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Lush Singapore

Lush opened its stores yesterday and I was one of the die hard fans that was there when the doors opened! Even before you can reach the store you can smell the wafting scents and fragrances that uniquely define Lush (or at least my nose is already trained to associate these scents to the brand). Insanely crowded is an understatement. The tiny shop space was just packed full of people and it was crazily difficult to maneuver around while carrying a basket and the line to get to the cashier counter was equally crazy thanks to the promo that they were having where the first 50 customers would get a free foot mask.

But thankfully, I managed to suss out what I wanted online so it was a simple grab and go. Not to mention the fact that the staff was extremely helpful and friendly giving hugs and high fives all around while dishing out drinks and snackers to tide us over the long wait. Yes, it was indeed a lively atmosphere and everyone was clearly sharing in the joy and exuberance of the moment… Lush is finally here and it is here to stay!

But enough of the shopping experience, what’s most important is the actual haul. What could I possibly have bought to warrant the $92 bill?

First up, the solid shampoo, Jumping Juniper ($16.90). I always wanted to try solid shampoos but was always afraid to buy it online because you don’t know how they smell like. Well, I finally took the plunge with Jumping Juniper and I really really love it. It smells like lavender and lime and it’s supposed to be really good for oily scalps so I decided to give this a go instead of Seanik. It lathers super well… just three swipes around my head and voila, lots of bubbles. And the end result? Clean hair that is fluffy and shiny (in a good way). Fabulous. And judging from how big the bar is, this is going to last eons. Like its equivalent to 2 bottles of shampoo. Pretty good value imo. Definitely one of my best buys from Lush EVER.

In addition to Jumping Juniper, I also purchased a conditioner called Retread and this is a recommendation from the Lush staff. I was actually looking for a hair treatment but honestly, the Jasmine and Henna Fluff Eaze (the henna overpowers the jasmine) as well as the H’Suan Wen Hua didn’t smell that great. The latter smells herbal-y. Me no likey. And so I decided to give Retread a go. Retread has traces of melon, soya milk and yoghurt and it is suppose to restore shine to your hair.  But in a strange way, it doesn’t smell fruity at all. It has a rather musky scent actually and I’m undecided about whether I love it or hate it. Love the consistency of the conditioner. Very smooth and applies well though the results were rather disappointing. I didn’t think my hair ends felt any different from before. Given its price of $32, I don’t think it delivered. I’m better off sticking to drugstore brands like Essentials. Won’t repurchase this.

Okay moving along… let’s move on to shower products. I bought the Aqua Mirablis ($18.50) body butter at long last. This has been on my wish list for a long time and I’m so glad I got it! This is definitely on my favourites list for best Lush product. It’s up there with Honey I washed the Kids, Porridge and Jumping Juniper. It comes in this bar and it works as an exfoliator and moisturiser all at once. The thing I love about it is the smell. The ground almond nuts smell AMAZING and it’s not too harsh on the skin (at least not for me). It’s also kinda cool in the sense that when you rinse all the tiny granules away, the water turns milky and your skin really feels super clean, soft and moisturised. I used to swear by Body Shop’s body scrubs but I think I’m moving over to Lush now. Definitely, definitely a repurchase.

A whimsical item that I picked up this time round was actually a shower jelly, Sweetie Pie ($9.90). As its name implies, this is a flubber-like jelly that redefines your showering experience because you can freeze it before using it in the shower so its perfect for hot days when you need a pick me up.  Sweetie Pie is a rather fruity scent. Blackcurrant and cherries to be exact (think Ribena) so it’s quite pleasant. You can use it whole or crush up little bits to spread it all over your hair and body. It’s pretty interesting and I had alot of fun with it though it kept slipping out of my hand. Final verdict? It’s definitely something different and fun but I guess I’m not much of a shower radical so nah… gonna give this a miss next time round.

My last purchase was of course, soap! The one thing that made me fall in love with Lush in the first place. I figured that instead of the perennial favourites, I would try out something new and that turned out to be Lust ($15.10)! It has this bright pink tinge that is reminiscent of Rock Star but it is infused with Jasmine, Ylang Ylang and Vanilla. The scent is literally lust-worthy. Can’t say much cos I haven’t tried it out yet but it looks promising!

And because I’m one of the lucky 50 first customers of Lush, I received a small put of Volcano foot mask (USD12.95 for 3.5oz). It doesn’t smell great to be honest. It’s herbal-y but the texture is alright. Very fine clay paste that spreads over your feet easily. It also gives a slight minty, tingly feeling that’s pleasant though all in all, I would say that I prefer the Body Shop’s peppermint foot scrub (USD14 for 3.4oz) to this because of the salt granules. It just exfoliates better I think though the Lush one is cheaper.

I know this sounds crazy but every time I step into the toilet now I feel happy. I love new products and of course, I love bathing. So in putting the two together, it is literally a dream come true. Are you a Lush fan? What are your Lush must-haves? Share them with us!

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Appreciating Singapore

WHEW! I just got in from a 10 hour bus ride from Cameron Highlands and I must say, I am feeling a little bit woozy. It’s not just the super long bus ride with the annoying 30-min stops that succeeded in prolonging the pain, but it’s that feeling you get when the holiday cheer is over and you are finally letting reality sink in. It’s that feeling you get, that little churn of the stomach, that little nagging itch. It’s that sudden urgency that gnaws at you to will the bus to move quickly through customs so you can turn on your data plan and check your email/facebook/twitter.

I dunno about you, but all these signs just point to how much of a Singaporean I am. As much as I enjoy going on leisurely holidays to Perth and more recently, Cameron Highlands, to breathe in the fresh air, to take slow walks and to eat and sleep well, I can’t really imagine myself living in these places. I’ve never actually imagined myself living anywhere else except Singapore.

Sure, it’s hot. Humid. People are kiasu, impatient (believe me, I’m still boiling with rage and annoyance at an elderly couple who stole my cab. I FLAGGED it down and they unceremoniously got in and pretended I was non-existent. Seriously, if you just asked nicely, I would have been nice enough to give it up to you.) and they aren’t exactly the most considerate people on the planet. But seething rage aside, there are many things that I appreciate about Singapore. Like how easily accessible it is for me to take a bus/MRT/cab to get around.

In Cameron Highlands, I stayed at the Equatorial Hotel and that’s near Kia Farm which isn’t exactly near to the town area which is Brinchang. You can see this from this map here:

So in order to get to Brinchang and any other surrounding attraction eg. rose centre, you need a vehicle to get you there. Nothing is within walking distance (except the market square and the EQ strawberry farm but seriously, that’s not much). And to take a cab, you can’t just hail one. You need to call a cab which will take 20mins to arrive because it travels all the way from Tanah Rata to get to you. So really, this trip has really made me realise just how important transport is and how a good transport system really frees you and allows you to move around. I felt soooo trapped in Cameron because of the lack of transport options (it’s not like Perth where you can just rent a car and drive around. The winding roads are pretty perilous.)

Also, INTERNET. I cannot believe I survived three days without the Internet. I know when you are on holiday, you should just leave your cares and worries behind. Work? What work? Sadly, I’m quite the workaholic and while I did enjoy the visits to the tea plantations and the hydroponics farm, at the back of my mind is that nagging feeling that my email inbox is going to explode (thankfully it didn’t. Only got 22 emails! PHEW!) But yeah, that’s another thing that is so integral to my life. Internet. Staying connected with family and friends across the world through technology. It was SO PAINFUL not to tweet (yes, I have a serious tweeting addiction) and not to share my thoughts with someone as I was experiencing the wonders of strawberry picking and suffering through the jungle trek. So many times I was saying “Kill Me Now” in my head, to myself. And no one could reply me back. It was a horrible, lonely feeling. Sure, you may think it’s rather self-obsessed but I guess that’s just me.

I am at the very heart of it, an urbanite. It’s almost instinctual. The minute I touch down on Singapore soil, I immediately whip out my handphone, configure it to M1 GSM and start texting away. The minute I touch down, my walking pace increases. Luggage in hand, I walk with purpose. My sole aim? Get home quickly. Get home and get back to life. Might sound rather humdrum and pathetic but I think there is some kind of beauty in that.

I’m slowly getting used to this holiday time warp thing (you know, where you feel like time stops during the holiday period and it starts racing again when you get back to reality?) I’ll do a photo post on my Cameron trip soon. If you are thinking of going to Cameron, be sure to look out for that. Also, I’ve got quite the announcement coming up so stay tuned!

A home, not a house.

Every election is a competition, and a little competition never hurt anyone.

It makes people work harder, it highlights their own mistakes that they can learn from and improve, it spurs them on to do better the next time.

The elections period was not a time for the “PAP to learn its lesson”. It was a time for the people, the opposition and the PAP to highlight and put foremost, the issues closest to the hearts of the nation.

Asset enhancement notwithstanding, what Singaporeans want… is to feel that they have a home they belong in, a home they feel comfortable in, a home they take pride in. Not a house.

That said, I’ve gained a newfound respect for our PM, while I’ve lost a certain measure of respect for several other candidates.

So let’s move forward positively towards this new era in our political landscape, and let none of the dirty talking during campaigning periods continue as the WP attempts to create history and continue its pro-Singapore approach in parliament. Idealistically, the PAP will accept the emergence of this new alternative voice in parliament and prove to us that there’s indeed no “groupthink” within the party.

In the words of Nicole Seah,

The competition has been robust; sides were taken and things were said. But now that the contest is over, we must come together as one country and work to build that future we want.

“United we stand, divided we fall” – let’s work together for the best of our nation, to truly make it a Singaporean Singapore.

Majulah Singapura!!

Dissecting the Housing Issue

Disclaimer: The following article is meant to be an informative and analytical exploration. The author’s opinions are her own and (as far as possible) not influenced by any particular party. They are merely observations made post-analysis. 

It’s hard to ignore all the arguments and explanations with regards to the present political situation, so I’ve been doing my fair share of reading and analyzing, since it’s the responsibility of the citizen to actually find out what’s the origin behind each issue, instead of being distracted whenever the wind blows.

Close to my heart is the issue of public housing, especially since I’m at a stage of life where I’m contemplating my future prospects and juggling sums of money in my head.

I’ve always thought that the PAP’s mission to have each and every Singaporean a home owner to be a laudable one. Unlike other countries where their citizens move from rented flat to rented flat, Singaporeans generally do feel that they have a greater stake in the country due to the fact that they own a large material asset (the home) here. Comparatively, a home is a harder thing to discard and throw away than say a car, a job or even friends.

At the heart of the present debate, lies two main concerns:

  1. The definition of Public Housing
  2. The definition of the necessary costs with regards to Public Housing
Since I’m by no means a political/government administration expert, I turned to a few other government websites for help on the definition of Public Housing.
The Australian Government defines it as such:
State and territory governments provide some rental housing, called public housing, for people on low incomes. The rent is often a fixed part of your income. There is a very long waiting list for public housing.
The US Government is perhaps more definitive:
Public housing was established to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. Public housing comes in all sizes and types, from scattered single family houses to highrise apartments for elderly families.
but the best comparison would perhaps be Hong Kong, where its housing patterns are very much like Singapore’s:
to maintain a stable environment for the sustainable and healthy development of the private property market, as well as to provide subsidized public housing for people who cannot afford private rental housing.
Taking these definitions into account – have our Public Housing policies met these needs? I took a look at some statistics available at HDB.gov, but regrettably, I am unable to tell if our lower income group (as emphasized by the three separate quotes above) who form the bulk of HDB dwellers can comfortably afford a flat. However, what I did find was the following graph:
Bearing in mind that I have friends who hate graphs and there are people who feel blind after a long work day staring at a computer screen, I took the liberty of marking out certain areas:
Public Housing is for the lower-middle income group. As such, it would make logical sense for the prices of public housing to match their income, not the general income / overall GDP of the country. Certainly, as one looks at the graph, prices of our public housing were relatively stable from 2001-2008. In view of the events that happened (economic boom, economic recession then economic recovery) it seems that our government played its part in these years to stabilize the prices of public housing.

What then, happened from 2008 – 2011 for prices to begin its exponential rise of 75% of the overall price? Judging from this graph, buying a public housing flat will now cost approx 175% of what it cost in 2008 – compared to the relatively stable prices from 2001-2008, it’s a considerably huge rise in cost. And has the income of the lower-middle income group similarly risen in tandem with the rising cost of public housing?
“To continue to grow and prosper while slowing the intake of foreign workers, the same number of Singaporean workers must produce more. Otherwise, there will be a deflating economy, and knock-on effects on jobs and asset values. Instead of many job opportunities and rising asset values, including prices for resale HDB flats, the reverse will happen… fewer jobs, lower salaries, lower asset prices… pay will fall and so will the number of jobs and promotion,”  

Lee Kwan Yew, in his speech to Tanjong Pagar residents
Several factors have been pointed out by the opposition to be the cause of the rising HDB prices:
  1. the allowance for foreigners & PR residents to purchase public housing flats
  2. the matching of HDB flat prices to the retail market
Looking at point 1, which LKY similarly noted in his speech, there are both pros and cons in letting foreigners purchase public housing. At its relatively “cheap” prices compared to private housing, it is an affordable and attractive option for our foreign talent. This allows us to be competitive with our neighbouring countries for foreign talent. However, as opposition WP has pointed out, doing so raises the demand for HDB flats, driving up prices exponentially as the influx of foreign workers increases.

Looking at point 2, the WP and NSP reason that since HDB purchases land from the government at a special subsidized price for residential purposes, this government subsidy should be passed on to citizens – so that flat prices will be cheaper. In comparison, private developers who build condominiums and private housing buy land at a far more expensive price, so it makes sense that their market value is higher and more expensive. As public housing specifically should cater to the lower-middle income group, pegging public housing prices to private housing prices meant for upper middle-higher income groups does not “make sense”.

Admittedly though, doing a sudden, dramatic pegging of prices to median incomes of the lower-middle income group will invariably cause a huge upset in our property market. Just think of it this way. Approx more than 2 million of our 4.5 million population (or even more, I give an arbitrary number) live in HDB flats. What would they think, if post-elections, the value of their houses suddenly dips by 75%? 

Honestly, even though it would be MUCH cheaper for me to buy and move into a new (and maybe better) flat, I’d be pissed that my assets have depreciated so much – which I guess is what MBT refers to when he talks of “asset enhancement” being one of the joyous things about the rising costs of our public housing.

Moreover, as MBT notes, the government operates at a deficit of about S$1 billion in housing and home ownership programmes and S$1 billion in home rejuvenation (lift upgrading and playground building) programmes. So reducing the government’s income from public housing would mean an “illegal raid on the reserves”.
Which then brings us to the next issue. What constitutes as “necessary costs” when it comes to public housing? Are Singaporeans too pampered to envision HDB estates without playgrounds, beautiful hotel-like lifts and prettily painted blocks?

Perhaps the problem lies precisely in our lack of knowledge and voice.

When the Town Council suggests lift upgrading, HDB residents are given a vote. Yes, or no. They aren’t told about other possible alternatives or options: no upgrading or newly painted blocks means a reduction of Town Council fees/a reduced payment to HDB for fewer services incurred etc. Instead of spending S$1 billion on “home rejuvenation”, what about using that sum to reduce the overall costs of HDB flats for the lower-middle income group?

What if upgrading became more transparent and democratic? Like all debatable decisions, it would definitely be a tough one, liable to turn violent and ugly, particularly when people don’t see eye to eye. (Think of the awful en-bloc situations we’ve heard of in the past). So while it is idealistic and visionary to envision a future where citizens get to vote decisively and knowledgeably on issues such as how and where to direct costs, and what necessary costs mean to them, I don’t foresee it to be an easy step to take.

These are pictures of the most basic and oldest public housing in Hong Kong for the lowest income group and the elderly who earn little or no income. To the HK government, necessary costs don’t include lift upgrading and pretty paint. But at what costs to its citizens’ living standards?

NSP suggests a re-adaptation of HDB’s pricing, to resemble more similarly, a rental agreement, (a policy that seems closely related to Australia’s and US’s public rental housing, as previously quoted above) which MBT rejects flatly, as it does not fit at all into the PAP’s mission to have each and every Singaporean own their own home in Singapore. Should the PAP be more flexible? And to what extent will this affect Singaporeans’ opinions and sense of belonging in their country without the factor of home ownership?

Personally, I believe it’s a matter of one’s priorities. There’s no determinable way I see at the moment that can assuredly say one political party’s point of view is greatly superior to the other’s. What I can hope for is that post-elections, the passionate debating of such issues will lead our government to take a close and hard look at how it defines the role of public housing in our society, for our society; and then re-adjust its policies for the welfare of the overall community.

Oh Elections, Elections

Though it’s not like me to be passionately devoted to politics (I still am not), it’s really interesting to read (I love to read) the various manifestos of the various parties contesting in this election. and then one realises… the more social media one views, it’s getting harder and harder to trust the ST. If there was any a time to doubt the trustworthiness of our local newspapers, it would be now.

Granted, I’m not asking for ST to have news features for every single opposition candidate like it does for the PAP, but at least accomodate for the opposition’s response to the PAP’s criticisms, no?

  1. NSP’s response to Gan Kim Yong
  2. WP’s response to PAP criticisms of its vision of a First World Parliament
It’s disheartening to see our local media fail so badly – but it is precisely because of this failure, that people are turning more and more towards social media. As a few have observed: when it comes to social media, people hype and create news that they want to see. It’s really the most liberal form of news reporting.
That said, it’s not very encouraging seeing how our PAP minsters are dealing with the opposition
  1. Vivan Balakrishnan says SDP is “a team of strange bedfellows” <– seriously what kind of outdated term is “bedfellows”? It’s practically unheard of these days… or it might just show how out-of-sync Balakrishnan is with our current society, explaining the YOG fiasco lol. and he also rejects SDP’s proposal to have a public debate to explain and rationalize YOG’s inflated budget (which might actually work in Balakrishnan’s favour if he bothers to contemplate the horror of preparing himself)
  2. Similarly, Mah Bow Tan rejects NSP’s offer to debate on housing issues (obviously)
Rather than these rejections being a great show of PAP’s greatness (and hence no need to deal with the little ones), it comes off high-handed and cavalier. And it’s not like our Ministers are dealing with any Tom, Dick or Harry – rather, these are opposition parties with (some) members who are successful, well-educated and articulate. The least I think, a PAP minister should do, is meet their requests with mutual respect and at least consider debate, even if it’s under a set of restrictions. This should be essential to the PAP’s strategy in order to deflate claims and allegations against its policies and practices, especially in a time when its manifesto seems to pale so badly in comparison on specificity of plans, its acceptance and dealing with of problems and issues in our society.
  1. NSP’s manifesto
  2. SDP’s manifesto (which you have to buy… zz bad move.)
  3. RP’s manifesto
If it’s one thing about Singaporeans – our policy of meritocracy has made us into a society that treasures and rewards people who work hard. It’s something our own political leaders have taught us. Work hard, work well and you will reap the rewards and benefit the nation.

A prime example of this would be the contrasts of the youngest candidates this election: Tin Pei Ling (PAP) and Nicole Seah (NSP)

In comparison to her younger peer, Tin Pei Ling looks so much less prepared and less knowledgeable. Moreover, it doesn’t seem to help that unlike Nicole Seah, Tin Pei Ling doesn’t have much of an original voice that suggests her own contribution to her party – whilst Nicole stands firmly for the voices of the disengaged youth and the lower income group.
Amidst all the furor surrounding Tin Pei Ling, I’d like to note that this is practically nothing compared to what Ris Low experienced -and as we all know, she rose merrily from the ashes to promote her unique vocabulary over the radio waves and even has a horse named after her now… Tin Pei Ling should’ve learnt from her, no? Rather than have SM Goh and other PAP heavyweight ministers support her and speak up for her, I believe Singaporeans as a whole would’ve respected Tin Pei Ling more had she stood up for herself instead of letting her superiors speak up for her. Contrast Nicole Seah’s response to a reporter asking about vulgarities on her twitter feed at 5.00 of the video below:

Of course, one cannot judge the elections by two young women alone – and this post is merely meant to be an informative and thought-provoking one, as well as a call to the PAP to please step it up for these elections because it’s not very convincing or reassuring when certain PAP candidates don’t seem to be working hard at all, and brushing aside the opposition and social media as “noise”. Election day is coming, and when it dawns, I’d like to see the PAP working hard, working hard for my future, my nation’s future and not slackening the pace due to its own complacency.

Nandos Chicken Restaurant

I am quite the religious radio listener and I love listening to the Muttons because they just talk a whole lot of crap and it’s just super entertaining. And of course one day they were rambling on about food and they started talking about Nandos and how they were craving for the peri peri chicken. Well, they were so persuasive that I decided to try out Nandos today! Behold!

The decor was pretty nice, I love the wooden furniture and the ‘western’ vibe. Very homely. The tree decals behind Mark tells you the different levels of spiciness you can choose from: wild herb, mild, hot and extra hot. Also, they provide you with different sauces to go with your food:

But given the fact that my tolerance level for spiciness is very low, I decided to only try the tomato and garlic sauces. To my surprise, the sauces lean towards the sour side. I didn’t expect that but then again, I’ve never had portuguese food before today.

I also ordered drinks to help put out the flames if need be. Mark had a strawberry blended delight that tasted more fruity than milky (he preferred it to be milkier) but I like the fruity taste. You could really taste the strawberry! I had a Madeira red, a mix of pomegranate, lemonade and sprite. It tasted like a berry soda with pomegranate seeds in it. It was quite good and what I love about this place is that drinks are quite affordable. Mine was about $3.95 thereabouts? Not as expensive as some other joints but that could be the case because they don’t serve water. So unless you don’t get thirsty or can take spicy food, if not you’ll probably have to get something off the drinks menu.

Ok, down to the food. We had a mushroom soup and usually, I like my mushroom soup with pureed mushrooms, not the clear soup type. So this one definitely fit the bill. An interesting addition was chicken chunks. I was quite surprised when I taste it actually and there was quite a few of them. Call me a traditionalist but I think I prefer my mushroom soup sans chicken bits. I’m a purist that way. The accompanying bread slices were yummy though. A good complement to the soup.

The big star of the day was of course the peri peri chicken. I ordered a 1/4 chicken with 2 sidelines: mediterranean rice and old style chips. The side dishes weren’t anything to rave about. The rice was mildly flavored and had peas, corn and carrot, the evil trinity of fried rice imo. So I didn’t fancy it at all. The chips was better. Thick cut, packed full of potato flavor and fried till it is golden brown and crisp.

But nothing could steal the thunder from the chicken. It was soooooo tender and moist. I can definitely see why there are long queues at Nandos now. While the sour and spicy seasoning is an acquired taste, I thought the flame grilling of the chicken was fantastic. Super juicy and the meat just comes off the bone. I was really impressed. Next time though, I would order a 1/2 chicken minus the sides cos really, the real deal is the chicken itself. Though I have to say, this chicken meal set was quite the steal at $13. 90.

Nandos has currently three outlets in Singapore. One at Bugis Junction, one at Tanglin Mall and the last one at Plaza Singapura. Do check out their website (which is super interactive and easy to use) for more details.

H&M in Singapore?!

Could this be true?

According to the H&M website it is! Check out the official press release:

H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB takes the first step into South East Asia by opening a store at the best business location on Orchard Road in Singapore’s most central shopping area.

The store will be located in Orchard Building, Singapore, and will have a sales area of approximately 3,000 square metres. The store is planned to open during the autumn of 2011.

 We look forward to opening our first store in South East Asia. There is great potential for expansion in this highly populated and fashion conscious region, and Orchard Road in Singapore is the perfect first step for this, says Karl-Johan Persson, CEO at H&M.

Interesting that they would say that Singapore is the first store in Southeast Asia given that H&M has been in HK for ages now (but on hindsight, HK has gone back to China so technically it’s no longer counted as part of SEA? Hmm…. geopolitics complicates things…)

In any case, I am stoked! FINALLY! Took them awhile but at least we won! Next up, lobbying for Krispy Kremes!

Are you excited about H&M coming to Singapore? Or are you having mixed feelings because prices will be extravagant and the pieces will no longer be exclusive? Share your views with us!

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