And we hope to see lots of these!
In a few days we are leaving for a family vacation to Japan. Yes…Japan! Every time I say that to someone there are one of two reactions. First one being “Are you nuts! It’s full of radiation and earthquakes over there!”. The second being ” Wow you guys must be rich”.
As for going to a place that is laden with dangers such as earthquakes, tsunamis and radioactive veggies, I’m pretty sure we’ll be fine. At the moment there is no official warning against traveling to Japan and we figure if Japan is okay for 127 million people to live in then it’s okay for us to visit for two weeks. Plus, the Japanese tourist economy needs all the help it can get at the moment.
As for the second reaction that we get when we tell people that we are traveling to Japan, we’re not rich. We’re very fortunate but we work hard to be able to do these sorts of trips with our family. And as everyone knows, Japan is known to be one of the most expensive places to travel in the entire world.
Luckily we got some really great prices on our flights (because nobody seems to want to go there since the tsunami). It literally cost us half of what we pay to visit family in Canada every year. We booked these tickets in September and paid for them right away. That’s our whole theory on organising these big trips. Pay everything slowly over time. Here’s a break down of how we organised our Japan trip.
September: book and pay for flights to Tokyo
December: book and pay for train passes (which unfortunately cost the same as the flights!)
February: book and pay for some of the hotels (if possible)
So by the time we actually leave for our trip most of the big expenses are paid off and we don’t have to even think about it.
The other thing that is a big help is to slowly save spending money over the same amount of time. This time we used a lovely little red Piggy Bank that we had bought at a Frida Kahlo exhibit in Milan years ago. I wanted a place to collect money that we couldn’t touch after it was put in (you know…to pay the water guy or the plumber when I accidentely have an empty wallet).
So over the months we would put in 5 euro here, 20 euro there. A few times we put in bigger amounts as well (Christmas gifts from family etc). The kids even put in the odd euro coin when they had it as well. In the end that pig became a small part of our daily routine..get home from busy day, put down purse, dump any extra change or bills into pig.
And it worked my friends! Over the months we saved up enough to pretty much pay for our spending money for the two weeks that we’ll be in Japan.
Last week we made the whole smashing of the Piggy Bank into a family event. We all gathered around a table with the pig and a wooden mallet. We were all feeling pretty bad to have to smash such a lovely piggy bank but we were all curious enough to see what was inside that in the end we even had fun doing it.
Japan has always been a country that has intrigued me on so many levels. The cuisine, the history, the culture, the art, the religion. I’m really looking forward to experiencing it all and feel so fortunate to have quite a few Japanese friends who will be showing us around. Many photos and travel stories to come!
I still can’t believe it was a decade ago that I was waiting in the operating room of a small rural Italian town, surrounded by 20 doctors, nurses (and what seemed just innocent bystanders) getting ready to meet “La Principessa” and “La Contessa” for the first time.
And I still remember the awe I felt when they showed me those miniscule little babes for the first time. Awe at how tiny they were. Awe at how they looked and how completely different they were from one another (we hadn’t know whether they were identical or fraternal beforehand). Awe at how much my life had changed from one second to another.
The last 10 years have gone by in a flash and have been so full of love, adventure and so many amazing times together as a family. I’m so excited and curious to see what life brings Eva and Chloe in the future. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be pretty amazing though.…
It started on Saturday afternoon with a rally race with all of their friends. There were 10 clues (for the 10 years of the girl’s life), 2 chauffeurs, some bright yellow team head scarves and a lot of enthusiasm.
The first clue read ” Go where you took your first breath of air”. So off we rushed to the little small-town hospital where they were born. The rest of the afternoon was busy passing by all the girl’s favorite spots from the last 10 years. They had to climb to the top of an old tree in the park, walk along a river in the woods, go the the bakery, the gelateria, the local cow farm and all of our previous homes.
Some locals looked at us like we were absolutely nuts. Others really played along and helped the kids search for clues (like the one that the ice cream guy hid and it took us over half an hour to find!).
In the end it took us almost 3 hours to finish the rally and all of the kids were so so happy. They were always so excited to find each clue and figure out together what it meant and where they had to go next. Afterwards we headed home for some well deserved cake (and a little prosecco for the parents).
So much sickness in our house the last week! I can feel it’s starting to get better but it has been a long haul. All of us with various ailments…sore throats, fevers, stomach aches (and all that comes with that…), headache and lots of coughing. You name it, we’ve had it. But better now than in a week when we leave to go to the other side of the world. I may have even deliberately sneezed on a kid last week so that they’d get it sooner than later.
When my kids stay home sick I usually try to get them outside for some fresh air (it drives the locals nuts – I have been scolded by more than a few old ladies). Yesterday my daughter and I went for a very long walk in the woods close to our house. We made our way over to an old abandoned gunpowder factory which we’ve been visiting for years. It’s an enormous property full of hundreds of old derelict buildings covered with 50 years worth of vegetation. It’s really beautiful. And pretty creepy as well. Right now the leaves are just coming out so in about 2 weeks time it will be an absolute jungle.
In 1935 there was a big explosion that killed many local people. It was and is one of the worst local tradgedies and it is still talked about today by a lot of the older townfolk who used to work there.
They are now slowly clearing the whole area and have plans to start building houses, apartments, stores etc. It’s in times like this that I’m grateful for Italian bureacracy and the length of time they take to organise any such project (in other words, I’ll be long dead before any of it actually starts to happen).
Funny to think that I used to walk these same paths almost ten years ago with 2 weeny little babes in baby bjorns (one in front and one in back). Now I can stroll along with them hand in hand and have philisophical conversations.
Oops. We saw this on our way out…
After many months of cold weather my chickens have finally decided there is enough daylight and warm weather to start laying on a regular basis again. Our 7 euro white Livornese chicken actually produced eggs all winter (about every few days). Our fancy 45 euro Marans and Araucana chickens, who are known to be a bit more fragile, just decided in the last week to start laying again.
In any case, I was happy to open the coop today and find these three beautiful eggs waiting for me. Just in time to make some birthday cakes. I love spring.
The time has come to start the planning, organising and decorating for my twin daughters’ birthday. And this year being the big double digit birthday means they’ll be a lot to celebrate and with a lot of people.
I went into my sewing room with plans to organise laundry and iron. This is what I did instead. Not sure if it’s going to be a pinata (all that work to be bashed to pieces!?) or a decoration to hang from a tree. Now off to organise some surprise activities for the girl’s party this week-end…
Last year my twin 9 year old daughters started a little blog about their life. We thought it would be a great way for them to practice writing English on a somewhat regular basis. They are schooled mainly in Dutch and French. On top of that they do Italian as a third language at school. So in other words, although their “mother tongue” is English…their written English was pretty atrocious.
Amazingly enough since they started the blog their written English has really improved and more importantly they feel much more comfortable writing in English (mistakes and all). They’ve written/filmed some pretty neat posts about some of the creative things they do. Here are a few of my favourite (here are the actual links as well as the videos from youtube).
If you have kids tell them to take a look at http://cocova.wordpress.com/ and make some comments!
I seem to be passing a lot of time in front of the sewing machine lately. I go for ages without sewing a thing then suddenly I’ll have a month where I pass hours daily in my little sewing room. Bits of thread are to be found all over the house, stuck to my clothes and in my hair.
Here’s another recent sewing project made in our sewing class. Our zipper skills are slowly getting better. Slowly being the key word here. They are both essentially the same bag but we lined the second one. Which was not an easy task. There seems to be a lot of “sewing logic” that I’m still lacking.
As much as I love that yellow material I’m officially sick of seeing it. I’ve been sewing things with it for months. So I guess that means it’s time to go to a beautiful Japanese material shop to buy some new fabrics. (The Japanese characters in the post title mean sew…I hope)
You know those lazy relaxed lunches you can only experience with close girlfriends? Well I had one yesterday and it was absolutely lovely. Lots of chatting, boasting, complaining, explaining, eating, drinking and (most importantly) laughing was done. And there was the added bonus of warm enough weather to sit outdoors. I left with a spring in my step, a smile on my face and renewed energy to face the rest of the week (oh and some pretty awesome chicken stickers).