Wednesday, November 18, 2015

So many little things to take care of!

While doing a massive batch of laundry today I realized I needed to look deeper into having a working cell phone in Japan. The Mr. suggested we each rent a phone at the Narita airport, but it looked to be $10-$15 US per day. We're there for 11 days. That's a little pricey.  I checked with my cell phone carrier and I was able to get a roaming package for about the cost of my usual monthly bill. I will have more than enough data to get me through emails, GPS and maps for half the cost of renting a phone there. If we get separated we can email each other.  Plus for $5 per day in the US I can use my phone as much as I want.  I'm going to need that for a few days for sure.

I had a longer look at our hotel in Tokyo.  Boy, do I ever feel like I'm not classy enough for that place! Most of the restaurants require "sophisticated" clothing.  Sorry, the best I can do is new jeans. There are other more casual dining options, so we're certainly not going to starve.  There is no free wifi in any of the hotel rooms, that costs extra.  Of course.  The pool is open weird hours (closes at 8:00 pm!), and guests have to pay $4 to use it.  Very strange.  Well, perhaps that offsets the fact that tipping is not a thing in Japan.  Guess that works out.  Oh, they also have one of those "traditional" Japanese communal baths, where you sit in a big pool naked with a bunch of other people.  Yeah, sorry, not going to happen. I'm way too prudish for that.

On that note, The Mr. attempted to buy a swimsuit today, but couldn't find what he was looking for. He wanted trunks, and all he could find were Speedos.  I just about died laughing.  I told him to buy them, I wouldn't mind, LOL!  He said no, not going to happen.  "You want me to scar all the people in a different country?  Pale fat man in a too-small Speedo?"  He was going to look for some online tonight, and if he can't find any, we will go out together Friday night to find some for him.

Another thing that crossed my mind was, how are we getting from the airport to the hotel?  The airport is an hour away, and the hotel didn't have its own shuttle. There were three options for transportation, ranging in price from $25 USD to $200 USD.  The cheap option has a bus whose final departure is only one hour after we land. We will have to get our luggage and get through customs and then find the place to get the bus tickets, so one hour may be cutting it too close. Option 2 is to take a bus to a train station, then near our hotel take a cab the rest of the way.  Option 3 is to take a cab the whole way.  I'd sure like to get on that bus if we can!  It will be about 6 pm by the time we get to the hotel, which is 2 am our time. We are going to be so tired.

I realized today that this probably qualifies for the most epic, and expensive, first date ever.  This is definitely not a cheap vacation, but it's going to be one of the best experiences of my life. :D

I wish I could leave tomorrow.  Two more sleeps!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Nothing left to do but wait!

Today I had a couple of things to pick up to finish off what I need for the trip - good padded hiking socks (for those rare days I'll actually wear my New Balance Minimus shoes and not my beloved Five Fingers, which apparently give Mr. TD&H the heebie-jeebies...we shall see) and picking up my Japanese currency.

These next two days are going to drag on so long...I only need to do some laundry and then I can start packing.

Well, let's hope there are no earthquakes or volcanic eruptions while we're there!  I wouldn't mind the eruptions if there wasn't the risk that it would interrupt air traffic.  Can't have that!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Trip prep complete. Now we just wait.

Today we got our hotels booked. He looked after Tokyo and managed (haha...PLANNED is more like it) to get us in a hotel only steps away from Tokyo Disneyland (bonus, they have the Harry Potter thing there! I want to see that!). He left the Kyoto/Osaka reservation up to me, but when I told him it was hard to get a place for five days straight over the weekend because everything was booked, he found a great hotel, again.  And guess where this one is?  If you guessed Universal Studios Osaka, you would be correct.

We are such nerds. Travelling halfway around the world for an American experience!  Well, it'll only be 2 days out of 10, so it's not so bad.  We really don't have an itinerary for anything else, other than the must-see Kit Kat Factory in Tokyo. His plan is to fly out with one suitcase, buy another there to fill with souvenirs and come home with two. My souvenir shopping will be more modest. I want a yukata and some Kit Kat bars. He intends to buy anything that's not nailed down.

We are completely stoked about finally hanging out together and going on this epic adventure. Friday can't come soon enough!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Family Discovery Day in the Mill Woods Stake

Today was fun. I was working on finalizing my presentation last night (leaving it to the last minute, as usual) and finally got it where I wanted it. Today the events started at the stake center at 10:00, and at 11:00 I taught a class of youth and a few adults about the Find a Grave database, more specifically how to use it for family history research and how to contribute to it by creating memorials and taking photographs of headstones.  Without doing a practice run it took me 50 minutes to do my spiel. I was a few minutes late starting (had to get the laptop set up to the projector), and in our last few minutes I let them browse for celebrity graves.  The kids seemed interested and I made them laugh a few times. It probably helped that I had a ton of energy for this. I am passionate about family history, and volunteering to photograph graves for Find a Grave - paying it forward, in a sense, in anticipation of others fulfilling my photo requests thousands of miles away - because it has opened doors to new photos and more names to add to the family tree.

There was a terrific turnout to this event. At noon we had lunch served to us - soups, buns, fruit and desserts - and then the classes continued into the afternoon.

Today my brothers were in Toronto attending a family reunion and birthday party for the youngest sibling of my mom's family, my uncle Jean-Marc, who turns 80 in two weeks. Obviously I wasn't there, as I was committed to this presentation a few months ago, and also committed two years ago to my big trip next week.  My brother took a copy of my mom's family history there for them to look through. I hope they're having a great turnout and lots of fun!

Mr. TD&H (tall, dark, and handsome) and I were supposed to finish booking our travel plans today (trains and hotels) but he was too tired from a busy day and went to bed early.  Can't wait to see him.  Hurry up Friday!

Friday, November 13, 2015

T minus seven days...

It's been a while since I last posted, but it's almost time for another trip of a lifetime!  In one week I will be in Houston, Texas, finally meeting my online significant other of five years before we take off to Japan for a week of adventure.

We have been planning the trip for two years, saving up and learning the language.  He is much better with Japanese than I am. He thinks we need to take extra money for bail because my so-called humorous attempts to mangle the language will end up with us in jail, hehe.  I dunno, maybe "oki-doki-ru" is actually a word there!

We will be there for 11 days, after we lose two days to travel and at least one there to recover from jet lag.  We will be visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, seeing Mount Fuji as we whiz by on the bullet train (Shinkansen), and perhaps stop in Nara Prefecture so he can pet the tame deer which wander around the grounds of a temple or shrine. We will also be looking for the Kit Kat factory in Tokyo and buying lots of strange flavored chocolate bars there.

It will be a fun trip, for sure! We are both bringing our laptops so we'll be watching movies and playing games on the long haul to the land of the rising sun.

It's been five years since I tried to upload a bunch of photos here, so maybe it works better now. I guess I will find out when I start trying to add them.

Anyhow, we're off in a week so I'll try to update as much as I can while we're there!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Homemade Toothpaste

In my attempts to wean myself from commercial hygiene products like shampoo, soap, and now toothpaste, I am happy to report that the blogosphere is a bountiful resource of information and testimonials about recipes for homemade scrubs, moisturizers, shampoos, soaps, laundry soap, all purpose cleaners, and toothpaste. I found a toothpaste recipe a few days ago on Crunchy Betty's blog and bought the ingredients yesterday. 

Homemade Coconut Oil Toothpaste 
3 tbsp coconut oil [this was news to me - coconut oil is more of a gel or puree than a liquid oil]
3 tbsp baking soda 
25 drops peppermint essential oil 
1 packet stevia 
2 tsp vegetable glycerin (optional) [note:  Some commenters on Crunchy Betty said glycerin wasn't good for your teeth so I chose to not use it.]
Put the coconut oil and baking soda in a bowl and mash up with a fork until blended. Add the peppermint essential oil, stevia and optional vegetable glycerin and continue to mash and stir until you’ve reached toothpaste consistency.

Being the geek that I am, and armed with my trusty digital kitchen scale, I weighed the ingredients and did a cost breakdown:
coconut oil - $9.99 for 414 ml
baking soda - $1.99 for 500 g
stevia - $10.99 for a box of 70 packets (works out to 1 g per packet)
peppermint essential oil - $8.99 for 30 ml

I weighed out the ingredients as called for in the recipe:
coconut oil - 45 ml (weighed 41 g)
baking soda - 49 g (volume 45 ml)
stevia - 1 g
peppermint essential oil - ended up with just less than 1/2 tsp, which worked out to an estimated 2.3 ml.

The ingredients mixed together really easily and smelled strongly of peppermint - just like the commercial stuff.  I rubbed some between my fingers and it had a very slightly gritty texture from the baking soda.

I dipped my toothbrush in and gave it a run.  First impression was a very salty taste from the baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).  Bleh.  New trick - keep my tongue away from this stuff while brushing.  In the past I briefly tried brushing with baking soda.  It tasted terrible, but my teeth felt clean - although it also seemed to dry out my mouth.  This new recipe, while salty, had a much nicer consistency.  My teeth definitely feel very clean, but the coconut oil left a really pleasant softness in my mouth.  The salty taste pretty much beat out the peppermint taste, so I may have to adjust either the stevia or peppermint amounts, or both, to get a better flavor.  I don't miss the sodium lauryl sulfate foam at all!

Cost Analysis
coconut oil - $9.99 ÷ 414 ml x 45 ml = $1.09
baking soda - $1.99 ÷ 500 g x 49 g = $0.20
stevia - $10.99 ÷ 70 = $0.16
peppermint essential oil - $8.99 ÷ 30 ml x 2.3 ml = $0.69
Grand total for approximately 92 ml of toothpaste = $2.14

So the cost is much cheaper than the Sensodyne I've been using for the last year or so, which is currently about $5.00 for a 100 ml tube - although the homemade stuff may not address the tooth sensitivity, the Sensodyne wasn't really eliminating that either.  If you can catch a sale you can get 100 ml tubes of Colgate for $1.29 or something, so that may be a better deal for you, but I'm liking the fact that I know exactly what my toothpaste ingredients are.  I also didn't shop around for coconut oil.  I could probably get a better price at a health food store or whole foods store.  The store I got it from had just a few jars of one brand, so that doesn't scream "we price competitively!" to me.

Another nice feature is that if I don't want to make any more toothpaste, I haven't wasted money on specialized ingredients.  I can use everything but the essential oil in the kitchen. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

July 5, 2010. The night out with Catherine.

So my cousin Catherine had been in contact with me during the first part of my road trip and wanted to get together while I was in Toronto. She came to the memorial service but didn't come to the cemetery or the gathering at Nicole's house.

To clarify, Catherine is a step-cousin from my dad's side of the family. My dad had an older brother, John, who was the the only one of the nine kids in his family who lived in Ontario. Everyone else was in Alberta and Saskatchewan. So, because of the distance, we didn't see him very often and I didn't know him very well. My dad seemed to think John was always grumpy about something, and I remember thinking that John looked very much like Christopher Plummer in The Sound of Music. Handsome guy. He had come to Calgary a few times but we didn't visit very long. I knew he was my uncle and that was about it. He passed away about 10 years ago after suffering from Parkinsons for many years.

John's second wife, Anne, had a daughter, Catherine, from her first marriage. Catherine was still young when John and Anne married, so she knew him quite well.

I met up with Catherine near her work after she was done for the day, and we went to a nearby restaurant and planned to see a movie afterwards. During the meal she talked about John and I was so happy to learn more about him. He was a father to her, and she loved him. I wish I could remember all she told me about him, but I do remember feeling really glad to know he was a happier person than I ever knew, and that Catherine appreciated and loved him. It made me wish I had known him better. Really, truly. I feel like I missed out knowing a really good man. Kind of sad how sometimes these good things don't come out until it's too late.

We talked about my trip and the places I would be seeing soon, and we talked about church. She seemed interested in what a tremendous positive influence my faith had on my life, and the confidence it gave me to take this long, adventurous trip on my own, brave enough to do so because I felt inspired to take this trip and felt totally safe and secure wherever I went. After our visit, when I was in Palmyra I ordered a church video for her, about the beginning part of the restoration of the church.

We went to see Toy Story 3, I think it was. She said it was the first movie she'd seen in a long time.

It was a nice visit, and it was really nice to get to know her better.