Kyoto day 1

On Christmas Day we got up early (earlyish) and caught a train to Kyoto.  We caught a local train, it took about 45 minutes, so we were in Kyoto before 9. We chucked the overnight bag and umbrellas in a coin locker at the station and caught a bus to the flea market.

Note on travel in Japan. It’s very very unusual to see people with large suitcases or large bags on trains (other than those to the airport).  There is very little luggage capacity on any train, and a lot of people, especially around new year.  Most people send their suitcases on ahead, either through private delivery companies (similar to fed ex but much better) or even the post office.  You are charged on a per piece basis by size.  It cost us about $25 to send two suitcases from Osaka to Kyoto.  We took the, to the front desk of our hotel the day before we left (by midday for that hotel) and they were waiting for us the next day when we checked in). When you add in the cost of two lockers to store them ($6 each) plus the hassle of the train station- so many many stairs and no escalators in some parts, it is worth it.  

Picture from the bus ride (street scape).  I took a video but can’t find it.

Gas station 

At the flea market we wandered around, bought some spices and got some small  cups  of coffee. There were a lot of stalls. 

 

There were kimono stalls, but compared with the amounts and quality in Osaka, they weren’t great.

The iron monger stall. G got the kitchen knife he wanted.  We bought one here last time but the wooden handle didn’t like the dishwasher…

 It is held on the grounds of a temple, and there were people there for that too.

After a couple of hours we took a bus into the centre of town.  We were heading to a needle place I had heard of.  We found it, but it was shut!  But only for the day, Thursday’s are the day they close.

We had a Christmas lunch of ramen and fried rice (me) and fired chocked and fried rice (G). And since ramen is considered in Japan to be Chinese, we had Chinese for Christmas.

We wandered down the shopping arcades- Kyoto has two covered over pedestrian shopping arcades- not quite shopping malls, but a bit protected from the elements. We then turned onto the Nishiki market Street.

This is a street of mostly food shops.  The food is generally on show, and it is amazing

I got some yummy tofu mini donuts ( no pics because I scarfed them).  And then we headed back to the station and our hotel.  The hotel is near the station, but they also supply a free shuttle bus to and from the station, so we grabbed that.

On checkin, we discovered we had been upgraded.  They didn’t tell us that, but our room is bigger than expected, and our reservation info says a different floor. 

  Later we went back to the station, bought some more desserts from the department store there and looked at the Christmas decorations.  A nice Christmas Day!

 

And this below was the Christmas dec at our hotel.  Gone by Boxing Day!

 

 

circling round

We have two weeks before we head off to japan.  It’s been three years since we last went to Japan for Christmas.  The last time we went was just before we started IVF.  It seems odd, so long ago and yet so recent.  And now we are going, probably having finished at least part of our IVF journey.

This cycle has been odd.  In some ways it is the cycle we were going to have two years ago, going for as many eggs as possible and freezing all embryos.  It’s been two years since the last cycle and it is hard.  In the middle of multiple cycles that is easier not to notice.

So moving through processes and procedures we have been through before, circling around both the same and different.

Some things are easier, much of the hospital process is more electronic and streamlined. Back in our very first cycle the clinic  was located further from the hospital, so they had a driver to take patients there for retreival.  Now it’s across the road.

We found the budget spreadsheet from our first trip together to Japan, back in 2010. When the Aussie dollar was about 60 yen to the dollar.  Now it’s 100 yen to the dollar, no wonder we stay in nicer hotels!

But this one is the end of the process.  It’s not an infinity loop of ivf, surprise pregnancies and Japan.  There is an off ramp to the loop, where we will hopefully be moving on.  I can hope that this exit will include a successful pregnancy ( or two) but I also know that it may not, and that is ok.

Christmas present dilemma

Oh the joys of extended families.

I tend to think that once a person has reached adulthood presents are a token of affection/connection, but do not need to be significant or extravagant.  Most of us can afford to buy what we want/need.

So. With G’s family we generally buy specifc (requested items) for J.  He’s G’s son.  We generally don’t buy anything for his mum, unless it’s a year where we are spending Christmas in proximity.  We have assisted J in his shopping in the past couple of years.  For G’s parents it’s usually a gift or rah of them, not particularly extravagant.  They generally get us store gift cards or Amazon credit.  For his brother and sister in law, we usually do gift cards, last year it was cinema money. For the nephew and niece, age based presents, usually including iTunes or the like.  On the years when we visit Rocky, the presents tend to bigger and more expensive.

My family is messy.  With my dad, his partner and my younger brother we do exchange gifts.  It’s fun to shop for my little brother, he is young enough that the toy aisle is still awesome. With my dad and partner it can be hit and miss, both ways.

With the family on my mums side- it’s my mum, my stepdad, my sister and her husband and daughter, my brother and wife, my two stepbrothers and their wives, plus this random family that is quasi family for my stepdad ( the B’s- and I am always not sure of how to present for them) Lots of presents, lots of misses. We are all reasonably comfortably off adults.  But some ( stepbrothers ) have a more inflated idea of what people will/should buy.

So last year we had a not so secret Santa for my mums side.  My brother and sister in law didn’t participate (already had gifts and were ambivalent) and the B’s weren’t invited.  It seemed to work ok.  This year the B’s have muscled in.  They are like surrogate grandparents/uncle to my stepbrothers.  There is no such strong connection for my siblings and I. I didn’t know they were in until after we said we were.  But, I did let my sister know and she decided to opt out on the grounds they will not be here for Christmas ( as they live on the other side of the country and rarely are). It sounds like my brother and wife also not participating. With my sister, we came to a no presents agreement,  my niece will get presents but adult gifts will not be a thing at Christmas. 

The thing is, most of us have existing tastes and preferences.  Unless specifically given instructions, it can be hard to find an appropriate gift.  Most things I really like, I buy (. Or they are too expensive and I don’t expect anyone else to buy them for me).  I think we live in an overly consumerist society as it is, I don’t like buying for the sake of it.  But handmade gifts don’t do it for everyone ( coincidence that the secret Santa was suggested they year after we went super homemade gifty, I suspect not). 

And we have the perfect out. We will be in Japan for Christmas, and won’t be buying presents for each other(but we will be engaging in some serious shopping).  I am looking forward to a nice, non-pressurised Christmas Day- in Japan it is a day to eat KFC and sponge cake with strawberries on top and go on dates.  

Not sure what my point is. It’s going to be super awkward if all three of us ( my brother, sister and I) tell my stepbrother that wewont participate in the gift exchange. So do G and I take one for the team?

So, the presents that were used appreciated the most from last year?   The orange coffee mug J gave me(chosen with assistance from G), which is used by both G and me. And some of the lush stuff I got from the gift exchange.

A thoughtful afternoon

Well, the whole not acquiring stuff thing.  That didn’t work.

I spent the afternoon at a work sponsored volunteer thing, sorting presents for the Salvos.  I was, as Greg named it this morning, the “sacrificial volunteer”.  The larger company I work for had arranged to have a company volunteer afternoon at the warehouse, and someone decided it would be a nice gesture if one person from each department was there.  So, I answered the phone the day HR was looking for volunteers and was duly press ganged into it.  I gather other departments actually had an option to volunteer, but the email never went round my little team.  I am not complaining, just noting.  And as I left, one of my co-workers mentioned she would like to have done this. Sigh.

So, we were dealing with the donated toys that people bring in to the wishing trees at Kmart and the like, and that are collected by workplaces (including mine).  Now, I was aware that it is good not to wrap the gift, because they do all get unwrapped at the warehouse and sorted.  Kind of sad, because some people clearly go to some effort to wrap the gifts and write little cards, but there are good reasons.

People sometimes donate junk.  Really unusable stuff, or old stuff.  These are meant to be new toys, not the garbage at the bottom of the closet.  So the junk has to be weeded out.  Then the inappropriate.  This is the salvation army so nothing that promotes gambling (so much for the roulette set) or violence (no plastic handguns).  And no food with alcoholic flavoring.

So all of that gets weeded out.  Then the rest gets sorted into age and gender related piles.  Because it is so close to Christmas most of the specific gifts, those that will be given out to kids this Christmas have been sorted and organised.  What we were doing is packing gifts into boxes for next Christmas.  So a variety of the boxes will be shipped to various bush towns for their Christmas processes next year.  It does make sense, it can take a long time to ship stuff, and this ensures that regional areas, which may have a lot of need, have it available next year and are not dependent on gifts from their area alone.

It is nice to see how many people do donate stuff,and how much thought goes into some of the donations.  I note that a lot of stuff for girls is violently pink, and a large majority of the boys stuff is cars and trucks.  Next year  I will keep this in mind and try to buy something different for my donated toys.

It also gave me the opportunity to observe some toy trends.  One of the toy companies has been especially enterprising, and has reissued a number of old standards with toy story decoration.  Toy story Trouble, toy story twister, toy story  board games.  Kind of clever, but a bit  sad at the same time- the only way to make it appealing is slap Buzz and Woody on everything.

Barbie has gotten a little racier than she used to be, and comes in some very weird guises (green alien fashion fantasy?).

And apparently one of THE gifts this year is Nerf bullet guns.  Well, not being passed on this year, and unlike some of the other stuff that is rejected for Christmas, it won’t be sold in the volunteer shops.  The working volunteers are free to take these home (for a donation).  So I now have some nerf guns.  So much for not acquiring stuff.

Edit: I should add it was quite an enjoyable afternoon, and I was glad I did it.

Making Christmas ornaments

I like to stitch, and while it is kind of nice to produce finished pictures to hang on the wall, I also like to try to complete projects that have some function, or at least a little more interaction.

My family usually gives Christmas ornaments to each other, a new one each year.  This year I decided to make mine.  I chose a simple pattern in Cross Stitcher Issue 233.  It is a simple design stitched entirely in one colour, with a teeny bit of detail in white at the end.  Perfect, as stitching in only one colour tends to make things faster.

So I have stitched a few of this design, and after I put the first ornament together, discovered that stitching a backstitch outline where I want to sew the backing fabric helps with  the final stages.

Stitching washed and ironed
Ready to be stitched up

Once I have got the piece finished, outlined and cut to size, time to match it with the backing fabric, a lovely red and white stripe piece.  The cross stitched piece needs to be washed, well rinsed really and ironed, to get any creases out.

These are pinned together, right sides together.  Looking at the picture, I am actually pretty impressed at how neat I kept the back.  Then stitched around- I used a running stitch for this.  Nice close up picture of some wonky stitching. Since it is meant to hang on the tree, I also had to sew the ribbon hanging thing in as well.  We bought a very useful pack for this purpose from Ikea (about the only Christmas thing we bought there, since they were almost cleaned out of Christmas stuff before December even began).

Pinned together.
Stitching in progress

Once 3 and a bit sides have been sewed, time to turn inside out and check all ok.  Sometimes I trim the excess fabric on the inside, this time I accidentally chopped off the loop of ribbon as well.

Turned right side out

Next, put the stuffing in, making sure all the corners are filled in.

Stuffing

Then sew the last little bit together- using whip stitch.  This is where the backstitch outline is very useful, whipstitch on aida is not fun.

Check everything is okay- I had to use a button to hold the two pieces of ribbon together.  Ready to go! Only another five or six more to go.

Finished

The cross stitch pattern takes three or four hours, depending on how enthused I am and the tv show on.  The stitching together- about and hour or so.

Busy Week- perhaps not

It has been a busy week, and will only get busier from here on in until Christmas- already looking forward to those five days of nothing between Christmas and New Year.

On Thursday we went to Latin American night at the Barracks- a small shopping/ food area near my work.  Sangria, kind of south american nibbles and some latin dancing instructions.  It turns out that Greg and I are not destined to set the world alight with our salsa dancing ability. Sigh.  But it was fun, and I would consider going to dancing lessons at some point.

Friday was reasonably quiet, we stopped by Purple Palate to try a couple wines and to pick up some Pinot Noirs (70 + wine bottles and apparently all the pinot we has gone) for Greg to drink. Then home.

Saturday we went to the Coorparoo markets, which have started relatively recently.  Just off the main crossroads in Coorparoo- the suburb where I live, there is an old big box store- one of the earlier furniture superstores.  It has been closed for years, and the other businesses in the building struggling.  It will be torn down in a few years for the busway, but some enterprising person has set up markets in the main store area.  It is pretty good, quite a few food places downstairs, and an upstairs area of non food market stuff.  We have been once before, but it was close to closing.

The food stalls are a nice variety, and we have gotten some pretty good bread and meat from there.  The main floor is a bit of a mixed bag.  There are some interesting stores with handmade bags and stuff, and a great fabric store called Voodoo Rabbit, which stocks fabric not available elsewhere in Brisbane.  But there are also the stalls full of junk from China and the stalls selling “wonder” products no one wants to buy.  I had an interesting conversation with a lady at the bag stall- they also have a stall at the much more established South Bank Markets and it sounds like the Coorparoo operation is still a bit miss for them- not yet enough people coming through.  It was certainly not very crowded, but more people than last time.  It helps a lot that everything is undercover- it’s been raining a lot at the moment.

We also hit up a couple of Garage sales on the way home, and now have a few more phones- still trying to find a landline phone that works well- the last one made the internet slow.  At the second sale we bought a sewing machine (elna!) and a whipper snipper (apparently we need one).

We had a few people over (help clear the wine) and that will be the quietest Saturday night for a while.  Today was fairly relaxing, despite a foolish visit to the shops (a few needed items including whippersnipper wire) where there were no parking spaces.

Laundry was a bit hard- the rain-sun-rain pattern today kind of made the whole hanging laundry outside to dry pointless ( but we did it anyway).  But it needs to be done because the next few weekends are going to be busy.  Friday and Saturday engagements all the way through.  On the plus side, a bit of time on the internets and we are almost completely done with the Christmas present shopping!