Little catch up in all this madness

Planning

I am still here, still sharing my Japan experiences with you, I have a few more blogs so I hope you are enjoying me taking you away from what is going on in the world.

Covid 19

It’s still a scary place, people are still dying every day. My family are safe and healthy which I am so grateful for.

I am still working which makes me lucky at the moment but I am dreading the time that the English government tells me I have to go back to work when this is still going on. I say the English government because Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all seem to be more cautious and caring than ours.

How am I coping?

Am I? Yes I am coping working six days a week helps takes my mind of things and I have started drawing with my sister so I am keeping busy.

It makes me furious that our government want to say we may not be the worst in Europe because other countries don’t count there deaths properly. The truth is to date we have reported 34466 deaths in this country. It doesn’t matter if we don’t belong at the top of the scale all those people have died all those families are grieving and they don’t care what ranking we are at.

Cooking 3 meals a day is a bit crazy and although me and Gavin are used to it now it means that the kitchen is constantly in use and constantly a mess.

We have been cooking so much that we have invested in a few more pieces of Le Crueset we bought a cast iron such oven in black and some new pans that you can move from the stove to the hob which makes me really happy. The cleaning doesn’t.

Gavin has banned me from using art materials in the sitting room and I have agreed although I am sitting here with a sketchbook as we speak. but now our sitting room is tidy all the time which is great when the dog wakes me up at 5am and I snooze with him on the couch.

Frank

Walking the dog everyday is great. Even when it’s cold and rainy he gets us out of the house and we never regret it. It’s like going to the gym you may not want to go, but when you do you never regret it.

I hope everyone has something loving and warm to cuddle up to at the moment. I am really missing my cat but she has been gone a year now so she really isn’t coming home.

Plans

I am the dysfunctional planner and this stand well every day. Full of good intentions but peepers to plan rather than actually do.

Gardening

So we have been spending a bit more time in the garden. Gavin has repainted the BBQ with special heat paint so we could use it, then the next day he cooked a beer can chicken and brisket we ate for days.

A little boy down the street is selling home sewn plants. Obviously my bathroom is now covered in planting pots and cuttings. I invested in some rooting powder and cut some lilac leaves. I am just waiting for the soil to arrive and then I can sort out the garden a bit more.

I can’t wait.

House stuff

I need to sort out my house with the exception of the sitting room and bathroom it’s not good. My kitchen is my big tackle for today and I want to sort out the rest of the house in the next month. I just need to get on with it, maybe at the next bank holiday it will get done!

I also need to dye my hair with is looking bad but it with look healthier

Over it

The truth is like most people I just want to go to the pub and have a drink with my friends. But I understand the importance of staying home and staying safe. The NHS is our life line at the moment and if I have to give up going out to saves lives then I will do it.

It’s fine

We just won’t take it for granted again.

The biggest truth is I would rather be bored than dead! Harsh but true. We will get over this.

My backpack love: buying a backpack a quick review

Advice, Planning, Travel

When we knew we were going to Japan I knew I wanted a back pack. It was an essential for travel and for just meandering around. I really wanted a cute bag but it had to be practical. We were travelling around Japan and had two single night trips planned. This meant all our bits in our back packs.

I also want to use it for work. To use every day.

What I wanted

  • Compartments
  • A water bottle holder
  • A strap for my luggage
  • A place for the passports
  • A charging port

So I did some research and my contenders where

Fjallraven, man , I want one

I love these bags, but there was a shop in London so I thought I would check them out but they felt cheap. Then I did a bit more research and discovered that there are a lot of fakes everywhere. So when you do your research on a bag it is important to see where the retailers actually sell.

When you want to invest in a brand I really wanted an actual bag. Not a fake knock off. This is brand that gets attacked all the time. You see instagram ads for 40% off….. yeah they aren’t real.

I love the colours and the brand but for practical reasons I didn’t want a top loading bag. I know they have other bags but it wasn’t in the style I wanted. It didn’t really have anything I was looking for.

The main reason I didn’t get this bag is that I didnt want a bag that was a fad! I wanted something I could use all the time. I think after all this time I will buy one. They are gorgeous bags and they last.

Fjallraven to research.

Instagram influenced by Nordace

I loved this bag. It seemed to have everything I wanted. But it’s a fairly new brand for me so I did some research. I even messaged someone who I saw on Instagram who was using one and asked her opinion and she loved it.

The main reason I liked this bag is the colour? Not very practical but it looks so nice.

The main reason I was attracted to this bag was the marketing all the Instagram images were packing videos. I love a packing blog. I watch and read them all the time. I loved how much you could fit into this bag. It’s great.

It’s pricey but great.

Again I couldn’t check the quality because they are not in shops also there was some concern on the zips mentioned in the comments. The main reason I didn’t get this bag was the fact it’s took 6 weeks to arrive and even though I had time, I didn’t want to invest in this if it wasn’t going to arrive.

Nordace to research.

What I actually bought , Matein

This was nothing like the style of what I wanted but it had everything right including the price. It did give me Nordace vibes but it wasn’t in any great colours however I love grey. So I thought I couldn’t go wrong. It was similar to the Nordace but without the elegance. I love this bag, I just wish it came in yellow or green!!

I was taking far too long to decide what I wanted and in the end this arrive two weeks before we flew to Japan. So I tried it out was happy with and it was very spacious without being bulky.

It has pretty much everything on the list! I am someone who where’s something until it falls apart and then I generally patch it and wear it for a bit longer.

I am not some one who has a lot of bags. I have a few but because I like tan leather I feel like one bag does everything. I do have some other colours and some dressy bags but I generally only have one everyday bag at a time and then I wear it all the time. Being practical a backpack is the best thing ever. It’s on your back so your hands are free and it has masses of storage!

I love this grey bag. It’s light and strong and lets me fill it to the top. Because the weather was ever changing my backpack generally held my Mac and Gavins hoodie. The rest was my charger, cables, etc. I will do a what’s in my bag in a later blog.

This bag was half the price but it did the job. I still want a fjallraven maybe Gavin will get me one for my birthday!!

Matien to research.

A surprise Hunter back pack

So Gavin bought me a backpack for our honeymoon without talking to me he surprised me with a gorgeous bag.

But it wasn’t practical at all. The side pocket zip broke on the way to the airport so Gavin contacted the brand and when we arrived at Japan the other side zip broke.

I was surprised because hunter is a good brand. We did use it but only when we went back pack only. When the crisis is over I may see if my local Tailor can fix the zip as I love the colour.

I think Gavin was disappointed that I wasn’t more enthusiastic about the bag but a top loading bag isn’t great for travel and this was proved time and time again! We organised for our luggage to be sent on ahead at every destination but it was my grey backpack that was crucial to travelling!

Hunter to research.

In summary

It’s really important to do your research when investing in a back pack. I didn’t go for my dream bag because it wasn’t quite right, but I did go for a sensible one. A someone who doesn’t believe in fast fashion but function over style I know I will have this for years. It is understated and brilliant.

I think when buying luggage you should write what you need it to do and how important access is! To me this bag had lots of pockets and compartments and is so practical. I only had to repack a few items but the majority stayed in my bag. I will write a what’s in my day to day in another blog!

Hope you enjoyed! What backpacks do you use and would recommend?

My love of Japanese wooden dolls and changing my spending habits

Honeymoon, Travel

So even though I love to travel and explore, I am not on the biggest wage so when it comes to spending money there are only a few things I like to invest in. Travel and experiences, I don’t mind, meals and nights out I think are memory makers, so if I blow my budget on a weekend then I don’t go out for the rest of the month and I am fine with that. I try not to live above my means but my credit card will definitely tell you a different story. I don’t have issues spending my money on food or skincare but that’s where it stops.


That is when I doubt myself and go no further.
I have had a look at my wardrobe in recent years and I am not really happy with it. Even though I didn’t spend hundreds I still indulged in fast fashion of Primark and although I actually have some nice pieces from there, I need to invest more in myself. I made a conscious effort to not be so frivolous and invest in better quality everything. Because I teach art I do get covered in paint and ink a lot so I do have a cheaper work wardrobe but I have started buying better jeans etc.


In Japan I bought a lot of skincare but that is a passion of mine. I also bough a fair few kimono jackets that I adore. They are all second hand and Gavin encouraged me as they are beautiful and I will have them forever. Because we were at the end of our holidays and because I hadn’t bought a souvenir Gavin (again) encouraged me to buy some wooden dolls.


These are frivolous, but I wont have the opportunity to buy them in Yamagata any time soon. So I took the plunge and bought three.
I love them.


In our vast and winding hotel in Yamagata we discovers Kokeshi dolls. They had cabinets full of them and I oved the display. These Wooden dolls that are hand painted with beautiful flowers and expressions. The original Kokeshi dolls were connected to the mountain gods and were said to bring fortune such as health recovery and good harvest to them. So what better reminder of my time on the mountain then 3 lovely wooden dolls.
I don’t mind if you don’t like them.


I spent ages selecting the ones I liked arranging them to see if they work together. I played around and selected my 3. The shop was empty so the man was delighted I was buying 3. I wanted more and if I had found them in Tokyo I would have bought more.


But I didn’t.


When I got home and put them in my red dining room Gavin produced a tiny doll. Then the next day he snuck another one in. I love them and I love him for being so thoughtful. They wont be to everyone’s taste but I think they are a wonderful reminder of our time in the slopes.


What strange item did you bring back from your holidays?


Or do you have any shopping regrets that you wished you bought?

Snow boarding japan Yamagata

Honeymoon, Travel


So firstly if you are just reading this post I should let you know that in March 2020 I honeymoone in Japan. This was at the start of Covid 19 when it was just called the Corona virus and the British government said it was safe to go! So off we flew with the air hostess wearing masks and gloves.

Which felt a bit alien to us…. not any more.

We felt pretty safe in Japan as everything was clean, 60% of people were wearing masks and Japan was quiet. We didn’t face many crowds and the whole world was just getting on with it. Italy had not yet shut down and all the horrific deaths had just been reporting China and the cruise ship off Japan.

It felt safe and quiet.


Really, really quite.


Restaurants where half empty, bars, shops it was really tough to see. Zao Onsen was half closed down due to the lack of tourism and they were suffering for it.


Some places were really busy and others were just not.


Snowboarding

We stepped off the bus into crisp cold air and the town was white with snow. We had 3 nights booked and we were excited for this part of our trip.

We went to Zao Onsen to do two days snowboarding up in the beautiful mountains. The trees look like they are made of glass it definitely felt like we were in Narnia . It was too warm to see the famous Zao Onsen snow monsters but we could see there out lines and it was still filled with magic.


We got to see a different side of Japan and in many ways we were really lucky. We definitely lucked out with Snowboarding.


I should tell you that because of all the onsens the whole town smelled like eggs, stinky eggs. You soon get used to it but it did permeate everywhere.


Hotel Matsukaneya Anex

Our hotel was pretty much empty, the owners were amazing and attentive. They picked us up from the station, advised us where to go for food and dropped us back at the station. We had two onsens to choose from and the food was pretty great two. I am going to do a review of all the hotels we stayed in. This on was defiantly brilliant, great budget hotel full of character and wonderful people.

The room was large and the heating was on so it was nice and cosy! We stayed in a traditional futon in the floor which was comfortable enough and we spent our evenings in the Onsen and watching movies on my Amazon Tablet ( the only time I used it!) plus I got to wear the robe to dinner which I loved!

Our hotel was a short walk to a main rope way (gondola) and we went straight to the top of the mountain. Like most of my trips I have no confidence on my first slope but we had no one with us. It was icy cold. My hair froze in its place and matted together. It was so cold but like all boarding trips, when its that cold you keep on moving.


When we went boarding in Le Deuce Alps, we had a lot of blizzards and wind. In japan we had less but still some moments when the slope whited out and you could see nothing. I had to hunker down in fear of being blown off the mountain (that was never going to happen).


The slopes were great wide and flat and unlike any mountain I have ever been on they were filled with trees from top to bottom! It was really stunning and I loved it. We celebrated our 11 years together on the mountain which was pretty special. Definitely an anniversary to remember.

Safety first


I would love to tell you that this was the first snowboarding trip without tears but that would be a big fat lie.


In Japan they have chairlifts that don’t have a safety. You just sit in them. As someone with a fear of heights I found this unbearable. I hate chairlifts generally, and will happily do my best to avoid them. We took a wrong turn down the most beautiful slope only for the fear to take hold of me. I was angry, blaming Gavin for taking me this way knowing there was a chairlift at the end. I cried the whole way and begged him not to move so much. He decided to take a photo of me in this moment. ( charming)


This would have been fine if we didn’t take anther wrong turn and end up at the same bloody chair lift again. I could not believe it. Gavin looked sheepishly at me and looked like he was prepared to walk back up the hill but I whizzed past him and got on the terrible thing again. I didn’t cry this time but I was scared.


It was horrible.


We rented our boards so we dropped them off at the rental place every night to save us from having to carry them. We soaked our tired bodies in the natural onsens. I really miss the Onsens! And had dinner at the ryokan.

Apres ski

There wasnt any apres ski at all. Everything was pretty much closed. So we went to a little cafe bar every day, I had hot sake and Gavin had local beers ( Japan beer is excellent) and we treated ourselves to a bowl of chips. The food was good here, very french and Gavin craved Ramen every day! But we weren’t here for long.

I am not sure whether Japan has good apres ski, when we come back it will be interesting to see! Renting our gear was easy but it was expensive but it was our honeymoon and we wanted to treat ourselves.

Summary

Like all of our trip so far Yamagata was beautiful and wonderful. We wish there had been more to do but with the current Covid crisis we were also great full for everything we got to experience.

The slopes were beautiful and empty, they felt very blue/ green on a french scale. Icy patchy and some blizzard weather but on the whole pretty great!

I would love to go snowboarding again but next time I am back I want to discover more or Japan, explore further up from Yamagata.

Have you been skiing/ snowboarding in Japan?

What did you think?

Hotel Matsukaneya Anex ホテル松金屋アネックス

Staying motivated during isolation- I am not

Advice, Personal Experience

Motivation is still at Zero


I am so impressed by everyones attitudes to this situation. I am not motivated at all. Yes I will be baking banana bread today and yes I have cleared out the garden but I am still working. I am actually busier then I have ever been and I am working super long days. So even though I am currently working at home not a lot has changed for me.

I actually enjoyed working from home. I planned our lunches and and cooked our dinners we walked Frank every day. We are now a zero waste food house hold. I understand stand that we should always should have been. Isolating is teaching us how much to appreciate the food you have. We are using up all the fresh bits first although they seem easier to replace.


I still have minimum motivation.

Zero

Online food shopping


We gutted the kitchen cupboards at the weekend
Ripped everything out and wrote everything down. Like everything in life, me and Gavin are hoarders. Food hoarders if you are really fond of spices, bbq sauce and noodles, we will survive.

We appear to have a soba noodle obsession.


I just wanted to check before I did an order that we have enough food in the house and this has helped me massively. But I don’t blame online shoppers for overstocking their shelves! How can we when you can only get delivery once a month if you are lucky. If we are not allowed out and we are trying to stay away from people then online shopping should be a godsend.


But no one can get a slot.


We will be fine for no, maybe a month, if we just live on noodles!

Lack of motivation


I am still working.


You may know that I work in retail it’s an online company so we are busy. Busier than Christmas and dealing with a lot of impatient people. Who don’t understand that there is a crisis on which means delays. This is leading to zero motivation at the moment. Gav is used to me screaming at the laptop and getting stressed.

Work is really tiring me out. Don’t leave a comment telling me I am lucky to be working. Yes I am lucky to be working but I am not used to dealing with such negativity and lack of understanding. I have to process what is going on in the world as well as people yelling at me because there parcel is delayed.

Peoples perspectives are pissing me off.

Coping during isolation

Working means I have little time to relax. I don’t have any excess time to be creative, to plan the things I want to do. My daily roles haven’t changed that much but everything else has. When I sit down and think about all the deaths and sickness I find it overwhelming.

We are living in scary times.

I deleted Facebook because I don’t want to hear people’s opinions on everything. All my news comes from the BBC. I downloaded the app so I even get notifications which is also scary.

Our government lied to us and downplayed the severity of Covid-19 which is still making me so angry.

We don’t know what is happing or going to happen. So we need to let everyone get along how they must. Am I coping?…. well I am getting everyday but I am so busy or tied I don’t have a lot of time for me.

I read a post on how we are actually privileged to be able to stay home, feed ourselves, clean ourselves. At first I was a bit annoyed at this post. Now I understand the relevance and the privileged position of us. It wasn’t about shaming us it was about putting things in perspective.

It’s time to put things in perspective!

You perspective matters but please be kind to people and patience really is a virtue.

Where’s your head at?

Advice, health

What a crazy week! I am a little overwhelmed by it all, the new just keeps getting worse. More people are getting sick and the deaths keep adding up. This is all getting very scary.

We have arrived back from Japan into chaos.

I am angry at how slow our government has taken to act and how severe it actually becoming. Our PM has been reluctant to react and now he is sick. This blog is my escape so even though I am very political my blog is somewhere I escape to rather than a political ranting space.

My Facebook feed was telling be on one hand that everyone needs to take it seriously, on the other it’s all a joke and then my absolute favourite was to be positive.

Good Vibes only was plastered all over Facebook and it was making me angry. I get it. That’s how people are coping they want to create a positive place. It made me feel like my feelings were invalid and wrong. I shouldn’t be angry I should be focused and grateful.

Well I am not. I am still angry.

I deleted facebook

Facebook was stressing me out so I decided that this divorce needs to happen so off I went. I am still watching the news. I have BBC news app sending me notifications and feel a bit better. It was never about cutting out the world. Just bad social media! I still love Instagram and Twitter. Maybe it’s the comfort of strangers that I find soothing.

I am working from home and the isolation isn’t helping my mental health. I am just frustrated and I think I actually need a break except I can’t go anywhere.

We are all in the same boat so I don’t feel alone even in isolation. I also know I am lucky. I have food in my kitchen. A little house I can disappear into. My little garden that I need to tidy. A loving husband and a cute puppy that need a daily walk. I am not depressed but this whole Covid 19 situation is stressing me out.

It’s all a bit much so I thought I would ask you where your head is at? Let’s start a conversation.

7 Things I didn’t expect about Japan

Honeymoon, Personal Experience, Travel

We did a lot of research before we went to Japan. We learned about Japanese etiquette so we didn’t insult anyone. Japan is super forgiving if you apologise but somethings still surprised us about Japan. So here is 7 things we didn’t expect about Japan.

For the love of eggs

The Japanese love eggs, boiled, raw, baked you name it. They will even stuff it in a little octopus! We have eggs sandwiches that made us drool. We queued for 15 minutes to get an omelette on a stick ( that we are still drooling about). My favourite was the stained eggs that come In The ramen!

But my absolute favourite egg was the one we had with breakfast. It was basically like a lightly poached egg, with a perfect reddy orange yoke still in its shell. We had it with our rice and mixed in the rest of our ingredients. I can’t tell you how good that breakfast was.

Ramen Eggs



Hakone eggs!!!

Stone the crows

Okay don’t stone them! Every place we went there were huge crows everywhere. They are magnificent birds that caw loudly fight and play. They are pretty brave and fearless and will walk right up to you.

I love crows I think they are clever and I like the fact they are hardly alone. When me and Gav were first dating he was walking me to the pub and teasing me about something. Two crows were fighting and fell out of the sky landing on Gavs head. Quite rightly he freaked out and ran down the road. We laughed afterwards but I just looked at him and said karma. Since then I feel an affinity with crows! If there is a spirit animal then mine would be a crow.

When we were walking through the castle at Osaka we had to walk through a small wooded area. The trees were absolutely filled with crows cawing and chasing each other. Gav was a little freaked out so for the whole holiday I teased him that the crows were following him. When we got to to Kyoto the crows were super confident!

My spirit animal

Plastic is not so fantastic but it is hygienic!!

So plastic is an issue in Japan. Everything is wrapped or double wrapped. Packaging is far too much however. We were in Japan during Covid-19 so everything being in wrapped made sense. No germs were being transferred unless you touched the packaging.

I did get into the habit of showing a bag I was carrying with me but it was crazy how they would give you a bag for everything. Maybe because it just doesn’t happen in the Uk anymore we are cutting back on plastic. I am self isolating at the moment but if I was allowed to shop I would be reaching for those plastic wrapped fruit…. sorry.

Plastic may be bad for the environment but it is hygienic. I just think our government needs to invest in recycling plastics so we stop sending them to the dump. After all a lot of plastic can be recycled.

Bullet trains

Organisation can be achieved on public transport

We all know that Japan is highly efficient when it comes to public transport but seriously! Everything was on time, trains, tubes, buses. Japanese people hate being late! Hate it!

We had one incident where we were sat on the bus and was about to leave. Some tourists meandered over with their suitcases I think there were 6 of them. The bus driver told them they had to hurry because he had to leave. They slowly got on the bus. The bus driver wanted to yell at them. In stead he turned into superman and lifted all the cases up and stacked them on the bus blocking the back door so he could leave on time. He was furious and it rubbed off on the bus. This family made us all late!

So if you visit Japan don’t be late. If you live anywhere be courteous and arrive on time. Lateness is for fools!

Japanese standards in cooking

We never had a bad meal in Japan whether it was a cheap eats or a fancy meal. That doesn’t mean we had perfect meals every time. Because we didn’t. But the food standards where just good everywhere. When I was disappointed in food it wasn’t because it wasn’t good it’s just because we had already had better.

Gav even liked the Lawsons ( minisupermarket) chicken and hot food! Me not so much but we tried all the food at the stations, food stalls, restaurants and supermarkets. We tried lots and different food and I was so impressed with the standards of food!

Gyoza

Japan doesn’t do street food

So yes you can buy street food in Japan, and yes it is authentic Japanese food. Japan doesn’t like eating outside they take such pride in the food and everywhere is filled with tiny restaurants some don’t have seats just tables but street food nope. Street food is for tourists. It’s becoming more popular with the younger generation but in general it’s not a thing.

You probably already know that you should not walk and eat or drink! It is highly frowned upon and if you do buy food from a food stall or market they ask you to eat at the side. You will see signs up in the markets in english stating not to walk and eat. You get used to it except for the drinking! Although I do feel like you can get away with it more.

Service charge

You don’t tip in Japan they find it insulting however restaurants and bars sometimes have a cover charge. Now everywhere we went we were informed before we sat down. Now to make up for this you often get like a bowl of peanuts or snacks! We never had an issue with it except when an empty bar wanted to charge us 700yen but he had to make his money some how. And he turned out to be full of knowledge and really friendly.

Lots of restaurants have rules like you must order a drink each etc. All these rules are either as you enter or the first page in a menu, they don’t hide them. It can be frustrating when you have to pay an extra £6 just to sit down and have a drink but the cocktails were about £9-12 so that wasn’t to bad cheaper than many London bars so we just always orders two drinks each so we didn’t notice the costs!

Old fashioned at the Bees Knees Kyoto
S


So we learned a lot about Japan, before we left and while we were out there. We are already planning our next trip out there. What we want to do and see!

Have you been to Japan? What surprised you about it?