Japan Adventures: Kyoto Part 1


Our Airbnb in Kyoto


Shopping in Kyoto


Ryoan-ji Temple and gardens


Those colors!


Karesansui (rock) garden at Ryoan-ji




Taizo-in Temple




I love all of it!




Traveling monk


The colors are so pretty!


Mike and Philip in Kyoto


Ryoan-ji steps




I love Kyoto!

Kyoto was the place I had been dreaming about visiting for as long as I can remember. Pictures don’t do it justice- Kyoto needs to be felt. I arrived and completely fell in love with it. When a place you visit for the first time just completely blows your mind. Kyoto is that place for me.

We rented a wonderful house in Kyoto through Airbnb and the seven of us enjoyed our Kyoto neighborhood so much: a comfortable home, warmth from the kotatsu table (look it up!), the Family Mart a short 5 minute walk away, the takoyaki and yakisoba noodle place right next door, temples within any walking direction, friendly neighborhood, vending machines on every corner and the slow pace we were looking forward to after our last week in Japan.

Carre and I were so excited to go explore the temples. Visiting the Ryoan-ji Temple was a highlight for me on this trip. We visited here twice, it was a 5 minute walk from the house. Philosopher’s walk and Taizo-in Temple were another 5 minute walk. Like I mentioned, Kyoto is one of those places that must be felt. It has a certain feel to it, a sense of wonder, mystery. Then the beauty of the place just takes your breath away. Carre and I would say, just when you’d thought you’d seen the most beautiful thing, something new would be equally, if not more lovely. This happened so many times! It is one of my favorite places and I cannot wait to go back and see more, feel more and explore more.

Arashiyama in Kyoto is the next blog post. Stay tuned!


Ponder: The Meaning of Life


I don’t know if you’re like me but I have a tendency to get sucked into a rabbit hole on the internet. You begin a search on one thing and end up somewhere completely different. I think its pretty cool though when it happens. I stumbled across this pretty neat letter the other day written by Hunter S. Thompson back in 1958. He penned this letter to a friend asking him for advice on the meaning of life.

I find his letter charming, insightful and one to ponder every now and then. I have a tendency to collect and revisit this sort of thing- a mental floss for the brain. LOL


April 22, 1958

Dear Hume,

You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal — to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.

I am not a fool, but I respect your sincerity in asking my advice. I ask you though, in listening to what I say, to remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine. If I were to attempt to give you specific advice, it would be too much like the blind leading the blind.

To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles … ” (Shakespeare)

And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect — between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.

But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty. So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing. How can a man be sure he’s not after the “big rock candy mountain,” the enticing sugar-candy goal that has little taste and no substance?

The answer — and, in a sense, the tragedy of life — is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which CANNOT be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you. Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.

So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?

The answer, then, must not deal with goals at all, or not with tangible goals, anyway. It would take reams of paper to develop this subject to fulfillment. God only knows how many books have been written on “the meaning of man” and that sort of thing, and god only knows how many people have pondered the subject. (I use the term “god only knows” purely as an expression.) There’s very little sense in my trying to give it up to you in the proverbial nutshell, because I’m the first to admit my absolute lack of qualifications for reducing the meaning of life to one or two paragraphs.

I’m going to steer clear of the word “existentialism,” but you might keep it in mind as a key of sorts. You might also try something called “Being and Nothingness” by Jean-Paul Sartre, and another little thing called “Existentialism: From Dostoyevsky to Sartre.” These are merely suggestions. If you’re genuinely satisfied with what you are and what you’re doing, then give those books a wide berth. (Let sleeping dogs lie.) But back to the answer. As I said, to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.

But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors — but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires — including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.

As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).

In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life — the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.

Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN — and here is the essence of all I’ve said — you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.

Naturally, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ve lived a relatively narrow life, a vertical rather than a horizontal existence. So it isn’t any too difficult to understand why you seem to feel the way you do. But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.

So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”

And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know — is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.

If I don’t call this to a halt, I’m going to find myself writing a book. I hope it’s not as confusing as it looks at first glance. Keep in mind, of course, that this is MY WAY of looking at things. I happen to think that it’s pretty generally applicable, but you may not. Each of us has to create our own credo — this merely happens to be mine.

If any part of it doesn’t seem to make sense, by all means call it to my attention. I’m not trying to send you out “on the road” in search of Valhalla, but merely pointing out that it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that — no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company.

And that’s it for now. Until I hear from you again, I remain,
Your friend,


Kawai Kanjiro: The Humble Potter

Kawai Kanjiro, (1890-1966), was known as a major contributor to the Mingei (traditional folk arts and crafts movement). More than just a potter and wood craftsman, he was the noblest of all kinds of person.

kawai via esotericsurvey.blogspot

image via esotericsurvey.blogspot

Kanjiro was an artist who wanted to remain a maker empowered by his craft, rather than as artist qualified by his fame or notoriety. He never signed a single piece of pottery. He said “my work itself is my signature.”

kawai via vam.ac.uk

image via vam.ac.uk

kawai kanjiro via studiokotokoto

image via studiokotokoto.com

Kawai_Kanjiro via esotericsurvey.blogspot

image via esotericsurvey.blogspot

kawai kanjiro multi chamber kiln

image via studiokotokoto.com

During his lifetime, Kanjiro turned down all official honors and rewards, including Japan’s Living National Treasure. He was a man unmotivated by material possessions and simply wanted to create for the sake of creating.

He continued to explore who he was through the things he touched and brought to life. This seemed to be a life long passion that became part of who he was. He said “to see my new self, I work.” This was a very important part of his craft. Constant improvement- “kaizen”. He believed “lifestyle is work, work is lifestyle.” They were one and the same.

Humble, unpretentious, real- He never lost touch with common folk and greatly respected the farmers in the countryside. “They are the kind of people we can never do without,” he wrote.


Elfin Forest


Nestled in the hills of San Diego’s North County, Elfin Forest is 784 acres of hiking trails.



We spotted some tiny little mushrooms


Gushing creek after the rain



The area has a lot of reported paranormal activity


Perfect day to hike


Olivenhain lake and dam

Into The Wild


Albert Einstein once said “Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.”

Going into the wild does so much. For me, it clears the head, recharges the spirit, opens up the senses and invigorates the soul. It really is the only therapy one needs.

Modern Kanzashi Hair Ornament

kanzashi DIY

French clip style

kanzashi DIY 7

Kimi’s pretty kanzashi hair ornament

kanzashi DIY 1

alligator and french clip style

kanzashi DIY 2

bunny comb

kanzashi DIY 3

kanzashi and jewels

kanzashi DIY 4

detail of kanzashi

kanzashi DIY 6

Hannah’s lovely hair ornament

Today, we made beautiful tsumami kanzashi hair ornaments. This style (folded flowers)- are usually made out of silk.

Our version has a modern take on this traditional craft. We used a variety of card stock paper for the base- there are so many types to choose from. Next, we glued our card stock (I suggest making templates to use) and placed it carefully onto our alligator clip and french clip barrettes. Lastly, we chose kanzashi flowers and sparkly gems to glue on. We had so much fun making these hair ornaments. Each girl had so much fun with this craft for our Summer Camp. Many told me they can’t wait for next year! As a teacher, this makes me so very happy. 🙂

A year in pictures

Weekend in Palm Springs

Weekend in Palm Springs

Blissful weekend with friends at Big Bear Lake

Blissful weekend with friends at Big Bear Lake

tether ball fun

tether ball fun

Lots of beautiful music everyday

Lots of beautiful music everyday

Fun homeschooling!

Fun homeschooling!

Fresh beets from our garden

Fresh beets from our garden

Took Olivia snowboarding for the first time

Took Olivia snowboarding for the first time

Aerial Tram up San Jacinto Mountain- view of Palm Springs

Aerial Tram up San Jacinto Mountain- view of Palm Springs

Planted my first Japanese Maple (love this tree!)

Planted my first Japanese Maple (love this tree!)

Watched Olivia become a really great ice skater

Watched Olivia become a really great ice skater

Saw this sweet girl write her first book about a little panda

Natalie wrote her first book about a little panda

Spent lots of time creating art

Spent lots of time creating art

My best friend had her baby- Welcome Farra!

My best friend had her baby- Welcome Farra!

Good times with good friends!

Good times with good friends!

Did my first tea ceremony for others to see

Did my first tea ceremony for others to see

Many hikes in wilderness

Many hikes in wilderness

Has had the best year getting to know this great lady-good times at the blueberry farm

Has had the best year getting to know this great lady-good times at the blueberry farm

Training in Hombu Dojo, Tokyo Japan for the first time- amazing experience!

Training in Hombu Dojo, Tokyo Japan for the first time- amazing experience!

Awesome traveling companions to Japan

Awesome traveling companions to Japan

Had my first onsen (traditional Japanese bath) experience

Had my first onsen (traditional Japanese bath) experience

The people who make my world complete

The people who make my world complete

Aikido has really challenged me and has been a year of growth for me

Aikido has really challenged me and has been a year of growth for me

A fun trip to Disneyland

A fun trip to Disneyland

These girls are inseparable

Besties performing in their first play

Spending lots of time here makes me happy

Spending lots of time here makes me happy

Going through this last years pictures, I became quite emotional. As I clicked through which ones to highlight for this blog post I completely lost it- I was in tears. So many pictures, so many stories told. For me, there is something about seeing your kids growing up so fast, catching them as they become more independent, confident and watching them become their own person is pretty powerful to see as a parent. I am just so happy to be Olivia and Natalie’s Mom. I’m so lucky to have Philip as my husband and life partner. I could not ask for any more. My world is complete, and rich beyond my wildest dreams because of them.

What an amazing year~ So many fun, exciting, wonderful times and memories I had, shared, and lived with those I love and care about. Those experiences will forever live on as long as I keep snapping away on my camera.

Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year full of wonder, excitement and joy.

Until next year…