Monthly Archives: December 2016

Facial Massage Cream

Facial massage is something most Western women only experience as a small part of a regular facial, tucked in between the cleansing, the treatment and the moisturising at the end. In India, however, it is a mainstay of the typical beauty regime, and usually involves natural plant-based products rather than high-tech chemical formulas.

I found this facial massage cream in Mumbai, ready prepared in a handy tube, and thought it well worth taking home to try. From Jovees Herbal Care, it contains lemon, orange, papaya enzymes, wheatgerm, sugar cane, avocado, pineapple extract and vitamin E, each ‘carefully chosen to help skin regenerate its natural defence’.

According to the packaging, the fruit enzymes help soften and heal the skin, the vitamins restore smooth radiance and collagen elasticity, and the whole product encourages lifting of dead skin cells to leave the complexion glowing.

Keen to give it all a go, I was stopped short by the instruction to use the cream with raw milk and massage for 20 minutes. Apparently plain water is an acceptable alternative, but still – 20 minutes is rather a long time… I did manage a few minutes though, and found the suggested circular movements very therapeutic and relaxing.

I was expecting this product to be rich and hydrating, but adding water actually turned it from cream into milk, and rather than being absorbed into the skin it needed wiping away with wet cotton pads. Washing your face at the end is recommended, which means you then have to apply yet more cream to moisturise your skin.

Never mind, I liked this quite a lot and will be using it again.

Jellyfish Pasta

Category : Food

This sounds ridiculous, I know, and to confuse matters further this pasta is actually made into snowflake rather than jellyfish shapes, which seems a trifle strange.

And bizarrely, I found this in the new Japan Rail Café which has just opened at my nearest MRT station and has a shop attached.

Eating jellyfish is a peculiarly Asian thing. There’s something about the slightly gelatinous, slightly crunchy texture which makes it popular in salads, and the fact that is it extremely low fat and low calorie is a bonus. There’s even a theory that eating it can help with bone and muscle pain, but I have to say I find it very weird and not especially pleasant.

Still, this had to be worth trying, particularly as it comes from the famous Kamo Aquarium in Japan, which has the world’s largest variety of jellyfish, and has been produced to mark the opening of their Jellyfish Dream Building.

I treated this like normal pasta, cooking it for slightly longer than usual as instructed on the packet, and I ate it with a simple tomato sauce. But I could tell it wasn’t made purely from wheat, even though that was actually the main ingredient. Maybe I was biased by my dislike of jellyfish in salad, but I felt there was a definite crunch to the pasta that had nothing to do with ‘al dente’.

There’s still more than half the packet left, so I await the verdict of my pasta-loving daughters with interest.

Catching Crabs

Category : Other

This sign, outside a seafood restaurant in Singapore’s Chinatown, always makes me laugh.

The crabs are out there in the fresh air in a sort of cage, and you can – if you are silly enough – reach through the bars to give them a prod.

But they have their claws trussed up with string so that once the customer has chosen which one should be served with up with black pepper or the signature chilli sauce, it can be removed to the kitchen fairly safely.

You’d be very unlucky to have your fingers nipped. But as crabs are pretty expensive maybe some passing chancer decided to try for a free supper, and this sign is to warn off anyone else.

Leg Stretching Patches

Well for a start, these do not stretch your legs, whatever the illustration might lead you to believe. The patches themselves do stretch, however, which makes them easy to apply to the curve of your calves.

From Korean firm Etude House, these contain pumpkin extract and caffeine, and closer investigation reveals that they are really designed to give tired legs a boost. As they are cold and sticky, they certainly wake you up whilst you are wearing them, mainly because they are too uncomfortable to relax in.

Although they were fun to try, in the end I think I would prefer to drink my caffeine and get a boost that way.

Hot Can

This name makes me laugh, because it describes exactly what you end up with when you try this product. Essentially, it’s a self-heating can that can give you a hot coffee or cocoa, or even a comforting soup, however far you are from the nearest café or kitchen.

There’s a fairly simple science behind it – the insulated aluminium can is made in two parts, with the drink in the outer shell and the chemicals which create the heat in the inner compartment. Although when I say chemicals, these are actually just water and calcium oxide. Pressing a button on the bottom of the can then shaking it for 30 seconds allows them to combine, which creates enough energy to heat the drink by 50 degrees C.

The chemicals never come into contact with the drink, and the bi-products of the reaction are non-toxic and non-flammable, which means that they are not going to harm either you or the environment. The only thing you need to be careful of is the temperature, but there is a heat indicator label on the can which will not only tell you when your drink is ready but also warn you if it has become too hot.

The range here includes tomato and chicken soups as well as tea, coffee, cocoa and mocha, and although the cans are fairly heavy they are probably ideal for long walks and picnics in remote (and chilly) places.

You may have noticed that I haven’t yet mentioned the taste. There’s a reason for that. They aren’t actually that nice, but the cans do what they say and sometimes you really need a hot drink, so for that reason I am going to cut them some slack.

These are made in Malaysia and currently only available there.



Rent a Blanket?

There are national carriers, there are budget airlines, and then there is AirAsia.

Of all the companies offering cheap flights around the region, this is the one that really makes me tired. And it’s not just because wherever you are heading to, it will involve spending half the night waiting for a connection in the dismal Low Cost Carrier Terminal at Kula Lumpur airport.

It can’t be an accident that once you have had your water bottle taken away, there is nothing on sale with which to replace it but flimsy plastic cups which you can barely drink from without spilling. Not to mention that bringing your own snacks on board is not allowed – you are literally forced to spend money on the plane.

And for those passengers who had the forethought to eat heartily before the flight, there is still no escape.

Most airlines like to turn the heat up on an overnight flight, so it lulls everyone to sleep. They then cool the cabin down in time to wake everyone up for breakfast before landing. Not AirAsia… I was shocked to realise that the temperature had been turned down so low that I was absolutely freezing.

At which point I discovered that blankets are not just handed out – you have to RENT them. It’s only 10RM, which isn’t going to break the bank, but it is the principle of the thing that infuriates me, especially as they take them back one whole hour before the plane lands, which is quite a long time to shiver.

I like a budget flight as much as the next person, so now I board AirAsia planes wearing thermals and with a sweater and jacket in my hand carry.

There was a joke going the rounds in the UK not that long ago, that one of our own budget carriers was going to start charging passengers to use the toilet in flight. I hope this idea never comes to the attention of AirAsia…

Instant Face Lift Strips

Category : Beauty

I have seen something like this before, holding back the wrinkles on an elderly female celebrity who should probably remain nameless. In her case, they came with little strings attached which fastened behind her head and were not quite covered by her thinning hair. It was a sad sight, frankly…

These are clearly the updated version, each one viable by itself rather than relying on attaching to the string of its mirror image on the other side of the face.

In fact they are ingeniously designed. You detach a single strip and peel off the backing behind the tab marked 1. Stick that in place, pull it up to stretch the skin and smooth away the wrinkles or that sagging jawline, then peel off the backing on the rest of the strip and push it firmly into place. The pink film on the surface then also peels away to leave an almost invisible clear strip.

I say almost, because at that stage you look like you have stuck sellotape onto your face. It does cover up with foundation, but I would say you wouldn’t want to let anyone get close because the strips remain visible to a sharp eye. For a photo shoot, however, these would probably be perfect. Look – no airbrushing required!

I bought this in Japan for a very reasonable ¥800, and the packet contains 30 strips together with a huge sheet of illustrations showing exactly how to use them. I am going to squirrel these away carefully, because the time is surely coming when I shall be very glad I have them!

DIY Food Art Transfers

Artistic cooks will probably already own a set of edible ink pens. Looking just like normal felt pens but containing food colouring rather than the usual ink, these are fun to use, especially when decorating cookies and so on for Christmas or birthday parties.

But it’s hard to get too creative, because the end result depends very much on the surface of your cake or cookie – a rough texture leaves you with wobbly lines, and anything porous means the colour can soak in or spread.

This is a fun and fascinating way round those problems, wafer thin film discs made of corn starch on which you can draw your own designs before applying them to the surface of your food. As the discs are completely see-through, you can even use them to trace a picture which you may not have the talent to draw freehand.

In practice, this is a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. The discs are so thin that they curl up with a life of their own, and you need a deft hand to hold them down and complete your artwork successfully. They also dissolve instantly on contact with water, so you have to work smartly to get the picture on the cake rather than on your hands or the table.

I had varying degrees of success whilst experimenting with different surfaces. It was hard to get the bread or the ginger cookie wet enough to hold the picture without it actually dissolving away, and the disc left a slightly slimy layer on top. The yoghurt held the colours beautifully, though, which leads me to suspect that this might work very well indeed if applied to wet frosting.

This was a seasonal special at Tokyu Hands, and for less than S$5 for a container of 50 discs, I think it is a great bargain. I just know it will be a lot of fun to play with when daughters #1 and #2 arrive to celebrate Christmas later this week.

Mini Lip Balm

Category : Beauty


It’s just lip balm, but it’s the size which I love. This little tube is barely 3.5cm high, so small there is no room for the twisting mechanism on most lip balms so you have to push it up from the bottom as it wears down.

Really it takes packing light to extremes, and it is so small I rarely use it because I don’t want it to run out, but I love the fact I have it and it makes me smile.

Magic Ice Cream


OK, I admit, I should have known better, but there is something in me which finds it hard to resist the off-beat and bizarre.

This packet of instant, easy, DIY ice cream called to me from the shelf of an Indonesian supermarket, and was in my kitchen before I knew it. Luckily, the instructions on the back came in English, too, so there was no problem puzzling out what to do.

Basically, you measure out 300cc of iced milk or water, whisk in the contents of the sachet of powder for 5 to 10 minutes (an electric mixer of some sort is clearly needed here…) then add the chocolate chips and freeze for 5 hours.


Hmm… In truth, you cannot beat fresh and lovingly sourced ingredients for something like this, rather than opening up a packet of premixed powder whose main ingredient seems to be sugar. This was never going to be as delicious as the carton claimed, but in fact it was so tasteless and weird that it was binned after 2 spoonsful.

Luckily I went for the chocolate flavour rather than the durian or mung bean varieties that were also on sale. This was from Pondam, but I don’t expect any other manufacturer can do a better job.