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September 17, 2011

My trip to the UK and books, books, books!

Hello.
...
Yes, I know...I have been a VERY bad blogger. SO here are my excuses and everything in between!

1. Work became really busy.  I mean REALLY busy...
2. I went to the UK!!!! in July.
Here are the pictures:
the British Museum
Spent the whole day here and still didn't get to see everything...
The weather was fantastic during my whole stay in London!
the feet of a buddha
After the British Museum, I went to a lovely antiquarian bookseller...
and bought:
a 1871 edition of the Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
and a 1911 edition of Intentions by Oscar Wilde
the red book on the left is a recent buy.
It is a reproduction (facsimile) of the 1911 first edition of 
The Concise Oxford Dictionary
published to commemorate the 100th anniversary. 
It looks fabulous with the old books that I have.


The inside of the Tate Modern Museum
I spent at least 5 hours here!

London old and new.

Keble College in Oxford. The dining hall.

The dorm room I stayed in at Keble College.
I wonder who is staying there now.  
I left a copy of Haruki Murakami's "Kafka on the Shore" on the bookshelf.

I had so  much fun in the UK. 
It was only a few weeks later that the riots in London started and that made me very sad...

3. In August I went to Okinawa:
and saw people dancing in the streets.
Visited Shuri Castle on my day off and found 

an interesting looking spigot!

4. At the end of August I had a few days of vacation and visited Nagasaki.  Found a very interesting structure:
that turned out to be a very long slide!
...



5. I also went to two other Prefectures in Japan (sorry no pictures) and of course Tokyo again...all for work...

But a few things arrived in the mail that reminded me of the blogging world...
first it was :
the author Lisa's bloodspot blog is here:
Finally going to start reading this now!

Which reminded me I have to write a blog on this wonderful series

but I might just wait till her new book arrives!
In the meantime check out the author's blog here:

And then IT came...

If you are a longtime blogger fan then she needs no introduction...
Tess the author of the Life at Willow Manor blog has published her first booklet of poems.
I said I would buy it if she published it and I have.  It arrived safely here in Japan just a few weeks ago.  I used to love poems but drifted away not being able to find anything new that resonated...but Patina (as is the Willow Manor blog) is filled with poems that are lovely to read out loud and lovely to read silently just like a short story.

I looked up Patina in my brand new First Edition Concise Oxford Dictionary and it says,

"Patina: Incrustation, usu. green, on surface of old bronze, esteemed as ornament. "

Hello again.  I think I am back at blogging!





April 10, 2011

Magic.


Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki

I can't believe I have never posted about Okonomiyaki.  Some call it the Japanese style pizza but I think it is more like a layered crepe. A crepe with diced cabbage and any other vegetable you like with meat, prawn or squid in between.  I like mine with cheese.  

The finishing touches are sauce and mayonnaise with bonita flakes and "aonori" green seaweed flakes are sprinkled on top.  The one in the above picture is a "negi yaki" so there are tons of sliced green onions on them!

http://www.justhungry.com/okonomiyaki-osaka-style shows how to make it "Osaka" style and there is even a dot com website for okonomiyaki! here: http://okonomiyakiworld.com/

I actually prefer the Hiroshima style okonomiyaki because you place the cabbage ON the batter (first layer of crepe) instead of mixing it WITH the batter which I think makes the cabbage less tasty.

I digress...since I am not trying to write about the recipes which you can find at the above links...I actually want to talk about MAGIC.
The magical wonders of the...
watch it in action:

video
It can squirt out five lines of mayonnaise or ketchup or whatever you like because...

there are holes.


So simple magic is.

Now, for another kind of magic.

I just got back from a friend's fantastic charity concert.  There were 9 different bands that came together to raise money for the people effected by the earthquakes and tsunamis in north eastern Japan.  

Magic is for those who "do".  That is what my friend K has taught me.  I think what she did was magic  because she brought people together for a purpose. Out of nothing she created a night of giving!



Here is another band that is creating magic!

They are volunteering and raising spirits and will have a charity concert in the summer here in Osaka.

Thank you so much for all of  your prayers and kind thoughts...to me all of this is magic too and I am so very grateful!





March 27, 2011

strawberry sweets and my latest picks from the news...


The latest news in Japan, as of my writing of this blog (Kyodo English) is focused on the radioactive water found inside the buildings adjacent to the nuclear reactors in Fukushima.

!?

This is serious.  The level is much higher than it should be and it is not getting any lower. Which means something is leaking...  However, we are being asked to stay calm since this is still indoors and is not an immediate threat to those outside of the building...PLUS there are multiple reports coming out as I type about the level and how high it is or isn't... There is still so much confusion and TEPCO is not making things better with the way they provide the information.

?!

As optimistic as I can be, this disturbs me not just because of the seriousness and chaotic information flow. The real threat is invisible. Although Japan has a history that shows us the devastating effects of radioactivity, it did not deter some of the people living in the power plant area from rushing back to their homes.

For people who had to evacuate quickly and empty handed, it has been a stressful 2 weeks. Some 50 or so residents from the evacuated areas went back to their homes to gather a few of their belongings and to feed their cattle (I can't imagine how bewildered the animals must be).
The residents have all been re-evacuated by the Japanese self defense force.

...

In the meantime, there have been demonstrations outside of the Tokyo Power Company calling for all the nuclear power plants in Japan to close.  This isn't being featured on the news but I have seen the tweets and a bit on the *NHK world news website.


*For the NHK (the Japan Broadcasting Company) world news website in English with the latest updates and radio on demand (click here).

Also please check out:

Marie Mutsuki Mockett has written another beautiful piece which can be read on the New Yorker blog, about her family in Japan.  You can read it here.





Sooooooo...

What am I doing between the news updates (that I try as much as possible to stay away from)?
Well, Monday through Friday was work at the office.  Since things are rather normal in our part of the country it all seems unreal when we can't deliver goods as fast as we usually can, due to the power shortages in Tokyo.  Most people are understanding.

And now for the relaxing part...
On Saturday, I had waffles...with whipped cream, custard...and yes, strawberries.
Good stuff!
As if that were not enough...today I had...
cream roll cake with strawberries

and I bought books...

Ape House by Sara Gruen and Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
The CDs were bought a month ago but I finally got them into my i-pod...
and I think I forgot to post this picture I took at my mom's house earlier this year...
Look for my fingers at the bottom of the picture for comparisons (my fingers are not gigantic)!

This is a strawberry.
:-)

March 21, 2011

Hope. Music. More hope.

herb garden 2009

There are reports that Spinach and other leafy vegetables from farms100km away from the power plants have been detected with radiation that exceeds the government regulated limits. This is rather distressing but more details should be released today. Right now some of the latest reports can be found here at the Kyodo English news site:

http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2011/03/79856.html

I am not one to panic but this does raise my (already raised) interest in nuclear science and the effects of radiation... Some interesting sites I have found so far are:

http://mitnse.com/

MIT students of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering have a blog with information about the nuclear plants in Fukushima, Japan.


and then there was this information that I did not know about regarding the reactors in Japan which kinda frightens me as an American as well:

...and so, like in my last post...I must think. I am not going to panic or start a demonstration (just yet) but I do hope that this will be a good chance for the human race to admit that Mother Earth is much more stronger than we predict it to be.

Amidst all this radiation "hype" there is still some good news about people being saved from the rubble.
We have reason to stay...hopeful.


news flash
oooh...just heard on the news that the electricity that was cut off has been reinstalled to some of the reactors. They will have to run some more tests to make sure that there are no other damaged parts before they actually start sending electricity.

Hope.

...

One thing is for sure: we have some mighty heroic people (who did not build the reactors...); firefighters.
I have a renewed respect for these people who put their lives on the line to spray water on the Nuclear Power Plants in an effort to cool down the reactors. Their news conference was 100 times better than the TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) conferences because they were speaking in terms that are understandable and they didn't make any excuses or vague comments. They were prepared...not only for the news conference but for the actual event that they might have to help... which it seems, they did!
The spraying of water has resumed again today:http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2011/03/79865.html.

...

Hope.

Some people trying to spread hope...

Monkey Majik members are out volunteering: Tokyo Hive

Daniel Kahl, originally from California, is a "talent" here in Japan famous for his fluency in the Yamagata Prefecture dialect.
His website http://daniel.domos.jp/ has a full page of links with all sorts of valuable information.

He has also posted this video on youtube as an appeal to media outside of Japan. This is the first time I have heard him speak in English since he is always using his fluent Japanese (Yamagata dialect) on TV!



I have been staying away from TV much of this time for various reasons...I use to work in radio so that might be one reason.

I find solace in, just sound.

In music.

Music.

Starship's We Built This City On Rock N' Roll was on the radio yesterday, and I couldn't believe how uplifting it was. So to bring things back to a bit of normality on this blog, here is an update on what's new in the music scene here:

Wonder Woman by Amuro Namie featuring Ai and Anna Tsuchiya. All three girls are of "mixed culture"!
The video is flipped (everything is a mirror image) I don't know how that is technically possible, but this might mean that the video will be pulled off youtube sooner or later.

Ai is also featured in a new song by the Bawdies, a group that sounds like...somebody...but I can't quite place my finger on who...
You can hear a snippet of the song at i-tunes here but there is nothing on youtube etc. as it was just released.

Here is a song by The Bawdies that I did find on youtube:


That's it!!! Tom Waits on too much caffeine!?! Maybe...

Another multi-cultured artist:


Maia Hirasawa is a Japanese/Swedish artist. Her official website is here:


Another song on the charts here is by Rake. There is a short snippet of a video on the first page of his website: http://www.rake.jp/

Music.


Also, if you are in the New York area, just FYI...

Sakamoto Ryuichi has a concert scheduled in NYC for April 9th.
Japan Society, New York - CONCERT FOR JAPAN

Hope.

A piece (you many have already seen) about hope by author Ryu Murakami in the Op-page of
The New York Times.

And for me one of the most hopeful sounds in the universe.
Music to my ears!
ROFLMAO :-)'

March 19, 2011

One reason why I think social medias are cool and one reason why I think they sometimes are not…

Hello!

Here in Japan we have started a three day weekend.  Monday is the spring equinox.  

I like my job but I am very happy that I do not have to go to the office on Monday. I am sure my friends up north are feeling the same way, but more intensely because of the power cuts and aftershocks they are still experiencing. 

Me? I’m just laaaaazyyy.
AND I got a few bottles of strawberry liquor to taste.
strawberry sake, strawberry liquor, strawberry wine all made from strawberries from the Kyushu island

Yes, I know, strawberries AGAIN.

(FYI, there are strawberry blogs out there!
and this blog I found thanks to the Tattered Cover:
had the greatest recipes for strawberries and other “stuff” too.)

So this is why I think blogs are cool….you find great people to “talk” with, great things to read, information you are looking for and with things like facebook, sometimes you even find long lost relatives!

Blogs, Facebook and twitter (and in Japan, Mixi) have become a place for many people here to connect with friends and family... especially during these devastating times.
The internet has helped to bring people together.  We have been able to change lives, be changed and learn about things we would otherwise be oblivious about.

I think this has given journalists a hard time these days… It’s harder for them because, unlike before, we might actually “know” someone from the area they are reporting from.

Now…we can see…right through them…sometimes. 

For example,
20 or 30 years ago, if you saw on the news that hundreds of Tokyoites were wearing masks because they were afraid of radiation, you might have believed them.  Gee, I might have believed them too!

Now, thanks to tons of great blogs (see my blog roll on the left) and well in this case…

me


we know a bit more about Japan(or at least we can find out if some things are leaning towards suspicious). 

Therefore, you would know that Tokyoites are wearing their masks, like many other people around Japan this time of year, because they have HAY FEVER. (Here is a post from a Japanese blogger in Tokyo about hay fever in Japan: http://www.hellotokyo.jp/2011/02/20/hay-fever-in-japan/.

As I do not want to reinvent the wheel, here is a wiki that someone has made to collect some of the most blatant mistakes in the news covering the Quake and Tsunami in Japan.

Apart from this I would also like to add that although there are many people at the airport trying to flee Japan, please keep in mind that it is SPRING VACATION and since schools are out till April, lots of people have been scheduling holidays overseas ANYWAY.  So that is probably why many people are having a hard time getting tickets out of here too… ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/anxious-foreigners-flee-japan/2011/03/15/ABrlvnW_story.html).
A friend of mine is going back to the UK this weekend to see his family…he had this planned BEFORE the earthquake…


Although I respect peoples' decisions to leave Japan right now (especially if you are not fluent in the language, have small children or if you are ill etc.) there are some people who are choosing to stay: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-im-not-fleeing-japan/2011/03/16/ABQsdhk_story.html
(Thank you K for the link!)

Like any type of information we get, I think it is important to learn how to process the information.  I mean, really think about what you are reading or hearing… I mean REALLY.  Just stop to think…sometimes…it helps. 

I know, I am preaching to the choir now……but now for the one reason why I don’t like the internet:
(eeek! I am about to tread on very thin ice…)
I found wacky comments about how Japan is not a religious country thus this tragedy was brought upon them (?!).  There are tons of stuff out there that wouldn’t have been “published” for everyone to see, hear or read if it weren’t so darn easy to use the internet…

I know I know I know I know I know I know ...
We are entitled to our own opinions and beliefs and in some parts of the world we actually have freedom of “speech”.

I just hope empathy will prevail. And you know what? 

I think it will. 

Look what I found...
SMILE!


March 15, 2011

I'm here now and my use of a mouse...

I don't have a proper mouse with me and even if I did, I doubt I could do this map justice...but just to give you an idea of how far away I am from the devastation etc.
The blue circle is where I am now...sort of...
The yellow circle shows where I usually am...and the red circle inaccurately shows where the earthquakes, largest tsunamis and the fragile nuclear reactors are.

I was in the yellow circle when the earthquake hit - a tremor with the intensity of 3 on the seismic scale.  We were that far away from the red circle area (that had a magnitude of 9.0) and to think we still felt it is mind boggling.

Now (as I type this) I am seeing on the news that Shizuoka (the prefecture in the middle of the red and yellow circles) just had a tremor with the intensity of 6 on the seismic scale.  At least no fear of a tsunami...
It is not certain if all of these quakes are related...

I am trying to count my blessings and focus on my duties as a daughter, wife and consultant.  I haven't been meditating again so I think it is time for me to sit down straighten my back, lift my head and take a deep breath....or two...or three.

Peach Blossom that my mom has in a vase...

I pray that wherever you are, that you are safe.  Let's not forget to smile and let's continue to hope for the best. 

For English updates on Japan the Kyodo news service is pretty reliable:
http://english.kyodonews.jp/

...

New Zealand is still trying to recover from an earthquake and there is Haiti  that still needs help...Indonesia, Iran, China...Papua New Guinea...this is all just so hard to wrap my head around.

I am thinking the Red Cross or/and Doctors Without Borders.


March 11, 2011

I'm OK

One of the largest earthquakes in recent Japanese history has shaken the country in the north eastern regions.  I live in the center of Japan and am currently staying at my mom's place in the south western part of Japan.

I have heard from a few of my colleagues in Tokyo but not the whole team so I am still worried.  However, I just thought I would post to let my friends and family know that I am ok.

Tsunami warnings have been issued in almost all parts of the archipelago and other parts of Asia.

Will try to post something again later as soon as I find out more about what should be posted here...

all the best,
Tulsa

March 1, 2011

time

Gosh...I don't know where to start...


I got this receipt from a taxi I took on the first of February that says it is the year 2023...!


My husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary a few weeks ago.

Time flies...
(do you see the blimp?)

At the end of March I will have been at work on my new job for a year and a half...and that feels like 10 years on some days and 10 months on others...go figure...

This July I will have been in Japan for 26 years. In April I will turn 40.


I deserve to have gold in my tea!
Now, if that doesn't make you want to come visit Japan, I don't know what will!
:-)

Tonight my husband is out watching the Eagles in concert and I just went to see a "chick flick".
Which after I watched (as much as I love chick flicks) THIS ONE became much more than that to me.

Morning Glory not only had some of my most favorite actors (Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton and Jeff Goldblum), it reminded me a tiny bit of..
me.



Change TV to radio and make the leading lady (Rachel Adams) shorter (and give her a uni-brow and overbite) and you have an enthusiastic me in my twenties trying to make a morning radio show with cooking tips and global news and music. We had our adventures on the show and there was never a dull moment be it a good one or bad.

By the way Harrison Ford was amazing...I really wanted to punch the guy...heehee.

SO, 3 things are running through my head right now.

1. Why didn't I write a romantic comedy that would become a Hollywood movie?
2. What story can I write now?
3. WHAT ON EARTH am I doing with my life?

gosh that is pathetic... scratch 3 and replace it with:

Am I having a pre-midlife crisis or is this a full blown midlife crisis?

NOT that I want to work at a (Japanese) TV station...
TV here is .... weird...

(Yes, that is a picture of a TV show with adults wearing costumes as they are talking about food...)
And there already is an American who is dominating TV here and packaging it off to the States (or so I think) so "my idea" of bridging the two countries with entertainment is already taken (Dave Spector is "the guy" by the way. He is more knowledgable about Japan than most Japanese are, and there are rumors that he is actually Japanese but has just dyed his hair. He is actually from Illinois. Oooh, I have just found his twitter account... (in Japanese though) http://twitter.com/#!/dave_spector.

Wow, totally went in a different direction there...
I just think I MAY have lost my way a bit. Am I loosing control of my life as I get swarmed with "stuff" to do on weekends and late at night ?

That can't be the real problem because I used to do that when I worked in radio and it did not bug me ONE bit.

Not even a tiny little bit.

Now it does. But what bugs me even more is that it bugs me. I hate not feeling GREAT about WORKING 24-7.

I am very good at tuning in with the "universe" and having things brought to me. But for the last two years I have stopped asking. Just did not have time to ask or even ponder what it is I want.

I have friends who have helped me soooo much to get back on track but SOMETHING just isn't "clicking".

I feel like this cat, waiting in front of a store that sells lots of porcelain cats...

waiting...for something...waiting...

Waiting and "going with the flow" has really done me good these past 40 years but me thinks me is ready for a change.
It's time to start walkin' down that Yellow Brick Road!

Exploring more of this fascinating country and bringing it to life inside me so that I can weave the next chick flick or whatever it is that will make me: h a p p y.

I hope you are happy. If you think you are not then join me on my journey!

A smile will take you a mile!

...

I think the receipt the taxi driver gave me with the year 2023 comes from the traditional Japanese calendar.

It is currently the 23rd year of the Heisei era. Thus 23.

But it still is a mistake...

...or is it?




February 1, 2011

if it's tested in Japan would that make you feel better?

A colleague of mine recently sent me a link to a show
called "Ben and Teller".  The rest of the title is not appropriate for my blog...(let's just say, it is "cow poo").

The theme of the particular episode is about recycling and how we have been duped into believing that our behavior of recycling will help the environment.

The reason why I am posting this isn't because I have any sort of opinion about recycling (not that I don't), it is because at around 7 minutes and 19 seconds they say that whenever they wanted to close the deal they always mentioned the Japanese because it would help close the deal!

That just cracked me up.

Please note that the content of this video includes the f-word and s-word rather frequently.  If you don't mind, then watch away! but if you do, you may want to keep the volume low and have a bar of soap handy to wash out your ears later or, just not watch it all. :-)

January 10, 2011

the best stationery itemsI used in 2010

There are several things in this world that help me release stress.
One of them is buying stationery.

Stationery can be divided into various types…today I would like to focus on paperclips and notebooks.

For work and for my “research” I think I have settled on the Cornell Method Note that can be bought in Japan through Gakken.

Kokuyo, the largest stationery/office equipment company
(http://www.kokuyo.co.jp/), has many notebooks that I have been using for my book diaries for the past 10 years or so.

(By the way, if you understand Japanese, the Kokuyo website currently has videos of Ryuichi Sakamoto talking about Ecology and Creativity. From the second video, Everett Kennedy Brown appears to talk about his experience in Japan etc.  and what people can learn from Nature.  His website is here:

This year, my schedule book is from Muji (http://www.muji.com/) and I just found out that they have apps for the iPad and iPhone too.
The scheduler comes with a canvas type cover that I am thinking about dressing up with iron-ons later.

I added a trim with decorative masking tape as well as ribbon bookmarks.
The checkbook-like notebook on the right is for the months and the notebook on the left is for the weeks.

I think this will be very easy for me to use this year and I am looking forward to filling it up with fun events!

More notebooks that I really liked last year and kept buying for various reasons were:
The one on the left is from Midori (http://www.midori-japan.co.jp/md/).
The pink one in the middle is one that I found in a store in Kyoto called karankoron (http://store.shopping.yahoo.co.jp/karancolon/index.html).  My favorite from last year is on the right.
It is from Tsubame Note and this series comes in all sorts of sizes and shapes (http://thinkbeforesearch.com/) and the pages are perforated but sturdy so they don't fall apart.

Now, for paper clips...
My favorite elephant shaped ones and fruit shaped ones are not here but this is to give you an idea of what is out there and what I actually use. 

I use these kinds of paperclips as often as I can because I read somewhere that the most circulative stationery is the paperclip.  

This means that more than any other stationery, the paper clip is the least likely to stay in one place.  It is reused and passed on to people so you never know where your paperclip is going to end up!  I figure if that is the case, why not send around a bit of happiness and excitement too?!

And last but not least one of my most favorite items carries my paperclips and post-its...

It is an amazing piece of vinyl that I bought at the Nagasaki Museum a while ago and it is awesome.  I bought a larger one for my receipts too.

Have a nice day!


January 7, 2011

Japanese songs that topped the charts in 2010

The song that made many people cry last year was "Toile no Kamisama" (The Toilet Goddess).

There are many different gods in Japan and apparently there is one for the restroom! My mother use to tell me that if I cleaned the toilet my children would grow up to be beautiful. This made me think she was lying... o_O

The singer/songwriter of The Toilet Goddess, Kana Uemura was told by her grandmother that SHE would grow up to be beautiful if she made sure that the toilet was clean. So it seems there are different versions of the Toilet Goddess story!

The song is a true story written by Kana who use to live with her grandmother. They were like best friends until Kana started to grow up and grow apart from her family. After she leaves her home to go to Tokyo and become a singer, she gets called back one day because her grandmother is in the hospital. She rushes back to see her grandmother...The songs is a long song (about 8minutes) but it got lots of attention on the radio here in Japan.


Another song that got a lot of attention is "I Wish For You"by the group EXILE. They are a singing and dancing troupe that have doing in very well with CD sales and national tours. They also have their own TV show.

And, the third song that I would like to introduce today is by a trio called IKIMONO GAKARI (those in charge of the animals).

It is a song that doesn't not need any translation, at least the title doesn't (I think)...it is called "Arigato".

(They also have an "interesting" song called "Joyful"...

As for who I look forward to doing well in 2011...?!

I will be rooting for Monkey Majik...they have a new song out called "Sunshine" but for first time listeners, I think the following video will give you a better idea as to "what" they are.


By the way, their Japanese is REALLY good.

Their official is website is here.

I hope you finds lots of great music this year!

January 3, 2011

meditating and multi tasking

Last year I learned a lot about myself.  It was not my intention but it turned out that way.

I was trying (and still am) to learn more about meditation, and this is what I found out.

Meditation is a way to listen to yourself.  Many people try to focus on clearing their minds but we know that the more we try to "not think" the more we end up doing just that.  

So, you sit with yourself.  If you don't listen to yourself then why should others listen?

Sit in a quiet place.  If you start to think about something in particular, notice the way you breath and the different places in your body that is tense.  Why do you feel the way you do? 

Why are you hunched forward?  Why is your head cocked to the right? Are you gritting your teeth?
Why does it feel like you haven't been reaching for the last 15 seconds?
Don't try to answer the question, just notice how you react to certain sounds, thoughts and smells.  

When you feel how you breath in a relaxed mood then you know what you can try to "imitate" when you are having a stressed day. 

These moments of stress free meditation have helped me focus on what my real needs and desires are.
I am not good at meditating for a long time yet, but being able to sit with myself for 5, then 10 and now 20 minutes has been a very interesting journey.

As for multi-tasking, please be careful of the types of tasks you put together.  TV can be destructive because of the signals that it sends.  If you are watching a program that makes you tense or angry, be aware that whatever you are doing while watching TV can be affected by the tension.

I think religious rituals are interesting because they make you focus on one thing at a time.  Being able to focus on one thing will be more productive and you will probably have better quality.
It becomes a form of meditation as well. Aaaah, a good form of multi-tasking!


Karesansui...dry landscapes or "Japanese rock gardens".... They are often called "zen gardens" in English because the making of the garden is part of the meditating process for zen monks.

Sometimes the different designs made in the gravel (with rakes) represent ponds and flowing water.
The above picture was taken at Tofukuji in Kyoto and it looked like a giant chess board.
How the monks make these designs without leaving a single footprint anywhere is beyond me, but I am pretty sure they were not texting and raking at the same time!

I hope this year is filled with fabulous journeys for you!




January 1, 2011

Good-bye Tiger, hello Rabbit! 2011 resolutions.

Happy New Year!!!!!

After the Tiger comes the Rabbit!

My brand new Rabbit (Usagi) ornament that will be displayed in our front hallway throughout the year 2011.



(In some countries it is the year of the Cat...but in Japan there is no year of the Cat because as the story goes...god was going to give away a year to each animal that came to him on a certain day. The Mouse told the Cat when that day would be but he lied. The Cat showed up on the next day after all of the years had been assigned to each animal...thus in Japan, there is no year of the Cat. Oooh, but the Mouse became number 1 because he hopped onto the back of the Cow (number 2) and got off at the right moment so that he could be at the very front of the line!

The Rabbit came in 4th place. Since they like to hop around it is said to be a "hoppin' year" whatever that means...


What kind of year did you have? I hope it was a good one!

My 2010 was a year of self exploration!

Now that I know more about who I am and what I want from life, I think 2011 will be filled with exciting experiences. Why? Because I have a clearer focus on what I want to learn from the world.

One of the many things I have started to study is religion and faith especially Japanese Buddhism and Shinto (I was brought up in a Protestant family). I am finding many similarities with western culture and paganism. It is all fascinating and (funnily) Dan Brown-ish... :-)



Recently, I have found someone of similar mind but of amazing talent. Cristy Burne.
I have not read her book yet but it is the first book I will order in the New Year!
Cristy is the author of a story (series) that seems to have a whole lot to do with Japanese ghost stories and mythology. For more information please check out her website here:



This whole year the universe has been practically throwing people at me. People that I should learn from. It is amazing. I got what I asked for this year but it has been so overwhelming that I am not caught up. I have met a spiritual teacher, a westerner on a Buddhist journey and amazing teachers and colleagues from around the world.

All that has happened to me this year brings a whole new meaning to "be careful what you wish for, you just might get it!"

So, for me 2011 will be the year of connecting dots...
...and like a good friend recently advised me...in 2011 I am going to "just do it".

1. Write my book (by the end of December 2011).
2. Visit the UK (this is happening in July, it has been scheduled!)
3. Listen, read and learn as if the world is my grad school.

bit of a rant:
Number 3 comes from what I have seen this past year. So many students pay so much money to universities but they don't do their homework, they sometimes cheat and they often complain. I have been wanting to go back to school but instead of spending the money that goes straight into new buildings and technology that ends up not getting used, I think I will BUY books and LISTEN to people instead. I am sure there are similarities all over the world among college students but in Japan it is tragic... Students study SO HARD to pass their entrance exams only so that they can enter university to start having all night binges and sleep during classes (if attending at all) for 4 years.

ahem...
4. Write, write, write and write some more...

Anywhooo...

I hope that whatever you decide to do in 2011, that you will go out there and do it too!
May your new year be filled with happiness and abundance of the best kind!