A place for family and friends to see what I'm up to. Visitors welcome here.

Hail Guest, we ask not what thou art.
If Friend, we greet thee, hand and heart.
If Stranger, such no longer be.
If Foe, our love will conquer thee.
-Old Welsh Door Verse

Saturday, December 31, 2011

It will be...


Friday, December 30, 2011

One more day...

...of 2011

This is my view when I wake up in the mornings.  When I'm lucky and can sleep in a little, I can catch the sun turning these trees golden. A few minutes of magic.

I read for a while.  I'm reading Brene Brown's I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't) and Stuart Brown's Play.  Between these two lie the answers to our problems with education, if only we were willing to make the changes.  And some of my problems, too, and I am willing to make the changes.

I spent about an hour cleaning the Faerie Garden.  I think we're in for an early spring.  The lisianthus is jumping out of the ground, fuchsias in bloom already.  The brugs are looking kind of puny.  I'll need to decide whether to start their feeding program or not.  If this is a false spring, I would not like to have encouraged new growth only to have it frozen off when winter returns.

I treated myself to something I've been promising myself for weeks - a quick trip to the sea.

I live less than 1/2 hour from many beautiful beaches, but never go to them.  I usually get irritated by nasty parents and their nasty children.  The beaches I love - the quiet cliffs of the central California coast - are too far for a quick visit.  So, today I decided to give this one a try.  Fifteen minutes out to Mugu Rock, where I sat on a much smaller rock for a half hour, then made my way home.  It was a little foggy, but the visitors that I shared the parking lot with were pleasant.  A porpoise made a quick appearance offshore.  I'll try it again sometime, but maybe choose a spot with a little less asphalt.

I stopped at the gym for an hour.  I managed to put on 12 pounds during this holiday season.  I don't know that I would eat any differently next year, but will definitely keep up my workout schedule.  I'm confident I'll drop this pretty quickly, but I'm irritated with myself for putting myself behind after it took so long to get it off.  I'm really anxious to finish this weight loss project this year.  Like, by June 14.

I can do it.

If I keep moving.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


This just in...

...from my friend about her daughter.
Nine days ago I got the phone call every parent dreads to get, that my baby was probably not going to make it through the night. She literally clung to life for the next 4 days and then roller-coastered up and down for a couple more. The past two days have seen vast improvement and this afternoon was like a miracle:  off oxygen, eating regular food, they had her up walking (with a walker and nurses plus a chair following right behind) and they removed her neck main line today and replaced it with an arm IV. She was not downgraded off the critical list yet, but it is only due to a few medicines they are still giving her and that they want her white count down more. But she is on her way....talking coherently like you wouldn't believe.
I got the message via facebook on my android while waiting for my Weight Watchers meeting.  It's OK; I don't mind sobbing in a parking lot if it's for such a happy reason.

Chef Oscar.


Whenever my mom and I head to Disneyland, we leave very early - between 6:00 and 6:30 am - because we have a favorite routine.  Leaving by 6:30 am latest gets us to the park in time to park, get the tram in, go through security and gate and be at the Carnation Cafe in time to enjoy breakfast and make it back to the front gate in time for the Disneyland Band's first set.

No other restaurant will do, mostly because we've gotten to know our wait staff and the delightful Chef Oscar.

I just noted this article about the Chef.  He's being honored at an "internal party" for being Disneyland's longest-term employee.  55 years, almost the entire history of the park. 

Chef Oscar is one of those Disney castmembers who should serve as role model for the others.  He always greets us with a smile of welcome and a short conversation that makes us feel like we belong.  And I swear the food (I always order Chef Oscar's Scramble) tastes better when he is reigning in his tall white hat.

Sending my congratulations, Chef Oscar, and my fervent wish that you get your dream come true.  I'll check the next time I'm there for breakfast with you.

More great news.

'Like a Cougar"

This is how my friend describes her daughter's fight and progress.

Today is Thursday.  On Tuesday she was off the ventilator and onto a cpap machine.  She would squeeze her mother's hand on request, wiggle her toes for the doctor and chew ice chips.  Yesterday she was on nasal oxygen, speaking single words and had opened one eye halfway.  She said "Hi," to her Mom.

Today she is up in a chair, eating and talking a mile a minute. I can't even begin to imagine how her mother is feeling right now.

But this progress for this lovely young woman is making ME cry.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Splendid News.

GREAT NEWS for all who have been helping with my friend's daughter. Today she squeezed her mother's hand on request, wiggled her toes for the doctor and chewed ice chips. She's off the ventilator and onto cpap assistance. Still in critical condition but everyone is celebrating this improvement and the reassurance that she's still there. I know they appreciate your attention and will appreciate your continued sending of the good stuff.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

John Denver and the Muppets: The Christmas Wish

"If you believe in love, that will be more than enough for you to come and celebrate with me."

Whether you are a familiar friend here, or if you just ended up here by mistake, please accept this as my Christmas wish for you.

Merry Christmas.  May 2012 be filled with peace and joy.

P.S. My friend's daughter is breathing 50% on her own and got mad when they moved her this morning. Encouraging news. Please keep a good thought for her.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Facebook family.

Today on one Michigan friend's status I keep tabs as her daughter, a Disney castmember in Orlando, fights for her life.  The status immediately following is an exultant post about a Colorado friend's "perfect" day at Disneyland Anaheim with her family.

Later, the Michigan friend posts that her daughter remains in critical condition, on a respirator, unresponsive.  The post immediately following is from my colleague (who teaches art in the classroom next to mine) who shares a picture of her holding her minutes-old grandson, born this afternoon.

It's hard to find an emotion to hold onto.

I suppose love will have to suffice.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cradle in Bethlehem - GMCLA

Hold your breath for this one; you won't want to miss a note.

They let us sing with them. I was probably flat, but my soul was on key.

To start a day...

... in the right way.

I started - as always - checking my buds on facebook to see how their day is going so far.  I have facebook friends from all over the world: France, Australia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Japan as well as from several of the United States.  Some are old (and treasured) friends and family, others are new (and treasured) friends and family.

This morning two had left gifts.  The first is (I hope) posted below.  Another number from the concert I attended on Sunday.  Just before DS1 left for his permanent move to Japan we had a conversation about live music and how important it is to keep the relationship between performer and audience alive.  I performed (as a dancer) for a short time in my life, but am still the mother (and daughter and sister, for that matter) of performing musicians.  I have experienced the magical exchange of energy in this unique relationship many times.  I even had the experience of watching the transformation of a major stage performance just because one teenage audience member - my son - couldn't keep his enthusiasm for a duo of Celtic fiddlers silent one more second.  His shouted, one word compliment had an immediate effect on the performers, which translated into an awakening of the audience and a more enthusiastic performance for the rest of the show.

Yes, magic.

I took my conversation with DS1 seriously, and committed to supporting live music as much as possible.  For years, I had been enjoying the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles from their Christmas Eve performances at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion that has been broadcast on PBS.  It was not hard to decide to buy a season series last year.  It was such as fabulous experience that I had promised myself the series again this year, with an extra $100 donation to the chorus.  However, when I got the notice that season tickets were again available, they were doing a special promotion and I got a significant discount on the series.  It was enough of a discount that for just a little more than what I was budgeting (with my donation), I could buy a second series and invite someone to share a concert with me.  This time I invited an old and best friend, and she and I had a blast.

So, having started my morning with "Joyful, Joyful" I scrolled down a little further and was gifted with this:

Yes, I am richer.  More fortunate.  Luckier.  More blessed.

More grateful.

I don't have much "Christmas Spirit" this year.  Oh, I'm not feeling "Scrooge-y" or "Grinch-y."  I'm feeling quite happy and am enjoying the elements of the season.  DS2 and his GF put up a lovely light display.  The Charlie Brown tree is in the kitchen this year and we may get some ornaments on it tonight.  The Santas are in the hallway as usual.  This year I hung a garland with colored lights in the window of The Sanctuary and am enjoying them as I write this.  I've had some lovely shopping expeditions where shoppers and sellers alike were in happy spirits.  Today I'll finish my own shopping (although if I stopped now, I think my recipients would be happy with their gifts), including a trip to Trader Joe's for eggnog and hot cocoa mix and frozen bread dough for Christmas morning cinnamon rolls.

But I've apparently abandoned my traditional holiday spirit.  This is probably a good thing and just another symptom of The Transformation.

I am not who I was, and not yet who I am.

In December of 2009 I started down a path of change.  In June of 2010 a friend recommended Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way.  He told me it had transformed him.  I smiled and replied that transformation was probably aiming a little high but that if I could find a couple of missing pieces I would be happy.

The next time I saw my friend, he said he'd been trying to come up with an analogy for me and remembered the old-fashioned Christmas lights.  "Remember," he asked, "how when one would burn out, the whole string would go out?  And how you had to unscrew each bulb and try a new one, one at a time?  And then, when you found the right one, the whole string would light up?"  That's how it will be for you, he said.  Finding the missing pieces will transform you.

And he was right.

I'll never look at Christmas lights the same way again.

I worked that program, and it led me to others from whom I continue to learn.  From Jonathan Haidt's Happiness Hypothesis into Sonja Lyubomirsky's terrific little "Live Happy" app for my ipod. To a writing class with Jack Grapes and some young people who continue to guide and support me.  (I'm so grateful for you guys.)  Joseph Campbell and Derek Sivers and Anne Lamott and Geneen Roth and Deepak Chopra.  I'm soaking myself in Brene Brown now (multiple youtube presentations well worth the watch; second reading - with highlighter and sticky tabs - of The Gifts of Imperfection. I Thought It Was Just Me... is next on the book list). and from Brown I got the final shove into The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho and now The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

I am transformed - and happier than I ever remember being - and so my Christmas spirit is also transformed.  For decades my Christmas spirit has been a wash of expectation and anticipation and eventual disappointment.  I never thought I was asking a lot.  Let me clean the house until it sparkled.  Let me make cookies - chocolate chip and chocolate crinkles and peanut butter (with Kitchen Klatter flavorings) and snickerdoodles from Grandma's recipe and iced sugar cookies.  Let me decorate every room (even the pig-themed bathroom) and let me create the annual magic with the Christmas tree.  1500 lights and almost four decades of collected ornaments including four dozen crystal icicles.  Let me be finished with it all by the day before Christmas Eve - clean windows reflecting multi-colored lights, presents wrapped under the tree, a sugar cookie in one hand, cocoa in the other.  Jimmy Joyce Singers singing Al Burt carols and a quiet Christmas Eve enjoying my own sense of anticipation, wondering what was in the gifts that had my name on them under the tree.

Never happened.

Someone was always right behind me to make a mess of what I'd cleaned.  Need rain?  Bring me to your neighborhood and let me wash your windows.  Guaranteed rainmaking.  The tree was always a love/hate project over which I usually became so frustrated and angry that when it was finally finished it would take me days to get past my resentment of the effort.  There were never enough hours to do ALL the cookies.  And my Santa had a different tradition than I.  No gifts to wonder over in the days leading up to Christmas; they only appear on Christmas Eve.

This year - and I think it's a good thing - I don't have my usual "Christmas Spirit."  Windows have not been washed.  There are dust elephants (yellow lab) everywhere.  Today there may be cookies.  There may not.  DH is expecting company Friday.  He may do some cleaning (I will be at my mom's Thursday getting her house ready for the whole family on Christmas) or he may not.

I don't really have any expectations for The Day and am just enjoying each step toward The Event as best I can.  Time with my mom (helped with a little decorating at her house last weekend).  The SNC concert two weeks ago, GMCLA Sunday.  Shopping has been delightful.  For the most part everyone is in a holiday mood punctuated by patience and good will.  I've been pretty lucky to find what I've been hoping to find as gifts.  I'll get them wrapped and under the little Charlie Brown tree sitting on the kitchen cabinet.

So that my loved ones can wonder.

Meanwhile, the little sparkler that lives inside continues to twinkle.

Like the Christmas lights.

Joyful GMCLA

No wonder I love these guys. This was the finale. Trouble with recordings of any kind is that you can't feel the music move through you like I could during this performance. But you can still get a hint of the energy these amazing men send out and have returned to them from loving fans.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


...someone else's videos turned out OK.

The audience was given permission at this weekend's Naughty and Nice holiday concert of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles to video these two numbers.  My videos did not turn out, so I'm sharing someone else's.

As always, it was a fabulous concert.  Now I have to mark time until their "Mighty Pipes" concert in March.

Malibu Monks - Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles

The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles performs 'Chanukah in Santa Monica'

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day 11 - Sunday, November 27, 2011


Leaving was hard, but I was glad I had a morning flight so that I didn't have a chance to completely break down.  I did convince my DIL to stay upstairs with the baby rather than stand on the curb waiting for a cab.

My son and I took a cab to the Hotel Metropolitan (where we'd had lunch early in the visit; it was starting to feel like home) where we caught the limo bus to the airport.

I had dreaded this part of the trip, but we had such a lovely conversation on the two-hour+ trip to Narita that it stays in memory as one of my favorite parts of the trip.  After picking up passengers at a handful of other hotels, we were on the highway.

Of course, I didn't have my camera handy when this happened, but at one point my son pointed out the other side of the bus and said, "Look familiar, Mom?"  Sure enough, there was the Matterhorn, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain.  For some reason I had it in my head that Tokyo Disneyland was on the other side of Narita and certainly not something I would see on this trip.  It was a comfort to get that connection at that time.

Check-in with Korean Air at Narita was just as easy as it had been at LAX.  My son and I did some window-shopping (note to self: traditional souvenirs at the airport) before getting into the long security line.  He stayed with me as long as he could and we exchanged a teary hug.  I got a little laugh right away, though, when I learned that - after over a week of removing my shoes everywhere I went, the security check would be one place where it wasn't required.  Go figure.

I survived the last heart-rending moment of the trip when my son, following a ritual he and his wife had created, gave me one last wave from the window overlooking the escalator that I had to take to get - eventually - to the gates.

Yeah, I lost it.  It's OK.  It wouldn't hurt so much if I didn't love them so much, if I wasn't so proud of them, if we hadn't had such a terrific time.

It was worth the tears.

I had no problems on any other leg of the journey home.  The only culture shock I felt in the whole trip was going into the passport check area of LAX.  By California standards the folks working this area just seemed loud, maybe overworked but not rude.  But after over a week of continual, everywhere-I-went, everyone-I-met, quiet, respectful treatment the loud pushiness of LAX was overwhelming.  Still, I executed the steps calmly and efficiently and was thrilled to find the rest of my family waiting for me at the top of the ramp out of customs.

I had lost a day when I got to Japan, and got it back when I returned.  I arrived before 8:00 am on the day that I left Japan, and spent the rest of the Sunday doing laundry, catching up on email and in general trying to get my mind wrapped around the idea of returning to work the next day.

And now, the planning and preparation for my next trip begins.

Day 10 - Saturday, November 25, 2011


I tried really hard (and did a pretty good job) of trying to get the work of the day done (packing for my return trip) without obsessing over the fact that this was my last day with my family.  Being my son's first real day off since I got here, I was happy to stick close to home and enjoy their company.

Since I was leaving behind most of what I had brought with me (mostly goods that my son and DIL had had to leave behind when they relocated and gifts for the baby), I was able to pack one carry-on into the biggest bag and fill the rest of the bag with laundry.  The rest of my stuff I was able to fit into the smaller bag, leaving me only one tote bag and my purse as carry-on.  I had that chore done before the family woke up.

After a brief conference on food, the kids decided to make Japanese curry and my son and I were off for one last visit to my favorite shopping street.

One of several family gardens along the street.  I had enjoyed their bonsai each time we passed.
A shrine at an intersection.  My son didn't know what or who was being honored, but I think he said this street had been part of the main road to Edo.

Here we are, ready to shop.

We got pork and chicken at the meat market...

...then went to the regular market for veggies and other foodstuffs.

And for dessert, delicious chocolate cake from the bakery.

I am grateful that I got to experience some of the fall color of Japan (which comes late to this part of the country) without sliding into winter just yet.

Goldenrod in a lot on the way home.

Once home, we visited while my son cooked up the curry for dinner and served lunch.  Later in the afternoon they decided on a walk to the park.  I asked for a detour to the market that had a 100-yen store upstairs (as I was still short of gifts for folks at home).  All good.

It had been fun on the trip to note the "western" touches here and there, especially when they were tucked into the traditional neighborhoods.

As we walked to the park, I was happy to note there is a children's exploratorium science museum on their street.

The park was breathtaking, and I was happy that it was "theirs."

Shortly after we arrived back home, my DIL's mother arrived for dinner.  It's frustrating for both of us that we don't have the same spoken language, but we get along well with hugs and smiles.  Genuine welcome is felt, not spoken, and she has always made me feel welcome in her daughter's life.

We spent another lovely, quiet family evening together.  Too soon it was time to declare that day ended and head for bed.

Day 9 - Friday, November 25, 2011

Solo shopping day.

My DIL was still feeling poorly, so I decided this would be a good day to take the hike up to the department store again to finish my Christmas/souvenir shopping.  It is an easy walk - no more than a mile - straight down their street and straight back so I had no concern about getting lost.  I managed to get there, buy what I wanted and get home without incident.

On the way home I went over an overpass and saw these posts.  I think maybe they are to keep cars from parking on the sides of the bridge?  They were the entire length of the bridge, and it wasn't until I got to the other side that I realized they had these lovely bronzes on them.  I had to take out my camera and walk back until I had one of each in my photo collection.

My son brought home a feast picked up from small shops on his way home from the train station.  Delicious sushis and rolls, chicken sticks (breast meat, dark meat, heart, liver and skin) and - the most interesting - takoyaki.

My son described the process to create this delicious treat (one of his favorites).  The chef puts a little bit of batter - like a pancake batter - into the bottom of a pan that looks kind of like a round-bottomed muffin pan.  He rotates the pan until the batter starts to cook into a coating on the sides of the pan.  Then he adds a piece of octopus (tako) to the pan.  As the batter continues to cook, the chef "rolls" the battered octopus into a ball.  When it's done you have this kind of a dumpling with a piece of octopus inside.  Ours was served in a bamboo boat like shown in this photo, but without the red sauce.  Instead ours had Japanese mayonaisse.  Fish flakes finish off as garnish.  I love octopus and enjoyed this treat very much, although next visit I want to try one without the mayo and fish flakes; the flavors were a little distracting.

After dinner my DIL took over KP duty so my son, grandson and I could spend some time together.  One of my favorite memories from this trip will be the joy of watching my son play with his son.  They enjoy each other so much!  It was on this evening that the baby was happily successful at sticking out his tongue on prompt.  We could tell he not only knew what he was doing, he was proud of his little self for the accomplishment!

I'm so proud of my son and my daughter-in-law.  They are wonderful parents and it's a joy to watch the three of them function as a family.

P.S.  On my way home from the department store I had picked up more ice cream treats.  They were even more delicious enjoyed while awake.

Day 8 - Thursday, November 24, 2011

Quiet Day.

I think every muscle was sore from yesterday's adventures in trekking and stair climbing that when it was time to finally tuck onto my futon for the night I decided to take a couple of ibuprophen.  I take so few substances that one ibuprophen is all it takes to knock me out for a deep sleep and I slept very well.

Until 3:00 am.

I lie awake long enough to accept I wasn't going to go back to sleep again, then read for a while and was awake to enjoy the 5.9 earthquake that hit at 4:30 am.  It was just good enough to be fun, not bad enough to be frightening.  The others slept through it.

My DIL greeted me wearing a mask over her mouth and nose.  I got very used to seeing people in the airport and walking the streets in masks, a courtesy from those who are not feeling well to those around them.  DIL suffered a sore throat all day (I hate those more than any other cold symptom).

I kept to their apartment all day.  Took a shower while she and the baby slept, then had a nice play with the baby.  We chatted and played for over an hour and he was all smiles, never crabby.  Such a sweetheart.  He almost giggled today, and is doing very well with his practice sessions.

He's learning to stick out his tongue.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Day 7 - Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Long day.

This was the day that my son was taking me into Harajuku to see his school and the ritzy neighborhood he works in.

We were up early and left to catch the train at about 8:00 am.  He usually leaves earlier, but this day was a national holiday (to celebrate the harvest, I believe) and school was out for the day.  However, the teachers at the school worked in the morning for an open house.  I really did enjoy the train ride into Harajuku, and wish Southern California (at least the part I live in) had better public transportation.

We arrived at Harajuku station and I got the biggest kick out of the message hanging on the station.

"Smile is best make up"

We started down Omotesando street.  This is the street that leads to the Meiji Shrine and I looked forward to visiting that later.  For now, I enjoyed a sightseeing walk through what they call the Champs-Elysees of Japan.  I had to take their word for it, since I've never been to France.  I will say there was little here to interest me as most of the shops were clothing manufacturers.  I am not a clothes-obsessed person and, even if I was, most of these designers have shops in our outlet mall which is as close as I care to get to fashion.

I know.  Plebeian.

Anyway, it is a pretty street and I enjoyed our walk.

Omotesando Hills
A couple of long blocks later we had reached Omotesando Hills.  I had seen pictures of this shopping mall and would like to go inside on another trip (looks spectacular), but this time our goal was the school where my son is a teacher.  It is, according to google, "behind Omotesando Hills."  And it is.  In fact, we went through one of the passageways between buildings and made an immediate 180 degree turn onto a ramp that took us to the school.

The Jingumae International Exchange School works in collaboration with the Jingumae Elementary School.  I don't know what I was most impressed with:  the long and complicated work day that my son works (compared to mine) or the fact that students - all non-English speakers - are taught in English with bi-weekly visits from a Japanese teacher for instruction in Japanese.  Very impressive!

I don't imagine I'll ever get used to the custom of removing shoes.

Shared playfield.  Elementary School at the end of the field.
Once I'd finished my tour of the school, I left my son to his duties and headed for the Kiddyland Headquarters.  I'd seen Kiddyland goods in Aeon and wanted some more for stocking stuffers back home.

One of four different designs in sidewalk tiles.

He's hard to see, but there's a man tending his garden in there.

Newly planted boxes of pansies, one of my favorite flowers.
Again, these small side street shopping areas were among my favorite adventures on this trip. On my next trip I will actually go INTO some of the shops.

I found the Kiddyland building (not open yet), then turned around and returned to Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Shrine.

The walk to the shrine was gorgeous.  It was a cool, brisk day - perfect for walking - and it was impossible to imagine (once inside the "forest") that you were actually in the middle of  the world's largest city.  I did the mile in a leisurely stroll,

Barrels (empty) from donated sake.

then took my time to soak up the spiritual culture of the shrine compound itself.

I remembered my good manners and respect and purified - I believe - correctly.  Everyone seemed to have their own tradition, however, so I couldn't be sure.

There was a point when I could declare my visit concluded and I set out to retrace my steps onto Omotesando.  It was now the correct time to visit Kiddyland so I returned to Black Cat Street.  The sign at the corner should have warned me

that I would experience a culture shock when I stepped into the store.

It took me only about 30 seconds to remark quietly to myself, "This is hell," and to get myself out.  Having heard this was the "corporate headquarters," I had been expecting a large space full of every product Kiddyland produced.  Maybe this was their full line, but it was jammed into a teeny space equally jammed with shoppers.  This would have been manageable except that they had music (sort of) blaring from all four corners of the tiny space (seriously, it was not much bigger than a travel trailer in the states).  I made my way out, wishing I had the energy to return to the Meiji forest.

Instead, I decided to return to my son's school.  He settled me comfortably in the quiet of his classroom and brought me a plate of snacks that included the cutest tiny banana I've ever seen.  About an hour later his open house was pronounced finished (and successful) and he and I headed to the subway for the rest of our afternoon.

Starting to fray around the edges a little but still game for more.

Originally we had planned to go to Shibuya to see the Hachiko statue at Shibuya (Hachiko) Station, then walk to the Tokyu Hands and Loft department stores.  But my DIL had told us that those stores were bigger in Ikebukuro, which my son had said was his favorite "city" within the city of Tokyo.  It was, he said, "their" city.  And so, that was what I wanted to see.

By the time we reached the station and disembarked it was well past lunch but not yet dinnertime.  We decided it was time to introduce me to a Mos Burger meal.

My son has, in the slightly over one year that he has lived in Japan, become quite functional in the language so we did not really need the picture menu.  He wondered, though, if the server taking our counter order didn't speak Japanese, because she pointed to the menu as if she needed help.  Regardless, we enjoyed these delicious fresh burgers and fries.

Refueled, we started our search for the department stores.  My son wasn't quite sure where they were, so entered the first (Loft) into his phone's gps system and off we went.  We walked for about an hour before we found it.  Hindsight being so crystal clear and all, I think what happened is that we exited the train/subway station on the wrong side, then made a very long circle back to the other side which held the entrance to the department store.  I was tired when we got there, but not upset because on our adventure we lucked into a cultural festival.

It was being held in a plaza surrounded by tall buildings.  I mention this because I hope you can imagine what it was like to hear drums pounding and the sound booming bouncing from one wall across to another.  It only took one twinkly meeting of our eyes to decide we wanted to track them down and enjoy for a while.

After a short while, though, I realized I was starting to fade and we still had not done my shopping, so I asked that we find the Loft.  We did, and I commented later that I was disappointed.  I had been hoping to find more traditional Japanese designs in stuff, particularly stationery.  It took me a while to catch on, but my family was finally able to get me to understand that we were shopping in a residential area, not a tourist area.  And, of course, Japanese residents have little or no interest in Japanese souvenirs.  Duh. 

We took the train back to Kami itabashi, then stopped at the market for a few groceries before heading back home.  By the time we made it to those two flights of stairs I felt like I was walking on stumps and practically stumbled up the stairs singing under my breath, "I am strong! I am invincible!  I am  WO-MAN."

For dinner they cooked up the wonderful steaks that we had bought the day before (served with a salad and garlic salad dressing, a gift from my DIL's aunt) and then we retired to the living room for dessert and some television.  (Or rather, Frasier re-runs on the computer).  My DIL had run across the street for these treats:

This is an ice cream treat similar to a convenience store drumstick in the states.  Imagine a waffle cone that someone sat on while it was still warm and pliable, then filled with delicious, creamy, rich chocolate ice cream and dipped in a chocolate coating.  I loved how easy it was to eat, and the flavors were perfect.

Although, I must confess, I am remembering the flavors from my last night (and my return to Family Mart for another round of these yummy things) because - well...

I became the comic relief on the evening of our big day out.  I calculated that I'd walked at least five miles that day (maybe closer to seven, but who's counting?), including scaling several flights of stairs between the subway station, department store, train station and finally back home.  Once I had that delicious steak in me and we'd settled in for TV, I was on my way out.  My DIL put that ice cream in my hand and the entertainment began.

I must have fallen into deep - but brief - moments of sleep about a dozen times before I finished that ice cream treat.  At one point I heard soft laughter and my son whisper something like, "That's cute; she's chewing in her sleep."