Saturday, May 30, 2009


Today was a blast - went shopping all day long (punctuated by eating, a lot) with Beth and Andi at China Pete's, Grandberry Mall, and Camp Zamalamading-dong. I'll explain that one later, 'cause for now I'm off to bed.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

TTFN, Sullen-san

Okay, tantrum over. No matter the circumstances or expectations, getting rejected sucks, huh? But it's all good, and I hope whoever got that job needed and wanted it more than I did. Back to the life of leisure!

Which has been going smashingly lately, by the way. In just the past week or so I've had two knitting dates, two dinners out with Josh AND friends, a present, and a couple good cooking adventures.

For starters, on Saturday Nadine (whose husband is away) needed help moving her fridge and standup freezer, and offered to buy us dinner in exchange. Josh and I headed over and fireman-chained the frozen goods out onto the table, then he did the heavy lifting while Nadine and I alternated vacuuming the floor and distracting the baby. When I first wrote that, it said "alternated vacuuming and distracting the baby. Who needs baths?

She cried every time she saw Josh, for about the first hour! I think he needs to smile more. Ramen was delicious, and it's so much more fun doing other peoples' chores, don't you think? Nadine and I decided we'd ask each others' husbands for help around the house from now on, since they're so much more willing to help when it's not the wife asking. Good plan?

Josh had to work Sunday, so Nadine and Juju and I hung out again and, duh, I made soup. Fantastic! But Monday night we had another date, this one a long time coming - Kelsey and I have been friends for months, but our husbands are never home at the same time. So we got together for Chinese food, and had a great time.It's not as obvious in the smaller versions of the two photos below, but Mack's eyes and mine seem REALLY wide in the big pictures, and Kelsey and Josh look normal. If I had Photoshop (and/or any skills) I'd put us side by side and we'd look like the Deer in the Headlights Convention. Also my head looks enormous, but that's not the picture, that's my Irish heritage.
The food was fantastic, we all laughed all night, until we came back to our house and discovered that there is cat dander in our couch. I wonder if Mack's eyes have stopped swelling yet...oops.

Josh was off on Tuesday, so we thought we'd go do something fun - but we kind of stink at that. There's an amusement park near Fuji, but we couldn't find directions. I suggested a couple famous Japanese gardens (Sankei-en(.pdf file) and Kurihama Flower World), and Josh rolled his eyes so hard that he was looking up and to the left for the rest of the day.

We finally settled on Grandberry Mall, about 45 minutes from home. I really need some new shoes and summer clothes, but it turns out that I am too fat and big-footed for this nation. Eight is the largest shoe size for women - grr! We ate Chinese food again, egads, and then took a long leisurely walk on the seawall in front of our house. Starfish have been washing up there, and there were lots of cute babies and puppies accompanying their parents on an evening constitutional. Who needs a job?

P.S. Re: the title - you better BELIEVE I get a lot of mileage of being married into the name "Sullins." When I become Mrs. Sullen, I blame Josh. Wouldn't you?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Turns out in the same 24 hours I discovered F My Life (yeah, it's what you think) AND got rejected for a job that pays $10 per hour.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

I keep trying to think of something profound to say about Memorial Day. It's strange being overseas for such an American holiday - one complete with the American tradition of forgetting its purpose and just using it as an excuse to eat meat and drink beer. Josh and I will be celebrating with Chinese food and lemon cake later, with our friends Kelsey and Mack. Traditional!

As for the day itself, I just don't know what to say. My father and Josh's, and our grandfathers, and a lot of our friends have served in the military, many of those in war. We've been fortunate that, so far at least, they have all come home relatively unscathed, and for that I am grateful.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ticket to ride...again!

Y'all, it's ridiculous. I like Japan, I live in town, I made rice with hijiki sea vegetable* and tofu for dinner tonight. And yet, in my first year-ish living here, I will have made three visits home.

But I can't wait for the second one! (The first was to my folks' in February, the third will be for the, ahem, wedding of my big brother in September!) I just bought Josh and me tickets to the West Coast for July - I'll leave a little earlier and visit Melanie in the Bay Area, and then we'll meet up in Seattle to visit his family and our friends Christie&Nate, Irish&Steve.

In less than two months I'll be holding my nephew(ish) Nason, having lunch in the Monterey sunshine (ha!) with my best friend, and then knitting with Irish and hugging my grandmas in Washington. Life is good.

*I just learned that "seaweed" is a pejorative. I have to worry about seaweed's feelings now.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

UPDATED: On the docket

Well, updated twice actually - first when I remembered an exciting chore, at the end of this post. And now again, at 9:15pm and in bold, I give you the results of my day.
I applied for a job several weeks ago, had two interviews, sent references, got my background checked, and was told to expect a call early last week. Well, it's now mid-THIS WEEK, and I haven't heard. So here's how I'll be distracting myself for the next few days:

1. Vacuum the house. (Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...) No one is going to believe me, but I really did this one. And it was disgusting.
2. Dye yarn with Kool Aid. (Thanks, Aunt Debbie!) Nope, not yet. I'm still waiting on this project, maybe for a rainy day.
3. Make some broccoli slaw. YES! This stuff is so good.
4. And maybe a raspberry cake. Everybody who cooks, go read Smitten Kitchen and wake from your slumber.
Well, I couldn't find raspberries. But strawberry buttermilk cake, made with whole wheat pastry flour, was outrageously good. According to Josh: "Best cake ever."

This one wasn't on the list, but I made it a Smitten Kitchen day and cooked two herbed zucchini tortes for dinner. Have I mentioned I love her blog?

5. Start composing a post about living in my Japanese home, with pictures. A post with pictures, not my home with pictures...blast you, sentence structure! And I didn't start this yet either. Nor did I buy any furniture. But I live to fight another day!

That ought to do it.

UPDATE: That does not do it! I forgot I want to go to Homes and buy a new piece of furniture for the dining room - something tall and slim with glass doors, to hold dishes and table linens. Kelsey, you're an inspiration.

Monday, May 18, 2009


The incredible enthusiasm with which plants grow in this climate deserves a longer post and more attention than I'm prepared to give at the moment. Suffice to say, for now, that our neighborhood is incredible, and this is one of many enormous rosemary bushes growing along the walkways.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


The weather is gray and windy today, but not dreary - it's that dynamic tumult that sometimes grabs the waterfront out here, making my windows and plants vibrate, looking like someone cranked up the contrast and switched off the color altogether. I have the luxury of my own laziness this afternoon, and I'm spending much of it looking out my front window. I'm a little gray and breezy myself at the moment, after a weekend of bright colors.

I had big plans for Friday, which were had all changed before lunchtime. Wendy came over for a lesson in the morning - her first tank top and cable project are coming along beautifully. (We have the best conversations, and we had lunch together the next day with her two boys.) Then I got ready to head to a great yoga class around eleven, only to turn around halfway to base and come home*. Luckily, Beth and her two girls were in my neighborhood and free for the day, so they came over.

We had so much fun. The girls are delightful even when they're cranky, and we took a long walk, played on the playground, had lunch at a ramen shop, and watched two Disney movies while one of us napped. That same one happened to stick her foot into her mama's ramen bowl, dramatically upturning broth onto the shop floor. Nice. Beth and I got to visit, talk, and knit, and it was lovely. Then that night I met Kelsey and Mack to see STAR TREK!

Oh my Goddess, I loved that movie. I want to retire to the nerdery and watch it again and again on the big screen - and just in case you're worried for my marriage, Josh already saw it in Australia.

Last night was festive, too. See, Japan is such a safe place because their laws DO NOT MESS AROUND. We're not allowed a sip of alcohol before driving here, and if I were to get caught breaking that rule, the military would revoke my visa and send me back to the U.S., sans husband. So with both of our husbands out of town, Kelsey invited me for a sleepover with movies, cookies, and copious amounts of wine. Hoo boy, that was therapeutic! I may or may not have drunk a bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon all by myself, and eaten a bag of Cheetos...ahem. We had a good talk about movies, men, crazy family drama, and living with fertility problems. I'm so glad she invited me.

But now I'm home, and I'm drinking water and coffee and feeling in tune with the weather. Of those three friends, two will have moved back to the U.S. by July and the other heads home in December. I've been so lucky to find kindred spirits here so far - I hope my streak continues.

*I told my friends that I forgot my military ID (and thus couldn't get on base) but in fact I had put on a tank top and hadn't shaved my armpits. Why I'm okay publishing this to the entire damned world but too embarrassed to say it to my friends, I couldn't tell you.

Friday, May 15, 2009

New toy, and 36 hours of marriage

I know I'm not single when Josh is gone, just for the record. And it turns out that my husband, who hadn't ever heard of a trunk show, has a vivid and dirty imagination.

Josh got home Wednesday night around eleven, and left again this morning (Friday) at 5:00. This trip is only for a few days, and doesn't involve any major travel, but, you know, here I go again on my own. The Star Trek movie, lots of lunches out, and a sleepover are all on the docket. During the rest of the time? I'm going to be sitting at home, staring at our new bookshelf.Isn't it beautiful?
It was even beautiful empty, when the lovely delivery men carried it up the stairs and into our living room yesterday.
Josh and I picked this baby out about six months ago at a Japanese department store called Homes. But it was a little expensive - if bookshelves were cars, this might be an upper-range Toyota. All the other furniture we've ever bought was used or, well, Ikea. But ever since moving to Japan we've been looking for nice pieces to commemorate our time in Asia, and this is step one.

Still, we walked away, put it out of our minds, and lived in our disorganized house for half a year. Then last week we went back, and decided to take the plunge. God, I love this thing - but I'm not a designer. Any ideas for making it look even better? Suggestions to purchase another one for balance will be given particular consideration.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The single life

I never had much of a single life. I was in the same relationship from age 16 to 22. Sophomore in high school to senior in college. Like a fine wine, that relationship started to go sour immediately after opening. ZING! Then there was about a year before I accidentally fell in love with Josh, and shit, my single life ended.

So this week is the first time I've been on my own for a while, and I'll tell you, being single is WAY MORE FUN when you have a big checking account and no job. I've been out to dinners and lunches, and parties, I've done a little shopping, and tonight I went to my first trunk show.*

But, like with so much of life, it's the little things that stick with you. If Josh were home, and I made chocolate syrup, and it was almost gone but there was a little stuck all over the inside of the jar, I probably wouldn't have poured in milk, ice, and vodka and had myself a little party.

But Josh isn't home, now, is he?

*Speaking of which, go visit and buy some handmade, long-sleeved kimono bibs. Tara rules.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Mother's Day last year was hopeful for me. I had stopped working, was about to move to Japan, and was visiting my parents in South Carolina. I talked to the other mom in my life, Josh's mom Judy. Of course I was already anxious to be a mom myself, having had a miscarriage a few months before, but it was a good day.

It's still a good day this year, but a lot has changed. I can't talk to my incredible mother today, for instance - she and her mom are gallivanting about in the south of France! Lucky ducks went on a riverboat cruise (deeply discounted, thanks to Piggy Panic) and are, I hope, having a lovely time. I did talk to Josh's mama and grandma this morning, which was nice. And this Mother's Day I have even more friends who are moms, and great ones at that. Their kids are lucky, and so am I for knowing them.

But...y''s still kind of shitty. I am so ready to have a baby, to move on with my life and become a mom already. I'm working really hard to stay hopeful, or at least neutral, and to squelch the bitterness that sometimes grabs me from behind. Ditto the self-pity - I am debating just deleting this whole post, because really: who ruins Mother's Day with the whining? Bleah, I don't want to be that guy.

So I'm going to go cook something, and clean up my house, and buy some bigger pots to transplant my seedlings if the weather holds out. And I may have a bowl of ice cream before noon, just for good measure.

Happy Mother's Day, everybody.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Dinner and a show

I'm not sure whether this is a Sullins phenomenon, but when Josh goes out of town, my social life explodes. It's a useful coping mechanism - it's much harder to get lonesome when I'm busy all the time. But there's another reason: my rut doesn't work without my husband. Josh is a homebody, and we kind of like each other, so when he's home we tend to stay in and be fat old married people together.

When he leaves?


Not counting breakfasts, I've had four consecutive meals out so far, and two more today. I've seen Wolverine (loved it! Whatever, haters) and Benjamin Button, knitted a bowl to be felted, taken yoga with a friend, and made plans for a Wii- and wine-fueled sleepover during the next band trip.

On Thursday I had my first knitting date (as opposed to a lesson) with my friend Wendy, of Cricket Paws. What a treat! We sat around in the afternoon watching a movie, knitting, and trying to keep the dogs from chewing on the yarn. I miss having pets!

Then Wendy and her older son took me out to dinner at an Indian restaurant in Zushi, where I ate too much and loved every minute of it. Have you ever had paratha, a whole wheat naan-like bread? Heaven.

And then on the way back to the car, look who we found! I don't know what kind of birds they are, but it was such a treat to see the babies. Naturally, I got an email from Josh the next day saying he'd gotten to HOLD a KOALA, but whatever. *sniff* It's fine. I think I'll plan another dinner party.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


So far today it's all food, and all food I've already eaten. Does feeding one's self really count as an accomplishment? I don't think so. And neither does watching Batman during the day. But it's raining and yucky outside again, I don't want to go to base or eat dinner out alone, and I hate to clean.

Clean! I cleaned the bathroom sink and did a load of laundry this morning. Accomplishment! Aah, now it's on to make some more food and watch more tv. I feel better.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Home cooking

The trick to contentment when one partner has to travel for work is to create rituals for life when he's away. Little things to look forward to when lonesome threatens. I am so impressed by couples who maintain their marriages over three-, six-, nine-month deployments and more, but when Josh leaves for a week, I make soup.

Josh doesn't like soup. He thinks food should be chewed, not drunk. I love soup - I love good vegetarian food with complex flavors and lots of nutrition, especially when it can be made in one pot. Soup fits the bill. And it's especially fitting when the weather looks like it did today.So I made Zucchini and Rosemary Soup from Epicurious, with just a few modifications. (4 cups of broth instead of 6, extra zucchini, and less butter than is called for.)
And oh, it was good. It was just what the doctor ordered, and it took less than an hour to make. Just a little slicing, a little saute, a couple shavings of Parmesan, et voila:When I was growing up in Maine, my mother planted zucchini in the garden. She planted in spring, after a loooong, cooooold winter, and let's just say she had to get creative to use up all those zucchinis when the harvest arrive. This soup would be a beautiful way to feature the fruits of your springtime enthusiasm.

On my own

Goals for the week while Josh is gone:
*Hang out with girlfriends (and see Wolverine!)
*Clean and reorganize my kitchen
*Ditto the bedroom
*Start a new knitting project
*Nail down a couple of Red Cross projects
*Eat healthy
*At least two yoga classes

Items actually accomplished since he left five hours ago:
*Eat a healthy breakfast of Cheerios and skim milk...followed by garlic cheese dip on crackers. At 9:00am.
*Read the entire Internet.
*Start a batch of homemade yogurt so I can keep eating later.
*Play MarioKart Wii and unlock a new character.

You can see how this is going to go.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Well, I kind of hope it wasn't overheard, actually. But Josh and I were at the dog park this afternoon, watching the dogs and sneaking in a cuddle or two when a curious pup came to see if we had treats to offer. (We didn't.)

Our favorite, of course, was the little Blenheim Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who looks just like my parents' dog Nemo. Cavaliers really are the best little dogs, and Nemo's doppelganger gave us some love.

As we were leaving, I noticed he'd wandered far away from his owner, and I leaned to Josh and jokingly said "They're not keeping a close watch on that puppy. I think he needs to be adopted."

Josh replied: "Did you say adopted? Or abducted?"


Good food

We've had a couple off-nights where food is concerned, this week. There was the big kahuna, and a vegetable "pie" that fell apart, and tortilla soup that was basically flavorless. (Turns out you cannot make a stock in 30 minutes, no matter what the recipe says).

But! We had one really good night, too. I mean, when four portabello mushroom caps and two cups of gruyere are involved, how bad can it be?
Last week I borrowed Vegetable Heaven by Mollie Katzen from the base library. And while the "Golden Rice Pie with Spinach Filling" and the tortilla soup didn't work out so well with me, I can't say enough about the broccoli-stuffed mushrooms. They are simplicity itself, just minced (in the food processor) onion and broccoli, sauteed, then mixed with a cup of gruyere and stuffed into mushroom caps. A handful of broccoli florets make a pretty crown on top, and then a little more cheese before the cooked caps hit the broiler. I mixed some cilantro leaves, lemon juice, and olive oil into whole wheat couscous for a base, although there are lots of less carb-y options for the South Beachers among us.
It was a delicious meal, and will be a treat on our menus in the future. Thank goodness we had one good dinner this week.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Dinner: eat.

There are some pretty major perks to living on a military base overseas. Josh gets paid a cost of living allowance (COLA) each month that shifts with the exchange rate, so pricey Japanese food and fun are budgeted for. We have access to American shopping on base, and discounted travel packages for day trips and longer vacations around this part of the planet. And every once in a while, some of the service organizations on base (like the Navy Exchange store and Morale, Welfare and Recreation) will throw a weekend bash to thank us for being reliable (captive) customers. This was one of those weekends.

Josh and I didn't have any big plans. Since we're not in the market for any major purchases and neither of us cares about skateboarding demos, we planned to avoid base most of the weekend. But then I got an email a couple days ago and scored tickets to dinner Saturday night - prepared by Chef Robert Irvine, the host of Food Network's Dinner: Impossible! SWEET.

Dinner: Impossible is a great show. The chef, who was in the British Navy and used to cook in the White House, gets shipped off to some crazy location and has to oversee dinner preparations for a big crowd under awful circumstances. Cook a gourmet meal for 200 people in a single day, in a tiny galley, on a moving train. Done! Oversee at-risk high school students to make food for an upscale crowd. Possible! It's a lot of fun to watch, and the food always looks and sounds incredible. And since there was an Edwin McCain concert on base later that evening, we decided to dress up and make a night of it. It was so cool - as soon as we got in the door, there he was! We even got a picture.Then we walked through a buffet line and loaded up our trays. And can I say, we were so excited! We're both a little bit foodie, getting more so as we expand our palates in the East. At home we eat very well, rich vegetarian meals with lots of spice and oomph. We watch food shows, I read food books and blogs, we love food. Our expectations of a meal from a chef of this stature were very high. See?
Little bites of everything: we tried baked crusted salmon fillet with apple salsa, fried chicken drummettes, macaroni and cheese with shrimp, braised Asian-style short ribs, seaweed and calamari salad, homemade coleslaw, Nicoise salad, warm German potato salad, and seafood gumbo.

And it was all bad.

We left half of the food on our plates. The salmon was overcooked, the chicken soggy, the short ribs were so salty I actually grimaced, and the cole slaw was swimming in mayonnaise and had no other flavor. The gumbo tasted like it had come out of a can - a government surplus can. We didn't even try the desserts, we were so bummed out.

So, I can say that getting our picture taken with the chef was the best part of dinner. That and the Edwin McCain concert! He and his band ROCK, and he's got a bigger voice than I ever realized. Plus he's a Greenville, SC hometown boy, which is just a bonus. Thanks, Edwin!