Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween! A Halloween Poll

Today we are sponsoring an exciting Halloween poll! Anybody who casts a vote will be entered into a drawing for one free piece of indigenous Japanese Halloween candy from one of the boys' Halloween bags.

Halloween Poll: Which is scarier?

This picture, taken by the Kamo River:

Or this picture of Max, dancing to the Disney songs from the electric keyboard:

Send your votes via comments or email!

Pillow Talk. And Chicken.

We had a cloudy Saturday today. Got flu shots for the boys (sorry--no pics. Left the data card in the computer. Again).

Afterwards, we walked downtown to look for some real pillows. As in, big, fluffy American pillows. Not small, flat, wimpy pillows that make your arm fall asleep. After two months, we have decided there are some things we just can't go native on. So, after flu shots, we walked down to Daimaru department store. They had lots of pillows, engineered with small round particles that were made out of kevlar. Or maybe gold nuggets. The cost--about $200 per pillow. I am NOT kidding. I only wish I had taken a picture of the price tag.

We left. And I found lovely, fluffy, happy, American pillows at the Laura Ashley store for only 3000 yen. We will pick up the second one on Wednesday. Darrin and I will have to share the one they had in stock today. Laura Ashley--who knew?

So then we walked back up Karasuma and picked this place for dinner. It's a typical yakitori place--all chicken, all the time. Most of it grilled on sticks. The kitchen:

We ordered a bunch of yakitori. (chicken and vegetables grilled on skewers). We also ordered some nabe--a kind of communal soup pot with chicken that you cook at the table. Here's what it looked like on the poster. It's a very cozy autumn meal.
I talked for a while with the waiter about how much nabe we should order.
He said, the standard order (1380 yen) is for 2 people. I'm not sure that's enough for 5 people.

I say, well, with all the yakitori we ordered, I think that one order is enough.

He says, Well, how about you order one order of nabe, and then if you can eat two orders, let me know and we'll give you more.

I say, that sounds great.

At least, that's how I thought the conversation went.

As it turns out, here's what really happened:

He said the standard order (1380 yen) is for 2 people. I'm not sure you're going to need any nabe, with all the yakitori you ordered.

And I say, well, with all the yakitori we ordered, I think that one order is enough.

He says, Well, how about you don't order any nabe, and if you think you can eat more food after all that yakitori you pigs ordered, let me know.

I say, that sounds great.

This more accurate translation became apparent after we had, indeed, finished our yakitori. We were feeling rather full, and were sort of wondering if we needed any more food, and maybe we hadn't needed to order the nabe after all. That's when the waiter brought the boys a free bowl of ice cream, and the waiter and the cook came out of the kitchen and were standing around waiting for us to pay them.

I ask you: would this EVER happen in the USA, portion king of the world?

Anyway, here are some of the yummy foods we enjoyed. Small grilled eggs. Quail, I think.

Mushrooms and onions:

Cheese balls. Another translation problem. These are not cheese balls. These are chicken meat balls covered BY cheese. But, they were still good.

Chicken meatballs, and a piece of chicken heart off to the right there:

Here's Alek eating some regular yakitori (Right hand, leg meat. Left hand, breast meat).

Flied Potato. A classic.

While we were waiting for the food, the boys practiced their hiragana skills. Alek's hand says, "Alek loves Mommy."

Hugo drew this guy:

True to form, Hugo cleared quite a few skewers...

All and all, another fun-filled food adventure for the gang!

Friday, October 29, 2010

School Halloween Party

Today was a big day. Halloween party at school!

Some moms got together right after drop-off to decorate the gym. Some of these decorations are ones that Darrin brought from the States last week.

Around noon, the Grade 1 class got their costumes on. Alek, obviously, is a hedgehog. There are also a couple of pirates, a soccer player, and a ninja.

Here we get to see the back of the hedgehog. A-chan is showing off her tattoos (thanks again, Tracy!)

Upstairs in Grade 4/5, two boys are agape. Their teacher has arrived as a redneck Rapunzel, complete with Southern accent, bad teeth, and Texaco nametag.

The teachers had dressed as fairy tale characters....

Here are some of the kids...

Max went as "Ed," the human body model from his classroom.

Then the kids went on a trick-or-treat parade. They started down the alley, where parents gave them some treats.

There they go, through the local neighborhood!

They turned a corner and came back, through the shopping street.

Some of the local shopowners, alerted in advance to the festivities, were handing out candy, rice crackers, or clemintines.

Here's a closeup of the hedgehog:

Someday, I will do a blog on this shopping street. I love this street. Hugo says, "me, too!"

These boys were passing by on the bus. They seemed pretty excited to see the parade.

Back at school. Time to dig in to the loot.

And then head into the gym for some more fun.

Each class had carved a pumpkin. These pumpkins cost about 3000 each here in Japan. So you're looking at about $200 worth of squash right here in this pic.

The school is official friends with a school in Shiga prefecture. They came to the party, and did a dance for us. What did you think of the dance, Alek?
"A jungle dance."
"Did you like it?"
"They were yelling stuff, and I couldn't understand them. I didn't know if they were speaking Japanese or English."
"But it was a really fun dance to watch, right?"
"I heard too many bangs."

Each class had designed a game to play. Grade 4/5 had "zombie bowl." Those are body parts on the pins.

Hugo got up to the mike to describe the Grade 1 game.

The Shiga school sponsored a version of a bat relay. After spinning 5 times, you aimed a ball at those boxes.

Most people missed. But, you got to take your score home anyway! I love this. See? A zero does not have to hurt anybody's self-esteem.

After cleaning up, we went home. Another inventory of loot.
Some closeups of some of the indigenous foods.
Yatta-Man snacks.
Sweet little bag.
Hello Kitty marshmallow treats.

"What part did you like, Alek?"

"The trick or treating part."

"How did the candy haul compare to back home?"

"The pretzels are the same. But all the candy is totally different. Most of them are fruit candy."

"Tell me about your categories."

"When I sorted the candies on the floor, one of the categories was Marshmallows, the next one was Cookies, the next one was Fruit Candy, there was also Chocolate, I Don't Know, Regular Candy, Not Candy, Bars, like nut sticky bars, and the last one was Not Food At All."

Anything you want to add, Hugo?
"Everybody wore interesting costumes on the parade."