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Sunday, July 18, 2010

We've Moved!

If you hadn't guessed it by now, considering our abrupt shutting down of the blog for the past nine months, we have returned to the States. Our experience in Japan was a wonderful chapter in our lives and we feel honored to have experienced all that we did and to meet the wonderful people we met while in the Land of the Rising Sun. Also, we thank those of you that have followed this blog over its four years of life.

We started a new blog shortly after our return Stateside, which we find ourselves posting to irregularly. If you are interested in following it, follow this link:

As for The Japan Years blog, it is time for us to say "Sayonara" and "Domo Arigatou Gozaimasu".

UPDATE: After this post, we've moved yet again... this time to Germany. You can continue to follow us at our Germany blog, The Wurst Years:

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Someone's Turning 1... and Walking

Amongst all our recent business, Samuel will be turning one year this coming Monday. I will be busy making a cake. I REALLY can't believe how quickly it's come by. This is a quickie but hopefully I'll come up with something a little more articulate in a couple of days.

Addendum: Sam is walking. He's been cruising for a while now and we knew he had the ability, but tonight was the first time he actually put the courage into it to take a few steps without grabbing for the nearest table or chair. That's one small step for baby, one giant leap towards toddlerhood.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Cake Boss

No, not the guy on TLC... but me! When I asked what Nicki wanted for her birthday cake this year, she told me "chocolate cake with butter-cream frosting". Thank goodness I have mad cake-making skills and a top secret weapon (thanks Google).

In all honesty, fortunately for me, I stumbled upon the greatest website for uber engineering geeks like me, Cooking for Engineers. The host of that website knows his stuff; and he knows how to present it in a manner that engineers will understand - step by step, with pictures, and no nonsense details (the comments at the bottom of his recipe pages are great, too).

Without further ado, and with a tip of the hat to my mom (who is bar none the best cake maker I've ever met in person), behold the majesty of my first ever homemade from scratch birthday cake:

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Mahalo for your kokua watching out for our keiki


You know what's fun? Going on a work trip to Hawaii.

You know what's more fun? Taking the family along and having a few days of rest and relaxation around the work schedule to ease the pain of summer's demise.

We spent August 16-23 on O'ahu, with the primary purpose being my attendance at a training course. The secondary purpose was fun, fun, fun. I gotta tell you, though, when we first arrived, Sam had some major jet lag - to the extent that my first pictures during the trip were night shots as I was strolling him through Waikiki at all hours of the night so that Nicki and Josh could get some shut eye.

We spent the first couple of days lounging around Waikiki Beach and met a few times with our old friends, Kristin and Dan, and their kids; who happen to be living on the windward side of O'ahu these days. My class kept me busy through August 20, but after that, we made the most of our time on the island.

On the 21st, we planned a big trip to the North Shore, only to find out amongst the entire island traffic jam that Aug 21st was the 50th anniversary of Hawaii's Statehood and was declared a state holiday. We went with the flow and managed to have a lot of fun up in Hale'iwa for a few hours. We stopped in at Cafe Hale'iwa to eat some brunch... banana pancakes for me... to die for. If you ever make it to Hale'iwa, be sure to get there on an empty stomach and hit the cafe. I promise you won't be disappointed. A few hours later, we stopped by Matsumoto's Store, which sells all kinds of stuff but is famous for its Shave Ice. When we got there, the line was out the door - FAR out the door. The Shave Ice was worth the wait. We eventually made it back down to Waikiki in time to watch the sunset, so with camera in hand I shot as many pictures as I could in the window of perfect lighting that occurs around Hawaii sunsets.

On Saturday, we went out to Kailua and Lanikai Beach. Lanikai Beach is in a residential area along the windward side, and its one of the most picturesque spots I've ever had the pleasure to shoot photos. The really good pictures from our trip came from this location (all pics are on our Gallery, dated 09/02/2009). We spent a few hours on the beach playing in the sand, but packed up early so that we could see our friends one last time before leaving the island. Before we left Kailua, we stopped at Bob's Pizza. Bob's a good guy and his pizza slices are huge. He makes authentic Boston style pizza, but I gotta tell you it reminds me a lot of Bronx Pizza in San Diego, hands down my favorite pizza joint on the planet Earth. But I know well enough not to compare anything "Boston" style to anything "New York" style... that'd be like adding gasoline to a fire. So I'll just say that if you ever find yourself in the Kailua area and you need a break from the natural beauty of the town itself (and its beaches), then head over to Bob's for the largest slice of "wicked good" pizza on O'ahu.

Sunday was a travel day. We woke up, returned the rental car, and took a shuttle over to the airport terminal. It's hard to say goodbye to Hawaii, so I'll finish this post in the same manner that I started it.


Sunday, August 09, 2009

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

I'll be honest. I'm very much an optimist about most things. I rarely carry an umbrella on cloudy days, I'm a stock market "bull", and when life tosses me lemons, I try to make lemonade. But sometimes... lemons can start to pile up.

Today started out great. Overnight, I marinated sliced beef in my top secret homemade teriyaki recipe. This morning I got up early, added a secret blend of herbs and spices, and set the meat into the dehydrator to make some jerky. Then, Nicki and I got the kids ready (okay, so it was more Nicki than me), and we headed to Kurihama to catch the ferry over to Chiba... destination Kamogawa Seaworld. We've taken the Kurihama Ferry several times in the past and the benefit is that we can drive our car straight on, so we can bring basically everything we need for the day and still have wheels on the Chiba side to get around. Kamogawa Seaworld (which has no affiliation to Sea World back in the States) is fun: killer whales, sharks, dolphins, sea lions, sea otters, etc. We left the park a little after 3pm to get back to the ferry terminal out of Chiba, and were able to catch a boat right on time.

On the ferry ride, we discussed dinner plans and decided on our favorite sushi spot, near the intersection of Route 16 and 134, south of base. Unfortunately, it was crowded when we arrived and Sam was already beginning to fuss, an indicator that he was hungry and tired. No big deal, we just left and moved to our second option, the Korean BBQ joint in the same restaurant plaza area. The meal was good, but Sam was awful, screaming at the top of his lungs and squirming like a fish out of water.

After the meal, as I was loading Sam into his car seat, the parking spot next to ours opened up. Someone tried to pull in, but Sam's door was open and I was there trying to get his arms strapped into the restraints. Instead of waiting the necessary 10 seconds for me to get this done, the driver of the waiting car decided to honk his horn at me not once, but twice. The first time, I ignored him, hoping that he'd see I was obviously trying to get my squirmy tired kid into the car safely. The second time, I straightened up and shrugged my arms and shoulders at the guy, and said "what do you want me to do?... wait a minute" (as if he could understand me). After that, I finished strapping Sam into the seat, and got into the car myself. After all, if I had moved out of his way when he first honked, the guy would have parked but none of his passengers could have gotten out until I moved anyway. And the whole ordeal was about 30 seconds... Then, after I got in the car, I had to help Josh because his belt was a little tough to maneuver tonight. At this point, the other driver had pulled in and just sat in the driver's seat staring at us. His family got out of the car, but he just sat there staring, even as we pulled out and pulled away.

When we finally made it home, Sam went down like a sack of potatoes. He was tired... Josh, on the other hand, had a great day and was chop full of energy. To expedite his bedtime routine, I told him I'd "race" him to see who could get pajamas on first. Then, I heard Nicki downstairs saying, "Uh Oh" followed quickly by "OH NO". Then, I felt it... an EARTHQUAKE. I immediately ran into Josh's room, where I saw him standing, with a blank expression on a pale white face. I asked, "Are you okay?", to which he replied, "Something is just making a lot of noise in here". I had to explain that it was an earthquake, which he's learned about in school and even lived through a time or two in the past. But this is the first one that he's felt since he's been old enough and knowledgeable enough to comprehend. He didn't like it one bit. Nicki and I spent about 10 minutes explaining earthquakes, how and why they happen, how to respond, where our emergency kit is located, and that it is okay to be scared but important to be smart when events like that happen. After tucking Josh in, I checked the web. Sure enough, about 150 miles from here, a 7.1 magnitude quake struck at 7:55pm, right before Josh's 8pm bedtime.

This post has helped me put things in perspective and focus on the positive:

1. Sea World was fun and I had a great day with my family.
2. The Kurihama Ferry is a great experience and well worth the cost when traveling to the southern part of Chiba.
3. Southern Chiba is absolutely beautiful, especially along the east coast - an excellent blend of rural rice farming and small surf town mentality.
4. Although sushi would have been tasty, the Korean BBQ was excellent too.
5. My beef jerky is out-of-this-world delicious.

Everything else is... just lemons.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Chinhae, South Korea

Back in early May, I had the good fortune of being sent on a business trip to Chinhae (sometimes seen as Jinhae), South Korea. Although my work provides service for Korea, I had yet to go over during my previous three years in Asia. What a great trip...

Chinhae is a small city about an hour or so from Busan, Korea's second largest city. The US has a small navy presence there, but it is in the shadows of the Korean navy's much larger presence there. The rest of the city embraces the military areas, but the place has a very small town feel to it, almost like some of the country towns along the mid-Atlantic area where I grew up. Except pretty much everyone on the streets is speaking Korean.

Since it was my first (and maybe last...) trip to Chinhae, I wanted to see it all. I walked the town's central area about a half dozen times, taking pictures of almost everything I saw. Except the areas that the Koreans have posted the "NO PHOTOS HERE" signs, basically, anywhere in range of the military zones.

During the weekend while I was in Korea, I took advantage of a MWR trip to Jirisan National Park, to visit a temple and a waterfall. The last real hike I'd been on was my Mt Fuji trip several years back, and man did it wear me out!

During my stay, I also ate fun foods, visited a farmer's market, strolled along an eco garden... and I did some work, too. The photos turned out great and they are in the Gallery, dated 07/09/2009.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Yokosuka Navy Burger

Have you had a Yokosuka Navy Burger? Recently the Yokosuka City Government has worked to put our little Navy town on the map. The US Navy passed down a recipe to the city who has chosen several restaurants downtown to serve (as one article put it) this delicacy. I have never heard of a burger being described as a delicacy but whatever floats their boat! According to the pamphlet that I picked up at Yokohama Keikyu stop, there are 11 different restaurants in Yokosuka serving up their own style of the Yokosuka Navy Burger. Each establishment puts a little something different on top and a "secret" ingredient to make their burger different.

Other recent additions to the town have been a small Ferry boat tour over by the mall. It looks like the tour includes a cruise around the bay to see all of the Navy ships. (US Navy and the Japanese Defense force ships and subs.) For those wondering, 'Why on earth would I go out of the way to see Yokosuka?' The advertisment also mentions Spasso, Monkey Island (It's one of the few remaining natural islands left off the coast) and Mikasa Park. (Where there is a Japanese battle ship from the Russian war and a fantastic water fountain show). Oh yeah, and we just got a Burger King. (I may be the only one excited about this....)