TRAVEL: Packing For A Winter Holiday


I am going on my first-ever ski holiday in February so I have been trawling the internet reading up on winter travel tips. Based on what I have seen so far, packing for a winter holiday is much more complex than packing for a summer holiday – in terms of logistics and pretty much everything else. After all, some bikinis come in a size much smaller than a winter glove. Those who have done a fair amount of skiing (or winter traveling) will have already known this by heart. But for the ski virgins like me, here are some tips I have curated to help us pack efficiently for our trip:

Avoriaz, France. See you in February! (Photo source: http://www.powderbeds.com/blog/france/the-best-family-ski-resorts-in-france)
Avoriaz, France. See you in February! (Photo source: http://www.powderbeds.com/blog/france/the-best-family-ski-resorts-in-france)
  1. Thermal underwear – In order to keep warm and cozy under extremely cold weather conditions, it is advisable to wear thermal underwear, before putting on your normal winter clothes. Unsure which brand to pick? Take your pick from the list of options here.
  2. Boots – When choosing a pair of winter boots, make sure that it’s sturdy enough to hike through snow in, but also, stylish enough to be worn with different types of winter outfit you are planning to take. It’s best to take dark-coloured boots so it’s easy to mix and match with your outfit. For inspiration, check out these winter boots.
  3. Gloves – When it comes to gloves, you only need to make sure that what you have is thin and light enough to stuff in your pockets or bag, breathable,and also waterproof.
  4. Hats – Put simply, your hat should be able to cover your ears and also part of your nape. Hats come in many forms and designs but you should always go with one that will give you the maximum warmth for that specific part of your body.
  5. Polarized sunglasses – Winter sunlight may not be as intense, but when reflected off snow, it can be quite painful on the eyes and very distracting especially when you’re driving. Check out the coolest winter sunglasses in 2015 and pick the one you like best.
  6. Scarf – In most cases, simply covering your ears won’t be enough. You also need to protect your neck from the biting cold and a good quality scarf will take care of that. As scarves are generally small and light, you can have several in different colours and designs to brighten up your dark winter clothing.
  7. Sunscreen, lip balm and your favourite moisturiser – Definitely a MUST! Windburn can be just as painful as the summer sunburn. In fact, it is quite possible to get sunburn from reflection off snow or ice. So keep your skin and lips protected and heavily moisturised especially when going out in the snow.

Travel Thoughts Of The Girl With The Case Of The Elsewheres


Red Dune Safari in Dubai
Red Dune Safari in Dubai

Before my husband and I got married, we were often told to enjoy life as a couple; go on adventures together and travel as much and as often as we can afford before adding a new member to the family. We never sought to question the wisdom of those words because deep down, we have always known that the results are almost always worth the costs.

Travel while you have the advantage of youth and the friskiness of your feet, we were told, because as you get older and your responsibilities get bigger – family, education, mortgage and financial obligations especially – you will find it harder to pack up your bags and go on random trips. So. very. true.

Whether it’s a random overnight trip to the beach in Bintan, a weekend getaway in Phuket, Boracay or Bali, a rendezvous in the Middle East or even a carefully planned trip to Maldives, Australia or Europe, we have certainly revelled in the joys of traveling together as a couple. Traveling strengthens our bond in ways that perhaps no other activity could. Of course there’s the S word, but you know what I mean. And soon, when we have our little people, they will be taught to embrace travel and adventure because…

  1. Traveling is an awesome way to learn about other people’s culture and be seduced by languages apart from your own. Reading about cultural practices and quirks is easy, what with the plethora of available materials, but being present is a priceless experience you must never pass on, especially when you are young and fully capable of embracing people and cultures with wild abandon.
  2. Traveling makes an adventurer out of you. Being in a strange country or city brings out that side of you you never knew existed. One day you are riding a camel or an elephant and eating deep-fried crickets, the next day you could be cuddling a koala, petting a baby tiger, taking a selfie with a napping boa constrictor or swimming with the whale sharks. Or, you could be sipping a cup of coffee at a quaint little bistro one minute and dancing samba in the middle of the plaza the next.
  3. Traveling cultivates a deeper sense of love and compassion for Mother Earth and fellow human beings. The more you travel, the more you will learn that it is not simply about being mere tourists lugging around selfie sticks, although that’s how most of us start out as, but it is about knowing that there is a bigger world out of our comfort zones, with bigger issues to get involved in and confront.

So don’t always wait for the ‘perfect time to travel’ because you may end up not being able to leave your cocoon at all. Sometimes we don’t always know what a perfect travel is until we set foot in our destination and find ourselves wowed by little things we didn’t prepare for. You know, the physics of randomness and such. And if you are not traveling solo, it is best to travel with people you love and with whom you share a common lust for wandering and learning. Otherwise, you could be wasting so much time negotiating on your itinerary instead of feeling, seeing and tasting a luscious slice of the world.

Three Ways I Could’ve Rocked SCMS 2014 But Didn’t


SCMS 2014_vickyras

 

I barely made it to the 6-hour cut-off time of the recent Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS 2014) and I had just as much to do with the disappointing result as the inconveniences experienced during the race. Rather, my absolute lack of motivation and indisputable passivity did a number on me. The fact that it was my third time doing SCMS should have already prepared me mentally and physically for the 42 kilometres’ worth of torture, on foot. I assumed it was going to rain as it had been raining wildly almost everyday for several weeks before the race, and therefore I was counting on a cooler and more comfortable run. But instead, the sun came out all guns blazing and the heat was almost incomprehensible! Runners were dropping like flies and the long march of runners started as soon as we entered the long stretch of the East Coast garden. Seeing a handful of very fit-looking runners collapsing on the ground, noticeably exhausted from the heat, and being attended to by first aid volunteers, also creates a sense of foreboding. A kind of mindfucking, pardon my French.

So I’ve had some time to think about my cataclysmic performance and played out some scenarios where I could’ve done better. And I’m putting out this list so aspiring marathoners would know better than to get complacent or lazy – or both.

1. I could’ve done what any sensible runner preparing for a marathon would do: Train. It was rather obtuse of me to think that my experiences of running long distance in the past will overcome the limitations of my ageing body.

2. I could’ve watched my diet and favoured more healthy foods instead of stuffing my face with high-calorie desserts and occasionally going overboard with le vin et les fromages. I have seen some of my marathon photos and boy, did I look like an overstuffed burrito! Delicious to eat but a fat burrito just the same. haha.

SCMS2014_vickyras

3. I could’ve prepared better by keeping myself hydrated days leading to the marathon. Although, this is one area that I have always struggled with. I just don’t drink enough water.

Seven marathons in the bag (and a few ultramarathons I don’t think I will ever have the chutzpah to do again, anyway) and here I am, contemplating if I still have enough drive in me to shoot for three, or maybe even more. Somewhere, somehow, may passion for running fizzled out dramatically and it’s somewhat disconcerting because I used to really love the sport. Perhaps it’s because I don’t join enough races here in Singapore, unlike when I was still living in the Philippines. And then I got lazy and became fat as a result. I know the love is still there – these things never go away permanently anyway – I just need to find ways to rekindle the fire. And running more frequently from here on in is just as good a place to start as updating my running outfit. (Oh boy, my husband is not going to like this bit. LOL.) Besides, there is Phuket to get toned for and I only have two weeks to transform my body. Bonne chance la Vicky!

TRAVEL: BINTAN Lagoon Resort


Perhaps Bintan Lagoon Resort‘s biggest appeal for me is its close proximity to Singapore, which makes it an ideal destination for random overnight beach adventure on a weekend. One minute you’re in Singapore and one-hour ferry ride later, you’re basking in Bintan, with the sand on your feet and the warm sun on your face. Or the pouring rain on your skin, if you aren’t so lucky – like we were this past weekend. It rained the whole Saturday so we were reduced to merely sleeping the day away. But thankfully, Sunday brought the sun out and we actually managed to get a good tan before catching our ferry back to Singapore.

IMG_9049
Bintan Lagoon Resort’s beach looks inviting.

 

When we first came to Bintan Lagoon eighteen months ago, I was instantly taken by the beach that boasts of a clean white sand, tepid water temperature and the conspicuous absence of those sharp rocks that often threaten to mangle your feet as soon as you get in the water.

On our recent visit just over the weekend, I was happy to see things remain almost unaltered. We were even given the very same room we occupied the last time (I’m guessing it wasn’t just a coincidence), located on one of the higher floors with a nice view of the pool and the manicured lawn below from the balcony. Given that we’ve been to this island more than once, I thought I’d put together a list of likes and dislikes for my avid readers. Yes, all five of them and perhaps two more will be added once this post goes live. haha.

Team Altaie_Bintan2014
The weekend warriors.

 

Pros:

1. Beach. White sand, no rocks, warm water, relatively quiet. What’s not to love? It’s certainly better than the ‘beaches’ of Singapore or even Batam.

2. Close proximity to Singapore. Like I said, a mere one hour ferry ride away. We took the 8am ferry and reached Bintan at 8am local time! It’s even shorter than our usual weekend cycling adventure from home to Changi Village and back.

IMG_9119
Pinkythetravelingpig loving her view of the sea.

 

3. Friendly staff. From the ladies at the reception/check-in to the housekeeping crew and restaurant staff, these people will instantly disarm you with their warm and friendly smiles.

4. Spacious room. There’s more than enough space for yoga and maybe two cartwheels. The rooms are a bit dated and the bathroom even more so, but they’re very well maintained and the bed is comfortable. On our recent stay though, the section of floor just outside the bathroom was moist the whole time and we couldn’t really tell if the bathroom was leaking or it was coming from the ceiling which was also damp.

IMG_9018
Bintan Lagoon Resort pool.

 

5. Nice pool and garden area. Bintan Lagoon Resort is a huge property and you get treated to a visual feast of abundant flora and plant species from the moment your vehicle crosses the gate and all the way to the resort grounds with its manicured lawns and coconut trees. Incidentally, the resort also boasts of a beautiful golf course.

6. Free wifi connection at the Terrace Bar which extends to some parts of the resort lobby. Unfortunately, you need to pay to get wifi access in the room.

7. Great massage. Look for Devi and Maya, they give a mean Javanese massage. When we arrived, I was suffering from a very nasty lower back pain which caused me to hobble and wince in pain each time I would so much as bend over a little. After a good massage and some yoga stretching, I was back to my old crazy-and-often-upside-down self. One hour massage costs 60 sgd.

#inveryoself
#inveryoself

Cons:

1. Food can be better. The lunch buffet at the Kopi-O restaurant was nothing spectacular and it was quite pricey at nearly 45 SGD per person, taxes included. The Rice restaurant located right on the beach is no better. But if you must eat, I suggest you order the local fare and skip the western dishes. I ordered this chicken dish cooked in coconut milk with a hint of spice and it was pretty good and the portion was big enough for sharing.

2. Expensive food and drinks. A bottle of water could set you back around 3 to 4 SGD including taxes and the alcoholic beverages certainly a  lot more. My suggestion: Pick up a bottle or two of your favourite wine or poison of choice before boarding the ferry in Singapore and save yourself a lot of money on drinks. Good thing we were on a self-imposed alco embargo due to the upcoming SCMS 2014 in which Hubs and I are both doing full-mary.

So there you go, 7 vs. 2. All things considered, Bintan Lagoon Resort is still a great travel option when you’re starting to go bonkers living an ultra fast-paced life in Singapore and you think a day spent on a decent private beach is going to help save your sanity. It certainly works for us.:)

DIY Tales: Repurposed Cabinet


The thing about being a married woman is that you tend to identify yourself with many different roles – superChef, superMom, exceptional wife slash part-time acrobat in bed – all at the same time. All good stuff, if you ask me, but you can also see how it might be challenging to ace all those roles simultaneously when you also have your corporate role and social life (or you know, the vague reality of it) to consider.

Married for two years now, with the same beautiful man I’ve been with for almost seven years to this day, I am still trying to get this wife role down. One thing I – we both – know is that we are truly blessed to have found each other.

On the home front, I have been learning how to cook and bake and Wednesday is usually when I would spend time in the kitchen after work, preparing homecooked meals which we will later on share while we talk about work, current events, finances and whatever plans we may have that beg to be discussed.  These days, our discussions mostly oscillate between having a baby, travel, kids’ education, retirement. There may or may not be some Netflix involved sometimes. And yes, wine – a healthy portion of it.

I don’t know why I’m sharing this when I’m supposed to be talking about an entirely different matter, though somewhat related, I might argue. So anyway, I’ve been going gaga lately about this home improvement type of things. I started with balcony gardening which is a great source of pride for me because I think we have one of the nicest balconies in the compound. Then I tried growing succulents indoors – an area where it seems I am no good at because I have had four of them die on my watch already and it’s truly heartbreaking. And then, there’s this thing called repurposing which I am now rather hooked on – thanks to Pinterest. In the last few days, I have been looking around the house for something I could repurpose.

Which led me to this…tadaaaah!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset
From a sombre black, this cabinet is about to get repurposed into something more vibrant.

 

I was going through Pinterest one day when I saw this really nice repurposed cabinet painted bright red and I thought “Hey, I can do that!” So I immediately whatsapped Hubby and sent him a screen capture of the cabinet and told him I want to do the same with one of our cabinets. I may or may not have threatened him into submission, but it doesn’t matter because he replied with an exuberant “I’m in support!” message. Husbands are just so great, aren’t they?

First step was to get all the paint materials and getting the cabinet prepped for base coating. Meaning, since the original colour was black, I needed to paint it white in order for the ‘fire engine red’ colour to stick.

Step 1: Apply the base coat evenly.
Step 1: Apply the base coat evenly.

I applied three coats of the primer and left it to dry overnight. The following evening, after work, I proceeded to apply the first coat of Nippon ‘fire engine red’ paint and again, left it overnight to dry. On the third night, I applied coat number two and voila, it looked just about as fiery to me as ‘fire engine red’ could ever be. The only thing I was not very happy about was  the visible paint pattern/mark, clearly showing my lack of experience in handling a paint roller/brush. But never mind, I still think I pulled off a decent job repurposing an old cabinet. What do you think?

Imperfectly rouge. perfectly charming.
Imperfectly rouge. perfectly charming.

Now that I’m done with repurposed item number one, I am already thinking two steps ahead planning to buy one of those portable sewing gadgets, so I can rip apart old clothes and try to repurpose them into another piece of clothing or accessory. The operative word being ‘try’…so help me God.:)

‘Til then…

 

xoxox

Fermented Foods For Good Health


If 2014 is the year of gluten-free (some may call it ‘fad’) diet, 2015 will be the year of fermented foods, according to an article by Phil Lempert discussing next year’s food trends. Meaning, most fermented foods that we already know such as yogurt and sauerkraut are about to get more attention and most likely appear on our dining tables more often. Fermented foods contain live or active cultures that are considered effective bacteria-boosting agents.

Not to undermine the health benefits of farm-to-table foods, but these fermented foods with their pungent probiotic ingredients have been proven to boost the good bacteria in our digestive tract, which can help correct and prevent digestive issues, promote weight loss, improve skin conditions, and boost overall immune system.

Here are some traditional fermented foods you should incorporate in your daily meals to give the good bacteria in your digestive system a lovely boost. Keep in mind that as in all things good, you must only enjoy these fermented foods in moderation, with one or two meals a day.

Homemade Yoghurt with strawberries (from Pinterest)
Homemade Yoghurt with strawberries (from Pinterest)

Yoghurt. Greek and regular yogurt are the most common fermented yogurt, but you can also make your own. Try this delicious home-made coconut yoghurt and get all the beneficial bacteria your body needs to strengthen your gut health and improve your immunity.

sauerkraut

Sauerkraut. Also known as fermented cabbage, sauerkraut is said to have positive impact on good digestion as well as, brain health. According to Dr. Drew Ramsey, M.D., author of The Happiness Diet and 50 Shades of Kale, there “exists a correlation between gut and brain health”. You can either buy sauerkraut from the supermarket or make your own. Here’s an easy home-made sauerkraut recipe.

Miso Soup goodness

Miso. Here’s something that miso soup lovers probably already know: The paste made from fermented soybeans and grains is packed with essential minerals including potassium and also microorganisms that promote good health and stamina. And it’s also pretty easy to make! Simply add a small portion of miso paste to boiling water together with spring onions and bok choy.

Kimchi

Kimchi. Considered a staple in Korea, kimchi is a spicy dish that is made typically from fermented cabbage and is regarded as a beauty food and an energy-booster. Why? Because as you improve your digestion, you will notice a significant improvement in your skin as well.

Wine and Beer

Wine & Beer. Now this is probably where most of us are getting our fermented food quota. Go ahead, no one’s judging. Just keep in mind that the ideal quantity is just a glass and anything beyond that may bring your body more harm than good.

Five Things to Consider When Going On a Holiday


Wouldn't you want to just lose yourself in THIS magnificence?
Wouldn’t you want to just lose yourself in THIS magnificence?

Going away on a holiday is a necessity for most of us who are deeply entrenched in the brutal corporate and (even) domestic jungles, primarily to relax and recharge our batteries, to get lost in the moment and rediscover our fun self (remember that time when you used to be fun?), meet new romantic partners or recapture excitement with current beau, or perhaps to disengage ourselves away from the maddening demands of our daily lives. Also, going on a holiday takes us to that state of natural mindfulness, where we pay complete attention to our life experiences and evaluate them with a fresh pair of eyes as we try to look to the future.

But now that we are bombarded by travel options, it becomes increasingly important to make wise travel decisions without having to kill the thrill of spontaneity and intoxicating randomness, in order for us to fully maximize the perks of our trip. Consider these tips when planning your next travel adventure:

  1. Traveling on a budget is NOT (always) synonymous to bad travel experience, and it shouldn’t be. What it does is simply help you manage your resources efficiently and encourage you to experience some aspects of traveling without having to go expensive all the time.
  2. Be an explorer! Now is your chance to absorb all the colors, sights, sounds, tastes and emotions your body can contain, so don’t waste it by being cooped-up in your hotel room the whole day. If in a safe neighborhood, you can take a walk, rent a bike, or run at your own pace. This is also a good way for you to keep fit while on vacation. Go out there and live life like you mean it!
  3. Direct your own travel documentary. Capture moments and places as much and as often as you can. These will give you enough materials to create your own travel videos which you can revisit each time you feel the need to escape but just can’t.
  4. Make one or two friends for each day of your trip and by that I mean, make it your mission to know more than just their name and what sort of work they do. Have engaging conversations on books, movies, sports and of course, your travel adventures.
  5. Be a student – learn. Discover more about the place, its history and culture, and the people, by watching, observing, listening, and asking questions. Make each travel an enriching experience for you and you will be surprised by the great number of things you will soon learn about yourself.