Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's A Wonderful Life!

This post has nothing to do with Christmas, but it is wonderful. Back in October my brother and his family were sealed to each other. It was such a wonderful and amazing experience to be there and witness this great event. I was more than choked up when they brought in the kids, all dressed in white. My nephew Boston was so excited and just burst into room and just stood there smiling at everyone. Brighton was very calm and glowing as she held Avery - who handled the event fairly well. I'm so excited and proud of them. I love you guys!

How can you not love these kids?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Whoa? What? I'm fine! Just walking it off!

This post is dedicated to Emily - she challenged/told me to post this. I have lots of embarrassing stories (drugs on my driveway), and here's another one.

Lately my days have been filled with meetings. Not just a meeting here and a meeting there, but days where I don't see my desk till about 3 or 4 pm. Well yesterday I had one meeting. ONE! And I decided to celebrate the only way I know how - going out to eat. I've been really good about bringing my own lunch - cheaper, healthier, saves time, etc. So I felt like I really deserved this little treat. I didn't have anyone to go with me, so I decided to just run in, grab it and come back and eat at my desk and read.

I pulled into the parking lot, entered the restaurant and just walked straight ahead to get in line and place my order. Halfway up the line my right foot slips and goes flying forward! I didn't even quite register what was happening, but dance techniques must have kicked in. My left foot went backwards and I dropped into the splits. Something I haven't done in over ten years. Do you know what happens to those muscles over ten years of not being used? They get tight, really tight!

As I went into my awesome splits, my hands flew up and grabbed the ledge that was next to me; the same ledge that had a table of four guys on the opposite side. I quickly bounced up, looked around and then just walked forward as if nothing had happened. My groin was in some serious pain and I was fighting off a limp, but there was no way I was about to let people see that I was hurt. I had a few stares, but I refused to acknowledge to anyone what had just happened.

Am I prideful? Yes. Am I a klutz? Of course. Can I walk-off any injury thrown at me? I'll try my hardest and make my father proud. Suck it up!

Hiroshima & Sayonara!

Hiroshima was a more somber part of our trip. We visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum which provided a different view point of the attack (not that I'm saying what we did was right, but it was interesting to hear it told from their point of view instead of America's point of view) and some haunting images of the aftermath of the bomb. We spent probably 2 hours in there and then briefly walked around the Peace Gardens. This is a picture of the Atomic Bomb Dome, a memorial to those who died after the bomb.

After that heavy, emotional day we decided to go out to dinner and our friend at the Hostel recommended a great place. We quickly learned that the restaurant owner and cook did not speak English. Thank heavens a girl was there to help us and stopped us from ordering cow tongue for dinner. This meal may have been my favorite, purely based on the experience we had while eating. You basically buy a plate of raw meat, lettuce and veggies and then you get to grill your meat at your own table and make delicious lettuce wraps. We were having a ball doing this. Turning meat with chopsticks is not the easiest thing to do, but it's certainly fun!

We spent the night just relaxing, doing laundry and eatting junk food in our hostel room. The next day we headed off to Miyajima to see Itsukushima Shrine and the beautiful, floating torii gates. Here's what it looks like.

Torii gates are common among Japanese shrines, but these torii gates that appear to be floating is what makes them so neat. As the tide comes in they appear to be floating and the reflection off the water is also beautiful. We had a fun time strolling around this area and we even encountered some wild deer. They warn you as you enter the area to keep all food sealed and put away or be prepared to share and get head-butted by one of these. We didn't see any mean or aggressive ones, but they certainly follow you around and will nudge you for food.

After we left Miyajima, we grabbed some dinner and chose a delicious Mexican restaurant. Yes, a Mexican restaurant, owned by a man from Peru who moved to Japan. It was familiar, tasty and they had chips and salsa. I was in heaven! We headed back home, backed our bags and got ready for the journey back to Tokyo. We took the train back to Tokyo, found our hotel and did some last minute souvenier shopping. Not shockingly to us girls, but Stephen was the last one back from shopping. Pirate only needed about 30 minutes, I used up a good hour and Stephen spent about 90 minutes +/-.

We met up, grabbed some dinner - where I experienced the tastiest, most refreshing sushi I've ever had! YUM! We then hit a gas station to grab some treats to bring home and share with people and a few snacks for us for the night. Our flight didn't leave till about 1 pm, so we decided to quickly tour the fish market. I didn't take a lot of pictures of this place, but the size and amount of fish in this warehouse was unreal. Early in the morning, like 4:30 AM, they have auctions for restaurants to buy their fish. Pieces of tuna will go for amounts ranging from $5000 - $25000. TUNA!

After the fish market, we headed back to the hotel, washed our feet (fish guts and juice) and then started the long journey back to the airport. We said goodbye to Japan the best way we knew how - we ate at McDonald's. I had a long flight ahead of me and I needed to feel assured that my food would sit well for the next 11.5 hours.

Japan was gorgeous, the people very friendly and helpful, the city is very clean and all around a wonderful place to visit. I actually can't wait to go back!


Monday, November 23, 2009

Ninja's, Castles and Squid

Sorry for the delay in finishing my Japan trip. I wasn't even going to finish it till a few people asked me to. So here it is.

After our whirwind Kyoto-in-a-day trip, we had a few more sites to see before we headed to Hiroshima. Our first stop was Nijo Castle, also known as Ninja Castle. The great thing about this castle is the squeaky floorboards. Unless you walk on the very edges, the floorboards squeak - and are supposed to squeak so the Emperor/Ruler/Whatever could hear anyone coming.

I'm known for my awesome ninja skills. Here am I fighting with Stephen. I obviously won.
And yes, I'm wearing a skirt. The weather was so hot and so humid I wore that skirt for majority of the trip. Here's another gorgeous garden shot of Nijo Castle.

After Nijo, we headed to Osaka to visit Osaka Castle, and sample some tasty food (or so we thought). Osaka Castle - a lovely castle on the outside that has sadly been gutted on the inside.

The castle was gorgeous and we learned lots of neat things inside, but it's not the original interior. However, they did have a super cold drinking fountain that I sat at for about ten minutes.

After Osaka Castle we wanted to wander around downtown Osaka, sample some food and do a bit of shopping. Osaka is supposed to be known for their cuisine and we were so excited to sample some. When we first arrived in Osaka we stopped at a fun restaurant and had some yummy ramen, pot stickers and fried rice. It was very tasty and we were excited to see what fun things we could get for dinner. Boy were we let down! After the castle we wandered up and down this street/shopping area and we decided to get a little something to eat to tide us over till dinner. We saw these large skillets cooking up some tasty treats and we decided to buy 8 of them and just share. Here's what I HEARD as I talked to the lady:

Me: What's inside?
Lady: Tasty delicious food
Me: Yes, I'd like 8 of those.
Lady: Would you like BBQ sauce?
Me: Sure
Lady: Mayo?
Me: Um, no.
Lady: Bacon shavings?
Me: Okay (Pirate LOVES all things bacon and I enjoy the flavor as well, so it seemed harmless)

We get our treat, head to a table and I pop one in my mouth. They are about as big as a quarter but about an inch thick. I started chewing and immediately stopped. I was chewing but something was bouncing inside my mouth and not getting smaller. I spat it out to see giant tentacles in my hand. Delicious treat?! LIAR! Nope - giant squid fried into a ball.
So here's what the conversation really was, but I sure couldn't tell what was being said.
Me: What's inside?
Lady: Chewy squid
Me: Yes, I'd like 8 of those.
Lady: Would you like BBQ sauce?
Me: Sure
Lady: Mayo?
Me: Um, no.
Lady: Dried fish shavings?
Me: Okay (Pirate LOVES all thing bacon and I enjoy the flavor as well)
Yup, what we thought was bacon shavings, was actually dried fish shavings. We had just pissed away 1 yen each - no big deal, but very upsetting. So we headed to our restaurant a few hours later. I ordered chicken - trying to play it safe - and what I learned later is that Japan just mushes all their chicken together - tendoins, veins, everything. It was super chewy and hard. I didn't eat dinner that night and the rest of the group didn't fair as well either. We ended up hitting up a convenience store that night for dinner and eating treats and drinking Coke Zero.

We made it back to our hostel, backed up and prepared to leave for Hiroshima the next morning. On our way to Hiroshima we stopped at Himejii Castle - probably the most gorgeous castle we visited. The weather was beyond awful. 100% humidity (may be a slight exaggeration) and 75 degrees. My jeans were wet and sticking to my legs and my shirt had grown 5 sizes. This was the closest Stephen and I dared to get for this photo. It was too hot to let anything touch you.

After Himejii we boarded the train and headed to Hiroshima for a brief two day trip and then back to Tokyo for our flight home.