Thursday, 26 February 2015

JVlog #8: Mitsui Retail Park & The Best Waffles Ever

Good Day Everyone,

After several grey rainy days, hubby & I took advantage of the blue sky sunny day last Saturday and headed out to Yokohama Bayside Marina. At the marina there is the Mitsui Retail Park which is like an outlet mall so we mooched around the shops and had a wander along the boarded walk way. To get there we traveled on a train line called the Seaside Line...  such a cute name for a train line, don't you think?
Yokohama Bayside Marina
Mitsui Retail Park

On the way to the Seaside Line we came across a waffle store in Shin-Sugita station and I can honestly say they were the best waffles I've ever had! With flavours such as honey & ginger, orange chocolate (which tasted exactly like Terry's Chocolate Orange) and chocolate chip, there was no way we could resist. They were sooo good that we ended up stopping off at the waffle store on our way back too ;o). At the same train station, we also had one of the best cups of coffee we've ever had - it was a good food and drink day!
Amazing coffee
Whilst we were making our way from the train station to the marina the sound of the song, Feeling Hot Hot Hot, caught our attention and across the road there was a warehouse depot with a Caribbean come Indian vibe selling a whole host of weird and wonderful things. There was everything from furniture, clocks and lampshades through to jewellery, clothes and shoes.
The earrings I picked up from the warehouse depot
Naturally, we had to go and explore, and you can see more in the video below.

Walking through the car park of the retail park we noticed a man stood with a goat and a tortoise in a glass box... very random!

I hope you enjoyed this vlog and insight into our life here in Japan.

Love Sheen xxx
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Friday, 20 February 2015

Skin & Hair Care Haul

Good Day Everyone,

I don't have a Japan vlog for you this week. I've been struggling with my arthritis more than usual these last couple of weeks and as a result we've not ventured out and about. Plus, hubby also had to make an impromptu trip back home to England. I didn't go with him as all that travel would take a huge toll on my already struggling joints but I did give him a shopping list ;o).
Stocked up on face masks
For this weeks video I decided to film a skin and hair care haul. I thought it might be fun, and maybe even interesting, for you to see the kind of skin and hair care products I like to stock up on, as well as some new ones that I'm looking forward to trying. In the video, I also share my experience and thoughts on some of the products that I've already used.
I will be doing a Japanese skin care haul video soon so make sure you subscribe to my YouTube channel so that you don't miss that :o).
Now that I'm finally starting to feel a bit better we will be venturing out this weekend which means I'll have another Japan vlog for you next week.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

Love Sheen xxx
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Monday, 16 February 2015

Nature's Rubies

Good Day Everyone,

I love fruit. I've always loved fruit and pomegranate has to be one of my all time favourite fruits along with strawberries, raspberries, mango, watermelon and guava...etc etc. See, I told you I loved fruit. I would struggle to tell you which is my favourite fruit as for me, it's impossible to choose just one. 
Living in Singapore was an absolute joy for me as not only did I have easy access to all sorts of exotic fruits but it was also pretty affordable. In Japan, this is simply not the case. For some reason fruit is ridiculously expensive here (as is everything else lol) and the variety is also quite limited.  However, one fruit that I've always seen at the supermarket since moving here almost 6 months ago, is pomegranate. Whilst we have pomegranates back home in England and in Singapore, I'll be honest, like many people I would often neglect this super fruit simply because of the effort required to get to those juicy little seeds inside. Especially with my arthritic hands and issues with grip, using a sharp knife to cut into it would often mean risking my fingers ;o).
In Japan, we've invested in a couple of Japanese knives, after ours were confiscated from our shipping boxes by customs for some reason, and that has made things a whole lot easier when it comes to cutting up this amazing fruit. Japanese knives are fantastic! They're super light weight which is great for my arthritic wrist but also very sharp making it easy to cut through the toughest of fruits and vegetables. Don't get me wrong, my kitchen still looks like a murder scene by the time I've finished getting all the seeds out of the tough pomegranate skin. The kitchen cupboards and kettle look like they've been in some kind of blood bath and even the next day I find signs of the battle that took place but when you look at the sheer goodness these nature's rubies provide, it is sooo worth the effort ;o).
Pomegranate is known as a super fruit because it is rich in antioxidants. In fact, it is thought that pomegranate has greater antioxidant power than green tea or cranberries. Antioxidants are needed by our body to mop up free radicals that can cause ill health. There is compelling research to suggest that pomegranate actually offers protection against cancer and heart disease, as well as lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. You can read more about the health benefits and results from clinical trials here.
With all these great health benefits and it's easy availability, pomegranate is now a staple fruit in my diet, and with my new knife, getting to those juicy seeds is a little bit easier :o). I know that some people chew the pomegranate seeds to suck out the juice and then spit out the hard part of the seeds that's left behind, but I actually eat all of it, as the hard part of the seed is full of fiber. Pomegranates are very versatile and can be eaten in a number of different ways. I like to eat them sprinkled on salads or my breakfast smoothie bowls, added to porridge or even on their own as a snack. I remember that whenever I visited Turkey on holiday there would be freshly squeezed pomegranate juice available on most streets and it tasted unbelievably delicious.

Have you tried pomegranate juice? What's your favourite fruit?

Love Sheen xxx
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Friday, 13 February 2015

JVlog #7: Japanese Jewellery Haul

Good Day Everyone,

In this Japan vlog I take you jewellery shopping. This is not shopping for traditional Japanese jewellery but more of what's available in the shopping malls. Japanese women tend to have a very feminine dress style and this is reflected in the jewellery styles available. The jewellery tends to be very delicate and dainty looking. Most jewellery pieces are silver or gold in colour and there are a lot of pearls (real or otherwise).
In the department stores such as Takashimaya (think John Lewis in England) there are independent jewellery makers selling their own unique pieces and these tend to be more colourful and often larger pieces, kind of like statement necklaces. We also have stores such as H&M and Zara which are great for statement necklaces as well as slightly more delicate pieces, although not quite as delicate and fragile looking as those in the local Japanese jewellery stores.

Something that I did find particularly interesting was that in all of the local Japanese jewellery stores there was a huge selection of earrings available for those that don't have their ears pierced. I was truly surprised by the sheer volume and diversity of the styles/designs available.

Its been a long time since I bought any new jewellery and so I picked up a few pieces. You can see more about the Japanese jewellery stores in the vlog above.
Store: Shazbot Karako / Cost: 1,620 Yen
My favourite piece is this necklace that I picked up from a store called Shazbot Karako which are two separate stores (Shazbot and Karako) that share the same shop space so I'm not quite sure which store the necklace belongs to, but it's located in the Bay Quarter mall in Yokohama. I love that the stars are different colours and the copper colour is especially pretty. The stones in the centre of each star catch the light beautifully and sparkle.
The stars are not fixed onto the chain as they're threaded onto the chain from the back, and move independently of one another. I can actually remove the stars from the chain which gives me the flexibility to wear all three or just two or one of the stars as the pendant. The chain is a fixed length and so I did try the necklace on in the store just to ensure I was happy with it.
I picked up two pairs of long dangle earrings as I have quite a lot of stud earrings. The first pair are these silver twists which look really pretty against my dark hair when I wear it down.
Store: Puretre / Costs: 1,080 Yen
The second pair are three gold coloured diamond shapes that hang within each other. Both of the earrings I bought are nickel free and were clearly labelled as such in English on the packaging. Most of the jewellery pieces I bought were labelled as 'made in Japan'. I tried to ask the sales assistants in the stores whether the jewellery I was buying was hand or machine made but my lack of Japanese and their lack of English didn't make for a fruitful conversation.
Store: Guilty / Cost: 1,404 Yen
I also picked up the four rings below. I'll be honest, I haven't worn many rings over the last few years due to me feeling particularly self conscious about my arthritic fingers with their slightly deformed joints and my unsightly psoriatic nails. I haven't liked to draw attention to my hands but this is something that I'm trying to overcome as I do actually like rings. So I'm trying not to let my own insecurities about my fingers and nails get the better of me because this is just part and parcel of the disease that I suffer from :o).
Store: Puretre / Cost: 2,268 Yen - Store: 3 Coins / Cost: 324 Yen - Store: Before the Boom / Cost: 1,190 Yen - Store: Before the Boom / Cost: 1,400 Yen

The first ring that I picked up was a gold floral cutout ring with a flower in it's centre. This fits on both my index finger and my thumbs and I love the swirly pattern either side of the centre flower. The second ring I got was from the 3 Coins shop which was an absolute bargain. It is a dirty gold colour band with leaves. I love it's simplicity and colour. The next ring is one that I've had my eye on for a couple of weeks and the store was actually having a 30% off sale on the day I went shopping and so naturally I took that as a sign ;o). It's a pale coppery colour and I love the design around the stones. It looks quite Aztec-y to me. It is a pinky ring that's a bit too big for my little finger and so I bought it to wear as a midi-ring on my middle finger. Finally the last ring I got is a bit more dressy with the gold and the diamond-esque stones (I've no idea what the proper name for such stones is). This is also a pinky ring and does actually fit my little finger perfectly but could also be worn as a midi-ring.

I hope you enjoyed my little Japanese jewellery haul and the vlog showing you what the shops look like. If you want to read more about my experience of psoriatic arthritis then click here and about psoriatic nails here. I hope you all have a lovely weekend :o).

Love Sheen xxx
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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Super Facialist Salicylic Acid Anti Blemish Pore Purifying Clay Mask

Good Day Everyone,

Towards the end of last year I noticed that my skin was looking particularly dull and I’d started to have occasional breakouts. Now that’s quite a big deal for me as I’ve been blessed with my mum’s good skin genes (thanks mum!) and so I’ve hardly ever had spots or breakouts. I think all my anaemia and health issues from last summer had started to take a toll. Also, now that I’m well into my 30s, looking after my skin has become more of a priority. In fact, one of my goals for 2015 is to improve the condition of my skin and hair. As some of you may know, I’ve experienced significant hair loss as a result of being severely anaemic, but luckily now that the anaemia is under control, I’m hoping that my hair issues will improve too :o).

On my last trip home to England I picked up quite a lot of skincare products (there'll be a haul video coming next week) and amongst them was this clay mask. This is the Super Facialist Salicylic Acid Anti Blemish Pore Purifying Clay Mask by Unna Brennan (now that is a looong name!), a UK based facialist with over 15 years skin care experience. I picked this mask up along with a hydrating rose mask also from the Super Facialist range which I’ve reviewed here. The mask costs £8.99 and you get 125ml of product. It is regularly on a 3for2 offer at Boots which is when I picked it up.

I have been using this for about seven weeks on a weekly basis and I love it, yep that’s right I used the ‘L’ word. I have only recently started to get into masks as, I’ll be honest, I pretty much neglected my skin in my 20s and so I don’t really have anything to compare this to (yet) but I love the effect so much so that I would definitely repurchase this.

I feel that this mask gives my skin a deep clean where it pulls out all the gunk from inside my pores, you know, all that dirt and bad stuff that causes spots. The mask contains a number of key ingredients that help to detoxify the skin. I did a bit of googling so that I could explain the role of the key ingredients as I like to understand how they work;

  • Salicylic Acid declogs pores by breaking up cells that stick together in the inner lining of skin pores thus helping to remove blackheads and whiteheads. It helps people with oily and acne-prone skin by reducing oil and being an anti-inflammtory it helps with the healing process of breakouts and evens discolouration from old spots.

  • Niacin (vitamin B3) helps to improve blood flow to the skin cells which results in increased oxygenation of the skin.

  • Dead Sea Mud is rich in a range of minerals that improve the condition of the skin. It also absorbs oil and helps to eliminate toxins from the skin.

  • Avocado Oil is a great moisturiser and is rich in antioxidant vitamins such as A, D and E which improve the suppleness of the skin thus minimising fine lines and wrinkles.

  • Acacia Honey has antimicrobial properties which helps to fight acne causing bacteria and it removes oil and bacteria from clogged pores. It is also soothing and hydrating to the skin.

The mask has a reasonably strong scent of clay mixed with a bit of herbal freshness and I find that it does linger for a while even after I've washed the mask off. Personally I don’t find the scent over powering or unpleasant at all but if you are sensitive to scents then it may be worth having a sniff before purchase :o).

The mask comes out as pale grey clay that is very easy to spread as it is quite soft and creamy. I use this once a week, although the instructions say that it can be used twice a week. I apply an even layer on my cleansed face and neck. The instructions say to leave it on for 5mins but I usually end up leaving it on for about 10mins and haven’t had any adverse effect as a result. The clay does harden over time as it dries, making it almost impossible to speak, and you can forget about smiling ;o).

After 10mins I take a warm wet flannel and lay it on top of my face and press it onto my skin to soften the clay, making it easier to remove. I then use the flannel in circular motions to gently rub off the clay and wash my face using warm water.

Afterwards my skin looks clearer, my pores are reduced, blackheads have been removed and my complexion looks brighter and more awake, if that makes any sense? The mask doesn’t leave my skin feeling tight or stripped and I have dry skin. I do follow up with a moisturiser but on the odd occasion where I’ve forgotten to moisturise this hasn’t left my face feeling too dry. 

I did notice that the first few times I used this mask, the day after, I would wake up to find a couple of small spots, white heads, on my chin and/or around my nose. I think that was just the mask pulling out all of the dirt and dead skin cells that had built up inside my pores. The spots cleared within a few days. More recently, I haven't been developing any spots after using this mask so I think regular use is helping to keep my pores unclogged.

I love the effect of this mask so much that I’ve even got my hubby using it. He has combination skin and is more prone to spots and so this really helps to keep his pores clean and remove the excess oil from around his t zone. As he has sensitive skin he only keeps this mask on for 5mins because any longer and he feels it stings ever so slightly.

I’ve been very impressed with both masks that I've tried from the Super Facialist range and it’s great that they are so affordable. I did pick up some more higher end masks on my recent trip home and I'm looking forward to trying those over the coming weeks, primarily to see how they compare to these and determine whether they’re worth the hefty price tag!

Have you used this mask or any other from the Super Facialist range? What was your experience? What is your favourite mask?

Love Sheen xxx
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Monday, 9 February 2015

JVlog #6: Tokyo Imperial Palace

Good Day Everyone,

A couple of weekends back, hubby and I went into Tokyo to the Imperial Palace Gardens. The Imperial Palace is the main residence of the Emperor of Japan. It is a large park like area located near Tokyo station. The park area contains a number of buildings including the palace, a museum, administrative buildings as well as beautiful gardens, and is surrounded by moats and large stone walls. We naively thought that we might be able to get a view of the palace itself and I was hoping to get some photos of it. However, once we got there we soon realised that we weren't even going to get close to it.
Tokyo Imperial Palace
We were only able to walk around the outer gardens and look at some of the buildings on the grounds from afar. Members of the public can book to go on a guided tour of the inner gardens but that has to be booked in advance via the Imperial Agency. You have to submit an application form and apparently the wait can be several months on some occasions. Even with the guided tour you don't actually get to go inside the palace as it is closed to the public. Every New Year on January 2nd and on the Emperor's birthday, members of the public are allowed to enter the palace grounds where the Imperial Family appear on a balcony before the crowd and the Emperor gives a short speech.

I actually couldn't tell you which building is actually the Imperial Palace (i.e. where the Imperial Family resides), although I think it maybe the one in the above photo. It's not like Buckingham Palace in London where when you search for it on Google Images the same image comes up repeatedly. Searching for Tokyo Imperial Palace on Google brings up a number of different buildings, including the Nijubash Bridge below which I've read online, leads to the inner Palace Grounds.
Nijubashi Bridge
I wonder whether Tokyo Imperial Palace refers to a collection of buildings rather than a single building - who knows. Walking around the gardens, it felt as though there was an air of secrecy and mystery about the place as there were so many walls, barriers, guards and areas that you couldn't access or even peer into. There were police cars patrolling the grounds and we saw several guards cycling around the gardens that are open to the public.
Security guard cycling around the East Gardens
As we walked around the gardens, we came a cross a couple of interesting buildings. One of these was the Tokagakudo Music Hall, which is octagon shaped. The music hall was built in 1963 in commemoration of the 60th birthday of Empress Kojun. The eight outer walls of the hall are decorated with different mosaic tile designs.
Tokagakudo Music Hall

We also saw our first cherry blossoms of 2015. Whilst the cherry blossom festival doesn't officially start until the end of March, the last couple of months have been relatively mild and so some cherry blossoms have started to bloom.
With it being winter we didn't see the gardens in all their glory but I can imagine that once the flowers start to bloom in the spring, the gardens and the park area will be absolutely beautiful to walk around.
Tokyo skyline from the Imperial Palace Garden grounds
After walking around the gardens for a few hours we headed to Ebisu for some pizza. We went to a restaurant called L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele. This is the second, and only branch outside of Italy, of this particular pizza restaurant. The original Naples restaurant was propelled onto the global stage by the movie Eat, Pray, Love, starring Julia Roberts. The restaurant only serves two types of pizzas and the Naples branch has been making these for over 140 years. You can see this and more in the vlog below :o)

I hope you enjoyed this vlog and peek into our life in Japan.

Love Sheen xxx
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