Ome River Walk

Weather was nice and so we decided to drive two hours to hike along the Ome River near Mt. Mitake. Little did I think to check the weather two hours away. UGH. Lesson learned. Shortly after we arrived at the Ome River, it started pouring. Of course, we didn't bring our umbrellas either. We ran to a nearby covered patio to try and stay a bit dry. We decided to grab a snack at one of the food shacks to kill some time and figure out our next step. Steve ordered a noodle dish and I ordered something that looked like a chicken dish. It was chicken alright -- a bowl full of chicken skin. Steve and Ryder liked it; Skyler and I passed on the dish. 

We decided that we were going to make the best of our trip and as soon as there was a slight break in the rain, we would run back to the car, change into our swimsuits and hike in the rain. To our surprise, once we changed into swimsuits, the rain stopped. The day remained cloudy for the most part but it was pretty darn beautiful. 

The Ome River is a white water rafting river, where the water is a constant 52 degrees. We did find a couple areas where the water was a bit calmer, to walk in and explore, and Ryder even got in to swim a little. He said that he had to do it. 

It was an incredible hike, with phenomenal views. I can only imagine how beautiful it's going to be in a couple months when the leaves start changing. 

Also, I adored all the hand drawn signs along the path. While we couldn't read any of them, we have fun guessing what they might be about.

Exploring our Local Beaches in Japan

After returning from Bali, we decided to explore some of our nearby beaches here in Japan. This was our first opportunity, since arriving in Japan a year ago. We ended up visiting four very different beaches.

Our first beach trip was to a beach (can't remember the name), which was an easy drive from our house, had a decent sized parking lot (parking is often very hard to come by) and had a cool platform to swim out to and jump off. We arrived about 1-1/2 hours before sunset to avoid the crowds, as beaches get very crowded in the summer. The littles had fun swimming to the platform, but we wished that we had brought float rings.

I have no idea what beach this next one was, but we did end up there. I had GPSd our way (via google maps) to Blue Moon, which was at the beach we intended to go to. Little did I know that there were two nearby Blue Moons and of course, since everything is written in Japanese, I didn't realize we where we were going or that we were going to the wrong location. But we found a parking spot and ended up having a great time playing in the water at the wrong beach.

Our next trip was to Isshiki Beach in Hayama, which was the beach that I had intended to go in the previous paragraph. I had read that this was a very popular beach so we drove the route a day in advance to investigate our parking options (and yes, to actually find the correct beach). Based on the tiny and full parking lot, I decided that we were going to have to get there early to get a parking spot. We arrived at 0815 and ended up with the last parking space for 2000 yen (about $18 USD). This beach was a very different experience than the other beaches, with large waves crashing right on the shore. It was also extremely crowded with little personal space. I found it interesting to see quite a few women wearing high heels while walking down the beach. In the first photo below, one of the women was jumping waves in her platform flip-flops while carrying an umbrella. The people watching was quite fascinating. While the waves were big and powerful, the kids had a blast riding the waves in their float rings. I had to drag them out of the water after a solid five hours. Unfortunately, I had put some non-haze spray on my underwater housing so all he photos ended up with a bit of haze form the lingering film (pretty ironic, huh?!).

Next up is a visit to our local Zushi Beach. We live in the town of Zushi, in an area which is about a 20-minute drive or bike ride to the beach. Yes, due to traffic, biking takes about the same amount of time as driving. All went well until both littles were stung by jellyfish. Ryder was stung on the waist while swimming with Steve and Skyler was stung on the ankle while playing tag with Ryder. I learned that the jellyfish, in this area, come into shore in September and October, when the water temperatures start cooling down. Maybe next year, we'll make it to this beach a bit earlier in the summer.

Coco and Ginger in Bali (Part IV)

I had the opportunity to photograph for the Bali children's clothing line, Coco and Ginger. This was a special shoot because I was able to photograph a couple of Coco and Ginger's dresses in the water. Super fun and magical light in the pool.

Be sure to check out Coco and Ginger. Not only is the line of clothing awesome, but also, the owner, Saffron, is such a kind, delightful woman. 

Pemuteran, Bali (Part III)

An overnight adventure to Pemuteran, Bali. Our villa was incredible, as was the snorkeling at the nearby beach. Kids begged to do more snorkeling but we ran out of time. One of these days we will take scuba lessons but for now, snorkeling does just fine.

Uluwatu, Bali and the Monkeys (Part II)

Yes, another beach share, but really...can one get enough of beaches in Bali. We couldn't. This beach was a bit tougher to navigate because of all the coral but goodness was it beautiful. 

On our way home from Uluwatu, we stopped at a Temple that had free-roaming monkeys, similar to the monkeys you hear about in Ubud but these monkeys are supposed to be a bit more friendly. Even so, you are warned about the monkeys upon entry (don't touch, keep your distance, remove your sunglasses, etc.). We listened to their warnings and ventured in hoping to see a monkey or two. Not only did we see a ton of monkeys, we saw a monkey steal a man's sunglasses off his head, while he was photographing his wife. After about 15 minutes, when the man didn't do anything (except beg the monkey to give him back his expensive sunglasses), the monkey ran down the railing and stole a woman's prescription glasses off her face, while also scratching her. Someone ran to get a staff person, who threw the monkey a bag of food and in turn, the monkey returned the glasses. Naughty and very clever monkeys! All in all, it was an amazing day full of sun, sand, the ocean and a whole lot of monkeys.

Pantai Tagal Wangi, Bali (Part I)

So grateful for this time in Bali in August with friends AND Steve. Yes, Steve was able to join us for one week, taking a bit of vacation time off the ship (we had been apart from Steve for almost eight months by this time). We are so lucky to have dear friends, who live in Bali and who we absolutely adore -- so Bali really ends up being a magical, full-of-adventure holiday for us, while also being rather laid back at the same time. I have quite a bit to share from our Bali travels, so I'm going to break up Bali into a few posts.

First up was our trip to Pantai Tagal Wangi. We arrived at high tide, which we were initially bummed about because that meant large crashing waves on the shore.  Of course, it didn't discourage the kids one bit. This beach ended up being the kids favorite of all the beaches we visited while in Bali. They had so much fun jumping the waves and by the time we were getting ready to go (after many hours), the kids were able to enjoy a bit of evening time in the large tide pools. 

Adventures in Australia

July brought us an incredible trip to Australia. We started out in Brisbane, where I taught a workshop. After the workshop, we headed to the Byron Bay area for a few days, where they were experiencing a major cold front with record-setting low temperatures. Then it was back to Brisbane to connect with Steve, who had been away since January, and begin our family holiday together. These are a few of my favorite photographs from our time in Australia. 

Catching up and keeping up

That is my goal -- to catch up and keep up. I'm so behind with sharing, but I'm going to try my best to get back to regularly sharing and doing so on time. So let me start with our trip back to the US in May because that is kind of (sadly) where I left off. My oldest, who is attending college in Virginia, endured a cochlear implant internal device failure. What does that mean? Surgery to explant the failing device and then re-implant a new functioning device, which allows her to properly hear again. So the littles and I flew back to the US for five weeks, to be there with Kiele through her surgery and recovery. We are beyond grateful to the awesome McGuire family who hosted us while we were in the Maryland and Virginia area. I'm thrilled to report that while Kiele has a tough 2014, she is doing great with her new implant; however, it could take up to a year before she is hearing "back to normal".

Below are some of my favorite photographs from our trip back to the US. Oh yea, I almost forgot (although I'm not sure how I could forget), Sky broke her knee three days before our flight. Yep, that was so not-at-all-fun. She is now doing well too, after six weeks in a long-leg cylinder cast and a lot of recovery time. Click on images to view larger.

A visit to Izu (Part II)

More photos from our exploration in Izu, Japan. The first photograph is the tiny, lovely cabin we stayed in for the three days. Click on images to view larger. 

A visit to Izu (Part I)

After a bit of time away, I have decided to bring my photoblog back. And with that, I will be doing a bit of catching up, starting with our amazing trip to Izu, Japan a couple months ago. We had hoped to visit again prior to our five weeks in the US, but Skyler ended up breaking her knee and our trip had to be postponed. We can't wait to visit here again, especially when the weather is warm and we can explore in the water some more. Click on images to view larger.

Here & There

Leah Zawadzki and I have been friends, since pretty much the beginning of our photography journey. And you see Leah is a blue and I am a red, which appears something like this...

Over the years, we have learned firsthand what this is all about and how we best work with one another, basically embracing our opposite personalities. Leah balances me, in the most beautiful way and I'm forever grateful for her friendship and presence in my life -- even if it's currently 5500 miles apart. 

For quite some time, I had been sharing with Leah, that I thought she and I should do a project with one another, more specifically a diptych project. Every now and then, I'd put another bug in her ear about this thought, believing that when the time was right, it would happen. Well, with the beginning of this new year, it happened -- and our pairing of our images is happening in the most organic, fluid and serendipitous way.  

We set in with the goal of one diptych each week but we have been having so much fun, we have done a diptych almost every day this past week.  It's so exciting to see how our images are coming together so effortlessly. We love seeing the connections and contrasts of our images...

  • The green plants with the random stranger that happened into both our frames.
  • The lines of the Yokohama store fronts with the lines of the house in Orange, both taken while our kids were exploring their environments.
  • Our dogs, leading similar lives, yet within the framework of two very different cultures. 
  • The orange and the greens and the growth, calm and beauty of the moments.

We can't wait to see where these photographs continue to take us through the year. One thing for certain -- we are energized with photographing the world around us. Cheers to a new year, open to new and exciting possibilities. 

Here & There (<-- click to see entire project)
Two countries. Two cultures. Two photographers.
Sharing the comparisons and contrasts in our everyday lives.
We hope you enjoy!
Deb (and Leah)

Jigokudani Snow Monkeys

Last week, we had the amazing opportunity to visit the Jigokudani snow monkeys in Nagano, Japan. Seeing the snow monkeys was something that we really wanted to do while Kiele was visiting us from the US. Due to some time constraints, we had to drive there and back in one day, which ended up being quite the undertaking (about 11 hours total). The snow monkey park was very busy due to the first week in January being one of Japan's biggest holiday and vacation periods. With all that said, the experience was beyond magical and I really can't wait to get back. I plan to visit again in the Spring although this time, I'll be renting a cabin for a few days, to thoroughly enjoy the Nagano area -- and the snow monkeys. 

The monkeys seem to be very comfortable with humans, even with the onsen area being as crowded as it was during our visit. The monkeys would come and go as they wanted and they kind of just ignored everyone. There were a couple areas of the onsen that humans couldn't get to so that if a monkey wanted his peace (away from humans), he could venture over there. And of course, the monkeys could leave the onsen if they had had enough. At one point, when we were walking around the river area, a monkey came and sat right on my boots -- quite surreal. 

If you're planning to visit the Nagano area, I've posted a few thoughts and tips (below) regarding a trip to see the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park.

Thoughts and tips for visiting the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park -- You can get to the area either by car or train. If going by train, your final destination is the Yudanaka Station, where there are taxis waiting. From there, it's about a 10-15 minute taxi ride (2000 yen). As shared above, we chose to drive. Going there wasn't bad but we were in tons of traffic driving home, which resulted in a 6-hour trip versus a 4-1/2-hour drive. Chains are a must, to at least have on hand. The road that google maps was taking us was closed. We saw that there was a parking lot with a big monkey sign; however, a reservation was required and the next available shuttle was not until 1500 (from what we could gather, with no real understandable communication). So we decided to drive around some more and try to find the Park ourselves -- that was until we couldn't get up a slight hill and ended up sliding our way back down. By this time, we were frustrated and done, so we drove to the train station, with the hope that we could catch a taxi, which we do with no trouble at all. 

Once at the Park parking lot, where the taxi drops you off, it's a 1.7 KM trek to get to the Park ticket booth. The path is rather narrow and icy. We were lucky that it had significantly snowed the night before so the path was partially covered with snow, which provided some traction and was much easier to walk on. With that said, two of my kids fell and we saw a number of other people fall along the way. It was obvious that an older woman had broken her arm. So two things to prepare for -- the cold and a 1.7 KM one-way trek on a slippery ice path. 

The monkeys are everywhere, but the most amazing part is seeing them in the onsen. It was very steamy when we were there, which made it a bit difficult to photograph the monkeys. Also, as you can see in the last photo, it was VERY busy when we were there, which I think is mostly because it was the first week in January and holiday for most.

If driving, ENZA Cafe is very close to the parking lot. It also gets great reviews and the staff are lovely. Hopefully that will help you get to the parking lot.

ENZA Cafe address:  〒381-0401 Nagano Prefecture, Shimotakai District, 山ノ内町平穏上林1421-1

If you have any questions, please ask. I'm more than happy to help. 

Laos: Days seven through ten

DAY SEVEN: A day spent with the mahouts -- riding, feeding, bathing and learning all about the Lao elephants, visiting and feeding the special baby elephant and her momma, lunch in a thatch hut overlooking the Nam Khan river, a long-boat ride to Tad Sae waterfall, rope swinging into the waterfall pool and an awesome French dinner at L' Elephant in downtown Luang Prabang. Tomorrow, we head to Vang Vieng; we sure will miss this place.
P.S. The Lao people really love Ryder.

DAY EIGHT: Last breakfast at our amazing hotel (Le Sen) in Luang Prabang, an educational visit to the UXO Visitor Center, a walk through the Pa Phonphao Wat where we saw our first female monk, a five-hour drive to Vang Vieng, witnessed a Chinese woman crash her dune buggy into a concrete slab as she took it for a test drive (thankfully and amazingly, she was okay after a huge piece of concrete fell over and landed on top of her head), visited the Blue Lagoon, went spelunking in the Tham Phu Kham cave in flip-flops (we had no idea about the awesome depth and climbing in this cave and Sky ended up trekking out with no flip-flops because they got stuck in the mud).

DAY NINE: Trekked around and swam in the Tham Chang Cave, drove three hours back to Vientiane, stopped at a roadside market that was selling all kinds of illegal animals (porcupines, bats, birds, gophers, antelopes, etc.), finished the evening eating an awesome Thanksgiving chicken wing dinner with new friends.

DAY TEN: A visit to COPE (Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise) Visitor Centre, a very sweaty walk around the Pha That Luang (the great sacred stupa) area and lunch at Ban Gai, (our favorite Mexican restaurant).

I have no doubt that we will be back in Laos for another visit -- or who knows, maybe to live.

Laos: Days four through six

DAY FOUR: Late-ish morning wake up, art market at the local international school, massages all around, photo-challenge scavenger hunt, parties with friends. Dreaming about moving to Laos, after Steve retires, and working for an NGO.

DAY FIVE: Eight-hour drive to Luang Prabang, roadside traditional Lao lunch, quick visit to explore Tad See Waterfall, incredible traditional Lao dinner at Cactus Garden and an evening stroll through downtown and the night market.

DAY SIX:  A majestic early morning long-boat ride to visit the Pak Ou Buddha Caves, a stroll through Whisky Village and Xang Hai Wat (temple), a quick walk-through the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre, an afternoon spent trekking around the many levels of the Kuang Si Falls (probably the most beautiful site I've ever seen in my life) and an evening closed with a lovely dinner at Tamarind restaurant, sitting at a table that overlooked the Nam Khan River. (Everyone tried the crispy frog plate (Chef's special) except for me because I just couldn't do it after seeing the body parts, bones and all. Skyler was quite fond of the dish, declaring that the skin was especially tasty as she chomped away.


Lots has happened since I last visited my blog and wrote. Let's just start with -- we sold our house and cars in Tampa, moved to Zushi, Japan and I'm now home (or world) schooling the kids. So here we are. We've been living in Japan for three months now and absolutely love it. We not only love the country, but also our opportunities for travel, which brings me to Laos. In November, we took a trip to Laos for nine days. We stayed with an amazing host family in Vientiane (who I met via Facebook thanks to my friend, Christy) and also traveled to Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng. I'm going to break up our Laos holiday into a few different posts. Today, I'm going to share days one through three...

DAY ONE: Long flight and arrived in Vientiane late evening.

DAY TWO: Started our morning with a fantastic breakfast (sticky rice mango pancakes and cafe Lao) at a hidden restaurant tucked away in a little alley, visited two beautiful Buddhist wats (temples), walked throughout the morning market, walked up the Arc de Triomphe, rode in a tuk-tuk, ate an awesome Mexican lunch (good Mexican is super hard to come by in Japan), scootered around Vientiane with the littles and had a yummy traditional Lao dinner back at the house, thanks to Ms Lei.

DAY THREE: Woke early to see the tak bats (monks) receive their morning alms in front of our host home, drove to the village of Ban Katkhai, took a 40-minute long-tail boat ride on the Nam Mange River to a hiking trail, where we trekked (or rather hauled ass) for two hours through the jungle (learning about things, such as medicinal plants and poisonous trees along the way), ending with a swim in the Tad Xay waterfall and eating a traditional Lao lunch with our guides. Once back in Vientiane, we walked through the night market and had dinner at a rooftop restaurant, which overlook the Mekong River. 

over the years

yep, i know.  i haven't blogged in forever, with the exception of my recent 30-day photo project.  i have lots of excuses, most of which i will spare you from; however, i will say that it's partly because i didn't know where to start (still don't) -- so i then am paralyzed and don't write anything.  yes, that's logical thinking for you.  but i decided today that i just needed to write for the simple reason that i'm inspired to share.  eventually i will figure out a way to catch up and share news from this past year, but for now it's this… after seeing today's post on my modern met and thinking gol, i wish i had done something like that with my own family -- i decided to go on a hunt for my family's photos over the past years.

2005-2013. three states. so many memories. treasured photographs.

makes my heart happy gathering all the photographs and i dream of one day compiling them into a book to share with my kids.  one thing is for certain…you can never have enough family photographs.  and with steve leaving for japan soon and kiele heading to college later this year, i have a deep aching for LOTS and LOTS of family photographs... our complete family. all of us TOGETHER.

2005  |  ages:  a few weeks, 18 months, 7 years, 30 years (steve) and 35 years (me)

2005 by carey schumacher

2006 by jen kerker

2007 by shawn houllis

2008 by leah zawadzki

2009 by peta mazey

2009 by leigh miller

2009 by michelle huegsen

2010 by jen wright

2011 by leah zawadzki

2012 by jen wright

2013 by me

2013 by steve's brother

thank you to all who have photographed a special part of my family.  i could never thank you enough.  and if that wasn't enough to encourage you to have your own family photographed regularly, you should read THIS.

and with that said and shared, i wish you a very happy new year -- filled with love, laughter, adventure and everything wonderful.  signing off now before i change my mind.  xxo