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My New Year’s resolution?  Well it’s quite simple, you see.  It involves a bit of traveling.  Well, that’s my personal resolution for 2013.  I am hoping to do a little more traveling before really settling down.  This year, I am trying to plan at least one big trip (a final hurrah, if you will), possibly to one of these places:

old english bus toy wallpaper1. LONDON!  Yes, yes.  I would indeed love to visit this rich city, one which I have never visited before.  I have very much professed my longing desire to visit this city to my husband, but he has always been hesitant to travel to London.  Instead, he prefers to travel to Asia (i.e. China &/or Japan) mostly to visit close friends & relatives.  I think this year may be the right time for us…

rio beach wallpaper2. RIO DE JANEIRO… For a number of years, I have been contemplating the idea of visiting this bright city, the foundation of my passion for Bossa Nova music.  What solidified my lust to travel to Rio?  Why, the animated movie RIO of course!  That movie really painted an irresistible panoramic view of the city I long to visit someday… Maybe I could lay on the beach & pretend that I am that girl from Ipanema.

shibuya night wallpaper3. My husband & I have been toying with the possibility of traveling back to Japan again.  However, this time, we would like to visit other cities besides Tokyo.  I’ve visited Kyoto once before & would love to visit there again with my husband.  Oh the possibilities!  2013, we’ll just have to wait & see.

hoily at tiffany's wallpaper4. Insert obligatory Breakfast at Tiffany’s photo here.  Yep.  It’s New York City.  My husband’s best friend, Peter, shares a birthday with me.  (His birthday is the day before mine.)  We had some grand scheme to go to New York for our birthday(s) this year as a group until Peter & his newly wedded bride recently bought their first home & won’t be able to go.  But…the show must go on, & I am currently trying to convince my husband to take me back to his old neighborhood in Manhattan.  (I felt so cheated when I got severely ill on my first trip to NYC & was holed up in the hotel room for 3 days straight.)

2013 is a new year…a time to start fresh.  Unfortunately, things have already gotten off to a rocky start.  We will be moving out of our apartment at the end of this month (due to an insane rent hike & some specific family matters), & we will be moving into my parents’ house.  We are not looking at this as a setback, but more like a step forward.  Think positively.  I guess you can say that’s one New Year’s resolution/goal that’s already been met.  Cheers!

(All photos courtesy of: Wallbase.cc)

Upon hearing that Aesop‘s latest Nolita store was built on 400,000 strips of paper— well, actually the paper, New York Times— we feared that someone could easily huff, puff, and blow the place down, leaving hot-spots for high-end skin products one major man down. But upon further investigation, our concern turned into wonderment, as we realized the expert design and construction that went into the project, executed by NYC architect Jeremy Barbour for Tacklebox . The products are displayed in an ingenious marriage of form and function, with a raw aesthetic that stays true to the company and to the architect, who had carried out a similar design for the brand’s Grand Central kiosk. Looks like one way to have your store stay in the news is to have the news stay in your store!

Photo sources via: Tacklebox & Refinery 29
via: Aesop NYC— The Amazing Design Behind Aesops New NYC Store.

 

I really like the brand Aesop (even though it’s mostly geared towards men’s skincare).  So far, I’ve only tried their hand cream, but it works like a dream!  The scent is a bit strong upon the first few uses, but it’s not an overpowering perfume-y fragrance.  It has a pleasing herbal-type scent, & the hand cream is just awesome hands-down (ha ha).

After only 2 uses of the hand cream, I already noticed a dramatic difference in the appearance of my dry skin & cracked cuticles.  All year round, no matter how much lotion I apply on my hands per day, my hands & especially my cuticles seem persistently dry & cracked.  I’ve used cuticle treatments in the past, but I don’t want to have to buy 7 or 8 products & go through some 10-step skincare routine everyday.  I’d rather use a “one item, many functions” type product, trim my skincare routine down to 3 or 4 simple steps.

This is where Aesop becomes my favorite hand cream…  It’s super concentrated & works miracles  on my well-worn fingers fast!  I mean, after 2-3 days of use, my hands are so much softer & neater looking (minus the jagged cuticles sticking out).  After using this hand cream, I think I would definitely try their other skincare products, & I don’t care if this is a men’s line.  I think this can very much be a uni-sex skincare line.

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This statement has probably been said millions of times over, but for me, I miss the fast-paced lifestyle & the bustling streets.  I miss the perfectly manicured socialites dressed to-the-nines hailing a cab in their triple-digit Christian Loubutin pumps; the savory aroma of the homely street vendor peddling fresh hot dogs & salted pretzels; the ever-present bright neon lights of the infamous Times Square… I miss it all.

You know, I’ve only been to New York once in my life, but one encounter was all it took for me to fall in love with the city. Being in New York reminds me of the wonderful times I’ve spent in Tokyo. Both cities are filled to the brim with skyscrapers & neon lights & gorgeous folks dashing to their next fabulous destination.

I just love the hustle & bustle of the ever-changing city & it’s extremely urban lifestyle & culture.

Ok, so…put all the couture shopping, gourmet eating & museum viewing aside. Forget about all the various landmarks the city has to offer. The key element that keeps me so entranced with the city is the whole atmosphere/aura of it all.

Sitting in a street cafe on the quaint shop corner, I love watching the people walk by, some with meticulouusly groomed dogs in tow, some pushing the baby strollers of their employer alongside a number of equally employed child-care staff, others walking the early morning path of shame leading from their miatress’ apartment…

I just love to sit in a cafe or on a park bench with my fiancée, sipping our coffee drinks & watching the scenery in the daytime. Then, after a light lunch, we’ll go for a little afternoon shopping before heading out to a fun dinner & night on the town.

This is the perfectly painted scene of a time spent in New York. Enjoy.

Uniqlo Coming To San Francisco via Refinery29

Ok, I am not a religious person, but I must say “Hallelujah!”  Yes, yes, yes!  My wishes have been fulfilled!  My absolute, most favorite clothing brand of all time, UNIQLO, will be opening several new store locations throughout the world  within the near future, & guess what?!  My local city San Francisco is on this list of locations!!!  Yes, that means that my all-time favorite clothing brand from Japan will be opening a new store near me, sometime in the future.

For those of you who have never heard of this brand, UNIQLO is a Japanese casual wear designer, manufacturer & retailer with affordable prices.  UNIQLO’s fashion style has been compared to GAP clothing, but with the retail price tag equivalent of H&M.  What started as an affordable unique clothing brand only sold in Japan (as are most Japanese clothing brands), UNIQLO has expanded its International branches & now have retail stores all around the world including: Hong Kong, mainland China, Thailand, Russia, Taiwan, etc. with it’s only U.S. retail store residing in New York.

Right now the very famous Japanese clothing brand UNIQLO is conducting a major expansion project & is expecting to open more flagship stores & smaller shops in various cities around the world including: New York (Manhattan), Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Connecticut, New Jersey & London.  Some, or most of these stores will most likely not open any time in the near future, as UNIQLO is also geared to create a new clothing collection with Lady Gaga’s stylist: Nicola Formichetti (which will probably debut first).

Here are some of my quick thoughts on UNIQLO’s expansion project:

  • More retail stores are scheduled to open in New York, especially in the Manhattan district.  I personally, don’t understand why this should or needs to be done, since Manhattan already has a 5-level flagship store that is more than capable of meeting consumer demand.
  •  I’m not quite sure how the New Jersey store will come to be, since most New Jersey-ites schlep themselves across the Hudson river all the way to New York to do most of their major retail shopping.
  • Connecticut?  Really?!  Well, I guess if that’s what you want, but I don’t really see the point. (Please refer back to my New Jersey comment.)
  • I don’t have much to say about the “windy city” Chicago, since I don’t know much about that city itself…but I’ve heard it’s a growing fashion hotspot, so I can kind of see how a UNIQLO retail store might work out there.  We will have to see after its first year’s sales stats.

Last but not least…

  • I heard about the rumor of UNIQLO planning on opening a California retail location since last year, & my immediate (instant) thought was that Los Angeles would be the first California city to have a retail store.  I think I am on track with the correct prediction.  I just have a gut feeling about this.  Los Angeles has a larger Japanese population compared to any Bay Area city near San Francisco, including S.F. (not that ethnicity should matter).  Also, Los Angeles is considered to be one of the largest fashion capitals in the world.  So, I really wouldn’t be surprised if Los Angeles opened up a retail store first.  It would make more sense.  In fact, I would be more surprised if San Francisco opened up a retail store before Los Angeles.

It doesn’t matter if it’s not anytime soon, just as long as they do actually open a store location in my local city.  I just can’t believe that this rumor is now confirmed to be a fact.  I have visited the New York Manhattan flagship location, & the various retail locations around Shanghai, China.  Also, I often shop at the various retail stores scattered around Tokyo (in Japan), including their exclusive t-shirt shop in Harajuku called UT UNIQLO…& I can definitely say that…being one of UNIQLO’s biggest fans…I am so overjoyed to hear this exciting news!!

The last time I visited Japan was in December 2010, with my fiancee & my friends.  These are some of the fun things I learned from my trip.  Enjoy.

1. When you go to a cafe & sit outside and/or next to the window, you will be given a blanket to keep your lap/legs warm (only during Winter season).

2. Most restaurants/cafes have a designated basket with a cloth cover at each dining table.  When you are seated, you can put your purse and/or shopping bags in the basket to keep your bags clear from the aisles & to keep them from getting dirty.

3. Hotel rooms will recycle your  bed sheets & towels for 3 days unless you put the “change my sheets” card on your bed.  This saves a lot on cleaning & water!

4. When it rains, all shops/stores will put a plastic cover on all of your shopping bags so they don’t get wet. (This is the one thing I wish our stores had in the U.S.)

5. Dudes are paid to drive big trucks with giant billboards around town while blaring the most annoying KPop music by the popular Korean boy band 2PM. (Do you notice that I don’t like the band 2PM?)

6. During Christmas time, even though you are overseas, you will NOT escape Western Christmas music…You will hear it EVERYWHERE.  You will also hear “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” & Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” about 50 times a day, while not really sure if the locals even know what the lyrics mean.

7. If you go shopping at a major department store, the sales people will try to sell you everything & anything. They are insanely pushy, but polite as hell about it.

8a. I love the clothing brand A Bathing Ape, & I’ve noticed that ALL sales staff at every single Tokyo region Bathing Ape (a.k.a. BAPE) store are friendly & cool.  Although they can’t speak much English, they can understand it & try to speak it to make you feel welcome. (I have also found that the sales staff at the BAPE stores in NY & L.A.(which is now closed) are also friendly/nice.)

8b. Every single time I go shopping at a Tokyo region Bathing Ape store with my fiancee, we will get special treatment, we will make friends with at least one sales clerk.  I don’t understand this, but I guess my fiancee just appears to be outgoing & perhaps that is why others tend to gravitate toward him & can talk to him easily…even when there is a language barrier. (P.S. If you are ever in Shibuya, Tokyo….look up a guy named Saito at the BAPE store in Shibuya.  He is one of the coolest store clerks I’ve ever met in Japan.)

9. You will see cheesy American restaurant chains all over Tokyo (eg. Outback, TGI Fridays, Denny’s, L&L Hawaiian BBQ, El Torito, Sizzler), but don’t expect crazy lines out the door.  You will only find that mind-numbing queue at Eggs ‘N Things (which came from Hawaii).  The whole Western food trend has come & gone already.  (Plus, I’m a little biased & think that the Japanese spin on Western/American food tastes so much better than the way it’s cooked back home.)

10. You will hear Western Pop music everywhere compared to Japanese Pop music (which is not played nearly as much as Western Top 40/Pop).  I couldn’t escape the songs “We R Who We R” by Ke$ha or “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz when I was in Tokyo.

11. The new latest invention in Japanese technology: Otohime.  Every public bathroom stall will have a device that will make a running water sound for a more discreet bathroom experience.  You just press the button on the device & it will make a flushing noise to mask the sounds.  You can eve buy this in a handy pocket device for travel and/or public use.

12. Most public bathrooms will have a “regular” stall with squat-in-the-ground toilets or “Western” stalls with sit-down toilets.  I thought this was pretty cool…that some rather old fashioned traditions still remain.

13. Fruits are not as expensive as you think they are. It’s not as if every grocery store in town will have that $40 watermelon you saw on reddit.com/ebaumsworld.com. Ok, so compared to American grocery store prices, they are pretty pricey ($6 for 2 apples).  However, they are much more beautiful in color & shape, much more sweeter, & bigger in size compared to our U.S. market fruits.  So, it’s almost like getting more fruit for your money.  Plus, the only $40 fruits you will find are the organic ones, grown on some special farm, & comes in a fancy wrapped box that are supposed to be for gift giving.  Those fruits you will find at super luxe department stores like Matsuzakaya or Mitsukoshi…or at fancy grocery stores that specifically sell organic goods.

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Need an iced drink to cool down, but it’s gotta be caffeinated to perk me up. ☕️
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