Ghibli Museum, Mitaka

“My Neighbour Totoro”, “Ponyo”, “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, these are a few of our favourite films from Studio Ghibli. When we made plans to visit Tokyo, there was no doubt that we had to put Ghibli Museum on our itinerary.

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On the train to Mitaka, each doing their own thing

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Exit at “Stairs C”

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The shuttle to the museum

Ghibli Museum is in the suburb of Mitaka. It is very accessible by train from our hotel at Shinjuku. There is a shuttle bus available from Mitaka station to the museum for a small fee, but we decided to walk there.

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Totoro signs to guide you along the way

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There is even a Totoro at the bus stop sign!

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I’m glad we walked, as we saw how whimsical the suburb of Mitaka was. We spotted the town crest!

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The entrance of the museum

After walking for about 20 minutes (you might take a shorter time if there are no kids with you), we soon spotted the museum!

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And who else better to man the ticket booth, then Totoro itself.

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The Cat Bus, for the little ones. There should be one for adults.

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Nic had fun opening all the windows and doors of this exhibit, and so did I. I like how kid friendly this was. There was even a little door at my ankles.

There is a no photography rule inside the museum, the 2 pictures above were taken discreetly.

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The exterior

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Tickets are made from film strips. Makes a great keepsake

I loved the museum. Some of the exhibits used motion, strobe lights, and graphics for a lasting impression. One, which had the robot from Castle in the Sky nearly moved me to tears. Another favourite of mine was a revolving display of Totoro playing skip rope with Mei, along with the other characters. I won’t reveal too much, in case you want to visit, so as to not spoil the experience for you! There is a theatre where you can catch unreleased short works, but we missed this opportunity.

Don’t leave Tokyo without visiting the Ghibli Museum. Definitely worth a return visit if I’m there again! A down to earth, simple, yet magical experience.

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Playground Favourites

I remember lots of tomfoolery at the playground with my cousins, when I was a kid. We used to sit on the swings to see who could swing the highest. When that got too mundane, we proceeded to stand on the swings instead, and that graduated to the challenge of standing only on one leg on it. Another favourite of mine was the merry go round, I would get deliriously happy from spinning. I don’t often see the merry go round nowadays though.

Here are the kids’ favourites at the playground-

Rope Tower
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Being in high places turn my knees to jelly. Not so, for my monkey. My heart skipped a beat when I saw him up there.

Slide
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I have to admit, I enjoy the slides too! In the picture above, the kids decided to whizz down on their front instead. Just not head first!

Swings
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Nic used to fear the swings when she was younger. She would refuse our help to give her a little push to get started. It was funny watching her trying to kick her toes in the sand to start swinging, when her feet could barely touch the ground! I recall myself as child, wanting to get off the swing, but the person behind me didn’t want to stop “helping” me! That caused me much grief.

Trampoline
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We need more trampolines in our playground. This one is a neat little square fitted into the ground,
much more convenient than a huge, elevated contraption. It will be a perfect aid if you want to capture one of those levitation shots.

Flying Fox
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This has to be the safest flying fox I’ve seen. You can sit, and as an extra safety precaution, it comes with a buckle. The best part is looking at the exhilaration on your child’s face as he glides to you!

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There is really nothing better than free play, and playgrounds are best for that. If you could piece together your ideal playground, what would you include?

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DIY Birthday Card

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I’ve been eschewing store bought cards for the longest time now. Ever since I discovered scrapbook paper, wood chips and craft embellishments, I’ve been making my own cards. I’m no expert though, my so called cards are made with maybe 2 pieces of scrapbook paper, a couple of stickers and maybe an embellishment. 

My aunt turned 70 recently, and instead of reaching for my craft box, I sought Joel’s help to make a card for her. He coloured a cake template, which I printed off the internet. We stuck it on the card, then I threw him the challenge of drawing 70 candles on the cake. Looking at the size of the cake and card itself, I thought it was impossible to fit 70 candles on it. I hoped my aunt didn’t mind the candles sticking out from the sides of the cake.

In the end, Joel managed to fit all the candles on the cake. We counted together, and when we got to 70, I breathed a sigh of relief that there wasn’t going to be any gravity defying candles. 

I’m definitely going to use this template again. Suitable for anyone from 1 to 70! 

 

Making Clay Mooncakes

Mid Autumn Festival was yesterday. How did you celebrate it? We had some friends over last weekend for a lantern party. To occupy the kids, one of the activities I lined up for them was to make their own clay mooncake.

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I got my mooncake moulds from Phoon Huat. If in doubt, get the plastic ones. Wooden moulds are a disaster with clay, I learnt it the hard way. The clay sticks to the wooden mould, and it is impossible to pry it out.

I got the soft clay from Daiso. They have a variety of colours. We pretended mint green was snowskin green tea and yellow was durian flavour. Art Friend sells plasticine, which I recall using when I was a kid, but it is much harder compared to clay.

Here goes!

Step 1

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Pinch a dollop of the clay and roll it into a ball

Step 2

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Find a mould

Step 3

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Stamp it

Step 4

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Use a toothpick to press the sides lightly to make the ridges

Step 5

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Voila! A mooncake!

I got a little box for the kids to place their mooncakes in to take home. One of them got creative and made heart shaped ones, I think it will be a hit if they were on the market!

To keep them busy, I printed out colouring sheets from the internet as well, but these were a little less popular than playing with clay.

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These were made with Play-Doh

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“Egg yolk” within!

Before the party, I experimented using Play-Doh as well. The verdict? I like it better as it is more pliable and the pattern of the mould came out a little more defined. I used clay for the party as after it has set, the kids would have a little souvenir for keeps.

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Hope you had fun as well from eating mooncakes and playing with fire!

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Finest Festival Dinner Invitation

Fairprice Finest had a campaign recently where they asked expatriates to open up their homes, and kitchens, to cook for anyone who might be keen to try their cuisine. They included a couple from Germany, a trio of Italian friends, and a French chef.

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Ayumi adding the finishing touch to the Shabu Shabu salad

Last night, the Husband and I were lucky to be hosted by Ayumi, a Japanese language teacher. Ayumi has been working here for 2 years, and her favourite local food is Hokkien Mee and she loves durian! Together with her friend Naomi, they whipped up several courses of Japanese goodness for us.

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Itadakimasu!

The menu included Chirashi Sushi, Pork Shabu Shabu and vegetable salad, Osuimono, and Chikuzenni. My favourite dish of the night was the Chikuzenni. Besides chicken as an ingredient, it also had bamboo shoot, lotus root, konnyaku, shitake mushrooms, and sweet potato. YUM. Apparently, the secret of the dish, is to put a piece of aluminum foil on the food while it is simmering. Something interesting I learnt last night in addition to where a top notch, affordable ramen shop is located! Ayumi learnt most of her cooking from her grandmother, and the food tasted homely and warm. I definitely could taste her labour of love.

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With the team from Havas

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Thank you for having us, Ayumi and Naomi!

My thoughts about the campaign? Innovative, and there is nothing Singaporeans are more passionate about than food, so this really hits the spot. True, the marketing team had a job to do, which is to promote the food that Fairprice has to offer, but that took a backseat, as the real highlight of the dinner was forging new friendships, and discovering new food. I spoke with Jeanie from Havas, and she hopes that this will continue even after the campaign, like minded people getting together for a meal. In fact, for the next campaign, she is thinking of the tables around, to get Singaporeans to cook for the expatriates instead! I’m not sure if I can be as brave and welcoming like Ayumi, cooking for a bunch of people I’ve never met before in my life, but one thing’s for sure, a date with Ayumi is soon in the works!

Abura soba, Shinjuku

There are no lack of ramen shops when you are in Tokyo. Most of them come with a vending machine at the entrance. You punch in your order, drop the money in, thereafter, you pass your slip to the staff. Grab a seat, and you are served in less than 10 minutes.

We were spoilt for choice when we wanted to have noodles one evening. We entered a shop selling Abura soba by chance, as we thought it was selling ramen.

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Tips for eating

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Comes with yummy cha shu, bamboo shoots, and spring onion. Add your sauce, and slurp it up!

Contrary to its name, Abura (which means oil) soba, does not come with soba. The noodles are actually ramen. Instead of broth, you get a bowl of dry noodles with a mix of oil and sauce. There is a whole array of sauces you can choose from, such as vinegar to extra hot chilli.

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Feeling not very brave that day, so I did not touch these

Good for a quick and satisfying meal. Noodles are always a winner for me!

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Friday Five, 5 easy steps to a Floral Crown

Every year, at Nic’s school, the class will decide on a topic together, and embark on project work about the specific theme. This year, the topic was “flowers”. We did some craft together, and one of them was a floral crown.

You will need:

artificial flowers

green floral wire

floral tape

a hot glue gun

All of the above, except the hot glue gun, can be bought from your florist. Just let your friendly florist know you want to do a floral crown, and she will advise you which kind of artificial flowers are suitable. Some of them can simply be plucked out from the stems, while there are a few which will need a pair of pliers.

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You can use fresh flowers as well. Instead of using the hot glue gun, use floral tape to attach it to the wire.

Here goes!

Step 1

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Pluck the flowers out from the stems. This was Nic’s favourite part. Depending on the flowers you bought, the leaves can be taken out easily too. If not, just use a pair of pliers, or scissors if the stems are thin enough.

Step 2

braiding

Take 3 pieces of the green wire, and braid it together. Do an estimate of the circumference of your child’s head, and if you have excess wire, just coil it around. If you don’t have enough, take another piece of wire, coil it where you left off, and continue.

Step 3

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When you are done braiding, you can start taping.

Step 4

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Take your trusty hot glue gun, and glue the flowers on the outside on the crown.

Step 5

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After the flowers are done, time to do the leaves on the inside.

Let it dry, and Ta-da! Your very own floral crown, in 5 easy steps.

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Wear it with a smile!

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