Bill’s Restaurant – Pancakes

A few restaurants in Tokyo-Yokohama area have been very popular for their authentic taste, style, and concepts that are new to Japan especially breakfast-all-day places (particularly PANCAKES)!  A lot of us could say that we can just make good breakfast at home and although that is true, these restaurants are still new and rare in Japan. That’s probably one of the main reasons why these places are popular besides the style, taste, and others.

After the disappointment at Eggs’ and Things, I decided to go for another famous restaurant called “Bill’s”. This restaurant has been opened for many years now but the first one in the central Tokyo was opened in 2012 in Omotesando. This restaurant is owned by an Australian named Bill Granger and the food is supposedly very good. Apparently, some people call it “best breakfast in the world”. Bill’s is not a breakfast all day place but it is famous for Ricotta pancakes and scrambled eggs. The ricotta pancakes are served all day so you can order that anytime of the day.

This was actually not the first time I went to Bill’s. Last year, around April 2012, I went to the newly opened branch in Tokyu Plaza, Harajuku. I went there at 10 AM and the place was packed! They told me that if I write my name down, I can get my seats at 2 PM! So I gave up and went to another place. Yes, it was unbelievably packed and still is today. So, this time I reserved my seats and successfully avoided having to queue up for hours. 🙂 Bill’s allows reservations which is a good thing! Some places like Eggs’ and things doesn’t allow such thing.

I went there on Friday night. Reserved a seat for 2 at 7 PM. Got up the elevator to the 7th floor and saw this right in front- the entrance of the restaurant.

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I told them my name and they led me to my seats. It was pretty crowded with about 10 people waiting in line but not so bad at all. The atmosphere was nice.

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Then, we started ordering some food. They gave us dinner menu. We felt like pasta..I decided to order Prawn and chili linguine and my friend ordered Orecchiette, fennel sausage, kale and Buffalo mozzarella. We didn’t know what to expect but from the first bite, it was heaven! I really enjoyed it. The taste was just right with the spices, shrimps and the sauce…I loved it! I also tried my friend’s one and liked it a lot as well. 🙂 Both dishes was 1,300 yen but for me, both tasted like about 2,000 yen.

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Then, we ordered the famous Ricotta hotcakes, fresh banana and honey comb butter which is included in the dessert menu for dinner. It was AMAZING! They gave us a honey syrup as well. I finally understood why this menu is so famous. It is absolutely divine. Best pancakes I have had in a very long time! It was very satisfying. 🙂

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I actually wanted to try their rhubarb menu. One of my favorite desserts is rhubarb crumble topped with vanilla ice cream but I could never find this menu in Japan. I only got to eat this when I was in England. My host family planted rhubarb trees in their backyard and baked rhubarb crumbles themselves. But at Bill’s, although it is not rhubarb crumble, they do have “pavlova, rhubarb and cream”. That will be the menu I will try next time…and maybe the scrambled eggs or the blueberry pancakes which is a special menu in Yokohama-Redbrick house branch.

If you haven’t tried their pancakes, go now! But don’t forget to reserve a seat BUT keep in mind that some branches don’t accept reservations or may allow reservations during certain time of the day.  I suggest you go shopping around Harajuku and go there or…walk around in beautiful minato-mirai area and enjoy the best pancakes!

Websites : https://bills-jp.net/

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A relaxing day in Minato-mirai, Yokohama

I have been living in Yokohama since the mid of 2012. Before that, I used to come around here on weekends and spent time sightseeing around the harbor or eat some delicious Chinese in China town. Then, I found some amazing restaurants and cafes and loved coming here ever since.

Now that I live around here, I get to explore a lot more. I often find a cozy cafe and just sit…and read or just relax with a nice warm coffee..or PIES at BUBBY’S! 😀  Today (Jan 19th), just like any other day here, I met up with friends at Queensquare where Minato-mirai station is located in. We went there around lunch time so we had to look for restaurants. I visit Queensquare a lot and I have so many favorite places in there but today, we went up to the 3rd floor and found a nice cafe called “24/7”.

The place is very nice with unique designs and great atmosphere. They also have free drinks corner as well.

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My favorite spot at this cafe is a long seat where you can lie down and eat as in this picture. How comfortable. 🙂

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After lunch, we decided to go to a spa. We took a short walk there. It was really a lovely day- not too cold and it was very sunny. The sky was clear. I love walking around this area. It’s just very relaxing.

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The spa is called Manyo club. It has great onsen and offers lots of relaxation plan such as massage services, relaxation plan, meal plan and others. It is a bit expensive but I think we really needed it after a long week. 🙂

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  From the onsen pool, we could see the sky and the sea..it was so refreshing. We were there for 2 hours. I had a great time.

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Then we had dinner at the red brick house or Akarenka-soko. It was lovely evening.

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(This is an old picture)

I really recommend exploring Yokohama. It’s a beautiful place. I wish you all a great relaxing day like this!

SHABU SHABU! しゃぶしゃぶ

As my social media name ‘luvniku’, you can probably guess that I LOVE meat!

I used to live in a small town called Beppu, Oita prefecture down in Kyushu, which is a very famous place for onsens. Since it is a small town, everything is cheap and that includes tabehobai (all-you-can-eat) restaurants which are usually around 980 to 1,500 yen. The most expensive place in Beppu is probably around 2,500 yen. So, I usually went out to yakiniku or shabu shabu places almost every other weekend. I guess that was how I got to love eating meat so much.

Shabu Shabu is probably my most favorite Japanese food. And it’s so easy to make as well. To me, Shabu Shabu, Sukiyaki, and nabe is quite similiar. Shabu shabu and Sukiyaki both have thin slices of meat as main (mostly beef), but any kind of meat, vegetables and others can be put into nabe hot pot. For Sukiyaki, the flavor is much stronger with soy sauce. The soup is usually sweet. For shabu shabu, the soup is light or sometimes have no taste at all. You put the meat in the hot pot and swipe it in there a few times, then bring it out and dip it with sauces and scallions. Personally, I love Goma (sesame seed) sauce and ponzu soy sauce. I sometimes use Thai spicy sukiyaki sauce as well when I make shabu shabu or nabe myself. It’s delicious!

These days, there are so many kinds of soup for shabu shabu. Even collagen soup which tastes better than I expected. On Christmas, my friends and I went to a shabu shabu restaurant for dinner. It was 3,500 yen – pretty expensive but it seemed like the right choice at that time since the weather was so cold that night. We ordered to kinds of soup – honestly, I’m not so sure what they are but they look like this.

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The soup on the right side came with something that looks like jelly. It melted away as the water boiled. Then we put in the meat. I think we have to put in the meat one by one for shabu shabu, but that’s never fast enough for us so we put everything. 😀

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Note that when the soup gets oily and full of fat from meat, you should skim in out. The restaurant would provide a small tool for you to skim the fat out. And you can ask for them to fill in some more water.

Shabu shabu is always a fun to eat with your friends especially if it’s all-you-can-eat. I’m sure it’s one of the most popular Japanese food to both Japanese and foreigners.

Recommended restaurants

1. MK restaurant – Cheap and awesome! Lunch: 1,580 yen Dinner: 1,780 yen (this is all-you-can-eat prices for kanto region)

This restaurant is Thai shabu shabu restaurant so, of course, I love it. It’s not different from Japanese shabu shabu, only it has Thai spicy sauce and some other kinds of vegetables and meat such as baby corn, shrimp balls, seaweed wrapped pork balls, squip with pork stuffed inside, etc. Isn’t it awesome? 😀

This restaurant also uses a touch-screen device for ordering. You can see the time remaining for your all-you-can-eat menu and you can choose meat or anything from the touch screen and click order! They will come and serve you. Very cool.

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The store in Tokyo is in Shinjuku, not so far from Isetan. The menu in Kanto is a bit more expensive than in Kyushu but still very cheap compared to other places in Tokyo.  Try the Thai sauce if you go there. Don’t miss out! 😉

2. Nabezo – Cheap all-you-can-eat with several different kinds of soup to choose. You can go pick up anything you like from the counter to put it in the hot pot. This restaurant has so many locations so it’s quite easy to go. I went to the one in Shibuya .

These are probably the only places I can recommend since I don’t know a lot of shabu shabu restaurant around here. Sorry for the short list. Most of them are really expensive so it’s probably better to make it yourself at home. I also have my own hot pot that I ordered from amazon for 1,000 yen. It can be used both for shabu shabu and yakiniku so if you like meat like me, get yourself one. 🙂

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Enjoy eating!

PS Don’t forget to eat some vegetables too!

Eggs ‘n Things – Worth the wait?!

Alright, so…does anybody like American breakfast? Enjoy going out to a breakfast place in the morning for yummy bacon, eggs, pancakes, and crepes?? Well, I am one. I love a American breakfast! When I stayed in the US, my aunt would take me to delicious breakfast places knowing that I love those huge size fresh breakfast with some warm coffee!

My favorites are probably banana pancakes, blueberry crepes, scrambled eggs on toast and so on. In Japan, there aren’t many diners and breakfast places. The one I know and absolutely love is “Bubby’s“. I first discovered it in Yokohama in 2011 on my 21st birthday. I had muffins, pies, pancakes, eggs Benedict, etc (big celebratory meal). Bubby’s is now very famous, especially among expats in Tokyo-Yokohama area. It also has lunch and dinner menu including happy hour as well. Now, there are some other breakfast restaurants that have been trending for a while; one of that is Eggs ‘n Things–  a Hawaiian breakfast all day restaurant. They have opened 3 branches so far. The ones I’ve passed before are the one in Harajuku and Yamashita park, Yokohama. This restaurant is supposedly good judging from some word of mouth and the long lines of people waiting in front.

Today, I went there myself to see if this place can be included in my list of favorite restaurants or not. The weather was very cold and windy today. I went to the branch in Yokohama since it is the closest to my place. It’s located just in front of Yamashita park by the harbor. I took a train and got off at Motomachi-chugakai where the China town is. I saw Marine tower right away after I got off from the subway. For access to the restaurant – click here.

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I tried to be there early expecting there would be a long line. I went there around 9.30 (the restaurant opens at 9am) and as I thought, I was way too late. There were SO MANY people waiting from the restaurant’s balcony to the streets. Everybody were shaking in the cold. I pulled up my hoodie from my thick black coat and put my gloves on but the wait was still a bit of a torture. The lines moved very slowly and there were only a few people coming out of the restaurants.

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I almost gave up but decided to wait since I don’t think I would come here often if the lines are this long. I waited till I got to the balcony which means I would probably be able to get in soon after an hour (10.35 at that time). But then, I looked inside the restaurant and saw so many clean empty tables! Pictures as proof below! I don’t understand why they were not letting people in quicker with many tables and no reservation allowed policy. Imagine people waiting for more than an hour in the cold while there are plenty of seats in there.

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Then, at 10.50 finally I got inside. My hands were frozen so I ordered some cafe latte and eggs Benedict. They have Meat & Eggs, Special ‘n things, omelets, pancakes, waffles, and crepe menus. This restaurant is famous for its pancakes and eggs menu but I found that meat and eggs and omelets menus are probably the ones I can make myself at home. The meats are simple sausages, ham, bacon, or spam and egg menus are not that special either. So, I went for the special menu and picked Eggs Benedict because I didn’t feel much like pancake and sweet things today (usually I do). The pancakes should be very good according to many people especially the famous strawberry whip cream with nuts.

RESTAURANT MENUS

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Eggs Benedict was 1,100 yen and the cafe latte was 550 yen. I would say it was pretty good. I liked spinach, ham, and eggs together with bread and cheese. The potatoes were crispy and good, too. However, to me…it was not worth an hour wait in the cold. Like I said, many of the menus are simple menus you can make at home and the restaurant was inefficient in taking care of customers who are waiting in lines while there are many empty tables. I do love this kind of breakfast, but probably not enough to wait so long with a “just-ok/good” food. I’m not sure about the famous pancakes but as for this time, I think my favorite place is still championed by BUBBY’s with variety of food, amazing taste, great atmosphere, reasonable price, and everything. I also feel like the prices are still a bit expensive for omelet and meat & eggs menu. I think the whole point is that if I have to wait that long for one dish of breakfast and a cup of coffee, I’d rather go for somewhere with all the right combinations of things I look for which are variety, taste, atmosphere, price, time, and service. 🙂

To sum up, I think Egg ‘n things is probably just a craze. I understand that there are not many breakfast places in Japan so it got very popular but  for an hour wait (or more), I don’t think it is worth it. I may go try their pancakes once just to try their supposedly “best menus” but if I ever go back there, it’d probably be spring or summer..not winter again. But for now, I have some other breakfast places to try. Next one is probably another popular pancake place called “Bill’s“- I went to their branch in Harajuku once at 10 AM and they told me I can get in at 2 PM! So I gave up that time but this time, I’ll probably reserve a table at Yokohama branch since they allow that. Also, another place I want to try is J.S. pancake in Lazona mall, Kawasaki.

Enjoy your breakfast, everyone!

Impressions on Dec 5th, 2012 – Long live the King of Thailand!

This post, I want to take you all out of Japan and to my home country a bit – Thailand. 🙂

I’ve been in Japan for a long time since I became a college student. Now, I am working so I don’t get to go home as much as before. Lucky for me that I am working on a project of launching a new company in Thailand so I get to visit Bangkok a couple of times already. At the start of December, I got to visit home again and this time, I went there during the King’s birthday week. December 5th in Thailand is H.M. the King’s birthday and a national Father’s day as well. The trip home this time was special. The event on December 5th was so impressive I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

I want to share my experience on December 5th, 2012 when H.M. the King came out on the royal palace balcony for the 6th time since he has been on the throne. This is the King’s very rare public appearance. The experience was magical. The reason I want to share my experience on the King’s birthday this year is because I know a lot of people cannot truly understand what it’s like to be born in a country with a monarchy, the values and cultural norms that come with it and others.First, I will share my experience on that day.

December 5th, 2012

8:00  My parents, my aunt, my cousin, and I got out of our house by car. According to the announced schedule, the King will leave the hospital around 9:40 and come out at the balcony palace at 10 AM. So, we tried to be early. But clearly we were not early at all compared to hundred thousands of people who had waited and camped in front of the palace the day before (See the pic for evidence!). From the car, I could see everybody wearing yellow shirt, which is the color of the King. In Thailand, all our birth days (Sun-Sat) each has color. I could also see so many people heading the same way.

8:30 We parked our car not so far from the palace. Well, about 2 km away from the area. After that, we had to take a taxi to go into the area since it was too far to walk but not many cars could go in.

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9:00 We got off and started walking into the road that the King and the royal family will pass by. Everywhere looked yellow that day (literally) ;). We couldn’t decide whether to go into the sea of people to see the live screen of the balcony or to see the King shortly when he passed by car. The area in front of the palace was already full and we couldn’t go in. And the ground in front of the palace is huge!..Imagine how many people were there that day.

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Yellow for the King.
Blue for the Queen.

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9:30 We finally decided to see the King when he passes by. So we went to the road where he will come. It was exciting. We kept checking the news and talking to people who were waiting for the King at the hospital to see if he had gone out or not. There were still so many cars! The police took a long time clearing them all out. Once the road was cleared, we were asked to line up nicely and sit down. Sun glasses off. We all had two little flags in our hands-Thai flag and the King’s symbolic yellow flag…then..Everybody started singing the King’s celebration song and waving the flags. I had never felt so impressed of anything like that moment before.

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9:50 We heard the cheer of joy and ‘LONG LIVE THE KING’ from the other end of the road. That’s how I knew the King has arrived! The parade started by a few police in motorcycles. Then, some bodyguards’ cars. And then, it was the King and the Corwn Prince in a van! I was on the third row so I could see him so clearly. He looked well in person despite his age and appearance on TV. I was very glad he looked so healthy. Tried to take some pictures but couldn’t because my hands were shaking. All we did was doing the same thing as everybody, shouting ‘LONG LIVE THE KING’!!!

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The King was in this car!

10:00 The King came out to the Royal Palace Balcony finally. The Crown Prince, the government and some people started making a speech for his birthday. Then, the King started making his own speech. The screen was showing the King, the crowd, and the people making speeches. He made a great speech and the event ended by all the royal family members came out to the balcony behind him. It was pretty impressive.

11:00 After the event ended, we all started to walk back but since there were about 200,000 people at the same place, we all got stuck. It took a while to get out. The funny thing is, I got to meet so many people I haven’t met in a long time. My school friends, teachers, and others. People came from everywhere. We were tired but felt so fulfilled and happy.

12:00 Home after a long walk back to the place we parked our car. It was a great event!

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This event was so great to me because there are not many chances like this. Obviously, it was difficult to see the King clearly even if we were there. But the fact that so many people came out mostly to pay respect and show their love for the country, was amazing. Not many times these days that all of us would be united and strong. With all the political turmoil, conflict of interests, social problems and so many things going on, this event was almost like a reminder of the willpower, peace, and unity that are important in each society. As the King said that day, ‘I believe that we will be safe from all the treats with unity, goodwill and organization of people’.

Why Thai people love the King? I believe that Thai people know this well. Thailand has a very long history of Monarchy. This current King of the Chakri dynasty is the 9th King. Thailand changed to democracy in the era of the King number 7 of the Chakri family. Thus, Thai culture and way of life have always  rooted with the royal family. Even before the big change to democratic system, the King, as the leader of the nation would be the one  developing the country and taking care of people’s well-being. This has always been the role of the King, disregarding the time and the state we are in. The King is not related to politics in anyhow and is not obligated to do anything. But after all the things King Bhumipol has done for the nation for more than 6 decades, he gains all the love from us all.

King Bhumipol was born and raised in Switzerland when his brother became the 8th King of Chakri Dynasty. Unfortunately, he was assassinated.  So King Bhumipol had to become the King at the age of 19. He promised to reign the country with righteousness and dedicate to the country as much as he can. He has kept his promise and become the heart of the land, the strength of the nation that is always respected by everyone in the nation.

The King launched more than 4,000 projects dedicated to solving the nation’s problems and developing the country. As for the King’s biography, legacies, and projects, I will not write down in here but I will link some good informative sites for those of you who are interested.

The King’s projects

Short biography

Biography and legacies

Thai people always respect the royal family and it is rooted deeply in Thai culture. The Kings of Thailand take care of people’s well-bring, support education, and others. In Thailand, all university graduates receive graduation certificate education from the hand of the King or the royal family! My mother was lucky enough to receive it from the King. This means that education is valued. A lot of things in Thailand are related to this sense of values. I also remember that in the past when we had conflicts of 2 sides within the country, the King called in the leader of each group and talk the sense out of them and problem solved! Although he has no political power, people respect him enough to listen and stop hurting each other. The country went  back to being united. I’m not sure how well I am explaining but I hope you get the picture. 🙂

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Unfortunately, nothing is this world always go smoothly. With today’s political problems and people dividing into sides, I am not sure how the country will be in the future. All of the values we have related or non-related to royal family can soon be vanished if all everyone think is to find the best way to access the most benefits for themselves. I am hoping that people will find it in their hearts to maintain the goodwill and see what is right.

I don’t know what will happen to my beloved country and what future lies upon us, but I do believe that the good will win. We just need to do what we did on December 5th, 2012 – focus on the good, be united, patient, good to each other, and all of the wonderful things can happen. 🙂

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Royal March Road’s (my own translation) annual decorations

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People gathered to pay respect to the King (this is only part of the whole crowd).

New Year in Japan: Lucky bag, FUKUBUKURO 福袋!

Happy New Year 2013 everybody!

I hope you all had a wonderful countdown to the new year and a great holiday! I had a great dinner on the 31st and a count down at Minato mirai, Yokohama where they had a small firework at Cosmo square! 🙂

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Short countdown video here 🙂

My holiday is 9 days this time and after the countdown, the fun is nowhere near over. New year in Japan is the time for the biggest sale of the year and the annual shoppers-attractive promotion called “Lucky bag” or Fukubukuro in Japanese. This lucky bag first started in Matsuzakaya department store in Ginza. Each shop would put a lot of stuff in a bag and sell in cheaper price than normal. For example, for clothes- 5,000 yen for 6 items, which the real price would actually be around 25,000 yen. The customers cannot know what is inside except some stores that tells people the content of the items but people have no chance to choose color or types.

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Every year, people line up for these bags, sometimes even before the stores open. This year, I also joined the crowd. I shopped for some stuff I need which were on huge sale on January 1st. Most stores sell Fukubukuro on January 2nd-3rd. So, on 1st night, I searched for the stores list at a mall close to my place, then how many bags they sell, price, opening time, item details, etc. The mall I was planning to gave out fukubukuro catalog! After choosing the store I want to get the lucky bag, I went to bed early so that I can wake up early to line up for one! I went to Sotetsu Joinus in Yokohama around 9:10 (the mall opened at 9) and ran to the store I wanted a lucky bag. Turned out that I wasn’t early at all. I couldn’t get a waiting ticket for the shop I wanted so I gave up that one and went to another store. 🙂

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I got a 5,250 yen lucky bag from a clothing store. They offered another bigger bag sold at 10,500 yen as well. Inside the bag, there are five items! One coat, knitted sweater, scarf, and two shirts. It was worth it! 😀
Then, I also got a lucky bag from Bodyshop as well. Then a few stuff on sale and then I was out. Got tired from waiting in line for cashiers and decided to take a rest with my friends. 🙂
All of the stores have a really good deal on new year and lucky bag is just fun!!!

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These days every shops offer Fukubukuro. From clothes and shoes to snacks, cosmetics, and so many others. Even Apple has a lucky bag! I heard it is a great deal but people started lining up since the day before. Next year, I’ll try to go line up for Apple too! From the sources I read, it was 33,000 yen and the bag contains so many cool expensive stuff, even iPad or even a MacBook Air for some lucky people! Click here to read more about Apple lucky bag.

If you don’t like lucky bag and rather see the stuff for yourself before buying it, I recommend that this is still the best time of the year to shop. Everything is on sale! All the stores have a great deal during New Year. But…beware that there are loads of people out shopping during this time of the year, so make sure you sleep and eat enough- much energy needed. 😉

My 2013 started in a very happy holiday mode! I am enjoying my holiday a lot and sincerely hoping that this year will be a much better, brighter, and  happier year for me and for you all as well!
My best wishes to you!

HAPPY HOLIDAY!