Corona Diaries – Lockdown Day #1

Today I;

  • Did 5 pull-ups in a row for the first time (with technique so bad it looked like I was hauling myself into a tree to escape an alligator but heyho)
  • Ate 7 Lindt balls in 20 minutes to celebrate the fact that I hadn’t eaten any Lindt balls in 8 weeks – BRAVO
  • Had voffee (virtual coffee) and completed a group workout over Zoom for the first time
  • Listened as our 15yo suffered through getting Nix to focus through his entire reader, and thought “these sibling moments will be the gold that comes out of this lockdown”, and also thought “thank God it’s Ethan and not me!”
  • Laughed as Nix had a Facetime playdate with a friend and they spent the entire time asking “CAN YOU SEE ME?!” and making fart noises
  • Washed a blanket. That was the extent of my ‘extra’ house-wife-ing, I have to pace myself you know, can’t get too ahead, there are 4 weeks to fill in after all!
  • Barely checked the Herald app or watched the news for the first time in weeks. We are in isolation, what more do I need to know?
  • Didn’t fight with Dave, can’t say the same for the kids!
  • Lost the dog (again, 2nd day in a row). Found dog, he’s surprisingly quick for a blind old man.
  • Made 2/3 beds before 8am. Happy with that.
  • Got out of jammies quickly but have been in activewear since was first active this morning. Dubious hygiene kicking in quick lol
  • Up too late writing this list.

Good night! Hope day 1 was a box of birds for you my fellow locked-down New Zealanders! xx

Set & Forget – Investing just got easier

Check out Part 1 of my investment series in collaboration with Sharesies here

Just like anything, instilling responsible financial habits in both ourselves and our kids takes both time, patience and practice. As I mentioned last month, we began contributing to the boys’ savings accounts as soon as they were born, setting up automatic payments of $10 per week and then essentially ignoring the accounts over the past 14 years. Obviously a very passive approach to saving but one that has easily become a fixture in the family budget.

Now that we are actively teaching the boys about investment diversity with the help of their Sharesies accounts, it’s time to level-up and get them thinking about their money, and where it’s going, on a more regular basis. If kids are earning pocket money, or if they receive money as a gift from friends and family, an easy way to foster a very intentional mindset towards saving is to introduce a spend/save/donate ratio which is in line with your family’s financial strategy. This is easy to implement from a super young age using low denomination coins and different envelopes, boxes or containers for spending, saving and donating.

Applying this practice of regular contributions to existing investments is also worthwhile implementing with our kids’ accounts. Many of us probably pay into our KiwiSaver accounts with uniform deposits via our pay schedules or, manually instigated automatic payments. As of last week, we can now do the same with our Sharesies investments – auto-invest is now live on the platform and it’s so easy to set up!

I’m all about automating as much of our family’s ‘Life Admin’ as possible – especially those voluntary tasks which can be easy to overlook like, savings and investment. I’ve had Christmas Club savings in place for over 10 years now at both a supermarket and The Warehouse and let me tell you, the value-add of decision free, locked-in saving each week results in a massive high five to yourself come Christmas time. Hooking up your Sharesies account with auto-invest is another one of those adult life hacks that you spend 5 minutes on now and end up patting yourself on the back for years to come.

Why use Auto-Invest

  • Sharesies auto-invest helps you stick to an investment strategy that’s right for you. For Dave and I, this means contributing small amounts regularly to each of the boys Sharesies portfolios.
  • Auto-invest helps you build on an investment when you don’t have a large, lump sum to begin with – which is what Sharesies is all about to be honest!
  • With Sharesies auto-invest you can choose between 3 pre-made orders (one of which is specifically for kids accounts) or you can build your own DIY Order.
  • Auto-invest is faster than setting up an AP via internet banking – I’m not exaggerating. I set up auto-invest on both boys Sharesies accounts in under 4 minutes total. The platform is so intuitive and easy I feel safe and confident with what I’m doing every time I log on.

I’m pretty excited about this new offering from Sharesies for a number of reasons, but probably top of the list is that from now on, the boys will be able to see the benefit and growth in their portfolios as a result of regular investing. Getting our ‘foot-in-the-door’ and being able to purchase shares in a way that is accessible and easy to understand is a game changer for families and individuals alike. Now with auto-invest, diversification of our savings investments is just as simple to automate and as free of fees as our Christmas Club at the supermarket (but maybe not quite so boring so I should be able to get the kids to pay attention at least once a month lol).

Parenting and Ice Cream: When simple things are the best remedy

I inadvertently taught myself a good lesson this week;  despite my best intentions not to work on Monday’s as Nix is home from kindy, I found myself a participant in a continuous string of phone calls for over an hour, whilst I madly multi-tasked, wrote a difficult email I’d been dreading and stressed about the next deadline.

This was not how my summery Monday’s with Nix were supposed to go, in fact, where DID my summery Monday’s with Nix go?

IT’S AUTUMN!!!

Not to worry, antipodean New Zealand weather patterns say NO to seasonal conformity and say YES to 28° in the first week of March.

Hallelujah.

In need of an instant Monday-itis remedy I told Nix to ‘load up’, we were off to eat ice cream by the river.  

“No, you don’t have to get changed” – he was wet from water play at home.

“No, you don’t have to wear shoes” – we live in New Zealand!

“Yes, you can pick any flavour you like” – even though you are a creature of habit little darling and choose the same flavour every time.

Overseas travel forgotten, birthday parties agonised over…….a nondescript Monday afternoon had become my four-year-olds Best Day EVER.

The simplicity of a memory made, for the cost of a Jelly Tip and a Popsicle, was a lesson for me in ‘less is more’.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Tip Top Ice Cream Kids

Food nostalgia plays an important role in shaping cultural identity and as New Zealanders, we have our own culinary cues which many of us hold dear.  After 6 years of living in the states, upon touchdown in Auckland back in 2006, I was positively pining for a mince and cheese pie, some quality bread and Tip Top Hokey Pokey Ice Cream.  Combine those homesick-hunger-pangs with the imminent joy of introducing my new husband and toddler to my kiwi faves and I was one hangry, home-again traveler!

Growing up in NZ where many of us come from a farming or primary industry background, it’s no wonder as a Kiwi I feel a pang of familiarity and that ‘this is HOME’ feeling every time I crack open that iconic blue 2L tub and endeavour to peel off the perfect scoop of ice cream!  New Zealand milk and cream is coveted the world over mainly due to the pasture-fed lineage of hometown heroes, the NZ dairy herd. When one of our most iconic NZ owned companies, Tip Top, only uses fresh New Zealand milk and cream in their ice cream, it gives me hope that such an enduring taste of NZ will continue on in our freezers to share with our friends and families, making memories together for another generation to come.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Tip Top Ice Cream Kids

And so, Nixon and I sat and enjoyed our ice cream, a perfect #GoodtoShare moment, and then we ambled along the river, talking about crabs and if eels attack ducks and he got muddy (and loved it) and clambered and danced and sang and generally revelled in the peace and open space that is so easily forgotten (even though this spot is only 1.5km from our house!).  And as I felt my not-enough-hours-in-the-day anxiety begin to dissipate I quietly laughed at the knowledge that I had just proven a meme correct and how entirely 21st century Digital Mum that was of me;

“Ice cream solves everything”.

And Nixon wholeheartedly agreed.

This post was brought to you in collaboration with Tip Top!  For more info head to: https://www.tiptop.co.nz/education/

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Tip Top Ice Cream Kids

Recipe for Summer – Fruit and Ice Cream

Waitangi Day is the line in the sand when it comes to New Zealand summer I reckon.  The big stuff all happens ‘Pre-Waitangi’; the massive 6 week school holiday kicks off for the kids, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, road trips, tropical cyclones………….

Come Feb and the return to school – ‘Post-Waitangi’ summer kicks in.

It’s just my opinion but this is where the best summering happens as we all begin to savour every last sunshine-y Sunday, every after school beach-dash and every balmy BBQ dinner.  Shaking every last grain of sand out of summer in New Zealand is our duty as Kiwis.  Much like our ‘no man left behind’ attitude to summer stonefruit or our ‘eat ALL the berries’ culinary philosophy, making the most of these golden days is in our blood and helps me survive the extreme hardships of winter……in Auckland :::::::shudder::::::

Forget your kiwifruit or Navel Oranges, or any other fruit growing without a stone, bramble or vine.  I’m a summer fruit girl from way back.  As such, a snatched glimpse of a laden Christmas Plum or Golden Queen tree has always been a bit of a trigger for me (I’m sure many of you can relate right?).  I can remember a very blurry summer holiday when I was around 12 and had the good fortune to be invited away with my besties family.  The bach we were staying at had a marvelously overgrown and steep backyard that wound its way uphill towards the neighbouring fence line.  Exploring in the shade of the afternoons once we returned from the beach yielded a marvelous discovery – a Golden Queen peach tree, surely as ancient as the Kauri, (I mean, it was definitely as BIG as a Kauri wink wink, I was 12 remember!) literally groaning under the burden of its fruit.  The dilapidated fence separating us from our golden prize was merely a challenge, and not of the moral kind, unfortunately.  The lack of houses in any direction simply reinforced the fact that this ripe token of summer was ours for the taking, and besides, pilfered fruit always seemed to taste a wee bit better when you were 12!

Fast forward more than 20 years and some of the first things I purchased when we bought our house were fruit trees.  One Golden Queen peach tree, one heritage black plum and one nectarine tree.  To be honest, my mini-orchard was on the back-foot from day one with its care in my decidedly less-than-green hands so we are struggling, but, I’m picking the 2019 harvest will be a beauty, ie we might get some fruit we can eat!  My lack of peach-prowess could, of course, be due to the fact that we do not live in the Hawkes Bay.  They’ve got that peach growing on lockdown there which is why another kiwi fave of mine, Tip Top, keeps it local and uses real fruit grown by real NZ farmers in their Peaches & Cream Ice cream – no dodgy fence jumping going on here either, tsk tsk 12yo Melissa lol.  When we’re growing so much amazing produce right here in NZ we should absolutely expect that our local suppliers are sourcing FRESH ingredients from those growing it locally.  Combining one of our most beloved summer fruits with the goodness of New Zealand milk and cream is a taste of summer I hope my boys will remember as synonymous with growing up in New Zealand.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Tip Top Ice Cream

The iconic Boysenberry is another kiwi fave that takes me back to pinching fruit from the vine on my Nana’s farm. Its incarnation into the multiple award-winning Boysenberry Ripple ice cream from Tip Top has made boysenberries a generational obsession in our family.  If there was a momentous stop for a scoop of ice cream when I was a kid,  I don’t remember my Mum ever (ever, EVER) selecting any flavour other than Boysenberry.  Habit or heritage, whimsy or some other romantic hankering for the past, the fruit and flavours of New Zealand are freaking awesome and play a huge role in how I remember the 38 summers of my life.

Nelson farmers have taken up the reins and for years have been supplying Tip Top with enough kiwi boysenberries to keep that famous ripple in the freezer year round – but I reckon ice cream always tastes better in summer, yeah?

Keeping it real and, real kiwi is a big deal to Tip Top, one of the bit-players in each of my summers.  Recognizing the importance of legacy ingredients in our lives, it’s rad to see that using REAL fruit grown right here is just as important to the big guys as it is to would-be-backyard-mum-orchardists who might one day grow enough peaches for each of us to have one simultaneously.

This post was made possible by the good peeps at Tip Top!

PS Find our waffle recipe here

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Tip Top Ice Cream
Ethan and one of his best friends planned a Waitangi Day Waffle cook-off and nailed them! They were pretty stoked when I whipped some surprise toppings out of the freezer – Peaches and Cream and Boysenberry Ripple ice cream from Tip Top.

Family Travel Japan: Tokyo > Kyoto on the JR Shinkansen Bullet Train

Lord have mercy bullet trains are freaking amazing.  Pure Japanese innovation and technology designed to increase the efficiency of people moving between Japan’s two biggest cities.  Of course, the Shinkansen trains now run the full length of the country and with the amazing Japan Rail pass you are free to use Shinkansen at will.

mummy-blog-new-zealand-blogger-mommy-travelblog-family-Japan-Tokyo-KyotoWhen we planned our multi-stop itinerary; Tokyo > Kyoto (with day trips to Nara, Osaka, Hiroshima) > Nagano > Tokyo, it was obvious that investing in the JR pass was the way to go, and after our first foray from Tokyo to Kyoto, I’m totally hooked!

So, until this point, we had not made one wrong move on the trains.  Which is seriously impressive if you’ve ever tried to negotiate Tokyo or Shibuya station with 3 massive pieces of luggage, a teenager and NIXON.  But oh yes, arrogance comes before a fall and we made the grand JR Pass faux pas of getting on the blacklisted Nozomi Shinkansen as we flew out of Tokyo Station:::::::gasp:::::::

Ethan was mortified as we searched for our seats (which were taken by legit Nozomi passengers) thundering the aisles with 60+ kgs of luggage and NIXON, only to have our mistake discovered by a friendly European businessman (very Christian Gray), who looked at our tickets and pronounced our fate:  you’re on the wrong train.

No major problem, we were supposed to be on the Hikari, so we just hopped off at the next station and re-embarked a couple of minutes later when our actual Shinkansen arrived.

So, big differences between the local lines and riding on Shinkansen;

  1. There are reserved seats.  It’s roomy, comfortable and there are power outlets to charge you shizz!
  2. You can eat and drink on Shinkansen which is a big no-no on local trains.  There is always a full complement of restaurants and convenience stores at Shin stations plus the wee shops on the platform are super cheap and have delicious sushi, bento boxes and sandwiches as well as beer, wine and cocktails.  So charge it!
  3. You get everywhere you want to go super fast.  Obviously.  But you pay for that for sure.  For example, tomorrow’s trip from Kyoto to Nagano costs ¥13,000 which is around $161 NZD each.  Considering we rode the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto, Kyoto to Osaka, Hiroshima, Nagano and then Nagano to Tokyo, as well as all of the local trains we rode every day in each stop, the $579 pp for the Japan Rail Pass was a GREAT investment.
  4. With a JR pass you have to do all bookings and transfer through all gates manually, you can’t use the ticket machines (this applies to local lines as well as Shinkansen).  Your JR pass allows you to reserve seats on the bullet trains, which is awesome, but, if the reserved section is full, don’t be afraid to take a gamble and jump in an unreserved car.  We did this rather than waiting on the way back from Hiroshima to Kyoto and it was totally worth it.  Seats the whole way and no waiting!
  5. DON’T ride the Kodama unless you have to.  It stops at every station and sometimes is subject to long waits at the platform.

When we arrived in Kyoto, we realised (surprisingly!) that we weren’t in Tokyo anymore!!  The local train network was not as fancy, easily signposted or as comprehensive as we had become used to and we quickly hopped on a JR train heading in the wrong direction.  Off/on, backtrack we eventually arrived at the right station, (not JR arghhh) and set about trying to find our AirBnB.

The street it was on had no house numbers and we had no image of what the property looked like.  Did I mention it was raining?  Eventually a schoolgirl walked by and I showed her the address on my phone.  It turned out we were standing right in front of the place the whole time.

Kid status:  great!  The boys are super good on the trains as we allow them their iPads so they watch Netflix play their games for the duration and we make sure they have heaps to eat lol.  

So, our Kyoto arrival was a little fraught, but we made it and settled in for the next 5, busy, days.

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Family Travel Japan: Day 2, Ikebukuro

In my fast and loose ‘Mind Itinerary’, I had pencilled in Monday for a trip to Sea Disney in Tokyo.  However, after one day on the ground, what we really wanted to do was simply see and experience more of Tokyo.

So, we ditched Disney and saved hundreds of dollars.  The kids did not care and Dave and I were infinitely happier!

We began everyday in Tokyo with a visit to the most amaze bakery about 20 paces from our front door.  I had NO idea that bakeries were a thing here, and my god, everything that comes out of Japanese ovens is fit for the gods I tell you!  The Arteria Bakery was divine, the best pastries, breads, curry buns, melonpam, blueberry and apple pies………we tried it all.  Yes.  We.  Did.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro

Dave had to work, so the kids and I headed off on foot, navigating the 30-minute walk to Ikebukuro where the boys were super excited to experience J-World, an anime theme park featuring Dragon Ball Z – off course.  I find Google Maps a bit dodgy at home in NZ, but here the app works perfectly.  We were navigated through gorgeous, quiet wee residential streets and alleys, just as spic ‘n span as the rest of Tokyo, and made it to Sunshine City in Ikebukuro in no time.  I’ve realised on this trip the beauty of having no car!  Exploring on foot is such a pleasure here and gives a real sense of what life is actually like here in Tokyo.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro

We had unwittingly stumbled upon a kids-go-free day at J-world so we were off to a great start.  Ethan loved this place, Nixon enjoyed it even with only a cursory knowledge of anime, however, give it a miss if you or the kids are not fans as it will all go right over your head as there is no English translation or context.  That said, the boys were happy so I was super happy!  

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro

Sunshine City is a HUGE mall, it was a struggle to navigate but we found the restaurant level and I braved ordering food without Dave for the first time.  The kid’s option was easily identifiable by the Hello Kitty plate and was so perfect for Nix.  It came with a giant tempura shrimp, about 10 fries, a small hamburger patty and some rice, dessert and orange juice.  Literally ALL of Nixon’s favourite foods, neatly separated how he likes it.  The dessert was a strange custard that he wasn’t a fan of, but aside from that 10/10.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro

I had a good look at the menu before ordering and noticed that there were two prices; one for the individual item and one for the ‘set’ which included rice and miso soup.  As Ethan is not a fan of miso and the rice servings are huge, we ordered one set and one individual item and saved around 200¥!

After a quick visit to the Pokemon shop (soooo cute!) we headed upstairs to the Sunshine City Aquarium located on the roof of the mall.  We absolutely LOVED this place.  Skip the sea lions and penguins and head for the aquarium tanks.  There were so many fish, reptiles and amphibians here that we had never seen before it was amazing for my animal-mad boys.  A leopard shark, huge sunfish, giant spider crabs, poisonous frogs and so much more.  It def got us pumped for the big aquarium visit to come in Osaka.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro

Whilst in Ikebukuro we headed straight to the heart of this shopping mecca and soaked it all in.  There was a girl on the street with an owl advertising the ‘Owl Cafe’ nearby, there was an 8 story department store dedicated to DIY and basically, home and lifestyle called Tokyu Hands.  I could have spent hours in here but I was with 3 boys so time was limited lol.  Ethan was granted his final Dragon Ball Z shopping mission and found a figure he wanted in the giant Animate store.  He was happy and I was happy the search was over.

The neighbourhoods between Ikebukuro and our accommodation were so pleasant we opted to walk the 30 minutes home again and pick up some don bowls for dinner on the way home.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo Ikebukuro

I know no-one will believe this but, the only shopping I’ve done for myself is a $5 floppy felt hat on clearance from Uniqlo!!!  Shock horror I know.  Not even ANY sneakers!

There are 12 more days though.

Day 2 = AWESOME.

Fly Jetstar to Japan like we did > www.jetstar.co.nz

Family Travel Japan: Day 1, Tokyo

Lord.  Japan is far, far away from Auckland, New Zealand.  

And I mean far.

But that is what makes it so amazing.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

After two great Jetstar Flights (thanks Jason for the attention you gave the boys on the long Gold Coast – Narita leg!), we landed on Saturday night at 6.30pm at Narita Airport.  It felt heaps later of course as it was fully dark (mid-winter) and we’d been awake for like, days by that point lol.  This is where my planning came into full effect.  There are 3 terminals at Narita Airport and we flew into #3.  There is no train station there so we really enjoyed our walk to terminal 2.  I’m not joking either, despite how awesome the Jetstar crew were, after 8 hours on a full plane with a kid with Hirschsprung’s the fresh air and being able to stretch our legs was luxury.

The walk between terminal 3 and 2 is just over half a km, there is a shuttle bus you can take if you cbf walking.

I had pre-purchased our Japan Rail passes in Auckland from www.traveljapan.co.nz (who were totally awesome, I highly recommend dealing with them).  This was quite an investment, $1737 NZD for 3 adult passes (under 6’s ride free) but we are travelling extensively within Tokyo, using the Shinkansen (bullet train to Kyoto), day trips to Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima, ferry to Miyajima, then north to Nagano and back to Tokyo via Shinkansen so it’s absolutely worth the money.  JR passes are exclusively for foreigners so you are issued with a voucher in NZ and have to exchange this for your actual JR pass upon arrival in Japan.  

The JR information centre is on the station level in Terminal 2 at Narita and located in a great spot right by a 7-11 for snacks, a Foreign Exchange kiosk and a Pocket WiFi rental shop.  I picked up our passes, Dave rented our WiFi gadget ($99 for 2 weeks, unlimited data and up to 10 devices!) and we settled down to a cold Asahi while we waited for the Narita Express into Tokyo.

Like Auckland Airport, Narita is a good haul out of the main city, almost an hour into Tokyo Station where the train split, literally.  The first 6 cars went on one line and the rest went through to Shibuya Station which is where we transferred to Ikebukuro.  This was probably the trickiest part of our commute as we had to use a local line to get to our AirBnB, which meant we had to buy tickets and generally figure things out as the line is owned by a company other than JR.  Super cheap though, $1.70 per ride and probably even cheaper if we buy multi-trip passes which we will over the next couple of days.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

Booking our accommodation was by far the most difficult part of planning our trip to Japan.  The cities are so huge, I had to figure out which parts were quiet and suitable for a family, what we could afford, where homes were in relation to the trains and our to-do list.  I would have spent at least 5 hours researching each of the 3 properties I ended up booking.   

Here’s where we are staying in Ikebukuro > https://www.airbnb.co.nz/rooms/10222084 and it’s absolutely perfect, bigger than it looks, sparkling clean and about 50 steps from the train station.  We arrived at around 11.30pm on Saturday night, the neighbourhood was silent with no one around, despite a couple of sake bars on the street.  It felt so safe.  After picking up some pastries for breakfast from the bakery on the way to the train station this morning we were utterly convinced that this property and it’s location are an absolute win for us.  If you like a sleep in the trains might bother you as they start running from around 6am I think, but Nix is such an early riser this doesn’t bother us at all.

Day 1 – Tokyo

The most difficult part of trip planning is scheduling in your itinerary in my opinion.  So I really try not to do too much of that.  Speaking frankly, kids hate being rushed around from here to there, trying to meet trains/deadlines/expectations so, we just don’t travel like that.  I have ‘region goals’ I’d like to hit while we are in Japan, but little else cemented in.  You get a better feel for what you want to do more of, see, once you’re on the ground I reckon.

So today we rose early, headed out at 9am after some cuddles and showers, hit the local bakery for the MOST amazing croissants, apple pies and cream cheese and blueberry pastries and hopped on the Tobu Toju line back to Shibuya Station.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

We coffee’d at Starbucks and found the incredible Shibuya Crossing, probably quite quiet as it was Sunday morning lol but still totally awesome.  What we noticed immediately was that Japanese locals walk like they are driving ie they stay in their lane!  Big contrast to our family where the boys are constantly running, backtracking, stopping in the middle of the footpath………we are very conspicuously the square pegs here!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

So we did a little shopping, not much to be honest and just had a really great time wandering around.  At lunchtime, we charged a local eatery which, as it turns out specialized in pork Sta Don bowls.  Dave nailed the kiosk ordering system and we had a delicious meal of fried rice, gyoza and the pork/rice bowls.  I’m not a huge pork fan but the meat was shaved and thin it looked like bacon but was brown rather than pink.  We were quite proud of ourselves after that!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

Ethan had done some research and wanted to visit a store called Mandrake which was 4 floors underground in Shibuya.  Specializing in all things Japanese anime, this is a collectors paradise.  We saw one Pokemon card with a $1550 NZD price tag!  E is on the hunt for Dragon Ball Z merch while we are here so this was a perfect starting point.  

Always walking, we headed away from Shibuya and found ourselves gawking at the uber-trendy fashion hub that is Cat Street, Harajuku.  Our destination was actually Kiddyland which was just around the corner, a large toy store dedicated entirely to character toys.  Think Miffy, Hello Kitty, Star Wars, Marvel, Pokemon, Peanuts, Trolls………super fun, very cute, also very crowded and hot.

Everyone was slightly frazzled after Kiddyland so we stopped for a snack (and cocktail hour!) before diving into Takeshita Street which was seriously amazing.  A mix of huge international stores and small independent market-style shops, wandering along as night fell, stopping for crepes and enjoying people watching – this is Harajuku after all – was so, so fun.  The crowd is INTENSE, however, but Japanese people are so incredibly lovely, quiet, well mannered and patient, even with my nutty family, you never really felt affected by the masses of people.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Tokyo

After that, we were well and truly done for the day so we hit the trains and headed back home.  We had realised throughout the day that Nix was not going to be able to hang with the amount of walking we’ll be doing on this trip, so Dave found a Babies ‘R Us and set off again to bring home an umbrella stroller and some dinner.  The footpaths here are clean as a whistle, super flat and perfectly maintained so pushing the stroller is no problem and everyone seems to be accommodating regarding leaving the stroller to enter stores and restaurants.

Day 1 was so awesome!  Everything has fallen into place and we are just in LOVE with Japan, so excited for what the rest of the trip will bring.

Summer like a Kiwi – What happens above 23°

January marks the second, ‘official’ month of New Zealand summer.  We Kiwi’s are comfortably settled into the annual, seasonal slow-down we look forward to every year.  The kids have chilled out after the excitement of Santa’s visit, Mum’s everywhere have celebrated ‘un-decking the halls’ and returning Christmas to the boxes in the garage and everyone sadly mourned the last slice of festive ham and wedge of Pavlova.

If you missed the mania of the Boxing Day sales, tragic New Year’s Eve jandal blow-outs were easily rectified by those crazy enough to brave the malls and give the beach a miss for at least a couple of hours, joining those shoppers equipping themselves with everything they need to smash their NY resolutions once and for all.

The Summer of 2018 is definitely shaping up as one to remember.  In true NZ style, the weather has given us highs and lows (!! lol !!).  The gaudy, golden sunshine and blistering temps of the week before New Years gave many campers revelling in #ThatTentLife a false sense of security, as evidenced by the appearance of many quintessential Kiwi behaviours, only exhibited when the mercury begins to rise;

What happens in New Zealand when the temps rise above 23°?

  • An unwritten law in NZ requires many to revisit the ‘Togs, togs, togs……undies rule’ each summer.  If you’re unsure or have forgotten the accepted rule of thumb for ‘how far is too far’ to wear a speedo from the water, then please watch the public service announcement in the link above.
  • Unlike togs, there is less regulation around jandals ie, you can wear them everywhere for the period December-March (Summer here in New Zealand), and then again from April-November.
  • Here in New Zealand, we punch above our weight 24-7 – but if you’re talking about the ozone layer……..yeah we have none.  Hot times put everyone at risk of Coconut Ice Sunburn.  This kiwi fave is only acceptable when talking fudge, NOT tan lines so slip, slop, slap constantly.
  • No-one is too old for a swim in a paddling pool.  No-one.
  • Chilly-Bin ownership is mandatory, as is taking your chilly-bin everywhere with you in Summer.
  • Similar to birds flying in formation, New Zealanders possess a synchronicity that sees us switch from ice cream to ice blocks as soon as the temperature hits 23°.  This proven phenomenon is backed up with retail stats and the age-old debate surrounding the Best Fruju Flavour of All Time.  Of course, the big talking point amongst those participating in Summer this year, is the irresistible mash-up of  Kiwi icons Fruju and L&P, firing up the Fruju-flavour-frenzy even more!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Tip Top Ice Cream Summer Fruju

How Our Frozen Summer Faves got even BETTER

Like most parents, Dave and I are becoming more and more aware of how the food we feed the boys affects their health, mood and wellbeing.  Nixies shortened GI tract following Hirschsprung’s surgery means food moves through his little system super fast and adverse effects on his mood and behaviour become apparent really quickly.  Avoiding those dreaded artificial food additives can seem daunting but is made infinitely easier when you know that one company has eliminated all the baddies from their entire range of yummy products!

Who?  Tip Top that’s who.

The commitment to only using natural flavours and colours is a big deal, especially when you do a tiny bit of research about the alternatives.  You can’t really talk ice cream without thinking about chocolate right?  Tip Top has replaced dodgy additive E155 – Brown HT (made from coal tar, a suspected carcinogen and mutagen that is banned in the US, Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Norway, Belgium) and is now using simple, caramelized sugar to achieve that rich chocolate brown colour we all expect in our fave Trumpets.  There are super-cool, and surprising, alternatives in place throughout the Tip Top range that sees beetroot, spirulina, gardenia and turmeric extracts replace the synthetic dyes and coal or petroleum derived additives that other companies are still using today.

We Kiwis are the best at just about everything we do, so we want our awesome, NZ made products to reflect that.  Gone are the days of ‘numbers = colours and flavours’, we are discerning consumers with a growing consciousness towards what we put in our bodies.  As we make better choices we are expecting the producers of our favourite foods to do the same.  It’s pretty awesome to see Tip Top, a name synonymous with New Zealand, take the lead and make our summer treats #GoodtoShare for everyone.

This post was made possible by the good peeps at Tip Top!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Tip Top Ice Cream Summer

Back to School! How were the holidays……really?

The first Monday back to school after the holidays has come and gone and I’m reflecting a little on what we did, and didn’t do over the past two weeks.

Nix was sick for 10 days prior to the holidays so we were all out of whack after that and to be honest, the constant rain of the first week combined with both boys at home left me feeling less-than optimistic that we could steer the holiday ship in the right direction.

I had surprised myself (and Ethan!) with a teeny bit of forward-planning that saw E enrolled in a 2-day basketball camp each week.  He was stoked.  He was active, playing sport, socialising with other kids out of the house, learning and progressing and not sitting in front of a device, which is every parent’s nightmare right?

Right?

Ethan is a 12.5-year-old, hormone fuelled, sports-mad, go-go-go kid that desperately needed a break these holidays.  2 days each week of organized activity was all he needed as he recovered from another term that involved school days stretching from 7am-4.15, a basketball game, basketball training, two rugby practices and a rugby game each week.  As far as I was concerned, some screen time over the holidays was not going to cause him any irreparable damage.  I may have even encouraged a little bit of couch time if I’m honest.  I needed to give my kid a break and give myself a break from the ‘Mum guilt’ we are supposed to feel if we actively permit our children to relax by using their devices.

I’ve kissed that shit goodbye.

Our two boys are happy, healthy and active members of their respective sports-teams.  Motivation to participate, get moving and get outside is rife in our household – maybe somewhat lacking in my department right now but we’re not talking about ME lol!  As such, removing the negative shade I was throwing at Ethan every time he picked up his phone or iPad did not propel him into a square-eyed bender, all it did was simply improve communication between us and eliminate MUCH frustrated sighing and eye-rolling.

So, I gave my big boy a break.  He played some xBox, watched some Netflix, did whatever it is he does on his phone and when he wasn’t at basketball camp we had a pretty harmonious school holiday.  

Family activities aren’t always easy with an 8.5 year age gap between the boys, an impulsive, almost-made-it-to-the-ticket-counter movie visit didn’t work out as E was desperate to go, yet the thought of sitting in a loud, dark cinema immediately melted Nix into a puddle of tears.  In the middle of the mall.  Cue family breakdown and that terrible situation where you are torn between wanting to make both of your children happy and the inability to do so simultaneously ALL of the time.

The boys needed some time apart so Dave took Ethan and they headed off into the bush for a big walk and Nix and I collected rocks, dirt, leaves and sticks and headed down to the river to throw all the rocks, dirt, leaves and sticks into it.

Later that day the boys got their movie fix, but together-apart.  By that I mean, Nixon watched Charlotte’s Web on the Netflix app on our TV while Ethan snuggled with him on the couch, watching Okja (watch this Netflix Original guys!  It’s freaking amazing, topical and incredibly relevant) on his iPad with headphones.

Peace was restored and with zero guilt factor from me.

How did your school holidays play out guys?  Did you give your kids a break and let them self-regulate their device usage or did you keep them on a schedule?  

And, this question is pretty important, did you give yourself a break over the holidays?  Check out the image below for some innovative ways mums are managing to sneak in some ‘ME Time’ with their faves on Netflix – my new fave is Ozark, I’m calling it right here, this is the new Breaking Bad!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids Device Time Netflix


If you’d like to get Netflix ready before the next school holidays, head over to FB and I’ll gift one of you a 3 month Netflix subscription!  Too easy xx

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Heating your home: 5 things you need to know

In came the rain this week as well as some low temps around the country.  I’ve got a sore throat and am in full hibernation mode so keeping our house toasty and warm is #1 on my list of priorities throughout the day.

I had no idea what temp we should be maintaining our house at – but it’s a pretty important figure in winter, so I thought some of you might be interested in what I found out about heating our homes;

  1. The minimum temperature for occupied areas of homes as recommended by the World Health Organisation is 18°or higher for households with children, the elderly or family members who are ill.  The layout of our house allows us to use one heat pump to keep our playroom and the 3 bedrooms at 20°.  I find maintaining a steady temperature is a more efficient use of energy than trying to heat cold rooms quickly, so I keep the heat pump on throughout the day – both Dave and I work from home, otherwise it would be on a timer!
  2. Become an insulation expert!  Get savvy about what is or isn’t keeping your home warm and if possible address any potential issues first.  Pay attention to floor, ceiling and window insulation.
    Many Kiwi’s won’t have experienced the wonder of double glazing as it’s only become a more mainstream install on new builds in the past 10 years.  It’s incredible what a difference it makes in reducing heat loss through glass, particularly in older homes.  If you can’t afford to retrofit your whole house (me!) or are renting, I honestly can’t recommend DIY double glazing enough.  Dave and I used in all of our old dodgy rentals; it’s cheap and easy to install once you get the hang of it and is available in hardware stores nationwide.  Check out this video to see how it works > DIY Double Glazing.
    Soft furnishings aren’t just for decoration!  A thick rug or thermal curtains will do double duty during winter and help retain heat as well as looking great.
  3. New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family CrockPot Dyson HeaterChoose your heating appliances wisely.  Trying to warm a large space with an under-gunned heater can often cost more than you’d expect.  We utilise different types of heaters in different spaces around the house.  In Nixie’s room, we have a teeny oil column heater on a thermostat.  His room is small so we have this set on low and it stays toasty all night long.  Our lounge and kitchen, on the other hand, is quite a big, open space.  This winter we haven’t used our expensive, barely-heats gas fire at all and are using my new favourite appliance exclusively; our Dyson AM09 Hot + Cool. This fan’s ability to circulate heat evenly around the room, whilst maintaining the set temperature and doing so quietly, without blades (Nixon-proof!) makes it the perfect option.
  4. Plug the draughts.  Get old school if you have to and pick up one of those draught-stopper snakes.  So far this winter I’ve seen them at Kmart, The Warehouse and Mitre 10.  They are cheap and work wonders along the bottoms of our wooden doors and window sills.  I don’t want to be paying for heating if it’s escaping out into the cold!
  5. Like I mentioned last month, rest assured knowing that when you flick that switch, you are getting the most bang for your buck.  Use websites such as www.powerswitch.org  to get informed and take ownership of how much you’re paying.  Our new power company Electric Kiwi is not only awesomely priced but has been awarded the 2017 Most Satisfied Customers Award – Electricity Providers. Whoop whoop!  I can certainly agree with that.

Thanks so much to Electric Kiwi for partnering with us this winter, love your work guys!New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Electric Kiwi

Header image originally from Your Best Digs