Traditional rice harvesting

Rice is a beautiful crop as you can see from these pictures. The bright yellow green plants pop against the dark green of the surrounding hills. Most of our team volunteered to harvest rice using traditional methods (second photo above). Ray and I opted out. As an ex-farmer and a farmer’s daughter, we had both put in enough hard work on farms that the prospect of farm work wasn’t appealing. The process is fascinating, however, as the video linked (under process) shows. Modern techniques have been adopted where the farmers can afford the equipment.

The workers from our team wore rubber boots, wellies as the Brits call them.

A Foodie Extravaganza in Japan.

Our tour coordinator bought us samples of loads of great dishes:

Sushi: squid, yellowtail, scallops, tuna, salmon. . .

Several wild variations on egg dishes

Gyoza (dumplings).

Horse: a delicacy here, but I had horses as best friends as a kid. I just couldn’t eat my friends.

Anyway, here are some of the pics.

Airline Survival Tips

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Airplanes- how we love to hate them.  Tight spaces, miserable food in those rare instances when it’s served at all, and the fun of sharing space for hours with a load of strangers.   At times, serendipity places you by a fascinating person but other times you get the toddler kicking your seat, the arguing couple slinging insults, or someone who insists on discussing politics.

airplane silhouette on air during sunset
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While those are certainly nightmare situations, most of my airplane trips have been bearable at  least, and many more were delightful. It helps to reframe the situations. On my first flight to Greece, a bunch of folks at the back of the plane were literally having a party.  Needless to say, I couldn’t sleep so I wandered back to use the restroom and perhaps ask them to tone it down a bit. I encountered several Greek families heading home for a family wedding. They were brimming over with happiness.  Despite my abysmal, nonexistent Greek language skills, they pulled me into the family group and by the flight’s end I had invitations to several homes in Greece. (I didn’t go, mainly because I was traveling with my teenage son and our plans were already set.)  But despite a sleepless night, it was a memorable flight with memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Airplane Survival Pack

Assuming you’re an adult traveling by yourself or with other adults, there are a few things you can pack that will make your flight easier.  Parents of small children will need a much larger emergency pack tailored to their children’s needs.

Earplugs.  I never travel without them.  They muffle all sorts of unpleasantness.

Tiger balm.  It can be used on the temples for headaches, under the nose for sinus congestion, and on complaining joints or muscles for pain relief.  And the jar is small enough for your tiny tsa bag.

black hat beside pair of black pointed toe pumps
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A lightly scented scarf or handkerchief.  You don’t want to give your seat mates headaches with a 90s style power perfume, but a light scent that you can bring near your nose if the stale airplane odors start to make you queasy can be a lifesaver.  Vanilla or lavender scents are especially soothing.

Eyeshade.  This is especially good for long flights when the lights are often on when you should be catching shut eye.

Melatonin.  For international multi- time zone flights, I take a pill at bedtime in the new zone.  Does it help? Maybe. But I’m up for trying everything to minimize jet lag.

Ebooks.  As an avid (and speed) reader, I love ebooks!  I used to have to buy 5 or 6 books at the airport to get through my flight and give them away as I left the plane.  Ebooks are much lighter.

Swimsuit.  No, one cannot usually swim on the plane, but a quick dip in the hot tub at my destination can unkink my sore body.

red and black usb cable
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Plugs for electronics. Many planes now have plug ins at each seat. This is especially wonderful for long flights.

A pre-charged no-plug charger for my electronics.  If your plane does not have plug-ins, this will ensure you aren’t left hanging in that thriller you’re reading.

A small selection of any medications you might need while on the plane.  It is much easier to get items out of your purse or daypack than your wheelie that is crammed into the overhead bin. So plan ahead.

A sense of humor.  Things will still go wrong. If a tired toddler is kicking your seat (and the parents are asleep), try pretending that he’s giving you a vigorous massage.

Food Truths

While the food on airplanes is often minimalistic, you have options.  And international flights still offer full meals.

For domestic flights, I generally find appetizing options in the concourse that are tastier than meals purchased from the airline.  If I have time, I eat my meal before my flight and just have juice or water on the plane. And trail mix, jerky (there are even vegan versions), and fruit are good carry on snacks.

ebi tempura bento on brown wooden table
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For international flights, a lot depends on the carrier.  One of the best meals I had aloft, was the Korean option on Korean airlines–some sort of spicy bulkogi. So here are some tips:

Special needs meals.  If you need these, don’t forget to pre-order them.  If you don’t need them, they’re still sometimes worth pre-ordering, as the options are often more interesting, especially for the vegetarian meal. One downside, you may have to wait longer for your meal.

If you’re adventurous, choose the cuisine of the country flying the plane when the flight attendants offer a choice.  It will almost always be better than the “American” choice.

Think food when booking. If you have a choice of carrier, Korean airlines, Singapore airlines, and Japan airlines are known for having especially good meals. Obviously, one wouldn’t pay a huge amount more just for the food, but if you have a choice between these carriers and others with less-tasty food reputations at about the same price, choose these.

Exercise

This is critical in a long haul.  Do stretching exercises at your seat, get up and go to the restroom more than absolutely necessary, and stand at your seat whenever you’re awake.  Thrombosis would ruin your vacation, so exercise.

When all else fails, close your eyes and imagine all the fun you’ll be having at your destination in just a few short hours.  Happy flying.

Fueling my Gelato Addiction

On the way to a Kentucky Derby Party, we screeched to an unplanned stop at Chocolate Cartel, which also includes fabulous Van Rixel gelato, as the custom gelato and chocolate were beckoning despite an unprepossessing industrial site.  I succumbed to lime/lavender gelato, and Ray had some sort of hazelnut gelato.  I’m afraid there were no leftovers for our dog, Owen.

The gelato brought us back to our time testing a different gelato on every corner in Italy; I won’t mention how much weight I gained on that trip.  The Van Rixel (now Chocolate cartel) gelato was sublime; perfectly balanced and melting on the tongue. This despite an urban-industrial-grunge style to the storefront — it’s technically a factory, after all.  We are already plotting our next visit, even though it is on the other side of Albuquerque from us.  Still, gelato nirvana is worth the trek across town, and yes, I’ll be using a credit card for the amount of gelato I plan to buy on the next visit.

Cricket Uprising

On a recent walk through the Volcanoes ( Volcanoes worth exploring) there seemed to be a biblical-like plague of crickets.  There were thousands of baby crickets everywhere, landing on my feet, hopping in my mouth, skittering around the rocks, and flying into my hair.  While the United Nations might like us to eat more bugs, and the Aztecs certainly used crickets as a food source, I’m not fond of surprise cricket meals. And I certainly won’t be the consumer for bug filled energy bars, sustainable or not. Energy bars I’ll avoid

animal biology blur close up
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It reminded me of the stories I heard as a child about the locusts devouring the Mormon’s fields until saved by seagulls. (Read the whole story here: Locust plague ).  Or Hitchock’s famous movie, “The Birds”, but with crickets substituting for birds. I’ve always found that movie distressing, and a recent California case demonstrates that my fears may not be altogether unreasonable. Here’s that  real life birds experience,

In any case, my fearless doggy companion, Owen, was oblivious.  Perhaps he liked the extra protein, or the crickets were just too small to register on his doggy radar.  He was far more interested in the knapsacks of two school buses worth of schoolchildren.  He was sure they contained doggy delicacies like peanut butter jelly sandwiches, and he was certain the children would not deny him.  He was disappointed when they only petted him and sashayed on their way.  In the end, we had a nice walk in the hills before leaving the crickets to enjoy the rest of the day.

An article in the local newspaper after I wrote this blog described the insects as grasshoppers, not crickets.  I guess that I’m not destined to be a world-famous expert on bugs!