Archive for April, 2012

April 30, 2012

Singapore, Singapore

A few weeks ago I was in Singapore for a work-related conference. That was my first time in the Asian continent — an impressive one I must say, even though many will declare “Singapore is more like an introduction to Asia — you haven´t seen nothing yet”. I guess the details were the most striking discoveries: I was very impressed that everywhere I went that served breakfast had options such as noodles or fried rice (that will do as their light afternoon meals too).

The expats in Singapore mostly find the city very safe and comfortable and fine, but lacking entertainment and cultural choices. I might be able to concur with that sentiment, not without adding there is clearly heavy investment going on in contemporary art to fill in that gap. Anyway, the little over a week time I spent there was filled with great discoveries and memories, which I share with you as recomendations for the globe-throtter ladies:

food – I was not in a foodie vibe at that particular week — ate mostly cheap local food, including plenty of very spicy seafood soup. Asia is not for the weak tongues — they will set your mouth on fire if you don´t choose very carefully. As I myself am a fan of (heavily) spicy food, no problems in experimenting freely.

I was however careful to do some research and discover one of Singapore sweetest jewels – Royce Chocolates, a japanese chocolate factory that has spread to many a city in Asia, but has not yet reached the West. In Singapore, you will find stores at both Ion Orchard and Suntec City malls. Their chief products are:

(i) the Nama Chocolate boxes – delicious melt-in-your-mouth fresh chocolate mixed with fresh cream and liquor: must be constantly refrigerated at approximately 10 degrees (Celsius), for a French truffle-like consistency. I purchased the Maccha flavoured ones: amazing, amazing. Amazing.

(ii) the chocolate-covered potato chips. A very exaggerated approach to sweet-n-sour, interesting in its boldness and great presentation, with a nostalgic touch of, you know, those times when you were a little child and you dreamed of eating chocolate and potato chips at the same time while knowing none of the adults responsible for feeding you would ever cater to that crazy desire of yours.

art & architecture – there is a lot going on in that field when it comes to fast-growing Asian metropolitan centers, and Singapore is no exception. I was mostly amazed at the Marina Bay Sands complex, with its incredible giant banana-boat hanging over the top of three very tall towers. I think the best picture I have taken of Singapore was that of the Marina Bay Sands complex in nightfall, having by its side the brand-new ArtScience Museum, all lit up with amazing colorful projections as part of the i-Light Marina Bay Festival, and the lovely Helix Bridge.

I think art and architecture are particularly mixed together in this, say, Asian model of urban development. Take a look at those (poor quality) pictures of some of the nicest spots I discovered:

(i) UOB Plaza: a delightfully powerful Botero sculpture of a Bird lends its strong and slightly quirky tridimentionality to Friday night hotspot Boat Quay. A little closer to Raffles Place MRT Station, just around the corner, you will find an amazing Homage to Newton, paid by surrealist master Salvador Dalí. Such amazing, talented good humor and  incredible knack for symbolic imagery.

(ii) The art collection at the Ritz Carlton: the way such powerful pieces of work are blended into the hotel´s routine kind of mesmerized me. How many business men and women realize they are having their “networking” coffee break beside an early example of Andy Warhol´s work? And how do the people working at the reception balcony deal with the curious art-lovers gazing behind them at the Henry Moore drawings hanging from the walls. At the same time, more powerful works, such as Moby Dick by Frank Stella, are displayed in a more gallery-like fashion. Truly worth your time. Don´t forget to ask for your complimentary booklet and iPod audioguide; they will accept the art-loving visitors until as late as midnight, daily.

fashion – of course you have Orchard Road with all those amazing choices of well-furnished malls, all packed with the likes of Louis Vuitton, Prada and Botega Venetta boutiques; however, for that great feeling of under-the-radar findings, you should try the Haji Lane — a lovely little street near the corner of Arab Street x North Bridge Road with many gorgeous, fashion-forward and relatively low-cost local shops, plus some sample sales stores with incredible designer bargains – got a Stella McCartney treat for myself for about 100 US dollars — probably retailed at 300-400 Euros.

So that´s all from me for Singapore, Singapore, although there is much more to it. I did visit Chinatown — do recommend it, as well as the lovely mosques and hindu temples around there and in Little India. I also checked out the Night Safari — I was pretty damn tired the day I went there and in sort of a very bad mood, but I think it may be a great place for kids and young-at-heart grown ups. It´s a very well structured zoo with well-fed animals, a nice environment in general and some cute shows including trained animals and fire-swallowing. Although it is far from the city center, it´s very easy to get there, as they offer rides from an ample choice of pick-up points.

OK, one last (poor quality) picture from Chinatown:

And now is time to bid you farewell, my non-existent readers… Until our next encounter.

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April 26, 2012

War at home – separation stories. #1

I am a writer at heart. From the age of 6 I started writing daily, either in the form of personal journals or of short stories or small essays on the cruel world. And it pains me to admit that good, truly engaging writing will basically come from a troubled heart — at least from me.

So here´s to the broken hearts – I´ll tell you some sad love stories I know. What is more human than to be a woman that feels like shit after a breakup?

#1 He left me for another woman.

#2 She left me for another woman.

#3 He left me – and I don´t know why.

#1

She had already been tired of him for quite a while – he was a lazy, self-centered, short man, one with a beautiful smile and kind eyes, though. They were once young, in love, and experimental: as their relationship started, they decided it would be an open one. Our love cannot be a victim of our young age, and it is only but natural that in the course of our lives we feel desire for other people — it would not be fair to deny ourselves new experiences, nor reasonable that we should go separate ways in order to have them. This freedom was to them the ultimate display of commitment to each other.

A few years later, the relationship got boring to both of them. She fell in love with another man. He was married. Neither cared. She told her boyfriend she was having sex with a co-worker — he enjoyed it and asked for details, a fetich that somewhat reignited the spark on their relation. She had now someone else to cling to when he was not interested in her company, and more: she was living romance again. Her lover was more conventional — his wife did not know about his escapades. Until one day she did learn about it – and both their lives turned into a living hell.

They did not separate — nobody did, nor the girlfriend from her boyfriend, nor the lovers, nor the married couple. They carried on their messy story for years, the husband persecuted by his wife as he invented excuses for not answering the phone; the girlfriend and lover unhappy with both the man in her life, as she was not the center of attentions of  neither of them; the boyfriend, who knew what he felt? He would ask for more details about his girlfriend´s adventures with the married man while they enjoyed sex with each other less and less, until the fetich and the sex disappeared altogether as he kept drifting away to somewhere between his passions and his friends, neither of which the couple truly shared.

One day, he received an invitation to work partime at a different city. As his travels extended for weeks without previous notice, she was torn between having more time with her lover and understanding her relationship with the short fella was really fading into the end. Her heart sank as she realized she would do anything to be again the young woman fresh from college who shared an immense feeling with that bright, but rather scrappy boy with nails dirty from paint and plain lack of care, an old friend she never thought would become one of the greatest loves of her life until he did; yes, anything, except ending her relationship with her lover, without whom she could no longer live. She spent two weeks crying as her boyfriend started not to return her calls anymore and would not come back home without even telling her so with his own voice — short messages on the phone that would come late at night with lame excuses for the absence were the only source of news from him at that point.

It was time. She said they needed to talk. They finally met at an almost formal dinner — he broke up with her. She tried to maintain her composure, and failed miserably. She cried for hours as she wouldn´t let him leave without giving up on that crazy idea of ending their relationship. It got really late in the evening. She gave in. They took a taxi home, and she left him around the corner of his house. They both cried a lot as they said goodbye to each other and hugged for a last time.

From that day on, he almost never answered her calls, text messages, or emails. When he did, it was less than a phrase. She didn´t understand. Why wouldn´t he even talk to her anymore? That level of rejection was even more painful than the breakup. She tried to figure out what was happening, why he would cut her away so dramatically. At some point, she did discover he had been living for weeks in the other city where he worked with another woman with whom he was in love. She sent him an email telling him what she had discovered — he called her back and apologized, but there was nothing left to be done or said. She let go of trying to keep in touch with him — but she suffered like hell.

Her lover was there for her through all this time. He felt like shit, but he was afraid to lose her to madness. At that point his wife was tired of controlling him and he had more time to spend with the heartbroken girl he loved. Did she ever love him? At that point, it didn´t matter. He couldn´t leave her like that. He would put her to bed every night and pick her up at her home bright and early in the morning as they went to and from work together. She felt so much better every time he was by her side, and so much worse on the weekends, when she couldn´t even call him because he would be with his family. He missed her too, but he was afraid of changing so much of his life for a woman that still cried on his shoulder for another man.

Until she didn´t anymore. Fortunately, after a few months our girl got back on her feet again. She realized her life had improved so much as she was not constantly waiting for someone to arrive home late and annoyed anymore. Her lover made her feel like a precious jewel; he took care of her. She loved the feeling — it was so much more pleasing to take care of him in return, than to simply feel she was his mother making dinner and complaining it got cold. They shared so many interests in common, they had immense fun in each other´s company and they talked as if there was no tomorrow. He was his soul mate. And she didn´t want him to be her lover anymore. She was tired of that crazy messy love life she has had, and ached for something happy and uneventful. She didn´t want to suffer for love anymore.

His separation was as a long, complicated process. After months, he finally left his home. His wife kept on trying — dispassionately, but consistently — to have him back, but their relationship remained respectfully distant, or as much as it can be when two persons are parents to the same lovely 7-year old girl. One year went by until she discovered he was still seeing that same woman with whom he had cheated on her so many years ago. He wouldn´t tell her, something his now girlfriend found rather maddening. She finally filed for divorce, which was also another thing he was afraid to do. Who knows what was in his heart; the truth is, the former couple still remained amicable towards each other in spite of the potential for dramaticity of the latest events.

Our three intertwined couples finally became two very separate ones and a divorced woman healing her wounds. Two women were left for another women and one of them was at the two ends of this tale. We hope for the other to have also a happy ending.

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April 24, 2012

The reasons why you should start your Dukan Diet right now

Well, well, well, a blog claiming a new spin on femininity and right in the second post we begin speaking of losing weight. A cliché theme indeed, and even more so as I begin my work with the women of the world by assuming they all, like me, want — need — to get thinner.

Please do not take me as an expert on self-image (as I am sure you will not do), but I do believe this is a matter that consists in a far from uncomplicated relation between good sense, well-being, social concerns and one´s need to be in control of one´s own life.

There seems to be a new mediatic approach to the flattering female figure that praises supposedly curvy bodies: the absolutely gorgeous Christina Hendricks has been one of the most admired of these new (or in fact vintage) models of hottness, as well as the equally beautiful Kate Winslet and Scarlett Johansson. I believe this is very fine, but tell, me, truly: what if I really believe the person I want to be has a leaner body? What if I am crazy about fashion and want every crazy pair of pants on the planet to fit me like a glove? What if I find those glimpses of bones a beautiful, charming thing?

Now now, I said “glimpses” of bones — nobody here is defending anorexia or a skeleton-like figure, and this is where the good sense thing comes in place. What I mean here is, what you want for your body is entirely and exclusively of your concern and yours only. Arguments such as “men don´t like skinny women” are just as absurd as those in the lines of “you should be as thin as Keira Knightley or die”. Lets take as an example all that drama surrounding the Duchess of Cambridge: yes, she did lose a lot of weight, and some may claim she looks a little over her age, but to say she looks unhealthy is, in my opinion, quite a leap.

The fact is we all develop throughout our lives a vision of how we want ideally to look like. These may vary from Jessica Alba to Gwyneth Paltrow, from Heidi Klum to Giselle Bündchen, from Beyoncé to Rihanna. Beach babe, model, strong and fit, elegant and ethereal, crazy fashion forward with blue hair, bootylicious or whatever combination is possible between those categories: the options are endless, and the places our hearts can take each of us, unimaginable. I don´t mean this as a joke. For whatever reasons you may have constructed that ideal image for yourself, to actually achieve it is a matter of affirming control upon your life; even more importantly, of removing barriers we ourselves put in front of materializing so many of our greatest, but simple, dreams.

So if your ideal self is a little smaller on the waist than your present form, may I recommend the Dukan Diet (alas – we get to the core matter of this post). You may find a lot about it at DukanDiet.com, but it basically consists of eating low-fat protein – fish, chicken, some red meats, selected types of cheese, eggs, skimmed milk and yogurt – and no fat or carbs at all. Do just the protein (at will) for about 5 days and then alternate between protein days and protein + vegetable days. Forget pasta, rice (or any cereals or legumes) bread, potatoes and sugar altogether. Drink a lot of water – I mean, 2 liters a day at least – and if you feel the need for more fiber in your diet, do indulge daily in Dukan´s oat bran pancake recipe.

You will think – as I did the first time I read about it, long before deciding to give it a try – that this is just too hard. Atkins sounded a little insane with all the fat that was allowed on a daily basis, but at least it seemed to leave more options – plus it contained a small controlled portion of carbs, while this one aims to be as close to zero as possible. This one consists of radical decisions: you either drop on a food entirely, or eat it freely. Sounds like too much of a psychological effort, hey?

Well, my experience is: it´s the exact opposite. With the Dukan Diet, you are left with absolutely no decisions to make, and that is precisely his point. You are not in control of your food intake. If you were, you would not be overweight and you would not be seeking help to lose weight. So how can anyone expect you fat bastard (getting a little carried away) to make sensible decisions about your meals? The Dukan Diet is sort of a Hobbesian tale of dieting, in which each fat person in the world delegates sovereignty upon its daily feeding matters to this French doctors who in return, will offer advice that will slim their bodies really fast; the difference is when you achieve your goal weight, you regain your right to make your own decisions — except for a very desirable and useful catch.

And what is this catch? Well, after you achieve your dream body, you do not want to see it be taken away from you, and Dukan will teach you a trick to stabilize your weight forever without having to watch yourself as crazy on a daily basis: once a week, for as long as your lifetime spans out, you will exclusively feed on lean proteins. Also, on a daily basis, you shall have three spoons of oat bran. For. Ever. And. Ever. And that´s all.

I have lost 10 kilos in 3 months of dieting, and I am still on the road for the final 5. The amazing thing is the first 6 of them were lost in less than 5 weeks – an event that gave me quite the burst of self-confidence and hope. The rithym has slowed down for several reasons – not only the natural effect of prolonged dieting on the metabolism, but also a minor thyroid issue and a little travelling provoking me to cheat on the diet. What is interesting however is that after a while, your habits do, truly, change. I will tell you some inside information about how you deal with this diet as time goes by.

At first, I went mad. By at first I mean during the first two weeks. There was nothing else I could think of – the diet was an obsession and it controlled my life completely. I read Dukan´s book – Je ne sais pas maigrir, in the original, or: I don´t know how to lose weight (in English, the title was turned into simply The Dukan Diet) and I started following its advice to the letter. I was terrified by all the awful things he said would happen if even a single, tiny breach in the rules occurred. Dukan is a mean, mean doctor, and he is not afraid of calling you a loser because you were too weak not to jump on your mother´s shrimp risotto like there was no tomorrow. He´s also a very authoritarian person, who will tell you in your face that he knows more about dieting than you do and that what´s best for you is to obey him – at least in what relates to the matter of losing weight.

The sacrifice seemed too imense to be worth it. That feeling was due to the fact that when you drop some of your most important daily habits so suddenly – and of course I did not decide I had to lose 15 kilos and at the same time have been on a low carb, low-fat diet  – you just want MORE results from your efforts. You weight yourself every single day and you are convinced you deserved to have lost another entire kilo — on that day. Because you didn´t eat a single square of chocolate. Because you didn´t touch the cookies your grandmother brought you. But let me tell you, although those are touching displays of willpower, they will not reward you with a kilo less per day — think one every 5 or 6 days, in good weeks, and 1,5 to 2 weeks, as the diet continues on its second month and on. As you keep on doing what you have to do out of sheer terror and shame on declaring to the world (because everyone will know you are on a bizarre diet) you have given in, the 3rd week will finally bring you reward and relief, as you finally acknowledge you have lost 4 kilos and realize that is an amazing accomplishment in such a short amount of time.

That´s when a second magical effect comes into play: you hop on board of the Dukan boat.

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April 22, 2012

Welcome, welcome to my boudoir

I wish I was drunk, although in fact, I am not. Almost, one might say — it is however quite early. Well, not morning early. Late afternoon early. It is a Sunday, though. A rainy one. A beautiful day, in my humble, domestic opinion.

I am a domestic person at heart, although I do too much outside of my home. I have been spending a lot of time outside — learning how to dance, learning how to sew, working out, and well, working. One has to do it mostly outside if they are not JK Rowling (my personal dream), Paris Hilton or I don’t know who else (probably a lot of people — not the majority of them, though).

This is a blog about femininity. At this point the most feminine thing I have to say to you is that I have fixed myself a quite girly drink — can I even call it that? Well, Mozart and cognac. An extra alcoholic spin on the classic hot chocolate. All this to turn the late afternoon time in front of the computer into something pleasant. This is of course extremely forbidden because I am, as all or most women, on a diet. Mine is extra-feminine as it is known as the Princess’ Diet, although you might also recognize it as the French Diet or the Dukan Diet. An incredibly effective torture that will (or should) deprive you of carbs for a few months in exchange for a body relieved from those extra 15 kilos (I lost 6 in 1 month, 10 in less than 3 — and I have been cheating lightly for the last 10 weeks or so). I recommend it — please do not take my bad example and eliminate all forms of alcohol while you are at it. Trust me, I hardly ever give in to temptation. Dukan has got me convinced, for almost 99% of the time, that carbs are the devil — at least until I reach my goal.

Human women. What the hell are they? They are you and me. They are rich and poor, they live in Berlin, Kuala Lumpur, Rio de Janeiro, New York, and I only name big cities because it is very hard to go global with the small ones. They are thin (most are thin) and overweight, they work and they don’t, they like men, women, both, and sometimes neither; they love and loathe fashion, work, housekeeping, children. But however different they are among themselves, they will always be even farther from men (will they?).

I believe feminine blogging is something necessary, and not really tackled in general. Some feminine subjects arise consistently, such as fashion and beauty or that sort of feminine magazine type blogs and websites (something must be said and done about so-called feminine magazines, as they are a strange guide to what women are supposed to like or be — a hybrid between all. celebrities. there. are. plus Cicciolina and a wealthy american dream housewife, less 20 kilos). I have the intention to take it one step further, though. I believe life through feminine eyes can be very much the same and yet entirely different from a man’s point of view, and I think this can show through any subject — from drinking to dancing, from dining to working. This is what I want to do here: be the woman I am, and bring the women you are to the spotlight. What will we be doing while at it? Anything. It doesn’t matter at all.

P.S.: please do not be upset if I take my time finishing the sidebar, the layout, etc. At this point and considering the time I took to kick-start this project, it is better for me to worry about contents before my mojo gets spoiled by any other trouble such as this hideous heading.

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