Thursday, July 03, 2014

New on the Lemming List: Meli Melo Thela Bag

I blame Olivia Palermo.

It has been out for a while, so I'm a bit late to the party. I only discovered it while googling around for a new schlepping bag (I want one in tan this time).

I like how the handles go from front to back instead of the conventional left to right - it reminds me of the Hermes Lindy (which is only the element of dreams for now). I also like that you can tuck in the sides to make it more compact, and that the long strap can be fastened to the middle buckle when not in use is a pretty nifty, and well thought out, detail.

I would get it in a heartbeat if only it weren't so prohibitively priced - it retails for around five hundred pounds (ouch). I'm really trying to behave myself this year and curb my impulse spending, so I'm waiting it out for a couple more months to see if I really like it enough to splurge. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

I'm Back! House Favorites

A whole month without posts. Eep.
I guess moving, for the third time in three years, was more unsettling than I thought. I do love my new apartment, though.

Home sweet home ^^

I have realized, over the last couple of years, that I have a preference for small, uncluttered spaces. In fact big apartments freak me out - I once stayed in this massive room in Prague by my lonesome and I was so anxious I barely got any sleep.

So when I found this teeny tiny unit within walking distance from work I decided it was worth looking at. It's a studio apartment with a loft bed, and I don't dispute that one of the main deciding factors was its resemblance to my former flat in Tokyo. What it lacks in square footage it makes up for with the high ceiling and the amount of light from the window. The space is small, but it's more than enough for me. Maybe just shy of enough if you include my stuff, but I'm working on that.

I've spent the last couple of weeks trying to get the apartment up and running with my sister (who I'm sharing it with) - two trips to Ikea, countless more to Daiso, and shuttling back and forth between department stores to find the best deals on appliances. I'm quite pleased with how it all turned out (so far), so I thought I'd let out a barrage of my favorite things to somehow make up for the lack of posts. Somehow.

Zojirushi Rice Cooker

Zojirushi Rice Cooker
Can we all take a moment to acknowledge how insanely cute my rice cooker is? It's only as big as Puck (the hedgehog)! 

Zojirushi is a Japanese brand well-known for their rice cookers, and knowing how I've only ever had perfectly cooked rice in Tokyo I took that as a very, very good sign. This one uses fuzzy logic - a notch above the traditional rice cooker in that it is able to adjust the cooking cycle based on temperature fluctuations and the program selected. In layman's terms: perfect rice, every time, even if you screw up the water ratio. If there's anything I hate, it's gluey, watery rice (malata). 

There is also a porridge mode, which I have used to cook steel-cut oats, and another one for sushi rice and for brown rice which I have yet to try out. The only thing missing is a setting for scorched rice (tutong) which I love. People find it weird but I don't think I'm alone in this because one of the higher-end (read: can't afford) Zojirushi models has one, and I'm definitely getting that one when it's time to upgrade and the budget allows for it. 

The one nifty feature of Japanese rice cookers is the timer setting - you prepare everything in the morning, let it know what time you're eating dinner, and come home to perfectly cooked rice. Not burnt, not soggy. If only I could do the same for ulam - wouldn't that be perfect? 

And have I mentioned it plays Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star when it starts cooking and Amarylis to announce that it is done? And that you can change this "ring tone" if you're so inclined? Yeah, it's that awesome.

Philips Garment Steamer

Philips Garment Steamer
Or, the best impulse purchase ever. I bought it more than a year ago, when I just got back from a two-month business trip to Germany followed by a two-week trip home and I came back to a shitload of clean, rumpled clothes begging to be ironed. Being the world-class procrastinator that I am I decided to go to the mall instead, where I found a heavily-discounted Philips Garment Steamer (in Singapore, land of crazy sales, you never buy at full price), and I have never burned a single article of clothing since. It still took me two weekends to clear the mountain of laundry, though. It was a lot of clothes.

A couple of caveats, though. One, it doesn't produce crisp shirts and perfectly creased trousers. I don't mind because living in Singapore has filled my closet with flimsy, breezy fabric that combust upon contact with a normal flat iron. So I guess it all depends on the contents of your wardrobe. The second caveat is the need to be good with maintenance - it should be emptied after every use and rinsed every so often to prevent blockage and condensation from building up. Otherwise you risk having the steam head spout boiling water every which way in something akin to a volcanic eruption. Not fun, and also quite dangerous. But avoidable. So there's that. Still, I enjoy using it and have no intention of going back to the traditional flat iron.

Philips Air Fryer

Philips Air Fryer
I've been unsure of the air fryer for the longest time, but two weeks of living without one (after a year of using Anj's) I found myself at a loss. 

I got mine in one of those wonderful GSS promotions, with a hefty discount and a free grill pan, and even a trolley to bring it home.

Philips Air Fryer Grill Pan

It originally comes with a wire basket but I find myself using the grill pan more just because it's easier to clean.

For the record, I don't think it's something that should be in every kitchen; it fits a very specific set of needs, and they happen to be perfectly aligned with mine. For one, the capacity is on a small side; I don't think it would be enough for a household larger than three. Also, it is essentially just a fan-forced oven, so if you already have one then it would be redundant.

I also think the name is misleading - it's not really a fryer, no way can this compete with the results of a deep fryer, and for food that is not naturally fatty you would still have to add oil unless you like your food dry and chewy and... sad.

Having said that, I still bought one because it's excellent for roasting vegetables. And chicken, and pork belly, and fish (which can also be steamed by wrapping it in foil). It's more effective than an oven toaster (temperature is more consistent) and it's less bulky and needs less preheating time than an actual oven. Oh, and it's excellent for making toasts too.

Le Creuset

Le Creuset Cast Iron Pan
I have always wanted a cast-iron pan (the better to cook steak with) so I've always been on the lookout for Le Creuset sales. Imagine my glee when I found this red one going for nearly half the retail price! The staff told me it was because they were coming out with a new model with a second handle, which is so not worth that extra hundred dollars but hey, I'm not complaining.

Le Creuset

I follow the Anthony Bourdain criteria when selecting pans: by the amount of damage caused when you bash it into someone's skull. This clocks in just a bit shy of two kilograms, so I would say it passes muster.

Room shoes

Room shoes
Confession: we don't actually use these because they're too pretty. We bought some sensible (read: boring) room shoes from Muji, which we use for walking around the house, Bbut these were just too cute not to purchase. We literally squealed when we saw them, leaving us completely devoid of bargaining power, but we went home happy and that's what matters. Right? Right. 


Yuzu is this really yummy Japanese citrus fruit which is the base for Japan Airline's signature drink Skytime, which is up there in my list of favorite drinks, right next to full-fat Coke. Somebody, bless him, had the brilliant idea of making yuzu-flavored tabasco. No plus points for the name, but to summarize I have one bottle at home and another one at the office and I cannot, for the love of all that is holy, stop dousing my food with it. 

Preppy fountain pens

Colored Fountain Pens
Okay, so they aren't really a "house thing" but how awesome are these colored fountain pens? The brand is called Preppy, which hails from Japan, the land of wonderful things. The nib is 0.3mm, which I personally prefer, but it also comes in a thicker 0.5mm. The best part? They retail for less than five dollars each!


Because there's an app for everything, including splitting expenses among flatmates. I wish I discovered this a year ago; it would've saved Anj and I a lot of accounting trouble (read: we're often too lazy to keep track). But seriously, if you share a house and you share expenses (e.g. Flatmate A pays for the rent and Flatmate B pays for the cable bill and internet and Flatmate C did the groceries that one time and she also paid for dinner yesterday) it's a godsend. It keeps track of all the household expenses, who paid for them, and who owes how much and to whom. It's quite nifty and it's working well for me and my sister.

There is also an Android app as well as a website, so you don't have to be a flat full of iPhone users to be able to take advantage. And you really should.

A couple other things
1. Colorful chopping boards from Ikea
2. Microfiber sheets - cheap, but awesome. There is no going back to normal sheets now.
3. Wall clock with smooth second-hand movement. Because the ticking of that second hand drives me nuts sometimes.
4. Meet Mr. Basil. My dream is to have an herb garden, and I'm glad to report that I have managed to keep this plant for days now. Days! If you have any tips on how I could make him thrive drop me a comment below :)

Have a good week, everyone. ^^

Monday, May 19, 2014

Wish Granted: Babyliss Miracurl

We all know I've been relentlessly stalking the Babyliss Perfect Curl for months now, but it has always been way out of my budget. Until a few days ago, that is.

Watsons is now the official distributor of the Babyliss MiraCurl (different name, same product) in Singapore, and it's going for an introductory price of 199 SGD until the end of the month (I think). Still pricey, but considering that this device retails for almost 200 USD online, I think it's a steal.

I found out about it as I was browsing through one of their sale booklet things on my way home, and you bet your ass I hopped off that train and hightailed it towards the giant Watsons store in Ngee Ann City. Nevermind that it was already nine in the evening.

They only had one version, which is the black one with three heat settings, three timer settings, and three curl direction settings (left, right, and auto - for random curls). It also comes with this tiny cleaner thing for the chamber. 

First impressions:
  • It's definitely heavier (and bulkier) than your usual curling iron. I don't have a lot of hair, so it's not that big of a deal, but I can see how that could be problematic. 
  • It is scary at first - there's that mechanical winding sound, and as the hair gets sucked into the barrel you can't help but wonder if it's the last time you see those strands. 
  • It's very easy to use, although the beeps can be distracting (it makes a couple of spaced out beeps that mean nothing, and then beeps four times in succession to let you know it's done). To put things in perspective, it took me years to learn how to curl my hair with a flat iron, a couple of days with a curling iron, but with the Miracurl I only needed a couple of minutes.
  • The initial curls are a bit tight - think bouncy ringlets - but can be easily transformed into loose waves by brushing them out.
  • The device can get hot, but not enough to cause blisters.
  • It works best if hair is well-sectioned - about an inch thick and with no stray strands. 
  • In the event of a snag, it beeps twice to let you know and the barrel rotates the opposite way to free the hair. But this isn't likely to happen if you follow the above tip. 
  • To be honest I cannot tell the difference between the curls that go left and those that go right. But then again when was I able to tell left from right, really.  
  • I have managed to get my hair stuck a grand total of two times - the first was because I did not take time to section off that lock of hair (there were a couple of strands sticking out), and the second was when I was testing out different amounts of hair; it really works best with skinnier sections. Both times I was able to extract my hair without any problems. 

Before and after

I have to say I'm quite pleased. In fact I'm trying to stop myself from curling my hair too often ;)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Very much so, these past couple of days.
Will bounce back in a few.

An attempt to capture a photo of breath condensation one cold, rainy afternoon.
Clearly we failed, but I love the photo nonetheless.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Chasing Planes Day 5: Blame It on the Rain

Murphy's Law: The day you plan to go park-hopping is the day it rains.

Meiji Shrine

I still maintain that there's no need to bring an umbrella to Tokyo, because there's always a convenience store (konbini) around the corner where you could purchase the ubiquitous clear umbrella using only the coins that have accumulated at the corners of your bag (or pocket). And that's exactly what we did when we were greeted by a torrential downpour when we stepped out of the hotel.

While waiting for the others (we were such early birds :p) we dropped by Shibuya to, err, buy more Hakuhodo brushes. Because reasons.

So that escalated quickly. No regrets though ;)

On our way out of the train station we passed by a small patisserie and I did a double-take - it was Joel Robuchon! Perfect, because we haven't had breakfast yet.

Le Pain de Joel Robuchon

And then, as we made our way back to the train station (clutching our precious bag of pastries), what do we see but a Pierre Herme counter with rows and rows of macarons wildly waving at us. We were powerless to resist.

Pierre Herme

We caught up with our friends at Harajuku, and while I originally wanted to try out Wolfgang Puck's restaurant at Takeshita-dori we ended up having lunch at Shakey's (it's a long story, but essentially I was too lazy to walk so I just gave up). Shakey's is very much loved by my colleagues, primarily because they have an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet (and dinner, too). I've always felt it was a cop-out for me, because I'm not too fond of pizza - I have issues with cheese and meat together in one dish (yep, I don't like cheese in my burger too). But they do serve pasta, and unlimited mojo potatoes, and dessert pizza (!!!), so it wasn't so bad. And this being Japan, they had the most interesting pizza toppings - burdock, cod roe, and seaweed, among other things.

Shakey's Tabehoudai

So essentially it became one big carbo-loading feast, and to walk it off we decided to visit the Meiji shrine, never mind the rain. Besides, I'm wearing my trusty boots. Seriously, boots are such a godsend for rainy weather. Imagine not having to worry about getting your socks (or feet) wet on each step. Why they aren't a thing in perpetually flooded Manila is a puzzle to me. People seem to prefer flip flops and Crocs and the risk of leptospirosis. Sigh.


The Meiji shrine is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken. The shrine is celebrating its centennial - it has been a hundred years since the death of the Empress, and along the pathway there is a series of posters chronicling the lives of the royal couple.

Meiji Shrine

In the heart of the shrine is a giant sacred "wish" tree. People write their prayers on wooden tablets and hang them on walls surrounding the tree truk, and the priests pray for all the wishes on the tablets.

Hopefully by now Guido and Sander have solved those motion errors. And Tom and Serina are still sexy. :p
I didn't create one for myself, but the wishing tree must have been on a wish-granting spree that day because as we stepped out of the shrine, we were greeted by a giant SALE sign on the window of the giant GAP store right across. Everything - everything - was going for half-off, including the already discounted items. Crazy.

I left with a jacket, the sweater I was eyeing the day before but did not purchase (thank goodness!), and a pair of distressed jeans. I've never really tried GAP jeans, and not only do these fit perfectly, they are also the perfect length, and that almost never happens. It's a pretty well-behaved purchase, I have to say. In fact the boyfriend bought more pieces, and he also took longer to shop!

Plastic-wrapped paper bags, to protect them from the rain

We were supposed to have dinner at Midori with our ex-officemates who were assigned in Tokyo, but there were too many of us and we could't get a table so we ended up in Sweets Paradise which, as it turns out, is also another all-you-can-eat buffet, and they served pasta and a huge assortment of cakes. Read: carbs and more carbs. Gah.

Before heading home I decided to drop by Inagi, which was my home for a bit more than a year. My friend actually lives in my previous apartment, which was a happy coincidence. Remember the flat iron mark I left on the carpet? There are now three. Hah! It's not just me. Unfortunately by the time we got off the train at Inaginaganuma station it was almost time for the last train back to Kamata, so I wasn't able to visit the apartment. I had to make do with the newly-renovated station instead. Construction started while I was still there, and is still ongoing, but it's very different now - the train tracks are now elevated (before, to get to the other side of the street, we had to cross the train tracks), and instead of running up and down the stairs to switch platforms one can simply use the escalators and lifts. It's been years since I left, and it's amusing, the things that have changed and those that remain the same.