Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 World Travel In Review

In this, my 7th blog post of the year, I'll attempt to do a somewhat abbreviated review of the long, strange trip that was 2019.  Many of these events could be their own posts, with many more to fill the gaps in between, and maybe they will be at some point.  


We started the year in Japan, and are ending it in North Dakota.  Yes, the time came to leave Japan -  after living there for 4 years - and I'm not sure I've fully dealt with that yet.  The move itself started in May and ended in October, during a blizzard.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The first several months of the year/last several months in Japan were a bit of a blur, as we tried to cram in any last minute trips.

We went to Hirosaki Castle for the Sakura (cherry blossoms) in April, but this time we stayed until after dark.  Then we crammed out onto a bridge, with thousands of other people, so that I could get some of the iconic night time canal pictures.

We took a road trip down to Kyoto, stopping in Motegi to see the Honda museum.  This was more of a "Jeff thing", at first, but I found myself captivated by the story of Mr. Honda and the incredible, audacious things that he and his company accomplished. 

We also went to Nara, specifically to see the famous bowing deer.  If you bow to them, they bow back for treats.  The bucks were the best at it, the does just tried to help themselves to your pockets.

In Kyoto, we saw many beautiful sights, including Kinkaku-ji, the Golden temple.

Closer to home, we went and saw the Jingle horse parade one more time. 

I also competed in Yabusame for the second time


Photo by Osamu Sasaki


Photo by Osamu Sasaki

We also jump through all of the hoops of a round the world military move (with pets - more on them below) and also Jeff's retirement.  He retired after 24 years of military service.  His retirement ceremony was held in Japan and it was a very neat thing to see and to be a part of.

For the actual moving, this time I decided to pack all of the model horses myself, after what happened on the move there.  I was quite sure that the Japanese movers would take much more care with them, but it still would have been a big job for them to do, so I did it myself.  I photographed each horse, doing an inventory as they were packed.

A few fun group pictures were taken, like this herd who all came to me through my friend, Sue

The OF stablemates each got a bath and were then packed.

As I took pictures, I also took a picture of each tote before closing it,

followed by the number of that tote.  This proved to be quite helpful when I decided to extract a few certain horses right before and after the move.

And here is a stack of horse totes and boxes, prepped and ready to go by the movers.

Our destination upon leaving Japan was Jeff's family in Pennsylvania.  There was where we had left our truck and one of Jeff's motorcycles.  This would be the first roundup of "stuff" we had left all over the country. 

Before we left Japan, Jeff asked me if I'd like to go to BreyerFest, which completely shocked me.  We would be in the middle of this big, crazy move and the truck needed a lot of work done to be roadworthy (the clutch had gone out while we were away).  Jeff pointed out that PA was much closer to KY and we wouldn't have much else going on...  So I had bought a 3 day ticket, just in case.

Jeff busted his butt working on the truck as soon as we got to PA, in early July.  This was the state of things just a couple of days before I would have to go, if I was going to see any of BF.  That's the transmission, transfer case, rear driveshaft, and other components, laid out next to the truck.

One of the people who I was keeping updated on the state of things at this point was my friend, Jennifer

I sent her this picture. and got this reply, on a Friday, the first day of BreyerFest.  I was on the way!

I made it to my first BreyerFest!  Thanks to Jeff.

After spending time in PA, doing more house hunting (a whole, long, ugly tale there that started in January, in Japan), we found a(nother) place in North Dakota, put in an offer (our 5th), got it accepted (!!), and hit the road. 

We were headed to a place we'd never been, to live in a place we'd never seen, cause that's how we roll.  Hey, we did it in Japan, why not North Dakota?

Many steps, frustration, and tears later... it turned out that to get the place, we had to repaint all of the outbuildings - on a place that wasn't even ours.  (Thanks, VA loan.  /sarcasm)  This required 6 long days (11-12 hours, no breaks) in August, and gallons and gallons of red and white paint to repaint the 4 outbuildings. 

We both agreed it was good we finished when we did, because neither of us had another day left in us.  The results were nice.

We finally had the go ahead to get the place, though I remained skeptical - until we had the keys in hand, started moving in, and Joey had an official romp in the grass, our grass.

At one point in the moving process, we went back to South Dakota and opened up the time capsule - er, storage unit - into which we had put the Jeep, Jetta, two motorcycles, and a bunch of household/garage/horse stuff.

We did a convoy of most of it, up to our new home in North Dakota.

Our shipment of household goods from Japan finally arrived in North Dakota in mid October - on the same day as a blizzard.  That in itself is a whole 'nother long story, but for now, here's a pile of stuff - including those totes full of horses - in what would be my new studio.

In the pet department, we had to say goodbye to The Marshmallows, as I called them - the little white zebra finches - when we left Japan.  Treveling Internationally with birds is very hard, if not impossible and I wouldn't want to try and put the little guys (and girl) through that anyway.  They went to my friend, Angie, an experienced bird lover and owner.

However, we brought back a Joey, after two other families had left him in Japan.

We also brought back Tealight, after taking her over there with us.  She is an across the world, and back again, traveler now.

At Jeff's mom's place in PA, I was reunited with Neytiri, or "Kitten", now named Patches.  She had been staying with them for the 4 years we were gone and is happy there.  On this visit, I made it official that she is their cat now.  Despite still being afraid of anyone outside of Jeff's mom or step-dad, she certainly remembers me. 

At our new home in North Dakota, we added three barn cats to the family.  They came with the property and house we bought.  They were all completely wild when we first moved in, but eventually learned we aren't so bad and even moved inside with us as winter set in.

First to get captured and brought inside was the girl kitten, who I named Sophie.

A while later, I made friends with her brother, who we named Loki.

On Loki's first day inside, he won over Jeff right away.

Last to join us inside was their mom, who we just call Mama. 

Lastly, we were reunited with Jabba, who has to be the world's oldest salamander.  He is a tiger salamander that I found seeking shelter in the barn in SD, MANY years ago, as winter closed in.  We'd had him for at least a few years, before leaving him with friends when we headed for Japan.  We thought we'd most likely not see him again.  He was already full grown when we first found him. 

Yet, he still lives! 

Leaving Japan, I had to say goodbye to the collection of Bonsai trees that I had acquired and cared for over the years there.  This hurt, a lot. 

Shortly after moving into our new home, I started a new collection of plants. Most of them "rescues" off of the clearance rack, because that's how I roll.

Other goodbyes were with good friends I had made in Japan, Angie and Tsukako-san, my Yabusame buddies. 

photo by Osamu Sasaki
 I miss them. 

With new places and new adventures come new friends: Anne and Christie.  Together we formed Team Appa at The Jennifer Show in Colorado.  (Appa is what I call our truck, "yip yip!")

photo by Anne van der Weel

Speaking of Colorado, Appa and I left North Dakota, just DAYS after moving into the new place, bound for Colorado and The Jennifer Show.  One of my primary goals there was for the epic Stagecoach project to see the light of day, in all its messy in progress for a decade glory.  This was the Big Dreams performance class and I went all out.

From Colorado, I went to Arizona.  There waiting for me was... 


Also there was Big Blue, my trusty, rusty trailer.

After a good, but too short, visit with friend, Kate, who took SUCH good care of my boy, it was time to go again.  Appa, Bo, Blue, and I left Arizona, and went back to Colorado for another visit with Jennifer.  There I rode my boy for the first time in 4-1/2 years.  It seemed like we hadn't missed a day.

We made our way back up to North Dakota where, for the first time since he was a foal, Bo was able to graze like a "real horse". 

In model horse news, I had started the year with NaMoPaiMo and an attempt at a MEPSA Makeover challenge horse, who did not make it in. 

All three of my NaMoPaiMo horses: 2017: Antar, black Arabian stallion, 2018: Bom Bidi Bom, chestnut Japanese Draft stallion, 2019: Wind In Her Hair, palomino tobiano Chincoteague Pony mare.

I judged my first MEPSA show, which was quite an undertaking, but also a lot of fun.

Once I was back in the U.S., I was finally able to go on the hunt for blind bag Breyers in the wild! 

In addition to judging my first MEPSA show, I also judged at my very first live show!  That was the Black Hills Model Horse Show in South Dakota.  What was really cool about this for me, was the feeling of things coming full circle.  This was the same show that was my "comeback" in 2014.  I was nervous about judging for the first time, but it was fun!

I think I'll wrap up the report here, surely this is enough??  Many other things happened over this wild and crazy year and I've struggled for several days now to try and "trim' this down to a somewhat manageable post.  Let me know if there's anything you might want to read/see more about and I'll add it to my plans for posts in the New Year. 

There will be more than 7 of those. 

Happy 2020, everyone! 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Hotel Room Studio

I just realized that maybe an interesting way to document this move is to show my mobile studio set up in each new location along the way.  Surely that would be more fun than to read me go on and on about how painful this move is for me.  I think so...


Today was the day that we left our home for the last 4 years.  By that I mean the actual house we have lived in.  It's been a long, painful, process that really got going 3 weeks ago when the first round of movers came and took...  almost everything.  It was then that I set up the Closet Studio

I did a bunch of medallion prep in the days to follow, a bit of painting, and got also got back to work on an overdue order for four leather halters - the last of a very large commission from a wonderful customer.  I've been making a wide variety of colorful halters for her, spread out over the last several months, then invoicing and sending them out a few at a time. 

A few days ago, another round of movers came.  To prepare for them, I packed my two suitcases that I'll take on the flight - one intending to be clothes, the other horses and supplies (though several horses and supplies leaked over into the clothes bag...).  Once I made my final, final selections - to include a flat rate box full of things to mail to meet us in PA when we get there - the rest of what I'd hung onto went at that time.  This was the "express" shipment, which is supposed to reach its destination, our new location, much sooner than the three or four months that the main shipment will take.

More road bumps, a battle with the housing office, many tears, some stress, a side of rage later, and this afternoon we left our house to move into the TLF (temporary lodging facitilies).  It is basically a 2 bedroom apartment with everything that two people, a dog, and a cat, who are all living out of a few suitcases, could ever need. 

Shortly after we hauled our belongings, groceries, pets and their paraphernalia in, we started unpacking for the 10 days or so that we'll call this place home, before we fly out. 

This led to me asking Jeff if he wanted to put anything in the other bedroom.  No?  Okay, well here's my Hotel Room Studio:

This is the "horse bag" with the awesome two tote setup that I had discovered after buying these bags for BreyerWest two years ago.

I've had it packed with horses and medallions on the left, pencil cases full of projects and supplies on the right.  In the "test run" from the house to here, everything survived with no damage.  Hopefully the flights will have the same outcome.

"Bom" (Chewie) getting some air from his personal pencil case.  He fits in there perfectly, it's his own little armored box. 

Antar and Wind In Her Hair, along with a selection of bodies that made the cut and stayed through the second round of movers.

ALL my medallions.  They are all at least primed, most prepped, a few have basecoats started.

Reckless and his girls.  ;-)  Behind them are some parts of the STAGECOACH.  I decided to send most of that with the express shipment, but pulled out the parts and tools to finish the chassis.  That's my goal for September.

The nightstand has been reassigned as a painting supply station.  I sent all of my paints out in the flat rate box, bound for PA, except for black and white - for some more basic medallion base coating.  Been burning through the primer and I'm hoping to use up most of the rest of this before we leave here.

Finally, this is my actual work station, on the dining table.  Jeff and I have set out a shared work area again; he's editing videos from his r/c planes and drones over there on the other side while I work on tack tonight.

One more picture, my studio room for the last four years, empty.

Farewell, Japan studio, I will miss you and especially the view of the huge cherry tree outside.  They have been doing a massive construction project on the building for the last month, so it is wrapped in scaffolding and netting.  I didn't get a last good look at "my" tree.