Small town here

I come from a simple people. Poor in money but rich in resources to survive in this world and to be there for one another.

My mom was raised in Luther, Michigan and that is where we are hanging out right now.

This is Main Street:

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The church from 1883:

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It’s definitely small town. How small?

When my uncle came to visit, he drove his tractor.

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Yep, that’s him in his tractor going down the road without a lick of traffic.

Travel Onward

In less than a week, I am off again. This time I’m staying stateside. Due to a family emergency, we are driving from Louisiana to Michigan. We already have one day of driving behind us. We stayed the night at a very nice Drury Inn in Illinois. Now, we are getting ready and packing up. Another full day of driving and we’ll be home.

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Yes, I’m messy.

Produce Pickup Man

One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday morning is hunt and gather fresh local produce.  It’s not necessarily local to me because I will drive an hour to get there but the produce is local to its growing home.

I love a farmer’s market, a farm or even a guy selling stuff out of the back of his pick up truck.  All of it is better than what you get in the grocery store.

Once you’ve gotten used to picking, gathering or growing your very own produce, you’ll turn your nose up at the tasteless, smell-less imitation of fruits and vegetables these chain stores give us.

Not to say I won’t go to Sam’s Club or a big warehouse and get giant bags of frozen fruit or vegetables or even buy their cheap fresh stuff but it’s under duress and only to survive, say winter.

Yesterday, my mom and I drove 45 minutes to the little town of Coushatta, Louisiana.

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We were headed in that direction for one thing:

Ed Lester farms at Cabin Point Plantation.  In the agriculture business since 1850 and the cutest farm stand I have ever seen.

http://www.edlesterfarms.com

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After getting our produce at Ed Lester’s, we went into town and shopped around at a thrift store and discount store.

That’s how we smelled fried chicken from next door’s Fausto’s- Chicken, Hamburger and Seafood Restaurant.

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Complete with our famous tabasco sauce on the table.

The place was no frills.

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But, clean and delicious!

I ordered the chicken strip basket that included fries, gravy and Texas toast.

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After lunch, we went home to unload our purchases.   That’s when my stepdad asked if we would drive about an hour in the opposite direction to get two bags of special fishing worms from Toledo Town and Tackle.  The place that advertises itself as “Bait, Beer, & Burgers.”

It doesn’t even have a sign.  Everyone just knows it is there. Attached to an equally non-descript gas station.

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You know you are in fishing territory when you start seeing these:

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It wasn’t a wasted run for me.  I found my “pickup produce” man AKA Melon Man! Trust me, I am never too good to slam on my break and get produce off the back of a truck.  I found the best Georgia peaches one year by doing that. I still think about them and always stop for roadside peaches.

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And, I bought the biggest $4 cantaloupe EVER!

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It was a good day . . .

 

 

I’m back . . . . (creepy voice)

I’m back home.  And my brain is a mushy mess.  My body is tired.  And, this is the beginning of my 3rd day home so I think I should be recovered by now.

To be fair, it was an arduous journey to get back home.

It began with about an hour drive from Iwakuni to Hiroshima Japan Airport.  When I got to the airport, the ticket counter lady did not speak English and I thought she was telling me I was too late when in fact she was telling me I was too early. So, I sat there with my friend for five minutes.

Before I knew it, I was saying good bye to my friend, going through security and chillin at my gate.  I just sat there watching Japanese television with my feet up.

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It is at this gate that I encountered the world’s nicest public restroom.

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First flight of the day was to Tokyo for 1 hour and 40 minutes.

When I arrived at the Tokyo/Narita airport, I had to get a new boarding pass in this chaos:

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So, the picture doesn’t do it justice.  There were monitors and people everywhere.  I didn’t even know where United was and then I discovered that economy is pretty much self check in.  Only when I tried self check in, it didn’t work so I had to wait around for help but a nice Japanese lady did come running up in short time and I got what I needed.

Then, I had to proceed through security again.  Did I mention that I am a Daiso/Pink Store mule?  This is everything I am carrying with me on my journey.

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Not to mention my check bag is filled with Japanese souvenirs as well.  I’m not joking when I say I thought I might have to denote my clothes and just come back with my new found and fond goodies.

I still had 5,000 yen I needed to spend so I dipped into a duty free shop and bought my mom some Japanese ciggies.  Just another thing to carry.

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Second flight of the day: Tokyo to Los Angeles, CA.  10hours and 20 minutes.  I’ve never flown first class. I just can’t justify all that money for the little bit of sucking up from the airline but I got pretty close even in economy.  On this flight, no one sat in the seat next to me, which is just an amazing luxury.  Then, twice the stewardess gave me my own can of soda instead of just the tiny two sip glass.  I wish I could have slept on this flight but I stayed up watching movies with my first edition Sony Noise Cancelling headphones.  I looked around and those have certainly changed trendy wise but I’m just not an upgrade girl unless it’s broke.

Anyway, there I was for 10 and half hours just watching the Lego movie, Rio 1 & 2, Frozen, and whatever else they had in the family section.

Then, it was touchdown in Los Angeles, which was the first stop back in the United States.  First, you have to go through immigration and get your passport stamped and answer a few questions.  Then, you have to collect your luggage even if you have a connecting flight and proceed through customs.  I didn’t have any problems.  Except, I did need to get new boarding passes and go through security again.

I had just enough time to get a snack and a drink and call my mom to let her know we were on schedule.   The flight from Los Angeles to Houston was 3 hours and 22 minutes but also had television so I surfed around.  I was pretty over television and movies at this point. Again, no rest. Just couldn’t sleep.

The last leg of the journey was from Houston to Shreveport, Louisiana.  A short hour flight.

When I got home, I was so eager to talk to my mom that we went to the only place open, a Waffle House, and chatted it up while getting some grub.

It was close to midnight when we got back to the house and I have been draggin ever since but have been on the run with household chores and errands just to make sure when I do go to back, I am dog tired.

All together my travel time was a little under 24 hours.  It was exhausting but worth it.

I like to pick out one favorite picture of my journey and this is the winner:

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This one will get blown up as big as I can and framed.

Arigato, my friends.

 

 

 

 

35th Birthday Celebration

Yesterday was my 35th birthday and I am so happy I choose to have it in Japan with my friends. They made the day super special.

First thing in the morning, my friend made me breakfast with smiley faces.

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Then, my friend went off to work and the rest of us went exploring Iwakuni castle.

http://crazyinparis.com/2014/07/13/iwakuni-castle-morning/

We came back from the castle to pink balloons everywhere and a big fat chocolate on chocolate birthday cake.  With 35 candles on it.  My friend did this on her lunch break.  So awesome.

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Everybody sang happy birthday to me and I blew out the candles in one shot.

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It was a very happy birthday.

But, the birthday was not over yet.

When my friend got off of work, we went to dine “Yakiniku” style.

Wikipedia defines Yakiniku (焼き肉 or 焼肉) as “grilled meat.”

When we sat down at our table, the waitress immediately set a bowl of hot coals down.  Then, she kept setting dishes down in front of us.

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We put our meat on the grill and started cooking.

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Then, I discovered this experience last for the next 2 hours.  For the next 2 hours, we could press this button . . .

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. . .  And, the staff would bring out anything we wanted. Meat, bread, vegetables, sauce. . . .

And, all the alcohol you wanted.

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Cheers! And, happy birthday to me!

It was a very good one this year.

Iwakuni Castle Morning

Towering above a lush green mountain, Iwakuni Castle was first constructed in 1603 but then destroyed in 1615 because there could only be one castle per Province according to the reigning Feudal Government of Japan and the Lord had picked another location to rule from.

The castle was reconstructed in 1962.

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We took a lift high up the mountain this morning.

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Even with the lift, we had to hike for a few minutes to reach the castle.

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This was our reward . . .

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Inside was an assortment of treasures.

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A climb to the top of the four-storied white structure revealed these stunning views:

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Then, we walked out of the castle and down the mountain.

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And, kept on walking . . .

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We did encounter some stunning waterfalls.

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After the mountain spit us out, we walked through a neighborhood and saw this Japanese graveyard.  The Japanese cremate their deceased hence the small plots.

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The Temple

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Entrance within entrance.

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It was almost noon when we got back to the car and we had worked up quite an appetite.

RAMEN NOODLES LUNCH!

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Trust me, the egg and meat are a bit much for me too so I just take those out and then it is noodle time!

 

Sanzoku in Japan

Today, we went to the coolest place I’ve eaten.

Sanzoku

AKA “The Chicken Shack”

In the mountains of Iwakuni, Japan

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The place has its own walking trail and forest in the back

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Plenty of lanterns light the way

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There is a precarious slippery stone bridge you can walk across.

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It has its own temple.

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Dining View

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The actual dining is Japanese style.  No shoes. On your bum.

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The chicken is cooked on an open flame in an ancient set up.

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After removing the chicken from the flame, the cook dips the chicken in a teriyaki sauce.

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Very tasty!

 

 

Miyajima, Japan

The first thing we did when arriving in the city of Miyajima was sit at one of the local bakeries and enjoy a very cheap and tasty pastry.

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I chose the éclair.  So good.

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Then, we hopped on the ferry to the island of Miyajima.

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Immediately, you’ll notice the wild deer on the island.   They are very friendly and come right up to you.  They are agreeable to patting but you have to watch your personal belongings  because they are nosy.

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Main street.  Shopping and restaurants of the like.

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Allegedly, the world’s largest rice spoon.

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Mini Japanese Garden in a random shop we went into.

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O-torii Gate

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Itsukushima Shrine

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I lost track of the many shrines and temples so I might be wrong when I tell you this is Daiganji Temple.

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I took pictures of a lot of statues but this one next to Daiganji Temple on the island was the best. I’m not sure who she is.

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Daishoin Temple

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Torii outside Daishoin Temple.

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Prayer room at Daishoin Temple.

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Five-storied Pagoda on the island. This is my favorite picture.

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Another temple and torii . . .

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We began with food and we ended with food.

Grilled oysters

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Our lunch destination

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I had the tempura platter. I even tried the fried eel and it was mighty tasty.

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For dessert, we bought some of these cookies that are sold everywhere. I picked the ones filled with chocolate.

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Finally, this was me goofing off with a vanilla/green tea ice cream cone.

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Back (Home) Problems

I have a few thoughts I could blog about but I feel they would be me mostly whining.

Yesterday, I had to delete a friend from Facebook because she reminded me of my epic firing and the people involved. Boy, could I go on about that (and I think I have, even on this blog).

Then, I told myself to forget that drama! Just forget it. It’s old news. She’s deleted.

This shouldn’t crop up again and trigger post-traumatic stress.

It’s my last week of vacation and I’m determined to enjoy every minute and not let these little bird thoughts peck into my consciousness.

On a slightly more positive note, adding a snack and fruit juice to my nightly medicine regime helped.

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But, last night I had an Oreo foul. I bought strawberry Oreos because the packaging was in Japanese. Totally my bad. They were “ok” but nothing beats the original.

Looking at the picture now all the pink should have clued me in but everything is pink in Japan.

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This morning, the boys had to learn “something new.”  I decided for myself I would learn my weight and the statistics that go along with that.

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The numbers are shocking.  I’m seriously obese. Highest recorded weight yet.

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My weight has been an issue for me.  I haven’t wanted to take any pictures with me in them.  I feel self-conscious.  Weighty. Bulky. Nasty fat.  Last night, my friends and I were looking through the pictures I had taken so far and I couldn’t skip the ones I was in fast enough.

I will always love myself but I can’t say I’m loving this new body. I’ve gotten used to it.  I’ve dressed it as best  I can.

Being physically unfit and barely being able to breath during the littlest of physical activity is embarrassing and frustrating.  My back hurts all the time.  I feel my knees screaming when I climb stairs.  It is truly pitiful and unrecognizable from the girl that used to run and keep herself in shape.

When I get back from vacation, I want to remember these feelings and I plan to “hunker” down and get this weight job done.

This is me.  Not the chubby girl above.

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I’ve lost this happy funny girl somewhere and I must find her again.

I WILL FIND HER AGAIN.

PS~ It has not escaped my notice that I am complaining about weight but also admitting to eating Oreos and junk.

HEY! I said I was on vacation and I certainly didn’t gain 75 pounds in Japan from two Oreos.