Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tokyo Treat (Japanese Snacks) Premium Box Unboxing & Review, January 2016

You KNOW you've got a great subscription box when you have to climb up on a ladder to get the group shot for a blog post! I recently had the pleasure of discovering Tokyo Treat which sends hand picked Japanese snacks straight from Tokyo!  All of their treats are authentically Japanese and all are full size. Their boxes are nicely balanced with salty, sour and sweet treats, all factory fresh. If you've never been exposed to Japanese treats, you're in for an adventure! 

Tokyo Treat has three available subscription plans.  Their boxes are shipped via Japan Post Airmail and generally arrive between the 20th and 28th of each month. Amazingly, shipping is free no matter where you live!  

Small (5-7 snacks) - $14.99 per mo.
Regular (8-12 snacks plus a DIY candy kit) - $24.99
Premium (13-17 snacks plus a DIY candy kit, drink and special toy) - $34.99  

Discounts are available if you pre-pay for 3, 6 or 12 months.  As an example, an annual commitment for each size will cost:

Small - $164.89 ($13.74 per mo. equivalent)
Regular - $274.89 ($22.91 per mo. equivalent)
Premium - $384.89 ($32.07 per mo. equivalent)

This will be a review of Tokyo Treat's January Premium box which arrived in a big orange box. Japan Post has a reputation for being the most efficient postal service in the world so the speed of delivery may surprise you. This box weighs in at about 2 lbs., 5 ozs. (By comparison, the Small box weighs a bit under 1 lb. and the Regular box weighs a little less than 1.5 lbs.)

First off, let me say that Japanese candy is like no other in the world. Japanese snack subscriptions involve a level of craziness, a riot of color and silly cartoon characters that represent Japanese pop culture. Japanese treat boxes often include one or more DIY (do it yourself) treats, meaning you get personally involved with the preparation of your snack. This box was packed full! Here's my perched-on-a-ladder shot of everything inside:

In order to navigate a box like this, you either need to read Japanese or have a handy guide.  Fortunately for me, they provided a full color booklet with lots of tidbits of information about Japan and a full explanation of all the included treats.

This mini magazine tells about the snacks in all three sizes of the January Tokyo Treat box. Since most of the snacks are not labeled in English, I'll be relying heavily on this guide.  The first row shows the items included in the Small box.  The Regular size box contains items from the first two rows and the Premium box contains all of the items shown. 

This hexagonal box contains something called Yokai-Watch Fortune Seal Namaste Curry. Apparently, this is a savory curry flavored snack with fortunes inside....a Japanese fortune cookie?

This looks like a little box of candy cigarettes but it's actually Chocolate Ball Peanut or whole peanuts covered in chocolate.

Here is a familiar looking package from Lotte.  This is some kind of wafer cookie but the description talks mostly about the collectible Pokemon character picture that is evidently inside. (Brace yourself...there's a LOT of Pokemon on the way!)

Inside this color explosion is the first DIY candy kit called Neru Neru Nerune Soda Flavor. Assembly instructions are on the back. Mix the ingredients with water, let it sit overnight and it grows into a fluffy sweet puffed candy treat that you then top with various decorations. 

There is a second DIY kit in the box; this one is called Oekaki Kyanland Candy. Press candy into several different molds, mix the edible paint to your liking, then use the enclosed spatula to apply the coloring.  Ladies and gentlemen....I am NOT making these up!

In case you need assistance with the DIY kits, they've got you covered. Explicit "how to" instructions are included in the guide:

Back to sanity....there is a box of Chocolate Pocky.  There are zillions of Pocky flavors and variations out there; it's probably the most well known candy from Japan.  This version is chocolate dusted in cocoa which, for some reason, is considered a "winter" version.  Any self respecting Japanese candy box should contain at least one box or bag of Pocky!

This is a string of five Pokemon (pocket monster) candy packs. The flavors inside are pineapple, cola, soda, grape and five types of melon. There is also a possibility of finding a hidden monster in the package. (Silly me...I thought Pokemon marketing in the U.S. was out of control!)

Let me chili pepper flavored potato chips?  Close...these are Tyrant Habanero Who Came Back! rings. I suspect the five little habaneros lined up on the lower right edge constitute a warning that should be taken seriously.

One of the benefits of a Premium size box is the inclusion of a drink. This little pink can contains Amazake or High Quality Sweet Sake. The description says this should be enjoyed warm and that it is non-alcoholic. The next sentence says it contains 1% alcohol.  Error in translation? 

This one is called Pokemon Chewing Candy. Each pineapple flavored chew has a special monster seal on the paper that can be transferred onto the skin or paper like a temporary tattoo plus a monster quiz....more Pokemon craziness!

I am instantly apprehensive about any snack package with a fish on the front.  But the guide says this is a sweet and simple chocolate confection made in the shape of sea bream, a New Year's Thai custom. (Imagine associating any chocolate sweet in the U.S. with fish!)

More Pokemon insanity...this is sticker-matching chewing gum. This is one big flat piece of cola-flavored gum with a Pokemon game on the wrapper.

Finally, something I recognize....caramel corn!  But, it wouldn't be Japanese if it were completely recognizable caramel corn.  This is actually infused with soft-serve ice cream flavor and the packaging is a tribute to a hit monster and ghoul-oriented Japanese TV show called Yokai Watch. 

As promised, the Premium box also contains a "special toy".  Three guesses what the subject is.....OF COURSE, it's Pokemon!  You get one of 12 different collectible pocket monsters. Mine is labeled Takara Tomy.  Anybody know what this is? Here he is in the package:

I wanted to assemble this but after playing with the pieces for a while, I have no idea how to put it (him?) together. A Google search did provide a finished image but since the pieces don't click together, he doesn't stay put very well.  Not sure what the rotating base is for. Somebody, please enlighten me!  By the way, toys in Japanese boxes are NOT the Crackerjack equivalent. They are well constructed and durable; I can see why Japanese children would find them highly collectible.

Even though "Caramel Corn" was the only phrase I understood on all the packaging, the vibrant colors and silly characters made this box a lot of fun to dig through. Considering where these snacks come from and that you pay no postage, I think the value is quite good. I also like that these are all full size snacks; no tiny samples!  

If you're interested in trying Tokyo Treat, sign up by the last day of the current month to get next month's box. If you've never experienced Japanese candies and snacks, you are in for a unique multi-sensory cultural experience.  This would be a great box for kids but there's plenty here for the young at heart to enjoy as well!

Thanks for reading,


Disclosure:  Views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly my own.  Product discussed in this post was received complimentary for review purposes.  Post does not contain affiliate or referral links.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Stitch Fix Subscription Styling Service Review, February 2016

Personal styling services are an intriguing concept in the subscription market and one that has achieved a tremendous amount of interest lately. One such company is Stitch Fix, an on-line fashion retailer. They have you start by taking a ten minute style profile designed to gather basic information (size and shape, style preferences, budget and lifestyle), then pick a date when you want to receive your shipment. Their personal stylists will choose five items and send them for your consideration. Items can be clothing, jewelry, shoes or other accessories. There is an upfront $20 styling fee which can be applied to the price of anything you keep.

February was my second month for Stitch Fix.  They encourage communication with your stylist so I had provided some feedback on last month's hits and misses and tried to refine my style choices a bit. Among other things, I asked for casual or business casual clothing in the mid price range, no pants, nothing orange and nothing geared towards young women. Of course, each person will receive items tailored to their own Style Profile so what I received is most likely not what you would receive.

With each shipment is a custom information card showing some or all of the pieces in your box paired with other items to make complete outfits.  There is also a friendly note from my stylist Rebecca with enough personal details to satisfy me that she's actually taken a good close look at my Style Profile and feedback comments.

Another sheet lists each item in the box, its retail price and the merchandise total.  It also shows the 25% discount that you get if you keep all five pieces and the styling fee credit. There are easy instructions for checking out on-line once you've tried on the items; you have three business days to do that.

The first item is the Adel Center Dotted Cuff from Zad which retails for $28.  Upon first sight, I thought this would be too small but it actually fits perfectly.  It's a very versatile and understated piece with a slightly Indian look.  (KEEP)

Next is a pair of Ocean Park Perforated Sneakers by SeaVees which retail for $88.  I loved these right out of the box. They are made of leather and have that perfect casual go-with-anything look.  Although they were labeled in my size, the fit was almost two sizes the point I couldn't even get one on my foot. Since I wear a pretty standard shoe size, I was surprised that the sizing was so far off.  These are great looking, well made and versatile; I may hunt them down elsewhere. (RETURN)

Next is the Skylar knit jacket from Mystree which sells for $78. This light gray jacket has a lot of tailoring which gives it a very feminine fit; there are vertical contour seams in the front and back and it is fully lined. The wide shawl type collar and offset zipper are unusual design details. This would be quite a versatile piece but unfortunately, it too, fits as a size or two smaller than marked.  So, regretfully, it goes back. (RETURN)

This is the Carlito dolman knit top from Papermoon which retails for $38. Although it has an interesting slub texture and color, the fabric was paper thin.  It was so transparent as to be completely unwearable as far as I'm concerned. Also, the color was not at all flattering on me, although I liked the shade in general. This top just was not the quality of the other pieces.  (RETURN)

Just as I was losing hope, out came a second top from Papermoon. It's called the Perugio embroidery detail knit top and retails for $58. The dark navy fabric is light in weight but not paper thin or transparent. It has braided red, white and blue trim around the V-neck and sleeves. The same trim outlines the yoke in back, giving it a slightly Tyrolean look. What really makes this top stand out is the cut; the back falls several inches lower than the front giving full rear coverage. This fits me beautifully, is extremely comfortable and easy to, I own nothing else like it. Love! (KEEP)

Since this was my second Stitch Fix, some general observations are starting to emerge. Clearly, these clothes and accessories are not cheap. What you are paying for is the personal styling assistance and shipping costs both ways (whether you return anything or not). From what I've seen so far (and in consideration of the price range indicated in my profile), the items are low to mid range in quality. The items I've received have been interesting styles that closely fit my criteria. Having another set of practiced eyes helping me shop is the real value in this service.

I want to make a comment about sizing. We all know that women's sizes can vary dramatically from label to label and even within labels. Having said that, there are certain measurement ranges (generously stated) that are fairly standard. About half the items I've received from Stitch Fix have measured MUCH smaller than the size indicated on the label, sometimes to the point that I've actually thought the item was mis-labeled. This is frustrating and wastes a lot of postage going back and forth. Since a lot of these items are exclusive to Stitch Fix, it would be nice if the sizing were more consistent.

O.K., off my soapbox!  As before, this was a fun Stitch Fix to explore and I am very happy with my new bracelet and the navy top.  It is obvious that the stylist listened to my comments and every effort was made to send things that met my requirements. I've updated my profile, sent them some more feedback and can't wait to see what comes in my next Fix!


P.S.  By the way, you can schedule your Fixes whenever you want. If monthly is too much, you can slow them down to fit your interest level and budget.

Disclosure:  Views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly my own.  Product discussed in this post was purchased by Lone Star Shopper. Post may contain referral or affiliate links.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Healthy Surprise Classic Box Review, February 2016 + GREAT Groupon deal!

The last time I tried Healthy Surprise was the summer of 2014.  I remember really liking the concept of the box but the price ($40 at the time) was too high to sustain for more than a couple of months. At $42.49 for the 15 snack Classic Box now, this is still a high priced box. So when I ran across a recent deal for $25 off that box (which sells for $49.99 as a one time gift), the time was right to try Healthy Surprise once more.  (See the final paragraph below for current discount details.)

Healthy Surprise boxes contain all natural snacks that may include bars, drinks, sweets, fruits, kale, veggies, chips, nuts, exotics or chocolate.  All snacks are gluten, GMO, soy, corn and wheat free.  Their subscription boxes are available in three sizes. The prices shown in parenthesis are what they cost if you buy them individually.

Classic Box (15 snacks) - $42.49 ($49.99)

Big Box (21 snacks) - $63.74 ($74.99)
Paleo Box (17 snacks) - $63.74 ($74.99)      

This is the Classic box, a pretty hefty two pounder that comes by USPS Priority mail.

Inside the lid was a "Be Our Healthy Valentine" note plus a very nice and unexpected surprise....a $25 gift card that can be used towards a Healthy Surprise subscription or gift!  

Underneath are all the goodies....17 in all, I believe!

Several of the items in the box came in pairs; same item, different flavor.  There are two fruit and nut Larabars, one is Key Lime Pie and the other is a Lemon Bar.

Another paired set is the two bags of apple chips from "bare", one is Great Granny and the other is Fuji Red.  The only ingredient on the label is apples. 

This is a .85 oz. bar of Almond Crunch stone ground chocolate by Taza Chocolate. It is described on the label as "dark chocolate with almonds and puffed rice".  My kind of chocolate!

Ho-hum....hummus.  This item has appeared in a lot of sub boxes.  It's traditional hummus dip by Wild Garden. I will never ever ever get excited about anything made with chickpeas! (sorry, Taylor)

Let's just get this one out of the way so I can move on to more pleasant snacks.  The only possible way I can think of to make seaweed snacks any worse is by adding chipotle! These SeaSnax will never be opened by me.

This interesting pair is from a brand called simply "Oloves".  These are pitted green olives, one flavored with basil and garlic and the other flavored with chili and oregano.  I've had these before; they are pretty good and interesting.

Baked snap peas are always welcome; they meet my salty and crunchy snack needs. These are called Peas Please and are in the flavor "Garden Herb".

You get a lot of Justin's Almond Butter in sub boxes; this one is Maple flavor.

This is a package of Purple Heirloom potato chips from Jackson's Honest.  They may be organic and all natural but they are loaded with fat so I'm sure they'll be great.

Here is a pair of "Pocket Snacks" from Eden.  One contains dry roasted pumpkin seeds; the other is a wild berry mix that contains all sorts of seeds and berries. These are probably the first two I'll reach for in this entire box!

There is a fruit strip from Stretch Island Fruit Co. in Harvest Grape flavor.  I love these; just wish there were more.

Here's a package of Kettle Chips with olive oil, cracked pepper and sea salt from Good Health; again, lots of fat so probably considerable flavor.

The last item is a Mini Brownie from Coco-Roons.  I'm suspicious of this since it doesn't actually contain any chocolate.  

This box just went on and on!  There's no denying the quantity, quality or variety here. All the fruit based snacks appeal to me as well as the chips. There may be a few people out there who actually like seaweed snacks but I can't imagine they are too popular.  The major benefit of this box, of course, is just having a nice quantity of more or less healthy snacks lying around....with the hope that you'll pick one of them up instead of a Twinkie!

If you'd like to try Healthy Surprise, check their Facebook page for discounts.  Right now, there is a great Groupon deal available for the Classic Box (same size as reviewed above) for just $29 (basically a discount of $20.99 for a one time box).  I don't know how long that deal will be available but it is an excellent price for the quantity of healthy snacks you receive.  If they include the $25 gift card, it basically brings the price down to an unbeatable $4.  Stack your discounts by signing onto Groupon through eBates and get an additional 6% rebate on your purchase!

Thanks for reading,


Disclosure:  Views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly my own.  Product discussed in this post was paid for by Lone Star Shopper.  Post may contain affiliate or referral links

Friday, February 19, 2016

Art Therapy by Hachette, Adult Coloring Subscription, February 2016

Like probably everybody, I spend WAY too much time on-line. So I've been looking for ways to diversify my interests.  Sometimes painting the fence in my back yard is the answer and other times a subscription box provides an unexpected solution. Such is the case with Art Therapy, an adult coloring subscription from Hachette, which is a French publishing company.  A few years ago, they expanded into the U.S. by acquiring Time Warner's book publishing operation. Hachette Partworks is part of that group and they specialize in art and creative collections.  That's probably much more than you want to know but I'm trying to grow here!

In case you're not aware, coloring books for adults have become a "thing" lately.  If you don't believe me, try typing "adult coloring" in Amazon's searchbox.  At the moment, that brings back 64,745 results.  Apparently I've been missing out as I haven't colored anything since about age 7! 

The way Art Therapy charges is complicated.  Their Terms & Conditions say:

  • You will receive your 1st shipment with 2 issues, pencil case, 6 pencils and 3 markers for FREE* ($2 shipping and handling).
  • You will receive your 1st shipment within 15 days from the acceptance of your order.
  • Approximately 4 weeks after your 1st shipment, you will receive and be billed for your 2nd shipping of 2 issues, with your FREE magazine tidybox and FREE XXL coloring poster for just $9.90 (plus $2 shipping and handling).
  • Thereafter, you will automatically receive and be billed for 4 new magazines issues and coloring supplies every month for only $19.80 (plus $4 shipping and handling).
It took more than six weeks for my first shipment to arrive.  I'm not sure that it ever would have arrived if I hadn't contacted them after five weeks. Once I did that, the package was in my mailbox within a few days. The original ad that I responded to said the first box was $4.95 but I was actually charged $6.95.  That sounds like $4.95 plus the $2.00 mentioned in the first bullet above. My order was clearly mishandled and the charges are very confusing. you'll see below, the value of the first box greatly exceeds what I paid, so I will pipe down for now! (Rest assured, I'm keeping an eagle eye on my credit card.)

The first shipment came in a good size poly mailer.

As promised, there was a nice big pencil case inside along with a package of colored pencils, a package of markers, 2 issues of Art Therapy and an introductory brochure.

The pencil case is a creatively decorated box with a magnetized lid.  It measures about 11.75" x 8" x 1.25".

Inside is a light green plastic tray that will hold about 35 pencils.

There are two Art Therapy issues and a color brochure that tells more about this service. The information guide explains the benefits of art therapy (feel inspired, enhance concentration, free your mind, spark creativity, relieve stress and reconnect with your inner child) and says that each issue comes with some tools to enhance the patterns. Over time, the idea is to build up a complete coloring set of pencils and markers.

The Art Therapy booklets are numbered.  Books 1 and 2 were included with this shipment. Each book has a Contents page that tells what you'll find inside.  There are lots of tips and design ideas and a number of full page designs in each book.  I was relieved to see at least one color-by-number design in Book 1.  If I'm going anywhere with this, that will be the kickstart I need!

Six colored pencils are included with Book 1, plus a pencil sharpener.  They are all labeled with the Art Therapy name and a color number which I assume will be useful once my pencil collection grows.

Book 2 provides different inspirational concepts (I like the idea of adapting some of these designs for the front of greeting cards).  The designs in this issue are Middle Eastern themed and there are some relaxation exercises to go along with them.

The tools that come with Book 2 are a set of three markers in deep blue, bright pink and vibrant orange.  

I must admit that I was skeptical about this subscription. But just skimming the contents of these books has already sparked some creative ideas in me...and I'm definitely no artist!  It is actually within the realm of possibility that this new hobby may get me off the computer for a little while each day.  That is a good thing!

If the thought of guided art therapy inspires you, click here to get started.  I wish I could provide a better explanation of the way Art Therapy charges but the bottom line is that what you will pay for this first shipment is very low; the idea being to get some basic tools and designs in your hands. After that, the price does go up.  By then, you should be in a better position to decide if art therapy works for you!

Thanks for reading,


Disclosure:  Views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly my own.  Product discussed in this post was paid for by Lone Star Shopper.  Post does not contain affiliate or referral links