Arigatou and hai…

Thank you and yes. I could understand the words when said to us, and could use them at the appropriate time…. and that’s pretty much it.  But in my book, that’s a foreign language “win” when the language is as vastly different from English as Japanese is. Our recent visit to Japan was the first time I’d ever been in a country that uses a completely different alphabet. It was odd not being able to understand what was said or written, but I did perfectly fine roaming Tokyo by myself.  OK, so maybe perfectly fine is exaggerating a bit… I usually found what I was looking for after a few tried.  (Largely thanks to the English signage on the subways.)

Here’s a rundown of the fun we had while in Japan:

Our first day was cold, snowy and rainy but we managed to get some amazingly fresh sushi for second breakfast.  We let the chef choose for us and aren’t sure what we ate.


This fish was alive 5 hours earlier. Some of it still may have been when we ate it.


Lots of goodies for sale at the fish market


Plus more citrus varieties in one place than I’ve ever seen

We took the bullet train to Nagano then travelled to Shibu Onsen for some hot baths and Japanese Macaque (aka Snow monkeys!)


Two bullet trains nose to nose


We are both furry, though only one of us was warm (hint: not me)


Those eyes say, “Put me in your pocket and take me home”. I just know it.


Dave’s new friend


Zero degrees, 7am, wandering the streets in a kimono on our way to an onsen (hot bath)


Sure we were cold, but the water bubbling up from the ground was hot enough to boil eggs

That week, I explored while Dave had meetings.

Some of my favorite places were the food markets in the basement of department stores.  Besides the copious amount of “sweets” and baked goods (two things I didn’t know the Japanese are obsessed with), they have top-notch produce stands.  $140 melon? Check.  $7 strawberry?  Yep, got that, too.  And all of it perfect.


That’s one strawberry, for just a bit over $7.

I found a sushi restaurant that makes conveyor-belt-sushi look antiquated.  We sat at a bar with our own tablets to order from and the food arrived in front of us on a little shuttle train.  Such a treat since it required no speaking or understanding of Japanese.

On one fun night we went to the Robot Restaurant. I still don’t know what we saw, I am barely on board with the fact that it wasn’t all dreamt.


Welcome. I am weird.


A two-headed robot rolling by, because why not?

Midweek, I took a day trip to see Mt. Fuji.  The Japanese are really proud of it, but other than being elusive it’s not all that spectacular.  Sorry dudes.


The peak is apparently only visible 30% of the time.


Clouds overtook the mountain right after this and it was gone for the rest of the day.

Here’s a link if you want to see more pics, and also the videos (in the “vid” folder at the top of the page) which wordpress doesn’t let me upload.  I’ll just say that you need to see these videos– I’ve got a monkey donkey-kicking an umbrella, robot boxing, and sushi on-demand.  What more could I hope for from a trip abroad?

Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu!  

(or, “Excuse me for leaving first.”  It’s typically said when someone leaves the office at night, and they are literally apologizing for leaving before others– which may be at 10pm! )

tentatively joyful,

Winter in Hawaii isn’t so bad

I’ve gotten the urge to blog, so 3 months must have gone by already.

Here’s a quick update:  the rest of November was slow, as was December.  Sadly, on Christmas Day we had to let our cat Phiz go.  We’d had him since we first moved into our apartment in Falls Church and loved him for almost 15 years.  I really do miss him everyday, even if that makes me a crazy cat lady.  Indey is adjusting to having us devote all annoying love towards him.


In January I got more involved in my casework at the Relief Society.  I’m really enjoying it, and it is giving me a glimpse into the world of personal financial coaching which is where I want to head.  (I’m a little scared of the pursuit of coaching as a career since I’ve made it my life’s habit not to actually set goals, I guess for fear of failure.  But it’s probably about time I set one, so there it is.)

We had some friends visit mid month and it was our first time having guests in our new (SMALL) home.  I think it worked out just fine and we are looking to more guests in the future.


At the end of the month we travelled to Japan for about a week and a half.  I’ll post those pics in a separate post, because I think it’ll take a lot of text to explain the Robot Restaurant.  I will leave you with this pic though, because it’s just about the cutest thing ever.   No, not a robot, that’s a snow monkey.


And hopefully I’ll have some pics of our soon-to-be-completed landscaping.  We are “Hawaii”-fying the place and even mid-project it looks amazing!

tentatively joyful,

Finally some house pics

It’s taken a while to get things straight in the new house, and the minute we got it looking OK, we started another project or unpacking endeavor.  So I finally pushed aside the clutter long enough to take some pics.  It was hard taking our stuff Alexandria stuff and making it work in a beachy place, but I think it turned out well.


Living room


Mauka (towards the mountain) patio


Back yard– landscaping to come soon hopefully


Makai (toward the ocean) patio


Kitchen with our DIY beadboard cabinets



Dave’s handiwork getting our countertop dishwasher on a pull out drawer


Dining room with painted floor cloth




Hallway with the sign I made with a friend


Bedroom (and Phiz)

No guest room pics since it isn’t done yet.  But it’ll be ready for guests soon!

tentatively joyful,

Well if that wasn’t joy I don’t know what is

Last weekend we took a little getaway trip to the Big Island.  (For those still confused, no, I do not live on Hawaii.  I live IN Hawaii, ON Oahu.  The most populous island, but not the biggest.  Straight now?)  After coming out of a really stressful summer, we realized that we hadn’t been on a trip just the two of us since, well, we couldn’t remember.  Certainly not since we’ve been here.  (OK, I just had to check and it was April 2013.)  We decided a few days in a hotel with A/C and without barking dogs, yelling neighbors, and musty everything would do us good.  Not to mention some fun Hawaii activities.

Three days was all we could spare since I felt too guilty to skip out on work Monday since that’s the only day I work right now.  So we headed out early Friday morning for what was to become my 2nd favorite of the three days.  We vegged out around the hotel pool with a stack of magazines and ate Cheetos on the bed. (Cuz that’s how we roll.)  That night we had a great dinner of local Monchong fish in an old plantation-style restaurant.  Delish!

On Saturday we got up early to pick up our kayak for a morning on Kealakekua Bay (aka where Captain Cook landed when he “discovered” Hawaii.)  We saw a pod of spinner dolphins but they kept their distance.  When we jumped in to snorkel we couldn’t believe how clear the water was.  80-100′ visibility of clear blue water with such vibrant fish life.


It was like we were in a giant aquarium


That’s Dave waaaaaay down there. See how clear it is?

On the way back across the bay the dolphins came pretty close and hung out awhile doing a little tail slapping, lots of spinning up out of the water, and what turned out to be dolphin sex.  Watching them (spin not procreate) was enough to make me giddy and just laugh and clap happily.   That fun was just the beginning for the day.  Later we boarded the dive boat for an afternoon dive and the evening manta dive.  I’d never seen a manta ray and was really excited to see them that evening.  We got lucky and spotted a few on the afternoon dive as they cruised by.

My first manta ray!!

My first manta ray!!

Happy divers in the sunset

Happy divers in the sunset

I honestly thought that the night dive would be similar, with just more mantas swimming by.  I tell ya, I have never been so happy to be so wrong.  The dive that night was one of the most amazing experiences.  The mantas fed on the plankton that our flashlights were attracting, and they would swim directly at us and then swoop up and away at the last second.  They even came from behind so they would appear right above us and be swimming away in front of us before we knew it.


It was like a manta disco!


I squealed and laughed for the whole 45 minutes.  (Well, there was that one shriek when I looked down and saw a much despised eel slinking around me as I sat on the ocean floor. I do NOT do eels.)

Check out the video that Dave took. (That’s me in the bottom right.) Amazing!

We got up early the next day to drive over to the other side of the island for more adventures.  Ziplining through the trees at a botanical garden was a great way to spend a morning.


Then after exploring some nice waterfalls,


Hawaii’s tallest free-standing fall


we were actually so tired from the past two days that we parked in a quiet waterfront park and napped.  Like homeless people.  But I loved it.  (I blame my muscle relaxers, which I needed to take after awaking that morning to an unmovable neck due to staring straight up for 45 minutes the night before.  Oh the prices we pay for amazing experiences.)  We were then rested enough to carry on and head up towards the volcano.  There was a winery on the way so of course I checked it out.   I really do think it tasted like lava ash.  Well, it smelled like it anyway.  Then we headed to a big crater with glowing lava.  We had packed a picnic dinner so we stretched out in the car (it was getting chilly, we weren’t just weirdly attached to the rental car, I swear) and ate while we waited for it to get dark enough for the glow to be really cool.


On the 2 hour drive back home, we headed through the middle of the island up Mauna Kea which is the highest summit in the state.  Not only was the clear view of the stars absolutely stunning, we were tickled watching the outside temperature drop to the high 40s.  Now I know that’s nothing special to y’all heading into the Polar Vortex, but the sheer amount of sweat we have been experiencing here on a daily basis made the chilly temps such a treat.

And then it was up the next morning so we could fly back in time for me to get to work at noon.  Quite a little happy trip :-)

tentatively joyful,

Not perfect til it’s done

I’m well aware of the saying that one should not let perfection be the enemy of good.  People say a lot of things, so whatever.  I am perfectionist, so nothing is done until it is perfect (unless I’m feeling lazy, then well, eh.)  I know I said I’d write more, even if it was just short snippets.   My last post was almost a month ago so — fail.  I’m just so busy being fabulous that I don’t find time to write, OK?   Anyway, here ‘s a quick update.  We closed on our new home at the end of September.  I love it, it is such a great home and I am having a great time making it ours.  That being said, of course you can’t see any recent pictures because I’m not done yet, duh!  There will be a grand unveiling in the coming months, because I’m working really hard to get everything done in a short amount of time so that we can enjoy it all for as long as possible before me leave the island.  There will still be a few projects that I won’t tackle yet… I may save a few good ones for whenever my mom visits, hopefully late winter.  But since you’re curious, here are a few pics from when we moved in.  It’s already looking pretty good, but as we’ve discussed, good isn’t good enough.  The last one is actually from just now since we didn’t take many outdoor pics before.


Front door




Dining room


Living room




Spare bedroom


Master bedroom


Front yard




So there ya go.  Maybe more pics in a few weeks.

Here’s what else I’ve been up to:

– biking EVERYwhere.  I’m loving living where it’s flat (if you remember the last house was at the top of two steep roads.  I gave up on walking or biking most places simply because getting home was the worst.) I bike to the hardware store, dentist, work, and my favorite:  home from happy hour!

– starting my training for the financial case work (here).  I’m really excited about diving in and getting into some cases.

– doing a little snorkeling and diving.  Dive sites get tough to find as the summer ends since the surf pics up.  North Shore is already kicking with 20 foot waves.  Snorkeling should remain pretty great at one of our local beaches so that’s a nice standby. We dove in Honolulu today.  The weirdest part is that we were at a park where there is a pretty large homeless camp.  So we showered off after the dive along side a family doing their morning bathing and laundry.  That’s Hawaii in a nutshell– the pleasure seekers side by side with the homeless.  Kinda sad.  Anyway… that’s it for now.  To all my east coast peeps, enjoy fall a little extra for me.  Sure I can bake an apple pie and carve a pumpkin but it’s not the same.  I do love this time of year in Virginia.
tentatively joyful,

Now is exactly the right time to craft gin

I have a lot of packing to do before we move on some yet-to-be-determined day(s) in the next two weeks.  My to do list tells me the bedrooms are up for a clean today.  And I have to get dressed before the plumber comes.  But instead, I’m finishing my gin.  No, not finishing OFF the gin, it’s 10:30 am here and I have to work at noon.  I’m finishing crafting my very own gin. I figured that I’ve mentioned it enough times on here, promising to regale you with stories “next time.”  Well, what better time than now?  (Yes, I admit we have just established that there would indeed be a better time, but, eh.)  It really doesn’t take much hands on work as it is just filtering right now so I’m not being horribly irresponsible.  I have actually done some packing.

So here’s what I’ve got going on.

All the makings of something great

All the makings of something great

I started with a giant bottle of vodka from Costco (not pictured).  I usually use their brand, but they were out so I tried Skyy.  We are talking 1.75L for $14. I know of no greater bargain in life.  (Right now, my Virginia peeps are so jealous of the fact that Costco sells liquor here.)   The quality of the vodka doesn’t have to be great as I work some magic that results in a smoothness you won’t believe.  You may be wondering what’s up with starting with vodka.  Well, gin is just a clear base alcohol infused with, at the very least, juniper berries.  Vodka makes a great base since I’m not up for moonshining.

Next comes the botanicals.  That’s a fancy way of saying all the junk that goes into making gin gin.  I don’t follow the recipe terribly closely, rather I use it as a guideline.  Each batch comes out different since I really don’t care enough to pay attention and document what I’ve done.  Then the mixture sits on my counter for over a week, getting a slosh every day or so to mix it up.  You can see it turns the once clear vodka into a pretty dark product.  Good thing I don’t love gin for its looks.  I guess I’ve been lying when I say that I don’t drink brown liquors.  I meant the scary stuff like bourbon, but now I’ll just have to eat drink my words.

Next comes the filtering, also known as the magic part.  I pass it through a gin-dedicated Brita water pitcher no less than 7 times. That reminds me, I have to go send it through again.

And there you have it– the smoothest cheap “homemade” gin this side of, hmm… what’s around here… the International Date line?  Equator? Let’s go with this side of an active volcano.

I’ve been working on infusing some fun flavors into the gin but nothing fabulous yet. Pineapple didn’t do much, maybe cucumber next.  I’m determined to get the ginger infusion right– tough since it adds bite after I smooth it out.  It’s hard work, but someone has to avoid real life and do it, right?

Here’s the basic recipe if you’re interested

  • 6 1/2 c vodka
  • 20 grams dried juniper berries
  • 8 grams whole coriander, crushed 
  • 2 grams dried orange peel (I tried fresh this time since I was impatient)
  • 2 grams dried lemon peel (ditto)
  • 3 grams whole cinnamon
  • 1 whole cardamom pod, crushed (I often don’t have this)

I exercise strong self control. I never drink anything stronger than gin before breakfast.
              W.C. Fields

tentatively joyful,

Twenty years come and gone

Twenty years come and gone…  I might as well be dreaming. 

As I paraphrase Paul Simon, I’m wrapping up a great visit back east.  I’m feeling reflective and pensive and yes, a wee tad bored because I’m barely two hours into my 8 hour flight.

I hadn’t planned on a trip to Virginia so soon after my May visit, but the stars aligned. About three months ago I got news of an upcoming twenty year high school reunion. I have mixed feelings about my school years and hadn’t planned on going. However, I soon learned that our Alexandria home needed a little work, which if I did myself would save enough cash for half my plane ticket. That was enough convincing—sentimentality doesn’t get me, frugality does. Since my visit in May was mostly about family, I decided that this visit was going to be about friends.

The visit was great; of course there was tons of fun with the nieces and nephews, bonding with my mom over home repairs, and catching up with my absent love– Trader Joe’s. But also a good chunk of time with friends from various chapters of my life. Friends from whom I got much needed advice and laughs, updates on 20 years of interesting lives and more laughs, and then some more laughs after that—sensing a trend? I clearly have no time for anyone who can’t make me double over in laughter.

Milestone events like a reunion can make a gal pause to evaluate her life. (A reunion can also make a gal pause to ask, “Why don’t I remember that?!?” but I will not go down the oh-I’m-so-old path today.) Luckily I’ve been picking apart my life for a while now so I had a bit of a head start. I didn’t have any revelations, but I did get some personal confirmation to keep heading in the direction I’m going.

One of the things I’d like to pursue in this new direction is getting into some sort of financial coaching. I’m getting ever closer to a life full of joy, but a big piece that’s missing is a sense of purpose. I need to use my powers for good, not evil—oh wait wrong comic book. I need to feel like my skills are being used in some way for the betterment of something. My volunteer gig will hopefully get me heading towards that. The hardest part will be putting myself out there. I’m not very good trying things at which I may fail. I give anyone reading this permission to nag me about it.

So, that’s it for today. I’m going to try and do shorter, more frequent posts in hopes of getting a little momentum going.

tentatively joyful,


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