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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 4 - Sunday, November 20

The Loving Day.

Once the negotiations regarding my visit to Japan had reached "done deal" stage, my daughter-in-law told me that I would be participating in a ceremony at the shrine.  I immediately went to the internet to see what I could learn.  I found multiple explanations of  a ceremony called omiya maeiri.  It serves two purposes: to express gratitude to the gods for the safe delivery of the baby, and to receive a blessing for good health (or to ward off evil spirits, depending on which explanation I was reading).   Some descriptions say that it is supposed to be held when the baby is one month old, and is supposed to be his first outing after birth.  (Mothers and babies traditionally stay at home for the first month.)  I assumed that was why we were there, even though my grandson was nearly three months old.  After the ceremony, though, my DIL was looking at the gifts given by the priest and noted a pair of ohashi (chopsticks).  Perhaps there was some confusion because of the age of the baby.  Ohashi is the gift given at a ceremony called okuizome (to start eating) which is usually held around 100 days.

In my continued ignorance, I do not know which ceremony was being performed.  What I will remember is the love of the family surrounding my grandson and the beauty of the shrine and ceremony.

Photographs were not permitted during the ceremony, but afterward we went into the back of the property for formal photographs.  While there I was able to get some pictures of the shrine (above) and the property around it. 

This was a peaceful piece of nature in the city.  After we finished with the portraits, we headed to a place with a different kind of beauty.

My daughter-in-law's mother treated us all to a fabulous formal luncheon at the Hotel Metropolitan in Ikebukuro (in Tokyo).  Our private dining room was not quite ready (we were early) so we hung out in the lobby for a little while.

I was taken by this frieze that soared over an indoor pond.

And by this Christmas tree.

After a short wait we were taken to our luncheon room.


The service was fabulous.  Two young women in traditional kimono brought each dish individually, knelt on the floor to place the dish in front of a guest, then rose again to fetch for the next guest.  I've made that move in kimono before, and I'll tell you what.  Sumo wrestlers got nothing on these women for leg strength.

I can't begin to tell you about the flavors, but the presentation of the meal was so gorgeous I had to take pictures:

Physically and emotionally sated, we returned to the kids' apartment to spend a quiet evening.  They have a good-sized loveseat in the room they are using as a living room, and my son set up his laptop saying, "You can't say you've been to Japan until you've watched a crazy Japanese game show."  We watched this one,

which was certainly no crazier than any handful of American shows.  Near as I could tell, these two contestants were to live for a given period of time (I think DIL said a month) on 1000 yen.  We got to watch them fix their meals and were alternately grossed out by his and left wondering how she survived on hers.  Both contestants had cute personalities, with the girl reminding me of the Morning Musume girlband musicians I had seen pictures of.

Not that I saw a lot of the show.  As I recall, I fell asleep sitting there after not too long a time.

Kind of like I did today while I was grading papers.  I hope I didn't snore.  The kids were in the classroom watching a movie.

That would have been embarrassing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day 3 - Saturday, November 19

It's my fault.

I understood that my extended Japan family wanted to share their country with me, I really did.  But honest, I went to Japan to spend time with my son, his wife and most especially with my grandson.  So I was sending out really strong, "Can we stay home today?" vibes.

My wish was granted.

It rained all day.  Poured sometimes.  And I stayed happily tucked in with the people I came to see.  It was awesome.

Since we spent the day in the apartment, let me share some of the features of their home that I particularly liked and wish I could duplicate here.

No garbage disposal.

We have a commercial grade garbage disposal in our home and I've never been sorry we made the investment.  It will grind up just about anything.

If you turn it on.  If you push the food down into it, and turn it on.  Which seems beyond some people in the house, because I come out most mornings to make my breakfast to find a pile of goobery, rotting food sitting on top of the garbage disposal.  I have to push it down into the unit, but because it's so loud (remember, commercial grade) I don't run it; don't want to wake all the others up.

Not too appetizing.

In Japan, this is an extra-large drain opening with a drop-in filter unit.  It's lined with a water-permeable paper.  Over the course of the day you just push the food into the opening (no black plastic trap on top to prevent food from falling in easily) and at the end of the day you take it up, knot the top and throw the whole thing away.

I don't know why it seemed cleaner to me, but it did and I was wishing we could have something similar here.

Soba delivery.

I love soba.  Soba is noodles made from buckwheat.  You eat them cold after dipping in a "soup."  One evening I offered to pay for delivery of soba for dinner and the kids made the call.  I was expecting some of those little paper boxes like we get Chinese take-out served in here.  Instead, a delivery man brought this big laquered tray with three serving trays (loaded with soba) stacked on it.  There was a bottle of "soup" and three crockery bowls.  Hashi (chopsticks) were also included.  After enjoying the meal (I had the regular order and couldn't eat all of it) I asked if we needed to return the service to the restaurant (across the street).  No, I was told, we just rinse everything and leave it outside the door.  It sat there for a day or two, then disappeared, presumably picked up by someone from the restaurant.

I want elegant soba delivery.

Line dryers.  Sort of.

I learned that most people in Japan - including my family - have washing machines but not dryers.  Instead they have these plastic clip things.  My daughter-in-law can hang about a basket full of wet clothes on this one (large size).  Once everything is hung she opens the sliding glass door onto the balcony, picks up the whole unit and hangs it from the rod installed over the balcony for laundry by a strong hook at the top of the plastic unit.  I'm jealous.  We used to have a clothesline, but we had installed it in a place where 1) it didn't get much sun and 2) it was under the plum tree and stuff kept falling on the clothes.  Add that I never seemed to have time to do the laundry in the morning so that I could hang the clothes and let them dry all day.  Long story short, I rarely used the line and ended up taking it out.  But there's nothing like several hours in the sun to really freshen your white socks, and I love crawling into the bed onto sheets that have been line dried.

I was able to buy a small version of this hanger at the 100 yen store.  I'm going to try it for a year (I can hang it from one of my plant hooks and dry a load of socks at a time).  If I do use it and if it works as I hope, I will buy a larger one (or two) next year.

About today (November 29) - I'm having a hard time re-adjusting timewise now that I'm home.  My alarm went off at the usual time but I must not have been awake when I turned it off.  Instead of getting up at my usual 5:30 am, I slept until after 7:00.  A bit of a push to be ready for work but I made it.  I'm guessing it will take as long - over a week - to readjust to the time difference now that I'm back as it took to adjust when I got there.  It's really only a problem because I keep dozing off while trying to grade papers.

How embarrassing.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day 2 - November 18


Yeah, I kinda am.  Heading west for 12.5 hours I crossed the International Dateline as well as covering the 17-hour time difference.  So, after leaving at 9:50 AM on the 17th I found myself arriving at 3:10 PM on Friday the 18th.

We had my largest bag shipped to DS1's apartment, then took the bus home.  We lucked out and hit a traffic jam (I can't believe I just said that) and had to detour through the city.  My son was excited that I would get to see some of downtown - especially at night - on this trip.  We even drove past the Imperial compound, although it was too dark to see much more than the canal.

It was such a loving thrill to see my son and daughter-in-law again and to meet my new grandson.

They didn't seem to mind at all that the baby was such a focus for me this trip.

As I recall, parents are pretty happy to step aside and let their children soak up the attention.  She says hopefully.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day 1 - November 17

The least interesting day.

Up before dawn.  DS2 drove me into Los Angeles at the crack of same to check in.  No lines anywhere.  Decompressed for over an hour at the gate.

I can't say enough good things about Korean Air.  Respectful, courteous check-in.  Fabulous service including a blanket, pillow, toothbrush/paste packet and bottle of water - at no additional charge - waiting in my seat on the plane.  Headsets (again, no additional charge) delivered immediately.  Flight was not full so they gave the opportunity for people to change seats.  My seatmate chose to find a place with a solo seat, which left me with plenty of space in my two-seat row.  Refreshments were served as soon as we were in the air, followed by full luncheon (I chose the Korean meal) and full dinner a few hours later.  12.5-hour flight gave me plenty of time to enjoy Pirates of the Caribbean IV, Larry Crowne, The Green Lantern and Billy Joel at Shea. Was treated with respect and courtesy again during immigration and customs.  Only had a little struggle with my three bags, but the distance from baggage pick-up through customs and to my first-borne was very short.

DS1 was at Narita to "pick me up," meaning to direct me through a simple maze of baggage delivery service, airport limo bus and taxi ride.

I was impressed and tickled throughout the trip by the respectful touches everywhere I went.  The airport bus had draperies and elegant antimacassars.  The attendant honored us with a deep bow as the bus pulled away.  The taxi also had an elegant WHITE eyelet coverlet on the back seat.

The prize was finally won.  I will respect my children's wish to have their and their son's privacy protected by not posting their pictures here.  Please know, however, that my grandson is perfect; absolutely the most beautiful little baby boy that there ever was.  I was gifted with satin skin cuddles and smiles on that first night.

That first smile was worth all the travel of that first day.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Beyond Fantastic!

Lots of adventures to report and photos to share when I get back.

My grandson is perfect.  3 months of friendly, cuddly, smiley baby to rain loves on.

I may stay.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you're fast asleep
In dreams you lose your heartaches
Whatever you wish for, you keep
Have faith in your dreams and someday
Your rainbow will come smiling thru
No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
the dream that you wish will come true

Just about ready to enjoy a dream come true.

Packed and ready to get ready for bed.  Up very early in hopes of making it to LAX with plenty of time for the gauntlet.  I've heard that the majority of clients who make this trip across the ocean prefer the night flight so they can sleep the time away, but I would lose my mind waiting a whole day to do this.

Looking forward to meeting my new best friends at KAL.

My friend Dustin has introduced me to the fun of astrology.  For months my feelings about this trip have been anticipation of adventure and new friends and going with the flow.  Amazingly, my horoscope for tomorrow says pretty much exactly that.  Won't it be interesting to see if we jive with reality?

For now, I will say sayonara.  I don't know if I'll be able to update this from Japan, but if I can, I will.  Meanwhile, I'm sure I'll manage the occasional facebook post.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Jim Brickman - Simple Gifts.wmv

I think Jim Brickman's arrangement of "Simple Gifts" is lovely. Mr. Brickman has been helping me stay sane and sleep well at night as I wait for my trip to Japan to see my family.

Day after tomorrow.

Day After Tomorrow


When I was growing up, my mother used to incite our excitement about special holidays by teasing, "Day after tomorrow..."  Day after tomorrow is Christmas.  Day after tomorrow is Easter.  Day after tomorrow is your birthday."

Day after tomorrow my world is going to get a lot bigger.

Day after tomorrow I begin my first international travel experience, leaving Los Angeles for Tokyo, Japan.

Day after tomorrow I meet my first grandchild, firstborn son of my firstborn son.

Dementia has passed.  I now lurk inside a catatonic shell.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

from Excitement...

...through delirium into dementia.

5 days.

This weekend is wrap-it-up weekend.  I still have a couple of little crafty tasks to complete.  And the packing. With a layer of pulling stuff from storage so that my son can have a garage sale next weekend.

It's all good.

The important stuff is done.

This is such a first for me.  My first trip out-of-country.  I really have no prior knowledge to pull from, no expectations.

I don't like surprises, and usually prepare for the unknown with serious research coupled with paranoid imaginings.  But I've become a believer.  The more positive I throw out there, the more comes my way.  And the more I fret and focus on the negative, the more likely it is that the negative is what I will get.  So, I've done a little searching to get some mind-holds but when the fretting kicks in, I kick it out.

Consequently, I have few impressions, few fantasies.

My priorities are clear.  This trip is about my family.  I've left the details of how and what and when to them, and they're doing a good job.

Perhaps for the first time in my life, I'm totally relaxed about giving myself over to someone else for a while.  My younger son will get me to the airport.  I can manage getting myself checked in, through security and to the right gate.  Onto the plane and belted into my seat.  The only fantasy I've nurtured is the one that involves my netbook, new travel journal, kindle and daily journal.  I refuse to fret about who will sit in the other seat in my row.  I've had fleeting images of a nine year old with ADHD whose parents have decided to fly first class while he is banished to economy (next to me).  Or the lonely 85-year-old woman reeking of April in Paris who is thrilled to have a captive listener for 12.5 hours.  But as soon as they slip in, I banish them to business class.  I plan to enjoy every minute of those 12.5 hours indulging in the reading and writing that I find it hard to make time for in the day-to-day.

I have tried to learn a little about my destination of Kami itabashi.

As near as I can tell it's a "suburb" of Tokyo in the same way that Hollywood or Santa Monica or Culver City are suburbs of Los Angeles.  If you saw it from the air, there would be simply never-ending city, no real distinction when one neighborhood ends and the other begins.  I look forward to learning its distinctions from walking and watching.

I did read that this is the time of year for fall color in this part of Japan.  Maybe I will see some, or maybe it will be too late, or maybe it will be too early.  My son is taking me into Shibuya one day and I will walk Yoyogi Park to the Meiji Shrine.  Late November, I read, is the time for color at the park.

from maridari travel blog, November 2007
 There will be pictures here, either way.

I may be experiencing a black-out.  It's important for me to remember that this is a country still reeling from a major natural AND a major man-made disaster.  The park that I will visit is one of the refugee homeless areas.  I'm reminded occasionally of what it was like to visit New York the May after 9/11, and wonder if there will be similar reminders during this trip.  They still experience occasional earthquakes.  Coming from Southern California these do not frighten me, but it will be a different experience in a place where they have so recently suffered such terrible loss.

Mostly, though, I focus on the excitement of kissy-face with my new grandson, long catch-up conversations with my son when he is with us and with my daughter-in-law when he is at work.  I suspect I will have the most welcome opportunities to get to know her family.  I've met her mother once here in California, but this time I look forward to meeting the rest of her family.

5 days.

I'd better get this one started.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Crazies...

...are finished!

(Sorry for the crappy picture.  Too tired to go take it over again.)
Gotta say, I'm delighted with how they turned out.  The Kaffe Fasset fabrics were the biggest surprise.  Those bags are delightful, although I love them all.  What a great design.  Only problem now is that I don't really want to give them up.

It's all right.  They're gifts for love.

Only eight days until I leave for Japan.  I'm normally a good "wait-er,"  but I predict that will be the longest 12.5 hours I've ever spent.  Oh, heavens.  Then there's the whole immigration-customs ordeal, isn't there?


Sunday, November 06, 2011


If we are very lucky...

 ... we get to experience days like this.

This is my very favorite kind of day in SoCA.  It rained most of the night.  Not a downpour (at least, I don't think so) but a light rain, on and off, all night and into the morning.  I love the rain.  Most SoCA folks do, since we get so little of it.  Best of all, I love to wake up to it, and that was the music of my alarm this morning.  Because we marked the end of [the despised] DST, I had a whole hour to read the new Nora Roberts book before my day was scheduled to begin.  (She's back, by the way.  She writes the best men, and the Montgomery brothers are terrific.)

By the time I was ready to start my day, the rain was blowing out and I was able to bring in what I needed for today's projects from the car without getting soaked.  A short time later I took Dodger out for his morning toileting and was met by that gift of the weather that is such a treat.  Everything has been washed clean - including the air - and nature sparkles.  My neighbors have a gum tree that turns red in the fall.  That tree against the brilliant blue sky was the first stunner of the day.   By the time Dodger was finished with his routine and I had come into the house for my camera, clouds had blown into the picture, but it was still worth posting.

Yesterday I spent the day with my mom (who is doing great greater greatest) and my sister.  I got a lot done on the crazies, but did not finish.  I have to admit, I'm stunned at how well they are turning out.  Now they are finished except for the handwork: trimming threads and tacking down the bias trim.  I'm thrilled with them and look forward to gifting them in Japan.


My third "stun" of the morning was when the thought popped into my head that "a week from Thursday" I would be leaving.  I can't believe that when I started counting days I started with day 56.  Tomorrow the countdown begins at "10."  I'm watching the weather (very similar to ours lately) and trying to predict what kind of clothes I will need.  Buying something if I need it is not an option, so I need to take whatever I will need.

But it's coming together well.

I'm brain damaged with excitement.

Multiple dreams coming true in just over ten days.


Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Sing-Off S3 Ep.7 Opener: Halloween Medley

Music is magic.