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What A Difference A Day Makes! Odiaba & Joypolis FUN! (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 12)

FWOOOOOOO! Today was AWESOME! I AM OVER THAT COLD and energetic AF! Back to my happy bouncy self, I was ready to take on the day and it’s a good thing that I was ready because the plan was to visit Odaiba and Joypolis!

The others wanted to leave a bit later than I did, and I was STARVING so I decided to take the half hour walk to Asakusa to get some ramen.

I walked past the Asahi building for the first time and saw the golden squiggly cloud thing? up close. Got a nice shot of the golden building and the reflection of the Tokyo Sky Tree that is nearby, too.

Look closely – you can see the Tokyo Sky Tree reflected in the black building’s windows.

 

The gold…. thing.

I had my heart set on Ichiran, which is not the greatest ramen – if you’re looking for something more “gourmet” or “complex”, this is not the ramen for you.

The sort of ramen that it is would be summed up as comfort food. It’s tasty. It’s hot. It’s noodles and gosh darnit I love me some noodles!

This particular location had table service as well as the usual counter service – I chose counter service because I tend toward being a hermit side anyway, especially if I am dining alone. It’s not that I hate people, but when I’m alone, I want to be…. alone!

It’s cute that they give you instructions at your “booth”. It’s basically a long counter with removable dividers between each seat – if you’re with someone, you can fold that divider in so you can see your friend.

In front of you is a wall, with a window at the bottom portion. There is a bamboo shade that get’s rolled down after your food is delivered to you – through that window. They will announce your order and slide your food to you, but all you see is someone’s hands and legs and then SWOOSH goes the shade and you have privacy once more.

Had to have the side soft boiled eggie, of course!

 

Delicious.

Ordered kae-dama, which is a noodle refill – a nice thing when you have more broth just going to waste. Here you can order a half or full kae-dama – half was just enough for me.

Here is a view of the whole booth – hither to fore, I’ve not been bold enough to step back and take a photo because there were others around on previous visits, but this time I went for it. Silly Boo.

Best dining option or best dining option? Eating out isn’t always about being social.

Best dining option, or best dining option? Eating out isn’t always about being social.

Right as I was finishing up my lunch, I received a text that the group was heading out soon, so rather than explore Asakusa I headed straight to the train station to spend a little more time on my own in Odiaba before they all arrived. I headed straight for the waterfront near the Statue of Liberty, since that was close to Joypolis and where they would be arriving. It was nice to sit in the salty air by Tokyo Bay and just relax for a while. I miss the ocean. I was really missing my tree friends and hiking back home – I was a bit homesick today, wanting my home comforts and my hikes in the woods. Not to say that I am not grateful to be here in Tokyo, because I most certainly am… a bit of homesickness is healthy and to be expected amongst the fun and adventure.

My feets and Tokyo Bay – in the background is the Rainbow Bridge and what you cannot see is the Tokyo Tower and also the building that I lived in during Spring/Summer 2015. Much reflection was had at this waters’ edge today.

Somewhere around a half hour to 45 minutes of quiet reflection by the bay was had, and then I met up with the group. They were hungry so we went to what amounted to a ramen food court at Aqua City – seriously awesome to have that much choice! I was only snack-y at that point so I had a few gyoza and called it good. They were delicious.

After lunch, we went to see the Unicorn Gundam at Diver City

Unicorn Gundam!

Then we wasted a little time in the mall as we were waiting for time to pass before 5 pm – Joypolis is discounted after 5 so we wanted to get the maximum value. Spent a little time at the Sanrio store:

Tihi!

 

Hello Kitty Gundam at the Sanrio store!

 

Adorable Paulina in an adorable hat

… and also a few minutes at Round One (no pics) before we went to Joypolis.

It’s discounted after 5pm, and discounted a further 300 Yen when you show your passport too – we were so excited to play!

There are three floors of fun. The first thing that we queued up for was the Halfpipe Tokyo. You strap in and stand on a board, two people per board. You are both facing opposite directions and the center of your board tips on an axis… as you swing in the half-pipe, you have to coordinate which way you rock your feet on the board in order to make your board spin as it swings in the halfpipe – it’s harder than it sounds to get both of you coordinated, since one of you has to rock forward and the other back, since you’re facing opposite directions. Communication is key!

Halfpipe Tokyo was a BLAST to ride!

Then we went on a roller coaster that is suspended above the first floor – I rode this one alone so the other 4 could ride together. It’s a rhythm game as well as a roller coaster… three buttons on the harness that goes over your shoulders and during the slow portions of the ride there are projection screens in front of you with circles scrolling to the corresponding buttons on your harness. You play against your fellow rollercoaster car-mates (if you have any) and your winning scores are displayed at the end of the ride… after you go through a series of twists and turns above the first floor! There is also an anime of sorts playing as you are challenged by the rhythm game. I have no idea what it was all about because I was paying attention to the rhythm of the music.

The Swedes riding the rhythm rollercoaster!

The lines for attractions were not very long at all, I suspect because it was a weekday – this was a very nice thing indeed.

One thing that I was most looking forward to was the Initial D 4 ride – you’re SITTING IN A REAL CAR and controlling the game with an actual steering wheel, gas and brake pedals and gear shift! This made my nerdy car racing dreams come true – it’s about as close as I will ever get to actually racing a real car, I am certain! XD

Yes, this is the car that I “drove” –

 

THIS WAS SO GREAT! Initial D! <3

More simulators that spin – this one was a race – two people per pod and again you had to coordinate to make it spin – this time it was a button on levers that worked sort of like tank control for directions that you drifted in a half pipe race course. That was really fun, but I’d say that the Transformers pod spinning thingie was more fun. (I don’t have a pic of that one)

These capsules SPUN – like A LOT

On the third floor was a bunch of interactive 4-d simulators and such, but we didn’t have time to experience them all. One in particular caught my eye… all because of a creepy doll:

Creepy doll is creepy… she lured me into an experience of terror.

I HAD to check this one out, and ended up going in alone… well, sort of. There were two Japanese teenage girls that went in ahead of me… The guide tells you the backstory of which I understood nothing, since I don’t speak/understand enough Japanese to catch the drift… you enter through a black curtain into a dark hall… there is a railing on your left side and you are admonished before entering to NOT let go of the railing, lest you stumble and fall… or be captured.

The hallway leads to a small table with a candle and some creepy looking objects… behind you in the hallway sounds begin to stir… the two girls and I all gasped at the same time and giggled together… then a louder noise made us all jump and suddenly the guide was there again, looking creepy and opening double doors for us into a dining hall that can only be described as… not the sort of place that you would want to gather for dinner.

There was a long table in the center: above you on either side was shelving set into the wall… a small railing in front of rows of dolls in kimono… similar in kind to the one pictured above. Soft light gently illuminated them, casting eerie shadows onto the ceiling.

In the center of the table sat a wooden statue, nestled into a circle of oddly shaped runes – the statue held a basket, presumably for an offering as it was facing what was at the end the room opposite the door from which we entered… a large life-size doll, with it’s insides exposed, sitting on a throne-like chair… collapsed, silent. Silk curtains billowed gently from windows un-seen… we were instructed to put on the headphones resting on the table in front of us. Of what happened next, I dare not speak… you must experience it for yourself.

I went on a couple more “rides” before Joypolis was closing for the day, loving what I had experienced and already eager to experience more! I hope that I can visit again while I am still in Tokyo


Snackventures With Paulina (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 13)

The Boys wanted to have their own adventure today. Paulina wasn’t feeling great after yesterday and I did not want her to spend the day alone, so I stayed with her.

She expressed the desire to have Okonomiyaki so it was decided that we should go to Monja Street near Tsukiji  – I liked that place that Chris took me to so much the other night, so we went there… but it was closed! Turns out that it was only open during dinner hours, and we were there shortly after lunchtime.

We roamed the street to try and find a restaurant that looked good – about half of them were closed, I’m assuming because it was after lunch and mid-week. This still left a good selection of places to eat monja or okonomiyaki… however, we got distracted by two melon pan bakeries so we stopped to purchase some… one was from a place that I had previously visited with Kyle in 2015 that I knew I loved, and one was called Tokyo Melon Pan, which I had not tried before.

I tried this back in 2015 and had to have another!

 

Tokyo Melon Pan – many varieties of melon pan there.

We saved our melon pans for later, in favor of finding our late lunch. Finally we settled on a place with an enthusiastic dude who asked us to come in – we chose to share a curry monja!

Curry Monja!

It was DELICIOUS and I’d definitely come back for food again! Part of the fun is cooking your own food but it was made even better by the guy who asked us to come in – he was very friendly and ended up talking with us about where we are from respectively and music – turns out that he really likes a Swedish band called Mando Diao! He was so enthusiastic and full of personality that we had to have our photo taken with him.

He reminded me quite a bit of Natsuki, Chris Broad’s friend and a frequent personality that appears in Chris Broad’s YouTube videos… awesome dude!

The monja was just enough to make us more hungry… but we saved our melon pan and opted to eat some cheap yakitori instead – again some food that I enjoyed with Kyle back in 2015 and wanted to try again.

Awesome Yakitori!

My memory of how good this yakitori is was spot on – very happy that we went here! Paulina seemed to enjoy it too.

We continued on our way… the ultimate destination being a place fairly nearby that serves takoyaki for a cheap price. On our way, we saw:

empty streets:


I felt the need for a selfie because my hair was sort of behaving. This is probably because the humidity was the lowest it’s been so far this trip:


The photo is blurry, and I am only just now noticing this as I’m writing this blog entry. Oops.

Police station was adorable – I’ve been meaning to snap a photo of this for the past three trips here:

Police station on Monja Street

On our way to takoyaki, we saw Tsukiji Hongwanji, a temple founded during the early Edo period in 1617. The original building burnt in the Great Fire of 1657. The current building was built by architect Chūta Itō – he was asked to build it in the style of Indian temple architecture and the results are stunning!


The temple was about to close for the day, so we only got to peek inside as they were shutting the doors to the shrine – perhaps I can fully explore the building another day.

Just up the block was the takoyaki place – Tsukiji Gindako – Gindako is actually a chain. I was hesitant to try them because I am not a fan of octopus, but Paulina talked me into trying hers… it was delicious!


Topped with a teriyaki type sauce, bonito flakes and a little mayo, it was great – the octopus was fresh, and was not chewy or super fishy tasting – it was just right! I’d eat it again.

Tummies full, we went home… I edited photos and a few hours later Paulina, Zack and I went for a walk and got CoCo Curry to go, ate at home and now I’m getting ready for bed. Paulina dubbed the day a “snackventure” and it was indeed!


Uh Oh, I’m Sick (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 11)

No fun adventures had. No plethora of photos. No good foods eaten.

I went to bed last night with a raging sore throat and hoped for the best, that I’d wake feeling better… but that did not happen.

Despite wanting to get out of bed and make the most of my day this cold was bad enough that it felt best to stay in bed and rest… I slept this day away, not waking until sometime after 5pm.

My throat is about half as sore as it was this morning, so there is improvement. Currently I am laying awake at 10 pm, editing photos because I am having trouble falling asleep… gotta get the photos ready to update to the past few days of blogs that I have already typed up and are waiting to be published.

Paulina was a sweetheart and walked over to Lawson to fetch a salad and a hot lemon and honey drink for me… that warmed my heart as well as soothed my throat.

Here is to hoping that I’ll be fully recovered on the morrow.

 


Tokyo Disney Sea – A Disney Day Is An Excellent Day! (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 10)

DISNEY! DISNEY! DISNEY! We were SO excited to get up early this morning to meet Chris at the main gates of Tokyo Disney Sea… the guys decided to sleep in and meet us later in the day (those silly guys)… Paulina and I jumped on the train and we were on our way! Buuuuut our train was late and we missed our connection, so we ended up running a half hour later than planned.

BUT IT WAS OKAY BECAUSE WE WERE GOING TO DISNEYYYYYYY!

We arrived and Chris met us at the gates, tickets in hand so we did not have to wait in line – what a sweetheart! Into the park we zoomed, stopping of course to get a photo of Paulina at the big globe since it was not only her first time into Disney Sea, but ANY Disney park anywhere! A special moment that I am so glad that I got to share with her!

Paulina’s first time in a Disney park anywhere! She’s so happy!

 

A photograph of me photographing Paulina – photo courtesy of Chris Danford

There were cosplayers EVERYWHERE today… normally this is not a thing allowed in Disney parks but many people were dressed in costume (of all ages) so I’m thinking that it was one of those Halloween events that Disney puts on at this time of year.

6 Captain Jack Sparrows!

One of the things that I love about Disney parks is the attention to details… from the music everywhere you go to the tiny and oft missed details…. like on this small mosaic tile – Ariel!

There are small details everywhere you look, like on this small mosaic tile.

Disney really does it right.
There is beauty everywhere you look.
There are feasts for the eyes, ears, smell and taste. No detail seems to be overlooked, and this tradition continues at Tokyo Disney Sea.

Photo courtesy of Chris Danford

There were fun times for all! I think they MAY have loved the Indiana Jones ride.

Photo courtesy of Chris Danford

Adorable merchandise everywhere…

Photo courtesy of Chris Danford

… and happy friends too!

Photo courtesy of Chris Danford

I wasn’t feeling well today at all and you can see it on my face – I think that I’m getting very sick, because as I write this my throat is hurting very badly – but I still had loads of fun with my friends!

A meal before Chris left us – he had to leave early, sadly.

Photo courtesy of Chris Danford

Beautiful places everywhere in the park. This is one of my favorite spots.

A short post tonight because I am feeling oh so badly… I really do not want to be getting sick! Ah well… to sum it up, the day was a good one and good memories were most certainly made.


Alone Time in Hamarikyu and Konatsu Lottery (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 9)

First things first… today was the day of the Halloween Konatsu lottery at FewMany in Loft, so back to Ginza I went… solo this time.

Leaving the house was delayed for a multitude of reasons, but it all turned out to be okay. There were only 20 people that had already arrived for the event and I was worried that I would not get a ticket because at that time, I didn’t realize that it was a lottery system and assumed that each number was drawn in order.

By 1pm, a quick head count told me that there were 120 of us gathered there and I was the only foreigner… I was most definitely not blending into the crowd with my tall stature and curly blonde highlighted hair. I wanted to make myself smaller and invisible because I felt very out of place at first, but after a bit I didn’t feel so odd because people were very friendly and of all ages too! People my age, seniors and even little children with their parents were there, and from all walks of life it seemed, too.

I was handed a number and was worried that I would not know what to do since I don’t read Kanji! (yet!)

My Lottery Number – it turned out that the message below simply says “Ginza Loft” HAHAHA!

Instructions were called out in Japanese – my cursory knowledge of conversational Japanese plus context helped me to mostly understand what would be happening and watching others when their numbers were called most definitely helped.

One person called, then two, three… four. There went my chances at receiving one of the limited Sugar Skull painted negora! That was sad but I still hoped that my number would be called for one of the Halloween pieces… I clutched my precious number 28 printed paper with nervous excitement… another called, then two more and suddenly the 8th number was called – “番号28” Ecstatically I waved my paper in the air and those closest to me gave a cheer and gave me shoulder pats of congratulation – I thanked them heartily and moved forward to claim my prizes, er chance to purchase things!

The amount of figures available was rather low, so I am SO thankful that my number was drawn! Out of the three available, I chose these two, which fit into my budget:

These two special Halloween edtion Negora from Konatsu – hand painted by the artist herself!

This photo was obviously not taken in Ginza Loft, but at a garden that I walked to afterward…

I needed some time to refresh myself today, and I felt that some time alone in one of my favorite spots in Tokyo would do the trick so I settled on walking to Hamarikyu Gardens which is right on the Sumida River and close to Tokyo Bay.

Tunes in my ears and happiness in my heart, my feet started toward the garden and along the way I was surprised to come upon the Nakajin Capsule Tower! I had no idea that it was so close to Hamarikyu and if I had known how close I had been so many times before on previous visits, I most certainly would have stopped there before!

The day was hazy but I still managed to get a decent photo:

Randomly found the Nakajin Capsule Tower!

Photographing this building has been on my bucket list for many years and it was on my definite list of things to see on this trip so to find it by chance was very satisfying indeed!

A little history of the building… Nakagin Capsule Tower was designed by architect Kisho Kurokawa as a mixed-use building for both residential and office space… I’ve linked to both the architect and the page for the tower so that you can read more in-depth at your leisure.. apparently you can rent out some of the apartments to stay in but the list is long…. adding this to my long list of things that I would like to experience in life!

Close by were the gardens that I love so much… it was a haven for me on previous visits, a place for me to be near nature and recharge my spirit and today was no exception. This trip is so much more than hanging out with friends, photographing adventures and (in two weeks) attending language school. It’s finding my own self again and rediscovering what I need in life to feel whole, a task that has been in the background for far too long for me. Having days or moments of solitude are important to me, and days like today give me opportunity to turn inward and reflect in positive ways.

There are portions of the gardens that are open fields and each season they are planted with a new flowering plant… right now Cosmos are planted – the colors of Autumn are so beautiful and when the leaves begin to change I will visit again to capture that beauty as well.

Autumn Fields of Hamarikyu

This place is so special… around every corner is a new surprise and beautiful scene. There are moments that it is difficult to remember that you are in the middle of a big city because the garden plants and trees seem so dense and it’s a bit more quiet there.


The contrasts between an ancient garden and modern skyscrapers are one of my favorite things about this garden – even in the middle of the concrete jungle you can find repose.

Duck Blind on the lake – old hunting grounds

 

The Sumida river and boat lock that leads to Tokyo Bay and Odiaba.

After much strolling, photographing and long periods of sitting quietly, it was time to have a photo session with my Konatsu Halloween Shibara (Shiba/Kaiju) and Negora (Cat/Kaiju)!

Oooooo look out for that scary Negora! She’s gonna getcha!

 

Shibara looking stunning in Autumn colors!

I took quite a while to get just the right shots of these figures and then it was time to meet up with Chris for dindin!

We settled on going to Monja Street near the Tsukiji Market… not for monja though… we craved Okonomiyaki!

“Original Generation Monjayaki” is what Google translate says is the name of this restaurant is. XD

Chris had been here before on a previous visit and said that he liked it quite a bit, so I was eager to try… I was not disappointed! Every bit as good as Okonomiyaki that we had in Osaka last winter – so full of flavor and not too heavy, considering what the food was.

After our delicious dinner, Chris suggested that we get some cake dessert at a place in Ginza – he said that he had been to another location and enjoyed the desserts there… the name of that restaurant was Harbs, which tickled me quite a bit…. I suggested that instead of calling it “carbs” which would automatically imply some unhealthy food they dropped the “C” and inserted an “H” to stand for “Healthy Carbs” – sound logic yes? Of course yes! XD

Dessert was tasty but uuuugh a little too sweet on one of them. We had some sort of roasted chestnut pie which I thought was quite good and obviously made well, but way too sweet. The other selection was a Pear Tart, which was amazing and more to my taste… I might already have a bias because pears are one of my very favorite fruits.

Chestnut Pie in the foreground and Pear Tart in the background – at Harbs!

After the dessert we were a bit too full for our liking, and both of us were getting quite sleepy so we departed with happy hearts and full bellies. Here I am at home now, tired but unable to sleep and it’s almost midnight here – uh oh… I may have ingested too much sugar! (It’s going to be a long night, methinks!)


Livin’ The Life in Ginza… or at least pretending to! (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 8)

Four days ago I read that one of my favorite soft vinyl toy artists had a show at the FewMany shop in Loft – on the 6th floor and I hoped that it was still active.

It was with these hopes that I arrived in Ginza with Paulina at my side, and these hopes were crushed when I walked up to find that a new art exhibit had taken it’s place. I did have a consolation, however, because they had a nice selection of VAG gasha machines that I was very happy to find!

I dashed to the cashier and got change, dashed back to the machines and made my selections!

VAG (Vinyl Artist Gacha) Machine at the FewMany exhibit at Loft Ginza – Morris is “The Cat With Antlers” and I love him.

Konatsu Sea Otters!

I ended up with one new Morris, a duplicate Morris, two Konatsu special run sea otters (one of which I gave to a special friend) and one of those baby tart things that creep me out, but I have to get because I do love creepy things.

I got a new color Morris and another creepy baby tart – I don’t know the name of the artist or the piece, but I’ll find out!

 

I found an ICHI figure!!! I’m only newly familiar with this artist and I hope to see more!

Paulina and I decided to roam around, so we headed to the main street where all of the upscale stores are… we contented ourselves with taking photos of the buildings and not actually shopping haha! So that I am not posting a bunch of boring photos of buildings, here are just two:

Bulgari

Louis Vuitton

I made a friend while roaming around in Ginza – why does this Daruma have a mustache? We may never know, but he’s adorable regardless.

 

Snuggling up to one of the most unusual darumas that I’ve seen.

 

I LOVE THIS DARUMA!

Whilst roaming around we made plans to meet up with Chris for dinner and he also suggested that we go to the Ginza Six observatory… I am very glad that he did because that place was fantastic!

The views were awesome…

Paulina and I at Ginza Six looking at the Tokyo Skyline and Tokyo Tower


This rooftop was so nice – grass, trees and plants everywhere, water features and plenty of opportunities for photographs and selfies too.

Chris creepin’ in the trees to get a good shot of two Japanese girls taking photos of each other.

 

– photo credit to Chris Danford

 

– photo credit to Chris Danford

 

– photo credit to Chris Danford

 

Oh hey, a photo of me that I actually like! I am totally jealous of Portrait Mode on new iPhones.

Oh, I should post a few photos that I took:





After a long while taking in the beautiful views, we moved on to dinner. Since I was craving noodles, Chris suggested that we go to a place that specializes in Udon dishes that happened to be nearby… Tsuru Ton Tan Udon. I was excited to try a place that had udon as their focus, since I’ve never had Udon outside of pre-packaged meals or mediocre fast food.

This place was INCREDIBLE! Not only was the view great but the food was affordable and definitely high-end… I would expect the prices to be double for food of this quality back in the States.

I don’t remember what Chris and Paulina got, but mine was warm udon with mountain potato (it’s stringy goodness!) and a fresh eggie. – photo credit to Chris Danford




After dinner a sleepy Chris bid us a good night… Paulina and I continued on to UNIQLO to look for presents and Disney shirts, respectively.

After the partially successful shopping side quest we decided to go home… on our way to the station we heard the sound of some very hot cars coming down the street, and they stopped half a block in the opposite direction but needless to say we HAD to go see these awesome cars and I was blown away by two gorgeous Lamborghinis!

OMG THIS CAR! What a beautiful night in Ginza!


Thus ended our day in Ginza on what was definitely a high note! We took our tired feet back toward the train station and saw many a salary man also doing the same (and a few that were possibly drunk from post-work dinner and drinks!)

Happy smiling Salary Men: Two of the salary men were helping another that was a little drunk… and struggling to get down the street.


Laid Back Day (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 7)

It was just one of those mornings where I did not want to do or think about anything important… so I didn’t. Well, sort of.

Our AirBnB has been cozy but also not healthy – the entire bottom floor has a moisture problem, which I am certain is perpetuated by tennants not taking good care to ventilate the place and the owner not properly cleaning. The shower area was a disaster… mold and mildew everywhere, and I don’t mean just a little… A LOT.

Cleaning supplies were purchased… and I spent almost two hours yesterday morning just scrubbing the shower and tub area.
T W O  H O U R S. It’s a small area too but there is tile and every single tile grout surface had mold. I was really tired after that so I took a shower and rested, then tidied up in one of the living areas. For someone who doesn’t have kids, I surely get into “mom” mode a lot.

The guys had been out at Karaoke the night before and all had hangovers… Paulina and I made plans to meet up with Chris for lunch at  A Happy Pancake – a restaurant that serves soufflé pancakes! I have been seeing videos for a couple of years about them… Simon and Martina’s video on YouTube stands out as the one that REALLY made me want to try these pancakes. You can watch that here:

Paulina and I took a train to Omotesando…

I snuck a photo of sleepy commuters on the way to Omotesando.

we had some time to kill before meeting up with Chris so we decided to walk around the winding backstreets of the area to look at the trendy shops where you can find all manner of things… from used clothing to high end fashion and every item in between.

When in Omotesando, do what the Omotesandians do.

One of our destinations was B-Side Label, a store that I always make a point to visit when I am in Tokyo… their stickers are all made right there, and the artists that provide designs are all local as well so this makes me feel good about purchasing items there.

Every trip into this store is a sensory bombardment, from the colorful stickers and products to the employees filled with personality and friendly conversation… once again I forgot to actually take photos IN the store but here is a photo of the outside!

Here I am with two of my furry friends outside of B-Side Label.

As per usual, I had a difficult time choosing exactly what labels would be coming home with me and to make the choice an even more difficult one, they had limited run Halloween editions of some of their favorite designs as well as new Halloween designs – that’s mostly what I purchased, since one they’re gone… they’re gone.

The stickers that I picked up today at B-Side Label… these were a very small selection of the ones that I wanted most!

After spending a long while at B-Side, we wandered toward the main street toward Kiddeland and found some… unusual stickers on the pedestrian overpasses – this is one of the things that I enjoy about Omotesando & Harajuku… random stickers and grafitti.

Looks like some random couple wanted to leave a more personalized mark on the sticker colelction!

 

“look at all of these stickers!…. oh.”

We browsed Kiddeland and then heard from Chris that he had arrived near the location of the soufflé pancakes, so we met him there.

My soufflé pancake at A Happy Pancake had a beautiful berry compote – a little too sweet but definitely complex in flavor.

 

Foreground: Pumpkin Raisin – Left Berry Compote – Right – Hot Chocolate – Photo courtesy of Chris Danford

A Happy Pancake did not disappoint! The atmosphere was bright and refreshing – despite being on the basement level of a building, the green theming and large wall displaying photos and videos of outdoor scenes and plants set the mood for happy interaction – the three of us had a lovely time talking and consuming delicious foods.

I have never tasted a pancake quite like this – it’s texture is indeed similar to a soufflé but a bit more heavy… it has inspired me to try this out when I return to Vancouver in December… having never made a soufflé of any sort I cannot predict if my outcome will be a pleasant one or not but I have eaten enough soufflé to know if it’s actually good or not!

After pancakes I was craving some good coffee. Chris did a quick search online and found a trendy pour over place nearby. We walked to our destination and waited a half hour before we realized that this was more of an experience than anything… one person to guide you through the process of choosing your coffee and educating you on it’s origins… one person to make the coffee. There were six people ahead of us and it took 3 a half hour to get their coffee so we decided to look elsewhere and possibly come back to this place another day.

This was the entrance… literally a short square door to a teeny staging area.

A new place for coffee was found fairly quickly… and just up the street a few blocks. It turned out to be a blessing because both the coffee and the chai that we tried were amazing – neither needed sugar added, a sign to me that this is superior coffee indeed.

Coffee and Chai for us… the doughnuts looked delicious but we had just eaten sweet things so perhaps next time we will try them too. – Photo courtesy of Chris Danford

Drinks at Higuma Doughnuts x Coffee Wrights were excellent! I definitely want to come back here and try the other drinks that they offer.

Chris departed after the consumption of coffee and chai, Paulina and I continued on to Harajuku in search of a store that Paulina wanted to visit called Alice on Wednesday.

As the name suggests, it was indeed an Alice in Wonderland themed shop, very cleverly decorated… lots of cute things here but nothing that particularly spoke to me. I’d like to have this table though:

Such an adorable table! I think my apartment needs this in it. 😀

Browsing done, we went to Takashita Dori, the main street in Harajuku. It was getting late and as it was a weekday, many shops were closed so it was not too crowded with people, which is a pleasant change from the usual.

I don’t remember the name of this store that these stairs lead down to, but I do remember from three years ago that this is a second hand clothing store that was pretty awesome.

Sparsely populated night street of Harajuku.

Since businesses were starting to close, we decided to call it a night and took our tired feet home.


Technology Fails, Anxiety and also Fun Times (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 4)

A veritable cornucopia of experiences this day most certainly was, as my emotions got tugged to and fro for a variety of reasons and circumstances that were largely beyond my control.

Not to say that I was emotional, as I largely was not but rather to say that things evoked internal emotional responses that were, to say the least, trying and frustrating to a person who just wanted to get things done and organized and out of the way so that she could fully enjoy her day without the thoughts of things needing to be done hanging over her head.

Goodness was the start of my morning – despite being drunk the night before (only my second time ever in my entire life) I was NOT hungover! I drank quite responsibly and for every ounce of alcohol that I consumed, I also drank an ounce of water, possibly more. I slept really well – definitely not having a sneak attack of jet lag woo woooo!

The first order of the day was to finish writing my blog post from the day before as I most definitely did not finish it that night! Second thing to do was to get my new (old) iPhone 7 set up… this is where things started to go south and without going into all minutiae, I had to re-set passwords and download my old profile… this took  F O R E V E R. Also… my MacBook simply would NOT transfer all of my previous day’s photos onto itself for some unknown reason – it’s very frustrating and sad that my iPhone won’t properly communicate with an Apple product… I expect this behavior when I plug it into my Windows PC, but not with Mac! I have had a long history of having to deal with this tedious file management so rather than try and try and try again to get the Mac to take the pictures, I simply emailed the ones that I wanted to myself, downloaded them onto my computer and inserted them into my blog post. Done and done.

Having all of this take literally my entire morning ( I had been up and about since 6 am) I was feeling stressed and very anxious… that anxiousness ended up permeating my entire day, I am sad to say, despite my best efforts to “let it go”.

At noon I finally gave up on getting all of the apps fully restored onto my iPhone. The Swedish Crew and I headed to Shibuya to see what we could find. First stop: Hachiko, of course! We had to say Hello to the OD! (the Original Doge)

We visited Hachiko! It wasn’t too crowded so we were able to selfie with him quickly.

 

Paulina mentioned wanting to see The Scramble from above so after crossing The Scramble ourselves, we went into the Magnet by Shibuya 109 (Shibuya Men’s 109 re-branded building) 

Up we went to the 7th floor, where there is a Fatburger and an onigiri bar (I can’t even imagine how many varieties they serve!)… it’s a cozy atmosphere there with loads of seating away from the main eating areas – I might take my computer there to get some work done!
(I forgot to snap a pic – later)

I really liked this open space leading to the Shibuya Crossing viewing platform.

Mural at the Magnet viewing area… my hair was still halfway decent at this point of the day yay!

 

Outside we went, and got a very nice view:

Twuuuuu Wuvvvv!

Da Boyz

Joy swears that he wasn’t actually trying to give me rabbit ears, that he was just doing a peace sign.

It wasn’t until afterward that I realized that we had almost an exact duplicate of a photo that we all took together in Stockholm 3 years earlier awwww! <3

 

Then one of them noticed that there was a way to have your photo taken from above with the scramble below as well – it was 1,000 Yen so we all payed a part to get these photos! You scanned a QR code with your phone which takes you to a website – you have 100 seconds to snap as many photos as you want by tapping your phone… we all looked up at what we thought was the camera but turns out that we all looked at what would be the spotlight that turns on at night and not at the camera itself – how silly we all felt!

Bird’s Eye view of The Scramble… with us looking in the wrong direction oops.

In the lobby of the Magnet building there was a Hello Kitty photo op… the sign said to be sure to use your flash which we thought was not necessary, but then when we looked at the photo, the black background had turned into a nice collage – that was cute!

We were all hungry (except for Joy) and so we went around the corner to Genki Sushi because it was fast and cheap – not the best sushi of course but to a hungry belly it’s all the same anyway, eh?

From there, the guys split off from Paulina and I. We girlies went to Loft to explore a bit… I showed great restraint by not purchasing a single thing, though many things both needed and just wanted called out to me… I remained steadfast and just looked. After Loft we spent a little time on a side street being silly:

I can’t even

 

A rare sight… an empty train! Mere seconds later two people joined us in this car.

After along while we left, found some unusual KitKat flavors to sample and went home for the night. While out I discovered that my phone data had been throttled… apparently when my iPhone was being set up, for some reason it used my data instead of wifi, which it isn’t supposed to do… so now I have 4 more days of only having enough data to use my maps and nothing else!

We met up with da boyz in Akiba… played some games and then went home.

 

 

 


Chill Day in Asakusa (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 3)

I barely remember falling asleep last night. As I lay my head on my pillow I wondered what time that Joy and Fredrik would make it back home after their evening of tasty beverages of the adult sort. I knew that I needn’t worry, so I closed my eyes and apparently, fell immediately to sleep.

I had doubled my bedroll to give me more comfort and that seemed to do the trick. I remember only waking once that night so a very solid night of rest was had! I woke refreshed – at 6:30 am to find that Zach was already awake… Joy and Fredrik had shown up sometime in the middle of the night and I never heard them come in. Turns out they made it home not terribly long after I had retired for the night myself.

Both of us went downstairs and consumed the foods that we had bought the night prior in preparation for this morning’s need for breakfast and talked for a while. I did some photo editing and posted the link to my blog post from the day prior to Facebook, organized some photo files and caught up on news. Zach was playing a game on his Switch and then I remembered that I had packed mine as well so I relaxed and played Breath of the Wild for quite a while.

It was now around 10 am… Joy, Paulina and Fredrik were still fast asleep. I busied myself with more tasks on my MacBook and coordinated a meet up with Chris for that day.

Chris was going to take around 40 minutes by train to reach Asakusa, where we decided to meet up for some sort of good food to eat… we decided to walk there since it would only take about a half hour to reach Asakusa station and the weather was beautiful despite being rather humid.

Walking to Asakusa – typical average Tokyo neighborhoods are very quiet.

I saw the Tokyo Skytree along the way.

Art on the Sakurabashi Bridge in Tokyo on the way to Asakusa.

Once in Asakusa we decided on eating GyuKatsu at a tiny restaurant close to Senso-Ji – again you sat at the counter and could watch them prepare your food, which I find infinitely fascinating.

GyuKatsu – Beef Cutlet in citrus sauce with shredded daikon.

Food adventures continued on Orange Dori in Asakusa… this is a street lined with old shops and tourist traps alike, and alive with plenty of events almost year round. It is often packed with tourist both local and from afar and it is not difficult to see why with the variety of things to see and purchase there.

We personally were seeking sweet treats… our diligent search was rewarded at a place tucked into a building from the early 20th century… I wish that I knew the name of the place because it was quite cute. They tried to keep a style reminiscent of the 30’s or 40’s European-ish decor that was quite charming! We sat in comfy chairs and shared three desserts: Sweet Potato Ice Cream Sundae and a Matcha Ice Cream Sundae… also a red bean dessert that was just okay and not spectacular.

Sweet Potato Ice Cream and Matcha Ice Cream sundaes… along with some sort of red bean dessert that wasn’t as good.

 

Oh yay I look quite tired and my hair is quite angry about all of the humidity – so much for perfectly straightened hair!

After treats we headed to Akihabara to meet up with Joy and Fredrik… but before we did, one more treat right next to Yodobashi at the Akiba Station… Croissant Taiyaki at Gindaco… it was filled with roasted chestnut paste did not disappoint! That croissant crust was delicious and the texture would have been perfect if it hadn’t been just a little too done. The chestnut filing seemed a little too sweet but I have to wonder if perhaps my opinion about that was affected by the consumption of our other sweet treats not long prior to this.

Chris needed to go get some studying done so he split off from me and Zach and the two of us went to a store called Animate – my main reason for going was to find a few Persona 5 items and they definitely had a nice selection to chose from! A few things may have made it into a shopping bag and came along with me.

We met up with the guys and sat across from that Dragon Quest Lawson again… Zach went off to do something, I don’t exactly know what and I sat with Joy and talked a fair amount about all sorts of important matters as we do… then Zach came back and Fredrick showed up – Chris messaged and it turned out that he had been sitting perhaps 100 feet away when he messaged asking where to meet up with us!

We settled on going to an izakaya that wasn’t terribly far away – I do not recall the name of the place and apparently forgot to check in on Swarm so I can’t find it now… you will understand the whys of this thing as you read on…

Toward the beginning of our evening at an izakaya – I was only a little tipsy at this point.

We laughed and talked and ate… I had a yuzu shochu, which is plenty enough to get me tipsy… ordered more food and Chris had a bottle of warm sake brought out with glasses for everyone… one glass later and I was definitely feeling it and was getting just a little more silly than usual… Joy didn’t enjoy the warm sake (he prefers cold) so I drank his down too.

Another round of warm sake came out, another cup poured for me… then I finished the last cup after my last chicken and leek yakitori… things were definitely a bit wobbly for me after that, but I was having a gooooood evening! It was decided that we should go to the amusement center in the Donki building down the street for some DDR and ufo catchers – everything was so hilarious that I could not contain my laughter… in the photo below, I remember watching Fredrik try to win an adorable Shiba Inu stuffed animal, but for the life of me I cannot remember what was so funny!

“You’re not drunk… I’M drunk… why is this crane game so funny?!” haha

Joy tried to win a prize… the Shiba that I wanted – psh. That was not pleasing because he did (but I was also happy for him)

Joy won this Shiba – on the first try. That’s an expensive stuffed toy for only 100 Yen!

 

I played for a shiba too… I won a little baby shiba! Not certain how I had my wits about me enough to win this haha.

Wan Wan! I won a little shiba in a shiba hoodie on MY first try!

At this point Chris decided to leave because he was very sleepy as he is having a difficult time adjusting to the Tokyo time zone on this trip, poor guy. I then tried my hand, I mean feet at Drunk DDR… I did surprisingly well according to Joy, who mentioned that I was impressing the local Japanese guy at the machine next to me. I attribute my accuracy to the fact that I only played charts that I practically know by heart so that took any of the alcohol hinderance away from the equation.

Three rounds of DDR later, I cut myself off for fear of falling off of the pad or dehydrating myself too much. Silly Boo, Joy and Fredrik all had a merry ride home on the train and a relaxing early Autumn walk home. Excellent excellent day!


Akiba Antics (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 2)

This morning found me well rested after a full uninterrupted night’s sleep on my bedroll – our AirBnB has traditional tatami mats on the floor of our bedroom – the five of us share a common bedroom area that has space enough for 10 people to lay comfortably if there are two people per bedroll.

I awoke at 4:30 am to find Joy up and ready to get some breakfast… we took the short walk to Lawson’s to get coffee and breakfast foods while the others stayed in bed.

It was so great to sit and talk with Joy after three years of not seeing each other in person – I wish that we lived closer… it can be so difficult when dear friends live so far away. After talking with Joy for quite a while, he decided to go back to bed while I was not sleepy at all so I decided to shower and then soak my aching muscles in our wonderful deeeeeep bathtub.

About the time that I was finished relaxing, Zach and Fredrick awoke, and Joy followed shortly. The guys went out to run an errand with Zach and I stayed behind with Paulina… they returned and we all laughed and talked for a great while as we decided what we wanted to do for the day.

You have been blessed by the Suntory Lemon Man!

It was decided that we would go to Akihabara to play games at a gaming center for the most part and also check out some shops but since we were all very hungry we started looking for food immediately. Go!Go! Curry sounded good, so we stopped there for some comfort food – I ate the small tonkatsu (pork cutlet) plate and even that amount of food was actually a bit too much! This Japanese curry chain regularly has a contest for people to completely eat a ridiculously large amount of tonkatsu with rice and curry – it’s impressive to see their wall of photos with people who have actually completed the challenge!

Me and the Sweet Swedes at curry lunch.

Bellies full and satisfied, we moved on. I have them convinced that next time they crave curry that we should go to CoCo Curry to see if they like that the same or better… I have a definite favorite but I did not reveal that to them for fear that it may affect their opinion one way or the other!

While walking to the area with the most arcades we kept coming on shops that sell collectible figures… we stopped in two or three and spent a bit of time when my friends decided that perhaps we should stop getting so distracted and get to the arcades.

A Sega arcade was the next stop where there were many rounds of UFO catcher plays – we met up with Chris there. He was kind enough to share his stash of SIM cards with me so now I can roam freely without having to find wifi hot spots… they are abundant but rather flaky at times for connection if you are moving about quite a bit. Thank you, Chris! having all of the data GeeBees is definitely better than relying on flaky WeeFees! XD

At Sega Arcade

Everything is cute in Japan.

Tokyo Leisure Land was the destination because they have a large selection of rhythm games… which we did not get to right away because a couple of my friends (*cough* Joy and Paulina) became obsessed with winning a couple of figurines from a redemption game… after some tries they did win! I made myself content with winning a few small prizes, including a squishy orange Slime from the Dragon Quest (I have a slight obsession with these adorable characters!) series of games and a little plush kitty with a mustache.

YES! DDR in JAPAN!

Paulina won the Alice figure she was after!

My sweet squishy Slime! I won one for Chris too

We spent a few hours at this spot – time passes quickly when you are having so much fun and in such good company! Some rhythm games were played as well, but I did not partake because I felt that I was already sweaty enough with the humidity, which was around 80% yesterday. My poor hair is lamenting this weather – it seems that Japan will never allow my hair to look nice while I am here because my curly hair reacts so poorly to high humidity. Ah well it’s okay! I can still have fun whilst looking like a goof!

After the arcade we came upon the Dragon Quest themed Lawson store! SLIMES EVERYWHERE! I need to back to get better photos and a video of this place – very cute theming!

I FOUND IT! The Dragon Quest themed Lawson in Akihabara!

Late in the afternoon Joy and Fredrik broke away from the group to go home and take a nap… Paulina, Zach, Chris and I went on to a wagyu beef restaurant called Roast Beef Ohno… it is a small restaurant which I guess only seats up to 30 from a quick glance about this small restaurant. Part of the seating is at a couple of tables but the main portion of seating is at the L-shaped bar that borders the kitchen so you can enjoy watching your meals being prepared.

The menu selection is small… literally just the wagyu donburi bowl or the Australian beef donburi but you do choose the portion of rice that you receive. I opted for the small portion.

Wagu Donburi is delicious!

My dinner was accompanied by Oxtail soup – yummy.

The printed menu offers instruction for how to best enjoy your meal, first starting with tasting the meat on it’s own, then mixing your egg and dipping the meat in that and the small trail of Japanese mayo, then trying the pickled vegetable (which I think was cabbage) with a bit of mountain wasabi and cream cheese in addition to your bite of meat. However you decided to combine your tastes, this was a superior donburi for certain! I think that I could eat this meal a couple of times a week and not tire of it.

Instructions for how to best enjoy your meal.

I had requested that we go hunting for some gatchapon (Japanese capsule toys) so Chris did a quick look on Google Maps… on our way there we ran into Joy and Fredrik, who had initially said they were going to go home and take a nap before karaoke with a friend… they never made it home because the made a side trip to a Maid Cafe – Paulina and I were a little cross and disappointed because we wanted to experience that with them, but overall we heard some great stories from those two and I’m glad that they had so much fun. Once again we parted from Joy and Fredrik who departed to go find some Japanese libations and Chris continued to  guide us to a store filled with row after row of gatchapon dispensers! They had signs everywhere that asked customers to please not take photos so I respected that while I was actually in the store. Once I was in, I remembered that I had visited this exact place on my very first day in Japan in summer 2014!

I found two of the VAG series that I was looking for! Morris!

On this visit I found some of what I am diligently seeking… dispensers that sell the VAG (Vinyl Artist Gacha) series! These are special limited edition gasha designed by some famous vinyl toy artists. These particular figures are quite detailed and usually have the distinction of having one or more parts that are moveable so that you can pose your figure! They are 500 Yen so more spendy than the average of 200 – 300 Yen, but definitely worth the price.

I was surprised to find one the winter 2018 releases still available! I am now the very happy owner of two Morris figures, which is a cat-deer combination… a design by Kaori Hinata, also known as Hinatique. http://hinatique.pupu.jp/ – such a talented artist! My keen eyes will continue to keep a lookout for more VAG dispensers on this trip for sure.

VAG (Vinyl Artist Gasha) figure Morris in the two variants that I most wanted!

Our happy hearts and weary bodies decided that it was time to head home. Zach, Paulina and I said goodnight to Chris with wishes expressed to meet again for more fun tomorrow… we rode the train back to our station, Higashi-Mukōjima, and walked home. Soon, bedtime and blessed sleep.

 

 


Planes, Trains and Dying Batteries (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 1)

Literally the only pic I snapped yesterday… and it was accidental… forward facing camera oops for the win.

This trip started out about as ordinary as it could be… I fussed over packing my necessities, then unpacked, sorted and re-packed… about 5 times. I stayed up late the night before my flight to acclimate my sleep schedule to that of where I was traveling to. I made a loose list of places I would like to see when I visit. I hopped onto a plane and had an un-eventful, and even pleasant flight with no one sitting in the seat next to me.

Then little things started to unravel… my sinuses decided to become swollen and painful… the line at immigration was looooong – it took more than an hour to get through when usually it’s no more than 20 minutes. Lines looked long for train tickets…. and then I learned why. One of the express lines was not functioning due to “electrical failure”… another of the local lines was not running either so I decided on the Narita Express, which I would normally take anyway (but wasn’t going to this time because it wasn’t a direct route to my end destination).

The line to purchase those tickets was L O N G. Like wait for 45 minutes long. Ticket bought, I proceeded to the platform to wait for my train to be cleaned from the prior run.

Boarded train, settled in… time to go! Train does not go. Five minutes later: train does not go. Announcement says that the track is being cleared of something… my heart sinks because I think that it must be a jumper. Five more minutes pass… then another 5 and another 5. In Japanese they ask us to disembark the train and go across the platform to another one… we all do so and sit there for another 15 minutes.

Train is a local one so it stops at every station. Soon we come to Chiba, where we are told to get on yet another train, which apparently everyone else in Tokyo was also getting on to. It’s raining. It’s humid. People are grumpy and shoving onto the train like they’re packing a sardine tin. I feel guilty for having so much luggage, especially when I actually prefer to travel very light. Aching muscles and exhaustion were making me really grumpy… you get the idea.

I made it to the neighborhood where my friends had rented an AirBnB only to have my phone die right as I got the the block where it was supposed to be… EVERY door on that block had the same number so I was confused as to which one I was supposed to enter! Eventually after waiting for my phone to charge enough to turn back on (and it ended up not turning on for another 15 minutes) I knocked on a random door  – a very kind older woman answered and her face lit up when she saw me, which was a reassuring comfort that I really needed at that moment. In very broken Japanese I told her that I was looking for an AirBnB and she knew right where to take me to – she waited until Paulina let me in before she left my side! What a kind woman!

All in all it took me 5 hours from when I left immigration to make it into the AirBnB… exhausted starving and half drenched from a soaking rain I dropped my bags and then immediately walked down the block to a Lawson’s to grab some snacks… that was actually just a few minutes ago. I am completely exhausted and at this writing I can barely keep my eyes open so it’s time to wander upstairs to my tatami mat and lay my weary head to rest. Day 1 of Japan Autumn Trip complete!


Day #59 – A Photo A Day 2013

App Layering. It’s addictive. It’s highly rewarding and creatively stimulating, not expensive and most apps are really easy to understand and apply practically.

I’m doing another Before and After post today because the edit I did this morning is so drastically different from the original photo that I wanted to show the difference.

The Hawaiian Chieftain is again the subject photo of the day. This photo here was taken on my iPhone 4s, native camera app at approx. 4:45 in the afternoon.

Here you see it un-touched – no edits nor touchups of any sort, just the raw photo:

Hawaiian Chieftian Un-Edited Photo

Hawaiian Chieftian Un-Edited Photo

I went to bed last night thinking of this pic and how I’d like to edit it. As I found myself immersed in the process, the picture ended up becoming something much more different than I envisioned it to be in the first place and I built layer upon layer of editing and overall I am much more pleased with the finished result than what I had originally planned to do.

Hawaiian Chieftian Heavily Edited Photo

Hawaiian Chieftian Heavily Edited Photo

I started out in Photo FX where I added a bit of haze to darken things up a little. I then moved on to Iris where I added a bit of dirt, back to Photo FX to darken it a bit more. On to Filtermania 2, then Wow FX, back to Filtermania 2, again to Wow FX again, on to ScratchCam and that’s where I forget just how many more times I ended up going back into Photo FX and Filtermania 2. This edit has taken the longest of any iPhone editing I have done – there were just a lot of layers to play with and tweak until I got just the look that I was going for.

I really don’t know what I would do without Photo FX and ScratchCam – they are my staples, and the Dropico apps are quickly becoming favorites as well!


Day #57 – A Photo A Day 2013

Yesterday I learned that two tall ships were in town so OF COURSE today I had to go see them, since I have had a life long fascination with tall ships, pirates and the sea.

This afternoon I started the long walk to Pier 40. It was warm today and very sunny so I was particularly looking forward to a long walk that I routinely enjoy. Also, I hadn’t walked toward the tourist-y part of San Francisco in quite a while so I was ready to go.

It wasn’t as crowded as it would be on the weekends, and people were smiley and friendly. Lots of runners and bicyclists and people walking their dogs, apparently oblivious to the fact that THERE ARE TALL SHIPS IN TOWN! How could they not be heading straight there that very moment?! It boggles my mind.

The bay looked like a blue jewel glinting in the afternoon sun and it made me want to take a dip, despite what I knew the temperature of the water to be. I resisted the urge, partially because I wanted to reach my destination and partially because… well, I had no swimsuit! Onward I marched…

Past the Ferry Building, past Boudin Bakery, past In-n-Out – I almost stopped there but NO! I must resist! The ships await! (and because I like this pic, here is a shot of the Ferry Building! It’s an accidental shot, and I haven’t edited it)

Ferry Building - Accidental Photo

Ferry Building – Accidental Photo

I avoided pier 39 completely and went onto…. wait, where is Pier 40? This is 41, where The Balclutha, and amazing ship in her own right (and an original!) makes her permanent home.

The Balclutha is a National Historic Landmark and Pier 41 is in the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park so I asked the park rangers if perhaps I had the wrong pier? No, Pier 40 was correct, and this is Pier 41… It turned out that Pier 40 IS JUST A FEW BLOCKS FROM MY APARTMENT!!! Arg! So I walked miles out of my way when I would have been at the ships in mere minutes.

The park rangers and I had a good laugh at the irony, and they explained the odd-even placement of pier numbers – basically the Ferry Building is the center and everything to the south of the Ferry Building is the even numbered piers and everything to the north of the Ferry Building is the odd numbered piers.

Disappointed, I started the walk home. Tours were due to end at 5 and I knew there was no way that I could walk there in time. (there was only a window of 1 hour for dockside tours) My feet were killing me – I already had some major blisters from a very long walk I had taken earlier in the week and I feared that I was forming blisters under my blisters… so I hopped on the F-Line and started home.

I hopped off at my stop and walked toward my apartment. I realized that I would have JUST enough time to get to the dock to spend a few minutes there so I decided to walk through the pain and make my way there. Fast walking and blisters do NOT mix but I cared not.

Finally I was there! 10 minutes on board the Hawaiian Chieftanso I didn’t have time to shoot many pictures but I took a few and talked with one of the ship hands. Everyone in the crew was dressed in appropriate attire for the late 1700’s early 1800’s as is evident to the photo I shot and edited below:

Aboard the Hawaiian Chieftan

Aboard the Hawaiian Chieftan

Shot with my iPhone 4s, edited in Photo FX, Iris, and ScratchCam.

10 minutes on board was not enough and I didn’t have time to go on board the Lady Washington… I’m going back tomorrow!


Day #43 – A Photo A Day 2013

Today’s photo is an un-edited pic that I shot with my iPhone 4s. I just liked the shadow and the light, and didn’t want to change it a bit.

Intercontinental Hotel at Sunset

Intercontinental Hotel at Sunset

That is the Intercontinental Hotel San Francisco in the center shadow. It’s the place that I spent my first night in San Francisco and as fate would have it, we can see it everyday from our apartment! Not only is it a great place to stay, but it’s also very nice to look at from the outside too. One of these days I’ll have to catch a pic in the sunlight when you can see the turquoise color that radiates from some of the windows.


Day #36 – A Photo A Day 2013

Today was errand day – I hardly sat still! Same goes for a bazillion people out on the streets of Downtown San Francisco today after some convention for optics going on at Moscone Center, and this gave me a chance to photograph people in motion.

I again used Pro HDR as I was walking and the results were rather interesting. I was walking west-ish on Market St. and the sun was setting – very bright light ahead of me and I could hardly see for all of my squinting, but I did notice that people walking toward me were casting some very interesting shadow patterns…

So, again I “shot from the hip”, this time so no one would be cognizant of me taking photos of them on approach and here is one of the results – un-filtered and un-edited.

HDR Shadows On The Sly

HDR Shadows On The Sly

This one is BEGGING for an edit, so watch for that to be coming soon(ish)!


Day #24 – A Photo A Day 2013

A busy busy day was had today, and nary a moment to snap a picture! (what a sad tale!)

However, I do have another pic from another section of the mural at 6th and Howard that I visited two days ago!

Street Art at 6th and Howard

Street Art at 6th and Howard

iPhone – I used the Pro HDR app once again! It was nice to have an overcast day because the lighting was perfect – no glare!


Day #23 – A Photo A Day 2013

Wandering around the city was the theme again today, but unfortunately I did not encounter any street art as spectacular as yesterday’s offering.

I did, however, find another appealing storefront display inside of Westfield San Francisco Centre that was begging to have it’s pic taken.

iPhone – HDR Pro app used again. I am growing quite fond of this app.

Storefront Display in Westfield San Francisco Centre

Storefront Display in Westfield San Francisco Centre


Day #11 – A Photo A Day 2013

Yerba Buena Gardens is a place that I visit often, not only because it is on my way to many destinations that I frequent, but also because it’s an awesome park with many things to look at and places to relax.

I am still playing with my the HDR app on my iPhone – likely this will be a trend for a while as I continue to put it through it’s paces.

Today’s pic was taken on my way home from City Target. It’s near a waterfall feature in the park.

Yerba Buena Park Reflection

Yerba Buena Park Reflection

It’s a bit grainy, but nonetheless I like the composition and the varying colors.


Day #10 – A Photo A Day 2013

Clouds! I LOVE interesting looking clouds and there aren’t as many opportunities to photograph them here in the Bay Area… at least not so far. If we DO get clouds, most of the time they are flat and un-interesting things with no depth at all, unlike what is commonly seen in the NW.

Not to say that the NW doesn’t have it’s share of boring flat cloud cover… because it most certainly does, but the chances of seeing epic fluffy thunderstorm laden clouds is much greater than here in San Francisco.

My eyes got their fill on the flight from Portland back to San Francisco, and of course I had my iPhone in hand to document them… only I thought that they needed a bit more depth, so I decided to add a little drama to them by using a bleach bypass effect on the picture using Photo FX app and then masking off the clouds and adjusting the red of the plane engine back to it’s normal bright red using the Colormania app. Yay for Virgin America Airlines! They have become my fave airlines for so many reasons.

Clouds Under The Airplane 01-09-13

Clouds Under The Airplane 01-09-13


Day #5 – A Photo A Day 2013

If there is one thing that I have learned, it is to never take anything in life for granted, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.

For personal reasons that I would rather not put in this forum, I have been doing quite a bit of serious thinking today. It has occurred to me that there are too many situations where I had opportunity to encourage others or to simply tell them how much they mean to me, yet I did not take the time (or have the courage) to express myself.

I think that all of us have a tendency to get caught up in the every day tasks of life and we take for granted that our loved ones know how we feel about them. Being aware of this is something that my Mom always tried to foster in me, and I do believe that has been something I have done all through my life, though sometimes I lapse into spells of complacency and forget to be more aware.

So, today’s pic is a message to all of my loved ones. I care about you. I will always be there for you and I appreciate you. I love you more than you could possibly know.

I Love You!

I Love You!


Day #4 – A Photo A Day 2013

Today was a busy day, and I did not take the time to snap any pictures! I have 5 more days in Portland, and I’m determined to get out and take some pics SOMEWHERE!

So, instead of posting something from my visit here, I’ll post a picture from this past Sunday.

Meet CoCo, my sister and brother in law’s sweet pug! She wasn’t wanting to cooperate for this photo, so it’s amazing that she is not more blurry!

CoCo the Pug

CoCo the Pug

I used the Color Mania app for iPhone to add the effects. Right now, this app is available for free! It’s easy to use – you don’t have to filter the whole picture since there is a masking option with an adjustable brush. Just trace the section of the picture that you want masked with your finger and voila!

One complaint about the app that I do have is that it doesn’t allow you to layer several filters in succession without saving, opening up your saved image, tracing your mask and layering another filter. That’s a bit tedious, especially so when you want the effect of several layers.


A Photo a Day – Day 7

Haunted Mansion Holiday Overlay

Day #7 of my week long photo challenge is today! This is officially my last photo post for this challenge, but I am seriously considering starting a NEW challenge beginning January 1st that will be a YEAR LONG photo challenge!

New Year’s resolutions are not my thing, so a new challenge would not be in honor of the new year… rather January 1st happens to be the next month after I made this decision to challenge myself. Let’s see if I can keep myself disciplined to upload at least one picture a day!

I always take at least one photo a day, so it shouldn’t be that hard to upload them, right? 😀

Today’s picture is from two weeks ago, at Disneyland in the Haunted Mansion, one of my VERY FAVORITE rides at Disneyland, and ESPECIALLY so when the Holiday Overlay is going on! (that’s up through Jan. 6, 2013 for this season’s run).

Haunted Mansion Holiday Overlay

Haunted Mansion Holiday Overlay

We were moving very slowly (I’m assuming they were slowing it down so a handicapped person could board a Doom Buggy) so I had time to snap this with my iPhone! I know we were JUST there, but I’m ready to go back! I just can’t get enough of Disneyland. 😀


Not All Headphones Are Created Equal

Sennheiser HD428

Good quality sound is VERY important to me, whether I’m listening to music or watching a movie – it can make or break an experience for me, which perhaps could be seen as a rather ridiculous thing to the average ear.

Am I saying that I have an above average ear? Perhaps. All I know is that my ears are particularly sensitive to various levels of sound, and I can quickly tell you if there is a particular frequency missing.

For example… Mid-range sound. That’s a frequency of 300-5000 Hz – where most significant audible sounds reside. For instance, if you have stereo sound, you’ll have two mid-range speakers that transmit those sound waves. Most of the time this is all you need to have a good sound experience, but if your ears are as picky as mine are, it’s not going to be good enough.

When I am looking to purchase new earbuds or headphones, I look for something that has a good balance of high, low and mid-range. That’s harder than it seems, because there are SO MANY choices out there! If you like to shop online like I do, then it’s even harder because you can’t try out the device before it’s shipped to your house.

Last April, I purchased a pair of ear buds, iLuv brand. They were $10.95 at the time on Amazon, and now they’re being offered for $5.95 – free shipping if you’re a member of Prime. (if you use Amazon quite a bit, then Prime is totally the way to go)

I read a ton of reviews about all sorts of brands… I was looking for something that not only had a good balance of sound frequencies, but also that would fit into my ears without falling out. Yes, I have small ear canal openings, and that makes it very difficult to find something that stays in my ears. I’ve even resorted to taping my iPhone ear buds in place before when my old nice pair that actually stayed in wore out.

Well-loved iLuv Earbuds

Well-loved iLuv Earbuds

I took a gamble, based solely on the reviews that I read from various Google searches – I didn’t actually try them out in person to see if I liked them. That gamble really paid off! They had enough treble to balance out that mid-range and there is an “ultra-bass boost” included so you get awesome bass as well. The rubber tips expand in your ear canal opening and do cancel out quite a bit of noise too, so that helps the audio quality quite a bit!

I got lucky – because they were so cheap, I circumvented my rule about trying out audio equipment before I actually purchase it. This time it worked!

Fast-forward to last night – a package arrived, an “early Christmas present” for me and my husband, from my husband. I didn’t know what it was… I was excited as he opened up the package…. inside were Sennheisers!

They weren’t at the top of their line – an affordable $75.00, so I knew that they would not have blow-my-socks-off sound, but I still expected a level of quality that is synonymous with the name.

Sennheiser HD428

Sennheiser HD428

On the headphones go – good quality – heck, better than most! I love the fact that it has a closed back, and around the ear cushioned pads that help block out the sounds around you and let you enjoy the sounds coming out of the speakers.

I was disappointed that mid-range sound seems to be the star. Where is the BASS?! A little of the higher frequencies are there, but even then it’s not enough. Are they a good pair of headphones? Yes. Are they worth $75.00? I think not. You could spend half that amount on a pair of similar looking headphones from a no-name brand and probably get the same quality.

As for me, I’ll stick with my iLuv earbuds. However, I’m wise enough to know that there are nicer earbuds and headphones with even better sounds with these; if there is anything I have learned is that not all products made by any specific company are going to be a good fit for me.

In this case, they are out-performing this level of Sennheiser’s earphones. I’ve more than gotten my $10.95 out of them, and they are still going strong!


Indiana Jones Ride Renovation

Temple of Mara

One of the primary things that Chris and I were excited about in regard to our trip to Disneyland last week was the opportunity to ride the

Indiana Jones Adventure: The Temple of the
Forbidden Eye
ride – I knew that it had been scheduled for renovation, something it greatly needed after 17 years of operation.

Not that the ride was not fun anymore, but there were certain elements that were, well, just plain worn out looking, or non-existent.

Instead of heading straight over to Indy, we ended up going to Space Mountain first, and then got sucked into Star Tours: The Adventure Continues (my thoughts on that ride will be in another post)

It was late in the day before we moseyed over to Adventureland to ride Indy.

Through the Adventureland gate we went, our excitement reflected in our quick steps, shining eyes and goofy grins… around the bend, we’re almost there! GREAT SCOTTS! NOOOOOOOOOO! A large temporary barrier was spanning the whole of the queue courtyard entrance, with a sign saying that it was temporarily closed! Tears began to well in our eyes as it dawned on us that this may very well be the first Disneyland trip we have taken together WITH NO INDY!!!

With stunned disbelief, we looked at each other in that horrific moment. NO INDY! This can’t be! It won’t be a proper visit to Disneyland without our beloved Indy!!!!
Chris was the first to shake himself out of his shock induced paralysis… he whipped out his phone, and before you could say “Bob’s your uncle”, he had found a ray of hope, glimmering through the high-res screen of his iPhone…

“Oh!” he said… “Indy will be opening on Friday, according to a few sources on Google”. I gave a hoot of happiness and said “are you sure?” Chris showed several sources – I then declared Friday to be “Indiana Jones Day”, determined to ride the thing as many times as possible to make up for almost a whole week of not being able to ride.

Tuesday, Wednesday… then Thursday… it was Indy Day Eve! We consulted Google once more to see if any info had changed – people were still saying Friday, so we kept our hopes up.

Thursday night back at the hotel, we discussed our game plan for the next day… “No early entry for Disneyland tomorrow, so we sleep in a little, grab breakfast and then head straight to Indy.” Upon waking on Friday morning we greeted each other with wide toothed grins and exclaimed “INDY TODAY!”

Take shower, brush teeth, quick makeup – I was ready in 15 minutes. Off to breakfast! We had a hearty breakfast at the Rainforest Café there in Downtown Disney and discussed how the day would go. Chris brought up a very good point – “What if it doesn’t open?”. I looked at him incredulously – “Nah. It’s been closed for 4 long months. Unless something went very wrong with the mechanics of the ride itself during renovation, they have to open it… right?” My confident opinion that it would be open just took a mighty blow, and my steadfast belief that we would get to ride that day suddenly started to waver a bit.

We finished breakfast, and gingerly headed toward the front entrance… through the security check – there is the courtyard! The lines to get in the gates weren’t too long, and soon we were speeding toward Adventureland, and INDY!

Through Adventureland, rounded that last bend in the path and NO! There are cast members out front of the ride queue saying that they “don’t know if anyone will get to ride today” – the barriers were down, and some people had lined up anyway. Chris and I also got in line and stayed for about 5 minutes until their insistent chatter of most likely not being open finally drove us away.

We decided to go to Tomorrowland to ride Space Mountain and Star Tours, and then decided to head back to Adventureland to take a peek…

There was a small line, and it was MOVING! A small “whoop!” of excitement escaped my lips and I grabbed Chris’ hand as we swiftly moved forward…. We get to ride! Then, horror of horrors, the man and his son in front of us were stopped. OH NO! In my head, I could hear Darth Vader Shouting NOOOOO!

The sweet cast member closing off the line explained that they were only letting a limited number of people on as they were still testing the ride.

Chris and I decided to stick it out, as did around 30 other people. They moved the line over against the retaining wall to the right of the queue entrance, where many of us promptly plopped our behinds down and whipped out our various mobile devices, hoping beyond hope that they would deem us worthy of being more than willing passengers on the next test run.

5 minutes pass… then 10… a nice cast member came over and struck up a conversation with us, started because of the “Just Married” buttons that we were sporting on our sweatshirts. (they gave them to us at check in at the Grand Californian when they learned why we were staying for the week) We spoke of weddings and college, San Francisco and Indy movies. Like most cast members she was very pleasant, but this lady was beyond nice – she was super fun to talk to! For the life of me I can’t remember her name… only that it was unusual and ended in ly, and I remember thinking that it was an interesting name to stick an “ly” at the end of.

After 5-10 minutes of chatting, she excused herself, explaining that she needed to “go get an update”. Quickly she walked away, and less than a minute returned to talk to us more… this time, she said that she loved chatting with us, and felt badly that we had waited in line so long… that’s when she handed us one of the go-to-the-head-of-the-line passes that they give you if you’re stuck on a ride and it breaks down. She explained that the pass was good for most rides in the Disneyland Park (darn! No good for the new Radiator Springs Raceway in the new Cars Land in California Adventure – oh well, still happy to receive this!) With a wink, she said “Not sure when we will get to let you guys on. Enjoy your pass!” Within 2 minutes, they opened up the queue, and I’m estimating roughly that 50 of us happy guests were escorted inside!

Chris and I were one of the first groups to get into one of the cars.

The air was electric with excitement! As we were boarding, I noticed there were some big wigs standing about taking note of how things were going, no doubt assessing how things were working now that the ride had a complete overhaul.

We were on our way! Into the Chamber of Destiny we go… which door would we be lead through? Ah! The Fountain of Eternal Youth! Through the chamber, around the corner and into the awesome ride that we have come to love so well!

We ended our ride with cheers all around our vehicle – as we stepped out, we noticed the big wigs smiling and even a few were laughing… we made sure to thank a few on our way out, and they heartily thanked us for riding!

On our way down the exit halls, Chris and I were talking about the changes to the ride when suddenly I realized that he had stopped talking and had this HUGE grin – apparently I was talking so rapidly in my excitement that I had rattled on for a couple of minutes! SO MUCH had been improved and I was really stoked about that.

There were SO many things improved! Here is a list of things that I noticed:

  • Queue line railings have all been replaced. Well, MOST. There were a few that you could tell were older (ones that I had noticed were replaced on our last visit in May of this year) but they were recent replacements anyway.
  • The “support” pole in the spike room has been fixed! It no longer has a permanent bend, and you no longer have to yank on it with all your strength to activate the dropping ceiling.
  • All of the murals in the queue have a fresh coat of paint. That must have taken FOREVER to touch up, since they were all hand-painted to begin with!
  • The scrims have all been repainted, and are much more vivid than they have been in years. Mara’s glowing/flashing eyes at the end of the first chamber halls have been fixed – they also have fog coming out of them again like they used to.
  • All of the lightning effects as you head toward Indy in the Tunnel of Torment have been improved, and it looks SO AWESOME! More lightning, and it’s brighter. I’m guessing they are using LED’s to backlight those now, but I don’t have confirmation.
  • The mist at the Gate of Doom where Indy is at the end of the Tunnel of Torment is back! Also, the green light emanating from behind the gates is brighter.
  • Everything that has black light reactive paint has been re-painted – everything glows properly again! Also, paint/effects in general have all been touched up or re-painted.
  • The Mummy Chamber looks awesome again! The skeletons and mummies that pop out at you really are popping out again, instead of barely going half way.
  • The puffs of air in the Bug Room work again.
  • The Pit has a better lava effect and the proper amount of thick steam (fog) hanging about again.
  • Also…. FIRE! The pyrotechnics in The Pit as well in Mara’s eye are back! Not having those for several years really took away from the ride experience in my opinion.
  • The Snake Temple room looks grand again, and the Cobra actually dives at you once more. Also, his fangs are popping down/out toward the front of his mouth instead of being stuck to the roof of his mouth like they were for so long
  • The bridge over The Pit has been widened on each side – not long before we rode, a cast member told us to watch for that. They explained that they had to make it compliant with California State laws so that if the ride broke down and there was a vehicle on the bridge, guests could easily and safely be evacuated. The bridge widening is not going to be evident unless you’ve ridden the ride many times before the renovation, and you’re looking for it. It didn’t add to or take away from the experience.
  • The Skull Room back lighting is better, and the scrim of the ghost/skeleton to the right of the backside of Mara and above you has been touched up and is much brighter.
  • The Rat Cave fog effect has been fixed.
  • The Dart Room paint effects look eerily improved! New paint, and I SWEAR that I don’t remember a glowing chamber door to the right at the very entrance of the room. Is that new, or do I just not remember it? The puffs of air that are to resemble darts whizzing at your head are working properly again, and they puff so hard that it blows your hair!
  • The Rolling Boulder effect has been greatly improved, largely due to the ball actually rolling again (which it had not done for a VERY long time), and also the improved lighting effects really added to it.

We were VERY happy with the renovations! It seems that there was a lot of love and care  given to the renovation of this beloved ride, and it really does show!

Chris and I rode it several times more that day and evening, and did we get sick of it? No way! We were so happy that we were able to see all of those wonderful improvements, and so thankful to get to experience the ride on the last day of our honeymoon. Perfect way to end our trip!