Monday, 26 September 2016

Undokai in the fog

Saturday was undoikai - sports festival, which is a big deal in Japanese schools. The kids spend many hours practicing and there is a big excitement for the big day. It was very hit and miss on whether it was going to rain and get postponed. Since we had nothing but rain all week it wasn't looking good. We put out vibes to the big U and asked for it not to rain.

The rain did hold off for most of the day although the school was shrouded in fog which was kinda weird. They did decide to change the schedule a bit just in case!

There are almost 1400 kids in Ebi-kuns elementary school, that is a lot of kids to organize, most schools encourage families to bring a picnic and make a big day of it but there just isn't the space for 1400 kids and their families! So parents are encouraged to come and watch their kids just for the events they are in.

As everyone and their dog wants to be on the finish line to take photos, there is a strict system of shuffling parents in and out of the photo area. It actually works really well and everyone gets a chance to take photos. Ebi-kun came in a close 3rd...

 Then each grade has a dance routine, that's about 233 kids dancing in sync, no mean feat! Until recently the 6th graders did 'the pyramid' as part of their routine but thankfully health and safety has enforced some common sense. So the pyramid has been scrapped (8 kids high, I have a post with pics here) and they did a more complicated dance routine.

Ebi-kun got to be on the cheer squad this year, he is one of the kids on the left cheering to encourage the rest of his team, each team has a big cheerleading shout off - I totally don't get it but the kids seem to enjoy it!

There are also games and races, very much about teamwork and co-operation, There are no individual winners only the team. This year they had 3 teams - if seems to differ depending on how many classes they have that year. Can you guess what colour team Ebi-kun was in? Good job he wasn't in blue!

The triangle thing is sekihan sticky rice with red beans. Top box has pink grapefruit, mini tomatoes, cheese wrapped with parma ham. The bottom box had carrot and red pepper salad, boiled egg and beetroot.

Unfortunately as the kids were getting ready for the last game, the heavens opened and we all got soaked. the undoikai was abandoned and the kids sent inside to get changed. Ebi-kun was gutted because his team came in second, only 5 points behind the winners. Every year I watch the score but I have no idea how they work it out! It seems to be extremely random!

All in all it was fun and we headed home early, snuggled up on the sofa to watch Jurassic Park, which I haven't seen since my uni days, I forgot what a great film it is.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Taste tests: Ebi-kun Eats and taste tests - cuberdons

This was recorded when wee were in Vienna but the 'treat' was actually a gift from Christie who we met up with in Brussels, so this is Ebi-kun trying a Belgium treat in Vienna, as you do! I actually quite liked these but then I had lost my voice for a few days and had ben sucking on throat tablets almost continually so maybe it was because my taste buds had died!

Over on my work website, I have done a couple of posts about what we learned from a year of FB posts and I think it is safe to say we have both learned quite a lot, it has been an interesting experience and some things popped up that I hadn't expected, all in all it has been a great experience, read more about it HERE

Friday, 23 September 2016

Thank And Grow Rich by Pam Grout - In The Book Bag

Last weekend was a three day holiday here so we went down to visit the in-laws. The downside was that a typhoon was heading in so we had nothing but rain! The upside was I had lots of time to sit and read, an unknown luxury these days!

I saw that Pam Grout had released a new book, I loved her book E-squared so I eagerly downloaded the kindle version of Thank and Grow Rich (yes, the title is a play on words!)

Her work is all about connecting with the universe and manifesting what you want but she does it with a serious of games. in E-squared, Ebi-kun and I worked through the experiments together, it was a lot of fun and I keep thinking we should crack open the book and try it again.

This book is centrered more on the idea of gratitude, something that pretty much all the great manifestors say is important and this time there are 30 days of experiments or party games as she likes to call them.

The other thing I like about her books is that she adds lots of fun stories and anecdotes,  some of her own tales and some of her readers, she manages to find just the right story to get her point across.

I just managed to finish the book, made notes of the different games and we will be playing along this month to see what happens! The one thing I love about the kindle is that I can mark various pages and highlight important bits - something I'd never do in a paper book!

If you have read the book, I'd love to know what you think, either leave a comment or hit me up the the Moms That Rock group. It would be fun to be doing the party games along with others at the same time!

If you are looking for a bit of fun woo-woo then this book is ideal, I do recommend reading E-squared first and then moving onto this, purely because she refers back to E-squared quite a bit and it would be useful to know what she is talking about.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Taste Tests: Ebi-kun Eats and tastes tests... Schwedenbomben

Hmm what is this weird Austrian food?
Is it sweet or savory?
Will Ebi-kun give it a 2 or a 10.... watch this weeks episode to find out...

Don't forget to leave him a comment on Youtube (he answers them himself) and a thumbs up!

Friday, 16 September 2016

Nagashi Somen - catching somen noddles in a stream...

Ebi-kun has been wanting to try nagashi somen for a long time. Somen noodles are cooked and then they are sent down a 'stream' in a bamboo shoot. You need to catch the noodles ad they whizz past - easier said than done!

The school dads association set it up this year and the PTA had cleaning duties in the morning so it all worked out this year.

He is quite the noodle slurper.... in Japan is is perfectly OK to slurp food which I find really hard to listen to, being bought up in a culture where slupring food is considered rude!

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Me and Veggies and Me

The lovely Megan from Veggies and Me invited me over to her pad for an interview recently, go and check it out, there is also a recipe for Moroccan Cinnamon Oranges that I posted on here many moons ago, part of a postcard swap!

Check out the interview HERE

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Taste tests: Ebi-kun Eats 1 Year anniversay!

Can you believe it has been a year since he started this little venture?
Me neither, he has certainly tried some weird things over the year, some good, some bad and some just blah! I think the pickled squid episode is still my favourite, I nearly peed myself when we filmed that one! Although there might be another contender, we recorded and interesting new candy the other day...

So here is the one year anniversary show, bit longer than normal as he was trying chocolate from all over Europe, which is the best?

Remember to pop over and leave a comment and a thumbs up!

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Europe By Train With A Kid In Tow

You probably know by now that Ebi-kun and I took an epic adventure around Europe this summer. I have been asked lost of questions about the trip so I thought it might be useful if I give you a breakdown...


Well, I live in Japan, most of my family are in the UK. I hate the heat of the summer in Japan and Ebi-kun gets six weeks off so that is a good enough excuse for me! But, going home doesn't cure my itchy feel, I still want to go travelling and exploring, it lights me up, it's my passion.

My cousin Kirsty happens to live in Vienna and invited us over to stay - or I might have just invited myself, if I'm to be perfectly honest. It's a city I haven't visited so checks the adventure box!

Why by train?

When I started researching prices of flights I was shocked at how much the flights were going to set me back so curiosity set me off looking at train prices and the actual logistics involved. When I started looking into it, well my feet got even itchier and so the flights got kicked to the curb and the train adventure began.

First thing I did was to clear some dates with Kirsty, she had a couple of weeks off work in the summer so it needed to coincide with her holidays.

Next, I got real friendly with google and the train times. I looked at getting a rail pass but because Ebi-kun was under 12, some of his tickets were free or at a reduced rate so it was cheaper at the end of the day to book the specific trains.

I used this website as a reference, he has a lot of good info on there and what I used was accurate.

Our journey was...

Congleton - London
London - Brussels
Brussels - Cologne
Cologne - Vienna (night train)
Vienna - Zurich
Zurich - Paris
Paris - London
London - Stoke

We also had a day trip form Vienna to Bratislava but bought the tickets on the day, I think we could have got them a bit cheaper if we had booked in advanced but we hadn't really got a set plan with Kirsty so we didn't by the tickets in advance.

I get a Family Saver card to use on the trains in the UK, this saves me money as soon as I use it, that combined with booking tickets in advance saves a lot of money.

All the trains were booked for specific times and dates, of course this runs the risk of something going pear shaped, illness, train strikes, missed train for whatever reason. I left a good bit of time between connections which may have made the journey time longer but it also reduced my stress levels! 

We didn't have any issues, my theory is to go for the cheap tickets and hope for the best and if something goes wrong, at least you haven't paid through the nose for you ticket!

I did screw up on the Vienna to Zurich train. I couldn't reserve a seat on the regular train but realised to upgrade to first class was only 20 euros more PLUS Ebi-kun travels free! That is what I did but I think somewhere in the booking I should have requested a reserved seat… you can see where this is going… we got on and didn't have a seat! 

The conductor was a total ass about it, not helpful in the slightest but thankful a chap stepped in and helped me figure out which seats were available. It was an 8 hour journey and Ebi-kun had to sit on my lap for about 40 minutes of it, the rest of the time we had our own seats and the scenery was magnificent - distracted us from the 40 minutes of discomfort.

How Did You Pack?

I would say I'm a pretty seasoned traveller and so is Ebi-kun now. I knew I wanted a backpack not a suitcase but our back packs are either big 80l packs - that we took around South America or a skaters day back pack. After a LOT of googling I decided on this bag, Cabin Max Backpack 44l Hand Luggage and wait for the rave review…. it has been brilliant. It's the right size to use as hand luggage (55x40x20cm) if you are flying but has loads of space. The downfall was that it doesn't have a padded laptop pocket, my skater bag does so my laptop went in there. It does come in a massive range of colours and designs! It's the bigger of the two in the picture.

We were away for two weeks, did a big wash in Vienna and a (mostly) undies wash in Brighton. For long journeys we had our comfy travel outfits, for rbi-kun he has a favourite track suit, I have a long tunic and leggings. We had undies for a week each and Ebi-kun had a couple of pairs of shorts and a pair of long trousers, his swimmers and rash guard, football shirt and shorts, a long sleeved T-shirt, a hoodie, 4 t-shirts and a spare paid of shoes.

I had a couple of pairs of jeans, 4 t-shirts, a couple of blouses (that I didn't wear), a hoodie, a light weight card, trainers and a pair of sandals - which I didn't really wear. I didn't pack anything that would need an iron and I roll all my clothes. 

I also packed a bag of toiletries/make-up, the laptop, the kindle, Ebi-kuns camera, his diary, a notebook, passports, tickets and documents, presents for our hosts, rain ponchos (we did use), pencil case, Ebi-kuns book that he is reading and the bag of cables for the electrical gubbins, a small towel and the best purchase of the holiday - a selfie stick (I kid you not, I am a convert!)

We could have lived with less in the way of tops, we both could have managed with one pair less of trousers, they were packed as 'spare' pairs really. I could have managed without my sandals and maybe used a pair of flip flops instead. There was nothing that we didn't have that we needed.

I always go with the expectation that if we desperately need something, we'll be able to buy it.

All that training walking to school with his randusal backpack meant that Ebi-kun had no problems at all carrying his bag. We both has a small bag that would fi into the bigger bags to use during the day.

What were your worries?

I suppose my biggest one was missing a train somewhere along the way, which would cock everything up. I know a number of friends and family were concerned about the recent spate of terrorist activities, I'll be sharing my thoughts about that soon. I did have the niggle in the back of my head about being robbed again, my last Euro-rail tour ended in disaster! This time was smooth sailing. 

I admit that usually my adventuring worries are connected to getting bitten by some nasty beastie and getting sick, mosquitoes seem to smell me for 500 miles away and I didm get badly bitten in Switzerland - I know, who knew that Zurich was a mozzie hangout, not me or I would have added deterrent to my packing list. 

Getting sick abroad is no fun, I got Amoebic dysentery in Peru and Ebi-kun had a high fever in Laos but both times, the hospitals have been great so my fears are somewhat unfounded! 

We also did a day trip when in Zurich to Liechtenstein and Heidiland (read about the day HERE), I'm not usually a guided tour kinda chick but we had very limited time and I was sold on the chance to go to Liechtenstein!

Keeping In Touch

Pretty much every we went had free wifi hotspots, both hotels claimed to have wifi but both were crappy connections - first world problems. I did a daily update on Facebook to keep everyone in the loop of where we were and that worked well, because the wifi wasn't great I didn't spend much time at all online for the whole two weeks - not a bad thing but it does explain why I am still playing catch up on the blog!

I think that is about all, if you have any questions let me know in the comments.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Cotebrooke Shire Horse Working Farm

[Aug 18th]

We decided to have a drive out to Cotebrooke Farm, although it's not that far away (if you ignore the daft instructions from the sat-nav!) we have never been there before. By the time we got there is was coming up for lunch time so we started with lunch, a good old fashioned ploughmans! nom, nom.

Then we hung around so that we could listen to the talk given by the staff. If you go, do make a point to listed, you will learn so much - you might have some explaining to do about things like freezing sperm! Corebrookes champion sire died earlier in the year but they froze his sperm so that they can still breed from him, they have a mare in foal with one of his at the moment.

Also, pick up the quiz sheet when you pay to go in, we actually learned a lot just from going through the quiz. There is abrn with all kinds of info and hands on things to try, like plaiting a tail...

And you get to see how enormous these shire horses actually are! Ebi-kun is almost fell pony height!

This is a 2 year old who is already winning championships! It is a working farm not a petting farm so keep it in mind when you visit. 

There is a path to walk down to the fields and around the area, not only are there the shires, they have a couple of cute ponies and red deer too. 

There is an area that they have planted to encourage new wild-life, you can see the badger set and they have pens with various animals like theses crazy otters. They were hanging on the fence waiting to be fed and every time someone in a blue shirt walked by they would run up and down screaming, so funny (The staff wear blue).

"Feed me, feed me now!"

There is space to have a picnic and the cafe is a good size too, bit busy in here though...

Ebi-kun wanted to sneak this one into his bag! Such a cutie, I would have loved to take him home, just a couple of months old. Other than stroking the horses that were stabled there isn't really any animal petting. They do have a piglet race each day, which we missed but we could hear it!
I think it would be a great day out for most families! I'm sure we'll be going back sometime.

For more info about the farm click here: Cotebrooke Shire Horses

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Are You Ready?

I have been busy beavering away, getting everything ready for the next round of In With A Boom.
I love running this program, and so far I have worked some absolutely amazing women who have had some amazing results!

from tripling their income, to landing spots in art shows, to launching a new business to losing 10kilos! 

Yes, it has been a mixed bag and a fun one, I can't wait to see what this round brings.

What is In With A Boom you ask? Well it's a 90 day accountability mastermind, where we set your goals then make them happen!

If you are ready to take the leap and join the final round for the year, this is the place to do it.

PLUS - for the next 5 sign ups get a special, "Jo has lost it" bonus.

What are you waiting for? Go and check it out now --> In With A Boom
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