Review: Yume Wo Katare

Yume Wo Katare, the ramen place in Porter Square, had a lot of hype for something that served only 1 dish: pork ramen. I had wanted to check it out long ago but long lines and the hours that they were open (5pm-11pm Tue-Sat) made it highly inconvenient.

As K was with her dad for Halloween night I finally had my ramen opportunity. It was cold-ish (40s) so the 30 or so minutes or so I spent in line only made me anticipate the hot savory soup even more.

IMG_4381.JPGthe goal was to get inside

The fact that I was sandwiched between 2 youngish so in love couples (not pictured) almost made me a little sad until my single patron status rushed me to the head of the line. Score. At the top I was given a choice of regular ($12) with 2 slices of pork or buta ramen ($15) which had 5. The small room had 3 bench style tables. The servers instructed you where to sit and sometimes they broke up the bigger groups. The place could probably fit 30 at a time comfortably.

Ramen was prepared by a chef wearing a baseball cap. The noodles looked substantial and the air warm and fragrant with broth. I was directed to wait with others whose orders were taken. Periodically, we were told to please pay attention to someone who had finished their meal and would say something like:

“Hi my name is Sean and I got a GOOD JOB. My dream is to finish my undergrad.”

Or

“I’m Shelby and my dream is to experience all that life has to offer. And I got a NEXT TIME.”

The room would then cheer and politely clap and the eater would excuse themselves and go.

The cashier helpfully explained that Yume Wo Katare means “talk about your dream” so patrons were encouraged to share theirs with all the others in the room. Striving to finish your entire bowl (PERFECT!) is like striving to accomplish your dream. After that, it was second nature to me to clap and awww over the shared dreams as well add an enthusiastic “GOOD JOB!”

My bowl arrived shortly with the extra garlic option. The first bite was savory and rich and did taste like a dream. The fatty pork was the highlight of the bowl- creamy and melt in your mouth. I burned my tongue slurping hot al dente noodles mixed with the soft crunch of lettuce and bean sprout.

IMG_4382.JPGof course get the extra yakiniku (garlic)

By time I got to about half my bowl it was clear that achieving perfection would take work. I ended up with a GOOD JOB (only a little broth remaining) and proudly shared my dream of raising my daughter to be a strong and confident woman. Was it the best ramen I ever had? Not really. But the experience was definitely unique.

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Yume Wo Katare is located at 1923 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA (Porter Square).

Life is short: Eat snow

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I remember the first time I saw snow. It was 8:30 am and I was at the 6th floor of 700 Albany Street watching it fall in tiny flakes, coating the rooftops. It mesmerized me so much that when my boss came in to see me staring out the window instead of starting my experiment for the day (probably PCR or DNA extractions) all I could blurt out was “Look! Snow! Pretty!” He laughed at my naïveté.

Because I grew up in a tropical country, my knowledge of snow (winter, really) was full of misconceptions:

I thought it tasted like sugar.

I didn’t know it came in various types ranging from coat the power lines wet to snowball perfect to powdery.

I didn’t know that wearing an ugly puffy jacket was better than 4 layers under a stylish wool coat.

I didn’t know it turned slushy dirty a few days after it coated the world white.

I didn’t know that it could persist in pile form until March.

I didn’t know that shoveling it was a pain, literally.

My Swedish friend R has warned me about my penchant for eating snow. You don’t know what’s in there, she says. Don’t be fooled by how nice and white and clean it seems. She begged me to melt a bowl of it and see how dirty it was. 20140205-205530.jpg

But snow is among the (weird) things that Katie and I love to eat. It is on the level of marshmallow Peeps, Cadbury mini eggs and edamame as our favorite treat foods. We now have a standard for eatable snow (if possible, freshly fallen, take the top layer from at least Katie height on plants..) which makes me feel a teeny bit better about the minuscule dirt particles we are ingesting.

It’s foolish but I think the joy outweighs the consequences. Someday I know Katie will find everything I do or say to be annoying and uncool and I’m kind of okay with that. In the meantime, we shall eat snow. Together.

We usually eat it plain but today was a snow day so we had access to flavored syrup 🙂
20140205-153353.jpgfresh from the backyard20140205-153401.jpgshe wants hers to have 3 flavors: grape, blue raspberry and cherry20140205-153410.jpgnoms!

San Francisco is <3 (a very late post)

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Because of my blogging hiatus I was unable to share our most awesome vacation to San Francisco. This chilly winter day seems appropriate enough to look back (in Filipino: balik-tanaw) at our happy time there.

We didn’t really take a vacation last summer so when C&C invited me to their fall wedding, and friend MM offered for us to stay in her apartment, I decided the stars were right for a Nanay and Katie adventure!

I used Delta miles for my ticket and paid for Katie’s which cut down on a lot of the airfare. I bought each of us a San Francisco City Pass ($84/adult, $59/child) which gave entrance tickets to 4 attractions and unlimited rides on public transport including the famed cable cars. I also borrowed a Frommer’s San Francisco guidebook from the library and downloaded a Lonely Planet app. Once there, our host told me to also download a Muni tracker app. I relied on both apps extensively on my phone to get around as I have very poor navigational skills.

It’s a good thing we had those passes because Katie’s absolute favorite part of the trip was riding public transport particularly the cable cars. We must have ridden them at least 6 times! Without the pass it would have cost $6 per ride or $72 for both of us– eep!

Aside from the fact that they are a technological marvel, I liked using the cable cars because they were slow enough so i could almost always tell where we were or at least find where we were on he map or phone . We also learned to skip the turnaround and ride 3 stops ahead so we didn’t have to get into the loooooong lines to board.
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At the Powell Street turnaround with Fakecheese the turtle and Slither the snake

Out Citypass allowed us to visit the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park (5 stars! so much to see and do inside and within the park), take a scenic tour via boat (Blue and Gold Fleet– 5 stars and Katie’s favorite), and see the sharks at the Aquarium by the Bay (meh: 2 stars, go to Monterey Bay instead). We were unable to visit the Exploratorium, a hands on science museum for kids, because it was closed on Mondays (darn!).

We were able to do quite a lot of sightseeing in 4 days. Katie was able to ride 2 of the 3 carousels in the city. San Francisco was very accessible by public transport (bus, train, streetcar and cable car) and the weather in late September/early October was gorgeously sunny and cool. No fog until our last day there although it was scarf and hoodie weather off and on. The city had a nice laid back, chill and feel good atmosphere. We definitely would like to make a trip back someday.

Katie’s picks: the playground and carousel at Golden Gate Park, eating Doritos with hot chocolate at Ghirardelli Square (and getting free samples at their 3 stores), cable car rides and the Cable Car museum, carousel at Pier39, riding the F street car, boat tour via Blue and Gold.

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Nanay’s highlights: meet ups with former classmates and online friends, Union Square particularly the Dewey Memorial (Philippines reprezent!), fortune cookies made by hand in Chinatown, fun wedding (with childcare) at the Fairmont Hotel, riding down the crooked Lombard Street and quality time with Katie of course.
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We both liked: eating! Particularly these jumbo shrimp.

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We both did not like: the noisy sea lions

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Piano update: 8 months

Katie decided not to do dance this year so she can sleep in on Saturdays. Her remaining activities outside of school have been piano and Faith Formation.

Piano has grown on us. Katie loves going to lesson and has acquired some skill in sitting still for the 15-20 minute class. I have acquired skills of my own (aka bribery) to make sure this is the case. Regular practice is still a struggle but I have heard this is the case for many young piano students. Katie also sings in her school’s chorus and am feeling mighty pleased with all this music that is becoming part of her life.

Once Katie knows a piece well enough, she can play it in a duet with her teacher. They average 2-3 pieces learned per week which I think is excellent. She has been taking lessons for 8 months now. Yes it isn’t Mozart, but I like to see and share the progress 🙂

In the video, Katie and her teacher are playing “Lemonade Stand” in the Faber Piano Adventures: Primer Level lesson book.

Handy Sunday

I have to admit it: my housekeeping skills are disappointing. In fact one of my life upgrades this year was regular housecleaning. Right now my biggest problem at home is a mountain. Literally.
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Katie says: I don’t want to be in this picture!

By the way, all this laundry is clean. The main reason why it hasn’t been put away is this: 20130721-181412.jpg
I love Ikea. Most of our furniture is sourced from there whether bought directly or second hand on Craigslist . I love Ikea so much that I refer to the furniture by its name in the catalog that has a semi permanent place in the bathroom for reading and browsing purposes. The above is a representative picture of the interior of my 6-drawer Malm dresser which I bought for $40 from a desperate-because-I-have-to-vacate-my-apartment-by-midnight student. Katie’s clothes are in a similar dresser with have the same sagging phenomenon.

Fortunately, this problem is a pretty easy fix (not duct tape, although I had already tried that). About 3-4 months ago, I got some little plastic parts (free when you ask) meant to go under the bottoms to support the now saggy shelf with the full intention installing them immediately. In the meantime, my (clean) laundry has reached new heights. I was pretty proud of myself for figuring out to rotate the shelf part of the drawer so the saggy part goes in the front where there is more support. After the first 2 drawers (there were 7 that needed refurbishing), I kind of knew what I was doing. With a Philips and straight screwdriver, a moderate amount of swearing, and some help from little hands, our clothes receptacles are good as new.
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My next projects: the supporting metal rails under my bed and putting together a Bjursta table await. Meanwhile, planning to have a GoT marathon while folding and putting away.

At home in the streets of Boston

Today was a perfect day to go to a sprinkler park. We made a day of going to Downtown Boston with best friend Wubby, them in swimsuits and me in my trusty summer hat. The girls were a cheap date. We took the T ($2), played in the Rose Kennedy Greenway Rings fountain (free) and had ice cream from Emack and Bolios ($3/kiddie cone) while looking at seals in the New England Aquarium (free). The girls decided to walk to the Frog Pond for more water play (free) and a carousel ride ($3) with the caveat that we would rest as needed. Rest turned out to be Dunkin Donuts (munchkins for them, dark roast iced coffee for me) and Bath and Body Works for personal sparkly hand sanitizer ($1.50 with case).
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How refreshing it is to explore the city with children. They donned their sunglasses and sashayed like they owned the place. They took turns looking for the “red brick road” aka Freedom Trail that would lead us to our destination. They tried not to chase the pigeons and waited for me to cross the street with them. Wubby was more genial than my daughter, chirping a bright “Hi!” or “Hello” to every tourist, baby or dog that came our way. Inevitably, we met people for whom the streets have become home. And before I could stop her, she was already talking to a girl who looked like she was in her 20s.

Wubby: (reading from sign) Every bit helps…homeless. (To lady) What does homeless mean?
Girl on street: It means I don’t have a place to live.
Katie: Why?
GOS: I lost my job so I can’t pay for a place to live. But I am looking and hopefully soon I can have a home.
Wubby: My family is moving to another house but you can’t live in our apartment because the people downstairs are having twins so they are moving upstairs.
GOS: That’s ok. If they are having twins they must need the space more than me.
Wubby: (pointing to backpack) What’s in there?
Katie: Is that ALL of your stuff?

We try to shield our children from the unpleasant, and the ugly, and hope they will never have to deal with these things. Avoidance makes it easier to tune things out and pretend that all is well but we lose the opportunity to teach tolerance and compassion. The reality is that the world is not all pink and fluffy, but black and white and infinite shades of gray all of which our children deserve to know about, if not experience. In their innocence, neither girl was uncomfortable discovering the harshness of life.

We resumed walking and I answered more questions. I stopped myself from telling Katie that we were homeless too, once, and that Wubby’s parents had been one of those who had offered us a place to stay. I held their sticky hands when what I really wanted to do was give them a big hug.

“Peng, how come some people can’t have a place to live? Why isn’t there work for everybody?”

“I wish me and Wubby could be fairies and unicorns with magic so we can give her a home.”

“If me and Katie were giants or Martians maybe we can give that lady a job and we can MAKE her a house.”

Thank you Katie and Wubby. You are hope for the future.
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***
P.S. While chatting, we found out that our new friend had worked with animals before she lost her job. I was able to tip her about applying to my old workplace. I hope she finds work soon.

On vacation with friends of friends

I am sipping my coffee in beautiful Vermont, listening to birds and watching the sun spread light over the trees and mountains. We are here for part of the weekend on the invitation of a dear friend’s dear friend.
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A close knit family is as essential to a Filipino as white rice is to adobo. As transplants from the motherland, we have had to make our own families here. Thus, friends of friends and their friends become cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Just like at home.

My bestie Maya is one of those people who are adept at making an ever expanding circle of good-as-family friends. For instance, all the 13 adults in the house are somehow connected to her: through high school (soirée!), college, dance, or when she first moved to NYC. I met our host through Maya when we were pregnant with our first borns. 6 years later, our children become fast friends, roaming the house’s many secret passages, refreshing their kindergarten phonics lessons and even deciding to have a “sleepover”.

The air is sweeter in the country. After living under the city lights for so long you forget what a massive blanket of stars looks like. We swam in a pond, played on rocks, even waded through a rushing stream. As we return to the bustle and noise, to being awakened by ambulances and drunk college kids, I am grateful for the reminder of a world so massive and peaceful.

Thank you M and J for an awesome time.

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Four Birthdays and a Wedding

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To say that this weekend was busy is an understatement. I will admit to some shock when I was looking at my trusty google calendar and found it a mess of color blocks. In addition to it being the last week of school with 2 early release days, we had committed to attending 4 birthday parties and a wedding.

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what a difference a schoolyear makes!

There was a time when I would not have attended any of these events. When even just being around people was unpleasant and having to interact, painfully excruciating. I see our (disclaimer: I say “our” when it is really Katie’s social life that is rockin’) busy social life as an indication of my improved mental health and a return to “normalcy”. These days, when I tell people, “I’m back!” I really mean it and I feel great!

Besides, who doesn’t love birthday parties? The kids have fun and get tired. There is cake and a chance of excellent free food. Some parties (my favorite kind) even save me from having to cook a meal. Between mom’s group/baby playgroup friends, a church community that is ever expanding, and school, there are a lot of birthdays to celebrate. I wouldn’t say I recommend being this busy every weekend but then again, the laundry can be folded some other time. After all, it has already been sitting on Katie’s bed for more than a month.

We were also privileged to be invited to my ex-brother-in-law’s very intimate, simple yet classy and heartfelt wedding. Because of the deception I underwent at the hands of my ex-husband, I felt I could not trust any of his family. Even worse, I was afraid they would try and take Katie away from me. Pat and Ally were the first ones to reach out, and kept trying to include us when I gave excuses like “too busy”, “too far”, “not a good time” or even when I simply ignored the invitation. They didn’t give up on someday having a relationship not only with Katie, but also with me. And you know what? Persistence pays off and thanks to them, Katie will know that side of her family. Which is in part why I was determined to swallow the awkwardness, embrace the weird and be part of their special day.

But of course I employed the help of my Fairy Gothmother to be extra pretty 🙂
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Doing the right thing is really really hard. I only hope one day Katie will see that I did this for her: so she won’t be wondering about the other side of her family and she can form her own opinions about and relationships with them.
When I see her face, I am glad I didn’t take away moments like this no matter what I feel.

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The male guppy named Flower Princess

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Meet the newest member of our family: a blue and yellow male guppy named Flower Princess (FP). I should clarify that our receipt said he was male but I haven’t really done the anatomical investigation to confirm the gender.

FP is the result of months of persistence (Luke 18:2-5). Katie has wanted a fish ever since she met O’s 2 betas: Cinnamon and Superman. She has wished for one for both her birthday and Christmas last year and the desire has only grown since she found out that both her cousins M and K as well as her BFF Wubby had some.

I think pets are good. Fish are the perfect pets for us since
1. They do not have hair (I am allergic);
2. They teach responsibility; and
3. They are inexpensive (and if it comes to it, easily replaced).

I had been dragging my feet re: getting the fish for a while now because I was hoping the desire would wane. But as Katie received a starter 1 gallon fish tank for her birthday (Thank you A and T!), it was time to get our feet wet.

The Brighton Petco people were helpful in setting us up and pointing us to the right purchases. Katie was talked out of getting numerous fish because of our small tank (1 inch fish/gallon rule) and into getting a guppy instead of a goldfish (goldfish poop more) or tetra (better in groups of 5).
20130629-011937.jpgrinsing gravel

20130629-011951.jpgletting the tank run for 4 days

20130629-011920.jpgta-da! A new home for Flower Princess

Setting up the fish tank has been a lesson in patience. It involved 2 trips to Petco, once to buy gravel, plants and tap water treater and another to get fish and food. There was stuff to rinse, stuff to dry, stuff to acclimatize, stuff to assemble and a whole lot of waiting. My daughter and I are not very patient people and there were moments of frustration and threats. But in the end, we have a new friend who is happily swimming. She gets to feed it tomorrow and can’t wait!

Petco
304 Western Avenue
Brighton, MA 02135
617-254-8800

Help from above

One of the hardest things to do when you are raising a child on your own is making your paycheck fit. Fortunately, I have a good job and we live simply so that it provides what we need. However, my kid is into dance (ballet) and music (piano) both of which are, in my opinion, beautiful and worthy of pursuit. Unfortunately, these lessons also require $$ and time — both precious commodities for a single parent.

I had the pleasant surprise to be a recipient of an act of kindness yesterday when a good friend contributed to our lesson fund in lieu of a birthday present AND gave me an additional check from one of her friends who wished to remain anonymous. I instantly said a prayer for these kind people. It is more validation that God is watching out for us and that I am never alone.

Thank you Rubi and your anonymous friend. If Katie ends up playing in Carnegie Hall or dancing in a Boston Ballet production, I promise you complimentary tickets 🙂 God bless!

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