Staying Fresh on Bleeker St.

by Lullanotes on Sunday, October 20, 2013

We wandered into this pretty cosmetics and fragrance shop called 'Fresh' on Bleecker St. after indulging in Magnolia Bakery's cupcakes. There was a citrus fragrance emitting from the shop and it smelt all so lovely. It was again, by chance, that we found out that Fresh's makeup was used in the production of Sex and the City. I use Fresh's Lip Treatment myself and it was amazing. The lip treatment has a tinge of colour and it is uber moisturizing. I honestly have almost every colour in that collection except Sugar Petal and Cherry which are the new colours so I will be making my way down to get them soon! I bought them at Sephora in Singapore and Sephora has a section for Fresh products but seeing an entire shop in New York City is nice!

There's my friend at the counter paying for stuff.

The soaps are all prettily packaged.

Almost all the scents are amazing. I have Sake, Brown Sugar, citron de vigne and Hesperides. What pretty names!

Hesperides makes you smell like a grapefruit.

This is the Coral Lip Treatment which was a new colour at that time.

My favourite products in there are obviously the eau de parfum and the lip treatments. Some of the fragrances are also limited edition. I have a couple of travel-sized bottles that I take turns to bring around because I am obsessed with smelling good enough to eat.

To be honest, Fresh is a very dangerous shop. You start uncontrollably bringing things to the counter because they smell divine and you just want a piece of it. Evidently, other people feel the same. It has the hypnotizing effect of getting you to open up your wallet and extracting out a credit card ... and the next thing you'll remember is walking out of the shop with a giant paper bag.

388 Bleecker Street
between Perry St and West 11th St

Of Fish and Cupcakes

by Lullanotes

One of my friends staying in New York City recommended "Fish", a seafood restaurant on Bleecker St. So one afternoon, we made our way there with high expectations, hoping to get a good brunch out of crustaceans.

We ordered lobsters and crabs with chips but to our disappointment, the lobster was overcooked. While the crab was passable, the service staff had an unfriendly and impatient attitude despite the fact that the restaurant was not crowded so that put us off. Needless to say, we didn't enjoy our meal so we paid and left promptly. We were in New York City for a holiday and we didn't want to dwell in any kind of negativity so we didn't kick a fuss. We just wanted to get the hell out of there.

I found myself liking Bleecker St. There were rows of trees on both sides of the street, providing ample shade on a warm day and the street was lined with little shops with huge windows to peek into. Since we didn't have a big shopping budget to blow, we were mostly contented to just admire the jewelery and clothes on display. We did find some shops selling affordable jewelery and bought some to satisfy our vanity. At one of the road junctions, we came across a girl piping cupcakes so we just stood outside her window and stared at her. In retrospect, that must have been creepy and annoying for her.

Our sweet tooth directed us into the shop. After an unsatisfying meal, we needed to find solace in sweets. It was then I realized that we stumbled upon Magnolia Bakery, the very same one which saw Carrie and Miranda (in 'Sex and the City') sitting on a green bench outside the shop, eating frosted cupcakes and discussing Carrie's love life. This was an unexpected surprise and it is further testament to the fact that when Life gives you a bad Fish, find and eat Cupcakes.

Did you know ...?

Magnolia Bakery originally sold only vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream icing tinted pink. They were baked in the afternoons and iced at night when the bakery was officially closed. There would be many people (mostly guys heading to Christopher Street) walking by late at night and when Allysa, the co-owner, told them the bakery was closed, they would beg for just a cupcake. She obliged and thus the craze began.

T-shirts and shopping bags with their namesake are for sale.

They sell pastel-coloured sprinkles in jars!

Seeing these cupcakes cheer us up considerably.

The shop itself was pretty small and there was already a queue. People were snatching at freshly baked cupcakes the moment they were placed on the shelves. It is also known that sometimes the queue could result in a long line that winds its way round the block. Luckily the queue wasn't that ridiculous. We managed to buy 4 different types of cupcakes. There was a little park with green benches just opposite Magnolia Bakery and already, some seats were taken up by cupcake enthusiasts. We found a spot and sat down and dug into the cupcakes. The rich creaminess and sweetness of them made the day right again.

Magnolia Bakery was the only bakery we tried while we were in New York City so I wouldn't know how they fare in comparison to others but we were fans of Sex and the City. If Carrie and Miranda eat them, it's more than good enough for us.

401 Bleecker Street and W. 11th Street
New York

What's In My Carry-On Bag?

by Lullanotes on Thursday, October 17, 2013

I like to be prepared for everything, especially during long haul flights because I get bored very easily. I also feel very insecure when I don't have my essentials with me so I always made sure to pack my carry-on bag properly. It has everything!

1. Longchamp Le Pliage Tigre Large Tote ― With the amount of things I carry around, a lightweight and large bag is a must. It is crucial that the bag has a zip as well because I am klutzy and will somehow find a way to overturn everything. It is also very convenient to stash your bag under the seat as required by the airline.
2. Apple iPad Mini ― I load my 64GB baby up with TV series and movies. It also contains my subscriptions for National Geographic and Glamour magazines.
3. Amazon Kindle Paperwhite ― I have a lot of ebooks and since the Paperwhite has background lighting, I can read it even in the dark. I also have the Royal Purple Leather Cover. The cover is pricey but fits extremely well and well worth the money!
4. Samsung Galaxy Note 3 in White
5. Bose QuietComfort® 3 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones ― I tried out a pair The Boy lent me and I was sold! I had someone to help me buy them from an outlet in US because it is cheaper there. The ear sponges are soft on my ears and I won't get disturbed by crying babies and inconsiderate chatty people.
6. Apple iPad Nano 16GB in Pink ― They hold different genres of music according to my mood.
7. A pair of socks ― I wear sandals on flight and I keep a pair in my bag in case it gets really cold.
8. Two packs of tissue for when leaky nose strikes.
9. Charging cables for all sorts of gadgets.
10. Sony HX9V Camera
11. An empty waterbottle so I can fill it up at the boarding area.
12. A large warm scarf ― sometimes I use it as a head rest, sometimes it is freezing on the plane and I want to snuggle up to something.
13. Graphic Pouch ― This holds all my medicine and all sorts of knick knacks.
14. A pen to fill up any troublesome forms.
15. Wet Wipes ― for sticky situations.
16. Panadol ― in case of headaches or flu.
17. Vicks ― Once I was on a flight and I developed a sudden runny nose. I spent the next 3 hours in absolute torture with a leaky nose. Vicks keeps the nose together till you land.
18. Eclipse chewy mints ― keeps the breath fresh after a meal.
19. Rohto Lycee Eye Drops
20. Contact Lens
21. Kiehl's Face Moisturizer
22. Blistex Mint Lip Balm ― Come to think of it. I've used this for a long long time. Maybe 18 years!
23. The Body Shop's Blusher
24. M.A.C Studio Fix
25. Shiseido Facial Cleanser
26. Clinique's Chubby Sticks ― I have multiple sticks of these in different colours. I choose the colours based on my mood.
27. Nylon Make-Up Pouch
28. DKNY Sunglasses ― to hide unsightly dark cicles and stroll out of the airport like a superstar.
29. A miniature of Love Chloe's eau de parfum ― It smells like baby powder.
30. L'occitane Lavande Hand Cream ― I use lovely scents on airplane to keep myself feeling fresh and relaxed.
31. Salvatore Ferragamo Wallet ― my new love that I got on a 30% discount.
32. A bar of Chocolate ― I get a little low on sugar so that fixes me up.
33. Passport Holder ― I have this in Toile blue that I bought from a fleamarket. It can also be found here.
34. A small purse to keep foreign change in

#19: Shake It Up at Shake Shack

by Lullanotes on Wednesday, October 16, 2013

In the 1000 things to do in New York City, having a burger at Shake Shack took the spot at #19. There are so many movies which had Shake Shack at Madison Square Park as the backdrop. Just recently, I spied it again in "Something Borrowed". We didn't go with the intention of specifically locating the outlet at Madison Square Park because we weren't too sure of our bearings and we didn't know if it was going to be out of the way. It initially stamped from a simple desire to try the burgers and see if they were as good as some claimed. However one night in a taxi ride, we swished past the Madison Square Park and lo behold! We knew we had to sit and eat at the green benches with its incredible outdoor setting.

Madison Square Park was where it all began. Shake Shack was born from a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park created by Union Square Hospitality Group to support the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s first art installation “I ♥ Taxi.” The cart was a success and lines formed daily, so they re-opened for an additional two summers in 2002 and 2003. In July 2004, after being awarded the contract from New York City’s Department of Parks & Recreation and the Madison Square Park Conservancy to create a permanent food kiosk in the park, Shake Shack officially opened.
Going in the afternoon would be nice but going at night was almost magical with its fairy lights. It almost felt romantic but would have been even more so had we been there with our better halves but hey, I was there with my two girlfriends and it in itself was gratifying. The queue was pretty long and it took a while before we got food but consuming the juicy burger, the cheesy fries and washing it down with milkshake was like a heart attack about to happen. Because I am a crap food blogger, I shall leave you with reviews from TripAdvisor.

Although it was good, just as how all sinful food taste like but if you are anything like me, you believe in the power of ambience and company too. One bite sends you to gastronomic heaven but the collective energy of the crowd dining together with you in an outdoor setting as such brings you straight back to Earth to cherish this very moment where you are far away from home, in the city that doesn't sleep, living a life you thought you could only experience when you hit "replay" on a DVD.

I leave you with a dreamy, bokeh picture of Shake Shack.

The Wise Man Has Spoken

by Lullanotes on Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It was the eve of a public holiday so The Boy and I headed to the airport at night to lounge. We stay in the eastern part of Singapore and the Singapore Changi airport is very accessible from both our homes by car. Let's face it. Singapore is miniscule. Everywhere is accessible when the traffic jam doesn't hit. Except it does and quite a lot, especially on the eve of a public holiday.

It is so very coincidental that McDonalds was crowded (or maybe not that coincidental since it is always crowded). We then wanted to make our way to Swensens even though in our heart we knew that the queue is just going to be as dismaying but who should come out from the Arrival Hall was one of The Boy's longtime friend. He is an air steward and had returned from a flight. For the sake of convenience, we shall call him Mr. Wise Man.

Mr. Wise Man agreed to join us for coffee and we started to talk about his travels and also about luxury items in which The Boy had no idea of. He did occasionally contribute by wrinkling his nose in disapproval. In our conversation, we started talking about our biggest ticket item. For me, it was my Prada Bauletto Bag in Saffiano leather. For Mr. Wise Man, it was his Cartier watch. For The Boy, if we exclude the car, apartment and gadgets, he doesn't really spend on any big ticket luxury items. Because the Prada bag for me, was an expensive purchase, I've only brought it out once and even then, I found myself coddling it by not doing what I usually do - which is to leave it on the floor and I examined it for invisible scratches ever so often. Mr. Wise Man said something that made sense.

You should own your things and not let your things own you.

If it should have scratches, so be it. Things are meant to be enjoyed and used. There is no point to owning something and then baby-ing it because then, the fear of using it and accidentally destroying it becomes too great. There is much truth in that. There is satisfaction in knowing that books get dogeared and wrinkled because I've read it over and over again. I love the creases in the leather bags I've often carried around because every little crease is an indication that it has been used and over time, the leather bags grew a character of their own.

My preciousssss ....

So this is what I am bringing away with me today from our little chat. Love your things but learn to enjoy them too.

Strawberry Fields Forever

by Lullanotes on Sunday, October 13, 2013

It was summer when we first stepped into New York last year. I was going to Toronto for a work trip and I persuaded a friend to come along with the lure of free accommodation. Because we already flew halfway around the world to be in Toronto, we decided to make a stop in New York as well. It sure was tough trying to find an open jaw flight that was reasonable but we managed it. We didn't exactly go with an itinerary in mind. We just knew from the top of our heads that we wanted to go to Times Square, Central Park, Macy's (yes it was an attraction), see the Statue of Liberty (my wish, not hers) etc.

Summer in New York is warm and not unlike Singapore minus the humidity. We trotted about in breezy dresses, capris or shorts almost anywhere that didn't require a proper dress code. To go to Central Park in that weather was perfect. Central Park is a public park right in the centre of Manhattan. We talked about buying a picnic basket, filling it with goodies and cheese and then going to Central Park to laze for a good part of the afternoon away but in the end we got lazy and just went without the said basket. Central Park, due to New York's good weather, was crowded .. and smelly. There were a lot of horse carriages lined up to be hired for rides so we shuffled along, hoping to find quieter spots. We came to the road junction of 72nd Street and Central Park West, I saw a pretty building and took a picture of it. Little did I know that that building turned out to be "The Dakota", famous for two things: its exclusivity and John Lennon. John Lennon was shot four times in the back just as he was entering The Dakota.

Because John Lennon and Yoko Ono loved being in Central Park, strolling and doing what lovers do, a 2.5 acre teardrop-shaped area of Central Park was sanctioned off in John Lennon's memory and his crusade for Peace. The entrance to this area is directly opposite The Dakota and named "Strawberry Fields" after one of The Beatles' song.

We ventured further in and managed to find a lovely shady spot and that's where we threw down our bags, took off our shoes and started lying on the grass, not believing that we actually made it to one of New York's most famous attractions. By a stroke of luck, we also found Le Pain Quotient, right next to the Sheep Meadow and that's where we bought crusty almond croissants, berry fruit tarts and iced lemon tea to feast on while we laid back on the grass to either watch the sky, read our Kindles or people watch.

Le Pain Quotient is a restaurant group founded in Brussels in 1990. Its Central Park outlet can be accessed from the entrance of the 69th Street and has been ranked as "one of the best things in New York City". It serves organic bread, vegan ice-cream and pre-packaged picnic boxes. You can check its opening hours here.

One couple sat pretty close to us and brought their puppy and the puppy was so fascinated with us (more precisely, our almond croissants) that he sat with us, good as gold, his head cocked to one side and his eyes soulfully staring at our bakery treats. We got permission from the owners to feed him and he must have ate an entire croissant on his own. An hour later, some Central Park guards appeared in the vicinity and upon seeing them, the couple scooped the puppy up, popped him into a Balenciaga carrier and made off. There are some rules about bringing your dog to Central Park so I guessed they just wanted to avoid trouble!

In the early part of the evening, tired from all the reading, we packed our shower curtain (which we used as a mat) and started walking around. We stopped for a good while to watch the rollerskating dancers and this is an event open to everyone I believe. They rollerskate to the music and some even carried their own sound system as they skated. It seemed like very good exercise to me, except that I am a complete douche at rollerskating.

Some of them are part of Central Park Dance Skaters Association (CPDSA)

Lovers ― boating on the lake, basking in summer warmth

Central Park is a lush green sanctuary in the middle of the busy Manhattan. You can walk into her leafy embrace away from the hustle and bustle of city life to find a spot of peace. If you think people who hang out at Central Park are just regular park-goers, you should go experience it for yourself. There are many colourful characters literally and metaphorically in Central Park and it is they who lent the vibrancy to "just another big park" otherwise that made it uniquely New York.

When you are in Central Park, it feels like a different place ― a place away from the city but yet still in the heart of it all.

1 Remember to pack a mat to sit on, if you do not fancy frolicking on the grass.
2 It is a good idea to first find out where the restroom locations in Central Park are before setting base at some deserted ground.
3 Find out what activities are going on in Central Park so that you can coincide your visit. There may be some orchestra performances.
4 Set aside a few hours at least to go through the motion of what New Yorkers do when they want to take a breather.

Unexpected Surprise

by Lullanotes on Wednesday, September 25, 2013

There is something liberating about sky watching. The wide expanse of sky makes me feel that my heart has to stretch further and wider too just to take the sight of it all in. I love to watch out for interesting cloud formations and gauge if there is enough blue in the sky to make the sailor a pair of pants. I know I sound completely dopey with the last sentence but those who had been an Enid Blyton fan would have known very well what I meant indeed.

It was one of those Sundays that I thought I was going to be going through the humdrum of a regular Sunday activity - laundry when I glanced outside the window. What I saw made me drop my clothes and raced for the phone camera and I captured this. Fast as it came, it was gone within the next five minutes.

Picture unfiltered by Instagram

Somewhere, someone knew I had a lifelong desire to see the Aurora Borealis but it is not quite the time to fulfill my dream yet ... so it brought Aurora Borealis to me.

The Ultimate Curated Wardrobe

by Lullanotes on Wednesday, September 4, 2013

If I have a small closet and I have to pare down my wardrobe to the absolute essentials, with the space to comprise only things I love to wear, this would be it - The Ultimate Curated Wardrobe. 80% of this curated set are things I actually own, a scant few are on my wishlist, like that gorgeous pair of YSL ballet flats. When I was creating this set on Polyvore, I kept thinking that one day if I have to live in a foreign land and I couldn't bring all my stuff, what would I bring that would fit into a luggage?

I am really satisfied with this list and perhaps I could add in a white shirt or so but I would still survive without one. The unfortunate thing is that after creating this, it seems like I don't need as much clothes as I think I do and the current wardrobe is starting to look confining and excessive.

Not One But Four Loves

by Lullanotes on Sunday, September 1, 2013

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
― C.S. Lewis, 'The Four Loves'

Revisiting An Old Favourite

by Lullanotes on Monday, July 22, 2013

I love my designer bags, accessories and clothes as much as a lot of other women I've seen. As much as the neighbour down the corridor likes her plant, as much as the man in the nice shirt loves his shiny car and as much as my mother whoops in joy at supermarket sales. It's frivolous, I give you that but honestly, I find no shame in it. I work hard to finance my desires and I will not justify that it is a good way of spending hard-earned dosh but it's my money, I am allowed to be careless with it (but I want to assure you I wish I didn't).

No, it is not a post at flaunting whatever little I have. I've been using designer wallets for a long time because I always feel that if I have to splurge on designer anything, wallets are the best cost-per-wear items to own as one doesn't change her wallet everyday and usually it lasts for at least a good 2 - 3 years if not much longer. However I've been looking at minimizing the things that I bring outside with me. I used to step out of the house carrying the world with me in a giant tote. In this huge bag, you could find every single convenience from batteries to another pair of flats and extra underwear to full size perfume to a plastic fan. Since then, I've come a long way and managed to pair down to the absolute essentials ‒ iPad, mobile charger for my constantly dying phone, minimal makeup kit, keys, phone and a wallet. I even managed to squeeze these into a crossbody bag ... except for the wallet. I had these thick, fat wallets and my love for leather didn't help.

It was frustrating because although the leather was soft and smoochy and the brand shines through in uniformly spaced out letters, it was something I felt I could scale back on in size on but foolhardily refused to. Anyway, to cut the long story short, there came this day I just wanted things to be simple. I just wanted to bring out a fully charged phone, a wallet and house keys and stuff them into this mini clutch so I dug around, found the Coach Poppy Graffiti Wristlet that a few of my friends had given to me for my 30th birthday and decided to use it.

Instead, I found Freedom. The purse was utilitarian. It had a large zipped compartment which consisted of 4 spacious card slots and a coin compartment. There was also an exterior slot and it had straps. The spacious card slots were important because I had to carry my debit and credit cards, personal identification card and some discount cards. Each card slot could fit 2 cards at least and the last one could probably fit four. For the bills, I just put it in the main compartment and my coins are neatly stashed into the inner zipped compartment. The outer slot was important for putting my subway card which I used to lose on a very regular basis because I would not put it in my bulky wallet with my other cards. The best part is of course the detachable straps. Even if I had an abyss for a bag, I could detach the straps and hang it around the handle of the bag and never lose my wallet in my mess again. It was patent and I never feared getting it dirty because just a wet wipe would clean it up very nicely. All those crap stuffed in the little pink purse and it didn't look like it held the universe. It was still slim and sleek plus I genuinely also love it for the sentimental value. I stopped using my other more expensive wallet but I didn't miss it, especially now it fits perfectly into my smallest of bags and I didn't have to juggle a bowl of noodles, a drink and on top of it, a bulky wallet during lunch.

Maybe the same applies in Life itself. Perhaps we overthink the amount of things we need in our life and over-emphasize on what we thought was important and how others look at us. It turned out what I was looking for in a wallet wasn't something prestigious or even extremely well-crafted in the finest material. I was looking for something useful, befitting of my lifestyle and the sentimental value was only a reason to love it even more.

How Do Women See Themselves?

by Lullanotes on Monday, May 13, 2013

The first time I saw this Youtube video by Dove, I like it a lot. The main reasons being:

1. They are not trying too hard to sell me, as a viewer, anything. So that in itself, I feel, gives them a lot more credibility. If they had ended with something remotely like "Buy Dove to make your natural beauty shine through!" (yes I made it up), I would have trashed the video and not give it any more thought.

2. It has a really positive message behind it which is asking women to look at themselves more kindly and honestly, I don't think people do it enough. I am guilty of this too.

3. There was attention to details like the fact that they didn't just engage a random artist to sketch but an FBI trained forensic artist who is used to sketching based on descriptions and have tons of experience in that area.

It was also interesting to see other people's point of view regarding the video. jazzylittledrops felt uncomfortable because she felt there was too little diversity in the choice of their subjects and which I tend to agree. I would have appreciated if they also used someone who is on the bigger side or someone who is awkward etc ... you get my point. She was also disturbed that one woman at the end said "I should be more grateful of my natural beauty. It impacts the choices and the friends we make, the jobs we go out for, they way we treat our children, it impacts everything. It couldn’t be more critical to your happiness." and she felt that too much emphasis is placed on the physical appearance and we all know that how we are as humans and the roles we play to others are so much more than that. I don't feel quite the same in this aspect. I think the sentence "I should be more grateful of my natural beauty" is not only pertaining to external beauty but also the outlook that she views herself. Because she has a lower sense of worth in her physical appearance, she is riddled with an inferiority complex that affects how she deals with people and the world. I know I've done things like dressing myself up for no special occasion or putting on a new lipstick colour and telling myself I am beautiful on random days and it just felt like the day is sunnier, I walk with a spring in my steps and I smile more easily. On the days I think I look crap unpresentable, it ultimately made me feel bad about myself and the day was spent trying to avoid contact with people and rushing home earlier to wallow in my own company.

(No offense to you I hope, jazzylittledrops! It wasn't particularly meant to single you out but your post gave me food for thought.)

Why don't you watch it and judge the video for yourself according to how you feel? I know I spent some time thinking on what I would have told the forensic artist if I was the subject of interest.

He's There! The Phantom of the Opera

by Lullanotes on Wednesday, May 8, 2013

You are crying! You are afraid of me! And yet I am not really wicked. Love me and you shall see! All I wanted was to be loved for myself.
Gaston Leroux, 'The Phantom of the Opera'

I was fourteen when 'The Phantom of the Opera' came to Singapore. My best friend then, let's call her WL, asked me if I would be interested to watch it with her. I remembered that the Category 1 tickets were about SGD128 then and Category 2 tickets were at SGD90. Being in secondary school and having parents who did not understand my interest in musicals and frankly with no means to meant that I could only afford Category 2 tickets on my own then. I did not blame my parents one bit. My father was the sole bread winner and I have no doubt that they would have given me the money had they known I wanted to see it that badly. But paying for my ticket would also mean they have to scrimp and save in other ways. We tried to buy our tickets too late and by then, the only tickets available to us were the Category 1 tickets. I gave up watching the musical, telling myself that it will be back someday and I would make sure that by hook or by crook, I would get to watch it then.

Time passed by - WL and I graduated from our secondary school and went our separate ways to other institutions. She left Singapore to further her studies. She had always excelled academically and is ambitious of what Life can offer. I started work earlier than my peers and at this very moment, we are no longer friends. We lost touch, due to differences I am afraid to say, was largely my fault. I read and re-read the book till I could lift paragraphs out of it. I met my first boyfriend and fell in and out of love a few times. During particularly emotional nights, I wept, remembering of Erik's selfless love and how he died lonely and broken. I worked for different establishments. I dabbled in religion till I stumbled out of it and still, 'The Phantom of the Opera' was as elusive as his namesake, keeping me out of reach. It was to be a twelve years wait. It finally made its re-appearance in Singapore in 2007 and happy to say, I was already earning as an adult by then. I bought the most expensive ticket the day tickets went available for sales. I dressed myself beautifully and went off to the theatre to watch in rapture but what an agonizing wait it had been! Besides climbing The Great Wall of China which I had already done in 1996 on a school trip, watching 'The Phantom of the Opera' became the next biggest thing in my bucket list that time. Even if it had never made its way back to Singapore, I would have found a way to London.

'The Phantom of the Opera' is making its comeback from July 16 to August 11 this year so if that is in your bucket list, go grab your tickets from Sistic. I had already bought mine before it went on sales at Sistic. Even though I've watched it, a compelling love story that is my favourite musical still holds its undeniable magnetic appeal. Maybe one day, I will find myself seated in a West End theatre.

Sydney April 2013 Round-Up

by Lullanotes on Sunday, April 28, 2013

I was in Sydney last week for a very short work trip. I arrived last Sunday noon and had very little free time but was still very glad to squeeze in an afternoon of dim sum lunch at Fat Buddha and coffee with Kevin and his family. Kevin used to work in the same company as me about 8 years ago and that was how long I didn't see him or even knew he moved to Australia and started a family. The funny thing about friends sometimes is everyone could be busy with their own lives and not see each other for the longest time but when the moment comes serendipitously to meet again, the heart is still full of gladness, particularly knowing that the other person has done well in life and is happy and that was exactly how I felt when I spent the afternoon with him and his family again. It made me humble and grateful that I had the opportunity to travel and have friends in different parts of the world. Also, I've heard that prior to my arrival, the weather was gloomy and cold but the few days I was in Sydney, the weather was sunny, bright and so beautiful.

View of the Sydney Opera House from Waterfront Restaurant at Circular Quay

Watching the buskers perform at Pitt street on a Sunday afternoon

I also did the two favourite things I wanted to do in Sydney.
1. Eat the delicious pippies in XO sauce with fried vermicelli at Golden Century Seafood Restaurant.
2. Have a drink at The Baxter Inn.

Photo taken from
393-399 Sussex St,
Haymarket NSW 2000, Australia

I was first introduced to these amazing pippies in XO sauce after a particularly heavy night of drinking which left everyone craving for supper. You can ask for fried vermicelli as an add-on and the thick, slightly hot XO sauce soaks its way through the crispyness of the fried vermicelli. The pippies are bigger than what I could have in Singapore. They are sinfully succulent and juicy and it was not difficult to work through a kilogram of them because you just want to keep going! I can't imagine it would be healthy to have so much of it.

Photo taken from The Vigilante Photographer's flickr
Basement/152-156 Clarence St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
I may not be a whiskey connoisseur and in fact am very far from it. I like whiskey teamed with ginger ale or green tea and I have been accused of "bastardizing" the finer points of whiskey many a time but hey, to each their own right? The Baxter Inn is located near to Four Points by Sheraton Hotel and one night, my coworker brought me there and we had to walk through a dark alleyway where there was a bouncer who studied us critically before motioning us to climb down a flight of stairs into a dimly-lit basement. I remembered replaying the word 'dodgy' in my brains and was ready to bail anytime I smell a rat ... but the moment we passed through the doors, it felt like I had walked into a different time into a different space. It had transformed into a 1920s saloon and all that was missing was me dressing in glitzy flapper dress holding a jeweled clutch with sleeked back hair and pearls around my neck. The "Wall of Whiskeys" was impressive and I had literally no idea what to order when my turn came so I settled for just house whiskey with ginger ale and watched in fascination all night as the bartenders climbed up and down a wooden ladder to access whiskey bottles placed as high as the ceiling. Because it always felt as if I had gone back in Time in The Baxter Inn, I made it a point to try visit everytime I am in Sydney and one day, I will turn up in glittery wear no matter how odd that may seem.

The work event ran on quite smoothly and I did my fourth attempt at public speaking. I was shaking with nerves initially but after facing the crowd for awhile, the nerves did go away and I retained my composure. I definitely could do better but I was just proud of myself for not letting nerves get the better of me. I suppose the important thing about public speaking is to practice and practice and bravely volunteer at every opportunity you get and one day, you will get used to it. In the meantime, I will keep practicing and going!

Well, something else also happened at the event which had never happened before but I am not ready to talk about it yet so ... we'll leave it for another day and another time. With the ending of the events, April is also about to come to an end. Travelling twice in a month especially even if one is leisure and the other is work is just too tiring and I have never been more glad to stay in Singapore and chill out with friends.

Goodbye but I'll always be a Glamour Girl

by Lullanotes on Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I read the GLAMOUR magazine on and off — that is to say I read it when I have the ability to subscribe and starve off when I don't. In fact, I had let most of my fashion magazine subscriptions lapse for nearly a year, keeping only the subscription for National Geographic on my iPad. Recently Groupon had a promotion whereby you can get twice the amount of credits for what you purchase so I just paid twenty-five bucks for a fifty dollars credit. Not bad.

With that, I renewed my subscription for GLAMOUR and came across this final article by Louise Mensch for GLAMOUR as she leaves her column in a bid to keep it all within her plate for two upcoming books, a national newspaper column, her fashion blog, a spot of TV and her three kids.

Be a GLAMOUR girl in life. If I could leave you with one thought, it is this; you do not have to be like everyone else. Be ambitious. Intern. I did, and got a job in the record industry off the back of it. Spend Sunday afternoon sending out applications for dream jobs you think you have no hope of getting.

Don't slide into marriage with that guy you're seeing who you quite like and have been dating for ages, but don't love. You'll be miserable. The man who makes your knees weak and your palms sweat is out there. Don't settle for a roommate. Travel insatiably. Find cheap flights and go off on a whim on a long weekend to the cheapest destination available at the last minute. See plays. Network. Look around you, right now. Are you content with your town, your flat, your life? If so, great - if not, do something about it.

Start a blog. Read self-help books. GLAMOUR is not just about Oscar winners in golden gowns. It's about a big, beautiful, daring, ambitious life - the future is out there waiting for you to take it.

Yes, sometimes one can get a little deflated dealing with the everyday on-goings, particularly if 'everyday' is not a great day and why should it be? We all know enough that life is not a bed of roses, a box of chocolates whatever. Obstacles can seem so insurmountable at times and it's little reads like these even if it originates from a magazine, quotes you've come across from the internet, from Facebook even at the right moment right time that injects you with an extra dose of adrenaline to spur on and energize you to take another step.

Takeaway Notes from my Japan Trip with Mama

by Lullanotes on Monday, April 15, 2013

One of the few blooms left of the sakura at Ueno Park, Tokyo

Late last year in December, my mother and I decided to go to Japan for hanami. 'Hanami' (花見) is the Japanese traditional custom of viewing the beauty of flowers. We then booked our airtickets early with Delta to get the best pricing for even as early as December, hanami tours were already booked out and hotel availability is scarce in central locations. It was the first time I've truly travelled alone anywhere overseas with her and because I did all the planning so that it felt as if I was going on a solo trip. These were some thoughts that ensued.

1. We've been to Taipei the year before to visit my two aunties living there but since we had the constant company of my aunties, it never really felt that we were travelling with each other. Rather, it felt like a group tour for most part which I quite enjoy because I had no responsibility for her travel experience. The good thing that came out of this trip was obviously the fact that both of us survived unscathed. My mother could be frustrating to deal with sometimes and I also don't have enough of a placid temperance to match but it was very satisfying to see her marvel at seeing Mount Fuji and the sakura, some of the things she really wanted to see in her life so all the preparations and minor disagreements fade away in lieu of seeing that glow on her face.

2. Complete strangers are not always scary. I am never really the kind of person who finds it easy to make small talk with people I do not know. I may come across as being aloof but it is really shyness at work and possibly the fear of making myself look like an imbecile the moment I open my mouth. However I let myself go in this trip and talked extensively to two strangers I met. Jo is from Laoag, Philippines and arrived one day after me. She put up at the hotel I was at in Tokyo and I started the conversation because we were both wearing the same outfit - a denim shirt and leggings. With Jo, the conversation was all about our "bucket list" to do before we die. Jo planned this trip for her big 30th birthday and she really wanted to see the sakura so I also told her the best place to view them seeing how Tokyo wasn't cooperating and sakura bloomed way earlier despite me doing a five year trend analysis. Denise was an older lady from America and she was on the same Mount Fuji/Hakone tour as us. The coach ride to Mount Fuji and back took 2 hours each way. Denise and I found ourselves seated next to each other, talking a lot about her children and places she had been. The funny thing is with the both of them, I didn't feel the need to keep in touch although it would have been nice if we had too. They are, like I am to them, passer-bys in the passage of Life.

3. When it comes down to travelling with the Mother, it never hurts to over-prepare the itinerary down to details on what transport to take and how to take them and also plan in plenty of rest time no matter how fit she claims herself to be.

4. You don't necessarily have to spend a lot to have a great time. It was one of those trips whereby I was not bogged down by my consumerist tendency and also spent very little on food because as what a friend described, my mother has a chinese palette and didn't particularly enjoy experimenting. She was happy just eating corn dogs (which the Japanese actually called them 'American dog') and instant noodles bought from FamilyMart, her two favourite food on this trip even though I've brought her to try tempura, ramen, katsu karē and tonkatsu bowls at proper restaurants.

Although I had a good time with the Mother, I still find myself questioning my tenacity for another trip with her and wondering if it would be better off leaving it to the hands of a tour agency the next time round.

The Art of the Bricks

by Lullanotes on Thursday, March 21, 2013

All pictures shown above are instagrammed by yours truly

Nathan Sawaya left his job as an attorney to pursue his dream as a LEGO artist. He is to date, the only person ever to be recognized as both a LEGO Master Builder and a LEGO Certified Professional (Yes I know I am talking about 'certifications' even in my blog world). His exhibition is now showing at Marina Bay Sands' ArtScience Museum. I had never played with LEGO bricks in my life and let my imagination run wild creating something by hand. The most vivid memories of my childhood was really me picnicking in my flat by the corridor holding tea parties for dolls, the way Enid Blyton described it. Building LEGO is just not something I do since I had limited exposure to it as a child and as an adult, but instead I expended all that energy into reading books and re-creating book scenarios instead. LEGO bricks is to Nathan Sawaya like books are to me. The only construction tendency I have is how big and grand I would like my future library to be. However because I suck majorly at the artistic endeavour, I am all for supporting people who have the flair and the balls to make art their living.

Read more about Nathan Sawaya here.

The English Patient

by Lullanotes on Wednesday, February 6, 2013

We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on by body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography - to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.
― Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

Better Bought Than Baked

by Lullanotes on Monday, January 28, 2013

Photo taken from Pick Yin
I am a person who has never baked much in life. Baking doesn't repel me but since young, I was forbidden to make a mess in the kitchen so I was kept out of it most of the time. Even though I am all grown-up now and my mother does not stop me from using the kitchen anymore, there is still the mental hurdle that I should not dabble in the kitchen. In fact, I quite like the idea of baking - filling the kitchen with a lovely smell, having loved ones sample my food with joy, being proud of the fact that I can be domesticated .. but the brutal truth after Sunday was .. perhaps I am not going to be as fond as baking as I would ever like to be.

Our friend Greta invited us over to her place to bake pineapple tarts together on Sunday and some of us even stayed over on Saturday to have a pyjamas party. Ever welcoming, she even queued 45 minutes to get a box of Loong Fatt *Tau Sar Piah so that we could have it for tea.

For a start, it is near Chinese New Year and going shopping for the ingredients was a hassle. There was a huge trolley traffic jam in NTUC Fairprice Xtra supermarket and one could barely move in the crowd so the best cause of action was to really have someone 'jaga' (guard) the trolley and have the others sprint to other aisles in search of the necessary. Pre-made pineapple tart filling was also out of stock due to its popularity.

Back at the apartment on Sunday, we had to knead the dough, let it settle, prepare the pineapple filling, roll it into evenly sized portions, use the mold to cut into the dough, oil the pans, heat the oven, glaze the pastry and the list goes on. In total, I think we took about 5 hours excluding cleaning up. Given that we are not mass producing, the cost and effort going into making our own pineapple tarts seem to work against us. It is officially much cheaper to buy than make your own. All of us also looked worse for wear - greasy, dishevelled and fatigued.

I have therefore concluded that you need to have stamina to bake good pineapple tarts as there is a lot of preparation and standing involved. Respect to hawkers and bakers as it made me experience first hand that cooking and baking for prolonged period is no mean feat. No more pineapple tarts making for next year! Instead I think we shall have a tea party with bought tarts in comfortable couches.

*Tau Sar Piah is a teochew biscuit, literally translated as 'Bean Paste Biscuit'.

The Sacrifice

by Lullanotes on Monday, January 21, 2013

Karl Lagerfled's stupendous and wonderful library is to be envied

I was at home on Sunday, with no prior engagements and when it became too tough to look for a pair of lost sportshoes in the storeroom, I started hurling things out with a vengence, determined to do some cleanup.

The thing about the storeroom is that once something goes in, it rarely makes its way out since most of the time after that, you conveniently forget its existence. Just like the printer I had from way back in 1998. What was the state of art in its time had now been termed anything from being obsolete to vintage to trash. I have some kind of an underground library going on in the storeroom. That is the only place left in my cramped apartment that I can afford to still keep the books. I also wanted to go through my books to decide which one to throw and which one to keep. When I first picked up the love for reading years and years ago in my childhood, I already had the vague idea that there is nothing more beautiful than to pass a well-loved book to your child in the future, hoping that he/she will love it as much as you once had. So with this, the books collection started flourishing. Being an only child also meant that you had all the time to indulge in a world that ensures you are never really alone with the characters in the books.

Of course when I grew older, the books collection started dwindling because you get a job, the work life starts taking over. You start to date. Real dates because it is unhealthy to date any character in a book and then the momentum of social engagements pick up .. and there seems to be so many other things more important than reading. Although I read less frequently but I still had the habit of trying to read before bedtime so reading 2 books or more a month is still possible.

Then came the iPad and with it, a wonderful app called "Flipboard" which tailors news feed according to your interest. Suddenly you reach for your books less and less - literally what I call 'losing the touch'. And then I received an Amazon Kindle as a present and all hell broke loose. I saw the Kindle essentially as a saviour. If I had the room, I might even have a pedestal so I could gaze at it reverentially and deferrentially. I saw the Kindle as my answer to the pain of having limited space in life for books and the thought of being able to access so many books at my disposal while on the go is something that I could never have done with the real deal. I have never looked back since although I know that purists say that it is a different feeling to hold a book in your hand and feel your fingers run through the spine and the pages. I agree but I also have to be realistic.

Coming back to the books in the storeroom, I found it so hard to discard any book. I held it in my hand and the memories started flooding back - of me lying in my bed late at night refusing to succumb to sleep because I wanted to finish it, of it following me to countries on the plane. Every dogear or crease on the book meant that I had given a part of myself to it and it became incredibly personal. I still kept my Enid Blyton books because I relished the thought of reading my children to sleep in the future if I am ever so fortunate to have some to call my own. In the end, I gave up. The carcasses of the few books I forced myself to strew on the floor depressed me. I guessed in order to throw out books, you need to tidy up your nostalgia and put on a mask of ruthlessness to drive it to completion which was something I wasn't prepared to do yesterday.

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