Flashback Friday: Tokyo



This post is a flashback to November 2008, when we made our first trip to mainland Japan together. It was so fun to be in a big cosmopolitan city, enjoy the variety of shops and restaurants, and best of all, experience a little taste of autumn since Okinawa was so tropical and warm.


We stayed at a Japanese business hotel, and I don’t mean something like the Marriott. It was more like a hotel for chain smoking used cars salesmen– ash trays all over the lobby and a men’s only spa. We got a kick out of Sean nearly bumping his head on the illuminated sign every time we walked down the hallway.

Despite the chilly and rainy weather, we did most of the normal sightseeing.


River canal cruise in which we passed under 12 unique bridges and ended at a Japanese garden.


Hama Ryku Gardens to visit the 300 year old pine tree. This tree was really amazing and the picture doesn’t reflect the grandeur of it. It grows sideways out of the ground, and they have to hold up the branches with various posts to keep it from digging into the ground.


The Emperor’s Palace


East Imperial Gardens

Roppongi shopping center at night. This place is so shiny and modern. Check out the strange spider sculpture!


One of the highlights of our Tokyo trip was a bar we found called “Boots”. Sean just couldn’t resist checking it out after seeing the name.
We were so warmly received here! The people (all Japanese) sitting at the bar split up to make room for us up there with them. The owner, as it turns out, is a country music fanatic! He plays the guitar in a Japanese country music band, regularly visits Nashville and Austin, has 10 cowboy hats, and thinks Graceland is the best place in the world. He even proudly displays in the bar his custom-made crocodile boots with the motif of a Shogun warrior stitched into them.


We also checked out the famous shopping area called Ginza. This area is like Fifth Avenue in NYC with gleaming and luxurious department stores, beautiful things to buy, and attractive people, and prices that are out of sight!

All the major department stores have a floor that has counter after counter of confections and gourmet food items. I’ve never seen anything like this in the states, and they are so fun to browse. In one store, we found a counter that sells something called “Photo Chocolates”. Essentially, they take photographs and project the image onto the chocolate bars. Not cheap as you can imagine!


Don’t these look like they are coasters or playing cards or something? They are chocolate that you can eat!

We also found the most interesting store– 4 floors of train sets and miniatures for serious collectors and train fanatics! This place was unbelievable. I was amazed by the detail in these trains and little scenes. We tried to capture in close-up how fun there were…I love this one of a Texas Dance Hall.

Another favorite was this drive-in soda shop


My all time favorite store we found on this trip was the Chopstick store with literally thousands to choose from. There was even a work shop on top where you could view a craftsman sharpening and shaping them right in front of you.


They also sell chopstick holders. This one, made out of amber costs $5700 dollars. Who is going to buy that?IMG_1173

This trip to Tokyo was the first of a dozen trips we made while living in Japan. It’s funny to look back on this first time because our impressions were so fresh and we were so naive about the country still. After a while, certain things about Tokyo didn’t surprise or confuse us anymore and they became common-place to us- that is, until we hosted visitors and we were reminded by how unique the lifestyle is there.

It’s been over three years now since we’ve been back in the States, and some of my memories of our Japan life are sadly starting to fade. That’s why it’s great to do these flashbacks and be reminded of the little details.


Flashback Friday: Iwakuni and Miyajima Food



This post is a flashback to a weekend we spent in Iwakuni and Miyajima Island on mainland Japan. You can see part 1 here. This trip happened during the fall and we had so many food adventures there…

This historic looking building above is the restaurant we ate at in Iwakuni. Doesn’t it look perfectly cozy for a crisp evening? We don’t actually know what the true name of it is. Everyone we know simply refers to it as the Chicken Shack… you’ll find out soon why.


The back patio is lit with the most beautiful lights against the changing foliage


Those are electric blankets lining the tables… so comfy to rest your lower half under them while you are enjoying your meal outdoors.

Here’s a sampling of what we ordered…


The most delicious grilled chicken teriyaki




Deep fried battered beef filet


We figured we needed at least one vegetable so we ordered mushroom and tofu hot pot

But wait, we’re not finished yet…


Soba noodle bowl

But our Iwakuni eating was not all of our indulgence… Take a look at some of our good eats on Miyajima Island.


This signature cookie of Miyajima is made almost everywhere on this tiny island and the wonderful aroma of baking cookies hits you from every angle as you walk down the street. You can even watch the whole process through glass windows similar to the assembly line at Krispy Kreme. They are served warm and taste somewhat like waffles with different fillings such as azuki bean, custard cream, green tea cream, and chocolate. Can you guess which flavor we tried?


Need you really wonder?


Oyster man on the street


Bacon wrapped cheese fish cake

My new food love were these steamed buns filled with savory Hiroshima beef






Anybody hungry, yet?

Looking back on our experience in Iwakuni and Miyajima Island, I’m so thankful we got to spend the weekend there and try all those delicious foods. This was one of those special times that make travel so fun… and it’s fun to reminisce about too.


October Look Back



October passed by in a blur of afternoon walks with Quinn and new television shows of the season. It was one of the fastest months this year- probably because we were both so busy at work.

As for my job at the university, we’re heading into week 10 of the semester, and it feels like mile 20 of a marathon. We’re nearing the end, but the last bit is the toughest.

The month started with some fun events. We attended the Noche Ibero-America party at the Mexican Cultural Institute in DC, the Del Rey street festival, and the Mt Vernon wine festival all at the beginning of October. These three things were so fun that we’re already planning them to be regular events each fall. m5

Next year, I swear I’m going to enter the pie baking contest. I’ve said it here. You have to hold me to it, Internet.

This month, our life also revolved around our dog as always, so we had our share of walks with Quinn amid all the beautiful fall colors. I’m sad that the leaves are falling off the trees now, but I’m sort of excited about the prospect of snow soon. (Am I really saying this?)


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One exciting development of October was that our self-imposed eating out moratorium lifted this month, and we ate some really good food, including belgium food at Cock and Bowl, crepes at Clifton Cafe, a porterhouse for two at Monty’s Steakhouse, and a BBQ extravaganza at Hill Country BBQ.

Look at Sean’s face… he’s giddy surrounded by all this bbq.We had a Travelzoo coupon to this place and to our delight, they ran out of beef ribs. To compensate, they doubled our brisket. Sean = Happy.


With all the new shows of the season, we watched A LOT of television in October. These are our reviews of new and returning shows so far:

Manhattan Love Story – awful

Selfie – also awful, but I respect that it’s based on the classic stories of My Fair Lady and Pygmalian

Homeland new season – awesome, but Carrie is so crazy  

Revenge new season – awful, but I just can’t stop watching this one. Must see it through to the end

The Mindy Project – still funny, but not as funny as last season

New Girl- funnier than last season

Top Chef Seattle – awesome, especially since we visited Tom Colicchio’s restaurant in NYC and can attest that he’s the real deal. If his food sucked, we would’ve lost respect for the show


We also watched a few movies. Here are our reviews:

Gone Girl – awful… wish I had stayed home and taken a nap instead

Neighbors on Netflix – awesome! This movie was so hilarious and because I work with college students, I found it especially good


Finally, amid all the tv  and movie watching, eating out, and walking Quinn, we participated in some fun Halloween events with our neighbors, namely a pumpkin carving party and a Halloween bash.

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Here’s to the start of November… and yes, it is mitten weather already!



Halloween Bash



This year, we threw a Halloween Bash with our neighbors and some friends. It was great fun planning and we were happy that ALL attendees wore actual costumes (not the lame  “let me put on a white jacket and be a doctor” costume).

Not wanting to go out and buy expensive costumes. we tried to get resourceful with what we already had for a theme “family” costume. We originally put a Hawaiian shirt on Quinn, but that was a no-go, so we settled on the rash guard and Hawaiian lei. Quinn looked very handsome and he did great the whole night, but you can see from his face that he wasn’t that excited about it. (I think Sean looks like Andy Warhol; on a side note, several people told me I should grow my hair long like this…)






Early in October, we saw this glass skull decanter at Pottery Barn, but we weren’t about to pay the price they were asking for it. Instead, Sean ordered it all the way from China and it arrived in a hilarious box with Chinese proverbs all over it and an endorsement from Dan Akroyd.


I posed for our crime scene body outline in the entrance of our house. This picture makes me laugh because Quinn has such a guilty look on his face as if he is the one responsible for what happened to me….





Most of our ideas we got from Pinterest. There are truly so many creative people out there. Our favorite idea of all was this Zombie body that you “eat” from. I can’t wait to plan Quinn’s costume for next year! As I’m sitting here writing and scarfing down all our leftover Halloween candy, I’m feeling inspired by the theme of “Square Dance Family.”


Museum Day



One of the best things about living in the Washington DC area is the Smithsonian Complex. The museums are completely free and there are constantly changing world-class exhibits.

While we’ve visited several museums since we’ve lived here including the Museum of Natural History, the Hirschhorn, and the Jewish Holocaust museum, we’ve never been to the National Gallery of Art. So, last Sunday, we headed into DC and spent a few hours wandering the halls.

sean wolf atrium

This room above is the garden atrium. There were some comfy chairs around the perimeter where you could sit and relax.We sat and dozed for a little while…

thinker collage embrace museum

On this day, there were some really great works of art by Degas, Rodin, Jackson Pollock, and so many more. Honestly, there was so much to see that we didn’t know where to start. I always feel this way in art museums… I’d love to take an art history class and then go with a plan. How do you enjoy museums? Do you do any research in advance or just wander towards what strikes you?


Five Favorites

windy lake

(Windy afternoon at the lake)

Fall is in full swing around here. We’ve had some absolutely gorgeous sunny but brisk afternoons. We’re gearing up for Halloween and have some fun plans with neighbors and friends. Here are five favorites from the last week or so. Here’s to pumpkins and raking leaves!


(Porterhouse for two at Monty’s Steakhouse)


(Getting ready to carve pumpkins at our annual neighbor pumpkin carving party)


(The pumpkin lineup)

Occidental cafe

(Enjoying drink on the patio of the lovely Occidental Cafe in DC while the weather still permits)