Sunday, May 14, 2017

Travel: Sydney to Osaka

Kate and I left home about 10.30pm the night before we were due to fly out and drove the 5 hours to Sydney. We stopped halfway for a little nap, but we were too excited to sleep. Our flight was due to depart just after 6am. We got there with plenty of time to spare, and so we tracked down some food and ate breakfast.

The first leg of our trip takes us to Cairns, where we disembark and switch to the International terminal for our flight to Osaka. We have a 4 hour stopover which is pretty boring, to be honest, but I have a little bit of a nap to catch up on the sleep I lost driving to Sydney. 

We finally board and Kate and I are so excited to be on our way to Japan.

The flight is very smooth and it feels like it goes quite quickly. The Dreamliner is a fantastic plane, quite comfortable and the food is decent enough. We watch the sun set on the first day of our trip and we know we are getting closer to our destination.

We arrive at Kansai Airport at 7.30pm and the first thing we do after we collect our baggage and make our way through customs, is go to go and get a data sim card. There’s a little outlet at the airport and we pick up a sim each, we put them in and we are ready to navigate to the hotel near Namba Station. We walk to the train station and we work out the ticketing machine much quicker than we thought we would. We get our tickets and hurry to the platform.

We catch the wrong train, but it’s ok, as it’s just a slower train as opposed to going to the wrong destination. We get to Namba Station and open up Google Maps to find our way to the hotel. Along the way, I am just walking in absolute awe. I can’t believe that I am actually here in Japan and seeing all these sights with my own two eyes. The colours and lights are amazing. I just want to drink in the atmosphere.

We are staying at Osaka Fujiya Hotel. I found the hotel on It’s small, but comfortable and it’s all we need for our first night here.

After we check in, we decide to head straight back out again and explore Dotonbori. I just have to keep pinching myself that we are here!

I had read about Okonomiyaki before I left and I knew I wanted to try them out. So after wandering around a bit, I decided to get some from Dotonbori Konamon Museum. There is a bit of a line up but it doesn’t take long to get them. Bearing in mind, I had no idea what Okonomiyaki actually was before I left for Japan. I found out pretty quickly after my first bite – squid. I was not expecting that and to be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan. There’s six in a box and I eat two before deciding that was enough for me!

Afterwards, Kate decides she would like some ramen noodles, so we find a little restaurant and order some. The shop is so small, but the food is dished up so quickly, the diners cycle through quite quickly.

And then we go back and sleep. Heavily, because we’re both exhausted.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Travel: Japan Planning

I’ve always wanted to travel but starting a family early meant that has been out of the question for some time now. I always told the kids that when they turned 18, I would take them to a destination of their choice. Then because I was getting a bit antsy, I lowered the age limit to 16. But I couldn’t even wait that long.

In April 2016, I was talking to a friend at work who mentioned she was looking at flights to Japan as Jetstar were having a free return flight sale. I thought this might be the perfect destination for Kate, even though she really wanted to go to South Korea. So, I hopped on the web and ran the numbers. It was doable, the flights would be a little over $600 each including food and baggage. I spoke to Steve about going and before I knew it, I was hitting the booking button.

Now, Japan is somewhere that wasn’t on my radar. Of course I have all the fancy places on my bucket list, France, Peru and Vietnam, but I’d never given Japan a second thought. Cue the research, because all I knew was that I’d booked flights to Osaka and that we were going to be there for a total of 13 days.

So I set myself up a spreadsheet and got to work. I Googled all the main tourist locations and refined my itinerary just a little bit every time. Kate had some input as to what she would like to see also, but I knew I was travelling with a 15 year old so I had to make it appealing to her also. In the end, she was excited with a lot of the things I had found to see.

It was obvious from the start that we would need to book a Shinkansen ticket. The options are for 7, 14 or 21 days. I decided that 7 days was enough and we could build our itinerary around that, knowing that the 7 days needed to be consecutive. I ordered the tickets from Japan Rail Pass Now and a week later, they arrived in the mail. As you can imagine, working in the rail industry, I was super excited to be going on my first bullet train!

I decided to go with AirBNB for most of our accommodation, mostly because I’m a tightass, but also so we could choose a location that was close to the things we wanted to do, or would make our lives easier to get around. Speaking of getting around, the Hyperdia website and app are a must if you are using public transport!

So with all this planning, I also decided that I needed to learn a few basic words. I spoke to a friend of mine who’d lived there a while and she thought the best ones to learn would be whatever I could remember along with hello, goodbye, thank you and excuse me. And I must say, these are pretty much all I used too!

In the end our itinerary looked a little like this (you can tell that the word planning is in my job title, can’t you?):

Our itinerary did change a little bit and what we ended up with was:

Day 1 – Osaka

Day 2 – Kyoto

Day 3 – Kyoto

Day 4 – Osaka – Universal Studios

Day 5 – Kyoto

Day 6 – Okunojima Island (Rabbit Island)

Day 7 – Nara

Day 8 – Tokyo

Day 9 – Nagano – Snow Monkeys

Day 10 – Tokyo – Disneyland

Day 11 – Tokyo – Hakone

Day 12 – Osaka

Day 13 – Osaka

Now all we needed was the day to roll around so we could fly out and actually get to experience Japan in real life and not just through the screen of my computer!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Scrapbooking: Hello

I was in my craft room, practicing my script writing when I thought I'd throw together a layout. The background had been sprayed when I was at the last retreat but I never got around to starting the layout properly.

I had this photo printed of the kids at the Australian Reptile Park and I love it, so I thought it was a perfect photo to scrap.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Scrapbooking: Stay wild

The third and final layout I created at the retreat. This photo epitomises Kate and Luke. Kate is pretending to be a horse while Luke is pretending he has guns. I am totally loving anything Swiss cross at the moment. In fact, I'm going to start cutting a quilt out for Luke and it's going to be in a Swiss cross design.

Gah, I forgot to stamp the date before photographing it! Oh well!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Bushwalk: Ulandra Nature Reserve - Goodens Trail

Since moving away from the magnificent Blue Mountains, I have been trying to research places to go bushwalking that isn't too far from home. I live about 1 1/2 hours away from Kosciuszko N.P., but I'm saving those trails for one of my bucket list items, walking the Hume and Hovell track.

In the mean-time, I needed to find some other walking locations. I found some NSW topographical maps that are hosted by the Lands and Property Information Office (google: land and property six maps and you'll find it). I found that there were some nature reserves not too far from my town. I searched the names of these reserves but couldn't find much information at all. I happened to come across a document that said people use the reserves for walking.

So, I picked Ulandra Nature Reserve as it was the closest to my house and got my gear ready. After weeks of rain and cold, the weekend's forecast was 16 degrees and sunny. Perfect.

The beginning of the track is known as Eulolo Trail.

The recent rain meant some parts of the trail were a bit soggy, but not enough to be a pain.

The tracked opened up onto some cleared land.

And then around the corner and up a small hill, there were some ruins.

The trail continues across cleared land for a couple of kilometres and then back into some scrub. I then come across the turn-off for the trail I am here to go on, Goodens Trail.

It's a nice change as the track is softer underfoot. Not far along the trail is a small rocky waterfall.

Which I decide to have a photo with.

The track goes on and on and it becomes scrubby. I turn up the Pig Pen Trail, but I'm not quite sure why it's there as it doesn't go very far and there's not much at the end of it. So, off I go again so I can find the end of the trail.

I make it to the end of Goodens Trail. I stop for lunch and then turn around for the walk back to the car.

In all, I walked 14.2kms in 3hrs 15mins, with a total ascent/descent of 325m. It was a really nice walk and next time, I'll check out some of the other trails.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Scrapbooking: Smile

This time I decided to have a go at the smaller 8.5x11 format as sometimes 12x12 feels too big. I'd printed off a bunch of photos that I had kind of put in the too hard basket and skipped over, so I decided it was time to finally get them scrapped. These were taken on Father's Day a few years ago. I also used some of my too good to use stash, Basic Gray brads. Winning.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Scrapbooking: Bubbles

Another retreat, except this time, I only created three layouts. This was probably because I was hosting it and as an organiser, you do spend much more time making sure everyone else is ok, rather than actually getting any scrapping done! Not to worry!

The first layout, Bubbles, was created for a Scrap the Girls challenge. One product I am loving at the moment is vellum. It is great to soften brighter papers. Oh my sweet baby, where has the time gone?!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Travel: Mt Kosciuszko Summit Walk

On the Easter long weekend I decided to take the kids to climb the summit of Mt Kosciuszko. I booked a motel through, and like always, filtered by price and choose the cheapest one. We ended up at the Alpine Resort Motel. We arrived in Jindabyne earlier than check-in so we went back into the centre of town as there was an art show and a quilt show. We killed an hour or so before it was time to check-in.

Our room was a little small, but it was enough for the four of us (Steve was working).

After check-in, I had a nap as the drive was quite tiring. After our rest, we decided to go in search of food, however, we were a bit early and nothing was opened! We ended up going to Lake Jindabyne Hotel and the food is so delicious and filling that we struggle back to our motel.

In an effort to work off dinner, we decide to play a few games of table tennis and pool. A few ends up turning into a few hours, but it's all good, as we are really enjoying ourselves!

We head to bed and wake up early for our trip up Mt Kosciuszko. We drive over to Thredbo, us and every other person in NSW! It's absolutely packed full of walkers and mountain bike riders. We have to park 1km away, which only adds to the kids excitement (it doesn't, I'm being sarcastic). We wait in a quickly moving queue and purchase our lift tickets, which cost $70 for the four of us,

The kids are freaking out on the chairlift and are happy to be off it, even if it means a 13km walk.

About 250m into the walk, Amy tries to sit down. She's already had enough. I urge her on and she starts walking again, only for Luke to start having an epic nosebleed. Sigh. It's going to be a long walk.

We make it to the lookout and Amy is ready to pack it in. Mt Kosciuszko is the hump above Amy's head. Pretty unimpressive at this stage.

We start off again and we come across the kilometre markers, although I don't actually explain what these mean to the kids as I don't really need them knowing...

And the last one:

Amy struggled a little, not with the walk, but I think she was bored. While ever I was talking and making up stories, she happily walked along, but as soon as I stopped, she would start complaining again. I just had to keep her mind off the task.

So, as I said earlier, Thredbo was quite busy. I was not expecting however, to have to stand in line for 20 minutes on top of Australia's highest mountain just so I could have a photo taken with the trig.

But I did.

And it was worth it.

And then the walk back again.....

It took us about 4 hours from the top of the chairlift to when we returned to the chairlift.

A couple of important notes:
  • Take plenty of water, I didn't drink enough and I felt it!
  • Just because it's cold, doesn't mean you won't get sunburned. Think of Goldmember in Austin Powers, yep, that was me afterwards.
But do it - you won't regret it!!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Scrapbooking: Everyday is an adventure

The last layout I created at the retreat is everyday is an adventure. These photos were taken on a spur of the moment trip to Sydney to see the giant rubber duck. After we saw the duck, we walked down to Circular Quay to see the Opera House. We had a great day that involved lots of walking and slushies as it was so hot!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Scrapbooking: Australia Day and Adventure

Two more layouts from the retreat. One is from Australia Day with photos of the ferry race. I'd always wanted to go into the harbour and see the race and this year I bundled the kids up and we went!

These photos are from our 2009 trip to New Zealand. We were so excited to be flying on an A380 as they were new planes.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Scrapbooking: Laugh and bike riding

A while ago I went to a scrapbooking retreat at Waterfall. I had a great time catching up with some awesome creative friends. In the end, I completed five layouts and if anyone knows me, they know this is a huge effort as I'm such a slow scrapbooker.

The first layout includes some photos that were taken at Penrith Regatta Centre one day when we went there for a bike ride and a picnic. I was trying to learn some new techniques using gelatos. The technique involves scribbling circles on a plastic bag (12x12 ziplock works great for this), then spraying it with water, scrunching it up and laying the paper on it. It gives a nice watercolour effect.

And then I had these super cute photos of Amy that needed scrapping.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Scrapbooking: Love these people

It's been a while since I shared a layout! This is one of my absolute favourite photos. Amy wasn't even a year old. Kate and Luke would wheel Amy around the house so she could watch them play.

I was given a challenge piece of paper to use, the white cutout one that runs across the middle. It's actually bright pink, so I turned it over and used the white side instead. The stitching around the outside took forever, by the way. I'm not in love with this layout, but it's done and it's another memory captured in an album.