Monday, June 25, 2012

Taking a break and practicing the power of pause! Will be back soon!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Notable Quotable

‎"The only way to ease our pain is to experience it fully. Learn to stay with uneasiness, learn to stay with the tightening, so that the habitual chain reaction doesn't continue to rule your life."

--Pema Chodron

Monday, June 04, 2012

June Muses

Watching: The Exotic Marigold Hotel. How I love this poignant comedy about a bunch of old folks "out-sourcing" their retirement to India! This British comedy has all my favourite film veterans with Dame Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy. You're bound to have a good time giggling while drying your tears at times and it totally reminds me of my month-long trip to India some years back! I LOVE this movie! Two thumbs up!!

Listening to: The Dance of Shakti by Prem Joshua. I'm revisiting this old album from 2002 thanks to The Exotic Marigold Hotel. While reminiscing about India , I gotta listen to my favourite Indian tunes from the very talented Prem Joshua who fuses modern beats with the traditional sound of classical Indian sitar and tabla. The Dance of Shakti is my all time favourite from Prem Joshua and I practice Vinyasa yoga to the uplifting energizing tunes!

Wearing: ASOS Cupcake Dress with Peplum. Okay, I'm not wearing it yet cos it's on the way. I couldn't resist cos the cupcake print is just too cute and it's cut proper enough to wear to work with a cropped grey cardigan. I hope it fits! Fingers crossed or it'll be a total hassle to return!

Using: Ila Face Oil for Glowing Radiance. I've heard tons of raves about this Argan and Rosehip based face oil that's infused with Sandalwood and precious Rose Damascena. I just got hold of it a couple of days ago and I'm now using it in place of moisturizer. So far so good and I'll write more about it a little later.

I've also tried out the Body Shop Nutriganics Smoothing Mask cos I saw it going on offer and it's partially organic. I said partially cos I must point out that The Body Shop is somewhat unethical and deceptive to put the Eco Cert logo when only 42% of the ingredients is organic. To be qualified as organic products, a product has to contain at least 70% of organic ingredients. The Body Shop also sneakily puts a note that says 98% of the ingredients is natural and with the Eco Cert logo, I got tricked into thinking that 98% of the ingredients is ORGANIC. Well, after I bought it and carefully read the label, I felt a bit cheated cos only 42% of the ingredients is indeed organic. But well, I guess I should have been more careful reading labels. Anyway, the organic issue aside, I must say this mask is quite enjoyable as it's clay base wash off mask and it deep cleanses while refreshes and smooths out skin. I kinda like it! Just that I feel The Body Shop shouldn't have used the Eco Cert when all the products from their range is below 70% organic. Just saying...

Also using my light purple Balenciaga Giant City with silver hardware. I'm resting my black Balenciaga Work and the light purple is quite "in season" with the spring trend.

Drinking: Apple Cider Vinegar with honey. My previous attempt to drink half a lemon in warm water in the morning has failed cos it gave me a rather acidic stomach but ACV is really great and I'm back to drinking it daily with chilled honey. It's such a refreshing treat with all the health benefits.

Eating: Kinpira Gobo. I've been cooking Japanese food quite a lot and I'm really loving this classic Japanese bento stuffer of Japanese gobo and carrots. Japanese gobo is full of fiber and is known for its anti-carcinogenic properties. Super tasty when you cook it kinpira style. It's so simple to cook cos you just need to shred both gobo and carrots, soak the gobo in water for 10 minutes, then sauté them in a bit of sesame oil with some chilli before adding half a cup of water with two tablespoons of Japanese soya sauce, two tablespoons of mirin and two tablespoons of sugar. Simmer till all the liquid is soaked up and viola!

Loving: Anessa BB Sunscreen. This is possibly the best face sunscreen I've used. It's unfortunately not organic but its amazing texture and performance warrant its staying in my morning skincare routine. Its refreshing, light and non-sticky texture is such a great relief from the usual thick and greasy BB cream and my organic tinted moisturizer with SPF. Not only does it provide a very substantial protection of SPF 50 PA+++, it has a very decent coverage that really does even out the skin tone and yet not leave a heavy chalk-like film. It's really my favourite sunscreen now and I'm glad I bought an extra to stock up while I was in Japan!

Friday, June 01, 2012

The Case of the Not-So-Charitable Charity Drive

I'm a bit embarrassed to be writing this post as I'm about to launch into a raging rant, the fist-punching-the-air kind of rage while less than 48 hours ago, I was just talking about how it's more important to focus on the good things, stop bashing stuff, be Team Care Bear instead of Team Darth Vader.

But every now and then, the Care Bears do get pissed off when we see things that are so ridiculous. And this time it's a case of big organization attempting to be magnanimous with charity.

I'm talking about the case of Singapore Press Holdings' "Charity" stunt where they're putting up a Volkswagen car for charity auction. The money raised would go to paying for the subscription of The Straits Times newspaper for a year, worth $300, for 1000 low-income families. Yes, you got it, the money raised BY SPH goes back to SPH's bank account by purchasing SPH's product which is The Straits Times Newspaper.

Can I just ask what kind of charity is this when the proceeds raised by the organizer go back to the organizer's bank account? Okay, fine, so they're buying newspaper from themselves and it is still something for the poor, but how about doing REAL charity by giving out the newspaper FOR FREE and use the money raised to do more like subsidizing other things?

When I read a statement made by SPH, I literally did a 360-eye roll and laughed out loud:

Said ST editor Warren Fernandez: "We at ST are delighted to partner with Volkswagen once again for this worthwhile project. Those who bid for this car will help drive our efforts to reach out and support the less well-off in our community.

"We want to give the young in these families a precious gift: access to information and a window to the world and all its possibilities. That will help them get ahead in life. We sincerely believe a daily copy of the ST delivered to their homes will do that."

Having dealt with low-income families before in my previous voluntary stints, I honestly question if newspaper, instead of other form of subsidy, is what the low-income families need and want. Especially in this day and age where information is, in fact, quite readily available on the radio, television and internet. Not to mention there is already a supply of free newspapers like Today and My Paper (another SPH product mind you). Is a subscription to The Straits Times more important than to say practical things like $300 dollars worth of medical subsidy or grocery vouchers?

Warren Fernandez made it sound like these 1000 low-income families live in some remote island far away from civilization. Sooo remote that they have absolutely no access to information of sort and that The Straits Times subscription for a year will save their future.

What happens after one year when the charity tenure is over? Do they still get subscriptions? Or is their "window to the world and all its possibilities" suddenly get shut until further notice? What if they raise more than the $300,000 for a one-year subscription for 1000 families? Where does the money go to? What if some families prefer Chinese papers or other kind of subsidy for that matter?

I'm sorry, but I find this whole charity thing somewhat insulting to the many unsung heros out there who do real charity work either by donation or time and effort volunteering.

Having done all the ranting and bashing, it's "Care Bear Duty" time to make something positive out of it. I guess the one positive thing I take home with SPH's lack-luster charity gimmick is to do better when charity is concerned. That the real needs of the less fortunate people should come before personal glory.

Oh, one more thing! Don't underestimate the gift of newspaper because the newspaper can be a very useful resource too even if you're not proficient in reading. You can always use it to wrap fish before putting them into the freezer, clean the windows, or my personal favorite, wrap pet's dookies with them for disposal!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Darth Vader vs Care Bear

"The painful thing is that when we buy into disapproval, we're practicing disapproval. When we buy into harshness, we're practicing harshness. The more we do it, the stronger these qualities become. How sad it is that we become so expert at causing harm to ourselves and others. The trick is to practise gentleness and letting go. We can learn to meet whatever arises with curiosity and not make it such a big deal" -- Pema Chödrön  

Most people went through some sort of a moody grouchy teenage years of rebellion in one way or another. You question authority, you talk back to your folks, and you resist everything bright and chirpy while crawling into that little dark miserable cave called Puberty, with emo songs like Creep by Radiohead plugged into your ears no less. Moodiness seems cool and being dark means sexy. 

While some teenage Darth Vaders and Voldemorts eventually grew out of their moody broody phase to be more-adjusted adults with just the healthy amount of scepticism, some got stuck in their own black clouds in their adulthood, spreading their bad vibes everywhere they go through osmosis or otherwise. 

And spreading the bad vibes they did. Right to the social media platform of Facebook lately in fact, making me extremely repulsed and disgusted. I post cute animal pictures, they comment about animal abuse (completed with a whatsapp photo of maggots oozing out of a gaping open wound sent to me!! WTF!). I post a warm fuzzy photo of tiger and piglets getting along, they slam the photo being a zoo sham. I share happy positive post and pictures, they spread negative news about mankind, cancer or other shitty tragic news. I update my status on happy things, they rant about being angry and woe is them. Yes, you get the drift. "I'm merely injecting a sense of harsh reality and practicality" they said. 

As a former broody teenage Darth Vader who hated almost everyone and everything, my ascension to the bright side of Care Bear and Rainbow Brite doesn't tantamount to being ignorant of the harsh reality or sweeping the sharp shards of worldly problems under the carpet and pretending they don't exist. 

Being positive has nothing to do with thinking that everything is fine, nothing is wrong and all is well. It's about knowing that there're many things wrong and things are way far from perfect but let's make the best out of it and not be miserable about it. It's about finding a sense of equanimity in times of adversity while not losing your sense of joy and humour. It's about realizing that gripping on all the bad things in life gets you nowhere and only attracts more bad things as it's the simple law of attraction. 

More importantly, it's also about doing something about the things you're not satisfied with. My new pact as being a Care Bear means that instead of whining and getting bitter about all these poor kittens and puppies getting abused, I DO SOMETHING about it by donating monthly to the Cat Welfare Society and volunteering at the SPCA. Instead of feeling sorry for the underprivileged children, I contribute monthly to Club Rainbow and participate in the annual toy collection drive for the kids. Do I see those Darth Vaders and Voldemorts do something? So far, I haven't, unfortunately.  

My message to all the Darth Vaders and Voldemorts out there is simple: If you haven't got anything positive to say, then don't say it to me. It's okay to wallow in your own black vomit of negativity, but just don't go wet-blanketing us with your bad vibes and bash positive people/things/message. Happiness really is a choice, and we Care Bears and Rainbow Brites make a conscious effort to guard our happiness with all our might, stay on the bright side, and see the good in things as we solider on. Simple as that. 

Why be a bitter miserable sod when you can be light and happy? Don't be Darth Vader! Choose Care Bear! Breathing through that ugly mask can't be that fun! Besides, we've got cookies and chocolate on the bright side! 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

ACV Your Face

Ages ago, I've blogged about the amazing wonders of Apple Cider Vinegar for health. It's always been on on-going health remedy I take on a "regularly on-and-off" basis. Meaning, I'll go through phases where I'll down it and then stop for a bit before going back on it.

Lately, due to a horrendous bouts of cystic acne that's thankfully clearing up, I've been super obsessed with cleaning out pores or any pore-unblocking remedies. Then, while I was de-cluttering my fridge, I was reminded of the amazing health benefits of ACV when I saw a bottle lying in the fridge. So I whipped out my ACV health book, got back on drinking it with honey and started using it on my face as it's supposed to be anti-acne with pore/oil unclogging properties on top of many goodness for some skin loving.

After using it for a week, I can totally attest to its skin loving properties and I have no problem running this somewhat smelly liquid on my face on a daily basis in the pursuit of better, healthier skin. And it's crazily simply. I mix one part of ACV to one part of filtered water, then apply and massage it onto the face in circular motion (not too rough please!) after cleansing every alternate night. You can rinse it off lightly with some water if you don't like the smell but I'll just leave it on for a bit before lightly patting some water over it to lighten the smell. It acts as a mild exfoliating agent while delivering the goodness of ACV directly to your skin. It also unclogs pores over time and helps surface impurities while maintaining a healthy skin pH (our skin thrives on a slighly acidic environment).

For a more nourishing treat, you can mix it with honey and some pounded oats for a DIY exfoliating mask that packs in the moisture too!

Yes, it's that simple and doesn't cost a bomb! Awesome natural skin and health remedies from mother nature!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Chanel-ized Me

You've seen Chanel nails, Chanel basketballs, Chanel snowboard and now there's Chanel font! Notice my header? Yes, it's the Chanel font where the letters are constructed with Chanel cosmetics! Get it here and send a Chanel-ized message to your Chanel-crazy friends! Now I'm gonna whip out my 2.55 to complete the look and feel! TGIF Chanel style! Now here's one cheap thrill that looks and feels expensive for sure!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Reason to save the Earth

Such wisdom from my yoga teacher.....oh yes, it's the only planet with Japanese food too! go Reuse, Reduce and Recycle!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Japanese Loot

When I said I didn't shop much in Japan, I meant it. Mostly because I didn't have the patience to go into every store and browse through racks after racks of clothes, and also because I'm more interested in sight-seeing than shopping really.

After failing to find a Issey Miyaki BaoBao Bag in a colour of my choice, I ended up hitting the drug stores and falling off the organic/non-toxic bandwagon cos the allure of the Japanese drug stores is simply too irresistible. Given that I was plagued by really bad cystic acnes (ok, there were only two but they were HUGE) while I was there, I thought I would give the organic/non-toxic options a rest until my skin recovers and stabilizes with products that have been tried and tested before.

So here's my drug-store loot. Not that crazy really....I was mostly stocking up on the Maquillage foundation and Anessa BB Sunscreen which are a hell lot more expensive in Singapore. These two are freaking amazeballs with great texture and performance. I'm really hoping the organic brands can quickly come up with products that can rival the Anessa BB Sunscreen as it has such great texture that's non sticky, wears so comfortably and acts perfectly well as make up base!

Then in Kyoto, I bought a trial skincare set from Yojiya which is a Japanese cult favorite from Japan's old capital. Rumour has it that they're also a favorite among many Geisha so that can't be bad! They're on the pricey side but I've been using it for close to a month now and so far so good. Will write more in another post.

Then below is my favorite loot from Kyoto. A famous stationery shop at the Teramachi Mall named Kyu Kyo Do that sells things like paper, incense, calligraphy supplies and many artsy stuff I so love! These are actually courtesy of my amazing bf cos the shop was closed by the time we get there (they close at 6pm) the day before we left Kyoto. So, the next day, while I was still sleeping, he ran to the shop early in the morning to get the stuff I wanted before we left Kyoto!

Anyway, I was thrilled when he came back with gorgeously wrapped up packages that I couldn't bear to open!

This Japanese prayer beads, or Juzu in Japanese, is my favorite item from the trip. It's so pretty and they have an array of pastel colour prayer beads especially for women.

Kyu Kyo Do also produces their own incense too and these ones are great when I want to bring back my Kyoto memory in my room. Always perfect for a tranquil night in reading a book curled up in bed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Leave Aishwarya Rai Alone!

So apparently, it seems like the Asian entertainment media's activity-du-jour is to bash Bollywood actress and one time Miss World Aishwarya Rai for not losing her baby weight after she gave birth. Read more here

"The Indian media, though, latched onto the fact that she looked like a 38-year-old woman who had recently given birth."

Last check, Aishwarya Rai IS indeed a 38-year-old woman who had recently given birth! So I have no idea why her fans and the media alike can't just let her be the 38-year-old who had just given birth recently, and is now nursing her baby! Any medical doctor would attest to the fact that a nursing mom needs proper nutrition to breast feed her baby, so there is nothing wrong if there's some weight on the body to properly raise the child! It's basic human rights to care for and nurture the smallest member of our society. 

What outrage me most is that when it comes to post-baby body, a woman in the public eye can do no right, thanks to both the media and public. If you lose too much weight too soon ala the Hollywood celebrity way like Heidi Klum (she was back on the runway modeling for Victoria Secret a mere six weeks after she gave birth), Miranda Kerr and the supermodel gang, you're blamed for creating unrealistic expectation for new mothers who are pressurized conform to that standard. Some slagged them off for not caring for their baby by breast feeding with proper nutrition. Evil mother they said. 

Now, we have a Bollywood actress who chooses the health and welfare of her newborn over conforming to that skinny post-baby standard, and still she got shamed for not up-keeping her role as the most beautiful Bollywood actress. Not just by the horrendous and despicable media, but by her so-called fans and supporters. 

What is the world coming to when the most basic human right of motherhood is being scrutinized and criticized? This is pure insanity. 

So, leave Aishwarya Rai alone already!!!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Sushi Land Diary Part 3: Kyoto

If the hipsters want to be Harajuku Girls, then I'm a 100% Kyoto Girl or Teramachi Girl if you must use the city's precinct as name. I love Kyoto. So much that I'm still suffering from Kyoto withdrawal two weeks after I'm back in Durian Land.

A far cry from Tokyo's insane pace and mind-boggling train network system, Kyoto's poised and idyllic energy is much appreciated as a respite from the boring concrete jungle I'm too used to. Throw in the allure and grandeur of its amazing cultural heritage as Japan's old capital, its beautiful nature and temples, and the chance to catch a sight of mysterious Maiko and Geisha shuffling down Gion, I'm sold. I left my heart in Kyoto!

Staying at: Hiiragiya Ryokan. Japanese Omotenashi (the art of hospitality) at its best, Hiiragiya Ryokan is one of Kyoto's most famous and well-loved ryokan, touting Japanese Noble Prize Literature winner Yasunari Kawabata and many international film stars as their regular patrons. Situated conveniently near the famous shopping street of Teramachi, Hiiragiya Ryokan is still owned and run by the family that started it more than a century ago in 1818. Staff are super attentive and helpful, offering first class service that, in my opinion, surpasses that of today's six stars Western hotels. With 28 exclusive rooms, service is highly customized and guests have at least one staff assigned to take care of them during their stay. The traditional interiors and rooms are all decorated with hand painted folding screens in zen style and furnished with wooden beams, reed ceilings, tatami mats, shoji windows and fusuma sliding doors. It's as authentic as it can get and of course, there's a beautiful bathroom with cedar wood bath tub where water of the perfect temperature is drawn ready for you to hop in. How I wish I could live there! I love ryokan!
Eating: Kaiseki at Hiiragiya Ryokan in their newly extended banquet room. The food is amazing and banquet room very pretty.
Lovely omakase menu at Manzara Honten. It's a recommendation by a concierge that turned out to be an amazing last supper in Kyoto. They serve their sashimi on Andy Warhol plates and make amazing Mackerel sushi that happens to be their famous signature dish.
Tucked somewhere in an idyllic street is 红蝙蝠 or "Red bat" cafe. It's such a lovely and kitschy little tea house with beautiful tatami and amazingly tasty macha creme brulee. I regret not ordering another one cos I don't see if anywhere else. Damn!
Drinking: Sokenbicha. This tea, sold everywhere in Japan's vending machine, is so aromatic and divine that I now buy them at a hiked up price at Medeiya at Liang Court.
Visiting: The amazing bamboo forest at Arashiyama. Amazing is really the right word to describe the bamboo forest. It's a reminder of how beautiful nature is and I'm sure to go back again.
Buying: Skincare from Yojiya, the cult Japanese skincare from Kyoto that every Japanese woman is crazy about. I wasn't that keen until I saw every single Japanese woman carrying a Yojiya paper bag and they all have good skin. That many Japanese women with good skin can't go wrong and I made a beeline to their super crowded shop (every one of their outlet is crowded), wrestled my way in and came out with a starter kit and a bottle of essence.

Now watch out...major photo bomb ahead and it's really just a fraction of it. 

The awesome Hiiragiya Ryokan

The tokonoma, or alcove, is a key feature in any traditional Japanese house where they display beautiful scroll or heirloom. Putting anything at the tokonoma is a big no-no. It's sacred. 

 Just cos you asked nicely, here's an up close and personal photo of yours truly and the other half, both decked in Hiiragiya yukata. I had the ryokan staff tied the obi for me. In fact, she lovingly insisted we took a snap shot next to this lovely plant

A traditional wooden dresser! How beautiful...though HL pointed it reminds her of erm, Sadako from The

I can't begin to tell you how much I love Japanese bathroom. I'm not a bath fan but the Japanese cedar wood tub is just too good to miss.

A little decorative feature at the new wing in Hiiragiya
Dinner and breakfast were served at this beautiful banquet room

It's takenoko, or bamboo shoot, season!!! I LOVE takenoko! Can't have enough of it and I've been cooking takenoko nimono at home these days.
Where else but in Kyoto can you find a temple in a shopping lane among modern shops!?

Colorful pickles! So pretty!

This neko-chan dolly seems to be quite a favorite among Japanese food seller. It dances too...

The beautiful trail at Arashiyama! It's so beautiful!

The Imperial Palace garden. Such a shame that it's closed for maintenance while I was there. Now there's more excuse to go back.

The famous Kamo River in Kyoto near the Gion.

A lovely corner at 红蝙蝠 cafe

The macha creme brulee was simply divine!
A giant statue of Kwan-yin
Maiko-wannabe. I thought I was lucky to caught a sight of maiko but nope, these are white tourists dressed up as maiko.

An exhibition with painting of cats draw on plates. I just need to take a picture of it for Mr Bond.


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