Sunday, 15 July 2018

Summer Spotlight - The Past, The Present and The Future

Hi - I am back! And yes, things were rather quiet in here. But here I am about to share what I had been up to, what are the things that are currently occupying my life and what I have plans for the future.

I was away from mid-June for three weeks to visit the family in Malaysia and to attend a wedding in Adelaide, Australia. Initially, I had every intention of keeping the posts going, but I decided my time is better spent with my loved ones - not that my blog is any less important. I simply decided to prioritise and make the most of my time with my family and friends, especially that I only see them once a year.

The first two weeks of my holiday flew by very very quickly. Totally understandable. I flew Emirates from London with a transit in Dubai before arriving in Kuala Lumpur. Only to repack for Adelaide four days later with a transit in Changi Airport. By the time I arrived in Adelaide, the first week of my holiday was gone!

The wedding in Adelaide was absolutely stunning. Held at the Chateau Tanunda, in Barossa Valley with only 100 guests, it was intimate yet was a fun-filled evening with most guests partying until it was carriage time.

After the wedding, my family and I headed to Adelaide City Centre for a few days before heading back to Malaysia, again via Changi. By the time I arrived back in Kuala Lumpur, my second week of holidays was almost over.

With only just over a week left, it was a rather whirlwind pit stop with so many friends and family to see before I head back to London. I realised that no amount of days and weeks will ever be enough when it comes to spending time friends and family, but it was nothing short of amazing!

Aside from my holiday, I recently finished watching the Season 1 of The Bold Type on Amazon Prime. The series centres around the lives of three friends, working in a magazine publishing company based in NYC. It showcases the trial and tribulations as they navigate their lives in the Big Apple both on personal and professional front. I truly enjoyed it and already on board with Season 2.

I am currently reading Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind, upon recommendation from one of my friends. I have to admit that it's not the kind of book that I would personally pick up, but the recommendations were so convincing I thought there is no harm in expanding my reading genre. I started reading it today and I have to say I am progressing well, albeit it's still early days.

In terms of what's next - sadly I have no holidays planned for the second half of the year, which probably needs to be resolved as soon as possible. August is my birthday month, so that'll keep me busy for a bit. And work-wise, the big question is what do I do post my secondment? If you don't know what I am talking about, you can read about it here and here.


Sunday, 10 June 2018

New In - Valentino Rockstuds Ankle Strap Pump

I know I am super late to the party. Mainly because I never knew that I am a studs kind of girl. However, over the last few months, I have been lusting over the Valentino Rockstuds Ankle Strap Pump.

Even more so after seeing three of my friends chose these beauties as their wedding shoes.

I mean, if they can wear them all day and all night long - from the registry to the photography session to the evening reception, for their first dance and beyond, surely these shoes are comfortable.

So I started mulling over them. And the more I think about it, the more I feel that there is a space for the Valentino Rockstuds in my life.

As though luck was on my side, yesterday, after a beauty treatment in Harrods, I decided I should wander into the Shoes Heaven. And lo and behold, with the UK Summer Sales is on the horizon, I found a pair of the Valentino Rockstuds Ankle Strap Pump which was on a 30% markdown. They are in the shade of pale grey and 10cm in height.

And just like that, I am now a proud owner of the Valentino Rockstuds Ankle Strap Pump and I can't wait to wear them as these babies are definitely coming with me for my upcoming holiday.

The thing about them that attracted me the most is how versatile they can be. I can imagine myself wearing them with jeans to elevate a simple casual look, to add a bit of oomph to a formal work attire and of course, they are perfectly suited to be worn with dresses for a more formal evening look.

What do you think of them?

Sunday, 3 June 2018

June - General Life Update

Could someone explain to me how is it that it's June already? Didn't we just experience the unexpected 'Beast from the East' in March?

But who am I to complain? The weather has been glorious and it genuinely feels like we are in for a good summer this year. Apart from the occasional rain, I feel like I've had proper sunshine since April, which is a lot to be grateful for when you live in England.

At present, my social life has taken slightly on the back seat because I am observing Ramadan, the holy month in the Islamic calendar. Fasting in the summer month is challenging, to say the least, as the days are long and the weather is hot. It is without a doubt that coffee is the one thing that I miss the most, followed by my cardio classes and my social activities. I still do my pilates classes, I just make sure that I do movements that are relatively easy for my body.

To make up for the lack of social activities, I have been spending more time reading. I've just finished reading 'A good time to be a girl' by Helena Morrisey, who also happens to be one of the Executive Management in the company that I work for. The book challenges how businesses have dealt with diversity in the past i.e. by making women behave like men to get to the top. Instead, it sets out what we could achieve if we embrace the differences which is what diversity is truly about. It is not aimed as a war against men, but look to embrace the differences for the greater good of everyone in the society.

I am currently on my next book 'Gravitas' by Caroline Goyder which focuses on communication with confidence, influence and authority. I am still in the early stages of the book and I am already liking it. It starts with knowing yourself, finding your centre (just like Pilates!) and finding your voice. As you know I am a big believer in self-affirmation so I have a feeling that this book will resonate well with me. Let's hope so.

Aside from reading, I have also been doing some shopping. Most of the stuff are not for me, although a few pieces of items slipped through the net(!). Like this multicoloured striped top, this geometric print dress and this mini dress with pearl beads, all from Zara.

Oh if I haven't mentioned, I will be heading to Kuala Lumpur to see my family from mid-June for three weeks (say what?!). So actually most of the things I have purchased are for them. If you're feeling nosy, I've shared bits and bops that I have purchased below.


Sunday, 27 May 2018

Bicester Village - A Luxury Designer Outlet Accessible From London

 If you are anything like me - loves shopping and luxury designer goods - chances are you would have already heard of, if not visited Bicester Village, the Designer Shopping Outlet in Oxford, but easily accessible from London. But if for any reasons you haven't, then you are about to be introduced to the wonderful world of shopping for luxury designer goods at a slightly discounted price.

I have been visiting Bicester Village for years and years. I've taken the train and driven there. I've been there on my own as well as with friends, not to mention, taken visitors to the UK for a shopping trip as though Bicester Village is one of the must-visit tourist spots in the UK. Well, it is! If you love shopping and a bargain.

So today, I thought I'd put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and spread the love about Bicester Village. Sharing is after all caring.

Getting to Bicester Village from London is easy peasy, even if you don't own a car like me. There is a direct train from Marylebone Station which will arrive directly at Bicester Village. The journey is approximately 45 minutes and there are 2 trains per hour. An off-peak same-day return ticket is about £26, which is not cheap but not overly expensive either. On all accounts when I've gone to Bicester Village by train, I simply purchased the ticket from the ticket machine at Marylebone station on the day of travel. So far it hadn't caused me any issues.

However, if you are planning a trip involving 3 or more people, I would suggest considering to drive there. And if you don't own a car, the one day rate of renting a car, if split by the number of people going, would probably make the travel cost per person more economical. But for a solo trip, taking the train is the way to go.

The list of luxury designer brands continue to evolve, and I suspect it will pretty much dependent on demand, and popularity. I would always check the website for the most up-to-date list of designer shops. Some of the ones that I keep going back to and have somehow managed to find goodies from include Dior, Gucci, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Burberry, Tod's, Max Mara, Celine, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bally, Anya Hindmarch, Reiss etc. Other than fashion designers, I also love going there to score discounted items from The White Company and Le Creuset. Previously, there was a Wedgwood store but it seems to have been closed. In the past, brands coverage also include high street brands such as Coast and Hobbs, but I no longer see these brands during my recent trips. As I said, they do chop and change their brand offerings from time to time.

Whenever I take visitors to Bicester Village, I often tell them two things to manage expectations and to avoid any disappointments.

1. Always go with an open mind as the stock availability vary. Not only that, the offer / discounted prices also vary depending on the time of the year. Further discounts on the already discounted items are often offered during the Boxing Day/Christmas/January sales and during holiday seasons i.e. Easter or Summer. Some trips I come home with fairly minimal items and at other times, I came home as a winner. Some of my most memorable purchases include a Classic Lady Dior (Carnage) in Black & Baby Pink (for my sister), a 100% wool Anya Hindmarch winter coat, a pair of knee length winter boots and two pairs of ballerina pumps from Bally, a Celine Boogie, just to name a few. But if you compare the prices at Bicester Village to the original RRP, you will get some savings and the travel costs is pretty much funded by the savings.

2. The prices are not entirely cheap, cheap. What I mean by this is that most of the brand items are sold within the 3 digits price range and some luxury items would be close to the 4 digits range (e.g. cult handbags). So don't expect to get things as cheap as what you pay for from the Next Sales or at Primark. These are after all luxury designer goods and one of the main reasons why they ended up there are because they are off-season, no longer in style or being discontinued.

Food & Drinks
Energy refuelling is an absolute must if you want to keep going with your shopping expedition. Just like the luxury brands, there is nothing short when it comes to food in Bicester Village. There are restaurants for those who prefer a sit-down meal, there are grab and go such as Itsu and Pret and there are also pop-up kiosks throughout the Village in between the outlets for a spot of coffee, ice cream, pastry (including Laduree) and wok noodles and middle eastern wrap.

So if you haven't been to Bicester Village, I would highly recommend to check it out. You might be surprised with the gems you may find there.

I hope you're having a fantastic Bank Holiday weekend and hooray to no work Monday. x

Sunday, 20 May 2018

NOLA - New Orleans, Louisiana

One of my main highlights from the month of April is the trip to New Orleans, Louisiana. Not only because it was my first time there, but also, a very much needed and welcomed break as I was already at the brink of a burnt out given the last holiday I took was back in October 2017. Yes, I had time off work during Christmas and Easter but I stayed in London during both occasions as there were too much going on the work front.

I didn't know much about New Orleans - my travel buddy wanted to include it as part of our trip and I went along. I went with zero expectations and was completely ready to soak up new experiences that the City has to offer.

The trip definitely improved my prowess of the City. It has so much to offer - a mixture of history, culture, music and food - which is amazing!

If you know anything about New Orleans, you'll know that The French Quarter is one of its famous areas. As the name suggests, it got its name from the historical French ownership. Most of the building was built pre-1800. I was completely smitten and obsessed with the French-influenced architecture within the area. Intricately designed cast iron balcony was everywhere and they simply took my breath away.

New Orleans is also known as the birthplace of jazz as during the 19th Century, it was the only City which allows slaves to own drums. Until today, jazz music is still very big in New Orleans and it is the only place I've been where jazz could be enjoyed during midday in the middle of the street. How amazing is that?

Bourbon Street is the main strip of the City and if you are into partying, this is where you should be heading. Personally, it is not my preferred area to hang out at. I am sure things have changed over the years, but the current Bourbon Street has become too over commercialised with rows and rows of bars, strip and burlesque clubs and the music was loud, even during midday. By all means, do check it out as it is a big part of the Big Easy experience. But afterwards, when you ready for more tasteful jazz music and drinks, move away a street or two from Bourbon Street and you may find some hidden gems. The two that I stumbled upon and went back twice were Muriel's (by Jackson Square) and Beignets Cafe.

Jackson Square is another historical landmark and it overlooks the Mississippi River with the grandeur background of the St Louis Cathedral. You will also find plenty of street artists and psychic readers within the vicinity of the area. There are horse carriages which reminded me of the Central Park in NYC. There is also a big Cafe du Monde at the corner of Jackson Square if you fancy tucking into some beignets (yet another French influence).

The City is rather easy to navigate and can be easily done without necessarily requiring a tour guide. But if prefer to experience the City with guides, there are many walking tours available. I did the French Quarter History walking tour. Others which are available include The Swamp Tour and The Ghost Tour which are not my cup of tea.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Medium Classic Lady Dior Handbag

Could we please take a moment and appreciate what a stunning masterpiece this beauty is? She is the latest addition to my handbags family.

Considering that Dior is the first luxury designer that I became aware of and that it is my favourite IT bag, I can't believe it had taken me this long to find the perfect the medium-sized Classic Lady Dior bag.

The wait may be long but it she the perfect one for me.

And here's why.

First and foremost, I always knew that I wanted a Classic Lady Dior handbag in grey, because, if you had read the history of Christian Dior, you would know that grey is his favourite colour. It is muted and neutral and it pretty much goes with almost any colour.

Secondly, I wanted a colour that is classic and timeless.

Having said that, the medium-sized Lady Dior is not an everyday bag. Therefore I don't see the point of getting it in black. Furthermore, I already own a Classic Chanel Flap in black with gold hardware. Yes, they are different bags but I don't want a duplicate or redundant colour in my collection, especially given the amount of money I had to part ways with.

But there was something about the classic grey shade that Dior brings out year after year. The shade simply doesn't speak to me - trust me on this - I had tried and tried the Lady Dior handbag in grey so many times in the boutique.

But when I saw this Classic Medium Lady Dior in the Blue-Grey shade, I was pulled very strongly towards it. As the name suggests, it has a grey undertone but with a hint of blue in it. Because of the grey undertone, it still falls within the neutral muted shade category.

Therefore I didn't feel that I had completely lost the plot. In fact, I feel that I could make the shade work with most of the items in my wardrobe - which is a very important factor whenever I invest in any luxury items.

The versatility of the bags also played a role in my decision-making process. It can be hand carried for a more formal look, used as a crossed-body for a more relaxed look or worn in the crook of the elbow which works both formally and a relaxed look.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

My Happiness Boosts

This post is entirely inspired by the one published on The Elgin Avenue. After reading her article I totally got on board with the simple concept of 'happiness boosts' and upon reflection, I came to a realisation that happiness boosts are often little things that make me happy and content.

So today I thought I'd share my very own list of Happiness Boosts.

First up is without a doubt, coffee. Especially the very first one of the day. I simply love the ritual of popping a Nespresso capsule into the machine and smelling the coffee aroma as it is being prepared and finally sitting down and enjoying the first sip.

A clean, neat and well-organised home. I always struggle to focus when I am not on top of my home organisation whether knowing that my fridge is stocked with delicious goodness, the laundry is done or that everything is in its place and home. Having fresh flowers around the house is a bonus too!

Well-manicured nails. I am unfortunate to have dry and hard cuticles which means that I need to keep up with my manicure and pedicure routine because looking at dry & brittle nails just drives me insane. Not good for the mental well-being.

Freshly changed beddings. That feeling when you first lay down on a newly changed bedding! Need I say more?

(Window) shopping. I love love love pottering or wandering around the high streets or department stores and feasting my eyes with new items that recently hit the stores. Being surrounded by beautifully designed and crafted shoes and bags and tailored clothing simply makes me happy. I don't even have to bring them home.

Brunch! Sweet or savoury and even better when I have it with my best friends. Doesn't matter if the conversations is a fun, full of laughter or deep-meaningful one (or a combination of all). Brunch and best friends are simply the best combinations.

Pilates and barre classes. My two ultimate favourite fitness classes at the moment.

Sunshine. Growing up in the Far East meant that I had taken the effect of warm sunny day on the well being for granted. Now I fully understand how the lack of Vitamin D could affect one's moods and happiness.

Feeling empowered and content.

A quiet me time catching up on my favourite TV series, favourite social media accounts or mastering a new piano piece.

Have you thought about your own Happiness Boosts? Do share below! x


Sunday, 29 April 2018

Ways To Inject Healthy Habits Into Your Life

If one your resolutions was to be healthier this year, and you feel like you haven't up your game enough, don't be disheartened by the lack of progress. Instead of continuing procrastinating, these are some small steps you could take to kick the ball rolling. I am a true believer that you don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.

1. Wake up slightly earlier than your usual time and embrace the me time by doing what you truly enjoy. This could be as simple as reading a book, sipping the first cup of coffee or watch the sunrise from your bedroom window.

2. Make your bed. It will make your room looks neat and organised. I once listened to a speech which says 'If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed". It symbolises the first task completed and the first accomplishment for the day.

3. Instead of reaching out for your phone first thing when you wake up, do a gentle stretch such as the cat stretch or the downward dog yoga pose. If you fancy, you could also spend the first 10 minutes of your day meditating.

4. Drink water. Preferably on an empty stomach. I prefer mine to be slightly warm to fire up the digestion. Water with lemon is also good and refreshing.

5. Eat breakfast. Instead of grabbing a croissant on the way to work, start your day with a bowl of porridge. Or as the weather gets warmer, an overnight chia pudding or overnight oats. They are easy to make, tasty and the best thing is there is hardly anything to do in the morning as all the prep work had been done the night before.

6. Keep hydrated. Drink 1.5 to 2 litre of water every day. Even more so on hot days and especially when you work out. You can also eat your water. Food such as cucumber, celery, and melons are not only tasty and refreshing, they gives a boost of hydration too.

7. Claim your lunch time. Yes, it's easy to simply grab a sandwich and have your lunch at your desk. Instead of doing that, why don't you walk around the block, or if time is on your side, book yourself to a lunchtime fitness class. Your mind will be clearer and you will feel more rejuvenated afterwards.

8. Snack on nuts and fruits. Instead of getting chocolates or crisps from the vending machine.

9. Practice mindfulness. Be in the present. Don't multitask. Put the phone down when the TV is on. Have dinner at the dining table instead of on the sofa while watching TV.

10. Practice gratitude. At the end of the day, reflect on how your day went and what worked for you and what didn't. Think about the things that you're grateful for. If your day didn't go as well as you'd hoped for, don't beat yourself too much. Be kind to yourself. Afterall, tomorrow is a brand new day. So start over.


Sunday, 22 April 2018

How I Plan What To Pack For A Holiday

Seeing that I have an upcoming holiday at the end of this month, I thought I'd do a quick round-up and share a few tips on how I plan what to pack for a holiday. This method is personal to me and has always worked in the past. If there are things that have worked particularly well for you, feel free to share below!

Deciding the luggage. This is the first step to my packing. Which luggage I ended up using is highly dependent on the total number of days for the trip. For a trip up to 3D2N, I often can fit everything I need in a hand-carry size luggage. For trips longer than 3 days but up to a week, I tend to use a medium size luggage and anything longer than a week, like when I visit my family, then the large luggage comes out from the storage.

Check the weather. The weather app becomes my best friend about a week before my departure. Yes, the forecast may change, but it gives me a general idea of the outfits I need to take with me. Or if I need to bring an umbrella with me. Or covered shoes instead of sandals.

Consider planned activities. In addition to weather condition, what I plan to do and how I plan to spend my time away is another deciding factor for choosing the outfits.

Outfits planning. I start by making a list of the days that I need to pack for. I include travel days too. I do this so I know if I need to pack additional elasticated trousers as I am not a fan of flying in jeans especially for flights that are longer than two hours. I clearly mark my planned activities day by day so I don't make the mistake of packing more dresses and heels when what I actually need is more shorts and a pair of trainers. While I don't assume that I will be going out out every evening, I will throw in one or two fancy dresses and shoes for the fancy happy hour cocktails or dinner in the evening.

Revisit the colour palette. To minimise the number of items to bring while maximising the number of outfits can be created I make sure that my outfits are either from the muted/neutral colour palette. Typically these are black, white, grey, navy blue, tan. I then add a pop of colour such as red when it comes to accessories when completing the looks.

Complete the looks. I find this part is the easiest once the outfits have been decided. I will know if my outfits need a camisole, a belt, a clutch, a hat etc. Shoes wise, I tend to bring either a pair of sandals in tan, a pair of comfy sneakers if I am expecting to walk a lot and a pair of flipflops for seaside or pool. As far as handbags go, a crossbody is my preferred choice as it frees up my hands for the camera.

Lastly, and this is very personal to me, I always, always, bring my own hair-dryer. I blow dry my hair every time after a hair wash and I need a superpower heat blasting hair dryer. The one that you typically get in hotels which are attached to the wall by the sink simply doesn't do it for me.

I hope you find these tips useful and do share other tips that you may have up your sleeves down below.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Why SLGs Are Great and What I Use It For

Small leather goods, otherwise commonly known as SLGs are not only useful but also can be an affordable way to start your luxury designer items collection. I remember perfectly, the first luxury designer item I purchased was a Christian Dior Long Wallet. They are functional and are not as expensive as buying classic designer bags. So if you have a limited budget to play with, SLGs are a great place to start.

SLGs are also a great way to add more colours to your luxury designer items collection. Due to their price point, I tend to be more adventurous with colours when purchasing SLGs. While my luxury designer handbags tend to lean towards more functional, classic, muted and neutral shades, my SLGs collection tends to have more vibrant, bright and colourful shades.

So today, I thought I'd do a round up of the SLGs that I have in my collection and what I use them for. Some of the items are no longer available as I've had them for years, but I've tried to include links to similar ones currently on the market.

The Salvatore Ferragamo Key Holder in Black was received as a gift from my best friend many many years ago. It has become my everyday staple as it can hold so many keys. Attached to it are the entrance FOB to my apartment building, the key to my apartment, mailbox key, a key to my desk drawer at work and the security pin pad for my bank accounts. I still have a slot or two available for additional keys, if needed. I never truly appreciated the practicality and functionality of a key holder until I have this. When the key holder is closed, the leather actually holds the keys together which means you don't get any key scratch marks on the inside lining of your handbags or other items such as your phone. It also stops the keys from making jiggling sound when you're out and about.

The next two items are from Liberty Collections, which is a great place to score beautifully designed yet functional SLGs and accessories. They have a wide range of goods such as passport holders, card holders, long wallets that come in a variety of their iconic Liberty design print. What I have here are the Medium Pouch and Coin Purse in Blue Iphis Canvas. I use the Medium Pouch as a travel document/ passport holder when I am travelling as well as at home. This ensures that all my travel documents are kept in one place and I simply need to grab the pouch when I am packing for a holiday. I also keep a pen in there which often comes handy to fill-in those landing cards when needed. I don't know about you, but I tend to carry a Long Champ Le Pliage bag when I travel as they are roomy and lightweight but the bags don't have any internal compartments. This often makes it difficult to find things, but keeping my travel documents in a pouch has been a life saviour. I know where my documents are and can access them in a jiffy!

The Coin Purse is the newest addition and while I thought of getting a different design initially, I decided to get the same design. Not only they look cohesive together, but also they look like they come in a set. Due to its versatility, I will not use it as a coin purse as I am not one who keeps my coin in a separate purse - they never get used! But I do have a number of store cards/loyalty cards which are taking up a lot of space in my wallet, so I decided that I want to keep them in this pouch.

The Prada Business Card Holder in Pink is also another item received as a gift from my best friend. It is rather small and slim but fits my business card perfectly.  Another cardholder that I own is from Salvatore Ferragamo in Yellow which I use to keep all the cards that are essential but not used or needed on a daily basis. These include my insurance policy, National Insurance, blood type cards.

Finally, while not a luxury designer item, but I thought I'd mention it here is the Cath Kidston travel card holder. I use it only for my Oyster card and it's perfect for my every day use - it's made of canvas and basically cost nothing so my cost per use must be negative right now :-)

So if you have not ventured into the world of SLGs, I highly recommended it. There are a plethora of options available out there. Trust me, once you start using them, you will start to wonder how did you survive without them all this while.