Friday, December 27, 2013


Many years ago, I read an article in National Geographic, or some such magazine, or perhaps it was a show I watched on Discovery or some such channel.  It told of an isolated lake on an island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean with jellyfish that, in the absence of predators, had evolved without stinging tentacles.  Because of this evolution, visitors to the island could snorkel in the lake - perhaps the only place on earth where one can safely swim with jellyfish!  It must have made an impression on me, because I have remembered it all these years.  I never imagined I would be in a position to actually visit that place.  Now here I am in Japan, and it turns out I am not so far from that tropical island chain.  We were reintroduced to the idea of visiting Palau by one of Mike's colleagues, and so we boarded a plane last Wednesday to take us to Palau and the Rock Islands.

First morning in Palau

Kayaking and snorkeling in Nikko Bay

The water in Milky Way is this beautiful, milky blue color because of the limestone clay beneath it.

Rumor has it that the clay is good for your skin.  Our boat driver dove down to scoop some into a bucket for us to try out.  He said that clay is the reason he always looks 19. :)

The main event: Jellyfish Lake!

It actually creeped me out a little.  I didn't like the feeling of brushing up against jellyfish as I swam.

The Drop-Off!  It's a real place!

"Hey, I know what that is!  Sandy Plankton told me!"

 You think I look good in snorkeling gear?  Well just wait until you see me...

with salt-water drenched riding in a speed boat hair!  

Mike took Bear scuba diving...

with black-tip sharks!

Mike also went diving by himself.

Palau isn't actually a beach destination, but the one beach on the main island is lovely.

Our final activity.  Beaver was nervous to shake flippers with the dolphin, but Bear was happy to get right down there.

So, along with the monkey onsen in Nagano, I have now visited two of what I refer to as "National Geographic Places".  Palau was great, but I actually felt a little tropiced out by the time we left, and I'm happy to be back in temperate (currently cold!) Japan. 

We love being able to take our kids on trips like this, but feeding Beaver is enough of a challenge at home.  He pretty much ate nothing but french fries all week.  Once I forced him to eat a piece of pineapple from our Hawaiian pizza.  ("Not cooked pineapple!  It tastes like ham!")  That may be the only bit of fruit he had the whole trip.  Thankfully, the hotel had french toast and scrambled eggs for breakfast, so at least he started the days off right.  I'm also glad to be back home where I feel like he is getting a bit of nourishment.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas!

It was an unusual Christmas for us this year, since we departed Palau at 3:00 am Christmas morning.  Christmas Eve we read the Christmas story and sang songs in our hotel room, and then went to bed about 9:00 for a couple hour nap before getting up to go to the airport at 12:30.  We arrived back home about noon.  At one point I had suggested emailing to see if Santa could come a day late, so the kids were happy to find that he had already made his delivery!

It was a lego ninjago Christmas at our house this year!  And Bear, who has always been a cuddler, got the sheepskin rug he has been coveting.  We spent the rest of the day doing not much of anything - except the boys built all their lego sets and Bear has already finished one of his books.  They must have been running on Christmas adrenaline and sugar, but Mike and I were pretty beat.  We had a great vacation, but we're glad to be back home!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving Day, Thanksgiving Day! Oh what a wonderful, wonderful day!

Remember that song, my siblings?  Where did it come from?

It's been a whirlwind couple of months.  Mom and Dad were here for six wonderful weeks.  We feel like we barely scratched the surface of things to see and do in Japan, but they got a good taste of my life here, and that was what I wanted for them.  Mom kept a record of their visit that I'm not going to duplicate, but you can see all our adventures on their blog.  

Besides having Mom and Dad here, I was busy with preparation for the PTA food fair at the kids' school.  I helped coordinate the annual garage sale, which was huge project, but we pulled it off and made over 900,000 yen for the school.  Hooray!

Just after Mom and Dad left, we made a kind of spur-of-the-moment decision to invite people over for Thanksgiving dinner on the 30th.  Since it was rather late notice, I didn't really think everyone would be able to come, but they all accepted and suddenly I had a Thanksgiving dinner for 28 people to plan!  So, I spent all of last week shopping, cleaning, cooking, and preparing for Thanksgiving - except for Friday when I spent all day at the school serving a barbecue for a futsal (soccer) tournament.  I made my pumpkin pies Friday evening and wrote up my schedule for the next day.  With the help of our guests, everything came together nicely, and we had a lovely Thanksgiving, complete with the BYU/Notre Dame game playing in the background after dinner.  I didn't take any pictures of the food, but it was all absolutely delicious.  I even passed out the words to "Come Ye Thankful People, Come" and entreated my friends to humor me by singing it before our meal. 

I was perhaps overly proud of my centerpieces.  I took Mike and the kids with me around the neighborhood to poach branches from maple trees.  I planned to just have them alone in the glass vase, but they weren't staying put, so I added popcorn to hold them in place, and I think it turned out very autumn-like!

I decided it is high time I start investing in entertaining ware, so I bought table cloths, three serving platters, three serving spoons, and commercial grade, stainless steel cutlery to serve 36!  We should never need to buy plastic utensils again.

The extra maple leaves went in little vases on the kid tables, so none were wasted!

I neglected to take any pictures of our guests, but I was pleasantly surprised when I downloaded the pictures to find that Mike took some!

Bear must have ducked under the table when Mike showed up with the camera.

I thought that once Thanksgiving was over, I would be able to relax a little.  But now there are all sorts of Christmasy things that need to be done, plus a trip to Palau to prepare for, in the next 16 days!  So far all the time I thought I would have once Beaver started school has failed to materialize.

Still, it was a happy Thanksgiving, and I would be happy to do it again next year!