Monday, July 31, 2006

South African Safari!

We are having a wonderful time in South Africa. The people and the land are wonderful.

We do two safari's each day. One from 8am-11am and another from 3pm to 6pm. I wrote a bit yesterday before we went on the second trip and does one describe seeing animals you are used to seeing at a zoo in real life?

We saw these giraffe - amazingly large! As we were heading back they were moving against the sunset in sillouette. Picture perfect! We also saw the white rhino, elephants and so much more. It is truly mind boggling.

This morning was such a treat. We came upon a group of elephant. There was a young male that charged our jeep. He made these growling noises and he was headed to the front of the jeep. Greg was in the front seat and once this "naughty" male started charging the larger male started approaching our jeep so the guide quickly reversed the jeep and got us to safety. They were blocking us from getting out of the area and so we just sat awhile observing. They felt safe enough with us there that the large female of the group actually went down on the ground and was playing with the two young ones. It was absolutely amazing. John, our guide, says its rare to see this behaviour.

We saw monkeys today. So cute.

We saw some Kudu which tend to be very shy. That was really neat. There was a group of warthogs at the same watering hole as the Kudu - a "whole pig pile" as Renee' commented.

We also spotted Leopard tracks but John says they are very shy and so we doubt we will see any Leopard here.

This afternoon we are off to the Cougar Rehabilitation Center. We've heard really good things about it. They feed the animals at 4:30 and after feeding you can go into their enclosure - no petting but you can get pretty close. We will be stopping by this village to also look at their crafts.

I'm a bit overwhelmed by all we have seen and in their natural state, observing their natural behaviour. It is truly a gift.

As usual I went to sleep missing my boys. I know Jamie is taking good care of them and that I need not worry but I always miss them at bedtime. Jamie and Chris better be giving them extra hugs and kisses when they put them in their kennel. Tell them that mommy and daddy miss them!

I will try and post some photos. I don't know if I can. There really isn't much spare time between safari, meals and downloading/organizing photos. The only time I have had to knit was on the travel to get here.

Another day has passed and it is going by in a flash!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Zulu Nyala

Well we made it to South Africa. It was the longest journey I have ever taken to get to a destination. From the time we left our house to the time we arrived in Johannesburg it was 26 hours.... I think.

We left Seattle about an hour and a half late. There was a mechanical problem with the plan so we sat in the plane until it was fixed. Luckily our layover in Amersterdam was 3 hours, not the 1.5 I had thought. So we made our connecting flight which was a relief.

I can't believe how they pack the seats in the planes nowadays. Man. Talk about squishy. Its amazing you can sit a total of 20 hours and still feel somewhat human at the end. The flight from Amsterdam to Johannesburg was absolutely freezing. There were a couple of women next to me in short sleeves. I had a tee shirt, wool sweater and my Arc'teryx jacket on and was still freezing so I put on a blanket!

Enough of that. Johannesburg was freezing! I brought a fleece to sleep in just-in-case and I needed it there. C-c-c-c-cold!!!!

The next morning we went back to the airport to pick up our rental cars - a nice Mercedes sedan and Mercedes van. Mind you Greg and Mike had to learn really quickly how to drive on the left side of the road! Interesting! We had a lot of laughs on that experience!

We left at 9am to start our long trek to Zulu Nyala. It was supposed to take 5.5 hours and it took us 8. Those of you who know me know I don't like being in the car that long. (Especially after spending 26 hours travelling the day before). We drove with Ron and Evie and it was sort of like being with kids. We had this map and Ron kept asking where we were on the map. Evie kept asking how much longer. It was driving me crazy because..."we'll get there when we get there" is what I wanted to say but everytime Evie asked Greg said "about an hour and a half!".

We drove through this one shanty town. Absolutely horrible. There was raw sewage and it was so amazingly depressing the conditions they live in. The smell despite having our windows rolled up was just indescribable. We thanked our god for the lives we have. Here we were travelling from the United States, driving in a Mercedes and these people don't even have basic needs being met.

We got to Zulu Nyala in complete darkness at 7pm. We had dinner and then went to bed.

We got up this morning, had breakfast at 7am, started the Safari at 8am. Oh my gosh was it cool. Its our first day and I'm blown away. I was in this safari jeep thinking "no, I'm not at a zoo. I am where the animals actually live! How cool is that?". Right now it is almost noon and I'm starving (I know....big surprise there). We have lunch from 12-2 so I'll sign off for now so I can grab some grub!

The place we are staying is incredibly nice. Its amazing. Everything is so...extravagent. Leather couches, great accommodations. I wish all my family and friends could experience this. Its amazing.

I also visited Jamie's blog to see photos of my guys. I got tears in my eyes because I miss them so much. At the B&B we stayed at in Johannesburg they had this mutt little dog that was skittish like Beanie. He let me pet him and actually carry him. I guess I knew how to charm him after learning with Beanie. I got a small dog fix. I just love dogs, no matter what country they are in.

Gotta run. Jamie - I saw your email. I will write back soon. I'm glad regarding everything you wrote. That is a relief for me. Thank you and Chris for taking SUCH good care of my boys. They look happy. I think there is going to be a dog in your future very soon!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Saying goodbye's to our Boys

Tonight we said goodbye to Chase and Beanie for the next two and a half weeks.

Aunt Jamie and Uncle Chris Carnell picked up the boys so they can take care of them while we Safari in South Africa. I always dread this. I feel this emptiness when I walk into the house when I know they aren't here - no pitter patter of little dog paws against hardwood floors.

Being away from "my boys" is one of the hardest things about my love of travel.

Thank you Jamie and Chris for being so good to our guys. They look totally comfortable with you and I know they will be happy staying with you. I just hope you enjoy the ride as much as they will.

I have some final stuff to do tonight to get ready. I'm still in a quandry about what pants to bring and what knitting project(s) to bring. By 9:30 am tomorrow I'll have concluded the prep and move into the "letting go" and just go with the flow. I think I'll need the "flow" traveling with a group of 8 family members.

I need to remember..."I'M ON VACATION!".

Wish us luck and safe travels. I always worry when I leave on a trip that I won't come back. That's the fear of the unknown talking!

My next post will be from SOUTH AFRICA!

As the Italians say(One of my absolute favorite places in the world)


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Thanks Cheryl!

We have been in somewhat of a tizzy trying to get everything organized, people in place, plans finalized.

Cheryl came over today to get instruction on how to use the alarm system, what plants need to be watered, etc.

We told her she can hang out anytime she feels like it so if you see any wild party at our house...tell her to behave herself!

No, we are so grateful she is going to take care of our outdoor and indoor plants. She's a godsend. Thank you Cheryl. We appreciate your thoughtfulness and kindness.

Friday, July 21, 2006

What to bring to Africa?

Today I went running around town doing errands. You know, all those millions of "last-minute" things to do that are floating around your brain. I always do this when I travel. I stress out with all the things I have yet to do-at the last minute! Everytime I do this I SWEAR I WON'T DO THIS THE NEXT TIME! I say to self "next time I'll be completely ready two weeks before so I won't have to deal with all this last minute stuff". Did I do it this time? Absolutely not.

There are always two things that give me the most grief about trip prep. What clothes to wear and what knitting project(s) to bring.

Ok I must admit that the clothes thing in the past two trips have been an eye opening, waist expanding endeavor! For work I wear a lot of Eileen Fisher clothes which has a lot of "wiggle room". When I say wiggle room I almost certain I mean...I have a lot more to wiggle and jiggle! So it is harder to notice that I have put on more than a couple pounds the last 6 months. I've been having to do a fair bit of shopping because the casual stuff I already have is just a bit too snug! Plus, this is vacation and I want to be COMFORTABLE! Can you say drawstring waisted pants and shorts? Also forget the form fitting, snug shirts. I want a fair bit of room (so you can't see my newly developed rolls of extra padding and insulation!)

Enough about that. Now on to something FUN!

I went to Village Yarn and Tea and bought some patterns, a book by Sandi Rosner and one(yes, just one) skein of yarn. Oh! And two circular needles. My dilemma on knitting needles. I have literally thousands of dollars invested in knitting needles. Casein, hardwood, bamboo, Addi-turbos, blah blah blah.

I knit socks sometimes with double points, sometimes with two circular. For travel I like using two circular. I don't have to think about the yarn coming off the needles.

I had bought, at one time, a lot of sets of two circular in sizes 0, 1 and 2 when the new technique came out to use two circulars for socks. Since I knit loosly I usually need size 0 or 1. The ones I'm using for my Jaywalker/Vesper Yarn socks are 2.25 mm-I don't remember the brand - I think they are German. The only problem is that the tip is very pointy and hurts my finger! I don't like it AT ALL. So...I go to Village Yarn and Tea in Shoreline where I have a huge credit for not taking a design class(had to cancel thanks to work!). I want some Addi-Turbos's in 0 and 1, 24" length. They didn't have two in the length I wanted in the size I needed so I thought I'll try a smaller length. Nope. Didn't like it at all. The bad thing with not following the instinct is when I don't follow mine it bites me in the butt. Yep. I wasted $26 because I don't like this length. I should have just waited. That means another trip to another yarn store. Hhhmmmmnnnn...maybe that mistake wasn't so bad after all!

I was also tempted by some Alchemy silk yarn. Can you believe I walked into a yarn store and just bought one skein of yarn? This is what I'm going to knit called Dream Swatch by Wendy Bernard I'm definitely taking that with me.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I love you Mom!

Today is the 10th year anniversary of my Mom's death. I cannot believe it! She came into the world on January 16, 1930 as Marie Mayako Horiuchi. She, too, was the youngest child in her family.

She was born and raised in Seattle, Washington and during WWII, as a United States citizen she was sent to the Internment camp in Idaho named Minidoka. She returned to Seattle after the war and graduated from Franklin High School. She met my father, Carl Masami Ooka from Honolulu Hawaii while he was attending Seattle University.

I have many details to talk about her life but right now as I am getting ready to go to bed I want to just say this: Tonight was the last night my sister Val was going to be in town so all of the "Ooka girls" got together with their families and had dinner at Val's daughter's(Jenn) house. Mom would have loved to be around "her girls" eating, chatting and laughing.

I miss my mother very much and wish I had more time with her. That is where the youngest child gets cheated. I didn't get as much time with either of my parents compared to my siblings. This statement may sound bitter but it isn't. It is more an observation more than anything. I wish I could touch her soft face or just hear her say "Naomi, you need to eat more".

She loved all her girls so very deeply. It reminds me of a time when she was reminiscing about the past and how poor they were with all these kids. She had this sadness in her eyes and in her voice as she relayed how hard it was at Christmas time to not be able to afford to buy her children fun gifts. They could only afford gifts that were very practical. I could see the regret that she could not provide more for her children.

As I head off to bed....Mom I love you and miss you so much. I thought a lot about you today. I can't believe it has been 10 years since I last held your hand and told you it was ok to let go. I hope you are at peace and having a ball with Dad and Deb.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Little Blue Box

Sunday was a fun day for the "Ooka girls". This is how me and my sibs call ourselves as a group. All our lives we've been the Ooka girls-daughters to Carl and Marie Ooka. I come from a family of 7 girls. Yes...7. One of my sisters, Debbie, died almost 5 years ago from pancreatic cancer. We know the loss of loved ones and for us they come in 5's as Trish pointed out on Sunday. Dad died 15 years ago, Mom 10 years ago and Deb 5 years ago.

On to more fun things. oldest sis, Val, and I(the youngest) decided to do something nice for our sisters. We each pitched in $100 for each sister and we got each sister a gift certificate for $200 at Tiffany & Co. We thought how fun it would be to get all of us together for a "day of shopping" which really meant lunch (and then surprise them with gift certs) then to Tiffany and the Nordstrom sale.

Val and I have been planning this for a couple months. It was hard getting Karen to commit to being there that day but I used the all too familiar Catholic guilt to get her there. I told her "you never know what might happen to one of us". As planned, she thought something was wrong with Val. I told Karen about life's priority and that her business, The Madison Park Bakery, would always be there and how precious life is. This made Karen really worry that something was wrong with Val. I tried reassuring Karen that Val was ok but knowing Karen, she'd continue to worry anyway.

So here are some photos of us (Tiffany & Co. would not let us take photographs in the store) outside Tiffany and at Gordon Biersch where we presented them with the gift cards. Dad would have absolutely loved to see all of us together and even more thrilled to see us in Tiffany picking something out that would remind each other of the love we all share.

I love all of you! This photo from the left is me(Naomi), Trish, Kathy, Val, Karen and Cheryl.

If there is one thing Mom and Dad taught us it was to always be there for each other, love each other and put aside your differences. We've been pretty darn successful at that. Debbie - we love you and miss you. We wish you were there with us! We know you were there in spirit but its not the same without you.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Ok it has been a while since I recieved the Hebridean 3-ply from Alice Starmore. Here is some progress on the Inishmore from Alice's Fishermen's Sweaters. I love working with this yarn and the subtle colors in the yarn make it a joy to work with. I will definitely buy more of this yarn, in other colors, of course....for the stash building!

The pattern is easy enough to follow and once I get into a rhythm I can move along fairly efficiently but....I made a big boo boo that I will have to unravel back in the very center of the moss stitch. Its not too bad to have to do. I won't have to unravel the whole row. I'll just go to where the pattern is off and adjust. See the Yarn Harlot's is amazing what she can do! Go to June 23rd.

What else? I've been very tired. I don't know why. I have been giving myself the treat of driving to work. It is pricey to park downtown but that extra 15 minutes of sleep is very precious to me right now!

I finally have a couple photos of our new koi. The white one at the bottom of the photo is new and all the little koi you see are all new.

That is a quick update for today. I'm still trying to decide what project(s) to take to South Africa with me! Its a hard decision....

One of the projects may be some socks with this yarn. I bought some yesterday and I can't wait to try it. I was led to Lucy at Mind's Eye Yarn via the Yarn Harlot. She leads me to a lot of stash building material!

Jamie! When will our ceramic stuff be done? I want to post a photo of our wonderful painting we did for stress relief on Friday!

One last thing. My sister Val is coming to town tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to her visit. She is one fun person! She is the first born of the family and I'm the last. She lives in San Diego and she comes to visit a couple times a year. She comes more often now that her daughter, Jenn, is a Phd student at the U. We are so happy that Jenn lives here and that we get to see Val and Gerry (her hubby) more often! Welcome!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Friday at Jamie's and Chase's experience at THE VET!

Yesterday I spent a good part of the day with my friend Jamie. She lives about an hour south of Seattle in DuPont, Washington! See her blog at :

I had spent a couple hours the previous night dealing with a work issue that extended into Friday morning. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to go down and spend the day with Jamie or not. I worked the issue for a couple hours in the morning before Chase and Beanie's vet appointment.

The vet appointment was....a first! Not Chase's first experience at a vet...he has been seeing Dr. Alicia Carlos at Maple Leaf Pet Corner since he was a baby which was 12 years ago! Just say he was a maniac. He attempted to bite both Dr. Carlos and me while getting shots. He has NEVER done this before. I was absolutely mortified! He was a maniac dog. He may only be 12 pounds but he was 12 pounds of pure energy. Then of course Beanie was as easy as could be. He sat there patiently as he got kennel cough drops in his nose. What a sweetie pie. He's low maintenance and Chase is high maintenance!

I got down to Jamie's and hell was breaking loose at work. I was afraid I was going to have to come into work over the weekend or even head back to town. Luckily they figured out what was going on (something that was supposed to have been done by someone I called the night before actually wasn't done and the person had told me it was!). My associate worked a half a day trying to troubleshoot the problem on Friday and I spent 4 hours of my time between Thurday night and Friday morning trying to troubleshoot the problem. Then to discover this task acutally wasn't done and once it was, the problem was resolved...really bit me. I was not, and am still, not happy about it.

Once I got the good news from my associate, Jamie, Chris(Jamie's hubby) and the two boys (Chase and Beanie, of course) and I went to the Olympia Farmer's Market . So fun! We had a nice lunch there. I made Chris and Jamie stop by this shoe store and a bookstore on the way back to their house. Then Jamie an I left the boys and went to downtown DuPont to the Painted Pear(you paint ceramics). I painted a japanese/asian style bowl that has a hole in the side to hold chopsticks. I think we were in there for a few hours and the time flew by! We needed to tune out!

We stopped by this place called Posh Paw. It had such great pet stuff!!! I bought the boys some treats.

Then we went back and picked up Chris to go out to eat dinner. That was nice and relaxing but a bit chilly(why do places have the air conditioning on so high?)

It was a very fun day! It was nice to visit DuPont and Olympia but I still wish Jamie lived closer! We would get into a lot of trouble together!

Thanks for a perfect day, James!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Boys!

Since I couldn't post these photos in the prior is another post. These are my boys. Chase, the Giant Yorkie, Beanie the fraidy cat Maltese and Greg, the super Hubby.

Aren't they all so darn cute?

We Made It!!!

Here is the counting down of our clock at work. When the project managment team thought it was a good idea to have this countdown clock, most of the workers hated it. It wasn't like we were counting down to a vacation or something. Anyway we made it and the system went live today. The modules I support had no real problems to speak of today!!

Now for the fun stuff!

The 4th of July started out in traditional fashion for Seattle. Rain. It did clear up in the afternoon and it was sunny and about 75. In predictable 'Ooka' fashion(my maiden name) we ate up a storm and had lots of fun. Here are some photos of some of the appetizers I cooked up.

The great thing about while you are waiting for your photos to load you can start the provisional cast-on for a pair of socks!

Its getting late. I have been busy since leaving work. I had to get some chew toys for Chase, my GIANT yorkie(12 pounds) at the pet store. He has to have something to do all the time...kinda sounds like his mom. Then I came home and we had dinner. I bathed both Chase and Beanie, gave them their flea treatments, washed their bedding and then got called from work.

So I worked on some work issues and now I am updating my blog and trying to cast on for a very mindless project.

I'll leave you tonight with some photos of "the boys". For some reason that I can't figure out right now I can't load the photos of the boys. I tried 3 times and it didn't work so I'll take that as a sign. A sign of what? Someone tell me.


Monday, July 03, 2006

Almost 4th

Tomorrow is the 4th and boy am I pleased about that! I've been busy getting stuff ready for our family get-together. Every year we all gather at my sister,Trish's. Her neighborhood in Seattle is famous for this HUGE block party. They block off streets, have a parade, have lots of fun games and the required...LOTS of eating!

I'm making appetizers. I had to make the dough for home-made crackers (ala Martha Stewart's appetizer book). I made the Parmesan-Rosemary and the Pecan-Blue Cheese ones. The dough has to be refrigerated for 24+ hours so I had to make them Sunday since I am working today (the 3rd). When I get home I am making banana bread and some dipping sauces for the sesame shrimp and Thai'd steak appetizers.

Its been a long few days at work. We are almost there. It is nice to know that a financial system upgrade that you have been working on for over a year is finally about to bear fruit, so to speak. Most of the team is tired and ready for "maintenance mode". Sure it isn't as exciting but I know I could use a little less *excitement* at work.

I have much more stuff to write about and pictures to post but I have to get going on my chores. I have had a day without knitting. My hands *crave* the feel of the needles and yarn in hand. I know I'll have time to knit tomorrow. Don't you just love holiday's?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Yummy Stuff!

I got the Virtual Hebridean 3-ply yarn in Clover and I have started working the Inishmore. I absolutely love this yarn! I couldn't believe it arrived on my doorstep from Scotland so quickly. Alice Starmore signed a nice greeting on the pattern modification which was a nice touch.

I haven't had time to really get reading on my South African history book. That may be something that gets read on the way there! We fly from Seattle to Amsterdam (about 8.5 hours) and then from Amsterdam to Johannesburg which is another 8-9 hours. There is plenty of time to knit, sleep and read!

Ok if there are other knitters that have happened onto my blog, do you ever agonize about what project to bring with you on a 2.5 week trip? Every trip I take I do. Do I dare take up luggage space with a larger project like the Inishmore or do you just take small projects like socks? When we went to Italy with my in-laws last September I just took sock yarn. This is something I can do virtually blind-folded. It came in handy when we were standing in lines at the museums. In fact I got a pair done in Lorna's Laces for my hubby....which by the way I won't be knitting him socks anymore! I have knit him like 3 pair and he never wears them. No more socks for him. I'll share the love with people that will appreciate them!

Today my husband went to get koi food and came home with.....drum roll BIG white fan tail and 12(yes twelve!) baby koi! They are so darn cute!! The new fish have really mixed it up and there is a lot more movement going on in the pond. We can just sit and gaze at our new "babies". I can't wait to see how big they'll get this summer(not that we'll really notice since we look at them everyday).