November 1, 2013

Japan, 2013: Saturday (Kamakura)

On Saturday Ryan and I braved the rain to see the big Buddha in Kamakura. Pretty amazing, considering that it is 13 meters tall, and constructed in 1243. We visited a few other shrines, as well. Even rainy it was fun.

So friendly. My favorites.

These are in honor of miscarried, stillborn or aborted infants. 

Sometimes they dress them up.

Creepy or sweet?

We came back to Tokyo and had the most delicious Ramen I've ever had. The fact that the only competition costs 19 cents and can be cooked in the microwave should not lessen its deliciousness. It was amazing. And perfect on a rainy day.

We finished off the trip with a long nap in our hotel room before leaving for our 12:30 am flight. We tried to get a jump start on the jet lag. By the time we reached LAX 10 hours later, I was ready for bed. And the next morning I was excited to see my cute girls who welcomed us home with this.

It's good to be home. And it will be even better when I'm 100% back on Utah time :)

October 31, 2013

Japan, 2013: Friday (Fish Market)

Friday morning we made the early morning trek to the Fish Market with all of the Adobe folks. Near the entrance to the fish market there are 10 or 15 little (and I mean little) sushi restaurants. They open in the morning, and the lines only get longer as the day goes on, so sushi for breakfast it is. 

Waiting in line. You can't tell, but this line snakes around three times. There was a Japanese man ensuring that people moved in the right direction.

Outside, looking in. Waiting our turn.

The fish just kept coming. And I kept eating. I've never been a huge fan of Nigiri, but it was amazing.

Our sushi master

After we could eat no more, we walked across the street to the fish market. This thing's legit. No dressing it up for the tourists. In fact, they don't allow tourists until after 9:00, when the hustle and bustle is over. We got kicked out when we tried to go into the fish auction warehouse. The place is bustling. There are hundreds of motorized carts whizzing around. Ryan's only instructions to me were to not get hit. 

We got done with the fish market around 8:00. We had planned on taking the day together to sightsee, but things came up for Ryan and he went into the office. And I had a fantastic day at the Weston. A read a book (an entire book). I went to the gym. I drank my favorite tea (real mint +  hot water--I don't understand how it is so good but it is). I watched most of season 3 of Downton Abby. Ryan and I caught up for dinner at a great Italian place near the hotel. All in all, a pretty good day. Well, for one of us :)

Japan, 2013: Thursday (Tokyo)

There were two typhoons swirling around Tokyo on Thursday, and while they never got close enough to cause any damage it did make for quite the drizzle. A perfect day for indoor activities.

The Tokyo temple is within walking distance of the hotel where Ryan always stays, which is crazy given how big Tokyo is. Luckily for me there was an English session on Thursday at 11:00. I was surprised how few English speakers there were. Many of the people were Japanese and had headsets translating for them. I was one of 3 non-Asians in the session.

All bundled up

From there I went to the Tokyo National Museum. Well, from there I tried to go to the Imperial Gardens and Palace, but it was raining, and I wasn't sure if I was going the right way, and I decided I didn't really care if I saw it. So National Museum it was.

I loved this. Thankfully, I'd left my heels at home. 

I like some images of Buddha more than others. The angry ones don't appeal to me, but I dig the peaceful ones.

Every item is graded--not important (no label), Important, or National Treasure. At first I loved it because it ensured I would know which swords were worth looking at and which ones to walk on by. But by the end it stressed me out because I was afraid I might miss a National Treasure if I didn't scan every item for the red box.

I think Steve Jobs stole the design for the iPod from a thousand year old Chinese box. 

Cool building

I was a little scared to try sushi from one of the many stores in the subway. Turns out it is better than anything I've had outside of Japan. For $3. 

I didn't stand out at all with my pink sweater, green skirt and pink shoes.

October 30, 2013

Japan, 2013: Wednesday (Hakone)

On Wednesday Ryan had to work, so I planned to go to a few museums. One was in Kawasaki, about 15 minutes outside of Tokyo. I am not great at directions, but with google maps and the uber organized Tokyo subway system I thought I'd be fine. I was...almost. I made my way to my train, checked that it was going in the right direction, and settled in. I did think it a little strange that you had to buy a separate ticket for this train, and that it sold food and drink, but I figured it must be a Japan thing. Google maps told me that my stop was the 5th stop and would come 20 minutes into the trip. 15 minutes later we hadn't stopped once, and I started to wonder. 20 minutes in, still going strong. I did a quick google search and realized that while I was headed in the right direction, my train was an express train and wasn't stopping until it reached the end of the line, 2 hours out of Tokyo. Luckily for me, I had my trusty guidebook and figured out that the end of the line was a sight worth seeing: Hakone.

Hakone is a little town within one of Japan's national parks. They make it easy on you and have your day pretty much outlined. First you take a little train up the mountain. Every time you come to a switchback the conductor gets out, manually does something with the tracks, and then the back of the train becomes the front of the train and you zig zag your way up the mountain.

not my picture--there were no Hydrangeas in October

Then you come to the cable car. Instead of zigging or zagging you just go straight up. 

Now the real fun begins. You take the Hakone Ropeway (a tram) over the mountains and onto the volcano. The leaves were starting to turn, and a few weeks from now it is going to be amazing. 

The volcano is active. There are little blowholes of sulfur smoke all over the place. It is really cool looking.  I almost missed the fact that you could hike up the volcano. But lucky for me the woman I sat next to on the train happened to be in my same gondola and let me in on the secret.

The thing to do once you've hiked the Hakone Volcano, is to buy hard-boiled eggs that have been boiled in water from a volcanic spring. The sulfur turns them black. But they tasted great--totally normal.

After hiking around the volcano, you take the Ropeway down the mountain to the lake. From there you take a large boat across the lake, and from there a bus back to where you started. 

If you had plan to go to Hakone buy the Hakone Free Pass--one pass for all the different things. If you fortuitously got on the wrong train, you didn't know about the pass and at every stop had to figure out where you were going and what ticket to buy. Thank heavens for my guidebook to help me keep it all straight. 

10 hours after I left I finally made it home. This time, my poor sense of direction was a blessing not a curse! 

Japan, 2013: Tuesday (Tokyo)

We got in late Monday night and had all day Tuesday to sightsee together before Ryan started working. We started with an overview of the city from one of the government buildings. Tokyo is not small. And it is dense. But so well organized that it never feels out of control.

We went shopping at my favorite store, Toku Hands. It is 10 stories of Home Depot + Hobby Lobby + Wal-Mart + a dozen other boutique shops. They've got everything, and while most of it is fairly familiar it all has a Japanese feel. Like the Hello Kitty Zip-Lock bags we brought home for Ella. Let me tell you, they were a hit.

We ate lunch at a great Tonkatsu place. Ryan loves tonkatsu, which is a panko crusted deep fried pork. I didn't really think I would be a fan, but I was. It is moist and light and delicious. And it's served with a cabbage salad that is really just super finely shreeded cabbage and dressing, but it's so good.

With food on the brain, we decided to try and find the hole in the wall sushi restaurant that has 3 Michelin stars. If you haven't seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, you should. A good flick. Our search had a few wrong turns and included a maze through the Tokyo underground, but eventually we found it. Well, Ryan found it. I had very little to do with the navigation.

We were there around 4:00 and saw people working in the kitchen. We also saw someone taking a nap in the tiny restaurant. If you look at the picture closely, to the right of my shoulder are Jiro's legs propped up on a chair. At least we assumed it was him :)


Japan, 2013

Ryan had meetings in Tokyo this month, and I decided to take advantage of frequent flier miles and a free hotel and join him. A big shout out to Kimmy who made this possible by watching the girls for us. We were there for 1 week, from Sunday to Sunday. But because Japan is halfway around the world, and it takes a little while to get there, we only had 5 days in Japan. I spent 2.5 of them flying solo, and 2.5 with Ryan. It was really fun, despite having so so weather. Instead of doing one looong post, I think I'll break it down by days/events. 

October 17, 2013

Ella is 5!

It's true. Ella turned five during the first week of school. And we had so much fun at her birthday party that I hardly took a picture. There was a Groupon for a bounce house rental a few months ago and I bought it on a whim. Good move--made for some easy party planning. Ella and Grandma Sue picked out a birthday cake, and in true form, Grandma let her pick whatever she wanted. Let me tell you,  it was a good one. It was a princess party (of course) so we made princess pajama shirts. "Pajama" shirts so no one is obligated (allowed) to wear them in public. Kind of like this

The bounce house was actually WAY more fun when it wasn't hot hot outside, ie after the party was over. The delivery guys asked if they could leave it overnight instead of coming at 7 pm to pick it up. We happily obliged.

Ella really is at a fun stage right now. She is so helpful and amazingly good with Anna. Whenever they have a disagreement, Ella almost always figures out a compromise, often to her detriment. She's still loving school, but I am certain that I will worry for years to come as to whether sending her was the right decision, as she is the very youngest in her class. Academically she does great, but she is a year younger than most kids and it makes me worry about her socially. I shouldn't, though; she really has done great. And man, can that girl read. Watch this movie I took last month. This was the first or second time she'd ever read the book.

Ella, we love you so so much. Here's to my favorite five-year-old!

October 13, 2013

Fall Shots


The pictures aren't great, but the girls are cute. 

October 6, 2013

Alpine Loop

After 4 hours of General Conference, the girls were ready to get out of the house. So we took a quick trip up AF Canyon to see the colors of the Alpine Loop. While we were there, we ran into Adam and Julie (Ryan's cousin and his wife) and their kids. We love these guys but hardly ever see them. How fun to run into them on the side of the road on a Sunday afternoon. We talked them into stopping by, whipped up some chocolate chip cookies and made a night out of it. We love you, Johnstons!