Monday, September 27, 2010

Celebrating 27...

27 years ago on September 27th, a 27 year old Sue Ann Boren gave birth to....ME! Thank goodness she did cause I have had a very blessed 27 years of living!

Though I tend to dread birthdays and bad-mouth getting older, it is a part of life that I just need to get used to! Luckily, birthdays don't have to be completely negative, and with the help of family and friends, this year mine was nothing short of positive!!!

(Gotta have pink cupcakes and pink champagne!!!)

A few weeks ago, one of my good friends asked me what I had planned to do for my birthday this year..."Good question? Nothing!" I told her! With the move, Nick deploying, and me planning my trip back to the States...the only birthday on my mind was my husband's, which clearly takes precedence over mine!!! Nick's birthday is two weeks before mine....and just barely got celebrated before he left! My friend then asked me if I would let her plan my birthday party??? “Of course,” I said!

Her idea was to go play Pachinko…

Pachinko is a game they play here in Japan that is a mixture between pin ball and a slot machine. Pachinko parlors are EVERYWHERE! Some of them are open 24/7, just like Vegas….it’s smokey, there’s alcohol a-plenty, and people obsessing over their need to win! Since there is a Pachinko place right down the street from my house, it made sense for us to pre-party at my house and then mosey down the street to try our luck at the popular Japanese game!

We did just that…

The girls met at my house (and since I had just moved in a little over a week prior, it was also a semi house-welcoming party) and we shared cupcakes and champagne!

Then we walked the 2 minutes from my house to the Pachinko place, where we attempted to play Pachinko like the Japanese! Not so surprisingly, we didn’t really understand how to play…even though we tried to research what to do prior, it was not so easy playing a game that was extremely foreign to us all!

(We didn't know what this sign represented...some advertisement for Pachinko on September 25...what God had to do with it, we didn't know....the Japanese tend to use American words randomly...but since it said God, we all just had to take a picture with it)
Some of the workers and fellow players tried to help us understand what to do….but again with the language barrier, it wasn’t easy! Once we sort-of got the concept, we were still confused as to why we weren’t winning and what winning actually meant!!!

After about 30 minutes, we all agreed that we could leave satisfied that we had at least attempted to play Pachinko, and that was good enough for us! We then set out in search of a popular bar that one of the girls had heard about.

(Our shoes at the bar...all lined up perfectly by our cute!)

We found the bar, which was in fact popular, and for good reason. We had great service and great Sake…definitely worth going back!

After our Sake, we headed back to my house for more Champagne and appetizers!

It was a perfect, low-key birthday party and I had great girl-friends to enjoy the evening with! Couldn’t have been a better night!

My party was on Saturday, but my actual birthday was this Monday. Sunday night at midnight I got a phone call from my very favorite person (uhem…Nick)! He was calling from the ship and wanted to be the first person to wish me a happy birthday! He had hid my present before he left…that night over the phone he helped me find it. Turns out, when he was on his last deployment he bought me a pearl necklace from the Philipeans and a little jewelry box to put them in from Korea! Love it!!!

I went to bed a very happy girl! The next day continued to be blissful…I got to skype with several family members, received many cards, packages, birthday messages all day, and two of my girlfriends brought over gifts from several people in our squadron! The best surprise all day though was the bouquet of flowers that Nick had delivered to my door!!! It was gorgeous and totally made my day!

I had dinner that evening with a few friends, ending my birthday with another cupcake and toast of champagne.

Then today, even though my birthday is technically over my two English students brought over pastries and hot tea to celebrate my birthday! Kawaii!!! Not going to lie, it is fun having a birthday in a foreign country… with the time change, it is my birthday here for a day, then in the States for another! Love it!

Thanks to everyone who made it so special!

I am 26 no longer! Here’s to a great year of being 27!!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Oh Fall how I love thee....

Last night a few girls and I got together to sit and sip on hot fall-themed beverages (ie-apple cider and Wassil) and snack on fall-themed treats (caramel covered apples and pumpkin upside down pie, to name a couple). We shared each other's company while snuggled up in our scarfs (having ditched our rain boots at the front door, as is the Japanese way here in Japan). Fall had officially arrived and with it came the much anticipated chilly wind and rain! Ooooh, how I LOVE fall!

The season has changed, and so has life for the Holmans! Nick has deployed again and we have FINALLY moved into our Japanese house! Nick is working hard and getting used to life on the BIG carrier (he was on a MUCH smaller ship before). I am working everyday myself, as well as trying to get this house looking like a home before I leave to go back to the States in less than 2 weeks!

I will have pictures of the new house posted before I leave for the States! There is so much to do and I am doing it all without Nick's bare with me and I will have them up very soon!

One of my favorite Fall pictures with my favorite person...
(In Norman, Oklahoma on May of 2007, where Fall is always so gorgeous! I miss that place and that cute man right now!)

Saturday, September 18, 2010


…Part II of our Labor Day Weekend trip! (Read previous post for Part I)

Nick and I once again took advantage of Japan’s bullet train to get to Hiroshima. Once there, we checked into the Hotel Granvia Hiroshima, which was also located in a prime spot right by the train station. And it was another lucky day for us, they had a double room available and upgraded us out of the standard twin beds!

We ditched our bags at the hotel and took a train, then a ferry over to Miyajima Island. The island is known for the famous “Floating” Torii Gate.

The weird-looking guy we saw in the form of pictures and statues all over Hiroshima...kinda creepy! Nick was imitating this little dude, using a spoon instead of a sword! Haha!
On the ferry, with the mountains in the background....
Our timing was perfect, we made it to the island, just after the water had risen enough for the O-torii gate to appear to be floating on the water. Simply Stunning!

View of the Torii from the ferry

To see the torii gate was the real reason we went to Miyajima Island, but the beach and the deer were what made it my favorite thing we did the entire weekend. From the minute we stepped onto the ferry, the water’s breeze whipped around us, giving an inviting slight chill…a glorious feeling after walking around for two days in record breaking heat! (It was reported in the local newspaper… “Temperature hits record 39.9C in Kyoto Prefecture on Sunday, marking the highest temperature ever for September in this country (Japan).” That’s almost 104 degrees, and in September no less! Lucky us!...Not!!!) So the wind and breeze were very much appreciated, and I already knew it was going to be a great evening.

To add to the amazing weather, we were also in great company. As we stepped off of the ferry, we were greeted by a herd of deer! As an animal lover, I was beside myself! The signs said to stay away from the deer as to not mess with their survival instincts in the wild, but who are they kidding…there are hundreds of deer just roaming around a tiny island, of course people are going to feed, take pictures of, and attempt to pet these adorable creatures. I was in that very same category of disobeying people.
Little fella trying to sneak something to eat out of one of the tourist's bag!
The deer were everywhere and of all ages and sizes. I spotted a hut that sold soft-serve (aka green tea ice cream, my obsession) and so naturally I had to get one. Well, with cute little deer eyeing my treat, I couldn’t be stingy and not share…so I did…with a large male deer who had even larger antlers. And then he followed us….of course he did, why wouldn’t he want more ice cream cone? Hehehee! Nick was not pleased with me, but I didn’t care, I had an admirer (albeit a hungry animal).

After our ice cream cones, Nick and I walked a bit further into the island (being followed by deer) to get a closer look at the torri gate, and see the Itsukushima Shrine. Around the edge of the shrine was a little beach, where we were able to sit in the sand and watch the sun set around the torri gate….picture perfect! Beautiful scenery, amazing weather, friendly deer at our side and on vacation in a foreign country, just holding hands and hoping time would stand still…it doesn’t get any better than that!

The Itsukushima Shrine
The picture I took with our camera...
The picture Nick took of me with our GOOD camera....big difference! (Of course, I am what is in focus in this picture, not the actual torri, so it is a bit different)
Dedicated Sake barrels...each one is decorated uniquely and every one has a different story...clearly I don't know them, considering they are written in Kanji!
Torii as the sun was setting...
Beautiful how the lights reflect off of the water...
The Pagoda in the background all lit up at night...
The gate was even more capturing at night...
This group of "teenager" deer were sneaking over to an area of the island where there weren't any deer. It was funny, like a group of kids, sneaking out at night...they definitely were acting suspicious!
Nick and I sat on the beach for a couple of hours, admiring the scenery, enjoying the weather and taking lots of pictures. After we finally left the island, taking a ferry back to the mainland, we set out in search of a good place to eat dinner. Rumor had it; eel was the popular thing to eat in Hiroshima. Naturally, that is exactly what we wanted to put in our tummies!

We got lucky and ended up walking into a place that had exactly what we were looking for! (Again, with the signs in Kanji, you just never know what you are walking in to!) A little Japanese man shuffled up to us and asked if we wanted to be seated…? “Of course!” Then the waiter walked up to us looking confused…”you speak Japanese?” she said. “No,” we say. She looked concerned and it appeared we were about to be told to l leave. We started to feel defeated, thinking we are about to be kicked out of the restaurant, which by the looks of the inside appeared to be a popular place among the locals! Then, all of a sudden a middle-aged man tells the waitress he will interpret for us! SCORE! He did just that, ordering us each a meal of fresh eel, rice and miso soup (for those of you who don’t know, eel is cooked, not raw and it is Nick and my favorite kind of sushi!)! Delicious!

The friendly helper also asked us if we liked Sake (Japanese rice wine) and we both said, “yes!” He then ordered us a bottle of local, top shelf Sake! It was so good, Nick and I bought a bottle to bring home as a souvenir! What a way to end the night!

The Sake, with Nick's Sake glass...for some reason, I got a plain glass, but Nick got this glass in the shape of a chicken!!!

The next day, our last day, Nick and I got up early and checked out of the hotel so that we could do plenty of site-seeing before we had to board the Shinkansen and go back home.

We then took a train car to the part of Hiroshima that was bombed during WWII. Before we even exited the train, we could see the famous “A-Bomb Dome.” It sits on the edge of the Peace Memorial Park, as a standing memory of what happened on that fatal day in 1945.

"1st Atomic bomb"....yes Nick can be somewhat tactless at times!

The only building that still stands EXACTLY how it was after the bomb hit..."Severely damaged, the structure remains standing as a constant reminder of the unprecedented horror and destructive power of nuclear weapons."
Nick and I taking a picture of the same thing again...

All along the park are several statues in memorial of the bombing...

As we walked into the Peace Memorial Museum, Nick informs me that they had welcomed their 60 millionth visitor just the day before... He was bummed he couldn’t be that “special” visitor. That was when I asked him, “well, did they get a prize or something?” He goes, “no, I just think it would be cool!” Oh Nick!

This watch was salvaged from the day of the stopped at exactly the minute the bomb hit. The minute hands sit stuck on 8:15 for eternity!
Child's tricycle and helmet

We spent quite a long time in the museum. It is very extensive and detailed. We didn’t have time to look at everything because they go into great detail about all the effects that the bomb had on the people of Hiroshima as well as a Japan as a whole. Nick and I couldn’t miss our train and our stomachs were telling us it was lunchtime, so after a few more pictures (I don’t exactly know if it was legal to actually take photos in the museum, but we did it anyways) we headed off to find one more meal.

With our bags in tow, we found a little eatery inside the train station and sat down to try what they had to offer. Unbeknownst to Nick and I, the place we picked to eat at was an okonomi-yaki restaurant…again, we had been told to try this while in Hiroshima because it’s one of their “famous specialties”! Okonomi-yaki is a Japanese pizza-pancake made on an iron griddle. The name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning "what you like" and yaki meaning "grilled." They are made with various ingredients, depending on the location. This place in particular specialized in oysters…bonus, cause that was our third and final thing on the list that we were told was a “must eat” while in Hiroshima!!!

The men grilling our meal...

As you can see from the menu, it is quite a mixture…I was not at all in like with this crazy food…breakfast and lunch mixed into a pizza/pancake, with seafood??? Gross… sounds like it?…well it was! Actually that is only my opinion cause Nick loved it, (not surprisingly) he actually ate all of his and half of mine!

After our nasty/yummy lunch, Nick and I boarded the Shinkansen for the final time to zoom zoom back to Atsugi. Trip over sadly…but a good one to be remembered!