Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New Home Prep

All of our stuff is officially en route to America!  The movers arrived at 0759 and had the whole house packed and on the truck by 1500.

I have never been more excited to move into a new house than I am right now.  After 3 years in government quarters with slightly off white walls, white floors, white EVERYTHING, I am so ready to have some color in my life.  Don't get me wrong, our home here in Japan was great, the size was larger than we needed and the location could not have been better (I have the best neighbors ever!) but it's just kind of blah on the inside and since we had nearly all government loaner furniture that was sufficient but definitely not our 1st choice or style, I'm ready to personalize our next place!  I started a few project here so that once our stuff arrives in SD I can finish them quickly.

We purchased our friend's dining room table.  Our best friends.  We've eaten many meals, had dozens of therapy sessions and multiple game nights on their table so we were more than happy to take if off their hands.  We'll remember all of the moments we shared with them every time we eat at our new table.  I decided to replace the fabric on the chairs.  I thought I was going to pick out a crazy bright, Japanese patterned fabric but while in the fabric store I feel in love with something completely different.  I thought my husband would hate it but when I sent him a picture of a few options he chose the same one I loved so the decision was made.  Plus I think it compliments the wood color beautifully.

(see, white floors, white walls, white base boards, white blinds...SO MUCH WHITE!)

The table top has been sanded and will be painted the same green color that's in the fabric.

The second major sanding project was this coffee table which will be re-stained to match our entertainment center and then the top will be covered with foam and fabric to make it into an ottoman.

I let my husband choose a fabric for the table with the only stipulations being that it contained plum and had a large print.  I'm still stunned at his choice (but only slightly, he's always had a quirky style)

  I cannot wait to see how the final products turn out.  I just have to wait 60-90 days for our stuff to arrive in San Diego.

Between sanding the table top and our coffee table I have decided that rehabbing furniture is not for me.  Even with our orbital sander, that was exhausting work.  I'm excited to finish these projects but I'm pretty sure they'll be my last!  I had aspirations to tackle a few other projects once we arrive but I think I've lost the desire for those, so I hope I can find what I have in my head at a store somewhere.

Any seasoned veterans out there want to offer some furniture re-purposing words of wisdom?

Monday, July 29, 2013

PCS Progress {2}

We're down to less than two weeks before we leave Japan.  I feel like the stress is mostly under control now that we have a place to live but our best friends are leaving Japan in a few days and we follow them just 9 days later, I'm certain once they're gone everything's going to sink in and I'll start to go crazy.  Tomorrow the last of our stuff gets packed up and put on a boat to slowly make its way back to America.  I think we're mostly prepared thanks to the numerous lists I've made and double and triple checked.

Poor Buster on the other hand is feeling the stress.  He's been so incredibly sad the past few weeks it breaks my heart!  I cannot believe this guy is going to be 16 in a few weeks!

Last week we got rid of everything we're not taking with us.  We had my bed & couch from college that we brought here knowing they wouldn't return with us so those went out to the curb.  We sold or gave away a few things, including my husbands beloved 52" television that was his redeployment gift to himself after his first tour.  We loved that TV and would have kept it except it didn't fit into the entertainment center we purchased for ourselves last year.  You see the entertainment center has these fancy doors that ares supposed to fold in while you're watching TV but our TV had the speakers and a glass trim that went all the way around it and prevented the doors from functioning as they should.


This could not be good for the entertainment center so we decided to sell the TV and just buy a new one on the other end.  Since we're not buying it here and shipping it, we don't have to wait for our HHG to arrive, we can just buy one when we're ready for it.  So for the past few days I've had no excuse to sit around the house.  I've actually enjoyed not having a television.  I was able to get out and do some things that I had been putting off for no good reason.

I went in search of a fabric shop hoping to pick up some bright, crazy, Japanese inspired fabric to cover the seats cushions on the dining room table we're buying from our friends but found this gorgeous fabric instead.  I plan to pain the top of the table this same green color.  I can't wait to see it all together!

I went out to the sunflower fields to take some photos, something I've been wanting to do for 3 years and just never got around to.

I even sat down and designed my own change of address cards to mail out.  I've never tried to design anything like this before so I was really happy with how it turned out.  Too bad VistaPrint won't ship to an APO (they used to!) so they're en route to my mom's house and I'll send them out once we've actually moved!

Friday, July 26, 2013

My God is an Awesome God!

Finding a home from 5000+ miles away is hard y'all.  Really hard!  We started our search about 6 months ago when we first decided that San Diego was where we wanted to settle for a while.  Our search began with property for sale but then we decided just to rent so we had to start the search all over again.    Our biggest obstacle was finding a a place near the college my husband will be attending that didn't look like your typical college dwelling.  Jason will be riding his bicycle to school so we had a pretty narrow radius that we wanted to stay within but every thing with in that radius was crap!  We weren't looking for a forever home but we also wanted to be comfortable.  The few times I did find a decent place online it was rented before we even had a shot due to the 16 hour time difference.  Luckily, I have a cousin, Tina, who lives in the area who has been more than willing to help us out in any way she can.  She went to see a few places that were just OK but nothing we really wanted to commit to so we decided to tell her that we were just going to wait until we arrived to find a place.  That wasn't ideal because Jason starts classes the day after we arrive in SD and there is no way of arriving any sooner, it's already a crazy tight schedule as it is but it was becoming too stressful for me to do it from here and I felt like I was wasting her time.

Here is how our chat went while she was up late at night working the midnight shift:

Me: I think we decided that we're just going to wait until we get there. There are tons of ok places that we can grab at the last minute if we have to but all the really good places seem to be snatched up before we even get a stab at them with this silly time difference. 
Tina: are you sure you don't want to send me to a few craig's list places? 
Me: if we find any on there I will let you know!
I decide to click open a new tab just to see if anything new was on Craigslist
Me: this might be worth checking out. I love that Buster would have his own little area, no grass but still a fenced in area for him. The kitchen is PHENOMENAL!  Jason is on his way home and I'll let ya know in a few...

Here's the photo of the kitchen that had me sold

That night I decided to stay up late so I could be the first person to call that morning in SD.  My cousin went to look at it that evening, we filled out the application, the owner got back to me on Tuesday and we signed the lease on Wednesday.

I have one page bookmarked in my Bible.  I don't know why I ever marked it but it is a verse that I find myself coming back to over and over and over.

Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)
In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the Lord establishes their steps.

I had just decided that all the work I was putting into house hunting and all the stress it was causing me wasn't worth it.  Literally the instant I threw in the towel and let God take over, the perfect place landed in our lap!  One of these days I'll stop trying to be a control freak.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fun giveaway

I'm so super excited to take a break from all the PCS talk and bring you guys something fun today!  2 weeks ago my beautiful neighbor, Kayla, gave birth to her 3rd baby boy.  (she's a pretty private person or I would totally steal some photos of her adorable family off Facebook!)  For the big event, her parents flew to Japan to join her and her family.  I met Kayla's mom, at a BBQ last weekend and found out she was an author.  As you all know I love to read so I began drilling her with questions.  Turns out she writes in a genre that I do a lot of reading in, military suspense.  If I'm going to read a novel it's going to be some sort of suspense.  She was kind enough to send me a digital copy of her book, The Pact, which I wasted no time diving into.

Commander Celia Kelly is a perceptive Naval Intelligence Officer rebuilding her life after the tragic loss of her husband. The suspicious suicide of a fellow Officer has Celia questioning the mission she’s been assigned. 
With the help of a one of a kind secretary, by the book assistant, and a Navy SEAL, Kelly discovers she’s been set up. Digging relentlessly, nothing is as it seems. Someone is after twenty million dollars that disappeared when Kelly’s husband went MIA and now that someone is after her!

I have to admit, I was a little skeptical at first.  I've read a few books by first time authors and was unimpressed each time.  (I'm not 100% that this is her first book but it's the first book in a series so that's what I was thinking going into this).  The Pact absolutely blew me away!  I couldn't, and didn't, put it down until I was finished.  Mrs. Bring did a great job at developing her characters in a way that I was able to connect with instantly.  The plot grabbed my attention immediately which was nice, I hate when it takes me 10 chapters to really get interested in a book.  The story line was well thought out and easy to follow.  (I found myself wondering how she kept track of it all while writing.  I would have had to have color coded post it notes EVERYWHERE.)  One of my favorite parts of this book was how easily the main character, Celia, talked about, explained and defended her faith.  It wasn't a huge part of the story but it's something that stuck out to me (probably because that is something that I struggle with in my own life).  I've rambled on long enough for someone who isn't a book critic.  Let me just say that I can't wait for the next book, The Lie, to come out next week!

Mrs. Bring is huge supporter of the military and their families and she has donated a signed copy of The Pact for me to give away to one of you awesome ladies (or guys if there are any males reading this).  If you'd like to win a copy of the book, just leave a comment letting me know what you're reading now (or if you're not, what you'd like to be reading now).  Good luck and if you don't win, this book is definitely worth the Kindle price!

I was given a free copy of the book but I was not paid for this post and all opinions are my own.
Entries will be accepted until midnight EST on 31 July 2013.

Monday, July 22, 2013

PCS/ETS Road Trip

We officially got word that the Army will not be shipping our car to California for us.  After much deliberation we decided that our least expensive best option is to drive our car from Ohio to California.  For a couple of weeks now I've been bouncing back and forth between excitement and loathing disdain indifference.  I used to love road trips but it's been so long since we've spent more than a few hours in a car that I'm just not sure anymore.  That all changed when I sat down to plan out our route.

We're going to be on the road for only 4 very long days with two day long stops and a few overnight visits with friends/family.  

We're going to spend our first night at Fort Leavenworth visiting with Jason's best friend from college, his wife and their adorable son they recently adopted from Ethiopia.   We are so excited to meet Ephraim and see our friends.  Day 2 we'll have lunch with my friend Melissa and her family at Fort Riley then, and this was the surprise visit that threw me over the edge into complete excitement, we'll spend a night with our friend Ashley and her adorable children in Colorado (we only wish her husband could be there too).  You see, as part of my 30 while 30 I wanted to send 12 just because gifts and I know Ashley's son likes ninjas so I sent him a ninja t-shirt.  If I hadn't sent that box to Trevor, I wouldn't have learned that they'd recently moved right along our route.  It's amazing the way God takes our plans and rips them to shreds and presents us with even better plans that we could have imagined.  Day 3 we'll drive to Jason's mom's house in Utah and stay there for a day before driving to California.

It's going to be a lot of time on the road but the stops along the way will totally make up for the long hours in the car.  Have you ever driven any part of this route?  Know of any great places to stop along the way?  We're looking for restaurants, scenic views, tourist attractions, anything to break up the drive!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Photographer's assistant for a day (or two)

{Earlier today our first shipment of belongings was packed up and sent on the way to America!}

A few weeks ago, a local photographer posted on his Facebook page looking for a second assistant for a two day shoot.  I met all the requirements and jumped at the opportunity to take a break from PCS planning try something new.  My responsibilities were minimal but I helped the day go much smoother than it would have with just one assistant.  During some of my down time I took the opportunity to see how he interacted with the client and did what was necessary to nail the shots he needed.  I learned a lot and got to experience some things that were new to me, including DRIVING through Shibuya Crossing, one of the busiest intersections in the world!

I also had fun documenting the two days with my iPhone.

I can now officially add "photographer's assistant" to my resume!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sayonara souvenir

Before I leave Japan, there was one last item I wanted to purchase for myself as a keepsake of my time here.  One I would use daily to constantly remind me of all the wonderful memories I made here.  That item was a santoku knife.  I've been using an inexpensive version of a santoku knife since I first started learning how to cook and it's the knife I'm most comfortable with and use most often.  It's name refers to the three tasks it is designed for: slicing, dicing, and mincing (according to wikipedia and san means 3 in Japanese so I'm going with it).  It's sort of like the Japanese version of a chef's knife.  I did a little bit of research then headed off to the kitchen district of Tokyo with a couple of my girlfriends.  Once I arrived on Kappabashi, I realized I had no clue what I really wanted.  There were so many choices!  I figured when I saw it, I would just know.  Luckily I didn't have to choose that way, we stumbled into a store that had an employee who spoke English.  Marina saved the day.  Without her I'm certain I would have returned home with a very expensive, very attractive knife that did not meet my needs.  Instead Marina answered all of my questions, made suggestions and allowed me to try out a few that she thought suited me best.  I am so thrilled with the knife I came home with!

 The best part?  They engraved my name on it!  Plus the wood has a slightly purplish tint.  I could not be happier with my purchase!  Every time I use it I will think of all the great food I ate in Japan.

Monday, July 15, 2013

PCS Progress

Orders? Check!
Plane tickets? Check!
Buster's plane reservation? Check!
Hotel reservations? Check!
Housing pre-inspection? Check!
Housing inspection? Scheduled!
HHG pre-inspection? Check!
HHG pick-up? Scheduled!
UB pick-up? Scheduled!
Find someone to buy our car? Check!
Have car inspected (so we can sell it)? Check!
Make repairs to that the car passes inspection? Scheduled!
Etc., etc., etc...

I've talked about this before, I'm a list maker.  Over the years I've learned the importance of making lists.   They help me stay focused and on track and prevent my lack of a memory from destroying my well laid out plans.  For this PCS/ETS, I currently have about 9 or 10 lists that I'm tracking.  Some of them include: pcs check list (part of which is seen above), expenses (things we're going to have to buy once we arrive in San Diego), things to sell, unaccompanied baggage, household goods  and things to pack in our suitcases/not let the packers pack.  Keeping these lists allow me to monitor our progress.  They are constantly being amended and grow as each day passes.

My best friend here is leaving at the same time we are (9 days before us) and we were discussing the lack of guidance we've found when it comes to PCS'ing.  We kept searching for a "suggested list" of items to pack in each of our shipments and on our person when we travel.  We were unable to come up with any so I decided to share with you what we came up with. (Jessica from Jessica Lynn Writes shared her list earlier this week.  Her's includes lots of suggestions if you're traveling with children.)

For our fast shipment, or unaccompanied baggage (UB) as the Army calls it:

*air mattress (if not carrying in your suitcase)
*1 set of sheets/blanket/pillows
*1 set of bath towels/bath mats (we take the ones from our guest bathroom)
*shower curtain
*professional gear (for family members)
*camping chairs/something to sit on until your furniture arrives & a folding table
*kitchen supplies to include cookie sheets, crock pot, pots/pans, knives, spices, Tupperware, and dishes/utensils.
*weather appropriate clothing for your destination
*laundry basket
*shoes that you won't be traveling with
*games/DVD's/books (not all of them, just a small selection)
*EMPTY trash can
*first aid kit
*hammer/screw driver
*can opener

My personal list includes:
*tent/camping gear
*rice cooker
*our bicycles
*design magazines (I cannot wait to decorate our new home)
*a box fan (our place in SD may or may not have AC)
*grocery bags

Anything you would add to this list?  I'd love to hear your suggestions!  I hope some of you find this information useful.  It's not all encompassing but I think it's a good starting base.

I can't leave you guys without a photo so here's one of the husband and I at a ceremony this week...I have no idea why I'm looking at him that way but it made me chuckle...what do you think is going through my head in this moment?

Friday, July 12, 2013

30 while 30 {2 months}

Only 2 months left before I turn 31.  I cannot believe I'll be celebrating my next birthday in our new home in San Diego {If we ever find one!}.  It still hasn't settled in that we're actually leaving Japan in 5 weeks!


Health/Fitness {2/4}
1} take a yoga class {DONE 10Jan13}
2} do 1 unassisted pull up
3} pass the Army PT test for my gender/age group
4} try something new {DONE 14Feb13, spin class}

Food {3/6}
5} eat one week strict paleo {DONE 1-7Jan13}
7}learn to cook 5 Japanese dishes from scratch {3/5 1. Nikujaga 2. Yakisoba 3. Sukiyaki 4. Nasu Dengaku}
8} master 5 go-to last minute meals (ie. quick to prepare & no need for a recipe using ingredients we always have) {1. ratatouille, 2. pretzel chicken, 3. stir fry, 4. crunch wraps, 5. stuffed peppers}
9} try 5 new foods {1.Snakeskin fruit 2.Mangosteen 3.pistachios 4.quail 5.Chai tea}
10} meal plan every month {10/12}

Japan/Travel {6/9}
11}visit at least 3 new sites in Japan { DONE 1.Tokyo Disney 2. Tama Hills 3. Okinawa}
12} visit Tokyo Disney {DONE 23Oct12}
13} ride an elephant in Thailand
14} see the Great Wall of China {Done 19Dec}
15} put my feet in the Indian Ocean {Done in Bali}
16}volunteer somewhere outside of the US {DONE 8-12Nov12, Ishinomaki, Japan}
17}take Jason to Red River Gorge AKA my favorite place in the world
18} print, frame and display at least one photo from each of our trips {DONE 15Mar}
19} visit at least 3 new countries {2/3 Indonesia, China}

Random {8/11}
20}watch all 100 movies off the AFI {American Film Institute} top 100 list {56/119}
there are actually 2 lists, we combined them and there are 119 different movies on the lists
21} contribute to savings every month {10/12}
22}volunteer somewhere at least once a month {10/12}
23} have new photos taken of Jason and I {DONE 16Sep12}
24} send 12 personalized "just because" gifts/cards {Done}
25} revamp my resume {DONE 11Jan13}
26} complete a year long photo project {DONE 28Feb13}
27} attend an Army sponsored marriage retreat {DONE 22-24Oct12}
28} get a college degree {DONE 10May13}
29} VOTE in the Presidential election {DONE 17Oct12}
30} blog 100 times {DONE 26May13}

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Japan jaunts

As our time in Japan winds to an end,  I've been reflecting on the almost 3 years we have lived here.  I moved here with an open mind, wanting to experience as much of the culture as possible.  I am well aware of how special and unique this opportunity is and I didn't want to waste a single moment of it.  Seriously you guys, how cool is it that I lived in Japan for 3 years?!?  Even after 3 years there are times I still cannot believe this is my life.  I feel like it's been a really long and detailed dream that I will wake up from one day (most likely on 11Aug when we board a plane to America).  There are some people who HATE it here and I feel bad that they aren't happy but it infuriates me to see them waste this rare opportunity.  Yes, living in the fish bowl that is Camp Zama has it's challenges but there are way worse places to live in the world.

In no particular order, here are some of the major highlights of our time here in Japan.  A few of the places I hope to remember forever.

Kamakura (on several occasions)

Osaka (July 2012, probably my favorite city after Tokyo)

Kumamoto (June 2012)

Okinawa (May 2013)

Hiroshima (May 2013)

Kyoto (May 2013)

Ofunato (Aug, Sept & Oct 2011)

Ishinomaki (July & Nov 2012)

Tokyo (probably more than 100 times now)

Mt. Fuji (Aug 2012)

Nagano (January 2012)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Kyoto now!

Any Bad Religion fans out there to get the title reference?  I'll be highly impressed if there are!

I visited Kyoto with my sister back in September of 2011 but Jason had never been.  I thought it was important he see the historical city, plus it's super easy to visit Hiroshima & Kyoto in the same weekend and I really couldn't leave Japan without a trip to Hiroshima.  So we gathered some friends and off we went over Memorial Day weekend. 

 We spent 2.5 days in Kyoto and about a day in Hiroshima which I already blogged about last month.  I'm finally getting around to blogging about Kyoto and our side trip to Miyajima Island from Hiroshima.

Jason was thrilled that buses are the cheapest and most convenient form of transportation in Kyoto, he loves riding the bus.

Our first stop, Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion.

I think I've said this before but I could spend days in this location.  The beauty takes my breath away every time I'm there.  It's definitely one of my favorite sites in Japan.

From there we headed to Gion to find some dinner and found a couple Maiko (apprentice Geisha) instead.  

Day 2 started at Fishimi Inari Shrine

We have the best friends!

This shrine is famous for its torii.

There were lots of Japanese girls dressed up in their summer kimonos that are made of a lightweight fabric and called yukatas.  

Usually in Japan people ignore us but that weekend we had numerous people approach us wanting to speak English with us.

I love this photo.  It is a perfect capture of my husband.  He had 100's of children waving at him from across the way.  He's such an outgoing goofball and I love it!

These girls simply wanted to have their photo taken with me.  I will never know why but I was happy to indulge them.

We had dinner at a rooftop beer garden followed by drinks and karaoke at an izakaya.

Day 3 we spent in Hiroshima then on our 4th day we headed to an island near Hiroshima, Miyajima, that is known for a torii that appears to be floating in the water during the high tide.

 I've wanted to visit this Japanese icon since before we even arrived here and I'm so glad I was finally about to make it out there.

There are lots of wild deer that roam the island and what trip would be complete without my husband tempting fate.  Luckily the deer only bit the leaf and not him.

We had a great weekend with great friends.  With this trip on the books, I can officially leave Japan with zero regrets!