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Archive for the ‘Shopping’ Category

Shopping in Singapore can be traumatizing for us non Asian ladies. How many times have we walked into a store to be told some version of “Too big, lah.” Or how many times have we ordered the XL to realize that’s likely the equivalent of an XS in our home country. If you need proof, the online expat forums are full of tearful tales of women made to feel poorly (perhaps inadvertently) about themselves for their size.

Swimsuit shopping can be particularly hard on us ladies on the best of days, much less while doing it in Singapore where sizes run small and most salesclerks are not trained to deal with our Western customs for commenting on body sizes or the general sensitivity needed in addressing us when it comes to our size.

Add pregnancy to this equation and I knew that I was in retail trouble.

My only semi fitting bathing suit was wearing thin and when you live in Singapore, having a working bathing suit at all times is imperative.

I started doing some research and sites like Honeycombers raved about August Society. I know how PR works when it comes to brands and internet promotion, so I approached it with some healthy skepticism.

I stalked August Society like an ex boyfriend for a few weeks. I knew they had a great return policy with free shipping and returns in Singapore, I knew the bottoms and tops were sold separately, and that many designs can be mixed and matched. However, at $89 to $119 SG for individual bottoms and tops and no idea what my body would look like post pregnancy, I still could not take the plunge.

That is until I received a standard $50 off code in honor of SG50. “OK,” I thought, “let’s try it.”

I’m super glad I did. First of all, since I am pregnant, I can later just buy an individual top or bottom as needed when my body does change again. Second of all, the suit is super cute and good quality. Third of all, the customer service was FANTASTIC.

Best of all: I promise you they’ve given me nothing to tell you this and they had no idea that I had a blog to rave about them on.

Toni at August Society was not only super responsive, she went above and beyond when I wanted to trade a size up for the bottoms, making an exception in time schedules to send a courier to my house with my newly sized bottoms before I took off for the long weekend.

So thanks, Toni and August Society for making an 8 month pregnant lady feel nice not only while wearing a bathing suit, but while purchasing it as well.

augustsociety

8 months pregnant!

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I never thought I would spend much time in Wichita, Kansas. It just wasn’t a place that was on my radar. However, in the last two years I have found myself in circumstances that have required a few extended stays there.

My first visit to Wichita was over a weekend and included a Saturday visit to a diner, an airshow, a wine bar and a club. By Sunday I felt like I had done it all and after a wander in a more than dead downtown, I gave up and spent the rest of the day watching HBO.

However, a few more visits had me scratching beneath the surface and finding a community friendly to an admittedly hippie soul like mine. Here’s what I found so that on your next visit you can skip the HBO and hit the ground running.

Food and Cafes

While a few restaurants and cafes offer vegetarian or a “healthier” option somewhere on the menu (examples Public or Anchor) I found the real standouts to come down to Lotus Leaf Cafe and The Garden Grill. Both are located downtown and have hours that vary during the day with Lotus Leaf closing early some days and Garden Grill closing for dinner completely on some days. I suggest checking the website before heading that way. Garden Grill’s menu is strictly vegan and there’s often a buffet but I find ordering off the menu preferable. Lotus Leaf offers plentiful vegan and vegetarian options with meat options interspersed on the menu, making it easy to convince a carnivore to come with you if they are hesitant. Both have amazing smoothies and juices.

Speaking of juices and smoothies, I would be amiss to mention that Wichita now has it’s very own Whole Foods on the east side of town. I arrived in Wichita after a few days in Austin, Texas, where Whole Foods is headquartered, and I can’t say that the Whole Foods in Wichita is comparable in item selection to stores in say Austin or Denver, but it does offer a decent takeout selection and loads of other options.

If you are just looking for groceries (and perhaps you are a bit disgruntled at the Whole Foods scene), The Natural Grocer has been around a while in Wichita. Their takeout selection is not so great, but you can get all the yummy groceries and supplements your heart desires!

Yoga Studios

All that food got you geared up for a nice stretch? I hope so because holy crap, yoga classes in Wichita only cost about $10 US a session. Do you know how much they cost in Singapore? Anywhere from 25 to 55 Singapore dollars (that’s $18 to $40 US).

My previous trips to Wichita have had me spending a lot of time with Adrian and Whitney at Siva Yoga. Formerly located downtown, you can now find them in the just east of central neighborhood of College Park. While I enjoyed their flowy classes in a warmish 80 to 85 degree room in the past, this trip I was second trimester pregnant and the thought of being in a heated room, even if it wasn’t Bikram hot, made me want to gag. (Listen to your body, yo!)

This led me to the even more east of central studio, Central Yoga, which is named after it’s location on Central Avenue. First, I hit up the community acupuncture sessions which cost a mere $15. The sessions are drop in, so you don’t have to be exactly on time for Dr. Vicki Dukes, DC to align your qi with her tiny little needles. I left floating on air, came back the next day for a fantastic aligned flow class with Keriann and later that week for an awesome prenatal class with the very knowledgeable Sally Beckett. If you are more into alignment than warm flow, Central Yoga is a great option.

Shopping

If you’re looking to do some shopping, I’d skip the often bragged about Bradley Fair and check out Watermark Books, an independent book store in College Park and RELove, a shop on Woodlawn that sales repurposed furniture and also holds classes to teach you how to repurpose a great find yourself.

Outdoors

While I can’t say I spent much time in nature while in Wichita, I can say that the river area through downtown is nicely kept and good for a stroll or run.

Live music

Live music seemed to radiate from bars and restaurants downtown in the summer evenings. Try Oeno Wine Bar for a start with relaxed jams while you sip a Pinot.

That’s all I have for now on Wichita. Got a secret tip? Let me know in the comments. xx

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A cure for what ails you

Photo taken at a Chinese Medicine Shop near Ghim Moh Market, Singapore.

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I prefer not to shop at Court’s as I’ve had my share of frustrations with their customer service, but I do like to check their pricing on big ticket items.  That’s why I ended up looking at this ad on their website for a Samsung washing machine and found this beautiful piece of marketing.

Like a diamond, the Diamond Drum Washing Machine is long lasting, caring, beautiful, and is an expression of most woman’s want.

That’s right, ladies. Court’s knows what you want. It’s diamonds and washing machines. List it right above equal pay, joyful expression of the soul, and a house in the Dolomites- or on Sentosa Island if you prefer.

Maybe if you are lucky you will meet a man who can give you both a washing machine AND a diamond.

With that, I am headed out to buy a washing machine. Because sadly, even conflict-free diamonds can’t get my clothes clean.

Editor’s note: My local electronics store sold this washing machine for $455. That’s $44 lower than Courts. That includes delivery, installation and disposal of the old one.

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Oh no! They’ve closed the Singapore Carrefour! Both of them!

Panic. Where am I going to get things?

“Imagine not having a Walmart or a Target to go to,” I tell Leslie back in Texas.

“Yeah, I could see how that would be annoying,” she says.

It’s not that either of us like or philosophically support Walmart, it’s just that sometimes it becomes a necessary evil.

“Can’t you order things online?” Leslie asks.

“No,” I sigh. “Some things you can, but its not like they have an Amazon here.”

“Can you Yelp it?” she suggests.

“Nope no Yelp either,” I answer.

Hopefully someone more business-minded and less lazy than myself will see this as an opportunity.

But alas, this may be an overreaction. Afterall, there’s always the Mustafa Center.

In the heart of little India and open 24 hours, it’s 75,000sq ft of random and not so random items, a hotel, café and supermarket. It is the place to go to buy tomato soap, an engagement ring, an ipad and an eye massager all at 2 am on a Tuesday, emerging three days later after a sensory overload induced psychosis has finally run its course.

That’s right, I said tomato soap, not soup. And yes, an eye massager as well.

Eye massager. Multiple varieties available.

Did you think I was kidding?

In the spirit of Diwali, maybe I’ll head down to little India. Since I’m there anyway, perhaps I’ll pick up a curry, some aspirin and a new laser printer.

If I’m not back by Friday, send a search party out.

Editor’s note: Yelp has answered my plea! Or maybe I was mistaken in the past. Seems like some Singapore places are rated on the site. It’s a start.

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If you’ve been around London and paying any vague amount of attention, you’ve probably heard something about the Designs of the Year exhibit at the London Design Museum. What? You’ve never heard of the London Design Museum? Well I guess neither had Justine when I suggested we go one afternoon, so scratch that first sentence.

It’s in a slightly undesign-y looking building near Tower Bridge on the Thames. In fact, it is housed in a former 1940’s banana warehouse, but this all to change with a slated 2014 move to the former Commonwealth Institute building in west London. The museum covers product, industrial, graphic, fashion and architectural design and was a brainchild of Terence Conran, who coincidentally has an exhibit dedicated to him on the entire first floor. The museum costs £10 for adults to enter, which feels a bit expensive in a city full of free museums, but is totally worth it if you are a design geek. Being slightly artsy with a background in product design, I felt like I fell well into this category. As for Justine, she had an upcoming date with a design and art book publisher, so naturally this would aid in the development of dinner conversation material.

Along the River Thames near the Design Museum

The current museum consists of only two floors, but to be honest this was perfect for my museum attention span. When I find myself at places like the Victoria and Albert or the British Museum, I try to see to too much and end up heady and overwhelmed. The Design Museum with a cup of coffee in the cafe and a peruse in the gift shop can easily be done in 2 hours.

As I mentioned before, the entire first floor was dedicated to Terence Conran. At the time, I had no idea who this bloke was, but turns out that’s because his contributions are so woven in to the London experience that I had been influenced by him without even knowing it. The  designer, restaurateur and retailer promoted a whole new style of interior design simplicity that reverberates today across the globe. Looking at his designs, I started wondering what things had looked like prior to this ubiquitous genre. “Like an old Granny’s house,” Justine had to remind me. In my head I tried to contrast clunky wooden furniture with heavily upholstered thick florals next to sleek clean lines and curves. Obviously I’ve spent too much time in London and not enough time at my Granny’s.

Clean Lines at the Design Museum

Teapots

In 1964 Conran opened the first Habitat and later went on to develop Heal’s. He was revolutionary in his displays as they were set up like actual living rooms, which not only taught people how designs could be arranged, but also allowed them to wander in and out of possibilities imagining them as part of their everyday life. I’m reminded of this scene from the movie 500 days of Summer.

And while we are here, shouldn’t we mention Ikea? Being founded in 1943, I can’t say that they’ve necessarily taken from Conran’s concepts, but clearly they must have influenced each other. Ikea, however, being more disposable and therefore a further step away from Granny’s living room.

Justine and I compared back and forth which Terence Conran restaurants we had been too. Most were a bit too expensive and highly appealing to the West London set. Nice area, but not quite what I consider innovative. But then again, there was a day when the King’s Road was full of Mary Quant innovation and Vivienne Westwood appeal. Funny how things evolve.

We next headed upstairs to view the 2012 Designs of the Year where my definition of design continued to expand and expand until I wasn’t quite sure what a designer is or does anymore. There was everything from a bicycle helmet that activates and extends only upon impact to a computer software program that mutates an image of your face into a creepy facsimile. Also included were an electric car, DIY design jelly shoes and elements from Kate Middleton’s wedding dress. In April, judges will chose seven winners from Architecture, Digital, Fashion, Furniture, Graphics, Product and Transport categories and one overall category winner.  I couldn’t even begin to guess who the winner would be. I left with my head spinning from so many ideas.

The Design Museum is located at 28 Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD and is open daily from 10am – 5.45pm. Last admission is at 5.15pm.

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Since my move to London, my wardrobe has had to go through a harsh adjustment. The winter months were tough as I was  always cold and absolutely clueless on winter fashion. The summer months are difficult for another reason. The ladies are out in their spring dresses and flowery clips while I am still in full trousers and a jacket. Yet again, I am always cold.

In Texas, I developed a summer uniform. 60 consecutive days of 40° C will drain the effort out of you about the same way that too many days of dreary 5°C weather will. All you want is a short hike and a lovely cold spring to jump into. Hence, you travel light. Black tank, bikini, Reef flip flops. Before you leave the house, you check your pocket for your wallet, phone and keys. Sunglasses rest on your head. You are out the door headed to Barton Springs.

Let’s compare that to London spring/summer fashion. All of a sudden I’m not travelling very light anymore.

Rachel, a fellow former Austinite, was visiting a few months ago and commented on London street fashion. “It looks great, but there’s no way I could even think of putting together some of those outfits. It’s like they just keep adding things and somehow it works.”

And indeed, I believe that’s how it’s done. That dress is beautiful, but it’s way too cold to be wearing it. Let’s add some tights and a jacket. Also- those shoes? Impractical for commuting. Let’s put a spare pair of flats in your humongous bag. What else is in the bag? Well, first of all the sunglasses you aren’t wearing. An umbrella, because you never know when it is going to rain. Then your oyster card, a book for your commute, plasters (bandaids) for when your shoes give you blisters, your gym clothes because there’s no way you are making it home and then back out again after your day, a snack, and of course, phone wallet and keys. This is a minimum.

It’s taken a while for me to get this down and to accept the fact that the window for summer wear is so short. I think I’m finally getting there. Now if I could only figure out how to lug this bag around without having to see an osteopath later.

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