Friday, December 23, 2016

The 2016 Official First Annual Holiday Newsletter Recap Update Post

I know it's been a while since I've given an actual Japan Trip update and since I know some of you might be interested in what we are up to I thought I'd take a little time to share. For those of you who don't know, we headed off to Nagoya, Japan, earlier this year. Although we did some traveling abroad and headed back to California and did a short Seattle trip, we ended up back in Japan which is where we are spending the holidays this year!

Although this wasn't our original plan, one of my husband's biggest projects this year is LEGOLAND Japan so it has been nice for him to be local and not have to travel back and forth. He also wrapped up his LEGOLAND Dubai project and all of us are happy that he no longer has to travel back and forth to work over there.

We enrolled our 5 yr old son in English speaking preschool in Japan and he has been enjoying that very much. He has learned a little bit of Japanese, is super outgoing and more charming than ever, and revels in the celebrity-like attention he gets when he is out and about. He just celebrated his 5th Birthday by going to the LEGO store and eating a LEGO theme cake.

The "baby" is now 21 months old and has gone to speaking just a few words to forming sentences and cracking us up with things like "HATE Christmas" when I won't let her destroy a holiday display at the mall or "SELF" for doing pretty much everything herself from putting her pants on backwards to eating a bowl of quinoa which is pretty much a disaster btw. She is extremely independent, headstrong, yet still quite shy around strangers although being what seems like the only blond baby in the entire city and getting a lot of unwanted attention has forced her to come out of her shell quite a bit.

We have made several trips to Tokyo, going to Tokyo Disneyland, the LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Tokyo (like a mini-LEGOLAND) and touring and eating our way around the city.

One of our  Tokyo trips was quite eventful when my husband went to use the restroom and when he tried to return to our car, he realized his train had disconnected and headed to another station leaving his phone, wallet, us, all of our luggage, and the rest of the train behind. YES this actually is a thing here, FYI. Luckily, with the kindness of strangers, he was able to contact me (after an unkind Euro-stranger was a complete jerk! Side note - don't be a jerk if you are a stranger, mkay? We hope somebody does NOT help that guy someday when he loses his man purse and he has to sleep in an alley or train station and eat airplane nuts and drink out of a washroom sink for the night while unkind strangers refuse to let him call his mom in Dick-sterdam.)

We did a trip to Osaka which also has a LEGOLAND Discovery Center and lots of great vegan food. Then we traveled back in that direction a couple weeks ago to go to Kyoto which we loved so much we returned the following weekend. Definitely go to Kyoto if you ever have a chance. I would skip Tokyo and do Kyoto in a heartbeat had it not been for Disney Sea. THAT place is also worth seeing at least once in a lifetime.

Our big trip this year was to Singapore and Malaysia. We got to see the LEGOLAND Malaysia park that my husband spent most of 2012 building without us, stayed in the LEGOLAND hotel, which was a real treat, and really enjoyed all the sightseeing, shopping, and food in Singapore even though it was nearly unbearably hot and humid there, just like Japan, and Malaysia in August.

When we enrolled the boy in school, we finally broke down and bought an electric bike with two child seats because I couldn't make it up the hill with the rental. Ok, perhaps it was only a slight incline but the bottom line is that moving forward using only pedal-power while transporting two children turned out to be much more difficult than I imagined and I actually would have set $1100 on fire if it meant I wouldn't have to but fortunately i scored a better bike out of the deal. It actually became my preferred way to get around the city, although the subway is pretty convenient and easy to get around too. Riding a bike accomplishes both a good workout and a great way to see the parts of the city that you normally would miss when you are underground.

The SAHM life has been interesting and challenging. One of the things that frustrate me the most here is that the washer is tiny, like the size you would have in a studio apartment and it is a combo washer/dryer which seems to only get clothes hot, wet, and tangled. This has caused me to have to hang every load and as a eco-conscious cloth diapering mom who uses cloth wipes, cloth to wash dishes, clean-up, napkins etc. I do a load just about every day. On a positive note, it has been a nice way to be a little greener with cutting the dryer out of our lives.

There is also no oven in our apartment and instead there is a broiler which we really do not use. The dishwasher was only big enough to do one meal's worth of dishes so that went right into storage with the microwave which we never used either (not healthy and a waste of precious space). So we cook all of our food stove-top, or in a toaster oven, and wash dishes by hand. Much of that additional work falls to me because my husband has tacked on about 2 hours a day to a work commute which only takes him 15 minutes each way back in California, and he often does phone meetings in the evenings (often seen wearing a Storm Trooper mask if it's a Skype call) to catch up with his team across the globe or avoid being tasked with chores.

This schedule has not really been conducive to being a reliable blogger especially since my littlest has never really taken a decent nap, there is no Costco, Trader Joes, let alone any decent natural foods supermarket, and I do about 4 bike trips to pick up food at 4 locations each week.

On a good note, we are tremendously lucky that we live right down the street from an excellent little organic natural foods market with a nice vegan and healthy food selection. I had no idea how rare that was in this city when we moved here and I have no idea how we would have survived had we not moved to this convenient location which is on the outskirts of the metropolitan area.

Also, we have an amazing view of Nagoya Castle from our 10th floor apartment and we were able to grow a ton of veggies out on our sunny balcony. Even now, as we are in the cold winter season, I've managed to get more broccoli greens to sprout and we still have basil, broccoli, spinach, and peppers ripening out there.

We have found places and things particular to Japan that we just LOVE like the gashapon machines which for a mere 200 to 500 yen dispense a capsule containing a potentially awesome little figurine or toy. 100 yen is a coin worth slightly less than $1.00 but it feels and looks like a quarter. So while I feel like I've only spent $25 on these machines, my husband is quite sure we have invested a little over $400 and counting and when I ask him if he wants to replace the travel stroller that has snapped in half he is breaking out the duct tape and is suddenly bagging his lunch without complaints.

We have visited all the temples, museums, shrines, shopping, every possible restaurant offering any form vegan food, and enjoyed an over-abundance of festivals, parades, rituals, holidays, and events, attending everything from a vegan food festival to a tree burning ritual.

One thing I didn't expect was how sweltering hot it was going to be over the long summer and how vicious the mosquitoes were going to be. Besides the Japanese kids going to school all summer I think that must be the main reason they stay out of the playgrounds and stay indoors like we ended up doing... when we weren't carrying children on our backs and walking 47 miles touring cities while simultaneously playing Pokemon Go and having no choice besides using American time to decide what time it was appropriate to have your first ice cold beer (Hint: 11am is legit if you are based in the PST time zone and choose to sight-see in 97 degree heat with 2 kids under 4 - even earlier if you identify with Central and Mountain or Eastern Time thanks to the 5 O-clock Somewhere Rule!)

Then like the flip of a switch, the cold arrived and us Californians were scrambling for warm clothing in a city where clothes are expensive! Since we hadn't planned on staying into this season we had nothing besides some hand me downs from a sweet local friend for the littlest and very few warmer options for the rest of us. They just don't have the great deals and discount stores like we have back in the US or maybe I just haven't found them yet. I can't believe they actually even advertise a 5% off sale when in the states we wouldn't put pants on and leave the house for less than 20% off!

Besides eating all the vegan food I could stuff my face with, all I wanted to do was go to Target, Walmart, and use a coupon at Kohls when we took a trip back to California just in time! I sewed the buttons back on a pea-coat from an NYC trip 6 years ago and $400 later (instead of the $1000 it probably would have cost us out here) we were back in Japan bundled from head to toe and looking pretty bad-ass on our bikes again, runny noses spraying across faces into the wind.

For the most part, we actually love it here. My husband is in his element working on a big construction project and avoiding much of the travel and jetlag that normally plagues him on a regular basis. We blew up the credit card while losing track of spending often as charges intermingled with work expenses, and burned through all the money we had saved for a new car on travel (fingers crossed that our tax return settles things this year..) but we did things and went places that we would have never had even thought to do with little kids. (Looks like I may be riding that bike back in CA now too... lol)

We found out what it was like to live in a city where we were the strange looking immigrants who didn't speak the language and it helped reinforce how important it is to be kind and accepting of others who aren't like us. We found that the Japanese people in general are curious and interested in us and fascinated with our little blond kids while being friendly, kind, and accepting, especially for a country with very few immigrants and even fewer vegetarian/vegans... but that is another story I'll set aside labeled "things that are destroying the planet and aren't kind" wrapped in waaaay too much plastic, for another day.

My blog was difficult to work on this year, without Grandparent childcare, way less splitting of home life tasks with my husband, and the American conveniences of giant washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, a car, and box stores, but in all we are enjoying the experience. I will keep doing my best to share updates and trip pictures but if you want to see what we are up to a little more often, I suggest keeping tabs on us on our Instagram account because I update that the most and we will be abroad for a few more months into the New Year.

My plan for the New Year since our gift guide and giveaways are just about wrapped up for December, is to do a series of travel posts (and of course at least one large giveaway, too!) so hopefully I can pull that off with my support team standing strong behind me.

As always, I graciously thank you all for following because this blog and social media with the however small amount of income I receive have allowed me to work anywhere in the world and keep our family together which has truly been a dream come true. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas,whatever you celebrate and even if you Scrooge it out and do nothing - I love you all!!!!!


  1. This is awesome! Thanks for the updates! I love your husbands 'Blue Steel' in that picture ;) You guys look great!!!!

    Xoxo Danika

    1. Thank you and thanks for reading my rambling recap! Happy New Year!!!


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