Monday, July 18, 2011

Road Trip Moments: Misha and The Juice

I recently took a road trip across America visiting friends and family members along the way.  I saw too many things and visited too many places to only write one blog entry about it, so I've decided to write down some of my favorite moments along the journey and share them here as I can.  I'm pretty busy packing for my move to Japan, so it may take awhile to share them all, but I'll do my best.

Somewhere in South Carolina
'Can you say Jeff?'  I ask the two-year-old standing in front of me, currently taking a brief pause from his task of running around the house.  As his tiny little eyes stare up at mine, 'Juice' tumbles out of his mouth. 'Jeff?'  I ask again. 'Juice' he confirms.  Glad to have fulfilled my request, he smiles and wanders off again, his mother trying to catch him and prepare him for bed.  I can't help but grin at his attempt to say my name and his earlier try at pronouncing my wife's name.  In the mouth of a 2-year-old, 'Misty' sounds like 'Misha' and 'Jeff' becomes 'Juice'.  'Misha and The Juice,' I ponder, 'We sound like a morning radio talk show.'

Enjoying this game, I decide to give him one last challenge before he is pulled into the bedroom.  'Can you say Batman?' I ask hopefully.  He pauses briefly, trying to form the name of one of the world's greatest heroes in his small mouth.  'JUICE!' he shouts triumphantly before scurrying off into the bedroom for the night. Juice?  But that's my name, I ponder.  Does he think that I'm the Dark Knight of Gotham?  The room erupts with laughter as they realize the implications as well.  Can he sense my deep love of comics and justice?  Does he know what a great compliment that was to compare me to Batman, or was he was just really thirsty?  I decide to take it as a compliment.

Over the last 2 years I've visited my wife's nephew three or four times and every visit he's developed a new talent like talking or walking or chewing.  I will miss these little windows into his life and the life of his family.  As the night grows longer, I think of the many chances I will have along this road trip to peer into the lives of our loved ones.  I'm filled with eager anticipation for the talents and stories they will have to share as we stop for a few days and peek into their lives.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Culinary Adventures in Maine

Last week, I accomplished another goal on my bucket list with gusto: Eating Lobster in Maine

Copyright Jeffrey 2011

I love seafood (who doesn't?) and lobster is my second favorite crustacean just behind crawfish.  So when my wife's parents came to visit us from the desert state of Arizona and wanted to explore New England, I couldn't wait to finaly visit the rocky shores of Maine and gorge myself on some fresh lobster. 

Lobsters in a tank at a local seafood market in Maine
Copyright Jeffrey 2011 

I expected there to be a lot of lobster in Maine, but I was still surprised at how many different ways and places lobster was served.  It seemed like everywhere we went, they had lobster of some kind on the menu.

 My favorite lobster of the trip from Poor Boys in Bar Harbor
Copyright Jeffrey 2011
I heard that McDonald's serves lobster rolls in Maine. (lobster rolls are a type of sandwich very popular in New England)  So when we stopped for lunch next to a McDonalds, I had to see if it was true.  I didn't see any lobster on the menu at Mickey Ds, but I had much better luck at the Arby's next door!

The lobster roll at Arby's only cost seven dollars and was about what I expected from fast food lobster.  It's half the price of a fresh lobster roll and a fourth as delicious.  I wouldn't recommend this as your very first lobster roll experience.  But if you're curious and in the mood for something a little wacky, it's worth a try. 

Copyright Jeff 2011

The lobster from Arby's was unique, but it wasn't the strangest lobster dish I had while in Maine.  That honor goes to the only lobster dessert I've seen, lobster ice cream.

Copyright Jeffrey 2011

Copyright Jeffrey 2011

If you can imagine what it would taste like if you cooked up a lobster, dipped it in some butter and then chopped it up and folded it into a batch of icecream, then you've got a pretty good idea what this tasted like.  I'm not a fan of cold lobster and I like my desserts with a little more sweetness and a little less seafood.  So I only ended up trying the sample and not ordering a whole cone, but I did get a scoop of the KGB ice cream (made with Kahlua, Grand Marnier, and Bailey's Irish Cream liquors) and it was fantastic.

I had tasted some amazing fresh boiled lobster in Maine and several wacky lobster dishes.  But I was beginning to wonder if there was any way to eat REALLY good lobster other than just boiling it and dipping it in some drawn butter.  Lobster likes to be the star and doesn't always play well in an ensamble dish.  But it CAN work well with other ingredients to produce a fantastically delicious meal and these lobster nachos proved it.

Copyright Jeffrey 2011

These nachos weren't from Maine but rather The Red Parrot in Newport, Rhode Island.  Thankfully, they didn't just throw together some run-of-the-mill nachos and drop some lobster on top.  They must have tried dozens of cheeses, because the one they picked for these nachos perfectly complimented the lobster.  In fact the cheese sauce itself had been infused with lobster flavor and a few other spices before being poured over the nachos and topped with lobster meat.  I could eat these all the time.

Copyright Jeffrey 2011

The same restaurant also served up some equally delicious lobster pizza.  During our five day trip to New England, I ate boiled lobster, lobster nachos, lobster pizza, lobster ice cream, a lobster roll from Arby's, lobster bisque and several seafood dishes covered in lobster sauce.  From a culinary standpoint, I think it may have been one of the best vacation's I've had.  If you ever end up in Maine, I reccomend you try as many lobster dishes as you can.  You will be certain to have a delicious and memorable vacation.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Third Favorite Holiday: Free Comic Book Day

Today, all across America, Comic Book Stores gave away thousands of free comic books.  They've been doing this on the First Saturday of every May for ten years! 

Celebrating Free Comic Book Day 2011

Yes, that is a Delorean in the Background

 I was the manager of a comic book store when I lived in Tucson, so this day always brings me joy and fond memories.  I love watching the smiles that free stories of adventure and triumph bring, seeing children hug Darth Vader and Storm Troopers pose for photos, and having a chance to share something I am so passionate about with so many people.  Not every store will have people in costume, but many have partnered with their local 501st Legion, a group of people who make & wear professional quality Star Wars costumes in order to raise money for charity.  If you have a chance, please find your local comic book store and enjoy some free stories either this year or next.

This year I stopped by my local store to find a Delorean (which had a flux capacitor inside!), Batman, Green Lantern, and R2-D2 excitedly greeting people outside. Once inside, I found a table full of free comics, toys and posters and helped myself to a dozen or so books which I read over lunch.  It was a wonderful way to celebrate something that has been so influential and life affirming to me, the stories that have inspired and challenged me through the medium of comics.

All photos Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Friday, May 6, 2011

My New Blog: Into the Ring of Fire

Why start a new blog?  I guess it just feels right.  I'm starting a new chapter in my life by moving to Japan, so starting a new blog seemed appropriate.  But also, I feel like my new blog has a different direction and purpose than this one.  My first blog, Wanderlust, was a place for me to practice writing regularly and collect my thoughts and pictures from random adventures.  I think I'll keep blogging on Wanderlust. It seems to have become a collection of my bucket list ideas and adventures, so I'll probably keep those kind of entries here, but my new blog will focus on Japan.

I hope this new blog will be about how Japan changes me.  I'm calling it 'Into the Ring of Fire' because that is where, literally and metaphorically, I will be traveling.  In the literal sense, Japan is located within a horseshoe shaped zone called the Ring of Fire, which is home to 90% of the world's earthquakes.  The island of Japan, like most islands, was itself created by volcanic fire and molten lava.  In the metaphorical sense, I hope to be re-forged by the fires of Japan, like metal forged into a sword by a fiery hearth and lots of work.  Moving to another country is a big risk and will forever change who I am, hopefully for the better.

What changes do I expect to find in Japan?  What dreams and goals do I hope to accomplish in the ring of fire?  The short answer is that I don't know, but I love Japan and I believe we have to pursue and explore the things we love.  I don't really know where this journey will lead me, but there are a few things I hope to accomplish along the way.  I've already talked about why I love Japan and how the Japanese language was the spark of this love affair.  So I hope to become fluent while in Japan. I also hope to see the world from another culture's perspective and as a minority.  I believe this will make me wiser, more compassionate and understanding.  And lastly, I hope to enjoy the thrill of exploration.  Ever since my Dad first introduced me to Star Trek as a child, I've always wanted to set off on an adventure and follow in Captain Kirk's footsteps to, "...explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations.."  Those words from the opening credits of Star Trek have always stuck with me and I feel they are a big reason why I'm taking this leap into the unknown.  I'm ready to boldly go, to explore new worlds and talk about it on my new Captain's (b)log.  (sorry for the bad joke, but I couldn't resist)  Perhaps Japan will be the first stop of many new places abroad where we will live and explore, or maybe it will captivate us so much that we'll never want to leave, or perhaps we'll realize how much we miss home and we'll return to America with a greater appreciation of our birth nation.

This journey comes with many risks and sacrifices, but life is all about finding the right risks to take.  One of my favorite country musicians, Garth Brooks, once sang,"Cause it's not enough to just stand outside.... Life is not tried, it is merely survived if you're standing outside the fire."  I know life looks dangerous inside the ring of fire, but nobody every got anything spectacular by playing it safe.  When it comes to dreams and matters of the heart, there is only one way to get what you desire, and that is by going into the ring of fire.  So here I go.

Cheesy 1994 Music Video of Garth Brooks' 'Standing Outside the Fire'

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bucket List Accomplishment: Eating food from a Ninja

It was a wonderfully magic day full of ice skating and ninjas and family.  Last week my wife's niece visited NYC and sang at Carnegie Hall with her school choir, so of course my wife and I went into the city to visit her. 

My niece has a deep passion for flags and was overjoyed when we visited Rockefeller plaza, surrounded by the flags of every nation.  And I was surprised to discover that the ice skating rink was still operating in late April.  I've always wanted to go skating in Rockefeller Plaza and when I saw there was no line, I jumped at this opportunity.  There were children playing, grown-ups performing and as I drifted in slow circles to the music if felt like the giant buildings were dancing.  There were also flags and people from many nations (and the Greek Sun God Apollo) watching me enjoy life as I floated across the ice.  It was a wonderful and surreal experience and if you're ever in New York City when it's not summer, please find a park somewhere to go skating.  You won't forget it.

 30 Rock from the Ice Rink

The World's Most Famous Ice Skating Rink?

My Wife, My Niece, and Apollo, God of the Sun

Falling into the Camera

Our next stop was to check something else off my bucket list: Eating at a NINJA restaurant.  Before we could even get to our dinning room in the ninja castle, we were already encountering adventures.  The first ninja we encountered offered us the option of taking an easy path or a dangerous path to our food.  So, like most of my life, I opted to take the dangerous path.  With ninja speed our host pushed on the wall and a door slid open to reveal a dark and narrow secret passageway.  There may or may not have been a ninja who jumped from the shadows at the end of the passageway that DEFINITELY did not make me yelp in surprise, no matter what my wife may tell you.

Traversing the Secret Passageway

After we were seated, we were treated to a wonderful display of culinary theater. It was pretty much what you'd expect from a Ninja restaurant: Our menus were on ancient scrolls, our food was set on fire and we had to solve a riddle just to open our drinks.  Many of the dishes included an element of theater or excitement, there are dishes that explode with fire, float on mist, and even one that comes with something called 'cinibacon'. At one point I ate sushi covered with pop rocks and had to karate chop a wall of hard cheese before I could eat my salad.  And of course everything was delicious.

Floating Sashimi

Fire Ninja

 Ninja Magic Show

Ninja Star Chocolate Mousse Dessert

At the end of the evening, our ninja offered to give us the meal for free if I could defeat him in physical combat.  His kung-fu was much greater than mine, which is too bad because it was a rather expensive meal though well worth it.  Our server was really a very interesting guy.  He was from Texas and told us he was a ninja/cowboy hybrid who actually broke several ribs trying to ride a bull in California and once went all the way to South Korea for a modeling job that he never got paid for.  I will definitely return to the 'Ninja Restaurant' because our server told us there are three locations, one in New York City and two in Japan!  I can't wait to go again either in Kyoto or Tokyo.

 Battling for a Free Dinner

The Face of Defeat

We ended our evening with a quick trip to Washington Square Park, which is always beautiful.  Although I do like it better during the day than the night.

 All Photos Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

This Week's Bucket List Additions 15

-Eat Fish and Chips at a Pub in the United Kingdom.  Difficulty Rating 6 out of 10:
I LOVE FOOD.  I love all kinds of food and I don't understand how others can live in this world, so full of incredible flavor combinations and spices and textures and not become at least a little obsessed with glorious food.  I've talked about my interest in eating food from the places where it was created or perfected before and this is no different.  I want to eventually eat my way around the world, so expect to see more entries like eating Pizza in Napples, Borscht in Russia and curry in India.

Despite establishing the largest empire the world has ever seen, colonizing America, and spreading their language and culture far and wide, British cuisine seems to be virtually non-existent here in the States.  I have never encountered a restaurant that serves 'English Food'.  I'm guessing because most of their food is quite terrible, but I don't know I've never tasted any.  If most of it is terrible, perhaps it's because they spent all of their time perfecting one nearly flawless dish: Fish and Chips.  After perfecting Fish and Chips, perhaps they simply had no need to create anything else.  Whatever the case may be, I can't wait to visit the UK and try some Fish and Chips and also some tea.

Homemade Fish and Chips I Cooked
copyright Jeff Howick 2011

-Catch a Wave on a Surfboard.  Difficulty Rating 5 out of 10:
I love the idea of a thrill ride powered by something as simple as the ocean and the moon.  And surfing seems like a wonderful way to enjoy a day; surrounded by the ocean, learning a new skill and enjoying the simple thrills of life.  Surfing seems easy enough to learn since I've learned how to skate on solid ground an wake-board behind a boat and I can't wait to feel the ocean push me so fast that I get that feeling of butterflies in my stomach.

Entrance to the Beach
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

-See the Olympics in Person.  Difficulty Rating 7 out of 10:
Who doesn't love the Olympics?  People from every nation putting aside their worries to play and compete at all kinds of games, what a fantastic idea.  Although I wish they were broadcast in a more balanced way, it seems like all I ever get to see are American teams when I watch them from my TV.  I love the home team as much as anyone I suppose, but I also love the rest of the world so much too that I want to see what they're up to and hear their stories of triumph and effort.

I can't wait to see the Olympics with my own eyes, to feel the excitement in the air.  I want to be surrounded by fans of every nation, cheer for the underdogs and marvel at the incredible feats of human accomplishment achieved by peoples from every nation.  I'm almost certain I won't make it to London in 2012, but perhaps I'll make it to Russia in 2014 or Brazil in 2016.

Friday, April 22, 2011

This Week's Bucket List Additions 14

I'm still flying pretty high about the news I got last Friday and clearly Japan has been on my mind a lot.  So I thought I'd present another edition of bucket list items that I want to accomplish while in Japan.

-Watch the Sunrise from Japan's largest Mountain.  Difficulty Rating 5 out of 10:
Mt. Fuji is a majestic sight.  It's not only Japan's largest mountain, but also it's most beautiful mountain.  Last year I bought my wife a Japanese hiking guide for her birthday and it has wonderful things to say about hiking Fuji-sama, the ceiling of Japan.  Many people hike up the mountain during the night so they can see the sun rise from the peak.  Just thinking about it sends a shiver of awe down my spine.


But once you've hiked to the top and watched the sun begin it's journey, the fun isn't over.  Apparently theres a route down the mountain that feels like moon walking.  I guess the combination of soft cushy gravel and downward pull of gravity allow you to make giant leaps through moon like terrain without injuring yourself.  I can't wait to hike this beautiful mountain, slurp some noodles at a checkpoint along the way, see the sun rise from the ocean and then bounce back down the mountain.

-See Monumental Sculptures at the Sapporo Snow Festival.  Difficulty Rating 4 out of 10:
Once a year in Hokkaido (the Alaska of Japan) a grand festival celebrating snow and ice is held.  Sculptors representing many different countries, companies and styles use snow as their medium to create massive towering displays.


We've all tried to turn snow into art, whether it was a snow person or a snow fort or a snow angel.  But I never had the kind of success these artists do.  I don't know why temporary art captivates me so, but I just LOVE it.  Tell me there's a chalk art festival or sand castle competition and I will be there.  Perhaps that is why I am so fascinated by the change of seasons; nature quickly erases the beauty of one season to temporarily replace it with another.  All I can say is that the Snow Festival in Sapporo fills me with excitement.

-Attempt the 'Ninja Warrior' obstacle course.  Difficulty Rating 9 out of 10:
In Japan there's a TV program called 'Sasuke' where contestants from all walks of life try to complete a four stage obstacle course.  It must be pretty hard, because of the 2,600 people how have attempted the course, only three people have actually finished.  It's aired on G4 here in the states as 'Ninja Warrior' and I've always wanted to put my ninja skills to the test by facing the course.

I have no idea how to apply for the show, but I will do everything I can to learn how.  How hard can it be? There use to be a replica of the course at a theme park in Tokyo called Muscle Park, which I was planning to visit.  But while writing this blog I discovered that the park closed down last year and I had to adjust the difficulty rating for this entry...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bucket List Accomplishment: Ohanami

 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Friday was one of the best days I've ever had.  I spent the morning with my wife cooking in the kitchen.  I love cooking with someone else, it's like a wonderful dance that ends in a delicious meal.  This time we tried out two new creations that were both very successful, wasabi deviled eggs and beef gyros.  I grew up in the south, so deviled eggs always bring me back to my childhood.  And of course the wasabi gave my comfort food a spicy punch.

Wasabi Deviled Eggs
 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Beef Gyros
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

After our morning of culinary jazz we packed up our food and headed off on a picnic.  We drove to a park and sat below some gorgeous blooming cherry blossom trees next to a river.  We filled our afternoon by devouring our food, reading poems to each other and watching the world drift by.  Somewhere between my fifth and sixth deviled egg, my wife read to me my favorite new Shel Silverstein poem:

Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
Listen to the DON'TS
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me--
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

After I finished consuming food and poetry, I watched so many people wander around the park.  It was wonderful to see so many people out with their loved ones taking pictures.  I especially loved watching them take photos, because people stop to capture a picture are saying, 'this moment is so beautiful or wonderful that I want to return to it again and again every time I look at this photo.'  They are so in love with the moment that they want to hold on to it as long as they can and share it with others.

Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Reading my favorite poet: Anne Morrow Lindbergh
 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

After our picnic, I walked through the park and eventually ended up exploring the nation's fifth largest Cathedral.  The Cathedral was breathtaking and beautiful, but it was a completely opposite sort of beauty than the simplicity of fresh spring flowers.

 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011
 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011
 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

After we returned home I checked my e-mail to discover news that I've been waiting much of my life to hear: I had been accepted into the JET Program to teach English in Japan!  I can't describe my excitement other than to say it was too much to feel all at once.  It was a bit like graduating high school and a bit like winning the lottery. (or I imagine it's like that, I've never actually won the lottery)  I've been working towards this goal for a long time, and now that it's finally here I'm relieved, shocked, excited, nervous but mostly full of joy.  It was about as close to perfect as a day can get.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

This Week's Bucket List Additions 13

I usually post new bucket list additions on Friday, so I'm sorry this is two days late.  But I received some unexpectedly great news Friday night and then spent several hours calling all my family and sharing my excitement with them.  The good news? I am officially a shortlist candidate to teach English in Japan through the JET Program!!

-Find and Explore 'Wall Drug'.  Difficulty Rating ??? out of 10
I've recently been issued a challenge via postcard.  (Postcards are now one of my top 3 favorite ways to issue a challenge, along with slap to the face using an empty glove and shouting while holding a fencing sword.)  My friend sent me the postcard below with the following message scrawled on the back: "I thought you two would enjoy the mystery postcard.  Maybe you will find Wall Drug on your travels one day."

I've never heard of Wall Drug and my friend used a marker to black out all the identifying info on the postcard. He left only one sentence: "Wall Drug is the Gateway to the Badlands National Park ...where you learn 'How the West Was Fun!'".  What IS Wall Drug? Where are the Badlands? Why are they called Badlands and how did they make the west fun?  Was it with frogs and puppies?  These are questions I must answer and so my search for Wall Drug begins.

 My adventure already has a great beginning: a hilariously odd postcard with a challenge to find a mysterious location.  To make sure it has a good middle, I've decided to search for Wall Drug the old fashioned way, with no internet help.   I'm sure I could type Wall Drug into Google and read all about it on Wikipedia in a matter of seconds.  But this time the journey is more important that the destination.  I love random adventures and this sounds like a fun one.

-Find a good home for my books.  Difficulty Rating 4 out of 10:
I'm moving to Japan.  I'm gonna say that again because it feels so good.  I AM MOVING TO JAPAN!  As a result I have to condense my personal possessions down to a few boxes.  My wife and I recently bought a Kindle so we can read English books in Japan.  So there's no reason to spend hundreds of dollars shipping big, heavy boxes full of books to Japan.  I've been weening myself off physical books for years now and using the library for all my reading needs. (Did you know that your library will get you any book you want, you just have to ask!? If you want to read some obscure comic book, they'll find one at a library in the middle of Kansas and ship it to New Jersey!)  So I'm giving away the majority of my book collection. Most of these books have brought me great joy and wisdom and I'd like to find a good home for them.  I'm not sure how to do that yet, but I know I'll figure something out.

-Eat dinner served by a ninja.  Difficulty Rating 3 out of 10:
In New York City there is a restaurant know simply as NINJA.  Hidden somewhere in Manhattan, Ninjas use their mastery of the martial arts to create culinary masterpieces.  The restaurant is decorated like an ancient castle, everyone dresses like ninjas and the dishes have swords that must be removed before you can eat them.  THAT is my kind of restaurant.  I've wanted to visit this restaurant for awhile and getting accepted into the JET program sounds like the perfect excuse to celebrate with a meal here, I can't wait.

A Lego ninja hides quietly in a cherry blossom tree, ready to attack
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Date Night: Art and Guacamole

Date night is my attempt to create a joyful habit, to make an effort to spend a night with my wife with the sole purpose of seeking the simple pleasures of life.  Habits have a great deal of power over our lives.  Once we meet our needs for the day (food, sleep, money for the bills) it is our habits that often take control.  So I do my best to try and establish healthy habits, like taking walks along our beach, asking my wife about her highs and lows each day, and flossing my teeth.  Date night is my latest attempt at a new healthy habit.

There are a few rules I try to follow for our date nights:

1- No Movies:  There's nothing wrong with movies.  But date night isn't about entertainment, it's about pleasure.  On date night, I don't want to sit quietly for a few hours while my mind is transported to another world.  I want to be as present as I can be in this one.  I want to taste decadent foods, make something with my hands or find new adventure.

2- Food should somehow be involved:  Sharing a meal with someone creates such opportunities for closeness and sharing.  I think a lot of problems could be solved if people spent more time eating together and  listening to each others lives.  And food is one of my most basic joys, so having a date night without food just seems silly.

3- We should try at least one new thing:  Maybe this is as simple as trying a new dish at our favorite restaurant.  Maybe we visit a town we've never been to before.  Date night must have an element of exploration to keep life fresh, to help us appreciate the moment and not let it become a predictable event that doesn't require our full focus.

For our first date night we decided to make some art!  There's a wonderful shop (called 'A Time to Kiln' how cute is that?) in a nearby town that has dozens of clay and/or ceramic objects to decorate.  After looking over all the possibilities, my wife and I both decided to paint tea cups.  Since we love to drink tea our art will have both form and function.

copyright Jeff Howick 2011

After carefully picking out six colors each from the wall of colors and browsing joyfully through their selection of stencils and stamps, we got down to the business of imprinting our personalities onto our our new tea cups and saucers.

copyright Jeff Howick 2011

I love the way my cup came out.  Every time I go for a drink, I'm reminded that the goal of all my actions should be to help me find my bliss.  Also, I love to guess how many sips it will take me to go from 3/4 a cup to 1/2 a cup.  Oh yes, and the saucer says, 'Howick's Drink' in Japanese because of course I love Japan and felt I had to have a connection to it somehow in my creation.

copyright Jeff Howick 2011

After finishing our creations, which left us both excited and a little tired, we tried out a local Mexican food joint.  We both went to college in southern Arizona and have been sincerely missing the Mexican food that can be found with such ease and high quality there.  The atmosphere was lively and the guacamole was fantastic, although I don't believe I've ever had bad guacamole.

copyright Jeff Howick 2011
copyright Jeff Howick 2011

I think our first date night was a wonderful success. Many pleasurable moments were had and I'll have a fantastic tea cup to remind me of that night for many years to come.

Friday, April 8, 2011

This Week's Bucket List Additions 12

Spring is here and rebirth is in the air.  Spring always makes me think of joyful celebrations.  This week, I'm adding things to my bucket list that fill me with a sense of childlike joy.

-Have an Ohanami.  Difficulty Rating  2 out of 10:
In Japan, they have a springtime tradition know as 'ohanami' or 'flower viewing party'.  When the world starts to bloom, everyone gathers together with friends and family beneath the beautiful Sakura trees for a picnic and they celebrate life.  During ancient times, I hear they would also have poetry contests. Ohanami picnic parties are so popular that the news in Japan reports the cherry blossom forecast every night until the cherry blossom front sweeps through the whole country.

Copyright Jeff Howick 2011
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

I love picnics and spring.  I think this is a wonderful tradition from a culture I already love, so it should be no surprise that I want to make this one of my own families' traditions.  I've already made plans to have my first ohanami next week and I hope to continue the tradition every spring.  For the Japanese, the Sakura blossoms are a metaphor for live: beautiful and fleeting and a reminder to make the most with the short time we all have here.

-Visit Harry Potter World.  Difficulty Rating 6 out of 10:
I remember the first time I read Harry Potter.  I was at the beach during a family vacation and I borrowed my sister's copy to see what all the fuss was about.  I'm pretty sure I didn't do anything other than read day and night until I had finished that book. I love the magical joy of the Harry Potter series.  But perhaps even more than the story, I love how excited people got about reading.  Anytime people get dressed up for a midnight release party celebrating a book, my heart fills with joy.

My Book Nook
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

When I heard that Universal Orlando was opening a theme park zone dedicated to Harry Potter, I knew that I would have to make a journey there to pay homage to a series that revealed the joys of reading to so many people and to live in Harry's magical world one more time.

-Kiss my wife in a hot air balloon. Difficulty Rating 4 out of 10:
Who doesn't want to make out in a hot air ballon?  Drifting slowly over beautiful landscapes, held aloft by heat and passion.  If I could only travel by bike and hot air ballon for the rest of my life, I think I'd be pretty happy.  Hot air ballons are pure romance and I love seeking romance and finding it with my wife.

Popular Posts