Child's Nutrition, Material Moms

[Material Moms] How To Get Your Child To Drink More Water – Beverly Burgess

Getting their child to meet their daily requirement of H2O is a struggle many mums are familiar with. Our Material Mom Beverly Burgess has found a way around the problem, and she shares her tips here.

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Most adults don’t drink their recommendated daily intake of water, and neither do many children. Considering water makesup 75 percent of our bodies, it’s important that we replenish our fluids regularly – especially in Singapore’s hot weather.

USDA recommends that toddlers drink 1.3 liters and young children up to eight years drink 1.7 liters daily. Do you worry whether your child is drinking enough water every day? Here are a few tips to encourage them to get their daily requirement of H2O:

1) Get your child to drink from a cup. Drinking directly from a cup naturally dispenses more water into your child’s mouth and also facilitates faster drinking. Try to wean your child off non-leak straws – those are notorious for making it hard work sucking any water out and the child often drinks less due to the greater effort required.

2) Flavour your water naturally. Does your child turn their nose up at plain ‘ol water? Boost it with some flavour like a squeeze of orange juice, or steep some cucumber in there. Water flavoured naturally with fruit and vegetables have the added bonus of giving their immune system a boost.

3) Chill your water. Few children will reject a glass of refreshing, chilled water. Pop a cube of ice into their cup to add interest (they can rattle it around) and icy coldness that is a hit with kids.

4) Use an insulated water bottle. When you’re on the go, invest in an insulated water bottle that you can fill with plain water and add an ice cube to. It will cool the water down and your child will have cool water whilst out – especially welcome if they are running around outdoors.

5) Serve more fruit and soups. Not all their recommended daily intake of water needs to come from plain water. Fruit, soups, and milk are also excellent sources of fluid and make a great snack for kids. Just remember, it is better for a child to consume plain cut fruit rather than fruit juice, which tends to have more sugar and lower fibre content.

Of course, I don’t need to tell you that dehydration has many unpleasant side effects such dizziness and sluggishness so be sure to practise what you preach and ensure that you, too, get your eight glasses a day.

BevChrisCloseupAbout the author: Having blogged for the past two decades spanning life in Australia, China and Singapore, Beverly Burgess entered an alternate universe at warp speed when she went from career-driven shopaholic and social butterfly … to juggling being a wife and a mother of two kids. All within three years. The career is now replaced with the privilege of being a full-time mum, but the urge to shop and socialize still remains (albeit with two obliging children in tow). And, she wouldn’t have it any other way. She blogs at Beverly’s Adventures.

 

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Food News, Lifestyle

4 Food and Drinks You’re Consuming Wrongly – Denise Li

Probably the most eye-opening article you will read today. By Denise Li

Having visited Japan and Europe this year, I learnt quite a few things about eating and drinking the following things and quite frankly, I was #mindblown.

1. Belgian beer … or any other kind of craft beer, really

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You can live your entire life drinking a different Belgian beer every day (starting from when you turn a legal age to do so, of course) without sampling all the beers that Belgium has to offer. That’s cos they have at least 90,000 breweries in the country alone, and most brands produce more than one type of beer. Having just spent a lot of my time on my recent trip to Belgium in bars, I learnt a lot about how to pour the perfect beer and, as it turns out, a lot of us (even bartenders here in Singapore) have been doing it wrong all along. As it’s a rather complicated process (who knew?), it’d be easier to break it down in point form.

(i) The glass: You’ll notice that there is a variety of glassware for beers in Belgium. Some are shaped like goblets, others are shaped like chalices, and yet others are tulip-shaped. These serve more than just an aesthetic or branding purposes; they’re actually the result of careful research and experimentation by the beer brewers to find out which shape best brings out the taste of the beer. So the next time you’re having a Belgian craft beer at a bar, be sure to reject any glass that’s not the same brand as the beer you’re drinking.

(ii) The pour: Bartenders in Belgium would wet the glass with cold water before tapping or pouring beer into it. Not only is this practice in the best interests of hygiene (it gets rid of any dust or dishwasher residue), it also ensures a better pour. Pouring beer into a dry glass causes more carbon dioxide to come out of the beer and create unnecessary foam.

(iii) The head: Don’t complain if you see Belgian bartenders serving you beer with a large head. That, too, serves a useful purpose. Not only does a large head mean that your beer will continue to release its aromatics as you sip your beer, it also prevents your beer from oxidising too quickly and changing its taste.

2. Xiao long bao

XLB

From a food tasting at Din Tai Fung some time back, I learnt that there is a “right” way to eat xiao long bao as well. Before that day, I tended to just dip it in vinegar. But for a more balanced flavour, the management actually recommended that the dipping sauce be mixed in a 60/40 vinegar to soya sauce ratio. Since I started mixing soya sauce in my vinegar, I found that I could better taste the meaty broth in the XLB. Also, for many of us, eating XLB is a messy affair because when we first bite into it, the soup spurts out onto the spoon and we often find ourselves just shoving the whole thing into our mouths. The right way to eat it, apparently, is to first bite off the top of the XLB and slurping up the broth before proceeding to eat the rest of it.

2. Sushi

mmmsushi

Every time you mix the wasabi into the soya sauce, then proceed to drunk the rice part of the sushi into the mix, rest assured that there is a Japanese person observing you and cringing on the inside. When you eat sushi at higher end Japanese restaurants, the sushi chef would have already placed some wasabi in between the fish and the rice so it’s unnecessary to pile more on top of it (it’s akin to smothering an expensive, well-prepared steak in ketchup). And you’re not supposed to dip the sushi rice side down into the soya sauce because it will absorb too much of the sauce, resulting in the sushi being too salty and soggy. Instead, dip the sushi fish side down in the soy sauce, and put the whole thing in your mouth – don’t bite off half the sushi. Also, the ginger slices are NOT to be eaten with sushi but between different pieces of sushi to function as a palate cleanser.

4. The bread basket at French restaurants

bread

I was in Paris recently and it didn’t matter whether I was dining at a casual bistro or a more formal restaurant, if there was one thing I could be sure of, it was that a basket of bread would appear on the table with my wine. Italian and French restaurants in Singapore do it too, and I always assumed it was a starter – why else would it arrive with my drink? When I was eating in Paris though, I noticed I was the only one munching on the bread before my food arrived. Turns out, the bread is supposed to function more as an accompaniment to your meal. For instance, you could spread your steak tartare on it and enjoy it that way or, if your dish is sauced-based, you can use the bread to mop it up you’ve finished your meal.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys training in MMA, and doing conditioning workouts. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets and Instagram @smackeral83.

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Adventures, Lifestyle

Why You Need To Start Saving For a Trip to Iceland NOW – Denise Li

Iceland has more than the Northern Lights and volcanoes … although those are pretty spectacular too, says Denise Li.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when I say “Iceland”? I’m guessing Bjork, Sigur Ros, the Northern Lights, that volcano with an unpronounceable name (Eyjafjallajokull) that caused aviation havoc when it erupted in 2010, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. In fact, it was after watching that particular movie that my fiance Alain and I decided to look for cheap flights to Reykjavik during my recent European sojourn.

We were there for just four days … way too short to experience even a fraction of what Iceland has to offer, so I’m definitely going to start an “Iceland fund” just so I have a chance to visit it again in the future. Iceland is not exactly what you’d call budget-friendly, but the experiences are one-of-a-kind and definitely worth blowing your yearly bonus on.

Admittedly, our trip was pretty spontaneous, so we didn’t plan for it as well as we should (nor did we allocate a big enough of a budget to do some truly adventurous things), but I’ve gleaned a clearer idea of what I would like to do on my next trip. Without further ado, I present to you, what I think are truly compelling reasons to visit the land of ice and fire.

1. It has a low population density

Iceland has a population of just 320,000 (just 6 percent of Singapore’s current population!), despite being the size of Hungary and Portugal combined, and it’s also the most sparsely populated country in Europe. If, like me, you travel to get away from urban living and hordes of people, Iceland is the perfect destination. In fact, with just a 10 minute drive out of Reyjavik, you will find yourself driving for awhile without seeing another car on the road.

2. It’s a great place for self-guided tours

Driving was easy – what we did was to buy an Iceland sim card so we had access to Google Maps, planned our route the night before with all the stops we wanted to make, and off we went. For the more adventurous and experienced drivers among you, you might want to consider hiring a four-wheel drive so you can really go off-road and explore.

3. The friendly people

I once visited a beautiful country in the Asian region. Rich in history and with beautiful landscapes and destinations, my experience of it was marred by numerous encounters with rude locals and being ripped off at every turn. The people living in the country can really make or break your experience of visiting it, but all the Icelanders we spoke to were friendly and helpful, and had a dry sense of humour that Alain and I really appreciated.

4. The myriad opportunities for hiking

If you’re an avid hiker, you’ll find yourself in paradise when you set foot in Iceland. Where else would you have the opportunity to trek up volcanoes and on glaciers? For beginner hikers, there are lots of lowland trails for you to walk on as well. Mount Esja, around the Reykjavik area, is a popular hiking area. Just drive out, park your car somewhere and, well, walk. There are lots of clearly marked trails everywhere for you to follow.

5. The beautiful landscape

Iceland is, simply, a place of indescribable beauty, and since it’s indescribable, I think these pictures will better do a better job at showcasing what I saw.

Clearly marked hiking trails

Clearly marked hiking trails

The majestic Gulfoss waterfall

The majestic Gulfoss waterfall

Vik i Myrdal - a black sand beach

Vik i Myrdal – a black sand beach

Kerio Crater

Kerio Crater

What we were disappointed by …

Our whale-watching experience: This is something you can do straight from Reykjavik – all you need to do is walk to the port and sign up just before the boat sets sail. Although tour operators claim that there is a 90 percent chance you will see a whale on their tour, sadly, no whales were sighted although Alain and I went out to sea TWICE. We did, however, see a couple of dolphins during our second attempt. If whale-watching is a priority on your travel agenda, try your luck in Husavik, located in the northern region of Iceland – this is supposedly the best area to spot these magnificent creatures.

Blue Lagoon: The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa located close to Reykjavik that you can bathe in. It’s pretty, but Alain and I we were put off by the pricey entry fees and the hordes of tourists. If you really need a soak, go to the tourist information office (there are many in Reykjavik) for recommendations on less crowded/touristy ones to visit.

If you have to chance to stay longer than 4 days in Iceland as we did – and I reckon that you’ll need at least 10 days to really explore what this amazing country has to offer – here are some of the other activities you can consider doing …

1. Snorkel or dive at Silfra

Located in the Thingvellir National Park (about a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik). Silfra is known as being one of the top dive sites in the world. Not only does it have underwater visibility of 100m (with water so pristine you can even drink it!), it’s also located between the North American and Eurasian continents. You can dive IN BETWEEN the two tectonic plates!

2. Visit the Vatnajokull National Park

The park covers 13 percent of Iceland and is the largest glacier in the world outside of the Arctics. Here, you’ll have many opportunities to see seals, wild reindeer, and exotic birds with your own two eyes. You can also drive a snowmobile and learn more about the unique geographical features – volcanoes and glaciers – of the region.

For flights to Iceland from Singapore, check out Finnair or KLM.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys training in MMA, and doing conditioning workouts. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets and Instagram @smackeral83.

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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] The One Thing Your Relationship Needs RIGHT NOW (and Every Day) – Denise Li

When we say that we are spending time with our partner, are we giving them the full and undivided attention they deserve? Denise Li says being mindful is more important than ever. 

Being mindful doesn't look like this, by the way

Being mindful doesn’t look like this, by the way

We live in a world full of distractions. Blame it on the usual suspects: Smartphones, social media, urban living, and being part of a society that values productivity and where being busy all the time is regarded as a virtue. To be regarded as successful, we need high-flying careers, a wealth of material possessions, fit bodies, and to be able to maintain a sprawling social network.

To have all of these, and to keep making sure that we have all of these, it’s necessary to make decisions based on our perception of future gains. We work hard to hopefully score that promotion by the next financial year, we save up for some big purchase we can make in the future, we exercise hard in the hopes of becoming a thinner, more attractive version of ourselves in a few months.

Doing all of these takes up much of our time and our energy in day-to-day living. We hear people tell us that it’s good to slow down and smell the proverbial roses, but really, who has time to do that when there are still 89 emails to reply, client meetings to set up, social engagements to attend?

Now, I’m not saying that it’s bad to have goals. Of course it’s never a bad idea to know what you want to achieve in life and going all out to get it. But right now, I would like you to pause and ask yourself this: Who am I neglecting right this moment in pursuit of my future goals?

Bruges, Alain's hometown

Bruges, Alain’s hometown

You see, I’ve had a lot of time to think about this in the past six weeks. I spent the last six weeks in Europe with my fiance Alain. Most of that time was spent in his hometown of Bruges, a town in the Flemish region of Belgium. For the first few weeks I was there, I could not shake off the feelings of guilt I had about being away from work. My life as I knew it was “disrupted”; while I still wrote the odd article or two every week, I didn’t have to wake up at 7.30am to go to the office, go for client meetings or attend events. I still worked out, but it wasn’t according to the same routine as I knew it.

We spent a lot of time at home preparing leisurely meals and watching movies together. We took long walks his beautiful, historical town. We went for MMA training together. It sounds great, doesn’t it? Yet, at least in the beginning, I could not shake off the feelings of restlessness. I felt bad for sleeping in, wracked with guilt when I saw that my business partners were drowning in work, I got grumpy because it felt like I was “doing nothing” …

But … I wasn’t doing nothing. I was spending time with the love of my life who I hardly see because we live in different timezones. And instead of being present and appreciative of that fact, I was somehow letting the fact that I wasn’t doing anything “productive” colour my mood. And in doing so, I was not according Alain the respect, love and care that he so rightly deserves.

I was “there” but not really there. And so, even though it wasn’t easy, I know I had to change my perception of the situation.

I started to put my Singapore-related worries in a mental box. I allocated a specific amount of time every day while I was there to answer emails and write my articles. And while it was tough initially, I purposefully shifted my mental focus and emotional energy of the rest of my day to Alain. I reminded myself that for the past few months, I had worked hard for THIS MOMENT. I had squirrelled away money to spend a prolonged period of time in Europe with my partner I see every half a year … why the hell shouldn’t I enjoy what I have NOW? Why should I let my worries about the future distract me from his cuddles, his silliness, and from appreciating his efforts about what he was doing for me while I was there?

I didn’t realise how much I was caught up in the nitty-gritty of day-to-day living, of living for the future, that it had completely affected my ability to appreciate what I DO have at the present moment.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is guilty of not being mindful. There are many meanings and interpretations of what being mindful is, but this site has the one that makes the most sense to me: “It is about being maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”

Being mindful has been proven to have a whole host of benefits, including fostering compassion, and helping people become better parents. But I am acutely aware of the fact that it is impossible to be mindful all the time; it would take an incredible amount of self-awareness and practice to get there. I know that when I go back to work tomorrow, I will once again be caught up in the stresses of day to day living, and I would find it immensely challenging to be “present in the moment” 100% of the time.

But my advice is this, regardless of whether you’re in a long distance relationship: Start by being present – physically, emotionally and mentally – around the ones you love (romantic partner or otherwise). They provide a very tangible focal point for which to practise mindfulness. Put your phones, gadgets and work aside for a couple of hours a day to really appreciate the time you have with your loved ones, and stop taking them for granted. Listen and give them your full and undivided attention for at least a couple of hours a day.

It is the very least and yet the best thing you could do for the relationships you care most about.

Love In Lines is a special under the Relationship section of Material World. The four founders each takes a week in a month to talk about dealing with love from different perspectives. Founder Denise Li talks about the trials and tribulations of being in a long-distance relationship. 

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys training in MMA, and doing conditioning workouts. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets and Instagram @smackeral83.

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Character & Soul, Self-Improvement

Confessions of a Vertically Challenged Guy – Alain Moggi

… as told to his partner, Denise Li.

I'm about 5 foot 7 inches .. in good company with Tom Cruise and Josh Hutcherson.

(Image courtesy of Next Movie) I’m about 5 foot 7 inches .. in good company with Tom Cruise, Josh Hutcherson, and Robert Downey Jr.

“Honestly when Denise asked if I wanted to be interviewed for this story (not that I had much of a choice, really), my first reaction was ‘I don’t have anything to tell you’, mainly because it’s something I hardly think about, nor have an issue with.

Although, yes, it’s true that at 1.72m, I am about 6cm shorter than the average height of Belgian males. On the plus side, I’ll be considered of average height when I move to Singapore. I can see why my height would be interesting topic of discussion though. Women have to deal with societal pressures to be thin, while for men, being tall is definitely what society deems to be the physical ‘ideal’ of being a man. The difference is, that’s really not that much a short dude can do about his height.

Growing up, I was already conscious of the fact that I was, shall we say, vertically challenged? One of the few times I feel it’s annoying is when I have to hang up the boxing bag at the gym – I usually need the help of a taller guy to do it.

Sometimes, other guys would tease me about my height, but I usually go along with the joke, telling them that I would headbutt them in the testicles, or something. It’s all about not taking yourself seriously.

I’ll tell you one thing though – your dating pool is a lot smaller than that of taller dudes. Obviously it stings a little when I hear girls say they prefer taller men. Then again, I wouldn’t go out with a girl who’s a lot taller than I am. A difference of 10cm would be a dealbreaker for me. I guess you can call me a victim of societal norms … Some short guys might not have an issue going out with a much taller woman, but I think they are in the minority. Once, a girl who was a lot taller than me fancied me. She was nice and funny but I just couldn’t get over the fact that she was taller than me. When she hugged me, I felt like she was protecting me, when it should be the other way around. All the women I’ve been in long-term relationships with are slightly shorter than I am.

Other than that, my height isn’t really a big deal in day-to-day living. In a way, training in martial arts has made me more appreciative of the fact that there are so many different body types in in this world, and each comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. After awhile, you learn to play to your strengths, and this can be a huge confidence-booster.

That being said, “short man syndrome” is a real thing, and it can be used as a force for good … or become terribly annoying. At best, it motivates a short guy to excel in one way or another: Be it athletically, intellectually, or in his career. At worse, it causes the guy to be an over-confident, smarmy asshole who likes to big himself up – all signs that he’s compensating for something, of course. It’s not in your best interests to date a guy like that cos it’ll eventually be tiring having to deal with his insecurities and fragile ego.

For me, it’s really not such a big deal. I’ve learnt to live with it, and it’s not something I consciously think about. And that’s the long and short of it.”

[If You Like This, You’ll Like]

The Perks Of Being a Tall Woman

Letting Go Of My Insecurities

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Beauty & Shopping, Skincare

You’ll Want to Steal These Products From Your Man’s Grooming Regime. Here’s Why. – Denise Li

Denise Li makes a case for raiding your man’s stash of grooming products.

Is there ever a good reason to steal from your man’s skincare stash, considering that it’s women who face an abundance of choices where that particular category of product its concerned? We’ve got lotions, serums, moisturisers and every step in between to deal with acne, roughness, dryness, flakiness, rosacea, pigmentation and …

Therein lies the problem.

The Material World team and I have the luxury of finding about the latest skincare technologies and products as part of our jobs. But I can imagine how bewildering it must be for other women to walk into drugstores and the beauty sections of department stores and feel completely overwhelmed by choice. These days, it’s not merely enough to cleanse, tone, moisturise. Besides serums, you can even use products that you can use pre-serum to help your expensive serums absorb better! And many of us use not one but two cleansers in our daily evening regimes. That’s not even taking into account eye products, makeup primers, and what have you.

Everything about the women’s skincare industry seems to be geared towards inflating the number of products we use in our daily routines because that’s how companies get us to spend more.

The male grooming industry, however, operates on slightly different principles, because it assumes that there are fundamental differences between what men and women want out of their skincare regimes. For men, it’s always about getting the maximum results using the bare essentials. The assumption here is that men don’t want to spend longer than they have to (5 minutes, tops) on putting product on their faces, so the challenge here is to create a complete skincare regime that requires no more than three steps.

If you’re tired of having to figure out which step in your skincare regime that primer is supposed to be, or consider yourself to be low-maintenance, or sick and tired of being told to spend more and more money on products that might be unnecessarily or superfluous, it might not be a bad idea to check out the more all-encompassing male skincare ranges out there.

The good people at Kiehl’s passed me their brand-new men’s skincare range, Oil Eliminator, awhile ago, and rather than unleashing it on the first unsuspecting man that passed, I decided to try out the regime for myself. Here are my thoughts:

(L-R):

(L-R): Oil Eliminator Deep Cleansing Exfoliating Face Wash For Men, Shine Control Toner For Men, 24-Hour Anti=Shine Moisturizer For Men

Oil Eliminator Deep Cleansing Exfoliating Face Wash For Men

This is definitely a product I’ll consider using over the long term. For a “deep-cleansing, exfoliating” product, I found that it did the job well without making my skin feel dry and taut after that – a problem I’ve encountered using other cleansers geared towards men. I liked the clear, gel-like texture of the product, and that the crushed apricot seeds – the exfoliating ingredient – were in tiny granules so it didn’t feel abrasive on skin at all. As my skin is sometimes rough and flaky, this might be a good product to use to get rid of the dead skin cells and surface debris.

Oil Eliminator Shine Control Toner For Men

My favourite product in the range because EVERYONE and not just men should have access to a toner that you can spray directly on your face, instead of requiring cotton pads to apply. It can also be used as a cooling facial mist – I’m going to leave this in my office table as it’s going to come in handy after running around outside. It leaves my skin feeling refreshed and dries quickly too.

Oil Eliminator 24-Hour Anti-Shine Moisturizer For Men

Disclaimer: My priority now is to deal with my dry, dehydrated skin, so this isn’t the most suitable of moisturisers for me. But here’s why it’s a super cool product all the same: It has Aerogel, which has been used in space exploration. Aerogel is the lightest solid material on earth and, when used in skincare, can vaporise sweat droplets an absorb an amazing four times its own weight in oil. Aerogel is also the reason why this moisturiser feels so weightless on skin. Over time, it will eliminate shine from skin, and is supposed to help pores look less obvious.

Final thoughts: I think one of the best things about this men’s skincare range is that the products don’t have that overly musky or masculine scent. I found the scent of the products to be pretty neutral and fresh, and the Face Wash even smells a bit minty. All the products are oil- and paraben-free. The Face Wash is also sulphate-free. The only product I won’t use is the moisturiser as it’s not suited to my skin type, but the Face Wash and Toner are definitely keepers – regardless of whether you’re male, female, or have dry skin. If you’re trying to get your guy to commit to a skincare regime, this comprehensive, yet minimalist one is as good as they come.

The Kiehl’s Oil Eliminator range is now available at Kiehl’s outlets islandwide. For a complete store listing, click here. The range was given to was given to Material World for review purposes. All opinions are the author’s own. This post is neither paid for nor advised by the brand. Please read our advertising policy here.

Have you tried a men’s skincare range before? What are your thoughts on it?

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[Material World x Elizabeth Arden] Don’t Let Stress Kill Your Skin

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Friends, Relationships

3 Things I Love About My Friendship With Guys – Denise Li

Here’s why Denise Li can’t live without her favourite dudebros. 

Despite what the TV series depicts, I think men and women can be friends without wanting to sleep with each other.

Despite what the TV series depicts, I think men and women can be friends without wanting to sleep with each other.

Is it possible for women to be platonic friends with men? Sometimes, it astounds me that people ask this question cos it’s a HELL YES! for me. And that’s why I hate the term “friend zone” so much … it stigmatises what could potentially be a healthy and valuable non-romantic relationship between two people. “Friend zone” is an unnecessarily shit-stirring term that should be retired immediately from popular lexicon.

It doesn’t mean that heterosexual male and female friendships are easy to define, uncomplicated, or free from sexual tension all the time. But that’s another story for another day. But I think to only stick to friends of one gender would be to restrict access to a whole world of perspectives, viewpoints and interactions. Here are a few things I get out of my friendship with men.

1. They don’t belabour conversations about emotions

Don’t get me wrong … I’m all for emo HTHTs (heart-to-heart talks), especially if I sense that a friend is feeling down and could use some cheering up. But sometimes, I also like how my guy friends just state the facts, and then move on. Let me give you an example. Recently I met up with a guy friend who was in town for a couple of weeks. We met up in a group with some other guys from the same university. We were all talking about regular stuff, what we were doing with our lives, movies and TV shows we’d watched recently, and so on. Said friend suddenly drops this conversation bomb from nowhere: “[Name of wife] and I are no longer together.” Just like that. I asked him a bit about it, he gave us the lowdown of how the relationship broke down, and five minutes later, we’d moved on from that topic and went back to talking about Breaking Bad. Between us (I was the only girl in the group that night), there were no long-drawn sympathetic looks, no “Tell me how you’re REALLY doing”. He had made peace with the end of the relationship, updated us about it, and moved on. Sometimes, that’s all that really needs to be said.

2. They don’t let things stew

Something else I noticed about men … if one guy has a problem with one of his buddies, he comes right out and says what it is without beating around the bush. They have a conversation about it, sort it out, then move on without any ounce of awkwardness. With women (and I think I can say it because I’m guilty of doing it too), we might act passive-aggressively towards the friend who has offended us, or we ask a mutual friend for advice about whether we should talk to the friend in question. Confronting the problem head on always seems to be the last resort when, really, it’s the first thing that should be done so things don’t become more complicated than they have to be.

3. They make fun of each other TO NO END

Have you noticed this? They always take ribbing to the extreme, sometimes to the point where it can get uncomfortable for the observing bystander. This trash talking is, apparently, one of the ways that men bond with each other, and supposedly, they only do it to other dudes they like. I find this kind of endearing, not to mention hilarious.

Do you think men and women can be “just friends”? What are some of the things you like about your friendship with guys?

For more articles on friendship, click here.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys training in MMA, and doing conditioning workouts. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets and Instagram @smackeral83.

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Denise Li, Opinions

9 Problems You’ll Face If Your Partner Is An Insomniac – Denise Li

Denise Li needs and gets her beauty sleep on most nights. Her partner … not so much.

I love sleeping, and bedtime is my favourite time of the day. For Alain, “going to bed” means spending a few more hours watching YouTube videos, and going to bed “early” is anything before 2am. Now, I’m the kind of person who can fall asleep with the lights on and TV blaring, and I will probably sleep through most natural disasters as well, so my partner’s nighttime activities and constant tossing and turning doesn’t bother me so much. That doesn’t mean I don’t have problems to deal with though. If you, too, have a partner who has problems falling asleep, you can probably identify with a few of these …

1. You’re always the first one to go to bed.

gdnightkiss

2. You feel guilty that your partner has so much trouble doing something what you find to be second nature. Even though you know it’s irrational to feel that way.

kimcrying

3. Every time you have use the bathroom, you have to be a ninja about it so as not to wake your light sleeper of a partner (that is, if he’s already asleep).

sneaking

4. You pee in the dark cos turning on the bathroom light might wake your partner.

light

5. You’re afraid to wake your partner if you roll over for a cuddle … he might have just finally fallen asleep after four hours.

angry

6. You’re afraid to ask the question “So how did you sleep last night?” (You’ll probably won’t get a positive response)

really7. If you’re a morning person, you find yourself having to reign in your enthusiasm about waking up.

glorious

8. If you guys have to get up early for whatever reason, you’re always the annoying one who has to wake your partner up.

wakeup9. You’re not sure how to answer whenever your partner asks you how you sleep so well. (Natural talent, baby)

confused

Do you and your partner have completely different sleeping habits and patterns? What are the difficulties you face because of that?

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys training in MMA, and doing conditioning workouts. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets and Instagram @smackeral83.

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Health & Fitness, Wellbeing

I’m No Longer Hostage to Fluctuations In My Weight … and Happier For It – Denise Li

Why do so many of us allow a number on the scale to dictate our happiness, wonders Denise Li.

weight

Despite telling myself I will avoid doing so, I stepped on the scale this morning. The number was slightly higher than when I first arrived in Belgium a few weeks ago. Previously, this would have precipitated a full-blown freakout on my part: Vowing to cut out sugar and dessert, making sure I work out more than usual, going on an insane guilt trip every time I put food into my mouth, etc.

But today, I found myself calmly assessing the situation.

Since arriving in Belgium three weeks ago, I have encountered, eaten and drank copious amounts of the following:

1. Fries and mayo

2. BEER!

3. Fries and creamy hot sauce

4. Chocolate

5. More chocolate

6. Giant-ass waffles

7. Deep fried sausages

8. Fries and some unidentifiable sauce

9. A snack known as bitterballen (deep fried balls with an oozing liquid centre … yes, I laugh every time I eat it too cos I’m mature like that)

I also happen to be with a man who has made it his mission to keep me well-fed during the six weeks I’m here (“We know what happens when you get hangry …” he says), and we’re not impervious to the “happy couple weight gain”.

As I ran through in my head all the factors that made me gain weight, I found myself doing something I have never done before: Shrug it off.

Why? Because I refuse to let a number on the scale dictate my happiness. Because I know my body well enough to know that the weight gain is temporary, and that it will go back to what it was when I return to Singapore and revert to my usual schedule and workout routine. Because I know that the number on the scale really doesn’t mean that much in the grander scheme of things: I am still keeping myself healthy through regular exercise and MMA training. Because I know I really don’t want to give up Flemish stews with bottomless fries and chocolate just so I can be at my perceived “ideal” weight on the scale.

It’s funny how one little number can rule over so many of our life choices. I spoke to someone recently who had established a pretty good workout routine. She was incorporating a lot of weight training, in addition to regular cardio workouts. From how she described it, it was a really well-rounded training routine that I believe more women should do. The problem? She had just decided to stop weight training because it was causing her to gain weight.

I had experienced the exact same thing a few years ago and I know how demoralising and scary it can be. When I first started working out a few years ago, I started bulking up two months after I’d started my thrice-a-week muay thai training regime. A lot of clothes suddenly didn’t fit. When you’ve finally committed to a regular exercise regime, putting on weight – the opposite effect of what you’d wanted – is really the last thing you need. It is downright discouraging. But I decided to stick with my regime, and a couple of months later, I leaned out. The reason for the initial weight gain was because I gained muscle before I lost fat. I think this is especially true for a lot of women.

A lot of people have asked me how I manage to stick to my workout regime. It really comes down to this: I don’t plan my workouts based on numbers on a weighing machine. The number on the machine doesn’t tell you: How fit you are; your proportion of fat to muscle; whether you are able to complete your first 5k, or survive a gruelling session of boxing training. Once you realise this, you’ll find OTHER reasons to work out:  For the love of it, for the increased levels of energy, or because it helps build mental toughness, for instance. These will be the reasons that’ll motivate you to stick to your workouts over the long run.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys training in MMA, and doing conditioning workouts. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets and Instagram @smackeral83.

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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] When He Irritates the Hell Out of You – Denise Li

Denise Li’s fiance annoys the shit out of her on a regular basis, but when push comes to shove, she admits that she wouldn’t have it any other way. 

While I love the man to bits, and am supremely grateful for any time we get to physically spend together (such as the six weeks we have together right now in Belgium), I would have to be the most naive and most lovestruck of fools if I cannot admit that Alain sometimes annoys the crap out of me. Now, I’m not talking about the unwittingly annoying things a partner might do (leaving the toilet seat up or leaving the towel on the floor, for instance). I’m referring to instances of intentional, premeditated annoying behaviour.

Sometimes, Alain is even more annoying than this.

Trust me, Alain can be even more annoying than this.

For Alain, the list of annoying things he does includes, but is not limited to:

1. Making silly, random noises in a repetitive fashion

2. Tickling my armpits when I am least expecting it

3. Intentionally putting his leg over mine when we are lying down together even though he knows that it makes me feel trapped (I’m claustrophobic)

 

Now, when he does these things, it usually elicits one of three responses from me:

1. Pretend violence (such as a smacking him softly on the shoulder), coupled with loud verbal protestations

2. A half-hearted eye roll when I am too lethargic or exhausted or otherwise have no energy to react in any other way

3. I’m dismissive and wave it off

My default response to being annoyed

My default response when my partner is annoying the crap out of me

When I am caught off guard or simply in a bad mood, I do not take kindly to such annoying behaviour. I get immensely riled up, because why the hell can’t he understand that I just need quiet time alone instead of making me muster the energy to react to something stupid?

But if I think about it … really think about it … I have to say, I would have not have it any other way, cos, really, it could be so much worse.

Here are a list of things that could be worse than being ribbed/disturbed/annoyed by the man I love:

1. Being ignored completely

2. Being ignored completely because he’s always on his phone

3. Being ignored completely because he cannot be bothered to give a f*ck

4. Being ignored completely because he is totally indifferent to my presence

Indifference - the ultimate relationship killer

Indifference – the ultimate relationship killer

Indifference. That’s the ultimate relationship killer, and I should know because that’s what killed my last relationship. Indifference is worse than arguments and constantly fighting because it means that you or your partner simply do not care about your relationship anymore and what happens to it. If you’re still staying in the relationship, it’s more out of habit than love or concern for the other person.

When you’re indifferent to your partner, you are not bothered by how he reacts to you, and vice versa – it doesn’t matter to you either way if he pays any attention to you. You’re both happy leading separate lives.

Despite the knee-jerk response I sometimes have to Alain’s sometimes child-like behaviour, I would be very disturbed if I realised one day that he had stopped doing it, because it probably means that he no longer cares about making me laugh. It would mean that the easy camaraderie we have now has been extinguished for good. If Alain was no longer annoying, I should probably be alerted to the fact that my relationship is no longer what it was and likely dying a slow death.

So yes, Alain has the capacity to bug the hell out of me, but honestly, (very) deep down inside, I probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

Does your boyfriend or husband annoy you in the same way? What are your thoughts on that?

Love In Lines is a special under the Relationship section of Material World. The four founders each takes a week in a month to talk about dealing with love from different perspectives. Founder Denise Li talks about the trials and tribulations of being in a long-distance relationship. Stay tuned for more!

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys training in MMA, and doing conditioning workouts. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets and Instagram @smackeral83.

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Beauty & Shopping, Skincare

Getting Over My Beauty Bad Habits – Denise Li

To keep her skin under control in the warm European summer, Denise Li first needed to stop committing two beauty sins. 

Despite knowing better, I have several bad beauty habits including (but not limited to):

1. Picking at my nails (I’ve NEVER had a manicure in my life, for fear of judgement by manicurists)

2. Washing my face excessively (Definitely more than than the recommended twice a day)

3. Using the wrong moisturiser (More on this in a bit)

I’m not sure if I’ll ever stop peeling/biting my nails. It’s an anxiety thing, and I’ve never really yearned to have beautiful manicures, to be honest. I am, however, determined to do something about the other two, mainly because I’m not such a big fan of flaky skin and ageing before my time.

So for that, I’ll need to get over my two beauty hangups: (1) Post-workout greasy skin (the reason I wash excessively) and (2) To stop using mattifying moisturisers to deal with said greasy skin.

Recently, and much to my abject horror, I found out that my skin’s severely dehydrated. I was moaning about this to makeup artist Larry Yeo one day and he said, simply, “You don’t need to wash your face with facial wash after working out. Just splash it with water.”

Of course!

Reporting from the city of Bruges, Belgium!

Reporting from the city of Bruges, Belgium!

Since I arrived in Belgium, I’ve been following this piece of advice. I just splash my face with water after exercise, and I pat it dry with tissue. Though it felt a bit strange initially, I suffered none of the consequences I thought I would (mainly breakouts) if I didn’t wash. In fact, my skin feels a lot less tighter than before.

The second thing I’ve been doing recently is completely overhauling my moisturiser stash, tossing out all the too-light, mattifying moisturisers that aren’t doing enough to quench my thirsty skin. You see, people with oily AND dehydrated skin usually think they have to pick one of two battles to fight: Oiliness OR dehydration. Fact of the matter is, the two problems are closely related. Dehydrated skin overcompensates by producing even MORE oil. Over the years that I’ve been using mattifying moisturisers or drying products, I’ve just been exacerbating the problem.

The solution actually lies in using a SUPER hydrating moisturiser to rebalance skin’s moisture levels so it feels soothed and stops going crazy on the oil production.

For this, I’ve been using Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant Nighttime Miracle Moisturizer. Now, before I became the newly enlightened me, this would probably have been one moisturiser I wouldn’t have touched with a ten-foot pole That’s because it has a rather thick, balm-like texture, and it is quite sticky at first application. The reason for its texture is because, on top of infusing skin with moisture, this product also seals it in.

Despite my initial reservations, I love the results: My skin looks soft, clear and plump every morning, despite the fact that the climate is super dry over here in Europe. Since I started using it, my breakouts have also been less frequent and severe … which I’m taking as proof that my skin’s moisture levels have balanced out. I’ve also been using it on other dry and flaky areas of my body, such as my knees and elbows, and I like that a little goes a long way.

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant Nighttime Miracle Moisturizer, $57

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant Nighttime Miracle Moisturizer, $57

The other product from the same line I can’t live without is the Eight Hour Cream Intensive Moisturizing Hand Treatment cos it leaves hands soft without that slimy, sticky feeling. I also found myself using this the other day while we were at the beach. I forgot to re-apply sunscreen (yes … apparently I’m better at dishing beauty advice than I am following it …) and my back got burnt. I immediately used the hand treatment on the burnt areas and what did you know? Some of the redness dissipated, and my skin didn’t peel and flake like it normally would. Pretty amazing stuff.

Even if you don’t have dehydrated skin like I do, the Nighttime Miracle Moisturizer if you are heading to places with a drier climate. I’m pretty curious to see how my skin will react if I use it in humid Singapore (I do sleep in air-conditioning though). More updates soon!

In the meantime, I’m curious to find out: Do you have any beauty bad habits? And are you trying to do anything about them?

The Hand Treatment is great for treating sunburns too! And the Lip Balm is a must for preventing chapped lips.

The Hand Treatment is great for treating sunburns too! And the Lip Balm is a must for preventing chapped lips.

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant Nighttime Miracle Moisturizer is priced at $57. The Hand Treatment is priced at $40. For a full listing of Elizabeth Arden counters in Singapore, click here. Products were sent to Material World for a review. This post was not paid for or advised by Elizabeth Arden. All opinions are the author’s own.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys training in MMA, and doing conditioning workouts. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets and Instagram @smackeral83.

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Denise Li, Opinions

I’m Probably Really Annoying On Facebook … – Denise Li

… But I’m also probably not going to change, says Denise Li.

When you work with digital and social media as much as we do at Material World, you’re pretty sensitive to articles about the effect that Facebook and Instagram on its users, as well as the articles with headlines such as “The 10 Most Annoying People on Facebook”.

Thanks to the fact that I’ve read tons of these articles, I am now unable to deny awareness of my multiple social media sins, sins such as …

1. Posting my holiday snaps (These can elicit feelings of envy in some of my friends)

2. Posting mushy relationship-related status updates (To my defence, I only do this on occasion and I’m in an LDR after all …)

3. Using a couple pic as my profile pic (see above)

4. Posting status updates about how happy and contented I am with my life (it’s usually a result of fitness-induced euphoria)

To name a few.

I am aware that this is probably what some people think when I post updates on my Facebook.

I am aware that this is probably what some people think when I post updates on my Facebook.

Yesterday, I came across yet another blog/op-ed about the issue (read it here). The author thinks “A Facebook status is annoying if it primarily serves the author and does nothing positive for anyone reading it”. By this, the author probably means that unless I’m sharing links to other interesting articles, I’m really not doing my Facebook friends a service at all.

The Facebook Timeline is a funny thing … on the one hand, it occupies the territory of both personal and public space. Public in that whatever you post is up for consumption by others, but at the same time, I think its “personal-ness” should be acknowledged and respected.

What do I mean by this? Well firstly, I don’t post up pictures of my holiday with the primary intent of eliciting feelings of jealousy. I do it because it is a convenient place to collect photos I’ve taken to remember my memorable trips. I’ve changed a couple of laptops over the years, but I’m happy that I can still browse through pictures of a solo backpacking trip I took in 2007, and the trip where I met Alain in 2010.

I am currently doing the same with an album I started on Facebook a couple of weeks ago titled “Bruges 2014” (to commemorate my trip to Europe), and despite my acute awareness that I may be pissing some people off by doing so, I will continue to upload pictures to the album. Some of you might think I’m guilty of “curating my life” or “trying to show my ‘perfect life’ to everyone”.

But here’s the thing: I am not in control of what other people think or feel, and unless I post up racist or otherwise bigoted remarks on Facebook, I honestly don’t think I’m doing anything wrong.

When a Facebook friend posts a status update proclaiming how happy she is with her life, I am genuinely happy for her. After all, isn’t it frequently said that one of the keys to happiness is showing gratitude? Begrudging someone who shows her contentment on a public sphere is just grinch-y and mean-spirited. If you take issue with it, then I’m sorry to say that you – and not your Facebook  friend – are the problem. If it bothers you so much, there are a few simply solutions: (1) scroll down (2) hide the person’s updates from your Newsfeed, or (3) unfriend the person. But perhaps it might be beneficial for you to do a little soul-searching and start examining why someone else’s happiness annoys you so much.

If you are jealous of something your friend posted on Facebook, you - and not your friend - are the problem.

If you are jealous of something your friend posted on Facebook, you – and not your friend – are the problem.

It’s your prerogative to post what you want on social media (stopping short of it being racist or homophobic of course, because there is such a thing as responsible speech), and while I may not be appreciative or care for every post, I will defend your right to post it.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys training in MMA, and doing conditioning workouts. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets and Instagram @smackeral83.

[For More Op-Eds on Social Media …]

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