Zao Fox Village

   
    
    
    
    
    

 An hour south of Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture is a village of foxes of all colors and shapes and sizes. Zao Fox Village is a haven where most of its resident foxes can roam freely on the grounds; once revered as gods of rice growing, foxes are now considered Vernon by most of suburban society. Finding them in the wild is rare so while I normally do not willingly go to zoos or places where the animals are kept caged for long hours of the day, Zao Fox Village deserves some attention for attempting to keep the fox population from going the way of the native Japanese wolf (by which I mean extinct).

Babies and the sick are kept in separate cages, but the adults who are still fit to walk around have the run of the place.

For ¥1,000 plus ¥100 per feeding bag, you gain entry to the main adult enclosure. To hold baby foxes or baby rabbits/guinea pigs, you’ll pay an extra ¥300, but it’s well worth the experience and is sure to keep human kids entertained for the day.

And of course, I finally learned what the fox says…

They sound like mewling cats ;D

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Fullerton Arboretum

Located in the upper North corner of Orange County, the city of Fullerton is best known for the following: a convenient 15 minute distance from Disneyland by car, Troy High School, Republicans, and the eponymous California State University off of Nutwood Avenue. Hordes of commuters and international students arrive each year to pursue higher education for an increasingly competitive job market, their options limited by geography and cost for the most part. It ranks as one of the best Business Administration degree granting institutions but the disparity in inter-departmental expenditure is more than obvious. Humanities and Arts will languish in the ages old archaic system of favoritism while the Business and Engineering colleges are garnished with grants and money willed by famous and/or rich alumni. This hierarchical system is seen around the world and not unique to Cal State Fullerton. It’s sadly bigoted and geared towards pumping out businessmen and professors – the socially acceptable and “successful” of our demographics – professions which most have neither the inclination nor the will to follow for personal reasons.

In the midst of this ages long war, the botanical gardens (otherwise known as the Arboretum) on campus grounds flourish through patron donations, which enables them to provide free entry to the community and not just its students. The grounds are breathtaking, lush, and full of surprises if you step off the beaten tracks. Its main gem and attraction is a Bodhi Tree presented to the university by the Dalai Lama in 2000. Many a person has rested their weary feet at its roots and shaded themselves from the oppressive California sun beneath its verdant foliage. Though not my personal favorite, the Bodhi Tree is nonetheless of great importance and something of a claim to fame for the school.

Summertime sees the ducklings born in the spring transformed into full grown adults as well as a host of seasonal flowers blooming bright and tall, the return of a well-loved crane to its ponds, and a host of children that visit the children’s corner on the grounds. My favorite flowers are sunflowers and seeing them at the entrance made me so excited to discover what else had grown since last I had been there in June. The best part, though, was seeing my mom go absolutely nuts over the Arboretum’s plant collection. As an amateur botanist with years of experience in home gardening and transplanting, she’s also a bit of an enthusiast on rare plants, making the Arboretum her own heaven on earth since each section is divided into geographical regions.

Parking at the Arboretum is also free but very limited. And as previously mentioned it is quite a family friendly destination: it hosts a children’s area complete with play stations, the Nikkei Japanese Heritage Museum, and a greenhouse with plants sold according to seasonal availability. I recommend this Southern California trip to anyone who wants to tour a university campus and escape into the greenery, too.

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Although accessible by the 91 or 57 freeways, be aware that most of the 91 carpool lanes have been turned into toll roads by greedy-politician-back-hand deals with equally (if not more so) greedy-and-soulless businessmen. If this sounds a tad bit bitter, please keep in mind that Californians have a special love-hate affair with their freeways. We have pretty steep taxes already and it’s a slap in the face to find out that some of the heaviest traffic carrying freeways (which are already in need of lane expansions to accommodate the heavy influx of commuters) are now charging for being used.

But I digress. More information on the Arboretum and events can be found by clicking here.

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My favorite flowers in all the world: they’re so big and bright and happy 😀 They always put a smile on my face!

Home-made Strawberry Jam + Time Machine Archives

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Hiking in the morning, making jam in the afternoon, and reading heavy fiction in the evening are some nice alternatives for the people who aren’t too beach crazy. The only way to enjoy summer properly is to partake of all its joys, my dear Californians, and yes there is a world outside of our warm, sandy beaches. Fortunately this is also the time of the year that locally grown fruit makes a comeback: lower in price and oh so ripe. The best way to preserve their full flavor and freshness? In jams! 😀

So this recipe is pretty adaptable for the most part, which is great for people who want to cut back on the sugar. My friend Diana is the greatest at coming up with cooking challenges for us to try but this one topped the cake. Not only was it fairly simple and less stressful than some of our other concoctions (pasta sauce… ahaha o.o) but it’s so much fun! Just the idea of making jam instead of having to buy it – makes one feel self suffient! It’s a family friendly recipe that’s a win-win for everyone. I look forward to seeing what else she’ll come up with next 😉

.:INGREDIENTS:.

  • 2 lbs organic strawberries
  • ~1 c water
  • 1.5 c sugar (white, brown, raw)
  • 1 lemon, squeezed

::DIRECTIONS::

  1. Wash, de-stem, and cut all of the strawberries in half. And, of course, eat a couple of them along the way >.> But not all!
  2. Blend strawberries and water until completely liquefied.
  3. Pour the liquefied strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice into a saucepan and stir sugar until completely dissolved.
  4. Boil this mixture for 30-45 minutes and stir occasionally to keep jam from burning. Make sure to skim the thick, white foam that accumulates, which although tasty is not good for the jam. You’ll know it’s ready once it turns a bright and deep red.
  5. Ladle into properly sterilized mason jars (do not touch inside of the jar) but do not fill to the brim. Carefully seal mason jar and place lid down onto a towel on a flat surface, which will help the jam to seal properly. Once cooled place the mason jars into the refrigerator so that jam can properly congeal 😉

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Even so this jam will be a little runnier than the kind you buy at the supermarket because there are no artificial additives. But it holds up well and tastes amazing. The amount of sugar listed in this recipe is just right for those who like a tart sweetness. Two cups of sugar (but no more) recommended for people with a really sweet tooth. All in all it’s a pretty adaptable recipe. Enjoy!

And now for some time machine archives from the old blog – those of you who would like access just drop me a line using the contact page: strawberry picking, otherwise known as いちごかり (ichigokari) in Japanese, is a great day trip to take if you live in the city and want to get out for a couple of hours.

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For about 1,000 yen (approximately $10.00) you can pick and eat as many strawberries as you want in the hothouses for a set amount of time. Most places do anywhere upwards of an hour and a half to two and a half hours of wonderful berry picking and eating.

Joshua Tree National Park

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Named after the area’s signature Yucca brevifoliaJoshua Tree National Park is located about two hours east of Los Angeles and features an abundance of desert wildlife as well as fantastic geology, making it the perfect pit stop for adventurous travelers who don’t mind going off the beaten track.

Rock climbers, photographers, nature enthusiasts, and geology students will have a blast climbing the gigantic granitic monoliths by using the unique erosion patterns that create accessible foot and hand holds across most of these features. It’s quite a work out. Upon reaching their summit, you can see for miles around and take in the beautiful desert landscape/scenery. JTNP might not be as well known as Death Valley National Park or the Mojave Preserve but it’s definitely more accessible, complete with visitor centers and designated parking areas all throughout the area for those who enter it by car.

Bicyclists and hikers get a reduced fee entry 7 day pass for $5 while visitors who come by car pay $15 for a week (or for a flat rate of $30 you can opt for the yearly pass).

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