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Japan has been teasing us for a few weeks with spring.  But thankfully, I think spring has finally arrived! (or at least is very close…) Our soap in our downstairs bathroom is no longer frozen, and we are able to walk into our closet without a jacket on.  We thought spring was upon us in early March, when the plum blossoms began to bloom, until winter decided to play with us one more time.  Mt. Fuji is still covered with snow, but the sakura are beginning to bloom, and that is a great sign of warm weather to come!

Spring in Japan is bathed in pink, as cherry blossoms (sakura) awaken the dull winter landscape and life begins anew.   Each year weathermen forecast the precise area for peak local sakura viewing with detailed maps, much like the fall foliage tracker in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but much more intense.  Large crowds flock to castle parks and along river fronts to hold a “hanami,” a sort of picnic where one is to contemplate the shortness and beauty of life extrapolating from the brief life of the plentiful pink blossoms.  Of course, that could be the sake talking as these picnics often turn into all day/night parties of a very festive atmosphere where offices will send out a person to hold their spot of ground and party until the moonlight illuminates the sakura.  Commercially, the sakura season does well as stores sell any and everything Sakura themed. Starbucks even makes a Sakura Latte flavored with real petals here.  The springtime Sakura and Hanami are very uniquely Japanese that took on a somber tone this year though.  Sakura had just begun to bloom in southern Japan, on Kyushu, when the March 11 earthquake hit.  Every year the military base here opens its doors to the locals and have a large Sakura picnic, as most of the major streets on base are lined with large, old Japanese Cherry trees.  The base picnic was canceled as most families had evacuated, and Angela left without seeing any blooms.  I didn’t even have a camera to take pictures of our very own Sakura blooming in our front yard, so I bought one and tried to enjoy the beauty.  The trees really were magnificent, just sad this year.  The petals became so voluminous that walking into a breeze it looked like pink snow, and streams soon ran pink with petals.  A few short weeks and the blooms were gone, and a saddened country remained.  Next year the Sakura season will likely be quite an event as Japan marks one year since the earthquake and will no doubt enjoy hanami again and contemplate the shortness and beauty of life (and I can enjoy it with a Hanami of our own with AJ, Angela, and myself contemplating the beauty of life, though AJ will likely spend it begging for food!)

Pumpkins remind me of the fall leaves in Blacksburg.  I was never much of a pumpkin eater until I went to college, and now I can’t get enough of it.  When I found this amazing pumpkin muffin pan at Crate and Barrel, I had to buy it.  This pan makes 3-D pumpkins that you put together with frosting (cream cheese of course!) And to make the pumpkins even better, we found pumpkin muffin mix at Trader Joes.  Mmmm….the taste of fall has never been cuter!

San Diego FallFall is my favorite time of year. I love watching the leaves change, feeling the air turn crisp, and ordering pumpkin spiced lattes at Starbucks. Unfortunately, San Diego doesn’t get that fall feeling, Angela and the Pumpkinthough I do feel the San Diego fall in the air. Last year, I couldn’t tell the difference, but I’ve been here long enough to feel the difference this year. It’s subtle…but there. To enjoy fall, James and I drove to the beautiful mountains of Julian, where us Southern Californians drive to experience fall. At only an hour away, Julian gives you the crisper fall air, slight leave changes, amazing apple pies, and a cute small town feel. Every year they host the Apple Festival, where you can pick your own apples, enjoy homemade cider, apple wine, apple butter, and apple pies. My personal favorite was the pumpkin apple pie.James and the Pumpkin That piece of pie alone was worth the drive! We actually made two trips to experience fall, one that included some wine tasting and enjoying the cute old mining town of Julian, and one that included apple picking and the pumpkin patch. It was a bad year for apples in southern California, so there wasn’t much picking to be done. It was still beautiful though, and we enjoyed walking through the orchards. We spotted a pumpkin patch on the drive in, so we left the orchard and went to pick out our pumpkins. It was also a bad year for pumpkins, but we were able to find a few cute ones for the apartment. At the pumpkin patch, James and I reminisced about the pumpkin patch in Christiansburg. It really is a hard one to beat, with the beautiful mountains surrounding the farm, the tractors to climb on, the rolling hills of pumpkins, the petting zoo, and of course the home made cider and kettle corn. I could almost taste the homemade cider and feel the crisp air on my cheeks. I miss Blacksburg in the Fall!Julian Bakery

The Julian Bakery… Built in 1882…     Burned in 1957…     Restored in 1978

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Flickr Photos

The "Pillar of Judgement." Christendom kind of freaks me out...

Fungus pizza! Gross! Lol

France!

Flying buttresses!

Gargoyle! A little different than in Blacksburg

Cathedral de Notre Dame of Strasbourg. Impressive!

Gothic light show in Strasbourg

Europe is hilarious!

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