Elephant Nature Park

“You know…they say an elephant never forgets.  What they don’t tell you, is that you never forget an elephant.”

~Bill Murray in “Larger Than Life”

I know you all know I have a thing for elephants.

It’s yet another topic I talk about a lot.  I’m a bit annoying.  I get it.

But bear with me, ‘cuz I’m gonna do it again.

While in Chiang Mai, Thailand last week we had the opportunity to spend the day at the Elephant Nature Park.  About an hour and a half north of the city, the Park is home to more than thirty elephants who have been rescued and/or rehabilitated from abuse, begging, disease, injury and more.  Visitors can go for the day, spend the night, and even stay and volunteer for up to two weeks.  We just spent the day as the overnight options were completely booked ~ how wonderful is that!

The Felt So Cutes were lucky to have visited an elephant park last year while in Phuket, but ENP is rather different from anywhere else.  Stayed tuned for why.

Because elephants eat the majority of the time they are awake, we did start off with feeding one of the herds.

Now this is a serious pantry!

pantry

We fed the elephants from a raised viewing platform, which was ideal, as we were essentially eye to eye with the lovely ladies.  Everyone comes running at chow time!

dinnerbell

Some of the elephants are blind due to abuse but because their sense of smell is so strong, The Cuties could simply hold out a piece of fruit and the elephants’ trunks would find it and wrap around it to take it away quick as can be!

feedingtime

watermelontreats

And speaking of eye to eye, do you think pretty Dani gets eyelash extensions like all the ladies in Tokyo? :-)

lashes

And here’s what’s so incredible about ENP.  After we fed the elephants, we climbed down from the viewing platforms and simply walked around the park with the elephants!  Yes, you read that right.  We were just walking around, hanging out with them, petting them, talking to them and chilling {OK, not so “chill” in 100 degree weather, but you know}.

roamingherd

{I’ll confess I have no idea where Little Cutie is while that picture was being taken, which probably isn’t really stellar parenting with 7 ton animals strolling about, but please take note of her pink hat and safe reappearance in the next photo!}

chillinwitheles

Each elephant has their own mahout, who is with them always when out in the park with volunteers, but there are no weapons, no chains, nothing.  The elephant ~ mahout relationship is amazing to watch.  It’s about love and trust, and the ENP mahouts get their elephants to move and go where they want by verbal commands and a lot of delicious bananas.  The secret to a family photo with raised trunk, smiling elephants surrounding you?  Baby bananas!

familyelepic

So at this point, we’re pretty hot and sweaty, so I can only imagine how the elephants feel covered in one inch thick skin.  Fortunately, the ENP includes a river, so we all changed into our bathing suits and headed there {well, those of us who walked on two legs and cared about otherwise swimming in just our hide!}.bathingbeauty

Having spent several years of my life bathing wiggly, squirmy toddlers, I can accurately report that bathing an elephant is actually easier than bathing one of my own children.

And a lot more fun.

elebath

{Of course Lilly suits with elephants were worn special for the occasion.  As if you doubted it?}

gotchaLike you didn’t see that coming!

The day passed incredibly quickly and after feeding the elephants again, we took a few more pictures and then headed back to our hotel.

All Big Cuties like to have their pictures taken with their mamas.  Here’s my Big Cutie with me, and the adorable eight year old Tong Jaan and her mama, Mae Bua Tong.

mamasnbabies

If you’re ever looking for a great cause to donate to, I can’t recommend the Elephant Nature Park highly enough.  Their work is incredible and the Park is amazing.  You can sponsor meals for an elephant for a day or more, medical treatment, etc.  If you want to see more of the Park and learn about it’s founder, Lek, here are some great videos.

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Planes, Trains, Automobiles and More!

This Spring Break will go down in history as the trip of many modes of transportation!

First, we hopped a PLANE from Tokyo to Bangkok, where we landed and realized it was actually not the start of Spring, but rather, smack in the middle of the Thai Summer Season.  Yikes.

I always remember to check that we are avoiding Monsoon Season when booking our travels, but clearly need to start checking out what to expect a little more than just hot.   So scratch that and make it more like Yikes – with a double scoop of hot sticky sweat on top.  We’re talking super steamy hot, folks.

We grabbed an un-airconditioned TAXI from the airport to our hotel where all four of us got to snuggle up in the back seat because Thai taxis run on natural gas.  So the huge tank occupies most of the trunk and our luggage rode in style in the front passenger seat.  Now make that a triple scoop of hot sticky sweat!

The next day, our adorable tour guide Oi met us at our hotel to take us around Bangkok.  We first took the TAXI WATER FERRY over to the SKYTRAIN so she could teach us how to do that on our own if we wished.    After walking all around the Grand Palace {AMAZING – watch for a post on this soon!}, we took a LONGBOAT ride on the Chaophraya River and canals.

thailongboat

That night we headed to the train station to board the OVERNIGHT TRAIN from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.  Look how cheerful and genki we are at the start of our trip!

overnighttrain

Fancy Pants Peeps that we are, we sprung for the First Class Cabin, which entitled us to an actual door instead of a curtain to our berth, as well as a sink.  Fortunately, we were able to arrange connecting rooms, which gave us “roomier” accommodations with the doors open.

bunkbeds

You see “roomier,” dontcha? ;-)

There was a slight moment of comedy when I returned from the first trip to the bathroom and simply handed my husband my phone with this image on it:

trainsquattoilet

We did subsequently find the Western style toilet further down the car, but after chugging through the mountains and shifting tracks, and a lot of splashing water, the squat toilet eventually seemed a better choice.  When in Rome!

We arrived in Chiang Mai after fifteen hours looking {and smelling!} decidedly less cute, but happy to be in the mountains.

overnighttrain2

After taking a VAN TAXI {this time there were plenty of seats!} to our hotel, we were thrilled to be greeted in the lobby by cool towels, iced lemongrass tea, and the news that our rooms were ready and waiting even though it was only 9:00 in the morning.  I’m noting that shower as one of the very best ever.

teaandcooltowels

The easiest way to get around Chiang Mai is by TUK TUK, which the girls especially love.  I can’t help but think about all the agonizing and researching I once did over minivan safety ratings, and how I extended harnessed The Cuties in car seats long past anyone else in their preschool and kindergarten classes.  And now I regularly let them ride around the streets of Thailand in these {and this was a brand new one ~ Little Cutie would like you to note the extra cool flame job!}.

tuktuk

Because this wasn’t a beachy-type vacation we were able to participate in all sorts of tourist and experiential activities.  At the very last minute, we decided to head up north about an hour and half to The Flight of The Gibbon ZIPLINE tour of the rainforest.  I’ll confess to you I was totally freaked out that I might not be able to do it, but watching Little Cutie hop right on and go and love it, and Big Cutie push through her initial fear and then absolutely love it too, made me a believer and it was AWESOME.

We immediately fell in love with Chiang Mai.  So much so we changed our plans to take the train back to Bangkok to tour more at the end of the week, and extended our trip in the mountains until the very last minute possible and then flew back to Bangkok and home to Tokyo {did you catch that was two more PLANES!}.

And of course, to get home from the airport, we took the usual BUS and then yet another TAXI.  It was a full-on, complete adventure of a week.

And I haven’t even begun to tell you about the elephants….

:-) :-) :-)

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My Week in Numbers

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week, by the numbers:

1000 piece puzzle completed.

I am a seriously obsessive puzzle-doer, folks.  I stayed up past 1:00 am more than once this week attempting to put a dent in this beast.  I am ready to reclaim my dining room table and give my poor eyes a rest!

puzzle

41 eggs in my house.

I bought eggs at the grocery store this week and when they arrived in my delivery, three of the eight were broken.  I called the store to tell them, and after great apologies, the delivery man reappeared at my door with twenty eggs, a package of strawberries and an apology letter from the store manager.  In putting all of the eggs away in the refrigerator, I realized I didn’t need any eggs in the first place, and that I now had more than three dozen.  At The Cuties’ request, we made several hard and soft-boiled for quick breakfasts.  I had fun with my Sharpie and realized I clearly am having some Easter egg decorating jealousy since we don’t celebrate.

eggs

33 overnight camp forms completed and uploaded.

I have signed waivers, completed health histories, written about their personalities, and helped The Cuties select their activities.  The paperwork for summer camp is officially done!  I know the Internet is wonderful and all, but I sort of miss the days of paper forms where I could fill in the general information, photocopy it for my other child and save myself writing the same basic stuff twice on a dozen different forms!

21 separate flights booked.

The Cuties and I have a busy summer planned!  {and these don’t even count the flights I helped my husband book for his visit to see us}  We have to get from Tokyo to America and then head several places once we’re there.  I went to bed one night positive I’d booked everything and was feeling quite pleased with myself.  Until I sat up in bed and realized I never booked a flight for me to fly back up to the Midwest to pick The Cuties up from summer camp.  OOPS!

6 inches of hair!

I got a big chop this week that was rather badly needed.  Even more importantly, I washed that gray right outta my hair {never a good sign when your youngest child is asking why your hair is two different colors!}  I snapped a quick picture on my way out to send my husband so he wasn’t shocked when I walked in the door!  Feel free to laugh at my “selfie;” they’re always painfully awkward.  What can I say, I’m 41, my first cell phone came in a big bag with a long cord !

haircut

and finally, I am knee-deep in packing 3 suitcases for Spring Break!  We are off to Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand for some adventures, where the weather forecast is 103 degrees ~ How’s THAT for a number?!!!

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Become a Brussel Sprout Believer

I’ll confess something to you.

I used to be one of those people.

You know us.  The ones who said they didn’t like Brussel Sprouts.  But hadn’t ever really tried Brussel Sprouts.  Yup.  One of those.  I mean they look a bit strange in their organic state, and as an adult I always found the resemblance to the biological weapons in the movie The Rock a little disconcerting to say the least

brussel_sprout_igor the-rock

But, oh how my tune has changed.

I recently made this recipe and had to resist the urge to close the door to the kitchen and not share with my children {of course it’s rather difficult to hide any recipe that calls for 5 cloves of garlic when it’s roasting in the oven for close to an hour, but let’s pretend I was generous and loving, shall we?}.

Start by trimming and halving about 2 pounds of Brussel Sprouts {don’t panic and think this sounds like to much ~ trust me, they’re this good and your children will mow them down and ask you for more and then how guilt-ridden will you feel denying them seconds on Brussel Sprouts??!!!!}

brusselsproutshalved

Take five cloves of garlic and mince them.  The recipe says you can press them through a garlic press but ever since I read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and he rants against this gadget I’ve been paranoid I’ll run into him some day on the streets of Tokyo and he’ll randomly ask me if I use a garlic press. Goody two shoes that I am I will have to answer truthfully so it seems easier to just avoid using garlic presses for the rest of my life on the outside chance this ever happens.  Have I mentioned lately I need therapy?

Besides, I’ve told you several times how fabulous ceramic graters are, so you should use one of those anyway.

garlic

Add the garlic, 1/2 cup water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and a 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to the Brussel Sprouts and toss together.  Spread out into a single layer.  Bake for 40-50 minutes at 425 degrees in the upper third of your oven.  About halfway through, be sure to stir.  When finished, make sure you scrape all the caramelized  brown yumminess {yes, that’s a technical cooking term ~ look it up} into your serving bowl, as it’s part of what makes this dish so delicious.

brusselsproutyummies

Now, start planning to bring this to every family dinner and then quietly gloat how everyone in your family now loves their healthy vegetables and you are personally responsible for adding years to their lives for making them pass on the Velveeta-covered broccoli!

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My New Ride

Nope, I still don’t drive in Tokyo.

But I finally got a bicycle and boy, is she a beauty.

The husband and I set out to the bike shop last weekend where he asked all sorts of technical questions and checked out important details on things like battery life and front and rear working lights.

Me?  I needed to ensure our choice was available in either pink or green.

I am nothing if not consistent.

bicycle

I’m still on a bit of a learning curve as to how to maneuver riding a bicycle amidst the pedestrian traffic and to handle the “surge” while taking off up a hill in electric mode.  But I haven’t killed myself yet and I managed to ride to the grocery store today and get what I needed and ride back in a matter of minutes, which was the whole goal of the purchase, so I am a happy gal.

Now if I can just figure out exactly where I can sneak a bright green monogram I will be in heaven!

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Remembering March 11

There are many amazing links out there with photographs and writings about that fateful day two years ago in Tohoko.  I urge you to spend a few minutes checking them out today {or tomorrow if you’re in America}.

Being here, and hearing my girlfriends’ stories ~ I can tell you who was in their car on the Rainbow Bridge, who was at the American School and who was inside Toys R Us when the earth began to move.  I feel their fear all over.  I ache for them.  I knew their tension when we recently had a snow day and the buses took five hours to get our children home and I watched them relive waiting on buses to get the children home from school for hours upon hours the day of the earthquake.

It was about 22 months ago that we first started talking about moving to Tokyo.  Many of our friends and family were understandably scared for us.  The week we told The Cuties, their school was still fundraising to help with the relief efforts.  We were wary, but excited to try. And so we came.

I know I’m jumbled here.  And I’m honestly not sure I really want to edit and rewrite over and over today.  It’s a hard day and it should be hard to write.

But this I know.

Japan is amazing.

The Japanese people are incredible.

And ranking after marrying my husband and having The Cuties, I can without a doubt say that moving here and having this opportunity is one of the single best things I’ve ever done in my life and I’m so very glad to be here and experience it all.

Ganbare Nippon!

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Fun Art Anyone Can Make!

The Cuties needed a little piece of art for their bathroom in the new apartment and I had seen this idea on Pinterest I wanted to try.

It was even an elephant which was exactly what I had in mind since we’d been talking about our incredible experience with elephants in Phuket last year on Spring Break.

I chose a shape in the Silhouette online shop and printed it about eight inches across on a piece of card stock.  I then used blue painter’s tape to secure it to a piece of heavyweight watercolor paper {you definitely want a true watercolor paper for this project as the texture really adds to the finished project in my opinion!}.

supplies

I began adding different shades of blues and mixing them within my stencil while still wet.  See the salt shaker?  Let me explain.  My freshman roommate at Vanderbilt was an incredible artist.  Seriously amazing.  She’d finishing studying and whip out her paints and magic would happen there between our Laura Ashley bedecked beds {I just dated myself again, didn’t I?}.  Anyway, she showed my how adding a little salt to wet watercolors did the coolest speckling to the paint.  Most important, twenty years later, it rocked The Cuties’ world.

blueelephant

I should share that I added a few small pieces of rolled up blue tape underneath some of the more complex cuts to my stencil like the legs for stability.  Even so, you may want to hold down your stencil while you paint those areas to avoid bleeding.

'phant

Then, I just peeled up the stencil and voila!

paintedelephant

And here’s a close up of the texture from the salt.  Perfect for elephant “hide,” don’t you think {presuming you’ve ever seen a violet and blue ombre elephant, of course!}

elephantstippling

The Cuties are searching through the Silhouette site to select templates they want to make next.  We may cover the wall in a full menagerie before the end of the school year!

Linked to:

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