Here we are with another monthly favorites post.  I love reading what other people are into, probably weird, but I thought I would hop on this trend both to capture what I’m loving at the moment and to give others ideas of new products (or non-physical things) that I’m loving at the moment.

Place Visited

Universal Japan

Earlier this month we traveled from Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka.  It was our first time on the Shinkansen and we loved visiting the shrines and temples of Kyoto. But we had the best time at Universal and I would gladly go back any time.

Since having kids we’ve started having a bigger and bigger interest in theme parks.  I mean, I guess we always have.  Both Steve and I had our first real jobs at an amusement park near where we grew up.  We spent our summers there as kids and still think back fondly of those first rides we took there.  Since then we’ve been to Universal Orlando multiple times, Disney World, and Tokyo Disneyland.

When we went to Universal in Osaka I had pretty low expectations.  I’d heard about the massive crowds, I didn’t know quite how well the kids would do at a more “adult” park as opposed to Disney, and I’m just cynical when it comes to new things.  BUT. We had the most amazing time.

The weather in early/mid November was absolutely perfect.  During the day we could wear t-shirts or long sleeve shirts and after the sun went down a light raincoat was great.  I brought a little heavier layers for the kids but they were both happy and warm. We went on practically every ride. We did splurge for the Express Pass so between the Express Pass, the Single Rider Lines, and using Rider Swap for the kids (plus possibly a little language barrier) we managed to get on every ride with minimal waiting in line.  I think the longest I ever waited in a line was for Spiderman and that was 15 minutes at most.

The kids loved it, especially Andrew because he saw Minions, Sesame Street characters, dinosaurs, rollercoasters flying by, and heard plenty of music to dance to.  We loved that there are some actual rollercoasters. My personal favorite was the Flying Dinosaur where you’re leaning forward on a track above you so it feels like you’re actually flying.  Definitely unlike any rollercoaster I had been on before.

Plus, Harry Potter (obviously), some amazing simulation rides, a lot of good snacks to try, lower crowds than we had expected (I think we were comparing to Tokyo Disneyland), perfect weather, being prepared with layers, good shoes (I have a history of wearing shoes that either aren’t broken in or aren’t good for walking 10+ hours a day), a planned-out schedule thanks to the Express Pass, minimal wait times, happy kids, and a good partner to share it with, it was one of the best days we’ve ever had at a theme park and possibly our best day since moving to Japan. I would urge anyone around Osaka to take a day to visit Universal.

I’m in a reading rut. I start reading a book and then the next thing I know I haven’t picked up the book in two weeks.  I’ve restarted Memoires of a Geisha like eight times. So once the movers came with our household goods, and of course my books, I decided I was going to go back to a book I knewI could finish.  So, this month I’ve been reading the first Harry Potter.  It’s an old favorite, one I read for the first time twenty years ago,and is still one of the books I always come back to.  So now it’s back on nightstand.

Onigiri is a classic Japanese snack, meal, anything.  I have eaten so many Onigiri since we moved to Japan, but this month especially I find myself running to 7-11 to grab one all the time.  I have them for breakfast when we head out for the weekend, or bring them back for lunch.  They’re pretty simple but taste amazing.  They’re a white rice usually formed into a triangle and wrapped in seaweed (though sometimes they can be without.)  They’re filled with almost anything but I usually get either the tuna and mayo, shrimp and mayo, or salted salmon. I know this might sound weird to some, especially for breakfast, but I’m telling you, it’s the best.  It’s enough to fill you but not get you overstuffed and is the perfect savory snack for on-the-go.

You can find milk tea in almost any vending machine or convenient store in Japan.  They come from many brands and slightly different flavors but, basically, they’re just a sweetened black tea with milk like you’d make at home.  They come cold, but they can be heated as well.  I love it because they’re a sweat, cold drink, and just tasty.  They’re my go-to when I want something from a vending machine.

Family Travel Resource Guide

Travel

Klook

Klook

So Klook is a new app I found that has been really helpful so far in planning our travels in Japan. I first booked with them for our Universal tickets and Express Passes.  You can book attractions, tours, and XXX for a wide range of locations but I love that they have plenty of options for Japan.  For us, it was great that our Universal tickets were right in the app and could be scanned from there.  It made it easy to keep our documents together so we didn’t have to worry about losing them or searching through emails to find them.  I also look on Klook when I’m looking for things to do or when planning our adventures.

Maybe it goes without saying that my Japanese is rusty at best, and nonexistent at worst.  After 2 months of living in Japan we are definitely getting better but the hardest part by far is learning all of the different characters (there are three “alphabets” in the Japanese language).  We use Google Translate to take photos signs and have the app translate the characters for us.  It helps when we’re trying to decipher directions on food packaging, signs at stores, or while at the train stations.

Writing

NaNoWriMo

If you’ve been following me on Instagram (@mackenziejervis) you know I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month.  So I’ve been spending the month writing a new novel to reach a goal of 50 thousand words in 30 days.  I am proud to say that I have WON this year and while the novel isn’t finished- I still have some story to go, I did get 50k words written and a solid start on a novel that will hopefully be seen by people sooner rather than later.

I found this pen and have been using it nonstop.  I use it for writing, planning, or outlining.  Andrew even uses it sometimes when he steals it from my desk.  It’s a new favorite and one I’ll probably stick with for quite a while.

I have been loving the Ambient Mixer website/ app while I’ve been writing for NaNoWriMo.  By far I’ve written more in November both for the novel I’m working on and for blog posts and freelance projdcts than I have in MONTHS. It’s been great for my confidence in getting words on the page and it’s definitely been helped by Ambient Mixer. I can’t sit in complete silence. But I also can’t really listen to music if I’m trying to concentrate.  I end up singing along or just getting lost somwhere. So, enter Ambient Mixer.  You can create your own or go with one of their pre-made mixes.  I’m a nerd and like to write while listening to the Gryffindor Common Room or the Great Hall, or even Rainy Night at Baker Street.  If you’ve never tried Ambient Sounds while studying, writing, working, or whatever you need to concentrate on, I’d definitely try.  I think it’ll make a big difference.

If you love any of the items I mentioned above let me know! Or, tell me what else I should be trying out.  I’m always looking for recommendations.

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