Sunday, 10 December 2017

Holiday Season Party Style | My Classic Essentials

December is always the busiest month when it comes to social diaries. I am sure it is the same everywhere else but even more so in London. Leave it too late, it will be almost impossible to see your friends before they break away for the Christmas holiday and you'll most likely won't be able to see them this side of the year.

As someone who often needs to balance work commitments and social diaries, I find having a few classic items in my wardrobe helps tremendously when it comes to dressing up for the festive season efficiently. Whether it is catching up over cocktails with my friends or attending the office Christmas parties, I found that these essential items have worked for me over the years.

I am a timeless classic person when it comes to fashion. So it will be no surprise that cocktail dresses and little black dresses are my go-to items when it comes dressing up especially for a sit-down Christmas dinner. I am also a girly-girl at heart, so the more feminine the dress is the better. I have a black and white chiffon dress that I've had for years and I still love it simply because of the unique roses detailing at the neckline.

When it comes to accessories, the Chanel Classic Half Moon Clutch and these Christian Louboutin Decolette black pump have saved the day again and again over the years. You'll be amazed at how having classic pieces in your wardrobe could remove the stress of deciding what to pair your dress with. I have to say these two have worked for me every single time.

In terms of make-up, I often prep my skin by using a hydrating mask and this Bobbi Brown Skin Nourish mask does the work for me. It contains coral grass and green algae which brings hydration to the skin. 5 minutes is all it takes, after which my skin will be super smooth and soft. A perfect canvas for makeup application.

To me, a party look will not be complete without dark smokey eyes and a red lip. This Bobbi Brown Party To Go (from 2016 collection) is my go-to palette simply because it has all the shades that I need - a nude pink as a base, a dark espresso for the outer corners and the sparkly metallic bronze for the middle lids. It is no surprise that my favourite shade for a red lip is the shade Burnt Red also from Bobbi Brown.

What are your party essentials that could take you from desk to glam with the least time required?

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Holiday Gift | What I Would Buy If I Was Buying A Gift For Myself

Christmas is not a festive celebration that my family and I celebrate but it is a day of celebration and a national holiday in Malaysia where I used to live before moving to London, which is my home now. If you don't already know, Malaysia is a multiracial country and its nationals celebrate every festivity that takes place throughout the year, be it Chinese New Year, Eid, Diwali, or Christmas, to name a few. 

Since living in London and fast forward to the present, Christmas has become a big part of my life. I mean, how can it not be? It's simply impossible to not get sucked and roped into all the festivities and holiday spirits that can start as early as September with the launching of Christmas shops in Selfridges, Harrods, and Liberty followed by the switching on of Christmas lights on Oxford and Regent  Streets in November. The festivity feeling fully peaked in December as my calendar gets filled with Christmas party invites, drinks with friends, office Christmas lunches and secret Santa gift exchange at work. Although I may not have many gifts to buy, I do get a small number of gifts as a token of appreciation especially for those who are in my support system.  

While it is nice to know that I don't have to sharpen my elbow wresting the crowd or cracking my head when it comes to gift shopping, it doesn't mean that I don't have a Wish List myself. So today, I thought I would share some of the items that have caught my eyes and if I were to buy a gift for myself, I'd start with this list. 

If you had read this post you would know that Christmas Gift Set is one of the things that I look forward to as soon as Autumn arrives. I just love them and I genuinely think that they are of good value, compared to if you were to buy the item individually. Similar to last year, this year Bobbi Brown is killing it again. There are a plethora of gift set to choose from but the one that caught my eyes is the Bobbi Brown Sparkle All Night eyes and cheeks palette which is exclusive to Selfridges. At £150 (update: now reduced to £95), I must admit is a lot of money to spend on a makeup item, but it is beautiful. If you think the packaging is insane, wait until you see its content. Perfect for those who travel often - there are 12 eyeshadows that can take you from day to night, 2 blushes, a bronzer and a highlighter. 

Every year, Dyptique releases a range of Limited Edition Christmas Candles. They often come in a set of three and they are also available individually. The set this year comprises of Frosted Forest, Fiery Orange and Incense Tears. They all come in a weighted ceramic-like black pot with gold design on the outside. Fiery Orange is my favourite, not only because of the warm wintry smell of orange peel mixed with smoked wood and crackling cloves but also it has gold dragon design on it. Totally perfect for me who was born in the Year of the Dragon according to the Chinese Calendar. 

I don't normally spend time in the Technology section when I think of Christmas gift shopping. But since May this year, I have been wanting to jump onto the noise cancelling headphones bandwagon. Having said that I simply can't justify spending £300+ for a pair of headphones. But during the Black Friday/ Cyber Monday event, I spotted these Bose QC25 Noise Cancelling Headphones which have been significantly reduced. Granted that they have released the wireless version, but I really don't mind not getting the latest of the latest if the price of the version before is more pocket-friendly. 

That's about it. You probably think that this is a very short list. I have intentionally done so as I didn't want to simply add things to the list for the sake of it. I wanted to create a list that truly reflects the items that caught my eyes, and that made me think that 'Ooohh it would be lovely to have this'. 

What about you? Have you created your own Christmas Gift Wish List? 

Sunday, 26 November 2017

My Simple Hair Care Routine

I recently realised that the one beauty topic that hasn't featured on this blog is hair care. The truth is, I am a very simple girl when it comes to my hair care. Honestly!

Wash, condition, clarifying shampoo, hair mask, and a haircut once every two months (or sometimes three) and boom, I am sorted. This has been my routine for the last 10 years, especially since I stopped colouring my hair. You'll be surprised at how my much time (not to mention money) you can save once you stop putting chemical in your hair! My bum has also been thanking me ever since as the length of time I spend for hair salon visits is now significantly shortened! Healthy bank accounts and happy bum...I mean...thumbs up!

Now let's get into the details...

If you have read this post, you would know that I am still experimenting with shampoo and conditioner. I am a stickler to routine so the same applies to my hair wash routine.

I wash my hair once every two days, often in the evening (unless I get home really late). I am not a fan of washing hair in the morning as it adds time to my morning routine and I rather have the extra winks instead of working my arms muscles while I wrestle with the hairdryer and hairbrush.

Products wise, I am currently using the OGX Nourishing Coconut Milk Shampoo and Conditioner. I absolutely love the coconut scent and how they make my hair shiny and soft. However, I have to always remind myself to use the product sparingly, otherwise, I feel it weighs down my hair a little bit. I have just started using these products so we shall see if I will end up repurchasing them.

Once a week I use the Bumble and Bumble Sunday Shampoo. It is great for getting rid of residue from hair styling products. I feel my hair is very clean after using this shampoo, so so clean that I can hear the squeaky clean sound as I rinse my hair.

Admittedly, I have not been very diligent when it comes to applying hair mask lately. But when I do, I simply use the number one multi-purpose product from my kitchen - Vita Coco Coconut Oil. I melt the oil before applying it all over my hair focusing more on the ends instead of the roots. I leave it on for at least 30 minutes, if not longer before I wash it off. The result is amazing - soft, shiny, silky, smooth non-freezy hair! Absolutely love it!

Styling wise, I am not that crazy about applying products in my hair. As I can't live without a hair dryer, the products I use tend to be heat protection instead of styling products. The TREsemme Styling Spray Heat Defence seems to work well for me and our relationship is still going strong. At the moment, I don't feel the need to change things up just yet.

In terms of getting my hair styled and cut, as mentioned above, I get it done once every two or three months. One of my friends is a professional hair stylist and when I am not feeling fussy, I get my hair cut in his flat. He is so good that my hair cut tends to last less than 30 minutes (and that includes styling). If I feel like having the whole hair wash-cut-style experience, one of the hairstylists at Jubilee Hair Salon in Covent Garden often does a great job for me.

See, easy peasy! Do share what your hair routine is like and if you have any hair care products that you can't live without. I'd love to know! x


Sunday, 19 November 2017

Books Recommendations: My Latest Discovery

As the long days of summer have now turned into long wintry dark evenings, I now long for a quiet night in, curling on the sofa with a good paperback and a cup of tea - peppermint is my current favourite. Not only it is very good for my digestion, but also very calming and soothing for my throat, especially after a meal of comfort food at dinner.

Although I lived in South East Asia before living in London, Kevin Kwan is not a name that I am familiar with. I stumbled upon his books at a bookstore in KLCC while I was in Malaysia in May this year.

It turns out, Kevin Kwan is a Singapore based author and had authored three books to-date, the Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problem, which is his latest released earlier this summer. Both his first and second books became international bestsellers and his debut book, Crazy Rich Asians is being adapted into a film which is currently in production with the expected release date around summer 2018.

If you are looking for new reading materials, wanting to discover a new author and storyline which is not centred around the Western countries, I highly recommend that you pick up this trilogy in one go because once you read the first one, you will want to start the second and the third book as soon as you finish the previous book instantaneously. They are THAT amazing.

All the three books are inspired by Kevin Kwan's childhood in Singapore and revolved around the lifestyle of multigenerational Asian dynasties and wealthy Asian elites. A bit like the Eastern version of the Dynasty or Dallas TV series.

Crazy Rich Asians' storyline kicked off by introducing the two main characters Nick and his girlfriend, Rachel, who both reside in NYC. Nick was about to bring Rachel to Singapore for the first time, to attend his best friend's wedding and to introduce her to his parents. Rachel didn't know about Nick's actual family background and history. He comes from one of the wealthiest families in Asia. They very quickly became the talk of the town because, firstly, Nick is clearly one of the most eligible bachelors. But more importantly, in the Asian culture, it's a pretty a big thing when a guy brings a girl home to meet the family, even more so, in this particular case given they had to travel half the world and across continents. Conflicts soon ensued mainly around Nick's mother and grandmother whose preferences are for Nick to marry someone ideally from a close-knit with approximately the same level of wealth circles. The storyline is very gripping right from the first few pages. I started the book around 6pm in the evening and finished it before I went to bed on the same night. It was that good and hard to put down.

Kevin Kwan cleverly painted an accurate picture of the conflicts between parents and child, traditional vs. progressive views of the world, the clash between old vs. new money as well as the social status of Asians from Singapore or Hong Kong compared to the Mainlanders.

I am currently halfway through the second book, China Rich Girlfriend. The storyline is similar but this time it focused on Rachel's discovering more about her background and her parents. Having raised single-handedly by her mother who migrated from China to the USA, in this installation, Rachel finds out about who her father is and how in the process, she was drawn into the dizzying world of Shanghai splendour.

It looks like the focus turns back onto Nick in the third book, Rich People Problems as his family fights over his grandmother's heirlooms which include a trophy estate on sixty-four prime acres in the heart of Singapore as she lays on her deathbed. It will be very interesting to see how the storyline develops and unfolds, and if there is a potential for a next sequel. Now if you would excuse me, I have 1.5 books waiting for me to read.

Thanks for dropping by and may you have a great week ahead and Happy Thanksgiving for those who are celebrating!


Sunday, 12 November 2017

My Favourite Spots to See Christmas Lights in London

Now that the Halloween is a thing of the past, we can move on and start talking about my most favourite time of the year - Christmas! Having said that, as a person who once lived in the States, there is a tiny voice within me that is rather unhappy that I am ignoring Thanksgiving. But as Thanksgiving is not really celebrated in England, aside from the Black Friday Sales that I am looking forward to, I am quite happy to start getting into the Christmas feeling.

Now, admittedly London is often criticised for the lack of variety when it comes to its Christmas decor. I mean, let's face it, as a City, we are guilty of putting up the same decorations year-on-year, but, repeated or recycled or not, they never fail to bring out the festive moods to Londoners, visitors and tourists.

So today, I wanted to share the key spots where I normally head to and the route that I often take whenever I want to kick off the festivities mood in London.

As Jubilee Line is the main tube line for me, naturally I would start by getting off at Bond Street station. From there on, I will head out to Selfridges to check out its window display. Although my main intention is to check out the Christmas light and decor, I never fail to take the opportunity to check out the latest Christmas offerings being sold in Selfridges. I mean, it would be rude not to go in, right?

From there on I will exit through the side door of Selfridges (the one next to French Connection), and head over St Christopher's Place. If I am hungry, I may grab a cheeky meal or a coffee and snacks from one of the many restaurants and cafes available in the area.

I will then get back onto Oxford Street heading toward Oxford Circus way. This is probably the most painful part of the route due to the crowd and amount of people on the street. So instead of walking all the way to Oxford Circus, I often divert my route by going to Bond Street by cutting through South Molton Street.

From Bond Street, I will make my way towards Regent Street so I will end up at the iconic London department store, Liberty, which often has the most epic window display in London. Last year it had a Nutcracker theme window display which I truly love. It was so mesmerizing that it made this year's window display look rather minimal, but pretty nonetheless.

I often finish off my route at Carnaby Street before heading to either Green Park or Bond Street Station to catch the Jubilee Line home.

What about you? Have you started getting into the Christmas festivity mood? If so, what do you do to kick it off?

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Algarve, Portugal

Portugal is a country that I've not been before and at the beginning of this year I put it up on my travel list, with an option of visiting either Lisbon or Porto. I have heard so many good things about Lisbon from friends who have been, as such, it was no surprise that when I was planning for a short getaway recently, it was very high up on my agenda.

But for some reasons, the world sort of conspired against me, as flights on the days when I wanted to travel were either limited or more expensive than what I was willing to pay. Not to mention finding a hotel to stay in, in the location that I wanted, within a reasonable price range, was fairly limited if not non-existent. 

In the end, I had no choice but to kick off Plan B. It was a good thing that by this time, I realised how exhausted I was and that I actually could do with a do-nothing kinda holiday. 

That's when the Algarve came into the picture. As I went during off season, flight options were aplenty and were reasonably priced. I also scored an independently run boutique hotel which caters for adult guests only, located a stone throw away from the Old Town. Perfect!

Algarve is situated on the coast of the southernmost part of Portugal. It is a popular destination for golfers, and sun worshipers due to its Mediterranean beaches and mild weather. I went during the second half of October and the temperature ranges from 23-25 degrees Celcius. Apparently, for the locals it was cold because the temperature was 30 degrees the week before - it just shows that it's all relative!

There are many resort towns that you could choose to base yourself at or visit during your stay. Some of the popular ones are Albufeira, Lagos, Tavira and Vilamoura. I chose to base myself at Albufeira which is the most popular resort town also known as the main strip. It takes about 35 minutes to get to from Faro Airport (by taxi) and the place is jam-packed with restaurants and bars. It has everything that I needed. 

I must admit I did very little while I was there. The highlight for me was definitely the food. I tasted the simplest but most delicious grilled fish, mussels, prawns and squids. Not to mention a scoop or two of gelatos every day after lunch because is it even a holiday if you don't have gelatos?

Not only was the food tasty, but also very affordable if you compare to what you pay and get in London. You can get a glass of wine during happy hour for EUR2 and I don't recall paying more than EUR30 for any of my meals and that includes service charge, pre-meal bread and olives, drinks and post-meal coffee.

So if you're after a fairly relaxing and chilled out holiday, I'd recommend the Algarve. I returned to London feeling refreshed and was greeted by the wet and grey weather on landing at Gatwick. Some things don't change and familiarity is good, no?


Sunday, 29 October 2017

5 Rules I Live By To Live A Happy Life

As I navigate through life, I have picked up some life lessons that I now live by. I have actually listed about 25 of them, but I thought I'd break them into smaller chunks, or else this post is going to be a really long one. 

Thinking that I am not ready - Nobody is ever a 100% ready for the opportunities that come knocking at our doors. But I truly believe that the best opportunities are those that stretch and challenge us beyond our limits and make us anxious a little. I am a firm believer that a little bit of anxiousness is always good, as it means that I care and those opportunities mean something or a lot to you.

Dwelling on the past and worrying about the future - Personally, I am good at this. I am not saying that my life has been smooth sailing; of course, I've experienced disappointments along the way. But I am one of those who picks myself up rather quickly and move on. I often think that my failures or disappointments come with silver lining and that could be better things in store for me in the future.

Breaking promises - This is one of the values that I live by the most. I don't over promise and under deliver because that is the fastest way to lose credibility. If I say I was going to do something, I not only do it, but I try to do it well! I totally avoid doing things half-heartedly as it would break my credibility or ruin the reputation that I have worked on so hard to achieve.

Trying to live up to people's expectations - Do whatever you can to set high standards for yourself, and then do everything you can to meet them. Other people's expectations are none of your concern (except your superiors as they decide on your promotion, increment and bonus! *wink*). For example, don't stay in a relationship because you're afraid to be single, and most definitely don't get married because that's what the society expects once you reach a certain age. Do whatever that is right for you and makes you happy!

Comparing yourself with others - This is a rather difficult one especially in the world of social media. But I often tell myself that what I see is only 10% and there is more than meets the eyes. Furthermore, people often only share the great and the good and there is more behind the scenes that are not visible. Comparing yourself with others is a waste of time. The only person I believe we should be competing against is yourself - be the better version of yourself

I truly believe that we are exactly where we need to be, we need to trust the universe. Have a great week ahead! x

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Kinky Boots the Musical, London West End

Well, it was definitely around Christmas last year when I watched Aladdin the Musical at the London West End.

On reflection, I sometimes think I do take things for granted knowing that the West End is just there and that I could easily get tickets without having to plan very much well in advance.

And that is exactly what happened during the last Summer Bank Holiday weekend when I woke up feeling like I should take full advantage of the long weekend and do something. After a few messages exchanged with my friend, Sue, we agreed to head out into town to watch Kinky Boots the Musical.

At the time of writing, the show is still showing at the Adelphi Theatre, by the Strand.

I must admit that I watched the show with no knowledge of what it's all about, other than knowing that it is based on a true story and that the show is highly recommended by those who had watched it.

What enthralled me for the next few hours was definitely money well-worth spending. It had every element of what you would typically expect from an award-winning production; glitzy, glamour, humour, bright-bold-coloured costumes, emotions and life values.

I don't want to give out too much, but essentially, the storyline is rather simple. It's about a young man who initially had no intention of taking over the helm of his family business. He was put on the spot when his father died unexpectedly and he had very little choice, not only to lead the business but also implement changes to save the company from becoming irrelevant in the market.

The scenes changed from a humble shoe factory floor in Northampton, England to the glamorous catwalk runway in Milan, Italy, with a bit of London in between.

Kinky Boots the Musical is definitely worth a watch if you're planning a night out in London. It's hilarious, entertaining and with a cast that is so energetic, it's impossible to come out of the theatre not feeling exhilarated yourself.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Five Things I Love In Autumn

It seems that one is not a blogger unless one professes his/her love for Autumn season. Quite frankly, I am more of a lover of Spring. Blooming flowers, longer days, the prospect of summer, what is there not to love about Spring.

Having said that, I do see the attractions of Autumn. So today, I thought I'd share five things that I love about it.

1. Fashion | Fashion-wise, I absolutely love everything about the autumn season. Fluffy scarves, knitted jumpers, ankle/knee-length boots, and coats are the key fashion items that I love to bring out during the season. As I live in London, these are also the pieces that I usually invest in; compared to my summer dresses and sandals. It makes perfect sense given that these pieces are wearable almost eight months of the year. I also love the rich shades that they often come in. Navy, burgundy and camel are some of my classic autumn staple colours. This year, I am looking to replace a camel coat from Zara which is now 7 years old. I've worn it to death and it looks battered so I think it's time to let it go. I currently have my eyes on this one from Reiss because I also realised that I don't have a short jacket so this would be killing two birds with one stone.

2. Pumpkin Spiced | Growing up, I was never a fan of pumpkin but it has definitely made its way to become one of my favourite things. I first tried Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced latte probably two years ago, and upon the first taste, I wondered what took me so long to give it a go? It is so delicious, but due to its high sugar and calories content, it's not something that I would reach out to in spite its limited annual appearance. Instead, I tend to get my pumpkin spiced fixed through scented candles. After getting my hands on P. F. Candle & Co back in 2015 in NYC, I am now always on a hunt for a pumpkin spiced scented candles come autumn. While P. F. Candle & Co do ship internationally, I recently found a number of pumpkin spiced scented candles at my local TK Maxx and suffice to say, I bought enough to last me beyond the autumn season.

3. Holiday Gift Sets | Need I say more? Autumn leads to Christmas and this is the time when beauty brands showcase their best holiday collection. Beautifully curated palettes, shower gel & body lotion sets, miniature lipsticks, travel pouches, there is bound to be something that I fall in love with (if not everything). This is the time of the year that my bank account starts feeling nervous about my spending habits. Bobbi Brown is one of my favourite beauty brands and after going crazy over their Chocolate and Wine Christmas collection in 2016 (as well as their 25th Year Anniversary City Collection), I am looking forward to what will be in store for this year's Christmas.

4. Holiday Sales | Black Friday has now become global. I noticed that it started becoming prominent in the UK probably about three years ago - but oh boy, it sure is something that I very much welcomed. As someone who likes to think through my purchases, knowing that there are sales further down the line, is comforting especially for those nice-to-have instead of must-have items.

5. TV Shows | As the days become shorter and the temperature gets chillier, it's unsurprising that the idea of curling on the sofa with either a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of wine sounds very appealing. Even more so when you get to do that while watching the latest series of your favourite shows. X-Factor is one of my classic favourites. Scandal, Grey's Anatomy, Suits, Madam Secretary are the TV series that I follow, to name a few.

What about you? Do you love Autumn? And what about it that you love the most?  I'd love to know!

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy

It only took me about 12 years of living in London before I finally get a chance to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa right in front of my eyes. Every time I make a trip to Italy, I always had Pisa in mind. Unfortunately, it was either not within the vicinity of the area that I was visiting, or we are short of time to squeeze it in, despite knowing that Pisa is a rather small town with the main attraction being the Leaning Tower. 

So when I visited Florence at the end of July this year, I made a point that I will make a pit stop at Pisa so I could tick it off from my list of places to visit.

Getting to Pisa from Florence is easy. The train from the Firenze Santa Maria Novella station to Pisa Centrale could take between 45 minutes to an hour (depending on whether it is a fast / frequently stopped train), and there is a train approximately once every 30 minutes.

Pisa town is fairly small and I was told that it takes about 10 minutes to get anywhere within the town. I hopped into a taxi which took me to the Grand Hotel Duomo, where I stayed for one night.

The Grand Hotel Duomo is adjacent to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It has a roof top restaurant / bar which opens from 5pm onwards that gives you a spectacular clear view of the Leaning Tower.

Once you stepped out of the Hotel Lobby, you are greeted with a row of restaurants and shops. You are literally on the ground of the Leaning Tower. It is very convenient and safe, especially for those who travel solo. 

As I didn't get a chance to climb up the Clock Tower of the Duomo in Florence, I made it a point to go up the Leaning Tower. It does not have as many steps as the Clock Tower (approx. 400 steps) vs. circa 200 steps for the Leaning Tower. I took it slow and steady with plenty of time to snap photos of the sunset and the ground of the Leaning Tower. 

I have to say there was something about Pisa that I truly enjoyed, in spite its limited offering. I felt truly relaxed and calm whilst I was there. Maybe because it wasn't as busy and full of tourists as Florence. I genuinely enjoyed my time there, despite that I was there for less than 24 hours.