Saturday, October 31, 2009

Superdogs!

Ah, I love Halloween. What's not to love about a holiday that revolves around costumes and candy? And oh yeah, DOG costumes!!

I just love the look on Vee's face, I think he's sticking his tongue out at Lee.

Vee is always a good sport about putting on a costume.

Isn't he just totally adorable? And heroic? Y'know, in a doggy kind of way. Ok, ok, so the bandanna head thingie kinda makes him look like Little Red Riding Hood, but whatever.

Of course, we couldn't leave Sadie out of this...

Although she wishes we would. Heh. She didn't put up as much of a fight this year about getting in her costume as she has in years past, though.

"Fine, take my picture, but I refuse to smile for the camera!"

Yep, she's cute too. I think we'll need to put on the costumes again tomorrow so I can get a photo of Bee and Vee together, we really didn't take that many this year, probably because Lee was busy making dinner and didn't want it to burn just so he could satisfy my desire for oodles of goofy Halloween pictures of our dogs. Right after we took these pictures, I took the kids down to Scott and Tiana's house to show off their costumes. Unfortunately they both kept walking out of the front legs of the costumes *and* it was raining, bummer. So like I said, I see a mini costume redux tomorrow after I get out of class. The costumes should be dried out by then too; we got totally soaked even though we were only outside for like 10 to 15 minutes.

We got one more treat this Halloween, lookie!

We still have three orchid plants in our house, but for pretty much the entire last year all we've had is leaves, no flowers. This plant *finally* bloomed this week, much to our excitement. This is one of the teeny orchid plants that I got on our anniversary last year. The other two plants are green and seem to be healthy enough, they're just not interested in blooming right now. They seem to like where we have them in this house better than where they were in our old house though, so maybe we're making progress.

Anyway, it's pretty much time for me to head on off to bed. I've got class all day tomorrow...so in the meantime, happy howl-oween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Golden Pavilion

Ok, I'm back with Part 5 of the Kyoto pics. Today's installment is all about the Golden Pavilion, or Kinkaku-ji. It was originally built in 1397, burned down a couple times, and then was completely destroyed by arson in 1950. (The arsonist was a mentally ill man who was an acolyte at the temple; there's even a book (and maybe movie) about the incident which is called, appropriately enough, The Golden Pavilion). The temple was rebuilt exactly as it was before the fire, but now tourists aren't allowed up close to or inside the building. Our tour guide said that some rich and powerful people get to see the inside, so if any of us in the tour group ever get to be rich or famous, we should invite her to go if we ever get to see the inside of the temple ;) So without further ado, here's some pictures!

See, there's that special Kyoto-blend super-reflective water at work here. I took most of these pictures and I wasn't at all sure that *any* of them were going to come out good, but then we got home and discovered that most of them look really nice. Like this.

Here's a branchy shot for you, Vicki!

What's funny is that it looks all tranquil in the pictures, but really there was a huge crowd where I was taking the pictures from. It took a bit of doing to get up close enough to the fence so that I could take pictures without anyone being in the shot. Anyway, you walk around the side of the pond to the right and you can get a leetle closer to the temple, so I got this shot:

That's the bronze phoenix on top of the temple. And in case you're wondering, yes, the entire building is covered with gold leafing. Well, the sides are anyway, but not the roof. There's some more buildings that are part of the complex, and this:

That, my friends, is a 600-year-old bonsai tree. I can't imagine a living thing that is *that* old (obviously it wasn't affected by the fires that took out the temple, huh?). And just because I like him:

He was on the gable of one of the rooftops, I think on the building to the left of the ancient bonsai tree. Anyway, after that we walked around a bit in some of the gardens adjacent to the temple and we saw this...

I'm guessing that it's good luck if you throw a coin in and it lands inside the bowl, maybe this is the Japanese version of a wishing fountain or something? Oh, here's a view of the back side of the temple:

And another one 'cause I couldn't figure out which one I liked best...

I got a pack of postcards at the gift shop that have a bunch of different photographs of the temple at various seasons, look how pretty it would be in the snow:

Know what else they had at the gift shop?

Yep, I got my very own Golden Pavilion kokeshi doll. This was the only type they had at the gift shop so I had to get her. I saw quite a few dolls at various gift shops around Kyoto, but a lot of them were exactly the same as the ones I can get on Okinawa, except more expensive. So this was the only doll I bought in Kyoto. And that's all she wrote about the Golden Pavilion.

So I started this blog post earlier this evening before Lee and I took the kiddos out for a walk. The weather has been super-nice lately so we've been out pretty much every evening this week. Well, we were almost home and let the kids off their leashes, and I started running up to our door trying to get Vader to run after me, and then Sadie came out of nowhere and just plowed right into my legs. Lee said she just knocked my feet right out from under me and he wasn't close enough to catch me, so down I went. I smacked my head pretty good on the sidewalk and I have a scraped elbow, but I was more concerned about Sadie. She landed in the grass next to the sidewalk and was whining like she was really hurting. I never felt so bad in my life as listening to that, my poor girl! (Ok, even though it was her fault, I don't want her to be hurt.) Lee and I looked her over pretty good and we can't see anything wrong with her, so hopefully she won't be limping or anything tomorrow. He also doctored my elbow up and took a look at my noggin where I bonked it, so he took good care of me. I'm pretty sure I'm going to have a lovely headache tomorrow, which is a fabulous way to kick off a full day of class. *sigh* Last week Sadie tangled with a centipede, and this week she tries to take me out on our nightly walk. What am I gonna do with that girl??

Monday, October 26, 2009

Scrapariffic PROOF

K, I'm taking a break from the Kyoto pictures today to bring you photographic proof that I have been working on my scrapbooks. Unfortunately I haven't finished any of these layouts, but that's because I haven't figured out exactly what I want to do yet. Behold!

Pictures from our trip to Yokohama's Chinatown last December, this is the Kantei-byo (Kanto-bei?) temple. The colors are waaayyyy off in the photo; it's actually Riding Hood Red and Crushed Curry, so a pretty red not wonky orange for the background, and the yellow on the sides isn't quite so...yellow. I still need the title, journaling, and some kind of embellishment before I can call this layout done (same for the next one).

Same trip, this time the Maso-byo temple a couple blocks away from the first one. I used the same colors but in reverse, and trust me when I say the colors look a lot better in real life than they do on here. I wanted this one to be similar to the first layout, I'm not just running out of layout or color combination ideas here :p

Last layout in progress (sorry the photo is a little blurry, but you get the idea):

So really all this one needs is a bit of journaling and possibly some type of embellishment, but I don't know what. I was thinking I could fit some kind of small round SOMETHING above and below "cruise" in the title, and then on the corner of the pictures on the right page just under my face. I like the title--my sweet mommy sent me a couple of new Sizzlits alphabets a while back and this is the first time I've used them, this one is Funky Brush. Anyway, the background on this layout really IS orange (Dusty Durango, to be exact). Lee and I had a long discussion about what would be the right color behind the patterned paper and Dusty Durango won. I like it.

So anyway LIZ, there's proof I haven't forgotten how to scrapbook. I just can't seem to finish a layout all the way before I start the next one. Snort!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Nijo Castle

I'm back with part 4--we're on part 4 right?--of the Kyoto pictures. I meant to update here yesterday but didn't get the chance. So let's go. Today's pictures are all from Nijo Castle, which is not at all like European castles that are really tall and made of stone. This one is a meandering single-story complex made of wood and has an extensive garden. It was built in the 1600s by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was a Big Dude in Japanese History. K, so I don't think he personally built it, but he's the one who signed the orders to start construction. From my exhaustive research on Wikipedia, it looks like none of the buildings are the original ones from way back then due to several fires. Our guide told us that the kitchens are in a building set apart from the rest of the complex due to the risk of fire, but that didn't stop at least two fires from remodeling the complex.

Anyway, here's the Karamon gate, one of the entrances to the complex:

The guide book says it's in Chinese style, which I can see. Honestly I sometimes have trouble telling the difference, but then again, Japan has imported a lot from China, not the least of which is their writing system and Buddhism. So there you go. Next up, I think this was one of the first buildings we saw.

Ok, so I'm not 100% sure that this picture was taken at Nijo Castle and not at the next place we went since it was on the little camera and we didn't take a whole lot of pictures with that one. But anyway, I thought it looked kind of neat. I *think* it's where visitors to the shogun checked in? Maybe I'm making that up :p

Of course I have no pictures of the inside of the building with all the neat wall paintings and such because you're not allowed to photograph anything inside. I can tell you that this is the place with the nightingale floors--the floors were constructed so that when you step on them, they squeak. On purpose. It's a passive intruder detection system. Pretty ingenious, huh? Of course they squeaked a lot while we were there because there was more than one large tour group tromping through, and I think they sounded more like seagulls than nightingales. Admittedly, I don't know what a nightingale sounds like, but I do know what a seagull sounds like.

This wood carving was over the entrance to the castle. All our photos are of the Ninomaru palace; the main drawback to visiting with a tour group is that you're extremely limited on time, so we couldn't explore all of the grounds and buildings. But anyway, back to the carving:

The colors are kind of faded, but it's got peacocks, other birds, and flowers on it. And it actually looks almost identical to the photo in our guidebook so at least we don't just suck at taking pictures if they couldn't get a more vivid one.

Next up are several shots of the outside of the building because I couldn't pick a favorite.

That carving from the previous picture is in the entrance in the lower right corner of this photo, but it's dark enough that you can't really see any details on this shot. But now you can see where it fits in on the building, huh?

This was one of Lee's favorite pictures, it's got some great color. See the sixteen-petal chrysanthemum on the left? That means that the building belongs the the imperial family, it's their crest. The last Tokugawa shogun resigned in 1867, giving up his power to the emperor, so they changed the crest on the building to the imperial chrysanthemum at that time. The Tokugawa crest was a hollyhock.

And another view, taken from near the gardens. See why I couldn't pick a favorite? ;) Oh yeah, gardens!

It seems like every pond in Kyoto has special reflective powers, just look at that. Since we were so pressed for time, we only got to see just a little bit of the garden, but our guide assured us that it was the "best part" anyway. Hmph.

You can see that there's just the very beginnings of fall foliage in the garden. I bet this would be pretty spectacular in a couple of weeks when more of the leaves have turned. One last photo...

Yep, that's us in the Authentic Japanese Parking Lot. Hee! Do we look extra tall? Our guide kindly took the picture for us and we're a lot taller than she is. So that was Nijo Castle. There's also an imperial palace in Kyoto, but it was a holiday weekend for the Japanese when we were there (no they don't celebrate Columbus Day, but their holiday weekend happened to coincide with ours) so the palace was closed. Our neighbor told us that he thought the palace was skippable anyway, so we don't feel like we got cheated. Stay tuned for more Kyoto pics, coming as soon as I can manage :)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

One of the Hongan-ji Temples...I Forget Which

Here we are with the third installment of our Kyoto pics. These are from one of the Hongan-ji temples; I left my Japan guide book at work so I don't remember which one, but this was the first stop we had on the guided tour we took on Sunday the 11th. This is a Buddhist temple, this time belonging to the Jodo sect which the majority of Japanese belong to.

Another beautiful example of Japanese wooden architecture. The beams are treated to make them less likely to catch fire, but even so quite a few of Japan's buildings have gone up in flames (some multiple times). Here's a fountain that was in the main courtyard area:

Hey, I wish we had one of those, don't you think that would be a way cooler alternative to a normal garden hose? ;) Here's the entry gate, I think:

Sorry this picture is blown out, but we took it with the little camera. Seems like we didn't take a whole heck of a lot of pictures at this temple, plus most of the ones from inside the temple didn't turn out too great due to low light. But I found some shisa!

Here's a second...

For some reason this second one reminds me of depictions of the Minotaur in Greece. Wonder why. Anyway, here's the third shisa:

They were all on the bottom of...something...I don't know what it was, but I liked the shisa so I just took pictures of them ;) Here's a picture looking down from the front of the temple:

Gravel, gravel everywhere. Most of the temples and shrines we visited had a lot of gravel rather than lawns and such around the buildings...I suppose it would be easier to keep up since you don't have to mow it, and it wouldn't get muddy when it rains, although I think it would get slick. Anyway, that's pretty much all she wrote about this temple; I've got some really nice pics up my sleeve for the next installment.

But for right now, and since I didn't post a ginormous number of pictures today, I thought I'd share a couple more from our trip to Texas from about six weeks ago. Don't know why I didn't get around to posting these sooner...oh yeah right, that darned research paper! Anyway, here's us with Lee's parents:

Lee's mom is holding a cross stitched piece I made for her and Lee's dad. I had intended to send it to them last year for Christmas but couldn't get it done in time, and we missed Valentine's Day too, so my mom had just been hanging onto it waiting for a good time to give it to Lee's parents. My mom figured it would be nice for me and Lee to present it in person, so we did. You can click on the picture to see it up close; the cross stitch is a couple on the beach, all done in browns and taupes and if you think I was tired of brown by the time I finished stitching it, you'd be right.

Here's a fun picture...

Yep, that's my dad and Lee, arm wrestling. My dad has this thing where if he invites someone out to eat, then he pays for them unless they can beat him arm wrestling, so Lee had to try it when we went out to dinner at Texas Roadhouse (man I love their rolls and honey butter...*drool*). Lee almost won too, but Dad says he musta given up because he got tired.

Couldn't leave my mom out of the pics today!

Dad (or maybe Lee, I can't remember) took this of us outside of IHOP right before my parental units headed back up to DFW. Lee and I were in Texas for several days after they had to go back to work, and no amount of puppy dog eyes on my part could convince my mom to stay in San Antonio and go shopping with me. Sniffle.

Ok, one last picture and I'm done for the day...

Yep, it's Cocok's with the Silent K. This time I went with Amber (left, gold and brown stripes), Jenny (top, butterflies), Margaret (top right, koi fish), and Jamie (right, black and red Oriental designs). I got my She-Ra toes although I'm not super-thrilled with how they turned out; the stripes aren't exactly even. They're supposed to be V-shaped; maybe it would look better if my toenails were taller rather than wider. Oh well, I've had my toes this long so I guess I can't trade them out now :p

Now I just need to figure out what to do with the rest of my evening...cross stitch or scrapbook? I think I'll skip the gym tonight...I didn't get much sleep last night so I'm pretty tired already. And it's trying to rain outside so my kiddos will just have to do without a walk today. They'll get over it, I brought them treats from the store today!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sanjusangen-do and Sam's

I really meant to update the ol' bloggy-poo over the weekend but I just didn't get to it before bedtime on Sunday. So now I'm using my lunch break to upload some pictures because I know how you all are constantly checking here for updates (yeah, right...heh!)

Anyway, on our first day of unsupervised wandering about Kyoto, Lee and I found our way to Sanjusangen-do, a Buddhist temple. It's the longest wooden building in Japan (and maybe the world?) and houses 1,001 Kannon, which are multi-armed statues of Buddha (not chubby happy Buddha from the local Chinese restaurant, but warrior lots-of-arms Buddha). They were pretty impressive to see, but you couldn't photograph them because the monks consider it rude to do so, plus they want you to buy the postcards and picture books at their gift shop :p So here's the wall and stuff around the temple building:

Your eyes do not deceive you, it is traffic cone orange. I thought of you, Liz. Actually we saw more than one shrine/temple that was painted all orange. We have proof that I was there, but no photographic proof of Lee...

You can see the orange wall behind me, and this little pondy area was to one side of the temple. Here's some of the artwork adorning the roof of the temple:

I kinda want one on the roof of my house, he's fun. For whatever reason I don't think we tried to take a picture of the temple building itself, just a couple parts and pieces of decorations, like this one:

They do some beautiful flowers. I think I got a set of postcards that has a picture of the statues inside the temple, but I'll have to scan that in later to share here. Trust me when I say that it was impressive--you walk and walk and walk and there are literally hundreds of these statues staring at you, each with about a dozen arms. And there's a great big one in the middle. The temple was started in 1164, and then rebuilt in 1266 after a fire, so the current building has been there for over seven HUNDRED years. Holy Buddhist temple, Batman.

Anyway, while we were looking around inside, it started raining, and when we left the temple we were treated to this sight:

Very cool. We did an all-day tour on Sunday and didn't realize this temple was on the tour itinerary so we visited this place twice. The second time we didn't go in since tours are always in such a rush to get you everywhere, so we just wandered around the grounds a bit looking for a vending machine (because all good temples have vending machines, naturally), and we met two junior high schoolgirls from Tokyo who (in very good English) asked us where we were from and if we would write them a message as part of a school project. So we did. Wish we'd gotten a picture of them, they were so polite.

So yesterday was our anniversary (although if you want to get technical about it, we hit the actual time of the wedding at 9 o'clock this morning) and we decided to go out to dinner at Sam's by the Sea. And the staff at Sam's seems very concerned that you not get anything on your clothes while dining there...

Oh yeah, rockin' the Sam's bib. I had to pinky swear Lee that if I posted a picture of him in a bib, I had to post one of myself too, and since I am SO nice I even put mine up here first. I kind of have a surprised expression though, don't you think? Here's Lee in all his bib-ariffic glory (minus the peace sign):

Great food. We ate too much, so it's probably a good thing that we don't go there too terribly often. When Lee's parents come out here next month, I'm going to try to talk his dad into ordering this one thing that involves a flaming sword. I so just want to see it.

Check out the cool salt and pepper shakers too:

I think I need some of those for my house, don't you? I think my dad got some last year, I should ask how much they cost...

And on that note, I am out of time for my lunch break, but I shall return in a couple days to share more pictures from Kyoto :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Shosei-En Garden

This is Part 1 of the Kyoto trip blog posts ('cuz you know I'm going to drag this out for like two weeks at least!). On Saturday morning, Lee and I got up at a ridiculously early hour and drove down to the airport in Naha, where we got chased out for entering the building at 5:59 when it opens at 6:00. Seriously, the security guy made us walk back out, wait a minute, and then come back in :p Anyway, we had an uneventful flight to Osaka (which I am grateful for, given my tendency toward motion sickness), and then immediately found where to get a bus ticket to go to Kyoto. Since the bus thing was so easy, we were due to have more trouble with something else, and it did take us a while to find our hotel once we'd been dropped off in Kyoto. But find it we did, and then once we got checked in, we headed out with nothing but our cameras and a great guidebook that our very kind neighbor lent us. After much walking, we found this:

We were aiming for a garden that we found in the guidebook, and this is the wall that surrounds it, so score 1 for the guidebook. Here's what is all along the top of the wall:

For some reason, I really like shots like that, so don't be surprised if I post some other similar ones later on :) We had to walk around a bit to find the front gate since this wall apparently goes all the way around the garden, so here's a picture of me at the front to prove that I was there:

According to the sign at the front gate, the garden dates back to the 1600s and belongs to a nearby temple. Fires destroyed the gardens in the mid-1800s, but afterward the buildings and landscaping were restored to their original condition. Here's the first building we saw:

Ok, so the picture isn't really *of* the building, it's more like the view from the back porch of the building, but so what? :p The garden was beautiful, although we visited at the wrong time of year to see either lots of flowers or fall colors. I was hoping for some red and orange Japanese maples, but they were still almost all green:

(Proof that Lee was there too, hehe!) Anyway, like I said, it was still beautiful and tranquil and all that good stuff. Just check this out:

I so took that picture :D I'm not sure if there was one big pond or a couple of smaller ones, but one part of it had a bunch of lilypads and stuff on it, so Lee took this picture:

Kinda neat, huh? Speaking of lilypads:

The berries must have come from a nearby tree, but we both thought they looked neat amid all that green, so this is Lee's artsy shot. We also saw a gnarly tree:

When Lee and I go touristy, we just take pictures of whatever we think looks kind of cool, so really we have a ton of pictures but not too many that necessarily include us. Guess we're more landscape/architecture type of photographers. But when we were about halfway through the garden, we did see a couple of people that we couldn't resist photographing:

These two are dressed up like maiko (apprentice geisha). According to the guidebook, the apprentices wear the long draped obi (the sash that goes around the waist, you can see the lime green one on the right) and they have an embroidered collar on their kimonos. Lee and I had the distinct impression that these two ladies were not really geisha, but just dressed up in costume and out taking pictures. Well, whether they were real or imitation geisha, they sure did look beautiful! Wish you could see their shoes better, those were something else...they're like four inch-thick platforms, and the front of each shoe is angled towards the toes like this \ Let me tell you, Japanese women have a corner on the market for fantastically impractical footwear. Anyway, here's the last shot of the garden:

That's a wall we passed on the way out. We found out later on that there is a city ordinance in Kyoto limiting buildings to no more than 60 meters high so as not to interfere with the view of the mountains that surround the city. So while this garden was in the middle of a highly urbanized area, it wasn't too difficult to forget how close the rest of the city was, especially when you couldn't see too much of it from inside the garden.

Part 2 of the Kyoto trip coming soon...did I forget to tell you we took something like 400 pictures? Hehe!