Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November Good Eats

While this blog has been quiet lately, we're still on the island exploring and having fun. In fact, we're ramping up efforts to be as active as possible as the countdown to departure begins. We're down to about 6 months and time seems to speed up every day.

We've discovered a few great new restaurants around town. The first is inside a unique restaurant village area we discovered quite accidentally. There is a very old neighborhood of former US Military housing recently refashioned into a number of cafes, shops, and restaurants.

Driving through there one day, I saw the name Rat and Sheep, so you know I had to check it out.

The restaurant is owned by a cute young couple whose chinese zodiac signs are the rat and the sheep. Are you relieved the name had nothing to do with the type of protein served (at least when it comes to the rat part)?

The set up is fun there. The kitchen is open to the dining room, or rather you basically sit in the kitchen while they prepare the food. The husband cooks the meat and steams vegetables on a stove right in front of you. Meanwhile, the wife is baking bread and other yummy delectable treats.
We ordered lamb and chicken with anchovy paste, both which were delicious, and we even bought their homemade bread to take home.

That night, we met another couple there who recommended Mintama, an Italian restaurant to us. Of course, not ones to shy away from local insider information, we had to check that place out next.

We were impressed with the salad (anchovy paste made another appearance in the homemade salad dressing), pizza, and pasta al la vodka. The restaurant also served Okinawan specialities, and it was packed inside. (A sign of a good place on this island)

We're only half way through holiday season, and I think I've already gained some extra "insulation." How about you? Doing any good eating lately?

Pie is Stronger than Sleep

We just returned a week ago from a really quick trip to the States. We were there for a whole 5 days and turned around and flew back to Okinawa just in time for Thanksgiving. We escaped the full body scanners and pat downs at the airport (maybe they don't care as much once you're leaving the States), but we both came down with nasty colds from the flight.

Anyway, we were lucky enough to celebrate Thanksgiving holiday with friends on the island who make a scrumptious homemade feast, including this apple pie and this sauce from the Pioneer Woman.

All I can say is... jet-lag, extreme fatigue, a glass of wine, a cold, and a whole ambien couldn't keep me asleep the whole night so that I wasn't raiding the fridge at 3:00 am for a nibble of this pie.

I don't even like apple pie, but this one has me obsessed...

Monday, November 1, 2010

November is Novel Month

We have embarked on our toughest adventure yet. It is one that won't take us out of the house, but will push us to our emotional and personal limits. We are writing a novel together. That is right. We are going to sit down every night together in front of the computer and knock out at least 1666 words a night (yes, the sign of the devil can be found in that number).
You might be asking how and why did two intelligent people decide to embark on this type of journey since their thinking process is so different from each other. How will they be able to work together every night when they both have such different views on how a story should be written? All good questions since we are both wondering the same thing.
A month ago while we were driving around the island when Mary informed me that she had a great idea that was fun and something we could do together. She had found a website describing national novel writing month. After looking at her with a bewildered look and wondering how this was going to be fun, we decided to try our luck.
Tonight was our first stab at being the next Hemingway. To say things did not start off well is an understatement. Within 13 minutes of writing our novel my fun meter was pegged and I was ready to drink my wine and just be the typist. I had this vision of spending the first two nights setting the stage and working on the female lead's character development, moving on to the male lead on Wednesday, and then maybe by Friday introducing the character that would disappear and draw our two characters into a Hart to Hart type mystery (the two leads are married by the way). Within the third paragraph Mary had already thrown in the disappearance and completely thrown me off my game plan. Once that occurred the writing stopped, my temper rose, and I was told I was no fun.
I am happy to report that after a few minutes of cooling down the writing began again and we were able to complete our writing assignment for the night. We have set an hour each night to complete the task, and while we went over by ten minutes this evening, we are looking forward to accomplishing our goal.
For those of you wondering the working title is simply, Hell novel: A Tale of a Divorce in Progress.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fall in Okinawa

Who can resist a cow riding a surfboard?

The days have cooled off around here (a little), so I guess we can claim fall has begun. But we're still getting warm summery weather some days and even hunkered down for a typhoon this week.

Even so, we've been enjoying the subtle change in weather and scenery. Last week, we visited the Botanical Gardens in Okinawa. I can't believe we'd never come here before. I'm a big fan of gardens, as they offer so much more than just plants and flowers. They are also super relaxing.

My favorite part of our day was lounging in the hammocks... I'll miss this when we leave next year.
There were all kinds of interesting textures to admire and contemplate...
And I always love feeding goats...

How are you enjoying fall where you are?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Exercise Your Right

Dear Friends,

Please vote for me in the Trazzler Mt Rainier Writing Contest. I only need 3 more votes to be at least tied with the lead article! The deadline is Oct 24 for voting!

My entry is about the amazing colossal trees in the Grove of the Patriarchs. To vote, sign in to Trazzler and click save on my post. It only takes a minute!

Thanks and you are all stars!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Visiting A Japanese Fortune Teller

A year or so ago, I visited a urenai, or Japanese fortune teller in Okinawa. I wrote a post about it recently for Matador Travel Network.

You can read the crazy adventure here...

Have you ever been to a fortune teller before? Do share!

Japanese Portion Sizes

This past weekend, Sean and I tried a new restaurant in Okinawa called Bistro Chez.

The server handed us an English menu which listed pizzas and pastas. However, we noticed a board listing the daily specials in Japanese. I'm a big fan of daily specials in Japan as they are usually made with the freshest ingredients according to season. (I highly recommend getting the server's recommendations too) So we randomly ordered a few dishes without knowing what to expect.

Most of the time in Japan, we're surprised in a good way by the food, and that night was no exception.

Our meal started with an appetizer of oyster, shrimp, and salad.

Next, we got a lovely mixed vegetable salad of pumpkin, eggplant, and okra. The dressing was a cold soy sauce based broth, and a nice extra touch was that the pumpkin was sauteed and warm!
Our other plates included yakisoba noodles with shrimp and baby clams...
... and garlic chicken with Thai chili sauce

There was also a plate of penne with gorgonzola cheese sauce (not pictured as we had to dive right into it without pause for a photo). At first we wondered if we had ordered enough food. Anyone who has been to Japan knows that the portions are much smaller than what we're used to it in the States.

But you know what? We ate and took pictures (obviously) and had conversation. After eating, we felt comfortable and awake!

I actually really respect Japanese portions- especially for pasta and meat. They are sensible and focus on quality rather than quantity.
What's your view about portions? Do you believe in getting a lot of food for your money when you eat out? Do you think you'd starve in Japan?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Favorite Cultural Festival

One half of the famous 600 foot rope in the Naha Tug of War

Over the weekend, we were fortunate to be able to participate in the World's Largest Tug of War. This event, which draws 25,000 people is an amazing thing to witness.

I devoted a lengthy post to it on my travel blog and included lots of pictures. This morning I found that my article was featured on Wordpress Freshly Pressed. Please check it out!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Okinawa's Shades of Blue

We did a road trip this weekend up to the northern part of the island. The weather forecast was partly cloudy with chance of thunderstorms, and the sky provided the most beautiful backdrop.

I love it when the ocean and the horizon blend together so you almost don't know where water stops and air begins.
We visited Okuma, and did some jet-skiing on the crystal clear water with the storm clouds hovering over us. Couldn't have asked for more lovely atmosphere.
I'll miss all this blue when we leave the island next year.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Things We've Been Doing Lately

While I've been absent as of late on this site, I've been writing a lot for my travel blog, World Curious Traveler. Check it out!

It seems like the rain which fell for months and months on end has finally gone away. Now, we're enjoying the start of a gorgeous "fall" season on Okinawa.

Here's what we've been doing lately on our tiny island.

We went to another Eisa Festival, and witnessed all the dancing, fashion, and food that characterizes these events. I will miss these carnivals when we leave!

This time of year is special because troops of Eisa dancers travel around the island, stop, and perform in neighborhoods and along the side of the road.
Last Saturday night, we heard the distinctive boom of the drums and walked out the door to our apartment building to watch.
They tried to pull me into the conga line, but I managed to escape!

Okinawa is also home to a stretch of really nice tourist hotels, catering mostly to mainland Japanese. We visited the Manza Beach Resort hotel for lunch (there is a nice buffet with interesting items at times like crocodile fritters!)
After eating, we sat outside and read and relaxed looking out at the gorgeous view. I felt like I was on vacation...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Guilty Party When it Comes to Passports

A few of you have been curious about who actually committed the SIN of leaving the passport at the hotel as described in the last post.

Well, if you must know...

The guilty person was Sean.

I swear, my husband has two modes. Can any of you relate to this?

With him,

1) It's rush rush rush to get somewhere WAY early and then wait wait wait for something to start.


2) It's rush rush rush to get somewhere WAY early, forget something, and then rush rush rush to get it and come back.

He told me that he's going to write a rebuttal/self-defense for himself to be posted soon...

Check back!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Travel Squabbles

We've been married for almost 3 years. We've traveled a lot. We did 3 big trips before we got married, and afterwards, well... a new place about every 4 months.

The thing is... it doesn't matter how much we travel. We have the same tiffs every time.
The arguments usually have something to do with these categories:

Category A: Mary is doing too much souvenir shopping

Category B: Sean has a one-track mind and the only important thing is reaching some destination (a museum, a park, a building, whatever). He cannot deviate from the plan even for something cool on the way.

Category C: Mary is haggling over price and it makes Sean uncomfortable.

Category D: Sean gets obsessed with schedule and rushes Mary when, in fact, there is plenty of time.

The arguments are never terrible. There's no yelling or causing a scene. But usually there's lots of eye rolling and dramatic sighs.
Anyway, this past weekend on our Macau/Hong Kong trip, we faced our first real major travel dilemma. One of us left a passport at the hotel and didn't realize until we reached the airport. One of us had to travel all the way back to the hotel, while the other stayed at the airport and arranged a new plan... luckily it all worked out and there were no penalties. We didn't even get mad at each other.

What do you argue about with friends or family when you travel? So, who do you guess forgot the passport? Mary or Sean?

Macau Adventures

As mentioned last week, we did a little road trip by plane for Labor Day to Macau.

I always love visiting China from Japan. Let me tell you why.

In Japan, I often feel there's a thin veil between me and the Japanese culture. I've certainly learned a great deal about customs and mannerisms over the last two years, but even so, I sense a boundary.
When I go to China, it's like that veil gets ripped off and thrown away. The noises, the smells, the traffic, the people, they're all right there in your face. It's rowdy and gritty. People aren't ultra-polite, and somehow I feel relaxed by it.

Macau was the first and last European colony in China, its history tightly entwined with the Portuguese. The result these days is that you can observe an interesting mix of cultures. Street signs are written in Chinese and Portuguese languages, there are Catholic churches, and city center squares that look like they dropped out of Europe.
More recently, the city has also overtaken Las Vegas as the gambling capitol of the world. Interestingly, though, you can find Vegas casinos there including the Wynn, MGM, the Sands, and the Venetian.

We stayed at the Softel Macau at Pointe 16, and it was a great experience. We only paid about $133 a night (booked through Expedia) and upgraded to "club level" so that we could get breakfast and cocktails.

The hotel is excellently located within walking distance to the main square and casinos. It has its own casino, too, though we didn't recognize some of the games.

On a funny side note, the hotel boasts a collection of celebrity paraphernalia. They have an outfit that Elvis wore, a Batman costume Val Kilmer version, and a dress supposedly worn by Princess Di. Their big claim to fame is the white glove worn by Michael Jackson during the famous first ever moonwalk dance. I told my husband I didn't think it was real... I mean, come on, why would that be at a hotel in Macau?

Getting to Macau: You can take the ferry directly to Macau from the Hong Kong International Airport. There's no need to go through HK customs, just look for signs inside the terminal.

So, what does your critical mind think about the Michael Jackson glove? Is it authentic? I was curious, so I did a little research and wrote about it for my travel writing blog. I also posted more pictures and details. Please click here to check that out.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin