Japan 2020

I’ve been to Japan in 2006, but due to circumstances I didn’t have a nice time there (you can’t get a refund over a relationship’s break up). So, it has been my dream to go back there again and do it the proper way this time.

Japan

The plan for now stands: a few days in Tokyo, travel to Osaka with the shinkansen (bullet train) and then spend the last leg of the trip in Tokyo again. From Osaka we will do day trips to Hiroshima and Kyoto.

Hiroshima is a must for me and my boyfriend as we want to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. I am a great admirer of Tsutomu Yamaguchi, the man who survived both atomic bombs, and the work he has done to advocate for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

There is going to be a lot of firsts for me this trip. First time on the shinkansen, first time to Osaka, Hiroshima and Kyoto. The last trip I spent two weeks in Tokyo, then I missed a lot of stuff because the place is huge. That’s why we’ve made a list of what we’d really want to see this time . Hopefully we won’t overload ourselves by trying to fit everything in those two weeks.

The countdown has started and I can’t wait for it to be the day that we depart for our Japanese adventure.

AliExpress – Dollfie Dream clothes 1

It is always hit and miss with AliExpress when purchasing stuff for dolls. Dolls I will never buy on Ali, as most of them are recasts.
Recasts happen when somenos purchases a doll from a sculptor and then copies it for anyone who wants to have it cheaply, selling it for a much lower price. Usually the quality is inferior and.. well.. the design is stolen. So no dolls bought on Ali for me.

For other stuff like doll clothes and shoes, you’ll sometimes find good quality on there. Lately I’ve noticed people reselling stuff from Ali on Etsy for a higher price. Heck, I even saw people resell a toilet bag bought on Ali for €2 for €9,95 on Bol.com. It’s not against the law but it is annoying, especially when you find out the quality sucks afterwards. So with doll clothes I am a bit cautious when buying for the first time from a new seller I discovered on Ali. Losing €10 on a skirt for a doll that looks terrible isn’t a complete waste of money.

It is quite hard to find fitting clothes for my Smart Doll and Dollfie Dream as they have anime features, extremely long legs, tiny waists and sometimes huge breasts. I try to keep the chest size small or medium, as I really don’t like the big ones, unless I can cover it up with clothing. My normal SD clothing doesn’t really fit my anime style dolls as they are too wide and sometimes too short. So slowly I started building up my Smart Doll and DD clothing collection. First try out was with WAW Dollhouse and from them I bought an inexpensive skirt that costed me €10,01 in total including shipping.

Skirt
Skirt WAW Dollhouse

I am surprised by the quality of this skirt. The fabric feel sturdy to the touch and the finish in brown stitching is done neatly. It has two functional pockets and the final finish was done with a overlock machine. For this type of quality I would have gladly paid more for this skirt. For the record, I have spent over $100 on a single outfit for dolls.

Overlock finish
Overlock finish
Suits my DD nicely
Suits my DD nicely

The waist is a bit wide, but I cover it over with t-shirts or sweaters. The store had two versions: the white with blue stripes that I bought and a darker denim. The darker one goes on my next to-buy-list along with a few other items now that I tested the seller. All and all I am very happy with my purchase and will definitely shop there again.

Jojo Rabbit

The movie was released in 2019 in other parts of the world but we had to wait until 2020 for a Dutch release. Luckily for me not a lot of spoilers on Twitter for this movie compared to The Rise of the Skywalker, looking at you fanboys. I was hooked when I saw the trailer, being a fan of Taika Waititi’s work since the release of ‘What We do In the Shadows’. The best way to treat Hitler’s legacy is to put it to shits with a dose of satire.

The movie follows Jojo, a boy who joins the Hitler Jugend in order to become a man and who often has conversations with his imaginary friend: Hitler. Mind you, he is 10 years old so they way Hitler interacts with him is portrayed kind of childish.
His initiation with the Hitler Jugend is during a camp led by Captain Klenzendorf, a washed up officer who was removed from the front because he has only one good eye left. The older members of the Hitler Jugend see that Jojo is a bit cowardish during the training exercises and force him to kill a rabbit with his bare hands. When Jojo fails to do this he is nicknamed Jojo Rabbit, the cowardly boy. In a last act of desperation to show everyone he is brave, Jojo steals a hand grenade of the captain during a training exersice and throws it with all his might. Sadly the grenade bounces off a tree and lands right next to him, sending Jojo to the hospital.

After rehabilitation Jojo is left in the care with Captain Klenzendorf to do menial jobs to support the Reich by collecting metal, posting draft letters and distributing posters to keep morale up for the citizens. His mother doesn’t want Jojo to be inspired by the nazi’s and keeps her hopes up for the end of the war, with the Germans losing. One day Jojo comes home before his mother and hears a noise upstairs. Hidden behind the walls he finds a Jewish girl, who has been allowed to life there by his mother. Torn between his loyality to the Reich and his love for his mother, Jojo is confronted with his image of the world and the choices he has to make.

While the movie is portrayed as a satire, the harsh reality of the ruthlessness of the nazi’s was also shown, with the execution of traitors of the Party. Jojo keeps thinking he is a nazi, while actually he is just a boy whose head been filled with propaganda.

After my boyfriend pointed it out, I have to admit he is right about this, all the funny bits of the movie were all in the trailer which was a bit of a shame. But a real shout out to Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell’s characters. Scarlett Jo showed the real shine I have been missing since ‘Lost in Translation’. She really portrayed the loving mother and kept her son in the dark of the dangerous work she did.
Sam Rockwell as Captain Klezendorff was a very surprising roll, he already knew the war was ending in a loss and struggling with his own feelings as a gay person. Just keeping up appearances and playing an important role saving Jojo’s life.

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! – Ep.1 The Greatest World!

After being on anime hiatus for a couple of years, I am slowly getting back in to the flow of watching it again. I got myself a Crunchyroll subscription and started binge watching series again. And sometimes you find something new like Keep Your hands Off Eizouken which was released on the 5th of January. So that’s fresh off the boat.

In 2016 the manga was released by Sumito Ōwara and finally came to life as an anime in 2020. A live-action adaption will be released in the third quarter of 2020 in Japan. The story follows three high school girls as they pursue their dream to create their own anime.

One of the main girls of the series is Midori Asakusa who has been hooked on anime since a very young age and is intrigued with how it’s made. Upon entering high school her love for anime has turned into an obsession in creating concept art and turning her school into a stage for her anime. She is hesitant to join the school’s anime club as she is bad with dealing with crowds, but her friend Sayaka Kanamori convinces her to go to the screening.

At the screening they encounter a girl who is being chased by Men In Black. She takes Asakusa’s hat as a disguise, but her pursuers see through it and give chase. Kanamori recognises the girl as the famous model Tsubame Mizusaki and the two girls see it as their duty to save the damsel in distress.
Mizusaki is eventually cornered by one of the Men In Black, men who have been hired by her parents to keep her from joining the anime club. Asakusa uses the stage trap door to detain the MIB and the three girls make their escape.

Mizusaki and Asakusa find out that they share the same passion of creating an anime, with Mizusaki designing the characters and Asakusa giving them a background. Kanamori is interested as she smells the money they can make of it. Together they will create their adventure.

I was scrolling through the new releases on Crunchyroll when this anime caught my eye. The opening theme has a catchy weird tune that I like and the style of drawing is refreshing. I completely get Asakusa & Mizusaki’s way of fan-girling over anime and both characters are very passionate about their dreams. Always good to follow your dreams. And then you have Kanamori in contrast, she is totally not interested in the visual concept of anime, only in the monetary value of it. She’s almost like a producer that sees the monatary value of a good serialisation.
An interesting premise was build for the first episode and I have to admit I am hooked for more. Sadly that means I have to wait another week for a new release 😉

Psychosomatic Illness

Limbic System

It was in September of this year that my body showed signs of illness. My emotions had been stretched thin for a very long time already, about to snap. But now my body was failing me. I woke up in the middle of the night by tremors in my legs, adding insomnia to the list. During the day I felt twitches in my face and body and worst of all my muscle strength deteriorated. Worst thing I could do was google the symptoms and that was exactly what I did. The results made me panic and resulted in even more sleepless nights. It could be Alzheimer’s, ALS, cancer, MS or any other neurological illness Doctor Google threw in my face. Great, now what? Time to see my GP.

I had to take several blood tests and stool samples to see if something was wrong physically. And because my anxiety levels went through the roof, I was referred to a specialist to help me cope with that. Waiting for the results of the tests was agonizing. When the results came in, the verdict was: your body is not sick due to a physical illness, you only have a shortage of vitamin D. But why am I feeling this weak, experiencing these pains and tremors?
My GP decided to refer me to a psychosomatic physiotherapist instead. I did discuss it with the other specialist and he agreed that doing both therapies would be too much for me and wished me luck with the physiotherapy.

The first session was an eye-opener for me. A psychosomatic illness originates from emotional stress and manifests in the body as physical pain and other symptoms. Depression can contribute to psychosomatic illness, especially when the body’s immune system has been weakened by severe and/or chronic stress. And let’s be honest, my life has been a roller coaster of emotions since 2016 when I came back from Belfast due to a family emergency. No steady job, money worries, my inferiority complex peaking, unsavory people sucking up my energy. But why did it come out now? I finally had a steady job that I enjoy, a relationship that is build on trust and a roof over my head. My brain was just overloaded and oversensitive and my body was giving me the signals that it had enough and I had to take care of myself.

My therapist gave several breathing exercises to relax and taught me how to breathe the correct way. My breaths were to high in my chest, making me use muscles that I’d normally don’t need to do the job, kind of like hyperventilating 24/7. No wonder I was worn out. Also gave writing exercises to change my way of thinking, my self-flagellation wasn’t helping my stress levels at all. It was hard to look at myself and try to see the parts that are worth it. During my depression I embraced the bad stuff and never looked at the good again.

Now we are a few months in the therapy and bit by bit I am feeling better. Taking extra vitamin D helps me build up strength again, otherwise I would have to move to a sunnier country to fix that issue. But confronting my fears and frustrations has been the right step towards healing. The tremors became less, became insignificant, something that I stopped fearing. The pain is bearable, not as sharp as before. I’m learning to say what I am thinking, no longer keeping my mouth shut out of fear of what people will think of me. I think 2020 will be another good year for me.

The Mandalorian – season 1

The Mandalorian
The Mandalorian

I have to admit that I initially took out a Disney+ subscription solely for the Mandalorian, but the channel started to grow on me as I could see the movies again I have forgotten about.

This series was inspired by the canon character Boba Fett and his background as a Mandalorian. The term Mandalorian isn’t mentioned in the main movies but it did spin off in the franchise to huge popularity. Which ultimately led to the making of the series developed by Jon Favreau, the guy some of you know as Happy Hogan in the Marvel franchise. Each episode was directed by a different director like Bryce Dallas Howard, Deborah Chow and Taika Waititi. The first season has eight episodes.

We are introduced to the Mandalorian who earns his keep as a bounty hunter bringing in targets for the Guild. His latest target is a mark which has been active for 50 years and many bounty hunters have perished trying to acquire it. The client is an Imperial in hiding who really wants this asset in his grasp. After dispatching the heavily armed guards of the hiding place of the mark, Mando is confronted by the The Child. This Child is called baby Yoda by many online, because he shares the same race as Yoda.

Mando struggles to deliver the Child to his client, who clearly want to vivisect the kid. Because of this he busts him out with guns blazing aided by his fellow Mandalorians whom have been in hiding for a long time. During his travels fleeing from the Guild and Imps (Imperials) Mando meets people who either help him or try to take the Child to the Guild as per contract. In the end he knows he can’t keep running until he eliminates the ones who keep hunting him across the galaxy. The 7th and 8th episode show us the lengths the Imps want to go to acquire this child. Mando ends up as a clan of Two and he either has to find the Child’s family or train him when he comes of age. This Is The Way.

When I am really honest, I am not a big fan of Boba Fett. I came to love Star Wars because of Darth Vader and the droids. But the announcement of the series had me stoked, because I do love a good background story.

When watching it I got the space western feeling, with Mando being the lone gunslinger torn between loyalty and doing the right thing. I mean who would honestly let those Imp meanies hurt the little green cutie. Pedro Pascal is a great fit with his deep voice for Mando, giving him a lot of character which is quite difficult in this role as we don’t see his face until the last episode of the season. So he almost voice-acting the whole series. Bringing in Gina Carano as a Rebel Shock Trooper was a great addition to the cast. She adds a strong female character as balance to Mando’s and overall testosterone filled action. Another good female role is the Mandalorians Armorer, doesn’t have much screen time but fill an important role as the keeper of the Mandalorians Creed.
IG-11 was an unexpected surprise for me as a humorous sidekick voiced by Taika Waititi. The droid provides an interesting arc for Mando, who distrusts droids, but ends up respecting and trusting the droid for what they have been through.

The planets seen in the series give off a desolate, remote feeling. As if the people were living out their lives at the edge of the galaxy. The atmosphere is gritty, with music giving us this westerny feeling. Just like the westerns which take place outside the large cities in the rural communities, these are the rural planets of the galaxy. Hope always seems far away in these places, our gunslinger is bringing hope and a little bit of change where otherwise would have been none. Because of this he is collecting like minded beings forming a gang which accumulates in larger changes as the season progresses.

I have to wait until Fall 2020 for the second season of this cool new story inspired by Star Wars. It seems far away but it will be fall before you know it.

FFXIV: Sia Forerunner

As some of you know I have been playing the online MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV for a few years now. My boyfriend and I play casual together but starting new jobs on existing characters tends to be quite problematic, you keep on running out of space hoarding gear. Especially when you want good gear for your character.

With the start of the latest expansion, Shadowbringers, I’d hope to be able to start my ALT-character on the same server as my main one but there were server restrictions during the launch. So I started a new on the Lich server as a Viera Paladin.

Viera is one of the new races that came out with the expansion and I didn’t want to change the race of my main character (cat-gurl for life).


Viera FFXIV

Didn’t expect that I would have this much fun starting all over with the story. A Real Reborn was a tad bit too long but I blew through Heavensward and am currently clearing Stormblood before I can start with Shadowbringers.
I had the plan to blog about it sooner but I really got sucked into the game again. ^^;;

Anyways, meet Sia Forerunner, my pretty Paladin.

Sia
Sia

Paladin is way much more fun for me to play instead of a healer. I’ve been losing patience as a healer so I needed a long break from it. It would be a waste if the game is no longer fun for me.

4K battle
4K Coeurl-asskicking

I try to play less in the living room TV as it keeps my family from using it. But I do miss the 4K screen that works so well with my PS4 PRO. Better save up for my own 4K TV.

In little over a month I managed to get my girl up to level 68 Paladin and leveling Mining and Blacksmith/Armorer on the side while I wait for groups. The ability to visit other Worlds means I get to still play together with my boyfriend on Odin. But starting the story from the start has made me fall in love with this game once again.

For short videos you can check out my twitter feed @clogsnsneakers but I am looking into publishing longer vids on YouTube.

Tiamat
Looking cool

Tong Tong Fair 2019

Last Wednesday we went to the Tong Tong Fair in The Hague. When I was younger we did go often and after my father’s passing I decided I needed to go again once more.

My mother is from Indonesia and while I’ve never been there before my heart does long to the country. This fueled by the stories of her and other family members. But I know this is a romantic view that I have of Indonesia as my family left the country when they were very young and a lot has changed there. I do hope one day I can go visit.

The Tong Tong Fair gives you the chance to reconnect to your Indonesia heritage. You can buy Indonesian products, enjoy Indonesian food and listen to Indo music.
I do need to highlight the difference between Indo’s (I am one) and Indonesians. Indo’s have Dutch heritage in their family line. These are people who moved to Indonesia and started their life there during the colonisation. Indonesians are true locals so to speak.

The smell of the spices brought me back to the stories I’ve heard as a child. I could almost imagine myself walking along the rice fields. It is strange that you have a longing to a place you have never been before. But it is a longing that is fueled by my family’s history. It is sad to say that my grandmother is no longer with us, so I am unable to write down her stories. But I will sit down with my mother and write hers.

In the past the fair was bigger, with more stands telling the story of Dutch East Indies (the old colony) and the current Indonesia. But with the population who’ve migrated from Indonesia getting older, their stories are becoming lost in time. I’m a second generation, because my mother was born in Indonesia but a lot of people are third or fourth generation. Our ties with the past dwindling with each generation. People sometimes ask me why I find my heritage important. It’s because it made me, there are customs which are met with ridicule that I have from my Indo side. But I always say I have the best of two cultures, a thing that makes me able to understand how other second generations feel living in a country that sometimes not accepts them as their own even if you were born here.

It’s not been easy, living with an identity that pulls two directions. Not feeling your completely part of a culture because you are never truly Dutch or Indonesian. My skin colour gives me away for not being white but I am too tall to be Indonesian. People often piss me off by saying you don’t look Indonesian, holding on to the stereotypes portrayed in movies and books. But if they look at how diverse the Indonesian people are, people from Sumatra don’t look the same like the people from Maluku.
I am what I am.

One of the joys going to any Indonesian fair in the Netherlands is the difference in cooking you get to try. This year we got to try delicious treats from Surabaya, capital of the province of East Java. I enjoyed Soto Ayam with Longtong (Indonesian chicken soup with sticky rice), my mother had the same but with regular rice and my boyfriend had Sate Kambing with Longtong (skewers with goat meat covered in sweet marinade). The Soto Ayam is different then the one my mother makes, but just as good. Indonesian food is soothing for the soul.

While I was a bit sad that it was a lot smaller this year, I did enjoy myself. I’ll keep going back until I am able to set foot in Indonesia myself.

Indonesian garden
Indonesian garden
Soto Ayam
Soto Ayam
Sate Kambing
Sate Kambing
Kopi Luwak
Kopi Luwak
Exotic Fruits
Exotic Fruits

Record Store Day 2019

It been a few weeks since Record Store Day took place, an event which I have been looking forward to for ages. But one part left a bitter impression on me, hence why I took a while longer to write this blog.

For RSD it is always good to be there before the store opens. Some releases have a limited print run and if it is of a popular band, you might have to compete to nab it first. Promised to meet up with a friend and arrived just in time to see the doors being opened. There was a line before the store, but once inside everybody just pressed on, swarming the releases. I had been to the same store the year before but now it seemed more chaotic. And maybe it was just my anxiety acting up again. I don’t do well in crowds.

Sadly the record I really wanted, Orbital limited print 1500 worldwide, was nabbed before my nose. Fair play to the guy beating me to it. Still I didn’t leave the store empty handed. The 20th anniversary record of Right Here Right Now by Fatboy Slim was a welcome addition to my collection. I ended up purchasing 10 records that day. A big haul compared to the year before. I was even lucky to find the 2016 RSD release of Hooverphonic that I missed.

The weather was nice, we hung out at the bookshop before we had one of the greatest lunches I had for a while. Something different than ramen. 😉
I’ve been not feeling that fantastic lately, which is why I was happy that the day was fun for me. Great company helps too.

The bitter part didn’t start until the day after RSD. I’ve always detested scalpers. People who buy limited releases and sell them at a higher price later. I had this discussion with a coworker before with him saying business is business but I refuse to take part in that crap. So the day after the Orbital record was offered for €30 while you could have bought it for €12.99 on RSD. At least I found out who did this at Discogs making sure I’d never ever buy something from them in the future. Eventually, I managed to get it for £10.99 even if I needed to pay more in shipping than I would have in the Netherlands.

Scalpers ruin the hobby for me at times. If it’s not in the BJD world, it is after RSD when you run into them. But I got it for a decent price after all.

RSD 2019
RSD 2019

Dylan Moran – Dr Cosmos

I’ve always wanted to see a show of Dylan Moran, ever since I’ve seen him in Black Books on TV. His form of wit and dark humour fits my own tastes. When I found out that he was performing in Amsterdam, I had to go.

I was able to get some decent seats in the middle and the show was fully sold out.

How can you describe a stand-up show by Dylan Moran? In my honest opinion Teun van der Sluijs summed it up perfectly.
Moran’s live stand-up comedy is unique in that it merges two strands of stand-up that seemed incompatible for a long time: sharp observational humor, and surreal and fantastical language-based absurdity. On the one hand, he has a clear influence from what could be called an American school of stand-up comedy that is heavily observational. On the other hand, Moran’s comedy is characterized by a use of language similar to the stand-up comedy of Eddie Izzard and Ross Noble: surreal associative leaps between on the one side observations and on the other fantasies, verbally painting bizarre and absurd worlds, often through a use of stream-of-consciousness narration. His language is often highly poetic, resembling a James Joyce that has had one too many.

He portrayed the difference in generation where nowadays they call for an Uber while we had to ask someone else’s older brother or sister for a ride. Our dating methods were different, we didn’t have the social media around to select our prospective partners. You’d only hope there was a decent fella in the pub/school or at work.

The way he described his youth and his antics in life had me bursting out in tears laughing. Ireland in the seventies was like Chernobyl with clergy or the haunted screams of a fellow flatmate that she was the only clean thing in the house.

The best expression I’ve learned from my time in Ireland is the one I often us to this day. Just to try and cope with the bizarre and unreal world we live in, after you’ve woken up finding out once again this is a dream. ‘Oh, for fucks sake’.

I had a terrific evening, even running in to my friend Anneke, and giving my boyfriend a view inside my head. Because if I’d ever drink coffee, it would be as dark as my soul.

Final Fantasy VII

I’ve purchase quite a few Nintendo Switch games lately, Final Fantasy VII being one of them. It’s not the remake, but a port from the original game released in 1997 for the PlayStation. It’s also the first game I bought together with my PlayStation console. Before that I had only owned Nintendo consoles.

FFVII
FFVII

I can’t recall exactly when I bought the game, but it must have been at the time I was working part time at a department store. PlayStations were even expensive back then so it must have been when I was 18ish. A year well after the release in 1997.
Having always been a Nintendo-girl I was interested in something else. PlayStation offered a whole new world of graphics and game play and I was told by the shop clerk this game would give me a lot of hours of fun. He was right, I was hooked with my first ever RPG.

FFVII
FFVII

Nintendo did have other versions of Final Fantasy on its consoles, but I’ve never managed to get my hands on one. Not until the remakes for future handheld consoles.

FFVII was the start with my obsession for RPG’s. Since that game I have tried many different types but always came back to the Final Fantasy series. I even ended up playing the online versions for many years. But I am a little ashamed to say, I’ve never finished FFVII. Hopefully on the Switch I will finally be able to reach the end of this game. If I don’t get distracted by other games ^^;;.

FFVII
FFVII

Outdoor doll photo session – Oisterwijk Fens

The best photos I make of my dolls is when I take them outdoors, often to nature reserves. I love taking photos of them, but I hate the stares I get when I am taking the photos. Luckily I am armed with my boyfriend these days, which makes me less aware of people staring at me.

I’ve visited this nature reserve in Oisterwijk quite often. I used to take my dogs there and spent many hours roaming the fens. In the early hours of the day it has very mysterious atmosphere, especially when there is fog. But today the sun was out, and so were the pollen. I love being outside, but my hay fever often kicks my ass the next day.

Fuyumi
Fuyumi
Fuyumi
Fuyumi

At one point a man thought I was taking photos of a mushroom, while I was posing Fuyumi. A very strange mushroom indeed ;P.

Pip
Pip

It’s still early in the season so the bug count was very low. During the hotter part of the year, the fens will be swarming with a lot of nasty that stings. After putting some colour on our cheeks, we treated ourselves with a big lunch. No photos were taken as I was famished and practically inhaled the food xD.

complementary action photo
complementary action photo

For my boyfriend it was his first time out to the Oisterwijk Fens and he really enjoyed it. I made him say it a couple of times, just to make sure 😉 We will certainly be back, maybe take his dogs with us next time.

Oisterwijk Fens
Oisterwijk Fens

Doll and Bear Show – spring edition

The Big Event Doll and Bear Show is one of the conventions I look forward to each year. Normally set in the fall, the organisation decided to also hold one in the spring.
One of the first conventions I went to was held in Rotterdam but they moved to a more central location in my hometown a few years ago. Often I go by myself, but sometimes friends accompany me.

You can find anything here when you are a doll or stuffed animal collector, even some very old antiques which cost a small fortune. I’m always happy to see if there is at least one BJD or Blythe related stand. This time there were four. I always wished I have a big bag of money for these conventions but with Record Store Day and Blythecon EU around the corner I had to keep to my budget.

BJD apparel
BJD apparel
Angels Designs
Angels Designs

I had been thinking to put my Barbie’s on display again, but I needed some nice clothing for the ladies instead of the default Mattel garb. Lucky for me ELENPRIV was also selling at this spring show. I forgot to take a photo of her stand, due to my excitement. But my girls have two amazing outfits. Well worth the price when you look a the quality of the fabric, design and skill.

Fashionistas
Fashionistas

And I couldn’t resist to buy another handmade bear. I wanted to take them all home, but that meant I had to rob a bank to do so.

Bear by Catootje en Co
Bear by Catootje en Co

Cheska was also spoiled a little with a new dress but I haven’t had the chance to take photos of her yet. Will do so soon.

All in all, a great Doll and Bear Show – Spring Edition for me. Bought some great outfits for my girls, a new handmade bear and had the chance to chat with some friends. Can’t wait for the Fall Edition.

Japan 2020

It seems silly that I am already planning what to see and do for my trip to Japan next year. 2020 seems so far away and I have no clue if I am visiting in the spring or fall. It won’t be during the summer because Japan is hosting the Summer Olympics. Besides that, I doubt I would like the humidity of Japan.

Last time I visited the country was some time ago, in 2006, so my visit is long overdue.

While discussing with my boyfriend what we want to see, I found out that I haven’t seen everything of Tokyo yet. I’m the only one of our group (my mother, sister, boyfriend and me) who has been to Tokyo before, but I am excited that I am going to see a lot of new stuff too like Tokyo Dome and other temples besides Senso-ji.

The challenging thing about planning a trip is that you have to find something to see and do for each of the group. My boyfriend wants to see kendo training and I know for sure my sister wants to go to the Pokemon centre. Eorzea Cafe is on my list, just need to figure out what my mother wants to see. I think one of the many beautiful gardens will suffice.

But I think we will be fine with whatever we do. I just want everyone to have a good time. And also try out many different ramen shops. XD

Japan guide
Japan guide

Fuyumi’s new kimono

My two Azone girls don’t have a big pile of clothes like my Blythes or BJD’s. So I’ve started to fix that problem by ordering them some clothes and shoes. The biggest problem I have with these girls is getting nice shoes for them, they have tiny feet.

I remember ordering once from Hobby Search long time ago. Normally I go to AmiAmi, but Hobby Search has everything that is released by Azone International, the manufacturer of Pure Neemo dolls. Which means I finally have more shoes for the girls instead of one pair each.

Sadly, the yukata with sandals went out of stock which means that Reiko is still missing her shoes for her Miko outfit. Next time I will get them.

Shipping is always super fast with EMS, down part is the ransom money I need to pay to the post office. I don’t mind paying for the VAT, the amount of administration costs pisses me off.

Kimono
Kimono
Slip-on Shoes
Slip-on Shoes
Cute Boots
Cute Boots

The quality of the kimono and shoes are fantastic! Worth every penny. Shoes this small which look so adorable are hard to come by. I’m happy I’ve placed the order so I can keep dressing my girls up in cute outfits.

Fuyumi
Fuyumi

All I wish now is for the weather to clear, so I can take some outdoor photos with my girls. A shrine photo would be fantastic, but these are hard to find here in the Netherlands.

Soundboy Rock – Groove Armada

I saw this album pop up on Velvet and was intrigued by the cover art. I love that it was designed by eBoy. But was the music going to be good?

I got to know Groove Armada back in the day when they released ‘My Friend’, which came out in 2001. It was quite a funky sound, but so were a lot of songs at that point in time. I was more into buying radio albums which had dozens of popular songs on them, instead of studio albums by a single artist or group.

But you know what they say, you can’t judge a record by it’s cover. YouTube and Spotify to the rescue for a deeper dive into the songs.

Groove Armada haven’t lost the funk in their music. To my surprise they collaborated with Candi Staton, one of my favourite singers. ‘You Got The Love’ is famous (mostly due to The Source’s remix). When I listen to this album it feels like running in to an old friend. The sound is familiar but you still you find refreshing elements.

All in all I am glad I bought this.

Soundboy Rock - Groove Armada
Soundboy Rock – Groove Armada

Lost and Gone Forever – Alex Grecian

I was looking through Good Reads app while assembling my 2019 to read list for the challenge. I categorise my read books in there and also add new books that I wish to read when visiting the book shop. It’s hard for me to walk out of a book shop without a new book.

When I lived in Belfast and had access to Amazon Prime, I bought a Kindle. I already had an e-reader but the Kindle also let’s you watch their movies and series. I’m always on the fence with e-readers. You can bring as many books that you want on holiday or trips but on the other hand I miss the feel and the rustle of pages.
One of the perks of ordering with Amazon, they give you vouchers and I bought the first novel of The Murder Squad because of my interest in Victorian Times and the tale of Jack the Ripper. There is a lot of Jack the Ripper pulp out there but it was a free book, so no harm done if it sucked.

For me the book was a real page turner and I devoured it in a week and ended up stalking the bookstores for the next book in the series to come out. In 2016 when Lost and Gone Forever came out I lost track of reading. I had to move back to the Netherlands in a hurry, packing up 3,5 years worth of life in one month so I could be home with my family again. The stress I had with my mother hospitalised and not being able to book a direct flight to go see her made the experience living abroad terrible all of a sudden. Being stuck in Liverpool airport for 8 hours gives you a lot time to rethink your decisions in life.

It wasn’t until 2019 when I picked up the last installment of the Murder Squad series: Lost and Gone Forever. The previous book, Harvest Man, left us with the protagonist being kidnapped by Jack the Ripper. While Jack was only known for killing women, his imprisonment and torture by a mysterious society made him very angry and bent on revenge. After his escape he kidnapped Inspector Walter Day in order to get back at everyone who had done him wrong. You’d almost feel sympathetic for Jack’s torture but he is still a mad serial killer.

Lost and Gone Forever is set on year after Harvest Man. Walter’s partner, Nevil Hammersmith, ended up being dismissed from the Murder Squad. He then formed a detective agency where he took up small cases while searching for his lost partner. He does not know that Jack has his hands on him and that he is the pawn for his revenge on those who took away his freedom.

Again this book is a real page turner, also due to the fact you want to find out if Walter ever gets home safe to his friends and family. You also want to find out who will get caught up in Jack’s mad desire for revenge. Some writers tend to become extremely focused on the gore of Jack’s killings but Alex keeps the focus more on Jack’s genius but twisted mind while he kills in style. In a terrible way he became in artisan in killing.

I’ll keep it spoiler free but this fifth and last installment of the Murder Squad series left me with a satisfied end of the series. I didn’t expect this ending but it works. The writing style is nicely paced and there is a good balance between the two stories intertwined in one book: Hammersmith’s search for his partner and friend and Jack’s road down revenge and madness. I’m a bit sad it’s over but dragging the story on would have not made future books enjoyable to read. All good things come to an end.

Rated: 4,5 out of 5

Lost and Gone Forever - Alex Grecian
Lost and Gone Forever – Alex Grecian

Reading Challenge 2019

I started the Reading Challenge on Good Reads a couple of years ago. I think I started with 20 books to be read per year and now I already up to 30. I already enjoyed reading but this does help broaden my English vocabulary (since I only read English books).
One day I hope to write a story of my own. But the downside of the challenge is that I am picking up too many books which are outside my taste. I am open to new stuff but lately I’ve picked up too many pulp that took me even longer to finish than I had planned.

Books on my list for the challenge
Books on my list for the challenge

Worst of all, reading feels like a chore to me because the competitive part of my brain is telling me to hurry up and pick up the next one. This is something I don’t want. The challenge is supposed to be fun and I’ve been pushing myself to read more and more every year. I’ve lost sight from what I love the most, which is a good story.

It’s not bad to reread your classics. Every year I reread a couple of Discworld novels because the stories are true gems to me. I shouldn’t feel bad that I can’t add them to the list because they aren’t new books. It’s better for me to stick with what I like, instead of buying a new book because the cover looks interesting. If I don’t like the writing style, the book will never interest me even if it’s about Victorian times, thieves and murder mysteries. I learned that the hard way spending €20 on a book and not even being able to finish a quarter of it.

I don’t know if I am going to finish the Reading Challenge this year. I’ve lost interest in the competition, but I am not going to stop reading. I’ve done better research with my other purchases and picked some new novels by writers I already know. Got to finish the story line one day. At least I am returning again to why I love books. Don’t need to make a competition out of it.

Birthday bash: day out with my boyfriend

This week my boyfriend celebrated his birthday and I planned a special day just for the two of us. Last year I was working but I think it’s better for us to spend our birthdays together, away from work doing fun stuff.

I read in the newspaper that the Philips Museum in Eindhoven has a special vinyl expo which made a great combo for our other plan which was to eat ramen at Xu Noodle Bar. YAY!

The day didn’t start out to great with the train broken down on the tracks which meant less trains were going to Eindhoven and we ended having to wait an hour before we could take a less crowded train. The waiting game was played at Star Bucks, where they never fail to misspell my name.

Arriving an hour later than planned we rushed towards Xu Noodle Bar. I just didn’t want to get caught between the lunch break of corporate peeps. Lucky for us it wasn’t crowded so we could have a nice lunch with Classic Pork Ramen (extra meat for the birthday boy) and some tasty snacks.

Itadakimasu!
Itadakimasu!

With our tummies filled up we went to the Philips Museum which is right around the corner. We had quite a different expectation on the vinyl expo. I thought it was showing us how the pressing of the vinyl’s works but nonetheless it was still interesting. Being from Brabant we all know the impact Philips had on the industry of the south. It was awesome to see how the light bulb factory started and through the years the company developed a lot of other electrical products and became important in the medical field.

I would have love to see more about the pressing of vinyl, the display contained a timeline when Philips produced vinyl’s until the development of the first CD. I must say I am happy technology kept developing and making the devices smaller because the first tape recorder and record players were massive.

Bulb factory
Bulb factory
My grandmother had a carpet like this
My grandmother had a carpet like this
Retro bedroom
Retro bedroom
classic turn table
Classic turn table
Queen Gloria
Queen Gloria

All in all it was a fun day with my love.

Listening to vinyl; the new way

I was itching to set up my old bedroom as a place where I could relax, read and listen to some good songs. A couple of years ago I bought a ‘Stir it Up’ turntable made by House of Marley. The company uses a production method that’s environmentally sound and made out recyclables. It’s always good to be aware how your stuff is produced and what a company does to help out the world a little.

I needed separate speakers as the turntable has no internal speakers. My boyfriend as a musician has a better ear for sound than I have, so I asked him for advise when I saw an affordable pair. My room is not big or ideal enough for the expensive ones. The 42W Edifier speakers were a great pick for my first set up, more than enough volume and good frequency response on the low and high end of the spectrum.

Finding a suitable cabinet for my vinyl collection and turntable was the hardest part. At the moment I have 79 records and the collection keeps growing, so I need to keep in mind to have room to spare for future purchases. It’s Record Store Day every year 😉

my turntable setup
my turntable setup

I’ve categorized my vinyl on genre. At the top left you see that my Electronic section is getting full. For now my dollies have a shelf of their own, in the future they might lose it.
And I need better cable management.

It’s set up quite nicely with some sweet sound coming from the speakers. A great place to relax and spin some records.