Monday, January 26, 2015

Japan Eats: Shravan Indian Restaurant

We recently were invited to join our neighbors for dinner at a local Indian restaurant. Having never experienced Indian cuisine before, we were excited about a new adventure in culinary delights!

After a short train ride, slipping through a busy station, & finding the correct exit... we found ourselves walking down the chilly, bright streets of Tachikawa. If we hadn't been with our friends, I would most likely have walked past the restaurant entrance. The Shravan Indian Restaurant is tucked away in a downstairs locale, but upon entering you are met with a warm, homey atmosphere.

The staff is comprised of the owner, who serves the front of house, and two chefs. The restaurant is quaint, with few tables which portrays a relaxed dining experience. Our host was very gracious, allowing us plenty of time to make our choices, and never rushing our courses. I decided on a meal that included salad, a small appetizer, curry with naan bread, and dessert.

Upon recommendation, we tried samosas! These delicious, fried delights are filled with a mixture of potato and fragrant spices & served with a spicy cilantro sauce. We each enjoyed one, as they are quite large, but I did not particularly care for the sauce.

After samosas, our salads arrived to the table! I really wish i had thought to ask what kind of dressing was used, because it was absolutely divine!! I also received a sampling of sheek kabob (mutton) as my mini appetizer. It was absolutely delicious! The meat was tender and full of fragrant spices to entice the taste buds! I had never even considered eating mutton before in my life, but I would gladly do it again! Perhaps I'll try their mutton curry next time!

This restaurant is very child friendly, and my lil man enjoyed a plate of butter chicken curry, yellow rice & chicken, salad, and sweet naan bread. He devoured every single thing on this plate!

After we enjoyed our appetizers, our main courses arrived. I chose Spicy Chicken Curry with Butter Naan..... best. choice. ever!! I was slightly apprehensive about ordering a spicy dish, but there was just enough heat to enhance the flavor. We were given spoons with our bowls of curry, but it was much more satisfying to use chunks of bread to soak up all the deliciousness!

Our final course was dessert! I have never been a huge mango fan, but decided to give it a go. I chose Mango Delight... sweet mangos with vanilla ice cream. After enjoying this delicious treat, I had a change of heart & can't wait to eat more mango in the future!

We are looking forward to our next visit to Shravan, and will be trying more delicious foods!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review: Alamo Candelaria

I am beyond excited about my latest order of scentsational, geeky goodness!
 I was introduced to Outlander by my BFF Julie! If, by chance, you've been living under a rock.. you may have missed this glorious book coming to life on the tv! *fangirl squeal*

^^^that's James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.. he is verra fine!
annnnd he's starting this post, just so i can see him give that sultry stare on Julie's sidebar! 

So, moving on to my amazing order from Alamo Candelaria!

I heard of this company through Julie, and I have been drooling over the amazing soaps and waxes. A few months ago, the announcement of an Outlander themed line had me fiercely stalking the facebook page. When opening day came around, the joy of time zones was in my favor and I scored a nice little haul! My TAT was amazingly fast (even for overseas mail); I believe my order was mailed out within 3 days of being received.

Everything arrived very well packed and with lots of fluff to keep things from being smashed or broken. This is a HUGE plus when I look at reorders.. as my mail gets jostled a lot as it travels all the way around the world.

Up for offer was this beautiful Outlander themed perfume box set! I love that it has a description of each scent inside the box.. and those bottles!?! Each glass bottle has a cork that is sealed in place with black wax. the attention to detail in packaging is just stunning! I almost felt bad breaking the wax seal... almost!

I am trying to pace myself on opening my perfumes (crazy, i know!), so as of now I have only opened "Dragonfly in Amber" - A warm, sweet woody amber vanilla, bergamot, bay leaf, patchouli, frankincense, myrrh, nutmeg, clove, with rich notes of ambergris, balsam fir, cedar, and sandalwood. I was a little hesitant about this scent. I am not usually a fan of amber anything as I find most amber scents to be very sweet and candy-like. This scent, however, is a rich woodsy type scent & is bold without being overwhelming. I think this will be a good late fall/winter scent for me. (Hubby approved, so that's a double score!)

Other scents in my box include: Indigo, MamaCita, Fraser Ridge, La Dame Blanche, Standing Stones, & Bloody Man.

There were also some absolutely gorgeous soaps up for grabs, but as they came in a soap/perfume set.. I decided to pass in favor of some wax crack! No really... it's called wax crack! 

My first selection was "Standing Stones" - A sparkling, woody herbal with a citrusy bergamot, lavender, basil, amber, sage and oak moss. On cold sniff, I received an impression of a scent very similar to fabric softener. I have been a bit congested, so that could be a factor... Anyways, once melted, the lavendar, basil & oak moss notes became much more distinguished. Its hard to put a description on what exactly this wax smells like to me... but then again, I'm sure the Standing Stones aren't easily labeled either. mysterious...regal... old world....with a hint of countryside.. The throw is medium, which is perfect for my small rooms.

My second wax crack pick was "Fraser's Ridge" - tart, wild mountain strawberries, blackberry, peach, and raspberry, with a hint of violets, grounded with earthy patchouli. This scent has easily secured a spot in my top 10 favorite scents!! I can see why this wax (& the soap) sold out so quickly! The smells of fresh strawberries on a warm spring day out in the countryside....patches of wild violets swaying in the breeze... *sigh* The detail on this wax is stunning... little strawberries, dried herbs, wax seal imprints... I'm torn between melting & hoarding! The throw is medium & the strawberries come across light & airy... I will be waiting patiently to try to add the matching soap to my collection. I really just have a desire to roll in this smell... thankfully I have the perfume to tide me over! ;)

I received 2 very generous samples with my order! The first being a sample of wax crack in "Indigo" - Fresh rain, sweet grass, ozone, earthy patchouli, oak moss, and sweet amber musk. I had glanced quickly past this scent when ordering.. but I will definitely be snatching it up when i place my next order! When reading descriptions, I generally associate anything that smells "fresh rain" or "ozone" with detergent scents, but this scent is far from detergent. It is bright, airy, and fun! 

My second sample was this delicious treat! Salt Lique Lollis are the most amazing invention ever! After receiving a chai flavored one in a recent birthday gift.. I was soo excited to see this honey salt lique lolli sitting so pretty in my box! I took just enough time to snap a photo before promptly devouring the salty, sweet treat!

If you would like to know when the next opening is, make sure to follow Alamo Candelaria on Facebook! You will not be disappointed! I, personally, am hoping for a future release of all the soaps as a set... they are all just too gorgeous & it makes choosing just a few difficult!

If you have ordered recently, tell me what you got! Should I be adding any items to my wish list?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review: Super Tarts - Custom Order

Brace yourselves! There is immense geeky fan-girling ahead!!
(and possibly pictures of amazing wax... if i can stay focused)

So back on October 14th, I managed to score a custom bag from Super Tarts! I received my bag on January 6th (this includes roughly 10 days of shipping for overseas mail). Due to circumstances beyond the owners control, this TAT was a bit longer than expected, but still not a terrible wait time.
There are plenty of options to choose from to appease your senses. In addition to have a vast array of house blends, you can also choose from an even bigger selection of single scents to blend your own!
My bag weighs roughly 1lb 4-6oz & is filled with the most adorable shapes!! I chose to pick from her house blends list & chose "Doctor Who" - a delicious combination of red rooibos tea, shortbread cookies and creamy custard...minus the fish sticks!
When I saw that description, I was sold!!

Weird fact: I have plans to try fish fingers & custard... I  mean, if The Doctor loves them, they've got to be good, right??

My bag arrived filled with the most adorable shapes!! I'm not sure if Super Tarts is a fan of Doctor Who, but I can totally make connections between the shapes & the show! (yes, i'm aware just how geeky that makes me!) When i opened my bag, I was immediately met with the most delicious scent! Fresh brewed tea, warm cookies, delicious custard... I am positive this is exactly what the Tardis smells like!! I may or may not have sat & sniffed my bag for awhile... and this scent has pretty much become my kitchen staple... wake up in the morning, take a deep sniff... you can almost hear the Tardis!! The throw seems pretty strong to me, as it escapes out of my kitchen/dining area & into my living room... i LOVE it!!!

Ok, so let me rein in the geekiness long enough to show you the wax!

Are these not the most adorable shapes!? Further in the bag I also found flip flops, mini pies, & tiny ice cream scoops! AHHHH!! THE CUTENESS!!

I orginally thought I had tentacle shapes when i dumped my bag.. bits of Zygons, perhaps?
However, after i took this photo, I realized they are TEETH!!! How stinking cute is THAT!?

I have become a huge Super Tarts fan & look forward to reordering in the future!

What new wax have you tried lately that you absolutely loved?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Review: Mountain Rose Herbs

Recently, we've been looking into using essential oils and herbs. I know there is a ton of information out there, and everyone has their own opinions on what's safe & what isn't. As I've been scanning groups and websites, I came across this fabulous company: Mountain Rose Herbs.

They sell everything from loose leaf teas, herbs, essential oils, cooking spices/salts, & accessories. After browsing through their oils & starter kits... I came across their teas! I have heard great things about the quality of their products, so I decided to place a small order.

Shipping was very quick. I think I only had to wait 3-4 business days before I received my notification. Everything arrived packed nice & compact (i love shippers that don't waste space) & they even sent me a catalog that contains recipes and ideas! I have one item that ended up on back order, but I hope to receive it soon.

There were so many teas to choose from!! There were a fair number out of stock, which I attribute to the holiday season. I have plans to order a few more in the future, once they are restocked.. but after deliberating, I finally settled on the following: Dawn Chorus, Tulsi Delight, & Honeyroo.

L-R: Dawn Chorus, Tulsi Delight, & Honeyroo

The following descriptions are available from their website:

Dawn Chorus Tea: Gentle, yet full of heart and substance, this delicately balanced tea is a perfect way to start the day, and offers just the right amount of pick-me-up during times of afternoon lethargy. This mildly sweet and lightly fragrant nettle based infusion is a superb alternative to the caffeine found in green and black teas. 

On first sniff, my nose immediately picked up the green roobios and rose petals. It has a light & pleasant floral scent when brewed. There is a slight sweetness, so it can be enjoyed with minimal sweeteners. I found it very reminiscent of a jasmine green tea I enjoy. This was chosen so we could have some tea on hand for evenings, without the dreaded caffeine that would potentially ruin a good nights rest.

Tulsi Delight Tea: This delightful blend is lightly caffeinated and filled with Ayurvedic inspiration. The Ayurvedic name for Holy Basil is Tulsi, meaning The Incomparable One. It is considered a hot herb with pungent bitter tastes. This infusion blend combines these flavors with cooling mint and hibiscus. The lightly astringent taste from the Dao Ren tea and pungent ginger flavors combine wonderfully to give this tea a flavor that touches all your senses. It is both uplifting and energetic. This tasty blend can be enjoyed as either a hot or cold infusion, and is a great way to start off your morning or carry you through mid-day slumps.

When i saw the description for this tea, I knew I had to buy it for my husband! He loves strong, pungent flavors. While we were living in Turkey he found a basil tea that he would drink throughout the winter. He is running low, so it seemed a perfect time as any to buy him a new blend. When sniffing, this is definitely a bold, in your face tea! The basil and mint immediately fill your nostrils and clear your sinuses. There will be no stuffy noses in this house!

Honeyroo Tea: This delectable organic tea blend delivers the antioxidant benefits of Red Rooibos and the natural sweetness of Honeybush in a delicately fragrant and flavorful cup. Brewing up a pot of this aromatic tea confuse the heady aromas of late summer berries, roses, and honey. Delicious iced and suitable for all ages. Caffeine free.

This has to be one of the sweetest teas I have ever smelled! The sweet aroma reminds me of sunshine and warm summer days. I'm sure this will be a warm, relaxing treat on the cold, snowy days that are in our future!

This next item, is a bit weird. They are called Soap Nuts (deseeded). I have been going back and forth over ordering some of these for a few years now. So here's the basics on these little nuts. Soap Nuts are an environmentally friendly option as a detergent. It is also a good choice for people with sensitive skin & allergies to regular detergents. (which my family has, so i've been making my own laundry detergent). They contain saponin, a natural detergent, that is released when the shells absorb water. It is supposed to produce little or no bubbles during washing, and have a faint apple cider smell. You simply put 4-6 nuts in a muslin bag, toss it in the wash & reuse the same set for a few loads until the soap nuts get gray & mushy. 
I'm not so sure about these.. I opened the bag.. and whoooooo-eeeee!! they are very potent... like apple cider gone a little rough... But i shall give them a test run with my towels & see what happens.

And finally... a bag of Dead Sea Salt. I've been wanting to play around with sea salt & try my hand at making some bathing goodies. Still not 100% settled on any one idea... so feel free to send me some!

Have you had any experience with oils or herbs? What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Fukubukuro 2015 - Get Lucky!!

One of the Japanese New Years customs is the sale of "Lucky Bags". Many stores put together mystery bags filled with product at a set price for purchase. Generally, your contents are being sold to you at a discount, so people line up to grab these deals. From what I've seen & heard, bags can range in price from 500 yen (7-11 sells lucky bags!!) up to 30000 yen or higher depending on the retailer. (Apple sells Lucky bags that people line up for days in advance!). 

In a sense, this is kind of like black friday shopping... but the stores open at normal hours, the people are extremely polite, stores are neat & tidy, & you have no idea what you've bought until you get home. (ok, ok.. its NOTHING like black friday shopping!!! LOL) Some stores will display whats in their bags, but really.. where's the fun in that!?

After hearing about the lucky bags, I was hoping to venture out to the mall New Year's Day to see what was being offered. Sadly, my husband had to work.. so I will plan ahead for next year. Stores sell their bags until they run out, so sometimes you can find them the following day or so.

I managed to score a Lucky Bag from Mister Donut! 
(& seriously, who can turn down a bag that says it will make you happy!?!)
My Lil Man picked up a cute Pokemon bag from a little food store... it's not technically a lucky bag, but when you are 7 & a fan of Pokemon.. this is like the holy grail!

Here is what was inside my lucky bag!!
(My bag was 2100 yen)

An adorable glass dish!! i totally squealed with delight over the cuteness!

2 little polka dot glass tea cups with stirrers! The flower bunny cracks me up!!

The donut calendar has the cutest pictures inside! Hubby had just asked me the day before if I was going to purchase a new calendar for the fridge... ta da!! it was fate! ;)

This is the cutest little bag ever!! It will probably be my new carry-all tote. Its a perfect size for library trips, quick stops at the commissary, play dates at the park... love it!!

My Lil Man insisted that i take a photo of his prized bag for my blog! He cracks me up!
(Pokemon bag - 900 yen)

His bag contained a collectors book to hold stickers (2 stickers inside already), some choco koala cookie things.. yumm!!, fruit snacks, a cookie type thing, & some bubble gum. The bag it was packed in is pretty nice & could be used as a gift bag for someone else!

Next year I hope to be more prepared for the Lucky Bags... I heard Toys R Us sells Lego Lucky bags (definite!!).. and even though i was disappointed by photos of this years Lush Lucky Bags, I might give it a shot next year. Also on the list -- Sephora & Starbucks!

What stores would be on your Lucky Bag list??

Monday, January 5, 2015

Japan Eats: Dinner from Walmart!

Yes, you read that title correctly.. We are living in Japan.. and picked up dinner at Walmart!

One of the fun things we have discovered while out & about is that the Japanese love easy, on the go meals. However, not only do they love them, they are always packed with finesse! We were recently out doing some shopping at the Seiyu (Japanese name for Walmart) and were lamenting that we hadn't planned ahead for dinner. So we ventured downstairs to the grocery section to look around & BOOM! a whole aisle in the store devoted to packaged meals! Some were hot, some were cold.... everything ranging from fresh sushi, ramen, friend chicken, pot stickers, onigiri.... you name it, it was probably on this aisle! side note: You can also find these exact type of meals at the local 7-11s... and they are delish!

First up on our random dinner list.... sushi!!
I, personally, am not a big fan of raw fish.. it has a weird texture. I did try some of the Uni, and it was very.... fishy? oceany?... i'll probably give it one more shot, but so far i'm not a fan. Hubby, on the other hand, scarfed this entire plate with satisfaction!

My choice was this interesting plate with noodles, rice, & meat. 
The noodles.... spot on!! I ate them cold.. you're probably supposed to heat this stuff up, but what can i say.. I'm a cold-leftovers kinda person.. aint nobody got time for heatin up noodles! ;)
The meat was some type of hard sausage (pass!), a piece of pork, & some chicken.
Although the rice looks interesting, it was kinda bland & I only took a few bites.

Our Lil Man decided he was going to dine on onigiri! He liked the plain chicken, and he only ate the white rice ball. I believe that one had tuna inside. The other onigiri resembled fried rice and we all tried it, but it wasn't something we absolutely must buy again.

Mmmmmm Pot Stickers!!! We are all about some pot stickers in this house! My kid can put away his fair share, so these are always a safe choice as a 'backup' when we are trying new things!

This was some type of rice roll wrapped in seaweed... I don't remember what was inside, but I do remember that the Hubby was not too impressed. Simple, on the go food.. but not a repeat.

I love all the fun, quirky things I can find in Japan! I decided to browse their soda aisle to see what I could find. I was mainly searching for Pepsi Pink, but these other two managed to jump into my basket as well.

Pepsi Pink - this was advertised as strawberry milk flavor... which i know sounds totally gross! however, it seems more fruity to me & I actually really like it! Besides, who doesn't want their Pepsi to be pink!?

Coca-Cola Orange - I'm pretty sure I saw this in the states in one of those new touch screen soda machines at a fast food place. Verdict? pretty bizarre.... Tasted like Coca-Cola, but with an aftertaste of fresh orange being squeezed in my mouth.

Apple Fanta - after experiencing Melon Fanta, I was pretty excited for this one! However, I am absolutely NOT a fan! It has a strong fake apple flavor that just turned my stomach. Hubby said it was ok & finished it off... but he has a cast iron stomach & eats just about anything! LOL

So there you have our dinner from walmart! 
Have you had any yummy food experiences lately?