Ready, Set, Move! ~ Part 4

I can’t quite believe that tomorrow is almost here and today is quickly coming to an end.  It has been our last full day in Okinawa and it went so fast.  All of a sudden it is 9:30 pm and my packing is pretty much done until I finish getting ready in the morning and have to pack the hair dryer and flat iron.  Hubby is packing as I type this and Rocky is suspicious and seems antsy. 

The last three weeks in the Hamagawa Lodge have flown buy.  We have been so busy with final lunches and dinners at our favorite restaurants, going away parties, birthday parties, an office picnic, my last pedicure and nail art appointment at Cocok’s Salon *sigh*, a surprise retirement party for one of Hubby’s co-workers and of course our last night at the Butler Officer’s Club for karaoke. 

Thanks to the crappy T.V. reception and poor show choices I have had the chance to get some reading done.  I finished Marisa de los Santos’ Belong To Me and absolutely LOVED it.  I will be posting my gushing review after we return to the States.  I will also be hosting Marisa and her guest post as well as running a giveaway contest for the book later this month. 

I’m back to reading on the Kindle 2.0 for the flight and really enjoying it after all the hubbub about the new Kindle DX last week.  I love my “smaller” Kindle and started reading Three Cups of Teaon it the other day.  Besides having my Kindle with me for the flight we have the Nintendo DS Lite and a few games, iPods, Sudoku books and laptops to watch DVD’s.  The twelve hour flight from Tokyo to DC should be bearable with all that entertainment plus the in-flight movies.  Too bad poor Rocky can’t even have a toy in his kennell with him in the baggage compartment.  Part of me hopes he’ll have another animal to talk with down there but then I hope that he is alone and will just sleep most of the time.  He knows something is up and has been overly affectionate today. 

So, this is my last post from Okinawa.  Tomorrow I will be a Washingtonian again (though I’m always one since I grew up there) and will start a new chapter.  Don’t worry, you’ll read all about it here.  See ya on the flip side!!

Part 1 ~ Q&A and Giveaway with Kelly Garcia and Takako and the Great Typhoon

I am so excited and pleased to introduce my friend, Kelly Garcia, and her new, independently released children’s book, Takako and the Great Typhoon.  Kelly has lived in Okinawa, Japan with her husband for three and a half years.  One year ago they welcomed their adorable baby boy into the world and with motherhood, Kelly set out on a literary adventure.  The outcome is Takako and the Great Typhoon.

  Takako and the Great Typhoon

Kelly has joined us here at Planet Books for a Q&A session and has also donated a signed copy of Takako and the Great Typhoon for a giveaway.  Due to the length of our interview, I am breaking up the Q&A into two posts.  They will publish simultaneously. 

First of all, Karen, since I know your passion for music I should share w/ you my play list as I sit responding to your interview questions: 

Single Ladies, Freedom (George Michael), Smells Like Teen Spirit, Papa Loved Mama, Nuthin’ But a G Thang, Thank You (Dido), Praying for Time, Womanizer, Sabotage, What is Love? (Haddoway…remember that?!), Say It Loud, I Like (Montell Jordan), Say It Ain’t So (Weezer), Kenny Chesney.

Should give you an idea of what generation I’m coming from anyway.  Okay, and onto the interview!

PB ~ I am so excited for you and your independent release of Takako and the Great Typhoon!  Would you please tell us what the story is about? 

Kelly ~ It’s the story of these two shisas (shisas being the lion-dog statues you find absolutely everywhere in Okinawa) that are brother and sister.  Their names are Takako (Tah-kah-koe), the little girl shisa, and Nobu(No-boo) the little boy shisa.  They live on a rooftop and it is their job as shisas is to stand guard at all times protecting their house from danger.  But who the heck wants to sit on a boring ‘ole roof all the time?  Not Takako.  She sees all of these wonderful things going on in the village below and wants to jump in and join the fun.  Nobu warns her that she would be breaking the Shisa Rule of working together and guarding the home if she left. (Boo!  What a party pooper!)  But Takako can’t resist temptation, follows a butterfly into the village and has a fabulous day…until, of course, something bad happens.  The typhoon!  That’s when the adventure really begins!

PB ~ How did this idea first develop and what made you think you could really make this happen?

Kelly ~ To be honest, I can’t remember how the genesis for the storyline originated, of the brother-sister shisas and Takako’s day in the village and the great typhoon. (Although I should mention my friend Kay gave me the idea of how to have Takako save the day in the end. Thank you Kay!)  My real focus was to create a story showcasing the little moments that are representative of everyday life in Okinawa, Japan.  In a way, the book is really selfish ‘cause it captures a very personal experience of Okinawa.  For example, the tree on the back cover is a tree down the street from my house.  The barbershop is around the corner.  And the scene where Takako chases the pickup truck is the view from the back of my house. 


It might sound silly, but I LOVE these little things.  After I had my son, making the book a reality became more important to me because I knew that he would have no memory of any of this.  We are living in Okinawa as a result of my husband’s work and our time here is limited to a few years.  In fact, we are leaving this summer.  I really wanted to be able to capture the feeling of love that this place has shown my son and my family, so that’s what this book is about.  But, it’s an exciting adventure story too, not all mushy-mushy sentimentality, so I hope that even folks who’ve never heard of Okinawa can enjoy it!
I’m digressing from the question! –
Okay, when I began sharing the book idea with people and was met with such a sincere, enthusiastic response, I felt this project could happen.  (Especially from my awesomely supportive husband!)  When Carmen, the illustrator, signed onto the project I KNEW it would happen.  

Karen @ Planet Books made this Shisa pair when she moved to Okinawa in '05 and took a pottery class.
Karen @ Planet Books made this Shisa pair when she moved to Okinawa in '05 and took a pottery class.

PB ~ For those readers out there who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Okinawa and may not be familiar with its culture, what is a “Shisa Dog?”

Kelly ~ It’s a statue that you see pretty much everywhere here.  I can’t exaggerate the popularity of this figure to Okinawa.  More popular than Starbucks in an American suburb, if that’s possible!  In my neighborhood you can find them at every turn: on rooftops, on gateposts, by doorways, etc.  They look like a mixture of a lion and a dog and often they come in pairs.  When they are paired, one has a closed mouth (keeping in the good luck) and one has an open mouth (scaring off evil.)  One is a male and one is a female. has excellent information about shisa lore and history.  It’s actually pretty interesting stuff.  Also on my website, I’ll be posting a VERY amateur walking tour video of my neighborhood with tons of examples of shisas in it if you care to have a look.

(For the rest of our interview and the chance to win a signed copy of Takako and the Great Typhoon, check out the next post on Planet Books.)


Ready, Set, Move! Part 2

Well, here’s the update folks.  The movers come next Tuesday for the express shipment and Wednesday and Thursday will be the pack out days for the household goods shipment.  Hubby, Rocky and I will move into an off-base hotel that allows pets on Wednesday for our last three weeks on the island.  Now you might be wondering how quickly the “express” shipment will get to Virginia.  A MONTH!  I don’t know why they bother calling it an express shipment.  We are allotted 1000 pounds and no furniture in the express.  Clothes and shoes that aren’t going in suitcases, towels, sewing machine, fabric, stampin’ stuff and whatever else we feel that will safely arrive in that shipment. 

Household goods is EVERYTHING ELSE.  Furniture, computer, kitchen stuff, BOOKS, CD’s, patio furniture, nick-knacks, vases, elliptical machine and everything else we own here.  It’s scary to think that all our stuff is going on a ship across the Pacific Ocean and then on a truck or train across the U.S.  When we moved here we had a missing crate out or seven crates.  It was the most expensive crate all in all and included our bedroom set (but the bed made it), our large T.V., a brand new coffee table, guest bedroom dresser/night stand, Calphalon set, stainless set, cookbooks and numerous other items had disappeared.  Thank goodness our situation was put into perspective when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf and we realized that we really weren’t missing much.  But, I will admit that for our first move with the job, I will worry every time from now on. 

Have you ever moved across the country, around the world or just down the street?  Did things go smoothly or did things go hair-wire?

Ready, Set, Move! Part 1

Some of you may know and some of you may not, but Hubby, Rocky and I are preparing for the big move from Okinawa back to the D.C. area.  YAY!  We have been procrastinating our butts off over the last month and though our paperwork to make things absolutely, positively, no doubt about it official haven’t arrived on Hubby’s desk yet, we have flight reservations for mid-May and a separation date from Hubby’s job. 

Well, the moving bug finally hit yesterday with a BANG!  Whew!  When you live over here you have to sell your cars and though you could give power of attorney to a friend if you can’t sell them before you leave, we don’t want to do that.  Hubby didn’t think that we would get a whole heck of a lot for our cars.  No one really has used cars here if you are SOFA Status.  The Japanese requirements on cars are pretty strict and you have to get them inspected and the insurance renewed every two years.  This is called JCI.  It’s not really hard to do but can get expensive if the vehicle doesn’t pass inspection.  Well, Big Kahuna passed with flying colors last week.  Yes, I named my van Big Kahuna.  I LOVE him!  He’s the best and technically he is the first car that is solely mine. Ever!  His JCI was coming up in May so in order to sell him more easily I JCI’d him on Tuesday. 


Yesterday I posted an ad for the van on www.OkinawaYardSales.comwith some pics and a write up and in less than twenty minutes from posting it, I had an e-mail from someone who wanted to see the van.  Within three hours I had received nine e-mails and over eighty-five views!  We met with the first person yesterday evening and they want to buy my van!  I am so relieved because it’s one less gigantic thing to worry about.  Now I have to take Hubby’s car in for an oil change and detail service tomorrow morning then get an ad on Oki Yard Sales for it and see what happens.  Wish me luck! 

This morning I purged my drawers and I have a huge pile of clothes to take over to the thrift shop on base.  I still have to do the closet but I feel much better now that the ball has started rolling.  37 days left in Okinawa!

Many Quiet Moments

This week the hubby’s out of town so Rocky and I have had many quiet evenings of missing him.  To fill my time I started “Matrimony” and am about to hit page 100.  So far so good.  The story grabbed my attention from the beginning though it’s taken a turn towards something I’m concerned may not be good. 

This morning I met up with friends at a restaurant on the Sunabe Sea Wall here in Okinawa that overlooks the East China Sea.  It is a dreary day and though it started to mist a bit at the end of lunch, sitting out on the balcony seating was a nice way to spend the lunch hour and then some.  While waiting for my friends to arrive I had a good twenty minutes or so by myself to read.  Every few minutes I would look up to watch the tide slowly coming in and the heads of divers bobbing in the water. 

Now I am home with a full belly and an afternoon ahead of me to read and nap before American Idol at 7pm.  Below is a pic of the East China Sea further up the coast from where we had lunch but this was taken on a sunny day so you can get an idea of what most days here look like.


Today’s Favorite Song

It’s a rainy Monday here in Okinawa.  I spent the morning at an AWWA (American Women’s Welfare Association) formal lunch and learned that throughout the last 25 years, over 3 million dollars have been donated to local Okinawan and American charities.  AMAZING! 
After two hours of bing prim & proper I went to my first acupuncture/massage appointment in about eight months or so.  Way too long, so I have another one in two weeks.  I feel very relaxed and slightly drained after my session but today being dreary and a Monday makes it perfect to come home and just be.  I was listening to Sara Bareilles today and this tune, “Vegas”, is just wonderful and makes me want to get on the road and just see what happens. 

Cookie Marathon ~ Week 4

After this week I’m going to cut down on the baking and only make a cookie recipe every two weeks. The hubby is starting to complain about the yummies every week and I am using so much butter, it’s a bit ridiculous.  Plus it doesn’t help that last week on Martha Stewart Living it was Cupcake Week and I couldn’t resist making two of her cupcake recipes in the last week.  Her Coconut Cupcakes and her White Cupcakes.  DELICIOUS!!!!!  (Sorry there aren’t any pics… they were gone in an instant!)

Today Rocky and I had a lovely day of making Martha Stewart’s Almond Horn cookies from the Martha Stewart Cookie Cookbook and reading BOOMSDAY.  Tomorrow I’m going on a guided tour with friends of the local Japanese Love Motels.  It should be interesting and I will report on what I learn right here on Planet Books.

The Almond Horns turned out pretty well on their own but would probably be better accompanied with a cup of coffee or tea.

Cookie Marathon ~ Week 3

Today the hubby took the day off in honor of our four year wedding anniversary last week.  We took advantage of a beautiful and quiet Monday and drove up north of Nago to a quaint little restaurant on a montain top overlooking the East China Sea.  It’s called “Pizza In The Sky” and it is a pain in the neck to find as well as takes an hour and a half to get to.  Thank goodness the salad and pizza were as good as I remembered!  The hubby liked the view and atmosphere as well as the food.  The dining is mostly outdoors and the view is breathtaking. 

After returning home the hubby took care of the lawn and I made my fourth cookie from “Martha Stewart’s Cookie Cookbook“.  They’re called “Cashew Caramel Cookies” and OH MY GOODNESSS….. they are awesome.  You take the cashews and put most of them in the foodprocessor and pulse till they are finely processed.  Then you take 2 Tbsp’s of conola oil and add that till you have a nut cream.  Cashew Butter.. kind of!!  These cookies were great naked and drizzled with caramel.  Check them out below.

“Okinawa Idol”

The Navy-Marine Corps Family Relief Society held the first “Okinawa Idol” contest this afternoon outside the Camp Foster PX.  There were seventeen or so contestants, including yours truly, who were required to perform one song for the preliminary round.  I sang “I Drove All Night” in the style of Celine Dion and made it to the Final round.  There I competed against four extremely talented and entertaining singers.  We were required to sing two songs back to back so I chose Madonna’s “Music” followed by “I Will Always Love You” as performed by Whitney Houston.  Well, for what it is worth, I am the newly crowned “Okinawa Idol”!!!  It was a great experience and I worked my butt off and had a great time. 

If you are curious about my singing abilities you can visit my MySpace page Once you are there, scroll down to the five or so “eSnips” players and you can listen to two demos I cut in Nashville a few years ago as well as some stuff I recorded against karaoke tracks in a friend’s basement studio back in Maryland.