parents to stay over while we were away, my daughter puked everywhere!  Then on the same day, my oldest daughter comes home from school saying she thinks she has a walking pneumonia!!!  Rushed her to the pediatrician, but she didn’t have walking pneumonia just complications with seasonal allergies and her inhaler.

Thank God it all ended up ok, well, except my car.  She is in the shop and might be for two weeks. I just have to laugh it off..  haha  Well, c’est la vie, am I right?  Ok, so string of bad luck, I was nervous, and the night before we left I was walking with my oldest daughter as she spotted a lucky penny…waving for me to pick it up.  So of course, I jumped at the chance to grab it. Sounds crazy, I know, but I felt like that penny was lucky so I brought that copper puppy with me on the plane..and yes, my bad luck streak ended!! Woo to me!

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‘I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.’

Day 1– Traveling to Tokyo from Boston

We left Boston on November 7 at 12:30PM, right on time!  The flight was great, and the plane had a lot of upgraded features that you just don’t see on many planes, Boeing’s 787 pictured below.  In flight it is virtually quiet.  The circulated air is humidified, so no dry skin or noses. The windows darkened and lightened from within, so no loud shutter sounds when closing them. They had touch screens, and of course had movie selections, like an insane amount, but also there were computer games, audiobooks and a 3-d map of the flight through their media.  We were in Economy class, window and aisle seats, which were spacious and comfy.  All around a great experience.

 

We had hired a car service to transport us back and forth from the Narita Airport and hotel.  The ride is about 1.5 hours from the airport to the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, where we were staying.  The driver’s van was clean, and the gentleman driver was a very nice man.  A very silent man. haha But the last time we went to Japan we took a bus to our hotel, we were at a different airport/hotel, but it was miserable after a long flight to bus around.  This time was much much MUUUUCh better, and we were happier.  Plus, I liked it a lot because we got to see a lot of sights from the car that we wouldn’t be getting to during this trip.

We stayed at the Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo.  What a beautiful hotel.  We got a room with a spectacular view of the city, the municipal building and Mt Fuji in the backdrop.  It was surreal!  The hotel is located within walking distance to the Shinjuku train station, some major attractions, lots of dining and the largest shopping areas in the city.  Perfect spot for anyone that wants to seek out the city, try out some nightlife and shop… Tokyo is literally about shopping.  So, ya know, I was in heaven  🙂

So.  Fourteen hours ahead can be hard to change your body clock!  My advice…SLEEP as soon as you can after it is dark!   Well, that is what I did, inadvertently, anyways because we got to the hotel with me bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Talking about going to eat.  We got to our room, freshened up, unpacked, checked out the view then I don’t know what happened but I laid on the bed to check it out… and poof, lights out for this girl!  Was woken up to change into my pjs.  Sleeping that long helped me feel great the next morning and the rest of the trip.  (usually, advanced time changes screw with me and I am like a zombie for a week..not this time!)

Day two is up next!

 

Halloween 2017

Hey Everyone! 
Happy Halloween!  Hope you all had a fun night filled with lots of laughter and candy!!! 
Halloween is one of my favorite days of the year. Since I can remember, I have love love loved to dress up, and now that I am older, I enjoy seeing all the kids in their costumes scattering around in excitement going door to door for candies.  It’s so cute!, and it’s really a magical night.   
This year, we had planned to have the crew back up here to trick o’treat.  Halloween used to always be at our house but when our town started with strict hours as the kids were growing, 5PM-7PM, our family and friends were sorta bummed and we started to go in my sister’s town -the last two years. It has been great fun, and we can be out later, BUT, because last year the four of us had stayed up here as our kids were ill with stomach bugs, we allowed them to go a few houses, they loved being in their neighborhood seeing friends and faces to the houses nearby.  So this year, the girls really wanted to have everyone back up here like it used to be to celebrate together, but the universe had other plans!  We ended up back down in my sister’s town!  Haha  
Our town had to postpone Halloween due to the storm on Sunday night. A large portion of the town, about 80%, has been without power and with loose wires, giant trees/debris down and just  big mess. We were spared this storm, luckily, but, the town has been on shut down since Sunday, and the kids have been out of school…today being day three in a row. Oh boy!  They are big time bummed because of all the school activities, but I am sure hanging with me is better….  YES  IT  IS> hahah
We had a busy Halloween season, yes, this is a season!  🙂  The kids had three costume parties, we pumpkined, face painted, birthdayed, Andi Macked, cob webbed, Fall fested and Halloweened…all real words.  Through the month we had the kids dressed up as a sugar skull cat, a sugar skull, Louise Belcher, a grand-mom,and a voodoo doll.  I avoided a Sugar Skull Louise, because she wants to sugar skull everything. This particular Halloween night we had Louise and Bob Belcher, a Voodoo Doll and a Living Dolly.  🙂     Everyone looked great.  I wasn’t all that impressed with how I came out, but I had a lot of fun wearing 28″ hair ponytail extensions!!
Here are some pics of the season’s fun…

 

Fun month overall..  I LOVE HALLOWEEN TIME!! 
We don’t have a solid date for our town’s make up Halloween night yet, probably will hear something today.  I invited the crew back up for it, so we will be doing this all over again (at least for a little bit) on that night.  🙂  HALLOWEEN TWICE!! Woo!!  (that just made my day!)  Probably won’t blog about the second Halloween, but I have some fun things coming up that I will be blogging about… like ….JAPAN! 
Yes! JAPAN! I haven’t told many people, like outside my family two people know..so now you know. In six days from today I will be on my way to Japan with my husband.  We went in 2004, when I tagged along on a big work trip, and this year he has to go for five days for work and he convinced me to come with.  So after a couple of weeks debating with myself on the pros and cons about going, I decided that I was going!  How many other times will I have this opportunity again??  I never thought I would be going back but here I am with a ticket, new clothes, all the Japanese travel books and it’s happening!   I am nervous, electrified with excited, nervous, looking forward to seeing Tokyo again, nervous, happy to eat sushi in the land of sushi, nervous, eager to shop, nervous, thrilled to be going …and just nervous.  haha  Did I mention I am nervous?  I have never been this far away from my children before, or taken a direct flight over the country and Pacific(14 hours or so), and it just strikes a fearful nerve I have never experienced much before.  I just hope to sleep on the plane and it goes by fast.  PLEASE LET IT GO FAST!    
And, I haven’t decided if I will daily blog like I had in the past posting it when I get back or just lump this trip into one post, but I will figure it out.  We have so much to do before Tuesday!!  🙂 
Ok, so this WAS a Halloween blog not Japan.. sorrrRRRry! BUT … Hope you all had a blast last night, too!  xoxo