Friday, 31 July 2015

My D Day

So I've decided on my "D Day" - the day I will open my web will be August 8th! I'm so excited, but at the same time, I'm a bit nervous. I have this feeling that once I open my shop, I can't go back.

My website is almost ready. My sister in law (aka our "shop advisor") checked my website today and gave me some really good feedback. She is a super woman! She teaches graphic design at uni and also has her own furniture business. She designed our shop logo too! There are so many benefits I got from my husband Paul since we met, but this sister Maria is definitely one of the top benefits (I didn't marry him for his sister though!). Even before I met her, Paul predicted that Maria and I would make very good friends..and now our sons (only six months apart) are destined to be best friends/cousins.

As I mentioned before, I've worked as a web designer for 12 years, but I've never been formally trained in Design/Art, so I don't have confidence with my work. Some people say they like my style, but I'm doing a lot of stuff just based on intuition, so for me it can feel a bit groundless. I choose colours, layouts and font sizes pretty randomly, according to whatever I think looks good. But Maria always gives me professional feedback about those things. It's a good thing that her tastes and mine are pretty similar, so I can trust her as a design mentor. I think I'm very lucky to have her around me :)

Well, I can talk more about her some other time. So why did I pick August 8th for my shop opening day? Because I heard 8 is a lucky number in China ;) I am pretty simple aye! Japanese people use Chinese characters in their writing too and the number 8 is written as "八". The number 8 is considered a lucky number because of its shape, which spreads out wide towards the ends, so that it has a feeling of increasing success. Also, I checked the Japanese calendar (although our writing is the same, we have number traditions that are different to China) and August 8th this year was also a very good day, called "Taian 大安". It's supposed to be the best day for travel, moving, marriage...and new businesses!

I still have some time before the opening, so I'm thinking about preparing for our  "handmade section". Once Paul goes back to his work, it will be difficult for me to have enough time to set aside to do some of my own hand made things, so I'd like to make the most of this precious time now.

I hope I can launch my handmade section at the same time as the shop opening. Wish me luck!

With love,

Monday, 27 July 2015

My weekend

Just last Thursday, we decided to go on a weekend holiday to Anglesea and we left Melbourne on Friday. A spontaneous trip is good fun! A friend of our family has a holiday house there and she told us we could use it over the weekend. 

Anglesea is such a nice spot - it has a beautiful beach and a river with a lovely board walk. It’s also not too far from lots of lovely attractions that are on the Great Ocean Road, so every time we go there, we try to see different waterfalls, lookouts, or walks. Here are some photos from our weekend. 


Teddy’s lookout

A lovely café/brewery in a little town called “Forrest”

Forest Brewing Company 
26 Grant St, Forrest VIC 

RACV club in Torquay is such a great place. We had lunch at the bistro and watched the Sunday Footy match.  

Qdos Arts is a nice art gallery with a café near Lorne 

Feel like having a holiday to somewhere? You should decide it now and go there tomorrow! I hope you got some good inspiration from our little trip.

With Love,

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Loving food in Japan!

It's been about 3 weeks since we came back from Japan. I feel like it was long time ago! Before our trip, I wrote that we had "to EAT list" in Japan, but I didn't have much time to share the photos. Maybe you might feel that it's not much fun for you to see the food without being able to eat it, but you can add these to your "to EAT list" for your next trip to Japan :)

Did you know that Japanese people make really good Chinese dishes? My favourite dish is 青椒肉絲 - beef and green pepper stir-fry. My mum took us to a Chinese restaurant. The lunch set was 1800 yen (about A$19) and included a main dish, dumplings, soup and dessert!

Yakitori at home! My mum didn't make them but bought from a department store. There are lots of really yummy ready-made foods in Japan.


Tofu lunch course. This was about 5 or 6 courses - almost all the dishes were made from tofu but main dish was wagyu beef not tofu;)

Katsudon (pork cutlet and egg on rice) in Asakusa.

Hand roll sushi at home

Shabushabu (boiled pork)  and wagyu hanbaagu (hamburg). This is a little different from a hamburger, but Paul doesn't really understand the difference.

Delicious 5 course Italian meal for under 2000yen!

Mille crepe is Paul's favourite cake in Japan :)


Chou Donuts - donut-shaped puff cream


Takoyaki at new Narita airport terminal 3


Aw I want to eat all of these all over again!

With love,

Monday, 20 July 2015

Birthday weekend

Hi everyone! I hope you had a lovely weekend. We celebrated Paul's 37th birthday at Montsalvat on Saturday. We planned to go to the miniature railway in Eltham after that,'s closed on Saturdays! I didn't check it beforehand (oops)...ah well, Paul said he was really happy anyway. It's kinda funny that Paul wanted to go there for his birthday in a way - he wanted to see Nico's having a great time and that is his happiness now. But I think he also really likes that miniature railway too ;)

Lunch at Montsalvat

For his present, I got a little waist bag. We saw it at Narita airport when we were leaving Japan and Paul was going to buy it for himself, so I said I'd get it for his birthday...but he had to wait to open it. I really enjoy giving Paul something an unexpected present for his birthday - he opens up the present in front of me and gets a little surprise and tells me that he likes my present (hopefully). But the last couple of years I started to wonder if I was doing this a bit for myself - it's his birthday, he should get what he wants even if he knows what he's getting beforehand. And what's more, I don't really know what boys want! He loves his waist bag by the way :)

Paul loves Japanese brand 'Porter"

How do you choose your husband/partner's present? Do you get him what he wants? What do boys want these days?  I'd love to get some ideas.

With love, Allie

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Connecting the dots

Are you an Apple freak? I don’t think I am, but I always liked Steve Job’s speech at Stanford University, the story about “connecting the dots”. In your life always random things happen and you feel they are just meaningless, but later on you notice everything is connected.

When I was 16, I came to Australia to study English. It was only a 6 week program, but that changed my whole life. I visited some Australian schools during that time and taught Australian kids some Japanese culture, like wearing Kimono and folding Origami. I was so surprised that Australian people were interested in my culture and they got excited about something that I thought was normal.  Then I decided to become a Japanese teacher.

After I studied teaching in Japan, I came back to Australia and was trained as a Japanese teacher. After I got a DipEd, I started to work at some high schools as a teacher’s assistant. I really enjoyed teaching Japanese and Japanese culture, but after 1 year, I gave up. For a 22 year old young girl, Australian high school kids were a bit tough;)

I went back to Japan and started to work for an educational institution, but not as a teacher, just as an administration staff. After 1 year, they decided to make a new section for web management because it became very important for their marketing. My boss somehow thought I’d be pretty good with it, then I was appointed as a chief in the new section.  A “chief” sounded good, but I was the only member in the section apart from my new boss, who was also in charge of another section and wasn’t in the room at all. I had to learn all Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Premiere, HTML, CSS all by myself.

I was okay with those things as long as I was working for a small section in a small institution, but I wasn’t trained as a web designer nor graphic designer, so I didn’t have enough confidence to work in that industry as a professional, even after 10 years of experience.  I thought “how can I use the skills that I’ve developed through my work?”

Now I feel like I know how to connect the dots of these experiences – they were leading me to the path of my new business. For my online shop, if I need to I can now make my own website, customize my blog using css, do some simple graphic design and other things I’ve picked up from my old work. Sometimes I need to research about some Japanese culture for the products I’m selling and I did similar things many times for my teaching job. Also in the future, I’m planning to do some workshops too and my teaching experience will definitely help with that part.

I always felt bad about having given up my career as a Japanese teacher because I really liked teaching and sharing Japanese culture, but in a way, now I’m coming back to it. I think I’m starting to connect all the dots I had in my life now.

Here is the quote from Steve Jobs that I especially like:

you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. Steve Jobs


With love,


Tuesday, 14 July 2015

A taste of Japan in Melbourne - our favorite ramen shop

When I grew up in Japan, I didn't really care much about Ramen (Japanese noodles in soup). My parents sometimes took me to a ramen shop but it wasn't really my favorite dish. In Tokyo where I grew up, shoyu (soy sauce) , miso, or shio (salt) were the basic ramen flavours and the ramen shops I went were nothing special.


Then almost ten years ago, I had "tonkotsu (pork bone)" flavor Australia! Tonkotsu is a special soup made in the Kyushu area. Even though now I think back and realise that it wasn't really amazing"tonkotsu", when I tasted it I really liked the tangy and thick flavor of tonkotsu. Then I became a big fan of Ramen.

In Japan, we don’t often hear girls saying ‘my favorite food is ramen’. It sounds quite manly somehow and even if a girl does like it, that information might break her dream boyfriend’s heart;) The image of ramen shops in Japan is that they're always packed with middle aged salary men (white collar professionals) eating ramen by themselves quietly, often sweating away with steamed glasses. It sounds like serious business!

black sesame flavour

People who really love ramen often have a strict philosophy about how ramen should be served. Usually the noodles have to be "al dente". Serious ramen people don't want to chat with someone while eating a ramen, because if you take too long to eat, the noodles will be cooked in the soup and will lose their nice texture. They also want to eat it quickly, so they noisily slurp the ramen, sometimes with speckles of soup flying around. So you can see how it’s not for girls who want to chit chat with friends while nibbling something daintily. But for me, if the food is yummy, who cares about anything else?? When I worked in Tokyo, I often went to a ramen shop by myself after work, like a typical salary man. When I told my friends that, everyone thought I was brave for diving into the men’s world by myself.

Anyway, that’s how much I love Ramen. When I met Paul, he wasn’t a serious ramen lover. We sometimes went to Ramen shops in Melbourne together and he kinda liked it, but he wasn’t really serious about it, because the ramen here in Melbourne wasn’t good enough to make him serious.

Then we went to Ippudo – a very famous Japanese ramen shop in Sydney, and he became crazy! While I was working (Paul was on holiday), he went to Ippudo and other ramen shops for his lunch. He even started to judge which soup was good and started to have his own ramen philosophy.

We wanted Ippudo to come to Melbourne, but it didn’t happen. Instead, another famous ramen company, Ikkosha, opened a shop called “Gensuke” in Melbourne and we fell in love with their flavour! We went to the shop in the City and Hawthorn so many times since their opening...other ramen shops in Melbourne aren't really good enough for us any more.

I always order their signature “Tonkotsu” flavor with hard noodles. Paul has tried a few different flavours and always tastes a little bit of mine, but he decided to go for the same signature dish from next time, because he didn’t get much of my share!
If you want to try ramen in Melbourne, I really recommend Gensuke. You will definitely become a ramen lover, but be’s addictive!

Hakata Gensuke CBD
168 Russell Street, Melbourne
Mon-Fri Lunch: 11.30am-3pm  Dinner:5pm-9.30pm
Sat & Sun 12pm-9.30pm

Hakata Gensuke Hawthorn
4/860 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn
Mon-Fri 12pm-9.30pm
Sat&Sun Lunch:12pm-3pm Dinner:5pm-9.30pm

With love,

Friday, 10 July 2015

The flight with 8 month old Nico

I wanted to tell you a bit about our flight to Japan, but keep in mind that this is just "our experience”. All babies are different. The type of things that a child is doing also affects how they behave during a trip - Nico started crawling at 7 months and during our stay in Japan, he started to sit by himself (but he was still a bit wobbly) and stand up by grabbing our hand. He also started climbing stairs at my parents’ house, but luckily we don’t have stairs at our home in Oz!

Melbourne Airport

-Flight to Japan
We requested a bassinet for our flight but we couldn’t get it, so instead the airline gave us four seats for the three of us.Our flight to Japan was delayed and the departure was around 1pm afternoon. We worried that Nico might have ear pain from the pressure, so we followed the advice of our friends who are mums and fed him while the airplane was taking off. The one positive thing about the delay was that Nico was very tired and slept in my arms while I was feeding him. Thankfully he didn’t have any problems with his ears.
After he woke up, Paul and I decided to look after Nico in turns. Some people advised us to book two separated seats for each parent, so that you can have a good rest when you’re not looking after your baby...but we wanted to sit together so we didn’t do that. When I was looking after Nico, Paul was watching a movie on his iPad. I thought I wouldn’t be able to do anything with Nico, so didn’t take any entertainment with me, but in hindsight I think I could have taken something.

Looking after a wiggly Nico while staying in our seats was really hard. He can stay still when he is in his car seat or stroller (when he’s really stuck in somewhere!) but he just wants to move all the time when he’s in our arms. Even though he wanted to, we couldn't put him down on the floor and let him just crawl around on the airplane. He’d just go under someone’s seat or trip up the staff. We took lots of toys with us, but they didn’t do much good because Nico wouldn't just sit and play with them. We sometimes walked up and down the aisle. At the back of the aircraft, there was a small space where he could crawl a little bit and stand up, so it was good for a change. Sometimes the flight attendants entertained him there too.

Putting him down to sleep was the hardest part. He was so sleepy but just couldn’t go to sleep, so he cried really hard and we felt a bit stressed. After Nico went to sleep at 7pm (which is his usual sleeping time), it was much easier. He woke up a couple of times, but after feeding, thankfully he went back to sleep quickly.

Although it wasn’t easy for us to travel with Nico, we saw some other Japanese mums travelling themselves with two kids and it looked much harder. Once the younger child started crying in her carrier, the mum had to go to the toilet so that the baby didn't bother other passengers, and the older child therefore had to go too. When Nico was sleeping, I had nothing to do, so I was thinking about offering the mum some help, but I was too shy and didn't want to interfere (a Japanese trait). Now though I think that maybe I should have done offered...what do you think?

-Flight from Japan
During our stay in Japan, I kept thinking ahead about how I could make our return flight easier. Paul had also injured his back, so I knew he wouldn’t be able to walk around carrying Nico. I thought “Nico is usually happy in his car seat playing with his toys...but seat belts on an airplane don't really hold a baby properly. Is there anything I can use to put Nico in a seat with?”
Then just two days before our flight back, I ordered this special belt.

This belt is really handy!

The new belt was really good! After taking off, I put him on a seat with the belt and he just sat down and played with his toys exactly like in a car. (It didn't last for hours, but it was still good!)
And when we were having food or feeding him solids, we didn’t have to hold him at the same time, so it was much easier. Although Nico likes to be cuddled by his parents, he also wants to settle himself so he looked happier in this belt. 

I am happy:-)

There were also a couple of other babies on the flight that were similar age to Nico. When I walked around with Nico, I could have a chat with their mums and it was good entertainment. I realised how having interactions with others is good for all of us!

Again, after Nico went to sleep, it was much easier. We had to wake him up around 11pm for landing, but he slept pretty well until then. I had to declare my business goods at customs, so by the time we got out from the airport it was nearly 1am and we arrived at home around 2.30am, but it wasn’t too bad for us.

As a result, I’m glad we didn’t get a bassinet this time because it looked a bit small for an 8 month old Nico and the bassinet also took their parents' leg room. If you’re flying with 3 month old baby or younger and who is sleeping most of the time, I think a bassinet would be handy. If you have older baby and your flight isn’t full, you could ask for an extra seat - for us, that was better than the bassinet. 

Now I feel like I have a bit more confidence about going on a flight with a baby and have some ideas about what to do, but if I’m asked “Would you fly with a baby again?” my answer will definitely be "No!!" Oh.. but I’d love to go to Japan with Nico again ;) We had a really great time over there and my parents loved it too.

With Love,


Tuesday, 7 July 2015


So I “officially” started my work yesterday. I have lots of things to do! I wanted to decide the prices of my products yesterday, but only managed to weigh each item. I did some work for my friend’s shop too, which will be opening around the same time as mine. Between doing my work, I also fed Nico and had the lunch that my hubby made. It's been really nice to hear Paul and Nico playing in the other room. That's the happiest sound in the world. But when I heard Paul struggling with a grizzly little boy, I wondered if I should help him or not.  It’s probably a bit confusing for Nico if his mummy is around but not doing anything for him, so I've just tried to stay in my office, even though I really want to see him. Am I being mean?
Paul told me that he’s happy to write about his time on “parental leave” in my blog before he goes back to work, so stay tuned if you’re interested to read about the “stay at home dad” experience!
With love, Allie

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Back in Melbourne

Now we're back in Melbourne. I feel like our time in Japan was just a dream! The coldness of the Melbourne winter brought me back to a real life though. I really miss the warm weather in Tokyo.

Although it was the rainy season in Japan, it didn't rain much during our stay. My okaasan (mum) told me that they started to have more rain after we left, so one of us must have been "hare otoko/onna", which means the guy/lady who brings good weather. Or maybe it was our little Nico who was the good luck charm.

We're now trying to recover from the 10-hour-flight with little Nico. Although I'm writing this blog now, I want to have a good rest today and start my work from Monday ( tomorrow). Paul has parental leave from his work until September 1st, so I don't want to waste my time. I will try my best to start up my business before Paul goes back to his work. I'll try to be a strict boss for myself;)

I will report about our flight with our 8 month old and share more photos from our trip soon.

With love,