Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Supporting Salem

Well, we never took the kids to the Cape or to Martha's Vineyard this year, even though we promised that this would be the summer. We finally sold our condo in August, which I thought would free up some cash for some travel, but Jason got "furloughed" the same week. I don't feel deprived. We are blessed. Especially in the autumn in New England. Every Halloween season we have the great city of Salem to visit. At least, that is what my mom did with me every fall. I thought it was about time I took my kids there. The kids had Monday off from school, and I decided, that was the day to go.

Going to Salem in the fall is a excellent way to support your local economy. And though some of it can be a little kitschy, especially along Essex Street, it is, over all, quite charming. The old architecture, wonky alleys, and coble stone streets are a nice change from the mall. My daughter remarked that it brought to her mind Patriot Place, and I told her that perhaps that is what the designers of Patriot Place were trying to achieve. Why not visit the original? She agreed the real deal, Salem, was far superior.

The first shop we visited was Aroma Sanctum on Central Street across from the Trolley Depot because we know the proprietress, Akuura Kulak. Years ago, Jason and I were in business with her when we called ourselves Medieval Outfitters. Akuura's passion was always fragrance though, so she made it happen. I'm impressed. I really like her stuff, too. I wear her "Forest Rain" and Sam, after smelling every blend in the shop, settled on "Vanilla X".

Avery, being nine, wanted to ride the tour trolley, and visit the Witch Museum. I had never done either of these, as they are too expensive in my opinion. But there is little else in Salem to hold the attention of a nine year old boy. So I rode the trolley with him, and Jason took him to the Museum. All Samantha wanted to do is shop, and wouldn't you know, there is a costume shop on Essex Street called "Samantha's". They have some mid-quality pirate clothes at reasonable prices. They also have a great selection of fishnet stockings, a few colors of striped tights and thigh highs, and every color wig. We almost bought Sam some pantyhose that makes the wearer look like her legs are tattooed all over. She went with black and purple thigh highs instead. And funky fairy wings. And purple hair spray... you get the idea.

I would have taken the kids to The Fool's Mansion on Essex, because (last time I was there, anyway) the costumes are hand made, and LARP appropriate, therefore very cool. But they are closed on Mondays. Fools. That may change in the month of October, but it might not. I took Avery to Crowhaven Corner, but he was completely unimpressed. Sam was with Jason at the time, and I never got her in to see the oldest witch shop in Salem. Oh well.

Our favorite shop, also on Essex, wasn't witch related at all. It is called Yarinas, but don't go looking for a sign. There isn't one. It is full of Indian clothes, some hand embroidered in Equador, and lots of inexpensive fair trade jewelry. You can see in the pictures to the right, Sam and me with Anna, the shopkeeper. Sam loves her new dress. (I like the red one hanging next to her in the picture, but it's up to her what she likes to wear.)

Before we left town we stopped on Front Street, and I took some pictures. I thought Front Street was totally charming. Notice the red line running along the sidewalk. I believe this is something like the Freedom Trail, only for Salem, obviously. Down the alley, off Derby Square, is the Lobster Shanty, where Jason bought a couple of mega size lobstah roll plattahs, at about 18 bucks each. I don't like such a repast myself, but Jason said that they were very good. They were piled high and hard to pick up, but that's a good thing, right? The fries were perfect.

My hope is that when my mother-in-law comes to see us for Halloween we will visit Salem again this season. There is still plenty that the kids didn't see, and Mimaug, as the kids call her, love taking them to art museums. All the times I have been to Salem I have never been the Peabody-Essex Museum. The PEM is also closed on Mondays, so we didn't go there, either. Halloween is Mimaug's favorite holiday with the kids, and she adores a day at the mueseum. We should have taken her to Salem years ago.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Full at last

My mom calls it the hungry horrors. That hungry feeling that lingers even after you have snacked. And snacked again. I get it once a month, and when it is that time of the month, I don't fight it. I need the extra chow to get through my thingy without breaking down. But the rest of the month? I really need to drop a few pounds, for my health, and I wouldn't mind looking a little better. So how to feel full (enough to get my mind back on work)?

When at Mitsuwa, we ate at a shop called Katsuhana, apperently named to remind folks of the the name Katsuhama, THE katsu house of Manhattan. It was pretty durn yummy despite the accusations of impersonation. Along with your slab of fried meat comes a haystack shaped pile of green cabbage slaw. You add your own dressing at the counter. The hunk of chicken was split between us, so it didn't go far. What is really filling is the stack of cabbage. So once back home in MA, I tried my own Japanese cabbage dressing, based on this one I found on the Internet:

1/4 c Safflower Oil
1/4 c Sesame Oil
1/4 c Rice Vinegar
1/3 c Sugar
1 tb Soy Sauce

I also added sesame and poppy seeds. The trick is, I think, that you don't add the dressing until right when you are about to eat the cabbage. Don't let it sit and marinate. About a cup of shredded cabbage tossed with a couple T of that dressing made the most filling snack. And I was at last undistracted enough by the "Hungry Horrors" to sit and blog today. Should I add a picture of my snack to complete this entry? Maybe I will... later.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

NYC Part Two

You may think that the "Japanese aspect" of the trip I was talking about in part one was the trip to Nintendo World. At that store, yes, there are the original hanafuda cards that were the start of the Nintendo empire and a GBA SP signed by Shigeru Miyamoto (Google it) in the "museum" on the second floor of said store. No, the true Japanese-iness of our trip, of every trip we make to Edgewater, NJ, in fact, is due to the proximity of Mitsuwa Japanese marketplace to our hotel. There is nothing else like this place in the Eastern US. It is so awesome. It is all full of imported Japanese products, and the food court is full of authentic Japanese cuisine.

The window displays, the meticulouly wrapped foods and sweets, the adorably kawaii kiddie treats... we spent an hour there on the 5th and two hours there on the sixth. I took so many pictures, I was asked to stop. We just love this place, and we are all so lucky that it is right in between the hotel we use and Jason's mother's home. Samantha especially loves this part of the trip as she has quite a case of Nipponophilia!

NYC Mission

I chose to accept the mission: Pack myself and two kids with my husband into a car for the 4 hour trip to West New York, NJ, to see MiMaug (Grandma). iPods: check. Video games: check. DVDs and 2 TVs mounted to headrests: check. Snacks and drinks: check. Kids sent to bathroom: check. OK. Wait. I have to use the facilities, too! OK!

We are so spoiled. My parents had nothing to distract us from long trips, and long trips were torture for all of us. For our trip, I packed equal weights of clothing and toiletries and of electronic devices. And it worked great. We stayed in the Comfort Inn in Edgewater, not glamorous, but very pleasant, and spent the days in West New York at MiMaug's high-rise. July fourth was lazy and easy. We ate and waited for fireworks comfortably, at home. The Macy's show was right outside! Private balcony seating! Easy.

It was the 5th that was hard. MiMaug wanted to go to Manhattan. 70 years old and she walked us into the ground! First we took a bus through the tunnel to Port Authority. Then we walked. MiMaug does not believe in taxis, not even the "Cash Cab". We took the kids to the Sanrio store, then walked to Rockefeller Plaza to see the Nintendo World store. MiMaug, Samantha, Auntie, Uncle and cousin all walked through the street fair on the way to RP, but not me. Avery and I were ready to sit, so we walked with Jason to Nintendo World, and sat. And then we sat some more. Avery got his picture taken with Mario and Luigi (yay!) and bought a T-shirt etc. He never got bored of that place. When the rest of the party arrived, we stayed long enough for the girls to enjoy the store, then WALKED to Dopo Teatro. Through Times Square. On a Sunday. (ugh!) We sat in the Secret Garden room and were attended to by Alexander, a lovely lad. Water trickled down the wall (a fountain, not a leak) and it was cool and quiet. (Ah!) It felt like we had been transported out of the city! The food was lovely. I fell asleep in my seat. After a cup of coffee (I skipped dessert), WE WALKED BACK TO PORT AUTHORITY.

Now y'all may be thinking, what is the big deal with the walking? Well, when you have kids to watch, and they aren't city savy (Avery and I nearly got clipped by a minivan because we waited for a light one step off the curb) and you have to carry all the things kids need to remain hydrated and comfortable on a long urban hike... it adds up! And I was pooped. But... the kids had a great time, as did the Queen (my pet name for my mother-in-law) so it was all worth it.

Our reward for all the hard work: One full night's sleep before we had to pack up and drive back to Massachusetts. The kids played "Kirby" all the way home, and I slept. Once home, Jason layed on the bed and passed out. We were all exhausted by our easy, spoiled travels. Boo Hoo!

There is more about our trip, the Japanese aspect, but I will save that for part two.