Saturday, July 11, 2009

Japan; the final days

It's here, it's finally here! After a month of suspense, i now give you the LAST DAYS of Japan. don't worry. it's not as bad as it seems. the very last day in Japan, we were all so beat, we took very few pictures. i promise.
Now, this is not the case for the penultimate day... there were a LOT of pictures that day. two of my Favorite Things We Did In Japan happened that day: visiting Ryoanji temple, with it's quintessential rock garden; and walking the Philosopher's Walk in the hills above Kyoto. i apologize now. pictures are here.
Our final day was spent, as i mentioned, in relative exhaustion. we did go through what is probably the weirdest district in Tokyo, but pictures of that adventure are woefully lacking. and they are here.
BUT WAIT! there's more! as an added bonus, if you click right now, you'll see Engrish! i collected photos of failed attempts at english. and they are amusing!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Japan, Day 3

okay, i gave you all a nice, long rest before putting up the next, extensive batch of pictures. my love for all things ancient, door-related, and lovely compels me to take lots and lots and lots of pictures. lots.

We started off our day by meeting up with Matt's old roommate from CA and his brother (living in Japan) and sister. they were our tourguides for the day, and did a phenominal job of it! Our first stop was the temple Sanjusangendo, rebuilt in 1266. It's famous for it's huge main hall, containing statues of 1000 buddhas, carved of wood and guilded with gold. photos were not allowed, but i cheated.

Next we went up to Kiyomizu, which is in the hills above Kyoto. this place is hundreds of years old as well, and is built right into the side of the hill, with amazing skill and workmanship. we stopped for lunch at an udon place on our way to our next stop, my favorite of the day; Nijo castle.

Nijo is remarkable for its clever security system. the flooring was constructed in such a way that it squeaks whenever pressure is put on it - no matter how hard or soft. no big deal, right? wood squeaks. except this floor sounds like nightengales when it squeaks! it is magical. i got audio of it, but i'm having an impossible time converting it to a shareable format.

after the castle, we headed closer to the center of town to eat some conveyorbelt sushi and stop in at a tiny wood block print shop. it was a good, long day.

pictures on picassa.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Japan day 2: traveling again

Our second day in Japan was divided between Tokyo, Train, and Kyoto. In the morning, we locked up our luggage and made our way to Akihabara - the famed electronics district of Tokyo. a right turn from the subway ushered us into street upon street lined with stores, booths, neon signs, markets - filled to the brim with every imaginable piece of electronic equipment. i nearly convinced my husband to take advantage of the incredibly advanced technology and incredibly low prices and buy a new camera. alas, you will have to continue to deal with viewing pictures taken with Old Faithful. but we were all pleased to walk through the stores - my brother being pleased above all, shaking with the giddiness of his situation.

after our electronics overload, we boarded a comfortable fast train that took us to Kyoto. a moment to talk about the awesomeness of Japan - they have attendants with a concession cart go through each car on a regular basis. snacks on a train - much better than snakes on a plane.

Tracking down our hotel in Kyoto was relatively easy, and we had a fastastic view of the hills and mountains that surround the historic city. quick aside - when planning this trip, i requested that we spend a good amount of time in Kyoto. it's one of the few cities in Japan that wasn't thoroughly bombed out in one war or another; thus, it still boasts countless temples, shrines, castles and palaces - some of which are older than most of what we can come across in western Europe. and it is, if you know where to go, a beautiful city. the pictures illustrating this won't appear until the next installment of this blog series, though.

By the time we got ourselves settled in the hotel, we were ravenous, and ventured back into town to eat. the map we had was woefully inaccurate regarding the distance between things, so we ended up skipping our original choice for a restaurant we found along the way - and it was marvelous. we sat on mats on the floor, ate absolutely delicious food, and felt much, much better after. my brother did get leg cramps periodically and nearly flipped the table over with his manuvering once. after dinner, we walked around central Kyoto, scouting out post offices (best places to exchange money, strangely enough) and pharmacies so we could find them again when they opened the next day. then we slept, a lot, in preparation for the Day Of Touring Cool Places that was ahead of us.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Last day of Korea/First Day of Japan

Our last day in Korea was spent, for the most part, relaxing and doing laundry. i don't take pictures of relaxing/laundry. we did incorporate some Korean pizza into the mix, and after relax/laundry time, we did go to the 60th floor of a huge skyscraper to watch the sun set. the floor we went to to do this also had a pseudo-interactive-art gallery. huh. then we went on a boat cruise. the boat itself was cute-ified, but the cruise was awesome.

we woke up the next morning bright and early to get to the airport to catch our plane to Japan. once we were in Japan, i think the better part of our time was spent in the airport, getting train tickets, storing luggage, proving we had no swine flu bits on us. i fell in love with Japanese efficiency from the moment we landed. security did not take long to get through, and once we were through, our luggage was off the carousel and lined up neatly, waiting for us. the trains were fast and clean and very, VERY much on time. our first hotel was posh and fabulous. though, ironically, the area we stayed in had very limited and expensive choices if we wanted to eat Japanese, so we had to get Italian.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Korea - day 3

Day 3 in Korea was our see-lots-of-traditional-things-and-shop day. Linda served as tour guide and did a fantastic job of it. we started off at a traditional Korean village - Namsan-gol. "village" is a bit of a misnomer. while it replicates village life, most of the buildings there now did not start off there. it's become sort of a no-kill shelter for historic buildings from all over Korea. they move the buildings over to this spot, and arrange them in a village-like setup, and there you go.

We had lunch at a newly-opened nice restaurant in-between site visits. the restaurant specialized in "american" food. american remixed through Korea was an interesting (good, but different) taste sensation.

our next stop was Gyeongbokgung Palace. quite a bit of this palace is rebuilt post: several fires. but it's still spectacular. and you will find that i go on and on about how awesome traditional asian architecture is. the open-to-the-outside door concept would not work with Charles City summers, but one can imagine.

post-palace, we stopped off for a coffee break at a lovely coffee/book shop, and then headed to the markets, where we dropped some Won. we had indian for dinner, found another bunch of markets, and then collapsed for the day.

far too many pictures on picasa

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Korea, day 2

Our second day in Korea worked out to be quite spectacular. we started the day at Matt's (and now our) friend, Linda's, church. After that we ate what was, i think, the best meal i had in Asia. Then we squished ourselves into Matt's Broken Little Tiny Car and toured the base and hangar Matt spent most of his military life in. we were even permitted to climb aboard one of the blackhawks he flies. we were not, however, permitted to gain access to the knowledge of what, exactly, the disco ball on top of the blackhawks is. "that's classified," was the repeated response.

After our stint at Camp Humphreys, we headed back to Seoul to catch the Lantern Festival in honor of Buddha's birthday. this was a particularly exciting treat for me, as i originally thought we would miss it.
the plethora of photos and videos are extensive enough to show just how excited i was. Seoul hosts this festival every year, and the main street overflows with thousands of participants, carrying a near-unending supply of lanterns and floats, all made and painted by hand. simply beautiful. as an added bonus, justin decided to experiment with local cuisine at the parade, and ate silk worm larvae. i think the pictures speak for themselves regarding his preference.

pictures on picasa here and here

i don't expect anyone to get through them all. i am a notoriously generous picture-taker.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Korea, day 1

we've arrived back safely from our epic Asian adventure. i'm slowly putting together far too many pictures. first installment: Korea day 1.

after an extremely long plane ride, Justin, Liz and i met my brother and our friend, Linda, at the airport in Incheon. from there, we found some food and went to sleep. the next day, we got up early and went to an open market, where we found all sorts of fantastically inexpensive treasures, as well as some local foods that were, uh, fishy.

then we took a sobering tour of the Demilitarized Zone that lies between North and South Korea. learning about some of the ridiculous antics n. korea has been up to sent shivers down my spine. yet South Korea is not in a constant state of panic. most folks get on with their daily lives, work, eat, play - all without giving thought to the threat that is miles from them doing who-knows-what.

pictures of this adventure are on Picasa.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

When to Clean What

I dislike cleaning, except in occasional bursts. But I dislike living in filth more, so I clean. Regularly, I wonder if there is a good rhythm or schedule I could follow for cleaning – particularly regarding the neglected areas of cleaning walls, windows, etc. So I went about searching for answers and found the following list on Yahoo Answers, posted by “Teri”… whoever she is, she’s fantastically organized. While I don’t know that I can maintain as rigorous of a schedule as she has, and have yet to see the point in making beds, I still think this is marvelously helpful and figured I should share with y’all.

As further helpful advice, she said, “I keep a calendar so that the 2x and 1x per year stuff does not slide and we don't end up doing it all on the same day.”

- Make beds
- Pick up and put things away
- Vacuum (may only need to do 1-2x per week if you do not have childen or animals)
- Clean kitchen after dinner
(mel's note - i would add sweep to this list, because we have a sheddy dog and a kitchen that doesn't take well to vacuuming)

- Laundry
- Dusting- Clean Bathrooms
- Deep cleaning of one room every weekend (i.e. kitchen deep clean means I clean out refrigerator, cabinets, oven; a bedroom deep clean involves cleaning out drawers and closets and getting rid of stuff we don't use, etc.) (mel's note - yeah... that's going to be more like once-a-month for me, if i'm lucky)
- Polish/clean wood and tile floors
- Grocery shopping
- Clean/upkeep of swimming pool if you have one and it's in season
- Mow lawn
- Landscaping upkeep (trim bushes, pull weeds)

- Do a thorough spring-cleaning. Wash walls and windows, shampoo and vacuum carpeting, polish floors, etc.
- Paint/repaint any rooms that need touch-ups.
- Clean or replace the filter in your air conditioning system
- Deep clean swimming pools, ponds and/or fountains. Do repairs as needed.
- Repair or replace damaged window screens and weather-stripping.
- Caulk open joints around windows and doors.
- Inspect rain gutters for rusted and damaged areas.
- Repair or replace faulty gates, fence posts, landscape borders, etc.
- Clean decks, gazebos, fences and patio furniture. If your furniture or deck is made of wood, pour water on the surface; if it doesn't bead up, it needs to be refinished.
- Replace batteries in safety appliances, such as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Lanscaping (plant flowers, etc.)

- Check the exterior walls of your home for cracks, peeling paint or other damage.
- Cut and remove branches around the roofline to keep squirrels and other pests away.
- Check outdoor faucets.
- Clean the water heater and check that it is functioning correctly.
- Inspect and clean the fireplace before lighting your first fire in the winter.
- Check the furnace filter and replace if necessary. (mel's note - what furnace filter?? do i even have a furnace??)
- Rid rain gutters of leaves and other debris that may get in the way of drainage and promote rusting.
- Inspect crawl space beneath the house (mel's note -yeah, that's going to be NOT my job)
- Inspect grout and caulking around sinks, tubs and showers.
- Remove and clean the drain plugs from sinks and tubs.
- Remove accumulated mineral deposits from showerheads by soaking or scrubbing them with white vinegar.
- Inspect your roof from the ground with binoculars. Look for loose, missing or damaged roofing materials.
- Clean the underside of range hood and clean or replace the filter.
- Inspect your washing machine and dryer. Remove lint that's accumulated from the dryer drum to where the air is vented outside.
- Inspect and clean kitchen appliances, including the stove, dishwasher, garbage disposal, exhaust fans, etc.

mel's note - what would you add/take away?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Tyranny has Ended

My pet frog died last month. Before you get all warm-and-fuzzily schmoopy about your condolences, let me say this: i am not sad about it. and lest you think me a calloused, uncaring, jerk of a pet owner, keep reading. it will make sense, i promise.

When I was in high school, a friend of mine gave me a little froglet from her pond for my birthday. i've always been fond of frogs - i think they're cute with their little arms and legs and all their swimming around and whatnot. i gladly accepted the gift, named him Bob and got a tank for him. i figured he'd be a good pet for a few years and would have run the course of his happy little life before i had to leave for college.

that was 17 years ago. Let me say that again: SEVENTEEN YEARS. Frogs like him are supposed to live three to five years in the wild. But Bob... he lived for SEVENTEEN years. That's exponentially longer than he was supposed to live.

how did Bob do this, you ask? exercise routine? eat well? stay away from smoking? no. not at all. he lived this long because he was fueled by the pure evil that pulsed through him.

for years, i thought Bob was lonely - he'd sing his mating song in the spring, floating back and forth in the tank. i got him some frog companions. he ATE them. ATE THEM! then i tried fish. nope, he ate them as well. so i started sticking plastic toys in the tank. well, just look at the picture to see what he did to Freud! He bit me regularly, he beat himself along the walls of the tank just to defy me... he was horrible. This frog managed to survive 10 moves and destroy three tanks and countless water filter pumps with the gunk he produced. he was, as i have already stated, evil.

so no, i wasn't sad when he died. i was glad to get his crusty tank out of the house. my only sadness is for the long line of victims he left in his wake. evil, evil frog. did i mention that he was evil? because he was.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Prone to Wander

Come Thou Fount is, perhaps, my favorite hymn. and now, it has physical representation. my dear friend and The-Best-Artist-In-The-Whole-Wide-World made this:

oh, my soul. it's perfect; absolutely perfect.

in times of economic trouble, it may seem wise not to invest in art, but this is actually the best time to do it if you can - the value will only ever go up. so you should check out her website and see if you can snag a breath-taking piece or two. however, if you buy the painting shown above, i will find out where you live and steal it from you, eighth commandment or no eighth commandment...