My creative space #002

DeskLeft002Thank you so much for your comments last week! I had fun. Mind if I do it again?

1. Kid’s art. Still not on wall, but looking nice and colourful in the morning light.

2. New library books. I can never borrow just one. Also, I’ve been trying to dig out all the Bendigo Woollen Mills shade cards I have – I don’t think the website does the colours any justice. And, to be honest, Bendigo’s prices are really reasonable, particularly if you have ideas involving a lot of yarn…

3. Yes, I drew that background! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself!)

4. Kid’s heights and other measurements, in case the sewing urge strikes. The littlest is nearly a metre tall! (She’s just turned 3.)

5.  Chinese dictionaries, balloons, pencil case. I think this weekly showing-my-desk-thing might be good for me: I actually tidied the Christmas pudding into the storage cupboard 😉

6. Ideas.

DeskRight002

7. Went to IKEA on the weekend. You’ll be pleased to hear I bought a little bin (see 9 last week). And I bought a random orange tin I’m not sure what I’ll do with, some more kid’s bowls, some finger puppets … as well as the drawers we really went to buy.

8. Crochet project. I’m really enjoying it.

9. Sewing machine, still untouched.

10. Yes, dear patient library, I will return it on time! (Hate it how the length of time you can borrow changes if someone else requests the book. Even though it’s totally fair enough, I’ve requested books too)

11. The books mentioned yesterday.

12. Stain on the table, although I try to be careful. Argh! (I did later manage to scrape it off)

My creative space #001

DeskLeft(Partial) inventory:

1. Kid’s art. Should find the blu-tack to stick it on the wall.

2. Ideas.

3. Computer. Yes, with Twitter.

4. Bills. Fun.

5.  Pencil case.

6. Sewing and tracing tools. For a burda skirt I meant to make. before Christmas.

7. Chinese books. I was going to study intensively over the holidays. But, like all students, I actually did other stuff. Also, balloons for a kid’s birthday.

8.I love this light. It used to be in a train carriage. Bought in a weird little shop in Enmore, ages ago, the shop doesn’t exist anymore …

9. Used tissues stuffed into an old tissue box. Not sure if this counts as reuse, recycle or unhygienic?

10. Christmas pudding, unopened. My favourite Christmas treat, so I’m still looking forward to it.

DeskRight

11. Tissues.

12. Presents from the kids, their drawings.

13. Diagrams of indoor clothes drying racks, for husband.

14. Sewing machine. At least it’s where I can see it.

15. Crap, various.

16. Crochet project.

17. Fashion illustration project (haven’t decided whether I’ll show you or not).

18. Tea towel to keep my desk clean, when I eat here.

19. Hair clips, Christmas gift from Mum.

20. Quilt project. Fabric washed, but that’s as far as I’ve got.

Simple, simple Christmas decorations

XmasDecorations

Because it’s Twelfth Night tonight (at least the way I count it). Time to take down the tree. And you (or I) might want to make these decorations next year.

Christmas trees and kids

You see, if you have young children, say aged 2 & 4, Christmas decorations are always a dilemma. Do you:

  1. use the decorations from before-you-had-kids, but insist you are  THE ONLY ONE ALLOWED TO TOUCH THEM, rather dampening the Christmas spirit; or
  2. use those gorgeous decorations from before-you-had-kids, screaming silently each time your helpers shatter them; or
  3. decide that all decorations have to be kid-friendly, preferably cheaply homemade?

This year, my kids were both old enough to ask. As you might guess, they voted number 3. They put the decorations on the tree themselves, the tree didn’t need a barrier and I didn’t even freak when they went to play jumping on the bed with various new “bracelets” … although I did insist all decorations be returned later.

How to make

They’re so simple, I’m sure you know how to make them just by looking. But, well, Christmas can be a little stressful, making even the easiest tasks seem hard …

  1. buy some foiled card from, like, Kmart (scrap-booking section), or find any stiff paper really;
  2. use a clean mug to trace circles, a ruler to trace sets of 6 strips, and cut;
  3. fold circles in half and staple each one to the next in groups of 3 (husband’s preference), 4 (kids’ preference, I think?) or 5 (mine);
  4. arrange 3 strips in a star-like shape, turn over, and wrong sides facing wrong sides, arrange 3 more strips in the same star shape. Staple in the centre;
  5. staple folded curling ribbon to hang.

Actually, I love how they turned out: they feel so Christmassy to me. I’ve since realised that my absolute favourite decorations as a child were foiled paper, in the exact same colours: gold, silver, red, blue, purple and green … ah, so nostalgic.

Sure I love eye candy, but I love honesty more

Or, the post otherwise known as: how to move from a 2.5 bedroom house to a one bed apartment with two young kids.

OK, I shouldn’t complain: this apartment might be small by Australian standards, it’s still very much bigger than where we lived in Tokyo!

The space before … looks clean and neat, doesn’t it?

our apartment before

our apartment before

The space after,
all the stuff we didn’t throw out before we left for Japan, you know, the stuff we’ll have to find a spot for somewhere here …

our apartment after

Where we are now: semi-livable, but certainly not making the pages of design*sponge, or decor8

our apartment now

our apartment now

I’ll let you know if we ever have an apartment therapy-worthy ending to this story …

Cheap eats ’round central Tokyo

Matsuya

Because you’ve been touristing around all day … lost track of time … and now one of those iconic American fast food chains is looking tempting, you know the ones you’d NEVER set foot in at home…So here are some alternatives, best ones last.

I’m assuming you want to feed a family of 2 adults, 2 very small kids for around ¥3000, or one adult for under ¥1000. With yen, ignore the last 2 zeros (there are no yen cents) and then factor in your currency’s most recent fluctuation … ugh!

And I’m not talking gourmet here, you can research that yourself … I don’t know what you like. (Personally, I prefer restaurants with laminex tables, fluro lighting, grumpy service … but excellent tasting food, and plenty of it).

Also, if you or your kids won’t eat anything you haven’t tried before … then you’re stuck with one of those iconic American joints. At least half their menu stays the same wherever you go.

I can’t recommend specific dishes: everything here is seasonal, even plasticy, commercial take-away joints. Whatever I could recommend likely wouldn’t be available when you visit.

I also won’t bother explaining where these alternatives are located, but the first 2 are everywhere, often several of the same shop within 5 minutes walk.  If you look around near the train station, you’ll probably see them (and in central Tokyo, when aren’t you near a train station???)

Yoshinoya and Matsuya

Yoshinoya and Matsuya are pretty similar: basically, very thin sliced but fatty meat with rice. Enlivened with sauces, curry, or Korean-style condiments. Salads and semi-cooked eggs as extras, or maybe included in the set. Water and/or tea if you eat in, free miso soup at Matsuya. Doesn’t sound enticing? Not high quality? Well, what do you expect at a direct competitor to the American chains, where average sized meals are about ¥600? And at least it’s an experience you wouldn’t have had at home.

For me, the main difference is at Matsuya you have to order using a machine, at Yoshinoya you can talk to a person and point at the menu photos. I find the machines quite hard, the advertising photos on the walls aren’t exactly the same as the ones on the machine, and without reading Kanji it’s a guess if egg is included or not. But Matsuya has a number of beef-patty dishes Yoshinoya doesn’t.

There’s a photo of Matsuya signage up top, here is Yoshinoya:

Yoshinoya

Freshness Burger and MOS Burger

If you’re really after a burger, I recommend a Freshness Burger, their chips (fries) are mainly potato (sometimes even skins!), not crispy edge of fat. Their ice teas are really good (assuming you like tea). And the burgers have a good amount of meat and salad on them. Sometimes the raw onion is a little assertive, but still. Or you could try MOS Burger, their teriyaki chicken burger is pretty good, if smallish. Or you could try that ironic burger, the one with the rice replacing the bread. Remember chocolate isn’t a default flavour here … I’ve not yet seen a chocolate milkshake, it’s one thing I miss …

And about meat, there isn’t much. Dishes described as ‘meat and spaghetti’ will be mostly spaghetti and tomato, with a smear of meat. Don’t be like all the tourists I’ve met who complain they were ripped off: you weren’t ripped off unless you paid at least ¥2000 for red meat. And portion sizes are smaller, they just ARE, so take that into account when looking at the menu’s photos.

My favourites: Denny’s Japan, Ootoya and department store basements

I’ve already mentioned I really like Denny’s Japan: a bit pricier (¥1000 for a good meal for one), but very good quality food, very fresh. Fair sized meat and bread options (shock!! not everything comes with rice!!).

I also like Ootoya, it would be my number one recommendation … if it weren’t kinda harder to find. There’s plenty of stores, but they’re usually up or down stairs, and the English is written somewhat small. Hopefully this photo will help:

Ootoya

Ootoya has Japanese-style meals, rice plus high quality meat (generally pork, chicken or fish) and vegetables. Their salads are really nice … I particularly like the choy sum with sweet beans and poppyseed paste one, yum! And do try the salad dressings, far nicer than back home in my opinion. Their desserts, err, only if you like Japanese desserts, they’re an acquired taste.

My last alternative is also a good one: go to the basement of any department store, there’ll be a huge selection of very high quality food. Only problem, where to eat? It’s considered rude to eat walking along, but there aren’t any chairs at all …