Friday, December 19, 2014

In the Breeze 2

With the crazy Christmas season I am having a hard time getting my posts together in time to publish anything. So I figured now was the PERFECT time for a quick catch up and my second installment of In the Breeze.

What I've Been Up To
Helping out big time at the kids' school. Every day this week I have been at the school to help volunteer with whatever is going on. I'm usually only found there twice a week, but there were some fun activites taking place that required prep work plus attending... not to mention decorating the library and office and then cleaning them up!

I've also been getting my house straightened up, decorated, and prepared for Christmas! But with the holiday season there is more to do. There's shopping, wrapping, baking, parties, etc. Just under a week until Christmas and I'm beginning to get burned out already. Maybe I need to change up my Christmas music in the van...

Gilmore Girls on Netflix. And this week also brought the season finale of Survivor! Ah! Love me some classic reality tv! I'm thrilled with who won because honestly, she deserved it. Good game play!

I am still into the Outlander series. I think I'm on book 7?? I've been going through them quickly, but with all the holiday things going on I haven't had as much time to read. They are good though. Can't wait to finish the series soon.

Something to mention
Kind of bummed. I was going to be getting a dog for my brother for Christmas. Everything was all lined up with a friend of mine; collar & leash purchased, shot appointment and spay appointment made, date to take in the dog... everything. My friend was finalizing her divorce and then I find out her (ex) husband took the dog (even though he doesn't want it) and has refused to return it to her or hand it over to me just to be spiteful. I was pissed and frustrated. I was going to find another dog for my brother, but after talking with him it was decided to wait for a bit while some work stuff is arranged. Hey, there's still a small chance that jerk guy will grow some compassion and I can get the dog anyway... but I'm not holding my breath.

Thinking about...
Family coming to visit! I'm so freakin' excited to be hosting Christmas for my whole family this year! The kids know that Uncle Mike is coming, but they are going to be surprised to wake up Christmas morning and see EVERYBODY here. Oh my goodness! I'm already giddy. Can. Not. WAIT!

Found this:

And laughed until I cried. This guy narrarates the lives of strangers and gets their reactions. Oh, it gets better... there are more to be found on YouTube!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Fall Farm Trip

Even with our family moving every couple years there are a few "traditions" that I have been trying very hard to keep.

One of them is a trip to a farm in the fall to pick out pumpkins.

This year we found a place called Devine Acres. It was child and family friendly with a very affordable price tag to go with it! I was also looking at a place called South Texas Maize in Hondo but after comparing prices and what was offered I felt Devine Acres would be more suitable for our family with SMALL children.

We drove out to Devine and the kids enjoyed petting and feeding the farm animals.

They roade on the barrell train.

Went down some tube slides and played an a SHADED playground.

There were mazes to run through, volleyball pits, horse shoes, vegetable cannons, hay rides, fire pits, fishing, and MORE! We didn't do everything, but the kids ran through one maze with Ryan and later father was teaching son how to play horseshoes.

We did some panning for gemstones

and finally picked our pumpkins!

The day we went it was still pretty hot in the direct sun so we tried to keep hydrated and settled in the shade as much as possible. We enjoyed our time and I can definitely see us going back again.

Devine Acres offers fun times for Christmas and around Easter. Schools can take field trips out there and private parties can also be booked. I'm so glad we found a place to keep up our fall family tradition. It is definitely fun for the whole family!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Giving a Gift of Compassion

The holiday season always brings a time of gift giving. For many (I'm assuming I'm not the only one) we have more than we need already. Of course I'll accept gifts and can always think of more things I'd like to have (hello, have you seen my What I've Been Eying posts?).

But I also realize that there are thousands, if not millions, of people around the world who are suffering. They have so little and we have so much. Living in America we take for granted the access we have for our basic needs, education, and medical care.

Ryan and I choose to support a child in India through Compassion International. It seems like such a small thing but you gatta think about those starfish and all. We still talk about sponsoring more and I daydream about taking a trip with Compassion to see what they do up close and personal.

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

Did you know that with just a $38 a month commitment you can change the life of a child living in poverty?!

Let's say you can't do a monthly commitment at this time. Compassion will accept donations as well.

What I get excited about is Compassion's Gift Catalog. There are numerous items you can purchase which will either go directly to a child or into a large fund to be disbursed for that need. You can give $4 to help protect a child from parasites, $30 for a family to get access to a water well, $100 for a bicycle or for an attendant at a birth. The list goes on!

These are good things! I look through them and think of how much of a blessing these gifts are to those who receive them... I do wish I could do more.

So if you're still in search of a gift for somebody this Christmas season or you feel that desire to give compassionately from your heart, I encourage you to check out Compassion International and give to someone in need.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Look Back: Sapporo Snow Festival

After being able to find and download all my old Myspace blogs I am doing some look backs on the adventures we experienced while living in Japan. These have been left exactly how I wrote them in my early 20's -- in all my immature, na├»ve, and ineloquent glory. Pictures have been added.

This is the vacation Ryan and I have always referred to as "the best trip"... we went to the Annual Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido Japan and absolutely loved it. At this point I was working and had saved up just to go on this tour and to enjoy ourselves without going crazy. I don't think my writing expresses really how much fun we had!


February 7, 2007

Whew! What a trip... and an experience of a lifetime. Hokkaido was beautiful, yet cold.

Okay, I'll start at the beginning. We got up freakin' early and left the base around 4:30 in the morning. Got to Henada Airport and got on the flight. Wonderful me, I slept through the whole bus ride and plane ride. When we landed around 8:30 or so we got on another bus which took us to the Ainu Museum.

The Ainu were the natives of Hokkaido before the Japanese government made them Japanese. They seem to be a lot like the Native Americans as well as Eskimos, at least their culture and lifestyles are similar. It was interesting. There was a presentation that we watched and a very entertaining story-teller who gave us the background of who the Ainu were and how the museum became what it is now. There was also some shopping where I got this incredibly warm rabbit fur hat. It's sooooo soft!

From there we headed to the Sapporo Beer Garden for lunch. We get there and there's a TON of snow. Luckily it was all plowed, but the areas that weren't went above my waist. Now, we were all told that it would be a mutton BBQ. So all of us are expecting a BBQ - that wasn't what it was - the food we get is like yakiniku, we have to cook it ourselves at the little grills in our tables. It sucked 'cause we were all so hungry and didn't want to wait for it to cook, but we did anyway.

Ryan is bad with chopsticks so he stole some little kid's spoon and fork while we all chatted with the people around us. It was nice. We didn't try any of the beer though. Some of the people around us did and they said that it was just okay. The Beer Museum was closed so we couldn't check that out... :(

Finally, after all that we are driven through the main section of Sapporo where the festival is being held. This was good 'cause it let us know where things were in relation to our hotel - then we were dropped off at The Sapporo - Toku Hotel.

Ryan and I took a nap once there. We were tired!

Then we got up and walked out to the Odori blocks (about 12 blocks of snow and ice sculptures). We were really hungry but couldn't find a restaurant we trusted, so we went to Mr. Donut. Then later we got some chicken on a stick from one of the festival stands - it was REALLY greasy. Anyway, we looked at ALL the statues which took us about 2 hours. At the end of the blocks was the competition. It is a 3-day competition where teams from all over the world build their sculptures in 12-hour shifts. Our neighbors were on the USA team so we stopped by and chatted with them for awhile and they gave us their team pins. Pretty cool. We saw teams from Finland, Australia, Germany, China, Guam, Hawaii, Thailand, Sister City Portland, Singapore, and others that I can't think of right now.

On the way back we find a McDonald's, have that for dinner and go to bed.

The next morning we are up early and downstairs in time for our breakfast. Where we sit down happens to be a very good thing. We weren't sure what we were going to do that day. The guy we sat with is married to a Japanese national and the day before they had gone to a local tourist attraction that we hadn't been told about. It was Mt. Moiwa. You have to take a taxi to get there and she was kind enough to write out the instructions to the cab driver for us.

First, though, we wanted to explore more of Sapporo. This girl who was there on her own said she would tag along with us. So we first looked around and decided to go to Susukino Market looking for the ice sculptures. After going all along this crazy road we find them, one block down from our hotel (go figure). We get a bunch of pictures and see some weird buildings as well.

Next we start to look for the fish market. Ryan is not the best navigator and it was starting to snow kind of hard so we couldn't find it. We thought we passed it, so we decided to head on further down to the Sake museum. We make it there and it was NOT what we expected. It was basically just a sake shop with some little models of old sake making... and a movie about how it's done. But I find a cute bottle of sake or wine (not sure) and buy that. Then the sales lady gives us samples of what I just bought. Tasha and I split the sample (less than a swallow), so it's only like a taste of it... pretty good! It was fruity like apples. Then the sales lady gave us a blueberry one, not so good. Then we tried the real sake stuff. Bleh! Not a fan at all - so I didn't buy that one. Haha.

As we headed back to the hotel we found the fish market. We took a bunch more pictures and were just suprised at everything. Some guy tried to have us buy sea urchins... no thanks. Ryan got a kick out of the huge live crabs in some of the tanks. Oh yeah, some weird Japanese guy tapped me on the shoulder. Then when I turned around and looked at him he just waved and said hello. I said hi back, but it was just weird.

After we grab lunch and get back to the hotel we decide to head out to the mountain. We get a cab who takes us there - and almost hits me! Gah! We get out of the cab and there's not sidewalk so as we walk down to cross the street the guy goes in reverse and with all the snow he starts to slide! It was a bit scary and Ryan saved me. Hahaha. We go buy our round-trip ticket in the little gondola thingy which will take us to the top.

The conditions were pretty bad so we couldn't see much on the ride up. Let me just remind everybody here that there is TONS of snow. I'm not kidding. We get off at the first landing and are quickly shuffled onto a bus which has like tank treads and goes up the hill. At the very top the conditions are even worse: windy, snowy, foggy... bleh! It was very, very cold. Ryan and I played in the snow for awhile, threw snowballs, and got pictures. He dragged me up to this area where I was just praying the snow didn't give way 'cause it would be taller than me. Luckily it held and I only sunk down to my knees. Phew. We went in their little shop. There was a restaurant where we spent $20 on fries and 4 rolls. But it had a great atmosphere and a view where we watched it get dark. Every once in awhile the wind would clear out some of the cloudiness and we could see the city below. After that we did some shopping.

The conditions worsened so the rides were only going every 30 minutes instead of every 15. When we got down to that first landing again we wanted to look around. There was a trail that led to this dome place. It said "Ice the Bar"... wasn't too sure what it was, but it looked cool, so we went in. It was so neat! There were lights in the ice, frozen over and icicles above our heads. Then we go through the little door into another room like the first. Then into the final room there was a bar and they were selling hard liquor. Everything was made out of ice and that was totally cool. But we turned around and left, heading back into the waiting building. Finally time passed and we rode the gondola back down the mountain, caught a cab and went back to the hotel.

Ugh, there was still more to this day.

We wanted real food... our sad little meal from the mountain did not cut it. Below the hotel there were a bunch of restaurants so we decided to check them out. We found one with steak. It was pricy with the cheapest meal being about $40 per person. But the experience was great. We sat at this bar-type thing where the chef was on the other side and grilled our food in front of us. It was so neat! It was a 5 course meal, but other than the steak it was all Japanese-style so we picked at what we had. It was really good though. Both of us would swear it was the best steak we'd ever had in our life. The people were funny too. They probably thought we were funny as well. Oh, whatever, we had a good time.

From there we walked the streets. There is a million shopping choices and there's this one street that is only stores and closed off to traffic. It was alright, but we had told Ron (our snow-sculpting neighbor) that we would stop by again to check the progress. We headed back up to the Odori street, which was like 4 blocks up, but then we had to go about 10 blocks down. Ugh, my feet were so tired already from all the walking that day in snow boots. Anyway, we get there and things hadn't gotten very far. From all the bad weather that day their work was delayed. We all had a nice chat and Ron said he'd show us pictures of the finished product later. With that we headed back to the hotel.

Now I love how safe Japan is. If I were in America I highly doubt I would be walking all over a strange city, in the dark, around 8:00 at night, probably looking lost. But there is honestly no fear that we're gonna be robbed or beat or anything. It is a great feeling. We get back to the hotel eventually... exhausted.

Something totally cool was that we flop down on our tiny beds and flip on the TV. We find Forrest Gump... IN ENGLISH! Oh, it was glorious. So when it's over we quickly fall asleep.

Next morning we skip the hotel breakfast. The day before we experienced what they had to offer and we would rather pass on that then have it again. We go to McDonald's instead. The snow was blowing so bad that it hit our eyes and we couldn't see. And let me just say again that it was COLD! Then we go back to our room, pack up and check out. We had 2 hours before we had to leave so we looked at the department store and had some Starbucks. Eventually it's time to load up and get out of there. We were supposed to LEAVE at 12:45, the last person showed up at 12:55, needless to say we were running late. Gargh.

They take us to Satoland. I wish we had more time there, as it was we only got 45 minutes (thanks to the late people). There were snow slides and snowmobile pullings and all that fun jazz. We didn't have the time to wait in the lines, how disappointing, but we did go through the maze. That was fun. I got some cute pictures. Oh, and we looked around. Then we had to get on the bus and get to the airport.

Yes, the airport. I slept on the bus ride there. After some stuipd lack of planning stuff on the part of our guides we finally get our tickets and onto the plane. There was fear that we wouldn't be taking off because how bad the weather had turned, but thankfully it worked out. I didn't sleep on the plane ride, and it was alright. Our travel back to the base on the bus was uneventful, again I didn't sleep.

We had a great trip, but I'm glad to be home again. Ryan enjoyed himself as well, which makes things for me that much better. Happiness!

I'm not sure we'll do this again. It cost a lot of money and now I can at least say I was there and did it. I am satisfied with my experience and will recommend it to anybody. This was something to remember.