Category Archives: Life
Lunar New Year Eve Dinner 2018
Everything is homemade except the Roast Duck.
Centre: Steamed Fish with Cheong Cheng sauce.
Clockwise from top: Fried Noodles, Char Siew (Chinese BBQ Pork), Roast Duck, Siew Yoke (Chinese Roast Pork), Chinese Broccoli with oyster sauce, Cabbage with Carrots and Glass Noodles.
Happy Lunar New Year!
Another year has passed.
I didn’t post much on my blog in 2017 compared to other years. Every year I aim to write more, post more, but know better than to publicise such lofty resolutions. Maybe I should set down my goals for all to see as a way to keep me accountable. To whom, though?
I’ve read books and watched movies which I couldn’t be bothered writing a review because I just don’t have much to say about the experience.
Jeremy is going to continue with his studies. He is doing a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Modern History. He is also working as a School Crossing Supervisor. He ‘only’ has to work Monday to Friday during school term, 40 minutes in the morning and 40 minutes in the afternoon. He has his weekends and evenings free. He is also very active with church activities: Kidz’ Church (yes, that’s how it’s spelt), Boys’ Brigade, Youth Group, Young Adults’ cell group, and Sunday evening service.
Susannah is going into her second year of a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Linguistics with a minor in Chinese. She volunteers as a mentor to a primary school student and helps out at Girls’ Brigade.
Benjamin is embarking on a new journey with regards to his education. This year, he will be attending the alternative school his older siblings attended. He will be in Year 10.
Elizabeth will still be home schooled. She will be in Grade 6 and doing World History In-Depth (Part 1). She is still very involved with her dancing and will be doing more than ten hours of dancing per week.
Husband and I marked 22 years of marriage on July 1, which means that today, January 1, is our half-anniversary. Twenty-two-and-a-half years.
The whole family went to Malaysia in September to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday. We stayed at a holiday house and had a great time.
Last month, I went to Tokyo for a week and spent some time with my sister and nieces.
We hosted Christmas this year. The weather was a very comfortable 21C; the company was great (six guests, so twelve people in all), we had a Kris Kringle and enough food for seconds and gleanings. And, there wasn’t a ridiculous amount of leftovers!
Last night, New Year’s Eve, my girls and I pulled out a DVD and watched My Fair Lady. It is a Simovie I thoroughly enjoy watching even if I have watched it many times before. With a running time of 170 minutes, it is LONG by today’s standards. There is something to be gained from multiple viewings, I feel. Alfred P Doolittle used to be my least favourite character; I tolerated his scenes and songs. Last night, I found myself having some sympathy for this common dustman suddenly thrown into middle class.
Happy New Year, dear readers! Wishing you good health, love, joy, peace, and comfort this coming year. And whether you are thrown into unfamiliar territory like Alfred P Doolittle, or striving to overcome your present circumstances and determined to conquer like Eliza Doolittle, may you have much success along the way.
Friday, 22 December, 2017
My sister wanted to take us to her favourite cafe for breakfast, but they didn’t have any sandwiches available because the bread didn’t get delivered (!!), so we went to another place.
For lunch, my sister took us to a Korean BBQ place near her work.
Tendan is a highly popular place that does not take bookings. So you have to turn up and hope for the best. We had to wait half an hour for a table and then when one was available were told that we had one hour to eat. Okay, boss.
After lunch, it was time to head back to my sister’s place, get our bags and go to the airport. My sister got us a cab to Mita station and from there it was a direct line to Narita airport.
It’s been a short but activity-filled trip.
Many thanks to Rachel for hosting us and suggesting places to visit! Looking forward to doing it again!
Thursday, 21 December, 2017
Mt Fuji Tour
Took the train to Shinjuku station and walked to the Keio Plaza Hotel for the meeting point. The directions said it was either a one-minute walk from the Shinjuku station or a five-minute walk from another station.
After yesterday’s experience of missing out on the miniature railway museum, I decided we better set out early so as to make it on time. Meeting time was 7.50am (for a 8am departure) and we made it to the place at 7.45am.
Susannah and I got seats right at the back of the bus.
Our tour guide was a lady called Yasue Ito. (I learned that “yasui” means “cheap” in Japanese and that she is “not pleased with that mispronunciation.”)
A village with eight ponds, traditional houses, waterwheels, souvenir shops and restaurants. It is a tourist venue and many tourists were there taking photos. I’m not sure I would be happy living there with so many tourists poking around every day.
Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine
At every stop, Yasue told us how long we had and impressed upon us the importance of being punctual. “If you are not back within ten minutes, we will assume you are finding your own way back to Tokyo,” she said at the beginning of the tour. I’m happy to report that we were all mindful of the time and no one was left behind.
Made it back to Tokyo Shinjuku station by 6.30pm and looked for something to eat.
Train back to Hiro-o and the uphill walk back to my sister’s place.
Wednesday, 20 December, 2017
Cup Noodles Museum
My sister insisted that we visit the Cup Noodles Museum in Yokohama.
There’s a museum for cup noodles? Yes. Yes, there is.
There was also a display of all the different instant noodles from around the world.
Guests had the opportunity to make their own cup noodles.
Decorate the cup before taking it to the factory where you choose what soup flavour and (up to four) ingredients you want.
The cup is then vacuumed sealed, which makes it permissible to take in to other countries that have strict laws about such things, like Australia.
The International Food Court on the 4th Floor is definitely worth a visit! The set-up is like an Asian night market with street food stalls. We were there for lunch and it definitely looked like night time.
At Y500 a bowl of noodles plus drink (with free refills), this was a good deal. Each bowl is only half-size because they want to encourage visitors to try more than one dish.
Not too far from the Cup Noodles Museum is an amusement park. Entry is free and you pay to go on the rides.
We decided to go on the Cosmo Clock 21, a giant ferris wheel. It takes 15 minutes to do one revolution and is a wonderful way to get a great view of Yokohama. You can also play a recording in the carriage (available in both English and Japanese) that gives information about the sights below.
The ferris wheel is slow and gentle and not a thrill-seeker ride.
Although we could have taken a train (or something) to Chinatown, we decided to walk the 1.6km there.
Yokohama Chinatown is the largest Chinatown in Asia.
Lots of places selling food, especially dumplings, but we didn’t buy any.
We knew we couldn’t see everything, so after looking through the Yokohama Tourist Guide Map, we thought it might be cool to check out the Hara Model Railway Museum. On the train back to the Yokohama station from Chinatown, we realised that the last entry into the museum is at 4.30pm for a 5pm closing time. It was going to be tight but we were hopeful in making it.
By the time we got back to Yokohama station, it was 4.25pm. Unfortunately, we couldn’t figure out which exit to take — it is a HUGE station — and by the time we got out of the station, we still couldn’t get our bearings. We started walking in the right direction only to discover the museum was on the other side of the REALLY BIG HIGHWAY with no clear way of how to cross it!!
We missed the 4.30pm deadline.
Conclusion: Estimated walking time mentioned in maps and stuff refers to the correct station exit and NOT from the platforms inside. If you are travelling from another place, you need to allow for time to get from the platform to the station exit. This may very well add another five minutes to your travelling time.
Back to Tokyo then.
Met my sister and her daughters at the Toho Cinema and we watched Murder on the Orient Express (2017).
Japanese cinemas are clean and quiet (no noisy patrons). I especially like how steep the different rows are. Even a short person like me (I’m 150cm/5ft tall) won’t have her vision blocked at all by anyone sitting in front of her. Clear view of the screen!
Good movie. Some scenes were not in the book and were probably done to make the movie more big-screen-worthy, but overall quite faithful to the book. I enjoyed it and would recommend it.
Walked around Roppongi after the movie before heading home.
Went to a Family Mart and bought some rice with beef for dinner, and sandwiches and sushi for our breakfast tomorrow.
Tuesday, 19 December, 2017
Tokyo Disney Sea
Tokyo has two Disney parks: Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea. The former is the first Disney theme park outside of the United States and is very much modeled after the one in Anaheim. Since, we went to the one in Anaheim last year, we decided to check out Disney Sea. (Unlike the parks in the US, tickets are sold separately in Tokyo.)
We aimed and succeeded in getting there by opening time, 8am. The plan was to stay until closing time, 10pm. Yeah, ‘cos we’re like that. Why go all the way there only to not stay the whole time?
My sister told us one of the MUST RIDES is the Toy Story Mania ride. So, after going through the gate, we made a beeline for the Fast Pass tickets for the Toy Story Mania ride. The line for the Fast Pass itself was really long and it was half an hour before we finally got our Fast Pass tickets! Our allocated time for the ride was 15:10-16:10!
It was a Tuesday, not holidays yet, so the park was not very crowded. Yet, some things did involve a long wait.
A couple of rides weren’t operating — Raging Spirits and Scuttle’s Scooters — and there were some we gave a miss because we had done it in Anaheim. We also did not ride ones which were geared more for young children.
We wanted to try some Japanese food for dinner, but by the time we got to the one we wanted, they were already closed for the night!
So, we lined up for an hour for the gondolas, our last ride for the day.
By the time we got back to our home station, it was late and many places were closing. When all else fails, there’s always McDonalds, so that’s what we did. Pathetic, I know.
(Note: McDonalds in Japan does not sell Quarter Pounders. It was discontinued in April 2017. The closest thing is the Double Cheeseburger.)
10.45pm order at a place that was going to close its doors at 11pm. Asked for a Eat In and promised we would eat quickly. At 11pm, we gathered up our still uneaten french fries and bolted out of there.
Monday, 18 December, 2017
After breakfast, Susannah and I walked around the local streets. The area is very hilly with many small lanes. Public transport is extremely accessible and one does not need a car to get around. Unlike Melbourne. Then again, Tokyo is several centuries older and several million more populous than Melbourne. There are more people living in Greater Tokyo (37 million) than there are in the whole of Australia (24 million).
My sister took us to Ginza to do a bit of clothes shopping. I am not a shopper by nature, and ended up only buying a turtleneck top. I found the prices comparable to those in Melbourne.
Lunch was shabu shabu, a kind of individual hotpot.
Ice skating was next! I last ice skated 35 years ago and Susannah had never ice skated. She took to it quite easily and I wasn’t too bad either. Didn’t fall once. And no, I wasn’t holding on to the rail!
Had a quick snack at McDonalds — McDonalds is everywhere, too — and then Susannah and I braved our way on our own to Shibuya to see the famous crossing and Hachiko, the faithful dog.
When we arrived at the station and came out, we saw an intersection and wondered whether it was the intersection. After all, this is Tokyo and there could be a bigger one. We decided it was the one because there were lots of people standing around with their phones and cameras filming people crossing.
The crossing is crazy huge. When the Green Man came on, all the pedestrians crossed whichever way they wanted. Right, left, up, down, diagonally. Each cycle lasted about three minutes, and each time, the crossing was just as busy.
We walked around the streets of Shibuya, up and down little lanes, while trying to keep our bearings in check. The Shibuya Mark City is near the station, so we tried to keep that in view.
While walking down one of the little lanes, we came across a little noodle shop with cute plastic models of the dishes sold.
With prices ranging from Y300 to Y770, this was definitely something that caught our eye. The instructions on how to order were in English as well as Japanese, so that was also helpful:
- Choose the number from vending machine.
- Pay appropriate amount. Can pay with Suica (the public transport card).
- Take ticket to counter.
- Tell the person whether you want Udon or Soba noodles, and whether you want it Hot or Cold.
We kept this place in mind while walking around more. Other places had more expensive fare, average price was at least Y1000 per person. So, we found our way back to this place and went in.
Y900 for the both of us is an extremely good price. Even my sister was surprised when we told her.
As some of you may know, my older daughter went to China for a three-week intensive Intermediate Chinese program in Shanghai.
After the initial bout of homesickness, she managed to find her way around, make some friends, and gorge on noodles and dumplings. She also found time to go to Shanghai Disney resort. Twice.
My sister, who lives in Tokyo, invited my daughter to go visit her before heading back to Melbourne. I decided to join her there. Just me. The rest of the family stayed in Melbourne.
First of all, my sister lives close to Haneda airport and there are NO direct flights from Melbourne to Haneda; all the flights involve a stopover of several hours. Taking that into consideration, I decided it was better to fly to Narita and take a bus/train/anything but a taxi to my sister’s place.
The flight from Melbourne to Narita takes a little over ten hours. While it is the start of summer here Down Under, it is almost winter in Japan. It gets dark by 5pm and it is cold. Not freezing cold, but still cold especially when the wind blows. BRR!
Susannah flew from Shanghai and arrived in Haneda at around 4.45pm. I arrived in Narita around 5.20pm. By the time I got through immigration and customs — I nearly went through without collecting my luggage!! — found an ATM and withdrew money, bought a Suica card, and found the airport limousine counter, it was 6.40pm. The next available bus was 7.30pm. Had I been more efficient, I could have caught the 6.30pm bus. Oh well!
Meanwhile, my ever-capable daughter took the monorail from Haneda Airport to Hamamatsucho station, changed to the subway at Daimon station and got off at Azabu Juban station. Not bad for a first-timer, eh?
The ride from Narita Airport to the hotel where my sister was going to meet me took an hour and a half. Better than waiting around for six hours at a stopover airport.
Sister and Daughter met me at the hotel and we went for a late dinner (it was nearly 10pm by this time!). Then taxi back to my sister’s place.
Day 2 – Sunday, 17 December 2017
Walked my niece to her ballet school. It is a small one-studio school and her class only has two students. After dropping her off, we went to a Family Mart — there is a Family Mart on every block in Tokyo! — to have breakfast.
Polished that off and went back for a steamed pork bun.
Picked up my niece from her ballet class and went to visit Tokyo Tower.
Some views from higher up:
New Tomorrow Cafe
Then, we went to New Tomorrow Cafe where we met up with my brother-in-law’s cousin and her family and had lunch together.
Western cuisine, obviously, and very yummy! Highly recommended!
Susannah rushed off after lunch to meet up with an Australian church friend who is living in Tokyo working among university students. We walked her to the bus stop and my sister told her where to get off and what connection to take to her meeting point. (When I was 19 and still living at home, I would not have been able to take public transport to an unknown place — even with clear directions — if my life depended on it! But, it’s a new generation, new technology, and my daughter is pretty savvy and has more common sense than her mother.)
My sister and I took her two young daughters to a playground. The younger girl met a former school mate and his dad who were kicking a football back and forth. She joined in and for the next hour or so really showed her ball-handling skills. That girl is good!
Stopped by at a supermarket to buy ingredients for a cheesecake because my sister wanted me to show her how to make one. While we were making the cheesecake, we were expecting Susannah to call us to let us know she was back at the local subway station, when, lo and behold, she walked in the front door! How did she manage to find the house? Why, after she got off the train, she walked to a store that had free wi-fi, logged onto Google Maps, typed in the address, locked it in, and followed the directions, of course! Duh! I now know I don’t have to worry about her getting lost ever again.
We celebrated Older Daughter’s birthday last Friday, about a week early, as she was going to be away on her actual birthday.
That’s the Mango Cheesecake I made for her birthday.
The following day, we saw her off at the airport.
She is off to spend three weeks in Shanghai, China for an intensive program of Intermediate Chinese. This program is equivalent to one semester’s worth of study. Very exciting, indeed. After one year of Introductory Chinese at Monash, her Chinese is already better than mine!
Since Older Daughter is in China, she wasn’t able to be here for the Girls’ Brigade Presentation Night.
Younger Daughter received an award for Best Junior.
There are six people in our family and three of them have birthdays within 38 days (inclusive) of each other.
Today is our youngest’s birthday, which also happens to be my younger sister’s birthday. My daughter’s due date was October 31 and I fully expected her to be born a few days before that because all her siblings were born before their due dates. October would have been a good month, too, because then we would all each have our own birth month.
Older daughter was due 3rd December but made her appearance, with some urgency, on the 30th of November. Had she been born on her due date, she would have shared a birth month with her father. When younger daughter missed her due date, and continued to ‘bake’ for another six days, I was beginning to wonder if we had somehow miscalculated her Estimated Time of Arrival. Nope, not only did she want to share a birth month with her older sister, she had to share a birthday with my sister.