Monthly Archives: November 2012

If you’re happy and you know it…

Remember that outfit I had on when I was…. Of course not!

Unless you had a major crush on your 3rd grade teacher or a phenominal memory, do you remember the dress she had on? Chances are, she probably thought long and hard about the perfect combination. “I want to look professional for the parents, but welcoming and fun for the students.”. Maybe her thoughts helped in the classroom and maybe they didn’t. Either way, my point is that generally you probably care more of your outer appearance than those around you.

I’m guilty of it as well (I do have a “fashion” page on this blog) however,
like most things in life, I believe in balance. It’s natural to feel great when you are lookin good, but I’m learning more and more that you look even better when you feel amazing!

In so many words, you should love what your dressing up. There’s no lipstick that can make a frown say “Please come try having a pleasant conversation with this face that would have rather stayed home and had a sob session about my skirt not fitting properly”. I have yet to find a strapless dress that makes slouched shoulders say “I’m confident and seeking some stimulating socialization!”

Gentleman, if you care more about the quality of your suit than the quality of energy put forth in conversation, take a look at the people you’re attracting. The sincerity in your smile far out shines the reflection on your fancy shoes. I’m speaking for my own personal preferences here, but if you’re with me, let’s begin to transfer our focus towards the people on this planet who desire to make a positive impact on those around them.

It’s unquestionable how stunning a smile is. Laughter is beautiful!






Beyond intimate relationships, what about the friendly conversation in line at the market? Do you make eye contact while they’re expressing themselves, or do you look at your watch to signify the obvious “I’m in a hurry and I’m just listening to you so I don’t seem like the impatient person I really am”.

Im not trying to promote the act of pretending to be interested in everyone or the “Fake best friend Union”… just brighten up a bit! You really don’t know how you may unintentionally impact someones day in the most positive way.

Would if that nervous waitress is stressing through her first day on the job?
That lost traveler with a map and look of “How did I get here and where am I”? They would probably be thrilled and relieved with a friendly “Hello” or “Do you need any help?”
Maybe that stranger in line just got diagnosed with a terminal illness and your warm eyes lightens their heart and strengthens their spirit.

Stop, smile, and look around. Remember what’s important… we’re all in this together!




*All photos from above were found online. The photo below is me… happy!



Categories: Travel talk | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments


Brandon and I decided to be tourist for a day and venture to the 2nd largest Buddha in Japan!

The Great Buddha of Kamakura (Kamakura Daibutsu) is a bronze statue, which sits on the grounds of Kotokuin Temple. Although I had read that is was towering at a height of 13.35 meters (slightly over 44 ft), I didn’t realize it’s massive size until I was actually standing in front of his peaceful presence.


Let’s rewind just a bit to the few photos I snapped along the journey there. One thing I love about Japan, and most other countries I’ve seen, is the convenient public transportation. Instead of driving, we got to enjoy our journey with walking, taking trains, getting lost and then more trains… Just the way I like it!

Leaving Brandon’s neighborhood, we start on foot and head towards the station.


I have yet to mention the uncountable amounts of vending machines that line the streets, malls, neighborhoods, schools and sidewalks of each city. In 2008 there were over 5 million vending machines here, which means there’s a machine per about 23 people populating the island! Your options range from snacks, drinks and hot meals to clothes, electronics, live fish and other items (that I probably shouldn’t mention on a family friendly blog).




Here’s a fun thought: So you’re walking to work, and you you’re ready for your coffee- Vending machine. Mmmm, a warm muffin and jam sounds good – hey look a VM (vending machine). I don’t really want to hit the store on the way home to pick up my fresh eggs and milk – VM. Oh, I forgot it’s my bosses birthday, I’ll get him a tie – VM. Well shoots, it’s starting to rain… Where will I ever find an umbrella? Of course, a vending machine. I don’t know if I can carry all of this to work today, I better just buy a smart car – Vending Machine!

*You should google “Japan vending machines” to get a kick out of the creative items being dispensed from this handy little devices!

On we go to the train station!


Easy enough, just read the signs (enter sarcastic laugh here) and line up.




Quick bathroom break before we transfer to the adorable old school train that will take us to the bottom of the walk to see the Great Buddha.






A few pictures from our walk (slight detour) as we eagerly head (so we thought) towards the statue.





Check this out, fresh octopus with a smidge of flour pressed on a grill then handed directly to you all nice, warm and crispy!



Thirsty after that? Vending Machine! This is an alcohol serving machine that actually cards you before you’re aloud to enter money or select your choice. Can it read American drivers license? I have no idea, I was just pretending to do it. Now I wish I would have tried!


We finally reach the entrance of our destination. This is where you have the option to cleanse your hands prior to visiting Buddha.


Here is the sight when rounding the corner.


Students get to come here for field trips, what an adventure… I wonder if this is extremely exciting to them, or if it’s just another day, seeing another Buddha.




More photos that I took before we got to enter inside the beast of copper.







Handstand shot!


I enjoyed finding different angles with a variety of effects to capture his unique great beauty.




What a brilliant sky for our backdrop all day!


…till next time Buddha, thank you.


Categories: Art, Edibles!, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Sushi hopping in Japan

A situation that posed a bigger challenge that I expected was trying to order without someone who could read and/or speak Japanese. How silly of me to assume that the menus would have pictures or English versions. On one hand, what a great sign clearly proving we weren’t settled for the tourist spots. On the other hand, it found us with empty stomachs, holding a menu of Japanese characters with a shy waitress eagerly waiting for our order.

I didn’t feel appropriate taking photos in some of the places we chose to ate at, but here are some shots from a few of our successful and “attempted” meals.

This dining experience turned out to be a noodle specialty house with only 2 tables and 3 tatami rooms with a chabudai (a low setting japanese table with no chairs). We took off our shoes and climbed in.


To order, we literally pointed to a picture on the wall and gave a thumbs up (with fingers crossed). She walked towards the kitchen and giggled as she relayed our request. Returning gently with our bowl of delightful goodies, she properly served us after watching our awkward attempt.






This was a restaurant that provided you with your own grill and a menu of fresh foods including pork, beef, chicken, tofu, vegetables and more. All served to you raw for you to cook at your preference. The boys went with beef and chicken and I complemented their choice with fresh veggies.





As if that wasn’t enough, Brandon added a bowl of spicy noodle soup. We thought it was going to come out in a cute mini “miso” cup… We were wrong, but it was delicious!



I just wanted to show the amount of grill smoke that was constantly floating around. I also smile every time I look at the sweet girls face to the left of the picture, adorable!


With this evening attempts, we decided to jump on the train and “sushi hop” around a new city. The rule was to split a sake or a beer and order one thing before we move to the next place. We were joined by a willing friend Maddox that was along for the ride! The adventure began…










Snack #1: 7 seats total, one famous chef with a cheerful assistant, a local couple (who loved Brandon’s Halloween mask), an order of grilled peppers with fish flakes and of course… local sake.





Stop # 2: American classics decorated the walls including Elvis records in the restroom and “The Marlboro man” ads lining the hallway. Hey look! We found another local that liked his mask.





Sushi #3: When was the last time you had a beer at a bar with no shoes on… Legally?




#4: We had a hard time figuring out to get into this one. The entrance was a sliding glass door which had a covering that you had to duck under. Following that was pebble stones to stand in before taking off your shoes to be seated. I caught the giggles here (if you know me well, you understand how hard this can be to maintain) and the more confused that Maddox looked, the worse it got. He couldn’t figure out what was so funny!





Last stop: We were the only ones here except the sweet woman chatting it up with Brandon. Friendly bartenders, a funky Dj’s booth and different decor made this upstairs gig a unique one.







The walk home presented a tiny debate (maybe from all the sake). What do you think… Is the character on the sign an elderly man with a beard or a hamster?


Categories: Edibles!, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Snacks, Japan style!

This post is the first of few as I look back on my stay in Japan. I feel my time there was way too short and has left me searching the calendar for a return date.

Could it have been the fresh food and unlimited amount of tea options? Maybe it was all of the kind people with their gentle demeanor. Possibly a balance of all of the above in combination with the perfect host.
Meet my exceptional cousin Brandon. A man with a huge heart, a positive attitude, and a sense of humor that left me tearing up as the locals stared in confusion at our ability to laugh without breathing for minutes at a time.
He’s here starting his 6th year in the Navy as a Seabee construction electrician, which is just one example of his strong drive and self discipline.


Our grandmothers are sisters and have lived nearby one another for most of their lives. This means, that although Brandon and I weren’t raised side by side, we’d randomly connect over summer breaks and family holidays. Unfortunately I don’t have any embarrassing childhood photos of us on hand, but here we are now!


First category, edibles! We had way too much fun snooping around the local shops checking out what was lining the shelves. From confusing items (that to this day we still can’t figure out) to food that found us curious enough to purchase and try at home.

From the hundreds of food photos I snapped, here are a few from each section.
This first one took me for surprise since I assumed everything in Japan was tiny. Check out the size of this apple next to a lemon!



Pickled everything! This is flavored garlic with some type of herb. We both love garlic so we chose the pink one (you can see it in the background) to take home and try. I wish I could of captured the look on our faces with the first bite. Not only did it taste far from the distinct flavor of garlic, but we were left questioning if this was indeed even what we thought it was! Him and I spent the first half of my trip trying it everyday with high hopes that some new flavor would jump out all of a sudden. “No, I really don’t think this is garlic”, was the common response.


Care for a baked sweet potato? Here, we’ll just keep it warmed up over hot stones at your local grocery store… Love it!



Fish anyone?






As far as convenience is concerned, they’ve got snack size options dialed in. From fish jerky to pretzels, nuts, single packaged hard boiled eggs, a slice of raw salmon paired with cucumber, rice wrapped tuna and flavored seaweed kelp packs.




I may have went a little over board when I saw all of these individually wrapped snacks at a specialty store. Each time I visit home from abroad I bring my siblings a variety of treats from around the world that (especially being from a small town in Oklahoma) they’ve never seen and generally wouldn’t try.

Side note: This is a surprise, so if you know my family, shhh….

I wish I could tell you what all of these are, maybe after we try them I can give you my best guess. I know a few are fish based and some are sea greens. We found a tiny jar of marshmallow cream with a wooden spoon and several different chocolate treats.




I have no idea what these are. The circular item on the left has the texture of tofu or pressed cat food with no picture on the wrapper indicating what it might be. The other is a tube of liquid with what appears to be soggy meat, fish, tofu or dog food. Hmmm, we’ll see!


The first is an extremely popular item here that comes in a range of flavors. This is the original chocolate. The second photo is green tea and green tea with cherry blossom Kit Kat’s. Both along side a box of dark chocolate swirled with green tea flavored white chocolate.



If there is one thing I must add to the list of all countries have in common, its sweets! I suppose we should face the simple fact that most humans love sugar. At the stores in Japan, you can find a huge variety of desserts ready to be taken home and consumed with a small side of guilt… hold the regrets.

This is a sample of the red bean ice cream, delicious! So was the green tea, cherry plum and my favorite… sweet potato!


The white and green items are rice balls filled with a sweetened red bean paste and next to them is the brown bean paste coating the outside of a rice ball.


Oh no he didn’t… yes he did! This is a hotdog, sandwich styled, banana stuffed Twinkie!


A soft chocolate bread, slightly crispy on the top filled with some fudge like frosting.


The item at the bottom of the plate is a real baked sweet potato, coated in sugar dust. The other is the same rice balls from above except this time covered in sesame seeds.


After all of the store adventures, we’d often find dinner being an assortment of “Ooh, that looks weird” next to “Yum, let’s share that!”. Here is a sample spread… Can you spot the pink garlic that didn’t taste anything close to what it looks like? Its near the black stuff that pleasantly tasted like the ocean. Not to be compared with the sweet teriyaki flavored omelette or fresh salmon slices on Daikon radish. How about out the banana dog-o-twinkie?



This wraps up the grocery food to go. Next post… Restaurants!

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Helping hand in Kuala Lumpur

My last night in Malaysia, I took a bus back to Kuala Lumpur for a good nights rest and an early rise for my flight to Japan. I chose the Reggae Hostel based off a suggestion from my local friends.

Time to make a quick acknowledgment to my new pal that went above and beyond his call of duty to help me. I had left my backpack with my previous host and needed to retrieve it before the evening was over.

Being that I was in one of the largest cities in Malaysia at night, by myself and caring all my belongings, taking the round trip alone didn’t seem like a brilliant idea. I asked this hostel employee if he had any friends in the cab service that I could just pay to do the whole trip with me. (At this point I wasn’t going to put a price on my safety).

He said if I could wait until he got off work that he would make the entire trek with me. He was a local and knew the streets, so I patiently waited for him to finish up work. My helpful guide named Usman is on the left.


Not only did he kindly lead me right to where I needed to go, he payed for the tram and cab with nothing but a smile the entire journey. This didn’t even include the history lesson I got along the way as we would pass different buildings and church sites.

I returned safely with my backpack and a new buddy! The next morning as I was reviewing the map on which path to take to get to then tram that takes me to the bus that delivers me to the correct airport… In walks my personal guide. As if he hadn’t done enough already, he says, “Let’s go, I’ll make sure you get there”.

Add this guy to the list of quality people on earth who have helped me reflect on being a better person… Would I have done this for someone? I hope so.

With an easy trip to the airport, all checked in and ready to board. Next destination is south of Tokyo Japan to visit my cousin Brandon. Great times ahead!



Categories: Accommodations | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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