Thursday, July 25, 2013

Living in Suburbia

I love our neighborhood. We have a park that is perfect for running, rollerblading, walking, playing sports, or climbing on the jungle gym. We are an easy mile walk to Main Street. The houses are not huge, but not too close together, either.

Our neighborhood is also very attractive to all sorts of door-to-door people. We get:
  • Salesmen: lawn care, pest control, home improvement, books, magazines, and (of course) Girl Scout cookies and Boy Scout hoagie sales. The last two don't bother us as long as we know the kids.
  • Religious groups traveling in pairs: Jehovah Witnesses to Baptists, often on Sunday mornings when the heathens are home. What they don't know, is we often go to an evening worship service.
  • Political Groups: the kind that won't leave any literature behind unless you first give them a donation and sign their forms. Hmm...
  • Entrepreneurs: people who can identify a specific need and have a short term solution -- ideally one that does not cost us anything.
Last week we had one of the latter people knock on our door. A high school-aged kid, roaming around the neighborhood with his dad and a pick up truck saw our old treadmill next to the trash. He asked if he could have it for scrap metal. Since we had been planning on taking said treadmill to the scrap metal heap that weekend, we were glad to give him that PLUS the pile we had been collecting in the garage.

They were thrilled to have metal to add to their collection. We were thrilled to have it out of our house. The last time I explored collecting money for our scrap metal I was told I needed 100 pounds of it. Instead, I often give it to the last person in line. This saved me the drive to Trenton.

A win-win for everyone -- including Mother Earth.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What I missed while in Japan...

We've been home almost a month now. Now that I'm over jet lag I've had some time to think about what I missed most when I was on the other side of the globe.

1) I missed being able to make small talk.

You know the kind of conversation you have with your server or a clerk at store. I felt so inadequate in basic courtesies (such as saying "hello" and "thank you") that there was no way I could master small talk.

2) I missed understanding what was happening around me.

Everyday and every city brought new challenges. On the best of days, I thought of these as clues in a treasure hunt. On the worst of days, I thought of them as obstacles as big as Mt. Everest. 

3) I missed chicken. 

Yes, much has been said about my lack of desire to eat pork again. Or seafood with eyes (though I would be willing to try other kinds of seafood).

4) I missed chocolate.

The Japanese are not big dessert eaters, though we did have a lot of ice cream. I missed my daily dose of dark chocolate, a habit I'm sure I picked up from living in Belgium.

Of course I missed our pets, and our cozy bed. That happens on every trip. The others things I missed were unique to this particular vacation.

Please don't misunderstand me, I'm still glad we went. Many good memories were formed. I saw places I never ever thought I would see. Tried foods I never ever thought I would try. Had adventures I never ever dreamed about. It opened my mind up to future trips without *gasp* a stop at Disney. Though I would never rule out a trip to Disneyland Paris.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Local Appliance Part Shop

On July 4th our washing machine started leaking. I could tell this was not going to be a pretty sight.

The washing machine is at least 15 years old. I know we bought it after we got married 20 years ago, but before we moved to our current home 13 years ago.

The options: fix it or buy a new one

Fortunately I married a man who can fix things. He took it apart and diagnosed the situation: broken water pump.

In the past this would have meant a quick trip to Jacoby's in Trenton. Unfortunately they went out of business a few years ago.

A quick Google search on Appliance Parts Philadelphia brought up a bunch of places that were closed on Saturday (it took a couple of days to diagnose the situation), and no idea if they had the part, nor how much it would cost.

An eBay search brought up a place in Lancaster, PA that said we would have it by Wednesday.

Really missing Jacoby's at this point.

Wednesday's mail came and no part was in it. I emailed the seller. The item was on back order, but he would mail it "soon." Um...sure we can wait an indefinite amount of time for a part you sold to us as if it was in stock. 

Another Google search. This time I plugged in Appliance Parts NJ. A store in East Brunswick came up. Long story short, we could not communicate.

Another Google search. This time I plugged in Appliance Parts PA. After sifting through the results and deeming many of them too far away (Erie, Tannersville, ...) I found one in Levittown, PA. Yes, just across the river from us.

A quick phone call confirmed they were open and had the part. A 20-minute drive later I was picking up the part and on my way home. That night, Don repaired the washing machine and we were back in business.

As part of my gratitude to the store for still being open, and for having Saturday hours, I promised to tell all my friends and family about them. 

All Brand Appliance Parts
224 Levittown Parkway
Levittown, PA 19054

They are easy to get to, have decent hours, and accept credit cards. On top of that, the price was cheaper than other places we called.

Next time we have an appliance issue, and as a home owner, there is always a "next time." We'll see them first.

Friday, July 5, 2013

New Camera

I try not to give into impulse purchases very often, especially not when it comes to buying a new camera just before a trip (not to say it hasn't happened before).

I was just sifting through pictures and came across these two:

Same basic image. The top one was taken with my new camera (Panasonic DMC-G5) and the bottom one with Don's reliable pocket-sized Panasonic (he has the camera with him, so I don't have the model number handy).

I like the way he cropped his picture better, but I'm blown away by the clarity and vividness in my shot.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


Nearly 25 years ago Don started a collection out of something most people would consider trash: Coca-Cola cans. Not just any Coke cans -- international Coke cans.

I honestly cannot remember how the tradition started. I'm sure it was an off-hand joke to a friend traveling to some far-off locale. I remember bringing him back a Coke can when I was on exchange to Paris fall of 1989. I even scored one from Ireland on the flight over (though I think that one was tossed out by a cleaning person in my dorm room). 

Wendy has made it a quest to find us Coke cans from the most obscure locations. When she can't find a can, she brings us a cap, or a specially made shirt (which yes, he has worn in public).

Just prior to leaving I double-checked our collection for one from Japan. Imagine my surprise when I did not find one.

Welcome the newest can(s) to the collection:

We have a spare in case one did not make it home safely.

Please feel free to continue to add to our collection. :)

Japanese Currency

I realized in all of the posts about Japan, I did not touch upon their money.

Compared with the United States, there are a lot more coins, and a lot less paper money. From left to right:

500 YEN coin -- roughly $5
100 YEN coins -- roughly $1
50 YEN coin -- roughly 50 cents
10 YEN coins -- roughly 10 cents (or, as I called them "dimes")
5 YEN coin -- roughly 5 cents
1 YEN coins -- roughly a penny

Bills started at 1000 YEN ($10) and went up. I only saw 1000, 5000 and 10000 YEN notes. Only saw the larger two because the ATMs spit out money in increments of 10000 YEN ($100) and with the lousy exchange rate (fluctuated between 100 YEN=$1 before we left, and plummeted to 88 YEN=$1 on our last day), and only being allowed to take out up to $310 a day from the ATM, this meant when we did use the ATM, we could only take out 20000 at a time. Fortunately we were able to exchange money with Masumi.

We came home with about $10 in coins. Good planning on our part.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Bialashu the Panda

Ashley loves pandas, so it comes as no surprise that her favorite stuffed critter is a panda. She named her "Bialashu," which means Ash Tree in Chinese (Ashley means Ash Tree in English).

We brought Bialashu with us to Japan where she had her own set of adventures, fortunately most of them were with us.

Her first adventures were at Tokyo DisneySea. Duffy is huge at Tokyo Disney. Duffy is Mickey Mouse's stuffed bear, which was lovingly made by Minnie Mouse. Americans just don't share the Duffy love. 

All over Tokyo DisneySea are little benches for Duffy to sit on to have his picture taken in postcard-like settings. I put Bialashu in these seats. People got the joke. As Ashley and Don were riding Toy Story, I told people it was "for my daughter." 

I had to use the ladies' room, so she kept me company in the baby seat. Most Japanese bathrooms seemed to have a spot just like this for babies between 5 months and 2 1/2 years old. As a mom I thought this was genius! 

One time we left her in the hotel and came home to find the hotel maid made sure she could see out the window while waiting for us.

I suspect her favorite adventure, though, was visiting the bamboo forest in Kyoto. The bamboo must have been 100 feet tall. It would be like leaving me in a Godiva factory. 

He also comforted Ashley during the flights and in the various hotels. He is a good traveling companion.

More panda pictures