Saturday, 9 December 2017

My First Rakuten Order

A few weeks ago, I was browing Pinterest and came across some photos of Karel Capek tea tins. I'd seen them before, but I had a sudden urge to start collecting them. Aside from being whimsical and adorable, they come with tea. How could there be anything bad about that?


I soon found out that the tins aren't that easy to come by. The main seller online was Rakuten, which is a little like ebay but with only Japanese sellers. I'd heard before was only available outside Japan with a shopping service, and never bothered because it seemed quite complicated. However, I was pleased to find that Rakuten now sell worldwide! Or, I should say, individual sellers have the option of offering overseas postage. I found one seller who had a large range of tins to choose from: Tokyu Coco-Hico.


Creating an account was very easy as the website now has an English version. I did run into a hiccup when the ordering section would only accept a Japanese delivery address. I went back to the account section and entered in my address there, and that solved the problem. After that, checking out was very clear and easy.


I was not advised of the postage cost straight away, but the seller calculates the postage cost and sends an email advising of the cost and the buyer has the option of cancelling the order. I was worried that it would be very high, but the next day I received the seller's email. It was very reasonable, so I confirmed that I wanted to go ahead with the order.


The order was sent by courier and arrived from Japan to Australia in only two days. I was amazed at the speed of delivery! The order was well packed. The only drawback is that I thought I was purchasing four tins and one packet, but I received three tins and two packets. Perhaps I didn't read the description closely enough though -- I was mostly looking at the illustrations. The order came with 5 free rooibos vanilla packets, so I was pleased with that.


I haven't tasted any of the teas yet. As soon as I'd examined them and satisfied myself of their quality, I put them back in the box and gave them to Husband to give me for Christmas. I can't wait!


Of course, I'll have to clear out and re-arrange my tea cupboard so these beauties have pride of place, just like the photos I've seen on Pinterest. I'll have plenty of time to do that over the Christmas holidays. I just hope the weather doesn't get too hot so I can enjoy them properly.


I would certainly order from Rakuten and from Tokyu Coco-Hico again. It was overall a very positive experience.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

My November

This year, November just seemed to fly by. I've been sick with a stomach bug for the last couple of weeks, and haven't been up to doing much of my normal activities. I haven't been able to spend as much time outside as I'd like either.

The weather turned hot comparitively early this year, with nearly a week of days over 30oC. I wasn't quite ready to start watering my plants every day yet, especially with being sick, and I hope they've made it through unscathed. I need to be especially vigilant with my fruit trees if I want to have a harvest in a few months' time.


What I've been Playing.....
I mentioned last month that I'd been playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camper. I'm afraid to say that my friends and I were a bit bored with it after a few weeks. We must have been 'early uptake' as the techies say, because a little while after that, many other people in my neck of the social media woods started sharing their player ID codes. I started playing again, but not quite as much. I've transferred my affections back to Stardew Valley.


What I've been Watching ....
Husband and I have been exploring everything that Netflix has to offer. As I understand it, there is slightly different or less content in different countries, but we're still very pleased with it. We've already watched all of Stranger Things, Victoria season 1 (Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are the cutest celebrity couple) and Star Trek: Discovery. Last night we started American Horror Story. I don't always have the attention span to sit through a whole movie, but we've managed to watch a couple so far.


What I've been Drinking ....
After reading about the health benefits of Yerba Mate, I've decided to add drinking a cup of the tea to my daily routine. I already have a traditional Yerba Mate drinking gourd which I've shown on the blog before. I assumed I wouldn't be able to find that post but searched for it anyway and found it! Here it is (second photo). The gourd is obviously not very convenient to use every day, not to mention makes tea so incredibly strong in caffiene that I can't guarantee my behaviour, so I purchased a range of bagged teas in different flavours to drink at work every morning.


P.S.
I've decided that I want to post three times a week between now and the end of the Summer Holidays. I figure if I declare the intention, I'll be more likely to stick to it.


Selections from Instagram



Saturday, 2 December 2017

Learning to Play the Ocarina

Happy World Ocarina Day!

If you follow my Instagram, you might already know that I'm learning to play the ocarina. It's very slow going: so far, I've only had time to practice once a week, if that. Currently I'm working through the lessons put out by David Erick Ramos on his YouTube channel. His tutorials are so helpful and he seems like a really nice guy too, so I decided to sign up to his Patreon.


I'd been wanting to get back into playing a musical instrument again for the last few years. When I finally got around to doing something about it, I decided on the ocarina for several reasons. I have a keyboard and was briefly learning to play it about 7 years ago, but it requires a lot of space and there's no room to set it up in the house at the moment. I also thought it would be really cool to learn tribal drumming, but didn't want to annoy my neighbours too much! I decided on the ocarina after I saw this video of a Mori girl (YouTube) playing one, which someone had posted in the Mori community on Facebook. I thought it was so sweet and it had such a lovely sound. It's not that dissimilar to the recorder, which I enjoyed learning when I was a kid. I like the kinds of music that the ocarina is suited for, and the instrument is also very small and portable.



I actually have two ocarinas, and there's a bit of a story behind it. I saw a replica of the ocarina from Zelda: Ocarina of Time on ebay for a reasonable price and bought it. I've never actually played the game, but I thought it would be cool to have it. Straight afterwards, I went to YouTube to find information about learning to play it, and came across David Erick Ramos's channel. In one of his intro videos, he says that if you have the Zelda replica (the cheaper one), it's probably no good. Nine times out of ten, they're not tuned properly. I was devastated!!




I was hoping against hope that my ocarina would be that tenth one that's properly made. But I had to wait for it to arrive in the mail to find out. It was an agonising 2-week wait. Meanwhile, I watched more videos and learned the history of the instrument, about the different types, etc. Eventually, I decided that if it hadn't arrived in two weeks, I would go to a music shop and buy a guaranteed proper one. I did some research and came across Melbourne Music Centre. They were the only shop in Melbourne that had more than one type to choose from. I went there after work the same day and had the most amazing experience. I highly recommend them.


The ocarina I purchased was a mid-range acrylic one: the Min (or Minin) Student Ocarina made in Korea. It's a 12-hole model tuned to C. (I'm very rusty with my musical terms, but that's what I was told!) Ironically, the Zelda ocarina arrived the very next day. It's also a 12-hole ocarina, made from ceramic. When I play a scale on it, it doesn't seem too wonky, but as far as I can tell, it's tuned a bit lower than C. I use my Min one for practice as at least I know for sure that it's tuned properly.

I'm thinking of making some videos if I can manage to get to a half-decent level -- or even if I don't, perhaps. It might be fun to share my learning process, and do a little bit to keep the internet real. Even the best musicians started somewhere!

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Movie Review: Horns

Horns is a 2013 Canadian-American urban fantasy-horror movie based on a novel by Joe Hill.


Ig (Daniel Radcliffe) is going through a living hell. His girlfriend Merrin (Juno Temple) has been murdered, and everyone in the small town he has lived in all his life thinks he did it. His family don't conceal their suspicions, and he is constantly followed around by TV news crews hoping to record his confession.

One day, Ig wakes up to find a set of devilish horns growing on his forehead. These horns seem to confer a strange superpower on him. Everyone he runs into loses any inhibitions, confesses all their deepest secrets to him, and does whatever he suggests. This results in a series of bizarre occurences, some tragic, some hilarious.

Ig soon realises that his horns have an advantage -- to find out who killed Merrin and clear his name, all he needs to do is track down the culprit, and they will automatically confess. Of course, things aren't that simple. Meanwhile, the story of Ig's relationship with Merrin is slowly revealed through flashbacks. Gradually, Ig embraces his new persona as a modern-day demon, befriending an army of snakes who seem to do his bidding, and carrying a pitchfork around wherever he goes.


It was the first non-Harry-Potter movie that I had seen Daniel Radcliffe in, and I have to admit, I was worried that he'd suffer from being "the famous Harry Potter". (I forget what this phenomenon is actually called: does anyone know?) This is when, no matter what character the actor plays, you can never forget that it's just them playing a character, or can never forget a character they played before. Thankfully, this phenomenon disappeared after about 15 minutes as I was watching Horns, and I was able to fully engage with the character of Ig. Perhaps the fact that he had an American (or Canadian?) accent in this role helped, too.

The concept behind Horns is a bizarre one, not seen in many Hollywood movies. I really enjoyed it though, and couldn't wait to see how it would play out. To me, it seemed more the kind of concept and storyline you would see in a manga or anime. In fact, I think with the addition of a bit more backstory and both funny and sad incidents, it could potentially make a very good 12-episode manga.

The backdrop is that of a beautiful Canadian mountain town, and the cool soundtrack features David Bowie and Marilyn Manson. The film seems to become more and more rushed towards the ending, with some over-the-top incidents and horror scenes that were a bit out of step with the rest of the movie. Despite that (and being someone who hates horror movies), I would recommend it. I would like to watch it again too, as I suspect it has some deeper symbolism that might be missed from a single viewing.

Would I watch it again? YES!!

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Enviro/Thrifty #1: Ten Thrifty Things

Last year I started a very short-lived series called Enviro-Monthly. I keep meaning to re-start it, especially considering that it's on my list of 101 Things to Do in 1,001 days. (Not to mention the environment needs our help now more than ever!) After spending quite a lot on conventions and concert tickets last month, I had a sudden urge to be more thrifty too. In reading some thrifty blogs I found through Bunny Mummy, I noticed that almost all of the thrifty ideas are also environmentally friendly.
(The blogs were: Life After Money, Frugal Queen and Shoestring Cottage.)

It spurred me on to think about the series again. I thought about renaming it Enviro-Thrifty-Monthly or something similar, but it just didn't have the same ring to it. I don't want to be limited to posting about it once a month, so I decided to drop the 'Monthly' and just have a numbered series.



When reading the thrifty blogs I mentioned above, I realised there are already quite a few environmentally friendly and/or thrifty things I already do. Some of them I was taught as a kid, and others I invented myself as just sensible things to do. I thought I'd ease myself into things by listing some of them:

1. squish the last bit of the soap onto the new soap so it can all be used up.
2. collect plastic bags and food wrappers to put in the recycling bin at the supermarket (I wrote about this one last year).
3. bring lunch to work most days.
4. usually only buy food on sale.
5. re-use ziplock bags (as long as they're not dirty).
6. usually when Husband and I cook we make enough for at least 2 meals. We find creative ways to make the leftovers interesting. We NEVER throw food away.
7. use the slow cooker to make a week's worth of meals most weeks in Winter.
8. paid off my car loan 2 years early by transferring extra money to it each fortnight. I made sure to choose a car that cost much less than my upper limit so I was able to do this. Which was doubly a good thing really, because poor Tara only lived for another year after that, otherwise I would have had debt on a dead car. When we bought our replacement car, we had good credit from paying off the previous loan early.
9. work out the cheapest options for my daily public transport.
10. only put the heating or cooling on if I'm sweltering hot or freezing cold. (This is more of a preference than a conscious choice. I just don't notice heat and cold until it becomes extreme. When Husband is home it's a bit different: he's a lot more susceptible to temperature than I am due to his medical issues.)

Of course, we're not perfect and we could make a lot of improvements. I've identified many areas where I'd like to do better. Hopefully having a regular series will keep this in the front of my mind and motivate me to keep making changes.


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

PAX and Madfest 2017 and Haul

Over the last two weekends, I went to two Cons: PAX (computer and tabletop games) and Madfest (anime). Despite feeling like a perpetual noob in both of those fields, I managed to have a very fun time and came away with an extensive haul from both.

At PAX I enlarged my plushie collection, with a large Jigglypuff and a Bulbasaur from Pokemon Go, a Mr. Meowgi from Neko Atsume, and a dinosaur Pusheen.


My dream is to have a Wall of Plush (well, a shelf, in reality). I'm hoping that once the shelf is full, I won't have the urge to buy more plushies. That's the theory, anyway...

I also purchased some Pokemon Go charms. I was planning to make an Ita Bag (a fan-themed bag), but the bag itself didn't arrive on time for either Con, so I wasn't able to put it together in time. At least I'll have plenty of charms for when the bag finally does arrive. There's also a Crossy Road pin. I've been enjoying playing this game for the last few months, and didn't know until the Con that it's an Australian game! So I had to buy a chicken pin. I somehow snapped up the last pieces of Stardew-Valley-themed merch from the place, too. (Another girl had picked them up, and I was standing behind her, mentally willing her to put them down. It was quite drastic.)


Here are the tabletop games that I convinced Husband to buy. Sagrada is brand new game (well, new to Australia, anyway?) -- it only came into the booths on the last day of the event. Reviews coming soon.


I also spent some time checking out the Australian Indie games area, one of my favourite parts. I took photos of the ones that interested me most as a reminder and thought I may as well post them on my Instagram.


One week later, I went to Madfest. It has a different vibe, but just as fun. This year the area was more spacious, which created a more relaxed atmosphere. I'd estimate that almost half of the patrons were dressed in some kind of cosplay or anime-inspired outfit, so many that I almost felt like I stood out for wearing a normal outfit! While I thought I looked pretty cute, I'm determined to step up my outfit game next year! (I forgot to take any photos of myself, but I might do a What I Wore drawing sometime soon.)

After we had sushi handrolls and matcha custard buns for breakfast in the food hall, I made straight for Artist Alley -- the part I look forward to the most. It's been re-named Creator Zone, which is more inclusive. I was mainly on the lookout for stickers for my Hobonichi, and prints for my art wall. This year there weren't as many stickers -- many of them were larger vinyl decals, which were beautiful, but I can't justify the extra cost for a more durable sticker if I'm only going to use them in my diary.

Here's a visual run-down of everything I purchased from Creator Zone -- I managed to keep track of most of the makers: their Instagrams are linked below each picture.

{Stefanie Palladino}

{Ashlin Day}

{Niipan}

{Kosmotiel}

{Koko City} // {BunnyLoz}

{CritterCat} // {Miss-a-Ree Guts Creations}

I collected cards from many more sellers whose work I loved, but wasn't able to stretch to buying on the day.

I splashed out and got a large Mystery Bag from Sugart Creations. Actually ... I asked for the largest bag, thinking the medium one was the large one. There was an even larger one hidden behind which the stallholder thought I was asking for, and I felt too bad to refuse it. The stall had many beautiful handmade things as well as commercial merch, and overall I think the bag was worth the purchase. My favourite items from it were the Vulpix wooden brooch, Charmander badge, cat-ear beanie, Lolita headbow and the Sanrio plushie.



Speaking of plush, I only bought one: a Vaporeon from a stall selling official Pokemon Go items. From the discount manga stall, I bought the first volumes of Orange Crows and Planet Ladder. There's the Pokemon Go cookbook for Husband to give me for Christmas, and a manga version of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I haven't played any of the Zelda games, but I've just started learning to play the ocarina, so it would be nice to know the story.

Sometimes when there are obstacles in life, you just
have to learn to work around them!

There were several gallery spaces showing art from the animes Attack on Titan and Cowboy Bebop, and the Studio Ghibli film Your Name. I enjoyed seeing this side of the culture, away from the fandom and commercialism. (It was literally less noisy in these spaces, which I appreciated.) Madfest is a relatively new Con, and I while last year was very good, this year was even better. I'm looking forward to going again next year.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

My October

I had such a busy month last month. I was so busy doing things that it felt like I didn't have time to do anything, if that makes sense!

At the start of the month, Spring burst through with an enthusiasm that I couldn't help being overjoyed at. The leaves on the trees seemed to grow faster than I'd ever seen before. My fruit trees have ping-pong-ball-sized green globes on them already. My lawn is growing so fast that there are some new weeds that look like wheat in it. You know your lawn is neglected when there are cereal crops growing in it!

What I've Been Doing ....
Most of the month was taken up with preparing for my gallery exhibition. I should probably make a separate post, but it still feels too surreal so I will just post the photos I took on the opening night. I feel a bit silly because I forgot to take any photos of myself with the art, but it was just such a whirlwind of a night, and the gallery was extremely crowded with the 21 artists exhibiting and all of their guests. The art was amazing and I met some lovely people. The exhibition is open until Sunday 5th November so there's still time to check it out if you're in Melbourne.



What I've Been Playing ....
I started playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camper. It's a spinoff of the Animal Crossing games, which I never played because they were on a console I didn't have. Happy Camp is a mobile game, however, so I can play it on my iPad. You have a campsite which you decorate and add cosy furniture to. Meanwhile you suck up to adorable animal characters by giving them gifts and placing the things in your campsite that they demand. If all goes well, they visit your campsite and make sycophantic speeches about how great you are. It's extremely cute and I'm a little bit addicted to buying new outfits for my character.


What I've Been Watching ....
Yesterday I finally got Netflix. I got so sick of everyone talking about Stranger Things last year and even more sick of everyone talking about season two at the moment and having terrible Fear of Missing Out. (It wasn't just fear of missing out, I was missing out!) The last straw was when I saw Martina cosplaying as Barb on Instagram. I discussed it with Husband and we signed up. We're only up to episode 3 of season 1 so far, so no spoilers please!

What Else? ....
Earlier this month I started learning to play the ocarina, but progress was very slow because of everything else I was doing. Last weekend I went to PAX Melbourne, the computer game and tabletop game expo. I'll write separate posts about these things soon.

If you'd like to read about my Dias de Muertos altar for this year, you can check it out on my other blog.

Selections from Instagram ....