I am a writer and a Mommy. I am a devout Jew. These are the most important books I have read: The Tao te Ching by Lao Tzu, Stephen Mitchell translation. Spiritual Divorce by Debbie Ford. Living Inspired by Akiva Tatz. My kitchen would suggest I'm a closet carny, as would my love of Branson.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Zombie Apocalypse Horse Cake

A few weeks ago I found an excellent book at the middle school book fair.  It's called Cake My Day.

I bought it because my son was going to turn 3 and I saw directions in this book on how to make a horse cake.  I also thought there were a lot of neat recipes in here so I got it.

Right from the start I knew I could have an entire years worth of blog entries showing my cake fails if I attempted the recipes in this book.  In fact, the first thing I did after picking out all my favorite recipes was to scour the Internet for cake fail pictures from attempts to recreate the impossible cakes in this book.

I figured the horse cake would be doable even though I planned to alter the horse.

I took this idea:
I thought I'd simply frost it and make a brown horse.

This was a great idea on my part.  There was no reason this would not work.  

But when I assembled my cake it looked so disturbing that I felt it more resembled a zombie horse than a regular one.
The side you can't see has a big chunk missing from the side of its face.

The best thing about my kids is that they are always totally impressed by my efforts to make them cakes.  This was my biggest cake fail yet but my son loves it so much.  He was so happy with it.

He thought it was odd that I let him take the front off and eat it along with an eye and an ear.  I don't think he even had a bite of the cake after that.

My husband went for one of the Oreo stack legs and nearly toppled the entire beast.

I don't know why but my favorite part of the specialty cake process is destroying it after it's done.  

In any case, I think I get what's happening in this book now with the shapes and whatnot and I'd like to try again.

Not with the horse cake though.  

Unless I decide to attempt every cake in this book.  It would provide a lot of laughs.  

More cakes to come in a month...

Friday, February 19, 2016

Taking a Very Genki Two Year Old to Japan

I have so many blogs to post!  More fun vending machine stuff, aquariums in Tokyo, different food experiences we had... but I wanted to get out my thoughts on taking our very, very active son to Tokyo.

He will be 3 in a few months so he isn't a young two-year old.  He is the kind of little one who wants to do everything for himself even though he can't.  He will not sit in a stroller unless he is about to pass out from walking for miles.  He is too heavy to carry.  He loves yelling and screaming instead of talking in a normal tone of voice.  He will run into traffic or in front of a train if he is not physically restrained at all times.

Before we came to Japan I was very lucky to find so many helpful tips on what to do with him while here.  I even found an amazing babysitter who was able to come in the evenings and many afternoons so that I could work, get breaks and have time alone with my husband, who was working around the clock for the most part.

First, let me tell you what I had planned for us to do in the two weeks.  Mostly it was do something in the morning and let Jacob nap in the afternoon or if I had a babysitter, take him somewhere in the morning and go somewhere alone in the afternoon and then fun dinners at night.

Pintokana Sushi
Lego Brick Park
Tokyo Tower
Teppanyaki ten

Home visit lunch
Shinagawa aquarium

Cup Noodles museum
Anpanman museum
Home visit for lunch
Hakkeijima aquarium
National Children's castle
Department stores

Tokyo Station
Home visit for dinner
Museum of Science and History

Tokyo Fire Museum
Takeshimaya dept store

Ueno Zoo
Shinjuku station department stores
Tokyo Dome
Niko Niko park
Tokyo Sea Life Park

Ghibli Museum

But guess what? It is very hard to do anything with some toddlers.  Amazingly, we did a lot of the things I planned but we also did not do many of those things.  For example, I didn't even visit one department store!

Let me describe what it was like to take our very active toddler to Tokyo.

First there was jet lag which meant he was up at 3:45 for 4:45 for the first couple of days.  Boy is it hard to start your day that early!  Even once he was over jet lag and getting up at a normal time in the morning, at least an hour was spent trying to convince him to get dressed.

Once dressed I would get out the door with him and start our day which involved either getting in a taxi or getting on a number of trains.

I like taking the trains in Japan but it is excruciating with a small child who will not listen.  First there is the screaming when you want to hold his hand so he doesn't jump onto the tracks.  Then there is the throwing himself on the ground.  There is the laying on the ground and rolling around.

It got especially crazy on the trains because he wanted to stand on the seats or run around in the cars or even roll around on the filthy floor.  He was always covered in filth by the end of our train trips.

Taxi rides were easier but he often refused to be buckled in and wanted to run around the back of the cab so a lot of our outings were spent with me trying to find ways to physically restrain him while he screamed and tried to kick, hit and bite me.

Toward the end of our trip he took to licking everything.  He wanted to lick the glass as he rode up the escalators.  He wanted to lick the posts in the road.  He wanted to lick us.

I think it might be an understatement to say this travel was very hard on the boy.  I found that days when we did nothing more than go to the park by our hotel, have a quick lunch and a nap were easiest on him.

As much as I wanted to show him different stuff for little kids, traveling around was hard on him and he took it out on everyone around him.

If I knew of some way to put him in a pre-school environment every day I'm certain that would have been the best thing for him because he would have had friends, toys and a regular schedule.

So if you have to travel to Tokyo with a toddler, do get a babysitter or set your child up with some kind of daycare situation so he can have a simple daily experience with toys and playing to counteract the total unfamiliarity of a new language and a foreign place.

If you have to be with your toddler the whole time, plan to take a nap in the afternoon with him.  You will need it.

Either way, plan to go to bed early every night.  You will need your strength!

If your child will use a stroller, bring a stroller!!  I would have loved to have one - it would have made our entire trip different because there was a great deal we could have walked to but the few times I tried to walk around with him were entirely spent trying to keep him from getting run over which meant having to carry him kicking and screaming.

Also, and I read this beforehand but didn't really listen, bring snacks from home.  Our boy will eat anything so I didn't think food would be an issue and sure enough he loved the food in Tokyo but he was homesick for everything and could only express that by saying over and over the list of people he missed and asking for goldfish crackers.  I should have brought goldfish crackers.  I did bring a huge bag of cheerioes and he ate them every day until they were gone.  On the other hand, we found some fun Japanese snacks that he loves and that might not have happened if I'd brought a bunch of goldfish crackers.

I found great babysitters through the Tokyo Mother's Group - http://www.tokyomothersgroup.com/apps/auth/signup

And I loved meeting wonderful people through Nagomi visit http://www.nagomivisit.com/ and The Global Families http://www.theglobalfamilies.com/

Nagomi visit lets you sign up to eat lunch or dinner in someone's house.  You say where and when and people apply to host you.  We did that three times and each experience was really wonderful. However it isn't for the faint of heart. It was so challenging to bring our son to people's homes since he basically tried to destroy everything and beat up their kids and steal their kids' toys.  It was unbelievably stressful and embarrassing but the people who hosted us were so nice and I'm so happy we did that.  It would be great to do with older kids for sure.

The Global Families might be a better option because you just meet up with people but I liked doing both things and would do both again.

I'd love to hear other people's stories about traveling internationally with a toddler.  I guess I should start interviewing people.  The pictures alone would make a hilarious book.

Here are some of Jacob's "I just can't" pictures, but I didn't get the most exciting ones of him licking things or kicking me or beating up other little kids.

You can't exactly tell that hundreds of people are going by in Shinagawa station where Jacob just parked it.

One of the escalators he surely licked.

A very crowded train with no room - he is sitting on my feet.

I briefly pondered what would happen if I just got off the train...

Licking the floor of  train.

I realize these pictures don't even come close to capturing the screaming and chaos and exhaustion that toddler wrangling is...

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Vending Machines

Someone please tell me why we don't have vending machines everywhere in the U.S.?  And more importantly, why don't we have awesome ones?
I want to get ice cream out of a vending machine on Main Street in Half Moon Bay, 24/7.
I'll admit this is an uncommon one, but if it can be done I want it in my town.  French fries, hot dogs, yaki onigiri...
I really just want 20 vending machines lined up in a row.
Some people want to get a waffle from a vending machine.
To be perfectly honest, I have a dream to open a space on Main Street in Half Moon Bay with a bunch of Japanese vending machines.  I actually think it's possible to execute this dream soon but I'm a little embarrassed - what kind of dream is that?

Let's just say, if you have this dream too or you want this, please let me know!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Where do I start?  
I guess here:
I have known since 1995 that the future is in Japan but some things are just not catching on in the U.S. 

I need a Japanese toilet.

And this thing to clean the toilet before I sit on it in McDonalds.
This toilet magically opens when I walk in the room.
I need a toilet seat that is warm and I like a toilet that makes pleasant loud noises like a waterfall or plays music while I use it.

What the heck America?  Get with it on the toilets!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Japan - the beginning of blogging

8 and 1/2 years ago I went to Japan and blogged about it here.  Since then I have sometimes blogged a lot and lately blogged very little.  I will be honest ; there are things I want to blog about but I just can't.

However, I'm going to try do some serious sharing over the next couple of weeks.  Let's see if I can do it!

Here we go!

Friday, December 11, 2015


I'm so proud today.  My 6th grader worked really hard and made principal's honor roll. And it's not just that.  My 8th grader has done this more quarters than not since he started middle school but honestly it's hard to really understand this until you go to an assembly and realize that not every kid manages this.

I was so proud of my little girl that I cried because these kids are so motivated to excel in school and they do this all on their own.

Yes, I have helped them study for tests when they ask me to quiz them but that is very rare.  Since they started school at 5 years old I have barely asked them if they had homework.  School is theirs and they own it like champs.

These children want to succeed, they are willing to work hard and I haven't pushed that on them.  I hope it's something I modeled but their will to do well is internal.

I am proud of them and in awe.  I remember getting pretty unremarkable grades in middle school.  In fact, if I reflect on life when I was that age it's like I grew up in Olden Times compared to my children.

They know more about everything, have been all over the world and are just all around incredible people.  I am in awe of them and what they do in life.

Last spring Marshal and I were staying in a hotel with all five kids and I remember there was a moment when we checked in kind of late in the evening and the kids were all being wild and we herded them into the elevator.  We looked exhausted and stressed to the hilt.  The kids were all being their individual versions of weird and Jacob was screeching.  We felt terrible for the man on the elevator with us.  But he looked at us and said, 'you are wealthy.'

It was a little bit upsetting to hear just then.  We felt overwhelmed and unhappy and then ungrateful and ashamed but lately I really understand his comment.

I am wealthy because of these five kids I get to raise.  They are gems.  They are riches.  They are vast and untold wealth. I am counting the days until I get all five of them again.  I really can't wait and I will enjoy, savor every moment.  I will give my full attention to each one and hear them and see them.  For seven days, with nothing to interrupt, I'll enjoy my real wealth!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Brownies

can't understand why these are new.  I'm totally baffled as to how this isn't something I grew up with.  Why I never saw these at a baking contest or on a cooking show.

These are the best thing you could bring somewhere as a guest or serve to guests.  I do not get why this is a new thing!

You put cookie dough on the bottom, layer Oreos on top and then pour brownie batter on that.  Bake it and eat it.

I used toll house cookie dough, double stuff Oreos, ghirradeli brownie mix and poured sea salt caramel on top.

This is a divine dessert.

I'm thinking of all the fun stuff you could layer in like peppermint chocolates or snickers bars.

Anyway, make it immediately.