Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mini May 2010

I guess I have a penchant for magazine backissues with a freebie I really like. This one is Mini magazine, May 2010 issue. It comes with a Beams Boy double zip pouch that can be used pretty much any way you want, as an accessory/gadget pouch or makeup pouch, or both.

Although I've never heard of this Beams Boy brand, I picked this pouch because it's a navy/black plaid print, and according to the review on this awesome magazine/mook review blog, it's padded and is rather well made.

I'm not disappointed at all, the pouch feels nice and well made indeed! It measures 20 (length) x 11 (height) x 5 (width) cm and is made of softer polyester on the outside and rougher polyester lining. All the stitches are neat and even with no loose threads, and all seams are covered with tough and thick polyester piping.

There are 2 compartments to the pouch, both separated by zippers. The pouch is padded on both sides, but the middle divider is not padded.

The first compartment has an open-top clear PVC pocket runs length-wise on the left. On the right it has what looks like deep pockets for either pens or makeup brushes (unless you have a long and slender gadget of some kind...) and a stretch band towards the top to keep things in place.

The second compartment has yet another open-top pocket on the left, though this made out of a larger-weaved mesh. On the right it has 2 pockets that look like they would fit gadgets or card holders, etc.

The magazine also has a 2nd freebie in the form of a sticker sheet with different Cher logo in different colors and prints, although I'm not sure I care enough for these stickers to stick them on anything. For one thing, seeing Cher reminds me of, well, ermm..., Cher, and while I don't dislike her, I don't like her either. Complete utter difference, that's how I feel, so yeah. I left these stickers untouched in the magazine as I flipped through it ^.^

Over all, I scored another great freebie. Can't complain much here :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Chè Chuối Chưng - Vietnamese Banana Tapioca Coconut Pudding

So what the heck did hubby and I searched high and low for in Chinatown instead of Black Friday shopping? Ingredients to make this Vietnamese Banana Tapioca Coconut Pudding (chè chuối chưng)!

The traditional recipe for this pudding calls for a few ingredients that aren't available here in Japan, like the chubby and short (about half the length of a regular banana) but very fragrant banana that's only available in Southeast Asia (chuối sứ, it's actually not readily available in the US either, and when it does, it's expensive as hell!), and yuca roots. So I had to make do with just regular bananas and forgo the yuca. Oh well, it still turned out pretty well, and by well I mean delicious! It's a very heart warming dessert, perfect for the cold weather.

The recipe I used is actually very simple. And I made this pudding using my rice cooker, so it's super convenient too.

Here's my recipe for Chè Chuối Chưng.

Ingredients: makes 6+ servings
- Bananas, 5-6 medium, peeled and quartered
- Tapioca, as much or as little as desired
- Coconut milk, 1/2 a can. I made the pudding pictured below with (and prefer) Chaokoh brand, but any brand will work.
- Peanuts, crushed, half a teaspoon per serving (or more if you like peanuts), for garnish
- Optional: a couple of sprinkles of roasted sesame per serving, for garnish

Seasonings:
- Cane sugar, 5-6 teaspoons, or to taste
- Salt, 1/2 teaspoon

Steps:
- In the rice cooker, dissolve the salt in hot water, just enough to submerge the quartered bananas in. Soak for about 15 minutes.
- Cook the bananas in the salt water using the porridge setting (slow cook, takes about 1 hour).
- Mean while, boil water in a separate and cook the tapioca until almost transparent, then remove and set aside.
- About 30 minutes into cooking the bananas, add the tapioca into the rice cooker, mix in the sugar and stir gently as to not break the banana chunks. Make sure the tapioca is submerged in the water along with the bananas, add more water if needs be, but only enough to submerge the contents. Let cook for another 20 minutes.
- About 10 minutes before it's done cooking, gently stir in the coconut milk and mix well. Let finish cooking.
- Serve hot with crushed peanuts and a few sprinkles of roasted sesame. Enjoy!

I was too lazy to crush the peanuts, so I just left them whole ^.^

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Body Shop Aloe Gentle Facial Wash

Started using this Body Shop Aloe Gentle Facial Wash a few weeks ago. Gentle, it is, a pushover almost! Unfortunately this one is a let down, and I actually had hopes for it too!

To be fair, it is quite mild and not stripping at all while rinsing clean and does not leave my skin tight afterwards. So why don't I like it? Two things - first the texture, and secondly, the smell.



Well, looking at the bottle and its huge pump, I would expect this thing to dispense some foam. And it does dispense foam, yeah, some very wimpy foam. In fact, the foam is so pathetic that as soon as I apply it my face, it disappears completely and I'm left with this thin soapy slippery liquid that was supposed to foam! I guess I'm so used to the Japanese face washes that foams like mad! Even the Dove Beauty Moisture Creamy Face Wash that I had faulted for dispensing only thin and not as creamy a foam, at the very least it dispensed some foam, unlike this...thing! I wonder why The Body Shop even bothered with the big and bulky foam dispenser?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Laziness

What did you do for Thanksgiving? I didn't do much, got my hands tied across the big pond here and couldn't participate in any of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday craziness :( Boo. Hiss. Well, I did indulge in an online Sephora order, getting a few shaving gift sets for hubby and, umm, getting this nifty Sephora tote for myself ^.^

***Picture from Sephora USA.

Ha, never would I imagine myself turning into a "bag lady," erh, "freebie bag lady," to be more precise. I would say the cosmetics/skin care GWP situation in the US is pretty freakin' awesome, now if only the US magazines would give out freebies with each issue too...

Wore this out to yakiniku Thanksgiving dinner (pics below) with hubby. Totally uninspiring, no? And yes, that's my tiny doorway. Hubby has to duck whenever he comes through. Poor guy.
- Hat: JCrew
- Hoodie: just a random hoodie my sister bought from her trip to Vietnam. It cost a whole $5 or something ridiculous like that. I love it ^.^ It's super cozy and fits me well!
- Shirt: Gap
- Camisoles: Gap and Aeropostale, yep, layering up now that it's chilly
- Jacket: Express, 5 layers in all, including this jacket
- Scarf: another random pick by my sister, bought in Vietnam xD It's very soft too!
- Bag: Nine West
- Jeans: homemade, by my aunt xD
- Knee high socks: some Japanese brand I bought 5 years ago when I was a JET in Takaoka. Still launders wonderfully after 5 years of heavy wear!
- Boots: Nine West

As per our yearly tradition, instead of taking a stroll through the mall on Black Friday, we took a stroll through Chinatown in search of cooking ingredients. I made a bit more effort to dress myself this time ;P

- Hat: JCrew, same hat as above
- Blouse: La Redoute
- Sweater: Express, it's mock-neck and great for layering!
- Camisoles: Gap and Aeropostales
- Jacket: unknown brand
- Bag: Nine West
- Belt: JCrew
- Shorts: Express
- Leggings: Express
- Knee high socks: unknown Japanese brand, same as above
- Boots: Nine West

Not wanting to cook anything for Thanksgiving (no access to turkeys, plus we're not a big fan anyway...), hubby and I went out for Korean BBQ at Shichirin Yakiniku AnAn again. Close enough, right? :P

And I actually took pictures of the food this time instead of gobbling them all up. Well actually, the first picture was taken after half of the food had been eaten xD

We pretty much ordered everything we wanted, beef, chicken, bibimbap, soup, kimchee sides, etc. We left the place stuffed silly, just as we would at home :)

This "soup" was more like porridge because it had rice in it, but it was fantastic! And spicy too!

We're not missing out much this Thanksgiving I guess, except for the family and friends, of course, and perhaps all the crazy Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping madness too. Then again, we would never ever line up or camp out for anything anyway. Usually, we just take a stroll more or less through the mall and that was it, so this year we took a walk through Chinatown instead :P

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pad Thai

Let's just say no one can say they've had Thai food without ever trying Pad Thai. The dish differs slightly here and there, but ultimately some of the key ingredients/garnishings show up inevitably in every version out there, namely bean sprouts, garlic chives (韮菜, nira, hẹ), shrimps, tofu, eggs, lime, crushed peanuts, and the Pad Thai sauce itself!

Pad Thai from Thai Avenue, Boulder, Colorado.

There are 2 ways to make Pad Thai:
1. The traditional way, making the sauce from scratch, then using the sauce to make the dish. This traditional way is a bit tough, of course, because there will be hard to find ingredients. I found the recipe for this Pad Thai sauce from www.importfood.com.
2. The quick way, using a ready-made Pad Thai sauce. Super duper easy and fast since you don't have to bother with the sauce at all!

Here's the recipe to make Pad Thai sauce from scratch.

Seasonings: per 2 servings of Pad Thai
- Palm sugar (đường thốc nốc), 2 heaping Tablespoons
- Thai fish sauce (preferably Squid brand), 4 Tablespoons
- Tamarind concentrate, 2 Tablespoons
- Thai Sriracha sauce (preferably Shark brand, mild or strong if you want your Pad Thai spicy),
***Picture from www.importfood.com.

***Picture from Thai Food & Travel.

Steps:
- Simmer palm sugar, fish sauce, Srichara sauce, and tamarind concentrate together until sugar are all melted and sauce thickens. Set aside to use or refrigerate up to 1 week.

Ready made Pad Thai sauce. So far I've only tried Mae Ploy brand and it wasn't too bad.
***Picture from Amazon.com.

Here are what I used to make Pad Thai. Again I am not claiming this to be my recipe, because it's not.

Ingredients: per 2 servings of Pad Thai
- Rice noodles sticks, or rice sticks, or better known as dry Pho noodles, any brand will work but note the noodles must be flat and not rounded, 1/3 pack, medium width.
- Eggs, 2 medium (1 per serving)
- Shrimps, small or medium, peeled and deveined, as many as desired, dunk in boiling water but do not cook
- Fried tofu, sliced into strips, a small handful per serving
- Bean sprouts, rinsed well, a handful per serving
- Garlic chives, washed and cut into 2-inch lengths, as much as desired
- Fresh shallots, sliced. If fresh is not available, fried shallots is a good substitute.
- Optional: salted/pickled radish, rinse and squeeze to drain water.
- Lime, 1 wedge per serving, for garnish
- Crushed peanuts, as much as desired, for garnish

Dry Pho noodles, or rice sticks
***Picture from www.importfood.com.

The jar says fried red onion, but it's actually shallots. This is the brand I always use, but any brand should work.
***Picture from alibaba.com.

Steps:
- 1 Hour before cooking, soak the dry Pho noodles in hot (not boiling) water
- Heat oil in wok, crack in 1 egg and scramble briefly and transfer to plate
- Throw in the shrimps, cook quickly and transfer to plate along with eggs
- Cook shallots, salted/pickled radish, and tofu until fragrant
- Grab half of the noodles from the its soaking water and throw into wok, stir fry until soften
- Add bean sprouts, garlic chives, pour on Pad Thai sauce and stir fry until noodles are well coated
- Add the scrambled eggs and shrimps back into the wok, mix well and transfer to plate
- Serve hot with a wedge of lime and crushed peanuts.

Pad Thai made at home in the states with sauce made from scratch using the recipe above.


Pad Thai made here in Japan with Mae Ploy ready-made Pad Thai sauce.

Moving some posts over

Starting today I will be moving all my mook, magazine, and outfit/fashion-related posts from my other blog onto this blog. I feel those posts are more relevant here than on a blog where I post about daily life things. Plus the readers of my other blogs are mostly family and friends and to be honest, they probably want to know more about my daily life and could not careless for fashion or accessories.

So yes, you will suddenly find several more posts on this blog and less on the other blog. Sorry for the confusion!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Victoria's Secret Sexy Little Things Noir Scented Body Lotion

I had a whiff of Victoria's Secret Sexy Little Things Noir at the store a while back and thought it smelled light enough for me to endure in a lotion. So when I got this GWP tube of Noir Scented Body Lotion, I thought I'd give it a try.


Well, turns out the lotion is pretty strongly fragranced. I tolerated for the first couple of times used and then I couldn't stand it shortly after ^.^ I knew there was a reason I don't like perfumed lotions. In comparison to just scented lotions, they're really something else! The lotion itself is okay, nothing special and even a bit sticky. It feels pretty smooth though, I will give it that, but otherwise it's just a regular lotion.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Steady June 2010

Yet another backissue of Steady, this one for June 2010. This is probably my most favorite freebie bag of the moment! You'll see why.

Thanks to Amazon JP again, for providing me with this bag when I was in a frenzy searching for it high and low. Can't miss out on the black and white gingham freebie bag now, can I? :P

I've never heard of the brand Beams, though it seems to be very popular here.

This Beams bag is also made of polyester and is a larger size tote, measuring 20 (height) x 34 (length) x 9.5 (width) cm.

I scored yet another awesomely made bag, let me tell you. Even though the exterior is polyester, it has a satin-like shine and is rather thick. There is 1 pocket outside under the Beams brand logo.

Inside it is completely lined with a button at top for closure, though no interior pockets. And the sewing and stitching throughout the bag is impeccably neat and even. The inside seams are all covered with polyester piping, though no sharp points in corners were left behind as the case of the Paul & Joe Sister bag from the September issue. I'm absolutely thrilled with this one as it is a rare quality find indeed for a magazine freebie.

Here's a picture of a model carrying the bag. As you can see, it's a decently sized tote, let alone so well made and has cute gingham print. Lucky!!!

Soap Crazy Part IX (Picture Heavy!)

Long time no...soap post! I think I'm actually loosing track of which bars I've posted and which I haven't, because I've used many, gifted many, and repurchased many. So if you see a bar I've posted before, sorry!

Fresh & Clean: Before leaving to Japan I bought a huge batch of soaps from this vendor, some 17 bars or around there. So you can expect to see lots more of this vendor in the future as I go through the soaps. And although I did end up giving a few of these bars away again, I will also keeping many to myself. They're spectacular! You'll see.

- Happy Lemon Goats Milk Soap: this bar of soap looks like a gigantic dessert bar, actually. And it smells so wonderfully of lemon, which I really like. This became a gift to a really sweet lady whom we visited recently.



LostRiverRags: still stalking this vendor waiting for a lotion sale ^.^ I pretty much gave up on buying their soaps because the fragrances were completely hit and miss. I could not smell anything from the majority of the soaps, other than that pesky musty odor. So yeah, I will only buy lotions from now on.

- Winter Grapefruit Goats Milk Hand & Body Lotion: using this right now and loving it! The scent is of a bitter note, more like grapefruit peel than the actual grapefruit itself, but fresh and clean nonetheless. The lotion never fails to impress me. It goes on super smooth and light, absorbs instantly and disappears into my skin as if I never applied a thing, and yet it keeps my arms and legs feel soft and moisturized all day!

Paradise Body Shop: haven't bought from this vendor now that I'm in Japan. Candice's soaps are larger bars, and therefore understandably more expensive, plus sending them all the way here will cost me an arm and a leg. I'll probably have to wait until I'm about to go home for a visit before buying, so I can pick them up while I'm home and bring them back to Japan with me. All the bars below were given as gifts, with the exception to only 1, the Cranberry Goat's Milk.

- Wasabi Goat's Milk Soap: I really wondered whether this bar truly smelled like wasabi. I gifted it to a Japanese lady, whose though process I can sort of guess, "Ehhh????" LOL!


- Oat Meal Milk & Honey Goat's Milk Soap: I really love this scent, and I think I've bought an Oat Meal Milk & Honey bar from every soap vendor I buy from ^.^ They all have the same warm and cozy scent, of course, even if each bar looks different.


- Cucumber Melon Goat's Milk Soap: smelled more like melon than cucumber. It ended up a gift too.



- Cranberry Goat's Milk Soap: this bar took me by surprise - it's the very first bar from Paradise Body Shop that I didn't care for. Actually, I didn't like the scent of this bar at all. It smelled nothing like cranberry. Instead, it had this really spicy christmas-y scent, like a mixture of pine woods and holly. Perhaps someone else would have loved it, but I couldn't appreciate it at all!



- Cantaloupe Goat's Milk Soap: I usually don't like cantaloupes but this bar wasn't meant for me anyway :P


- Brown Sugar Goat's Milk Soap: this was gifted to a nice gal I befriended recently. I hope she likes it because if it smelled anything like the Cinnamon Bun Goat's Milk Soap, it will surely be warm and sweet.



Rachel Rene: For some reason, this vendor now sells mostly cold process soaps. I really prefer her melt and pour kind, as I noted that her soaps are probably the smoothest soaps I've used. Not sure why she switched to focus on cold process, oh well...

- Lavender Basil Soap: I actually had bought this bar a few times now, and every time when I intended to keep it to myself, I ended up giving it away! Hmph!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Steady September 2010

Yes, a popular backissue of Steady September 2010, all because of this Paul & Joe Sister freebie.

I got my issue from Amazon Japan because, of course, no where else has it anymore.

The bag is made of polyester and measures 20 (height) x 25 (length) x 10 (width) cm.

The exterior is rather bland and boring, being plain camellia pink with just a kitty and the brand name Paul & Joe Sister printed towards the top of the bag. It has a button for closure but no pockets outside or inside.

So why did I buy it? Because of the lining. Yes, the lining is a super cute polyester that is white with lilac polka dots and the same kitty + Paul & Joe Sister print. Besides, not every magazine freebie bag is lined, let alone lined with such adorable print polyester!

However, I will be honest with my appraisal that the craftsmanship of the bag can use some improvement. It left a lot to be desired, actually. The handles of the bag feel very flimsy and has overlapping stitches that look like they were done in haste.

On the inside of the bag, at the 4 top corners, the plastic piping of the inner seams form 4 very sharp points that scratches my arms and fingers every time I touched them or accidentally wipe my arm across reaching into the bag. As much as I love the cute polyester lining of this bag, I am afraid this bag is not as well made as I had hoped.

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