Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Belly Dancing, Sledabrations and Painted Owls

No... I did not belly dance while I painted owls... but sometimes it felt like I was. The month of January was, for me, like a can of confetti: It seemed pretty calm and coordinated at first... until it was opened up and sprinkled around into a shower of fun... albeit a messy and fairly tiring shower of fun. So here is what I did, and feel free to follow in my footsteps next year.

I planned to take about 6 weeks off from photography, crafting and volunteering, to decompress, and get inspired for 2015 activities. From the end of December through January, I was going to put my feet up, chill out, maybe play a little Candy Crush, and generally be a couch potato. Yeah... that lasted about 48 hours. I am a terrible couch potato. Terrible.

I had gotten word that my 93-year-old grandmother wasn't feeling so well, and my whole family could use a little perking up. So, having the means to travel Space A, I won the Space A lottery, and got a $35 airplane ticket to the States Jan. 5. I spent the first half of January enjoying the 70-degree weather for sunny Southern California with my parents and grandmother, who, by the way, appears to be feeling much better.

Jan. 5 and 6

I am traveling... a total of three flights... and two famous mountains:
That's Mt. Fuji on the left and Mt. Rainier on the right, as seen from my plane windows.
I cannot sleep on planes so I stay awake for 31 hours. The bad news is that when I arrive in the States I am exhausted... and did not pack very intelligently. I was so busy being focused on organizing my kids' life in my absence, if I managed to get a flight, that I didn't check the weather to see what I should pack for this journey. So, I packed way too many pairs of long pants and scarves. WAYYYY too many. I was sweating just walking from the baggage claim of the John Wayne Airport to the car, my gleeful mother leading the way. The good news was I had an excuse to go to Old Navy. I bought two T-shirts and a pair of jeans I could roll up to make capris. My parents have a washer and dryer. Problem solved.

Mom and I enjoying the California sunshine.
More good news is that since I don't sleep on planes, I have no trouble sleeping through the night by the second night I am in the States. No jet lag here!

Jan. 8

I am invited to go belly dancing in Laguna Beach by my good friend Judy. She's been belly dancing for a couple of years and I've heard her talk about how much fun it is, how it's a good workout. Well, I'll try just about anything once, so great... I throw on a new t-shirt and some leggings that I had brought with me to layer under jeans. At least my poor packing would pay off in some way.

The instructor is Jheri, and she reminds me of Shirley McLaine. She teaches all levels of belly dancing and this happened to be the first lesson in a series of beginner classes. Perfect. I learned the fundamentals of belly dancing, which is basically isolating different muscle groups and learning the shimmy them effectively. My core hated me the next day. This was better than a few hundred sit-ups. I got to play finger cymbals and wave around a veil. Judy even lent me a tinkly skirt edged with coins. I felt quite legit.

Finger cymbals. These were fun and there are about a dozen different sound you can make with them, depending on the way you position your fingers.

Me with Judy and Jheri (center). If you;re interested in lessons and live near Laguna Beach, you can contact her at jheristjames(at)
Now, I have the grace of a drunk 1-year-old, so I warned Jheri that she was not to expect great things from me and to please just look away if I tangle myself up in my scarf. I will manage to untie myself, I promised. She was incredibly patient, knowledgable and made me wish I still lived in the OC so I could continue these weekly lessons. It's the one kind of dance that makes it desirable to have a belly and a butt. Finally a physical art form I could get behind... pun sort of intended.

I was most comfortable with the veil dance... maybe because I had something to concentrate on besides my lack of rhythm. Note there is not video of this lesson. That is on purpose.

So, as a souvenir, I bought myself a skirt. A burgundy one. I might be a belly dancer for Halloween. Sorry, Iwakuni.

Jan. 9

It rained one day while I was in California. They really needed it, there is quite a drought going on right now. Well, my empty-nester parents bought me a new "sister" this fall... and decided she needed a rain coat, which my mother made. My sister, Latte, is supposedly a mastiff, but she's more like a small horse. Here she is in her horse blanket/raincoat before a walk:

Obviously, she loves wearing it.

Jan. 13

Grandma wanted to treat my mom and I to lunch in Laguna Beach, which is her old stomping grounds. The Las Brisas restaurant is one that I had driven by many times, but had never eaten there. It's Mexican seafood and the food, service and view were all excellent. I highly recommend dining there is you have the opportunity... especially on a sunny 68-degree January day.

Not to brag, but this was about the time that the flu was hitting Iwakuni. I was thrilled to be on this side of the Pacific and virus-free.

Jan. 16 and 17

No photos, but I flew commercial, thanks to my generous family, back to Hiroshima and was picked up by the spouse, who was glad to have me home since both kids were sick. I was on a new Dreamliner, which had to return to the gate before takeoff for a mechanical issue. We were 1.5 hours late leaving LAX. We arrived in Tokyo 45 minutes late, but thanks to the airport being prepared for us, and the airport staff allowing my to cut to the front of the line in customs, I made my connection with 10 minutes to spare. Kudos and thank you to the Narita Airport staff.

And, of course, I came bearing gifts for my children from their grandparents:

Jan. 19

It's MLK Sledabration Day! I promised the kids I'd be home for our annual sledding trip, and so I was.

We go to Mominoki National Park to sledabrate, which is about a 2-hour drive from Iwakuni into the mountains. In past years we have never needed to put on the chains... but this year, we did. I left that nonsense to the spouse.

It ended up taking 7 men to accomplish this:

10 minutes after we had chains on, we go to the park:

And sledabrated.

On the way back home we checked out a nostalgic USA-themed cafe, the KT Diner. It's hard to explain where it is, but as you come down the road from Mominoki, it's about 20 minutes and on the left. This is the best photo I could get of the entrance. The restaurant is kind of tucked away:

It has plenty of American-inspired food, pizza, hamburgers, steak.... the best was the chocolate milkshake.

It was the best because of the spouse's reaction to it.

It was chocolate milk with ice cubes, topped with a scoop of chocolate ice cream covered in sprinkles and chocolate syrup. Not what the spouse was expecting, poor guy.

Jan. 23

Because having just one day off in a school week is not enough, my kids had Friday off, too. I refused to let them just sit around and play on their iPads while Netflix streamed on the TV, so I packed them up despite the 45-degree weather and we went to Asa Zoo in Hiroshima. Now, if you have recently been to the San Diego Zoo, keep your expectations for Asa low. But, it was a fun way to kill a few hours, for less than $10 (not including gas and tolls, of course).

My parents have tortoise, Papyrus, who is slightly smaller than the one walking toward us (who, by the way, just bulldozed over anything in its path, including feces, smaller tortoises and that granddaddy tortoise's front legs). Papyrus weighs about 85 pounds. I can only imagine how much granddaddy weighs.
Loved this... this wooden jungle gym for kids... becomes a wooden jungle gym for kids of the goat variety. Human kids can climb up and around and on the other side, they are in a petting zoo.
Yes, we pretty much had the place to ourself. Japanese kids were in school and any Japanese person who was half sane would not have decided to go the zoo in January. I already packed poorly for California, I might as well freeze my children with my newly acquired sunny California mentality.

The goats seriously enjoyed being brushed.

The penguins were fun...although they did not appreciate the boys' one-liners from the Penguins of Madagascar movie... "Private, Dibble me."

See? No reaction.

Jan. 24

I Canvas and Cocktailed for the first time... ever. Not half bad, I suppose:

I hung it in the kids' bathroom so it could watch them while they are on the toilet. :) Seriously though, I am much better and cocktailing them I am canvasing. But I had a great time with some great ladies. Thanks the Mauraders Spouses Club for donating this party to the M.C. Perry Basket Auction fundraiser.

So, that was 20 days of my January... I like to keep busy, as you can see... Candy Crush just wasn't enough to keep me occupied in the off season. ;) I had to have a confetti-like scattering of events across the world. Now it's time to ramp up for spring travels, cherry blossom portrait sessions and crafting classes!


Vader's Mom said...

I hope that one day you take all of these and put it in book form. I have giggled non-stop at this post and really missed the one day I got to hang out with you. I wish I could sneak back over before Ashleigh heads home...

Jessica Guthrie said...

I know! I would love to see you again.