Saturday, February 22, 2014

Friday Night Pizza & Movie

Homemade pizza + Cool Runnings = A great evening!

Day In Ueno

Zilla is 6 years old
Mega is 3 year old

Lesson: Ueno has much to offer.

If you don't live in Tokyo you probably don't know where/what Ueno is.  It is an older (historical) part of town which features a park surrounded by a zoo and various museums.  In some ways it is similar to a mini version Smithsonian Museums gathered around the Mall in Washington DC.
We haven't visited most of the museums in the past few years because the kids were too young to enjoy them. This past week Zilla had some time off school so I took the kids to Ueno for the day.
We started out at the National Museum of Nature and Science visiting the special exhibition on Dinosaurs of the Gobi Dessert.
Zilla and Mega both love learning about dinosaurs.  Being able to see these skeletons up close, in person was a real treat.  One special feature was a tablet computer that you could rent which had narration, additional photos and videos to enhance the exhibit. In the kid's version there was also a quiz to check their comprehension.  Zilla soaked up the information like a sponge!  Mega used our Dinosaur Train flashcards to identify the various dinosaurs which were displayed.
One feature the kids found particularly interesting was the information on how the bones are located and identified.  The ablove picture is the explanation of how a pile of tiny bones was discovered to actually be a nest of baby dinosaurs.  The kids think it would make a great puzzle for Grandpa to put together!

After the museum we headed across the park to Ueno Zoo. On the way there we stopped to take a picture with a whale, look at some early blooming Cherry Blossoms and have a snack at the playground.
This is outside the nature and science museum.

 The playground pictures here is between the Tokyo Metropolitian Art Museum and Ueno Zoo.

My year-long membership for the zoo ends soon so this may have been our last trip for a while. With Zilla starting school in the direction away from the zoo we may not be able to get there as often as we like.  While Ueno Zoo is small (landlocked) it has a long history and a wide variety of animals.  On this visit Mega wanted to see the pandas and polar bear. Zilla was looking forward to the spider monkeys and elephants.  Once we started walking around the aye-ayes, lemurs and the petting area sheep and goats also grabbed the kid's attention.  I love that we can go to the same zoo many times over the course of a year because the kids notice changes in the animals yet every time we go. They also show a new interest in an animal or two which they did not find particularly interesting before.

At the end of the day we headed back across Ueno park to get to the train home.  We stopped to watch a juggler/magician doing a street performance.  I'd love to say he was great... but he was very funny and held the kids attention. It must be hard to spend the day trying to get people to stop in the cold to watch for a while...

After we returned home the kids started asking about when we could go back to Ueno to see the other museums.  I think the next 1/2 day of school might include an afternoon trip to Ueno!
This is definitely one of the advantages of living in a city and I plan to make the most of it!

Here are some of the other places to visit around Ueno Park:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fishy Friends

Lesson: Aquariums Rock!
It is no secret that we enjoy a visit to the zoo or aquarium. What is a surprise is that with every visit the kids find something new and exciting. As their comprehension and observational skills improve aquarium visits take longer and delve deeper into the wonders of the sea.
On recent aquarium visits the olive flounder ヒラミ has interested the kids because of its ability to match the ocean bottom. Zilla is currently enthralled with the whale shark ジンベイザメ. Mega has also taken an interest in stingrays - especially the big ones!
We're blessed to live near (within a couple hours by train) a number of aquariums which have interactive and informative exhibits. We particularly enjoy visiting them in winter when it is a bit cold to spend the day whole outside.
Inbetween visits to see our fish friends we read from a selection of books and enjoy a few apps which teach about sea life. Recently I came across a series of 3D Explorer books which includes one with an ocean theme.

Bento Beginnings

Lesson: If you look you may find what you are looking for!

As we prepare for Zilla to enter elementary school there are many things to prepare and think about. One of the big ones will be having to make a bento lunch every day. These meals are far from the traditional brown bag with PB&J or bologna sandwhich. Bentos are often said to be well balanced, colorful, fresh and handmade as a way to show a Mother's love. While I don't need to make a bento to show my love my kids do need to eat lunch so I hope to make the best of the situation. To that end I've been searching for helpful resources.
A recent search on Amazon turned up this set of bento recipe cards. They are great as they can be laid out to help you see how the foods will look once they are in the bento box. On the back of each card is the recipe for the food item pictured as well as the food category it fits into to help with planning a balanced meal. The set also includes a detailed nutritional information list.
The recipes are in Japanese but for the most part they look pretty straight forward. Even if you can't read the recipes just looking at the picture cards can be inspiring. One of the greatest challenges I see in daily bento making is trying to figure out what to make so inspiration will be key!
Another part of preparation is trying to figure out what he rest of the family will each for lunch. Perhaps on some days we'll make bentos for everyone so we don't have to think about making lunch?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!
Please take a few minutes today to tell someone you love them!

Valentine's Cards you can print プリントアウトのバレンタインカード:

Crafts 工作:

V-Day Books:
Our favorites are linked in the Kotoba & Sign Amazon bookstore!

Other Links:

Saturday, February 1, 2014

You could win an iPad Mini!

The lovely people over at Two Little Hands have a contest going on right now. The grand prize is an iPad mini! Residents outside the us are eligible to enter :-)
Click on the picture to connect to the contest page. This contest is open to people living anywhere on the planet!
And, visit the Kotoba & Sign homepage to learn more about the benefits do signing with children of all abilities and language backgrounds!

Homemade Pasta

Lesson: Homemade pasta is the best!
Every once in a while (ok, at least a couple of times a day...) Zilla gets an idea that sticks in his head and he feels that seeing that idea become reality is extremely urgent and comes before everything else. Some people call this creativity. Some call it passionate. I try not to call it annoying! ;-)
This week we watched an episode of Reading Rainbow in which they showed a family making pasta. The tortellini in particular caught Zilla's attention. He wanted to make it. For supper. That night. Not. Possible!
So, he had to wait a day. Then, Emo (daddy) volunteered to make pasta with Zilla and Mega if I would direct them through the process. It was a delicious and fun activity!

I turned to google for a recipe and came across the Cooking Channel for Fresh Pasta Dough. It was easy to do but from set-up to clean up took about 2 hours. I think an adult working along at a kitchen counter could get done a lot faster but it wouldn't be as much fun!

These pictures tell the story pretty well. He noodles puffed up a bit while cooking so in the end it was closer to fettuccini than speghatti but as long as it tastes good we don't care!
Miss Mega likes the pasta so much she switched to signing because her mouth was full of food!