Sunday, December 23, 2007


With little time and an adventuring spirit Mike and I have decided to go to Taiwan for Christmas. It's a three hour flight from here. We are taking a tour of the entire island before (Mike hopes) the Chinese blow it to smithereens or worse. I have heard Taiwan described as what China might be like without Mao's dictatorship. Taiwan is supposed to have some of the best food in the world. More later.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

An Island Paradise

Upon arrival, I wanted to get out of Saipan as fast as possible. We were the only Westerners in the airport and the only people at the US Passport desk so we sailed right through into your typical American welfare state. Garapan, the main town, is full of poker and massage parlors, once I got past that I saw that Saipan must have been your textbook version of paradise. Saipan was an island where tarro, bannanas, sugar cane and all kinds of fruit grew wild, the coral reef is full of delicious fish, there are no bugs, no poison anything and the weather is temperate year round. Then Magellan showed up after 109 days at sea and the Saipanese ran out of luck. He killed 8 people and burned 40 houses because he thought they were stealing from him. Then Germany, Japan and America used the island for their own purposes and now there are no crops. The Japanese exported the sugar cane then the US paved the entire island in concrete for runways in WWII. They have not had to repair one road in 60 years the Army Corps of Engineers did such a great job. The Enola Gay took off from Saipan to drop the Atomic bomb on Hiroshima, when the Emperor of Japan wanted to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the bomb he did not go to Hiroshima to pray but rather to Saipan.
This photo is of Suicide Cliff, the Japanese wanted to commit suicide rather than submit to the Americans and convinced thousands of Saipanese that life would be hell under American rule so they should also commit suicide. Over 5,000 people walked off this cliff, many holding their children. A Japanese man who survived the fall was rescued by an American Soldier and said that from his vantage point at the back of the line it looked like people going down an escalator.

This is Fun, Try it

Need a Snow Day?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

These People Can EAT (But what are they eating????)

A tea box awaited us in our room at Shimoda which is an area famous for it's tea growing. I have posted pictures of that box along with photos of our dinner. Shimoda is also famous for Ume, pickled plums, I usually enjoy them. Shimoda plums are about $3.00 each and very sour even though honey is added to the brine. Chizuru san thought I should show you some before and after photos. At dinner we had something like lemonade but made with very small mikan or tangerines, it was delicious. When we were returning to our room Chizuru said she hoped the futon boy had come and indeed he had. The last photo is what we ate for breakfast, you are correct in thinking it is staring back at you.
On one of our yukatta clad excursions from the onsen to our room we heard Karaoke coming from the bar. Motoyo told me that Karaoke means literally, "only orchestra"; "Kara" means only and "Oke" is shortened from Orchestra.

Once Upon a Time an Alcoholic Hairdresser Lived in Japan

Maybe two.
For our one year anniversary my Japanese friends took me to a hotel in Shimoda. When you stay at a Japanese hotel that has an onsen (hot spring) you stay in a room that seems nearly empty, they provide you with a yukatta, a cotton robe, which you put on and wear for your entire stay. That's right, everyone eats, sleeps and walks around in their robes when they are not naked in very hot water. If you have a tattoo you cannot go into a public swimming pool or an onsen. That is because the Japanese Mafia,Yakuza, ( wear tattoos and the ban on tattoos is to keep public baths free of crime.
So anyway, the first consul from the US to Japan, Harris, came to Shimoda (,9171,501021111-386980,00.html) and was given a Geisha, O Kichi-san.
O Kichi was an uncommonly beautiful girl whose family sent her away to be a Geisha, she had a childhood friend with whom she later fell in love and was betrothed but then Harris (portrayed by John Wayne in the movie version; The Barbarian and The Geisha saw her asked for her as part of his deal with Japan so she left her true love for the good of Japan and started to drink to deal with her sorrow. Harris went back to the US, her former love wanted nothing to do with her so she opened a hair salon. She drank heavily. lost the salon, opened a brothel, drank more, lost that and drowned herself at the age of 51. It sounded a lot like Madame Butterfly but when I googled Madame Butterfly the story on which it was based was written before O Kichi- san's death. Today I visited her house and her grave and saw the actual palanquin upon which she was carried to Harris. There was this really drunk guy praying at her grave so I think maybe she is the unofficial Shinto patron saint of drunks.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Kawaii (cute) Thanksgiving

Our most recent Thanksgiving adventures have taken place in Reykjavik, Vienna and Japan.
As I write this our Thanksgiving has just ended and yours has not yet started. I hope yours is as much fun as ours was. I doubt you can even come close unless you have three fun Japanese women, an overwhelmed Japanese man who may be one of those competitive eaters and Capt. Mike McCarten at the head of your table. When dinner was over Ryoko san said "Wait a minute, isn't there a wishbone?" Our guests had read about Thanksgiving and had only seen Turkeys on TV. Maiko san won the wishbone pull and said we all know she wished for a husband.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Maiko Wants a Husband

Maiko is one of my co workers, she is smart and very funny. She really wants to get married and said she was recently told that you should not tell a man you are dating that you want to get married. She figures maybe that's what she was doing wrong. She has lived in Vancouver, Brooklyn and Harlem. In Harlem she lived with a few members of a women's professional football team and wondered why no men were invited to their parties.
I invited Maiko to Thanksgiving here and she happily accepted and asked if she could bring a friend. She called to tell me she is bringing six people, maybe more, like here entire English as a Second Language class. Not to worry she said, they will employ the Amrican tradition of "pot luck".
If you know any great guy who may want eventual matrimony please forward this to them.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Yarn and Chocolate

In the past three years Mike has gained a wife, a dog and this sweater that I just finished knitting in a merino/ silk combination yarn. He may have also gained a pound or two because of this fudge recipe. Try it and you will agree, it calls your name before breakfast.

1 1/2 packages of chocolate chips (3 cups)
1 can of low fat condensed milk (it's a medium size, about 14 oz)
Melt together over low heat until smooth add nuts if you like. Pour into an 8 or 9 inch pan covered in wax paper. Chill. How easy is that?

Friday, November 2, 2007

One Year

My Japanese friends told me that yesterday was our one year aniiversary so they took me out to lunch and at the end of the month they are taking me to a fancy hotel in a hot spring area. Women are so much better at these kinds of things than men are. A: They remembered our anniversary (OK ,I didn't). B: They fed me. C: A fancy hotel.
We had the "lady's lunch special" at a crab restaurant, with the exception of the salad everything on the tray was crab. On the dessert tray everything except the kiwi was grape. The grapes here are amazing or as Katie McCarten said. "they taste like grape!".

Thursday, October 25, 2007


This morning I found this lovely bug in my garden so I captured it. This is our neighbor Maura who loves Lucky in the way only a two year old can.

Monday, October 22, 2007

しらけ (Shirase)

I belong to the Japanese American Wive's Group. The only word from that sentence I ever thought might apply to me was "American". Another member of the group is the Japanese wife of the Commanding Officer of the Shirase, the only Japanese Ice Breaking research vessel. The ship leaves Japan every November, travels over 20,000 miles to the Shoya base in Antartica, drops off 30 scientists who will stay there for one year and picks up last year's group. They return to Japan in April. The staff told us that the ride is so rough the scientists meet the ship in Australia. So all this woman had to do was say "can I bring a few friends over?" and presto, 70 of us were treated to lunch, tours and goody bags. The senior engineering officer asked for a volunteer to press the emergency panice button, someone did and alarms and lights went off. He thought that was a riot.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wouldn't My Mother Be Surprised

I was going to title this post: "My Mother's Worst Nightmare" but Mike suggested I use the above title instead. My mother was a teenager during WWII; she bought all the slogans and sold war bonds,her social life revolved around the USO and newsreels. Her friends and relatives went overseas to fight. After December 7th she was afraid there was a chance a kamakaze pilot would target 110 Huron St. because that's what she was told in the Fireside Chats. She told me often not to trust the Japanese and don't forget that "loose lips sink ships". I love Japan and the Japanese but my mother's 60 year old history comes with me. So on a day like today when the base is open to Japanese residents in the form of a Mikoshi Festival I think about my mother's experience and I am grateful we share our cultures in a peaceful manner.
I took this photo of the Kitty Hawk underway from the deck of the Blue Ridge this morning.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hanna to Hiru Gohan (Flowers and Lunch)

A kind, childless woman, the headmistress of an Ikebana school , never married and has no one to leave the school to. She adopts a lovely young woman, teaches her all she knows and sends her to Tokyo University, the Harvard of Japan. In addition to being my youthful fantasy this was a reality for Toko Adachi. She was the daughter of a Zen master and went to live with the Ikebana Headmistress when she was 10 years old. Her adoptive mother died last year and she is now the Ikebana Headmistress. She demonstrated at our Ikebana International luncheon at the Kamakura Park Hotel. My friend Kathy and I have officially eaten more meals together this year than Mike and I have. By the way, it's Kathy and Mike Krentz, we sat with Kathy of Kathy and Mike TI (they made up their names when they emigrated from Taiwan).
So anyway, here is a picture of my frequent dining companion with her favorite accessory.
I have included a picture of my student Keiko in her kimono. Because the chances of Keiko reading this are slim I will tell you that she is over 60 years old. Japanese women don't age and don't get fat. I think that's proof that God is Japanese.....and a woman.

Monday, October 15, 2007

You Are Here

When we first moved here we tried to guess what these lines in the street were for. Our best guess was some kind of dividng line for bicycles and pedestrians. Last night on our way to sushi Mike said "What are these lines for again?" I told him that Kathy Krentz told me they are for the blind and then I googled them.

These blocks are called 視覚障害者誘導用ブロック (shikaku shōgaisha yūdōyo block) "guidance blocks for visually impaired". They are ubiquitous. We have seen them imprinted on tee shirts.

We have been watching the playoffs live while we eat breakfast (and lunch yesterday). Tonight we take seppuku lessons, which is a good skill to have if the Red Sox are your team.

Friday, October 12, 2007

What if I AM Too Old for Any of the Questions?

You Are a Henna Gaijin!

You're not Japanese, but you wish you were!
You can use chopsticks with your eyes closed, and you've memorized hundreds of Kanji.
You even answer your phone "moshi moshi."
While the number of anime videos you've seen is way higher than the number of dates you've been on, there's hope.
Play the sexy, mysterous gaijin, and you'll have plenty of Japanese meat.

Monday, October 8, 2007

We Are Here Because We Love You

I am waiting for the day when I walk into my home and everyone I know is sitting in a circle in my living room holding a script. At the front of the circle will be a person I have never met whose job title is "facilitator". So maybe Japan is a bit far for you all to come to stage a knitting intervention,
Mike leaves a trail of papers wherever he is that I used to think was enormous. HA! I have been sitting in that pile of yarn for two days, watching "The Soprano's" season five. By the time Janice tried to kill Tony at Sunday dinner I had made this baby sweater for people I barely know.

Friday, October 5, 2007

This About Says it All!

Your Power Element is Fire

Your power color: red

Your energy: hot

Your season: spring

Like a fire, you are full of power and light.
A born leader, you easily draw people toward you.
You are full of courage and usually up for anything dangerous.
You have a huge ego and love to be the center of attention.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Just When I Thought I was Out They Pulled Me Back In

Last night we had sausage and peppers for dinner, the night before we had chicken parmesan. Mike has started calling me Carm (well I know it's not calm).
I start working in the salon four days a week tomorrow which means my torrent of Italian American stereotypes will be reduced to a trickle.
Yesterday was the 21st anniversary of my first day sober. That's when I started to feel like anything is possible but even then I don't think I could have hoped for the life I have now.
Pictured is the first finished Pomatomus Sock I knitted for Leah Rosales ( I hope she doesn't notice the gravy smell.)
I have to go, Christopher got shot and he is in intensive care.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It's All Gravy*

Which Sopranos Mobster are you?

Tony Soprano

"The one who calls the shots"

Personality Test Results

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I had to go to the mattresses. I need to re-enter Navy and Japanese life slowly so I have given myself one week to get back to normal routines here. Today is my last day and I decided to do whatever I want. That means 18 hours of "Sopranos" videos. I have only seen one or two episodes in the past. I started behaving like Carmella after watching the third episode of season one. Mike came home for lunch, I heated up some pasta for him and am planning a nice tray of baked ziti for dinner. There is not a better way for a homesick Italian woman from Providence to cope with life amongst millions of Japanese people and a few thousand military. I have to go now, the indictments are coming down.

* Gravy: if you are Italian and from Providence that is what you call tomato sauce. "Brown gravy" goes on meat.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Nothing Says Lovin' Like..........

As we sat down to dinner Mike said, while taking a forkful of sausage with fennel and apples, "this is why I really missed you". The longer we are married the better he is at realizing what should be thought vs. what should be spoken, a quarter of a second later he said, "because we have dinner as a family". I like to cook and I do it because I love that Mike enjoys my cooking. I spent the rest of the evening wondering why I was so upset that Mike said he missed my cooking. Maybe because what I heard was, " I only missed you for your food". I am not upset anymore. I get it. Honest.
Tonight we are having guests and the salad is Cantaloupe, mint and jalepeno peppers dressed with orange juice and lime.