Central Kyoto: palaces, markets and shabu-shabu

Kyoto is known for being the former capital city of Japan and its numerous shrines and temples. It is only about an hours train ride from Osaka, so it’s a convenient day trip if you’re staying there. There is so much to see and do in this region. We visited over two days, but still only saw a fraction of the sites. On day 6 we visited central Kyoto. The sites we visited were Kyoto Imperial Palace, Nijō Castle, Nishiki Market, and Pontocho.
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Osaka Castle and the Great Santa Run

This is day 5 of our trip in Japan. After our first few days, our newly married friends took us on day trips in Osaka and to nearby towns. This day we visited the Osaka Castle and Park. We were also lucky enough to see the Osaka Great Santa Run.  We spent the remainder of the day eating and shopping in Osaka, of course!

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3 Days of eating and shopping in Osaka

On our visit to Japan, our first stop was the beautiful city of Osaka. We came for a wedding and spent out first few days eating and drinking and sightseeing within Osaka. We visited the Osaka aquarium and went up to the top of Umeda Sky Building. We also had an interesting experience at the Lock Up Restaurant. Other than that we just indulged in the amazing food. My only wish is that I could have possibly eaten more. What I couldn’t eat I photographed, so going back through our trip is really making me hungry. By day four we still had to fit into our wedding clothes. After the elegant ceremony, we went spoil again with course after course of amazing food. I have included some pictures below of the gorgeous wedding of our dear friends.

Osaka has to be my favourite city that we visited in Japan. The people are extremely friendly and polite. So many times when we were lost, older Japanese people would approach us and try to help, even without knowing English. The streets and facilities were all very clean and the people were dressed very elegantly. The food was probably the best here as well. There are so many things to see and do within the city and also on the outskirts. Check out my following posts to see where else we went.

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Tempting Italian Tempeh Recipes

Have you seen tempeh in the supermarket, heard of its wonderful health benefits but not known what to do with it? Or have you bought it, tried to cook it and vowed never again? That actually did happen to me the first time I tried it. But then after cooking it again using some trusty recipes I feel more comfortable cooking it.

All these recipes are Italian inspired, cooked in rich tomato sauces. I found this is my favourite way to cook tempeh, as it has a very meaty in texture but it needs strong flavours to make it tasty. Chickpea or Fava tempeh should also work for these recipes.

What’s your favourite way to cook tempeh?

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Kidney Bean Casserole with Cheddar Dumplings Topping

Now the weather is cooling down its time for stews, soups, and casseroles. This is one of my favourite casseroles. It’s easy to make and I just love the Cheddar Dumping Topping. You can swap the beans for cannellini beans or chickpeas. You ca also empty the vegetables from your fridge and use what you have on hand.

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Kidney Bean Casserole with Cheddar Dumplings Topping

(vegan, nut free)

Ingredients for Kidney Bean and Vegetable Stew:

2 tablespoon olive oil

2 large brown onions, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

1/2 bunch shallots, diced

2 sticks celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 red capsicum, diced

1/2 cup white wine (optional)

1 teaspoon sweet hungarian paprika

1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

1 can good quality tomato pulp

2 zucchini (diced)

2 cups cooked kidney beans

2 cups vegan chicken or vegetable liquid stock

sea salt & black pepper to taste

Ingredients for Dumplings:

200 g self-raising flour

100 g grated Cheezly White Cheddar Style/vegan or organic cheddar

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

6-7 tablespoons ice cold water

5 tablespoons vegan butter

 

Method:

1. Heat a large oven proof pot with olive oil. Then add onion and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes and as it starts to brown, add celery and shallots and cook for a further 5 minutes.

2. Add carrots, capsicum and white wine. Continue to cook until the wine is absorbed.

3. Add the paprika, liquid smoke, lemon thyme, bay leaves and parsley.

4. Saute the vegetables for a couple of minutes, then add the tomato pulp. Continue to cook until the carrots start to soften

5. Add the zucchini, kidney beans, liquid stock, sea salt and black pepper. Bring to the boil, then leave to a simmer for 30 minutes.

6. In the meantime preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

7. Before placing the stew in the oven, prepare the dumplings. In a large mixing bowl add flour, cheddar, and parsley. Then add the butter and mix it through with your hands. Then add cold water one tablespoon at a time, until it forms a dough.

8. Roll the dough into about 12 balls.

9. Top the stew with the dumplings on the outer edge.

10. Bake for 30 minutes, then serve.

*Serves 6

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Non-toxic Art Materials and Crafts for Kids

Kids love being creative, covering their skin and tasting art materials. However, some of these products contain harmful toxins that can be absorbed through the skin, breathed in and ingested. Luckily there are heaps of quality non-toxic brands that can be found in Australia. Most of these products are made in Australian, America and Germany and comply with strict safety standards. They can be found in department stores and children’s boutiques, but some may have to be purchased online.

The following art materials and crafts that I have recommended include crayons, pencils, markers, paints, face paint, chalk, play dough, modelling clay and glue and craft activities. I have also recommended some DIY recipes and information on the brands and products (bottom).

 

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DisneySea in Pictures

A couple of years back when I visited Japan I had my first Disney park experience at DisneySea in Toyko. It was the most beautiful theme park I had ever visited and really reanimated my love of Disney.

Unfortunately, we didn’t do any research before our visit, other than how to get there. We didn’t know anything about the park until we turned up. Big mistake, especially since we were visited a park in a non-English speaking country. Other than riding the boat across the harbor and taking the steam train, we only saw one show and went on one ride. When we lined up for the Tower Of Terror we weren’t even sure it was a ride. Nearly 3 hours later we finally got to find out. Ok, it was awesome, but I’m not sure it was worth the wait time. We didn’t get Fastpasses, so I was confused seeing people skip ahead of lines. We also didn’t book a restaurant, so we had a really long wait to get a table in a warm restaurant. We were visiting in November, so it was pretty cold too. I still enjoyed the outdoor day and evening live shows. Fantasmic! still has to be the best Disney evening show at any Disney park we been to so far. We also enjoyed just walking around the different lands and taking it all in. However, had we planned out our day we might have made the most of our visit.

These are some of the photos I took on my visit to DisneySea. I hope to return one day and also visit Disneyland Tokyo. I have also written up a Guide to DisneySea Tokyo, which goes into detail about the rides, shows and character experiences. Stay tuned for my upcoming trip to Disneyland Paris, in next month and a guide to those parks.

 

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Trolls Party

Over the Easter weekend, we had Octavia’s 2nd birthday Party. The theme was Trolls since it’s her favourite movie at the moment. We all had a fantastic day and I’m so happy how everything came together. Everyone seemed to have a great time and enjoy the food. Octavia loved her cake and received some really nice gifts.

When I was planning the party I did a little research to see what other people did for their Trolls Parties. It’s amazing what people come up with. I had limited time looking after a toddler that keeps bringing home new bugs from kindy. We also were only expecting about 25 people so the day was going to be low-key, with only a handful of children to entertain.

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Eco Toys for 12-24 Month

Buying eco, non-toxic toys for this age group can be a little trick. They go from being little babies to toddlers so fast and need toys that stimulate their fine motor skills. Many of these more interesting toys can have smaller pieces and are recommended for 24 months or even 3 years. However, I found some toys that can be used by toddlers between 12-24 months. The categories I cover include:

  • Activity Centers
  • Musical Instruments
  • Shape Sorter
  • Puzzles
  • Blocks
  • Walkers
  • Ride on
  • Push n’ roll
  • Small Wooden Dolls  and Accessories
  • Larger Baby Dolls and Accessorie

  • Cars and other Vehicles

For more information on the brands that I recommended and some info about them check them out at the bottom of this post.

This is a follow-up to my last post on this subject, Eco Toys for under 12 months. If you’re interested in buying for this age group or want to know more about why I prefer eco, non-toxic toys and more tips, please check it out.

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Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Jam Frosting

Today was my beautiful girl’s 2nd birthday. I can’t believe that this little person has been in our life for such a short time but has brought us so much joy. I couldn’t imagine life without her now.

She was so excited about her big day. Ever since it was her father’s birthday she knows that birthday equals cake. She was extra bubbly and a little bit cheeky and frustrating at times, but nothing took that smile off her face. I had grand plans of getting her a build-a-bear, but after she rearranged the store we reconsidered. She was still very happy that she got to sushi train and that her cousins came to visit.

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I wanted to make something special for her big day. I also wanted to trial my recipe before her big troll party on the weekend. These strawberry cupcakes feature a surprise strawberry center and the frosting is spiked with strawberry jam. According to the family, they were delicious. Octavia really enjoyed her as well. The only thing I may change before the big day is to use white sugar instead of coconut sugar. This is only to allow the natural food colouring to change the colour of the cupcake. I did try a bit in the batter but that caramel colour would not budge.

I also made a batch of mini cupcakes for Octavia’s kindy class. I used the same recipe but just cut the strawberries in halves or quarters and cooked the 36 cupcakes for only 12 minutes.

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Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Jam Frosting

(vegan, nut free)

Cupcake Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups unbleached plain flour

1 cup coconut sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp himalayan sea salt

1 cup soy milk or other plant milk

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

12 frozen strawberries

Frosting Ingredients:

1/2 cup vegan butter

3 cups powdered sugar

½ cup smooth Strawberry jam

natural red food coloring (optional)

100’s & 1000’s (natural coloured, optional)

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A short tour of New Zealand

For my 30th we finally went across the pond to New Zealand. I’ve always wanted to visit and the flight is quite short from Brisbane, so it’s almost like going interstate. Since I’m a winter baby we were there during the coolest month. The landscapes were whimsical and magical, but God was it cold. We started on the North Island in Auckland, went down as far as Hamilton. Then flew to Christchurch, stopped through Lake Tepako, Wanaka, Arrowtown and ended our trip in Queenstown. We had a great time though and I can definitely see us going back to see everything we missed. So this is our trip in 7 days, traveling with a toddler. It was challenging at times, but a place to visit as a family.

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