Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Hi everyone! We made it back. Getting to and from Australia was something like running the gauntlet, well maybe just as exhausting. But, it was well worth the hours and hours on the cramped plane, smashed next to smelly people and surrounded by equally smelly and icky plane food... Sydney was Ahhhhhmazing. Christmas in Sydney was everything I thought it would be. We had an incredible time and I have about 1,000 pictures to go through that documents every part of our busy and jam packed trip.

Here's a little teaser:

Me and some of the laziest and sleepiest koalas in Australia. The one I'm next to was named Syd and he let me pet him all over, rub his ears and face, and even hold his lil hand. I was a kid in a candy store.

Ok, lots more later, promise. I have piles of laundry to do, dinner to make consisting of nothing but heaps of fruit and veggies (I think my body is going through withdrawal from wine and fish&chips), and a Gojou to snuggle. Happy to be home!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Memories

Merry Christmas! Yes, this is a scheduled post. Brad and I are hopefully loving Sydney and drinking a pina colada on a beach right now. Even though I'm looking forward to our amazing vacation immensely, I'm also quite homesick at the same time. This is my first Christmas away from my home and family. (The pics for this post are from last year. Feels like a really long time ago!)

My life is filled with happy Christmas memories. I'm so lucky to have parents who love the holidays and always make them memorable and special. My Dad in particular is Christmas crazy and finds great joy and happiness in making others happy with gifts in abundance. My Mom is the same way, but decorates the house beautifully, fills the house with Christmas goodies, plays Christmas carols and makes delicious and special holiday meals for us. My sister, Mary, and I used to always do our Christmas shopping together and would pick out something we liked a lot and the other one would buy it for Christmas. We always liked looking forward to that one gift we really wanted and knew would be under the tree.
Our favorite Christmas movie that we love watching every year has got to be a Christmas Story about Ralphie and his red rider BB gun. Christmas Eve is a night full of a lot of family traditions. When we were kids we would all take a walk at night all bundled up with coats and scarves to see all the Christmas lights in the neighborhood. Mom and I go to Christmas mass, and Mary and Brad make Christmas cookies while we're gone. Dad reads us Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory and if you want to read the sweetest Christmas story ever read this one with a tissue in hand. It gets me every time!

When we got older we started opening up our stocking gifts on Christmas Eve. My dad sends us on a "Stocking Quest" scavenger hunt. He makes up riddles that rhyme and gives us clues on where to go to get our present and get the next clue. The first clue is in our stocking, then from there he sends us anywhere in the house including the basement, shed, attic, out into the yard to look under garden pots, into neighbors yards with flashlights and snow boots or even into neighbors houses requiring us to ring the door bell on their Christmas Eve night! When we solve the riddle each spot has our gift - a gift card to a store, restaurant or spa, and the next clue. He gets really creative and sometimes the clues are so funny they make us laugh until our bellies ache or sometimes they are so hard it takes us a while to figure them out. Did I mention that he rhymes all the riddle poems? Yes, dad spends a lot of time on this for us! The last few years the Stocking Quest has ended at our wonderful elderly neighbors house where the neighbors get together to sip wine, eat snacks and chat together. Such an amazing time every year. And those gift cards mom and dad give me each year send my sister and I (and in recent years Brad too) on an all day shopping spree that includes a card for lunch at a restaurant and ends at the spa for pedicures to relax our aching, shopped out feet. Yes, my family is amazing and I am moved every year by their generosity and love.

Christmas morning we take turns opening the mountains of gifts under the tree and spread out all the paper in a giant pile in the living room. We take a picture every year sitting in it.

After opening presents we have our traditional breakfast of baked french toast. My mom makes this every year for us (upon request) and it's always a treat!

Mom's Christmas Baked French Toast:
In a saucepan over medium heat mix and melt:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbsp corn syrup
While mixture melts, spray/butter 9x13 pan. Slice a loaf of french bread 3/4" - 1" thick (estimating 2 per person).
Pour butter/sugar mixture into pan.
In blender mix:
5 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
Pour over bread slices. Use all of the mixture. Top each bread slice with a canned peach half. Cover baking pan and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover and bake for about 40 min until lightly browned and set. Serve directly from dish. No syrup needed.

So, this year Brad and I will be making new memories in a new place. I'll be back soon and will tell you all about it! Merry Christmas from Sydney!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Packing dilemma

I've got my products all organized in labeled mini bottles, my (just purchased today) mini travel hair straightener is ready to go, I've slathered my pale winter skin with sunless tanner, charged up the camera, dvd player, and iPod, I've pulled out my suitcase, but nothing has made it into my suitcase yet. What a slacker. And procrastinator! I'm currently typing this with two different black high heels on because I can't decide which one. I'm a horrible packer. Chronic over analyzer and therefore over packer who wants to be prepared in the perfect, comfortable outfit for anything the trip may throw my way. But, my suitcase is only so big and my husbands patience is only so strong, so it's time to stop staring into my closet and pick something already. We leave in the morning! I'm beyond excited, even though the forecast is calling for things in the rain department, it's summer there! It feels so weird to be packing summer things for a Christmas trip. Lil Gojou is currently asleep in my sweatshirt on the bed, and that's what I want to be doing at some point tonight, so ... here's the question: What are your travel must haves? What are the things that always find themselves in your suitcase or carry on?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Growing up so fast

Happy Birthday to my little spiky monster, lil goji berry boy. Gojou is 2 months old today. And boohoo he is growing up so fast. I swear he gets bigger by the day.

Zipping Over the Trees

This has been a beautiful winter! Lots of sun, blue skys and temps in the 60-70s. This gorgeous weather makes it so easy to get out and enjoy the fun things Okinawa has to offer. Something we've been wanting to do for a while is Forest Adventure Park and we got a perfect day for it. Not too cold, not too hot, sunny and perfect.

We made reservations and headed out to go ziplining. We found the office no problem, read the rules, signed our lives away, paid Y3,500 and drove over to a back parking lot where a shuttle picked us up and drove us up to the actual park.

It dropped us off and we walked up a pretty tree lined path to the lodge where they quickly and aggressively strapped us into our harnesses.

Then we were directed to the demo area where we were explained how to zipline in rapid fire Japanese, which neither of us could understand. The instructor after going on for a few minutes turned to us (the only Americans in the group) and says "clip, clip, go." Ummm awesome.
We each did the mini course and zipline before we were set loose on the course. There were sporadic employees around the course, but generally you were responsible for getting yourself around and hooking yourself to the ziplines.
Yes, I was nervous. But, it was thrilling and exciting. The course was challenging with the ladders, rope nets and obstacles. You're always connected to something the whole time, and you have a safety line too, so it was pretty safe if you follow the rules and instructions. Even though you know your connected to the line twice, and you're in your super tight harness, I still got that scared feeling kicking off of the platforms, flying over the tree tops high above the ground and especially on the landing when you careen full speed into the ground.

The course is pretty long! Half way through they have a tent and tables set up where you can enjoy a free soda they provide.
We had a total blast. This Tarzan Swing requires you to jump off a high platform, free fall for a few moments before you are zipped super fast into a cargo net where you have to catch on and climb over to a platform. Ummm jump off and free fall? This part of the course was the only time when I felt truly nervous. Yes I did it. No, I had no desire to do this swing again. Here is the video of Brad doing this swing:

Forest Adventure Park provides exhilarating fun while seeing beautiful ocean views from a 131 foot high zipline. The park also aims to re-build forest and create an eco-park in harmony with nature. This place rocks.

After our forest adventure we had a seaside picnic and enjoyed our lunch next to the remarkable blue green water.
Quite a nice way to enjoy our "winter!"

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tis the Season

It's the season for parties, friends and food! Recently Brad took me to his squadron Christmas Party. The hangar was transformed into a huge party room with decorations, Christmas trees, lights, decorated tables, fun kids activities and tons of holiday food and desserts.

The highlight was when Santa was delivered from the North Pole to the party in a C-130 decorated like Rodolph! The C-130 dropped Santa off and all the kids ran to the plane to meet him. So cute!

I just love this time of year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oh the weather outside is frightful

But, the fire is so delightful. Well, the candles that smell like Christmas are delightful and Brad even got me a candle from Cracker Barrel of all places that smells like a fire in the fireplace and makes quiet crackling sounds. The weather is frightful outside, but no white stuff for us. It's rainy and windy and generally icky out. And since I woke up at 7am today and every day this week for no reason I've got Christmas music on, my Christmas cup full of coffee and delish seasonal coffee creamer and kind of enjoying this quiet rainy morning.

This is one of my many favorites! I walked down the aisle to Canon and even now it still gives me goose bumps. And I love this version with the little kids voices. Christmas is so magical for children and they bring so much joy to the season. I'm lucky enough to have a few riding students who are young enough to be very excited about Santa coming and tell me all about their Christmas Lists.

We're down to less than a week until Sydney! Eeeee so excited! I've tried to prepare myself as much as possible with internet research and planning with my guide books, but I still feel like this huge city is going to be overwhelming. I hope we get to see a lot of it! In Australia Christmas day lunch is the big thing at restaurants. And many restaurants are generally closed Christmas day per usual. I have had such a hard time finding a restaurant that's not fully booked. I was really starting to stress about it. But, hey, no worries. We were planning on going to Bondi Beach anyway, so why not pack a picnic. It's going to be great... if only it doesn't rain!

So, here is a peek of what Christmas looks like at our place! We had to get a fake Christmas tree this year, so I also had to buy a fancy expensive candle that kind of makes the house smell like we have a tree.

Gojou even gets his own mini tree on his cage and his own ornament.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Some of the best things in life are free

Ok, this is the 3rd and final part to our day exploring a couple of the surrounding islands. On the very tip of Ikei island is a big resort and we stopped in to see if we may want to stay there at some point in the future.

The beach here was very rocky, but so beautiful.

We made a rock tower.
We skipped rocks, or rather Brad skipped rocks and I threw mine in and sometimes got a skip or two. Sometimes some of the best things in life are free.

What a fantastic day on Okinawa! We feel like we've done a lot in the 9 months we've been on the island, we love exploring and there is still so much to see.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Live Here!?

So, continuing on from my previous post, we were off exploring the surrounding islands and went over another bridge to Ikei Island.

We came across Ikei public beach and stopped in to check it out. To enter the beach you have to buy tickets. I think we paid Y200 each to even set foot on the beach. From there you can use the same machines to buy tickets for mats, umbrellas, trips on boats and other fun water activites.

The beach wasn't huge or anything, but it was very pretty and I can see that this would be a hoppin spot in the summer months. Even in November the water looked very inviting!

We walked along, collected shells and enjoyed being one of the only people on the beach.

It's days like this when I love living on Okinawa!