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, but 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.

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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?!?

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. 

Previous posts in the series:

Mountains of Goals…

January’s Mountains

February’s Mountain

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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! 


 We caught the Hanzommon Line to Oshiage station. 

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February’s Mountains

February proved to be a very productive month. Whether it was because ‘A’ was away for a week on business or blogging my goals last month was the incentive I needed, something worked!

Mountain 1: Physical Mountain
This month:

I headed out of Tokyo with a friend at the start of the month. We didn’t manage to find the initial mountain that we had planned, but we stumbled across another hike. The view of Mt Fuji from the top was spectacular and well worth the fact that we climbed over 300m in the first km! The hike did prove that I desperately need to improve my fitness!

Mountain 2: Mountain of Weight
This month:
3kg lost. Yay! I think the hiking may have helped!
Next month:
Keep going- aiming for 4kg this month, so I need to increase my exercise levels even more.

I bought a FitBit last month and have been challenging my friends who have the app to various competitions. The competitive factor has definitely helped in the weightloss! I use the Fitbit Zip as I’ve found that the watches irritate my skin.

Mountain 3: Mountain of Paperwork
This month:
I managed found an organisation system that works for me inspired by The Sunday Basket by Lisa Woodruff, and now all my paperwork is in colour coded folders. I am so excited at the prospect, and all it took was a chick flick, a glass of wine and a Friday evening with hubby on another continent!

Next month:
With all the paperwork filed, this month I would like to get all the admin tasks (at various stages of urgency) done and out of the way. I would also like to complete my Scout training.

Mountain 4: Mountains of Photographs
This month:
This is mountain range is huge! I haven’t managed as much as I would like with regards to sorting my Vietnam photos, probably because I have been too busy sorting my paperwork! I will keep going, slowly but surely.
Next month:
Same as last month- complete sorting the Vietnam photos, reducing the numbers to at the most 200 750! (200 became impossible when I struggled to get Day 2 to below 150 photographs!)

Mountain 6: Mountains of Creative Projects
This month:
I’ve had to buy another 2 weeks credit, as I didn’t manage to finish the Vietnam album. I did manage to scrap another page for the album, so I’ve managed 3/48 so far this year. CLG- how are you doing?

Next month:
Have to, have to, have to complete the photobook as I need to get my parents copy out to them. It was after all their Christmas present. For 2016!

Mountain 1: Mountains of Books
This month:
Major fail! I did manage to listen to Girl on a Train through Audible, but actual reading? I suppose I did manage to read a couple of Non Fiction books on organisation and decluttering, but still no novel!
Next month:
At least start one of these two books?

I am very chuffed that last month has resulted in some ticks and got me started on the path I would like to go down. Especially on the weight loss front. The challenge now is perservering. I have felt a bit flat this last week, probably due to me developing a roaring cold at the start of the children’s mid term break 10 days ago and now hubby and ‘K’ are fighting it.

But, I’ll keep going and let you know next month. 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. 

Previous posts in the series:

Mountains of Goals…

January’s Mountains

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January’s Mountains

I shared how I have given myself the challenge of ‘A mountain a month’ and so I thought I’d share, how I was doing….

Mountain 1: Physical Mountain
This month:IMG_0571.JPG

Well, I managed the physical mountain. That was great fun, as a group of 13 of us headed out to Chiba prefecture and headed up a mountain. We also found a quintessential little shrine, carved into the rock face of the mountain. So kawaii! (Cute in Japanese)


Next month:
Hike up Mt Sengenrei.

Mountain 2: Mountain of Weight
This month:
Some progress has been made, but this might take a while.
Next month:
Keep going, try and increase my exercise levels.

Mountain 3: Mountain of Paperwork
This month:
I managed to submit my tax return on time, but it was a challenge to find the necessary documents for it.
Next month:
Find an organisation system that works for me and then start sorting through the papers and filing them.

Mountain 4: Mountains of Photographs
This month:
This is more like a mountain range than just one mounain! I had a super holiday in Vietnam last year, so at the moment I am trying to reduce their number, put the date onto the name. I will keep going, slowly but surely.
Next month:
Complete sorting the Vietnam photos, reducing the numbers to at the most 200! Given we had 2000, that is quite a tall order!

Mountain 6: Mountains of Creative Projects
This month:
A friend and I have given ourselvesthe challenge of Scrapbooking 2 pages a month. This month, I am creating pages of our Vietnam trip, as I am creating a photobook of the trip for ourselves and my parents who travelled with us. I have managed to Scrap the pages, but the photobook has not made much progress.
Next month:
Complete the photobook, so I don’t have to buy another month’s credit.  

Mountain 1: Mountains of Books
This month:
Reading…. hmmm what’s that? 
Next month:
I have given the my Cubs and Beaver pack a readathon challenge for the month of February to raise money for Room to Read. In light of my wonderful recent reading record (I haven’t read a novel since the summer!), I am giving myself the challenge of reading at least 2 fiction books during February.IMG_0813.JPG

Ok- I’m not going to conquer the mountains, if I tackle them at this rate. Granted, small steps- but I need to actually take some steps to make progress! 

February- a fresh start!

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Mountains of Goals…

It’s another new year and in true ‘Me’ style, I’ve created as significant List… clearly I haven’t learnt!

I created the list, towards the end of last year, when I got rather frustrated with things in my life. Things that were causing mental stress and clutter. Yet, I still did little about it. I’ve discovered, I’m a procrastinator.

Procrastination has resulted in dishes not being washed.
Procrastination has resulted in the house building clutter.
Procrastination has resulted in us losing money as I’ve missed insurance claims deadlines.
Procrastination has resulted in me feeling like I’m constantly chasing my tail.

So I created a list of projects, of tasks that were causing me significant mental clutter.
From submitting the insurance claims that were still in date, to organising my paperwork, to creating ‘Memory pages’
They were to be called projects until a visit to the U.K….

A friend has given herself the challenge of a ‘Medal a Month’, where each month she plans to enter a race and earn a medal. I thought it was a great idea, but with my PF, I know that I cannot run or should I say contemplate running just yet.
But I could hike! And so the idea of ‘A Mountain a Month’ challenge was born.

Except that it grew to becoming a bit more than just one mountain:
: There is the actual physical mountain that I will hike up each month, with Mt Fuji being my ultimate goal in July.
: The mountain of weight ( 15kg), that I’ve gained since becoming an expat.
: The mountain of paperwork that only gets done when I have a deadline!
: The mountain of photographs I have on my hard drive.
: The mountain of incomplete creative projects that are cluttering our home.
: The mountain of books that are gathering dust on my bookshelf waiting for me to read.

And so, in 2017 I plan to conquer mountains! At least two a month- an actual mountain and one of my incomplete projects!

Fingers crossed!

PS- I plan to keep you posted on how I’m doing, in the hope the accountability will help drive the momentum.

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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.
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!


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Paper plate crafts- Elephant

My children (read J) are enjoying making various animals out of paper plates. We have made various so far and these posts are a basic ‘How To’.

2 Paper plates.
Marker pen


Cut the A4 paper into thirds lengthways. (if you’re feeling creative, taper it slightly and at the end shape it into a trunk shape.)
Paint the the underneath side of the paper plates. (elephant colour, unless you’re doing Elmer)
Leave to dry.

Once dry, draw eyes onto one of the paper plates. Take the other paper plate and bend the edging part of the paper plate outwards.
Cut it into thirds.


Staple two of the thirds onto the other paper plate. (these will make the ears)
If you wish to make it into a puppet, staple the half piece (underneath side facing out) at the same time as the ears.

Take the strip and concertina it to the end.
Glue it onto the face and hey presto..
One paper plate elephant puppet!


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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”

Blog Image exploring

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.” 

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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!

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