Let’s Go On A Road Trip

Hello! It’s been awhile since we got together for coffee. Let’s change things up a bit and go on a road trip, grab coffee on the way, shall we? Let’s go.

First early Christmas decor spotted. No halloween things spotted so I guess that’s off the table for most people.

Phew! Didn’t really expect to hit some traffic this early. The skies are a bit gray but I don’t think it will rain, not soon anyway. First order of business: let’s get you and me some coffee in our system.

View of Taal Volcano
More of Taal Volcano, a unique and dangerous beauty found in the south of Manila, Philippines, arguably the smallest active complex supervolcano on the planet. Taal lake partially covers its caldera or crater.
And more. First road trip and nature walk in months!
All squared up for kindasquare

I ordered a latte for myself and a cappuccino for you. These cakes/pastries are making my mouth water. I’ll let you pick this time.

A square cake from a bistro
Burnt Ube (water yam/winged yam/purple sweet potato among its names) Cheesecake goes really well with brewed coffee.
Hubs been craving this for days: apple tart from Rowena’s.
How about some chocolate crinkles?
Sylvannas, anyone?

I haven’t told you, one of the reasons we’re here is to do a site survey. We’re building our first house over there, leaving the busy city and trading condo living for this, maybe for good. Work and business are lining up especially these past months such that we can all work remotely with the teams and hold most meetings online. We’ll probably just go back to the city once or twice a month with the processes we put in place, fingers crossed. I just know I can get more writing done here, go for a hike every week and swim in the lake or nearby beach any time we fancy. And hubs can finally have some space for a workshop for his furniture projects. Having this to look forward to definitely makes the long hours and everything else thrown our way this year more bearable.

How about you, what gets you going/how do you pick yourself up especially on days when getting up seems harder, you feel sluggish or too crazy to work? Do you get those days, too?

Let’s drop by the garden near the fruit stands and souvenir shops we wanted to check out last time. Don’t forget to wear both face masks and shield as some shops don’t let people in without both on. I’m picking a random spotify playlist on. Any rock out song you have in mind for the drive back? Ooh, these are good ones.

Thanks for playing along. You got some nice set of pipes, my friend. Bye for now. Take care and until out next road trip.

The coffee share is hosted over on Eclectic AlliHere’s the link to join in. Also linking to Kinda Square for the cakes and Taal volcano shots.

New to Succulents

succ_getting started

Acting more on my desire to lessen my carbon footprint, increase my ecological handprint, and indulging the environmentalist in me, I’ve been attempting to grow some of my own veggies and trying to be a successful plant parent.  It’s been hit or miss so far; I was able to grow some arugula and some low maintenance, air filtering plants but failing to propagate them.  And so, rather than spending more time doing trial and error gardening, I tried attending a workshop hoping this particular weakness of mine will be addressed.  I’m sharing some learnings here to hopefully help another plant parent out there from going crazier (crazy plant parents are totally acceptable 🙂 ) and also to document tips and tricks for this particular forgetful newbie gardener.  Here goes:

Prep the soil.  They say loam soil is the ideal garden soil, but for purposes of the workshop, we used an equal mix of loam soil, small pebbles for draining, and something close to clay.  We added a teeny amount of fertilizer (not too much to not burn the roots) and mixed these in a container.  Had fun shaking the mix.

succ_soil etc

succ_prep soil
Shake, shake, shake

 

Choose your plants/succulents.  3-4 will do depending on how big your pot is.  Try not to make your dish garden too crowded to allow your succulents to grow and spread.

succ_choosing succ

succ_flatlay
My workshop kit

 

Fill your pot halfway then plan on the placement of your succulents/plants in before filling it up all the way with all your succulents and soil mix in it.

Add some toppers for a nice touch.  Once your dish garden/pot is filled and styled to your liking, add some perlite, pebbles or vermiculite for a nice touch and to help in either drainage, airflow or moisture retention.

succ_topper

Voila!    You’ve got yourself a new baby!:)

succ_fin prod

Some good tips I learned are about drainage, water and sun requirement.  Choose a pot or container with a drain, that way you don’t have to skimp on water.  But don’t overwater to prevent root rot.  Last but not the least, know more about succulents; some require medium light but can thrive on low light etc.  That way you can pick and choose the ones according to your preference and level of commitment.  For the ones I chose, they can survive indoors with indirect sunlight, will require watering every 3-4 days and possibly repotting every 6 months.   Yup, I can deal with that.

Hope this helps to encourage you to try your hand at this.  It is definitely therapeutic 😉

A Big Slice of Culinary Heaven that is Japan

My first trip to Japan with hubby was nothing short of wonderful.  I did expect it to be very enjoyable, having read and studied about the Japanese, their language and culture, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the sensory overload, the cultural experience.  The weeklong experience deserves several posts, but I’ll try to keep them few and cohesive.

Back in university and when I started traveling around the country and across Asia was when I realized that the best ways to learn about and immerse in a culture was to learn the language system and culinary influences.  But who has time to learn a language before every trip, right?  That makes food the best and most enjoyable starting point, at least for me.  Oh, I know plenty (or some) about Japanese food and language alright, but that’s nothing compared to experiencing Japan on the ground; the sensory impressions will have you stay or at least, come back for more.  Let’s start with the food crawl (part 1).

Tempura course, Edomae set plate from historical tempura restaurant Tsunahachi in Shinjuku

tempura platter
Tempura at its finest

The tsukemen (special dipping noodles) and special ramen from Fu-unji were quite unforgettable

fu unji
Discover umami in a bowl

fu unji2

Probably the cheapest Michelin star meal you can get in Tokyo, but nothing short of fantastic, from Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima

nakajima

sardines
Sardine sashimi and fried sardines.  Super fresh and tasted soOo good!

Try one of the best gyoza in Tokyo from Gyozaro/Gyoza lou in Harajuku

gyoza

In Tokyo, you will not run out of good food at reasonable prices; you do not have to search long to find good chow, you just bump into it.

Satisfy your Takoyaki cravings at The Gindaco. 

Gindaco

takoyaki
Takoyaki cravings satisfied

You’ll never go wrong with rotation-sushi or sushi-go-round

sushi go round

Try the lava rock roasted coffee and lava hotdog from Lava Café in Mt. Fuji Heritage Center

lava meal

Learn the proper way to enjoy matcha

Matcha
It’s all in the preparation

Japan’s food game is strong, period.  And street food is no exception

street food2

Hoard-worthy street food during tours

street food

Sushi fest at Midori Sushi

sushi platter
Don’t miss that sushi experience unlike any other

If you need a break from Japanese food (but who would wanna…??), check out Shin-Okubo, Tokyo’s Korea Town for some Korean food well-loved by the Japanese.

dak galbi
One of the current faves at the time of our visit — Cheese Dak Galbi

There goes part 1.  Itadakimasu! 🙂

What’s New in 2018

2018 was off to a great albeit busy start.  I was like a runner who got her second wind then runner’s high shortly after.  And it’s amazing what a shot of inspiration can do to you.  Here’s what I’ve been up to this year when I, a left-brain dominant person, decided to try and give her right brain free rein some days of the week:

  1. Learned a few things to take a break from wedding planning
    • Resin art –it was fun albeit time consumingresin
    • Leather crafting –I might do more of this on weekends.  Handmade shoes and bags, anyone?leather crafting
    • DIY candlecandle
    • DIY scents
    • Urban gardening –starting to grow some of my own veggies.  A nod to sustainability that I hope I can sustain.urban garden
  2. Started investing in altcoins, cryptocurrency in Feb –Oh, the potential here!
  3. Tried a diet for the first time, and still on, the keto diet
  4. Got married in March 🙂 🙂 🙂  Tried to make it as green/eco-friendly as possible.  It was fun!married
  5. Started blogging (again) in April
  6. Ongoing honeymoon
    • First stop – Tokyo, JapanSakura preview
    • Next stop –To be announced 🙂 Any suggestions?

What about you, what have you been up to lately?  Or better, what have you been inspired to do or explore lately?

Wandering in Japan

It was decided a month or two before our wedding, ‘why don’t we go to Japan?’.  Sure, new hubby and I both studied Japanese in school, we both were (still are) anime fans, we are familiar and greatly admire the trust culture and discipline that is the Japanese brand.  But I was still pleasantly surprised to learn that this country is both in our bucket list.  That’s it, then, our honeymoon (series, I might add) will start in Japan.

Blooms pictured in Ueno Park

Spring blooms

Hubby and I are both city people, but I have a frequent yearning for the outdoors and nature, and will probably survive if not love living in a farm given the chance.  We’re both foodies, and love to localize.  So we decided to stay mostly in Tokyo for food crawls and spend a day touring Mt. Fuji.

Long Walks in Shinjuku

On our first day we decided to check out the train systems, navigate the streets near the hotel — in the process, tried to practice our very rusty Japanese — and enjoy our first meal in Japan.  We weren’t disappointed; Tokyo IS a culinary heaven.  More details on our food stops here  😉

Harajuku Bargain Shopping

Takeshita

We didn’t expect it to still be very cold when we arrived (3-16 degrees Celsius) days before the cherry blossoms start to bloom.  We took this as an opportunity to explore and maybe score good finds in trendy Takeshita Street in Harajuku, said to be the hub of Tokyo Street Fashion.  I scored a pair of low-heeled boots for $4, some souvenirs good for family and colleagues for less than $5, an irresistible black coat for me and leather shoes for hubby.  At this point we knew it was time to go and resist temptation.

Now we heard and read from a lot of people that Japan and Tokyo in particular can be very expensive, and so we were both surprised to discover that it’s not, If you knew where to book and dine.  More on this in another post 😉

Gindaco

Shibuya Crossing aka The Scramble

The Scramble

Since Harajuku and Shinjuku are not so far apart, we just had to check out what the Scramble was about 😉

We can’t help but admire how the Japanese revere their elders, history and culture in the way they preserve and frequent shrines and museums.  Not only were there a lot of foreigners (us included) visiting the parks, shrines and museums, there were many locals visiting as well.

Meiji Shrine

Meiji2

Meiji

We devoted a day to explore the parks and museums near Ueno Park, the 1st public park of its kind in Japan.  It is surrounded by government museums (Tokyo National Museum, National Museum of Nature and Science, Shitamachi Museum), Ueno Zoo and Shrine and is a good viewing spot for cherry blossoms.

National Museum2

Tomb covers

Picture wall

National Museum

The next day, we booked a day tour to Mt. Fuji that included a trip to some nearby villages, 5th Station and some outlet stores.  Mt. Fuji is so majestic, my photos don’t do it justice…The country’s tallest peak, it’s commonly called Fuji-san, and is one of Japan’s 3 sacred/holy mountains.  It’s snow-capped about 5 months in a year and best time to hike or at least, most hikers visit from July to August.

Mt. Fuji

Mt Fuji

How ingenious!  Lava sugar and lava hotdog from a café in Fujisan World Heritage Center

Lava coffee and hotdog

Matcha Ceremony in one of the villages near Mt. Fuji

Matcha

We were so lucky to score free overnight stays in Grand Hyatt for the first 3 days of our time in Tokyo, after which we decided to check out Airbnbs nearby.  The law legalizing airbnb rentals in Japan will take effect in June 2018, but we heard there are more restrictions set by many local government compared to other countries.  So best to coordinate with your airbnb host prior to booking and book in advance.

Exploring Tokyo’s Korea Town in Shin-Okubo

Dak Galbi

On our last day, we explored Korea Town after packing up.  We had to check if our luggage can still be closed and not exceed our limit at this point 😉  I’m not very much into make up, but finding Japanese and Korean skincare products and even make up at 20-50% less than what I normally pay for it is such a delight!  Japan being an expensive city to visit is such a myth.  Just do your due diligence and plan your itinerary (loosely or not) to have some sort of guide while you’re there and check out travel blogs for tips.  Or you can always opt for tours to be on the safe side, but at a higher rate.

Overall, our stay in Japan was so refreshing, it provided us with the needed relaxation, interesting cultural experience and time together after all the wedding fun and excitement and, let’s face it, stress that came along with it.  All the good things you’ve probably seen in social media or heard from other people are true; the clean streets, great food, high tech toilets, respectful people, beautiful cities and countryside, and then some more.  It’s a place and culture you have to see and experience at least once in your life.  It’s becoming our favorite city so far, and maybe country, but check back with me in a year and we’ll see 😉

 

 

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