Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Easing Back In

I'm not going to lie, but leaving Japan and the people we love there was difficult.  Between all five of us, we had over a dozen going-away lunches, dinners, coffees, outings, etc. There were a lot of lifelong friendships made in the host country that became our home for three years...so needless to say, Japan will always have a large piece of my/our heart.  Although it was not always easy, our family will always be able to reflect back on all of the experiences we had.  I'm most grateful for my husband whose job allowed us to complete this one, huge goal of living overseas.

A little shaky, but we flew over 4,700 miles home.

Aside from a lot of turbulence on the plane from Japan to Seattle, and going on week 3 of hotel living, here are some situations and observations I've had since returning stateside:
  • We have been met with some great customer service in the U.S.  I was worried about it after being in Japan for so long.  I'm happy to be pleasantly surprised.
  • My first impression of taxi drivers in the U.S. was not good (funky teeth, mullet, scabs on arms, attitude, couldn't figure out how to get our luggage into the van, etc).
  • I've been overwhelmed (in a good way) by the food and drink choices in the grocery stores.  I am unimpressed by the food in the Asian aisle though.
  • I realize how big the portions are here.  Wow!!  From a person who loves to eat, even I haven't been able to finish what's on my plate!
  • Gas prices are comparable here (Washington State) to the prices on base in Japan.
  • It has been reasonably easy to get back to driving on the "right" side of the road.  
  • There are seat covers in most public restrooms.
  • Everyone stares here!  I even do it!  
  • Americans are SO loud.  I factor myself into this equation because I am not quiet. 
  • I cannot find a decent car here for under $3,000.
  • Its been wonderful to reconnect with friends here.  I haven't gotten to seeing everybody, but plan to do so when we get back into our house.
  • I have enjoyed being able to read the street signs and menus.  This is not meant to be a slam on Japan, but this was always tricky when eating out, and trying to get around.
  • I love taking the ferry and monorail, but really miss the trains in Japan.  They were efficient and awesome!!
  • Cell phones (especially Smart phones) here are not cheap.  We still haven't decided on a plan, but did set up Magic Jack.  
  • Jet lag sucked.  I'm happy we're all pretty much adjusted to our current time zone after a couple weeks.  Hallelujah!! It was rough! 
Happy 2014 to everyone whose been there to support our journey both abroad, and back to the U.S.  We've had a huge amount of supporters and interest in our adventures.  I plan on still blogging about our life as we deal with "reverse culture shock".  I feel like we're all doing as well as expected.   My motto for the past couple of months is to just take things day-by-day.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Returning to The United States

Well, tomorrow's the day we head back to The United States.  We have checked out of our house, work, and school, and are just about finished saying our goodbyes to the people we love before heading to the airport.  Our multiple farewells have been fun and emotional, but I am so happy that we have made lasting memories and friendships with people around the world.  I have heard more than once this week that we are starting a new chapter in our lives.  I'm trying to embrace this idea in a positive light. 

A friend forwarded me an interesting article on repatriation this week.  This article is a good read.  Go triangles!


Happy Holidays!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Leaving The Land of The Rising Sun

We are still awaiting our orders to return back to the United States.  If all goes as planned, we should be home a little before Christmas.....just in time to celebrate with family and friends we haven't seen since we left on our adventure back in 2010.  

I was warned before I moved to Japan that I wouldn't want to leave there when it was time to return home. At that time, I really didn't understand what that meant, but now I get it.  While I'll be happy to be able to read signs easily, order off a menu, get certain food ingredients at the local market, re-connect with those I love, etc. I will certainly miss this country, the Japanese people, the friends and family I've met/gained here, the cuteness, amazing customer service even at the local 7-Eleven, and how I've been able to put my worries about safely on the back-burner here.  I basically have been living in a Fantasy land on this great, but extended Asian vacation.

Last weekend I came across a very moving and fitting article (see below) in our favorite Ex-pat magazine.  I felt as if the article had my name written all over it, so I decided to scan it.  I'm trying to prepare myself, and those around me (sorry)  for the reverse culture shock that will likely occur.  I have a plan to combat and work through the culture shock, but I welcome any tips or strategies for dealing with the change.   

Here are some of the reasons me, and others love Japan.  Its been circulating around social media this week, so some of you may have already read it.

I'm grateful that we had this opportunity and I look forward to telling everyone back at home about our time here. :)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

CrossFit Throwdowns and More Tasty Recipes

In July, and just last weekend, I participated in CrossFit Throwdowns.  Our group, along with many others CrossFit groups competed in two workouts (WODs).  There were over 50+ people competing in the throwdown in either the prescribed weigh or scaled (me) divisions.  This event was pretty scary the first time, but the experience was great.  I realized that I needed to work on so many basic skills.  These realizations are good because its given me a better focus and direction with my CrossFit goals.   Last weekend, I wasn't as nervous as before because I knew what to expect, and that I would just try to do my best.  I also was able to have a great cheering section and a couple PR's (personal record) on my weights.  I love my group and CrossFit because the people you meet are like-minded, positive, and fun to be around. 

Here is the scaled second WOD from last weekend:

5RFT (5 rounds for time)  8 min max
5 Snatches
10 butterfly sit ups
15 air squats

Jerk Ladder was 1st WOD.
All the wonderful participants!

More Tasty Recipes

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Races in Japan

Since Japanese are active people, its no surprise that popular races found stateside are making their way across the Pacific.  I've had the opportunity to participate in a couple of these races this year.  They are more for fun, rather than for the competitive at heart.

Warrior Dash

This year, there will be two locations for this 4 mile obstacle course race.  The one I participated in in June was held a couple hours from Yokosuka in the Sagimahara Pleasure Forest.  It was hot, humid, and a pretty decent hilly trail.  Not too easy; not too hard.  What I liked most (aside from the complimentary beer at the end) was that they had modified obstacles throughout most of the course.  Also, if one chose to do go through the mud pit at the end, there were hoses nearby to rinse off and changing areas.  Here's more information about the race held in November: contact@warriordash.jp  OR http://warriordash.jp/

The Color Run
The Color Run came to Yokosuka Base on 4 July.  Dressed in white shirts, competitors ran the 4 mile flat course welcomed by a  multitude of powdered color every mile.  The day was humid and there was a lot of moisture in the air.  All-in-all, the run was fun one to do to ring in Independence Day!

Competitive Races in Japan
  • Tokyo Marathon - registration is usually around August, and there is a lottery to get in.  Its becoming more and more difficult for people to make the cut.  http://www.tokyo42195.org/2014en/
  • Seaside Marathon in Yokosuka- 1/2 or full marathon held in November.  I heard the race was closed in a day.  There's also a cut-off time for this race. http://www.yokosuka-seaside.jp/index.shtml
  • Mount Fuji Marathon  also known as Lake Kawaguchi Marathon.  Held in November, this is a very scenic and popular race for runners.  Here's their website: http://fujisan-marathon.com/

Friday, August 2, 2013

Reasonably Priced Outings and A Dip Worth Trying

Cooking classes at Cup Noodles Museum.
 Cup Noodles Museum in Yokohama

On Mother's Day we went to the Cup Noodles Museum in Yokohama.  The museum is close to the Landmark Tower and Cosmoworld and is an easy 15 minute walk from the train or subway station.  This museum not only had the history of the instant noodle, but you could make your own noodle concoction to take home with you, and if you planned ahead and made reservations, you could participate in a cooking class that teaches you how to make chicken ramen from scratch.  I found out while at the museum that you can make reservations for the cooking classes up to 3 months in advance.  This is something I'd like us to do before we leave Japan.  Here's the link for additional information: http://www.cupnoodles-museum.jp/english/

Kirin Beer Factory

In May, I went with my Japanese friend and her ESL students on a tour of The Kirin Beer Factory in Yokohama.  The tours are free and last an hour.  At the end of the tour, you are able to enjoy 3 varieties of beer in their tasting room.  There is also a small gift shop, a restaurant and lovely grounds outside of the factory.  Although the tour was mostly in Japanese, I believe they lead tours in English.  Here's their website:  http://www.kirin.co.jp/about/brewery/factory/yokohama/tour.html
You can always scroll down to their phone number and call for additional information. 


Last week we went to Keiba (Japanese Horse Racing).  The track was located up in Kawasaki, near Tokyo.  We went with some co-workers who emailed us (via phone) a ticket for free admission.  Without the ticket, the cost is 100 yen to enter. There were food vendors, automated machines to place your bets, and other strategists looking at the paper to see who might be the winning horse(s).  You can place bets on races located at other race tracks, pay as little as 100 yen (about $1USD) for a bet, and sit inside, or outside on bleachers.  All in all it was a fun evening.  It made it better that we had friends to translate for us.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Eateries in Zushi, Rope Climb and Smoothies

Over the past month, I've eaten at a number of good restaurants...all of which happen to be in Zushi.  Just a quick commute by train, or car from Yokosuka's main base,  these places are reasonably priced and worth checking out.

Upstairs seating at Barefoot Cafe.
Barefoot Cafe -  If you want to escape the huts on Zushi Beach, try the food here.  Just across the street from the beach and about a block from Red Lobster, you can get a lunch set for 1,000 yen (about $10 USD).  I had an huge American-size BLT Sandwich, some yummy chips and salsa, and an iced coffee.  There is a quaint/rustic upstairs that you can eat outside and watch beach goers.  They also have a lighted toilet bowl....the first I have ever seen in Japan and in my life.  Very clever!

Matchpoint -  Just around the corner from one of the exits of The Shin-Zushi train exit is Matchpoint.  Another rustic interior and their specialty is curry.  They had both vegetarian and meat variations and their lunch sets also ran around 1,000 yen.  I like hearty curries, and this definitely was good.

Steak Gusto - Cruising along the beach this past weekend, we stumbled upon this place.  I had recently been told to go here, and I'm glad we did.  They had a great salad bar, that included curry, rice, fruit, and rolls.  We got the salad bar, plus a steak and chicken meal.  Everything was pretty tasty and for the two of us, the bill was only 2,300 yen.  Not bad!  They also have free parking if you get your ticket validated when you pay.

Kamakurakomachi - If you eat soy products, then this is the restaurant for you.  It is extremely small, and located about 5 minutes from the JR Zushi station.  I was taken here over 2 years ago, and have been back many times since.  They make delicious tofu patties, tofu potato salad and other wonderful concoctions.  You'd never know what you were eating was tofu.  Lunch sets also are around 1,000 yen.  
                                Latest CrossFit Challenge
                                     = The Rope Climb 

In all of my 44 years, I've never attempted to climb a rope.  Well, thanks to CF, this week I was able to have a go at it.  I was able to get my foot to pinch the rope, but I could not figure out how to pull myself upwards.  Thank goodness for U-Tube!  Its very helpful to watch videos so that I can see the form I'm supposed to be using to conquer this skill.  I hope this is easier than double-unders.

My favorite smoothie recipe at the moment.

Lately I've been on a smoothie bandwagon.  I've been making them at night, or for a snack during the day.  Although I've been trying many variations, here's by far, my favorite recipe:

1 cup of Unsweetened Almond milk
1 handful of spinach
1 scoop of protein powder (yes, even chocolate tastes good)
1 handful of blueberries

Blend all ingredients together in a blender and enjoy.  You could add some ice to give the smoothie some volume and a little crunch!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Karaoke and Healthier Sweet Treats

I still haven't figured out my new format, or where I want to take this blog.  As of this moment, I've decided to talk about something Japanese, a new skill I've attempted in CrossFit/ or new recipes that I'm dabbling in.    Since I enjoy all of these things, I might just incorporate them all into each blog, or pick a couple to talk about.  I figure that at least 1 out of the 3 topics might be of interest to someone. 
Karaoke Box at Shidax.


Although I love music and singing, I never tried Karaoke until I moved to Japan.  You can find a good selection of English songs to Karaoke at bars, or at Karaoke boxes (businesses that have individual rooms set up for singing, eating and drinking).  It is huge here, so its a must even if you don't have a quality singing voice such as myself.  The price ranges from about 200 yen (~$2.00 USD) per song in bars upwards to 3,000 yen+ ($30.00 USD and up) at a Karaoke box.  Many Karaoke boxes charge per room, plus have an all you can drink plan.  If you want to order food, the cost is extra and is similar to food you'd find at an Izakaya (fried chicken, fries, noodles, salads, etc). 

Here are a few Karaoke places I'd recommend in Yokosuka:
  • U- Style on Blue Street in the same building as Gold's Gym.  Nice rooms, has ice cream, a chocolate fountain and a soda drink bar. 
  • Shidax located a couple blocks outside of Womble Gate and across from Saikaya Department Store.  This place has a ton of rooms, a good drink menu, and reasonable food.  Its a bit pricey.
  • New Texas bar in The Honch.  200 yen per song, never too crowded. and a good ambiance.
Healthier Sweet Treats

Not only do I love food, but I have an and probably will always have an obsession with sweets.  Since embarking on a better eating plan this year, I've been trying out a number of healthier treat recipes.  I realize that many of the ingredients may be high in calories, but they satisfy my sweet tooth.  The no-bakes taste amazing right out of the freezer!

Here's a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe that actually looks like a cookie when taken out of the oven!!

Better For You Chocolate Chip Cookies (grain free, gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free)
Makes about a dozen
Adapted from Detoxinista
  • 1 cup raw almond butter
  • 1/4 cup raw honey (you can use slightly more or less based on your preference)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup Enjoy Life chips (more/less if you like) or Dark Chocolate Chips
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 Degrees F. Line cookie sheet with non-stick foil.
2. In a bowl, whisk all ingredients (except the chips) together. When combined, gently fold in chips to incorporate.
3. Using a regular spoon, spoon about 2 TBSP worth of batter onto the cookie sheet, about 1.5 inches about. The batter is loose, but it actually doesn't spread a lot.
4. Bake for 8-10 minutes (until just slightly firm). Remove from oven and let cool for another 10 minutes on the cookie sheet. This is important to make sure they "set up" right.
5. Remove cookies from sheet and allow to finish cooling on a cookie rack. Store in an airtight container.
They peel easily off of the foil. 
Healthier No Bake Cookies
1cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips (soy free) or Dark Chocolate Chips
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup raw honey
1/2 cup almond butter
1 cup chopped pecans

Melt the following ingredients on the stove top.  I melted the chocolate chips in the microwave, then added the other ingredients.
1 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup raw honey
1/2 cup almond butter

Once melted add that, along with the following ingredients, to a bowl:
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

Place in freezer for about 30 minutes until ready to eat. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Switching up the blog

Three months have passed since my last blog post.  I have so much to write about, but am not finding the time or energy to sit down and do it much this year.  I really have enjoyed sharing our journey with those interested in reading this blog.   I am really wanting to switch up the content to incorporate our travels, healthier food ideas and fitness.   I'm still brainstorming, so be on the lookout for some different topics, etc in the near future.  I'm open to suggestions, so please message me with your comments.  I NEED your input!!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Hay Fever in Japan

For the past month, I've been longing for spring, warmer weather, and viewing the various blossoming trees in Japan.  Unfortunately, along with blooming season, comes Hay Fever.  Hay Fever has been striking some of my immediate family for the last two years; something that none of us have back in The United States.  This continues to baffle me.  Last year, the boys' pediatrician was telling me that our bodies are immune to Hay Fever the first spring season in Japan, but that it can develop during the second year.  There must be some truth to this because along with my family, many of my friends and co-workers have also been suffering. 

Cherry Blossoms can trigger Hay Fever.

A few weeks ago while we were up at Taura Plum Grove viewing the blossoms, I'd had my final straw.  The wind was blowing, the sun was shining, and I was tired of my red-itchy eyes, sneezing, itchy nose, sore throat, etc.  Luckily, my friend that was with us is a nurse and advised me to get some generic Loratadine (Claritin).  It took a day or two to work, but it has helped me function.  I also found some Bausch and Lomb antihistamine eye drops that have worked like a charm.  My son has even used face masks outside....especially if the pollen count is high.

I'm happy that Hay Fever season won't last much longer.  Once the blossoms are gone, I'm hoping to wean myself off the allergy medication and continue to enjoy the Japan I so love.  


Monday, February 25, 2013

Eating Paleo in Japan

Before last month, Paleo was pretty much a foreign word to me.  I'd heard about it here and there, but never really had a clue what it was about.  Most people that do CrossFit (see my last blog entry) live a Paleo lifestyle.  The Paleo diet consists of eating the following:  fish, shellfish, eggs, nuts/seeds, fruits/vegetables and lean meats.  On Paleo, dairy, grains, legumes, alcohol, sugars and overly processed foods are not allowed.  Wow!  I wasn't sure if I could survive without cheese, bread and rice especially since I live in Japan where rice is such a staple food.

After giving this a lot of thought, on January 14th I decided to participate in the 30 day Paleo Challenge.  This was completely optional and nerve wracking because while I've dieted over the years, I'd never been on a program where I was eating clean.  Luckily, one of the requirements on this challenge was having a partner.  This was a complete lifesaver for me because I needed someone that would hold me accountable during these 30 days.

Extra Credit handstand outdoors!
Along with the nutritional aspect of the challenge, we were also supposed to keep a food journal, do a certain amount of workouts per week,  take before/after pictures, get our measurements taken, perform a baseline run/pull ups, and do extra credit.  Since most of these things were based on points, the team with the most points at the end of the challenge would win.  Since I do have a competitive side, I was bound and determined to not mess up during the challenge...but this was no easy feat.

The first week of the challenge would prove to be the toughest.  I seriously felt like I needed a sponsor.  Thank goodness for my partner, coach and other classmates (even the ones not participating in the challenge) who were such a great support network by providing recipes, tips, cheers, etc.   As the weeks went on, eating clean became easier.  I was sleeping better, had almost no headaches, lost a little weight, rarely felt famished (well maybe on a few days), was very hydrated, and was still able to exercise like mad.  Although I was feeling awesome on this diet, the one tricky part of the challenge was eating out.  Again, I live in Japan where noodles and rice are consumed at almost every meal.  Thankfully, Japanese eat a lot of meat and vegetables, so I was able to find something that was Paleo.

Paleo chicken curry (thank goodness for coconut milk) for dinner.

By week four, I was so used to doing the food journal, drinking 1/2 of my body weight of water, and really paying attention to what I was consuming, that this challenge became habit.  I liked how I felt and decided that I would continue Paleo or at least a modified version of it when it was over.  My team, along with two other teams came in 1st Place.  I was so proud of myself, my amazing, strong, funny, friend and partner, and of everyone else.  It is not easy to change or stick to a healthier lifestyle even if you know it is good for you.

Extra credit Fireman's Carry!
I also want to thank everyone outside of my CF group for cheering me on before/during/after the challenge.  Your positive comments, making me special Paleo food to eat, and your genuine inquiries as to how things were/are going for me were sincerely appreciated. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Last summer I met a lady at a going away party who was a CrossFit instructor.  She said that since it wasn't offered on base that she was interested in getting the program started here.  I told her I would love to try it out and left it at that.  Through the grapevine late last year, I'd heard that introductory classes were being offered.  Excited, I contacted the instructor and signed up for a class called Elements.

I had no idea what you do in Elements or in CrossFit for that matter.  I just knew I was up for another challenge since I'd been exercising regularly since last June.  I found out that you have to take Elements if you are not familiar with Olympic lifts.  Oh my....I had never really lifted anything more than a weighted bar, done a bench press once and tried a dead lift last spring.  While I was nervous and unsure of what I was doing, I ended up learning so many new things in this class.  I tried things like: back squats, front squats, cleans, the snatch, sumo dead lift high pull and many others.  We were shown proper form and how to lift safely.  One day after Elements we did something called a WOD.  The WOD had a name, was timed, and we did some crazy exercises (box jumps, rowing, lifts, plank, wall walks and wall balls), some of which I'd never done before.  When I was finished, I was beat, happy to have completed Elements and ready to try CrossFit classes.

CrossFit classes are held in a group setting and led by our amazing and strong coach.  There are multiple classes per day and the popularity has literally grown overnight here (I feel very lucky to have taken Elements when I did).  A typical class begins with a warmup (cardio, mobility exercises, lunges, push ups, sit ups, etc), strength exercise such as a certain type of lift or working on particular skill (hand stand push ups, ring dips, etc), and then the WOD or workout of the day which is timed. 

Here is an example of the WOD named "Angie" that we did this past Wednesday:

100 pull ups
100 push ups
100 sit ups
100 squats

This WOD was brutal and I finished last....but at least I finished.  CrossFit has shown me that I am stronger than I think I am and that I can push through even the hardest of workouts.  I love that no one can leave class until the last person is finished doing the WOD and that my coach and other classmates have done exercises alongside me to help me push through until the end.  This has been the most supportive group I have ever been a part of and I look forward to the CF journey of added weights, doing my first strict pull up without a band, and seeing how much stronger I will become this year.

We do a ton of Burpees in CrossFit.  



Friday, February 1, 2013

Busy Busy

I must apologize for my intermittent blog posts this past year.  I had every intention of blogging between 3-4 times per month while we are in Japan, but had more on my plate this past year (by choice) making it harder to come up with time to do weekly entries.  This year, I'm hoping to do 1 or 2 per month.  That being said, we are already at the end of January and here I am.  Well, there's always next month.

The New Year has been wonderful so far.  My brother rang in the New Year with us, we took a trip on The Shinkansen down south to Osaka and Nara, we went up skiing by Mt. Fuji, the kids are being normal pre-teens/teenagers, Justin's enjoying and progressing in his Aikido, my manager job at the base thrift store is rewarding beyond words (thanks to my co-workers and volunteers) and I've become more dedicated to my health and fitness.

We're off to a good start and I look forward to what this year brings.  I'm going to stop wishing and make things happen.
This is an awesome quote!