Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Monster Mash

Our neighbor, Ann Marie, is extremely creative - like I could only wish to be.  She is always coming up with little (and big) artistic creations that always amaze me.  Like a giant peacock painting on an old screen, or making a bathroom soap holder out of a shell and a piece of coral, or - well, the list goes on and on.

So recently she put all her creative juice into planning a birthday party for herself.  The idea, I think, germinated from this party game she had seen online that revolved around a village ridding itself of werewolves.  It morphed into an awesome costume party with a slightly spooky theme.  She totally outdid herself with the decorations and food and games and it was a great time by all!

Me and Ann Marie

The costumes were all very creative.

Ann Marie may have thrown her own birthday party, but I told her I would make the cake.  Werewolves howling at the moon...

The invitations were addressed to different royalty so we were King and Queen Coats!  I made our coordinating costumes.

King Stevie (or is he a super hero???)
Lisa found this dress at the thrift store but gave it to Krimp to wear.  Can't believe anyone ever wore that for anything except a Little Bo Peep costume!

Suzy modeling in Ann Marie's photo prop (she painted it on an old painting pulled out of the trash!

Eric and Ashley came as the "new royalty".

Lisa and John won the "Best Costume".  John also had a killer accent to go with the kilt.

What's a birthday party without a pinata?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fear Factor

We have a freebie newspaper here that caters to the Americans called the “Japan Update”. It’s published every Thursday and available all over the bases. Usually, if I remember to pick one up, I’ll find something of interest in the paper – which is pretty good because the whole thing is only 15 pages long and only 4 of those pages have any stories on them. The rest of the pages are ads and classifieds.

Anyways… I picked one up this week and found a tiny article about an event happening that might be of interest to the kids. The title of the article was “Kids Original Haunted House is scary but cool”. Being that I was a single parent today since Stevie is on call, I thought this might be a fun and easy outing with the munchkins. Really what intrigued me were the details in the article that the Okinawans believe that the chills provided by scary stories and sights help cool down the body. Consequently, it’s a tradition to tell spooky stories in the heat of the summer to try to combat the heat. Personally, I think air conditioning would do a better job, but maybe that’s the Westerner in me coming out?

So after letting the kids get their “play out” at home, I loaded them in the Golden Nugget and set out to find this thing. One other thing about the Japan Update that I’ve noted in the past (and confirmed today) is that they are lousy with directions. I mean, it’s sometimes fun to get lost here, and today we did have a great stop at the Awase Fish Market while we were lost, but I do wish that sometimes they would give clear directions.

The fish market, by the way, is a VERY Japanese-y place that we first visited shortly after moving to the island. It’s not our favorite market since you have to choose your fish from a barrel and then guess at how much that fish is going to cost you, but it is interesting for the kids who could spend endless hours watching the guys scale, gut, de-bone and carve up the various fish…

Choose your fish...

Watching the massacre.

Back to the quest for the haunted house, the long and short is that after trying many roads and turns we stumbled upon the park where the small festival was taking place and spied the “haunted house”. I use this term in quotes because really what it consisted of was multiple cardboard boxes that had “spooky” faces carved into them and then constructed into a cardboard maze. It was really all very cheesy, but funny so maybe my coolness came from the endorphins released from laughing rather than the chill bumps from being scared!

The "scary" faces carved into boxes.

Gotta love that you have to take your shoes off and then they line them up at the exit for you!

In the maze, kids stuck their “blood stained” heads and arms out the carved holes!

OK, this girl was a bit creepy.  Her stoic face was kind of eerie. (The Japanese kid I mean, not Emmy!)

The article promised that the event would “definitely capture your every fear and be fun” – I’ll agree with the fun part, but might ask for my money back on the fear factor!

Enjoying the extra fast concrete slide after the haunted house.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Japanese pinatas

The other day when we were at Toguchi beach there were several Japanese families using the pavilions for birthday parties.  Nothing too unusual about that, but the unusual thing was the way they did their pinata.

What is the pinata?  It's a watermelon in a net on the ground in the middle of a field!  The person up to bat has a blind fold and stick, just like our pinatas, but they have to find the melon by following directions called out from other party goers.  When they get close, they try to whack open the melon with the stick.  

As Stevie said, no wonder the Japanese are so thin - you get watermelon instead of candy at a birthday party!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Minna Island

Stevie has a few days of leave and although the original plan was to take a small trip, it didn’t work out this time. It doesn’t help that the yen rate is 75! (It was 93 when we moved here two years ago – ouch!) So I’ve been combing my “island idea” box and found a place called Minna Island. It’s a really tiny (think glorified sand bar) island just off the Motobu peninsula on the northwest side of Okinawa. And the best part is that it’s only a 15 minute ferry ride to this little paradise island.

So we packed up our beach gear and drove up north to take the 9:30 am ferry (along with half of mainland Japan, I think. The ferry looked like one of those you see sinking in the East China Sea – oh wait, we were in the East China Sea…)

Can you see that Cannon doesn't like crowds?

The ferry dumps you off into the “commercialize” beach area where, thankfully, most of our Japanese fellow travelers stayed. Seeking isolation, I herded my family to the far end of the roped off beach, but as the morning progressed and more people joined us, I persuaded my family to move still further away.

The water here is so so so so clear it’s amazing and we were enjoying some great shallow water snorkeling before some guy on a jet ski came by and told us not to. We’re still not sure why, except that this is some of the rare live coral that we’re seen and maybe they were trying to protect it. The kids were having a ball in the water and Stevie was perfecting his beached whale impression so I decided to see if I could walk around the island.

I couldn’t make it all the way around for the coral got a little sharp and treacherous, but I found a huge expanse of peaceful, quiet, undisturbed beach that was a rare treat. At one point I could hear nothing but the gentle lapping of waves and the whistle of wind through the trees. Ahhh, paradise.

Supposedly there is a bed and breakfast and a few other buildings on this islands, but I didn’t get to explore those. When I returned from my walk Stevie and the kids were ready to catch the ferry home so I’ll have to come back again some time to do some more exploring…

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Treasure Hunt

Cannon’s friend Marc’s mom, Maureen, asked us if we wanted to go check out a beach up north to look for blown in treasure. Even after my new conclusion that the treasure is not so great after a storm, I was still game to try a new beach.

We all piled in Maureen’s van and headed out – blindly taking an exit off the highway and trying to find a cool beach. We found a beach, but unfortunately, as Maureen said, it looked like a plastics recycling plant exploded just off shore. There was garbage everywhere! Yuck. We tried to pick among the debris to find anything great, and did find a patch full of sea urchin hulls, but quickly decided to move on and find another beach.

This time we picked our way through back streets, farm fields and lonely lanes before we came out on a beautiful empty beach full of clear water, shells and a few other strange treasures left by the storm.

Sea snake

Dehydrated blue sea star

Little bitty sea star

Gorgeous beach

Maureen is on the hunt for glass buoy balls that the fishermen used to use, but unfortunately there were none of those to be had. It was a great beach though and the kids loved playing and swimming while Maureen and I beach combed to our hearts content!

Marc and Cannon

Frick and Frack

This was a lovely, warm swimming hole with a nice sandy bottom

What can I say?

My beach bum.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day After - All Clear

So after receiving the "All Clear" from the storm we (probably more accurately me) had to get out and stretch our legs.  After the last big typhoon came through in May, I had taken the kids to the beach to see the waves and the surfers and that’s where we headed again after Muifa passed through. 

Even though it’s a tropical island, Okinawa doesn’t usually have big waves so it’s a treat to see so good breaking waves and fun to see the surfers.  They are working on redoing the sea wall near our area and it’s now a really nice strolling path along the ocean. 

After a little while of watching the action, I was ready to hit the beach and see what treasure was washed up by the storm.  So we headed over to Toguchi beach for a stroll and treasure hunt.  Unfortunately, what I think I’ve figured out is that big storm does not equal great washed up treasure.  It actually means a bunch of broken shells, garbage and stinky dead fish.  Still, it’s always nice to walk on the beach and definitely nice to get out of the house!

This poor little hermit crab was hiding out in the tiniest of shells - I think he needed to find a new home.