Monthly Archives: April 2016

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White Strawberries

Category : Food

white strawberries

Spotted at the very upmarket Takashimaya department store in Tokyo earlier this month… white strawberries!

They look unripe, but are supposed to taste really sweet, the result of cross-cultivating pineapples with strawberries. Reports differ, but between 10 and 20 years research by Miyoshi Agritech Co. apparently went into their creation and they are being marketed as ‘Hatsukoi no kaori’, which means ‘scent of first love’. Just the thing to impress a girlfriend or present as a wedding gift…

This being Japan, where it is easy to find that perfect musk melon in a silk-lined box for £100, or one shiny red apple for £5, it probably should not have come as a surprise to see these being sold individually, with the whopping price tag of ¥1,000 (plus tax).

And no – since that works out as almost S$12.50 or £6.40 each – I could not bring myself to buy one.


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Afternoon Tea with a Twist

Category : Food

CIMG0228

Cocktails in glass teapots instead of tea! This is such a wonderful idea, it hardly matters that the food was – although perfectly nice – less than enthralling by comparison. This was a really delightful Mother’s Day treat at the Four Seasons Hotel in Singapore.

I chose the Ginger R from the Diva cocktail collection, which included vodka, passionfruit and mint, and was both zingy and refreshing. Most of the cocktails offered with this afternoon tea contain droplets of natural flavours, which according to the menu were created by Javier de las Muelas from the award winning Dry Martini bar in Barcelona.


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Too Cool For School

tcfs foundation 1 tcfs foundation 2 tcfs foundation 3

Too Cool For School is the brand name of this wonderfully quirky range of Korean cosmetics, designed for teenagers and irresistibly cute. This is the foundation, which has a handy highlighter and concealer duo hidden in the lid. Below is the matching blush, with a fluffy applicator puff nestling in the base of the pot. Both items also have a mirror under the lid, so you can easily carry out beautifying operations under your desk whilst pretending to retrieve books from your bag… Daughter #2 was the teenager who tried these out for me, and she was both charmed and impressed. These cosmetics were not cheap, at S$36.50 and S$20.30 respectively, but the special features and neat packaging made them worth the price. A winner!

tcfs blush 1  tcfs blush 2


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Fried Ice Cream

Category : Food

fried ice cream 1 fried ice cream 2 fried ice cream 3

This sounded terribly exciting but turned out to be something of a misnomer in that the ice cream was ‘fried’ on a flat plate that was ice cold rather than red hot. The whole process was rather like that of making a French-style crepe, only starting with flavoured milk rather than batter. I chose mango, which was created with half a fresh fruit chopped into the milk, the whole concoction then being stirred around, scraped up then smoothed down again several times in succession before being served in big curls in a paper cup. It was a lot of fun watching this being made but the taste was very disappointing – way too watery and with only a hint of the fruit.

fried ice cream 4   fried ice cream 5    fried ice cream 6

 

 


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Pool in the Sky

Category : Other

pool 1

This is not something for the faint of heart, and especially not if you suffer from vertigo. But it must be quite a thrill to be swimming in this rooftop pool looking down through the water to the street below. Personally, I have the feeling that – like outside glass elevators and those really long escalators that cross huge atria – being up there would make me come over all wobbly kneed. As it is, every time I walk by this pool at the Arris condominium in Tanjong Pagar, Singapore, I can’t help imagining the chaos that would ensue if the glass ever gave way…


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Secret Bars

20160129_224236   secret sign 1secret sign 2

 

This is becoming a really popular trend, especially in Asia, where every big city seems to have a handful of ‘secret’ bars. Of course, if you already know they exist, maybe they are not so secret after all, but it can still be lots of fun tracking them down and working out how to get in. Often there is a password, hidden somewhere on a Facebook page; sometimes you’ll find a guy loitering down a back alley who is there to point you in the right direction.

Pictured above left, this Bangkok phone booth, round some corners and down a side street off Sukhumvit soi 11, needed the right number dialling in the otherwise out-of-service phone. The wall at the side turned out to be a door which clicked open with the code, giving access to a Cuban-style speakeasy.

Other favourite secret bars include one in Singapore where the password gets you through a wall panel in a supposed tailor’s shop, then via a mirrored ‘changing room’ into a quirky cocktail bar. Another, see above centre and right, has odd symbols on the pavement and wall to point the way down a sinister looking basement staircase. Rumour has it that in Manila there is a hidden bar through the back of a 7-11 storeroom, but I confess we did not manage to get there.

These places are not exactly advertised, so type ‘secret bar in (wherever you are)’ into your search engine, and follow the clues!


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Sushi Santa

Category : Food

sushi santa

OK, I admit I am showing off, but these were hand made by daughter #1 and myself at a cooking class in Singapore just before Christmas. In fact, they were simpler to make than might appear – you just have to have a picture in your head of what the cross section will look like once you bundle up all the rolls of seaweed-wrapped rice you have made.

These Santas were constructed with 5 slim rolls of white rice, one rounded rectangle of white rice, a square of soy sauce tinged rice and a triangle tinted red. Position them carefully, encase the whole lot in a final sheet of nori seaweed, and you have a chunky roll which can then be sliced. The details of eyes and nose were cut out of seaweed or bits of deconstructed crabstick, and added afterwards.

Once you know how this works, the design possibilities are endless!


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Nail Concealer

Category : Beauty

nail concealer 1  nail concealer 3  nail concealer 2

At first glance this looks like just another example of the Korean beauty industry offering a product you did not know you needed! However, after giving it a try, I am actually quite impressed.

This base coat, from The Face Shop, is designed to cover up any imperfections and discolourations on your nails, apparently before you apply your nail polish. (Although you might think that the nail polish would do the job without any help…)

Without any coloured polish on top, this base gives your nails a slightly nude coloured coating with the sort of flawless satin finish I associate with those adverts for foundation you see in glossy magazines. Unlike some base coats I could mention, it also stays put despite a tough day of cooking, cleaning and swimming in a chlorinated pool. Quite a good buy at less than S$5.


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Deep Fried Oreos

Category : Food

fried oreos 1  fried oreos 2

These crop up from time to time at fairs and festivals in Singapore, and after some deliberation I decided they were bizarre enough to sample. When I found them at the River Hongbao on Chinese New Year’s Eve, I decided the time was right. I wish I could tell you that they are awful, a health hazard and horribly greasy… but the sad truth is that they were dangerously good. The hot batter was more like cake, the cookies inside were soft and creamy, the chocolate sauce was a bonus. If I see them again I shall avert my gaze or I might not be able to resist the temptation.


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Tongue Scraper

 

tongue scraper 4

There is apparently a great deal to be said in favour of scraping your tongue clean on a daily basis. Ancient Ayurvedic texts detail the many benefits for your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing, doctors practising traditional Chinese medicine routinely check the state of your tongue as a guideline to your general health, and even the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology recommends daily scraping for oral hygiene.

You only need to see the furry coating on your tongue after a few unwise meals out, and consider how much fresher your mouth (and breath) is after you have brushed only your teeth in the morning, to think about giving this a try.

If you do have a furry tongue, it is probably a build-up of keratin, which under normal circumstances is removed naturally as you eat fresh, unprocessed food. Keratin which is left behind, usually because you are eating richer, softer foods than nature intended, is an ideal environment in which bacteria can grow. That not only makes your breath smell, it means every subsequent meal carries unwanted bacteria down into your gut.

Sweeter breath and better digestion aside, cleaning your tongue uncovers clogged taste buds, which means you can appreciate your food more and (maybe…) eat less of it as a result. At the very least, you should find you no longer need to add quite so much salt or sugar to your meal.

I found this tongue scraper in a Japanese pharmacy and thought I might give it a try. It has soft rubber ridges to scrape the worst bits away before a double line of bristles cleans up what has been left behind. The trick seems to be not to scrape too hard, and to work up gradually to scraping the very back of your tongue because otherwise it is really easy to make yourself gag.

Puzzling out the Japanese instructions was a bit difficult, but it seems you should scrape from back to front between 7 – 14 times, once or twice a day, and rinse the scraper as often as you feel it needs as you are doing this. I certainly felt my mouth was a lot fresher after using this, although I can’t say I have noticed myself eating less! It seems like a great thing to add to my daily routine, however, so I shall be keeping up with it.

tongue scraper 2  tongue scraper 3

 


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