Monday, 15 January 2018

Create Every Week - Week #2

Create Every Week

This year I wanted to challenge myself to be more creative just for me, I do a lot of creative things for work but sometimes it feels like everything is work focused and less on having fun and just enjoying the process.

I know a lot of people do the drawing or painting challenges but I really don't restrict myself to any specific medium, more just to go with the flow and see what captures my attention in the moment.

Week #2 - Photography

I love taking pictures but it is a long time since I did any kind of formal training and I'd love to get out of the habit of putting my DSLR on auto!

I have a Pentax K-50 and it's bright PINK! I went with Pentax because that is what my old camera was and we used them in college, so it's a bit like an updated, snazzier version of an old friend!

Ebi-kun is still off school so we went for a walk, both taking our cameras and just enjoyed the time outside. Not having a focus or theme, just pictures of whatever.

These are my three favourite shots of the day...

I'm not sure what this plant is but they grow in abundance in the neglected rice paddies, they looked so delegate against the winter sky...

Next up were chestnuts, there were found surrounding a little shrine which was guarded by foxes - statues, not the real thing, I don't actually live in a Miyazaki movie.

The colour of the chestnuts grabbed my attention, I love that rich brown colour, always reminds me of autumn and delicious food.


The final one today is taken through the wooden grill at the little fox shrine, the grill actually framing what was inside.

The fox shrine is actually an Inari Shinto shrine to worship the god Inari. There are almost 3000 of these shrines dotted around Japan, I am better this is one of the smallest! Most of these shrines have a pair of foxes gardening the gate.

So that wraps up week #1 if you are joining in let me know what you are up to! I'm hoping this challenge will keep me a bit more consistent with my posting too!

Monday, 8 January 2018

Create Every Week - week #1

Create Every Week

This year I wanted to challenge myself to be more creative just for me, I do a lot of creative things for work but sometimes it feels like everything is work focused and less on having fun and just enjoying the process.

I know a lot of people do the drawing or painting challenges but I really don't restrict myself to any specific medium, more just to go with the flow and see what captures my attention in the moment.

Disclaimer - I sometimes include affiliate links in my posts, that means that if you click the link and make a perchase I get a small percentage of the sale, at no cost to you.

Week #1 - ipad apps

I am forever downloading apps to play with, some make the cut and some get deleted almost immediately. What I wanted to do is find a way to sketch then digitally colour my sketches - I have product ideas in mind but I need to figure out a process that suits me first!

My favourite app is Sketches which is free and extremely powerful, nothing groundbreaking for far as art goes yet but I do really like it and so it is going into the 'to keep' folder. It's really easy to use, has lots of pen types and works with my wacom pen.

This sketch started in Sketches as a line drawing but then I wanted to use the paintbucket to colour it so I opened it up in Pigment, which a colouring book style of app.

It has several free colouring pages and you can upgrade to get more, you can also import your own images to colour in.

I like how it turned out, still a bit rough around the eges but now I have a process down so I can concentrate more on getting my images more polished.

I've ordered a couple of books on how to draw kawaii things, so expect more kawaii goodness coming this way!


That wraps up this weeks Create Every Week post, if you want to join the journey, let me know! I would love some company!

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Taste tests: Ebi-kun Eats and taste tests - Cough candy KitKat

Cough Candy Kit-Kat - Strange Kit-Kat Flavours

I have to admit, when I saw this I did wonder what on earth is going on down at Kit-Kat HQ? What have they been taking because who in their right mind would think that cough candy chocolate would be a good idea?

I hope that there were repercussions for this foolish endeavour, I am certainly not taking out shares in Kit-Kat if this kind of foolishness continues. Mint kit-kat I can cope with but this is just plain silly. Anyway, enough of my ranting about the crazy antics of kit-kat flavour makers (I wonder if that is their real job description?)

Watch Ebi-Kun's video to see if this delicacy is really worth the ¥200 I forked out for it...

Remember to pop over to his channel and subscribe and leave him a comment,
he does reply to all of them!

Friday, 5 January 2018

New Year Skiing In Niigata

New Year Skiing/Snowboarding At Yuzawa Nakazato

Summary: Snowdrifts, mogul head-butting, drinking sake bath water and horse sacrifices.

We headed off to the mountains for our annual new year's ski trip. The first day we decided to try a different resort, it is further from the station and it more like a village rather than run by one company. So there are several ski hire shops and small restaurants, it had a 1970 vibe going on, I liked it!

Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling good, each time I got halfway down the slope I felt really dizzy and sick, I was somewhat worried that the vertigo was back. The boys enjoyed themselves and it was good to try somewhere new but as a days skiing, it wasn't much fun.

The next day we headed to our usual haunt, Yuzawa Nakazato, the weather was great, snowy but not windy. Lots of fresh snow, lovely to ski on and I felt much better, a couple of dizzy spells but better than the day before. It wasn't busy either, I do love it when there is no one else about! We also discovered a new run that goes through the forest when was brilliant!

Ebi-un is that fast these days I can hardly keep up, the only time I do catch up with him is when he is stuck in a snow drift! He loves it! The last run down though he went down the moguls and somehow headbutted one, the mogul won, he came away with a big nose bleed. No other damage, thankfully!

Top Tip: rubbing snow on a jacket covered in blood does actually remove the blood!

Yasutoki is a big fan of sake and Yuzawa/Niigata is famous for his sake, I think he would have like to smuggle a couple of these bottles home. I'm not sure how you would get a bottle that big back home thinking about it, you'd probably have to buy an extra train ticket and we were lucky to get seats as it was. 

The final day, the weather had turned, it was no day to be up a mountain so we went to the station, the boys had a sake bath, apparently, it is not the done thing to drink the bath water. It's a good job I didn't go in because I would have totally tried that, not that I like sake but, hey, a bath full of booze, who am I to turn my nose up at that?

Like I said, I didn't go in, I'm not much of a fan of onsen, well that is a lie. I like taking the onsen bath what I don't like is sharing it with a lot of other women who have to stare at all your bits because your a foreigner and obviously your bits are far more interesting than their bits.

As an introvert and someone who hated PE not just for the running around a cold soggy field but because of communal changing rooms, sharing a bath with a bunch of nosy strangers really isn't my idea of a barrel of laughs. I'd rather have a hot cocoa and read my book. So that is exactly what I did whilst the boys did not drink hot sake bath water.

I don't have a picture of the boys in the sake bath so here is one of a load of sake labels, almost as interesting.

We also had to stop for sasadango, which is sweet bean paste inside mochi (beaten rice cake) all wrapped and steamed in bamboo leaves, it tastes like leaves, personally, I would rather have a bar of chocolate.

Sometimes I wonder if he really is my child...

Now being organized peeps that we are, hubby had booked a train back with seats at 5.45pm by 10.30am we were already bored. The trains were busy because everyone was heading back to Tokyo after the new years break so we couldn't swap the tickets.

We decided to take a flyer and try and try and get seats on the non-reserved train carriage, it was busy but the Universe had our back so we got seats - cheers big U and it's a good job hubby didn't buy that giant bottle of sake because I can't imagine anyone being happy about having to stand because a bottle of sake was taking up a seat.

After we had some lunch we then went off to the shrine to by a new magic arrow for the entranceway and Ebi-kun wrote a wish on a bit of wood. In the olden days, you had to sacrifice a horse to go with a wish. 

Luckily we don't have to do that now because there aren't many horses around here. There is a riding school but I can't imagine that they would be happy about sacrificing a horse for a wish to get into a specific junior high school, but you never know, if it was an old horse, on its last legs they might be willing to give it up. But would the education gods be happy with a knackered old nag on its last legs? Probably not.

And anyway, I am a horse lover so would never allow horse sacrifice on my watch.

The education gods had to do with the wooden plaque and load of loose change and 3 prayers, here's hoping that that is enough!

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Happy New Year!

A Quick Recap...

So I failed miserably at updating before Christmas, it all got a bit chaotic and although I was doing a lot online, not a lot of it was happening over here!

Our Christmas was a bit of a wonky affair, hubby was working away until the night of the 23rd, he got back really late. He was home for the 24th and then had to leave at 3pm on the 25th which meant our usual Christmas shenanigans was cut short!

And just o throw an extra spanner in the works, Ebi-kun is applying to a junior high school* where he had to hand his application form in, by hand on Christmas morning!

So yes, by all accounts it was a bit of a shambles. Couple that with the decision to get a turkey crown instead of the full thing, which turned out to be tiny and just about did Christmas dinner with a wee bit left over, I couldn't even console myself with turkey butties for the week!

The good thing was that I decided to take time off, I feel like I have been attached to the internet pretty much permanently over the last few months and really needed to get back to the real world. So over the break, I have cracked open the paints, started to practice hand lettering and read a lot!

The boy wanted a new jacket and had his eye on this one, I'm not sure I'm ready for all this, I think I'm going to need a shitty stick to beat off all the girls! Although he really is going to have to start brushing his hair at some point!

*about junior high school. I am really not a fan of the JH system here, and we have seriously looked into homeschooling. I have no issues with the syllabus and reckon we could manage the education side with no problem the problem is friends/socialization.

Homeschooling is kind of frowned upon here, it is seen as what happens to kids who can't 'fit in' to school life the outcasts and the ultra-religious. It's not like the US or UK where there are normal people homeschooling regular kids who meet up in a co-op and have social interactions. Far from it.

And when kids get to JH age they get involved with the school club activities (pack mentality here) and very little happens outside school. The Football club he is in only has classes up to 6th grade elementary and aikido the kids drop out when they hit JH. So it really is a struggle to find anyone to hangout with.

I haven't been able to find anyone around his age who is homeschooled anywhere near us and being a non-religious family, with open minds and a love of curiosity our values do not match the ultra-religious lot.

So... the compromise was to look at different schools, we are in luck that one of the local schools has an excellent reputation BUT it is quite hard to get in. He needs to take an exam and if passes that an interview and then there is a lottery... please send your good vibes this way!

We have a couple more days off before work and school start again, I'm trying to enjoy them by doing as little as possible!

I have missed blogging so I feel like this year will be a bit of a revival!

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Hello Old Friend...

Surprisingly, I haven't fallen off the end of the world, although it does feel like it some days!

Many, many times I have thought about the blog and promised myself to get back to it, I never intended to take such an extended break!

I have been thinking about it a lot though, why I stopped posting and what was stopping me from starting up again.

I think the long and short of it was that life got busy and a lot of it was busy-on-the-computer work so when it came to blogging - which used to be the fun stuff, it was feeling like a chore and I really just wanted a break from the computer!

That and well, Ebi-kun is growing up, we don't get to craft and make stuff together so much these days. He gets home from school later and doesn't have as much free time.

And creativity wise, work has me creating so I am using that side of my brain but I haven't been doing so much outside work related stuff.

That I do want to fix, I miss it! I miss making a mess and just creating for the sake of creating.

So I have been thinking, to keep my creative self-accountable, I'm going to post at least one creative inspired post a week. I don't know what it will be yet, it could be painting or sewing, photography or cooking or anything else that takes my fancy. No restraints.

Maybe there should be a hashtag #52weeksofcreativity2018 - are you in?

Here is a little monster to kick it all off....

Although I've not been active over here, I am all over Facebook like a toddler with chickenpox! make sure you follow my jojoebi page, I do live videos almost every week and come and join Moms That Rock, which is a great community and that's where I hang out most of the time!

I have the Kaizen Coffee Chats going on at the moment and will be closing the doors to The Kaizen Revolution in a few days.

As you can see, I haven't been laying around binge-watching Netflix, who has time for that!

But neither have I been binge creating so we need to fix that. In fact, if you are in the Saitama area and want to get together for a crafternoon/ crafterlunch type of thing, drop me a line, I am trying to get a group together!

Well, I think that just about wraps things up. I will attempt to do a couple of catch up posts for all the stuff I have missed, this blog is somewhat like my family history book too!

I feel like I am back and ready to do this!

Thank you for sticking around :)

Sunday, 27 August 2017

New Hair, Don't Care

[Aug 15th]
Ebi-kuns first trip to an English barbershop.

He usually goes to the ¥1000 barbers, it's quick and easy. Obviously, I have never been to have my hair done at a barber so I had no idea what to ask for, so he took a picture of Ronaldo and asked to have it done like that.

There were 3 guys working, the first was super quick and did 4 people whilst we were waiting but all the blokes left with the same cut. The second bloke was slower but obviously went to the same school of hairdressing!

The third bloke was taking his time and looked like he was actually styling the hair properly so we crossed our fingers that we would get him! The Big U answered and Ebi-kun was happy with the final result...

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Family Fun With The Cockfields

Our trip back from Iceland was uneventful but long! We had to be up at 3.30am to catch a bus to get us to the airport on time. We basically slept in what we were travelling so we could just get up and leave. We flew back to Gatwick and then took a train into London, where we met a lovely mom and a boy who was happy to play Top Trumps with Ebi-kun!
Then we had to hang around for a couple of hours to get the train home. We got back about 6.30pm and collapsed!

The next day we had a meeting of the Cockfield clan, these are my cousins that I grew up with, they lived not far from us so there was a lot of family time together. Jude and Mattie now have their own kids, we have given up trying to figure out what the relationship is to Ebi-kun so they are all collectively known as "The Cousins"

We were blessed with beautifully weather and my uncle put on a great spread so we picked our food inside then picnicked on the lawn.

This is the youngest member of the clan but the Boss, he had me in stitches, it seemed that I was always in "Bad Books" (said in a strong potters accent). His dad had bought a water gun to play with, it all started quite innocently, F squirting everyone and running away laughing.

And no one got particularly wet, he isn't a very good shot! But then the rest of the guns came out and all the kids - and some of the adults, ended up soaked! Of course we had no idea this was going to happen so no one had a spare set of clothes!

The kids had a blast, lots of running, squealing and playing football. All was going well until I tried to get a shot of all of them on the swing... F wasn't having any of it!

He did agree to smile if we used the goal instead! As always, we came home with a great pile of food, Uncle Gra knows how to put on a great spread but he's not good at knowing how much he needs, everyone always goes home with a huge doggy bag!

Another great day, lots of fun and laughter, catching up and great food. It's a shame we have to wait another 12 months to do it again.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Videy Island, The Cathedral and Shopping

Our last full day, the time seemed to fly by in some respects but we seemed to get a lot done in such a short time! 

Now I know I swore that I was never getting on a boat again but... I bought the wrong bus ticket and it turned out that the ferry to Videy Island was included in the ticket price. I think the Hop On, Hop Off would have better value for money, never mind!

Our first challenge was finding a bus that was going to the ferry stop, we had no bus map and no idea of the number, luckily almost everyone speaks English so we found the right one.

The ferry takes about 10 minutes and even though the sea was a bit choppy, the ride was OK.

videy island iceland jojoebi

The ferry stop had free maps for the island, and when you land you can wander wherever the mood takes you.

We followed the path around and checked out some of the points of interest.

videy island iceland jojoebi

Ebi-kun guessing which was home is!

videy island iceland jojoebi

In the 30's and 40's there was a small village on the island and the foundations of many of the homes are still there, in front of each one is the information about the home and who lived there. I have to say, it looked like a hard life for all of them!

The old school house has been restored and is open for you to go in and look around, it also has a toilet - good to know! It looks like they also hold classes or training in there sometimes.

videy island iceland jojoebi

We did one end of the Island then decided to get some lunch, there is only one place to eat, it's lovely but, like all the meals out, expensive! It is the oldest existing stone built building in Iceland and you can have a poke around the place, I think they also have functions there these days.

videy island iceland jojoebi

Ebi-kun really wanted to try some fresh Icelandic fish, so he had the catch of the day, it looked lovely and that is coming from me, who doesn't eat fish! I stuck with the veggie soup and we both had rhubarb lemonade, which was lovely.

videy island iceland jojoebi

We decided we didn't want to spend all day on the island and the ferry only runs once an hour, so we had a quick look at Yoko Ono's Peace Tower then went to catch the boat and bus back to town. 

videy island iceland jojoebi

We decided to walk up to the Cathedral which is on the top of the hill overlooking Reykjavik. It's quite an imposing building, very modern looking inside but still very fitting for the place I thought.

Reykjavik iceland jojoebi

After a poke around the Cathedral, we decided we couldn't be bothered to go up the tower! We headed into town to do some shopping. My aunt had given Ebi-kun ISK4000 to spend and there was no point in bringing it home with us, so he was on a mission to spend it all.

Fortunately, he decided Troll Snot wasn't worth the money...

Reykjavik iceland jojoebi

We did eventually manage to empty his wallet! After going into almost every shop in the city! The city centre is pretty much all tourist shops, I'm not sure where the locals go shopping! It is a very pretty town centre!

Reykjavik iceland jojoebi

We finished off with an Icelandic Hot Dog, we heard that they were the best in the world, we were thinking of doing an Ebi-kun Eats but to be honest we were both shattered and we just wanted to eat. The hot dogs were OK, nothing special and would have made for a pretty dull episode!

Just as we were heading home, we spotted the Icelandic Punk Museum, I would have loved to have gone in but it was getting later and we needed to be up at 3.45am the next day.

punk museum Reykjavik iceland jojoebi

I didn't actually get much sleep because I was worried I would sleep through the alarm - I don't know why I have NEVER slept through an alarm! We had everything packed so it was just a matter of getting up and leaving, it was already pretty light which helped wake us up.

The journey back was long because we flew into Gatwick and then had to cath a train to London and then onto Congleton via Stoke, a very long day! But it was totally worth it, Iceland was amazing and if you get the chance to go, do it!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

The Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon

I'm pretty sure that every country has its own tourist "trap" and the Golden Circle is Iceland's. It covers three spots that are in a big loop when I was looking at all the different tours, the secret lagoon caught my eye. I would have loved to do one of the more adventurous ones but I wasn't sure how things would be with my vertigo. 

I decided a nice soak in the lagoon would be a good way to end the day. I booked the tour through Arctic Adventures and we had a great driver/guide called Jorge who was actually from Greece.

First stop was Thingvellir National Park, which is famous as it is the first democratic parliament in the world, sat on the edge of a beautiful lake and between two tectonic plates, the North American and Euro-Asia Plates.

Game Of Throne fans, this is for you, apparently, some of GOT was filmed here, I can't tell you any more because I don't watch it and have absolutely no idea!

The guide dropped us off at one car park and we walked through the national park, down to the church and then up to the second carpark. The whole place is so beautiful, clean, clean water and gorgeous fresh air! On our way, we accidentally took the wrong route! We saw a black fox which was hunting, that was pretty exciting too!

Once we were done there we headed to the Geysir, the big one goes off every 7 minutes or so... going...



Next up was the Gullfoss waterfall, voted as one of the top 10 beautiful waterfalls in the world! It's pretty impressive. We also stopped here for lunch, we had an hour to eat and take a look around.

The scenery is stunning and the photos don't do it justice at all! It reminded me very much of Lord Of The Rings and I can see why it was first choice for filming here.

After lunch our tour split in two, one group went off to do rafting and our group went to the secret lagoon, so-called because until 2 years ago, only the locals in the town knew about this place.

It is a natural hot spa but unlike the Blue Lagoon which was a pleasant hot in the hottest places, this one had some hot spots that were waaaaaay too hot to stand by! The system was much simpler too although you still have to wash before putting on your bathers, it was much smaller and laid back.

I did get out rather red in the face due to a combo of the water and the sun! Luckily I didn't burn!

You can walk around the outside of the pool but you need to be very careful and kids should be held onto because there are holes of boiling water dotted around and the dangerous sections have just a rope to keep you off them, so easy for a little one to duck under!

The locals also take advantage of the hot water and use it to power and heat greenhouses to grow veg in, which is quite ingenious!

Our guide said that this pool is amazing in the winter, in the snow with the Northern Lights, he told me that this is his favourite tour. I can see why since he gets a couple of hours of soaking in the lagoon on work hours!

We finished at the secret lagoon by about 4pm then we were taken to another waterfall and dropped of whilst the guide went back to pick up the rafting group. It was a really pretty spot, pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

It was getting late by the time we got back so we just had a quick bite to eat and collapsed into bed!

If you happen to go, I can recommend Arctic Adventures, it was easy to book, they have loads of different options and the prices were reasonable. Our guide, although not Icelandic was very knowledgeable about the places we visited and funny too.

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