Adventures, Lifestyle

Why I Changed My Mind About Sentosa – Vanessa Tai

If you think Sentosa is just a tourist trap, you probably haven’t checked out all the exciting attractions the island has to offer. Vanessa Tai tells you which ones to zoom in on.

As a child, going to Sentosa was such a treat for my brother and I. We would constantly bug our parents to take us to the beach, to Fantasy Island, to the wax museum, and so on. Even as a teenager, my friends and I were there almost every other weekend to perfect our tans. However, as I got older and busier, somehow going to Sentosa didn’t seem as appealing anymore. There always seemed to be another more entertaining option elsewhere.

However, I completely changed my view of Sentosa during a recent visit with fellow co-founders Deborah and Lili. As you may know, the island recently underwent a marketing campaign where they’ve branded themselves as “The State of Fun.” And truly, there are so many different attractions and entertainment options available on the island now, one day doesn’t seem like enough. From high-octane activities like the Megazip or iFly to something more sedate like unwinding with a piña colada at Coastes, you’ll surely find something that hits that sweet spot.

Here are 4 activities you should check out:

If you’re with a date, Megazip

Picture this: You’re strapped to a harness and hoisted to a zip-line, 75m above ground. Within seconds, you’re whizzing along at 60km/h for 450m, feeling the wind in your face and hair as the scenery races past you. How thrilling is that!? This is why I highly recommend doing this with a date. It’s fun and exciting, and gives you a heady rush of adrenaline. Studies have shown that during the attraction phase of love, adrenaline is one of those powerful neurotransmitters that contribute to that lovey-dovey feeling. So, no harm having an additional shot of adrenaline to keep those feel-good feelings alive, eh?

Still need convincing? Check out this video of Deborah, Lili and I going on the “flight of our lives!”


If you’re with friends, Luge

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A luge is sort of a hybrid of a sled and a go-kart, and comes with three wheels. It’s pretty simple to maneuver – you push the handlebars forward to accelerate and backwards to slow down. However, I’m actually a bit of a coward when it comes to operating any form of vehicle (my dismal go-karting performance is a running family joke) so I felt a familiar nervousness when I entered the luge.

My fears were unfounded once I actually started my descent down the hill. While you can control how fast you can go, the maximum speed is nothing too scary, even when you’re going downhill, and I soon found myself enjoying this leisurely ride down. In fact, I wished there were more people around me so I could race them! This is why I reckon it’ll be plenty of fun to go with a group of friends so you can race each other down the hill.

If you’re with your family, Sentosa 4D Adventure + Wings of Time 

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Have plenty of young cousins or nephews and nieces? Round them up and surprise them with a trip to the Sentosa 4D Adventure. There are four different simulator rides available here. Rock, bounce, and bump your way through various scenarios – from being a part of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island to the climactic fight scene between Green Lantern and an evil alien force.

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The younger ones  will also be enthralled by the Wings of Time, which is a mesmerising display of water, fire, and laser effects. Personally, I found the first part of the show – where real-life actors were singing and rallying the crowd – a little too overwhelming. But when the lights dimmed and the multimedia effects kicked in, I soon found myself enjoying the multi-sensorial experience, especially the (spoiler alert) fireworks at the end.

If you’re with your gal pals, Stand Up Paddleboarding

Having had so much fun at Sentosa the previous weekend, the three of us decided to return the following week to try our hand at Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP). Prior to this first lesson, I’ve never tried SUP before but soon discovered it’s like a combination of rowing and surfing. Our instructor Isabelle, who’s also the owner of Stand Up Paddling School, was friendly and patient, offering helpful tips throughout the lesson. I was nursing a hangover on the day of the lesson so I was admittedly not the best student, but Deborah thoroughly enjoyed herself.

If you and your girlfriends are tired of your gym or yoga routine and are looking for a new way to keep fit together, I reckon SUP is great for building overall balance and strength. Plus, you’re sure to get a gorgeous sun-kissed glow!

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These are just several suggestions of what The State Of Fun has to offer; there are so many other little nooks and crannies yet to be explored. I’m sure we’ll be back soon!

While we were there, we saw a banner that said “The land of eternal sunshine”. Of course, cynics may dismiss this by saying, “But it rains all the time in Singapore!” However, I choose to believe this is actually referring to the sunshine in your heart, because after each exhilarating visit to the island, you leave feeling lighter and more carefree.

Material World was invited by Sentosa to review some of its attractions. This post was neither paid for nor advised by Sentosa. All opinions are the author’s own. 

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] Not All Men Are Jerks – Vanessa Tai

When a relationships sours or if you’ve been betrayed by someone you love, it’s easy to write off the entire opposite sex as callous jerks. But that’s just a one-way street to Bitter Town. Vanessa Tai suggests another way of viewing the situation.

As much as I love my friends, sometimes I hesitate to tell them about the problems I’m facing with whichever guy I’m dating. Why? Because of the inevitable judgment that will follow.

“He’s such a douchebag.”

“You’re better off without a jerk like him!”

And so on.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand why they would say such things. They’re my good friends so they’ll naturally get affronted on my behalf when they feel I’ve been wronged by some guy. I, too, do the same when my girlfriends confide in me about their relationship problems. However, lately I’ve been wondering if this is really the best way to deal with relationship woes. Sure, if you’re all out to have a no-holds-barred sobfest with your best friends, it may help to have them rally around you and have a common “enemy” to hate on.

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But what happens when you’re alone in your bedroom late at night and mulling over the failed relationship? Will you also continue to stew in rage and resentment? Sadly, many people tend to fixate on these feelings of being wronged and this seeps into the way they interact with others. I’m sure you know of people who’ve been hurt badly in relationships and became cold, standoffish, or overly cynical as a result. In fact, I used to be one such person.

However, I’ve recently come to see the flaws in this line of thinking. When a relationship fails, it fails for a myriad of reasons and yes, it could even be because the person you were dating was careless with your feelings. Does that make him a bad person? Not really. If that were the case, aren’t we all guilty of being “bad” at one point or another? The thing is, I sincerely believe nobody (save for the truly callous or sociopathic) sets out to deliberately hurt another person. I believe most of us embark on a romantic relationship with the best of intentions. Nobody wakes up thinking, “Okay, I think I’m gonna hurt so-and-so today.”

It’s just that along the course of a relationship, Life gets in the way. It could be unresolved emotional baggage from the past, or it could be an unexpected situation that throws everything out of loop. The thing is, people are unpredictable, especially when it comes to love. Most people are just bumbling along, trying to figure things out as they go along, winging it and trying to make it all work out. So when they screw up and end up hurting you, it’s most likely unintentional. Nobody is perfect. We, too, have been guilty of hurting the people we love, despite our best intentions.

That said, people are responsible for their actions and should still be held accountable for whatever they choose to do (or not do) in a relationship. I’m definitely not advocating that we condone bad behaviour. However, there’s a difference between holding someone responsible for their actions and blaming someone. For the former, you’re simply recognising this is who they are and how they’re choosing to behave. If you don’t like it, the choice is yours to cut them out of your life.

When you blame someone for their bad behaviour, however, you’re dodging any responsibility of your own. When you blame someone, you’re essentially saying that just because you didn’t like how someone acted, you’re entitled to attack them however you please. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how destructive this line of thinking is. Instead of finding ways of improving the situation or even seeking out a way you can learn or grow from it, blaming the other person simply creates a breeding ground for resentment and bitterness.

I reckon a healthier way of dealing with feelings of betrayal (or abandonment, or any other horrible feelings that emerge from a breakup) is to carve out alone time to figure out what you learned from the whole experience. It’s important to figure out why things didn’t work in the past so you can make things work better in the present and future. It won’t be easy, for sure. There’ll be days where all you want to do is scream and cry or burn all his things. Yes, you can allow yourself a period of time to do that if it offers you some form of catharsis. But there comes a day where you have to pick yourself up from the floor and just let go of those feelings of hatred and animosity. Take it from me, there’s really no point holding on to those bitter feelings of being wronged. It will only serve to poison your future relationships and become a vicious self-fulfilling cycle.

Every relationship we embark on is different and deserves to be treated with equal fervour and guileless enthusiasm. Well, that’s what I choose to believe anyway!

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 Vanessa Tai talks about navigating the often-confusing world of singledom. Stay tuned for more!

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Career, Self-Improvement

3 Interview Mistakes You May Not Know You’re Making – Vanessa Tai

Whether you’re seeking your first job or are planning a mid-career switch, it’s always helpful to have a few interview tricks up your sleeve. Vanessa Tai speaks to two recruitment experts on some less known interview no-no’s. 

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1. Before the interview: Asking about salary, overtime, and work culture 

Before you join a company, it’s only natural that you’ll want to know about its culture as well as the job perks you may receive. After all, a solid organisation is one that is provides a transparent hiring process and will have programmes set in place for up-skilling and flexible work options.

However, according to James Tan, a consultant with the Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI) and a member of the SHRI HR Advisory and Consultancy Panel, “Employers are not obliged to answer such questions through phone calls or emails. Asking such questions before an interview may put the interviewer off, and the jobseeker is likely not be shortlisted for interviews.”

Michael Smith, country director at recruitment agency Randstad Singapore, recommends the following instead, “The company’s website is an important first step when researching a potential new employer. It can provide you with information about the company, the management, company stability, workplace culture, and what to expect as an employee when working there. Also, more companies are using social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to engage with current and prospective employees, clients and customers. Reading blogs and comments, reaching out to current and past employees are all great ways to find out more details about the company environment and potentially the job scope.”

2. During the interview: Telling a potential employer, “I’m here to learn.”

It’s an employee’s market at the moment. A competitive salary and good benefits package are no longer the only factors that jobseekers today are looking for in a new employer. According to the 2013/2014 Randstad World of Work Report, 56 percent of employees are looking for leadership development and 43 percent are looking for career growth and training opportunities.

However, as much as the desire to learn is a good thing, is it really a trait that employers are looking for? After all, wouldn’t it make more sense for employers to hire someone who can hit the ground running?

Smith says, “A willingness to learn is an attractive trait. However, apart from demonstrating that you have an aptitude for learning quickly, you can also back this up by demonstrating other transferable skills such as team work, computer skills, communication and leadership. These are all highly valued by employers.”

To demonstrate that you’re in for the long haul, you could tell your potential employer something along the lines of, “I am eager to contribute to and grow with your company.” This shows you’re loyal and tenacious, instead of giving off the impression that you’re just here to pick up some necessary skills before jettisoning off.

3. After the interview: Being over-persistent

The days right after a job interview can be a nerve-wracking, nail-biting affair. As much as you want to know the company’s answer right away, refrain from following up too often lest you come across as a nuisance. If you’ve already sent a thank-you note right after your interview (which you absolutely should have!), the next best thing you can do is to create a “follow-up schedule”. Draw up a plan on how often you will follow up with the interviewer, but only allow yourself a set number of attempts over a limited frame of time. If you get your feedback within this time frame, great. If not, just move on. As frustrating as it can be, always remember to maintain a level of graciousness and professionalism when communicating with your potential employers.  Remember, just because this door doesn’t open this time round does not mean it will not in future.

Good luck!

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Beauty & Shopping, Makeup

Pro Makeup Tips For Asian Eyes – Vanessa Tai

Single eyelids? Sleepy eyes? Not sure how to pull off the smokey eye look? Akinobu Nishimura, RMK’s international makeup artist, was recently in Singapore and Vanessa Tai sat him down for a 101 on makeup techniques for Asian eyes. 

Your eyes are the most expressive part of your face, so it’s only natural that you’ll spend more time and effort prettifying your peepers. But with so many different products and techniques out there, it can be hard to cut through the clutter. To make things simple, here are easy makeup techniques for the most commonly-used eye makeup.

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Akinobu Nishimura, international makeup artist with RMK

Eyeshadow

1. As our eyelids are naturally oily, it’s recommended to prep your eyelids with an eyeshadow base or some powder before applying eyeshadow. This helps your eye makeup to adhere better to your skin.

2. Use eyeshadow in one colour, but in a gradation of shades. Start by applying the darkest shade on the bottom of your eyelid and slowly work your way up the eye socket to the lightest shade. This helps create a more 3D appearance.

3. When applying the next shade, don’t start at the line where the previous colour ends. Rather, the colours should be blended so that it looks more natural. Using a brush can help you create a more natural look, without any hard lines.

Mascara

1. Before applying your mascara, it’s important to curl your eyelashes properly so that it curls upwards and creates the appearance of wider-looking eyes. For the doe-eye look, you can also curl your lower lashes.

2. When applying mascara, avoid layering on too many coats as it’ll end up clumping and weigh your lashes down, which may make your eyes appear smaller.

3. Wondering if you should get falsies? It’s always better to work with what you have, but if your natural lashes are sparse to begin with, you can consider getting natural-looking eyelash extensions. Anything too thick or dramatic may also make your eyes appear smaller.

Eyeliner 

1. To create the perfect wing tip, start by drawing an outline according to the shape of your eyes. (For a clearer idea, refer to the sketch below.) From there, you can fill in the gaps, depending on how dramatic an effect you’re trying to create. Think of the wingtip as an extension of your lower lash line. If the tip is too high or long, simply use a cotton bud to adjust until you achieve your desired effect. Over time, you’ll discover the perfect angle and length for your eye shape.

To create the perfect wing tip, start by drawing your desired shape.

Akinobu-san demonstrates how to draw an outline according to your eye shape.

2. Some people believe lining your lower lash line can make your eyes appear smaller. However, it really depends on your eye shape. Experiment with different techniques to see what works best for you. If you want to continue lining your lower lash line, one way is to simply line it halfway (from the wing tip to the middle of your lower lash line) and use a lighter shade to fill in the other half.

3. If you’re bored with your usual black or brown eyeliner, some great options for everyday wear include shades such as navy blue or grey.

This collection from RMK is a symbol of the dual aspects of a woman's personality when it comes to love - she's equal parts strong and vulnerable.

This collection from RMK is a symbol of the dual aspects of a woman’s personality when it comes to love – she’s equal parts strong and vulnerable.

RMK 2014 Autumn/Winter Collection is available from August 2014 at all RMK counters (Isetan Scotts Level 1 Tel: 6887 5308; Isetan Serangoon Central Tel: 6634 481; Takashimaya Department Store Tel 6238 8043). 

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Home & Design, Lifestyle, Self-Improvement

6 Floral Arrangement Hacks For Newbies – Vanessa Tai

Floral arrangement is no longer an old-fashioned pastime for housewives or “aunties”. According to Jaclyn Lim, founder & florist of Bloomroom.sg, more young and house-proud Singaporeans are buying flowers to display in their homes. Intrigued? Consider this your cheat sheet. By Vanessa Tai

In the past, Singaporeans will only think of buying flowers on special occasions such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries or Valentine’s Day. “However,” says Jaclyn, “lifestyle habits have since evolved and now young professionals (mostly women) are buying flowers to spruce up their home or simply to banish Monday blues.”

Contrary to popular belief, floral arrangement is not that expensive a hobby. Jaclyn explains, “Flowers are not exactly cheap in Singapore as most varieties are imported. But it is possible to mix expensive flowers like hydrangeas with more affordable blooms like baby’s breath or sweet william to achieve your desired effect.”

Oh, and if you think floral arrangement sounds like too much of a hassle, just give it a try and you may find yourself reaping its therapeutic benefits! Jaclyn says, “I think anyone can do flowers, even if they don’t feel particularly creative. For example, I noticed students who were easily stressed out started by holding on to flowers tightly, which created tightly bunched arrangements. However, over time, they loosened up and let go of their grip. The floral arrangements started to look more natural and were in fact, very lovely. So, any personality type can work with flowers … in fact, working with flowers may actually shape your personality!”

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Getting Started

You can pick-up floral arranging tips from your regular florist, YouTube videos, and floral arrangement books. Then, start by buying fresh flowers to experiment with at home. For flowers such as lilies, roses, gerberas, chrysanthemums, and sunflowers, you can find them at your wet markets or supermarkets. To get more premium blooms such as dahlias, peonies, ranunculuses, and alstroemerias, you’ll need to visit an established florist.

Choosing Your Flowers

For a complete floral arrangement, you’ll need the following:

  1. Focal flowers: These are largest blooms in your arrangement and are often the centre of attraction. Examples include roses, gerberas, sunflowers, and tulips.
  2. Filler flowers: Typically, these are smaller than the focal flowers and are usually in clusters. Examples include sweet william, baby’s breath, and wildflowers.
  3. Textural flowers: For variations in height, directions or textures, you can add these to your arrangement. Examples include hypericum berries, billy buttons, matthiolas, and lotus pods.
  4. Foliage: The greens to provide support for your flowers, for example, eucalyptus leaves or ruscus leaves.

Prepping Your Flowers

  1. Remove flowers from packaging/cellophane wrapping.
  2. Clean your lower stems of thorns and leaves that fall below the water line. Submerged leaves will rot and cause bacteria to form. However, if you keep the water in the vase clear, your flowers will last longer.
  3. Cut stems at a sharp angle to create more surface areas on the stem. This increases water absorption, and again keep flowers fresh longer.

Floral Arrangement: Decoded

  1. Have an idea of what you are planning to create. For example, have a shape of the intended arrangement in mind, know what vase you’re planning to use, and the flowers that complement it.
  2. Work with only one type of flower at a time. Start with the biggest (more dominant) flowers because they can help to create the basic shape of the arrangement/bouquet, before going on to the filler flowers (smaller clusters of flowers) to fill up the arrangement. From there, you can continue filling up the “holes” in the arrangement with some greens.
  3. Try not to use even number of flowers (2, 4, 6) because the bouquet/arrangement can end up overly traditional/symmetrical. 3 or 5 are great to work with for a livelier bouquet.
  4. Always take a step back. When you’re busy adding flowers, you may be obsessed with the task at hand and forget about looking at the arrangement as a whole. You need take a step back, breathe, and judge the composition.
  5. Know when to stop. Sometimes, it can be tempting to keep adding flowers. One way to know when to stop is when there are no more obvious holes exposing the floral foam in the arrangement. Remember, it doesn’t have to be PERFECT. As long as you like it and it makes you happy, that’s enough.
  6. Go with the flow. By experimenting with different styles, you’ll get to learn how different flowers work within an arrangement. From there, you’ll also develop your own style.

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Tools: 

  1. Sharp florist shears (MOST IMPORTANT): A sharp edge is desirable, not only because it is easier to cut the materials, but a sharp, even cut will allow water to enter the flower stems. A ragged, crushed cut edge may inhibit water and food absorption, causing your flowers to fade faster.
  2. Pruners: These are useful to cut woodier branches, like large eucalyptus leaves or wax flowers.
  3. Floral foam (optional): If you’re planning to create an actual flower arrangement in a wide-mouthed container, like a colander, you need to cut the floral foam to size, lay it in the container and use sticky tape to hold it in place. Available at florists.
  4. Floral tape (optional): This is great for making a tape grid to keep flowers in place.
  5. Plant Food (optional)

How to keep fresh blooms longer: 

  1. Change water every other day to ensure the flowers get fresh water that is devoid of any bacteria growth. Be sure to re-cut the stems at a 45-degree angle to ensure maximum absorption of water.
  2. ​Place the flowers in the coolest corner of the room, out of direct sunlight. They will last longer.
  3. Dissolve a pack of commercial flower food in the water to help cut flowers last longer. Chrysal packs are readily available in Singapore.

Get fresh flowers delivered right to your doorstep!

 

There’s something immediately calming and charming about having fresh blooms in the house. If you’ll like to have fresh flowers delivered to your home each week, register your interest here!

Current delivery areas:

  • Monday evenings: Tampines/Pasir Ris/Simei
  • Tuesday evenings: Serangoon/Braddell/Toa Payoh
  • Wednesday evenings: Hougang
  • Thursday evenings:  Sengkang/Punggol/Yio Chu Kang
  • Saturday afternoons: Joo Chiat/Marine Parade/Siglap/Telok Kurau

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Opinions, Vanessa Tai

Do Not Click On Jennifer Lawrence’s Nude Pics – Vanessa Tai

Just because it’s there does not mean we’re entitled to look at them, says Vanessa Tai. 

By now, you’ve probably read the news about how an anonymous Internet user hacked into the Apple iCloud accounts of more than 100 female celebrities and uploaded their nude shots online.

I’ll admit it. When I first read the news, I was immediately curious to see what these pictures looked like. And I’m certain most people — man or woman — thought the same way. Our thought process probably ran along the same vein, “Oh, I’m not a bad person. I just want to see what the fuss is all about. Anyway, the pictures are already out there so the damage is already done. One more person browsing through them quickly isn’t going to hurt.” Or perhaps some of you had thoughts along the lines of, “Anyone stupid enough to take explicit pictures and leave them lying around probably deserves to suffer the ramifications.”

I get it, because those were my first few thoughts as well. But the more I thought about it, it dawned on me just how wrong this line of thinking is. By having thoughts of, “She shouldn’t be taking naked pictures of herself in the first place,” I was guilty of victim blaming. It’s the same attitude that makes people say things like, “She shouldn’t have been wearing that short skirt in the first place.”

However, aren’t we forgetting that everybody (man or woman) are entitled to consensually explore and engage in their sexuality in any way they deem fit? If this includes taking naked photos for their personal enjoyment or for a partner’s, that’s their prerogative. Agreeing to take a naked shot with a partner is not the same as consenting to have the whole world gawk over your naked body.

Let’s get one thing straight – these women had private, intimate images of their bodies STOLEN from them. This is not just another “celebrity sex scandal” or a “sensational scoop” for gossip magazines. These women did not consent to their images being uploaded and circulated online. This is a form of sexual violation and anyone who participates by viewing or sharing is complicit in this crime.

What J Law does in her private life should remain that way – private.

Unfortunately, this obsession with celebrities and their personal lives doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon. As long as consumers’ demand for celeb-fuelled content continues, there will always be someone providing the goods, whether or not it’s legal or ethical to do so. But just because it’s there does not mean we need to go along with it or buy into it. Celebrities are not commodities for us to rip apart as we see fit. Yes, they may use their image for work but as consumers, we need to always be conscious of the difference between their public life (such as their shows, concerts, and legitimate interviews) and their personal life.

We Become The Person We Decide To Be

Here’s what I propose. The next time someone sends you a link to the images or asks if you’ve seen the latest leaked images, speak up and explain why we should not engage in this abuse. If it helps, you can send them a link to this article!

Images of naked women — especially those circulated without their consent — are not “harmless fun” for us to joke or gossip over. It is hurtful, humiliating, and most importantly, a crime. Whether or not the women in question are celebrities is irrelevant. The way we share our bodies must always be a personal choice.

So, don’t click on those pictures. Don’t be part of the abuse.

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Career, Self-Improvement

10 Productivity Secrets You’ll Wanna Steal – Vanessa Tai

Everyone has days (or even weeks) where you just lack the drive to get anything done. Of course, “not feeling it” is not a good enough reason to be inefficient. 10 women share with Vanessa Tai their secret to powering through the day and ensuring things get done.

Browse through any productivity or self-improvement blog and you’ll find scores of articles along the vein of “Habits Of Highly Successful People” or “The One Thing Famous Leaders Do Differently”. As much as I get that these articles are supposed to motivate me to get off my lazy bum, I still experience a sense of disconnect between myself and the people in these articles. To me, they are people who have already “made it” in their field of work and as such, are probably dealing with work situations very different from mine.

Which was why I started to wonder about the everyday woman — women like you and I — and what she does to keep herself motivated on sluggish days. I spoke to women across different age groups and industries (there’s even a full-time mum in the mix!) and here are their top productivity secrets, just for you:

Start Your Day Right

“I have a routine of going for a swim every morning before work, even on days when I don’t feel like it. The mechanical motion of going up and down helps empty my mind of those annoying negative thoughts and allows me to start the workday with a clean slate.” – Wyn-Lyn Tan, artist  

Space Your Day Out With Incentives 

“When I write out my to do list, I will set myself a reward for every few completed tasks. For example, once I complete tasks 1 to 3, I can walk to the canteen for a coffee. Once I complete tasks 4 and 5, I’ll allow myself a break to read some fun articles online. If it’s an especially bad day, I’ll buy movie tickets online so I can look forward to something nice when I leave the office.” – Shila Naidu, writer

Use The Power Of Visualisation

“On days where the pressure at work gets overwhelming, I will start thinking about and planning for my next vacation. I even have a calendar on my desk that I use to count down to my next overseas trip. It helps me put up with the stress at work because I know that as long as I persevere now, the sweet rewards will come soon enough.” – Lin Yongsi, web designer 

Find External Inspiration …

“When I’m feeling down or discouraged at work, I’ll search for inspirational videos on YouTube about successful people who went through multiple rejections and struggles in life before reaching where they are today. It helps me feel less alone and gives me the strength to deal with work problems more effectively.” – Lee Desiree, financial advisor 

“There is a section at the back of the Straits Times Classified pages, which dispenses a lot of work-related tips related to confidence, determination, and so on. When I find myself getting bogged down, I find it motivating to to have a coffee and read through these tips.” – Viviene Goh, early childhood educator

… Cute Works Too!

“On days where nothing seems to go right, I’ll just step away from my cubicle to watch cute videos of dogs on YouTube. It cheers me up and helps me get back in the right frame of mind for work.” – Charmene Phang, marketing manager

It can be helpful to take 15 minutes to clear your mind and prepare for the tasks ahead.

It can be helpful to take 15 minutes to clear your mind and prepare for the tasks ahead.

Just Take A Moment To Breathe

“When I feel myself start to get overwhelmed and pulled in all directions, I’ll take a step back from the situation and remind myself, ‘You’re doing the best you can.'” – Deborah Giam, freelance writer

“Stepping away from a stressful situation is very helpful for me. I usually duck out of the office to a nearby cafe for my favourite cake and coffee. It clears my mind and gives me the mojo to power through the rest of the day.” – Sheryl Koh, senior associate 

Get Back To Nature

“Going for long walks on the beach helps me to focus on coming up with constructive solutions to the issues I’m facing, instead of dwelling on negative (and unhelpful) emotions.” – Lydia Toh, stay-at-home mum

Run Your Problems To The Ground

“If I know I have to work overtime, I’ll pop out of the office to go for a quick run. As you know, you can become quite brain-dead after sitting in your cubicle for 10 hours! Running refreshes my mind and gives me the energy to power through the rest of the evening.” – Lynette Wong, PR consultant 

What are some of YOUR tips to power through lethargic days? Share with us in the Comments section below!

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets

 

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Beauty & Shopping, Malls & Boutiques, Skincare, Spa Treats

The Beauty Stop You Need To Make At Orchard Gateway – Vanessa Tai

You’ve read our rave reviews of Porcelain, The Face Spa’s signature facial treatments. Now you can enjoy even more luxurious treatments and bespoke products at their brand new outlet at Orchard Gateway. By Vanessa Tai

Fresh new look!

Fresh new look!

Porcelain, The Face Spa is perhaps best known for their foundation-free philosophy. If you’re a regular patron (or regular reader of Material World!), you’ll probably know their facial treatments are usually extraction-based, to unclog and clean out pores. Founder Pauline Ng’s mother, affectionately known as Aunty Jenny, is a bit of a celebrity among Porcelain’s clients as she’s well-skilled in thorough and pain-free extractions.

With the Orchard Gateway outlet, however, Porcelain is expanding its services beyond traditional facial treatments. This outlet will feature solely equipment-based facial treatments.

Treatments That Actually Work

A peek at the interiors of Porcelain Aesthetics

A peek at the interiors of Porcelain Aesthetics

This new outlet will feature 9 facial treatments but the one that will probably get most people excited is the Proionic Facial, which is available exclusively at Porcelain Aesthetics. Here’s the science-y bit: The treatment starts with a double cleanse before the therapist applies the INDIBA® Capacitive Electrode across your face to help promote lymphatic drainage. This is then followed by applying the INDIBA® Resistive Electrode to stimulate the production of collagen, elastin, and fibroblast (also known as the “mother cell” of collagen and elastin) underneath your skin. What’s unique about this machine is how it makes use of a patented 448kHz long wave radio frequency to help stimulate the movement of ions through your cell membranes and restore your skin’s natural ion balance.

Simply put, your skin will look instantly rejuvenated post-treatment. Over a few sessions, you can expect visible anti-ageing effects such as a reduction of fine lines and pigmentation spots, and a re-contouring of your jawline.

Other treatments to look forward to include the Cryotherapy Facial and OxyRevive Treatment. The latter can be likened to an almost literal “breath of fresh air”. It is an award-winning oxygen facial that treats your skin to a gentle yet intensive aqua exfoliation followed by an infusion of custom-blended tonics using Hyperbaric Oxygen.

Customised Products 

Try before buy

Try before buy!

Speaking of custom-blended products, what sets Porcelain’s skincare products apart from others available in the market is how founder Pauline works with reputable suppliers from countries like USA, Japan, and Taiwan to create Porcelain’s own proprietary skincare line. To date, there are 18 products specially formulated for the skin issues faced by women living in a warm Asian climate like Singapore.

At the Orchard Gateway outlet, you’ll get to test out these products for yourself! The outlet features a fully-stocked product testing bar where therapists will be on-hand to assist in product demonstrations and giving you an opportunity to try the different skincare products.

Porcelain Aesthetics located at 277 Orchard Road, Orchard Gateway #03-13. Please call 6227 9692 to make an appointment.

We have four tubes of Porcelain Flawless Skin Perfecting Moisturizer SPF 20 (worth $165 each) to give away!

Flawless Moisturizer

To win, simply follow the instructions below:

1. Download the Material World app on iTunes or Google Play. On the Contest tab, enter “Porcelain” as the Contest Name. Then key in the answer to this question: “What is the name of the treatment exclusive to Porcelain Aesthetics?”

2. Like Material World on Facebook.

3. Click on the Facebook Share button below and share this post with your friends. Tag “Material World” on your post and remember to set it on Public.

This contest ends Monday, 1 September 2014, and is only open to followers of Material World. Only entries submitted via the Material World app will be accepted. Please read our terms and conditions here.

Porcelain, The Face Spa worked with Material World for this post to review its new Orchard Gateway outlet. All opinions are the author’s own and have not been vetted by the client. Read our advertising policy here.
 
About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets
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Beauty & Shopping, Spa Treats

Found: A Beauty Sanctuary In The Heart Of Town – Vanessa Tai

Feeling super frazzled and need a place to decompress for a couple of hours? Renaza Wellness Lifestyle Lab, located at the swanky Palais Renaissance, offers a quiet respite where you can enjoy pampering beauty treatments in peace. Vanessa Tai tries out the Classic Manicure and Gua Sha Eye Treatment. 

renaza_palais renaissance

Renaza Wellness at Palais Renaissance

I’m not kidding when I say I was seriously stressed out when I recently visited Renaza. My mind was on overdrive thinking of all sorts of problems, and I was feeling jittery and on edge. However, after I was seated in one of the plush chairs and served a cup of warm longan tea, I could feel myself begin to relax. The difference in Renaza’s service quality was immediately apparent when my therapist — upon noticing I was feeling cold — offered me an extra towel to cover my shoulders. Also, when she passed me the selection of nail colours to choose from, I was impressed. Instead of stacks of nail colour samples piled into a box (as is the norm in other nail salons), the nail colours were neatly arranged on a huge laminated board so you can see the entire selection in one glance.

Decisions, decisions!

Decisions, decisions!

To perk my spirits up, I decided to go for a hot neon pink shade, but wanted to mix it up with another colour. The therapist suggested tempering it with a glittery silver hue and I agreed. Once we agreed on the colours, I leaned back on my seat and closed my eyes. I don’t know if it was the therapist’s skilful hands or the calm silence in the salon, but I fell into a deep sleep almost immediately. I reckon it was a combination of both!

Here’s a look at my nails before and after the treatment:

Before

Before

After

After

After my Classic Manicure, I was ushered into Renaza’s Medical Aesthetics Spa UK, which is located right next door. I’ll be honest – when I first heard that I would be undergoing a Gua Sha Eye Treatment, I was initially very apprehensive. If you’ve been for a Gua Sha massage or seen friends who’ve gone for one, you’ll understand my apprehension. Gua Sha makes use of a smooth-edged instrument to scrape at the skin, which often leaves the skin looking red and bruised post-treatment. Hence, I was worried about how the skin around my eyes would look like. However, the therapist assured me that the eye treatment at Renaza is a much gentler form of Gua Sha and also makes use of a special essential oil as a form of lubrication. Repechage Essential Oil is derived from seaweed and contains a blend of minerals and antioxidants to help detoxify and hydrate your skin.

As an interesting aside, “Gua Sha” refers to an ancient healing technique used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and is often used to treat pain. That’s because in TCM tradition, pain is often associated with the stagnation of blood flow, so Gua Sha is used to break up stagnant blood flow and boost blood circulation in that particular area, thus relieving pain. At Renaza, this treatment is intended to help release any toxins from beneath your skin and stimulate blood circulation. Over repeated treatments, you can expect fine lines to be smoothed out, as well as a reduction in the appearance of dark circles, eye bags, and puffy eyes.

After my treatment, I was glad to see my worries were unfounded. Not only was there no redness, my eyes felt refreshed and appeared less tired. I left Renaza feeling rejuvenated and with a much lighter mind.

Birthday Deals For You!

As part of their 8th birthday celebration, Renaza will be rolling out a whole lot of great promotions over a period of two months. The Gua Sha Eye Massage will be going at $38 (U.P. $200) and the Classic Manicure at $18 (U.P. $27).

Other treatments such as the Customised Aesthetics Facial (U.P. $250) will be going at $38, while the Hair Wash & Blow (U.P. $23-$30) will be priced at just $8.

Other signature treatments include Renaza’s 8th anniversary promotions, from August – September 2014, are available at all outlets. (Click here for outlet locations.) For the full list of treatments, please refer to the image below.

8th-Anni-PosterA1

Take A Selfie, Win Awesome Prizes!

Wanna win an entire beauty package from Renaza? Simply follow the steps indicated in the image below.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 3.23.10 pm

Renaza Wellness Lifestyle Lab worked with Material World for this post to review the Classic Manicure and Eye Gua Sha treatments. All opinions are the author’s own and have not been vetted by the client. Read our advertising policy here.

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Adventures, Lifestyle

3 Ways To Go On Vacation Without Leaving The Country – Vanessa Tai

Short of going for a full-fledged staycation, are there ways to declutter your mind and experience the benefits of a vacation? Yes, says Vanessa Tai. You just need a little ingénue. 

Living in Singapore can be highly stressful. That’s part and parcel of living in a densely-populated, highly competitive city like ours. In a 2013 poll conducted by the Health Promotion Board, one in four workers admitted to being “highly stressed”. While it would be dreamy to book a flight and go for a short getaway whenever the stress levels get too high, we all know that’s not always financially viable. The next best option would be a staycation but even that can be expensive, especially on weekends.

So how can you feel like you’re on holiday while still in Singapore?

material world_relax

Here are three suggestions:

1. Check out obscure cafes or attractions in the suburbs

A few days before your “vacation”, post a status update on Facebook asking your friends to recommend cool or lesser-known cafes in their neighbourhood. Apart from the usual hipster districts like Tiong Bahru or Ann Siang Hill, there are actually plenty of hidden gems dotted all around the island. For example, Denise and her fiance once managed to entertain themselves for an entire weekend in the unassuming Jalan Besar neighbourhood!

2. Go for a photography or hiking trail

This is one of the best ways to go off the beaten track. Because aspiring shutterbugs and trekkers alike are always on the lookout for new and exciting places to explore, you may just find yourself in previously undiscovered settings. Deborah, Lili, and I used to go for regular night hikes where we ventured into muggy forests, monsoon drains, abandoned railway tracks … all in the dead of the night! Check out Meetup.com to find likeminded individuals.

3. Have a picnic

Sounds simple, but when was the last time you actually packed a picnic basket and whiled away an entire afternoon? To make things a bit more fun, don’t cop out and just get takeaway fast food. Plan ahead and pack a basketful of fruit, bread, sandwich meats and of course, a good bottle of wine. From there, all you need is a picnic mat and an iPod full of your favourite tunes, and you’re set. To avoid the crowds that tend to throng the beach or places like Marina Barrage on weekends, see if you can take a weekday afternoon off. Then, simply enjoy that brief but sweet respite.

Do you have any other suggestions on how to temporarily escape the madness of the rat race? Tell me in the Comments section below!

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Opinions, Vanessa Tai

Stefanie Sun Doesn’t Owe Us Anything – Vanessa Tai

Singapore’s favourite Mandopop star Stefanie Sun was recently photographed at a local fast food joint dressed in casual garb. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t even be news. However, because certain people have taken it upon themselves to write how Sun has an “obligation” to dress up in public, Vanessa Tai now feels obliged to speak up. 

To be honest, I had no idea there was even a brouhaha over Stef Sun’s fashion choices until Debs showed me this newspaper article. In it, the writer criticises the singer’s choice of outfit, saying that Sun “has an obligation to put some effort into how she looks in public” as she needs to “set a good example for her fans, especially the younger ones.”

Let’s get one thing straight, shall we? Stefanie Sun is an entertainer. The only “obligation” she has — if we really have to use that word — is to entertain, and that is only if we have forked out money to attend her concert. Other than that, it’s really her prerogative to do whatever she pleases. Why?

Her choice of outfit has zero relevance to “setting a good example”

Since when did someone’s dressing become a reflection of their values or principles? Look, she wasn’t going onstage nor was she hitting the red carpet. She was grabbing FAST FOOD, for crying out loud. Ask any (level-headed) Singaporean and they’ll tell you what she wore was completely appropriate. If anything, I reckon her lack of self-consciousness and down-to-earth approach— especially after 14 years of being in showbiz — is admirable. In fact, after the photo of her popped up online, Sun posted a tongue-in-cheek response on her Twitter account. She posted a modified version of the same photo, with the words “So Beautiful OK” scrawled across the photo.

This ability to laugh at herself and shrug off detractors sets a far better example than any carefully-curated outfit choice will.

Image credit: Twitter.com/stefsunyanzi

Image credit: Twitter.com/stefsunyanzi

Her choice of outfit has zero relevance to her work 

In her 14-year career, Sun has bagged numerous industry awards and has legions of fans across Asia. Talent aside, I daresay the main reason for her success is plenty of determination and hard work. It certainly is not because of her sartorial choices. And anyway, what is up with this fixation on a woman’s appearance? No matter how capable or successful a woman is, she will still be judged on how she looks. Just look at how certain news outlets dedicate columns of print just to tear apart the outfit choices of women like Hilary Clinton or Angela Merkel. Here are two people with brilliant minds looking to make a positive contribution to society and all we can think about is how they chose to wear a pantsuit … really?!

If we are ever going to make positive strides in workplace equality, we need to stop obsessing about people’s appearance and focus on what can they bring to the table instead. In this case, Stefanie Sun’s talent and success as an entertainer is the only thing that matters. Everything else is irrelevant.

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Money, Self-Improvement

How To Clear Your Debts … Fast! – Vanessa Tai

There’s probably nothing more stressful than knowing you owe somebody money. Whether it’s a bank loan or an overdue credit card bill, being in debt is a source of stress for many. Here are some smart ways to get out of debt quickly. By Vanessa Tai

According to data released by the Credit Bureau Singapore (CBS) in September 2013, more Singaporeans are struggling to pay off their credit card debt. For example, in July 2013, 62,830 people did not make a minimum payment in two months, which is a 12.7 percent jump from the previous year. In addition to consumer debt, Singaporeans are also forking out more to repay bank loans because of the rising cost of living.

Yes, I recognise it may be impossible to be completely debt-free, especially when you have a mortgage or car loan to finance. The debt I’m referring to in this article are consumer debts and debts owed to friends and family members. All these seemingly small amounts add up and can feel overwhelming. However, with smarts and discipline, you can repay these debts quickly.

1. Accept You Need To Make Changes 

Before you roll up your sleeves and get to work, you need to recognise that changes need to be made to your spending habits. It’s important to get into the right mindset so you can make a stand against marketers offering “easy financing schemes” or “zero interest rate credit cards.”

Relevant read: 3 Steps To Fix Your Relationship With Money 

2. Rank Your Debt

Make a list of all your outstanding debts, be it to banks, credit card companies, telcos, and even individual creditors like your friends and family members. Write down the amount owing and the existing monthly payment amount for each one of them, then rank them according to the interest rate. The creditor with the highest interest rate should be ranked at the top.

3. Take Stock Of Your Resources 

Apart from your monthly salary, are there other ways you can supplement your income? Perhaps there’s an extra bedroom in your apartment that you can rent out? Or, perhaps you have a skill that allows you to freelance on the side. It may be tiring, but every dollar counts towards clearing your debts as soon as possible.

4. Create A Strategic Spending Plan

Once you’ve established your monthly income, write down all the expenses you have. These expenses include the minimum payments on all your debts. Take a look at your expenses and rank them in order of importance to you. See if you can get rid of any of the items at the bottom of the list. The objective is to create a spending plan where your expenses are lower than your income.

Of course, you need to be realistic as well. It can be discouraging to live each month just repaying debts, so be sure to allocate a small portion for “Fun” expenses. You should also set aside money for “Emergencies”, for unexpected expenses such as your pet falling ill or your car breaking down. Once you’ve done that, you can set aside funds to make each minimum monthly payment on your list of creditors. Any extra funds should be channelled towards the account with the highest interest rate.

Climbing out of debt is undoubtedly not an easy task, and if you feel in over your head, I encourage you to approach the professionals. Credit Counselling Singapore is a charitable organisation that helps indebted individuals resolve their debt problems and educates the public on financial literacy. CCS offers talks on debt management as well as one-to-one counselling sessions to explore feasible debt repayment solutions such as working out a debt repayment plan with a longer repayment term.

Need help? Contact a CCS counsellor at 1800 2255 227 or visit http://www.ccs.org.sg 

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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