Monthly Archives: July 2016

High Security Cheese

Category : Food


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There was a time, in the middle of an economic crisis, when such high value items as steak and sliced smoked salmon were given security tags in British supermarkets. If the big firms were experiencing a profit-trimming wave of shoplifting, then this made perfect sense.

Never, however, have I seen security packaging as elaborate as this, and on processed cheese slices at that! (Mind you, the meat in this particular store was behind glass counters, and you needed a staff member to weigh and wrap it for you – it would have been a lot harder to pinch.)

I won’t specify which major city I saw this in, except to say that it was somewhere in SE Asia where a lot of ordinary people struggle to get by. It was especially striking because other, and to my mind more tempting, items were left unsecured.

It’s a funny world where you have to guard the type of foodstuff which often contains so many additives it is hard to see it as a natural product. This particular item is French, but appears very like an American version which is apparently so far removed from the cheese it purports to be that it has to be labelled as ‘pasteurised process cheese product’. There are even on-line videos which show similar slices blackening like plastic rather than melting like actual cheese.

In America, adverts claiming that this sort of item was highly nutritious and packed with implausible amounts of calcium were banned a long time ago. It’s possible that – sadly – the message has not filtered through elsewhere.

2 in 1 Travel Pillow

Category : Other

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If you are a fan of those special pillows designed for travellers, you are going to love this. From New Zealand firm DQ&Co, this soft version filled with microbeads has a unique design that means a quick unzip and a shake can turn it from a simple rectangular shape into a curved neck pillow – whichever suits you best on those uncomfortable overnight flights.

There are numerous designs, but I particularly liked this subtle grey and black world map design. It is stretchy polyester and spandex on one side, soft velours on the other, and really is incredibly easy to switch between the 2 shapes. The only thing that might be a problem for those travelling light is that (unlike the inflatable version) this is quite bulky so takes up lots of space in your hand carry bag.

At S29.99 it isn’t cheap, but this is a quality piece of travel kit and could well become a favourite.

Tooth Wipes

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There are times when you are travelling, or simply out and about, when it would be very nice to brush your teeth. But carrying round all the kit, not to mention finding a bathroom with clean water, can sometimes be a trial, especially if you are – say – trekking, or on an overnight train in some lesser developed country.

For this sort of problem, I am very keen on these tooth and tongue cleaning wipes. They fit neatly into your bag along with such similarly useful items as tissues and hand sanitiser gel, and can be used discreetly without any need for water, just a bin.

I picked these up in a Tokyo pharmacy for less than ¥300, but there are many brands available including ones by Muji that sell for S$4.90 here. You pull out a wipe from the re-sealable sachet and use it on a fingertip to rub around your mouth. Once you are done, you can turn it over and use the other side to wipe down your tongue as well.

The cute pictures on the box persuaded me to buy this particular brand, and checking the wipe after I’d used it I could see it had done its job as well as leaving my mouth feeling fresh. I was not so sure about the grapefruit flavour, though. It was so authentic it made me feel like I had been (naughtily) drinking juice after cleaning my teeth – a mint flavour would have been better.

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Orvis Skirts

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The more I travel, the less interested I am in lugging heavy suitcases around with me, so the lighter I can pack the better. And living in Singapore means it is really easy to find last minute, bargain, flights to places around the region – making weekend trips or short breaks a regular possibility.

So, if I can jet off with just a hand carry bag, life is very much easier and I don’t waste time in airports waiting for baggage to appear. Any clothing items which can help me do this are a winner.

So here are my favourite travelling skirts, from American clothing firm Orvis. They are light and floaty, but each one is actually 2 very thin skirts sewn together at the top, so you can turn them inside out for a totally different look.

I have several of these, one of which is almost certain to be in my bag when I know I will want something smart but flattering for a nice restaurant one evening and a cocktail bar the next. They take up the same space as a single skirt but make it look like I have brought 2 different items, and being so thin, if I need to wash them out they dry very quickly.

They aren’t cheap, at about US$90, but I have found them to be worth every penny.

Hello Kitty Dim Sum

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Sanrio’s multi-billion dollar cat has been around since the 1970s, and from humble origins as a kawaii or ‘cute’ character aimed at Japanese children, has grown to world domination. You can find Hello Kitty pretty much everywhere from fashionable accessories to kitchen appliances and even extremely expensive jewellery. And food.

I have seen plenty of sweets and cookies shaped like Kitty or simply her famous bow, but dim sum came as a bit of a surprise. We happened to inch past this restaurant in a Hong Kong traffic jam, without quite realising what it was, but when I saw it advertised in a food guide later, I knew I had to go back.

For Hello Kitty fans, this restaurant is a must see. Everywhere you look – furniture, crockery, pictures, light fittings – that famous face stares back. I would say smiles, except of course that Hello Kitty does not have a mouth…

Being by myself, I could only sample a small number of the themed offerings on the menu, but, quite apart from looking amazing, everything I tried was very tasty indeed and I enjoyed myself immensely. It probably helped that I was surrounded by giddy Asian girls taking endless photos, and a highly amused, very friendly staff.

So –  flaky char siew (barbeque pork) pastries, translucent rice flour har gau (prawn dumplings), and chicken vegetable pao (steamed buns), all decorated with cute Kitty faces and pretty pink bows. Even the paper underneath the dumplings in their steaming baskets was a Hello Kitty shape.

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It was all a highly entertaining interlude, and (by the time the very nice manager had brought me a chocolate and mango Kitty dessert on the house) so filling I did not manage to eat dinner later. Which, since this cost almost HK$200, was probably just as well. And I promised, should I ever be in Hong Kong again with daughters #1 or #2 in tow, I will be back…

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Oreo Cadbury’s

Category : Food

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I have to confess that the ‘Limited Edition’ on the packet is what persuaded me to pop these into my shopping basket at the supermarket. I don’t especially like Oreo cookies, but anything a bit different always catches my eye and I thought I might be surprised.

(Oreos are unaccountably popular in Asia, and daughter #1 must have eaten her weight in them as the next best thing to breakfast on various challenging Julietours excursions into darkest China…)

Cadbury’s may be famously British, but out here it usually comes from Australia and these bars are no exception. Purists swear they can taste a huge difference between ‘real’ and ‘colonial’ Cadbury’s, but when the chocolate is filled with flavoured cream and crumbled cookie it is all so far from the original that comparison is pointless.

It would have been nice to have smaller bars of these particular flavours, as I suspect the remains will be sitting in my fridge for weeks. Not that there was anything especially wrong with them… although the strawberry and mint flavourings tasted a bit odd and I didn’t really enjoy the gritty texture of the cookie crumbs. The verdict from daughter #2 was a grudging ‘it’s alright’, but no-one ate more than a single square each, which is a fairly damning judgement from a family of chocoholics.

Glow in the Dark Mask

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This must count as one of those ‘what will they think of next’ products, because apart from the novelty value I can’t think how this particular feature can possibly improve your complexion. But it was too cool to leave on the shelf at Korean beauty store Missha, (especially at the bargain price of S$3.90 a mask) and it was hilarious to try.

This sheet-style mask comes in bat, butterfly and spider patterns, which are simply black and white as you take them out of the packet, but glow with luminous green lines patterns if you switch off the light.

The company says the fluorescent effect is harmless to the skin and ‘makes the face look pretty’, whilst the hyaluronic acid and propolis in the liquid which soaks the mask are there to firm up and moisturise the skin.

I had a lot of fun with this, although it proved to be impossible to take a decent photo of the glowing patterns in the dark. The bat shape and hands on the fabric were picked out in green, whilst a collection of stars and witches filled the gaps in yellow. I left it stuck on the bathroom wall, and had to get up in the night to close the door because the shapes were scarily visible.

Oh, and it also made my skin feel really smooth, so I will be buying this mask again.

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Ali Baba Pants

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I do love a piece of clothing you can play around with, and these pants, spotted on Arab Street in Singapore, looked like they might be fun.

Big and baggy, with a comfortable elasticated waist and gathered at the ankles harem-style, these pants have loops on the sides and buttons at the waist so you can alter the style at will.

So – wear them as is, falling in big folds along your thigh, or turn the excess material inside to create a couple of large pockets. Or – take the loops and fasten them to whichever buttons take your fancy, they can cross over in multiple combinations at both front and back.

Daughter #2 thought these were great, loose enough to lounge around in at home whilst still looking vaguely stylish. We had fun bargaining these down to S$20, and feel sure they will see a lot of use.

Water Bottle Tea Bag

Category : Food

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This is one of those things you have to see to get your head round, but which then makes perfect sense. You want a large bottle of green tea in your fridge without the bother of making up a series of jugs to fill it up? Here is what to do… Take one very long tube-shaped tea bag, stick it into a bottle of your favourite mineral water,  hold it in place by trapping the end with the bottle top, then wait until the tea is the concentration you desire. Easy!

There are several varieties of tea available in these special bags, from mugi cha to standard black tea as well as the more popular green. From most Japanese grocery stores, ¥100 yen for a pack of 3.

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Silicone Socks

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Well, not exactly socks so much as heel covers, made of stretchy pink silicone which promises to transform your dry, cracked heels and leave them ‘moist, smooth and velvety ’.

Apparently you do not even need to apply anything else for this to happen, just slip them on after your bath and wait 15 minutes. I did, however, decide to boost the effectiveness of these ‘socks’ by lathering on some moisturiser first.

Surprisingly, I found these worked really well, although the silicone was not quite stretchy enough to cope with my fairly large feet in a completely comfortable way. The added moisturiser also made the socks very squelchy, so I soon gave up trying to walk anywhere safely and had to wait out the 15 minutes sitting down.

That said, I was very surprised when I removed them, to find the cream had soaked in fully – there was none left on the inside of the socks and my heels were soft and moisturised rather than damp and sticky. The socks then washed easily and dried out fast, ready to be used again.

At S$2 from the ever entertaining Daiso, these are quite a find.

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