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myVillage Is My New Kampung

I’ve been residing at Ang Mo Kio almost all my life, and besides Ang Mo Kio Central, the other place that I used to visit with my family and friends is the Serangoon Gardens area. I’ve always been drawn by the rather rustic vibe that I get from the area, and the very good food that Chomp Chomp Food Centre offers.

The visits there became less regular since I moved to Clementi after getting married. But after I got re-orientated to the myVillage mall, following an invitation from their marketing team, I’m determined to visit it more often and make it the kampung I hang out with my loved ones!

My reasons?

  • It has a sense of cosiness about it. I like that it doesn’t have the hustle and bustle that I have to put up with when I’m at other heartland malls (I’m sure you can think of a few as you read this).
  • It may not be a huge mall, but it has everything that I need: from NTUC Fairprice to QB House, and from Guardian to DBS Bank.
  • On top of the “necessary” services that I mentioned above, it also offers a more interesting tenant mix that most other malls don’t offer, some of which I’m going to talk about a little more in this post.

Now, come along with me on my little tour around myVillage, and I’ll show you what I meant:

There are several reputable beauty services at myVillage

And I’m talking about literally head-to-toe beauty services. MyVillage is home to Gui Ren Tang (head, for hair treatments), Beyond Beauty (for facials, massages and manicures), and Chen Kang Foot Reflexology (toe, for foot massages). Cuttour, a hairstyling salon, and Nail Addict, a manicure salon are also at myVillage.

At the tour, I visited Beyond Beauty and enjoyed a massage at the spa.

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As a beauty editor, I have visited many spas, tried many massages and spoke to many therapists. At Beyond Beauty, it was the first time I’ve encountered a therapist who was able to tell me, based on her TCM knowledge, what are some ailments I should be worried about and how I can go about resolving them.
For instance, my therapist advised me to soak my feet in warm water before I sleep if I can, because I’m someone who tends to get chills more easily. This is in fact something that I know I’ve been suffering from since I was a child. She also shared a lot more other health tips that are specific to me, which I shan’t share on this public space :)

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Fashion junkies: Hot spot alert!

When I was in university, I used be very excited to visit Chomp Chomp Food Centre, not just because of the food, but also because of a fashion store that’s within the area. The store isn’t your usual “market” store selling “auntie” clothes, but actually stocks very fashionable wear that I remember buying for Chinese New Year.

Guess what – the children of the owner of that store now runs their own fashion accessories outlet – U-design – at myVillage.

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It looks like the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, because the fashion taste of the U-design owners are obviously impeccable.

I understand that they source for their ware from overseas, especially from Korea. It took me very long to shop, because I want to buy everything, but I managed to go home with two necklaces and two pairs of earrings. These are the necklaces I picked!

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You might have seen me flaunting some of them on my Instagram. Here are pictures of me and Qiu Ting having a blast at the shop:

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 By the way, you can quote “Kristen Juliet” at U-design to enjoy 10% off your purchases!

Food at myVillage is quite an exciting deal too!

There are quite a number of food options at myVillage. You can go for something hearty, like steak at iSteaks, or burgers at Relish Gardens (Which I absolutely love! So much so that fellow blogger, Yina, saw me once in person there, and noticed that I was there again at the myVillage outlet in the same week. She called me out on Instagram :p).

Otherwise, if you want something that’s great for sharing, I’d recommend Yogiyo Chicken. Its owners brought the fried chicken that got its fame at the Hongdae area in Korea to Singapore, and this is their first outlet here. Very interestingly, having visited Hongdae before, I felt that Hongdae has this laidback vibe that myVillage also shares.

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I’m not a super huge fan of fried chicken, but even so, I have to say these are good stuff. MyVillage’s marketing manager shared how he can almost have this as a daily meal, and I can totally see where he’s coming from.

Whether it is the non-spicy ones with honey and topped with sesame…

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Or the spicy ones that have just enough spice to give a kick to the taste, but not too much to have me yelling for water…

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They’re both really delicious.

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I like that these very functional, but somewhat cute, thumb gloves were handed out to us so we won’t have to dirty our fingers while digging in.

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You can sweeten things up at myVillage

There are several dessert places you can visit, if you want to find a nice place to share some food and good conversations; Bakerzin, Little Wimbly Lu and Udders Ice Cream are all available at myVillage.

Ice-cream is my Achilles’ heel of all desserts, and that’s why I was on cloud nine when I was told that visiting Udders Ice Cream was part of the tour.

I’ve been a patron of Udders since forever their first outlet at Novena, and have been going back to them because of their Mao Shan Wang ice-cream (I’m a huge durian fan) and alcoholic options that are served with real alcohol (they have a license for it).

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At the tasting, I was treated to not just my favourite Mao Shan Wang Durian ice-cream, alcoholic fares like the Orange Choc Bitters, Bailey’s & Bourbon, Tira-miss-u and Rum Rum Raisin, I also had a preview to the Nian Gao ice-cream, which they served only during the Chinese New Year period.

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I spoke to co-founder Peck Lin, and learnt more about how they made sure their ice-creams are made of the freshest ingredients, and the thoughts and innovation that they put into creating new flavours every month.

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After the very indulgent tasting, I still love my Mao Shan Wang, but have also developed a new love for the Snickers Mars Honeycomb Vanilla, Awesomely Chocolate, and Salted Speculoos (as you can see, I’ve ventured beyond the intended tasting menu that day and started tasting other flavours hahaha!). I love almost all the alcoholic flavours, by the way, although I’m kind of decided to be a teetotaller for the next two years because I just got into remission. (This being said, I’ve already had a teeny weeny bit of alcohol this year, but I’m really cutting down by at least 99%.)

MyVillage is located at 1 Maju Avenue, which is just a stone’s throw away from Chomp Chomp Food Centre, in the Serangoon Gardens area. Find out more at its website.

 

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Food & Nutrition Tips Based On My Chemotherapy Experience

Like it or not, many patients experience loss of appetite and change in taste buds during chemotherapy. As much as I’m a foodie before I fell ill, these happened to me too, and was probably why I lost 10kg after my chemotherapy treatments ended.

They’re both side effects of chemotherapy. The loss of appetite could be due to nausea, or just generally not “feeling” like eating, and also because of oral ulcers that tend to occur especially with aggressive chemotherapy.

In my case, my chemotherapy doses increased with each cycle until my fourth one. They couldn’t increase it anymore because my body wasn’t able to hold up to the strong effects. With each cycle, I got worse oral ulcers despite gargling with salt water regularly, and keeping my oral hygiene in tip-top condition. We are talking about ulcers that fill the entire mouth and tongue. It was impossible to even talk or open my mouth, let alone eat.

Taste change on the other hand, is really peculiar because medically, I don’t think there’s a clear reason for it. It could be because of damage to oral cells. However, food tasted really odd to me, they sometimes tasted bitter, or with a weird sweetness, or just… strange. Generally, nothing tasted particularly good.

It could be psychological, but I felt like puking whenever I smelt hospital food. So those days I had to be in the hospital (which was about 7 days per 3 weeks) were the days I struggled most with food.

All the above-mentioned problems, coupled with less options for food (everything has to be kept low-bacteria, that means no raw foods, including raw vegetables, and thin-skinned fruits like grapes, and no yogurt and mayonnaise – the former is made up of (good) bacteria, and the latter of raw eggs). My parents cooked every meal for me, washed everything properly and made sure they were cooked thoroughly and that I ate immediately so as to make sure they weren’t contaminated.

Now that my taste buds and appetite are more or less back to normal, I thought I’d share some tips and thoughts that I had during that period. Hopefully this is going to benefit those who are going through chemotherapy now and feeling a bit lost, or for those who are cooking for loved ones who are going through chemotherapy.

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  • Distract yourself during meal times. When I first got home after I was diagnosed and went through my first chemotherapy cycle, I was still in a state of distraught. So were my family. Everyone was so concerned that when I ate, everyone gathered around to “watch” me. I soon realise that this wasn’t a “good” way to eat. My trick was to either eat with someone and chat, or eat while watching a show. The idea is to get my mind off the food and make the motion of feeding myself go auto-pilot, and focus on something that’s engaging instead. The shows of choice during that time? Masterchef (weird, I know) and Kang Xi Lai Le.
  • Eat multiple meals in small portions. Food became something intimidating to me during that time. When I saw too much food on the table, I’d feel like puking. It helped when my parents started serving food on very small plates for me. For instance, I may be eating just a small slab of fish and a few pieces of vegetables for lunch, but may take a small bowl of red bean soup during tea time.
  • Eat slowly. I typically take about one and a half hour to finish one small bowl of porridge. But this makes eating less intimidating.
  • Don’t think, just eat. Mentally, it’s hard to swallow food especially when you don’t have appetite. I didn’t even feel hungry most of the time. However, I had to logically tell myself that I HAD to eat to have the energy to fight an ongoing battle. So, I dissociate food with enjoyment, and think of it as a necessity. I reminded myself that all I had to do was to put food into my mouth, bite and swallow. Win.
  • Plan your meals. Because you can’t eat as much as you used to, it’s important to pick the “better” things to eat. It is very important to have sufficient protein input every day (at least 7 servings). I get most of my protein in the form of fish, tofu, eggs and beans. On days when I REALLY can’t eat anything, I drink a can of nutrition supplement called Ensure. By the way, I still have several cans that I stocked up but never drank. If you know of anyone who needs it and particularly if they can’t afford it, please let me know and I’ll be pleased to give them out for free.
  • Make your food interesting. There were certain ingredients that can instantly perk up my appetite. I’m not sure if it works for everyone, but I thought I’d share. Salted butter was a life-saver for me. I put that onto bread and into mashed potatoes, and they instantly tasted better. You can get the individually-packed ones from supermarkets to ensure hygiene. Adding a touch of lemon juice to fish also made them taste better for me. Another way to make food interesting is to change up the way you present the food. I quickly got sick of having steamed salmon, but when my dad started grilling them and putting them into burger buns, it became more appetising.
  • Fruits and fruit juices work. I could never get enough of fruit juices and particularly coconut. The coconut also offers a good source of energy and fats, which are good for the body.
  • Prepare liquid food. These were my ammunition on those days when I my mouth was full of ulcers. My best girlfriends showered me with lots of baby foods that really worked out well because they’re easy to eat, nutritious, and are soothing on the ulcers because I chill them in the fridge before eating them. They were the only things I ate during those days I have ulcers, because it hurt a lot even when I ate tofu. You can also consider soups.
  • Find ways to curb nausea. My girlfriends also supplied me with sweets and lollipops that helped to curb my nausea. One of my girls bought me organic mint tea, which I find useful to stop nausea. Whenever I feel nauseated, I also quickly lie down and breathe deeply. The doctor prescribed me medicine as well, which I only take as a last option.
  • Ask for medical help. Two weeks after my last chemotherapy, I was experiencing extreme pain because of the mouth ulcers and constipation. I had a great fear towards food and eating too, firstly because it was just too painful to eat, and secondly, I knew that if I ate, I had to go to the toilet, which was super painful as well. Those were very horrible days that I still shudder whenever I think about them. I was admitted to the hospital for neutropenia, and during that stay, a pain management doctor was called in to help. I was prescribed mylocaine and morphine – which were really my magic potions. I personally don’t think we should use pain relief drugs readily, but speak to a doctor to see if he/she would advise it for your case. These drugs made my life a lot easier.

I was really very, very lucky because I have a strong cheer-leading team. My parents took turns to prepare all meals for me. It wasn’t easy and I know it’s rather stressful too, but they did this with so much joy and with a heart of service.

My brother constantly did research to find out what foods I could eat and to find ways to make food more interesting for me. He also spent time during meal times to chat with me so I could be distracted.

My girlfriends pampered me soooo much: whenever they know I like something (that I was allowed to eat), you’ll be sure that I’d be showered with it.

And a special mention for my dad and brother, who cooked san lao hor fun and mushroom risotto using ingredients that I was able to eat, just because I said I had a craving. During those times, I had no appetite all the time, and having a “craving” was very rare. But what’s more priceless was their readiness to indulge in my craving.

Finally, a word for you, if you’re going through chemotherapy and struggling with food. Don’t be depressed! Every morsel you consume is one mini victory. Take it one spoonful at a time. Try different ways to manage the issue. Get help – speak to a doctor or a nutritionist. And don’t feel bad about it – your body’s like a battlefield now and it’s normal for you to feel horrible all over. Keep your eyes on the goal. And all the best!

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I Think I’ve Found My Favourite Waffles Place!

Thanks to the recommendation of our friend Camy, who is a bona fide cafe guru, Keith and I went to Department of Caffeine one leisurely weekend for brunch (with Camy).

I’ve always had a nice memory of waffles, because it’s a weekend food that I ate frequently when I was a kid – at A&W. I can’t exactly remember whether A&W waffles were REALLY good, but I haven’t tried good waffles for the longest time. For instance, the waffles at Strangers’ Reunion didn’t impress.

We heard that waffles were a signature for Department of Caffeine, so we decided to go with it.

I went with a pretty safe choice of Buttermilk Waffles with butter rum bananas ($12.50) served with New Zealand Premium vanilla ice-cream.

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My order came first and as I took a bite into the waffles, I can’t stop telling Keith how much I liked it. It was very crispy, fragrant and the ice-cream was really – pardon the pun – icing on the cake.

I had my waffles with a glass of Apple, Ginger & Fresh Mint juice ($5.50), which was very refreshing.

Keith ordered the Apple Pie Waffles, which looked like a de-constructed apple pie that sits on top of crispy waffles.

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And I enjoyed this thoroughly. I’ve always enjoyed apple pies but usually find them a bit too sweet. This was just right, and the buttery taste of the waffles balance out the sweetness of the fruits. The crumbles on top made it extra delicious.

Keith ordered the hot chocolate ($5) to go with his treat. It was one of the best hot chocolate I’ve tried too, and I would have gone for it, if not because I also had hot chocolate the night before at another cafe. Call me weird, but I simply refuse to have the same type of food/drink as I did within such a short time.

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Department of Caffeine is located at 15 Duxton Road. They’re closed every Wednesday, and are opened on weekdays from 10.30am to 7pm, and on weekends from 9.30am – 7pm. It’s one of the few cafes that opens so early on weekends, so if you want to start your day early on a weekend, this is where you can go. Get more info on their Facebook page.

7 Things I Didn’t Expect About Being Married

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1. I was lonelier than before

When I was staying with my parents, I’ll get home from work at 7pm, have dinner with my family (my parents and brother) and spend the rest of the evening watching TV and laughing over the programmes. The house is always vibrant, filled with noises from the TV set, chatters and laughters.

And then I got married and moved into our new house.

Keith doesn’t finish work at the same time as me. In the first month of our marriage, he typically finishes work at 9pm and gets home at about 10pm.

My evening became this: Take a bus home, have dinner alone at the food court near the estate, shower when I get home, turn on the TV and feel super lonely because there’s no one to laugh with me. By the time he got home, showered and caught up with his social media feeds, it was already bed time.

I was quite depressed in the first month of our marriage because I constantly felt lonely. Plus, I was “homesick”, I missed my family a lot.

Thankfully, we’ve resolved this issue in the last few months, so it’s all good now :)

2. We don’t “spend time” all the time

Even when we are both at home, we may not always be interacting. We may be at a different part of our house, doing our own things.

3. “Dates” don’t come naturally

You’d think that staying together means it’ll be easy to go on “dates”. It won’t happen unless you set a time for it. Somehow, we have so many commitments: our friends, doing housework, and visiting our parents regularly. In the end, we realise we didn’t make time for each other. Now, we set Friday nights as our “sacred” date nights. We aren’t supposed to do anything else besides spending time as a couple.

4. We argue over trivial day-to-day things

Before getting married, I often thought that the stereotype of how married couples quarrel over whether to dispense the toothpaste from the middle of the tube or from the end of it, and also about the man leaving the toilet seat up, was ridiculous. Who cares for such things?! Well, we didn’t quarrel over these things specifically, because they’re indeed ridiculous, but Keith whines about my face-washing habit because I tend to get some water onto the mirror. Please tell him he’s being ridiculous ;)

5. He takes over my parents’ role. Kinda.

I thought I no longer need to put up with nags after I moved out. But boy, does my husband nag at me (sometimes). In a “parent-ly” tone.

6. There’s never-ending housework to be done

I’ve been very lucky that my mum is the one who does most of the housework when I was staying with them. But my new place isn’t big and I thought that we’ll be fine spending a few hours every weekend doing housework. I eventually realise that consistency is the key to keeping the house in a pristine state. This means there’s a need to do small chores as often as you can, or you’ll need to launch a very tiring spring-cleaning project frequently.

7. Life is still a routine

This is especially when I moved back again after going into remission. I really thought we could start doing fun projects together, plan trips and visit hipster cafes, but seriously, in between work, Daily Vanity, household chores, church and family obligations, what I can say is “ain’t nobody got time for that!”

I finally understand why all fairytales simply end with “and they lived happily ever after”, because there’s not much of a story to tell thereafter, and if there is any, it’s not quite a fairytale.

All these being said, I’m very happily married, in case you thought otherwise. Because I know that we are the kind who will work towards making each other happier.

 

7 Problems Only People With Good Memory Can Understand

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This is my sparkling brain.

 

My memory is good. My friends can all attest to this. And my memory has always been good. From the time I was two or three, my parents could count on me to remember every relative’s phone number. Before the mobile phone’s phonebook function was a norm, my ability was a great asset to them.

Later on my life, it helps that I was in every competition and activity in my primary school that requires some form of memorising, from story-telling competitions to emcee.

And if you attended my wedding, you’ll notice that I delivered my speech without any script. It was all “written” in my head a week ago, and I “stored” it there, rehearsed once more as I showered (by running it in my head) before the wedding banquet, and delivered it on the stage.

Good memory is a blessing, but it can sometimes be a curse. Here’s why:

1. It’s irritating when nobody can remember you

You’ve seen this person once at a party and were briefly introduced to him/her. You chatted for a minute, exchange niceties and either of you had to leave. One year later, you see him/her again. “Hey, Alice! It’s been a while!”

Usually, the reply would be: I’m sorry, you are…

“Remember, we met at a party in February last year and Beatrice introduced us?”

Dammit, why can’t anyone get their act together and remember human beings they’ve been introduced to? Do I have to remind her she was wearing a red dress with ruffles details, and she paired it with a rose gold horseshoe necklace for her to believe that we’ve met? Now it makes me look like I cared so much about you when actually I could remember these because I remember everything.

(True story that happened recently: I was introduced to another blogger by a PR manager. Said blogger shook my hand and asked for my name again, obviously looking like it was the first time we met. I was so upset, I raised my voice and said: OMG! We’ve met so many times, had tea together, and corresponded via emails so many times! You don’t remember?” The last correspondence we had was two years ago. BUT STILL! Then, whatever conversation we had later was just awkward, because whatever she told me, I was thinking “Yes, yes I know already!” and whatever she asked me, I was thinking “Dammit, I’ve told you before already!” I felt as if I were talking to someone who suffered from amnesia. I just wanted to rant about this, because I seriously think this has more to do with her very poor memory than my good memory.)

2. Sometimes people think you’re a creep

A continuation from the scenario from #1. You can remember EVERYTHING the almost-stranger said to you in the previous meeting. Perhaps in that short 10-minute conversation, she briefly mentioned her family.

At the second meeting, after she reluctantly say hi and acknowledge that you probably really met a year ago, the conversation is likely to go like this:

She: “My brother plays the piano too! And he’s pretty good on it.”

You: “Oh? The older one or the younger one?”

She: “How did you know I had two brothers?”

You: “You told me at the last meeting. That your elder brother’s working at a club, and your younger brother’s in NUS.”

At this point, your new friend is likely to look very uncomfortable. She might laugh and ask: What else have I told you? She may look nervous. She may give you a discreet dirty look, like you were Facebook-stalking her or something. Hey, you were the one who told me these things last year, remember? Oh, yes, you don’t remember.

3. People don’t even remember the nice things they’ve done for you

I remember many gifts, trinkets and cards that my friends have given/made for me. But when I remind them about it, they often don’t remember at all. I know 10 years have passed since you gave me that scarf you knitted for me before I went on my trip, but I thought it’d have meant a lot to you too so you’d remember it! No?

4. You remember all the nice things you’ve done for people

These memories usually come back when that person decided to be mean. And then you recall all the nice things you’ve done for her/him, including offering to walk her home because her mother couldn’t pick her up and she was afraid to go home alone, when you were both in primary three. How dare she call me a bitch behind my back when I walked her home when she was a frightened 9-year-old?

5. You are able to catch lies better than others

Friend briefly mentioned that he overslept and didn’t manage to go for his language class that day (it was Valentine’s Day). A few weeks later, he said that he missed his language class on Valentine’s Day because he had to help his mum get groceries in the morning. You know that he’s lying, (probably about the groceries), for whatever reason (that he had to lie). But since it’s so trivial, should you call him out?

It’s worse if you catch your friend’s partner lying. Should you call him out?

If you didn’t have a good memory, you probably wouldn’t have noticed the lie. If your memory wasn’t good, you won’t be caught in a dilemma. There had been many situations where I kept my mouth shut and allowed the person to continue lying because they were scenarios where someone was lying (and bragging) in a social setting and it was just inappropriate to call the person out.

6. You remember “useless” information that no one appreciates

Like, the lyrics to all your school songs. What’s the point of remembering them when none of your ex-classmates do (at least not the entire song), and you can’t break into song with them? Anyway, you’re going to sound like a nerd for remembering the songs, because your friend is likely to say “Aiyah! I don’t even sing the school song last time. I just stood there and stone.”

And now, you look damn uncool.

Hey, I may have also stood there and stone, but I STILL remember all the lyrics leh!

7. People forget their promises to you

People are going to promise to bring you to certain places, introduce you to certain people, buy you certain things, or go on the next trip with you. But, no, nobody is going to remember. But you.

Like that friend who promised to go to Redang with you and her sister, but then you realise a few months later, she book tickets with her new boyfriend to go with them to Redang. Are you supposed to get offended?

And if the person who makes these promises (and forget them) is your husband, he’s going to get a really, reaaaaaally hard time. I promise. And I won’t forget.

 

My Work Makeup – Complete In 15 Minutes!

One of my new year resolutions this year is to wear makeup more often. The annoying problem that I have is that I horde too much makeup but very often, I’m so lazy, I skip many important steps in the makeup regime, especially on a work day (when I’d rather sacrifice my appearance for more sleep).

This is one of my recent attempts at makeup for work:

Bringing back the #pinafore although I'm no longer a school girl. #ootd #lotd #fotd

A photo posted by Kristen Juliet Soh (@beautysorority) on

This has more or less become my “standard face” at work, because it goes with almost any getup and takes me very little time to complete. If I include my skincare regime in the morning, all I take is just 20-30 minutes at my vanity table to get myself prepared.

These are what I used:

Face

  • Make Up For Ever Step1 Hydrating Primer
  • Sulwhasoo Evenfair Perfecting Cushion
  • Make Up For Ever HD Blush in 410 Blush Coral

Eyes

  • Collection Extreme 24Hr Felt Tip Liner
  • One of my Make Up For Ever Artist Shadows
  • Make Up For Ever Smoky Extravagant Mascara in Black

Lips

  • One of my YSL Rouge Volupte Shine lipsticks

Time-saving tips for work makeup

  • Stick to the same basic products and put them in a container that you can reach out to easily. For me, I have my primer, foundation, blusher, eyeliner and mascara in a box that is easily accessible on my vanity table. I only change up my eyeshadow and lipstick colours every day (occasionally, blusher shade too)
  • I find BB cushions the most convenient foundation to use if you want to save time. Unlike usual liquid foundations where you need to either apply with your fingers (and dirtying them, hence, needing to spend time to wash them out), BB cushions also deliver a dewy finish that’s not messy because it comes with a sponge, and its formula contained within a compact case.
  • If you’re really rushing for time, skip eyeliner and go for a really good mascara instead. A good mascara that volumises your lashes well, is going to give the look of lined lash lines too. I really like the Make Up For Ever mascara that I’m using now because it is smudge-proof and gives very good volume.
  • While it is tempting, don’t skip eyeshadow and lipstick. I think they really help to perk up the face and make me look more energetic than I feel. To save time, use an earth toned eyeshadow with shimmer. I find shimmer eyeshadows easier to blend and earth colours can always complement anything I’m wearing.

You’ll probably notice that I’m using a lot of Make Up For Ever products (yes, I absolutely love them!) and they’re available at Sephora and the Make Up For Ever Academy & Pro-loft located at 36 & 38 Armenian Street #01-06 & #02-06. If you prefer the convenience of online shopping, Make Up For Ever products are also available on Zalora.

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In sickness, and in health

There’s something about the marriage vows that are exchanged at a Catholic wedding. I feel that it’s so profound yet complete, that there’s no word I want to add to or omit from it. And it never fails to touch me at every Catholic wedding I attended, including my own. It goes like this:

I,  (name), take you, (spouse’s name), to be my wife/husband, I promise to be true to you, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, I will love and honour you all the days of my life.

The priest who prepared us for our wedding and celebrated it was Fr. Stephen Yim and he reminded us to look at each other (instead of the booklet with the vows printed on it) because we are, after all, saying the vow to each other. I made it a point to memorise it.

Of course, I meant it with all my heart when I uttered those words; I’m sure Keith did too. But little would I have expected us to live out those vows in the most trying manner, just one month after our wedding.

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From cough to cancer

I’ve been nursing a dry cough for the longest time. If I’m not wrong, it started about two weeks before my wedding. By my wedding, I couldn’t speak properly without coughing between sentences, and also was unable to sing the full song that I wanted as a surprise for Keith during our wedding dinner.

Exactly one month after our wedding, after a scary vision I had in church (whilst praying, I saw an image of thorns growing rapidly on my right lung, destroying everything in its way), I decided that I would admit myself through A&E to get an X-ray done. By then, I had been been coughing for 1.5 months, and having some chest pains (although the GPs that I’ve visited suggested there’s nothing to worry about).

To cut the long story short, I was admitted into hospital and within a few days, I was diagnosed with Stage 3.5 lymphoma. That’s cancer, by the way. It was a tumour that grew on my right lung – the exact location and shape that I saw in my vision.

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I could have died

Everything happened really quickly. Thanks to the grace of God, I actually took it well, and bravely made tough decisions to save my own life. It’s still amazing to me how I was able to be so logical despite the storm that was brewing in my life.

But what’s amazing about this was the people who stood firmly and supported me during this ordeal. Without giving my parents and brother any less credit, I must say that I was very amazed by Keith’s tenacity during this period. Y’know, because we are not blood-related, unlike my family and I?

We didn’t date for a long time. We were only married for one month. He should be afraid, and he could run away.

I suggested to him an annulment. He didn’t sign up for this, I told him. The battle ahead was going to be really tough. There was a chance that I might die. The tumour was huge: at 9×10 cm. And it was aggressive and fast-growing. As such, the treatment was going to be aggressive. I had to spend a lot of time in the hospital for chemotherapy.

I would lose my hair, brows and lashes. My body would get a lot weaker because chemotherapy destroys the good cells too. We would have to spend a lot of money to get me treated. And even after all these, there was still a chance that I might die.

And if I didn’t make it, I wanted him to be able to marry someone in the future in a “clean slate” and that’s possible if we annulled our marriage. At the same time, even if I made it, I wanted him to have the chance to “opt out” of the tough journey ahead. There are going to be struggles that “normal” couples don’t have to go through even after I finish chemotherapy and am in remission. He had to be aware of this and he had to know he will be taking on additional responsibilities.

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In sickness, and in health

Thankfully, my husband chose to stand by the vows he made to me and God. And I never stopped feeling grateful about it. With tremendous support from my family, him and a group of awesome friends, I was able to weather through the storm with lots of courage, grace and joy – yes, joy!

And one day, while praying and feeling bad about putting my loved ones through this ordeal with me, I heard God telling me not to feel bad. Because when we vowed to love and honour each other “in sickness and in health”, it wasn’t just about the healthy spouse sticking to the sick one, but also for the sick one to continue to love the healthy spouse despite her pains.

It’s true that it’s harder to love and be nice when you’re very sick. I made it my personal goal to not throw tantrum at anyone who cared for me just because I was in pain. I think I did well.

Keith may not be the most meticulous person and he blamed himself for not realising I was having fever for an entire day from neutropenia (where a part of white blood cells fall to abnormally low rates). This could have cost my life.

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But he is awesome in many, many ways: shaving his hair off as a sign of support for me, taking care of all my administrative matters while I was sick, spending nights with me at the hospital sleeping on the uncomfortable couch, praying with me, accompanying me to medical appointments, and generally being my pillar of strength in the toughest and most painful period of my life. I’d imagine that’s what God wanted Adam and Eve do for each other: to be each other’s companion and helper.

Someone asked me after I was hospitalised if we had gone to a fortune-teller to get an auspicious date for our wedding based on our eight characters. We didn’t. “Maybe that’s why you’re sick right after you’re married, perhaps your eight characters clashed,” I was told.

I don’t know what others think, and I really don’t care what they thought. If eight characters really mattered, then Keith and I must have the most compatible ones, because he complemented me perfectly. And no matter how I looked at this ordeal, I see it as a blessing. Who else could confidently say that her husband was going love her even when she’s sick and ugly (or bald, like me)?

I can, because, he did.