4 October 2015

‘feel-good’ little job that beaten my stress - vol.3: organising toy storage system

Today is the final of this series. Where and how do you keep children’s toys? How do you guide them to tidy up themselves? Sorting toys can be a nightmare, isn’t it? It was actually the first thing that I did after having read those “god send” tidying up books I mentioned in vol.1. (you can find the link of these books later) 

Toy storage for our case went through several stages. First we used to use IKEA’s plastic boxes with casters. We put all sort of toys, including her books, stacked them up and placed them in a corner of the living room. (photo below) 

Since my daughter started to move about, it became rather dangerous as she tended to lean on the piled boxes, obviously not easy to take things out either. Plus, giant plastic boxes in the living room did not make me relax easily even after settling her at night. So we have moved the boxes to the other room but not in her upstairs bedroom, as she would probably play downstairs for some more years. 

This room is our office / home cinema room. Usually we use this room at night, so being used by her in daytime wouldn’t be a problem. Also the living room looks tidier after plastic boxes disappeared. As my husband loves films and music, there are tons of DVDs and CDs on the wall storage in this room. I slotted 4 toy boxes under DVD wall storage and they just fit perfectly. My daughter then could reach toys safely and independently, so that was good. (photo below)

However, as she got older another issues cropped up. There weren’t enough space for her picture books. More toys of course. The pieces got smaller too, so we had to tip the box upside down to find what she wanted. I looked for a solution and decided to provide a new space for it. 

Under CD wall storage and next to the radiator, there was a reversed L shape space. (You can’t even see the radiator because of lots of cardboard boxes that we hoarded!) This was located opposite to the 4 toy boxes. In between the two walls, her “play time” rug cover just fit nicely too, so it was ideal. The method of organising small items into labeled boxes is a quite common in the nursery and children centre. It is easy for two year old to find, reach, carry to the other room to play (which she does often) and tidy up. I’ve considered all those points with several options from my favourite MUJI and IKEA. 

When I tried MUJI boxes with her, she found it difficult to pick the box up as the handle part was too small. Also they are quite a price if you buy many. Children’s storage items from IKEA was ok to carry, but she couldn’t see what’s inside and couldn’t put the box back into the drawer slot. So I searched around more and found the ultimate!

IKEA’s SAMLA box. Only £1. Clear so she can see inside. “Easy to carry” handle shape. With 50p lid, I can use as a studio storage in the future. Can’t go wrong! 

Other thing I found in IKEA was a desk foot storage. Size was just right for the space. More space for her books. Black. (the theme colour of the room) Can use as our printer storage in the future. Can’t go wrong! Measured and sketched the plan using these two items - perfect! We made a trip to IKEA just before her op. 

The problem we had when we went to IKEA was that the black shelf that we were planning to fit for her toy boxes was sold out. Well, we just have to buy wood and paint then, we thought. Then there was a “free to good home” used wood section at the exit! We found perfect black wood piece for nothing! How lucky! With a big smile on my face, we worked on her new toy storage space back home. Here, we created a new toys storage space with a book shelf!

new toy storage area!
each box has a pictured label
original boxes for larger toys and also with a pictured label
I put larger picture on the base of the box, so that she can tell 
where things go at glance from the top of many empty boxes 
when it comes to tidy up time. Hope it helps?
zippered cases are good for storing puzzles and cards
MUJI’s divider helps books from falling all over

More books can be stored. Additional coloured & numbered boxes also fit. Sabrina was happy with the result. (Probably I was the most!?) She now started to tidy up her toys, not all by herself yet but some with me, and also enjoys carrying toy boxes herself when she plays with her friends, which is rather nice to see. 

Books helped me do this were really god send. Here I would like to introduce 2 books I particulary found useful. Although both written in Japanese, there are lots of photos that you can understand their tips and techniques from. m x 

26 September 2015

‘feel-good’ little job that beaten my stress - vol.2: sorting baby clothes & making lavender bags

What do you do with your children’s old clothes? Give away to someone? Charity shop? Or throw away? Well, I was thinking about taking part of table tot sale, which used to be held at local school near our house. So I kept a whole lots of my daughter’s clothes that no longer fits and the boxes continued to be piled up in the spare bedroom. I have been rather worried if I ever manage to sort these out, but kept my eyes shut for 2 years!

The sudden but great news from my Japanese friend, who is coming to stay with us next month. Now I have a deadline to sort the clothes boxes out in the room. I quickly viewed the tot sale website and I realised that they no longer do the event in that school. That made it easier for me to clear out without hesitation, so I tackled the whole lots with my daughter. (well, that wasn’t a great idea, but she certainly enjoyed “helping” me!) Numbers of bin bag full of clothes to go to charity shop and clothes bank, except a small amount of clothes to keep for memento, such as her first shoes. All the boxes are now out of the room! Phew! (Oh, but I kept only some body suits with pretty patterns to make a patchwork blanket for her, hopefully! (when??))

Prior to her operation, I cut and hung lavender. When we got back home, there were lots of dried lavender. I thought I could make lavender bags, but did not bother spending time for cutting and sewing. So I used her socks and mittens.

Put about 5 spoonful of lavender into baby socks and tie with ribbon. Now they are in the drawers. Put about 3 spoonful of lavender into baby mittens and tie with rubber band. I hang it around the bath tap so when water runs, it smells lovely. Next day, when I turned it out into a compost container in the kitchen, lovely lavender smell spread. You can simply wash the mitten and pour some more to use it again. Simple, easy and feeling good! 

The rest of dried lavender are now stored in a beautiful porcelain jar made by Sun Kim and placed in our living room. I have had this jar for a long time but it used to be hidden somewhere high up. Now I can enjoy watching it everyday and even I can use it by simply opening the lid to smell inside when I ever get stressed! (No one hasn’t seen me doing this yet though!) 

By the way, I used her old socks for Christmas decoration two years ago. Baby socks are just too cute to throw away! (But I must stop keeping them from now on…) m x

20 September 2015

‘feel-good’ little job that beaten my stress - vol.1: making a photo album

As I mentioned on the previous post, I went through quite a stressful period for last three months. It was so long for me to wait for my daughter’s op to start with, then prolong post-op home care. She’s got extremely clingy and sensitive at hospital (though it was understandable), when we returned home I found it difficult to get things done with a child holding around my legs (literally!). Won’t last ten minutes before she cries for mummy, or annoys and throws two-year-old tantrum. Obviously she is more important than any house chores so I played with her as much as I could and only managed to prep three meals a day and daily washing, that’s about it. Other things got behind, ignored and eventually house became chaos, which led me to more stress. Because I was at home for 24-7, I could notice more and more parts of home that made me feel uncomfortable. On the top of that, I hurt my back and got ill. I became grumpy. I spoke unkindly to my family. I blamed my husband for house being untidy etc. I was the worst mum and wife, especially when most needed by my daughter. 

Then something have saved me. Got several Japanese books about “tidying up and storage system”. All written by mothers with young children. I felt connected by realising that others have similar experience. They accept they cannot do everything. They make things easier to be able to follow up by the rest of the family not just mum. I felt encouraged. So I have started a little bit of tidying up everyday. Not too long, just a short period of time a day, but that made a huge difference. I felt good - that was a big stepping forward. The more I did it, the easier it got to tidy up where used to be a full of clutter. This is an ongoing process still, but the realisation was a big step for me. 

Anyway, enough for whinging!

I would like to blog about several things I did during this stressful period that made me feel good in the end. First one was making a photo album.

Old method worked for her but not for mum! too much work!
I love taking photographs. Since my daughter was born, numbers have increased a lot. But making an album is another issue. With a little one, finding time is almost impossible. Nevertheless, I did make a photo album for my daughter’s first year, using Japanese old fashioned photo album, collaging and commenting each photos. Gosh, it took so long but she loves it. But I thought I cannot continue like this each year as it takes so much time and effort, and the big album itself takes so much space to store, so I’ve already given up! 
First photobook I made via CEWE photo world
Printing and collaging are more to my style than a digital photo album, but this time I decided to have a go. Once I searched and practiced, actually I did manage ok. How did I find such time? At hospital. When my daughter was waiting for op, during op and post op ICU period. I utilised the time that can be stressful and long to wait by making my daughter’s photo album. It was brilliant because I was watching her smile after smile on screen so I did not feel awful whilst waiting for op. Such big chunks of time that I cannot usually get at home provided enough time for me to finish last year’s album and half of this year already!

Just like collage handmade album, I could add comment of each month such as milestone and arrange photo sizes how I wanted, but did not need printing, cutting, writing etc so it went quick. I love the result and feel that I can continue this from now on. The best thing was that it made me feel so good to complete one of the accumulated jobs.

By the way, it's coming to the end of home care period. She will be back at the nursery and I will be back to work at the end of this month, which means she can finally play with others too! Hurray! m x 

16 September 2015

daughter's word

Long since last blog. It’s been rather a hard time since my daughter’s been back home from hospital, despite that I should have been happier than ever, I got a bit down with stress, illness and some changes in my mind. I did not feel like I’d blog anything. I was not patient enough for my daughter right in the middle of the terrible two, either.

We went for a walk today as the sun was out after continuous rainy days. As we walked among tall trees in the field, she said “mummy, tree so many” in Japanese! She has tendency to use English but only lately Japanese has started to come out. When I looked up, I saw a beautiful autumn sky. Instantly I felt so refreshed. Sorry for not being a good mum always. And thank you babe for being here with me. xm 

12 August 2015

good to be back home

We received the long awaited phone call two days before her op. She then had to be swapped again due to another emergency, waited and waited, but finally the operation took place. Thankfully all went well and she was out of the hospital in a week. Currently she is in the midst of ‘home care’ period, but is bouncing around like “what operation?”, in spite of rather large scar that is almost as big as my C-section. She is a tough lucky cookie. x m

22 July 2015

waiting game

Last month we finally met the surgeon who is going to proceed Sabrina’s open heart surgery. Since then she is on his waiting list and the operation was expected to be by mid July. Time is slowly passing with no phone call. Still waiting. In order to avoid catching any infection from others, she has to be pulled out from the nursery earlier than the op date. So I had to take time off work (pre op + hospitalisation + post op care at home = 9 weeks), of course with no salary yet the nursery fees still needed to be paid to some extent to keep her place. It’s already been three weeks. After all this was an “estimated” time. It could’ve been easier if we just take time off after the notification, but they could even ring us with 24 hour notice, so we had to go with guessing. It is rather frustrating and difficult time for me.

Keeping an active two year old as busy as possible during the day (so that she can (we can) have a good night sleep!), I have been taking her out to play outdoor. Unfortunately almost everywhere she can play and run around safely are full of children, even more so now with summer holiday. So early morning play at the park before anyone arrives has become my daily routine. Our garden is a savour if the weather is nice. If not, bad luck mummy, needs an early night! I take my hat off to full-time mothers.

At the end of the day, I guess this is the ultimate “mother and daughter time” for us that won’t happen once she’s grown up, so I’ll make the most of it and continue waiting. x m 

6 July 2015

guess who's two?

Finally lovely summer is here. Sabrina has just turned two. I know this is cliche to say this but tooooooo fast! Thanks to her big sister and big brother for baking the wonderful ‘anpanman’ birthday cake. I guess it’s time for me to start learning a bit of baking before she says “how come you never bake anything for me?” Her current favourite word is “No!”. Welcome terrible twos. Happy birthday my darling babe. x m

10 June 2015

focusing on ability than disability

I don’t usually blog about my employed workplace mainly due to my students privacy (we call them art makers), but thought I’d share with you since this has already been online. It’s about a story of one of my students work and how I support him, who has learning difficulty. You can view here. Hope you like it. xm

16 May 2015

a tiny handful of spring

Blog once a month - the resolution has failed quickly. Apology for being quiet again.

We had the builders in for the extension work of our dining room / kitchen for the last 8 weeks or so. Passed the chaos of dust being everywhere (hell), we are in the midst of decorating the new rooms now. With a toddler hanging around, it is almost impossible to get anything done, so having her big brother and sister to look after her last weekend, plus taking another three days off work when she was at the nursery, we’ve cracked on a whole lot of painting, tiling and all sort of jobs. Finally it’s getting close to the end. 

Looks like that being busy at home and work has become a typical excuse for me not to take my daughter to somewhere fancy. I met mummies at the library the other day, chatted where they have taken their little ones lately. Which theme park is recommended, which garden has full of kid friendly areas etc etc. Then I’ve realised that I haven’t taken her to anywhere, not even seaside or farm yet. We go to the park near by or walking around the town. That’s about it. The only place we went sooooooooo many times is hospitals. And that sounds really bad. Oh dear, have I neglected her? Well, I shall make a bit more effort to go and visit somewhere from now on. Is this going to be another resolution?? 

So we went out for a walk (round the corner again!) and enjoyed picking some flowers. Our little one loves flowers. Coming up to nearly 2 year old. My goodness, super fast. xm

22 March 2015

smile maker of the week #11

Utterly beautiful wooden cutlery set for children called “co-zen” has arrived from Japan. They are all hand crafted one by one and treated with lacquer in a traditional way by a master of NUSHISA. I was drawn to the design at the first sight, but felt a little hesitant to let my daughter use such prestigious ware. Nevertheless, when she started to use a spoon well enough to eat by herself, I thought she might enjoy meal time more with them, so I revisited NUSHISA’s site. 

What I then realised was that it was not just a design that co-zen was all about, there were so much more than that. The quality of wood and tradition were pursued precisely because for children, being able to learn to appreciate good things in this ‘throw away’ society. I agreed with the motto and I thought by familiarising the quality of material on a daily basis, she might be able to understand the importance (and joy of course!) of family meal time, too. 

I am 100% happy that I bought them now. Sabrina herself, too, seems to be pleased with her new spoon. It’s so light, that may sound obvious as it’s made out of wood, but so much lighter than any children’s stainless steel spoon with a plastic handle, yet it is durable. She’s got better at scooping food and bringing into her mouth. Well, it would be nice if she quits being a fussy eater, as well!? 

Why not visit NUSHISA for finding more beautiful work? xm

28 February 2015

Feb… no it’s March!

Well, I knew I could not blog that often anymore, I thought I’d try at least once a month… yet nothing has been done in February and it’s going to be March tomorrow! Oh dear, so here is a quick catch up. 

For Sabrina and I, February started with another cold (fourth round this winter!). Having felt really fed up with being so poorly so often, weeks have passed. Thanks to lovely snowdrops, finally it’s nearly the end of winter, we were encouraged and got better. Two months passed since Sabrina started to walk. She seems to be active as ever, exploring everywhere and everything. We are in the midst of preparing the extension work of our dining and kitchen areas, so the house is a bit of state right now. As Sabrina walks around everywhere in this situation, I am feeling great that she can walk but at the same time, missing those days that she was sat where I put her! Now we see more signs of spring on its way, I often take her out for walks outdoor. She likes this routine, and now she indicates she wants to go out by putting her hat on and trying to put her shoes on. She really enjoyed walking with her own shadow in front of her the other day! 

Miss chatter box, that is what she is now. Thanks to all goodness of the nursery, she is no longer a crying shy girl. She seems to understand both Japanese and English, but she says more English words than Japanese, which is what I expected, because our household language is English too. I am trying to use Japanese when I am with her, and for instance she understands animals names in both languages but she only says in English at the moment. Nevertheless, she is speaking some words in Japanese, like “grandma” “granddad” “hat” “eye” “ear” “flower” “leaf” “home” and “glasses”! She is far better than her dad, so well done babe! Also I recently bought a Japanese word & picture book, which she loves and seems to be sinking in quickly. Her favourite page is an owl. She calls it “hoot hoot”.
Moving from baby food, now she can eat family meals with us at the same time. (obviously it still has to be softer and simpler favour though) It would be nice if she can feel the importance of family meal time (and this is a biggie for my culture). She eats anything that was offered mostly, which is great, and loves onigiri (rice ball) and miso soup! How she “slurps” miso soup is just magnificent! (shouldn’t be encouraged really! lol!)
Right, now my pottery work situation? Unfortunately I am not in the studio AT ALL. That doesn’t mean that I am off from the pottery, in fact, I run the pottery workshop three days a week whilst Sabrina is at the nursery. So my hands are still covered with clay regularly, but not doing my own work and passing the studio door is very sad indeed. I used to joke about “putting my daughter in a bag and hang on the studio wall” when I was pregnant, but the thing is my thought at the time was far naive. Honestly I find it very hard to juggle with doing my own work and looking after a little one. So I am currently aiming to get back into the studio in the evening once summer hits and Saturdays, when my hub can be around. Hope this will work! 

Well, that’s about it. Good bye February. Builders coming in next month and no access to the kitchen for a while. Already stressing me out. I guess more walking outdoor will follow. xm 

21 January 2015


It was around Christmas time when Sabrina finally started walking and now nothing stops her. Since we knew she had some development delays from the start, we did not really worry too much, but my goodness what a lovely feeling we get when she hit this milestone! Thank you my darling babe. Thank you my husband. I am a very happy mum and wife. xm 

4 January 2015

new year

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2015! 
(sending a big kiss from Sabrina too!)
x m 

14 December 2014

missing japan

It’s been quite a battle at home whilst my blog was quiet. Sabrina and I have been poorly, having had cold after cold since late autumn. This is the third round and we are trying to fight off this nasty flue-like symptoms before Christmas. It is not nice to watch my baby suffer so much, but also very very tiring to look after one when you are poorly too. Doctor said this year is particularly bad and there are four types of cold viruses around. Does that mean we are getting another one?? I hope not! 

From the recent appointment with Sabrina’s cardiac doctor, now we know she will be having an open heart surgery next spring or summer. This is going to be another major operation since her eyes, so it is worrying. Nevertheless, we are hopeful that the surgery will make her health and life better in the future, and also means that if it’s done successfully, we can fly to visit Japan finally. Until then we are anticipating that day to come with fingers (and toes) crossed. xm

1 November 2014

It’s the time of the year… result

auntie maki’s annual task now complete. 
ready to pack and post. 
ding dong ding dong.