Saturday, 12 August 2017

Althea's 1st Brand Product Launch: Althea Petal Velvet Powder


Starting 1st August, Althea has launched their very first brand product, the Althea Petal Velvet Powder, which is a lightweight, translucent loose powder that gives a silky finish and made with pure and natural ingredients, with one of the main ingredients as Althea flower extracts. 


Infused with oil from Althea seeds, this powder helps to control our sebum production without drying out our skin for a radiant, fresh look. This non-comedogenic powder is also made with micro-fine particles that minimise the appearance of pores and fine lines to reveal a flawless looking complexion. 


Firstly, I have to say I'm totally sold at the packaging! Love how it's a dusty mauve-pink colour and comes in a very handy small tub, which you can easily pop into your smallest make up bag. The tiny powder puff that comes together with the tub is also soft and fluffy, picks up the fine powder from the sifter really well, and also feels great on the skin. 

I like how the powder makes you skin feels so soft and smooth, and doesn't cake up even if you pile it on. There's also a very pleasant floral scent to the powder, which makes applying it all the more enjoyable. 
The best part? This handy-dandy tub of loose powder is only retailing at SGD $6 on Althea's web-store right HERE!


So what are you waiting for? Go grab yourself one and be beautiful! 

Till then,
Mia Foo

Friday, 11 August 2017

Mia's Recipe: Apple-Banana Cinnamon Muffin

Recently I decided to bake some banana muffins with applesauce and a quick search online brought me to THIS recipe for some Healthy Applesauce Oat Muffins, but it just turned out way too moist, like a badly cooked oatmeal porridge packed into muffin cups.
Nope, shan't eat that.

So I decided to work on the recipe and make some tweaks here and there (basically get rid of most of the oats and add in some legit banana) to get my own wholemeal apple-banana cinnamon muffins!



So let's get over the ingredients so we can get started!

For (roughly) 12 muffins, you'll need:

2 eggs
1 medium (very riped) banana, mashed (about 110g for mine)
190g unsweeten applesauce
(basically you combine your banana & applesauce and get a total of 300g)
75g unsalted butter (melted)
100ml milk
225g wholemeal flour
70g castor sugar
(or baking sugar replacement)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
instant oats (for toppings - optional)

Just like any type of muffins, preparation work for the batter is extremely easy.
First, mix your melted butter and sugar until well combined, before mixing in the eggs. Then, add in your banana-applesauce mixture, milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. 

In another bowl, add in all your dry ingredients and give it a quick whisk to remove any lumps before pouring in the wet ingredients. 
Using a balloon whisk, fold the wet and dry ingredients together. Be very careful not to overmix the batter to avoid getting tough muffins and I find "folding" with a whisk is so much easier (and takes less strokes) as compared to using a spatula. 
I barely took 10 folds to finish up my batter. :)

With that, just evenly distribute your batter into 12 standard sized muffin cups. The muffins are going to rise, but as they're wholemeal, they're not going to rise THAT much so it's safe to fill your muffin cups to almost full. 
Give them a good tap on the counter to remove any air bubbles and sprinkle some instant oats over the top before sending them to bake at 190 degree Celsius for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.


And yes, in the end I got lazy of spooning the batter into the muffin cups so I decided to bake the remaining batter in a mini pound cake tin instead (which took me an additional 10 minutes to bake). 

These muffins are lightly sweet with a mix of apple and banana flavour and a hint of cinnamon, quite moist and fluffy (but not THAT fluffy because it's wholemeal, don't set your bars too high on fluffiness) and best of all, each muffin will only set you back by about 150 kcals. 

Till then,
Mia Foo

Monday, 7 August 2017

Hokkaido Travelogue: Day 3 - Lake Toya & Sapporo

Day 3 started early (well, actually not that early, heh!) as we start off with a 2 hours' drive down to Sairo Observatory at Lake Toya! And of course, more Mt Rainer coffee to perk us up along the way!

It's listed on various travel sites that entrance to the observatory is 1000 yen per car, but... we didn't find any place for us to make payment, even for car parking. So it became FREE for us. 

And then the BF insisted on taking the helicopter ride, which was about SGD $60 per pax for a 3 minutes ride over Lake Toya.


Love the point where the pilot (??) made a big turn in order to land the helicopter. So exciting!
There's a cafeteria on 2nd floor of Sairo Observatory, but we didn't even bother to check it out to see what kind of food they offer, for we already have Lake Hill Farm on our itinerary! 

Sairo Observatory is open daily from 9am to 5pm. 

 Lake Hill Farm is just a 4 minutes drive away, and on googlemap it even seems of a walkable distance, however will be entirely on the main road (for cars!) so.... I suggest you do not walk. 

The choice of food here at the cafe is pretty limited and not the cheapest you can get, but the entire setting of the place was really worth it, I assure you.
There's also an ice cream parlour beside the cafe which serves some pretty good soft serve ice creams. 



We got a cheesecake, a pizza and the milk pie to share. I highly, HIGHLY recommend the milk pie because it's SO GOOD! I'm hardly a fan of custardy filling, but I was totally okay with this because it's considerably lighter and the pie crust so flaky and buttery. 

And now, this is why the limited (not the most budget food) is actually worth their price tag.
Right behind the cafe is a vast patch of non-ending grassland, and you can find animals such as donkeys, rabbits and a goat (named Yuki!).


"Rabbit's Carrot - 100 Yen"

Right at a corner of the rabbit's enclosure, is a small box that is tagged: Rabbit's Carrots - 100 Yen. 
Just drop your 100 yen into the box and grab yourself a pack of the sliced carrots to feed these little critters! 

And we actually fed a few to Yuki the goat as well. I hope it's alright for goats to eat carrots? 

 If being near animals is not your thing, then perhaps you can get yourself some toy sports equipment placed at the front of the grass patch. There's some soccer balls, badminton rackets and shuttlecocks, softball with that I-dunno-what-you-call-them racket kind of thing for you to play throw/catch with.
The entire place was just so peaceful and chillax that we did overshoot our time of stay for a while (playing catch ball and annoying Yuki the goat).

Lake Hill Farm is located at 127 Hanawa, Abuta-gun, Toyako-cho 049-5724, Hokkaido and is open daily from 9am to 6pm. 

After bidding Lake Hill Farm goodbye, we headed for Toyako Visitor Centre, which is about 10 to 15 minutes drive away. There's a volcano science museum here, with an admission fee of 600 yen per pax, but we're not here for that. It's the volcano crater walking trail (kompirayama walking trail) we're here for, and it's FREE!

Get your walking trail map (it's a pretty cute "hand-drawn" kind as well!) from inside the visitor centre before starting your walk from behind the centre, pass the museum and into the....

Nature?

The Kompirayama Walking Trail starts at the Toyako Visitor Center in Toyako Onsen and leads to the Nishiyama parking lot. Along the way, you can see various ruins, including a destroyed public bath house, apartment block and bridge. The trail also passes two of the largest craters from the 2000 eruption, as well as large erosion control dams. It takes about 40 minutes to complete the walk.

From the Nishiyama parking lot, the Nishiyama Crater Walking Trail leads to some more of the newly created craters around Mount Nishiyama. Several destroyed buildings, disrupted roads and broken phone poles have been left untouched for visitors to witness the destructive power of the volcano. It is about a ten minute walk from the parking lot to the craters and a further ten minute walk to the trail's southern end, where the ruins of a kindergarten and a second parking lot are located.
-credits to http://www.japan-guide.com-

No worries about being lost along the trail at all, for there's markers set up along the way to guide you along, that tally to the map. 

Love, love, LURVEEEE this part of our itinerary at Toyako because there's absolutely NO OTHER TOURISTS along the trail with us. Not sure if it's because end May early June is the super off-peak season or more because this volcano crater walking trail is more "off-the-grid" or just not at all popular with tourists. In fact, the entire area felt totally DESERTED, public buses empty, roads empty, and barely just a few cars parked in the car park.

About 15 to 20 minutes into the trail should get you to a spot with a pretty good view over Lake Toya.

And then going further on will get you to two water-filled volcano craters. This is the bigger one that looks like a pretty big pond, while the other one (which you will come across first on the trail and slightly blocked by tall grass) will be significantly smaller and resembles more like a small water body. 

Even though Japan Guide stated the walking trail to take us only about 40 minutes, we actually took about 1.5 hours in total to get back to our car (Toyako visitor centre). Perhaps we've spent too much time camwhoring along the way? Or the hiking testers (if there's just a job position) are just 10x fitter than your average city-people like yours truly, I can't be sure. 
Anyway, there's actually a bus service which you can take from the Nishiyama parking lot (end of the Kompirayama Walking Trail) back to the Toyako Visitor Centre, which should probably take you only 5 minutes, but because the bus comes every HOUR, it's actually more sensible to just walk back (another 20 to 25 minutes walk) should you miss the bus timing. 

And yeah, this is some seriously artistic shot of me, right? 

And can't be sure why the u-bend in the pole, but I guess it's to make space for whatever equipment the firefighters have to install onto the hydrant.

And so, by the time we're back at the car, it's almost 430pm and with our rental car return time at 7pm in Sapporo (which is a good 2 hours drive away), it was a mad rush down to our hotel APA Hotel Sapporo Susukino Ekimae for check in and then over to Budget Car Sapporo branch to return the car. 

Due to the mad, mad rush, I actually didn't (forgot to!) take ANY picture of APA Hotel, but for the listed price on various booking websites, which was about $60 SGD per night, I would highly recommend this. Though without a car park within the hotel, there is actually a public car park nearby, albeit the parking fees aren't exactly cheap. There's a family mart located right at a corner of the hotel lobby as well, and the rooms are clean, cosy and well equipped with all the necessities, even pyjamas (yukata). 
There's actually TONS of APA Hotel around Sapporo area and you got to choose the one with location that's best suited to your itinerary. This APA Hotel Sapporo Susukino Ekimae is located right beside Exit 3 of Hosuisusukino Station. It's also within walking distance to the Tanukikoji shopping arcade (a 5 to 10 minutes walk) and even to Odori/Sapporo Station (20 to 25 minutes walk) and all the attractions around the area. 

Dinner place for the night was planned to be around Akarenga Terrace, supposedly a nice place for a night's stroll and some good food. However, other than the fact that the building is made out of red bricks, which you won't be able to fully appreciate at night, there's really nothing much fancy about this building and there's nothing fantastic in sight to make this area a good place for a night's stroll. Food choices here are more of the "upper-class" expensive kind and nothing authentically Japanese, so we ditched the idea and randomly roamed around the area instead.


And we found a pretty budget don place around the area. My katsu-don was roughly about $10 SGD (or less) but definitely taste like SG Japanese restaurant's quality. :)

My Day 2 in Hakodate & Onuma Quasi National Park is up HERE
And do stay around for Day 4 in Sapporo coming up real soon!

Till then,
Mia Foo

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Hokkaido Travelogue: Day 2 - Hakodate & Onuma Park

I know this Hokkaido travelogue is taking a long time, but I'm trying my best at it, so please bear with me!

And of course, with the Hakodate Asaichi (Morning Market) within walking distance from our hotel, we planned for some fresh seafood breakfast for our day 2 in Hokkaido! But because the BF preferred to drive (even for the 10 minutes walk), so we did. Parking is not an issue at all as there's a huge open space car park right in front of the market. :)
That huge BBQ scallop on shell was just AMAZING, so thick, chewy and flavourful. Not digging the uni (sea urchin) though. For those who says uni sashimi tastes just like butter, what's wrong with y'all?!

The trick to getting the best out of the morning market is to walk in further! I realised that not only the donburi just get cheaper and cheaper, so did the cut melons! 
So remember, walk through the entire street before backtracking and deciding on exactly which eatery you want to go for. Their menu are almost exactly the same, just perhaps the portion sizes and pricing. :)

And of course, being the ever-so-budget person, I settled for the cheapest kani don I managed to find towards the end of the street. It was semi-disguise as a fruit stall, so do keep your eyes open for the "mismatched" donburi signboard beside a fruit juice bar. 

As I'm hardly a sashimi person, I was pretty much left with NO choice other than the kani don, which was just a bowl of white rice and topped with a generous portion of shredded cooked (real) crab meat and topped with some seaweed and tamagoyaki. Very basic, but still pretty tasty! 

Almost all the reviews I've found online highly recommend the kanijiru (crab miso soup) and I was so glad I ordered it! If I were to describe it in the most exaggerated, dramatic way I would say, "I tasted the ocean in this little bowl of soup."
It's basically a miso soup base, but packed full of the sweetness of the seafood (crabs, scallops and shrimps) that's added inside. 
And you know what's even better? This eatery serves kanijiru FREE with their donburi. 
Service desu!

There was also a "market" located right in the middle of the morning market street, which you can find cooking ingredients (fresh produce, seafood, dried goods), fruits and dairy products but mostly at a rather expensive price (compared to SG). 
I have to say I was pretty disappointed with their (lower end priced) strawberries as they're mostly neither sweet or sour (pretty tasteless). But I did overhear a group of Taiwanese (Chinese?) tourist gushing over the premium priced ones (almost $20 SGD for a punnet) saying it's super sweet and nice. 
The BF also bought a 500ml of yoghurt drink (thinking that it was milk) that tasted really good too! 

Hakodate Asaichi is located beside Hakodate JR Station and is opened daily from 5am (6am in the winter) to 2pm. 

 So after filling our tummies at the morning market, we headed off to one of the (supposedly) must-visit in Hakodate. The Goryokaku Park/Tower!

You can get up the Tower to the observation deck at an admission fee of 840 Yen to see the special star-shaped layout of the park. 

-credits to Travel Hakodate-

Like this. But of course, you can "view" it across all seasons on google search. I'm thinking the view would be a whole lot more worth your penny in winter (when everything should be covered in snowy white) or during the sakura blooming season (when everything will be PINK!). 
But since we went when absolutely nothing non-green is growing, we decided to skip the tower and save the money. 

Within the park lies the Hakodate Magistrate's Office, a restored building that was once used as a government office run by Samurai. A 500 Yen admission fee will allow you to enter and explore the rooms, which we obviously didnt. 

The park was quite a disappointment (for May-June season) as nothing was really growing other than trees, grass, and leaves (ALL GREEN). The park was really big, but nothing specifically interesting (eg. architecture etc) or "instagram-worthy". 
But we did grab a Hokkaido Milk softserve and did some puppy-watching before leaving the park for our next destination. 

Goryokaku Tower is opened from 8am - 7pm (spring/summer) and 9am to 6pm (autumn/winter).
Magistrate Office is opened from 9am to 6pm (5pm during winter) and last admission is 15 minutes before closing time. 

Tropical Botanical Garden near Yunokawa Onsen, which was about a 30 to 45 minutes drive away from Goryokaku Tower. 

And the main reason for my visit was: FEEDING MONKEYS... IN ONSEN!

But it ended up being quite a disappointment and rather depressing as the monkeys were kept in a pretty bad condition. No monkeys bothered dipping in the "onsen" even though the weather was chilly, and a handful of monkeys laid at the corner of the concrete enclosure, obviously waiting to die (didn't snap pictures of them because it was too depressing). 

Some monkeys have learned to do "tricks" (eg. clapping hands, twirling around in circles) to catch tourists' attention to get more treats, while some gets bullied and failed to get fed all the time. We tried desperately to feed the "skinny and small ones" but the food ALWAYS get snatched away by the big and fat ones. :(

Anyway, there's also an ashiyu (foot onsen) at the corner opposite and monkeys' enclosure, which we didn't check out because there was someone else there when we visited, and a botanical garden with tropical flowers (everything you can find in Singapore).

The Tropical Botanical Garden is open daily from 930am to 6pm.

The next destination planned out was actually Daiso, which was supposed to be quite near Yunokawa Onsen, but somehow it was forgotten and we headed off to Onuma National Park / Onuma Lake instead, which was a good 2 hours' drive away. 

Do drop by the visitor's centre first to pick up a map and some discount coupons, which you can use to get discounted rates when you rent a bike or a boat tour (or some other kind of small boat for you to go out to the lake). As the park closes by 5pm (ish), and we arrived pretty late at nearly 3pm (it was an impromptu visit), we could only choose 1 out of the 3 choices made available to us (cycle, boat, or explore the park on foot). 

And, we chose to rent a bicycle and went on a good 14km (if my memory didn't fail me) ride around the entire Onuma Lake, which was mostly on the main road rather than literally around the lake. 

There's numerous photo-taking point stops along the route, which gives you scenic view across the entire Onuma Lake and the majestic dormant volcano, Mount Komagatake. 

And of course we didn't forget our "cuppa"! But this wasn't that good, I'll highly recommend sticking to Mount Rainer's Deep Espresso (blue cup) or  No-Sugar Caffe Latte (green cup).


You can't find the Deep Espresso everywhere though, only certain conbini (convenience store) carries it. 



It's highly probable that because we visited during an off-peak season (nothing colourful was growing, other than pure green), the entire route was nearly deserted throughout our full 2 hours' ride.  We only encountered 2 more cyclists along the way and NOBODY at the pit stops while taking photographs. 14km might sound a little daunting, but it's definitely doable within 2 hours (inclusive of stopping by every single pit stops and taking tons of photos). 
We got back to the bicycle rental shop right on the dot at 5pm sharp as they closes for the day, and quickly headed back to Hakodate for dinner (as it's going to be another 2 hours' drive back).
I'll say for the attractions we visited around the Hakodate area, Onuma Park was the place I enjoyed the most, so I'll highly recommend that you do proper planning (no short, impromptu visits like me) and give this place a good day's worth of your time to check it out properly. It's a shame I didn't get to explore the park on foot. :(

Onuma Quasi National Park is open daily, 9am to 5pm (Google states 4pm now, but when we're there around end May, we were told they closes by 5pm). 

Dinner for the day was planned to be Takahashiya Ramen, which was popular for their rich and oily Spicy Miso broth unlike the rest of other Hakodate's ramen establishment that specialise more in light, shio broth. But, we only found out that they closes by 3pm daily when we get there!
Do the Japanese in Hakodate do not ever eat ramen for dinner? :(

Anyway, we managed to find a private parking lot in front of a really pretty hair salon (the distinctive white-blue santorini theme) that's diagonally opposite the ramen shop for a little rest (for the BF, he was the one driving, not me) before deciding to head back to Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse to find some dinner at their beerhall. 


And of course, their red brick warehouse makes excellent background for some #ootd shots!

They do have a few interesting shops and dessert cafes around here, but do note that they ALL closes early (by 7pm?) with the exception of the Beer Hall (about 9pm) and the huge Lucky Pierrot branch located beside the row of warehouses. 

We spotted some nice look cakes over at one of the cafes but didn't think of double-checking their opening hours and ended up missing it because they've closed for the day after we're done with our Beer Hall dinner. T.T

Not going to bore you with the food pictures, but the food choices here are generally fusion (Japanese, Western and even a bit of Korean) and not the cheapest you can find.


But while you're here, I highly recommend that you try their local draft beer (kanamori) as it was soooooo good!


For all you unagi lovers our there, you can find very affordable anago (saltwater eel, supposedly better hence always more expensive) sushi here, as compared to the prices we get here in SG.

And so, this marked the end of our Day 2 in Hokkaido (because as I've said, everything else was closed after we were finished with dinner).
If you haven't read about my Day 1 experience, check it out HERE.
Day 3 in Lake Toya and Sapporo is now up HERE

Till then,
Mia Foo
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