Archive for December, 2008

New Year’s Eve — Looking Back (ridiculously photo heavy)

Every year around New Year’s Eve, without fail I always hear someone saying how the year has just flown by (ok, I will admit that half the time it’s me saying it, but that doesn’t change things).  When I look back at 2008, while parts of it dragged by and parts of it flew, mostly I’m amazed at how much we were able to cram in one year.  Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever had a busier year.  So please excuse this rehashed highlights episode, but I’m going to take this moment to get all sappy and look back on what our year was like.

  • If there was a defining theme for 2008 for me, it was Travel.  And we set the tone for the year early on in January with a quick trip to Singapore.  One of the highlights for me?  Taking Noah to the Singapore Zoo, which although it was unbelievably hot and humid, also gave me this moment where he got the crap scared out of him by a cheetah.  Mean, yes, but also totally funny:

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December 31, 2008 at 11:35 am 6 comments

This Is What Sadness Looks Like

Unfinished Sweater

Behold — an unfinished sweater (please ignore the wrinkles — this has been lying in a crumpled heap on my nightstand for a week).

Since it actually does get cold in HK (for about three months of the year) I needed a sweater. I couldn’t find one in the style that I wanted so I thought, “Well, dammit, I knit don’t I?” I found a great pattern too — extra big turtleneck (because my poor neck gets so cold), extra long (to hide my bulgy tummy), extra long sleeves (for pulling over your hands to protect them from super hot mugs of coffee) and best of all, the neck and body are knit in one piece which means very minimal seaming and finishing work (which has delayed several of my projects for months at a time).

I hit Cheer Wool, my favorite yarn store in Wan Chai, and carefully found the perfect yarn for my project — a supersoft merino wool and acrylic mix (merino wool for softness and warmth, acrylic for washability).  To be on the safe side, I bought every skein of the color that the store had left and immediately started work on it. I was hoping to have it finished before our Tokyo trip so for four days I worked on it continuously. The day before we were going to leave, I had one skein of yarn left and only one arm to finish.  Unfortunately, it turns out I didn’t have enough yarn.  I had bought about 300 yards more yarn than the pattern called for but apparently it still wasn’t enough.  I now have a sweater with one wonderful extra-long sleeve, and one gimpy sleeve that just barely goes past my elbow.  And because I bought the store’s remaining stock, it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to find more in the same color, let alone the same dye lot.  Sadness.

Of course there are ways around my problem — like shortening parts of the sweater, adding more shaping, or buying more yarn in a different color and adding stripes or something — but they all seem to involve having to go back, frogging the sweater and starting over from scratch.  And really, who has time for that?!  Ok, maybe I do, but it doesn’t mean I want to do it.  Anyway, until I work up the heart to start over, my sweater is in hibernation — taunting me with its unfinished arm.  I still have about two more months of cold HK weather so I guess I have some time.

December 29, 2008 at 11:03 pm 7 comments

Back Home and a Recap

This last week in Tokyo just flew by but for a change, Mark and I are actually glad to be back in the comfort of our home in Hong Kong.  Normally we come back hating HK for not being Japan but not this time.  Maybe it’s the fact that we still have Christmas presents waiting to be opened here or the fact that Noah has his own bed and will not be pushing me off the bed or digging his heels into Mark’s back in the middle of the night or maybe it’s because after two years, Hong Kong is finally starting to feel something like a home to us.  Whatever it is, we’re glad to be back.

Like the rest of our trip, our last couple of days in Tokyo were low-key and simple (excluding the allergy incident on Friday).  Jae and Dave needed to do some furniture shopping so Mark and I watched Nevan for them on Saturday so they could shop in peace.  The Oakwood was showing Shrek III in the resident’s lounge that morning and as soon as it was over Mark brought the boys back to our room where they immediately got to work fighting over toys.  Noah was on the tail-end of a cold and it turns out Nevan was just beginning to get sick which probably explains why they were both so grumpy that morning.  Mark and I tried reasoning with them (ha!) and then separating them but nothing was working so we figured the best thing to do was to get them away from any toys and put them on neutral territory, i.e. the Children’s Castle.  They still bickered during the entire 20 minute walk to the castle and then would only grudgingly acknowledge one another’s presence on the playground.  And speaking of bad playground behavior, here’s one thing I never imagined I would ever have to say, “If you can’t play nicely then you can’t play at all.  Now stop sitting on the other kids!”

Oh look! They’re getting along!

Whoops! Spoke too soon:

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December 28, 2008 at 1:24 am 4 comments

Cats, Tokyo-style

On Friday, Noah and I were on our own since Mark had to work the whole day. After piddling around the apartment for a good portion of the morning, we finally left after lunch to head out to Ikebukuro and visit the cat house, Nekobukuro. Many apartments in Tokyo don’t allow pets and in a city where buying a new cat can cost over US$1200, these cat houses or cat cafes — where visitors pay to hang out and pet cats — have sprung up all over Tokyo. Nekobukuro was the only one listed in my guidebook and despite the fact that I dislike Ikebukuro (nothing personal against the area, it’s due to a previous bad commuting experience back in April), I promised Noah cats so off we went.

After a short train ride, some bad navigation and getting a little turned around outside the train station, we finally arrived at Nekobukuro, which was located on the 8th floor of the Tokyu Hands store. I paid the admission fee and in we went. I know it sounds a little crazy to pay US$8 to go somewhere just to pet a bunch of cats — after all, in parts of China they’re considered food — but it seemed like a cute thing you could only do in Japan. Plus Jae’s crazy hairless space rats cats were leaving just a little to be desired in the animal-petting area.

There were actually quite a few people in the cat house when we got there. The cat house was a space consisting of three connected rooms — each complete with enclosed spaces for sleeping cats — and roaming freely were about eight beautiful, well-groomed short- and long-haired cats.

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December 26, 2008 at 7:54 pm 6 comments

Christmas With Friends

After spending a full day Nevanless, Noah was a bit of a pain in the butt with his constant “Are we going to see Nevan now?” and “I want to see Nevan!” So I was determined that we would meet up with Jae & Co. at some point during the day. Mark had to work for part of the day so it was already mid-afternoon by the time we got to do a little window shopping along Omotesando street. After that, we headed over to Tokyo Midtown where we had planned on meeting up with Jae, Dave and Nevan and check out their Christmas lights display.

Nevan had a little present for Noah when we finally saw them that evening. In Jae’s infinite wisdom, she had bought the same toy for both Nevan and Noah so (in theory, at least) they wouldn’t fight over who got to play with which toy. After their little reunion, we headed outside to check out the Christmas lights:

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December 25, 2008 at 3:48 pm 3 comments

A Very Merry Sumo Christmas To You!

Tuesday was the day that Jae, Dave and Nevan moved out of the Oakwood serviced apartments and into their real Tokyo apartment so it was up to me and Mark to keep a Nevanless Noah entertained for an entire day. We had originally planned on heading over to the Imperial Palace that day because it was the Emperor’s Birthday — a national holiday — and one of only two days of the year that they open the palace itself to the public. However one of Mark’s clients invited us to his home for a Christmas party that afternoon and we decided that sounded like more fun (and so much warmer) than standing outside in the cold in a long line with half of Tokyo to see someone’s big ol’ house. So after a leisurely morning back at the creperie, we hopped into a car and made our way to the party in Setagaya.

The chairman threw one of these parties every year. And every year, they spent a good part of the time pounding rice and then forming it into mochi (or rice cakes) in a traditional Japanese ceremony called mochitsuki. The cool thing about the chairman’s mochitsuki though was that he got a few sumo wrestlers to come over from their stable and do all the pounding. (And for those of you with really good memories, the chairman is the same one who invited us to the dinner back in April when I had a sumo wrestler for an eating partner.)

It was very cool getting the chance to watch the ceremony. The sumo guys would take turns pounding the rice with wooden mallets and later on, one of them would turn the rice with his hands in between poundings to a steady rhythm of pound — turn — pound — turn — pound — turn. There were a few moments where I was sure someone was going to lose a hand but they managed to keep pretty good time, occasionally breaking out into song to keep the rhythm.

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December 23, 2008 at 3:42 pm 2 comments

The Nevan and Noah Show

As you probably already know, Mark, Noah and I are in Tokyo for Christmas this week. What you may not know is that by some freak chance, Mark booked us a room at the same serviced apartment that Jae, Dave and Nevan were staying at before moving into their real apartment. So for about three days it was all about the Nevan and Noah show.

On Saturday, we met up in the morning so we could let the boys wreak havoc on the unsuspecting patrons at the Starbucks down the street. Noah was pretty shy when he first saw Nevan and spent the first five minutes hiding between my legs, but he warmed up soon enough and he and Nevan picked up where they left off in Sydney back in August — with a lot of screaming, invitations to each other’s houses, and mischief in general.

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December 22, 2008 at 11:43 pm 6 comments

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