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Noticing

June 2024





June 2024

 

Hello, 

 

Those of you who follow me on my private Facebook page, know that I traveled alone to Japan for two full weeks in May, most of that with @ChefShota with @ModernAdventure. I have not been gone from Mr. Fox for that length of time ever in my marriage—that I can recall.

 

Ever heard of the Emily Dickinson quote, “I am out with lanterns, looking for myself”? That pretty much sums up why.


I think as women we diminish then dilute ourselves to fit in, trying to make things easier for someone else, over and over again throughout our lives. Then school, work, marriage and motherhood comes and we drain the essence of who we are until we wake up one day and are unrecognizable to ourselves. I guess I should only speak for myself. I have gotten so curious about how that happened for me and what I lost along the way. I faintly recall really loving the essence of who I was at one time. I felt so aligned in every way and the outside, or the way I presented to the world, matched what I was feeling on the inside. I'm not foolish enough to think that can be recaptured but I want so deeply to feel that feeling—just a bit of that, one more time. It was an energetic thing and fleeting, but very much real.

 

When an opportunity through Modern Adventure presented itself to travel to Japan, it felt too extravagant, too much. I was not deserving. But then I rationalized it by saying it was probably the last big trip I would take and certainly it would be the last trip to Japan. There were parts of the country that I wanted to revisit along with Kyoto, which I had never been to but had always felt a pull towards. I put my deposit down and got non refundable tickets to lessen the chances of my changing my mind.

 

I did go on the trip and it was magical and thrilling in many ways. Those of you who follow my private Diane Terry Coach Facebook page, got the day by day travel journal of the trip starting May 2nd. Being a chef led trip, it was 99% about the food and it was incredible! The attention to the most minute detail of each meal was unbelievable. I got to reunite with my grade school and middle school class mates and it was very heart warming.

 

One hour of the trip transcended every other part of the trip however. We arrived at the utterly sublime Hotel:The Mitsui in Kyoto around 4pm.  We were on our own until the next morning. I had a list of three galleries I really wanted to see while there. But all three closed at 5pm. I had just enough time to change and call an Uber and had to pick one to go to: Nichi Nichi. I chose the one closest to me. It is housed in an old craftsman home. Serene, peaceful, opening up onto a zen side yard with requisite pine tree, maple, rock lantern and running water. The energy in the room made my shoulders relax. A very feminine, quiet woman greeted me dressed in white, linen monastically simple clothing exuding nothing but presence and calm. She encouraged me to enter and browse around. I visited the tea section, then the glass, and the pottery section. All were lovely and anything would have made a perfectly lovely keepsake to remind me of this wonderful trip. 

 

But then my eye spotted a sun filled anteroom with a jewelry case. Oh! She encouraged me to explore. Much to my surprise the vitrine was filled with rings that I recognized as the work of Karin Kolster-Kelly, a German jeweler, one of three jewelers, that I have been following and coveting for over a decade. Her pieces are one of a kind. They either fit or they do not. The first, rather large stone, I tried to put on and it was not going past my knuckle. I was half relieved as I put it back. “Zan nen”…too bad. I was about to leave when a subtle, gray moonstone caught my eye. She placed in on the round, wooden bowl for me to retrieve. Oh! Perfect! Both our eyes widened. And she softly exclaimed, “Like Cinderella!”. Well yes. It fit perfectly. So I took that as an omen and it is on my hand now as I type.


Then she said, “Take your time and I will meet you in the other room to ring you when you are ready.”. Then she said, “Oh, there is someone you must meet.” I turn and standing in front of me is the most elegant, Chinese woman, who reminded me of a Modigliani painting. Tall, lithe, and so elegant, in her all black, monochromatic outfit but with funky artistic socks and her ivory spectacles. It’s not often that a woman takes my breath away but she did. She spoke perfect British English and detected right away that I was American. (Darn it.) She asked where I was visiting from. I told her. Then she said, “these other two ladies are also from the States”. I turn and I kid you not, I had THE most fan girl moment of my life. 

 

Standing in front of me were Prairie Stuart-Wolf of Mirukashi Salon and her partner Hanako Nakazato. Mirukashi Salon is in Kyushu in the coastal town of Karatsu. This woman from Maine fell in love with her partner Hanako who comes from a deep, lineage of potters. She has built nothing short of a legacy project, The Mirukashi Salon that only a true foodie would know about. I read about it years ago in a now defunct, obscure food journal called Storied.

 

My deepest, most secret wish until that moment was to make a pilgrimage there for a culinary trip for one of the 72 seasons of Japanese cuisine. I must have let out a yelp. “Pppprairie?”, I stammered. “Yes!”, she replied haltingly as if she was going through her brain to remember who I might be. I explained how I am a raving fan and wait for her monthly newsletter like I used to wait for the Sears Christmas catalogue as a child. I bowed to her partner and told her how much I loved her work. 

 

They then told me her work was being picked up by TLK: The Lost Kitchen in Maine and Erin French and her husband had just been at their place earlier in the year. The vibrational energy was palpable to us all. It was so other worldly for me. I just kept thinking, “What is this moment supposed to be teaching me?” And just how grateful I was to be experiencing it all. 

 

I wanted them to also experience the gallery and be able to make a purchase, so I excused myself and called an Uber back to The Hotel: Mitsui. It was a perfect, perfect 10/10 afternoon for me. It was the first time in an eternity that I felt like “myself”. That I was not compromising anything; not diluting who I was to make others happy. Not disappearing so someone else could shine. Not putting someone else’s needs above my own. Shape-shifting, as my friend Laura would say. I was just me. And you know what? It really felt damned good. I was too high strung to just go back to my room so I went to the hotel bar. You can read about THAT on my Facebook entry dated May 14th.


PACKING & TRIP PLANNING 101

(And all the do's & do nots!) 


Several of you have asked for any tips and tricks for travel since you know I'm so research driven and go deep before I dip a toe in the water. So I'll share what worked and what didn’t. I did pack for two weeks with only carry on. No one believed I could do it but I did and I over packed as it was. So, here goes.

 

I got the Away Expandable Carry On. It fit everything and then some. It rolled well. I love black so I splurged the extra $50 to get it monogrammed. I was with my work Bestie when someone picked up her bag in Bend by accident. I did NOT want that to ever happen to me. Although I was not checking anything, I was not taking any chances. I made sure the size of the case fit both Alaska and JAL requirements.

 

The best purchase I made for this trip was the Nomad Lane Bento Bag. This is a bag that fits under your airline seat and over the handle of your bigger bag. It is SO well designed, it’s crazy. There is a thoughtful spot for your passport and phone as you go through security. There is a see through liquids bag and another bag. I always store the liquids on the Left side for Liquids. 😉  There is an easily accessible slot for iPad, Kindle, notebook/cords & noise cancelling headphones.  Then it fully unzips and you can easily stow at least 3 days worth of clothes and a pair of shoes if you are afraid of your checked luggage getting lost. I packed all my jewelry, make up, toiletries and meds in this bag. I have not stopped singing the praises of the Bento Bag since I have been home.

 

I packed my usual vintage Celine Cabas Vertical Leather Tote but most days I used an Anti-Theft Travel Slim Sling Cross Body bag sling bag from Amazon that had RFID security, cannot be cut open, covered zippers and thoughtful compartments. This entire sling bag also slipped conveniently into the Nomad Bento Bag.

 

I also got a pack of Air Tags from Amazon. I put them obsessively everywhere. But I knew at all times where everything was. On the day our bags were given over Yamato to be shipped ahead of us two days earlier to Kyoto, I knew where my bag was at all times. My Nomad Bento was with me.

 

I am a very minimal products gal and when staying in top of the line hotels, it is kind of silly to bring any products. But I did pack my day cream, night cream and facial cleanser from home. If I were to do it again, I would have splurged for Cadence travel containers. As it was, I balked at the price and weight and went El Cheap but had the presence of mind to put it all in a Zip lock which it all leaked into. SO annoying.

 

What was the secret to packing so lightly? Well the season was on my side. It was May so I wore a lightweight, new safari like jacket with so many pockets from Eileen Fisher along with her new pants that are a lightweight but not camel toe tight sweat pants, also with lots of pockets. They came in handy when I went down for breakfasts and just needed my room card. They were the perfect thing to wear for the flight with a Merino wool crew neck sweater. Temperature regulation is the key for a long flight. 

 

I also wore my Kizik sneakers along with my Bombas compression socks. If you do not yet know about Kizik sneakers, you must acquaint yourself right away. No more bending over to get in and out of sneakers. The heel compresses and pops right back into place. Like magic. My daughter told me about them. And they come in stylish options. Since they were my clunkiest shoes, I wore them on the plane. Compression socks are a must even if you fly First Class and can be horizontal. I chose the Bombas because they had non clown like options. I almost had a heart attack squeezing into them but they did the trick. 

 

As an aside, I have also been on a decade long quest for no show socks to wear with my loafers that stay in place. I am happy to report they have finally been found. They are the Ondos. I highly recommend. They have been washed and passed the laundry test too. The only thing I did not take into consideration was that they were great for my Gucci loafers but not for my sneakers and I rubbed the tops of my feet raw on the days I wore my sneakers all day and got a few blisters on my heels to boot. I had been warned by my family to break in my sneakers but I am not great at being told what to do, even when I know they are right. My bad. The concierge at The Conrad was great. At the end of each day he would see my coming through the lobby and had four bandaids at the ready for me each night. I think we all need concierges and not spouses at the end of the day. Lol!

 

Now this might be TMI but here is what did NOT work. I had, past tense, a favorite brand of undies. To commemorate the trip, I bought all new undies, washed them and put them in the Compression Packing Cube. Note: a packing cube is like a box of hair, totally worthless. You want a packing cube with compression. I never thought to try on the new undies as they were the same ones I already wear. Well, the bastards changed the elastic in the waist band. So instead of a decent waist band the new one was non existent. HUGE mistake. Further details require drinks and a pinkie swear, I'm afraid. But you can imagine. Oy!

 

99% of my wardrobe was black which is nothing new for me. For a change of pace for a cooler day, I packed a camel cashmere crewneck sweater with a matching camel cashmere sweater that works as an open jacket. I am glad I had that option for the cooler days. I took three pairs of black Eileen Fisher pants & one pair of leggings to wear under a black tunic dress. I bought a new shorter Eileen Fisher jacket in a black and white fabric that will last me the rest of my life. (My justification to buy just about anything EF.) 

 

What was a waste to pack was my new wide leg jeans from Artful Home and a striped blue and navy shirt. There was nothing wrong with the outfit but the jeans took up way more space and weight than needed and I should have just stuck with neutrals. For the one day of wear I got, it was not a good choice. Never again.

 

When packing shoes in my suitcase, I have a shower cap from our AirBnB stash to cover each shoe. I tuck the shoes in, individually wherever there is room. Don’t try to pack your shoes together. It’s too bulky. Also you can fill each shoe with socks or hosiery. That is otherwise wasted room.

 

I did not take a blow dryer or any other hair appliance. The hotels all had great blow dryers & the most luxurious soaps, etc.

 

Here is another TMI that did NOT work. I thought, “Oh wouldn’t it be clever to get waxed so I don’t have to pack a razor.” Well, key word here would be waxed. Yes! THAT would have been brilliant. But the salon I booked only does sugaring which I was reassured was better than waxing. It was also darker than doom in that room and the entire time, I thought, “Oh it must be nice to have 30 something eyes that can see in the dark.”. Well the next day I realized she missed the whole runway up my shin and hair was growing back by day 2. Did you know they make razors with teeny tiny handles for travel? Well they do. I will never sugar again. What a waste of time and money.

 

I would say I overpacked by A LOT. I had so much room left over in my bag that I threw in some black Jenny Kayne Sandals that I only wore once. I packed my red suede Eileen Fisher flat pumps that I only wore once. I think I could have gotten away with just my sneakers (with proper socks) and my classic, Gucci loafers, but I was happy that I wore my red suede shoes on my magical Kyoto hour.

 

I brought way too many sleeveless, black tanks & blouses at Eileen Fisher thinking it would be warmer. I would say six tops never got touched but they were all so lightweight. I did wear a lot of crew neck, half sleeve cashmere t-shirts and sweaters. The truth of the matter is, once you’re over 60, no one’s looking at you, much less noticing if you wore the same thing twice. Seriously. And all the hotels had laundry and dry cleaning. Everything I wore on the plane went straight to Laundry Service. Then I had plenty of mix and match options that were black, white, grey or camel. Easy peasy. I took my favorite pieces of jewelry to accent the outfits and make them feel different. Only some of the underwear were a FAIL. They did not make it home with me.

 

For Japan, I also recommend packing Ziplocs and wipes for your hands. Since the Sarin gas attack, there are no public garbage cans. You pack your trash till you get home. The public bathrooms are all impeccably maintained but paper towels are nonexistent. So pack a hand towel, or towelette & prepare to pack until you get back to the hotel. They also frown on eating and drinking while walking.

 

What else? I had to be at the airport at 0430. I called and pre-arranged an Uber. Thank god I could see he was moving in time. That feature for a control freak like myself was totally worth it. Mr. Fox offered to drive me but I thought it was just way too early. I'm glad I Ubered.

 

My very early morning Alaska flight was great. The cabin crew were all upbeat and hard working with a great sense of humor. I even had time to do my daily 5x8 on the flight down to LAX. I wrote the stewardess a thank you note with a $20 Starbucks card saying how much I appreciated having her that morning. I loved her upbeat attitude and sense of humor and her very cool, blue suede high heeled boots. She looked a bit taken back with my card but what the heck. Spread love and joy before 0800.

 

High marks to JAL First Class cabin crew. The stewardesses on the flight over were the epitome of the definition of Japanese beauty. Each one impeccably groomed and the essence of femininity. I felt like a lumbering giant. Across the aisle was a gorgeous specimen of an Asian man, who was clearly famous but I had zero idea who he was. I was sitting in the first seat of First Class across from him. I could see past the service curtain as they all tittered about who got to serve him. He got so much attention! But I got it! He was a hottie. They would all glide by and there would be a specific spring floral scent that trailed after each of them. They must have a standard light scent they wear. They were all so polite and formal. They took great care of me on the way over, all the way through customs and to my taxi. I could not say enough about how lovely that was. The way back from Osaka, not so much, but no sense dwelling on that.

 

The trip was a once in a lifetime trip. Might I go back on my own; yes. I would love to go to Mirukashi Salon next fall. But it is another plane ride from Tokyo. It would be a lot but might be a good goal for me.

 

I hope many of you enjoyed following along daily on my Facebook page. I tried to post as many photos and itineraries.

 

As for the Emily Dickinson line I started this newsletter with, did I find myself? No. Not completely. But I sure caught a momentary glimpse of what my true essence used to be. I wonder if I can work on cultivating it back?

 

Sincerely,


Coach Diane


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