11.27.2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is my second Thanksgiving dinner of the week. Kurt and I celebrated with my dad on Monday, and today we'll have dinner with his family up in Michigan. Two Thanksgiving dinners makes for a very good year. Who knows, the sun might even pop out a bit this afternoon.

I hope everyone has a wonderful day full of family and friends and good food (and FOOTBALL)!

11.26.2008

Tick Magnet

Kurt came in today with what looked like a sunflower seed stuck to his leg. We figured out it was a tick (thank you Google!), and from the size, we guess it's been feasting on him for at least a couple of weeks. We spent the afternoon at the doc having it removed. The good news is that with two stitches and 21 days of antibiotics, he should be as good as new. The bad news is no hot tub for the rest of the week while it heals. Poor Dr. H.

Lost in Translation

I traveled via shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Nikko to visit the World Heritage site. Because I'm cheap, I decided to forgo the fast ride coming home and take a regular train. This is how my conversation with the ticket seller went:

Me: I'd like a ticket to Asa-kusa.

Him: (Giant pause) Oh! You mean A-sak-sa?

Me: Er .. sure?

Him: You want rapid section or limited express?

Me: What's the difference?

Him: One is rapid, the other express.

Me: Um .....

I ended up choosing rapid because who doesn't want to the train to be rapid, right? Wrong! "Rapid" is marketing-speak for "stops at every podunk town along the way". It took me 2.5 hours to travel 60 kilometers back to Tokyo. I saw kids heading home from school, older ladies returning from their shopping, but it quickly became frustrating. Lesson learned: the answer in Japan is always express.

11.21.2008

Yup, this would be me

From Wikipedia:

The symptoms of jet lag can be quite varied and may include the following:

* Loss of appetite, nausea, digestive problems
* Headache, sinus irritation
* Fatigue, irregular sleep patterns, Insomnia
* Disorientation, grogginess, irritability
* Mild depression

I've been to Europe before but never experienced anything like this. I feel like I've been run over by a truck. One website says it takes one day for every time zone which would mean 14 days of this. Inconceivable! The main advice seems to be eating well, staying hydrated and sleeping. Melatonin is mentioned occasionally, but opinion varies on its safety and effectiveness. I guess I'll just tough it out. Tokyo stories coming once I'm back among the living!

11.19.2008

12898 miles, 854 pictures, 2 bandaged feet

... and some wicked jet lag, too.

When I get back on Indy time (and am thinking clearly again), I'll share some stories and pics from the Great Japan Adventure.

I'm trying to hold out until 9pm, so I can finally get some rest. Only 40 minutes to go ...

11.10.2008

One Minute Writer

I couldn't resist, I had to share this blog before I left. It's a daily one minute writing prompt, timer included. Having used prompts at an Amherst writer's method seminar, I can vouch that they're a great way to get the creative juices flowing. I know how I'll be spending one minute a day!

(Sayonara for real this time!)

Sayonara!

I'm off to Tokyo tomorrow! I've filled my wallet with yen, read the travel books, and stocked up on protein bars for the flight. I even set the roster for my fantasy football team for next week. You can't lose if you don't play, right? All that's left is to pack the bags, and I'm ready for my first trip to Asia.

Intimidating:
- 14 hour flight in coach on a full plane - ARGH!
- 24 hour door-to-door travel
- Jet lag
- Finding ATMs that take western cards
- Not speaking Japanese - hopefully 'please', 'thank you' and lots of bowing will get me through
- Food - I've never much enjoyed Japanese food here in America, but I might feel differently when I try the real deal. If nothing else, I can have soba (noodles) and yakitori (chicken on a stick).
- Shinjuku station: 3.6 million people pass through each day. There are 65 exits. And I'm supposed to figure this out.
- Japanese toilets - I've heard stories. I'll leave it at that.

Exciting:
- Mt. Fuji!!! Hopefully, I'll have a clear morning and be able to get a view from the Metropolitan Government Building.
- Kamakura to see the great Buddha
- Meiji Jingu Shrine
- Japanese gardens - I'm hoping for fall color, but I may be a notch early.
- The Shibuya scramble and the statue of Hachiko
- Seeing the crazy Japanese street fashion in Harajuku and checking out the high end shopping in Ginza
- Attending a traditional tea ceremony
- Sushi for breakfast at the Tsukiji fish market (this might go under intimidating, we'll see)
- Jazz clubs (Blue Note Tokyo, Shinjuku Pit Inn, Harajuku Keynote)

Sayonara! I'll be back next week with stories and pictures (assuming I can find my way out of Shinjuku station).

11.08.2008

Greetings from Floyd

How cute is this? 5 year old Floyd is sure better traveled than my Ernster! Maybe it helps to be a purse dog.

(Ernie weighs 15.5 pounds and is therefore far too large to fit in a purse. Plus, his shih tzu pride would never allow it.)

A new look

As you've probably noticed (if not, seek help), the blog has a new look. I was tired of the blogger template that lots of people have, so I went searching for a new one last night. The mistake: starting the search at 11:30pm. It was 2:30am (!!!) before the new template was installed and functional. In the interim, I looked at hundreds of designs and tried out at least 6 or 7 others. Only 2 were serious contenders, but I couldn't get the blasted things to work. One refused to add the image that made it worthwhile (not sure it was "me" anyway, but it was super cool), and the other couldn't accommodate the length of my blog name. Given that I know nothing about html, this was like running into a brick wall. I tried to go in and make adjustments, but it was beyond me to know which line of nonsense needed to be tweaked.

The one I settled on gets points for actually working (hurrah!) and for the groovy, relaxing blue design up top. I hope the smaller font is still readable for everyone. This was something I tried to tweak last night, but every attempt to make it bigger made it disappear. Hrumph. Maybe someday I'll learn a little html and do something truly custom. In the interim, blue swirls it is!

11.07.2008

A Thanksgiving Story

The only Thanksgiving movie that comes to mind readily is Home for the Holidays with Holly Hunter. While I found it funny, the cynical tone doesn't exactly get me in the Thanksgiving spirit. More suited to the mood of the holiday is What's Cooking? which tells the story of 4 Thanksgivings in Los Angeles - one Jewish, one Vietnamese, one Latino, and one African-American. Family drama is interspersed with each culture's take on the traditional dinner. The shots of the food are gorgeous (and lingering). Do not see this one on an empty stomach. While the acting is inconsistent and the stories are occasionally predictable, the film is fact-paced and engaging and the characters likable. It was especially nice to see the common elements of the holiday (be it turkey or family drama) that transcend cultural differences.

My rating: 6/10

Book recommendation: Left To Tell

This disturbing news out of the Congo brought to mind one of the most moving books I've ever read. Left To Tell by Imaculee Ilibagiza is the true story of a woman who survived the Rwandan holocaust by hiding in a small bathroom with 6 other women. She has been called Rwanda's Anne Frank, and her story of survival, faith, and forgiveness is powerful and inspiring. Her mission now is to make sure the world understands and remembers, so that such a tragedy never happens again.

Free movies

You can catch full length movies and tv episodes at Fancast and IMDB. Since nothing in life is truly free, you will have to sit through and ad here and there. Still, pretty nifty.

11.05.2008

Best place to get your Zen on

For two years running, the Inner Peace Yoga Center has been voted Indiana's Best in TheIndyChannel's A-list awards. I'm a regular in their beginner two class and can vouch for the high quality instruction and relaxed atmosphere. When my class burst out laughing when the teacher suggested we do 'head-to-knee', I knew I was in the right place. The instructors emphasize proper breathing and alignment and encourage everyone to go at their own pace. Classes end with total body relaxation and in the beginner two class, chanting and alternate nostril breathing (nodi sodhana).

While all of the classes have been good, my favorite is the beginner one class taught by Charles (the owner) on Monday night. He explains the poses clearly and brings humor (and many years experience) to the lesson. In addition to yoga, meditation classes are offered quarterly and chanting takes place on the last Friday of every month. (No singing ability is required - if they let someone as tone deaf as me sing, all are clearly welcome.)

11.04.2008

The Well Water Project

Clean, plentiful water is a blessing we tend to take for granted. We turn on the tap, and water flows freely and abundantly. Over a billion people around the world don't share this luxury. From waterborne disease to lack of irrigation for crops, their life hangs in the balance due to the lack of clean water. A small church north of Indianapolis has set the goal of raising over $10k to help Horizon International build two wells in Africa so they can expand their reach in serving AIDS orphans. Every dollar donated to The Well Water Project goes directly to the building of the wells. Your donation can help to bring life and hope to children who have known hardships few of us can imagine.

11.03.2008

Please look after this bear. Thank you!

While poking through my childhood bedroom last night, I found a bright red box high on the closet shelf. Inside ... Paddington Bear! I hadn't seen him in ages. Poor Paddington. He was always a favorite growing up. Marmalade sandwiches, hard stares, and of course, darkest Peru. He's custom made for little girls (and big girls?) with wild imaginations and the itch to travel. Thankfully, I liberated him in time for his 50th anniversary (ok, a notch late - I've probably earned a hard stare myself!).

11.02.2008

I love Halloween

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Candy apples, scary movies, silly costumes - what's not to love? This year Dr. H and I handed out 53 pieces of candy. I only bought 64, so we came in just under the wire. My dad called and warned me about group of 30 (!!!) kids heading my way, but they never made it here, thank goodness. I was down to about 15 pieces left when he called.

Best costume this year: A 5 year old in a clown suit. Pretty mundane except for the red nose that honked when you squeezed it. Awesome. I bet she was so sick it by the end of the night. Poor girl.

I did my cop-out costume of black tee, ears and tail. Instant kitty! At least I did something, unlike some people I know (Kurt!). I tried to get him to buy the banana suit we saw at Wal-Mart, but he wasn't feeling it. Hopefully next year we'll plan better and come up with coordinating outfits. I think Sonny and Cher has potential. Lucy and Ricky, maybe?

The highlight of the weekend was visiting Kurt's family and playing with his niece and nephew. They were in costume, of course, and looking fabulous. It was exhausting and wonderful with glorious weather to boot! Perfection.

Kitties! Me and James the Fabulous Orange Cat