Thursday, January 25, 2007

Chinese New Year fashion

Why is Chinese New Year always so hot every year? Every memory I have is of a blazing hot sun, make-up slowly melting off, and driving around in a furnace of a car as we went from house to house visiting. Here are some comfortable-looking but still stylish outfits I would lurrve to wear this year (of course, taking into account that money is no object here).

Dresses are the easiest! No fussing about matching tops and bottoms. (L) Fighting Eel dress, my personal favourite out of all the picks, (R) Sweetees dress, on sale!

If a cheongsam is too stifling, try one of these cheongsam-inspired dresses from Shanghai Tang

If separates are more your thing, go for these light blouses. (L): Susina top from Nordstrom, (R) light and breezy with Mint Clothing

Red is always rad for Chinese New Year. (L) Baylene tank, (R) Fighting Eel tunic top

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Belly warm!

Ah, how I love the Japanese! Only they can take what was formerly an unglamourous belly-band (called a 'haramaki' in Japanese) worn by oba-sans to relieve joint pain and stomach aches, funk it up with cute designs and colours, and wala, you get a fashionable thick obi-like band to wear around your middle. Think of all the benefits! You can layer with style, keep your tummy warm (admittedly not much of a benefit here in Singapore), cover unsightly butt crack...the possibilities!

While we can't benefit from the winter patterns, the website (in Japanese) states that they release summer designs too. You can find out more by reading this gushing review of haramaki at Ping Mag.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Looking back at 2006

Jumping on the ‘hallyu’ bandwagon
This is the year I really discovered Korean dramas. I blame Jewel in the Palace. Previously I had watched Beautiful Days (sparking a huge crush on Lee Byung Hun) and followed Autumn in My Heart , but it wasn’t until this year’s broadcast of Jewel in the Palace on Channel U that got me started. From Jewel in the Palace, it was an easy hop, skip and jump to My Lovely Sam Soon, and after that, there was no looking back as I continued on my quest to find more fluffy romantic comedies like Goong, Full House*, Delightful Girl – Chun Hyang and now Wonderful Life and My Love Patzzi. (I have made a brief foray into the Taiwanese drama Smiling Pasta, but am of the opinion that the actors are cuter and the acting more believable in Korea).

The Korean obsession isn’t just limited to dramas, but has also extended to their skincare brands. I was previously using Shiseido and Shu Uemura, but the prices are a little expensive, and I’ve found that Korean labels like Laneige are more affordable. I have also discovered Skin Food recently, and am just absolutely taken by their yummy-sounding products, like their ginseng & royal jelly face masks and rice shimmer powder.

* Can I just say I have a crush on Full House actor/singer Rain? I didn’t use to think he was that hot, but after watching him dance in his music videos, I’m a total convert to his body. Thankfully, my obsession is not large enough for me to spend hundreds on tickets to his concert. Phew!

Buying more online
This is mainly because I started working for an Internet company early last year, and that means I spend a lot, and I mean A LOT of time online. This was driven home recently when one of my friends said to me during my birthday party that I could be relied on to be always on MSN messenger. I always like to say that it is an occupational hazard to be regularly surfing the ‘Net, but in truth, I’m just too greedy and weak-willed to stop myself from clicking on the ‘Buy’ button. I think my spending online has jumped threefold this year, and I am pretty sure half of my fashion-related buys now come from the Web.

Gym bunnying
I have never been a gym person, always preferring outdoor activities for exercise. In the past, I flirted with roller-blading, rock climbing, tennis, touch rugby and ultimate frisbee, but none really stuck. I still like any of those activities, and would gladly pick them up again provided I can find the right partners. But with everyone being so busy, it’s hard to find people to play with on a regular basis. Since a California Fitness gym recently opened near where I live, I got suckered into buying a one year’s membership at the gym and signing up for some personal training sessions one evening on my way back home from work. Since I was already paying this amount every month, I figured the only way to make the most out of it was to go as regularly as I could. I was really enjoying the hip-hop classes, but have stopped since because the instructor I like doesn’t teach at my gym. Right now, the activity du jour seems to be the Boxercise class. While my weight doesn’t seem to have dipped much, I think I have become more toned overall (go me!). It’s still a goal to lose that extra 5 kg.

Blogging less
I think you would have noticed this one, and for those who have hung on in dear hopes of seeing a new post everyday, I thank you for your perseverance! Rest assured that I have big hopes of resurrecting ShooStories and plans for meatier posts in between the fluffy fashion posts, since I now have a brand new camera wire for my Sony and thus have no more lame excuses to post pictures (One of my friends pointed out that I didn’t need a wire, and that I could have just gone to Sim Lim to buy a card reader, but oh well).

And now for a quick list of what caught my fancy in 2006:

I Don’t Feel Like Dancing, Scissor Sisters
I’m so dorky, everytime I get to the part where Jake Shears sings “clap your hands”, I have to clap my hands too. *clap clap*

Free Way, Rain
Catchy happy head-bopping pop, and it amuses me that Rain can’t pronounce ‘ride’, calling it ‘lide’ instead. Tee hee.

SexyBack, Justin Timberlake
It took some getting used to, like his other songs, but once I got it, it wouldn’t stop playing in my head!

The Solid Rock, 4Him
I love harmonies!

South of the Border, West of the Sun, Haruki Murakami
Not as outright weird as his other books, this was one of his softer and more romantic works.

The Ballad of Lee Cotton, Christopher Wilson
Quirky and eccentric, and while heavy issues brought up could have been entered into with more depth, it was still an easy and enjoyable read, with a very engaging style.

Marley & Me, John Grogan
Reading it brought back fond memories of the antics my own dog got up to when he was still alive. It was the perfect book to take along on my holiday to Japan.

Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest
It’s all about Johnny. Don’t care about nancy boy Orly or Pouty McPout Keira. But what drove me crazy throughout the movie was that voodoo woman - I couldn’t understand a single word she said!

The Devil Wears Prada
I felt so much glee watching Meryl Streep torture a whiny girl (but to be fair, Anne Hathaway did her best with this unlikeable character), but the true star was the fashion. I want all those outfits!

Singapore Dreaming

One of the better made local films. The acting was excellent, and I really felt for the characters. So paining!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Targeting Proenza

Eeny meeny miny mo...

I am getting ready to burn a hole in my pocket next month when Target's next Go International line from Proenza Schouler launches in February. I just love the bright colours and the breezy dresses. It's probably a good thing I didn't buy anything from the previous collection. All the better to spend more this time round!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

This January, I am into...

...losing all the extra poundage gained during the binge-eating December season, saving money (read: no shopping!), my new red Miu Miu glasses, cleaning up my room, Laneige’s Multi Glam blusher in rose-pink, Skin Food’s rice mask, enjoying the convenience of having straight hair, paying bills on time, War & Beauty on Channel U.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Birthday feast - Akane restaurant

Aside from eating way too much chocolate than is good for my health, it’s been a great December. I’ve had some truly memorable meals, both here and in Cambodia, but the one meal that I just had to blog about was my birthday dinner at Akane.

Every year for my birthday, my dad takes me out for a really nice dinner at a restaurant of my choice. We normally always go for Western, and invariably will end up at a French restaurant, but this year, after having heard so much about Akane restaurant at the Japanese Association, there was no doubt in my mind as to where we had to go. I reserved seats at the sushi counter, not wanting to miss out on the action of chef-owner Nogawa-san. Unfortunately we were not so lucky as to have him tend personally to us, as he was taking care of a Japanese family, obviously regulars, and a family of Australians who were there for the first time. However, Nogawa-san did make his way over to our side of the counter to greet us and say he would take care of our sashimi platter. He was very cheery throughout the dinner, and would explain the dishes to the Australian family, and at one point disappeared into his kitchen, only to re-emerge with a huge turnip to demonstrate the source of what they were eating.

I shall always regret forgetting to bring my camera, as now I have to rely on my memory to recall what all the lovely dishes looked like.

On sitting down, we were given a little appetiser of 2 cubes of anglerfish liver. Nothing unusual tasting, just like pate. The second appetizer was an oyster wrapped in spinach leaves. It was slightly warm, and we loved the beautiful smoky taste as we bit into the oyster and let it slide easily down our throats. While waiting for our other food to arrive, my father ordered a half bottle of red wine, while I decided to have some home-brewed plum wine, in keeping with the whole Japanese theme.

Our sashimi arrived, beautifully arranged and decorated with autmn leaves in a row on a long glass platter. Our chef pointed out yellowtail (hamachi), mackerel (saba), arc shell (akagai), prawns (ebi), tuna belly (toro) and others I can’t remember. Everything was achingly fresh, and I had to stop myself from squealing “oiishiii!” Japan Hour style with each bite. Of course, the winner here was the toro. If only it wasn’t so prohibitively expensive, I would have ordered more!

After we had polished off the sashimi, our tuna cheek soup arrived. This was a recommendation by our waitress, who promised we would love it. The soup was a clear broth with straw mushrooms, tofu and braised tuna cheek. Words cannot describe just how much I loved the soup. The flavour was clean, delicate and lip-smackingly delicious. I would have licked the bowl clean if I could have. My mother, with her Cantonese background and therefore being a major soup lover, remarked between slurps that this was like nothing she had ever tasted before.

Next up was the agedashi tofu. This was something my father insisted on having, and I was at first rather miffed that he would pick such a normal everyday dish. But I realised after my first bite that in the end, simpler is better. The tofu was nothing like what you get at those big sushi chain restaurants, but had a very refined flavour with a beautifully light, slightly crispy skin that didn’t go soggy. Unfortunately eating this has forever spoilt it for me. I can’t go back to the Ichiban or Sushi Tei versions anymore! The soft-shell crab arrived next, and it didn’t disappoint with a crispy shell which remained so even when sitting on the plate for a while.

The only letdown of the night was the grilled saba. Considering I’ve had some pretty good saba at Sun with Moon, I thought the Akane version was too salty and not particularly memorable. Luckily our final dish, eggplant with miso sauce, rounded up our meal. Beautiful mushy, and when tempered with the sweet miso sauce, absolutely sublime! We were actually supposed to finish off our meal with a rainbow roll, but our straining tummies did not allow us to, and we had to sadly cancel our order.

However, I was not too full to try the Japanese strawberries for dessert. They arrived, two big red strawberries on a genteel porcelain dish with a dash of whipped cream. While admittedly big, sweet and juicy, I just couldn’t justify the high price. At $6 per strawberry, it’s a rip! We washed everything down with some tea, and after gently easing ourselves away from the counter, rolled our way down the aisle with the cries of “thank you!” ringing in our ears.

Damage: $437 for 3 people
Considering what we ate, and when compared to the prices at other Japanese restaurants like Sushi Yoshida, I think it was quite a reasonably-priced meal. I’d say this was a triumph of a meal, when my dad declared it the best Japanese meal he had had in many, many years and asked for the restaurant card, while my mother, who is normally not fond of Japanese food, said it was a very enjoyable meal. Definitely a meal I’ll be dreaming of for a long time to come.