Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 - Year in Review

It has been a whirlwind of a year. Sadly, it is our last full year in Japan. As we continue on the never-ending wheel of time (!), we wanted to reflect on some of our favorite adventures of 2013.

Dustin left us to attend training in Okinawa. I suffered in the snow while he had upper 70s every day.

I joined Dustin on a quick adventure in beautiful Okinawa. We explored the amazing Churaumi Aquarium and had the best food in Japan to date.

We attended the Iwakuni Wine Festival again and visitied our favorite okonomiyaki restaurant enough that they know our order. We spent a weekend hiking in the mountains surrounding Hiroshima and stumbled across the beautiful Peace Pagoda and Toshogu Shrine. Towards the end of the month we took the night bus up to Tokyo for the Anime Fair.

Warmer weather brought the beautiful, yet short-lived, cherry blossoms that are associated with a Japanese spring. We also participated in our first half marathon, an event that has changed my lifestyle in so many ways.

We spent another warm weekend in Hiroshima viewing the Confectionary Expo and tasting treats from various regions of Japan. On another weekend we cycled 70km (43 miles) on the famed Shimanami Kaido. Around Memorial Day we left our beloved host country and traveled to China. Our favorite stop on our whirlwind week tour was hiking through the Huangshan Mountains.

We relaxed in June. And by relax I mean the back-breaking work of rice planting. By hand.

My mother flew out for a quick visit. We spent a few days showing our local area before traveling to Tokyo and enjoying gardens, sightseeing, and Disney Sea. We also got to see Square Enix's new headquarters and have a few drinks at Artnia. Lastly, we also found time to finish our SCUBA certification and get a few open water dives under our belts. I can't wait for warmer weather so I can get back into the water!

My miserably hot birthday month did not keep us from exploring. And this time we had a bigger group! My family and grandparents made the journey to visit. We spent time in Iwakuni, Kyoto, and Tokyo. During their visit, Japan experienced the hottest day on record. It was a bit miserable but was so great to see my family and show them some of our favorite experiences in Japan.

After a busy spring and summer we were glad for a slower September. We escaped the heat and had our first Japanese movie theater experience.

I laced up my running shoes and got back on the road once the weather cooled a bit. Definitely glad I did because some friends introduced us to a make-your-own okonomiyaki restaurant in Iwakuni. We eat there more than we should. Like weekly. We also made a quick trip (I know, again!) to Tokyo for the Tokyo Game Show. It was worth every penny to experience a game convention and cosplay expo.

Fall means mikan season in Japan which resulted in high Vitamin C intake going into flu season. After eight years of hair tumbleweeds and please-throw-the-ball-one-more-time!'s our beloved Indiana went to a farm up north. We miss him but are reassured knowing he had a long life filled with lots of love. We capped the month with a delicious feast with friends and military family.

The close of the year has been quiet on the adventuring front. Dustin has worked every weekened since Veteran's Day so I've been making a mad dash to complete some reading for 2013. We did get some time together to celebrate our seventh anniversary.

Ready for 2014! Happy New Year!

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Wool and Copper Anniversary

I really don't understand the traditional anniversary gifts. Why, at seven years, is wool and copper the "traditional" gifts? After seven years your spouse stops cuddling so you need a wool sweater? And that new cookware you received at the wedding needs to be replaced? Hmm, who came up with these rules?

Dustin and I are celebrating seven years of marriage this year. If I don't look at our wedding pictures it doesn't feel as long. When I see how young everyone is in the pictures I feel differently. During the reception guests wrote fun messages on little cards that went into one of three vases. One vase, Marriage Advice, has been a source of funny memories over the years.

For example,
And my absolute favorite:

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Time for a Run

I prefer to run off base near my home. We live on the South side of base less than a quarter mile from the gate. So when the gate is open I will run off base through the narrow streets of Japan. My favorite, and most frequented route, is through the lotus fields surrounding our housing area and onto the seawall. It is a popular route for runners and cyclists and I've mastered the breathy "Konnichiwa!" during my runs.

In the spring, it is a smelly journey until I reach the clear breeze of the ocean. Lotus fields are heavy with manure. In the summer I run through an eight foot lotus jungle. At night it reminds me of corn fields so I run just a bit faster.

I love the silence of the lotus fields and the seawall. Dustin and I have started running without music (so adult of us, I know). I love the quiet of nothing but my breathing and the ocean. And the occasional bird that startles from the lotus always gives me a bit of an adrenaline burst.

We often run with Zero. She loves it and will often be the deciding factor on whether we run or not after a busy day. Zero is excited and running around like crazy? Okay, let's go. We can't say no those Dobby-esque ears.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Warning: contains a choice word.

Dustin and I bicker all the time. We are both snarky and sarcastic. I have a little mean mixed in for good measure. We rarely fight, and we argue occasionally. Mostly it’s general bickering where one or both of us are giggling the whole time.

I'm sure this makes our friends feel awkward. I feel out of place when they discipline their children. "One!.... Two!..." Is that it? What happens at three? I never get to see the good part.

We were driving home from dinner and had a new person in the car. This didn't stop us from breaking out into a Tice debate. How many corners are really at the intersection commonly called "Four Corners"? Suffice it to say there was lots of raised voices and finger jabbing at the respective corners. When the light turned green we realized we were arguing the same side of the point. Again, a classic Tice debate. Our passenger probably thought we were nuts.

Last night I was in bed watering my flowers and picking weeds in Animal Crossing when Dustin rolls over and says,

If this marriage goes to shit, I can't do any better.

Best compliment I've received all year.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Some friends of ours wanted to expose us to a new restaurant. We've driven past Tonkatsu many times but always had another craving so we never stopped. One Saturday afternoon we decided to try it out. A few of my coworkers really rave about the food at Tonkatsu, "pork fry". Popular with locals? Must be great!

Portion sizes in Japan are perfect. I rarely leave a restaurant with that uncomfortable I'm-so-stuffed-and-I-may-explode feeling. Restaurants have mastered the Goldilocks routine - it's always 'just right'. This restaurant is the exception. The portion sizes were massive!

Dustin ordered curry with a pork cutlet. The picture does not do it justice. There had to be at least 400 grams of rice under the curry sauce. He struggled through it and gave away his cabbage.

My meal came with fresh ground sesame seeds. Really fresh. As in do-it-yourself fresh.

My serving was a bit smaller. Cabbage salad with tasty panko-crusted shrimp and potato croquettes. And a traditional set comes with miso soup and pickled greens. Yes, I know. I ordered seafood at a restaurant that specializes in fried pork. No complaints here, my seafood was delicious.

We can't eat there very often. It was very tasty but it was the meal of the day due to the large portions. So much food! Not many places in Japan understand or allow doggie bags and it is extremely rude not to eat all of the food served. The -itis kicked in after we finished, naptime!