Tag Archives: friends

Long Weekend in Tokyo, Japan

Thursday was a terrible travel day.  We had got up early to get our 9.15am flight. When we got to the departure gate we saw that the flight was delayed, with no reason or estimated departure time.  After waiting for 90 minutes at this gate, a gate change was announced (the opposite end of the airport!) so we hurried over with the assumption that we would be boarding.  However, it was another case of “hurry up and wait” with no announcements and no information.  It was incredibly frustrating to not know if we were going to be delayed another 30 minutes or 6 hours!  I knew we were in for a longer wait when they started serving lunch at the boarding area…..
We eventually made it on to the plane at 1.30 and even this was drama driven.  As we had had an equipment change, they were assigning new seats and hand writing on the new seat numbers.  I could not read the numbers on our boarding cards, and was getting pushed from behind to move onto the bus.  The gate agent shouted 32A to me and so I assumed that we would all be sitting in the same row. However, when we actually got on the plane, I discovered that Oliver’s seat assignment was 71H and Isabelle’s was 34C!  I sat us all down together and then refused to move.  It worked because they then had to move everyone else around us!!  We then sat on the tarmac for another 90 minutes before finally taking off.
We landed in Tokyo at 6.30pm (a whole day wasted!) and I was immediately struck by the air – I could actually see clear blue sky.  We found the Narita Express train station easily and then boarded very clean and comfortable train for the hour ride to Tokyo down town.  When we arrived at Tokyo Station, it was a little confusing as the station is HUGE and there are many different lines and many different exits.  I had stopped to check my phone for the details on which exit to head for when a local asked if I needed help.  When I told her which exit I was looking for, she said, “follow me and I will take you there”.  I was amazed – this was so helpful and not what I was used after 2 years in China!  Our friends Earoel and Graham met us at the exit to walk us to the hotel we were all staying at (they had already been in Tokyo for 4 days).  The Marriott Courtyard at Tokyo Station is in a great central location and proved to be a great base for the 4 days that we spent in Tokyo.

We quickly checked in, dumped our bags and then immediately headed out for dinner.  We walked a couple of blocks to a restaurant called Charcoal which was a Japanese BBQ.  The tables had small grills in them where you cook your own food.  We ordered a selection of meats and seafood and then had fun cooking it all.  The kids enjoyed this and managed to act as Chef’s for us all!  We were joined by a couple of colleagues from the Japanese office of my company which proved a good chance to learn a little more about Japanese customs as well as learn the words for; please, thank you and hello.  It is always good to know those words in any language!!

After this lovely dinner, we walked back to the hotel, it was a lovely evening and I hoped that the weather would be as nice for the entire weekend (it was!)  After settling the kids into bed – out like lights, we then planned the following day.  We had decided to brave the queues/lines and visit Disney!  We figured that it was a school day and not a holiday in Japan so it should be less busy (ha, ha, ha, ha!!)
We rushed through breakfast so we could get on the train to Disney (15 minutes away from Tokyo Station).  We arrived about an hour after opening time and it was already packed!!  The day had dawned with clear blue skies and the sun was already beating down.  Although I had thought to bring sunscreen and had covered us all, the kids did not have sunglasses so our first stop was to the Disney store to buy sunglasses for Isabelle and a baseball cap for Oliver.  These were obviously hits with the kids as they then wore them for the entire trip!  We then saw our first show – the Disney orchestra playing some well known songs from the movies.

Woo hoo - Disney, here we come!

Woo hoo – Disney, here we come!

Japanese Orchestra playing well known Disney tunes by the entrance.

Japanese Orchestra playing well known Disney tunes by the entrance.

"What shall we do first, Mum?"

“What shall we do first, Mum?”

The Disney Magic Castle

The Disney Magic Castle

Earoel and kids by the Castle

Earoel and kids by the Castle

Steamboat ride around the Peter Pan lake

Steamboat ride around the Peter Pan lake

We met Winnie the Pooh and Tigger

We met Winnie the Pooh and Tigger

Splash Mountain is behind the kids.

Splash Mountain is behind the kids.

The Indians from Peter Pan

The Indians from Peter Pan

Lovely scenery!

Lovely scenery!

More scenes from the Steam Boat

More scenes from the Steam Boat

Getting a hug from Smee!

Getting a hug from Smee!

Making a wish!

Making a wish!

Graham had not been to Disney before and wanted to “experience the experience”.  Isabelle and Oliver had been to Disney in Florida (September 2011) and their memories were of 10 minutes of queuing (timed it perfectly for FL!!) even for the very popular rides back then.  We could not believe our luck at how many rides we got to go on.  Tokyo was another story – the wait times were already at 120+ minutes and once we had done a fast pass for Thunder Mountain we were then told that we could not apply for another fast pass until 1.30pm. Both kids wanted to go on Splash Mountain, so we headed over there to find that the wait time was 140 minutes – cue Mummy as Fast Pass!  Earoel and Graham were happy to take the kids on some other rides while I waited in line at Splash Mountain.  This was an incredibly boring 90 minutes for me!!!  However, knowing that they kids got to go on the Cars ride and the Carousel so it kept them happy, made me happy.  Splash Mountain did not disappoint and we all got wet!

Our Splash Mountain photo!

Our Splash Mountain photo!

Getting a hug from a character from Pinnochio

Getting a hug from a character from Pinnochio

After this it was time for lunch.  Kids had picked a burger place in Toon Town and so we walked over to that area of the park only to be told that it was shut!  So, back to Tomorrowland for Burgers there!  While we were eating, we noticed that the queue time for the Rocket Ship ride was only 25 minutes, so we jumped in line for that.

Kids trying "old fashioned" telephones!

Kids trying “old fashioned” telephones!

Jumping in for a ride!

Jumping in for a ride!

Fun Fountains

Fun Fountains

The Disney Easter Parade

The Disney Easter Parade

More Easter Carnival floats

More Easter Carnival floats

The whole park was themed for Easter

The whole park was themed for Easter

Even the entrance!

Even the entrance!

I was a little bit disappointed to see that all the Disney Princess characters were Westerners, but when I did a little research after, I learned that the Asian culture actually want to have photos taken with the Disney characters as they look in the movies and not the Asian version.
We went back to Toontown for a couple more rides and then, as it was now getting later in the day, decided to head back to the hotel before dinner.

It was a quick change time at the hotel before going to Andy’s Seafood restaurant for dinner.  An old colleague from my days working in America is COO of the Japanese office and he had arranged this dinner at his favourite place in Tokyo.  It did not disappoint!  It was a large, lively table.  We started the meal with crab and we were served the biggest legs and claws I had ever seen – yummy delicious. The ladies at the table were making local cocktails (???) with freshly squeezed grapefruit (aka – do it yourself at the table!).  Isabelle had an alcohol free version and loved it.  Oliver made fast friends with another colleague over his camera and was busy taking lots of photos of us all.

I love taking my kids out and getting compliments on them.  We had practised the correct way to introduce themselves (handshake, eye contact, clear articulation!) and I was thrilled when EVERYBODY at the table commented on the confidence and firm handshake of both Isabelle and Oliver! (Proud Mum moment!)
Andy’s was a fabulous meal – great company, great food and great drinks.  It was lovely to catch up with Tim (from my Atlanta days).  Wish I had more time to discover Japan through his eyes!!  This was a late night for the kids as we didn’t leave the restaurant until 9.30 (tried to make myself feel better by telling myself that it was only 8.30pm Shanghai time!!)  However, they had been so well behaved and so engaged that it did not seem to matter!  We all crashed fairly quickly after getting back to the hotel room!  It is definitely a fact that a whole day at Disney followed by a dinner out is guaranteed for immediate sleep…..
We did not set the alarm for Saturday morning as we had a fluid agenda.  Just as well, as no-one woke up until 9.00!!  We headed down for breakfast and decided on our itinerary for the day – off to Tokyo Tower, followed by Hibiya Park.
Tokyo Tower used to be the tallest tower in Tokyo (until the completion of the Skytower in 2013).

About to experience Tokyo Tower

About to experience Tokyo Tower

At the bottom of the Tokyo Tower. with some friends!

At the bottom of the Tokyo Tower. with some friends!

Some beautiful displays around the Tower

Some beautiful displays around the Tower

Inside and waiting to ride up to the top!

Inside and waiting to ride up to the top!

A view from the Top.

A view from the Top.

Quite close to Mount Fiji.  The kids wanted to climb this in the afternoon!! We will have to save that for another visit :-)

Quite close to Mount Fuji. The kids wanted to climb this in the afternoon!! We will have to save that for another visit 🙂

While we were waiting for the upper level elevators, we saw this board where people could post good luck messages.

Good luck wishes "Ema"

Good luck wishes “Ema”

The explanation!

The explanation!

More views across the City.

More views across the City.

Kids at the top!

Kids at the top!

There were glass floors at certain areas.  Bit scary to stand on and look down!

There were glass floors at certain areas. Bit scary to stand on and look down!

A view through the glass to the ground!

A view through the glass to the ground!

The afternoon was a lovely walk around Hibiya Park.  I was amazed that in a city of 34 million people, we bumped into the only people that I know in Tokyo – sometimes it is a small world!!

We went to a Tempura restaurant in the evening and had a fantastic meal.  We had walked down the busy main street (equivalent to Times Square) and saw the bright lights that light up the City at night.

Japanese Tempura!

Japanese Tempura!

Great meal, great company!

Great meal, great company!

The bright night lights of Tokyo city

The bright night lights of Tokyo city

On Sunday we decided to do a Red Bus City Tour in the morning, prior to our trip back to the airport in the afternoon.  The weather was clear blue skies and very sunny, but it was a bit breezy on the open top and we were all a little chilly when the bus picked up speed.  This was great way to see much of Tokyo and listen to the commentator tell us about the history, culture and interesting facts.

On top of the bus.

On top of the bus.

Ready to go……..

Ready to go……..

This was the original Japanese Opera Theatre.

This was the original Japanese Opera Theatre.

I also got a great view of the Tokyo Tower where we had been the day before!

I also got a great view of the Tokyo Tower where we had been the day before!

After the city tour, we enjoyed a lazy lunch and then headed back to the Metro to get the train back to the airport.  Again, I must comment on the kindness of Japanese strangers.  I was completely lost once we had our tickets (the Tokyo Station is HUGE!), but not only did someone stop to see if we were ok, but they also walked us to our platform (which was out of their way as they were on their way out!!)  No delays for the return journey.  We flew Japan Airlines for the first time.  This was a good experience – excellent plane food and the kids got to watch the new Lego Movie!

Visitors (at long last!!) and a sad Farewell….

Our children were so excited about their Auntie Kim and cousins, Harley and Ashley, arriving for a visit with us in Shanghai.  We had planned a whirlwind weekend site seeing in Beijing and Xi’an, plus lots of activities in Shanghai.  Ashley and Harley were mostly interested in shopping at all the fake markets!  They arrived on Saturday April 5th and after a brief nap at home, we were straight into Shanghai life.  Isabelle and Oliver were eager to play with Harley and Ashley!

Sunday April 6th was Jo, Scott, Georgia and Saskia’s last day in Shanghai and we had booked brunch at the Shangri-La to say goodbye.

Scott, Jo Sara and Owen - sad to say goodbye to good friends…...

Scott, Jo Sara and Owen – sad to say goodbye to good friends……

This was a great opportunity to introduce our family to the Ex-pat Sunday Brunch experience and the Shangri-La is a fantastic experience for this! Kim, Ashley and Harley really enjoyed the lazy lunch, endless food and booze!  The kids had loads of fun playing with their fiends for the last time in Shanghai….

On the stairs at the Shangri-La

On the stairs at the Shangri-La

By the beautiful water feature at the Shangri-La

By the beautiful water feature at the Shangri-La

All of us by the Seafood station.

All of us by the Seafood station.

Jo and I.  I am going to miss this lady :-(

Jo and I. I am going to miss this lady 😦

Saskia with Mum and Isabelle with Mum.

Saskia with Mum and Isabelle with Mum.

Scott, Jo, Sara & Owen - we had a lot of fun together in Shanghai.

Scott, Jo, Sara & Owen – we had a lot of fun together in Shanghai.

Owen and Jo posing on the displays at the Shangri-La

Owen and Jo posing on the displays at the Shangri-La

Cousins!  Harley and Isabelle, Oliver and Ashley.

Cousins! Harley and Isabelle, Oliver and Ashley.

After several hours of eating and socializing we decided to carry on the party at the Camel pub.  This has been a regular Tuesday night venue as they have a Quiz Night there every week and we have often met up to test our general knowledge and have some fun during the week!

The kids at the Camel pub - they all played pool here!

The kids at the Camel pub – they all played pool here!

A final farewell - I expect there were some sore heads the next day!!

A final farewell – I expect there were some sore heads the next day!!

The next day, Monday, was a holiday for me (Tomb Sweeping Festival) even though the kids were back to school.  So, after taking the kids to the bus in the morning, the rest of us set out to visit some Fake Markets and shop, shop, shop!

Our first stop was to Tai Kang Lu, a lovely shopping area that has little back alleys full of art galleries, shops and cafes.  We stopped at Kommune for delicious coffee:

Biggest latte I have ever had.  The mugs are very cool and you can buy them (so Kim and Harley did!!)

Biggest latte I have ever had. The mugs are very cool and you can buy them (so Kim and Harley did!!)

Chopsticks on display at Tai Kang Lu

Chopsticks on display at Tai Kang Lu

Entrance to Tai Kang Lu

Entrance to Tai Kang Lu

After coffee and shopping it was off to find Minging Mary’s.  This place is a legend in Shanghai.  It is a fake outlet in the basement of an apartment building.  You have to know where it is and be taken by someone who is known (the first time).  I had heard about this fantastic place (extremely high quality fake’s) but never visited before.  Luckily for us, Owen had been before and knew where to take us!  I did not know what to expect when we walked down some dingy stairs into a dark corridor in the basement.  But, moments later, a man appeared and unlocked 2 doors into huge rooms of merchandise.  Ashley and Harley thought they were in Heaven!!  I must admit, I could not believe what I was seeing.

After a little bit of bargaining, we left (full bags!) and went on the Fake Market at the Science and Tech Museum (the AP Plaza).  Kim, Ashley and Harley decided to skip lunch so they could maximize shopping time!  Good job we had eaten some snacks at Kommune to keep us going.  Once at the Fake Market – Owen showed Ashley and Harley how the bargaining was done and worked hard to get some good deals for both of them.  Ashley restocked his wardrobe in 1 day!!

Ashley showing off his many purchases from the Fake Markets

Ashley showing off his many purchases from the Fake Markets

I had a few days of work to do before we were heading off to Beijing and Xi’an at the weekend (separate posts).  But, on Thursday before our train, we went to Kerry Parkside for a few hours of pampering at Dragonfly.  We had a leisurely adult lunch at The Brew and then all had massages, manicures and pedicures.  Aaah – relaxation!

Ashley's lunch at The Brew

Ashley’s lunch at The Brew

A “Drink the Bar Dry” Leaving Party

A downside of Ex-pat living is the goodbye’s that have to be made, to friends that have been quickly made in our environment.  Rob & Jen are off to Bangkok, Thailand at the end of February and as they cannot pack any alcohol, they decided to hold a “Drink the Bar Dry” party to try and get rid of it all in a fun way.  It was a little unusual to get an invite that said, “PLEASE do not bring a bottle!”  Instead we were asked to bring a plate of finger food to share.  Owen and I had fun with this and made mini jacket potatoes stuffed with different cheeses and Thyme Gougere’s (which were delicious).  It was lovely to taste the wonderful selection of food that everyone had brought!

The evening was a fun mix of people from Emerald living, as well as colleagues and work friends of Rob & Jen’s.  It quickly moved into Karaoke and several of our friends surprised us with their strong singing voices!  I managed one duet with JC before Owen said he would disown me if I sang any more!!

Squeezing as many party goers as possible onto the staircase for a goodbye photo opportunity.

Squeezing as many party goers as possible onto the staircase for a goodbye photo opportuni

Some of the girls towards the end of the evening.
Jane, Marie, Lin, Jen, Jane among this fun loving group!

Rob & Jen love Karaoke, so they have many props  – wigs, fake tattoo sleeves, glasses and instruments.   They were kind enough to let us borrow some of these for Isabelle’s party last September, and they really make a difference to the fun.  It is amazing to see the personas people portray when they can hide behind the props!!!

It was another fun night out.  Owen and I are sorry to see them leave – lovely people, lovely family.

Happy New Year 2014 Brunch

With Christmas behind us and the New Year just starting, all our friends who had been away for Christmas were returning.  The new School term was about to start and we decided to get a few families together to celebrate all that.

We settled on returning to the Le Meridien because they not only have a delicious brunch selection, but they also have a good children’s area.  They have a mix of different Asian foods, fabulous seafood selection, traditional carvery station and the most yummiest desserts (salted caramel mousse is THE BEST!)

Jo and Scott with their 2 girls, Saskia and Georgia; Rob & Jen with their 2 boys, Freddie and Theo; Mike and Jane with their 2 girls, Ciara and Caitlyn; and Paul and Tracy with their 2 girls, Bethan and Imogen – it was quite the area in the restaurant!

The Le Meridien also has entertainment throughout the long, leisurely brunch.  The kids end of our sitting area was entertained by a rather good magician.

The magician making a rose for Saskia.

The magician making a rose for Saskia.

Saskia was special assistant and had to help with some of the card tricks!

Saskia was special assistant and had to help with some of the card tricks!

He even made his wallet light up in flames when he opened it to check for the missing card.

He even made his wallet light up in flames when he opened it to check for the missing card.

Saskia, Isabelle and Caitlyn

Saskia, Isabelle and Caitlyn showing off their artwork from kids club

The “nurses” were on call again for the margarita shots – all the males partook.  It was also Rob’s birthday so it was a double celebration.  We all sang to him to embarrass him!

Happy Birthday Rob! Cuddling with his boys - Freddie and Theo.

Happy Birthday Rob!
Cuddling with his boys – Freddie and Theo.

Owen getting "treated" from the nurse.

Owen getting “treated” from the nurse.

Mike's turn.  Scott is laughing at this, but he was next to go!!

Mike’s turn. Scott is laughing at this, but he was next to go!!

Scott finishes up this nurses round.

Scott finishes up this nurses round.

Paul, Imogen, Tracy and Bethan

Paul, Imogen, Tracy and Bethan

Scott, Saskia, Georgia and Jo

Scott, Saskia, Georgia and Jo

The girls: Caitlyn, Georgia, Saskia, Ciara and Isabelle

The girls: Caitlyn, Georgia, Saskia, Ciara and Isabelle

Freddie, Jen, Rob and Theo

Freddie, Jen, Rob and Theo

Ciara, Mike, Jane and Caitlyn

Ciara, Mike, Jane and Caitlyn

Family Jones

Family Jones

Shanghai Christmas 2013

I am amazed at how fast this year has flown by.  All of a sudden, (it seems!) it is Christmas once again.  Owen did most of our Christmas Shopping this year and I am very grateful for that.  Work has been so very busy that I have had little free time to juggle anything else with.

I rushed home from work on Christmas Eve so that we could all go over to Tim & Marie’s house for a few hours.  We were home by 7:30 so it was a lovely way to excite the kids enough without anyone getting over-whelmed!  For the first time, I forgot to take my camera (I am never without that usually!) so I have no photos from Christmas Eve.  However, it was the same group of Ex-pats staying in Shanghai over Christmas so we saw quite a bit of them!!  And, I remembered to take the camera to the rest of the events.

Once we got home, of course the children were excited.  We got mince pie cookies and brandy ready for Father Christmas and a carrot for Rudolph.  They had had such a busy day that they actually went off to sleep relatively well.  Disaster struck at 12:30 though as Owen could hear voices coming from Isabelle’s bedroom.  I was already in bed, but Owen was downstairs.  Sure enough, Isabelle had woken up and then woken Oliver up and they both decided to start opening stocking presents that had already been delivered!  Oh no!  It was time for Daddy to have some stern words and send everyone off to sleep again until a decent time in the morning.  Goodness knows how Santa managed to sneak past Owen to deliver presents AND eat the cookie, drink the brandy.  It was quite the discussion in our house in the morning.

It was a leisurely morning opening presents, playing with toys and eating breakfast.  I absolutely enjoyed every minute of this precious morning.  Watching the kids excitement and pleasure at everything they opened and received was delightful.  They were also just as excited to watch Owen and I open our presents. They had managed to keep the presents for Daddy a surprise and he certainly was surprised this year!  He also totally surprised me and made me cry with his thoughtfulness – a perfect gift for me!  Tetley was also treated to a stocking full of treats:

I know I can get my head in there - I can smell goodies!

I know I can get my head in there – I can smell goodies!

I knew it!!

I knew it!! Yummy treats for a special girl.

Christmas Tree and kids  2013

Christmas Tree and kids 2013

Family including Tetley Christmas 2013

Family including Tetley Christmas 2013

We e-biked/biked around to Rob & Jen’s house at 12:30.  Our 2nd Shanghai Christmas and a repeat of our experience from last year.  This year, Rob and Jen hosted us in their beautiful home.  They had welcomed the Intercontinental Catering team into their kitchen and they had provided all the food for our Christmas dinner.  We were totally spoiled!  Again!!

Champagne ready on ice!

Champagne ready on ice!

Turkey ready for carving (and ham, beef and sausages)

Turkey ready for carving (and ham, beef and sausages)

Salads for starters.

Salads for starters.

Pasta, seafood, vegetables, potatoes - yummy!

Pasta, seafood, vegetables, potatoes – yummy!

Desserts - mini Christmas Puddings, fruit tarts, stollen, chocolate mousse log and fruit.  YUMMY!

Desserts – mini Christmas Puddings, fruit tarts, stollen, chocolate mousse log and fruit. YUMMY!

We were thrilled to share Christmas day Dinner with Rob and Jen, with their 2 children, Freddie and Theo, plus Kevin and Jane and their 2 children, Amelie and Joseph.  It was a huge feast and the set up was perfect.  1 table for the 6 children right next to the adult table!  Crackers and chocolates were extra treats on the tables for all of us:

The kids are all ready to eat!

The kids are all ready to eat!

Our Christmas Day "Emerald Family" Jane, Rob, Jen, Kevin, Sara & Owen Isabelle, Amelie, Theo, Joseph, Freddie & Oliver

Our Christmas Day “Emerald Family”
Jane, Rob, Jen, Kevin, Sara & Owen
Isabelle, Amelie, Theo, Joseph, Freddie & Oliver

It was a long, relaxing, fun dinner.  We all made multiple visits to the buffet for plate refills!  Good conversation, good company and flowing fizz.  The kids wanted to swim after their food, so they were all in the pool for a dip and a splash.

Oliver and Joseph firing off the water pistols!

Oliver and Joseph firing off the water pistols!

Meanwhile, the adults were having fun too!

Jane, Jen and Sara

Jane, Jen and Sara

Rob, Kevin & Owen

Rob, Kevin & Owen

Oh, how we laughed through most of the day!

Oh, how we laughed through most of the day!

After the adults had finished eating and the kids had finished swimming, it was time to play Charades.  Lots of fun with all participating and some very funny gestures.

Owen, Jane, Jen and Freddie

Owen, Jane, Jen and Freddie

Freddie, Amelie and Isabelle (with her new mini Furby who talks non-stop!)

Freddie, Amelie and Isabelle (with her new mini Furby who talks non-stop!)

We all totally enjoyed our Christmas day with Rob, Jen, Jane and Kevin.  All too soon it was past 6:00 and time for us to get home to get ready for the evening get together.  We raced home, got changed and then arrived at Suzanne and Brien’s house to find the party already in full force.

Suzanne, Jane, Marie and Mike

Suzanne, Jane, Marie and Mike

Jane and Mike have just arrived in Shanghai to start their new assignment.  They were both relieved to be welcomed into the Emerald Ex-pat family!  The wonderful thing about living like this is that everyone is in exactly the same boat and are super supportive, friendly and welcoming.

Brien with some of the boys!

Brien with some of the boys!

More friends to play with! Isabelle, Siobhan, Seren, Oliver, Ciara and Caitlyn.

More friends to play with!
Lia, Isabelle, Siobhan, Seren, Oliver, Ciara and Caitlyn.

Rob, Tim, Marie, Jen, Owen and Sara

Rob, Tim, Marie, Jen, Owen and Sara

It was a wonderful Christmas Day celebration.  If you cannot celebrate with your family, then an Ex-Pat “family” get together is a great choice.

I am very grateful for our friends in Shanghai that make this whole experience so much fun and who are so supportive.

After a few too many glasses of fizz on Christmas evening, I invited a few friends over to our house for Boxing Day!!  So, we woke up late and then had a whirlwind around the house getting ready for people to arrive.  As the Chinese do not celebrate Christmas, all the shops were open and it was just another working day for all the locals!  This worked in our favor because I could run to the shop to buy a few snacks for our impromptu gathering.  It worked out well, with Marie and kids, Kevin & Jane plus kids and Rob & Jen plus kids stopping in for a few relaxing hours.  It was a nice way to close out Christmas 2013.

A bittersweet Christmas celebration…….

It is time for another Emerald Christmas celebration!  Kevin & Jane were hosting their annual open house this afternoon/evening and it was wonderful to celebrate with our neighbors.  However, this was also the last time for me to hang out with our good friends Matt & Emma, so was a little bittersweet.  They are off to their next Ex-Pat adventure in Bangkok, Thailand.  Isabelle and Oliver will really miss their best buddies:

These 2 are old souls.  They play together so well and really love each other.  Neither of them really realize that this is it…. :-(

These 2 are old souls. They play together so well and really love each other. Neither of them really realize that this is it…. 😦

Best buddies for last 2 years.  Thank goodness for technology - time will tell if these 2 stay in touch with email and Face Time.

Best buddies for last 2 years. Thank goodness for technology – time will tell if these 2 stay in touch with email and Face Time.

It was a wonderful afternoon/evening with excellent hosts – Kevin and Jane.  Everybody bought something to share (Isabelle had made cupcakes earlier in the day for us to take – and they were delicious!).  There was also plenty of fizz for the adults to enjoy!  The kids were in their element with loads of arts and crafts to do, plus movie time.  It was time for me to catch up with old friends before the mass departure for the Christmas break.

The Emerald (and Tiziano!) crew.  Celebrating Christmas a little early!

The Emerald (and Tiziano!) crew. Celebrating Christmas a little early!

I actually managed to get in one photo!!

I actually managed to get in one photo!!

These 4 have been as thick as thieves for the last 18 months/2 years.  Isabelle is very upset that Ava is leaving, but it has not hit Oliver yet.

These 4 have been as thick as thieves for the last 18 months/2 years. Isabelle is very upset that Ava is leaving, but it has not hit Oliver yet.

I will also miss Matt & Emma…..

Vacation in Thailand, part 2 - here we come!!!!!

Vacation in Thailand, part 2 – here we come!!!!!

What a wonderful time, catching up with old friends and new friends.  Many are about to leave for an extended Christmas break so this was perfect timing to wish everyone the best of the season.

Sara, Marie, Jane, Emma and Jo - good times!

Sara, Marie, Jane, Emma and Jo – good times!

The kids thought that it was a fun time too!

A great group of kids!

A great group of kids!

Merry Christmas to all my Shanghai friends!

Blue Frog, Bouncy Castle and Sports – Birthday boy celebrations

My lovely little boy celebrated his birthday this week.  He has been talking about “turning 6” for several weeks and has been very excited about his party.  I have been so busy at work,  I am totally amazed that his party went as smoothly as it did, as everything  was last minute this year!

On the day of his birthday he had a school trip to the Wild Animal Kingdom.  His topic this term is all about the “Carnival of Animals” so this was an added bonus on his special day!  After breakfast, he  had time to open a couple of presents.  He had been asking for months for a skateboard, so guess what he got from Mum and Dad!!

Yeah - I got the skateboard!!  It is wicked.

Yeah – I got the skateboard!! It is wicked.

At the end of the day, we took Oliver out to Blue Frog restaurant at the Kerry Parkside (his choice for his birthday dinner).  We stopped at Baker & Spice on the way back to get some yummy cakes.  We stuck Oliver’s candle in his and sang Happy Birthday back at home!  Owen was messing around with the plate and kept pulling it away from Oliver!  He eventually blew it out and made a wish!

I WILL blow that candle out!

I WILL blow that candle out!

A few days later it was party time!  Oliver had requested a party of sports and games and wanted to invite all his class.  We hired the Function Room at The Emerald, ordered a Pirate bouncy castle and hired a couple of coaches from Sports World to help run the sports and games.  We had the party on Friday evening and invited as many parents who wanted to enjoy a glass of fizz at the end of the week too.

Happy Birthday, my sweet boy.

Happy Birthday, my sweet boy.

Once all the children arrived, they started on the Bouncy Castle.  It was a beautiful day, blue skies, sunshine and 23 degree heat.  All the kids were running around outside and having fun on the Bouncy Castle before the Lego tower challenge.  4 teams building the tallest possible towers in a 10 minute period.  This was the perfect lead up to pizza!!

Scrambling for the Lego to build the towers!

Scrambling for the Lego to build the towers!

Oliver holding his tower up!

Oliver holding his tower up!

Pizza time!

Pizza time!

After pizza had been wolfed down, the coaches from Sports World arrived and it was over to them to manage the chaos and mayhem!  They did a fantastic job of keeping 18 boys and girls active, competitive and paying attention.  There was just under an hour of running around playing lots of different chasing games, tagging games and ball games.

Ready, set, go!  It is time for Zombie Tagging.

Ready, set, go! It is time for Zombie Tagging.

They were attentive to the coaches and generally played by the rules!

They were attentive to the coaches and generally played by the rules!

The last 15 minutes of the party (only 2 hours, but felt like 6!!) was wind down time and birthday cake time.  We have had great success with Sweet Ever After cupcakes for the last couple of birthday parties, so we ordered from them again.  We had a flock of Angry Birds for all the children!

Angry Birds!

Angry Birds!

Another birthday candle to blow out too……

2 Cakes this time…...

2 Cakes this time……

Oliver really enjoyed his party and I hope that all his friends had fun – it was certainly lovely to watch them all playing.  We were all back home by 7.30pm and ready to put our feet up!  Relieved that the celebrations are over now!!