Monthly Archives: July 2012

Being Groomed by the Universe


I have the perfect husband. At least perfect he’s for me. As a teenager I created an image of my ideal man. Between romance novels (I was reading Danielle Steele and Jude Deveraux in middle school) and my parents’ feminist teaching, I had quite the list. I wanted a man who was in touch with his feelings, yet would kill to protect me. He had to be able to clean and cook, and also provide me with food and shelter in a survival situation. I wanted a spiritual artist, a badass ex-military ninja, and a loving kind husband and father, and I got that.

He is perfect, and I like to imagine that I am perfect for him too, but really I doubt he dreamed of having an overweight high maintenance redhead for a wife.

However I do believe the universe groomed us to be together.

In 1989 there was program on HBO called ‘Time Flies When You’re Alive’ It was a one man tribute to his wife. This show changed my life. I was up alone at night, a common thing when I was 15, and this came on. I recognized the actor. He used to be on CHiPS and was sucked into the story of his wife. I was crying at the end, knew I would have my babies at home, and was even more drawn to alternative living.

Hundreds of miles away, and I like to imagine at the exact same time, my future second husband who was 31 also watched the show.

I like to think this wasn’t a coincidence but the universe sending us down a similar path even though we wouldn’t meet for four more years.

Do you have a similar story? You were groomed by the universe for your partner?

Working My Mad Ninja Parenting Skills


Photographer Andrew Currie

Parenting is hard work, you have to take on so many roles. My favorite is that of a spy, an evil spy, a sexy evil spy, with mad ninja skills.

Sometimes the best thing for your children is to trick, manipulate and coerce them into doing something.

I kept having issues getting my kids to read so I decided to make it into a competition, 1st place wins $100, 2nd $50. The rules: the person who reads the most pages in one month wins. I have to read double, and they can count the pages they have already read in their current novel. I happened to be between novels, so I started at 0. Boy child locked himself in his room saying he had to ‘earn his living.’ Girl child walked around with her book, only setting it down to try and steal mine so I couldn’t read.

Before bed we wrote our totals down. Girl child was in the lead by one page. Boy child declared that he was just taking a break and would be reading again before he went to sleep. Girl child yelled at him to stop reading, then remembered that she could spend tomorrow reading while boy child worked. Her grin of satisfaction was scary.

The winner will be decided on Aug 1st. But I have a sneaking suspicion that super sexy ninja spy mom will be the real winner.

Anti- Zen and the art of going within


Photographer- HaPe_Gera

Sometimes we all need a break, time to regenerate, delve within, leave the world behind and become clearer about who we are.

In Zen one realizes the importance of meditation, self-care, and just being, so you schedule time to do this. Which is odd that we have to schedule time to ‘just be’ when we don’t have much of a choice anyway.

Every four months I would go to a weekend retreat, workshop or ashram where a wise person, who glows just a bit, leads me in meditations, self-discovery, and great connection to the Universe.

Eating simple meals prepared by spiritual people who meditate as they work my body is nurtured and infused with positive energy.

I sleep peacefully in a small bare room, the gentle breeze and soft chirping of crickets singing me a lullaby.

Doesn’t that sound lovely.

Unfortunately I live in a completely different reality. I am ruled by Anti- Zen which takes a different direction.

My 14 year-old self slides into the Captain’s chair while I get up to get something to drink.

“Pizza,” she squeals and suddenly food I have been ignoring for months smells fabulous.

Photo by Foodies

I try and stay calm and reason with her. “No we don’t want to eat that. Gluten makes us sick, dairy makes our skin freak out, and we don’t eat meat. That’s for the work kids.”

“I don’t care I want it!”

My body goes to get a plate. I have been here before, in the past I would rant, yell, and fight with my 14 year-old self. This would cause a huge downward spiral of depression and self-hate, the 14 year-old would take over while my current self would be wallowing in pity and despair. The teenager would have control for a lot longer and the recovery period would be longer.

So now I try compromise and if that doesn’t work giving in. There is a lot of giving-in with Anti-Zen, it’s the opposite of letting go which is part of Zen philosophy.

Anyway, I start by offering chips and salsa- yummy, no gluten or dairy. It works once. The next night she wants Nachos, with cheese. I manage to put on a layer of real cheese before she adds some plastic American cheese to the mix.

When I go out to eat with a friend I give into temptation and eat wheat- it s baklava and who can resist baklava?!?!
Now I am lost, the 14 year-old is fully in charge. I’m staying up until midnight reading fan-fictionwa and eating foods that I’m too embarrassed to mention in public. I wake up each morning with a food hangover. Thankfully I manage to drag myself to the gym and keep one of the essential three daily activities to keeping sane , okay sane-ish.

photographer frankjuarez

Now while the voice in my head have a multitude of theories as to why we do this, the unfortunate result of reading far too many self- help books, the result is always the same, total immersion in myself.

My mind is blank, my brain doesn’t work under these conditions. I retreat into myself- which means I don’t answer emails, phone calls, I stop blogging and reading blogs, and other social media is dropped.

I can’t write, as I have a constant headache. And when I stay up until midnight I am alone in the quiet.

As I wallow in myself, the lack of sleep and disgusting diet allowing for nothing else I begin to self-analyze. While most of my conclusions are crap, at least that’s what my hubby says, I do manage to find a few kernels of truth. Somehow out of all of this chaos I manage to learn something about myself, at least something more than my 14 year-old self is an amazingly selfish, lazy, brat.

After a few days, if I don’t fight, I get bored. My teenage self goes to her room and falls asleep. Thankfully like most teenagers she can sleep forever. I am left to deal with a week or more of body ache, pimples, migraines, and other stuff I’d rather not share this publicly.

As my mind clears, little bits of intuition pop up: a new twist on a story, better clarity about a problem in my life, and a deeper understanding of myself and my goals.

It’s not the most graceful, mature, reasonable, or focused road to enlightenment but such is the way of Anti-Zen.
Maybe I could keep my teenage self-quiet longer if I gave her a tattoo or let her pierce something?

Photo by frankjuarez

Assassins, Blind Swordsmen, and Peasants.


Domo Arrigato for joining me on this tour of Shogun Japan. For our last adventure I’m offering up three movies for your viewing pleasure.

13 Assassins

The beginning of 13 Assassins shows us how evil our bad guy is, and because it’s shogun Japan there is the rape- we see him dragging her off and see her clutching her robe to her afterwards not the actual act. So our bad guy is a bastard and we want him dead, but he is the brother of the Shogun.
This is where Bushido comes in because he needs to go down, but Bushido must be maintained. Again you don’t follow Bushido you pretend to follow it and are a backstabbing ass or you are Bushido’s bitch.
We see several times where samurai stand by and do nothing while innocents are hurt because they cannot go against the man they vowed to follow.
However they do manage to find a way around it, and plan a battle. This group of 12 samurai and one crazy mountain man get their ninja on and seriously the big battle at the end is awesome. What these men are able to do is amazing!
Also there is a bit near the end that makes me believe Joss Whedon has seen this movie as Captain Hammer has a similar experience. Come back and let me know if you find it 🙂
If you enjoy Shogun Japan and insane sword fights watch this movie.



The story of the blind swordsman is a classic in Japan. It’s such a popular story Rudger Howard even made a version of the story called Blind Fury.
What makes this one different is the swordsman is a girl. It’s beautifully filmed and we get to see many different parts of life as she searches for her teacher.
While on her journey she meets a master swordsman who can’t draw his swords, gets kidnapped, slices many people into pieces, and falls in love.
People who meet her are changed, by her music and her sword. It’s a wonderful story with some fun Japanese drama. Of course there is rape, it is more graphic then in the other movie. I couldn’t find a trailer with sub-titles, sorry.





It’s a wonderful story, where we get to see how the peasants lived. Not being beaten down by the higher ups but the day to day life of cleaning, working, cooking, and laughing.
Our hero Soza is torn, has sworn vengeance for his father’s murder. Being a samurai his honor is at stake and he must complete his mission, but the longer he lives amoung the peasants the harder it becomes for him to stay focused on his mission.
Even though these people live in poverty this is the only movie that makes me want to live in Shogun Japan. The characters are so fun and quirky.
There is forgiveness, redemption, letting go, a love story, and deciding between Bushido, honor, and life.




I hope you enjoyed our Armchair Adventures. Please let me know where else you would like to visits, modern or a historic period. Is there anything else you would like to have on your Armchair Adventure?

Food Porn from Shogun Japan


After a minimal amount of research, I am very busy you know, I have several dishes to share with you. I wish I had prepped more for this segment of my Armchair Adventures, but I was gone for two weeks for work, we took the work kids to San Diego for a week then the next week was a drug intoxication recognition seminar in Phoenix.

I hope you enjoy what I have managed to come up with.

Rules to Armchair Adventures Food Porn. If I haven’t significantly changed a recipe then I will just talk about it and offer a link to the website I got it from or the book I got it from.

My recipes are gluten free and vegan due to my dietary needs. If I’ve altered a recipe I will leave a link to the original one so if you want to try it you can.

The first dish we made, my 12 year old daughter made this one, is a vegan version of nikujaga, meat with vegetables. The food blog I got it from had already made the changes and these is a photo, thankfully because I forgot to take a picture.

I didn’t change much, just the tofu. I’m not a huge fan of fried tofu and I am trying to eat healthy so I baked my tofu, here’s what I did.

Cubed I pkg of extra firm tofu
Placed on a oiled cookie sheet so cubes didn’t touch.
Brushed on a mild sauce.
Baked in a 350 oven for 20-30 min.
Let the tofu cool before removing it from the cookie sheet.

Okay the tofu is going to stick, next time I make it I’m going to try parchment paper and see if that helps.
Baking the tofu like this dries it out a bit, making it chewier and it doesn’t break up when you cook it.
Sauce- you was to use just a little bit- if you choose to use any at all. The sauce I used

¼ c water
2Tbs Tamari
2Tbs Braggs
2tsp Marin
2 tsp Spike – an all purpose seasoning
1 tsp garlic pwd

I mixed that together then using a pastry brush brushed some onto the tofu. I also could have used the sauce from the dish, or left them plain. But don’t add too much you want the tofu to dry out.

I liked this dish a lot, it had a good flavor, which was subtle not over powering like some American Japanese restaurants can be. I can easily see a Samurai eating this dish. This is something I have bookmarked and will make again.

In all of the books pickled vegetables are mentioned so I decided to try some. I went to the market where they have a large import selection. I found a selection of pickled Japanese vegetables and choose: cucumbers, missed vegetables with lotus root, ginger, and plums.

Hubby made some really yummy rice and vegetables in a bottled Teriyaki sauce, which was yummy. When we take an Armchair Adventure to modern Japan I’ll try Teriyaki recipes myself.

Pickled Cucumber- these were good, there was s spice in them I was unfamiliar with and they were a bit saltier then I am use to.

Pickled mixed vegetables- I liked these, they were a bit sweet and still crunchy.

Pickled plum- I couldn’t eat this at all, it was sour and very salty. I might try and find a recipe with pickled plums and see if I can eat them that way.

Pickled ginger- this one was a cheat, I love ginger and I’ve had pickled ginger many times before. Once I was done with my taste test I dumped the pickled ginger all over my rice and vegetables.

Warning- check the labels we found MSG in many of the pickled vegetables at the store.

I did take my daughter out for sushi to celebrate our journey to Japan. She was very brave and tried a lot of new things. The spicy crab roll was her favorite.

Do you have a favorite traditional Japanese foods? Any recipes or food blogs you can share with us?

Don’t forget our vacations to Shogun Japan isn’t over yet, on Friday I’ll be sharing several movies to finish up our journey.

Armchair Adventures: Shogun Japan- Samurai, Geisha, and Sake.


Are you like me? Do you dream of meeting interesting people, trying exotic foods, and seeing places so beautiful they take your breath away? As we wait for unlimited wealth or Dr. Who to make us his new companion (make sure to dress everyday as if today is the day the Dr. comes for you) I invite you to join me on my Armchair Adventures.
This week Armchair Adventures invites you to travel through time to Shogun Japan.

Get something to drink, a snack, and settle in while I give you several book options you can use to travel back to a time full of beauty, ritual, backstabbing, and sexual perversion.

Ronin by Frank Miller
This is a guy’s book. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but it’s hard to become attached to a Zen Fable that stops, it doesn’t really end because life doesn’t end and honestly I think the ultimate goal of Zen is to drive people crazy. However this is one of my husband’s favorite books so I read it. Like everything else I have read that takes place in feudal Japan there is rape- it is more descriptive then in the other books and was upsetting to me.

I’m not sure what to say, this is the story of a Ronin a masterless samurai, and his journey. He’s an ass, he doesn’t really change. You get a good idea of what life was like for a samurai and village people and was well written. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I liked it- does that make sense?? No it didn’t for me either.
I say unless rape is a trigger for you, check it out then you too can be frustrated by Zen.

NOTE- My hubby says his favorite part of the book is the story of the boys training. It comes about half way through, and was good, once I dropped my over protective mom-ness.

Autumn Bridge by Takashi Matsuoka

This is a beautifully written book. I felt transported to Shogun Japan as I turned the pages. The customs, dress, and more importantly the Japanese perceptions of white people and what was happening were very vivid.
Because a culture builds upon its past I find understanding Japan and her people during the Shogun helps me to understand the cultural differences now.

Autumn Bridge is not an afternoon read; at least it wasn’t for me. If you are familiar with Japanese history and names then you might get through it faster, but I had to take my time in order to make sure I kept up with who was doing what and where and when we were.

This book jumps between several different time periods, and while it was confusing at first once I became familiar with the names and differences in the time periods I was able to keep up without too much trouble. And the author brings everything together beautifully. I really enjoyed this book and loved getting lost in Takashi Matsuoka’s Shogun Japan.

I do have one nitpick, I wish the romantic relationships had been as detailed as the fight scenes. I don’t necessarily mean graphic in description, but when they do come together I wish the emotion had been shown to us more. That being said, his other book Cloud of Sparrows is on my TBR (to be read) list. This is a wonderful book, and will definitely transport you to the time of Samurai, Geisha, peasants, and western invasion.

Bundori by Laura Joh Rowland

This is the second book of the detective Sano Ichiro series. While reading the first book wasn’t necessary I wish I had because the story is so good that I’m sad I didn’t start from the beginning. This book sends you into the world of 1689 Edo, Japan. The sights, smells, sounds, and tastes are clear and strongly described. Bundori is a murder mystery that kept me as fully entertained and engaged as learning about the world of a Samurai and Ninja. One thing I have learned is people either pretended to follow Bushido, but didn’t and were slimy backstabbing assholes, or you are Bushido’s bitch. No one follows Bushido, you are lying or Bushido rules you. * Hubby laughed but agreed.

I was drawn into this story, hooked into this world, and Sano’s troubles, including a love affair. I was left guessing until the very end as to who had done what and who’s side people were on. While I want to read the first book, the third is currently sitting next to me just waiting to be read and despite ALL the books I have yet to read, I’m thinking I might just go ahead and read this one right away.

The Way of the Traitor by Laura Joh Rowland

The third of detective Sano Ichiro is sent to Nagasaki, the only port in Japan that allowed foreign ships to land during the time of isolation.

It is so much fun to read about Sano as he finally gets a chance to see the ‘white barbarians’. If you have ever wondered how the Japanese viewed foreigners this si the book for you. Another murder mystery drives Sano to find the truth even if it might led to his death. His assistant Hirata, who we met in Bundori, plays a much bigger role and I really enjoyed the chapters in his POV. Like last time I wanted to scream when the ‘officials’ were backstabbing fake Bushido followers, and also scream when Sano’s hands were tied because he did follow Bushido to the letter.
However I want more, and after checking on Goodreads I have found there are 10 books in the Sano Ichiro series, so we can all escape to feudal Japan for a long time 🙂

WARNING all of these books have rape in them in many different forms. Ronin was the most descriptive, while the others books described it in a more detached way. The next time I read a book for traveling back into Shogun Japan I will try and find something that doesn’t include the rape of woman, men, and children. If you want to read these books but are triggered by descriptions of rape email me or leave a comment and I can go into more detail, so you can decide if its something you can handle. I normally can’t, but did fine this these.

Do you have a favorite book which takes place in shogun Japan?

No adventure is complete without food, which I shall explore on Wednesday day. And for the full sights and sounds of Shogun Japan I will have several movies which will make your journey complete.

Because I always offer music to start off your Monday here is a video of Japanese Folk Music Sakura with some beautiful pictures of Japan.