Thursday, August 17, 2017

How to Clean a Japanese Air Conditioner

Want to hear something gross? I just learned last week that air conditioning units are supposed to be cleaned once or twice a year. Yes, that means that in 4.5 years our air conditioner never once got cleaned. Oops. Can I blame this on growing up with central air? Last week when John and I both noticed a musty smell I googled it, and found this blogpost from Okinawa Hai incredibly helpful.

Basically, the front of the unit lifts up so that you can remove and clean the filters. Then while the filters are out you spray in some cleaner that kills mold, bacteria, etc. Following Okinawa Hai's recommendation we hung up a sheet to protect from drips. Honestly, none of the cleaner dripped out, so it seemed pretty unnecessary. It did catch a little dust the fell when we removed the filters, but I think that's probably due to how long our filters had gone uncleaned. After ten minutes you can return the filters and restart the air conditioner.

The whole process was very easy. We bought the cleaner on amazon for less than 400 yen, though it should be easy to find in hardware stores and probably drugstores. Immediately afterwards we noticed that the air in our apartment smelled fresher. So, if you didn't know this was necessary, or you haven't been sure how to do it, don't hesitate - it's very simple.

Air Conditioner Cleaner


Filters out - getting ready to spray
Super Gross Filters!


This is what they look like clean

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Crazy Foot Peels: Baby Foot v. Shiny Foot by Tony Moly

Have you heard about the new trendy foot peel products that promise insanely smooth feet? Baby Foot is a Japanese product that costs about $20, and Shiny Foot by Tony Moly is a similar Korean product that costs about $10. Both promise to use fruit acids to make all the rough dead skin peel off your feet, leaving fresh beautiful skin behind.

Two friends and I were very curious about these products so, we gave them a try at the beginning of summer. I've been meaning to write a review for ages, but honestly I'm glad it's taken so long because our opinions have shifted as time went on.

Overview and Product Differences

Both Baby Foot and Shiny Foot have plastic booties that you wear for 60-90 minutes while the peeling liquid soaks into your feet. Baby Foot booties have a squishy lining inside that already contains the peeling liquid. Shiny Foot is more like a plastic bag that you pour a small pouch of liquid into. Because of this difference in design Baby Foot exposes the top and bottom of your feet as well as ankles to the liquid, while Shiny Foot only submerges the bottoms of your feet and in between your toes.

This means that with Baby Foot you'll have more exfoliation, but you'll also have fewer shoes that will hide the peeling. For example, Tom's shoes hid all peeling from Shiny Feet, but not Baby Foot. You should consider where you want to exfoliate, and how important hiding the peeling is to you, when you select a product.

After the 60-90 minutes, you wash your feet thoroughly and then wait several days for the peeling to begin. Both products took about the same amount of time to begin peeling, and while the peeling patterns on our feet were somewhat different, the end results were similar.

With both products your feet will peel for about a week, and eventually you will be left with smoother, softer, pinker skin. 

Results

Underwhelming, sums up our experiences. While our feet did look nicer, the results were very brief, and two of the three of us didn't think the change was very significant. One of us has dry feet in general, and she was very pleased with her results. The other two of us have more calluses but not dryness, and we were the two unimpressed. If you have dry feet with white flakiness, you will probably be more likely to enjoy your results.

But the medium and longer term results are less impressive no matter what. All three of us soon realized that we have calluses for a reason (I can hear my mother's voice inside my head saying that now) and we all started developing blisters and rubbing from our shoes after using this product  - Baby Foot was worse than Shiny Foot in this respect.

Within two or three weeks I felt like all evidence of the peel was gone, and as the summer has progressed I feel like my feet have become rougher and more callused than normal. I should point out that all three of us live in a city and walk A LOT everyday, so it's possible that had some impact. 

All three of us admitted that the actual peeling process was really fun and satisfying, but none of us thought we would use the products again. If we did, it would be for the fun/social aspect of doing it with a group of friend, rather than actually wanting the results.

Tips for Use

If you decide to use one of these products here are some tips we learned along the way:

1. Soak your feet in warm water for at least 15 minutes before using the products to make them more effective.

2. The instructions will say that the liquid should absorb, but this is a mistranslation. It won't, but that's nothing to worry about.

3. Remove all toenail polish before using! The liquid will eat the polish off leaving a faded, dusty matte color, but it will also cause the pigment to soak into and stain your toenails. Nail polish remover will not be able to remove the staining - you'll have to wait for them to grow out.

4. Once your feet begin peeling, wear socks at all times or else you will have to do a lot of vacuuming/sweeping. (I wore flip flops after showering to give my feet a chance to dry first)

5. I preferred to gently massage the peeling skin off under running water at the end of my showers rather than flaking it off when it was dry. That said, never use a lot of pressure to peel or scrape skin off - be gentle.

Pictures below. Warning - if peeling feet gross you out, don't scroll further.

Baby Foot

Shiny Foot
Before
After
Soaking


Early peeling

Middle stage peeling

Late stage peeling





Wednesday, July 19, 2017

July Update

It's well and truly summer now. We're had several days above 90 degrees, and last week the cicadas came out. If the last couple weeks are any indication it's shaping up to be a brutally hot summer too. Everyone I've talked to agrees, it's already hotter than the last two summers at least.

Perversely, my mind keep daydreaming of fall - grapes and pears and fall leaves and hiking (for some reason hiking seems like a fall activity). Then I have to remind myself it's only the middle of July.

But, July is my birth month, and it's been fun celebrating. There's been lots of good food and fun with friends.

This guy knows how to do summer

Summer Cooking - Corn Tacos with Zucchini  Radish Slaw  

Pre-birthday lunch (delicious Greek food not pictured)

Pre-birthday Desserts with Raku
Just look at the detail - tiny sugar dew drops!
Just as pretty as all the desserts
Birthday Flowers
Birthday Gelato

Godzilla Spotted at a Beer Garden



Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Afternoon Tea at the Aman Tokyo

It's been ages since I've posted an afternoon tea review, hasn't it? Luckily there's a new player in town - the Aman Hotel, and Raku and I were able to go a few weeks ago.

The Aman is a new hotel in Marunouchi, and it has a really unique atmosphere. Definitely no generic hotel lobby feeling here. Much of the lounge is black stone, and they've selected a black theme for their afternoon tea as well. Sandwiches and cream puffs are made black with bamboo charcoal, and even the tea cups and plates are black. The rest of the accents in the room are pale wood, and rice paper creating a really elegant but modern feel.

We had a window seat, which we were initially exited about, but I have to say in warmer weather I don't recommend it. We were so hot from the sun pouring in, and had to move our food to the other side of the table to keep all the chocolates from melting!

The food itself was really delicious and creative. Top marks to the chef for that. But I have to say there was too much chocolate. I know that sounds crazy, but just trust me. From the photos you can see that there are a number of fashion themed chocolates - shoes, purses, a jewel with more chocolates inside. Early on we noticed that a lot of people were leaving most of their chocolate behind, and we were scandalized. How wasteful! But we ended up doing exactly the same thing. There's simply too much to be enjoyed.

They have a nice selection of teas. Iced comes by the glass and hot comes by the pot, and you're welcome to change flavors with each order. But, they won't allow you to place your next order until you've finished your current glass/pot which does lead to an annoying wait at times. Our particular favorites were the Peach Bergamot iced tea and the Irish Whiskey Cream tea.

As far as I know, this is the most expensive afternoon tea in Tokyo, but it's a really creative and delicious menu in a unique atmosphere. If you're looking for an indulgent and out of the ordinary tea, this is it.

The Aman Afternoon Tea
Afternoon Tea Hours: 11:30-9:30
Phone: 03-5224-3339
Map

Peach Bergamot Iced Tea


Fashion Themed Chocolates

Excellent scones

Banana Caramel Chou




Tokyo Tea Lovers


Read about other afternoon teas:
The Palace Hotel Tokyo
The Metropole Hanoi
The Ritz Carlton Tokyo
Tokyo Shangri-la
Peninsula Hotel Tokyo
The Mandarin Oriental (second time)
Park Hyatt Shinjuku
The Four Seasons Marunouchi
Hotel Chinzanso
The Mandarin Oriental




Friday, June 23, 2017

What I've Been Cooking Lately

It's been a while since I've posted about my cooking, but I feel like lately it's been worth mentioning. With the warmer weather there's so much summer produce already available - peaches, cherries, corn on the cob. I enjoy those all so much more now that they're only available during a specific season. I've also been trying out a few Japanese recipes here and there. It might be a terrible excuse, but I rarely cooking Japanese food because it's so readily available, and I always think that nothing I could make would taste as good or be as authentic. But the last three recipes I tried all came out really well!

Oyakodon - Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl

Fancy Brunch - Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Gyudon - Beef and Sweet Onion Rice Bowl

Shiso Pasta - Shiso is a Japanese herb with a flavor similar to mint and basil

Prosciutto and Cherry Salad - Recipe from My Little Expat Kitchen
The Japanese dishes come from Japanese Soul Cooking.

See other JSC recipes:

Yakiudon
Mabo Dofu
Sapporo Soup Curry
Sesame Karaage
Omurice
Tan Tan Men
Pork Gyoza
Ebi Chili
Japanese Soul Cooking Review

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Korean Beauty Products (and food) in Shinokubo

Korean beauty seems to be blowing up, both in Japan and in the US right now. Have you heard about it? A few months ago I jumped on the bandwagon, and I've been absolutely loving it. (And I'm super low maintenance) Korean beauty dictates a ten-step skin care process (and I'll be honest, I'm doing about half that) and involves all sorts of fun and interesting products that are usually packaged very adorably.

Raku and I decided to try this out together, so a couple of months ago, we did some research, made our shopping lists, and headed out to Shinokubo, the biggest Korean neighborhood in Tokyo, to do some shopping. 

The two big stores we hit were Skinholic and Skin Garden which carry a wide variety of brands but there are tons and tons of cosmetic stores that you can wander into. If you make the trip to Shinokubo, it's not complete without some delicious Korean food. We highly recommend Ondoru. Even on a rainy weekday we had to wait twenty minutes to get in, but it's always worth the wait. Later, for dessert we bought cinnamon honey hotcakes at a stall across the street from Skinholic.

Ultimately, we didn't end up buying that much that day because we couldn't find some of the products we were looking for, and prices in the shops were generally higher than we found on Amazon or Iherb (but the shipping from Korea took close to two weeks, so it's a trade off). But it's still fun to walk around the neighborhood, enjoy the food, and check out the latest products. If you're looking to do your own research SoKo Glam has a wealth of reviews and information. And wherever you are, have an idea of what the prices should be before you walk into a store.

We've been going for a couple months now with our products, and really enjoying it. I've noticed a lot of improvement in my complexion, and hoping that continues.

My photography skills don't do this deliciousness justice

Ondoru - always worth the wait

Skinholic, a little smaller but a little nicer than Skin Garden

Hotteok (Hotcake) Stand

Honey Flavored Hotteok - there are lots of sweet and savory options

My Korean Products


Skinholic
Hours: 10:00-8:00
Phone: 03-5272-0909
Location: 1-12-15 Okubo, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Map

Skin Garden
Hours: 10:00-10:00
Phone: 03-5291-1808
Location: 212 Kyakunincho, Shinkuku-ku, Tokyo
Map

Ondoru
Hours: 11:00 am-1:00 am
Phone: 03-3205-5679
Location: 1-3-20 Hyakunincho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Map

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sister Visit

I'm terribly late writing about this, but a couple months ago my sister came out to visit (for the fourth time!) for her spring break. It was her shortest trip by far, but still lots of fun.

We discovered that the Yokohama Ramen museum now has two shops that offer gluten free ramen, so we made a point of going out there to binge on ramen. (She enjoyed both, but says that Muku Zweite is better than Komurasaki if you have to choose one or the other.)

In other food adventures we went to Enoshima, an island a little over an hour from Tokyo, and during a picnic a hawk stole her entire lunch! Luckily we were able to find more gluten free food (and ice cream) relatively quickly.

The cherry blossoms were supposed to be opening during her visit, but they were very slow this year. We got a few sightings in, but nothing nearing peak blooms. In spite of that we still did lots of other fun things like seeing a Yayoi Kusama show, finding a baby mango (the size of an egg) at a gift fruit store, and just generally enjoying each other's company.

Gluten Free Ramen

The Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum - so much more crowded than a few years ago!

Mini Mango!

The Yayoi Kusama Show
She's so werid, but I LOVE her

Sister Love

Travel themed chu-hais

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Time Is Flying

It's hard to believe it's already the middle of May. Somehow I completely missed writing about the sakura this year, and my sister visiting during her spring break. The cold weather has left, and warm sunny days are coming back, at least for a little while. Rainy season only about three weeks away!

But in the meantime I've been enjoying as much time as I can outdoors. I bought a picnic blanket, and have already put it to use a number of times. A few weeks ago Raku and I went on an overnight to Yokohama, just for an adventure. And while we didn't go anywhere for Golden Week, John and I made a point of going somewhere fun everyday so that it actually felt like a vacation.

Cherry blossoms with a friend
It's the best time of year

Yokohama

The flowers were fantastic

And so was the company!

Cherry Pie Frappuccino - surprisingly delicious

Apple galette for Raku's birthday
Pretty enough for a restaurant, but made by Raku

Coffee Set at the Hotel Chinzanso