The Gecko and the Grill

AFTER months of blog silence, I decided I would do my best to document our day today for perhaps the closest post this blog has ever been to being in real time.

I didn’t start out the day realizing I would do this, it just kind of developed over the course of our activities, but it turned out to be a really good day to immortalize blog-style. It was a good combination of things we usually do and a fun outing.

We also took some video along the way, but in order to blog this on the actual day (or at least before I go to sleep since it is already past midnight here), I will save the video of the day to compile for the next post. Blogging here is excruciating because of the really slow internet speed at night…which is the easiest time for me to be on the computer sans kids.

So….hopefully you are up for spending the day with us! It’s a long one…but if you stick through it…the explanation of the title will be at the end.

I was hoping that Rijen would be able to sleep in this morning, since he had church meetings at the crack of dawn yesterday, however thanks to our lovely kids, we were both wide awake by 7AM.

I did give him some time to relax while I took the kids to the nearby playground after breakfast.

We hadn’t really planned out our day, but when we got back around 10, Rijen suggested that we get ready as quickly as we can and go to the “Ticket Place” for an early lunch.  We had been here once before with friends and it was really good.

Kagetsu Arashi

So this is why we call it the “Ticket Place.”  When you enter, you see this big board with helpful pictures of the items, a few descriptive English words, the price and a button. You decide what you want, press the button…

And out comes the ticket!  See Leif grabbing the ticket in the picture above? You then give the ticket to the waiter & he will bring your food to your table.

Now in this picture do you see Leif’s little hand reaching up to press a button? I was busy taking a picture of the ticket, and Rijen was helping Fiona, so neither of us were quick enough to stop Leif from pressing a button. Since you put your money in first, and we had put in 1000 Yen, (about $12), there was more money to accept whatever he had pushed. Rijen said it would be the “Leif Special,” since we weren’t exactly sure what he had selected. Luckily, it was only 100 Yen ($1.25)

Next you choose where you sit yourself, and take off your shoes.

Some places offer slippers to wear, but I am not sure if this place did. We just went barefoot.

This is what it looks like before you sit down. (Figured the before picture would be much more appealing than the after).

With this type of table you kneel or sit cross-legged. We actually sat at the adjacent table, which has a drop-down area underneath the table so you can sit with your legs hanging down. It is at the same level though as the table above.

The first time I was at this restaurant, I was struck by an intense feeling when I saw this cup. Does anyone recognize it? I knew it was something from my childhood….something at the edge of my memory that I hadn’t seen since I was very very little…but I couldn’t figure it out. I could kind of remember something about the little girl feeding bread to the fish. Luckily, the illustrator’s name was on the bottom of the cup and I googled it and realized it is from a book I must have owned as a child. Before leaving that evening, I tried to ask a worker if I could buy the cup, but he didn’t understand my most-excellent pantomiming. Perhaps when my Japanese improves I can try again.  For now…I have this picture.

Chopstick Practice

The Leif Special

So Leif’s contribution to our lunch turned out to be a very delicious plate of stir-fried bean sprouts with little pieces of meat in soy sauce. Leif’s chopstick technique (after observing us) was to tap the chopstick on the plate and then lick it.

When they bring the fried rice out, it is steaming hot, and you mix it all up yourself.

Soy Fried Rice


The Gyoza (pan-fried dumplings) here are especially delicious.

Here’s one for you!

Leif using his chopsticks!

Sometimes chopsticks just don’t cut it

Chopsticks totally kicked to the curb

This next image is a gif, but I think you need to click on it to see the animation, or use this link: 

Click to see how they were doing on their side of the table.

Somehow while I was cleaning Leif and his surrounding area up, Fiona and Rijen brokered a post-lunch ice cream deal. Not one to complain with ice cream, we then all headed to”Big Dip,” where they serve up delicious ice cream with some unusual flavors along with lite alternative hits from the 90’s.

This was our first Santa Claus sighting of the season. As you can tell, Fiona was Very Excited.

Sorry for the blur, but here you can see a few of the unique flavors offered here. For example: Okinawan Salt Cookie, Coconut, Okinawan Sweet Potato and Benimo, among others.

Feeling a bit anxious about ordering “Okinawan Sweet Potato” as one of my ice cream flavors #firstworldproblems

Wondering if I should have taken the safe route and gone with “San Francisco Choco Mint.”

Never mind, it’s delicious!

Leif agrees!

If I get the video of this done, you might be able to hear Rijen instructing Fiona on proper ice cream eating techniques. She’s getting the hang of it.

BTW, sweet potato ice cream was really good…and appropriate for the upcoming holiday!

Our main outing of the day, however, was to go to the Katsuren Castle Ruins–a nearby World Heritage UNESCO site.  Usually, I like to research where we are going and include that history on the blog….however in order just to get this blog done almost the same day, I am just going to include the pictures.

So I apologize, you will have to just appreciate the pictures in the sense of seeing our family with the castle ruins as a backdrop…and I really hope that I can do a proper post on the history of the site later. I really want to come back here again, it was really beautiful.

After a good climb to the top of the first level, Fiona enjoyed the panoramic view.

Showing Brother where to look

Path to the next stairway

Going up these stairs reminded me of a castle we visited in York, England. I’ll have to compare the two later.

Fiona getting a little support from Dad

Leif’s ascent

Views like this remind me that we do live on an island!

After only a short nap in the car, Leif was getting a bit fussy/tired.

View from the other side & a happier Leif + water bottle!

The weather today was gorgeous. Need I remind you that it is November? Fall is my favorite season, and a big part of me feels strange for it to be so warm, but of course it is nice! Although I know it feels like an endless summer, the rainy/colder days will come soon I think.

Naturally, Fiona had a lot of fun leaping from stone to stone.

Enthralled by Sister’s gymnastics, but content to be held.

The view from this level was so peaceful. I really want to come back here again soon.

Rijen liked how this tree framed the view.

Okay, so these steps don’t look too difficult..but they are a strange height and angle which make them kind of awkward to climb.  I had to be extra careful when holding Leif.

Fiona didn’t feel like she needed to take as much time on the descent.

Rijen was chuckling that I was smiling for the camera in this picture while climbing down. True, but I was also happy to be done with all the stairs–my legs were feeling a little bit shaky!

By the parking lot and information center stood one of these cartoon boards.

The reigning King and Queen for the day.

On the drive home, Rijen asked me what time I thought it was. I guessed 4:15. He said he had thought 4:30. It was actually 2:45!  That’s what happens when you start your day at 7AM, says Rijen.  So it was nice to get home and not rush to do dinner and bedtime.

The kids still had time to play, Rijen had time to iron all his work shirts for the week and I had time to do some tidying up. Since Rijen has been biking to work each day, he likes to drive over his work wardrobe for the week ahead of time.  He volunteered to take the kids so I could go on a jog.

Leif excited to go on a drive.

Fiona excited to go on a drive.

Megan a bit less excited to be jogging.

Habu Trail

So the trail is pretty straightforward, so I usually jog in one direction for 20 minutes and then turn around.  I was feeling so slow, like I was plodding along today, so I was surprised that I actually got a little bit farther this time, 20 minutes in.  I reached this sign:

Halfway Mark

I think this is the only time I will ever attempt to photograph myself jogging.  It kind of looks like someone else took the picture though, right?

So I got home 3 minutes earlier than I thought since I ran faster I guess coming back, and beat the family home by about 5 minutes.

Between coming home and dinner, a few things happened which I don’t have pictures for, but will be on this video that I keep promising, so I better do it.

[Feel free to skip all this boring text stuff and go back to looking at pictures, I am just writing this out for my own journaling purposes]

First of all was an impromptu dance party, because Rijen found new music that Fiona LOVED.  Leif was acting very fussy though, after that, and it still wasn’t dinnertime, so I decided to put my cleaning on hold and take him in the other room to play.

I saw this little white bear that Rijen’s mom gave Fiona. It is battery operated and sleeps and wakes up and makes little movements and cute noises. The batteries were dead so I thought Leif and Fiona would enjoy watching me change out the batteries and starting the bear up again.  When I got to the point of putting the new batteries in, Fiona reached over and flipped this little switch that I hadn’t even noticed. I guess the bear had just been turned off!

Leif then had a lot of fun holding and cuddling the bear. Rijen went outside to prep the grill for dinner. This was to be our first time grilling, so Rijen had to clean it off and prepare it.  I wasn’t there to see it, but when he pulled off the cover a gecko ran out, and Fiona was very concerned about it. Then they both had to pull the weeds which had grown up through the bottom of the grill.

If this sounds confusing…I promise it will make sense when you see the video! Back in the house, I tried to go back to whatever I had been doing, but then there was a big controversy over the bear. Fiona decided that she “never gets to play with the bear” and protested that Leif was having it. I told her that she could have a turn when Leif was done. She took matters into her own hands by wresting it from his grip, eliciting his famous and truly awful high pitched squealing.

I feel like as the oldest child, Fiona has been used to being able to play with whatever she wants whenever she wants, and now that Leif is starting to assert his own wishes, there is a lot more friction between them. I worry that Fiona has a very selfish side and I am trying to figure out how much of that is the product of normal age possessiveness, being the oldest and/or her personality/poor parenting.  So this is a value I want to work on with her.

After getting a talking to, Fiona then tried to appease Leif by trying to get him to hold her baby, like doing a bait and switch. He wasn’t buying it.  Leif at 9 months would have, but not anymore. This then devolved into Leif not knowing what he wanted, and him trying to communicate something to me which I didn’t understand…he would give me the bear but then be upset when I would take it from him.

Fortunately, Rijen stepped in with some wise words: “He’s hungry.”  I hadn’t been planning to feed him then because it was only 5PM and I wasn’t hungry yet and I thought we would all eat the steak together.  However after talking with Rijen, we realized that it would make sense just to eat in shifts and feed the kids then &  get them to bed sooner rather than later.  There were enough leftovers so that’s what we did.

I pulled up the chair so Leif could watch me prepare his dinner and he couldn’t even wait to get in his highchair to eat.

Snitching Dinner

Dinner for the kids tonight was fresh oranges, canned pineapple, peas, chicken and rice soup, potatoes with ketchup and half a leftover chicken square.

Eating Dinner

Leif has been getting better and better using utensils just in the past month. I noticed a few weeks ago that he would try and grab the spoon I was feeding him with and then not want to give it back. Those first few weeks are pretty messy–and not my favorite transition period feeding-wise  however he is starting to really get the hang of it.  I am always amazed at how important this kind of independence is to kids and how fiercely they work to attain it.

Normally I do baths after breakfast, but since they hadn’t taken one this morning and  it wasn’t quite 6, I figured there would be enough time. I thought it could be nice and relaxing for them, given that they both seemed really tired. However, they became amazingly energized and hyper in the bath.  They kept screaming at each other. At first I thought Leif was mad but then I realized he was laughing about it.  While watching them, I uploaded most of these pictures onto the computer.

Leif, this was supposed to be a calm and relaxing bath!

After bathtime, pyjamas, potty and teeth brushing.

Then begins Fiona’s bedtime ritual which could and should be a blog post in and of its self. I have started reading chapter books to her and tonight was a new one: Snow Goose by Paul Gallicio. This is one I have never read before and I enjoyed the first chapter, although the writing is a little advanced for Fiona to easily comprehend without me explaining/restating things.

Often I can nurse Leif while reading the book to Fiona. Other times I will feed Leif in the other room while Rijen reads two books, and then I will come in and read Fiona her last book.  Sometimes if the book is really interesting to him, he will try and maneuver himself so he can eat and see the pictures at the same time, which can get pretty awkward for me. Luckily tonight he was content just to be fed and snuggle.

Rijen reading Fiona from the Children’s New Testament Storybook while I put Leif in his crib. We both extricated ourselves from the children around 7PM! Pretty good timing! Fiona fell asleep within 5 minutes, which attested to how tired she was.

Rijen then turned his attention to the grill.

I had previously baked spaghetti squash, so it was easy to throw it in a pan with a little butter, minced garlic, shaved Pecorino Romano and some spices I still have from the Stuttgart Spice Market.

There was much discussion on how long to cook the meat. We like it medium-rare. Rijen did an excellent job for his first time with this type of grill.

Here is our dinner. The steaks ended up being much bigger than we could eat anyway, so Rijen saved part of his for lunch and I saved part of mine for the kids tomorrow.

Good night! Thanks for sharing Veterans day with us. We love it when Rijen has the day off, we usually get to do something fun.

…….So I pr0mised I would explain the title at the end. Remember how I said that Fiona and Rijen saw a gecko scamper out of the grill? And how she was really concerned that the gecko would get grilled?

Well, WHILE the steaks were cooking, I saw the gecko crawl up to peek out on top. Can you see him? Sorry I can’t do any cool photoshop arrow, but he is about halfway in the picture with his little nose sticking up out of the metal grate.  I zoomed in, but if I hadn’t, the steak would be right below where the photo cuts off. I was shocked that the gecko was just hanging out in the heat. I figure he knows what he was doing, and it had gotten a bit chilly at night, so I hope he appreciated that we heated up his home a little bit.  We’ll have to see if this is a one time thing or if he will be a constant grilling companion.


4 responses to “The Gecko and the Grill

  1. Okay, I was sort of expecting a different ending to the “gecko and the grill” part, so I was relieved to find out I wasn’t right! You’re right, the castle looks like a really cool place to visit… we’ll hafta go soon. And I’m impressed with the “Leif special.” He really knows how to order!


  2. Pingback: Our day in four minutes | RIJ & MEG·

  3. Die Gyoza sehen echt lecker aus und das Eis war riesig, oder? Fiona posiert auf dem einen Bild wie ein kleines Model 😉 Wenn du das nächste Mal im Ticket-Restaurant fragen willst, was die Tasse kostet fragtst du einfach: Sore wa ikura des ka? (Was kostet das?) oder Kappu wa ikura desu ka? (Was kostet die Tasse). Watashi-wa kappu-o kaitai desu. (Ich möchte eine/die Tasse kaufen). Dann musst du nur noch die Antwort verstehen 😉


  4. Pingback: ╭ ( o‿ o#)ᕗ100th Post Celebration Pt.II ! | RIJ & MEG·

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