Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Happy Surprise

We had a big happy surprise yesterday.
A big, beautiful flower bunch arranged in a vase was delivered to us as a gift from Christine, Amar's Mum, and Peter.

The deliveryman said to me, who was totally amazed, "Your card is right here. Have a Great, WONDERFUL day!".
The card said:
"To Amar and Michiko, We are thinking of you. All of our love, Mum and Peter."

They sent this to cheer us up, and to show their compassion to our situation that I am on a medical treatment right now and the doctor advised us to wait to try to have a baby until my medical condition is improved.

It was such a thoughtful, and beautiful way to show their love and thoughts for us - I was deeply touched and the flower literally lightened up both my heart and our house.
Thank you, Christine (Mum), and Peter.

Harvesting more apples

(Amar is going to harvest apples.)

Since our apple tree is quite tall, a while ago I ordered online a tool called "fruit-picker". It arrived while Amar was still away for a conference, so I tried using it once by myself. It worked fine, but still I needed someone much taller than I to reach the apples hanging in much higher spots.

So last Friday, I got a longer pole to attach to the tool at a hardware store, and on his coming home I talked Amar into come out to the yard to harvest apples with me. Well, as you can imagine, it proved to be much more efficient and effective with Amar's height and with a longer pole than when I did it with a shorter pole... (^_^)

Let's see how tasty this apple is ...

Biting into it....

Hmm... it is quite a nice apple.

Aquired a porch dining set... finally!

Last Saturday, we finally found a nice porch dining set (with a decent, affordable price) for the backporch of our house, at our usual/favorite secondhand furniture shop.

We have been looking for a nice porch dining set (with a reasonable price) for a long time, but we found it very difficult --- because each time we see something we like, they usually cost something like $1000 or more! It was way beyond our budget limit, you see ;-) But finally, we hit the luck!
So ever since we got the set last Saturday, we have been enjoying our "outdoor life" significantly... having all the lunches and dinners in the porch. We even spent all the Sunday afternoon here, pretending "we are sitting in a open-air cafe" :-)

And listen to what Amar had to say repeatedly: "Hmmm... This IS very much like a NZ life style... Yes, BIG TIME!!"

I'm glad Amar is happy :-)

By the way, we also found a nice Biscotti Jar in the same thrift shop, and given that Amar is such a big fun of cookies in general, and biscottis in particular, we bought that biscotti jar as well. (The jar is on the table in the first photograph of this post.)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Europe Trip 1 - Visiting Maki and her family in Leamington Spa., England

(Mia playing in the garden)
*For more pictures relevant to this post, please jump to the photo album page Europe Trip 1 in my other website, Michiko's Bloomington Diary.

I made a 3-week trip to several countries in Europe (UK, France, Luxembourg and Denmark) in June this year (2007), mainly to visit old friends living in these countries.

I left Bloomington on May 28th and arrived in Heathrow Airport, London, on the 29th afternoon. My first destination was a small village called Leek Wooten, near Leamington Spa., England, to visit Maki, a friend from my Reading University days (10 years ago!), and her family.

Maki and Mark have two daughters, Mia (5 years old) and Mai (2 years old) - and they are both very sweet, lively and yet quite well-behaved (when their parents really want them to be ;-).

Mia remembered me from the last time we met in Japan 2 years ago and became friendly almost instantly. Mai, however, cried like a hell when she saw me first, so I almost lost my self-confidence in "being very friendly and likeable to children" --- but about half an hour later, Mai was pulling my arm to show me around the house and her favorite toys etc. So, fortunately, my confidence was saved (^^).

I was really impressed by their garden - it is very green first of all, and then there are so many pretty flowers and colors on its contours. Mia showed me around the garden on the first day and we played together for a while:-).

On the second day, Maki took me to a beautiful hotel called "Coombe Abbey Hotel" (whose building used to be an old abbey, apparently) and walked around its beautiful gardens after having lunch at the cafe inside the hotel.

We also visited a little river-side village in Coventry on the third day. Small villages like this and the one where Maki and her family live both look so idyllic and lovely, so typically what I think of as an "English countryside". Although I like Bloomington and love its big trees and a lot of greens, English countryside has definitely a very different atmosphere and landscapes from those in Bloomington.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Harvest from our Garden!

(Apples and basils from our backyard)

Yesterday morning, when I was watering the garden, I found a happy surprise!! --- APPLES on a tree in our yard!!!

An apple fell down and made a noise when I was watering around the tree, which made me notice that there are more of them around the tree and even more on the tree. So I collected all the dropped ones and some reachable ones on the tree that morning, and then I asked Amar to pick more in higher places when he came home later.

Wow, this is the first time ever in my life to have a fruit tree in my backyard - and I can tell you that it's quite a nice feeling (^^). I think that it adds both a color and a flavor to our daily life.

We so far tasted some of the apples in a few ways - just as they are, in smoothies, and in an apple yogurt cake, all of which proved very tasty. And I'm looking forward to making more of these and other things, too.

But well, maybe I should first obtain a tool which allows me to pick all the fruits borne at higher spots on the tree, before dreaming all that///

(More apples picked up by Amar and an apple yogurt cake)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

New Faces at our home - pots of house plants

Last weekend we bought a lot of house plants for our house - don't be surprised, for the first time since we moved to this house!!

We have been wanting to get some house plants for a long time, but just hadn't had time to do it together.

But anyway, we have got some now, and that's what all matters --- we are very happy to have these new faces at our home sweet home (^^).

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

An Incovenient Truth

Amar and I saw this film called "An Inconvenient Truth" the other night. It stars the former-vice-President Al Gore, who is said to have been studying about Global Warming issues since 1970s and has so far given lectures to public on this issue more than 1000 times all over the world. The film mainly consists of recording clips of his recent lecture, and the lecture is quite impressive and persuasive.

Moving to the US from Japan, my honest feelings are that the US is very much behind the time about ecological issues. I know there are many conscious and conscientious people as well in this country, but the US system (how the trash collection is organized in most states, counties, and cities; how much energy is wasted for unneccesary air-conditioning in so many places; lack of public transportation and thus how much oil is wasted on cars everyone is driving everywhere; etc.) I find it so ecologically unfriendly.

Especially when I see that there are still so many people in this country throwing any kinds of trash (can, glass, food, and paper) in the same trash bin all together, I feel so angry and then almost sad that I am so powerless, unable to change any of these I observe here almost every day.

I know it is not easy for us to change our habits nor for the government to change the already-existing system (such as public transport infrastracture, for example). And yet, I also believe that there are so many things every one of us can do to improve the situation. This film gives you many hints about what we as individuals can do if we want to.

So - if you haven't watched it yet, I recommend you to do so - the sooner, the better!

You can take a look at their official website at: http://www.climatecrisis.net/

Monday, August 6, 2007

Kristin's Zucchini Bread

Kristin, the gardener who has been helping me out since this Spring to set back our garden into a good shape, brought her Zucchini Bread, obviously one of her signature sweets, to our place the other day.

I was truly suprised by her generosity, but it was such a nice surprise, and the bread was DELICIOUS!! Very moist and not too sweet, and I loved it so much that I even asked her for the recipe(^^).

Kristin said that she wanted me to try her favorite zucchini bread because I have been occasionally asking her to try some of my bread or sweets when she came to work.
But honestly, I found it really sweet and generous of her to have made all the efforts to make the bread for me, and bring it to our house inspite that she didn't have work at our place that day. And I was touched because I knew that she has been really busy this summer, having to go back and forth between Florida and Bloomington, trying to give as much of her love and attention as possible to both her family and her work.

Our garden has become in much better shape, partly (largely) thanks to Kristin's work and guidance for me. I think I was really lucky to have found you, Kristin.

Conference in Awaji Island, Japan

(A view from Amar's hotel room - the view is a part of the International Conference Complex called "Awaji Yumebutai")

Amar attended a conference called ISNA-12 which took place in Awaji Island, Japan, from July 22nd to 27th.

Amar was very pleased to attend this conference, and he was quite happy with the talk he gave too. It seems that the conference turned out to be quite a successful, fruitful one and he was even thankful to my sister Tomoko because, were it not for her wedding, he wouldn't have attended this conference ;-)

I joined him in Awaji on the 26th evening, on which night they happened to have the formal conference dinner at the hotel annexed to the conference site. The dinner was very enjoyable, and both Amar and I enjoyed immensely the excellent food (of course!). ;-)

Prior to the dinner, we were invited to a short piece of a Ningyo-Joruri (Japanese Puppet Theater) show, which was quite a fun.
(The following photos were taken during the explanation of the puppets. The woman is a Japanese-English translator.)

The puppets are usually manipulated by a few puppeteers.

The puppets move as if they were real, alive humans.
In Ningyo-Joruri, a singer with a samisen instrument sings/narrates a dramatic story while puppeters move the puppets.

It was also great to meet Amar's supervisor in UCLA days, Fraser, again at this conference. He got knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of the United Kingdom, this year, for his achievement in chemistry. (So I should actually call him "Sir Fraser Stoddart" ;-) He has also just celebrated his 65th anniversary in his home country Scotland in June this year.
So, as a sign of our respect and friendship, Amar and I presented him a humble gift of my calligraphy piece with a Chinese character meaning "Creativity".
We chose the word as Amar knew that "Creativity" is one of the most cherished motto of Fraser's. But playful Fraser didn't miss the chance to jest, and said, "Oh --- yes, thank you for the encouragement. I'm getting there, quite soon! ;-)"
But he was also very kind to assure that he really liked the gift and would display it in the "Oriental Room" in his house.

Amar presenting the gift to Fraser

Some more views from the hotel room:

(The conference building - behind are forest on the hills)

(You can see the sea port as well)

Japan trip photos (2)

I uploaded more photos of our Japan trip in July - please check out my photo albums in Michiko's Bloomington Diary (click the link listed under the title of "My Other Sites" on the right-hand column and you will jump to my old blog site. Then please find the photo page "Japan Trip 3").

Amar enjoyed his stay in Japan a lot. The highlights are Tomoko (my sister)'s wedding, our visit to a famous local temple Engyoji Temple in Shosha Mountain, and his visit to Awaji Island for his conference.

As for his conference in Awaji, please read my next post in this blog.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Japan trip photos

I uploaded some of my Japan trip in July on my other blog site "Michiko's Bloomington Diary".

The photos are from Fukuoka (in Kyushu Island) and Kyoto.

Please click the title "Michiko's Bloomington Diary (my old blog)" in the right-hand column (under "My Other Sites") and then find the photo libraries titled "Japan Trip 1" and "Japan Trip 2".

There are more Japanese photos to be uploaded soon... the rest of the photos are from Himeji, my hometown, when Amar was staying with my family.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

We Are Home (from Japan trip)

So we are home again, this time from our trip to Japan.
I'm hoping to update my blog little by little, with my reports on Japan trip and then on Europe trip.

Meanwhile, please enjoy the photos of my sister's wedding which took place in Kobe, Japan, on July 21st, 2007, at my Photo Album website. (You can jump to the website by clicking the link to "Michiko's Bloomington Diary" on the right-hand column. Then please find the photo library page "My Sister's Wedding".)

Here is one of the best shots of the wedding reception: