Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Challenge to stay healthy in Singapore

I would have never imagined that I would say this - It is hard to stay healthy in Singapore.Yes you read it correctly. Did you say "Hang on, Jasmin, isn't Asian food healthy? Aren't there all these hawker markets with the amazing offer of food?" 
Well, you may be right. BUT (yes the big but), only if you don't eat anything which is deep fried (which I don't because I don't like it), avoid the meats (generally it it fatty chicken, very fatty chicken) and have the tofu instead get an extra serve of veggies and less rice (half the plate is full with just plain rice) AND even then, do you know how much oil they used for the cooking and what else is in the food like MSG? Don't forget to add the local specialty, sweet iced lemon tea, probably with tons of sugar in it.

Eating out is definitely much easier for us here. It is cheaper (food in supermarkets is more expensive), more convenient, not to mention that our kitchen is not fully equipment to cook up a great meal. 
The big problem with eating out is, you never know what is actually in it. I read that a meal which has been cooked in restaurant has on average 40% more calories than if the same meal would have been cooked at home. 
Interesting, huh? 

Singapore currently promotes healthier eating. It says everyone should eat 2 serves of fruit and 2 serves of vegetables a day. In Australia, 2 serves of fruit and 5 (!) serves of vegetables are the goal. In the US, it is 5 serves of fruit or vegetables a day. After reading this, I was not surprised that I am struggling to eat enough veggies a day. Seriously, I miss my veggies, I even crave them. Funny enough, I also miss home cooked meals.

In light of the "30 days of health & well being" starting next week, I decided it is time to take control again. Why doing all these work outs and yoga if it is ruined every time I eat out? Time that I will cook more at home again or if TD is in town, he will cook. (Thanks honey!). 
Today I did a big shopping, spent a small fortune and I cooked myself a nice dinner. Salmon with broccoli and asparagus. Yes, it sounds a little bit boring, but it tasted great.  

Friday, May 21, 2010

Have we learnt anything from Sex and the City?

I am sure you are just as excited as I am about the release of the new Sex and the City 2 movie. If you haven't seen the trailer yet, just click here
This series has been a part of my life in my late teens, early twenties. Tuesday night was reserved for SATC. 

But there are people who don't like SATC as much as most of us do. Read this. Seriously this female writer really hates Carrie Bradshaw. I admit she does have a few valid points. But then again, it is just TV - not reality. Well, of course I want to be a successful writer living in East Village in NYC, I want to own thousands of expensive high heels, I want to have the confidence to pull off those Carrie Bradshaw outfits.
And here - apparently there is more we can blame on SATC. 

While I am sipping on my vodka & cranberry (surely this does count as a Cosmo?), I realised that I learnt a few things from SATC too:

1. It is the most important thing to have great friends.
2. Cosmopolitans are a great drink.
3. Even if you are thin, successful and confident you can get screwed over by men.
4. Don't get a chemical peeling like Samantha did.
5. Always apply sun screen and Q10 creme on my hands - I don't want to end up having hands like this.

I can't wait to put my heels on and go to the cinema with my cosmo next week.

Glossy Survival Kit for a life in humidity

How do I still look gorgeous without the annoying sweat film on my forehead when living a city with a minimum of 80% humidity every day? These great products are my beauty essentials:

1. Sun screen - this is the most important part. Because I don't want to apply zillions of different cremes in the morning, I use a moisturizer with SPF 25. I swear by Clinique's Superdefense SPF 25

2. I have switched from a liquid foundation to a powder foundation. I use Mac Studio Fix Foundation and I love it. It makes my skin look more even and flawless. Occasionally I would use MAC studio moisture tint SPF 15 as a base under the Studio Fix Foundation. It gives me a little bit more colour.

3. I have also switched to a powder blush. Now I am using Mac Powder Blush in the nude pink sheer tone "Tenderling", it gives me the right blush without looking too "flushed".

4. I also fell in love with Kevin Murphy's Hair Resort. Now I wash my hair almost daily. Daily styling with hair drier, straighting iron or curler would damage my hair too much. With Hair Resort I avoid all the heated styling and it is so easy to use. Just apply on dry hair, scrunch it in the hair, and voila - messy, beachy hair look done. Thanks to the recommendation by my hair dresser, Kat, I almost feel up for a competition with Serena van der Woodsen.

5. You can also find in my hand bag "Dove Go Fresh Body Mist Energizing "Grapefruit & Lemongrass". It has a cooling effect and smells so fresh, great for freshing up after a little walk to the shops.

6. Last but not least, always have a bottle of water with you in your hand bag.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Singapore – a country with many regulations and fines

I actually wanted to write a different post today but as I made my way to the nearest Starbucks to write the post, the inspiration for this post came. You know why after you read it.

Singapore must be the cleanest, safest and most organised city I have ever seen. No wonder, there are regulations for almost everything and fines if those are breached. The running joke is that Singapore is a “fine” city.

You can get fined for those things:

Chewing gum
Don’t chew gum or smuggle gum into Singapore (penalty up to one year in jail and $10,000 fine). Import, sale and possession of chewing gum are banned, also no own consumption. The rule was introduced because of the high cost and difficulty in removing stuck chewing gum from public premises.
On my first trip to Singapore, I discovered some chewing gum in my hand bag after I went through customs. Puh, that was lucky.
No littering. Apparently when anyone is caught littering, they will be issued a Corrective Work Order (CWO). That means having to wear a CWO jacket and being made to sweep public roads or clean up litter as a form of community service plus fines up to $2000.
Jay walking:
Jaywalking across public roads is also not allowed. Surprisingly no one, even the locals, obey this rule. I haven’t seen the traffic police yet.
Eating and drinking in the MRT:
This is my view the most ridiculous regulation. You are not allowed to eat or drink on the MRT (Mass Rapid-Transit. This could be an expensive snack and bottle water – $500 fine.
Here are a few more:
-    Corporal punishment (including the rattan cane) for crimes including drug offences, rape, rioting, extortion and vandalism.
-    Homosexual acts between men, including kissing, are illegal and penalties include imprisonment. (No specific law against homosexual acts between women.)
-     Offences, including offences against 'modesty' (such as men behaving inappropriately towards women, using inappropriate language or singing offensive sporting team songs), can result in corporal punishment (the rattan cane) and/or imprisonment.
-     Adult movies are forbidden in Singapore. Also, you will not see even one boob on TV here. So True Blood is half as good as here and only goes 30 minutes. J
-    Death penalty for murder and drug trafficking. And no there is no public holiday to public execution. Someone told me this myth before I relocated to Singapore. This is Asia light - not Middle East.

But despite all those rules and regulations: There is one thing for which a regulation does not exist yet (!) and which the Singaporean have not worked out yet. Walking on the street

Driving on the left also applies to Singapore so naturally you assume that you have to walk on the left side of the foot path and overtake on the right. Well, that’s where you would be wrong.

Every time I walk to my beloved yoga studio through the busy city, I am so close to throwing a tantrum in public (probably I would be fined for it too).  Everyone (apart from the expats) walks anywhere on the foot path, at a pace where a snail would be able to easily overtake anyone, with no space to overtake on either side. As I make an attempt to overtake on the right, someone strolls from the left in front of me. I jumped to the left, someone from the right cuts me off. 
If someone comes towards you, naturally after 4 years of training in Australia I move to the left. Guess what, that person wouldn’t go its left, no, the person would stay on my left and we almost run into each other. Here, I admit I persistently stay on my side and put my angry face on. Eventually, about two metres in front of me, the person would go to their left with such a surprised look on its face as if it would be news to them that you walk on the left side.

So here are my recommendations to make Singapore even more organised (and to prevent my tantrum):
  1. Underpasses/MRT stations: Have a clearly marked slow lane and fast lane and mark on which side everyone has to walk (the latter already exists at some MRT stations and shopping malls)
  2. Run a workshop and train everyone where to walk
  3. Fine people if they don’t walk on the right, the better word would be "correct", side

Until then, I heavily rely on yoga to calm me down after my walking experience to the yoga studio.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday breakfast in Singapore

It is Sunday and Sunday is one of my favorite days of the week because it means time to go out for breakfast. Many of you would know that I love going out for breakfast. (I seriously miss the cafes in Collingwood and Fitzroy!)
TD and I went to this Australian restaurant Double Bay today. It is a 15 minute walk from our place which is a long time when the sun burning on your head. Double Bay has a big banner advertising their brunch menu which looked very nice. Poached eggs, bacon (not for me but for TD), sautéed mushrooms etc. 
We are used to terrible service in restaurant & cafes in Singapore by now but the service at Double Bay today was seriously terrible. 
Firstly no one seemed to be interested in taking our orders and then the food came out before our drinks (15 minutes after we ordered which is good time for good).  I mean seriously we walked for 15 minutes in the boiling sun and they didn't give even us a glass of water, even though we asked twice for it. And I don't care if there are so many coffee orders - it doesn't take 15 minutes to make a bloody cappuccino. 
I was so annoyed about that and I sent our food back and asked (actually "demanded" is the probably the best word) for our drinks to be served before any food. I have never done that, ever. Usually TD is the rude one when it comes to bad service in a restaurant. I guess I can contribute this to my low blood-sugar at that time - I haven't eaten anything at this stage. 

And then, surprise, surprise within 2 minutes we got our coffees (very good cap) and food. Breakfast wasn't as good as I hoped.

So the search for good Western breakfast is still on. Any recommendations are more than welcome.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Daily life in Singapore

So, here I am in my favorite Starbucks on the way to the supermarket.Yes, it is time for our weekly grocery shopping again. I almost feel like a professional blogger with my blue berry muffin and the iced vanilla latte next to my laptop.

How is life in Singapore so far? Well, it is good but still so different to life in Australia. I really like Singapore, I really do but it is just not home. Our apartment is located in a great location and with the hot weather, it feels like holiday every single day. Yes I know you might think now that I have holidays every day since I took a year off work and only study. But I try to live the weekdays like a week day and the weekends like a weekend. Which means, getting up in at a reasonable time, say 8.30 am - not too late. After a shower and brekkie, I check my emails, Facebook, Twitter and any other websites (news, blogs etc). Before I get too sidetracked with the Internet, I start to study for a few hours. Then it is time for lunch (usually at our local hawker market) or I go to hot yoga.
After that, checking emails again and maybe writing a post on my blog. If I didn't go to the yoga at lunch time, I would go to the gym in the afternoon. Depending on the day, I have to go to uni in the evening or I wait impatiently for TD to come home (if he is not travelling).

So, now you ask where is the gloss here? Well, I haven't mentioned yet that I also like to spend my afternoons on Orchard Rd. Orchard Rd is the most famous shopping street in Singapore. All luxury designer brands have at least one shop there. You can also find Zara, Esprit, Gap, Aldo, Steve Madden, Levi's etc there - the shops for my budget. My favorite shopping mall on Orchard Rd is ION. You almost fall out of the MRT station into the ION shopping mall. I love to spend time at the MAC and Benefit counter at the beauty retailer Sephora. My makeup bag has been substantially restocked with MAC products over last few months and I feel fabulous with my new lip gloss.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Iron Man 2 and sweet pop corn

Last Friday, the hubby and I went to our local cinema in Singapore and watched the new Iron Man 2 movie in digital. I am still not sure what was more delicious - watching Robert Downey Jr or the sweet pop corn. I haven't eaten sweet pop corn in like 4 years (basically since moving to Australia) - it feels like an eternity. I actually forgot what sweet pop corn tastes like. For some strange reason, Australian cinemas do not sell sweet pop corn, only salty pop corn which I can't stand. I guess my waist line was quite happy about the fact that I don't like salty pop corn.

About the movie, I thought Iron Man 2 was better than the first Iron Man. It was funnier, more action, Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark was more arrogant. Sam Rockwell's character Justin Hammer should be mentioned here, great character. Please look out for his hand. It looks like he didn't wash his hands properly after applying fake tan.
I just don't understand the hype about Scarlett Johansson's role and her fighting scenes in Iron Man. Firstly, she hardly appeared in the movie and when she did, she didn't speak. Secondly, her fighting scene (it was only one!) was definitely performed by a stunt woman. But I guess she looked very ft and toned in that lycra suit.

I would definitely recommend to watch Iron Man 2 and it is not just a "boys movie".

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Book(s) of the week - Stieg Larson's Millennium Trilogy

This week I have picked the Millennium Trilogy by the late Swedish author Stieg Larson as the Book(s) of the week. You can't just read one of the books. Once you have started "the girl with the dragon tattoo", you will want to read all of them.

The trilogy is about the financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, a genius and societal outsider. The 2 characters cannot be any different to each other but yet work brilliantly together. In "the girl with the dragon tattoo" Lisbeth Salander helps to Mikael Blomkvist to solve mysterious disappearance of a family member of a Swedish business man.
In "The girl who played with fire" and "The girl who kicked the hornet's nest", Mikael helps Lisbeth to clear the murder charges against herself and tries to bring down a secret government organisation.

I have always loved the Swedish crime books of Kurt Wallander by Henning Mankell. I was keen to see how Larson's books would be. It was so different to the Kurt Wallander series.
The first book "girl with the dragon tattoo" was not as exciting as you might expect from a crime book. However I was fascinated by the depth that Stieg Larson uses to describe the characters and could put the book down. I felt like I would really know the main characters. In the end, I understood Lisbeth's thinking and her issues. Don't get me wrong, the books are exciting, gripping and addictive. I spent many nights reading until 2 am and I was upset once I finished the third book.

Unfortunately Stieg Larson died of a heart attack only a few months before "the girl with the dragon tattoo" was published, at the age of only 50. There are rumours that the character of Michael Blomkvist is based on himself. Larson was also a financial journalist and owner of a magazine.
Larson told an interview before his death that the parts of Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking were his inspiration for Lisbeth Salander. He said "Pippi Longstocking, a dysfunctional girl, probably with attention deficit disorder who would have had a hard time finding a regular place in the normal society". In my view, he did a brilliant job to show those characteristics in Lisbeth.

I certainly hope that there will be at least another book. Larson has partly finished a fourth book prior to his death and there are rumours that he had material for 5 more books on his laptop. However due to ongoing legal battles around the legal rights of his books between his family and his partner of 32 years, I don't think we will see the fourth book in the book stores any time soon.

For my German readers, the books have published under the names "Verblendung", "Verdammnis" and "Vergebung".

Read the Millennium Trilogy but be aware that you won't get much sleep during that time.

PS: Watch out for the movie "The girl with the dragon tattoo"

Save the Tigers

TD and I used the opportunity of a rain free day in Singapore a couple weekends ago and went to the Singapore Zoo. The Singapore Zoo is set in the rain forest and is famous for its "Open Concept" over 28-hectare. The zoo is the home to 315 species, 16% of which are threatened. The Singapore Zoo is proud to be the world's first zoo which has free ranging Orang Utans. An elevated boardwalk takes the guests into the treetops where they can observe the Orang Utans' natural behaviour at close rang.
I was so excited and amazed by this beautiful zoo. I couldn't believe how close the animals are. There is even an Australian Outback where the kangaroos only lie 2 metres away from the visitors.

The greatest attraction for me were, however, the White Tigers. The Singapore Zoo is the home of 3 White Tigers. Did you know that there are no White Tigers left in the wild? According to Wikipedia, the last white tiger ever seen in the wild was shot in 1958. That is incredibly sad. In fact, the number of wild tiger are at their lowest level ever. There are fewer than 3,200 tigers left in the wild. 3 subspecies (Bali, Caspian, and Javan tiger) are already gone and many scientists believe that the South China Tiger is “functionally extinct” as the last South China Tiger has been seen in the wild more than 25 years ago.

WWF (www.wwf.org) use the Chinese Year of the Tiger to promote the plight of tigers in the wild and have started their campaign "Save the Tiger". Expects believe that wild tigers go extinct by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022. WWF aims to double to the number of tiger in the wild by 2022.

Let's support WWF and donate today.
I have just donated - let's save the tigers!