May’s Mountains

June. Yikes- this year is flying by. I had an amazing holiday with my family in South Africa, and I don’t think that I managed any of the mountains. Which I was fine with. Let’s be honest- spending quality time with family and friends is far more valuable than ticking off a list.

Getting back on track has proven to be quite a challenge. But as I head towards the summer, hopefully I will be able to attain some more mountains.

Mountain 1: Physical Mountain
This month:

No mountain climbed. Not even Table Mountain. No-one in my family was keen and when I did find someone, I had run out of holiday time. 
Sigh!

Mountain 2: Mountain of Weight
This month:
The mountain has grown.
Sigh!

Next month:
I don’t actually know, if I’m truly honest. I’m worried I’m developing a mental hang up, and my 10 year old daughter is getting concerned about her weight. So I’m trying to work out how I can serve healthier meals, and lose weight while not give her a hang up about dieting and her body size (which is normal I might add, but living in a country where people are naturally petite and her friends are petite, I can understand where the thoughts can stem from.)

I am getting help from a trainer to build my fitness and strength, something that’s come about as my body aches and pains have returned!  I am also starting to use my FitBit to help me get moving regularly again. 

To that end, I think I will focus on getting my strength and fitness back and try and move towards a more plant based form of eating. 

Mountain 3: Mountain of Paperwork
This month:
I have managed some paperwork, but not as much as I had hoped.
Sigh!

Next month:
Complete my scout training. This is a huge mountain in my life and it just needs me to take the time and tackle it. I have given myself a deadline and have been in touch with my training advisor to that end. 

Mountain 4: Mountains of Photographs
This month:
Nothing done.
Sigh!

Next month:
Small steps: I’ll work through 10 other folders of photographs. Something that should be perfectly doable while I’m watching tv. 

Mountain 6: Mountains of Creative Projects
This month:
I have managed to complete a few tasks that have been sitting in my sewing box. My top that I have been knitting for the last 18 months has finally got one side complete. 

Next month:
I think I will aim small as this last month of the school year is manic and my diary for June is already very full. So I shall:

:Scrap 1 double page
: Knitted 10cm of the second side of my jumper.
: Sew all badges onto the camp blankets. (I might get my girls to do their own. Actually what am I saying, all 3 of mine can sew their badges on. It doesn’t matter if J’s aren’t super neat!) 

Mountain 1: Mountains of Books
This month:
Reading is beginning to feature again!
Yay!
I read After You by Jojo Moyesand I’m currently reading Desert God by Wilbur Smith. I am also enjoying a book about improving habits called Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin

Next month:
Finish Desert God and Better than Before, listen to one on Audible and start another book. 
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This has definitely been the Month of Sighs! 

Still looking at the positive, I have managed somethings. And to quote a U.K. superstore’s slogan- “Every Little Bit Helps”

This post contains affiliate links. By buying through my website, you are supporting and encouraging me along my journey at no extra cost to yourself. 
Thank you for your support. 
C

Previous posts in the series:

Mountains of Goals…

January’s Mountains

February’s Mountain

March’s Mountains
Resources that have helped me:

South Africa- why it’s worth a visit.

Ok- so I’m heavily biased in this regard. I’m South African born and while I left South Africa nearly 20 years ago, Africa still beats in my blood and while I would love to move back, I just can’t seem to convince my husband to do that!

So why visit South Africa?

1: It’s affordable.

It is quite possible to spend a fortune visiting the country as there are plenty of high end hotels, private game reserves, wine farms and restaurants. But there are also other places where you can get value for money (even before we bring in the exchange rate). BnBs are common place, and camp sites have to keep a number of sites open for passing traffic. Perfect if you have no set itinerary. 
2: There’s no language issue. (Unless you can’t speak English)

South Africa has 11 official languages yet all South Africans can speak some level of English. The store keeper might greet you in Afrikaans or Zulu, but if you answer in English, they will reply in English.
3: It’s family friendly

Family rooms, interleading doors and such like-are not hard to find in hotels. Self catering accommodation is common place and Air BnB is taking off in South Africa.

Restaurants often have a kids menu, and it’s not uncommon for them to provide some form of entertainment (usually in the form of an indoor play area). Spur and The Dros are my family’s favourites. Both of them steakhouses, with a value for money menu that is just scrumptious. But the best part of these restaurant chains? The indoor play area with an attendant so the adults can sit and relax while waiting for the order to arrive. 
4: There is so much to see….

Cape Town– Table Mountain from Blouberg Beach, the Two Oceans Aquarium, V&A Waterfront, Kirstenbosch gardens, great white sharks leaping out of the water or penguins waddling on the beach.

Garden Route- Knysna heads, surfers in Jeffery’s Bay, Tsitsikama forest, ostriches in Oudshoorn, dolphins enjoying the surf near Knysna.

KwaZulu Natal- game reserves (most are in malaria free areas), wonderful coastlines and warm seas to swim in. Nelson Mandela’s capture site. The magnificent Drakensberg Mountains. 

Mpumalanga– the variety of waterfalls near the Kruger National Park, Pilgrims Rest, Blyde River Canyon and of course- visit Kruger Park
5: …And do.

Cape Town– hike up Table Mountain, enjoy sundowners on the beach (Clifton or Lladudno are popular) or on a cruise, visit Robben Island, go wine tasting or head to Cape Point where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic. 

Garden Route– try oysters grown in the Knysna lagoon, relax on the beach, hike the Harkerville trail or Otter Trail and if you’re truly daring- bunjee jump the highest bunjee jump in the world. 

KwaZulu Natal- going for a guided game drive, surf or swim in the wonderful  warm seas. Hike up the amphitheatre in the magnificent Drakensberg Mountains. Go diving with grey nurse sharks. Head round the Midlands Meander for an artisan shopping experience. Visit uShaka Marine World.

Mpumalanga– go on a night drive in Kruger Park, zip line across a canyon, learn about the history of the South African gold industry. 

South Africa does have a safety issue- for that reason I would give Johannesburg a miss,  it on the whole if you’re sensible with what you do, watch your belongings while you’re out n about (which you would do in most cities) and be careful about the areas you go into (there are parts of New York and London that tourists should keep away from), then it shouldn’t be a problem to visit South Africa. 

If I have tempted you and you want to know more, please follow my blog as I will be sharing more, or email me your questions and I will happily answer them.

March’s Mountains

It is quite something to think that we are already a quarter of the way through 2017. This year having these monthly mountainous challenges has definitely kept me focussed. Surprisingly, March has been good. My cousin came over from South Africa for 10 days for a visit, so I didn’t expect to achieve nearly as much as I did.

Mountain 1: Physical Mountain

This month:

In the build up to Cuz’ visit, I had to cancelled my planned hike as I had too much to do beforehand. But together Cuz and I climbed Mt Takao. At the start, we received a few disapproving requests to put the dog onto a leash, but we soon managed to out walk those folk and enjoy the freedoms of being in open space and in a forest. 

Again, I became aware of how unfit I am, and so I plan to improve my cardiovascular fitness! Whether my feet are well enough to run, I don’t know. But stairs and hills would work too!

April has me in Cape Town visiting family. (Am so excited!!) and I’m truly hoping to get up Table Mountain. If I do get up by foot, it will be quite a feat. If I have someone hiking with me, it will be a even greater feat!

Mountain 2: Mountain of Weight
This month:
I’ve stayed the same. So much for losing 4kg! 
Next month:
Inevitable any home visit results in a weight gain as we tend to enjoy eating being able to eat out and savour other treats (nice wine, chocolates, biscuits etc) that we struggle to find in Japan. I will be satisfied if I remain the same, over the moon if I lose anything!

I plan to use my FitBit to help me stay on track. Hopefully if I keep moving regularly, and hit my daily targets, then I will be able to achieve the mountain for this month. 

Mountain 3: Mountain of Paperwork
This month:
I have managed some paperwork, but not as much as I had hoped. With Cuz’ visit, teaching and the school allotment visits, my time has been tight. However in the build up to my SA visit, I have managed to tackle a few. What has been interesting to note, is that my new filing system, thanks to the inspiration gleaned  The Sunday Basket by Lisa Woodruff, has made my admin time flow with more ease and fluidity!

Next month:
As I’m visiting my family for 3 weeks, I plan to do little with regards to my admin. 
My goal of completing my scout training has yet again not been achieved. I would love to complete my Scout training and get that done and I’m hoping with less balls being juggled while I’m in South Africa, that I can complete the training. 

Mountain 4: Mountains of Photographs
This month:
I managed to complete sorting through my Vietnam photographs folder. Finally. I am so excited. (Yes it’s sad, I know!) Cuz is a keen photographer and IT savvy, so I asked him whether he used an app to help him with his photo organisation. He uses FastStone Photo resizer – a free app that has two features –  1: To resize the photographs and 2: To rename the photographs. 
Option 2 is just brilliant! I move the photographs that I want renamed into a box, type in the name and hit go. Just like that they’re all named and numbered.  
Brilliant! That has saved me huge amounts of time.
So thanks to the app, I have managed to sort the photographs and have managed to reduce the collection down to 620 photographs. 
Next month:
Work through 10 other folders of photographs. Something that should be perfectly doable while I’m watching tv or even on the 22 hours I will have sitting on an aeroplane when I head back to Tokyo.

Mountain 6: Mountains of Creative Projects
This month:
I finished the Vietnam photo book! Major tick!
 I am very pleased with it- it is beautiful and well worth the hours I’ve put in to it!


Next month:
I managed to do 8 scrapbook pages in my photo book, so I’m taking the month off those creative projects. 

I am, however, going to make the most of my Mum’s sewing machine to finish my children’s camp blankets.

Mountain 1: Mountains of Books
This month:
Still no novel read.  I listened to In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar through Audible, which I thoroughly enjoyed and managed to get a few rooms decluttered in the process!
Next month:
I’m on holiday. Reading a book or 3 should be perfectly doable. Shouldn’t it?!?
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Now that I’ve written down everything that I have achieved, I’m truly impressed. I’ve managed more than I realised. 

Breaking the goals down into individual mountains has definitely helped me to stay on focus. How are your goals going?

This post contains affiliate links. By buying through my website, you are supporting and encouraging me along my journey at no extra cost to yourself. 
Thank you for your support. 
C

Previous posts in the series:

Mountains of Goals…

January’s Mountains

February’s Mountain

Tokyo Skytree

We’ve finally made it up Tokyo Skytree! 


We’ve been here for nearly 5 years and we’ve finally made up one of Tokyo’s most iconic views! It only took a visit from a South African cousin to get us up there! 

Tokyo Skytree holds the Guinness Record for the Worlds Tallest Free sanding broadcasting tower. It stands at a height of 634m. It provides digital transmissions for terrestrial broadcasting and needed to be over 600m due to an increase in volume of skyscrapers in Tokyo. It is also reassuring to know that it will assume the role of a disaster prevention function in times of a natural disaster. Something I hope I won’t experience while we are here. 

So we arrived and made our way from the station, through the shops and through  the entertainment, all the while answering “No, we not buying anything now.” “No, we aren’t going on the trampolines or bouncy castle”. Whew, that is a minefield on its own when heading out with the kids. 

It is quite possible to buy your tickets in advance online and to buy a fast pass if you are an international traveller. {So the website says}
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to buy our tickets in advance due to time constraints, and we didn’t want to pay the extra ¥2000/person to get a fast pass ticket. So we queued. For 50 minutes! 
Boy, do I wish I had carved out the 5-10 minutes I would have spent organising the tickets. I will definitely be buying future tickets in advance!

The lift going up was smooth and quiet, reaching a top speed of 600m/minute. In no time at all we were at Level 345. Unfortunately due to haze, the distant view wasn’t that spectacular, but it was amazing to see the various Tokyo sights. 

The brochure had a panoramic map of what could be seen from each window which was very helpful and informative.


Due to time constraints and hungry children, we opted not to go up to the 450m viewing floor, but we didn’t feel like we have missed out. There was lots to see and do. 


Heading down to level 340m, the view seemed less hazy. We wandered round, took a brief look at the glass floor (I wasn’t brave enough to stand on it though!!)and then headed down to find some food…

Lack of food had turned the 3 children into grumpy monsters! 

Access:

 We caught the Hanzommon Line to Oshiage station. 

Exploring, Exploring: My 5 Favourite Beaches near Tokyo

Blog Image exploring

Summer is here in Japan and in true Japanese weather form it arrived on its due date!

BAM! 1 July- the day that the Japanese beaches and the outdoor pools open- the temperature goes up by 2-3 deg C and the humidity by about 15%. Friday the first, the humidity was so thick, it felt like we could cut it with a knife!

So where to when the temperatures are in the high twenties/ early thirties
Well personally I feel there are a few options…

1: Water
2: Mountains
3: Airconditioning

But it’s the beach that’s calling me, beckoning me…

So here are My 5 favourite beaches to visit.

Ohama Beach is my favourite beach along the Izu penninsula. Admittedly it isn’t near to Tokyo, but it is well worth mentioning. It is a stretch of beach about 10 minutes drive from Shimoda station. The sea is a lovely colour as is the sand. Shimoda isn’t close enough to be a day trip, but well worth it for a weekend.

Araihama Beach is our go to beach for a day trip out of Tokyo. It is a lovely cove,with facilities on the shore. The sea is relatively sheltered, so is great for children.
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Enoshima beach isn’t always the prettiest, but I really like it because it is easy to get to from Tokyo by public transport, and the island is a great place to wander and just people watch. There is also a spa on the island, which is another way to relax and unwind.

Zushi Beach is round the corner from Enoshima. It is a large straight beach, with plenty of water sport enthusiasts enjoying the sunny warm days. This is another one that is easy to get to by car or by train.

Onjuku Beach, Chiba is further to reach than the others, but is still possible for a day trip. That said, the shortest way to get there is through the Aqualine, which isn’t always the fastest- especially on a Sunday afternoon.

Apparently there are some beautiful beaches in Chiba, but I have yet to explore them- when I do, I will let you know!

I hope I’ve whet your appetite for beaches around Tokyo. There are some within Tokyo, but you aren’t allowed to swim in the sea, so on a hot summers day they aren’t really worth visiting!

And if you have found any beaches worth visiting around Tokyo, please do let me know as I would love to visit some new ones!

 

Exploring, exploring: My 5 favourite places in Tokyo on a rainy day.

“Rain, rain go away, Come again another day.
Rain, rain go away, Come again on Mummy’s washing day”

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I often used to chant this rhyme as a child when it rained, but it never seemed to make the rain go away.

So what do we do when it’s raining?
Obviously we can hunker down indoors, watch a movie or even better do a craft activity of some sort. If you want some inspiration, check out this post.

But what if you had to get out for whatever reason. The wet season in Tokyo is generally in the month of June where it can rain continuously for days at a time. (And we are talking about proper, heavy rain!) So after a few days, getting out becomes a necessity. Where to? This list are my personal favourites.

  1. Aquariums- with Tokyo Sea Life Park, and Epson Aqua Stadium being my top two.
  2. Museums- Natural History Museum in Ueno, Fire Museum and Toy Museum win my vote.20140410-140800.jpg
  3. Odaiba- ok, so this is a huge area and if it’s very wet, it can be a challenge to get around, but it has so much to offer. There is the museum of Science and Innovation (Miraikan), Spocha, Legoland, Madame Taussards, shopping galore and plenty of eating places. If all else fails, Toys R Us will allow the children to play with some of the toys and the Aeon pet shop allows the handling of the puppies and kittens. (Under strict observation)
  4. Tokyo Dome City- on a sunny day the rides are great, but on a wet day there’s Asobono (for the littlies), roller skating, Ten Q (a space museum), bowling and that’s just for starters!
  5. imageKidzania- this isn’t a budget friendly outing, but oh boy do the kids love it. Upon arrival, they are given some cash. They then spend the next 3-4 hours going round and trialling various jobs. Firemen, vet, doctor, coca-cola plant, pizza, fashion designer, petrol attendant to name a few. They get paid to do the jobs, but there are also activities that cost money such as having a manicure. Lunch can be bought, but it can also be made at a well know branded restaurant.

So when it’s next pouring with rain, maybe my three will chant.

Rain, rain here to stay, Come lets go explore today.

Rain, rain here to stay, Lets go find a new place to play.” 

Kameido Tenjin Shrine

I had been told about this shrine by a friend who knew my love for plants and gardening.

  
The shrine is very well kept and despite it being in the middle of the city, it was restful and had a beautiful garden. 

  
It is for the garden that we came up visit it on Mothers Day, hoping that the wisteria were still in bloom. But alas they weren’t.  As the spring has been rather warm, I’m not surprised. Still it was lovely and despite the crowds, so peaceful. Possibly because of the gardens, which I am a sucker for! We were only there for about 20 minutes, but I think that when I’m there when the wisteria are in bloom, I could be there for ages photographing them, the bridges and the pond.  
  I’m definitely returning next spring for their festival: Kameido Tenjin Shrine Wisteria Festival and of course to see the wisteria in bloom!