Friday, February 27, 2015

Visa Renewed, Half-Term Break and Spring's Coming!

Afternoon everyone! I am so excited because I got my visa renewed. Granted, I picked it up a week ago... anyway, as I was waiting at immigration, I was thinking: "Wow. Has it really been three years since I arrived?" In many ways, it feels like a lifetime, and a flash all at once. The process was so simple, but when I dropped off the documents I was missing something! I was going a little crazy because I double and triple checked that I had everything. Turns out it was a document that concerns the company's finances or tax?? So, immigration gave me an envelope and told me to send it in a week. When I mentioned it to my manager, she told me she forgot to mention the paper! Basically, it's confidential and the staff aren't allowed to look at it. Problem solved. And I was in a bit of panic over nothing. Well, I got my visa postcard two weeks later. I left my second trip with a shiny, new three year visa! YAY! So, here's to hoping the next three years are even better than the last!

I am currently on half-term break for my school. During this time I have finally managed to catch up on some much needed household duties. I'm not sure if I mentioned, but I extended my lease for my current house. Another two years in Yokohama it looks like. As much as my commute kind of sucks, I love my place. It has really grown on me. I really need to get some frames for my prints on the wall. I feel like they have gotten a little wavy T_T. My coworker recommended the Loft in Shibuya. They apparently will do custom sizes for a simple frame. I just want something simple. So, hopefully I can do that soon.

Next post I'm thinking of doing a review of some of my current skincare products. We shall see. BUT, today I'm stoked to be going to Kamakura for the first time this year. Aki got the day off and we are meeting up later and will go to dinner at our favorite restaruant!! I'm not sure if I have written about it? I will definitely mention it in my next post! Until next time ^_^


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lux Luminique Un-Stress Non-Silicone Shampoo & Conditioner

Hello everyone! Today I'd like to talk about the shampoo and conditioner I have been using in recent months. In my time here in Japan, I have tried a variety of Japanese shampoos, including Shisdeido's Tsubaki series and Kracie's Ichikami series (both are very popular). I found the Tsubaki was great for a little while, but soon my hair was feeling heavy and just not looking good. I didn't much like the smell of the Ichikami and it really made no improvements in my hair as well. It just looked dull and limp. So I started looking into other options. I noticed that non-silicone shampoos had been gaining popularity in the last year or two (maybe longer, but I started seeing ads everywhere!). After browsing around about non-silicone shampoos, I decided to give the Lux series a try. There are two types in the series: the damage repair (pink) and the un-stress (green). I chose the green for two reasons: it smelled better, and my hair really isn't damaged. I wanted something that would make it frizz less, and moisturize my scalp.

After reading about non-silicone types, I knew that the first few weeks, my hair might feel disgusting. It takes awhile for your hair to lose the silicone coating that develops from regular shampoos. It actually wasn't too terrible, honestly. It did get more tangled and felt a bit... rough? but within a month I noticed my hair was shinier and smoother. I have always struggled with keeping my hair un-tangled throughout the day, and although it still does get tangled, it isn't as bad as before. Overall, I think the appearance of my hair looks better!

On to the product itself, the shampoo and conditioner come in nearly identical bottles. The only difference is the labeling and the pumps: dark freen for shampoo, white for conditioner. I absolutely love the packaging and find it very appealing. The un-stress smells faintly of eucalyptus (which it contains) to me. It's not flowery or sweet, which I like, and is great for those that don't like "girly" scents! When I use them, I find two pumps to be sufficient to get a nice lather/coverage going (long hair).

I purchased this at the Tokyu Store in my area for ¥920 each. Refills can be purchased for ¥738 (at Tokyu Store). I have seen samples at 7-11 and other conbinis. Most drug stores sell this particular series as well. Should not be difficult to find! Well that's all I guess. Until next time!


Monday, February 2, 2015

The Curse of the Flu

I managed to get the flu, or something very much like the flu, over the weekend. Woke up on Saturday with horrible aches, chills, a nasty cough, and a headache. Well, I ended up going to the "hospital" for the first time since I moved here. Aki and I went together, and the place felt much more like a doctor's clinic than a hospital to me. When I got in to see the doc, he gave me the test to see if I had the flu. OMFG was that uncomfortable. I haven't had the flu since I was a kid, and had no idea that the test involved a little wire swab going up your nose into the back of your throat. After getting over that, the doctor said the test was inconclusive. Basically, he explained, we came for the test too early. The only way to really get a good test result is if you go at least six hours after your fever has set in. Regardless, all of my symptoms pointed to the flu, and the doc did recommend I stay home from work on Monday, and prescribed me some meds to make me feel better. Because of my cough he even gave me something to prevent bronchitis and pneumonia. So I basically spent all of Saturday and Sunday in bed sleeping, unable to move. I finally am able to sit up today, and am glad I took the doctor's advice for not working.

I'm not surprised I got the bug though, as a few of my coworkers caught it throughout the week. I just don't want to get it again anytime soon. Be careful people! Until next time.


Friday, January 23, 2015

お久しぶり!Long time no see! I'm back!

Wow. I am breaking my silence. Haha. Hey everyone I am still around!! I am sorry for my absence. Life has been extremely busy and full of change this past year. I started a new job in Tokyo back in March and I am finally happy with my work. ALT life just was... dull and boring. It works for some, but didn't for me. I'm still in education, but I get to be creative. Yay! I hadn't really had the motivation to write much since then, but the itch is back. I am hoping to be more active this year than last.

Anyway, I just got back from immigration today. Have three years really passed since I came here? My visa was set to run out in February and I had to go about the business of renewing it. Got to the Shinagawa Immigration office bright and early and was out in less than an hour. I thought I had all the forms, but turns out I was missing a tax from from my company. Oh well, at least I get to send it by mail, and everything began to be processed. I really hope they give me another three year visa at the least.

I also just got back from the States. I went home for my first Christmas since I moved. It was nice to be home and open presents with everyone this year rather than opening the box in my apartment. Three weeks in Texas was good fun, and I'm glad I got to see old friends and most of my family.

In the past few months, I have really become more interested in skincare. I dunno, it has become a bit of an addiction for me. My poor bank account! But Japanese winters do a number on my skin and I just want to take care of it. I am still working on my routine, but I think it is getting closer to what I want it to be. I'm very interested to try and AHA (chemical exfoliant) to get rid of pesky bumps. It's interesting, as there seem to be tons of variety in Korean brands, but when I try to find a Japanese one, I can't seem to find any. Even DHC, which does seem to make one, didn't stock theirs at all at the DHC counters/shops. Maybe it's not sold OTC in Japan. Who knows. I did finally get my hands on some of the Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream. Maybe I will talk about products soon.

I also passed N3 of the JLPT back in July. That test... made my head spin to say the least. I haven't been studying much since then. I studied daily for an hour at least before it and I had to stop and let my brain rest. It was a barely passing score, but now I can say I did it. I am debating whether or not I should go for N2. I do use Japanese for work at least a few times a week, and I do feel like it would be nice to understand more fully what I'm hearing. Maybe I will go for it in the end. It is a big jump though with the kanji nearly doubling!

For those of you who are still around to read thank you! I am going to make an effort to go back to regular updates. Promise!! xoxo


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Making Valentine's Day Chocolate in Japan (Posted a few days late)

Hey everyone! So, this year I broke down and went forward with making homemade chocolate for Valentine's Day. As you may or may not know, in Japan, Valentine's Day is a day for a girl to give her love chocolate. She will get a return gift on White Day if the affection is returned, etc. Anyway, I really wanted to try to make my own, so I did.

I bought the silicon mold and the chocolate "pens" from Plaza. I bought the chocolate from Caldi. It really wasn't all that difficult. I thought I would share photos from the process beginning to end. I apologize for the poor quality pics. I used my cell phone.

 To start, the pens are actually solid chocolate stuff. So I put them in the pot with warm water to melt them. Once melted, cut off the tip. I didn't expect a miniature explosion, but that happened. Once the pens are melted fill in the mold with the details. I used strawberry flavor for the nose, and regular chocolate flavor for the ears and eyes. The stuff hardens back up pretty quickly.

Once the colorful stuff was done, I moved on to melting the chocolate. I used white chocolate. I don't own a double boiler, so I boiled a pot of water and then melted the chocolate in a metal bowl on top with the heat OFF. Don't get water in the chocolate. At all. It was a warning I found on the internet. Anyway, stir a lot. Like non stop. It took about five minutes to completely melt.

Mmmmm.... melted white chocolate goo. 

I just used a spoon to fill the mold. I followed some web advice and filled the molds up halfway, and then lifted the tray and gently tapped it on the counter, to prevent bubbling. I then proceeded to fill the mold up completely. Then tapped it on the counter again.

I put the chocolate in the freezer for about three or four minutes for it to solidify a bit. I then took it out and left it on top of the fridge for about ten minutes.

Here is the finished product! Some of the middle chocolates weren't completely hardened so they got a bit squished when I popped them out, but almost all of the chocolates turned out great. And they tasted amazing. Of course I did a taste-test. Can't give the man nasty tasting chocolate. 

And that, is my chocolate making escapade. :D

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tokyu Hands Yokohama (New Open), Some Change Soon, and DHC Update

Oh boy... I can't believe I said "New Open," but it now sounds weird to me if I say something like "Renewal Grand Opening," or something. Yikes. So, I love Tokyu Hands. It is one of my favorite stores in Japan. You can buy all sorts of things such as party goods, variety goods, arts and crafts stuff, cellphone accessories, household goods, etc. I'm not quite sure what to compare it to back at home. It's definitely not a Hobby Lobby by any means. Anyway, I was so excited that they were moving the store closer to Yokohama Station. Before it was a good ten minute walk. Now it is located on the 5th-7th floors of the MORE's building. While I love that it is much closer, and think it's neat that they do demos for some crafts, I am SOO SAD. They got rid of a ton of the sections of the store.  The previous store was a massive one, comparable to the one in Shibuya. Now, they have crammed so much stuff into three floors... well. I would take the old location any day. Mainly, because I enjoy putting together miniatures. And there was a particular section called "dollhouse" that sold the type I like. For example, miniature ramen stands, etc. It's gone. The only Tokyu Hands that still seems to sell it is the one in Shibuya. So sad! They also got rid of the majority of their furniture section, as well as their arts and crafts. They still have some, but its like a tiny corner, rather than a whole floor. At least they still sell paint and canvas... Yeah. So, I got all excited about it, to be largely disappointed. Of course, I still shop there, but yeah. Bleh.

I have been a bit stressed of late. I am going to be changing jobs and I am going to be giving my resignation this week. Not excited about that conversation at all. HOWEVER, my new job is in Tokyo! YAY! I will keep living in Yokohama for now, but I am absolutely excited about this job. No more ALT work for me. It's still education, but it isn't ESL. It will really allow me to work on a team, explore my creativity, and do some design work too. It also allows for some career advancement. So yay me! I hope I won't need to change jobs again. I am also going to be able to quit working part-time. I have really enjoyed my part-time work, but it's kind of a drag to go home, change, and go back out to work, even if it is only twice a week.

Oh, an update on the DHC face products I have been using. WOW. I have been using the stuff since late December and my skin has completely changed. For the better. Never turning back. My pores look cleaner, and tighter. The stupidly hideous fine lines on my forehead are nearly non-existent, and my face has almost completely cleared up. I seriously had horrible breakouts all the time. Now, it's just a zit here and there. I have definitely gotten my money's worth.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

ちょこっとオアシス タワーポット: Chokotto Oasis Tower Pot Eco-Humidifier

Chokotto Oasis Tower Pot (image sourced from my Instagram)

みなさん明けましておめでとう! Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a safe/happy holiday. I enjoyed my two week break immensely and ate too much food. Today I want to talk about this fun little thing I bought a few days ago. What is this? It is a humidifier. Where Japanese summers are unbearably humid, the winter can be just as brutally dry. It is not only harsh on the skin, but it makes sleeping uncomfortable at times as my throat gets really dry when sleeping, resulting in morning sore throats that fade throughout the day. 

I knew I needed to buy a humidifier, but the cheapest ones I had been finding in the stores were running at about ¥4500 on the low end and upper ¥12,000 on the high. Recently, in stores such as Loft and Tokyu Hands, I have been seeing these Eco-humidifiers. You basically put water in the pot and then open it up. Here is a link to the product's website. This particular one only cost ¥980. You unscrew the top of the main dish (you can see the line on the bottom part) and fill it up about halfway (do not fill it up to the brim). Then you screw it back on and pull the tower up to standing. It is really quite attractive. There are quite a few differently designed ones which are quite cute and larger than this. I believe browsing the site you can check out the different options. You can also order a new filter (the blue part, and I believe are made of polyester) for ¥630. The packaging says it can last for up to 6 months before needing a new one. Back on track, the filter absorbed the water immediately. After 12 hours it still has a good bit of moisture to it as well. Sleeping overnight with it next to my bed has greatly improved my sleep. No more uncomfortable sore throat! I also notice that the general area around the pot isn't as dry either. I bring it down to my desk when I'm home using my computer. 

Overall, I am happy. It's not too expensive, attractive, and doesn't use electricity at all. It's light-weight and easy to carry around if you are going to travel somewhere. Also, it comes in green and pink. I wanted something just for near my bed, and it has solved my problem. I would say, however, if you are wanting to humidify your entire room or apartment, this might not do that.

I'm tempted to buy one of the more "plant-like" ones as they come with scented oil options to add a flowery scent. They might also have more humidifying capability as they are larger. I hope this is helpful for anyone looking to save some money on humidifiers. I couldn't find any English reviews on the products, only in Japanese. 


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

DHCオリーブすべすべセット・Olive Essential Set

Hey guys! How are you? Today I am going to talk about the DHC Olive Essential Set. I recently bought the mini set to try out (available at 7-11 for ¥950). I have been suffering some pretty dry skin this winter and have been trying out different things to help relieve it. The kit comes with the face stuff as well as two hair product samples. I haven't tried the hair stuff mainly because I am happy with my current hair care. Isn't the package cute??

Basically, you start with the deep cleansing oil. You apply it to dry skin and use it to "wash" your face. I rub in circles for about 30 seconds including my eye area. Honestly, you probably shouldn't do that, but it removes my mascara no problem. Once done, I rinse with warm water. You follow with the mild soap. Lather up in your hands. I again gently wash my face for about 30 seconds in circular motions and then rinse. You follow with the mild lotion. This is a toner. Lotion typically means toner with Japanese face products. Don't ask me why. Anyway, it feels nice! I pat it on with my hands. Don't use too much. Last is the Olive Virgin Oil. You only need one or two drops. Rub in your hands to warm up and then apply to your face in a patting motion. I follow these steps, as the English website states that is how it should be done.

I am so far satisfied with this stuff. My skin has been reacting to a bunch of stuff lately and it really seems to be helping. I also use the Olive Virgin Oil in the morning before my make up. My face feels much better throughout the day. My forehead looked like dried paper in my mind before. Now it is more "alive" I guess you could say. Anyway, I plan to buy the regular set soon.

Well that is all for now. I am preparing for my Winter Holiday. Super stoked. Two weeks off (although it's more like one week with all the stuff I have to do...). Be safe everyone!


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Long Time No See (Not a Japan-related post btw)

I am so so sorry everyone for what has been nearly a two months' absence. Please forgive me! A huge reason for my absence was NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which I ultimately failed by about 15000 words. I was a bit disappointed, but I did far better than I have ever done before. My lack of motivation is another factor. But, I think I was in a funk where I felt kind of stuck. I didn't feel like I had anything worthy of writing.

It wasn't only writing that I wasn't motivated in, however. It was many things. I spend a lot of time just counting down to the weekend and getting through the week. That's not a good way to think, in my opinion, nor the healthiest. I am trying to motivate myself to spend more time making art, studying Japanese, and improving my health. It's not the easiest for me. I have started off pretty strong with renewing my Japanese studies. I bought some textbooks, a new kanji app (iKanji for those who care. ¥500 and totally worth it), and downloaded corresponding anki cards for my texts. I have gotten to where I study at least an hour a day. I think I will start up some coursework with Kumon again as well (took a break).

The next step on my agenda is diet. I am trying to get back into cooking. Until this weird funk, I was pretty good about cooking every day. So, I am starting to get the pan back out and cook again. I have almost cut sweets out of my diet completely. I am super proud of that. It is so tempting to get an ice cream or a cake or something at the conbini. And I tell myself no. I don't need it. And I buy an apple instead. I allow myself some sometimes. For example when Aki brings omiyage from his mom or something. And I will DEFINITELY be eating Christmas Cake. I next want to cut out potato salad and heavy food. The most difficult part of this is that I absolutely LOVE anything salty and fatty. WHY!?!?! It is pure torture sometimes to turn down that delicious looking ピザまん.

I chopped off a lot of my hair today. I decided if I am going to try to better myself, a new look might help me out. I think I cut off about 7 or 8 cm. It was pretty long. Now it is about shoulder length and I love it. Speaking of "cm" it's weird. I find myself using more and more metric units on my own than Imperial. I almost never say inches or feet, pounds or Fahrenheit. I guess it is a combination of being in Japan and also have more non-American friends haha. The Imperial system is so cumbersome...

Well, I apologize to those who sat and read all that. I would call this a bit of a personal rant. My life itself is actually really good. I am financially stable, have an awesome apartment, an awesome boyfriend, and great friends. My family are supportive. Oh! I am an aunt now. My sister had a baby girl. She is really cute for a newborn in my opinion. I think I just went through a weird month. Not sure why. I'm sure most young adults go through weird funks once they've been working and in the real world truly on their own for the first time.

My next post, I think I will talk a bit about the awesome wedding after party I went to. And I may also talk about some make up, or something.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Nogeyama Zoo, Nanowrimo, etc.

Today I will talk about Nogeyama Zoo. Yes, Yokohama has a zoo. And it's free. FREE. It was so much fun!! On Sunday, Aki and I went and made a visit there. This zoo is located a short distance from Sakuragi-cho Station. From the Blue Line, there are signs pointing you in the right direction for an exit (most of them said Nogeyama Park). It takes about 10-15 minutes depending on how fast you walk, and is uphill the majority of the way.

Upon arrival, you see immediately a gift shop and a sign for soft-serve ice cream. Of course you want to buy it after that treck (it was hot and humid). You are not obligated by any means to purchase ice cream, but it's only ¥350, and again, the zoo itself is free. For the season, they are featuring pumpkin. It is awesome and I highly recommend it. Did I mention there is a petting zoo of sorts?? No? Check out the cute photo of a baby chick down in my Instagram feed.

The zoo itself is not very big, but they have a pretty good variety of animals: giraffes, zebras, a camel, monkeys, condors, penguins, birds, and apparently lions too. But we couldn't see the lions. The petting zoo section has baby chicks, guinea pigs, and mice. Aki and I spent a good 15 minutes in there. We spent probably an hour there. I will definitely go again if I want some free baby chick therapy.

That aside, November is coming!! I know, I know, four weeks away. But I am going to participate in Nanowrimo this year. It stands for National Novel Writing Month. Basically, you have a month to try and write a 50,000 page novel. I participated a few times in high school and college and failed. I decided to give it a try again this month, and I have an idea anyway so I may as well.

I'm also getting to go to a wedding party this month. I am going to the 二次会(ni-ji-kai), or after party. Which is fortunate in a way regarding your budget. If you are invited to the full ceremony etc., you are supposed to gift ¥30000 to the couple. Luckily, lots of young couples have the after party for their friends since they know most young working people tend to be on a tight budget. This results in a small ceremony and larger party. It's a nice way to involve everyone and the guests are obliged to pay only the party fee (in my case ¥7000). I'm super excited because of course my friend is getting married, but it's also at the Intercontinental Hotel and I get to dress up. ^_^ I am definitely going to be writing about this.