Thursday, August 30, 2012

thankful thursdays - back to school

We are back to school! Not in the sense of having students, but in the sense of "having to be in a non-air-conditioned-90-degree-building-to-clean-out-a-gross-classroom-left-by-a-hoarder." It was a long, hot week, by my classroom is finally ready for the kiddos! I'm excited to meet them and to get this year going!

We've been having fun with some of the new teachers, showing them our favorite spots and restaurants around Misawa. This has been a good transition week between the relaxation of summer and getting back into the "daily grind" of the school year.

50. Beautiful view on a beautiful day with some new friends!

51. New recipes. Experimented with gluten free tomato basil and pesto muffins!

52. Beautiful flowers everywhere I look

53. Reminders of my best friend in random places..who knows how long this empty Altoids box has been mixed in with my school stuff!

54. Beautiful sunsets.

55. After a week of hard work and long days, I'm just about ready for school.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

may turns the big 3-0

I don’t even know where to begin. I could write about when we met (biology, McQueen) or when we became friends (listening to “Rockabye” on the way to and from that youth conference in Sparks, which at that point, seemed SO far away) or even the times we visited each other in Santa Barbara and Folsom and Fayetteville and Seattle. I could detail the future plans we have to visit each other in South Africa and Japan or the plans we are making for our “sisterchicks” vacation in 12 years. I could reminisce about the times we have commiserated over school and family and friends.  I could even wax poetic about all the big decisions we had to make over the years, many of them coincidentally occurring at the same time. Our “big” moves to Fayetteville and Seattle and then our even bigger moves to Misawa and Capetown. Our frequent talks on the phone about visas and customs forms and passports, where one of us calmed the other down, only to switch places the next day. Those days I thought I would collapse from the stress, only to feel better knowing that you were facing the same situation and that I wasn’t alone. Yes, I could talk about a lot of the memories I have, some ancient past and others more recent.

Instead of writing about all of those things, though, I decided instead to write about how I feel about all of those things. Despite moving all over the world, changing jobs, graduating, making and losing new friends, our friendship has been one of the few constants in my ever-changing world. I always know that even if we haven’t talked in a while, you are my best friend and sounding board and venting buddy and prayer warrior and fellow world-traveler. I know you’re only a skype call (or facebook  chat) away and that I’ll soon have a two hour conversation with you that will inadvertently make us both laugh, cry, and then laugh again at our crying.

I feel so lucky to have been a significant part of your first 30 years and am excited to continue in that role during the next 30.

Happy birthday, friend.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

thankful thursdays - summer's end

We are in the midst of that bittersweet time all teachers understand: knowing that school will start again soon. I say bittersweet because of the conflicting emotions rolling around my head! I'm so excited to start a new school year, to meet my class, to broaden my horizons and learn new strategies of teaching.


that also means the end of summer vacation. I'm never quite ready for it to end, but end it will.

We've been making the most of our last cherished moments and here are a few of the activities I'm most thankful for this week!

40. Gorgeous view at lunch. I take pictures of this lake every season, but I think it's at its most glorious during mid-summer!

41. Actually seeing someone respectable on an entertainment magazine cover. (Plus, it means Doctor Who is coming back soon!!)

42. Finding out that one of my favorite restaurants can accommodate a gluten free diet

43. Constant reminders of my mom - thinking of her every time I see a dragonfly

44. Beautiful colors and patterns. The hydrangeas are everywhere!

45. Wallflowers with smells that remind me of autumn!

46. Brewing sun tea on the porch

47. The squeals of delight from happy, playing children! We were excited to help out some friends of ours by watching their kids for the evening. We invited one of the new teachers and his family over so the kids could all play together!

48. The aftermath of four kids in a non-childproofed house. They really had a fun time! Lol

49. Lovely walk through our neighborhood

Sunday, August 19, 2012

summer desserts: parfait

One fun thing about having to go gluten and lactose free is forcing myself to experiment with new recipes. I do like cooking, though I often have to remind myself of that when the busy days get in the way.

It's been extremely warm here in the last week and I was craving something sweet and fruity. I found a recipe for berry parfaits that used granola and pudding. I already have granola on hand all the time (my Sunday ritual involves making granola for the week), but I haven't ever made pudding before.

I found a few recipes and messed around with them to ensure they are allergy friendly, and here's the final product! (Ensure your ingredients are gluten and lactose free.)


  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups Lactaid milk (or unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1/3 cup dairy-free chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  1. In a separate bowl, combine corn starch with 2 tablespoons of water. Mix until dissolved.
  2. In a small sauce pan, combine sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Over low heat, gradually stir in the milk. Keep over low heat for around five minutes; do not let it boil.
  3. Remove pan from heat and stir in the chocolate chips. Continue stirring until chocolate chips are melted.
  4. Add corn starch mixture and vanilla to the sauce pan and cook over medium heat. Continue stirring. Cook until the mixture thickens (it will continue to thicken as it cools). Once it reaches the thickness you prefer, transfer the mixture into a large bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the pudding surface to keep it from forming a thick skin.
  5. Let set for 20 minutes; then refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

I will eventually write down how I've been making granola and post the recipe for that as well. (Let me know if you are wanting it now and I'll email you the general idea of how I've been making it.)

Once your pudding is chilled, put a spoonful at the bottom of a decorative glass. Make a layer of fruit over the top of it, and then a handful of granola. Continue to layer pudding, fruit, and granola until you reach the top of the glass. Place some fruit at the top to make it look pretty, and then have fun devouring it!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

thankful thursdays - airports and snowcones

With school looming on the horizon, life is getting more hectic and busy by the second. This week, I practically lived at the airport, waiting to pick up and welcome the various new staff members to Misawa. It was great getting to meet them all and being able to help them out during this transition time. It didn't hurt that they all seem like great people so far!

Usually, I avoid airports like the plague. I really love that the Misawa airport is so small though. One terminal, two flights in and out each day. It was sweet getting to see all the happy reunions, and each time I went, I saw people I knew and was able to catch up with them as well!

34. Sweet reunion hugs and kisses.

35. Sunsets that greet me as I finish my grocery shopping.

36. Finding spots around town that have gluten free options. (Pepper Lunch at Shimoda Mall)

37. The giggly-little-kid-joy of snow cones!

38. Beach photo sessions!

39. Rainy summer afternoons!

As always feel free to follow along on instagram, my username is kari_f and I'm using #1000gifts as my hashtag.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

day 1 (part 2)

Leaving off from the afternoon (found here) we headed toward Tokyo Skytree. This amazing communications tower was opened to the public in May of this year and has broken the record as the world's tallest tower. Tokyo has other communications towers, including the Tokyo Tower, which was fashioned after the Eiffel Tower in Paris. As the city's skyscrapers grew taller and taller, the communications towers were rendered useless. Tokyo needed to construct a tower that would reach above the skyline; thus, Skytree.

The building itself is a beautiful, cylindrical structure with the base of a tripod. Spanning 2,080 feet, it's the tallest tower and second tallest man-made structure in the world.

Surrounding Tokyo Skytree is a mall and aquarium. There was a Ghibli store, which I was extremely excited about (alas, no KiKi iPhone covers there, either). We made our way up to Skytree, snapping pictures along the way.

The elevator ride up to the first observation deck (350 meters/1,148 feet) was surprisingly smooth. The elevator was decorated with sparkling lights and was exciting to watch as we scaled the building.

The views from Skytree were amazing - I've seen Tokyo from the air before and still can't get over how enormous the city really is.

After Skytree we headed back to the hotel to drop off our belongings and then strolled through Ginza on the way to the Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant. We saw many high-end shops (including 3 Tiffany and Company locations, the Tokyo Apple flagship store, and Cartier.)

The Alice restaurant was awesome! The servers dressed as Alice and had purses in the shapes of clocks and Cheshire cats. The booths and tables all fit the Alice theme, and ranged from booths lined with playing cards to a giant teacup. Even the menu was delightful, with a pop-up drink menu. The drink coasters were playing cards and there was a bell on the table that we could use to ring for our Alice-dressed server to help us. There is even a section near the back of the menu for ordering an Alice outfit for yourself! We had a great time during our stay in Wonderland; it made a great end to a fun-filled day.

macro beauty

I subscribe to several photography blogs and forums. One of them is Rock the Shot - they are notorious for having great resources and tips for photographers. They are doing a challenge this month to capture anything using macro photography.

For the challenge, I wanted to find something completely ordinary and detail its beauty, in-keeping with my 1,000 gifts challenge. The most ordinary thing I could think of was the common dandelion. Considered a weed, they are everywhere. The closer I got the cooler the patterns looked! Here is my submission:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

thankful thursdays - festivals and olympics

After returning from Tokyo, we had a great time with Cliff and Naomi. Getting to share some of our favorite spots with them was such a blessing! It's one thing to describe it or even show them pictures, but getting to experience our loved ones experiencing Japan was one of my favorite things about their visit.

27. We love Tokyo, but are so thankful to be home!

28. That we live close enough to the beach to hang out there on a hot summer day!

29. The sense of pride and nationalism the Olympians feel and the unity we get to feel for the next few weeks. If only it would last...

30. My thoughts precisely. I love Misawa!

31. My favorite little spot in Misawa

32. Sharing one of my favorite places with some of my favorite people 

33. My favorite place in Japan ♥

Monday, August 6, 2012

day 1 (part 1)

Oh boy, I see a looooong blog post in my future (and yours, too). We packed so many amazing sites into our first day in Tokyo with Cliff and Naomi that it's tough to pick and choose which ones to write about.

We woke early in the morning, headed to Starbucks for breakfast, and then made our way to Asakusa to visit Sensō-ji, sometimes known to visitors as Asakusa Temple. Sensō-ji is the most popular temple to visit in Tokyo, known for its Kaminarimon or "Thunder Gate" and the hundreds of souvenir stalls lining the walkway leading to the temple.  Sensō-ji was built in AD 645 and is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. On the grounds, there is a beautiful five-story pagoda, as well as a shinto shrine.

As we strolled past the shops and closer to the actual temple, we noticed many of the traditional Buddhist rituals taking place. One such ritual is the lighting of incense. Near the center of the open area, there is a large incense burner. Visitors purchase osenko (incense), light it, and let it burn in the incense area. They can extinguish the flame by waving it in the air, or stick it in the ashy area until it burns out on its own. Then the visitor fans the smoke from the incense onto themselves, which is believed to have healing power and good luck.

Another ritual the Buddhists take part in is the cleansing of the body prior to entering the temple. Near the entrance is a fountain with running water and ladles. Visitors fill a ladle with water and use that water to clean their hands. Then, they will fill the ladle again and use that water to pour it into their hands like a bowl. This water is used to clean out their mouths. Then it is proper to fill the ladle a last time and turn it on itself, thus cleaning the ladle. 

After watching the rituals take place, we ventured into the temple itself. The inside was beautiful. The shrine area was full of detail, and the ceiling had murals painted on it. It was the most detailed of the temples we've visited during our time in Japan.

When we had finished seeing what there was to see at the temple, we made our way back toward the subway station. This time, we walked down the alley adjacent to the busy marketplace. There were several small shops and restaurants along the way and we took our time strolling and window shopping. We ate lunch at a restaurant along the way and then took the subway to Sky Tree.