My 2016 journey. The good and the bad

Thursday, 5 January 2017

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The Journey

I was moaning to the husband recently about my lack of progress in my professional life when he stopped me. He reminded me that I started out in October 2015 with 5,000 followers on Instagram. By January 2016, my numbers were over 10K. Exactly a year later, it stands at 44,900. I was so focussed on nitpicking my faults and lack-ofs that I forgot to see the big picture.

The growth happened organically, albeit with a few strategies put in place by me to improve my entire feed. I learned as much as I could about Instagram. Literally whatever I can get my hands on including putting myself out there to network. The latter wasn't as easy as I'm not exactly the most sociable person. It also grew by leaps and bounds, thanks to a lovely lady called Siobhan who founded the famous Instagram account called Pretty City London and featured my work on many occasions (Thank you, Siobhan. I'm eternally grateful!). It was mind-boggling to think a couple of my images drew more than 10,000 likes each.

I started collaborating with Hero to run Smartphone Photography workshops. A huge thank you to all who'd participated. More feedback were relayed to me so we decided that the final workshop was to cater specifically to businesses who wanted to incorporate Instagram efficiently as a marketing tool. I was blown away by the enthusiasm of all the participants who were so keen to learn that they happily stayed back for an additional 45 minutes.

Some clients wanted one on one customized sessions so one thing led to another, I started a small consulting business. Again, it wasn't something I'd set out to do beginning of the year. I took on more photography projects working with some of the most inspirational women (check out Online Stylist and Lois Avery) and brands that I personally like.

I'm still a long way from achieving my goals but I've learned that it's the journey, not the destination that matters. I remember hearing a talk by Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter who drew a graph of her path to success. It was nothing like what everyone has imagined, a slow but definite upward trend. It was a scribbled mess with no definitive pattern. Yet, if you looked from afar at its 10 year performance, you'll see how many milestones it has reached.






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Harsh words and dealing with difficult people


In the past year and a half, I've heard my share of harsh words, from raging obscenities, torrents of abuse to outright disbelief that I'd amount to anything. It's even more difficult when they're from a family member and close friends because you take their rants to heart.

What upset me was their sense of entitlement. Their "I'm more important than you"mentality.  They take no responsibility over their verbal diarrhea. The fact that others have had to deal with the emotional scars from their many tactless tirades. That it's ok to throw tantrums when things don't go their way and screw anyone who happened to stand in their path. Because they're ALWAYS the victim. The words thank you and I'm sorry aren't even part of their vocabulary.

The very act of tearing another person down is often a sign of deeply rooted insecurities hidden behind a veil of arrogance.

The thing is I hate confrontations and I deal with them very badly. My first reaction tends to be flight rather than fight. I go mute and then tears start to form. And then I hide in my she-cave for weeks to recover. It's taken me this long to finally grow a thicker skin, to stand my ground calmly and apply a little wisdom. I had to make the tough decision to not let the toxic relationship continue. That's a difficult thing to do if you're a people pleaser, which basically means you're everyone's dogsbody.

It's normal to disagree. After all, we're all made differently. There are ways to compromise and work together without belittling the other.


"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly."  - Proverbs 14:15.






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Health Issues


I've been blighted with a number of severe IBS episodes (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). It's been a year of adjusting and readjusting my diet, sometimes on a daily basis. I've re-introduced some food types back into my diet carefully with some success. However, a few slices of dried mango brought me to my knees followed by a 12 hour non-stop of pain, vomiting and being close to passing out cold on the floor. It took another week of bland congee diet (and barely anything else) before the low level pain was just about tolerable.

I am thankful that it's IBS, not cancer. I've had a friend who succumbed to cancer unexpectedly and another who has just been diagnosed a couple of weeks ago. My health issues, in comparison, are minuscule and controllable with careful dieting. In fact, thanks to IBS, I'm even more careful with what I put into my mouth and my diet has improved tremendously as a result.



What did your 2016 journey look like?




**All photos taken with iPhone 6S Plus



Favorite things during the Christmas season

Wednesday, 14 December 2016
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I'm a late adopter of Christmas traditions in the U.K but I'm making up for lost time. I'm still not used to the excessive gift buying as we've never really exchanged presents during Christmas. The idea was rather foreign in my early years in Borneo. I see the immense stress and financial strain some of my friends have to deal with here. That was enough to confirm that it wasn't something I'd ever want to emulate.



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However, I'm obsessed with Christmas tree decorations. Each and every single decoration on my tree represents an experience my family and I have had in the past. Say, the Eiffel tower encased in a snow globe. I've had many precious memories on my numerous trips to Paris. Ditto with the handmade embroidery of Winchester Cathedral in town.

There's nothing more enchanting than sitting on the sofa on a cold winter's night with the candles lit, Christmas carols playing in the background and lights twinkling on my Christmas tree. Simple pleasures.



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I picked up this handmade nutcracker from the Christmas market. The word art and craft make me break out in hives so I wasn't going to say no when my friend, Eileen, a talented florist asked if she could make a wreath for me.

I rarely bake these days. No baking means no eating. Hence, little weight gain. Yup, vanity. I decided to take the easiest route by just buying gingerbread cookies, all perfectly iced so that I don't have to deal with the mess. Chowing these beauties down takes a minute but it takes hours just to ice the darned things. I've noticed that the pricing at Biscuiteer is a little different at the store than online. The nutcracker and ballerina set cost £7 in the store but £10.95 plus shipping online. They're expensive but it's worth the cost just to see happy faces when they open the box to see the unexpected gift within.

What are your favorite things during the Christmas season?















Hong Kong, New Zealand and Indonesia in 6 weeks

Thursday, 22 September 2016

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3 countries in 6 weeks was madness when you equate that to a total of 8 flights and 62 hours up in the air. I'm going to condense all that in.......a single blog post.




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Onboard the Aqua Luna. Probably the most relaxing thing we did in Hong Kong. They have these day beds on the upper deck where you could kick back and chill out with a glass of complimentary tipple. The light breeze and gentle rocking of the boat as it sailed from Tsim Sha Tsui pier to Central was enough to put my jet lagged self to sleep.





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The real Hong Kong.




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The make believe Hong Kong........I mean Disneyland. The girls (Lil L and her cousin) LOVED it while their mothers looked like death warmed over. 36˚C heat and high humidity are a killer combination. Not to mention lots of strategic maneuvers to deter a few fierce mainland Chinese tourists from jumping the queue MULTIPLE times and pushing our kids away from us. Scary.



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I can't help but heap mega compliments on the amazing Crystal Lotus restaurant at Disneyland Hotel. The service, setting and beautiful chandelier...... I had to make a reservation and pre-order these special character dim sum. Not cheap but definitely worth the splurge. The character dim sum weren't only beautiful to look at, they were absolutely scrumptious. Just don't get the jellies...... They were kind of meh....

The staff really went out of their way to ensure that certain ingredients weren't added into my food. This is a lifesaver for those of us with severe food allergies or intolerances.






Next up.............New Zealand



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It'd been 5 years since I've been back home to New Zealand. There were lots of catch-ups with family members and old friends, some of whom I haven't seen in 20 years.




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I decided to take my parents and Lil L on a road trip, traversing through the Mackenzie Country on the alpine route to Queenstown. The journey took an extra 2 hours (a total of 8 hours) because we HAD to stop here and there to gawk at the stupendous landscape with snow capped mountains in the background. My parents and Lil L had just discover photography so all three disappeared in a flash the minute I stopped the car. Okay, okay.....so did I.




A quick flight from Christchurch to Auckland and then onwards to Hong Kong with an overnight stay before yet another flight to Jakarta AND a shuttle to Bandung. Yes, I'm feeling exhausted just reading this too.




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A makeshift cafe utilizing recycled metal containers as stools. European style cafes are only just beginning to become increasingly trendy in Indonesia even though the country is ranked 4th in the world for coffee production. Surprisingly, the figure doesn't translate to actually having a coffee drinking culture like we do here in the west but that's starting to change now.





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Traditional kue (Indonesian spelling) or kuih, as they're called in Malaysia. I made my poor cousin drive me back to Sari Sari twice because I couldn't get enough of their delectable snacks.




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Dusun Bambu directly translates to bamboo village. The architecture and interior have an undeniably bamboo theme which made the place so unique. It has a resort feel where you can hire a bamboo hut or a suspended bamboo pod (no, I'm not kidding!) for a meal and a snooze fest.




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The floating market in Bandung was a little gimmicky. There weren't many operating food sampans when we were there. Food hygiene wasn't high on their list either. Having had a 24 hour fever and an upset tummy from suspected food poisoning, I wasn't particularly keen to risk another episode of pain.



6 weeks of traveling came and went in a blur. Before I knew it, we were back in the U.K. As you can tell, I'd completely forgotten about outfit photos while I was away.



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Wearing a 5 (or was it 6?) year old Karen Walker dress, panama hat, K.Jacques St Tropez sandals and CLUSE watch (available in the U.K here).




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This Isabel Marant parka has been featured so often on this blog that you're all probably sick of it. I managed to nab this Isabel Marant dress on eBay from a reader. Lucky coincidence, I should add! Did you notice my blinged out Miu Miu sunglasses? A bling or two doesn't cut it so I might as well go all out.



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Isabel Marant jacket, T by Alexander Wang t-shirt and R13 crossover waxed jeans.




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My "can't be arsed to dress up" outfit which consists of The Kooples hoodie, The Kooples sweatpants, Golden Goose sneakers, Miu Miu sunglasses and ASOS t-shirt (amazing tee for only £6!!)

1 Lace Top, 2 Ways

Saturday, 16 July 2016
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Outfit: Miu Miu sunglasses, Vanessa Bruno lace top, Etoile Isabel Marant ruffled skirt, K.Jacques St Tropez sandals.


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Outfit: Vanessa Bruno lace top, Frame jeans, Petit Bateau nude vest, Hermes Garden Party tote and K.Jacques St Tropez sandals.









Over here in the U.K, we get what I'd call blink and you'll miss it summer. I've given up allocating unnecessary hard earned money to fund my summer wardrobe. I've spent more time wrapped up in my parka than wearing cute summer dresses. Forgive me if you see plenty of recycling over here on my blog. Most of what I'm wearing are from yesteryears which you've all seen many times before. 

I've been thinking of ways I can add a dressier summer top to my existing wardrobe which can also be worn when the colder months come around again. I was trawling Vestiaire Collective (as I normally do when I've got a moment to spare) and came across this near new lace top from Vanessa Bruno Spring/Summer 2015 collection at a steep discount. Of course, I was too cheap to spring £300  for the same thing the previous year. As you probably know, the French designers are notorious for their itty bitty sizing so I sized up to a 40 as opposed to my usual 36/38. 

Surprisingly, I could get away with wearing a nude bra underneath because of the thicker knit but the lace material also kept me cool under the blistering summer heat. I wore a Petit Bateau nude vest (second photo) when the temperature dipped below 20˚C. The best thing about a well made lace top is you could dress it up or down depending on the occasion. 

My take on glasses

Thursday, 26 May 2016
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My eyesight is the bane of my life. Allergic to all kinds of contact lenses, glasses are my only savior. The onset of the big 4-0 brought about a different challenge - long sightedness. Yes, it's a hot topic amongst my friends who like me, are all in our 40s struggling with both long and short sightedness. Even those who were lucky to have their eyes lasered encountered the same problem once 40 came around the corner. We all inevitably ended up having to wear glasses.




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In my spare time, I trawl websites and stores for frames. Yes....well....rather strange hobby, you might say but it's a frustrating exercise trying to find a flattering pair that ticks all my boxes. Rectangular or cat eye shapes seem to work better with my round-ish face. They've got to be wide enough to fit comfortably around my temple. Thicker and longer nose pads are a must for my flat-as-a-pancake nose bridge. I've learned through decades of wearing glasses that plastic frames are better for my clumsy self but they rarely come with thicker nose pads.



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Vision Express (I'm a longtime customer. 7 years to be exact) invited me to the launch of their Exclusive collections featuring a varied selection of affordable frames, designed in France with price tags starting from £39. My personal favorites are glasses from Sensaya and Heritage range. Slightly retro with a modern take.





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I was then whisked off to get my eyes tested. Surprisingly enough, my short sightedness have improved tremendously while my long sighted vision has deteriorated a tad. The optometrist detected a slight yellowing on one of my lenses which may eventually lead to cataract. That was rather alarming considering my age.  I was advised to keep my sunglasses on as much as possible, especially on sunny days.




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These glasses featuring a little faux pearl on either side are a reminiscent of my Chanels which cost twice as much. The metal hinges and plastic temples were solid. The bridge sat firmly without slipping off, much to my delight.



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The optician fitted my Sensaya frames with varifocal lens. My first! What a revelation!  I no longer needed to take off my glasses each time I have to read teeny tiny fine print or do any work on my smartphone.

The rest of Vision Express' Exclusive collection is available here.

Photography (1st and 2nd photo): Tun Shin Chang.


*My glasses and lens were given to me. I'm also a longtime customer who have purchased numerous glasses and sunglasses from my local Vision Express.



Charmed by Lisbon: Food, spectacular views and sights

Wednesday, 6 April 2016
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Lisbon (or Lisboa as the city is called in Portuguese) has got to be one of Europe's most under-rated cities. It's far more affordable than France or Italy. If you're traveling with sterling pounds, the budget goes that bit further because entrance fees are ridiculously cheap, espressos will set you back €0.75 and exquisite meals do not cost an arm and a leg.




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A 2kg crate of strawberries costs less than €7.00 which is unheard of in London unless you're best mates with a farmer who happened to yield a bountiful harvest. I went a little strawberry mad for a whole week and I don't really want to see those little red suckers for another year.



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We set off on a week long jaunt to Lisbon and rented an apartment on the top floor of a converted watch tower in Alfama, one of the oldest districts in Lisbon. Sitting on one of the highest vantage points in Lisbon, we were rewarded with a spectacular 360 degree panoramic view of Alfama and beyond. Catching the sunrise or sunset has never been easier.




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I spent many precious hours lying on this hammock while reading a book and gazing at the stars. Every now and then, I would poke my head out of the window to do what I do best - people watching (I have voyeuristic tendencies).




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Out of respect for the long suffering husband and daughter, I relaxed my OCD self and set an easy itinerary - wandering around the different districts and looking for food when the hunger pangs struck. We stumbled upon this pastelaria as we were searching for a café. There were tables outside where you can soak up some rays or have a cuppa under a fragrant orange tree.

We had grilled sandwiches, 2 different types of Portuguese version of bruschetta, a large plate of salad to share and washed down with soft drinks. The bill came up to approximately €20. The husband liked Medrosa d'Alfama so much that he dragged us back a few days later.

Medrosa d'Alfama
Largo São Rafael 6
Lisboa 
Opening hours: 11am - 9pm




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What can I say? Beautiful tiled floors go well with cute kitty flats.












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Alfama is unapologetically gritty, rustic and picturesque. It was, once upon a time, home to the poorest and most deprived. Having read so much about the place, I expected hordes of tourists swarming the labyrinth of narrow streets but it felt more like a tranquil village with residents going about their business. Washings were hung outside the window, friendly dogs roamed the streets, residents stopped to chat with their neighbors.......

Many of the buildings looked derelict with broken tiles and weathered paintwork. One of the residents told me that they prefer to spend money renovating the interior. We peeped through the windows of some of the properties and sure enough, a modern decor that belied the dilapidated exterior.



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The famous number 28 tram literally went past our doorstep. The sidewalks were so narrow that I could feel the tram rambling by as we plastered ourselves to the wall.




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Outfit: Rick Owens leather jacket, Zadig & Voltaire sweater, Zara jeans, New Balance 420 sneakers and Olympus OM-D EM-10 (obviously NOT an accessory.......)

Apparently, I got the memo right since my outfit du jour looked like every other Lisboeta's - black leather jacket, black skinny jeans and a pair of sneakers. Yup, when in Lisbon, blend in like a local.








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Catching the sunset at a miradouro (view point) is not to be missed. This is the view from Largos das Portas do Sol which happened to be a skip and a hop from our apartment. I was captivated by the gradient pastel hued skies along with the spectacular sweeping view of Alfama, dotted with terra-cotta rooftops and colorful houses.




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Next on my list was the cable car ride at Parque das Nações, a newly created area by Tagus river. The futuristic architecture here couldn't be more different to Alfama's centuries old buildings. The ride cost peanuts (€3.95 for adults and €2 for children) compared to the exorbitant fees I've forked out in London. You'll also see the expansive Vasco Da Gama bridge that stretches 17.2km across the river.





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The queue to get on the Santa Justa lift snaked around the block every single day yet we had the entire Rua Augusta Arch to ourselves. The cost? €2.50 per person. Unbelievable.




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Taberna da Rua das Flores is a well known institution amongst foodies. In fact, on the day we were there, a group of important looking officials were seated a couple of tables away and slowly working through each course. Both the chef and his staff were fluttering about nervously. It turned out that they were representatives of a major culinary organization in Portugal where a nod of approval is a BIG deal. The menu changes everyday depending on what fresh ingredients chef André finds at the market. The cuisine is fusion with a lot of Asian influence. Go early (12-1pm or 6-7pm) or be prepared to wait up to an hour.


Taberna da Rua das Flores
Rua das Flores 103
Lisboa




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There's a superb pasteis de nata shop/café just around the corner from Taberna da Rua das Flores. Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata makes the most incredible custard tarts fresh at the store. There's only standing room though. Most locals just pop in to down an espresso (only €0.70!) and a pasteis de nata (€1) before hurrying off again. The café is bustling at all hours of the day. If you're like me and can't be bothered queueing up for ages to get a custard tart at Belém, Manteigaria is a good option.


Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata
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Lisboa





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I've been told that Sintra which is a 40 minute train ride from Lisbon is a must-see. We only managed to see the colorful Palacio da Pena which at first sight, looked straight out of a fairy tale book. Located high on top of the Sintra hills, the impressive looking Pena palace makes an imposing albeit colorful sight. Plenty of brave tourists clamored to sit in one of the towers which isn't a great idea if you're afraid of heights. The temperature is a lot cooler than Lisbon so I was thankful that we had a few extra layers on.





**Photos were taken with iPhone 6S Plus and Olympus OM-D EM-10

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