Hi there, and welcome to my blog…
Since this is my first post, I guess I should be sharing a bit about myself, no?

27 May 2013

What’s on the menu

Mondial, by the way, is French for ‘global’ or ‘worldwide’—and my passion for writing is pretty much global as well. I like to do reviews for movies and books, maybe a new album I just bought, or even a mobile app I just downloaded. I also like to share bits of trivia, tips and tricks for everything from writing the perfect resumé to my favorite getaways, and real-life stories starring real-life, no-nonsense, classy, and wholly-independent girls who have been a constant source of inspiration for me.

28 May 2013

I Depend on Me?

The name Miss Mondial has always been inseparable from one particular motto: I Depend on Me! Being a career woman with a streak of workahilism, this is something I can really relate to. Having a well-paying job and finding out that you’re quite good at it feels really empowering. But it’s not just about becoming a modern, independent woman, and more about actually being a dependable adult…

Life, they say, is full of ups and downs. We celebrate the ups and we console ourselves when we’re down. But what about when we’re in the middle? When everything is ‘just okay’. Well, if you ask me, you also need a bit of extra cheer especially during the humdrum of your professional life…

Long before I became the successful career woman I am today (well, I’m not an unsuccessful career woman, so ‘successful’ isn’t too far off, no? ^^), I started off just like any other fresh grad. I scoured job listings on the Web and newspapers, went to job fairs, and sent a ton of applications.

29 May 2013

Acing an interview

Like I mentioned in my previous post, tinkering with résumés was a bit of a hobby for me. So, I was usually pretty confident about the applications I sent in. Interviews, however, were not my cup of tea. Now, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I kept flunking my job interviews… but I can honestly say that I never went to an interview without sweaty palms, my heart in my throat, and a million butterflies rioting in my stomach.

I love my job. Well, I don’t always get along with ‘waking up early each day’, and I’m also not exactly fond of deadlines. But overall, I love doing what I do. And if I look back at my journey as a worker up till now, there’s one thing that has always been a source of comfort whenever and wherever I work: my colleagues.

I love my job, I practically adore my colleagues (maybe with one or two exceptions, of course… ^^), I can tolerate even the meanest bosses—but there’s one thing I really hate: office politics. Or, to be precise, I don’t get it.

31 May 2013

Power naps, anyone?

Back in college, I had something most of my friends considered a superpower. Basically, I could sleep almost anywhere, anytime—even in the middle of class without the lecturer knowing about it. Bosses and managers, however, are usually much less forgiving when it comes to employees caught napping at the office. Naturally, I strived to stay awake at my desk no matter how sleep-deprived I happened to be. I have never been so wrong…

31 May 2013

Homework...

Every so often I come home after a long day at the office … and promptly get back to work. The last time I thought of homework as a bit exciting was in second grade of elementary school—more than two decades ago. But then I also noticed that quite a few people are also regularly bringing home their work and pulling all-nighters to get things done, so I started looking a bit closer at my fellow ‘homework frequenters’.

Late last night, I was going through my bag when I remembered about this article (or was it something on Facebook or Twitter? Can’t really remember) discussing what you could find in a typical woman’s handbag. So, I upended my bag and sorted through the contents. Here’s what I found…

First off, I’m a bit of a self-taught techie. I’ve been tinkering with PCs since in junior high, and I’m now sort of an unofficial ‘IT girl’ in the office, much to the surprise—or annoyance—of most of the guys. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I’ve fairly interested in hi-tech stuff for quite some time now, and this aptitude of mine has proven quite useful at work.

Years ago, I found this heartwarming story in an old copy of Reader’s Digest:

I actually had quite a few things planned for this Sunday. A couple of my friends were planning to meet up, and yesterday asked me if I would like to join in. They were going to meet a bit early (10AM on a Sunday is still considered ‘early’, no? ^^), so no sleeping in today. On my way home (after lunch I guess) I’d swing by the department store to pick up some much needed supplies. Then, I think I’ll indulge in a short nap before tidying up my room (haven’t been able to do any serious cleaning the last couple of weeks). Finally, after a leisurely dinner with my family (I heard the words ‘pizza delivery’ mentioned several times) I’ll see if there’s anything need doing for tomorrow, then catch some television before turning in early. Of course all of that was what I ‘planned’; the only thing I actually accomplished (and did better than what I originally had in mind) was the nap.

A good book has no ending.  (R.D. Cumming)

… and the same goes for my reading habit. Back in junior high, when all the other kids were excited about watching Jurassic Park, I already finished the novel. In its original English. Several times. (Can’t say the same thing about The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, though. I loved the movies, but the original books are intimidating.)

On the one hand, I’m a bit old fashioned; on the other, I’m all for technologies that can make life easier. So, on the one hand, I like printed books. I like the feel of a hefty hard-cover; I even like the musty smell and yellowed pages of old books. But on the other hand, I do most of my reading nowadays using a nifty e-reader app on my phone.

06 Jun 2013

Need a good laugh?

Comedy is easy to find on the Web. You have image sites like the (in)famous 9GAG, we have satire news sites like The Onion, online collections for cute animal pictures such as GoAwww, and plenty of funny videos on YouTube. But there are also several lesser known sites offering comedy gold with extra bits of originality and creative flair. So, if you have a couple of extra hours to spare, you might as well check out the following sites… :)

Well, I’ve been writing about the simple joys of a cup of tea, reading a good book, or cooking, but obviously if there’s one thing I’ve been spending my ‘me time’ on, it’s writing on this blog. And even if it’s only been for just a little over a week, I’ve felt … changed, for lack of a better word.

Have you ever had that feeling, when you have work to do, but instead you get the urge to tidy up room, rearrange your desk, or even sweep your office?  And when you give in and start cleaning, you find that you feel better? Well, you’re not alone… :)

Well, so far I’ve written that I sometimes enjoy cleaning stuff, and also about me being a bit of a techie and about my preference for desktop PCs. Combine the two, and you get another activity I regularly do on my free time: clean my PC.

One of the first things that I (and many other newcomers) notice about mornings in Jakarta, is how a lot of people—men and women, students and office workers—commute while wearing earphones connected to media player, phones, or even tablets. I guess it’s just a way to cope with the hustle and bustle that they go through each day…

If you look at what I have installed on my phone, my laptop, and my desktop PC, you’ll notice something similar. Well, besides the shortcuts for browsers, office programs, antivirus software, media players, e-readers, MP3 players, photo editors… okay, I’ll stop now. What I meant to talk about was games.

Most people—except for those in business- and first-class seats—usually deal with long flights by simply dozing off.  But did you know that your sleeping position while on an airplane can supposedly reveal quite a bit about your personality?

Credit cards are incredibly convenient, sometimes required (especially if you shop online), and overall nice to have. On the other hand, becoming a cashless society comes with quite a few side effects, most of which aren’t really good. That’s because credit cards can make you:

24 Jun 2013

Need a Limit Boost?

If you can avoid the major pitfalls of using a credit card, then having a high(er) limit can be extremely handy for large purchases or long holidays. Of course, to boost your limit you need a good credit score—basically the measure of your creditworthiness. So, how do you go about getting a better credit score? Well, I did some digging and asking around and here’s what I’ve learned so far…

It could happen to anyone: despite our best efforts, we suddenly find ourselves short of cash. What’s worse, being broke can easily lead towards higher credit card debt, bad credit scores, etc. But fear not, with a bit of smart budgeting, we can easily get back on our feet. And by smart budgeting, I mean:

With a few smart budgeting tips, you can survive being broke. But what if you—God forbid—lose your job? Well, I don’t think that there are any easy tricks to get us out of a situation like this. But with the right mindset, we can survive even this worst-case scenario. So, when the unthinkable happens, remember:

Retirement—not exactly something we often think about, right? Especially since retirement age is, for most of us, still decades away. Still, setting up a solid pension plan as early as possible might be one of the most important things we could do. Not convinced yet? Well, consider that:

Here’s a fun fact: The idea of a cozy, leisurely retirement is actually a bit new. Only a couple of decades ago, people kept on working until they dropped. Here’s another fun and scientifically proven fact: Working is good for your long-term health. Also, managing your retirement and living without an income isn’t always as easy as it sounds. So, sometimes, the best retirement plan… is not to retire at all.

It’s easy for us to be trapped in an uncomfortable position involving our money—or to be precise, other people’s interest in our money. More often than not, there’s no graceful way to escape situations like these, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be handled. For example:

Budgeting if you get a regular paycheck each month is (relatively) easy. But what if you’re self-employed or do freelance work, your income will be quite irregular. Should you even bother trying to set up a monthly budget? Well, budgeting is even more important when you don’t have a regular source of income—and it can be a bit more challenging as well. But fear not, for many have gone before you, and the secrets of regular budgeting on an irregular income have long been known…

There’s nothing wrong with buying something to celebrate, say, a raise or a special occasion. Buying something to console yourself when you’re feeling down is all fine and good as well. But ‘emotional spending’ can easily go out of hand, which is not exactly good for your budget. Completely eliminating emotional spending, though, is not exactly good for you—so the best way to keep both you and your budget healthy is to simply dial it back a bit. How? Well…

Investing properly is very important—and also very confusing, hard to get right, risky, and completely puzzling for most people. That’s why wealth management services and investment consultants are popular, no? But there are quite a few basic investment tips that I’ve often heard repeated, sometimes even by finance experts. So, below you can find, in no particular order, some of the most common investment information I’ve gathered… (For actual investment advice, though, I’d suggest you consult an actual expert… ^^)

As much as I love shopping trips to modern malls, boutiques, department stores, and specialty shops, there’s something special about going through a thrift shop, a second-hand book store, or a garage sale. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of uncovering a hidden gem—perhaps a limited-edition album, an out-of-print book, exquisite vintage dresses, or maybe an ornate antique necklace… the possibilities are endless. And personally, I like the nostalgic feel of walking amongst dusty old shelves, racks of slightly faded clothes, and bins full of assorted knick-knacks.

Do you have heaps of old-stuff just lying around at home, eating up space and collecting dust? Are any of those still usable (old electric fans, a couch nobody uses), collectible (vintage comic books, CDs from the 1990s), or historical (old paintings, ancient sculptures)? Well, you could simply sell them off. A bit of extra cash is always welcome, you’re uncluttering your house at the same time, and sometimes it’s nice to know that your old possessions have found a new home where they can be appreciated… no? Selling off your old stuff is actually pretty easy… all you need is:

I’m sure we all can agree that saving is important, right? And of course, there are a lot of easy and sensible ways to save money, such as smart budgeting, careful spending, etc., etc. But let’s just say that we want to take it to the next level, that we want to see just how much we can save by being extra frugal. Well, you could consider one of these steps…

So, my last post highlighted some of the more unusual saving tips that caught my attention. But the ones I listed are nothing compared to the truly bizarre and extreme money-saving methods that some people apparently use. Yes, bizarre, extreme, as well as probably unhealthy and with the added possibility of getting you in trouble. Still, it’s quite fascinating to look at just how far some people would go to shave off a couple of ten thousands from their budgets…

Imagine you’re going to the mall on a weekend. You’re in high spirits, there’s a sale you want to check out… and suddenly you feel that your hair’s a bit of a mess. As more and more people start staring, you struggle to remember where the nearest toilet is. Some are openly laughing at you now as genuine panic settles inside you. It’s a nightmare…

Have you ever seen a martial arts demonstration with people breaking wooden boards or cinder blocks? Apparently, a key part of how they do it (besides, of course, correct technique and years of training) is aiming for a spot well beyond the target—in effect, the practitioner is acting as if the board or block simply does not exist. Again, proper technique is important, but the key is the follow through motion.

“If you want to win, play to your strengths.” In other words, if you want to win—become more confident, more self-assured, and thus more successful—then you need to focus on what you’re good at. Sounds pretty obvious, right? Actually, it’s kind of funny how we often overlook this one basic principle…

02 Jul 2013

Risk is a friend…

Most of the time, we can actually clearly figure out the steps we need to take to reach our goals. But most of the time, we have no idea how to handle the mass of uncertainty and doubt that stands between us and our goals. In other words, no matter how confident we are of our abilities, there’s always this lingering fear of the risks we might face. So, we tend to avoid anything risky… when in fact taking on risks is essential for us.

03 Jul 2013

The Black Belt Effect

For those of you wondering whether you’ve heard or read about this ‘black belt effect’ before: no, I made this one up myself. But yes, this post is inspired by my experience training in the martial arts; yes, I actually have a black belt, in aikido to be exact; and no, this is not a post about how to beat up other people… ^^;

Imagine you’re sitting in a quiet little restaurant when a young couple takes the table next to you. They seem a bit awkward, as if they’re not used to eating out, like it’s a luxury that they reserve for special occasions. Unsurprisingly, they don’t order anything fancy, but seem to really enjoy their meal nonetheless. But when they finally ask for the bill, you overhear their waiter telling them that they don’t need to pay… that another patron has paid for their order and left without a word. As the speechless couple make their way out, you feel your eyes starting to mist…

I often find it funny how people like to talk about ‘inner beauty’ and then go on about how “it’s what’s inside that counts” or “it’s the thought that counts”. Sometimes this will veer into, “You know, deep down inside, I’m a good person/great writer/compassionate soul/etc.” Yes, what’s inside of us is the entirety of who we are… but it only matters if it actually makes you do something.

Before anybody asks, no, I’m not talking about the kind of meditation that involves spiritual enlightenment and becoming one with the universe and stuff like that. No, this is about something much simpler, about meditation as a daily mental exercise to promote inner peace, develop your inner beauty, and boost your willpower. In other words: to train your focus and concentration.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “learn from your failures” several dozen times already, right? And it’s good advice: we often learn more from making mistakes than from getting it right the first time. If anything, being confused by a new challenge and struggling to find a solution will force our brains to actually learn something. In fact, failure can be such a good learning tool, that it might be a good idea to intentionally set yourself up to fail. No, seriously…

Look at any bookstore’s bestseller list and you’re bound to see at least one or two biographies of famous and successful people. Which isn’t really unexpected, no? By looking at the lives of those who have already made it big, maybe we can find the right path to create our own success story. Problem is, we often look at the wrong parts of other people’s stories.

Here’s another saying that I’m sure you’re pretty familiar with: “You are your own worst enemy.” But do you know what this really means? Well, we could spend years debating the possible meanings of this phrase, or we could look at the most likely explanation: we constantly fight the urge to make our lives better.

“The mind and the body are one” is more than just a metaphor. I mean, if you’re sick, you’re bound to feel down, right? Of course, this works the other way around as well, and this is a phenomenon that all of us can harness. See, something as simple as our posture or how we sit or stand can have a profound impact on our behavior and self-esteem. So, here are several poses you could try out…

07 Jul 2013

Just say ‘No!’

‘No’ is such a simple word, yet it’s so hard to use. Of course I’m not talking about saying ‘no’ to a telemarketer who calls you for the third time today about getting life insurance, but saying ‘no’ to a colleague who passes by your desk, asks if you have a minute, and then goes on for half an hour about how she has over a thousand friends on Facebook while ignoring your exasperated smiles and subtle hints about deadlines and meetings.

Nowadays, you usually have to try extra hard to be completely alone. Even sitting alone in your room when the house is empty you’d have to shut down your PC and laptop, switch off your iPad and phone… and then fight the constant urge to turn them all back on again just in case you’ve missed a text message, e-mail, status update, or tweet. But missing all of those for an hour or two of quiet solitude can actually be good for you...

When talking about stress, one of the most oft repeated pieces of advice is that we should find a way to release it, a way to vent our stress so that we can feel better. You know, like screaming from the roof of your office or punching a pillow. Because if you keep it bottled up, if you can’t express your anger and vent your stress, you’ll eventually snap. In other words, investing in a solid punching bag is a good idea. Problem is, it’s not…

Exercise is, of course, good for your body… but should you still go for a jog, go to yoga class, or take a swim when you’re particularly stressed out after a long day at the office? Well, it is exactly when you’re stressed out that you should consider taking up exercise and making it a routine if you haven’t already.

I think we can all agree that stress is pretty much an inevitable part of daily life, right? Then, can we also agree that the stress caused by morning traffic, work, evening traffic, and so on has no place at home? I mean, home is a place for friends and family, free (well, a bit) from the ugliness of this world. And even if you live alone, taking all your daily annoyances and irritations as you go through the door isn’t exactly a great idea.

Feeling stressed? Well, you’re not alone. Actually, there are probably several hundred million people feeling just as stressed as you right this very moment. So, have you ever wondered what women living thousands of miles away from you rely on for some quick stress-relief? Well, here are five traditional stress busters from all across the globe…

One of the biggest problems with stress is that we know what it feels like, we (sometimes) have an idea or two on how we should relief the tension within us, but we usually have no idea what causes all the stress hounding us each day. Oh, sure, we usually cite ‘work’, ‘traffic’, or ‘gas prices’, but more often than not, we can’t really identify what keeps us stressed out. And so, taking concrete steps to make our lives as stress-free as possible is difficult. But do you know what you can do about this? Write about it…

For me, the best part of coming home each day is the greeting from my four (yes: four) dogs. No matter how rotten my day was, I’m guaranteed an exuberant welcome by four little creatures who are simply overjoyed to see me home.  It doesn’t change the fact that I’m tired and perhaps stressed out, but for one glorious moment, all seems right with the world.

Have you ever felt that your work—at the office, at home, or both—is no longer challenging or even interesting? Have you ever felt as if you’re simply doing the same thing over and over again without any sort of actual goal in sight? Have you ever felt tired of it all and wondering if anything is still worth doing? Well, you’re not alone… Burnout is depressingly common, and few people know how to cope with it.

It goes without saying that stress isn’t limited to the pressures of work, the annoyances of traffic, and so on. Our own homes can also be fertile breeding grounds for stress and pressure, no? And sometimes the problem comes from outside, such as, say, unwelcome guests who overstay their welcome, eat all of your food (and then complains about it), and then plop down on your new couch with their shoes on to watch TV all day long. Something like this will definitely spike your stress levels, no? Well, thankfully, there are some pretty nifty tactics you can use to rid yourselves of unwanted guests…

I think I’ve already said it several times already, but here it is again: exercise is good for you, and it can help you in your fight against stress. But do I exercise, though? Of course I do… I regularly (have to) walk my dogs, I like to swim whenever I have the chance, and I also dabble a bit in a couple of martial arts. Yes, martial arts; and yes again, that’s more than one.

Stress is something we feel deep inside, right? We can’t see it, hear it, taste it… but it’s there. However, we can enlist the aid of our senses (quick fact: despite what we were taught in elementary through high school, science today says that there are more than five senses) to help us feel better.

Ask around a bit about how other people cope with stress, and sooner or later you’re bound to hear somebody mention ‘prayer’. Sounds like good advice, right? Now, finding strength in prayer would come naturally to religious people; but how about for those of us who have never really felt inclined to explore spirituality? Personally, I believe that faith is a very personal matter; and if it can’t be entirely honest and sincere, there’s no point to it. Still, there are actually quite a few factual and more down-to-earth benefits of prayer… such as:

What do you usually do after a particularly bad day? Go to the gym perhaps? Or straight home for a relaxing cup of tea in front of the TV? Or maybe you cut off your sugar intake? Well, there are a lot of common stress-relief strategies, but some of them can apparently do more harm than good. So…

When it comes to fighting stress and maintaining good health, one of the most important yet often overlooked aspects is sleep. While lack of sleep can kill you faster than starvation, more people are concerned about eating right rather than developing good sleeping habits. The simple fact is that most adults need at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day—and that’s non-negotiable. Still, even if you do have the time, getting a good night’s rest isn’t always easy… Well, not if you know how, of course…

What do we usually do on weekends? Eating out, going to the movies, shopping, or maybe just hanging out at the mall… the possibilities are (almost) endless. But what if I told you that there is a way to spend your weekend (and quite a lot of people have tried this and ended up enjoying it) where you can have a great time while saving money, bonding with family and friends, and get creative at the same time. Let’s just call it the ‘zero-budget weekend’ challenge.

And another Monday is just about to end. Which is a good thing, right? I mean, “I don’t like Mondays” is like the slogan for working women (oh, okay… and men as well) since a long, long time ago. After all, following the highs of the weekends, dragging yourself back to work on Mondays really seems to be the lowest point of the week… Ah, but it turns out to be the exact opposite… (Read on, ladies…)

Most of us usually prefer to avoid anything related to work and the weekdays during the weekends. On the one hand, yes, we do need some time away from thoughts of work so that we can refresh our minds and focus on things that really matters—like friends and family. On the other hand, you’ll have a much better week ahead of you if you can set aside some time for some serious planning.

We all use our weekends to catch up on something we have little time for during the week. Maybe it’s a novel we’re trying to finish, or perhaps it’s our plans for routine exercise, but doing house chores is usually also on the list. Doing your laundry, grocery shopping, or cleaning on your day off looks like a pretty good idea—unless something more important comes up, of course. You can take your time doing them, and you’ll start off the next week with your pantry stocked, the laundry done, and the house clean. Sounds good, right? However, I’ve also heard from a lot of people who advised me to do the exact opposite. Here’s why…

In one of my very first posts, I’ve written about how I liked to read, remember? (If not, here’s a handy link to said post… ^^) Anyway, reading is on the top of my list of things to do on a weekend, and I can spend a whole day (or two) propped up somewhere with a good book. However, if I have nothing else to do on a lazy Saturday or Sunday, I usually ditch the light reading material, and take out something really great, something really epic…

Working on the weekend is stressful and can definitely make you feel not happy. Watching TV all day through the weekend is not stressful but also makes you feel not happy. Spending time with your friends and family is (usually) not stressful and makes you feel happy. The only thing missing is something you do on the weekend that is stressful yet it makes you feel happy… and yes, something like that exists… ^^

When I was younger (well, much, much younger) there were times when I actually liked it when the power went out at night, particularly if the sky wasn’t cloudy. I would then go outside and spend some time just watching the stars. Even back then, when I was just a little kid who didn’t know what real stress and worries were like, I found stargazing to be calming and fun. And that’s why I still think it’s a great way to add a touch of wonder to just about any weekend… ^^

18 Jul 2013

Disconnect…

In this day and age, your friends, family, colleagues, bosses, and random telemarketers can easily reach you anytime, anywhere. If people can’t call or text you, then there’s always e-mail, or one of those free instant-messaging services. And being easily reachable 24/7 is already the norm... it’s as if turning off your phone or not checking your e-mail has become something inexcusably rude, even if it’s only for a couple of hours. And that’s exactly why disconnecting yourself for a while during the weekends is so necessary…

Making time for your family and your closest friends during the weekends—this is something so basic, so simple, and so straightforward that we often forget just how much of an impact it has on our lives. Especially if a big portion of our daily life is spent outside our homes.

Some time ago, while aimlessly browsing the Web, I found a photo of Ben Stiller (admittedly not one of my favorite actors) who was apparently volunteering at a soup kitchen set up for victims of last year’s Hurricane Sandy. You can see that the photo is a bit blurry, since it was taken by some random person instead of a professional photographer—it wasn’t a publicity stunt, the actor simply came to help, to volunteer his time and energy for a worthwhile cause.

And actually, that’s not such a bad thing to do on a weekend, don’t you think?

If asked to name what weekend activity is the most popular, I guess that “eating out” would be a safe answer, right? And after a hectic week, dining at a cozy little restaurant is a great way to unwind. The food is usually good, and all you need to do is chew and swallow while somebody else cooks and cleans up after you. Add some friends to the mix, and you have the perfect highlight to your day off. But if you can get your friends involved, why not try something a bit more fun?

I’m talking, of course, about arranging a nice potluck dinner.

I guess it goes without saying that by the time we get to the weekends, we have a lot of catching up to do. Our sleep debt is one thing we usually can only repay (in installments) on Saturday and Sunday, along with family time, hobbies along with our favorite TV shows and movies, and so on. And then, there’s exercise of course. I mean, that’s one thing we’re not supposed to forget, right?

21 Jul 2013

Networking…

As the saying goes, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Having the right skills is important for any career-/business-woman, but without knowing the right people, you might have a hard time getting into a position where you can showcase what you know. That’s why networking, i.e. building a professional network, is so important nowadays.

We live in a very competitive world where we’re often expected to perform at our peak, every day from 9 to 5—or even longer. So, sometimes, the best way to recharge your internal batteries is to while away a lazy weekend not worrying about anything and simply letting your mind and body take a break…

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, or maybe I just don’t understand young people nowadays, but I still cringe whenever I see somebody a Facebook post about, say, the ‘first week anniversary’ of their relationship. First of all, I’m not sure that the whole world needs to know about this. Second, it got me thinking: how long do you have to be in a relationship before it can be considered serious?

22 Jul 2013

Mother…

This is going to sound really, really clichéd, but one of my biggest sources of inspiration and motivation now that I’m a grown woman is the first grown woman I ever knew: my mother. There are a lot of aspects to how my mother influenced me, but perhaps this quote here sums it up best for me:

A little girl, asked where her home was, replied, "where mother is."  ~Keith L. Brooks

When a girl gets into a romantic relationship and talks about it with other girls, sooner or later you’ll hear the question, “Yes, but how do you know he’s the right one for you?” And the answer will inevitably go along the lines of, “Oh, he adores me,” or “We have the same hobbies and we both like Korean soaps,” or even, “I’m an Aries, he’s a Leo… it fits!” But I and my friends have a much more down-to-earth parameter: Sharing.

Several years ago, I was coming home from the office and stopping at a nasi goreng stall to pick up dinner when I saw a lady standing outside of a fried chicken restaurant. Looking at her filthy clothes and unkempt hair, it was clear that she was poor. But at that moment she was very happy as she sat there, feeding pieces of fried chicken to several stray cats. She talked soothingly to the hungry cats, feeding them one morsel at a time, with a serene smile on her face. It was one of the most touching and beautiful scenes I have ever witnessed in my life…

25 Jul 2013

Teachers…

After having spent more than half of my lifetime in school (and college), I guess it’s not surprising that the combined personalities of dozens of teachers (and lecturers) have left quite an imprint on me. Now that I think about it, I don’t really have any dramatic, teary, or really motivational stories involving a former teacher (or lecturer—let’s not forget them), but I still remember plenty of small tales featuring great teachers that still inspire me today. Here are a couple of my favorites…

24 Jul 2013

Why we search…

Look at any lifestyle magazine, tabloid, or website for women, and you’d probably get at least one or two articles on romance—what to look for in a man, what men (probably) look for in a woman, and so on. But what rarely (if ever) gets discussed is why we look for a partner. Beyond dreams (or obligations) to get married and raise a family, why do we look for companionship at all? Well, if you ask me…

25 Jul 2013

Round one… fight!

Would you believe it when somebody in a relationship says she never fights with her partner? Of course not! Fighting is a natural part of being in a relationship, no? Still, some people believe that we can improve the way we fight. One popular method I often hear people throw around is ‘active listening’, where one partner says what’s troubling her, emphasizing on how she feels (e.g., “When you watch TV all day, I feel ignored…”), then the other first acknowledges what has been said (e.g., “Okay, so what you’re saying is that when I watch TV all day you feel ignored…”) before responding, and so on.

Most of my friends who are happily in a long-term relationship or happily married, however, think that fighting like that is stupid (e.g., “When I hear people talking like that, it makes me want to puke…”)

Imagine you were asked to list the biggest threats to a relationship or marriage… what would you put into it? Affairs, perhaps; or money issues, conflicts with parents and in-laws, moving, and so on—these are all legitimate possibilities. But what about, say, ‘boredom’ or ‘monotony’?

Once upon a time, I had a little chat with a couple in their 60s who were also marriage counselors. One of the more interesting stories they told me was about the most common mistake among young, soon-to-be-married couples: thinking that marriage means “living happily ever after”. And this isn’t exactly surprising. I mean, just look at any movie, novel, or folktale… in the end, the hero/good guy/prince marries the heroine/damsel in distress/princess and they live happily ever after. A lot of people simply forget that right after the wedding ceremony the story continues in the sequel titled “Married Life: Way Harder than You Think”.

Actually, the title of this post should be ‘a lot of giving, a bit of taking’; which is the best relationship advice I’ve heard so far. To be exact, the particular piece of advice goes something like this, “Give 60% of your time for your partner, and 40% of your time for yourself.” Of course this only works when it goes both ways, so that each partner is prepared to give more than what he/she takes from the relationship…

“Why can’t he just accept me the way I am?” I guess this is one of the most common complaints for people in a relationship, especially those who have gone through at least one big argument. So, I sometimes wonder, is asking to be accepted “just the way I am” a sensible request, or is it something that can only exist in the realm of movies and soap operas?

It’s the bane of boyfriends and husbands everywhere: an angry woman giving them the silent treatment. It really, really unnerves them, I guess. With the silent treatment, the targeted male knows that they’re in trouble, but aren’t always sure exactly what it is that they’re in trouble for. Usually, they have only two options: act all submissive and say that they’re sorry for whatever it is they’ve done or awkwardly wait for the coming storm. There’s a third option, where the guy lets loose a storm of his own, but that’s usually suicide.

28 Jul 2013

Elder love…

You know what my favorite romantic image is? An elderly couple who still go everywhere while holding hands. Oh, sure, we can all joke about how if one of them lets go the other gets lost; and it has crossed my mind more than once perhaps they are actually afraid that they’d feel lost when they do let go. Still, anyway you look at it, these old husband and wife pairings are living proof that everlasting love doesn’t only happen in fairy tales.

28 Jul 2013

Custom-made love…

There’s this husband and wife couple that lives nearby who I often meet when I head out for the office in the morning or when I come back at night. They’ve been married for only four years or so, but so far they’ve had to move three times, the husband had to change jobs four times, and both now work long hours and usually get to sleep for less than six hours a day—including on weekends. Still, despite their hectic lives and punishing work schedule, none of their fights have lasted more than a day. The secret is, as the husband calls it, ‘custom-made’ love.

29 Jul 2013

Quantity vs. Quality

So, last time I checked I have more than 200 contacts on my phone (quite a few double entries, though), more than 500 people on my Facebook friend list, and almost 300 followers on Twitter and over 15.000 likes on my Facebook page (Thank you, gals! You are awesome!) However, I don’t think that I have more than a dozen close friends—actually, ‘half a dozen or less’ would be more accurate.

Remember back in elementary school, kids used to tease each other by pairing boys and girls? We adults, however, aren’t much different. I mean, trying to introduce single friends or colleagues to other single people is something a lot of people do. Maybe we’ve been subject to these set ups, or perhaps we’ve even tried to play matchmaker ourselves. And in my opinion, this needs to stop…

30 Jul 2013

Drifting apart…

So, I have this close friend whom I’ve known ever since kindergarten. We used to go to school together each day, and while we went to different schools after kindergarten, we kept in touch, had regular sleepovers at each other’s houses, went on vacation together, and so on… you know, just like regular BFFs. But then things changed, and not exactly in a good way. Basically, we began to slowly drift apart. She became much more socially active than me, while I started focusing on college; she turned into a socialite, I became a career-woman. We still keep in touch, though; and we still meet up once in a while. But we’re no longer the best friends we once were… and I think it’s for the best.

Have you ever felt that your friends have more friends than you do? Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal. There’s even a scientific explanation for this phenomenon, which is called the ‘friendship paradox’. Yes, there’s a theory, a mathematical pattern to be precise, that explains why most of us feel less popular than our friends…

31 Jul 2013

Layers…

People (so you, me, and everyone else) are like onions. At first, other people will only see the outer skin, but there are multiple layers inside. To really get to know a person, you have to peel away each layer, and discover something new each time. Of course, you’ll be crying all the way. Sometimes you’ll shed tears of joy as you find tales that touch your heart, sometimes you’ll cry when you find out what horrible things your friend had to go through… and sometimes you’ll weep because your BFF apparently still believes ‘low fat milk’ means that all the fat sits at the bottom of the glass… ^^

Have you ever noticed that after when your college years end and your working years begin, you rarely—if ever—make new friends? Sure, working means you’ll have plenty of colleagues and acquaintances, but making ‘real’ friends, as in the kind who you’re not friends with just because you’re in the same boat and who you can really confide in, is not as easy as it was when you’re still in school or college, and becomes harder as you start pushing 30…

01 Aug 2013

“In the moment”

I’m sure that by now, you’ve seen dozens of couple or groups of friends walking together, having dinner together, or just hanging out together… all with their heads bowed down and their eyes glued to smartphones or tablets. It’s the now all-too-familiar “having friends sit next to you but too busy with friends you’ve probably never met face to face” scene and I think it’s silently ruining friendships everywhere.

Hey, I’m all for technology and social media: I have a smartphone that is connected 24/7, an iPad, a laptop, I spend most of my time in front of my PC, and I like Facebook just as much as the next gal. But when I actually take the time to get together with my friends, I want to spend that time talking with my friends and to look at their faces while doing so.

One of the keys to a lasting friendship is believing that your friends act in good faith whenever they give you advice. Unfortunately, this is also a good way to get yourself in trouble. Well, this isn’t always the case, of course—but a psychiatrist friend of mine has once lamented how a lot of her patients nowadays are people who followed the advice of their closest friends, only to find themselves in more trouble than they can handle…

02 Aug 2013

Secret keepers…

Have your read the Harry Potter books? Or at least watched the movies? Well, if not, you can find plenty of cheat sheets online, such as this one and this one. Anyway, a major plot point of the series is that betraying a close friend’s trust and spilling their secrets can have disastrous consequences. Now, most of us don’t usually have friends who will entrust us with matters of life-and-death, but whether we realize it or not, we often teeter on the brink of spilling our best friends’ deepest secrets…

You can’t buy real friends. You can’t force people to be your close confidants. You can’t threaten someone to become a shoulder to cry on. Friendship is something you have to earn, and it’s not easy. And that’s why it’s so valuable. But sometimes, friendships take a bad turn, and it might seem best that you and a friend part ways.

When groups of friends get together, they often eat together, right? Interestingly, there’s a big difference between when a group of guys go out for a bite vs. when a group of girls get together for dinner. Oh, sure, when groups of men and women eat out together, they tend to order different things, different amounts of food, talk about different things, and so on. But there are two big differences that most people don’t notice…

Oh, and by the way, the boys’ side of this story is not just my personal observation, but was actually contributed by a 30-ish (he refused to have his actual age published) male who also likes to observe weird things like this…

03 Aug 2013

Gossip…

There was this old story I read back in junior high… I can’t remember all the details, but it goes something like this:

A woman went to see a holy man, and confessed that she had been gossiping about her friends. Now she felt sorry and wanted to make amends. The holy man told her to buy a chicken at the market and then walk back while plucking the chicken’s feathers. (Yes, old-timey parables aren’t concerned with animal welfare apparently…) So, the woman did as she was told, and came back to the holy man with a featherless chicken. Then the holy man told her the second thing she had to do to atone: picking back all the feathers she’d plucked. As the woman stood there in stunned silence the holy man told her that that is why gossiping was dangerous: once you spread rumors about somebody, you can’t hold it back…

So, bad advice, spilled secrets, and gossiping can all drag a friendship down until it is simply pushed to the brink. Of course there are also less serious—but still annoying—elements of friendship that can be really frustrating. Take, for example, a friend with a boyfriend or husband that you just can’t stand. That’s not easy to deal with right?

It’s one of the most universal rules of friendship: friends stick together no matter what. Of course, this might mean sticking out your neck for a friend in trouble—and since just like us our friends are also infallible, backing up your friends might often require a bit of finesse and tact…

So, when you find a friend in trouble, it might be a good idea to consider things like:

We often like to discuss about social concerns, community efforts, or even public events. But answer me this: do you know your next-door neighbor? Unsurprisingly, a lot of my urban-dwelling friends are only somewhat aware of who lives next to them. Which reminds me of a little story I’ve heard years ago:

So, a family was about to move out their old house. On the day of the big move, they were taking a break from loading their stuff onto the moving truck when suddenly their next-door neighbor for the last 10 year or so approached carrying a tray of snacks. The family was pleasantly surprised to see that while they didn’t know each other too well, he was still trying to give them a hand. Then the man stuck out his hand and shouted, “Welcome to the neighborhood!”

05 Aug 2013

Go green!

Want to be a positive part of your community but not feeling really social? Then go green! Remember, small actions can create big change; so don’t worry about rainforests and coastlines just yet, and focus on the simple things we can do at home… things like:

06 Aug 2013

On the road…

Not all of us can, has the time for, or wants to interact with other people who aren’t our family, friends, or colleagues. Nothing strange about that, right? Just the basic facts of life for us urban dwellers. However, there is one place where we do meet and interact with hundreds of other people each day: on the roads. And sadly, in our daily quest to get from point A to point B as fast as possible, we forget that social mores don’t stop when we get behind the wheel…

06 Aug 2013

Cyberbullying…

Nowadays, a big chunk of our social interactions happen without people meeting face-to-face. While the scope of our interactions become immeasurably vast, the anonymity of it makes it easier for unscrupulous people to harass, threaten, and humiliate others through texting, social media, e-mail, and IM. In other words: cyberbullying. Yes, cyberbullying is, by definition, targeted at kids and teenagers, but the fact is, everybody is affected by this kind of behavior.

So, if you happen to know a child who is the victim of cyberbullies, here’s a few basic tips you could probably share…

Once upon a time, when people complained about privacy, it was usually about nosy neighbors or meddling in-laws. Now, when we’re complaining about privacy it’s usually about spam mail, unsolicited tags on Facebook, creepy followers on Twitter, identity theft, stolen credit card numbers, and so on. And so, as our social life becomes more and more centered on online interactions, we should perhaps pay better attention to the “new” rules of conduct. So, just like how we don’t give away our PIN to every telemarketer that calls, when dealing with social media we might want to:

07 Aug 2013

Good neighbors…

Okay, so, you know who your neighbor is, and you’ve occasionally greeted them or even talked at length with them. However, you’re not really ready to get super-friendly with them and invite them to your home, arrange regular get together events, or shop together… but you still want to conduct yourself like a good next-door resident, so what can you do?

Well, there are actually plenty of simple and easy things you can do to start-off your journey into becoming a good neighbor, such as…

08 Aug 2013

Eid Mubarak

From Miss Mondial and all of us here: Have a blessed, joyous, and glorious Eid al-Fitr…
Minal ‘aidin Wal faizin

The holy month of Ramadan is over, but for quite a few people this has only sparked a newfound passion for being charitable all year long. Now, if you happen to be one of those who would like to become a regular donor for charities, please keep in mind that not every organization calling themselves a charity has charitable intentions, and that helping those in need is a serious undertaking where good intentions aren’t always enough to assure that the proper aid gets to those who need them the most. Luckily, there are plenty of tried and true guidelines for those of us who want to make a difference… For example:

09 Aug 2013

Shared walls…

People living in boardinghouses are intimately familiar with this, as are those living in some of the more cramped housing complexes or apartments. I’m talking, of course, about sharing a wall with one or more of your neighbors… which can be interesting, awkward, and annoying at the same time…

09 Aug 2013

Libraries…

When was the last time you set foot in an actual library? Probably when you were still in school or college, and then only because you had an assignment… right? ^^

But surely somewhere in your town, hidden behind all the malls and fast food places, you can find a quiet little public library. Most of us probably don’t need a public library, but there are others who might. So, if you’re looking for a social cause you can take up, this might be it. It might not be obvious at first glance, but there are quite a few things you can do for a public library, such as…

More often than not, being a “good neighbor” means introducing yourself to nearby households when you move in, greeting your next-door neighbors whenever you meet them, and generally being an agreeable part of the neighborhood. What often gets overlooked is how we welcome new members to the community when we are already part of the “senior class”… ^^

You know why going to the movies together with your friends is awesome? Socializing with minimum awkwardness. It involves meeting and socializing with other people, but for the actual main event everybody sits down and enjoys the show in silence. There might be eating out together afterwards or hanging out over a cup of coffee, but even if everybody splits after the movie ends, everybody still had the chance to spend time together…

While low on actual socialization, going to the movies is a great alternative to allow for less sociable people to start hanging out with friends and acquaintances, and might lead to less awkward meetings in the future. Naturally, this can also work nicely for neighborhoods…

11 Aug 2013

“Kerja Bakti”

Kerja bakti or communal work… that’s like the most common topic for essay assignments when we were in school, right? The whole neighborhood spending a Sunday morning cleaning the street, gutters, sidewalk and so on in a classical display of communal harmony. But let’s be honest here… nowadays, this kind of social activity is rarely seen, what with our busy schedules, not-so-close relations between neighbors, and the ease of hiring specialists to clean things up. However, I do believe that the original spirit of kerja bakti can—and should—still be a part of our social lives…

11 Aug 2013

Volunteering…

Yes, I’ve written about volunteering before, but since I’ve veered into ‘social awareness’ territory for the past week, I thought it’d still be appropriate. Particularly, if I may add, because areas in need of volunteers are usually social services that are extremely important yet usually overlooked.

And sadly, Indonesia doesn’t really have a strong tradition of volunteer work. I often see stories on the Web about regular people with regular jobs who are also volunteer paramedics, firefighters, SAR personnel, and so on. So, it’s not exactly unusual when, for example, a store clerk has to rush out in mid-transaction because she was called out to perform a mountain rescue. You don’t really hear stories like this here, right?

17 Aug 2013

August 17th, 2013…

Well, I hope we all can have a joyful, exciting, and most importantly meaningful Independence Day this year…

As for me, I’m off to watch the panjat pinang, sack racing, and other games nearby. See, there’s this meeting hall/swimming pool/tennis court/gym near where I live, and every year on the 17th of August they have this huge folk festival, and it’s always fun to go there… ^^

First up, a little intro on this week’s theme: small things that make my day. Have you ever heard the expression “don’t sweat the small stuff”? Well for me, it’s exactly the small stuff that nevertheless makes life interesting. I guess I’m just the kind of person who always tries to appreciate and find meaning in the small nuances of my days. You know, things like…

… going to the mall, and finding a newly opened store.

Sometimes, when there’s something I really, really want—an exceptionally well-made pair of boots, perhaps—I would go into “hunting” mode: finding out if it’s available at other branches of the store, when the next sale season is, and so on. Then I start looking at my budget to figure out how much I can squeeze out…

But then once in a while, I just stumble upon an item I’ve actually fancied for quite a bit but never actively “hunted” that is now on sale with a discount that is big enough that I can easily fit it into my budget. Now, that’s what I call a great day… ^^

Calling for delivery and getting your pizza—still piping hot—before your tummy starts grumbling; ordering a phone cover online and receiving the package not a day late; checking in at the airport and discovering that your flight will actually depart on time…

It’s little surprises like these that can really brighten anyone’s day. Still isn’t it ironic that we can be delighted by things happening on time?

My take on friendship is that it’s a big thing, but it’s the little things that make friendships interesting. For example, all the small nuances when you have one or two best friends who have grown so close to you that when they visit, they just naturally make themselves at home. And I mean this in the best possible way…

“The customer is always right”… this is quite a familiar phrase, no? But of course, as you can see from websites like this or this, there’s never a shortage of difficult customers.

And that’s why I always go the extra mile when a client or customer is courteous, patient, and—more importantly—reasonable…

28 Aug 2013

A slice of heaven…

I like browsing at the mall, I like trying out new restaurants, I like going to the movies… but one simple scene that is my absolute favorite (as well as being my number one stress reliever and guilty pleasure) is a bakery, preferably an old fashioned one, with heaps of freshly baked bread, rows upon rows of delectable pastries, and beautiful cakes… It’s my very own mini-heaven… ^^

Kindness doesn’t need to be big to matter. Sometimes, or perhaps even often, it’s the small and random things that we do that can really touch other people’s lives. It’s even more beautiful when such acts become a tradition. In Italy, for example, there is something called caffè sospeso, which means ‘suspended coffee’: you go to a café, pay for two coffees, but take only one. Poor people—the homeless, the unemployed, and so on—can then ask if there’s a sospeso available and would get a free cup of coffee. Beautiful, isn’t it?

And you know what? Being a bit extra kind to others isn’t that hard. Amongst others, we could try:

Have you ever reached into a pocket of a blazer or jeans fresh out of the laundry only to discover a couple of crumpled twenty thousand notes? Feels awesome, right? Yes, yes, it was your money to begin with, and this simply means that you’re getting a bit forgetful as well as sloppy… (Are you sure you haven’t left a couple of hundred thousand somewhere else? ^^)

But still, whenever I find a surprise like that, “Hey, extra lunch money!” is what comes to mind. And to be perfectly honest, I tend to look forward to further surprises (which are actually kind of dumb or at least incredibly trivial) such as:

Imagine you’re sitting in a taxi, anxious to get back to your office after a meeting with a client, while dark clouds start to gather and the rumble of thunder gets louder and louder. Just as you alight from the cab and make your way into your office’s lobby, the first raindrops start splattering on the pavement…

Coincidence? Of course… but that doesn’t make it any less exciting. As an office worker, I don’t exactly live “on the edge”, but I do get a little kick when…

30 Aug 2013

First Things First…

Yesterday, it finally rained at my home. Well, I don’t know if I can technically call it “rain”… it was more of a short drizzle for maybe less than fifteen seconds. So, not enough to get you thinking about floods, but sufficiently wet so that you scramble for your laundry still hanging outside. Anyway, that first rain of the season really put a smile on my face…

Same thing with, say, the first sunny day after months of rain and quite a few other “small firsts” such as…

31 Aug 2013

Little Readers…

About a month ago, I went to visit a relative who just had a new baby. While I was waiting in the living room for the new mother and baby to make their debut, I saw my relative’s eldest son, about four, maybe five years old, completely engrossed with a game on his dad’s iPad. He never looked up from the tablet while I chatted with his parents and gushed over his baby sister, and he was still busy when I was saying goodbye. Well, I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised, no? Tablets are now becoming high-tech pacifiers, and even kindergarteners are now roaming malls with their head bent-down, eyes fixed on their smartphones.

And that’s why I always smile whenever I see a little kid lost in a good book…

Can spending a weekend to do a bit of cleaning be fun? Sure… Can it also be extremely not fun? Of course… especially when you’re asked to help in cleaning the storeroom at your parent’s (or grandparent’s) house, which probably haven’t been opened since forever. Dust, cockroaches, spiders (as big as your palm), and mold aren’t exactly fun to deal with…

But then you stumble on bits and pieces of nostalgia, and suddenly, cleaning up doesn’t sound so bad anymore… ^^

Cooking isn’t exactly one of my strong suits, although making simple dishes is something I enjoy from time to time. Still, I often take notes when watching my favorite cooking shows, and I often mark recipes in magazines as possible candidates for future experimentation…

… because nothing really beats the feeling of taking on a new dish, and getting it right on the first try.

As much as I like going out, relaxing at home is still my favorite way to spend my free time. There’s my room with my trusty PC (and more importantly: my comfy bed); there’s my living room with my trusty TV; there’s my kitchen with the (usually) stocked fridge… but there’s also one particular area of my house that is filled with various little joys… Can you guess? ^^

Why are diamonds expensive? Well, mainly because they’re super rare. Not only that, only a small fraction of diamonds are fit for jewelry; the rest are used for various industrial applications. Of those, an even smaller percentage makes their way to top-tier jewelers.

So, how are diamonds evaluated and graded? More importantly, how can you be sure that you’re getting your money’s worth? Well, ladies, let me introduce you to the 4Cs:

Jewelry, especially those with precious and semi-precious stones, need regular maintenance. It’s not just about keeping them shiny and sparkling, but also making sure that they’ll last for a while, and they don’t end up scratched, cracked, and dull. So, here are some basic and universal methods that you can use for the pieces in your jewelry box…

Is deep purple your favorite color? Or perhaps you have the perfect outfit that simply needs a touch of purple to go with it? Well, either way, there is one gemstone that you might want to consider the next time you’re looking for new jewelry: the amethyst.

Okay, so yesterday we looked at several common jewelry care tips, especially for some of the more high-end stones. Of course, there are at least a couple of gemstones we haven’t covered yet, and then there are also other considerations to take note of… such as, for example, multiple types of gemstone in a single jewelry piece. So, let’s take a look at these now, shall we?

Emeralds… one of the most magnificent gemstones in the world, and easily one of the most well-known. I mean, we’re supposedly living on the ‘emerald of the equator’, right? And while there are other green colored gems, none can really come close to the emerald’s deep, mesmerizing hue…

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, diamonds are graded using the 4Cs: color, clarity, carat, and cut… with cut being the most important in determining the value of a diamond. And again, a diamond’s cut shouldn’t be mistaken for its shape… well, not entirely, anyway. Basically, a diamond’s cut is more concerned with its proportions which give the stone its brilliance and scintillation…

There are few gemstones as famous as the ruby. Although incredibly rare, we (humans, that is) have fallen in love with this blood red stone since millennia ago. The Indians used to call the stone Ratnanayaka—or ‘lord of the gemstones’, and there was even a special caste system for rubies. Well, that last bit was perhaps a bit excessive, but you can’t argue with the notion that rubies are simply stunning…

13 Sep 2013

Glittery gifts…

Gift-giving is not always easy. Sometimes it seems that picking the right gift for somebody is more of a delicate art rather than a sensible decision. This is especially true for gemstones and jewelry, which can make wonderful personal gifts on special occasions. What’s more, the world of gemstones presents you with a vast range of options: color, shape… even special meanings. And this is before we get into specific jewelry designs, from the traditionally simple to vibrant modern designs. But for now, let’s focus on picking the right stone first. Basically, we can pick based on…

Sapphires are the rubies’ close cousins, only instead of a fiery red, they have a magnificent blue hue that has for centuries symbolized the heavens above us. And I don’t think I can find a better word to describe this particular gemstone, as it does come in practically all shades of the sky, from the deep blue of an evening sky to the bright and deep blue of a clear afternoon sky. Yet this splendid gemstone also comes in a veritable rainbow of colors…

14 Sep 2013

Legendary Diamonds…

When it comes to precious stones, nothing quite compares to a fine diamond. But of course there are diamonds and there are diamonds. Some diamonds are exceptionally large or have riveting stories of discovery and famous owners. These are the stones that—along with famous gems like the Andamooka Opal and the Rajaratna Ruby—have become the stuff of legends…

There’s a little island off the coast of Egypt called St. Johns island. But that’s what it’s called now. In the past, it was called Topazos, and was known for a yellowish gemstone found there. Yes, we’re talking about topaz, a semiprecious stone whose name is also believed to come from the Sanskrit words pit and dah, meaning ‘yellow burn’… in other words, ‘fiery’.

Okay, so yesterday I did a small list of legendary diamonds. Still, there are quite a few non-diamond gemstones that have gained fame as well, either for being exceptionally large, having an exceptionally riveting history or at least a list of exceptional owners. For example, there is…

One of the major stereotypes concerning Indonesians is that we can’t eat unless there’s rice on the table. And this is not exactly too far away from the truth, as we can often hear the silent grumbles of people forced to endure dishes with only potatoes, pasta, or other non-rice carbohydrates. Anyway, this makes me wonder why few Western-style restaurants add rice dishes to their menu. I mean, there are actually quite a few famous Western dishes made with rice, for example…

17 Sep 2013

Raw fish, anyone?

When you hear the words ‘raw fish’, your mind usually conjures images of sushi or sashimi, right? But of course there are other countries besides Japan (and Korea if I remember correctly) that has long enjoyed raw fish… even Western nations. For example, raw herring is a popular snack in Netherlands… and yes, it’s delicious.

Have you ever celebrated a special occasion by splurging a bit for a really fancy dinner? Maybe some high-class sushi or perhaps a gourmet course featuring dishes whose names are difficult to pronounce?
However, there are fancy dinners, and there are fancy dinners that cost more than the phone, tablet, or laptop you’re reading this on, with flavors that can really blow your mind…

There are dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of popular diet programs. Some are based around counting calories, others focus on specific food groups, and so on. But there are also unique approaches favored by some of the world’s most famous celebs. Some of them make sense, others are simply weird. But hey! Who knows you might like to try out:

When we were still kids, there was always at least one food that we loathed, right? Maybe raw beansprouts, or bell peppers, and so on. And maybe we know a lot of other kids who also don’t like the same foods. Now, imagine that we can fast-forward time a couple of decades. Chances are, some of your worst culinary enemies are served in tomorrow’s fancy restaurants. Sounds absurd? Well, it’s happened plenty of times before… for example:

There’s an old joke about a young couple who decided to go on a diet. Fortunately, the wife found a diet cookbook that guaranteed fast weight loss without sacrificing flavor. And indeed, the food was delicious and they never felt hungry. But after a couple of months, they noticed that they were actually gaining weight. So, they rechecked the cookbook, and lo and behold, at the end of each recipe a small note mentioned: ‘Serves 4’.

Moral of the story? Always watch out for serving sizes. And this also goes for a lot of products you see at your local supermarket…

For almost every problem we face in the kitchen, chances are there is a simple solution that we would never have thought of ourselves. So, here are some creative answers to a number of really annoying cooking problems…

We can force our brain to adopt healthier eating habits. It’s tough, but it’s possible. Is there an easier way? Of course: because we can actually trick our brains into having healthier eating habits. Yes, seriously. This includes unconventional methods such as:

Have you ever noticed how easy it is for stuff to pile up in our homes? Old bed sheets, opened gift wrappers, clothing or shoes that we longer want to wear, unused containers that will probably stay unused forever, and so on…  Of course if you have a steady hand and a knack for crafts, there are a lot of things you can do with all that stuff. And considering how many fancy arts & crafts shops are popping everywhere, getting extra material is a breeze…

But if you want to take up simple crafting projects as a hobby, you need to take a look at your tools…

01 Oct 2013

Patchwork…

The one thing that always seems to accumulate the fastest, especially when you’re living with a huge family, is old, used pieces of fabric: Bed sheets, pillow cases, tablecloths, and of course old clothes. And the problem is that due to wear and tear, you rarely get a decent amount of any single type of cloth so that you can have enough for, say, having your tailor make you a new dress or something. The solution, of course, is patchwork.

01 Oct 2013

DIY Tailoring…

Have you ever tried on a blouse at a store, liked it, and brought it home, only to find that you don’t really like it that much? And, well, few things are as fleeting as fashion trends, so we usually end up with wardrobes full of clothes we no longer want to wear.

Of course, since this week’s theme is DIY projects, you can probably guess what I’m going to suggest we do about that, right? ^^

02 Oct 2013

Jewelry tinkerer…

So, as you can see from a couple of my previous posts, I like to tinker with fabrics, needle and thread, as well as old clothes. Sometimes, though, when I have a bit of extra time for DIY projects, I take out a couple of small pliers and tweezers, and then I start rummaging through my jewelry box…

A big chunk of my childhood was spent on my grandmother’s home with a bunch of my cousins. Now, while we did often end up in boys vs. girl groups, we played together as well. And since our parents weren’t the kind that buys toys by the truckload, one common item became an important commodity: cardboard.

Do you like to take on DIY arts & crafts projects at home? Do you think about items for home décor that you can probably make from used stuff? And do you like to add a personal touch to the gifts you give? Well, if so, then there’s one skill that you simply must have: saving the packaging of the gifts you receive…

When talking about art and craft projects on a quiet weekend, people don’t often imagine a 20-something woman ‘playing’ with saws, hammer and nails, and a power drill. Nor did I… until I somehow started doing exactly that…

04 Oct 2013

Yoga for the mind…

Arts and crafts, painting, needlework… no matter what your creative outlet is, there’s one major obstacle: yourself. Or to be precise: our tendency to be result-oriented. This is of course nothing new, but it’s surprisingly common…

05 Oct 2013

Decoupage…

Ever heard of the word ‘decoupage’? No? Well, neither did I… until I stumbled upon it on a small arts and crafts site. And it seems to be the perfect pick for a weekend project or a school kid’s arts & crafts assignment…

05 Oct 2013

Stash away…

If you ask me, there are two major skills an avid crafter needs. First is the ability to visualize what she wants to make; but this one can be learnt from other craftswomen, books, YouTube, and so on. The second one is a bit harder to get: the skill to recognize trinkets and stuff you can salvage…

Men and women are different… and we know that this isn’t just about stereotypes and traditional gender roles. Our brains are wired differently, our hormonal systems are different, and our physiques are not exactly similar, right? Well, recent research would suggest otherwise…

A colleague of yours is throwing a party for her baby girl’s first birthday… so, what kind of gift do you bring? Well, the usual safe solution is something pink. That’s the way it goes right? Pink is for girls, and most of the time little boys get at least blue. Of course, it wasn’t all that way…

Imagine you’re going out for dinner with a large group of friends. The food is great, the conversation lively, and everybody seems to be having a good time. But when the bill arrives, chances are that the girls will go over each item to decide who has to pay how much, while the guys will just nonchalantly take out a fifty or hundred thousand bill…

Well, at least in my experience, this is what happens most of the time… ^^

08 Oct 2013

So, whose job is it?

A lot of families operate based on classic gender roles: Working outside the home? Dad. Doing the dishes? Mom. Changing the baby’s diaper? Definitely not dad. And this has been going on for centuries all across the globe… right? As usual, the answer is ‘no’…

Men are “naturally” more rational, less emotional, less sensitive, and just plain tougher than women. Well, that’s what people have believed in for centuries… and is now debunked by a number of new studies. For example, it is now shown that:

When we see a man crying, we usually take it as a sign that, (a) the man is in serious emotional turmoil, or (b) this is one incredibly sensitive guy. In other words, it’s a sign of weakness, a sign of not being “manly”. But once upon a time, it was the exact opposite…

Statistically speaking, the psychological makeup of men vs. women isn’t so different (see this week’s first post). But that’s when we look at the bigger picture… when we look at more specific stuff, a lot of interesting data points pop up. For example, did you know that:

Tears are a woman’s most powerful weapon when dealing with men. Even the men know that and few can do anything about it. But how does it actually work? Why is turning on the waterworks so effective? Here’s what science says… ^^

Remember yesterday’s post about unique men vs. women statistics? Well, of course there’s more from where that came from… So, here are some more interesting tidbits that separate the men from the women…

A good friend of mine has worked for almost 10 years at an IT call center. Unsurprisingly, she often has to field a lot of funny and absurd calls… everything from requests for Facebook access during work hours (his company has pretty strict Internet-use rules) to office ladies who are allergic to cables. Yes, you read that right: allergic to cables…

12 Oct 2013

On the road…

Stereotypes are of course often incorrect, or at least oversimplified. Still, some of the more popular ones do have a grain of truth and can be quite amusing as well. Take, for example, the driving habits of men vs. women… I mean, women are supposedly bad with directions, while men are supposedly bad in asking for directions, no? ^^

Gender equality will never be achieved until we see a man shaving while driving, no? ^^

Jokes aside (ladies, remember, applying makeup while driving is dangerous), the issue of gender equality is a tough one. Especially since it seems that people can never agree on what gender equality actually means…

Our brain is a very complex organ, much more advanced than the fastest supercomputer on Earth. However, just like with a computer, there are ways we can use, trick, or even hack into the way our brain works to improve our memory, boost our motivation, change our sleep patterns, and so on… These ‘hacks’ usually involve triggering parts of the brain that aren’t usually active when doing certain activities, or simply feeding the brain with the kind of stimuli that it needs in order to create the desired reaction…

Sounds awfully complex, right? Well, how about we try a fun little experiment to get things going… ^^

Trying to remember everything that’s on a shopping list not easy, right? (That’s why we have a list in the first place…) But if you’re going to your regular supermarket, you probably know where everything is, right? Same thing with, say, where everything is around your home… Now, wouldn’t it be great if we could take whatever it is that helps us remember that we put our car keys behind the blue vase on the third shelf from the top beside the front door, and use it to remember the things on the shopping list we forgot to take with us? But of course we can…

15 Oct 2013

Brain Aerobics…

Want your body to stay young? Do aerobics… Want your brain to stay young? Do brain aerobics, of course… And how do you do brain aerobics? By adding something new every day…

15 Oct 2013

Two out of eight…

In an ideal world, we can get the recommended 8 hours of sleep each night, and by morning we’re ready to face the day. In the real world, we’re sometimes lucky to get any sleep at all. Sometimes a couple of hours are all we get…

But two hours might just be enough, actually… ^^

Like it or not, one big part of adult life is dealing with debts. It is also one of those things we really, really don’t like to deal with… unless we have money to burn, of course. Or if we give it a name and treat it like somebody we don’t like. No, seriously…

Imagine you’re on the phone with a friend, and she mentions an address. Do you scramble for a pen and a piece of paper to write it down, or do you just ask her to text you the details? Probably the latter, no? Yes, in the age of smartphones, handwriting is fast becoming a thing of the past… which is a shame, actually, since it’s actually a great way to boost your brain power…

It has been said that time heals all wounds… but some wounds to the mind run so deep that they never really go away. But of course you don’t have to let old painful memories cripple you for the rest of your life, and all you need to do is change your perspective. And no, I’m not talking about looking at the bright side, looking for the silver lining, or anything like that. It’s about literally changing your perspective…

Pictures can trigger our emotions, right? Well, pictures can also trigger actual physical reactions. I mean, just try clicking on this link before lunch, and see how your stomach starts to grumble. Surprisingly (or not) the same principle works with our immune system…

Talking in front of other people is not always easy. Still, you can easily find tons of tips and tricks on how to deal with fear of public speaking. But what about being an effective public speaker—especially when you have to give presentations? Is there an easy trick to do that? But of course… ^^

There are a lot of things that can really, really mess with our sleeping patterns: a new baby, a huge project that forces you to pull a dozen all-nighters in a row, jetlag… The point is, after something like that, going to bed and waking up like normal on time is almost impossible to do, and readjusting means weeks of waking up with terrible migraines… or you can take the short route and reset your sleep cycle overnight by withholding food… ;)

A popular theory about brains is that logical people are “left-brained” while artistic people are “right-brained”. Of course this is a bit of an over-simplification, since both hemispheres of our brains work together when we do anything. But, it is true that the right and left hemispheres of the brain are different… and it’s also true that consequently, at least one of our senses operate differently on the left and the right: hearing.

Eye contact… this is probably one of the most important aspects when doing job interviews, or when attending social functions and the like. But as with all good things, there is such a thing as too much eye contact…

Imagine you’re sitting in front of your computer, an unfinished report (or thesis, or short story, or job application e-mail) staring back at you, and your brain stumped. What do you do? Take a short walk to freshen up? A five-minute coffee break? Well, there actually is a simple yet proven creativity-boosting method: dim the lights…

Well, that’s what a lot of people wish for when they tie the knot, right? To live happily ever after… with a big emphasis on ‘happy’, of course. But one particular bit of advice I often hear is about how people often forget just how long the ‘ever after’ part is…

The preparation stage for marriage is like a minefield of argument-triggers: Where will the new couple stay, who gets to pay for what, and so on. But none, it would seem, is as touchy as the subject of prenuptial agreements.

How would you imagine married life? I mean, if you’re single, of course… A lot of people I’ve talked to usually picture it along the lines of: Same routine, same problems, but at least you’re no longer carrying these burdens alone… at least you always have somebody to talk to. Ah, “somebody to talk to”… if it were only that simple.

Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men in the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.

Is there any truth behind this popular quote (by Albert Einstein no less)?

I bet all of us had at one point heard somebody lamenting that their marriage is “practically over” or “doomed” or perhaps “a disaster”. But is there a reliable way to actually tell a doomed marriage vs. one that simply needs a little work? Well, science says that there is…

What’s the number one cause of fighting between married couples? Well, right behind cheating and money matters, we have in-laws. I mean, it’s no coincidence that evil mother-in-laws are one of the most popular TV villains, right?

Still, the notion that you don’t simply marry your partner but his entire family is of course true (unless you elope). And this is also one of the most important things to discuss before tying the knot.

07 Nov 2013

Giving In…

Ask any married couple about the “happiest day in their lives” and they’d probably only remember parts of it. More often than not, what they do remember clearly is the chaotic frenzy of preparing for the wedding. So, how can you (in case you’re not married yet) shave a bit of the stress levels of planning for a wedding (in case you’re not using an all-inclusive package from a wedding organizer)? Simple… just let the chaos run its course…

It is said that you know you’ve found the right partner to spend the rest of your life with if you can accept his biggest flaw (and vice versa, of course). What often goes unsaid, however, is that to spend the rest of your life with somebody, what matters most will be the small things.

08 Nov 2013

Breaking Taboos…

There are many surprises in store for newlywed couples about to start living together for the rest of their lives. And of course one of the more interesting surprises is: broken taboos. No, no, I’m not talking about those taboos (come on, you know what I mean…) but the more mundane, day-to-day taboos that can come as a shock to any new bride…

For example: Imagine you’re just coming out of the bathroom, and your (hypothetical) husband asks you to help him pop a pimple…

In a job interview, you’re going to face a lot of questions: some are easy, some are tough, and some might even be uncomfortable. The same principle should, I think, apply to couples looking toward marriage: questions should be asked—to each other and to oneself—and it should not be limited to the easy ones. So, what kind of questions are we talking about? Well…

For most—if not all—married couples (or couples who are about to marry), the topic of divorce is taboo. If you’re going to even consider separating, why get married in the first place, right? But death… now, that is pretty much inevitable and, more often than not, unexpected. That’s exactly why it should be on the “things to talk about before the wedding” list of any couple…

Weddings are expensive… that’s pretty much common knowledge, and most couples and families are usually already prepared to watch as the costs pile up. Still, it’s not that hard to cut a couple of corners and shave off a significant amount from your budget. For instance, you can:

Well, that line up there really sums up how most of us feel, right? And it’s also part of our culture: Take a peek at most TV shows and you’ll find at least one leading lady—housewife, businesswoman, it doesn’t matter—who’s always frazzled and always out of time with a truckload of chores still waiting to be done…

Of course, it’s only natural that we all want a bit of extra free time… but do you actually need a bit of extra time just for yourself? Well, the symptoms of someone who needs free time is actually pretty clear (^^) and includes, amongst others:

Imagine you’re the typical office lady, working (at least) 40 hours a week. Now, let’s add commuting to that, maybe a bit of overtime once in a while, and you end up with quite a busy schedule. But what happens when you get home after all of that? You’re greeted by a long to-do list of chores that need doing… As you can imagine, that’s not exactly healthy…

Have you ever seen a TV ad for cleaning supplies? Here’s one very typical scenario: little kid makes a mess, dad comes along and looks on helplessly, but thankfully mom comes along and effortlessly cleans up the mess.

And this is why a lot of women are overworked at home. No, seriously…

Does your daily (or at least weekly) schedule allow a bit of free time just for yourself? Free time as in time where you’re actually free to do what you really want? Well, then congratulations: You’re one of the few women with such a privilege…

Do you feel overburdened by your day-to-day activities? Do you feel that dealing with housework is a constant battle with no end in sight? Well, here’s the shocking truth: you might be doing this to yourself…

If you look back at some of my old posts, you can see that I like numbers and statistics. True, statistics only give you the bigger picture—what goes for each individual is a totally different story. But that doesn’t stop the big numbers from being fun. So, let’s take a peek at what the numbers say about free time:

Phew… who knew that there could be so much you could dig up about something as simple as “free time”? And of course there’s still a lot more to talk about. For example: Free time should stand on its own, not as a reward for having completed your duties…

15 Nov 2013

Reclaim the Morning!

In an ideal world, we wake up in the morning refreshed and ready to jump out of bed and tackle the day’s challenges. In the real world, we wake up to a frenzy of crazy activity as we scramble to get ready. Not a pretty picture, right? But actually, making your morning rush feel less rushed is quite easy… just remember to:

As hard as it is to admit, just about everybody procrastinates. With that in mind, let’s skip right to the ‘how do you beat procrastination’ part:

1. Prioritize on doing the hardest, most unpleasant tasks first. Putting off something you dread will only sap your limited supply of energy and willpower.

In theory, evening time is when you get to relax and rest in preparation for tomorrow. In reality, evening time means a flurry of activity… especially if there are several extra mouths to feed (as well as bathed and sent to bed). So, how can you streamline your evening schedule and free up some time for yourself? Well, let’s take a look at some random tips from around the world…

You don’t simply “get” more free time; you have to “make” it yourself. It’s not easy, of course, but it is quite possible with a series of intuitive steps anybody can follow. Sounds interesting? Well, then by all means, read on…

Sitting in front of a TV is perhaps one of the least-productive activities we could do, right? But while watching TV itself is often a time-waster, you can still do productive things while watching TV. For example, we could:

When we pencil in things to do in our daily schedule, we usually just see which time slot happens to be free. As it turns out, however, there’s a scientifically-proven (or simply logical) ideal time for a lot of simple activities.

Napping: 1PM to 2:30PM: Around this time, you will experience a dip in body temperature, which is the ideal time for a 15-20 minute nap. If you go over half an hour, chances are you’ll wake up groggy.

Finally, the rainy season is in full swing… which, like usual, means that laundry and commuting becomes a bit extra challenging. And let’s not forget about how easy it is to catch a cold nowadays. Still, as far back as I can remember, I’ve always liked rainy weather. Naturally, this meant a lot of fun hours spent running and playing in the rain…

18 Nov 2013

Rain vs. Laundry

You know that the rainy season has started “for real” when it seems that every day none of your freshly laundered clothes are dry—especially if you’re not using a washing machine (and the clothes spinner) like me. (I really, really need to get that thing fixed sometime soon.)

Anyway, when you rely on the wind and sun to dry your freshly laundered clothing, the rainy season will provide you with an extra challenge. So, how did I cope with lack of sunshine and constant downpours? Well…

What’s the number one most important thing to carry around during the rainy season? Umbrellas, of course. But you know, maybe those of us who have to walk a bit each day could take a page from the motorists’ playbook: raincoats. And yes, I’ve tried commuting to work for a couple of days carrying a raincoat (I tried both the one-piece and two-piece options). So, here’s what I think:

Maybe it’s because I love crocheting (and I’m also trying to relearn knitting) with traditional patterns; maybe because I’m a big fan of classical movies, or maybe it’s because I’m just a tad sentimental; but for me, the rainy season means a chance to take out my sweaters, scarves, boots, and other “wintery” outfits.

Do you drive yourself to work? (Or to the mall, when visiting friends, etc…) Well, then the rainy season will present additional challenges, especially when it starts raining hard: the roads turn slippery and visibility drops. So, don’t forget these important “driving while it rains” tips:

20 Nov 2013

Hot Choco!

After a long day at the office, what I really want when I finally get home is a tall glass of iced tea. But since it’s the rainy season, some nights offer the perfect moment to enjoy a cup of warm milk tea or—better yet—a mug of hot chocolate. I don’t really get along well with the store-bought mixes, but making homemade hot chocolate is actually quite easy…

Not all of us like the rainy season… especially if we don’t particularly like thunder and lightning. Personally, I’ve always found thunderstorms fascinating, but I totally understand why some people fear them. And they aren’t alone: fear of thunder and lightning, also known as astraphobia, is quite common. Of course, all phobias can be tackled… and while there is no surefire way to deal with all cases, there are a number of universal steps that somebody with thunder/lightning phobia can consider:

21 Nov 2013

Soaked Shoes…

Playing in the rain is fun… for me at least. However, dealing with wet shoes is anything but fun, especially if you prefer to keep those shoes in good condition. So, it pays to know what to do and what not to do if your shoes get soaked… for example:

The onset of the rainy season means a lot of new habits. Some habits make perfect sense, like actually paying attention to weather reports during news broadcasts. But there are also habits that—to me, at least—seem a bit odd… for example:

No matter how much I love the rainy season, I understand that for the average city dweller (including me) heavy rains means a host of ailments. So, as always, it pays to be prepared with a first aid kit customized to combat seasonal maladies. In other words, be sure to stock up on:

Being prepared for common illnesses during the rainy season is not that hard… but of course, prevention is better than cure, right? So, let’s take a look at some easy tips to stay fit during the worst parts of this year’s monsoon…

There are a lot of things that can cheer me up when I’m stuck at home during a rainy day, but none work better than a bowl of hot soup. Instant cream soup works fine with me, but once in a while, I like to make it myself. So, I thought I’d share with all of you one of the easiest cream soup recipes that have kept me company through quite a few cold days…

Rainy days are of course no excuse for any of us to cut back on exercising, but did you know that exercising in the rain is good for you? Yes, you’ve read that right: going out to exercise while it rains can actually help you burn even more fat…

Getting caught in a sudden downpour is okay (well, for me that is), playing in the rain can be fun, and even exercising in the rain can be good… but in the end, what I like most about the rainy season is that it gives me a reason to stay at home and enjoy the simpler things in life… ^^

Ah, December… when Christmas decorations start popping up everywhere, along with the promise of year-end sales as well as start of the gift-shopping season. Still, whether it’s for this holiday season or for the rest of the year, a thoughtful gift can do wonders…

Of course, picking a “thoughtful” gift is not always easy…

02 Dec 2013

Bags and wraps…

Don’t judge a book by its cover, they say… but a book with a good cover is nice to see, right? The same principle works for gifts as well: the gift itself is important, the intention behind the gift is important, and some nice wrapping can also make a nice gift even nicer…

03 Dec 2013

Gift cards…

Sometimes, picking a gift can be extra hard when you have a friend or relative who is extra picky or has very exacting tastes. Or perhaps you have a friend who’s an avid reader, and you want to give her a book, but you remember that she already has a massive collection and you don’t want to give her something she already has…

The solution? Gift cards…

A good gift is picked based on the likes, tastes, and the needs of the recipient. What a lot of people often overlook, however, is that to fulfill these criteria, an experience might sometimes work better than an object…

So, next time you’re looking for the perfect gift, why don’t you consider one of the following alternatives?

Receiving a gift on your birthday is no big surprise… the same goes for special occasions (your graduation, a big promotion, etc.) or big holidays. However, imagine if a good friend of yours suddenly dropped by your office with a gift in hand… even if it was just a couple of chocolate bars wrapped in gift paper, it would really brighten your day, no?

The point is: the more unexpected a gift, the bigger its impact…

They say that whenever you give something to somebody, you should “give from the heart”. But what does that really mean? Is it simply that good intentions + a willingness to allocate a generous budget = great gift? Well… not really…

05 Dec 2013

The “gift closet”

Don’t you just hate it when you suddenly realize—all too late—that it’s your cousin’s birthday today, and you have to dash to the mall to look for a suitable gift? Well, you could always set up the calendar app on your fancy smartphone to warn you of impending birthdays a couple of days in advance or… you could make a nice “gift closet”.

06 Dec 2013

Gift cards, part 2…

So, a little while ago, I wrote about gift cards. Now, while gift cards do make gift-giving a bit easier, some people don’t really see them as proper gifts and more like an easy way out of a tricky situation. However, turning a gift card into something more heartwarming is quite easy: all it takes is just a little message and a bit of context…

06 Dec 2013

Homemade gifts…

Nothing really spells “personalized gift” like something that’s 100% homemade. Now, naturally, this is an obvious choice for crafty people skilled in crochet, knitting, embroidery, and so on. Still, anybody can make wonderful homemade gifts with just a bit of extra creative thinking…

I mean, don’t tell me you don’t find any of these ideas nice:

07 Dec 2013

Thank you notes…

Picking out the perfect gift for somebody special is not always easy… which is exactly why thank-you notes are so important. If somebody has gone out of her way to make you feel special through a special gift, it’s only right that you take the time to make the giver feel good, right?

Properly thanking the giver is of course important… but a follow-up thank-you note—now that can really add a nice touch… ^^

Finding a gift for a friend/relative/colleague/boss/client is mostly a matter of finding out what they like/need/want/don’t have yet… Problem is, sometimes there is that one person we need to buy a gift for but seemingly has everything and never lacks the funds to buy what he or she wants…

So, how do you deal with a situation like this? A bit of extra creativity, ladies… extra creativity…

08 Dec 2013

Regifting…

Once in a while, we end up with gifts that are, to be perfectly honest, awful. So, what do you do with gifts like these? Well, there are plenty of options like reselling, giving it to charity, hide it in an unseen corner of your house … and then there’s regifting.

Now, this last one is tricky, none the least because there’s quite a big stigma attached to it. Still, it’s kind of fine if you can regift without hurting anyone’s feelings. How do you do that?

08 Dec 2013

The gift of time…

If you ask me, one of the best gifts that you could ever give someone is something that you can’t buy or make yourself: Your time… and a bit of effort, but still, mostly your time.

An obvious example would be if a friend or relative of yours is moving. Believe me, there’s no such thing as too much help when you’re moving. And even if you can’t help out with getting the refrigerator into the moving truck, there are a lot of other, easier stuff you can do, from lifting smaller objects to buying lunch for everybody. See, where I’m going?

New Year’s Eve is only a bit over three weeks away… so, do you have any plans on how to spend the last day of 2013? And more importantly, though, do you have a New Year’s resolution ready? ^^

So, I thought it’d be best if I started off my New Year’s Resolution list with something simple but actually pretty important: Get up early in the morning, every day… I mean, how hard can that be?

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day… and it’s also one of the most easily missed, skipped, or forgotten meal of the day. So, for 2014, I resolve to eat breakfast regularly, every day…

In order to actually do this, I asked around for breakfast tips from a number of random friends. Here are the some of the best ones:

This one is probably one of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions, or at least part of the ubiquitous “live healthier” and “lose weight” resolutions. And, of course, exercising more is always a popular resolution because it is actually something more people should be doing.

And here we are: the standard New Year’s Resolution that will be on just about anyone’s list—well, anyone who was a resolutions list, that is. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to establish better eating habits, especially if you know how to choose a set of simple, easy to follow, and effective goals. For instance, why not go for:

Another year over, which also means another year older… I mean, let’s face it, we’re not getting any younger, ladies. But of course, there’s an easy and proven way to keep your body and spirit active and youthful well into old age: learn something new—as in something completely new—every year.

Scientifically speaking, you’ll be firing up parts of your brain that you rarely use. Practically speaking, it’ll be fun, and you might just find your life’s calling. Don’t know where to begin? Well, here are some basic ideas:

“Staying in touch with friends and family”—this is also quite a popular resolution, and this also means we’re done with the “healthy living” chapter and well into the “social life” chapter, right? Well, yes and no… ^^

Marking the New Year with improving the bond between you and your friends and family is a worthy goal. However, it’s also not a bad idea to also expand your social circle. In other words, why not put in a resolution to make at least one new friend in 2014? ^^

Believe it or not, “try bungee jumping” is actually quite a popular New Year’s resolution. And why not? It’s fun, thrilling, and makes for a great story (not to mention some nice photo ops…) Still, as with quite a few other, seemingly trivial or frivolous resolutions, there’s more to “try bungee jumping” than just a once-in-a-lifetime experience…

Social media is now an inseparable part of our daily lives… no? I mean, let’s be honest here: most of us would spend at least an hour or more each day liking other people’s photos, retweeting, commenting on videos, and putting up our own thoughts of the day.

So… perhaps it’s about time that we think about using social media more responsibly, no? Maybe put in a resolution to “think before posting” (or liking, commenting, sharing, etc.) Because social media can be a veritable minefield of social blunders. What kind of blunders you ask? Well…

Want to feel more confident in 2014? Well, then why not aim to break a record?

And no, breaking a record is not as hard as it sounds… Well, not that hard…

Should more travel—which naturally also implies “vacationing”—be part of your New Year’s resolution? Well, if you ask me, the answer is a resounding “Yes”, and it’s not just because travelling is fun… ^^

So far, we have 11 New Year’s resolution ideas… some of them challenging but fun, others simple but no less meaningful. Speaking of ‘simple but meaningful’, here are several more small changes you can add to your daily routines in 2014 to make each day more interesting… ^^

New Year’s resolutions have always been a bit of a quandary. Some say it’s tradition, some say it’s a foreign tradition that we have no business following, and others say that it’s simply a lighthearted joke that’s been part of New Year’s celebrations for centuries…

So, are New Year’s resolutions something you should consider?

Two weeks from now (plus a day), we’ll be leaving 2013 behind. Of course I’m excited to see what 2014 will bring, but the last 12 months were pretty great as well… no? Therefore, I thought that it would be nice to spend this week for a bit of reminiscing about all the things that made 2013 such a great year…

For me personally, the most important thing from 2013 is—without doubt—Miss Mondial’s debut. I mean, that’s the sole reason that this blog even exists… ^^

And it has been quite an exciting ride so far…

We all want to lead healthier lives. And while part of it depends on what we do (healthy eating habits, exercise, not smoking, etc.), we also depend a lot on professionals in the field of medical science to get us through the worst health problems and maladies that affect us.

So, it’s nice to know that some truly revolutionary medical breakthroughs have been accomplished throughout 2013. For example, we now have:

This year has been especially significant for women in the global music industry (fun fact: the word for ‘global’ in French is ‘mondial’): female singers reigned supreme in award ceremonies, across the charts… and in the world of controversy as well.

So, which divas were instrumental in shaping the world of 2013? Here are my picks for the top three:

The rise of the Internet (back in the ‘90s) and social media (which for most of us started with Friendster, right?) also gave rise to quite a few new words, terms, and phrases. I mean, to “like” a friend’s photo now involves clicking instead of simply saying, “Hey, I like your photo.”

But, of course, that started quite some time ago. So, what kind of buzzwords made waves in 2013?

Not everything about 2013 was great. In fact, some were downright horrible. Take, for example, the floods that devastated so many parts of the worlds during the course of the year…

Ever since the first European explorers first encountered chocolate in the 16th century, it quickly became known as “food of the gods.” And of course, anybody who has tasted really good, high-quality chocolate would agree. On the flip side, however, chocolate isn’t exactly helpful when it comes to maintaining a slim waistline, no?

Well, ladies… 2013 marked the beginning of guilt-free chocolate…

A lot of our time online is usually spent checking e-mail, browsing social media sites, or looking up the latest movie trailers on video-sharing sites. However, if you look a bit deeper, there’s a lot of other really, really interesting locales around the Web…

So, which sites (outside of the obvious ones like Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, etc.) are amongst the most addictive in 2013? See below…

There were quite a few sensational blockbusters adorning the big screen throughout 2013, but plenty of TV shows also made their mark on the small(er) screen in homes everywhere. So, let’s take a peek of some of the shows that took the world by storm in 2013…

(In other words, shows that you should really look into once they’ve been released on DVD… unless you’re already following them on cable.)

20 Dec 2013

Best of 2013: Food…

Of all the wonderful innovations that happened in 2013, quite a few have been in the world of food. Unfortunately, most of these utterly delicious creations are only available abroad… but who knows, they might be coming to a restaurant (or bakery, café, supermarket, etc.) near you sometime in the future.

In the meantime, let’s take a peek at some of the most mouthwatering culinary creations of 2013…

What kind of “Best of 2013” list would be complete without a countdown of top music videos from the year, right? So, here we are: five of the hottest music videos from 2013:

In about two weeks or so, when we’re well into 2014, and we look back at 2013, what would we see? What are the big moments that shaped 2013? Well, here are some of the major news stories that will forever be associated with this year…

Imagine it’s mid-2014 during the school break season, and you’re thinking about stocking a couple of movies from yesteryear since the malls (and therefore the theaters) would be full of little kids. So, which movies from 2013 are definitely worth seeing again?

Fact: about 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. And that’s just one video-sharing site… we still have Flickr, Dailymotion, etc. But of the millions of videos available online, only a handful become true sensations. So, here we are—some of the best viral videos to make the rounds in 2013:

23 Dec 2013

A bit of Old & New…

This late in December, it seems that there’s always a bit of extra melancholy in the air. Maybe it’s the torrent of Christmas-themed movies on television (or maybe it’s the weather), but I always end up reminiscing about the good old days…

So, I thought, why not blog about it? About some of the most nostalgic things of the past, and how they’ve changed over the years. Things like, say, music from the ‘80s and ‘90s vs. what’s currently popular. Or maybe fashion and trends in movies. So, anyway, don’t forget to check back later… ^^

Ah, Christmas… when wherever you go you’ll definitely see or hear Christmas carols, Christmas trees… and mumblings about the commercialization of Christmas. The last bit, sadly, is sometimes all too true. But on the other hand, it wasn’t always like this: Christmas was originally a somber religious holiday. So, what was it that changed?

24 Dec 2013

Old & New: Music…

To be perfectly honest, I’m not exactly a huge music fan. I’ve never attended a live concert yet, I rarely buy records (yay for digital downloads!), but I rarely work, commute, or relax without some of my favorite tunes in the background.

And music is also one of those areas where my tastes span decades of changing styles. Perhaps this little video illustrates it best:

If you live in an area with lots of hotels like I do, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and other holidays are usually punctuated by fireworks. Lots of them. On top of that, with big fireworks and firecrackers being increasingly easy to obtain, a lot of people have joined in on the fun with their own pyrotechnic displays—be it for special events or just for fun.

But for me, at least it’s getting more and more annoying…

25 Dec 2013

Merry Christmas!

Miss Mondial wishes you a Sparkly Christmas... touched by wonder and filled with the light of love...

And may your New Year be Super Sassy... ^^

25 Dec 2013

Old & New: Phones…

It’s Christmas… families are gathering, relatives send greetings to each other, and friends come together to celebrate. Which brings us to one question:

How did we do all that before cellphones? ^^;

26 Dec 2013

Old & New: Dance…

No, I’m not talking about traditional dances, or ballroom dancing, or ballet, and other complicated dances. What I find more interesting is the evolution of dance moves made popular by music videos… which is perfectly (and hilariously) illustrated in this little video…

26 Dec 2013

Old & New: Fashion…

Looking back at the last couple decades or so, there was a time—especially during the late ‘90s and early ‘2000s—where fashion trends were pretty universal. I mean, when tight, body-hugging blouses were in, everybody wore tight, body-hugging blouses. Lately, though, I’ve noticed a resurgence in vintage fashion items, as well as more variety in the way people dress.

So, if you were to go to, say, a popular shopping mall, you’re likely to encounter some of these once-vintage items:

27 Dec 2013

Old & New: Gadgets…

Let’s face it: nowadays, we couldn’t live a day without our trusty cellphone/smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc. But of course it’s not only our reliance on them that has grown (don’t forget to check this post… ^^) but our everyday gadgets have also evolved quite a bit through the years. So, for instance…

Imagine you’re sitting in front of your house in the late afternoon… what would you hear and see? Traffic, of course; maybe the chatter of schoolchildren going home; and maybe a passing ice cream or baso tahu peddler. Now, imagine you’re sitting in front of your house in the late afternoon, but back in the ‘80s…

I’d imagine that there will be quite a few different sights and sounds on the street, no? For example, you’ll probably see and hear:

A lot of things have changed throughout the years… some affect our culture, the way we use technology, or the kind of entertainment we enjoy.

And then there are the changes that happen a lot closer to all of us… like, for instance, our bathrooms… ^^;

Once upon a time, a lot of movies we saw in theaters featured more-or-less original storylines. Sure, some were adapted from books, theater plays, or even radio dramas, but a lot were original plots. The past couple of years, however, we’ve seen a huge number of remakes. And this trend looks to continue well into 2014 and beyond…

There’s less than two days left of 2013… So, are you excited to see what 2014 will bring? Well, that’s what we’ll be covering for the next several days as the new year rolls along. But first, a string of highlights:

Every year, hundreds of movies will flood cinemas all across the globe. Of course, not all of them are worth waiting for. Here are several brand new titles (so, no sequels) that are:

Remember how back in the ‘80s there were tons of magazine articles, TV shows, and movies that predicted flying cars and colonies on the moon by the year 2000. I don’t always pay attention to current happenings, but I’m pretty sure that cars are still stuck to roads and we don’t have apartment complexes on the moon yet…

However, back in 1964, famed science fiction author Isaac Asimov penned a number of predictions about 2014 that were stunningly accurate. What kind of predictions? Well, check below…

31 Dec 2013

Happy New Year!

Hope you have a Super Sassy New Year's Eve! See you all in 2014... ^^

A new year means new opportunities, new movies, new music albums, and of course… new books! Want to know which titles might become 2014’s bestsellers? Here are a number of likely candidates…

Remember Tuesday’s post about those 2014 predictions penned by Isaac Asimov back in 1964 that turned out to be eerily accurate? Well, there’s plenty more of those… ^^

So, the United Nations has officially declared 2014 as—amongst others—the International Year of Family Farming, and has initiated various programs to empower family farming and smallholder farming. What does this have to do with any of us? Well, we could (and should) take part. How? By buying local… And what do we get out of this? A healthier food supply…

Already looking for possible travel destinations in 2014? Don’t worry, I’m already doing so myself… So, I thought I’d share some of the recommendations I’ve stumbled upon so far…

Yes, some of these might be a bit on the (very) expensive side, but who knows? If not this year, then maybe next year, or the year after that or even later… Holiday destinations don’t have an expiration date, no? Anyway, let’s get right to the holiday spot list:

One of the most significant success stories of last year was the emergence of so many mobile chat apps that managed to thrive. Naturally, this simply means that chatting aka social messaging will become one of the defining aspects of 2014…

A new year, a new playlist… Of course, hundreds of albums will be released this year, but only a few are really worth buying/downloading. So, let’s take a sneak peek at some of the most anticipated albums of 2014…

A couple of days ago I posted about some of the most wonderful, scenic, and spectacular travel destinations for 2014. But what if you’re looking for something a bit more unique? Something that would really, really feel like a once-in-a-lifetime adventure… Well, then you might want to visit one of these places:

I don’t exactly like horror movies, but sometimes—just sometimes—two hours of thrills and scares does sound a bit exciting, even if I have trouble sleeping afterwards. So, yes, I do keep an eye out for promising horror flicks, and it looks like plenty of those will be available in 2014. For instance:

Yes, yes, exercise is probably the one topic I’ve already written about the most. But when it comes to ‘finding balance’, there’s one particular approach I like: being in the ‘now’. Yes, that sounds really philosophical and deep, but no, it’s actually pretty simple…

For a lot of us, the start of the year is an extra busy time, with work piling up faster than we can finish them. So, what do we usually do? Get in high gear and just push through to get it done…

Now, this might sound really counterintuitive, but it is exactly when you’re neck deep in work that you need take a step back.

There’s one problem with trying to diet nowadays, especially right after the holidays: There’s always a new trend “recommended by experts”, or a new program “formulated by nutritionists”, and whatever diet you’ve started two days ago is now obsolete…

So, I guess the only ‘sane’ way is to go back to the basics: a well-balanced diet…

Balancing the mind, body, and… soul. What is the soul, anyway? Obviously, there are a lot of different meanings when it comes to a person’s soul. But there’s one universal concept that’s pretty much accepted everywhere: the soul is the very core of who you are, the deepest parts of who we are…

Now, how can we nurture and balance our innermost feelings? Well, there’s…

Meditation. This word here usually conjures up images of old hermits sitting cross legged in a cave or on top of some mountain in search of enlightenment… or something like that. And that’s why most of us never think that meditation is something for us.

However, meditation is actually something much more practical (although difficult) and very beneficial…

When we think about healthy living, we tend to focus on things that are actually not so pleasant: strict diets, hard workouts… because, hey, no pain no gain, right?

But your body can only take so much pain before it starts to complain… so, once in a while—but regularly—you need to make time for the pleasant things. Yes, it’s all about balance…

Imagine you’re having a bad day at work. You’re down, tired, and also hungry. So, you stop for a bite to eat on the way home. It just happens that it’s “live music night” at the café you picked. Sure, a live dangdut show would probably get on your nerves in a scenario like this, but the sound of an acoustic guitar accompanying a medley of light pop tunes would probably lift your spirits, right?

Today, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with our families and friends… which also means that it’s easy for the pressures of work, social life, and so on to follow us around.

What’s hard to come by is solitude…

I remember how back in fifth grade through high school, I would go on a school retreat each year. Then in college, there were several humanities classes that also had optional retreat sessions. Of course, back then, I regarded retreats as nothing more than mandatory or semi-optional part of my formal education…

Today, however, I think I’ve finally discovered what the real value of an actual retreat…

Getting enough sleep is important for a healthy body… everybody knows this. But just how bad can it get when you don’t get enough shut-eye? Well, here are some ‘fun’ facts about sleep deprivation:

1. The Guinness World Records no longer has a record entry for longest period without sleep—it’s considered too dangerous.
2. Sleep less than 7 hours a day and the likelihood of suffering a heart attack doubles…

It’s beginning to sound rather interesting, no?  Well, let’s carry on…

Yesterday’s New Year’s celebrations have now probably faded from memory, but it’s still early enough in 2014 to be thinking about all the new possibilities ahead. Including, of course, career choices... such as, say, working from an office vs. working from home…

“Being your own boss” sounds like a nice goal, right? But being employed at a steady company kind of feels a bit more safe and reassuring, no? So, being self-employed vs. being an employee usually boils down to freedom vs. safety…

So, you’ve decided to venture into the world of ‘working from home’. But you know what this means, right? Unless you have a really big house that allows you to set aside a large area space as a home office, the space you work in is also the space you eat, sleep, and watch TV in. And after a while, it can feel a bit… monotonous.

Fortunately, it’s not that hard to spice up your work-at-home life. For example, you can:

Even though it doesn’t come with perks such as colleagues to gossip with (as well as more important stuff such as paid holidays and healthcare insurance), working from home is still an attractive option. What exactly makes it attractive? Well, amongst other things, being self-employed gives you a range of nice benefits such as…

Office politics is pretty much a fact of life in just about any sufficiently large workplace… and is also one of the largest headaches of most workplaces. Still, it’s not that hard to effectively cope with office politics… all you need to do is:

A lot of movies and TV shows tend to portray working in an office as some sort of dead-end job that will slowly strangle the joy out of your life. In reality, however, a lot of people find their office careers satisfying and even inspiring. How come? Well, office life does have a fair number of major plus points… for instance:

Lately, more and more companies and organizations are allowing some of their staff members to work from home. And why not? Meetings can be held via teleconference or even a through a simple chat room, assignments can be submitted via e-mail… and most workers would usually jump at the chance.

Of course, every coin has two sides. So, let’s take a peek at the pros and cons of working from home…

So far, we’ve covered the pros and cons of working from home, the benefits vs. the risks, and so on. But exactly what kind of jobs can you do from home, anyway? Well, here are some of the more popular ones, as well as a couple of obscure options…

Every time I hear somebody saying that they’re work from home, there’s a guaranteed torrent of responses along the lines of, “Oh, I wish I could do that too… but I’m stuck in a darn office job.” Yes, there are quite a few disadvantages of working from an office, but the plus points aren’t to be taken lightly as well…

One of the biggest hurdles of working from home is yourself—or rather the amount of discipline it takes to work from the comfort of your home. But what a lot of would-be freelancers tend to ignore is the smaller, daily annoyances that can make the ‘working’ part really, really tedious…

Are you an office lady looking to make the jump to freelancing? Or are you a freelancer considering a fulltime position? Well, people change careers every day, so a drastic course change isn’t exactly uncommon. However, those taking this road should be ready for one thing: criticism…

Working from home is not easy. Well, so does working from office; but being a self-employed freelancer present you with a unique set of challenges. So, sooner or later, every freelancer who wants to actually make a living will need to:

Major career decisions are never easy… and they shouldn’t they be treated as something simple in the first place. But what’s most important in making a huge career change (especially switching from office life to a freelancer’s life) should be “your” decision…

19 Jan 2014

Breaking the news…

Imagine you’re a mid-ranking employee at a big private bank. A comfy and stable position, right? But then you start to realize that corporate life isn’t for you and you’d much prefer pursue your dreams of being, say, a freelance publishing agent. So… how do you break that to your family?

After a whole week talking about career choices, office life, and freelancing, I thought a little something to even things out is called for, don’t you think?

So, this week will be all about how you can make the most of weekends and any extra day off… ^^

20 Jan 2014

Marathon Viewing…

Working fulltime (to which we naturally add time spent commuting) often means that we’ll miss most, if not all, of our favorite TV shows. Or we simply come home too tired to watch TV…

The solution? Marathon viewing sessions during the weekend… ^^

Yes, yes, I’m a big proponent of exercise… especially for professional women who are usually already tired during the weekdays. So, why would any of us need something to tire us out again during the weekends?

21 Jan 2014

Pajama Parties…

No, you’re never too old to hold a pajama party with your best friends. Yes, even when you’re well into your 30’s and your friends are also your colleagues who you usually see in formal business attire instead of light blue pajamas. So, what do you need to create the perfect sleepover event with your adult friends?

Most of us associate “weekend activities” with “fun activities”… and of course we’re not entirely wrong, aren’t we? In fact, we often actually need a bit of fun. But sometimes, a bit of “productive” is called for… which is easily achieved by, say, taking a crash course in a field of your choosing… ^^

Your weekend can be fun, your weekend can be productive, and… your weekend can also be beneficial to other people. And on the top of the list for that third category is donating blood.

So, why should you—or anyone—spare a bit of their free time to visit the local PMI chapter and sit down to be stuck with an exceptionally large needle?

One thing we often tend to forget as we approach the weekend is just how tired your eyes can get after straining at computer monitors while being dried out by air conditioners for a whole week. So, on Saturdays and Sundays, you could really use a bit of entertainment that’s easy on the eyes. One particularly nice option: audiobooks.

23 Jan 2014

Restaurant Crawl…

Ah, weekends… the perfect time to go out eating. Especially if there’s a new café or restaurant that has just opened up… I mean, that’s the best part of eating out, right? Discovering new tastes and flavors in new surroundings.

So, sometimes, to make the most of what little free time I have, I would spend some weekends doing what I call a “restaurant crawl”…

You know what would be the ideal breakfast/brunch food for a cozy weekend after a week of hard work? Pancakes—plain with a bit of butter, or topped with honey, fruit, ice cream, chocolate syrup, and the list goes on. And actually, that’s part of the fun: making your own pancakes at home. Now, making pancakes is actually quite simple… but there are quite a few tricks to make things easier and create the best pancakes you’ve ever had. For example:

For me, nothing really beats a good book when it comes to spending a lazy afternoon on the weekends. Sure, audiobooks are nice and all, but it can’t really replace the feeling of a holding a physical copy in my hands. You know what’s even better? A really old book, with yellowed pages, and a slight musty smell…

That’s why, about once in a month or so, I allocate a weekend to browse through local used-book shops…

Remember yesterday’s post about visiting used book stores? Well, a friend of mine pointed out a similar alternative that can be even more rewarding: going to thrift shops and flea markets. You might actually find some real ‘treasure’ there… ^^

25 Jan 2014

Something New…

So, it’s finally the weekend… You could do something fun (movie marathon), something healthy (run 5K), or something productive (take a language course). But in the end, though, what matters is that we immerse ourselves in something completely different from what we face in our usual workdays…

And speaking of “different”, why not go out of your way to try something that’s completely out of the ordinary for you? ^^

27 Jan 2014

Fun in the kitchen…

They say that a woman’s place is “in the kitchen”. I’m sure that some people still find this relevant today, while others will feel that it’s archaic or even offensive. Let’s just agree to disagree…

Personally, I feel I’m much more productive in my office, in front of my computer. Still, that doesn’t mean that I can’t have a good time playing in the kitchen… ^^

I love chai lattes… but I don’t really love having to pay what they charge for a cup of the brew in most coffee shops or café. So, I scoured the Internet looking for recipes, tried and tested quite a few of them, and eventually found one that has since become my go-to drink for chilly nights. Want to give it a shot?

28 Jan 2014

An apple a day…

If you’re like me and can’t really resist grabbing for something to nibble on whenever you walk into the kitchen, then it might be a good idea to always keep around a stack of… apples. Why apples, you may ask? Well…

Indonesian cuisine is known for, amongst others, its liberal use of chili peppers… which is why tourist guide books often advice first time visitors to be careful about picking what to eat and to always have anti-diarrhea tablets on standby.

And yes, most of us love a bit of ‘fire’ in our food, right? I mean, how can be a meal complete without at least a bit of extra hot sambal? Still, even if you can eat bird’s eye chili (cabe rawit) by the handful without breaking a sweat, you haven’t really tasted what real ‘heat’ feels like…

Non-stick cookware: greatest invention ever or a major health hazard? Are Teflon and other non-stick pans really unsafe? If so, what alternatives do we have? Well, let’s take a look…

Freshly baked bread is something that’s really hard to beat… warm, fragrant, soft on the inside but crusty on the outside, and outstandingly delicious. But store-bought bread isn’t always 100% fresh, while making your own bread is hard and requires equipment not available in every kitchen, right?

Yeah, about that… Actually, you can totally make your very own bread using easily obtained ingredients and a simple rice cooker. Yes, seriously. Here’s how…

30 Jan 2014

Microwave tips…

A microwave oven in the kitchen can make life a whole lot easier… especially if you know how to make the most of this wonder of modern science (well, microwaves have been around for decades, but they’re still pretty ‘modern’ and definitely useful, no?) Anyway, let’s move on to some actual tips…

30 Jan 2014

A Festive Feast…