Hangout Fest 2018!

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My sister has been in Pensacola, FL the past few months and earlier in the year, we decided to meet up for Hangout Fest, a three-day festival in Gulf Shores, AL.  There were several bands I was excited to see and I knew that at a festival like that, I’d make several new-to-me discoveries.

I flew in Friday morning and took an Uber to her house.  After I made sure that their bulldog Peaches wasn’t too disturbed with my presence, I let him out of the bedroom and gave him a few pats.  He was so happy, I received a drooly shake of the head.  Brady came home for lunch and we packed the car for the Fest.  I went to drop her off at work but good news- her afternoon class was cancelled.  Hooray!  After a stop at the Mini-Mart, we were off to Alabama!  We picked up some Everclear and dropped off our shuttle passes for resale by StubHub, which were successfully sold later that day.  Yay!  

We stayed at a group house rented by one of her classmates.  They were a really great group of people and a lot of fun to hang out with.  Brady and I stuck together all weekend while the group slightly shifted depending on who wanted to see which act.  There were several overlaps where choices had to be made.  Brady and I were pretty happy with our chosen line-up!

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Friday was the highlight day for me, which was why I had taken the day off.  We saw half of the Cold War Kids set, Portugal. The Man, Zedd, and the Killers.  I really liked Portugal, who had a more modern rock sound than their radio single would suggest.  Zedd was a surprise as he ended up DJ’g a huge party on the beach.  It was so much fun.  Finally, although I love the Killers, I feel like Brandon Flowers’ vocals have been better.  The band was good, though.  Maybe I’m just snobby since I’ve seen them with excellent shows in smaller venues.

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Saturday featured Anderson.Paak and the Free Nationals, Poolside, Halsey, and St Vincent.  I really liked Anderson.Paak- his energy was awesome.  Poolside was a bit more mellow and I didn’t realize that a band, rather than a computer/synth, made their sounds.  Brady and I spent an hour on “Corona Beach,” one of the three beach access points.  Swimming and taking a quick snooze made for a fantastic break.  As the evening approached, Halsey was awesome and way better than her radio singles would suggest.   Finally, St Vincent put on a great show, which we enjoyed rather than seeing the Chainsmokers, which we were both “meh” about.

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On Sunday, Brady dropped me off at the Florabama bar since my flight left at 7, which was too early to make going to the concert worth it.  I sold my ticket to a friend of hers and then spent the afternoon sunning, swimming, and drinking Bushwhackers.  It was a relaxing afternoon.

Then, it was off to the airport.  Although all the flights went through, there were massive delays I didn’t get to my final destination until 4:30.  People were going through TSA for the morning flights by the time we arrived.  Yuck.  Work was a little rough since I had such little sleep but it was worth it for an amazing weekend!

Marriage on Cinco de Mayo!

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Wedding Crashers!

Cinco de Mayo was extra special this year because my brother got married!  His now-wife Meg has been part of our family for years and it was so much fun to celebrate at their wedding!  

SMS and I made a weekend getaway out of it and started in Baltimore.  Our hotel was near the Mt Vernon District and we went on a really nice walk Friday morning.  We saw a small street fair.  Then I saw a sign for a Fabergé exhibit at the Walters Museum, which is free to the public!  After grabbing breakfast sandwiches at Jack and Zach food (which were delicious!), we went to the exbitit.  There beautiful pieces from the Faberge workshop.  The highlight of the collection were two Fabergé eggs of the approximately 50 ever made.  One egg, the Rose Trellis Egg, was given to Alexandra by Nicholas II on the birth of their son.  It was a love egg, green with garlands of patterned pink roses, 49 in all.  The other had a miniature of Gatchina castle.  Both eggs had exceptional fine-detail and I felt lucky to stumble across this treasure of an exhibit.  

Then, we were off to Annapolis and a blue crab experience.  We went to Cantler’s Riverside Inn.  I had never been but it was the real deal- picnic tables with brown paper covers for those who ordered crabs.  We ordered two to have the crab-cracking experience, in addition to a crab pretzel and crab cakes for SMS.  It was on Mill Creek, a little outside Annapolis and I recommend!  Afterwards, we walked through downtown Annapolis.  

Then, it was off to Alexandria and the rehearsal dinner.  My parents hosted it at Blackwell Hitch.  It was a fantastic party.  I saw my aunts and uncles, whom I really only see at family weddings.  Everyone seemed to be doing really well in life and it was great to catch up.  The food and drink were excellent.  It was a gorgeous venue and I definitely wouldn’t mind going to another event there!

The next day, SMS and I grabbed breakfast at the Farmer’s Market.  Ed and Meg had an afternoon wedding so it was time to get ready before I knew it.  I ordered a yellow dress from Rent the Runway, which worked out really well.  Brady wore another dress I had ordered so I felt I had done well for myself on the order.   Plus, I feel that the company is quite ethical after reading this editorial in the Times just a few days later.

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Best text of the weekend for the second-most important job! (After the tacos)

SMS and I had been tasked pre-wedding to pick up the taco catering bar.  We were excited to help, especially since food is so important.  Booze is more important but food is a close second!  I don’t know what I was thinking though.  For some reason, I thought we were picking up a few bags of tacos and then we’d come into the party like heroes, “Hey everyone, we brought the tacos.”  Instead, it was a huge order that included frames, sternos, pans and sides.  Our car was full.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a more awesome car- it was a true taco mobile!

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Then it was time for the wedding.  The ceremony was really sweet.  Before I knew it, Ed and Meg said I do/I will and they were husband and wife!  Family pictures weren’t too painful and then it was time to party.  It was a lot of mingling, talking, drinking, eating and a little dancing. 

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Ok, ok, kind of an outtake but it’s my blog and it’s staying!

The after-party was in Old Town.  The next day, we went to a small family brunch at Mom and Dad’s.  Then it was time for SMS to head out.  I spent the rest of the day with my folks, followed by dinner with Ed, Meg and friends in downtown DC.  We hung out for the rest of the night at his friends’ suite, which was really a lot of fun.  They know a really awesome group of people.  I reluctantly left shortly after midnight since I had to get up at 4 the next morning.  Yuck.  After a fun weekend, it was pretty rough to end on such a sleep-deprived note but it was totally worth it!

Boston Marathon 2018

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Last year, Jyostna and I requalified for the Boston Marathon.  Unfortunately for our dreams of running together, my time was too slow to make the registration cut-off time.  Yes, I know, how are there seemingly two different standards for entering the race?  Well, since the Boston Marathon has become increasingly popular, a stricter cut-off time has been used the last five or so years rather than the listed qualifying time, which is based on age and gender.  The year we both ran (2016), the cut-off time was about a minute and a half faster than the qualifying time.  I thought my time for 2017 would be ok since I ran just under two minutes faster but the cut-off turned out to be about 2.5 minutes.   Sad trombone sound!

Since it was so much fun last year, I thought it would be fun to spectate.  Well, Mother Nature had a different idea of fun (more later!) but Jyotsna and I decided to have a Boston weekend getaway.  

We met up mid-morning Saturday.  We were in the Seaport area, where the expo was held this year.  We walked out our hotel and saw a line straight ahead. We joined it but it didn’t seem to be marathon-related!  Instead, it was for a limited release beer for Trillion, a well-known (except to us, I guess) Boston microbrewery.  Since I had never stood in line for a beer release before, we decided to do something new.

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A few purchased beers later, we dropped them off at the hotel and headed to the Expo.  It was  a little less crazy than last year although that’s not saying much.  Jyotsna picked up her number and then it was time to shop.  I bought a pair of running recover flip-flops and a muscle massager.  When SMS heard about the later, he exclaimed that I was going to end up with a closet full.  He may be right!  

After the Expo, we headed out to dinner.  We went to Pastoral ARTisan near our hotel since a lot of places were really crowded. It was a mellow dinner and then we headed back to the room.  Sunday was a beautiful day and again, we were pretty mellow.  We went to the Isabella Gardiner Museum, which was beautiful.  It was really fun to show one of my favorite museums to a friend who had never been before.  The highlight was an exhibit of four Fra Angelico reliquaries that had not been reunited in years.  The Gardiner owns one and the Florence Museo di San Marco owns the other three.  They were masterpieces and displayed really well.  I also enjoyed exploring the rooms in the main museum for all the John Singer Sargent paintings, since he is one of my favorites.

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Aperol Spritzes at The Beehive

For dinner, we had a pasta meal at Sportello.  I had an interesting pasta dish that looked like the Buggle brand of chips.  It was incredibly tasty and different from any pasta dish I think I could make.  

Then, it was Marathon Monday.  One word for the weather: YUCK!  It was rainy, windy, and cold.  Jytosna was an incredibly brave soul and headed out into the elements.  I stayed in bed.  Hahahaha.  I went out for coffee then came back and watched the race on TV for several miles.  Then I walked from the Seaport area to the finish line area.  The security was impressive but not overwhelming.  I got there about 5 minutes before the first runner crossed.  It was an America woman!  Go Desi Linden!  A few more women finished then the first male crossed- an amateur from Japan.  Gamba!  What tenacity.  Relative to their normal speeds, they were moving slowly and it was clear the weather had a major, major effect.

After seeing the elites, I stayed out to cheer for a bit but then took shelter at the Oofos party.  Jyotsna and I had been invited the day before.  I thought there would be more regular customers, but it seemed to be more of a corporate party and I felt like a bit of a crasher.  Everyone was very nice though and once they heard I was in the Navy and had run the Boston last year, I was golden.  

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Then I got a text alert!  Jyostna had just crossed the 40K mark!  I ran out, saw her on Heldesford and gave a loud cheer!  Then I cut through to Bolyston and cheered her on there!  She looked strong!  After she crossed the line, I decided to hop the fence so we wouldn’t get separated.  SMS says I look for reasons to hop fences, especially if cops are nearby.  That’s not true!  If it were, I would work harder so I could so it with Parkour flare!

I’m glad we met up because she was shivering and fatigued!  We got an Uber after going through the line then it was time to get dry and go out!  The rain let up a bit and we headed over to North End.  We ate at Neptune, which we were so happy to get into because last year we were unable to.  At the restaurant, J saw a woman she sat next to on the bus to Hopkinstown.  Such a small world!  Then we went to Mike’s pastries, where Jyotsna got several well-deserved cookies.  

The next day, J left on the early side and I was not too far behind her.  I got another nice coffee before I left and then took the Express Bus to Logan.  It was an awesome weekend and I was so happy I got to cheer on my amazing friend!

Sad postscript: My cracked iPhone met its demise that weekend.  Apparently, waterproof jackets have poor-to-none waterproofing of the external pockets.  I lost quite a few photos (backup those phones, kids!) but fortunately due to this blog, I have the highlights from my newly acquired photo gap.

Southern Road Trip, Day 9: Apalachicola to Savannah

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This is real! No zoom, no filter, just manatee goodness!!

After a quick coffee shop breakfast, SMS and I headed towards Wakulla Springs State Park.  It was the last stop in my inspiration article  and I wanted to be complete.  

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It is an absolutely amazing place and I’m so glad we went.  We arrived and headed to the ticket window for the boat cruise, which I had read was completely worth the time.  Unfortunately, we stopped at the bathroom first which meant they sold out of the next cruise just before we got to the head of the line.  We had to wait for 90 minutes, but we figured that would be ok although we definitely considered ditching it.  I’m so glad we didn’t!

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While we waited for our cruise time, we went swimming in the roped-off swimming area.  The diving platform is over the deepest part of the Spring, where the underwater source of the Springs emerges over 100 ft deep.  Very rarely, it is clear enough for a glass-bottom boat to go out but the ranger said it only happens a few times a year since the water is usually murky.

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When the lifeguard was asked what keeps the alligators out from the roped off area, he casually replied, “Absolutely nothing.”

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We jumped off the platform, swam around, and then got out to towel dry off.  We went into the main lodge to try drinks from the old-fashioned soda fountain.  I’m glad we went then because there was no line while later, it was a complete mob scene.  We tried the old-fashioned cherry soda and blackberry soda, in addition to a Ginger Yip (a vanilla milkshake made with ginger ale).  Everything was delicious.

Then, it was time for our boat tour.  It was a 90 minute river tour where we saw the incredible scenery, lots of different birds, several alligators of various sizes, and MANATEES, including a mother and baby.  It was amazing.  I am so happy we went.  Our ranger guide was really into the river and very well-informed.

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After the cruise, we drove to Jacksonville where SMS got a haircut.  He looked great.  Then it was on to Georgia where we stopped at Peach World, for all things peach.  We sampled several items, bought peaches and filled up on the most expensive gas around for miles.

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Then it was on to Savannah, where we were staying at the Kehoe House.  We arrived after dark and went for a quick walk before a huge thunderstorm rolled in.  We partook of the port and dessert bar in the downstairs living room before heading upstairs.  The bedroom was amazing with its own balcony overlooking the square.  

Last week

My last full work week in Japan was pretty busy with a lot of social events and farewell moments.  At work, the corpsmen and I went out to lunch on Thursday where they gave me a sayonara kokeshi doll signed by multiple people in DSS.  Jenn also gave me a paddle that is pretty awesome.  Now my memento plaques from Yokosuka include a paddle and a “skateboard,” my cut-out of the USS Kitty Hawk from my time there.

The awesome sushi-go-round underneath Yokosuka station

On Thursday, I went to a yakitori restaurant with Adam, Jen and Amanda.  While I was waiting for them, I got my one and only chu-hi stand chu-hi during this tour.  I picked the ume flavor and it was delicious!  We were near Shiori since we wanted to go to Radianza, an awesome Italian place we had been in the past but unfortunately, all of the tables were full.  The yakitori was a nice back-up and we stayed with mainly vegetarian choices since we were out with Adam and Jen.

Friday was a wine night!  I met up with Brooke and Melinda at the World Wine Bar where they had gotten talked into a deal and purchased three bottles.  We only made it through one there but we met up with the rest of the group at Charcoal Grill Green.  Alaina and Stephanie actually came to WWB minutes before we left.  Emily and Stacie were at CGG and we had the most delicious dinner.  We all shared grilled Caesar salad and had our own entrees.  I had the lamb which was phenomenal although the bite of wasabi coleslaw that accompanied the pork belly was amazing.  I must figure out how to  recreate!  Afterwards, Brooke, Melinda and I made a slightly unnecessary trip back to WWB but it was really fun to hang out with them.   It was an excellent last night out!


Then, it was time to go.  It was a crazy morning since I was still wrapping things up at work and mailing my commemorative paddle since it didn’t fit into any bags.  And, oh yeah, I met up with Melinda and Emily to grab a coffee and do some quick knife shopping.  I took the 1230 bus from PSD and Lasonya, her husband, Kazu-san and his son were all there to wave me off.  It was really sweet and so nice to have a send-off!

A slighty saner moment, enjoying Cremia ice cream

Narita ended up being a slightly crazy experience.  I was on a United flight, which is great since I’m a Gold Premier member after all of my flying last year.  I hung out in the lounge, used the WiFi and chilled out before the flight.  Unfortunately, there were two United flights going to SFO only 20 minutes apart.  I thought I was on the 5:10 flight since my ticket said that boarding was at 1655 and departure was at 1710.  I didn’t actually look at the flight number though and, for reasons I still don’t understand based on what was on my ticket time-wise, I was actually on the 1650 plane which was being held for me as I ran from one side of Narita South terminal to the other.  Literally.  The flights were boarding on the exact opposite ends.  I remember thinking “What idiot would mess up their flight?” and I even looked at the list of names one woman was carrying around to snicker at the fools.  (I wasn’t on that list!).  Unfortunately, someone other than me got the last laugh.  I got to board my flight out of breath and sweaty.  Fortunately, people were still moving around so it wasn’t like everyone was sitting and staring, stone-faced.  But it wasn’t the ideal end although it was dramatic!  

Winding down in Japan…

My last 10 days in Japan felt like a blur of work, friends and food.  All the apartment stuff was over although there was still a lot to do for checking out.  When checking out, a person gets a 2 page hospital check-out sheet and a one page base check out sheet.  It feels like a demented scavenger hunt.  It’s not exactly a waste of time but it definitely feels like bad timing since things are already stressful and the check-out process adds what feels like hundreds of “to-do’s” to an already very long list.  In short, call the “whambulance.”
Flowers from my MLC colleagues- it made my day!

There were a lot of highlights though.  On Tuesday the 11th, I went out with a few of the MLC’s from the case referral office and had a wonderful izakaya dinner with Kazu-san, Yumiko-san, Muchiko-san and Lasonya.  We had such a fun time and the food was excellent- lots of delicious fried chicken! 

Hotaru Cheese Tofu


Friday was pretty mellow with a low-key dinner at Hotaru on my own.  I ordered the cheese tofu, which is soft tofu, gorgonzola cheese, cream combined with figs and honey on top.  It is amazing. So, so delicious.  The portion size was generous for one person but since that was my dinner and I’m not a quitter, I got it done.

On Saturday, I had a pretty full day that started with a few hours of work, Body Pump and then heading out to Yokohama.  I went shopping in Yokohama since I had our apartment deposit money that I preferred to spend rather than lose money converting it back into dollars.  When I got there, it was 98 yen for each dollar and now it is 125 yen for each dollar.  So rather than lose 20% of the value, I bought a few things I had my eye on like a new wallet and birkenstocks.  I also went to Flying Tiger in Yokohama where I bought a replacement tacky jewelry holder for the one I received from Mom a few Christmas’ ago that had chipped due to an ill-advised fall from the dresser to the floor.  So, yes, money well-spent!  I did check the prices to make sure that it was a deal and I wasn’t buying something that was way higher-priced in Japan vs the US.  

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I also wandered over to the Red Brick warehouse area which was great because the weather was gorgeous.  I bought a wallet at sot and walked towards the water where there were a lot of cos-play/Steampunk teenagers out in their finest attire.  Oh, and four Disney Princesses.


The princesses from afar.  I’m sure Elsa was the favorite

After shopping, I headed back to Yokosuka to see Pitch Perfect 2 with Adam, Jen and Amanda.  It was awesome because we went out for dinner afterwards at Giovanna’s followed by an hour of karaoke.  It was the perfect way to end a night after seeing a movie about acapella!

Good-bye Mr. Pinks!

Sunday started with the huge highlight of selling our car!!!  The buyer came out of nowhere and was trying to buy in a hurry since she was deploying on Tuesday.  I was more than happy to help and they said yes to the car!  I was going to do the LTO run but they ended up taking the car themselves on Monday so I knocked the appropriate amount off the price.  SMS and I were just super happy to sell it and we made a slight amount off of it!

The olive tree in the outdoor garden at Farm to You, my favorite Kamakura restaurant

But, back to Sunday!  I went to Kamakura for some more shopping.  On the way, I walked through Verney Park where there was a fun local festival and I bought some delicious fried treats.  In Kamakura, I had tea at the Farm to You restaurant where I hung out in the beautiful outdoor patio garden area. Then I made my way over to Zushi for another farewell BBQ (but not for me).   It was a lot of fun and I went out to Matchpoint afterwards with Stephanie and Alaina where there was more delicious food to be had.  It was an awesome weekend and then it was time to start my last work week in Japan.

Early June in Japan

Steak Restaurant Soma

June was a shortened work month, but I was on call a lot in a (very small) attempt of softening the blow of having the call pool get cut by 1/3.  SMS and I still got to do a lot around Yokosuka.  We went to Restaurant Soma, which was recommended by one of my Japanese colleagues.  It’s an incredible steakhouse.  It features different regions on a nightly basis and although we really wanted to try Hayama beef, we ended up going on a Kobe night.  No matter, it was delicious!  We ordered one fillet and one tenderloin with an accompanying set, which included a small appetizer, salad, rice, miso soup and sorbet dessert.  It was all terrific but the steak was absolutely incredible.  The tenderloin was very tender and the fillet was completely butter-like and melt in your mouth.  I highly recommend the place and SMS and I were very glad we went.

My awesome necklace!

That weekend, SMS headed down to Osaka for a 2 day, 1 night trip to see his business school friend Yusuke.  He had a great time and went to a delicious yakitori restaurant.  He also brought back the most beautiful necklace for me, which had been given to him by Yusuke’s Mom.  She has been making these necklaces for years.  They are incredibly intricate and beautiful.  I felt very lucky!

My beautiful anniversary flowers

When we were initially planning our move, SMS and I had talked about him going back early to get some much needed San Diego time.  Instead, we decided to do it after our anniversary.  Yes!  It’s been two years!  Time flies except maybe for some cold/windy/gale-like days in Yokosuka.  Those always seem a little long!  SMS and I were so happy to be together and I felt very luck with some beautiful flowers brought to me during my work day!

Fried Shrimp salad (foreground) and Kimchi pancake (Background)

That night, we wanted to go to Hananoya, a fancy French restaurant in Yokosuka owned by a chef who used to work at Daniel, a chi chi restaurant in Manhattan.  However, Monday is not the day to pursue fine dining since Hananoya was closed as were two other French restaurants in Yokosuka.  We ended up at a nice izakaya Bonzai, which was pretty delicious and a nice way to celebrate our anniversary out.

The next night was SMS’ last night in Japan.  We went to a BBQ party in Hayama and saw the most beautiful sunset we’d seen in Japan.  Not only are the colors gorgeous, but Mt. Fuji is in the background.  It’s on our favorite beach Morito with the temple off to the left with a torii gate in the ocean (not visible above).

The next day, SMS was off to San Diego and although I was sad to see him go, it was a pretty daunting list of “To-do’s” that lay ahead of me for the next 10 days!