I’m Alive!

So… it’s been a while since I last checked back in here… and I also realised my last few posts have had nothing to do with nails. Oops! Here’s a picture of something I did last month:

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But really, I’ve been super busy flying off to Taiwan/Japan for lessons and exams, and it’s really taken a toll on my health and energy levels. Ugh! I’ve set a lot of goals for myself to reach within these 2 years in terms of Japanese nail certification, so let’s just hope I can make it.

Also… did I mention I got married in July? Goodness! It sure feels strange to be a Mrs now, but I like the sound of it. 🙂

I started teaching a couple of months ago, after having rejected prospective students for a few years. It still amazes me that people admire my work to the extent that they want to learn from me, and I am so grateful for that! I used to be a legit teacher (really, ex-MOE teaching scholar here, and I taught mostly secondary school graduating classes in my 6-year teaching career) and I miss teaching, so I am happy to be conducting these classes. I’ll try to find time to teach 2 classes a month, so check out my class schedule!

Europace EAO 103P 5-in-1 Air Fryer!

Air Fryers are really a life-changing invention! We all hate deep frying stuff because it’s messy and also unhealthy (so much oil!), but with air frying, you don’t use any oil at all and there’s no worry of hot oil splattering onto your skin.

Sometime last year, Mario and I bought an entry-level airfryer from Mayer and it served us pretty well, but then we got a new 5-in-1 Air Fryer from Europace (Thank you Europace!!!) and it’s even more amazing because it can not only fry stuff… it also grills, roasts, skewers and bakes! Apparently you can even bake cupcakes in this Europace Air Fryer, but I’ve been too busy to even try that for myself. On top of work, I’m juggling my JNEC 2 exams and wedding in July, plus I’m also working on an exciting project with Arbutus watches (more on that in another post!). So please bear with my infrequent updates. 😦

Anyway, back to the new air fryer! Here’s a picture for comparison – Europace 5-in-1 on the left and our old Mayer on the right:

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In the name of research, we decided to fry up some nuggets. We love CP nuggets the most!IMG_5081

The first difference I noticed is the grill stand! The Europace one is higher, and the heat gets distributed more evenly.New10

Second thing is… I can now see what I’m cooking without having to take out the food! This is super helpful because air frying is a bit of trial and error for me. Most food packaging only states conventional frying times, which are different from cooking time in an air fryer, so it takes a bit of experimenting and constant checking on the food (take out, shake a bit, put back in, adjust temperature blah blah) before you figure out the optimum cooking temperature and cooking time in the air fryer.

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My nuggets turning golden brown!

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We also tried cooking CP gyoza!

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Super yummy! One thing I noticed about the Europace Air Fryer is that the food comes out a bit juicier compared to the Mayer. Maybe because it’s a different way of cooking? It uses a halogen bulb and a fan for more even heating, compared to the heated coils used in other air fryers. IMG_5115

Unfortunately our current air frying is limited to popcorn chicken, nuggets and gyoza. We should really try some other recipes to make full use of our 5-in-1 air fryer! I mean… look at some of these suggestions from Europace!

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Some more info about the air fryer, taken off the Europace website:

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Yes, it comes with a lot of accessories! I can see us using the pizza pan next to grill some teriyaki salmon, mmm… This 5-in-1 air fryer can even eliminate the need for an oven if you can use it to bake! And that rotisserie spit is pure genius – it even turns your food for you while cooking. Gosh. Psst: this air fryer is currently listed at only $199.90 on the Europace website.

 

 

Review: Hada Labo

Last week we had an event with Hada Labo and we got to keep a set each of the Essence + Hydrating Lotion + Hydrating Lotion (Light). Since it had been a long time since I last used Hada Labo, I decided to take my Canon macro lens out and take before and after pics for comparison.

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The photos on top are after I removed my makeup at night and the photos below are after application of the Essence and the Hydrating Lotion, with the signature patting motions. I think my cheeks and skin look rosier in the after pictures because of the patting motions recommended for the Hyaluronic Acid to penetrate more deeply into the skin for greater hydration. Anyway, I think it does look more moisturised because the skin looks smoother and the pores look smaller!

Actually, my first experience with Hada Labo was years ago, probably on my first trip in Japan, because I’d heard about how popular (one sold every 2 seconds) and how good it was for its price. That was when I first bought the Hydrating Lotion and used it with the signature patting motions. Unfortunately I’m super lazy when it comes to skincare so I left my bottle neglected when I got back to Singapore. I literally don’t even wash my face usually, or use any moisturiser. I just clean my face with makeup remover wipes. Sunblock and BB cream is all I usually use these days.

On a separate trip to Japan in winter, my skin started peeling quite badly because it was too dry. I then bought a different product from Hada Labo – because they had a much bigger range of products in Japan with even more intensive hydration to cater to dry skin in winter – it’s a pink pot with a clear jelly that’s called Perfect Gel 3D and that really did wonders to save my skin in winter. I just found out that it’s now available in Singapore and called the Anti-Ageing Gel Moisturiser, a 3-in-one essence, moisturiser and mask. Interesting!

Now that I’m older, I feel like my skin is more dry because I used to think that the Hydrating Lotion was sticky, but when I tried it last night, it was absorbed super quickly into my skin. I really have to be more hardworking and use it religiously from now on!

Review: Laser Treatment at S&N Aesthetics Clinic

Last month, I decided to get my freckles lasered so that I could have more radiant, even skin for my upcoming wedding photoshoot in May.

I didn’t realise that there were so many women interested in laser treatments to target pigmentation problems until I posted my own experience on my Instagram account (@nailartexpress) and received way more responses compared to my usual postings on food and nails. I even had strangers and friends who either messaged me in private or asked me when they saw me, wanting to know more about my experience.

I actually never thought about trying to remove my freckles until quite recently, when I started getting more comments about my freckles being quite obvious and questions about whether I intended to do anything about them. What really pushed me over the edge was when I saw the effects of the laser treatment on one of my friends. She’d gone for a laser treatment at S&N Aesthetic Clinic and I saw how it actually WORKED and reduced her pigmentation significantly. And then of course, being a bride-to-be, I’m a sucker for anything that will make me look better and I can always write it off as a “necessary expense”, “once in a lifetime”. 女人的钱最容易赚, right?

So well, I impulsively decided to get it down and called to fix an appointment. I didn’t even think of taking proper before and after pictures because I really didn’t realise people would be interested in my experience. The only picture I have of my freckles before my laser treatment would be this one:

Unfortunately, I’m wearing makeup in the photo so you can’t see my freckles in all their former glory, but you can still see them despite the fact that they’re partly covered by the makeup… which proves that they must have been really dark, right?

I took the last appointment slot (4.30pm) but the clinic was quite busy with customers streaming in so I actually waited more than half an hour before the doctor attended to me. He was very nice and upon examining my face, he took out a book and showed me the different kinds of pigmentation and told me I had not only freckles but also age-related pigmentation (that women in their 30s onwards would develop). One of his staff then applied numbing cream on my cheeks and I was left alone for about 15-20 minutes to let the numbing cream do its job. In the meantime, I could hear the doctor doing a treatment for another patient. The funny thing is that this clinic doesn’t even have a Facebook page or a website and yet it has many customers. My friend has been going to this doctor for years and recommended him highly, so I guess it must be one of the more reliable and affordable aesthetics clinics around.

When the doctor did the laser treatment for me, it was initially tolerable. The pain was minimal, kind of like IPL/being hit by rubber bands. BUT then he moved on to zap areas that his staff didn’t apply any numbing cream on – I think she failed to notice the freckles on other parts of my face since she only applied a very thin layer on my cheeks, sigh. So, the doctor was zapping freckles on the side of my nose, a corner of my upper eyelid, near my dark eye circles etc… AND IT HURT A LOT MORE. What made the whole experience evevn more scary was that I could smell my skin burning with each zap. When he was done, my cheeks started to feel really hot, like it was on fire. I got really scared and after I told them, they applied a cooling gel sheet mask for me, which helped to relieve the burning sensation. They also applied a healing cream for me.

Then, they passed me a mirror and I got a shock when I saw myself because all the spots that had been zapped were super red and swollen and I looked like I had mini welts. I wasn’t expecting to look that bad, but oh well, as long as it turned out to be effective, it would be worth it.

Check out how scarily crumpled and red my skin looked right after the laser:

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This is how I looked about three hours after the treatment:

And about eight hours after the treatment:

Generally still swollen, red, and slightly sore (not painful anymore though).

The laser treatment cost $300 but I paid an extra $260 for four products, including these two which I was told to start using immediately and the other two to use a week after:

I was really kiasu and bought the quick recovery cream because my skin looked so scary after the treatment that I would probably have bought ANYTHING to make it heal faster. Anyway, it has a light texture and was very quickly absorbed.

As for the sunblock, it had a lovely texture as well and glided onto my skin without feeling thick or oily. For an entire WEEK after the laser treatment, I did not wear any makeup at all and only used these two products religiously.

I also went out wearing a cap and a face mask to minimise sun exposure.

Over the next four days, the zapped spots started to grow darker until they became scabs. Some of them started to fall off. This is how I looked on the 5th day:

And here’s a collage showing my recovery process:

What do you think of the results? My doctor said I have two different kinds of pigmentation and I think he only targeted the freckles this time. I think the most obvious difference is the giant spot that was at the side of my eyelid. Most of the freckles are generally visibly lighter but I realised later on that there were several spots that he missed out on zapping, such as a freckle above my eyebrow, and several on my nose that probably look like blackheads but are actually freckles. Overall, I think the treatment was quite effective and I’ll head back soon for second round so he can work on the lighter patches of pigmentation and the remaining freckles… and this time, I’m going to make sure his staff applies enough numbing cream!

Psst – this is me in Bangkok’s sweltering heat, a week after the treatment, finally wearing makeup!

Click here for details for S&N Aesthetics Clinic, if you want to try them!

Luke’s Lobster (Tokyo – Omotesando)

Ever since I discovered Luke’s Lobster in Tokyo, I absolutely have to eat the lobster roll every time I visit.

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Succulent, generous chunks of fresh lobster meat from Maine, delicate seasoned so that the sweetness of the lobster shines, and sitting in a buttery toasted bun. Perfection!

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And at a really affordable price too, especially from a Singaporean’s point of view! This lobster roll costs only 980yen.

I first went to the branch in Omotesando (nearest train station: Meijijingumae), which is in the Harajuku area.

You can see the map and address as well as a ton of photos that will make you salivate over at their facebook page.

Don’t say I bojio! They also have a branch in Osaka, in the Shinsaibashi shopping area. Check out their full menu at their website but please don’t expect much in terms of variety, because they have a limited menu (which they do very well) and virtually no seating capacity. Just grab and go!

Neverland Siberian True Love Cafe in Bangkok

Mario and I decided to spend last Christmas in Bangkok to celebrate our anniversary – yes, we got together on Christmas Day years ago!

Mario really loves huskies, so when we found out that there was a cafe in Bangkok that has tons of huskies for you to play with, we had to check it out on our Bangkok trip!

It’s located near BTS Ari, tucked away in a quiet part of the neighbourhood, and we had to walk a fair bit past residential areas.

This map is taken from the cafe’s Facebook page and the cafe is #14 on the map!

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We were super kiasu and arrived about half an hour early for their first seating. The cafe has fixed timings for husky interaction:

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[Note: found this pic off the internet and saved it, but subsequently forgot where I got it from…]

We had to each get a meal set (the cheapest/lightest option is a dessert and drink combo), and that covers the interaction with the huskies. Unlike most pet cafes, you don’t pay an entrance fee. It was pretty affordable, although the food wasn’t that great… but you know nobody’s here for the food when there are at least 25 huskies here for you to play with!

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The huskies were so cute and fluffy! At the start of the interaction time, they were given ice cubes as a treat.

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Mario had the time of his life petting all these lovely dogs…

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And took a selfie too, haha!

I found the huskies to be very well-kept and friendly! I’m a little afraid of big dogs, but I gathered my courage and petted a few. Super soft fur, and they all seemed really happy. Apparently they’re kept in air-conditioned comfort outside of interaction time, which is very limited anyway.

If you’re a dog-lover, I totally recommend checking out this cafe. There’s even one little shi-tsu who thinks he’s a husky and acts like one. 😀

EuropAce Imperial Healthy Cooker Giveaway Result!

Thank you to all who took part in the giveaway!

Congratulations to Pei Qi for winning an Imperial Healthy Cooker, kindly sponsored by EuropAce!

Met up with her at Tampines to pass her the prize!

Also, I’ve been meaning to share so many of our (me and Mario’s) cooking stories, but haven’t gotten round to doing it. Well, enough procrastination! Here’s one of the things we researched: cooking with frozen vs fresh meat!

So, we decided to make bak kut teh with spare ribs – half from frozen meat and half from fresh meat.

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Technically, I suppose the fresh meat wasn’t very fresh because it was marked down for quick sale, but I can’t resist a bargain!

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Even though the fresh meat was on sale, the frozen meat was still significant cheaper by about 30%. This is why we wanted to investigate – because if frozen meat can taste as good as fresh meat, but costs 30% – 50% less, I would opt for frozen! I’d done some research on the Internet and so many people were in support of using frozen meat that I just had to give it a try.

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One thing I really don’t like about these Porkee frozen spare ribs is how they’re cut into cubes, regardless of where the bone is.

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Compare that to the fresh meat:

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We used one of those instant mixes for the bak kut teh soup, and tossed in some garlic. The result:

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We cooked the bak kut teh for 1h 30mins – technically we just dumped it all into the Imperial Healthy Cooker and didn’t need to check on it until we wanted to eat it.

The soup was a little meh but that’s actually because of the quality of the mix – I think we used A1 for this meal. We tried Song Fa bak kut teh mix another day and it was super good, very flavourful soup!

As for the meat – sadly, the fresh meat was more tender than the frozen. We later ran more experiments and discovered that when cooking with frozen meat, we could still get it to be tender and melt in the mouth, but would need to cook it for a longer time.

Verdict: Yes, fresh is always better than frozen… but if you have the time to wait, you can save money and get the same great taste by using frozen meat!

And by the way… chef Mario also cooked other dishes!

BRUSSEL SPROUTS omg super hard to find, and usually quite expensive! I love the nutty flavour of this vegetable!

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Omelette!

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Stir fry is always quick and easy for busy/lazy people like us!

Happy Year of the Monkey!

Whew! I’ve been super busy in the salon for the pre-CNY peak period but now that it’s officially the first day of the Lunar New Year, things are going to be better (for now… until I fly off for our staff trip to Seoul and Osaka on Thursday eeps).

Here are some of my favourite sets done for my customers this CNY!

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EuropAce Imperial Healthy Cooker Giveaway!

Since Mario and I bought the EuropAce Imperial Healthy Cooker in August (then known as the Magic Healthy Cooker – click to read about our first attempt cooking with it or click here to read my second post on it), we’ve been able to cook healthy and yummy meals easily at home whenever we want!

Basically it works using steam and distillation so that your ingredients retain their nutrition/essence and you don’t need to resort to using MSG/chicken stock cubes/excessive flavouring because all the natural flavours and nutrients are locked in! I found this video explaining how it works:

And here’s some of the stuff we’ve cooked with it, posted on my Instagram account:

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I cannot stress enough how wonderful this cooker is for busy couples! It’s got a timer so you can prepare the ingredients in advance and get it to start cooking so that it’s done just by the time you’re ready to eat… and the size is perfect for cooking a meal for 2-3 pax. It’s so fuss-free and healthy – we literally just throw the ingredients in and don’t have to check on it because nothing gets burnt… and all the flavours are retained.

Somehow, the generous folks at EuropAce stumbled on my blogpost about the EuropAce Imperial Healthy Cooker and seeing how much I liked and believed in the cooker, they’re now sponsoring one for me to give away! This currently retails at $149.90, but you could win it by taking part in my giveaway! It’s very simple to enter:

1. Leave a comment (make sure to fill in your name and email address so we can contact you if you’re the winner!) and tell us why you’d like to win this cooker.
2. Share your favourite soup recipe with us!

Winners will be chosen by 23 December… so good luck! This is going to be a great Christmas present!

Tokyo: St. Marc Cafe (many locations)

On our last trip to Tokyo, we fell in love with their soft serve ice cream paired with flaky Danish, but never got to try their matcha desserts because the Danish was always too tempting.

This time, we made sure we tried the matcha desserts!

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Unfortunately, they turned out to be a big disappointment. The mochi balls were half-frozen and were a weird consistency – goopy, wet, too soft in some parts and rock hard in other parts. The azuki beans were also a little too hard (also a bit frozen perhaps?). Having tried their perfect Danish desserts, these matcha ones really paled in comparison. Next time we’re in the mood for matcha, we’ll head straight to Gion Tsujiri instead…

Tokyo: Gion Tsujiri (Tokyo Skytree)

On our November trip to Tokyo, we were lucky and scored an AirBnB apartment that was spacious, well-furnished, and very near Oshiage station (Tokyo Skytree). Oshiage is a super underrated location because it’s not in central Tokyo, but it’s also a transportation hub, with access to several train lines that take you to popular spots like Akihabara, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Tsukiji etc in less than 30minutes. Plus, you can travel easily and cheaply to both Haneda and Narita airports.

Furthermore, Tokyo Skytree has amazing shopping and food options. When you’re tired from shopping, you can grab some yummy treats, like we did at Gion Tsujiri, on the 6th floor!

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Apparently this matcha specialty store is from Kyoto and very established and popular!

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They have three kinds of green tea ice cream flavours, including ROASTED green tea! We decided to get a parfait with all three kinds just to sample the flavours, and we loved them all! They blend very nicely together too, and my favourite (well, if I absolutely had to choose) is the regular matcha – not too sweet and not too bitter!

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The mochi balls were the perfect consistency – soft, but chewy – and the azuki beans were also perfect – not too soft or too hard, and sweet.

The waffle cup was crispy and yummy too – and it came with a special spoon in the shape of the Tokyo Tower! If you sit down to enjoy your dessert or drink, you also get a beautiful view of Tokyo.

All in all, it’s really a perfect spot to relax over a yummy matcha dessert!

Tokyo: Butayaro (Ochanomizu)

I just got back from Tokyo a couple of days ago and I now have a huge backlog of photos to share, both from this trip and the previous trip! I’m going to try my best to update every couple of days so that I can hopefully clear it all before my next trip in February 😡

Usually, when Mario and I visit Butayaro, we opt for either the small or medium bowl (500yen and 700yen respectively).

This time, however, we decided to try a large bowl (900yen) just to get a nice photo of the generous slices of meat for a comparison. I ordered a small for myself and a large for Mario so we could share the meat.

This was the small bowl (old pic):

And this is the big bowl:

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It was so huge I had to have my hand/phone in the picture for scale! There was wayyyyy too much rice though – Mario could only finish less than 2/3 of it. But the pork was simply fantastic, as usual.

Sadly, each time we visit, the queue seems longer. This place is sure getting popular! Good thing the queue moves relatively quickly.

More details on Butayaro – read my previous blog entry!

Tokyo: Gran Cyber Cafe b@gus (Shinjuku)

Have you ever heard of Manga Kissas? Otherwise known as Comic Cafes (because they have a lot of comic books you can read) or Internet Cafes, you pay to spend time there and can use their computers, read the comics/magazines, or binge on beverages and ice cream freely!

These cafes are usually open 24/7, so they can be a good budget option if you need a place to crash at night – there are no proper beds/rooms, but you can get a private booth with a sofa and computer and just sleep there for the night. Great especially for travellers coming in to Tokyo late at night!

On our last trip to Japan, we had to move from our hotel to an AirBnb apartment halfway through our trip, and we decided to go to a manga kissa because check out was 11am and check in was 3pm so we had some time to kill in between.

Mario did some research and decided to go for the b@gus chain of manga kissas, even though they may not be the cheapest – but they are certainly nicer and clean too!

We went to the Shinjuku branch, which is bigger!

The pricelist – you’re paying by time spent, and you can opt for open seats, or private booths. Prices are per pax. They have packages for 3/5/8 hours and even overnight packages. You can also use their shower facilities for a small fee.

We opted for a private room for 2 pax, with a sofa seat.

The sofa is just very basic and functional so don’t expect anything luxurious…

The drinks and even soup from the vending machines are all free! And soft-serve ice cream too!

Hot food also available for a fee!

All in all, it was a pleasant experience and I wouldn’t mind spending time there again! Weekend rates are a little higher. We came on a weekday, opted for a 3-hour pack, and paid 2030yen in total, after tax. NOTE that you have to present your passport for them to make a photocopy in order to use the Internet!

They have plenty of branches, so check out more information on their website HERE!

My Halloween Nails

Finally posting my Halloween nails, which I loved so much!

Recently, Mario and I did a bit of furniture shopping so as to revamp the workstations in his room (basically so we could work side by side) as well as to create a working area for me in the living room to play with my nail stuff. So I now have a working area that’s super conducive for me to do my own nails or to practice nail art… and in the initial excitement over my new space, I went all out with my Halloween nails!

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I’m usually so tired from work that all I want to do when I get home is to laze around a bit and maybe watch some videos on Youtube, surf the internet and so on, so my nails are usually kept super simple. However, this time, I even did sculpture extensions for myself so I could have more room for nail art. Plus, I was a little sick of being careful with my nails (my natural nails are a little thin and chip easily) so extensions would be a lot stronger and less to worry about!

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I actually did the nail art over a few days due to time constraints. I started with one nail – the badass punk version of Disney’s Alice, based off a handphone cover artwork I bought two years ago. I’d always wanted it on my nail, but only got round to it now!

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On another night, I completed my right hand. I decided that badass Alice needed to do some jail time, hence the prison stripes. Her crime – drug offences, but the police failed to realise that she was also guilty of murder… did they miss the clues from the roses dripping red with blood?

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Finally, I completed the right hand (a very torturous process considering that I’m right-handed) with more bloodied roses, and a graveyard scene where Alice’s victim is buried.

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On the right thumb I painted the murder weapon – a knife dripping with blood, and the word Mad (part of a quote from Alice in Wonderland – “we’re all mad here”). I think the drugs made her do it.

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I had a lot of fun spinning this twisted tale on my nails!

Tokyo: Squirrel Park (Machida)

I’d always wanted to check out the squirrel park in Machida but kept putting it off because it was a little inacessible (head to Machida station, which is a fair distance from central Tokyo, and then take a 20-30min bus ride to the squirrel park). Well, since we had the luxury of time during our July/Aug Japan holiday, we decided to finally check it out!

I think we took about an hour by train to get to Machida. We were well-prepared for the long ride with food!

We filled our bellies with onigiri, ice cream and a katsu burger from a combini.

From Machida, we were supposed to “take a bus from the no.21 bus stop”, according to Tokyo Cheapo’s article on the squirrel park. What the article doesn’t tell you is that the bus stop is not that near the station, and we had a hard time looking for it because the map at the station showing all the bus stops was not drawn to scale. I ended up asking a random security guard where the bus stop was and he pointed me the right way. There are two buses that serve the bus stop, and both go to the squirrel park.

So happy when we saw this giant sign showing that we’d finally found the park!

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The park isn’t very big, but it has plenty of squirrels! There are some enclosures in the main area, holding various species of squirrels, as well as other small animals like rabbits and guinea pigs.

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The squirrels look so cute lying flat on the ground!!!

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So fluffy!!!

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Ahhh, so round!

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Lying flat again!

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And belly up…

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Caught mid-munch:

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Guinea pig! Apparently there are some timings/days when you can feed the rabbits/guinea pigs for a fee, but this was not available when we went.

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Next, we entered the main attraction – the squirrel garden where you enter a giant free-roam area FILLED with HUNDREDS of squirrels that you can feed! For 100yen, you get a small pack of sunflower seeds, and you get to borrow a glove too (very important, because these critters have sharp claws!).

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And so the feeding began…

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All the squirrels were super enthusiastic about gettng fed and didn’t hesitate in getting up close and personal with the visitors feeding them!

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They climb all the way up to your glove if you let them!

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Love this pose! SO CUTE.

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They have giant tortoises in the same compound. Nope, not going near them.

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Check out the awesome outdoor play area that the squirrels live in! So many little homes!

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You can go out there, or stay in this shaded area where they’ll come to you if you have food.

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I think the squirrels are super cute, but I can’t help feeling terrified that I’ll get clawed, so I was a little cautious feeding them.

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Mario, however, had no such reservations, as you can see.

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The squirrel whisperer in action!

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You really should wear long pants/skirts and long sleeved tops, or you might end up with scratches like Mario did…

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Yup, that’s as near as they got to me…

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Cute squirrel drinking!

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HOW. CUTE.

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SQUEEEEEEE.

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“Are you sure there’s no more food?”

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After feeding the squirrels, we enjoyed some ice cream at the gift store and it was majorly yummy.

140yen for this super yummy, creamy matcha popsicle!

Mario’s arm after interacting with the squirrels. Eeps. I escaped unscathed.

All in all, the squirrel park was massive fun and we laughed till our stomachs hurt at the squirrels’ antics. It’s an absolute must-go, especially if you’re travelling with kids.

Machida Squirrel Park
Entrance fee: 400yen
Getting there: Take any bus from no. 21 bus stop near Machida train station. It’s about a 20-min ride.
Opening hours: 10am-4pm (closed Tuesdays)

ABC Soup by Mario!

Since I’ve been busier at work and Mario is more free these days, he’s been making good use of our EuropAce Imperial Healthy Cooker (renamed!) to cook easy meals for dinner sometimes.

For people like us who love soup, this cooker is the perfect size for making a soup as a main dish for two people!

We’d bought some frozen spare ribs at the Tampines GIANT supermarket, and so Mario decided to use that for soup, together with some random veggies/ingredients from NTUC. The result:

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What’s inside: spare ribs, wintermelon, meat balls, cherry tomatoes, sweet corn and cabbage.

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The cooker has two tiers – the bottom tier is for placing water (for steaming), and the top tier is where you place your ingredients. The steam from the bottom gets distilled and goes into the top tier, so the ingredients cook without losing their essence/taste, since nothing is lost through evaporation. This also means that the longer you cook, the more water/soup you end up with. Thus, when cooking different recipes, we have to think in terms of how much water we want eventually – which is why soups take 1.5 to 2 hours to cook!

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Tastewise, I’m always amazed at how the soups we make using this method can be so tasty without any seasoning/stock. I’ve tried slow cookers, as well as boiling/simmering, and I’ve always ended up having to resort to adding chicken stock cubes because the soups I made didn’t have enough flavour. Plus, we don’t even need to check on the soup’s progress because the cooker does the job and there’s no risk of the ingredients burning at the bottom since no water escapes and there’s always more water being added to the soup due to distillation.

The only problem with this particular ABC soup that Mario made was… there were too many flavours in it and one flavour that didn’t go so well was possibly the cherry tomatoes, making the soup a wee bit sour, while the rest of the ingredients were more sweet/savoury. Next time, we’ll skip the tomatoes!

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Chef Mario also made some minced pork scrambled eggs and heated up a can of braised peanuts. Yep, we’re lazy people.

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THANK YOU MARIO!!! Homecooked food is the best!

Tokyo Day Trip: Enoshima Island!

Mario and I had always wanted to visit one of Japan’s many cat islands (islands populated by more cats than humans), but these cat islands are usually in very inaccessible areas, and getting there can involve lengthy train rides, bus rides, and then a ferry ride. So, when we found out about Enoshima being also a cat island, but a much more accessible one (just 1.5hr from Tokyo by train, and no need to get onto a bus or a ferry), we decided to check it out.

You can walk to Enoshima Island from either Katase-Enoshima or Enoshima Station, so plot your route carefully using Hyperdia to check which destination station is a better route for you! Enoshima is actually very near other tourist hotspots like Kamakura and Yokohama, so you could stay in Yokohama or Fujisawa (in between Yokohama and Enoshima/Kamakura) as a base for exploring the area for 2-3 days. This would reduce the amount of travelling needed if you intend to visit these areas!

For us, we alighted at Katase-Enoshima Station, which has a really cool temple-like facade.

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Then we had to cross a bridge to walk to Enoshima Island. The sun was killing me, so I succumbed and bought the largest floppy hat I could find.

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It was about a 10-minute walk in the sweltering heat, so the first thing we did when we got to Enoshima Island was to grab some soft-serve ice cream!

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In my research, I found out that Enoshima Island was very hilly and there are three long escalators built especially as a short cut alternative to the never-ending stairs that you would otherwise have to climb. The catch – you have to pay to use the escalators. Since it was summer and unbearably hot, we decided not to make ourselves suffer any more than necessary, so we bit the bullet and paid to use the escalators. Good thing there was an ENOPASS option! You pay 1000yen and get to use the escalators, plus get free entrance into the main attractions on Enoshima Island! Pretty good deal!

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While buying the ENOPASS, we spotted the first Enoshima cat! It was just snoozing.

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We’d purchased some cheap cat treats and kibbles from Lawson100 earlier in the day, but even the treats weren’t enough to stir the cat!

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We decided to leave the cat to its own devices and take a ride on the first escalator!

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It was really quite long! Money well-spent. 😛

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When we stepped off the escalator, we found ourselves at the Enoshima Shrine.

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I made a beeline for this area – only because it was summer!

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Snapped some shots of my nails then as well:

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We then entered the Samuel Cocking Garden.

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Mario is my biggest fan/stalker.

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We then went up the observation tower, which was a godsend because… IT WAS AIR-CONDITIONED.

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Plus, you get a good view of the entire island.

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Oh, one more thing about Enoshima’s escalators – they only go up, so you have to walk back down. While making our way to the Iwaya Caves on the other side of Enoshima Island, we spotted some flowers and berries:

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… AND ANOTHER CAT! We were starting to despair because we hadn’t seen any more cats and were starting to feel very let down. Where were all the cats we were promised?!?!?

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We’d read articles that mentioned a cat population of 200, but… so far we’d only seen two. Okay. Onwards to the caves.

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The caves were ok, but nothing spectacular because they weren’t very long. Very small caves! A little wet and cool inside, and dark too, but we were given lit candles to light up the way.

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Outside the caves, you can see the sea. And if you step onto the rocky shore, where plenty of people like to take photos, you might find a surprise.

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Like maybe a hundred sea cockroaches.

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Super gross. They moved quite fast too.

Ok, back to nicer photos. We found more cats!

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… making that a grand total of 5 cats. I think our HDB void deck has more cats than that.

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Back in the streets! We decided to queue for super-flattened octopus crackers!

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It was paper-thin and quite yummy!

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Even better – found another cat right across the cracker stall.

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Snacked on a grilled corn (not so good) from another roadside stall before we left Enoshima.

Instead of returning to Katase-Enoshima Station, we decided to explore the mainland a little by wandering along the alleys until we reached Enoshima Station… which had these cute little bird sculptures on the railings, with knitted clothes on!

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In summary… DON’T BELIEVE WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT ENOSHIMA BEING A CAT ISLAND. You’d be better off in a cat cafe, or committing to a longer journey to a proper cat island. If you’re into cultural stuff like shrines, caves, gardens, etc, Enoshima can still be a pleasant day trip for you. For us – once was enough. If you plan on visiting Enoshima, check out this useful guide!

Tokyo: Beard Papa Cream Puffs (Asakusa)

Without fail, I’ve discovered that with all cafes/restaurants/snack bars that originate from Japan but have outlets in Singapore, the food always tastes better in the Japan outlets! I don’t know if it’s because of differences in the ingredients used, the skill of the chefs, or just a general lack of quality control… but it’s been true so far for everything I’ve tried, such as Yoshinoya, St. Marc’s Cafe, Nana’s Green Tea, Ootoya, MOS Burger, Freshness Burger, etc. And Beard Papa Cream Puffs too!

I first tried Beard Papa Cream Puffs in Singapore and loved it. Then I went to Osaka and tried it and realised how heavenly a cream puff could be! After that, I could never enjoy the Singapore version as much as before. -sadface-

There are plenty of branches in Tokyo too – I’ve had some at Akihabara, and on my last trip, when we went for the Sumida River fireworks, the Beard Papa at Asakusa station was having a special 100yen offer just for the hanabi festival!

Needless to say, we immediately joined the queue.

That yummy, super fresh and rich Hokkaido cream!!!

I think the serving size is more generous in Japan as well. Try it for yourself!