Sunday, April 26, 2015

Kawaii Mall Haul ♡ Sephora ♡ Forever 21 ♡ DSW

I went shopping last week because I had a 15% coupon for VIBs at Sephora and a bunch of fun coupons I got for my birthday!

So first I went to Sephora, and got a mini nail design kit, and a jumbo Colorful Shadow & Eyeliner in the shimmery white color. I already have the pink one and I love to use it all the time when I don't have much time to do my eye makeup!

Semi-sweet palette, jumbo eye pencil, and 100 pt Dior freebie! 

I also ordered online the Too Faced Semi-Sweet Makeup Palette. It has arrived and I love it so much. The colors are adorable and so are the names. I can't wait to create some new eye looks with the palette.

Forever 21 has some adorable items near the register. They have some fun Japanese snacks like Hi-Chew and some cute Hello Kitty sweets. 

I picked up a bunch of cute socks for $1.50 each. I spotted cute patterns with cows, watermelon, bananas, whales, and so much more.. These are the ones I bought!

I also saw some adorable pajama sets with macarons, donuts and elephants. There was one with strawberries which really reminded me of the Rilakkuma la fraise/paris/strawberry design that came out last December! So if you are looking for cute pj's or t-shirts check them out.

Bath and Body Works has a new spring line of Hawaii inspired scents. Because I'm so obsessed with the Rilakkuma Aloha series, I was pretty attracted to the new scents! I love the scents--they use a lot of coconut and fruity scents like mango. I picked up the Kauai, Maui, and Oahu scents. Don't they look so cute with my Lawson Rilakkuma cart?

And I also got the Georgia peach sweet tea mini size! I had a coupon for a free full sized lotion--and they gave me tons of coupons with my purchase so I'll have to go check them out again soon.

So those are some of the cute things I've picked up recently! I'll leave the links below to my haul video, and kawaii cart tag where you can see all the cute stuff I'm finding in stores!

As always, hope this is helpful! Take care.

Mary ´◡` ♡

♡ Kawaii Beauty and Makeup Products at Sephora (*´∀`*) ♡

When I shop for anything, I'm always looking for really cute and kawaii-style products. In this blog post, I'll share some really cute makeup and beauty products and brands that you can check out next time you go to Sephora!

I will make a list of brands that either have really cute packaging or are really useful for doing very cute, kawaii makeup! 

Choco kuma and kiiro check out the Too Faced Semi Sweet Palette 

Too Faced packaging is so cute. They have the Chocolate Bar and Semi Sweet eye palettes. I have both now! I just got the semi-sweet for the VIB sale and I can't wait to try it out. The eyeshadow colors are even named after sweets...and SMELL LIKE CHOCOLATE!

Names for colors inspired by sweets! 

Of course, Too Faced has other really pretty products too. I have their "Teddy Bear Hair" brush set. It comes in a lovely bag with a bear keychain and a set of the softest pink brushes. I use them all the time, and they look lovely in my bathroom too.

They also have some really pretty heart shaped blush (Sweethearts Perfect Flush Blush) that I haven't tried yet, but look lovely too.

Once in a while, Sephora gets in new Hello Kitty products. I love the products that come in pastel colors and glitter. The packaging is cute too. My all time favorite has been a Hello Kitty eye shadow stick that is shimmery and so easy to apply when you don't have time to do your eye makeup. I got both shades of light and dark lavender.

Sephora used to carry these retractable brushes and also a whole line of Hello Kitty makeup brushes. I have one and love it for travel. I've seen them bring it back so perhaps there will be other similar brush products at Sephora in the future. You can watch my reviews of the Hello Kitty products here.

3. Benefit
Benefit has retro style packaging that is really fun. Whenever I'm in Sephora I like to check out their newest products and colors. Their range of tinted lip and cheek stains are really cute. I just got the high beam highlighter and it adds a great highlight to your face above your cheeks. The slight shimmer is really cute.

I love the packaging for their gift or value sets. I recently saw this one called "Pretty Parfait". So cute!!

Tony Moly is relatively new to Sephora! I'm already seeing lots of the cute hand creams and lip balms being sold. It will be fun to see what other products they'll have in the future.

Tony Moly products, photo from Sephora website. 

5. Accessories!
Be sure to check out the little Sephora accessory section or the minis by the checkout. You can find lots of cute goodies here! I love my pink hair ties, clips, and bobby pins!

Sephora pink hair clips and bobby pins (photo from Sephora online) 

I'll be doing a post soon about my top kawaii makeup must haves! (expect makeup with lots of glitter and fun pastel colors!)
Mary ´◡` ♡

Japanese & Asian Brands at Sephora (Blog Post)
Sephora and Macy's Kawaii Haul (Blog Post) (Video)

Shiseido Ibuki Review (Blog Post) (Video)

Hello Kitty at Sephora (Blog Post) (Video)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sephora: Japanese and Asian Beauty Brands and Products

In the past, I often found myself searching google for forums or blog posts about good Asian beauty products that I could buy at Sephora and I couldn't find very much information. I've noticed a lot more products at Sephora recently! Let me share what I have found.

Asian Beauty Brands at Sephora

1. Shiseido (Japanese)

High end brand from Japan. In Japan, you can buy many "drugstore" Shiseido branded products with cheaper formulations. Unfortunately, you won't find those at Sephora (it is Sephora though, high end is the norm!!). You can find those products at places like Amazon or eBay quite reasonably. (See my review of the Perfect Whip Shiseido series here.)

Sephora offers a wide range of Shiseido's products, including the IBUKI line which is targeted for younger buyers in their twenties. (IBUKI review here, and blog post here) I most like Shiseido's sunscreen, cotton pads, makeup cleansing oil, and makeup wipes. Sometimes you can find these at your local Marshall's or TJ Maxx if you are lucky.
It's nice to get a gift set so you can try things out. Shiseido can also be found at many department stores, like Macy's. Keep an eye out for their free gift with purchase that comes several times a year.

2. SK-II (Japanese)
High end skincare brand from Japan. I haven't tried any SK-II products but they are very well-known in Asia. There are plenty of YouTubers I have heard mention their products.

3. AmorePacific (Korean)
AmorePacific also has a lot of high end skincare products available at Sephora. I received a sample with one of my purchases, and I remember being amazed by how great the lotion felt on my skin! Really expensive though!

4. Yu-Be (Japanese)
This brand has many different skin creams at Sephora. Oddly, I never really saw this brand in Japan. I must have just been not looking in the right places, but it didn't seem to be very popular. However, the reviews on Sephora rate the products very high!

5. Perfume brands from Asia
Sephora also has some Asian designer perfumes like Issey Miyake and Hanae Mori, but that is the extent of the products you'll find from these brands.

6. Tony Moly (Korean)
I am so excited for the Tony Moly products at Sephora! I saw soo many cute fruit shaped lip balms and hand creams online. If you are on tumblr a lot, you have probably seen the adorable packaging from this brand. My store did not have any in stock during the Sephora VIB sale, so make sure you check online (and they have been selling out too!).

Screenshot from my favorites list on 

Every so often, a line of Hello Kitty beauty products is released at Sephora. (I have several videos and blog posts about it) Sometimes the quality of this brand is a problem; especially when high prices are to be expected at Sephora! However, most of the time these products get clearanced out to nearly half of what they were originally posted to be. (For example, there was a Hello Kitty compact selling for $50 when it was first posted, that now is on clearance.)

Many of the Hello Kitty makeup products I would recommend, especially if you get a deal on them or find a gift set. They generally have fun colors, glitter, and cute packaging that is hard to find at Sephora sometimes!

Hello Kitty gift set (Screenshot from 

8. Boscia
Boscia is a North American brand owned and produced by FANCL which is a big Japanese beauty company. There is a really interesting story about the man who created the company for his wife, who was having bad reactions to ingredients in cosmetic products, read here. Boscia is all natural and does not test on animals. They have a new product called the Konjac facial sponge, which is made from a root vegetable called konnyaku (it's really yummy in Japanese hot pot--the vegetable, not the sponge!).

Lingzhi (mushroom) face mask, hmm.. 

In addition to these brands, Sephora now has sheet masks! I haven't tried them out, but it is a very good sign to see sheet masks growing in popularity! My favorite masks are still My Beauty Diary (review and video here), but I think I'll give them a try sometime!

Another item to try is the Shiseido cotton pads! Cotton pads in Asia are a bit different and I really like these Shiseido ones if you are up to splurge a bit. ;-)

I also want to mention a few brands that aren't truly Asian beauty brands brought to Sephora. Tatcha is a brand that carries products "inspired by geisha". They have cleansing oils and blotting papers--and are rated pretty well.

I'll be doing a new blog post very soon all about kawaii products to check out at Sephora!

Mary ´◡` ♡

Sephora and Macy's Kawaii Haul(Video)

Shiseido Ibuki Review (Video)

Sephora at Hello Kitty (Video)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

♡ Basic Bento Recipe Favorites ♡

I was asked on Tumblr about some great recipes I would recommend trying out for a yummy bento! I started to post a reply...and then 1,000 words later...I realized I better make these into blog posts.

I don't usually talk about cooking, so if you aren't interested, just ignore my next series of posts LOL. But hopefully it's interesting to you guys. I have spent almost the whole past year going from knowing barely how to cook, to becoming quite comfortable with Japanese cooking. I'm dividing my posts as follows:

I make Bo bento each day for work. For me at this point, I mainly stick to bento that can be easily made daily and mostly healthy. I get really excited by cute charaben (the really fancy kawaii ones) but it takes so much time to let everything look like that. Often, those bentos are limited by their appearance too--so it is harder to control how healthy it is, and it will consume more time to plan.

Also, at this point I have been focusing on learning Japanese cooking (and some Chinese) so I’d prefer to first perfect my recipes and then try to do charaben occasionally. (In the past I pictured myself trying to make a really cute bento--and having it both not turn out AND not taste very good LOL)

Bento can incorporate any style of cooking and any culture you prefer. I absolutely love Japanese homestyle cooking, so that is why I choose to focus on it opposed to American dishes. Bo likes Japanese food as well--but I also make some Chinese dishes too. My weekly groceries needs are simplified by sticking to Japanese and Chinese cooking--the ingredients, spices, vegetables and cuts of meat are similar. So I actually end up cooking pretty much Asian meals and barely any Western dishes! (But that’s just me. I waste less food by doing this.)

Now, if you are starting out with bento, and all these different Japanese foods and cooking are too time consuming or challenging, simply make a bento with the foods you know and already love. There are tons of bento websites you can find inspiration for Western bento. Sandwiches, fruits, and simple snack sides work great!

If you are focusing on Japanese bento, here is a list of what I consider to be some great classics to start out with. Try searching these in tumblr or and you'll see some great bento ideas using these dishes!

Main Dishes
1. Bento burgers (バーガー)

I have several favorite types of burgers I make. The bento ones are smaller than a big American burger with bread and toppings. It's usually a little ground meat patty with a juicy sauce to coat. Some varieties I like to make are: 
Basic bento burger (includes ingredients such as ground pork, panko, milk, egg white) I got started with the bento burger recipe from the Just Bento cookbook. You can change it up by adding green onions inside, creating a teriyaki coating, or making it spicy! 
Tofu burger (includes drained tofu--either microwaved, boiled, or set out to drain naturally) You can alter this basic recipe by adding in some ground pork or chicken and veggies. With the tofu, you have to make sure your recipe isn't too wet or it will fall apart. Some cornstarch or egg white can help with this. 
Fish burgers
You can use any fish you like. I like to use cod or salmon. I used to think fish patties were some fancy thing, but its quite easy! They can be altered similarly to the ones above. 

Green onion & pork mini burgers, onigiri, tamagoyaki and green bean soboro 

To cook any of these, you simply mix the ingredients, heat a pan with some oil (this may be more important for the tofu burger or lean meat), lightly brown each side, then add some water and steam cook until the water is gone! Then I add in some soy and mirin (and some sugar works too) and let it thicken and coat the burgers.

2. Tonkatsu (とんかつ)
You can make tonkatsu with pork loin or chicken breast. Maybe try to get loin with a little fat so it is not too tough. I've heard tenderloin works well too. Usually you trim excess fat from the meat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then coat with egg and flour, then pat on the panko. From this point they can be deep fried. If you are looking for a healthier option, toast the panko in a pan with some olive oil and maybe some garlic powder and salt. Follow the regular steps, but instead, bake in the oven. This recipe is great when you make Katsu-don because the deep fried flavor isn't as important as if you are eating it plain with tonkatsu sauce. (Katsu-don is a donburi, or a dish served over rice. It's a dish that often has a juicy, soupy sauce from dashi stock, and soft set eggs. The dish is served on rice because all those delicious juices seep into the hot rice and taste so great!)
For bento, I usually serve tonkatsu on cabbage topped rice with some Japanese mayo and tomatoes.

Tonkatsu served on nori topped rice with tonkatsu sauce, with cabbage, edamame, and bunny apples. 

3. Shogayaki (しょうが焼き)
Shogayaki is ginger flavored pork loin. It is marinated in sake and ginger juice, and then quickly pan fried and coated with soy. I recommend Runnyrunny999's recipe. It is the best I've made. Again, try to get loin with a little fat. My butcher's cut of loin can be really dry.

Shogayaki served on cabbage with mayo over rice (ignore my Japanese misspelling) 

4. Teriyaki (照り焼き)
Really simple. I recommend using skinless chicken thighs. Chicken breast is just not as juicy. I cut the chicken into small pieces and recommend marinating in sake. There are many variations but generally you need sake, sugar and soy. The sugar is really important so that the sauce carmelizes. Mirin or honey can also be alternatives for the sugar--honey has a great consistency. Coating the chicken with some flour will also help crisp it up with the thick sauce on top. So basically you marinate the chicken, cook each side in a pan (I do not turn them over until the first side browns), remove from pan, caramelize the sauce, coat the chicken with flour or starch, return to pan to coat! Sesame seeds on top taste great too.

Teriyaki served on cabbage with mayo and tomato over rice! 

5. Chicken Karaage (唐揚げ)
Oh, so many variations! But Karaage is basically fried chicken. I like to make curry karaage! I usually just use a fry pan instead of getting out the deep fryer.

Karaage with bacon-garlic green beans, with bunny apple side. 

6. Soboro (そぼろ)
Soboro is a dish with small "minced" ingredients like ground meat or finely scrambled egg or tofu. I like to make pork soboro with ginger, soy and mirin. Simply brown the meat with finely cut ginger (you can also use some sake) then add in some soy and mirin! Green onions are also great in this. This is great on top of rice or as an onigiri filling. (And you can pretty much fill a gyoza wrapper with this too.) You can also make soboro veggies, which make a great side dish! I recommend using for finding soboro recipes. Personally, I don't add additional sugar to my soboro, I only use some mirin.

Side Dishes
1. Kinpira (きんぴら)
My absolute favorite. This dish uses julienned (thinly sliced) vegetables. My favorite uses carrots, konbu, and gobo. You can use any combination of vegetables such as: cabbage, daikon, or even potato. The important thing is to use sesame oil to cook the veggies, and then season it with mirin and soy. (Optionally add in some dashi stock until absorbed). I like to add in sesame seeds as well. Some recipes will add in additional sugar but I don't like it too sweet. You can also add in extra sesame oil at the end. I prefer to eat kinpira after it is cooled--which is why it is a perfect bento side! Again, cookpad is a good resource for kinpira recipes. I generally like to use about a half teaspoon of sesame oil, with two parts mirin to one part soy.

Simmered mackerel, carrot/konbu/gobo kinpira, apple bunnies, and matcha cupcake 

2. Tamagoyaki (卵焼き)
Tamagoyaki is a rolled up egg omelette. There are so many variations. You can make it with plain eggs if you wish, but normally a bit of soy, mirin, or brown sugar is added in. Vegetables can be added or even sheets of nori in between each layer. I recommend watching some videos on how this is done. Search cookpad for plenty of tamagoyaki ideas.

3. Apple bunnies (うさぎりんご)
If you are new to bento, and want to try making a kawaii bento, apple bunnies is a great place to start. It won't take too much time. I recommend watching some videos on this to understand how it is done. Generally, I cut an apple into four parts. I cut a rounded section out of each piece to remove the core. Then for the bunny ears, flip it over to the skin side. Make two shallow cuts for the ears. Because I'm scared to cut my fingers, at this point I flip it over again, and lightly cut along the skin until the little piece of skin comes off. I'm guessing this doesn't really make sense, so watch some videos! My way is a little abnormal.

Miso yaki onigiri, my favorite! 

Each bento I make for Bo always has rice. He is originally from southern China where rice with each meal is the norm. (As opposed to in the North, noodles are more common.) So, for the rice portion, if it is a dish with juice, I put the rice underneath it. If I make something less juicy (therefore less seasoning on the rice) I either put some homemade furikake on top, or make onigiri. 

Look forward to a post about my favorite onigiri. Many of these main dishes can be put inside onigiri--such as the soboro or even the karaage! Just check out cookpad for some great recipes. (My recipe post may be helpful for this too).

Tell me your bento favorites! I'd love to hear!

Mary ´◡` ♡

♡ Best Japanese Recipe Sources! ♡

This is a continuation of my mini series about Bento! To see my other posts:


It is important to have some great sources for recipes--there is nothing more disappointing than trying out a recipe that you found online and purchased all the ingredients only for it to not turn out.

I highly recommend buying or checking your local library for the Just Bento cookbook. It will slowly show you simple recipes that you can use for bento or daily cooking. It includes sections on both Asian style dishes and Western ones.

For perfecting Japanese dishes, there are several amazing YouTubers you need to watch:

Cooking with Dog: the host mom-okaasan you would dream of having

Here you will get the most conservative, traditional ways of cooking Japanese favorites. This is where you can learn how to do things exactly right. She is an amazing Japanese lady with a poodle named Francis who narrates the recipes.

Runnyrunny999: Entertaining videos with great recipes

Here you can learn the basics too. He has some adaptations in his recipes and some amazing recipes that I keep coming back to. (Forever using his Shogayaki and Kari Kari potato recipes) Absolutely hilarious and lovable personality. Even after growing in popularity you still feel like he really connects with viewers with his conversations at the end of the videos.

Ochikeron: Innovative recipes

Here you will find some basic Japanese recipes but she really tries to use ingredients that are easily available in the West. Many of her recipes as a result are adapted for this reason. Also, she likes to post new recipe trends from Japan! (She is so cute and sweet--and a new mommy, too.) Her mochi ice cream and matcha latte recipes are great. (and the mochi waffles work too!)

Namiko Chen: Covers all the basics

Has a great website at She is beginning to post recipes in video which really helps supplement the online recipes. Great place to look for basic sauce recipes, making dashi stock, etc.

I think videos are the best way to learn. You see everything step by step.

BUT! The holy grail of mine for finding Japanese recipes is washoku guide. This website started out as and had all recipes in Japanese from Japanese posters. Now, they created a sister site with translated recipes, and also recipes that people from all over the world can post. (You can try to find my account on there, it's PescaMaryan of course)

You can find just about ANY Japanese recipe. You'll find the basics like how to make dashi stock, how to make miso soup, etc. And you can find crazy stuff about making your own miso or your own homemade udon noodles. (Bo tells me: "Mary, you are NOT making your own miso!" Maybe that's just a little too ambitious for me!)

This website is fantastic because you can search for ingredients you have on hand and get an idea for recipes that will use them. For example, maybe you have tons of cabbage--they'll be plenty of recipes titled "Use up all that cabbage"! Or you just bought a new ingredient--such as umeboshi--you can have a whole list of recipes to get a great idea how to use it.

I prefer to stick with the translated recipes from Cookpad. I recommend creating an account, and "favoriting" the recipes you like. You can easily create tags and search your favorites from your computer or from the mobile app. There is a section of the website that categorizes Japanese recipes, but this will not get you ALL of the translated recipes. To find and search out of this pool of recipes exclusively, click on a recipe posted by "cookpad Japan" (just search some Japanese recipe like tonkatsu, and they'll be plenty). Then click "recipes". Here you'll be able to search through all of the translated ones. Of course, you can search in the regular search bar, but sometimes you'll get recipes by random people that may not always be the most authentic.

In addition, websites such as Just Bento have some great posts on Japanese cooking and bento basics. I love the furikake recipes and all the articles Maki posts about special topics such as starting your own Japanese herb garden, or ways to use okara from soybean pulp.

I don't find Japanese recipes to be difficult--do not be intimidated to try new things, that is the best way to learn.

Mary ´◡` ♡

♡ Grocery Shopping For Bento and Japanese Cooking ♡

This post is a part of my mini bento and Japanese cooking series! Here are my other related posts:

This post is all about where you can get groceries for making bento and what sorts of items and ingredients you should look for.

Grocery Shopping

I generally prefer Asian markets for ingredients. Bigger grocery chains can have a small selection of basics, but they’ll often be more expensive, potentially “Americanized” products (meaning using some made up Chinese sauce LOL), and have less variety.

But, that still doesn't mean that you can't make Asian food without an Asian market! I read a book about Japanese cooking once and it told about how many Japanese mothers in the past would find the freshest vegetables, tofu and meat by shopping daily at their local neighborhood shops! In a similar way, think it is best to incorporate the freshest ingredients available to you--it will be cheaper, greener, and convenient. You can just change up your style of cooking!

However, for Japanese cooking, I think there are some basic must haves: 
good Japanese soy sauce--my favorite is Yamasa shoyu (fan for life ♡) 
cooking sake (Mirin is sweet cooking sake--so in a pinch you can use sake and add more sugar to create a similar taste)
rice (Japan uses a small to medium sized rice grain, use what you like. I buy from my Asian market and have a Zoujirushi rice cooker--rice cookers are a whole different topic! But if rice is in your daily diet like it is for us, it is essential. We used a $10 WalMart one for years before getting our Zou-san!) 

I think everything else is optional--there are plenty of very “japanese” ingredients but it just depends on how deep you want to get into it. (^o ^*) If you are just starting, get these basics and see below to get some good places to start finding easy recipes. No need to exhaust yourself on finding every single ingredient as a beginner.

Other items I keep stocked:

Miso (white and red), konbu, nori, wakame, katsuobushi flakes, sesame seeds (black and white), ginger, garlic, dried shiitake, panko (Japanese bread crumbs) and tofu.

Some other less *essential* ingredients I keep stocked are:

Ra-yu (Japanese version of Chinese hot chili oil), S&B Curry Powder, Shichimi, Japanese Worcestershire, Japanese Mayo (these all are different in taste than the Western ones), and Aonori.

Out of these basic ingredients, you can nearly make anything. No need for buying dashi powder to make miso soup, or furikake seasonings for rice, or all the tonkatsu/okonomiyaki/takoyaki/yakisoba sauces. Of course, if you do not have the spare time but you have the money and don't mind processed/packaged foods then it can be very convenient to just pick up whatever you need. I personally just enjoy the process of learning the fundamentals myself, saving extra money, and avoiding the fillers in many of the packaged goods. It's not really realistic to make everything from scratch of course, but I sure enjoy doing it as much as I can.

As for vegetables: 

From normal grocery stores I buy potatoes, onions, green onions, cabbage, green beans, and recently--acorn squash! A good alternative for kabocha (japanese squash) if you cannot find it.

From Asian markets, I buy daikon (large white radish), napa cabbage, big carrots, gobo (also called burdock root), edamame and Chinese "finger" peppers (Anaheim peppers work well too).

As for meat: (Cuts of meat I buy)

Chicken thighs, ground pork, pork belly, and pork loin

(I have never been a huge beef person, and Bo and I both prefer pork so I'm slowly venturing into learning more about cuts of beef for my cooking)

I have found it very difficult to get the same cuts of meat used in China and Japan. The easiest way out is to buy your meat at the Asian market where you can find thinly sliced pork and beef. But they are often more expensive than my local farm...and I wonder about the quality and hormones in the meat. So, I buy from my local butcher several basic cuts of meat and thinly slice them myself when partially frozen. If your butcher will thinly cut your meat for you, you are blessed. I asked for "as thin as possible" and ended up with 1/4 inch chops.. o(-`д´- 。)Both China and Japan tend to use meat with a little bit of extra fat to enhance the flavor. (In my family, my parents pretty much avoid meat with any fat on it haha) Japanese use leaner cuts of course for things like tonkatsu (either pork loin or chicken breast) and chicken (I prefer thighs to breast meat!). Another part of the difficulty for me starting out was that I used to be Pescatarian. So if you ever wondered why my username was "PescaMaryan" it's because I used to not eat meat! (This is a whole other story) So I used to be very clueless about cuts of meat.

As for fish:
Fish is also a really important part of Japanese cooking. We live in the midwest, and getting fresh fish at reasonable prices is not always possible. I usually look for shrimp (raw with the shell on is the best), salmon, octopus and mackerel. I try to get wild fish as much as I can, and we avoid eating fish all the time that tend to be high in contaminants. 

As for everything else--I buy whatever fruit is in season or on sale. Berries can be frozen and make great toppings for yogurt or smoothies. I keep regular milk, butter (sometimes I make my own--yes it's possible and very simple actually!) and eggs stocked, but make my own soymilk from soybeans from my local farmer's market. Baking is a whole other topic for another day. ^.^

So, to sum it up, I buy my meat from my local butcher, buy staple ingredients and Asian vegetables from the Asian grocery, and the rest I buy from the local farmer's market (cheap & fresh!).

Mary ´◡` ♡

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

♡ Kawaii Gifts Haul & Review (Pittsburgh) (*´∀`*) ♡

In December, my mom and I took a mini trip to Pittsburgh to shop for new furniture for my new apartment. Every time I go there, I am sure to stop at Kawaii Gifts! I wanted to make a blog post to tell you all about this awesome store (they have an online shop too). For my video, please watch here.

They are located near the Squirrel Hill part of Pittsburgh (such a cute name so that's why I remember it!). 

It's a cute street of little shops and cafes (Bo and I got some delicious gelato there once). Parking can be kind of hard if you aren't used to it. I always park a couple streets up and walk down. It may be hard to find at first, but look for a little Kawaii Gifts sign and you'll see a little window display of the latest kawaii goods!

When I first discovered it, I was so excited to see all the licensed products from Japan including San-X and Sanrio. It is so fun to shop in an actual store instead of online!

As you can see, there are shelves and shelves of stationery, bags, and plush. They have a huge wall of Rilakkuma, as well as sections for characters like Sumikko Gurashi, Kireizukin Seikatsu, Sentimental Circus, Hello Kitty, and even more hard to find characters like Banao! (Really funny Banana character that my dad is a fan of--My dad loves bananas lol)

Of course for me, I am most interested in the Rilakkuma selection. The amazing part is that they stock lots of new Rilakkuma series (they are an official partnered shop) AND have TONS of older series stockpiled. I've bought Rilakkuma 5th Anniversary notebooks and folders there.

You can see they have a variety of goodies: erasers, pencil caps, pens, notepads, and tiny plush. I easily can spend an hour here deciding what I want to buy for my collection!

Kawaii Gifts may not be the absolute cheapest way to get Rilakkuma stationery--you generally get the cheapest deal on new releases from (see my video review) OR you can sometimes get lucky on eBay. However, the prices are reasonable considering the extensive collection of older series.

Prices at Kawaii Gifts are roughly double the price it is sold in Japan. For example, my Shima Shima notebook I bought in Japan for 350 yen is $7.99 at Kawaii Gifts. On eBay you can probably buy it in the $7-$15 range. So, if you are very specific with what you want, shop around a bit. Older series may actually be a bit cheaper I have noticed because the Japanese price for older series was cheaper back then too. (For example, I bought sticker sheets for the Tamago series that were cheaper than Shima Shima sheets.) For stationery--I consider their prices reasonable!

Their Rilakkuma plush are also about double the price sold in Japan. I've seen them range from $25 to $40. For some of the older plush, like the one pictured, it is a great deal. But, for new plush I prefer to pre-order from MiraPlush when she has the pre-order discount. 

You can be assured that all the plush at Kawaii Gifts are licensed and real San-X products!

If you cannot visit in person, they have a website where you can buy online, with free shipping at $100 and a point program. They occasionally run sales, especially during the holidays.

I've also bought their grab bags at conventions before, so keep an eye out for them at cons. (They post events they are attending on their website) The two ladies who work there are very sweet. I was so happy they let me take these photos of their shop to post on my blog! ♡

For this trip, I decided to stock up on the Tamago series! I'm collecting stationery to write recipes and use in my kitchen! I also like to decorate my dining area and kitchen with Tamago themed folders too!

I got a Tamago series folder, notebook, and stickers. I bought an extra sticker set, so that I can use one in my recipe book, and have one to keep in my collection. I also got a cafe sticker set too.

My mom also discovered her new favorite kawaii character--the squirrel from Kireizukin Seikatsu. She bought me a plush of it and she got herself lots of cute stationery! We want to make a video sometime so she can share her mini collection and why she loves the character!

Here is the video I posted about my haul!

I hope you guys enjoyed this blog post. You can watch my video to see more about what I bought there. Let me know if you have any kawaii stores near you. When I travel I'd love to check them out!

Me with my Kawaii Gifts loot! They were using Hello Kitty shopping bags at the time!

Check out their website!!