Oh What a Summer it Was!

I took a break from blogging for the summer, as you may have noticed, but here I am renewed and refreshed from some time away from Tokyo.  I spent about ten weeks in various parts of the East Coast of the United States with friends and family.  Here are a few photos that tell of our adventures.  Back to my  Tokyo Tuesdays next week!  Meanwhile, look for my regular postings on writing and parenting on Thursday.  See you soon!

Hanging in New York City with my niece and nephew, Jake and Alyssa and my kids.

My son went to sleep away camp for a month – the city boy in the country!

My cousin Jenn and I sat on a dinosaur at the Living Museum in Newport News, VA.

My daughter went to sleep away camp for two weeks! It was her first time and she loved it!

While the kids were at camp, I did a lot of exploring in Washington DC. This is the International Trade Commission building, taken from the balcony of the Newseum, the museum of news.

My kids prepping to go off to golf with my dad


My son prepared for his bar mitzvah. More on THAT later!

Beaches, seashells, and surfing, oh my!

My husband and my son did not injure each other as their surfboards nearly collided!

Last stop, Florida, for the bar mitzvah, my parents and my in-laws. Here we are with my mother-in-law at Lady Ann’s Tea Room in Jupiter, Florida. Hats are part of the meal!

The Native American Indian Museum, Washington DC

Mom by the canoe near the entrance of the museum

It’s tourist season in Washington DC, and none of the sights are particularly new, but some are new to me. Last week I had the opportunity to go to the Native American Indian Museum with my mom, who was visiting from Florida, and it was quite an experience.

The museum is designed in a circle, so one should go to the top floor, watch the introductory movie and then proceed downstairs through the exhibits, finishing on the first floor to exit.  Each exhibit throughout the building is meant to touch, learn and explore.  It’s perfect for kids of all ages.

My favorite part was the modern art done by native Americans.  What I loved, in addition to the art itself, was that if you had a smart phone, you could download an app and then if you swiped the phone by the painting or sculpture, it would give you all of the info on that particular piece.  You could also call a phone number on a non-smart version to find the info.  Very tech-friendly.

There were huge display cases of small artistic pieces, and in front of the cases were computers on which visitors could interactively examine each one.  We happened to catch a performance by a Native American who works at the museum and he was doing a traditional dance with a drum.  Just wonderful – mesmerizing.

But by far, the best part was the cafe.  Good food in a museum, you might wonder?  Well yes!!  It was cafeteria style, so you could choose food from about six stations and each one sported a different part of the Indian culture.  There was buffalo, corn, fruit, salads, and a million other different things that I had never heard of.   My mom and I shared a funky southwestern-style taco that was basically chili over a flat bread.  We also had cantaloupe soup and a tomato and watermelon salad. We shared a pumpkin cookie for dessert.  It was delicious!

The museum is a must-see when planning a visit to Washington DC.  Go for the exhibits and stay for the food.

Restaurant Week!

Every summer I think I’m going to miss the food in Tokyo, and every summer I am pleasantly surprised by something in the U.S.  This week is restaurant week in the Bethesda/Chevy Chase area of Maryland, which is essentially suburban Washington D.C.  For this special week, a group of restaurants in one area create menus for crazy prices.  Two course lunches are $15 and three course dinners are $30.  (The restaurants agree on the pricing and set their menus accordingly.)

Today, Marc took me out to a great French restaurant called La Ferme. (Here’s the review from Washingtonian)  Located in the gorgeous village of Chevy Chase, it is set in a copse of trees and resembles what I think of as a French farmhouse.  There’s even a romantic, outdoor verandah which looks quite romantic for a cooler, non-heat-wave day. We sat at a lovely table for two which sported high-backed wooden chairs with arms, making us feel settled and comfortable.

For the set menus, we could choose two courses, either appetizer and main course or main course and dessert.  We both chose the former.  Marc had scallops in a puff pastry to start, and I had beefsteak tomatoes with arugula, pine nuts, and goat cheese.  The tomatoes were crisp, yet ripe and sweet and only lightly drizzled with a balsamic reduction.  The varying flavors of the cheese, nuts and tangy leaves made for a delightful layering of tastes.

For our main courses, Marc chose a cajun-spiced tilapia that was light and flavorful without being overly spicy.  I had chicken breast in a apple brandy and mushrooms, which was juicy, cooked to perfection.

In case you don’t know, in Maryland, if you don’t finish your bottle of wine, the restaurant has to cork it for you and let you take it out.  We ordered a delightful bottle of white wine from a vineyard called Sancerre, which has never disappointed us.  It was slightly nutty, and a perfect pairing for our meals.  I only had a little bit, and Marc had one glass, so we took the remainder home so we can have more of it later.

The atmosphere of the restaurant is simply charming.  They have two tiny balconies above the main floor that each host a table for two and the waiter told us that many a marriage proposal has happened up there.  There are huge urns of fresh flowers strategically placed around the huge room, and every inch of it is beautifully green or white.

Restaurant week is a brilliant idea because now, when I am asked where I’d like to go to eat in the DC metro area, I will respond with this restaurant, and I will pay full price after this low-price introduction.  The atmosphere, service, and of course, the food, are all tremendous and worth much more than the small amount we paid.

Summertime Lives

It’s summer! Kids are off from school; the weather is warm enough to swim every day; and heck, even the Japanese companies are participating in “cool biz” – dressing down for work. But how is a writer to keep on writing with all of these distractions? And even if they’re not so distracting, time is somehow further crunched with obligations to family and friends when visiting one’s home country. Between jet lag, a lousy cold, and kids with me 24/7, I haven’t written a word in days. I have deadlines to meet – both outward and self-imposed.

It seems that such is the life of a writer. The ebb and flow of life affects the ebb and flow of writing. It stands to reason that I write more when I have more time in which to write. Luckily by next week both kids will be in camp all day and nothing will impede my progress. I will be distracted enough to write about my Washington DC experiences this summer here on my blog but that will be the fun part. I really miss Tokyo when I ‘m away, but I also do love DC. As I mentioned, life affects art. Onward ho!