Hints of Higashi

Seth and I took a much needed weekend escape to Northern Okinawa and I swear I will never get used to the beauty of this island. We stayed in a log cabin at the military recreation facility, Okuma, which was only a 15-minute drive from the area I wanted to explore, Higashi. Since the first couple months I arrived in Okinawa, over 3 years ago, I have been dying to go kayaking through the mangroves up north and that was our big intentions for this weekend. Well, we didn’t get to do the kayaking because it was out of our budget for this weekend trip but we found a nice kayaking place for our next weekend getaway. However, we did get to explore a secret beach, follow a stream to a waterfall and got to see what the Japanese call the “Looking Glass Tree”. Directions for both are below.

For about 30-40 minutes we followed a stream that was coming down from the mountainside into the Pacific Ocean, from the beach we discovered, only to be rewarded with a beautiful waterfall. We reached the waterfall at the perfect time of day because there was a rainbow at the bottom of it the entire time we were there. It’s just amazing that we reached it at just the exact time that the sun would be shining down through the trees to make that rainbow. My co-worker Tina believes it was some sort of sign for us. Just maybe, who knows though?

We had a traveler’s guidebook explaining how to find the tree with amazing, wall-like roots but were having some trouble following the directions. After searching for about an hour on our own we finally came across a conservation museum and the polite Japanese girl working the front desk gave us directions in broken English; luckily I had my number cheat sheet that co-worker, Nao San, created for me so I knew exactly how many kilometers she was telling us to travel. We finally found the tree and it was like nothing I will probably ever see again, some of its roots were nearly up to my shoulder. Looking down onto the roots from above they made intricate swirls and designs; some of which held water. I have tried to learn why they call it the “Looking Glass Tree” but my Japanese co-workers couldn’t answer and the closest thing I could come across on a Google search was that the leaves are a silvery color underneath. I can’t help but remember back to my childhood of watching “Disney’s Pocahontas” where that great willow tree tells her to listen to her heart and of watching “Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” where the wicked queen would ask her mirror (or looking glass) “who’s the fairest of them all”. So, just maybe you’re supposed to look into the water, as if you would a mirror, and hope for the great answers to life. Just maybe this weekend was supposed to be full of signs and answers but as life would have it, I overlooked them all. Maybe next time God… if you are listening… if you are up there.

Directions from Okinawa Explorer 2nd Edition by Kenny Ehman:

First, to get to Higashi:

If coming from the West side of the island take H58 to Nago and use Route 14 to cross over to H329. On the East side of the island take H329 North past Camp Schwab. Continue North on H331 after Camp Schwab. Follow the signs on H331 through Nago, you will start to notice the swampy mangroves on you right hand side and shortly after you will enter Higashi.

To get to Looking Glass Tree:

Take Route 70 North to Taira Village and turn left after the second bridge from center of Village. Turn left at the fork and follow the winding road until a white sign with an arrow is pointing the way on the left. Follow these signs until you come to a lot on your right. Park here and the looking glass tree is near the edge of the woods.

To get to Miyagi Meoto Waterfall:

Take Route 70 North through Kawata Village to Miyagi. About 6.2 kilometers from Kawata you will find Bus Stop #70 on the right along with a small store, turn right directly before this Bus Stop. Follow this road down until a sign and small lot appear on the right. Park here and walk down a trail to the beach, then follow the stream up until you find the waterfall.


Four Christmases

29 Presents and 36 Cards... not including for each other or friends, family ONLY!

Seth and I both come from divorced families so we basically have more than a Brady Bunch family. We watched the movie “Four Christmases” the other day and it has got to be my favorite Christmas movie just because it hits so close to home. Living in Japan we have to get our Christmas shopping, wrapping and shipping done quickly so they can get to everyone in time. This year we bought our family all Christmas presents from our trip to Thailand in October so we had a nice head start. I didn’t realize how many gifts we had until I put them all in gift bags, 29 in all! These 29 gifts are not including any gifts for friends, co-workers or each other; these 29 gifts are for family alone! I had to line them up and take a picture because it was just amazing! I mailed them out last week so I hope you all get your presents on time and you enjoy them! We thought everyone needed something from Asia before we left here; that is, something purchased and made in Asia and not just “made in ___” Asia. LOL! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to our gigantic family!

Thanksgiving 2009

I have been away from “home” for four Thanksgiving holidays now and it’s always the hardest holiday for me. Thanksgiving was the time, from what I recall, that all of the family got together to laugh and tell stories over the best food. Christmas was always a small intimate setting so it’s easy for me to adjust to Christmas being only Seth and I, but Thanksgiving can be a little difficult. This year we went to Seth’s new shop and had Thanksgiving with all of the EOD guys and their families. It was nice to meet all the families but I still miss my good old Indiana Thanksgiving. So, in attempt to bring a little taste of Indiana into our Okinawan Thanksgiving I tempted to make a sugar cream pie. I browsed the internet and found a couple recipes, one of them was actually called HOOSIER Sugar Cream Pie. I ended up with one soupy mess and two gelatin-like blobs that I forgot to add vanilla to. So, three pies in the trash later I made some changes to the recipes and came up with my own. It was no Wick’s, but did the trick for now. For those of you non-Indiana readers sugar cream pie is kind of hard to explain. I guess it is like an egg custard pie without the eggs. It’s kind of a mix between creme brulee and vanilla pudding, but it’s a different kind of texture than those. The recipe is below the pic.

By the way, Thanksgiving 2010 is going to be held at our house in Niceville, Florida. You're all invited!

Erin’s Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie
  • 1  and 1/3 cups white sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, unsifted
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (9-inch) pie shell, baked
  • 1 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon if desired
  1. Preheat oven broiler to high.
  2. Mix sugar, flour and cornstarch in a medium pot. Add 4 tablespoons butter and half and half. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to boil and becomes thick and creamy. Turn off heat and stir in vanilla extract.
  3. Pour mixture into pie crust. Drizzle 1 tablespoon melted butter over top and sprinkle with cinnamon if desired. Put under broiler until butter bubbles and brown spots appear–about 10 minutes. Refrigerate.

On November 14th our little weiner dog, Willy, turned one year old. He went from this…

To this…

This would be a good time to finally introduce my other babies, Doobie and Kazi.

Doobie Boi sleeping on the fridge. He never ceases to amuse me!

Being the "King of the World" from atop our bedroom door.

He was my first pet after moving to Japan so we are pretty inseperable and I have Doobie withdrawals if I’m away from home to long. Yea, he’s what Smeagol would call “My Preciousss”.

Doobie and I after moving into our new Japanese home back in 2007.

Kazi (Kamikaze), 8 months old, playing with Willy, 3 months old.

Kazi keeping Willy warm after a bath. He loves his little brother, maybe even believes himself to be part dog.

He may be part dog after all, he licks more than a typical dog does; even weighs 0.4lbs more than our dog does, coming in at 15.4lbs!

That's almost 15 and half pounds of puddy tat! He always lays in the middle of the floor on his back and when you reach down to pet him he'll grab your hand with his paws and lick you to death.

I love baking and usually only do so when I’m upset… busy hands keep my mind busy. But since it’s getting closer to the holidays I have another excuse to bake up some yumminess! Today I made some Betty Crocker Toffee Bars for the first time and they are the richest dessert I think I’ve ever had. Normally I can eat baked sweets all night long but I could only have one of these. They are scrum-didili-umptious! The recipe is below on the photo but I opted to omit the nuts and instead, crushed up some Heath bars to sprinkle on top.