Saturday, September 15, 2007

Delightful Saturday

Well, the typhoon really sputtered, it veered off away from us and we barely caught the fringe. So no biggie.

Today we went to Kokusai Street - a bustling long street FULL of tchotchkies galore, restaurants, shops, great jewelry and pottery stores, and all that great stuff. Craig insisted I leave the big camera at home for a change, but I snuk the little one in my bag.

A very nice Starbucks among the craziness.

Plastic food. Thank heavens it's in every window. If we had to rely on menus, we'd never know what the heck places served. This display was particularly good- and detailed.

In the center of this display is a dish of Goya Champuru- Champuru is stir fry - Goya is a bitter melon with bumps all over it, it's REALLY bitter. It's used in Okinawan cuisine to stimulate the appetite during the hot summer months. I'm not much for it yet, but maybe that'll change.

Hey cool - the Jamiroquai guy....

A hotel in the middle of it all.

Mia found an Okinawa Ukelele at the market.This t-shirt was one of MILLIONS - wow, it makes some other tourist trap places look lame.

So two stories about our day. Story 1, parking. We hadn't been to Kokusai Street before, and it's a really crazy busy street with no parking. We turned off onto a side street, and I spotted a space. It had a number painted on it, so I figured that the machine nearby would have to be fed, and off we go. I saw another family park there and just walk away, but we are not about to break any rules, so we backed in, and after locking up we walked to the machine. I'm sorry I didn't take a picture of it, but picture a number pad, a few other buttons, a slot for coins and a slot to put paper yen in, and loads of Japanese writing - and a LCD with more flashing Japanese characters. Um.... yeah.

So we were parked in space #4, we pressed "4". Something started flashing and we matched it to a button. Nothing was happening. We were prepared to just park elsewhere, and then a man came over and paused, noticing the Americans who were clueless. He started pushing the same red button we were, and then as we were going to give up and move, he said, "Ah! Look!" and it said "100¥". Sweet! We put in a coin, and just as we were about to leave, Craig noticed this on a nearby car:
Ok, wait a minute - 100¥ seems cheap for parking, something isn't right. When Craig looked at our car, the thing underneath had come down, allowing us to move. Then it clicked for me - you park, and the sensor sees your car, and puts up this barrier underneath it. You go, have your fun, and when you come BACK, you push the button for your spot number and it calculates what you owe based upon how long you've been parked there. BRILLIANT! You're not getting away with a thing, and I bet they sure save on meter maids. This is the kind of technology that just impresses me.

Another thing that impressed me was our lunch! YUM!

We went to Bambohe for lunch today on Kokusai. (Apparently there's a Bambohe over near Futenma too.)

Their deal is that they have a buffet - it's all you can eat for 1 1/2 hours from when you arrive. Lunch is 1300¥ per adult, 370¥ for Mia (weekends is a bit more expensive, weekdays it's like 1080. Dinner would be 1860¥ per adult and 550¥ for the kid.

You're given a booth, and told to go for it. There's a big round grill in the middle of the table. Maybe I'm a novice, but I haven't been to any restaurants like that yet and it was super cool. Then you walk to the buffet line and get a set of tongs to cook with, a tray and some plates, there are smaller plastic ones for the kids too.

The array of raw marinated beef, pork and chicken was fantastic (and the meat was all so tender and tasty), and they also had some squid to cook. There were onions, mushrooms, cabbage, squash, hot dogs, some kind of small burger patties (I think they might've been veggie burgers) and at the end of that line some soy, horseradish and hot sauce. There were a few kinds of soup (Okinawa soba, miso and squid ink something-or-other), fried rice, some kind of fried chicken, kim chi, tempura, steamed rice, mixed veggies, and a full salad bar with 3 kinds of dressing. Also there was jell-o, nice cold fruit, and azuki beans with those little white rice cake ball thingies. There was soft serve ice cream, plain yogurt, and a soda/juice bar with which to fill your cups as often as you liked.

On the table there was a delicious miso-based dipping sauce, so after you grilled your meat you could dip it in there and eat it over your rice to make it all so tasty.

EVEN Mia got into it! Next time she wants to cook!

So yeah - YUM on the cheap! It was a good day.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Here We Go Again

It's unbelievable how this always happens on a weekend, and by the locals' accounts, it's always that way. We're hunkerin' down for Typhoon Nari. Though after Man-Yi, this one's looking rather lame. (that long island to the northwest of the cloud blob would be us) 75mph winds? PSHAW, I say... after enduring 100mph winds, that just doesn't seem eventful.
Of course, it won't hit until about 9 or 10 tonight - it's only 12:30pm now. Craig & Mia are both home. Mia actually went to school on the bus and was brought back at 10:30. I don't know what category this sucker is, but since I didn't even know about it until this morning, I figure it can't be that horrible. I just hope we don't get our power knocked out overnight. It's going to be hard to sleep through the winds anyway.

I'm thinking of my poor neighbors, Anne & Derek - she's due with kid #4, boy #3 in the next 2 weeks and so tired of being pregnant. She hoped for a typhoon because she figured it meant she'd go into labor. Unfortunately, the doctors are making her come in to the hospital to stay there for the night. And Derek (hubby) isn't allowed to sleep there, so if she delivers overnight he won't be with her. THAT sucks. So Anne have that little boy, but just hold him in until we're back to TC-Recovery status, ok?

Movies and pictures of Nari to come...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Oh How I've Neglected You!

So much happening in our lives! Where to begin....

Alphabetically this time.

- 40D firmly in place with me on many trips - a bit addicted to photo blogs - particularly ones that include tricks & tips.
- in training for the new photography gig, so far so good; hoping to avoid another rainy shoot day. Very very happy with my team of peeps.
- going to the GYM for the first time in I don't want to tell you how long - yoga is amazing, cycle burn - not so much - that seat just isn't kind.
- also going to adventurous food places with Casey after the said gym visits. Had a stellar sushi/sashimi lunch today at Ishigaki Genki. 980¥!
- somewhat successfully carting the kid around to where she needs to be.
- wishing everyone a very happy and healthy Rosh Hashanah - our family is attending a Rosh Hashanah dinner tomorrow night at the Kadena O-club, should be fun to be in a room full of MOTs.
- successfully planned a bowling birthday party for the kid to take place on October 7th. Now we just need guests.
- SUPREMELY excited to tell you all that Jake (our brother-in-law and Army Officer extraordinaire) is coming home from 15 months in Iraq in a mere matter of days! Let's all hope he stays here for a good long while. And maybe even visits us here (with Courtney, of COURSE!)

- working hard, but doing fine.
- purchased and installed a new audio receiver in our living room. (it's enormous, but seems to have improved all things audio/visual)
- consistently running into military people he has worked with in Iraq or known from previous duty stations. I swear, if he plays the name game long enough, he finds connections to everyone he knows. I'm waiting - someone will know Jake one day.
- bought us a new grill, YAY! We pick that up on Saturday, hopefully it fits in the Cube.
- will be on a 35 mile hump on Mia's birthday - talk about crappy timing. Oh well. At least he's here!

- enjoying kindergarten immensely. Particularly the bus rides, a friend named Kirsten, and doing "kid pics" on the computer in the classroom.
- had her first day of soccer on Wednesday. You have never seen such a happy kid in your life:
We really like her coaches, and the kids are very nice. She is going to LOVE soccer. (Practice on Monday and Wednesday nights, games starting at the end of September, will be on Friday evenings or Saturday mornings.) We get her uniform (her team is called The Impact), which is maroon & black, in another week or so - they're embroidering her name on it. Between that and cleats & shin guards, this kid is so set - she's exploding with excitement. Mia Hamm - look out.
- has definitely been developing a bit of an attitude. We're doing our best to keep her in line. However, given her broadened food horizons and general niceness, it's going to be ok. She's very happy here.
- has a 6th birthday coming up - Craig and I still have no clue what we're getting her. Possibly a couple of horseback riding lessons, definitely something with Tweety Bird on it (Craig has taken to calling her fingers "Tweety Bird fingers" and her legs, well, you get the point).
- is making friends, definitely reading, and keeping us laughing. Constantly.

Since it's been a while, 2 quick stories.

One of my favorite blogs I've been reading (thank you, Jeff) has been Jessica Claire's - she's a wedding photographer, for the most part, and I just think she's supremely talented and offers great info on her blog. On her list of links, is one to her fine art photographs available for purchase. One of her "things" is taking pictures of locks. Craig and I both agree, this is an interesting thing to photograph. The textures and colors of the rust, the doors or fences they're protecting, the types of locks - all of it makes for a cool idea, and if done right, pretty neat photographs (as you can see on her site).

So our mission, which we've been bringing up a lot here, is to find our "lock". What can we shoot here in Okinawa that is interesting, colorful, and would make for a cool collection? (Too bad we don't have pigs all over like in Seattle!) Well - I thought of this right away, but Craig dismissed it, but he finally came around. I think Shisa will be our lock. It's impossible to go five minutes here without seeing them, but I think we can pick and choose some good ones. Here's one I shot next door to our hotel this morning, I think he's a good start. I also shot one on the way to the bus stop the other day and I think it came out pretty cool. I realize the emphasis isn't on the Shisa... but a little creative license is in order.

Lastly, as I waited for Erin to come get me for our recon mission to Toguchi beach (pictures to come), I was standing in front of my building and a bunch of Japanese dudes came outside with their suitcases - apparently checking out of the hotel. After putting their stuff in a van, they handed the front desk girl their little cameras. I watched as they said, "Ichi, ni, san, shiiiiisa!" and posed for pictures. By the 2nd or 3rd time, I finally got it! They were posing like shisa and playing it into the count to take the picture. (ichi, ni, san, shi = 1, 2, 3, 4) I started to laugh and they all turned around and laughed with me - the American GOT it! I was holding my camera (shooting the shisa you see above, as a matter of fact) and after the girl was done with their cameras, I asked if I could take one with mine. They all grinned and agreed, and even liked the fact that I knelt down on the pavement in the middle of the street to get a cool angle of their funky pose. After I snapped the picture, three of the guys asked me to pose with them for their cameras - and every time, we counted off the same way.
Arigato gozai mashta, Japanese dudes!

I promise, more photos soon, I just feel like shooting is all I do lately!

Quick side note - Ryan, I sent you a package. I emailed you to see if you got the package (to your Yahoo! account). And I still don't know if you got the package. If you're still reading - just email me and let me know what went down in the Vener home!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Blog Addiction?

58%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

I found this site through another blog today, and I'm happy to say that I didn't even pass this test. But maybe some of you will realize an addiction, so check it out. Fun & funny.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

It's Been Too Long!

I'm SO sorry my friends and family, things are insane. My daughter started school, I started a new job - and I finally had some time to get out and enjoy a few new things. Very lucky me, and now that I can finally tell you about some of these things....very lucky YOU!

Ok, firstly - I see my last post was Thursday and it's now Sunday. Mia did fantastic in school for her first few days. I know only what she tells me, but I gather she's having fun, loves riding the bus, and is maybe even learning something new. (It HAS only been three days.)

Friday afternoon I met with my new - uh - fellow job people. I know Serena hates "boss" - hehe. We worked out contract stuff and schedule stuff, and I got very happy and excited. We ALSO saw the new blog & website - the blog can be found at
Eventually you'll also get to see the website, but I think you'll finally get the idea - and why it was so important that I keep things on the down-low. A very sweet bit is written by Serena on her blog at regarding the birth of THE Studio. Needless to say, we're all very excited. Saturday morning we all headed out to a beautiful garden to take some pictures of ourselves for the new website & such. Tough to be the subject, I'll tell you! Though it was hot, the garden was so lovely and the kids (who were all with us) were a blast. They loved it too.

Here are a few shots of ours from the garden:

Craig took these first 2 (don't you love the turtle looking up at her?):

I snapped Mia against this interesting wall:

I really wanted Mia to stand next to this guy making the same pose, but she was way too hot and too interested in playing in the waterfall.

Today (a very wet Sunday) we shot our first two sessions as training, with Serena & her assistant in close contact and thankfully, full of advice and help and suggestions. They were fantastic about giving all the info we needed while leaving enough room to let our creativity and ideas flow. I'm confident we'll be fabulous when on our own - and I'm also thrilled to have the team we do!

Lastly, we went to OKINAPA on Friday night for our first DATE night since we got here! Kelly, our sponsor's 23-year-old math teacher trainee daughter babysat Mia as we tasted wine and ate fantastic foods. (beef wellington, oysters, cheeses, pastries, pastas, etc.) Fabulous night, hundreds of wines from all over the world, and great prices. We bought 6 bottles, two of which were this delicious Bordeaux centered in the picture:

I can't wait to enjoy it with my hubby. And we got out of there for $79 for six GREAT bottles! That Okinapa deal goes down every six months - you can be sure we'll be there again in the spring! Ok, off to watch a movie - it's STILL pouring outside.