Archive for the ‘Indigo’ Category

I have severe fondant envy. Despite having no skills whatsoever in the kitchen, I spend hour upon hour watching the various cake shows on cable, from the extreme decorating challenges to Ace of Cakes to Amazing Wedding Cakes. And so I signed myself  up for a “Fun with Fondant” class with dreams of one day being able to create a Taj Mahal (or some other noteworthy landmark) out of yellow cake, food coloring and fondant). Hoping for the best (i.e., a masterpiece worthy of Kerry Vincent’s lukewarm praise) but expecting the worst (i.e., a lopsided, wrinkled disaster that would cause me to incur Ms. Vincent’s withering gaze), I set about creating my work of art.

I started having trouble well before we even pulled out the dough-like icing for which the class was named. I just could not get my cake level. I shaved off more and more, only to end up with a severely sloping golden lump of a cake. The instructor – Judy, the owner of pieceocakenyc.com—tried to save me from myself, suggesting that I wait until the butter cream application to level it out. Little did she know how utterly butter cream-challenged I was. She soon learned, witnessing me lump and gouge my way through the second butter cream layer. She ultimately got me through (Judy’s great tip: dip your offset spatula into hot water intermittently when spreading the final coat of butter cream to make the butter cream layers smoother!) and I was ready to work on the kneading and rolling of the fondant. I kneaded and rolled and kneaded and rolled until I had the right size to life up and put on the cake. And so I did…only, much to my dismay I had worked the fondant so much that it looked as crepey as the skin of an octogenarian. I did my best to smooth it out with my hand but realized that I would really just need to work with it. So I did just that, using the lumps and bumps to create a “Winter Wonderland” cake, replete with snowdrifts and a red scarf-clad, carrot-nosed snowman.


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Misanthrope cabbie
Missed chance to kill senator
Saved girl, named hero.

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Vagabond strongman
Cruel to his simple helper
Sees true bond too late

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Death-obsessed young man
Meets eighty-something pistol
Learns to love her, life.

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(originally published on theglasshammer.com)

In my opinion, the best documentary films are compelling because they allow a glimpse of otherwise inaccessible lives and lifestyles. Think of some well-known documentaries and the stories they tell: the journey of the son of a famous yet enigmatic architect trying to piece together the story of his father’s double life  (My Architect); the struggle of quadriplegic young men and their quest for the wheelchair rugby Paralympics gold (Murderball); the differing expectations and, ultimately, life paths of upper and working class Brits over the course of 40+ years (The Up Series); the determination and quirkiness of a group of humans so intent on winning a new 4X4 truck that they ignore basic physical needs and stand for days in the heat hanging onto the vehicle as if for dear life (Hands on a Hard Body).

The truth is that I’ve been collecting subjects and planning out documentary films in my head for years. Maybe other people do this; however, I think it’s particularly odd because I am an energy/international business transactions attorney by training, who, until about a year ago, had no knowledge of how to actually make films.

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Well, I made it through the week relatively unscathed and completely without television. I wish I could say that I had some great epiphany or accomplished some great task, but I didn’t.

How did I fill the void that television left in my life? I surfed the internet like crazy; I listened to the radio; and I even played several games of backgammon (I had to look up the rules and set up since it had been so long since I last played). I did see two movies from the “Films to See” listThe Deer Hunter and 2001: A Space Odyssey-and read 1 1/2 books off of the Books List-Stumbling on Happiness and The Year of Living Biblically. But, in filling up all that spare time, I didn’t really accomplish as many things off The List as I would have hoped. And, I’m not really sure I learned anything except that I can actually live without television-and not miss it horribly once I pass through the initial withdrawal.

Shall I try for two? Nah, I really would like to catch up with Oprah, Jackie B., and all my other buddies to see what they’ve been up to for the past week.

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I am actually listening to myself think…and we all know nothing good can come of that.  Oh, for the mind-numbing pastime that is TV.  *sigh* 

And what have I been doing with all my time now that television no longer occupies it?  Nothing productive, that’s for sure. The bulk of my time has been spent skulking around Facebook, reading the minute details of people’s profiles and checking this blog’s stats.   Oh, the places I’ll go! And I have a television-free life to thank for it!

Five days to go.

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television2Hi, my name is GaijinGirl and I am a TV addict.  Admitting the problem is the first step to curing it, right?  But, do I really want to?  Do I want to give up the guilty pleasure of cheesy reality shows and political pundits, of fake talk show banter and the endless array of improbably crime scene investigation dramas?  


After six plus years of Japanese television (if you’ve seen I Survived a Japanese Game Show, you know my pain) and limited access to American shows via satelite television, it has been great to be able to choose from 100 channels (of nothing) now that I’m back in the US.  The things I had missed out on while in Japan include:  The Amazing Race, The Office, 30 Rock, The Sopranos (final season), West Wing (final season), Sex and the CIty (final season), and Friends (final couple of seasons).  Shows I sadly did NOT miss out on:  Outback Jack, Are You Hot?, LAX, and Mutant X (a poor man’s X-Men).  


Since my return, I’ve been making up for lost time.  And, because I have been working from home of late, television has been the backdrop to all my activities throughout the day.  I have liked listening to Meredith, Rachel, Tavis, Charlie, Bonnie, Ellen and Oprah while editing some articles for theglasshammer.com or while fighting my way through a dense Japanese-language email for a privilege review for my law job.


I’ve always worked best with background noise.  I’ve studied for all my big tests (the LSAT and the NY Bar included) in the food courts of various shopping malls.  Those locales offer the perfect background din, coupled with built-in sustenance sources and proximity to study break activities (read: people watching, window shopping, shoe purchasing). 


But, one purpose of The List is to get me to rethink the way I’ve always done things.  To see if a fresh perspective, an alternative route, or even a blank slate will provide me with a new truth about myself and life.  And while my giving up TV for one week is not going to bring about world peace, it may bring me some inner peace and quiet. Or maybe it will allow me to reconnect with radio and music, from which I’ve become rather disconnected over the years in Japan. (J-pop is all fine and good but not really something one can take on a regluar basis.)  Or maybe it will make me more productive, forcing me to turn to the many books on my reading pile or my piano, rather than the remote.  Or maybe it will just, in the end, convince me that television is my soulmate and that we should never be apart again.  Who knows?


This, the first day of the experiment, went pretty well. I put a big piece of paper over the TV in my bedroom (and hid the remote) so that I wouldn’t just unconsciously flip on the television when I woke up.  I moved with computer et. al. down to the kitchen to avoid temptation.  And, with the radio going full blast on a local rock station, I set about working. The day went pretty quickly, maybe because I didn’t have the reminder of each hour passing.  (Oh, it’s Oprah, it must be 4 PM.)  


The evening was the toughest though, knowing that I’m missing the season opener for 24 and other prime time shows. And, I keep feeling like I’m forgetting to do something.  And, I can actually hear the clock ticking.  Creepy.  


Six more days to go…

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Hey Buddy!

When I told friends and family that I was planning to go to Antarctica, the overwhelming response was: “why would you want to do that?”

My response was to wonder how someone could NOT want to go.  The penguins, exquisite ice formations, penguins, raw natural landscapes…and did I mention the penguins?

“But it is so cold!  And dangerous!”  Well, not really.  I mean, these are not the days of Shackelton.  I knew from the start that it was pretty unlikely that I would get trapped on an Antarctic island with no shelter or provisions waiting for the captain to return to rescue us (like the crew of the Endurance).  But, still, it is far from “civilization”; the jumping off point of Ushuaia, Argentina, is about 1200 km (approximately 746 miles) from Antarctica.  And, right as I was preparing to head down to South America to catch my ship, a different cruise ship hit some ice and sank (although all the passengers were rescued without incident).

We were warned from the outset that the passage via the Drake Channel would be rough going, which was, frankly, an understatement.  Many of my fellow travelers were room-bound with severe sea sickness, an ailment that I happily escaped.  I spent the first 24 hours of the trip enjoying the relatively unobstructed views of the marvelous gigantic ice formations floating by with greater and greater frequency as we got farther from the South American mainland.

To protect the environment and limit the stress on the wildlife, the number of people allowed to disembark at a given time (and even per day) is limited.  We passengers, divided into smaller groups, gathered in the holding area, clad in the ship-issued bright and bulky red jackets and life preservers, awaiting our turn to climb out onto the metal platform on the side of the ship and hop down into the 15-person inflatable Zodiac boats waiting to zoom us through the ice-laden waters towards the snow and rock-covered land.


I believe I can fly! I believe I can touch the sky!

The initial landings on the islands surrounding the Antarctic Peninsula, several of which are home to large colonies of chinstrap, Adele and Gentoo penguins.  While we were strictly prohibited from approaching the penguins, we were permitted to interact with them if the little guys came to check us out.  Lucky for us, the penguins’ curiosity—particularly about the bright red beings that had descended upon them—led to some wonderful interactions.

There were so many things to learn about them.  For example, did you know that penguin guano is pink because of the pink krill that is the staple of the penguin diet?  And it is rather, well, pungent.  Rather.  But somehow one gets so caught up in the cuteness of the anthropomorphic penguins that any unpleasantness is forgotten and time flies by.   I just cannot adequately express the joy I felt while watching penguins waddle down a beach or hop up a rock mountain (a pretty tall one at that – talk about perseverance), or slide along on their tummies.  Each time on shore, the time elapsed before I had a chance to take everything in, and, before I knew it, I had to climb back in the Zodiac and head back to the ship, so that the next group of passengers could have their time with the penguins.

Of course, penguins were not the only wildlife to see.  Sea birds, including various types of albatross, floated and dove gracefully behind the ship, waiting to see what sort of fish would turn up in the ship’s wake.  Sea lions abound on land, living peacefully (and lazily) next to penguin colonies.  And. on several occasions, whales appeared off the side of the ship, although I often missed the full breaching and only saw the water spouts. antarctica-016

The time on the ship was well spent as well, admiring the breathtaking landscapes.  There’s a stunning variety of  blues and greens and even nuances in the bright arctic whites.  Colossal snow-capped mountains, floating icebergs, crackling turquoise and cerulean ice shelves are all a part of the everyday in Antarctica.  For those who wanted to learn more about what they were seeing, there were also lectures by the experts and scientists traveling with us on topics ranging from the history of Antarctic expeditions to the effect of global warning and tourism on the 7th Continent and its wildlife.

After two weeks of “landings” and some fun nights of celebrating a 4 AM sunset–followed by a 6 AM sunrise–with new and old friends, we returned through the much-calmer Drake Passage to Ushuaia none the worse for wear, with dreams of returning someday to once again bond with penguins.


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#125 – Create a blog

How I Spent My Time in Fiji

How I Spent My Time in Fiji

I’ve been threatening to do this for a long time. I wrote the original version of my 400 before 40 list (in the “About” section) a couple of years ago while dreaming of making my escape from a corporate attorney position with a trading company in Japan.  I have since left the company and revised the list, taking into account new personal and professional goals.

I know it seems like a bit much – many people won’t have the opportunity to do most of the stuff on the list in their entire lifetime, let alone before 40.  And, rest assured, I recognize that I will likely not be able to get through the entire list myself.  But I believe in striving for the impossible, which is the very attitude that has allowed me to check some of the very big stuff like Antarctica, visiting all 7 continents, etc. off the list already.

So here’s to a fabulous 2009, filled with hope, love, prosperity and, above all, adventure!

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