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5 secret Starbucks drinks to order the next time you're feeling fancy

5 secret Starbucks drinks to order the next time you're feeling fancy

Even though hipster coffee shops are overtaking the Singapore coffee scene one siphon coffee maker at a time, there's still something unapologetic about craving for the overpriced sugary frappuccinos at our neighbourhood Starbucks.

However, to truly make that Starbucks experience great, one must have a signature order. Not your boring Soy-Skinny-Flat-White, but the not-so-secret, off-the-menu type drinks that will raise the eyebrows of the poor barista working that shift.

Ordering an off-the-menu drink at Starbucks is apparently so common in the US that an entire website was created to document and share them with others. There are currently over 200 secret drinks!

However, as it's not the norm in Singapore, the Starbucks staff may not know the recipes by heart and it will help to show them the recipes. It will also help to not order one of these drinks during a peak period when there's 15 other people waiting in line behind you slowly growing annoyed at your weird order. 

Pro Tip: Do wait till low-peak times on a weekday, be clear about the recipe and definitely be courteous when trying out one (or all!) of these 5 secret drinks: 

1. The Merlion Frappuccino

The Unicorn Frappuccino is a limited edition colour-changing, sweet and tangy drink from Starbucks US that was only available last month from 19 to 23 April 2017. It went viral ever since Starbucks broke the news.

ooooooh pretty!

ooooooh pretty!

Sadly, we weren't graced with this magical drink here in Singapore outlets, but you can order a Singaporean edition of it instead: The Merlion Frappuccino.

BEHOLD!

BEHOLD!

Recipe for Tall-sized drink: 
Vanilla Frappuccino ($6.00)
1 pump mango syrup ($0.70)
1 pump raspberry syrup ($0.70)
Top with whipped cream and raspberry drizzle

Price: $7.40

2. The Dragon Frappuccino

This drink will not only brighten up your day with its jade-green shade with a fire-licking drizzle of caramel, it will also perk you right up with its additional shot of espresso and Java Chips blended right in for good measure. 

Recipe for Tall-sized drink: 
Green Tea Creme Frappuccino ($6.40)
1 pump caramel syrup ($0.70)
Java Chips ($0.70)
Espresso Shot ($0.80)
Top with whipped cream

Price: $8.60

3. The Pink Drink 

We'd never have known that if you mix hibiscus tea and mango tea, you'd end up with a dink that tastes like grapes! No kidding. Add a zing of passionfruit to that, as well as soy milk to create a sweet, froth, silky finish, and you've got a perfectly pink drink for the next sunny day.

Recipe for Grande-sized drink: 
Iced Hibiscus Mango Passion Fruit Tea ($4.40)
Add Soy Milk ($0.60)

Price: $5.00

4. The Nutella Frappuccino

As much as we'd love to devour an entire jar of Nutella when the craving strikes, that's seriously nutty, nut-job behaviour. So we'll let this drink be the next best thing. A Java Chip Frappe, a spurt of hazelnut syrup and mocha sauce, and presto! You've got liquid Nutella! 

Recipe for Tall-sized drink: 
Java Chip Frappuccino ($6.80)
1 Pump Hazelnut Syrup ($0.70)
Java Chips ($0.70)
Top with mocha drizzle

Price: $8.20

5. The Cheesecake Frappuccino

Did you know that you have the option of having any pastry, cake, even sandwich, liquified into slurpable form?! It doesn't guarantee that the barista will do it for you, of course. Think about the poor fella who has to wash a ham and cheese croissant out of the blender. 

Stick with a cheesecake to play it safe instead. It goes shockingly great (and creamy) with your choice of a vanilla or mocha frappe. 

Recipe for Tall-sized drink: 
1 Raspberry White Chocolate Cheese Brulee Cheesecake ($6.50)
Mocha or Vanilla Frappuccino ($6.00)
1 Pump Raspberry Syrup ($0.70)

Price: $13.20

Fun (and totally not last minute) things to do this Mother’s Day

Fun (and totally not last minute) things to do this Mother’s Day

In case you've been living under a rock with your iPhone and free wifi, this Sunday we celebrate Mother's Day in Singapore. 

And while she might be happy with flowers and a mushy hand-drawn card, there are plenty of ways to say thank you for a mother's love. And one of the best ways is to spend some quality time with her. Here are some fun, non-cheesy, not-too-expensive thing you can do with her on Mother's Day. 

1. Take her out for a fancy, yet homely, meal

Be it brunch, afternoon tea, or dinner, Mum deserves to feel like a queen for that day. God forbid, she ends up cooking for the family on Mother's Day! 

For the spice loving home-style mama, Violet Oon's is having a authentically Peranakan Mother’s Day buffet brunch! Expect a lip-smacking spread of home-cooked Nyonya fusion delicacies like the classic Nyonya spicy chicken stew and buah keluak nuts, sambal fish, and Violet Oon’s very own signature shepherd’s pie.

Considering that Violet herself is a mother of two and proud grandmother of three, this meal at the cozy Bukit Timah cafe is sure to leave you all with family feels.

Time: 11 May, 1130am-1pm, 130-3pm
Place: Violet Oon, 881 Bukit Timah Rd, S279893
Price: Around $65 per adult, $35 per child (6 to 12 years old, children under 6 dines free)

2. Go on a road trip up to our neighbour's

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One of the best things about living in Singapore is that it can be faster to drive out of the country than to travel to Changi Airport. If you're not looking to bare costly airfare for the entire family over the weekend, consider going on a road trip to Malaysia instead.

You can travel all the way up to Penang if you're up for a long-distance journey, or just hop over to Desaru, Malacca, or KL if you're not looking to drive too much. The whole point is to spend some quality time with your Mum, and nothing like being put together in a vehicle to achieve that.

Those who don't own a car can easily rent one in Malaysia at 1/3 the rental rate. Just be sure you know what to do should you get into a road accident while you're there.

Accommodation can also be relatively cheap when you're holidaying in Malaysia, not to mention the sheer joy your Mum might have dining and shopping too knowing that not too much money is being spent, with the currency exchange rate at an all-time high now.

3. Treat her (and your dad!) to a hotel staycation...

This one will likely work if you have lots of siblings to share the cost with. For the tireless mum who deserves the five-star treatment, treat her to a staycation right here in Singapore.

Staycays don't necessarily mean booking an expensive luxury hotel, a quick browse through Agoda on their mobile app might land you some last minute deals at a boutique hotel that's half the price but also with stellar service, top-notch amenities, and free toiletries she can bring home.

There are also some pretty fancy penthouses and apartments available for booking on Airbnb that's worth checking out. If you're lucky, you can end up booking a house at Sentosa Cove!

4.  ...or Glamping works too

Glamping, a play on the words, “Glamour” and “Camping”, is an activity that combines the adventure of traditional outdoor camping, with the glamour of fancy hotel-style accommodation. Perfect for those who want to experience the outdoors but not sacrifice modern comforts - like a comfy bed with fluffy pillows.

Treat your mum to something uniquely different so she have bragging rights when all her friends got flowers for Mother's Day, but she got this:

glamping-lydia.jpg

This beauty is put together by a local Airbnb host called Lydia, who will handle all the setting up and beautifying of the place so you don't have to. 

You can also request for a picnic basket and/or a bottle of champagne to complete the experience for your adventurous mama this special day. 

4 lifestyle choices that are way too expensive in Singapore

4 lifestyle choices that are way too expensive in Singapore

You probably regretted buying that crazy expensive bag/watch/wallet/pair of shoes that cost hundreds of dollars with your very first paycheque. Look on the bright side, that moment of splurge is now in the past and it will likely be a long while before you spend your money in the same way again. 

However, there are certain lifestyle choices we make where the spending never stops. Especially in Singapore, we may not think about it on a day to day basis, but in the long run it all adds up to a huge chunk of money. Money that could be better spent on better stuff like investments, or buying a large hunk of gold to trade with in the event of a zombie apocalypse and no one is using cash anymore.

Here are 4 lifestyle choices that are way too costly when living in Singapore. 

1. Owning a car

When it comes to driving a car in Singapore, unless you're a taxi, Grab or Uber driver, there's no way in hell that the car is an asset in your life. That’s just the way the system is in this country. We're such a tiny island, everything that has to do with owning a car - from COE, to fuel, to parking, to ERP - has to be hideously inflated to discourage the vast majority of Singaporeans from driving on the roads.

Want to know how hideously expensive compared to other countries? Here are the cast of The Fast and Furious film series with their jaws on the floor when they heard of our car prices. 

For most Singaporeans, because the car itself already costs so much, even if you cab everyday for a year, it will still cost less than owning a vehicle. 

2. Owning a pet

One of the worst things to do when you walk into a pet shop/animal shelter (all the while telling yourself that you're only browsing) is to make eye contact with the animals. Once those limpid eyes gaze into your soul, that's it. You can't say no to Whiskers / Max / Genie. What the heck, you tell yourself. You're doing a good deed by giving that furry friend a forever home. 

But a pet can be a significant expense that just keeps adding up over the lifespan of the animal. First off, there are the vaccinations and annual checkups. Followed by all the toys and pet merchandise you wish to shower on your fur baby. Pet food on its own might not cost that much, but if your pet develops health problems later on in its life, it’s likely that you'll have to upgrade to more expensive specific food, as well as foot the medical bills for your beloved pet.

Dogs can live up to 15 years, while cats can have a lifespan of up to 20 years. Ask yourself if you are prepared to spend constantly within that timeframe.

3. Smoking

Smokers get a lot of grief in Singapore. Cigarettes have been getting more expensive every year, while the number of places where you can light up has been steadily decreasing. There's a higher risk of health complications that come with being a regular smoker, which also means higher chance of spending on medical bills. 

Even if we set aside the health issues, in terms of cost, Singapore is an expensive country to be a smoker. The cost of a pack of Marlboro cigarettes is about $13. If you add that up, smoking a pack-a-day can cost you upwards of $400 a month. That's $4,800 a year of pure lighting up and puffing. 

4. Having children

While there are many other reasons the birth rate in Singapore is pretty much rock bottom, the cost of raising children cannot be ignored. It can cost upwards of $200,000 to almost 1 mil to raise a child in Singapore! On average, a family will spend close to $350,000 within the child's first 8 years. 

Of course, the financial reason will never outweigh the joys of having a child to call your own. But the truth is that starting a family will have a lifelong financial and emotional impact. With a child or two under your care, it will be your responsibility to keep them afloat no matter what happens. This means basic healthcare, a roof over their head, a solid education, their wants, their needs, their hobbies and interests, etc. 

In future, only think about having kids when you're sure it's what you and your spouse wants. Not because you are sick of your parents or in-laws pressuring you for grandkids every time Chinese New Year rolls around.

A student's guide to losing weight - Part 2

A student's guide to losing weight - Part 2

In part 1 of the weight loss series, we covered some general guidelines for losing weight. Now, let us delve into the specifics.

1. Change your diet

Reduce the carbs you eat. Studies have shown that low carb diets can help you lose weight and improve your health. But if you reduce carbs, surely you must increase your intake in other areas? What? —that is the question.

Some people increase their fats intake. Sounds counterintuitive? Well, there are some research out there that suggests that high fat diets trigger fat burning in your body(ketosis), resulting in weight loss. However, though true, a high fat diet also comes with its own associated health problems, such as an increased likelihood of having heart disease. My suggestion? Up your protein intake. A diet high in protein helps you to feel fuller, and allows you to eat more food than you possibly can in a high fat diet.

The jury is still out on what is the best diet for weight loss. When in doubt, eat in moderation, in accordance with what the Health Promotion Board suggests.

And avoid the following list of foods.

Foods to avoid

  • Sugar: ice cream, soft drinks, fruit juices (without the fibre, they are nature’s coke), candies, ketchup
     
  • Trans fats: margarine
     
  • Highly processed foods: bacon (too much saturated fats and sodium), instant noodles (aka packaged death-wish)

2. But don’t do something you cannot do in the long term

For me, it’s dieting.

A few weeks back, while surfing mindlessly on the Internet, I saw this Khloe Kardashian backed diet— ominously named the military diet—and because it promised to help me lose 3kg in 3 days, I gave it a try. As with all diets, the portion is small, and for the most part, healthy. To keep an accurate record of how effective the diet is, I stepped onto the weighing scale every day and kept a record of my weight.

The first day, I was a carrot-munching, apple-crunching devotee of the diet. Weight on the first day: 50.4kg. Fast forward to the second day… 49.50kg. I know I shouldn’t let a number define me, but for the few seconds I was on the weighing scale, I was happy.

But lunch came. And I wasn’t that happy anymore. I looked at my friend’s mouth-watering food, and then back at my pathetic bread, cheese and hardboiled egg, and I wanted to cry. My breaking point came during dinner. I looked at my friend’s bak ku teh and I decided that one small pork rib cannot hurt… I ended up eating 2 pork ribs, 1 bowl of lamb soup and 2 sticks of satay.

Weight on third day: 49.05kg. By now, I just wanted the diet to end, and then go back to eating proper food. The day passed by in a whirl and throughout the day, my stomach kept pleading me to give it something good. Anything will do. Just something other than eggs, bread, carrots, apples and cheese. I patted my stomach and told it to hang in there. By then, I was almost on the verge of tears.

Weight on fourth day… I don’t know, because I didn’t weigh, because I don’t care. Dieting is simply not the way to go for me, and no matter how tempting those numbers are, I won’t do it again.  A week later, when I finally did weigh, I realised that the pounds I have shed have found their way back to me. Rebounds are real.

My story serves as a cautionary tale for those who have been dieting on and off, and seeing their weight yo-yo. To lose weight, you need to make lasting lifestyle changes. Don’t go about it in a way that makes you question the meaning of life. But for those of you who think that you have more discipline and perseverance than me, you can find the military diet here.

3. Exercise (but not all exercises are made the same)

Exercising helps you burn calories (duh). But to get the most out of your exercise routine, it is not enough to exercise hard, you also need to exercise smart. Enough talk, let’s get moving.

a. Lower body exercise are more efficient

Your largest muscles are in your legs, and by working those muscles, you create more micro-tears that your body has to spend energy repairing. Do squats, lunges and other leg exercises and you will see the fats in your arms melt away. (If you haven’t realised by now, targeted fat loss—such as losing only fats on your bum—isn’t possible.)

b. Do interval trainings

Alternate between periods of all-out effort and rest, such as 8 seconds of high-intensity all out sprint and 12 seconds of low- intensity comfortable jog, for 20 minutes. It will help you burn more calories, in a shorter time than say, 40 minutes of long distance running.

c. Exercise with a friend

Exercising with a friend makes the workout more enjoyable and helps you to exercise more, without you realising it. Research has shown that when working out with a friend, the two of you release twice as much feel-good endorphins as those who exercised solo. No wonder they say happiness is contagious.

These are just some exercise tips that I found when – once again—surfing mindlessly on the net. To read the details, click here.

To be honest, there is nothing wrong with being a little on the plump side. If you are feeling a little insecure about your size but cannot muster the energy to get out of bed for a morning run, or pack your lunch box with celery sticks, then trust Google to make you feel better. Type in “health benefits of a big butt” and you will realise being all about that bass isn’t so bad after all. 

The best flea markets to visit in Singapore this year

The best flea markets to visit in Singapore this year

When you mention 'Singapore flea market', gone are the days when Singaporeans will immediately think of someone hawking their pre-loved Love, Bonito dresses for $1 at Lucky Plaza. It would seem that the conventional Singapore flea market these days are getting more artisanal, upmarket, and very very hipster.  

Most flea markets now have a specific purpose: To promote homegrown brands and offer visitors unique products. Some even take it one step further and showcase live bands, as well as workshops. Here are our pick of flea markets to not miss out on this year:

1. Artbox

Bangkok’s famous flea market has landed in Singapore. Famed for having vendors house their booths in metal containers all decked out with fairy lights, the industrially chic hipster market Artbox is having its second weekend run tomorrow (April 21-23).

It's first weekend run happened last week and you may have heard some gripe that event was overhyped and oversubscribed. But with over 320 booths hawking quirky craft items and super Instagrammable food, we feel that it's worth a visit to soak up the atmosphere if you haven't been to the Bangkok one. 

Date: 14-16, 21-23 April
Venue: Bayfront Event Space (beside Marina Bay Sands) 
Time: 3pm-11pm

2. Public Garden

Started in 2011 as a consumer trade show, Public Garden has grown into one of the most impressive flea markets in Singapore. This year's show will also be the largest one ever presented, to be held at Suntec Convention Hall 403. 

Bringing together products manufactured by both indie companies as well as budding entrepreneurs, most of what is sold here are original designs. Most of the items are also chockfull of local flavour as the vendors hail from countries all across the region. If you don't want your room to look like an Ikea showroom, this is the place to shop at.

You can also find workshops being hosted by artisans, as Public Garden is all about bringing together a community of creative minds to share ideas and experiences.

Date: 22-23 April
Venue: Suntec Convention Hall 403, Level 4
Time: 1pm-7pm

3. Market of Artists and Designers (MAAD)

Held at the Red Dot Design Museum since 2006, the Market of Artists and Designers (MAAD) has served as one of the leading creative platform for enterprising local artists, designers, and crafters to gather, showcase and sell their wares. 

What makes the vibe here so great is the live performances by local musicians too, making it a unique flea market that's buzzing with talent, activity and creativity that's sure to get your artistic juices flowing. The market is held on a Friday of every month, so do check out the museum's Facebook page to see when the next one will pop up. 

Date: One Friday every month
Venue: Red Dot Design Museum
Time: 11am till late

4. Retro Factory

A monthly affair held at Katong Square, Retro Factory was founded as a way to gather lovers of all things (you guessed it) retro and vintage. This flea market is perfect is you're into collecting vinyl records, vintage posters, or just want to soak up the lively carnival-like vibe. There's music, food, artistic performances, and tons of unique vintage goods. 

What I liked best about this flea market is that visitors are an eclectic mix of both young and old. It's great to see the older crowd wax nostalgia at the venue, alongside the younger generation oogling at the walk down their parents and grandparents' memory lanes. 

Date: 5-6 May
Venue: MediaCorp Caldecott Broadcast Centre
Time: 3pm-10pm

5. The Farmers' Market

Held on a Saturday every month, this is the place to be if your idea of having a good time includes eating, eating, and more eating again. The great thing is that the food featured here are mostly organic, gourmet, and also very, very fresh. From sizzling bratwurst to rare cheeses, cold-pressed juices to wine, at lease stuffing your face here is a whole lot healthier than chowing down on those sugar-spiked food at Artbox. 

On special occasions, The Farmers' Market will also run a themed market with fun activities planned throughout the day. Last month's market was Easter-themed with easter eggs, carrot cake, and an Easter Egg Hunt as a highlight. 

Date: One Saturday every month
Venue: Loewen Gardens
Time: 1pm till late

The case against being your child's best friend

The case against being your child's best friend

There's always that one parent who picks their kid up from school oozing cool. They know all the latest slang and don't seem to have any issues "clicking" with their child. They are so close it seems like they are more best buddies than parent and child.

But parenting your children as though you both are equals may actually be a bad idea. Here are some reasons why:

Being equals with your children makes it hard to discipline them

The next time your best friend cancels dinner plans at the last minute, scold them about how irresponsible they are and send them to their room! Sounds bizarre? So does the "we're equals" approach to parenting your child. Friends don't nag at each other to do homework, or sleep early, or clean up their rooms.

One moment you're laughing at him complaining about his teacher, and the next moment you're telling him not to raise his voice at you. By acting like a buddy to your kids one moment, and then the next moment asking them to so something they don't want to do; it can lead to confusion for your kids, and worse, makes it difficult for you to feel grounded in your role as a parental figure too. 

Your children need to be friends with their own peers

It's healthy for your kids to build and foster relationships with other kids their own age. They need to bring friends home and have sleepovers, and share their hopes and dreams with each other. If they are looking to you as a best friend, there is a danger of you becoming a replacement for those relationships. 

A lot of time children become too clingy with their parents that they no longer need or want a group of friends. Constant attention from parents may result in future behavioural issues as the child is not equipped to deal with all that constant fawning and advice suddenly removed from them. You might be a stand-in at times, but in no way should that position be held for the long run.

Instead, encourage them to branch out and make more friends at school if they are naturally introverted and don't seem to have much friends other than yourself, or advise them on how to develop and maintain healthy friendships if they are more extroverted. Whatever their characteristics, it is crucial that they learn to sort out their issues with friends of their similar age.

Your children needs you to be an authority figure, not a buddy

Children need a strong role model who can tell them what's right and what's wrong. They need someone who can set clear boundaries for them, to teach them respect and discipline. This is not necessarily going to happen if you appear off-handed about all those teachings in your interactions with your kids because you are supposedly their buddies.

Just like how a dog needs a pack leader authority figure in its life to feel stable, it's pretty similar to how a child requires someone to look to to have the last word and make the tough decisions. It's actually reassuring to know that someone is creating the rules and implementing them.

This doesn't mean that you ignore your child's views or make decisions without considering their feelings at all. But when you parent as though you and your kids are best buddies, you will erode your own authority in the eyes of your children. And it will only lead to confusion and issues down the road. 

Your child is also not your friend

Some parents make the mistake of confiding to their children and sharing with them about how they feel about the neighbour, or their teacher, or that one colleague who constantly steals their food from the office fridge. And that just does not fit with the functional role of a parent. 

For example, if you think that your kid's tutor is being ridiculous for not letting your child eat sweets in the room, you can be your kid's "buddy" and say, "That's such a stupid rule! Your tutor is quite dumb ah, Ah Boy!". Or, you can fit with the functional role of a parent by saying, "I really hated that rule when I was your age and having tuition too! But I had to follow it, so Ah Boy, just eat your sweet when you are leaving the class, okay?" 

Even though both responses relate and empathizes with your child, one of them is making him a confidante, whereas the other is not. Guess which one is more ineffective by not promoting learning? 

It's a well-meaning trap when some parents think that their child would not think too much about it, or be affected by it. But surprise surprise, a child can feel like they are powerless and not much of a help to their beloved mum or superhero dad. And this is true, because a child is not emotionally or mentally prepared to play a role of confidante. 

So if you are forty years old, find another forty year old, or fifty year old, or thirty year old. But definitely not an eight year old, or fifteen year old.

Are you a Tiger Parent?

Are you a Tiger Parent?

Child, if you are seeing this, I recommend that you scream for your dad/mum and get him/her to read this article RIGHT NOW. This can reduce your workload anywhere from 0 to 100%. Disclaimer: results are not guaranteed and if your parents scold you for trying to chicken out of doing homework, then too bad.

Hi parent.

I know what you are thinking right now. What is this article that my child wants me to see so desperately?

Well, this article is just a continuation of the Tiger Mom debate, started in 2011. Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of it – even your child has. And I have just taken it upon myself to be the saviour of all overworked students in Singapore. So read on to see how I will change your mind (or maybe not, if you are the typical Asian parent who won’t admit you are wrong).

According to Amy Chua, the first widely recognised Tiger Mom – but definitely not the first to force their kids to sit at the piano for 4 hours straight, deny sleepover and boyfriend requests, and obsess over the number of As their child got at PSLE, O levels and A levels—there are a few reasons why Asian parents in general are so strict on their child.

1. You believe that academic achievement reflects successful parenting

Admit it. It was never about your child. It was always about you. Being a parent is a full-time job, and the number of As your child got is your only KPI.  Come CNY, all your relatives are waiting for your report, and if your child fails even one subject – gasp, hell no—you lose face. (Child, of course I am exaggerating here. But the next time you have a fight with your parents for not getting an A for Maths, this will make a good comeback to their I-am-increasing-the-number-of-your-tuition-classes-for-your-own-good talk).

2. You believe that nothing is fun until you are good at it

That’s why you spend hours drilling simple Maths concepts into your child, and send him to way too many tuition classes. To enjoy something, you have to be good at it. And to get good at anything, you have to put in the hard work. But is this really true? Your child sucks at DOTA – even you can see that—but no amount of expletives his friends throw at him can stop your child from having so much fun at his desk.

3. You are fortunate enough to be able to impose your standards on your kids

Unlike your poor western counterparts, you don’t have to struggle with your own conflicted feelings about how your child turned out fine despite being an unknown actress living together with her drug-dealer boyfriend because hey, she at least comes home once a year for Christmas. You are given permission by society to voice your disapproval. Calling your child out on laziness, unrealistic goals and promiscuity won’t have you labelled as a backward redneck who is out of step with mainstream society. But do watch how you speak your mind. Sometimes, the deepest wounds are invisible ones.

4. You genuinely believe in your child

Western parents think of their child as water balloons – too much pressure and they burst. You on the other hand, see your child as graphite. Under the right amount of pressure, he or she will turn into beautiful, shining beings who are resilient and sought after. (Again, this is an exaggeration, but hey, I am trying to make a point here.)

This transforms your parenting approach. You send your child to the best schools, because you know he or she will adapt to the environment and come out more confident and well versed from it. You push your child to take up different enrichment classes – piano, drawing, dance – because you know there are hidden talents in your child just waiting to be discovered. You scold your child for not getting an A on his Maths test because there is absolutely no way he won’t be getting an A. You know your child is too smart for that B. The only explanation must be that he is slacking off. And knowing that he is capable of so much, one of the worst things you can do for your child is to let him give up.

Never mind that a few decades back, you were bringing back the same horrible results that you are now scolding your child for…

Genetic mutation does occur, right?

Why online shopping in Singapore is the future

Why online shopping in Singapore is the future

November 11 — 11/11, or Singles’ Day — is also known as China's biggest online shopping day. Last year, Alibaba — China's largest and most popular online shopping site — announced that the total value of stuff bought across all their online stores is worth $17.8 billion dollars, breaking their own record and setting a new global online shopping record for sales in one day.

To put this in perspective, the online sales in just one day in China is worth more than Brazil's total online sales for the entire year of 2016! 

Brick-and-mortar retail stores in Orchard Road should have cause for concern, as online shopping in Singapore is not only growing faster than ever, but is going to be the future of how we shop. Here are some reasons why:

1. Singaporean shopping habits are shifting 

Paypal's recent consumer study revealed that 73% of Singaporean adults shopped online in 2016, spending around $3 billion last year. The study also found that 38% of the adults surveyed said that they will be spending even more money online in 2017.

The top reason why? Due to convenience - with 78% of Singaporeans citing that as a key reason. The second highest reason is to save more money. It does make sense that retailers would offer more online promotions as compared to in-store. 

2. Shopping on-the-go will be the way to go

On average, 31% of online shopping is made through a mobile device. And it doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Mobile online shopping is expected to grow by 42% this year - amounting to more than $1.2 billion in online transactions. 

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This means that more and more online retailers will be ensuring their websites are mobile-friendly to make online shopping a more seamless experience. You will probably see more retailers launch their own mobile apps too like beauty product giant Sephora and fashion conglomerate H&M.

At least now we know why people stare at their phones all the time on the MRT.

3. Singaporeans are the most confident cross-border online shoppers in the whole Asia Pacific

Singaporeans don't seem to have much paranoia when it comes to trusting online stores from other countries. Judging from the long queues that form whenever the ezbuy truck appears in neighbouring HDBs, we're not surprised that Singapore is ranked the country with the most confident cross-border shoppers within the region. 

Following closely behind is India, and thereafter China. Considering these are the countries with very secure (and convenient) payment technologies like MasterCard and AliPay which clamps down strongly on unauthorised or fraudulent transactions, it has worked in promoting online shopping confidence.

This confidence indirectly means that Singaporean shoppers are all too ready to brick-and-mortar retail stores for their internet counterparts.

4. Cheaper overheads for online retailers is indirect savings for shoppers

Physical retail stores often find it hard to compete with online retailers as their overhead costs are much higher. Especially in land scarce Singapore, where rental costs are crazy high, not only do they lose out in terms of offering better prices for shoppers, but they also have to compete with online retailers’ extensive product ranges.

Think about Amazon's huge range of products. One can get lost for hours browsing endlessly through their products. It's also perfect for impulse shopping as a shopper is bound to find something to buy. Not to mention virtual storage and display space is endless compared to a brick-and-mortar store's limited storage room and display racks.  

5. The increasing population in Singapore is going to drive more shoppers to go online

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 8.35.29 PM.png

With the population in Singapore expecting to rise every year, the weekend crowds at Orchard Road and shopping malls are going to grow more and more in numbers. Singaporeans are also now more likely to first search for an item they have in mind online than to waste hours squeezing with the crowds.

With almost every major online retailer offering free shipping nowadays, it's going to be a tough fight to draw a shopper out of the comfort of their homes into the shopping malls. Physical retail stores who insist on only having an offline presence will need to rethink their business models in order to survive the future of shopping. 

4 ways to tell if you have an Instagram addiction

4 ways to tell if you have an Instagram addiction

While 'Instagram Addict' is not an official medical diagnosis (although it does make a cool superhero name), there are increasing studies showing that Instagram can be addictive and carries several potentially long-term harmful effects.

Of course, no one knows for sure whether they have become addicted. Millions of people log onto Instagram every day with no harmful consequences, but here's a checklist of 4 ways to tell if that 'tap to like' has developed into a full blown problem for yourself or someone you care about.

Note: these suggestions are NOT medical advice, and you should consult a doctor if you think you (or someone you know) may have a genuine physical or psychological addiction. 

#1: You constantly check your Instagram Feed throughout the day

How many times do you refresh the app each day, hoping to see more hearts on your recently uploaded photos? And how many times do you scroll through your feed each hour, giving yourself FOMO over what everyone else on this planet is digitally up to? 

There's nothing wrong with looking at Instagram every day. But if you're using it excessively, that's where the cause for concern lies. A good tip to follow if you're still studying is: After excluding study-related computer usage like typing a Word doc or preparing a Powerpoint presentation, your total screen time should not exceed three hours per day. This includes watching Youtube videos and texting.

You can also choose an allocated time of day you will log onto Instagram. For instance, allow yourself half an hour in the morning browsing while you're travelling to school, and another half an hour in the evening. Set a timer on your phone and stop when the alarm buzzes you that it's times up. 

If you're finding yourself scrolling through Instagram for hours on end and snoozing the alarm ten times, it may be time to go cold turkey.

#2: Instagram is causing you some emotional issues

You take a photo in a picturesque overseas location, in your outfit of the day, complete with dreamy look and wind-tossed hair. Then you post the picture on Instagram, complete with humblebrag caption of: "Bali’s wind is seriously too strong. Now my hair is all messed up”.

Then you wait. And wait. And wait.

Only 22 likes?! *DELETES PHOTO*

Instagram can start out nice, then quickly spiral into something nasty. It’s like a little window to the world that you can hold in the palm of your hand. You can sit by it after a long day at school and watch all the interesting people pass by — scrolling through your feed, liking photos, exploring hashtags, following new people, and generally taking it all in.

Then before you know it, you start feeling jaded about your own life because of all the exciting photos you see on Instagram. It starts off small, like a wistful sigh looking at all the exotic locations or food, and then it slowly builds up into "her makeup skills are so on point, why can't I be as pretty", or "I wish I had a body like that. I bet all the girls will flock to me if I looked that ripped with that 6 pack" and you feel like you cannot measure up.

Have you felt any of that happening to you? If you do, perhaps it's time to set your phone to airplane mode and distract yourself in healthier ways like reading a book or watching a movie with friends who love you for who you are right at this moment. not for who you might become.

#3: Instagram has become your daily priority 

Here’s when I knew my love for Instagram had morphed into an addiction: Instead of paying attention to my boyfriend over dinner, I would immediately reach for my phone once the food is served and tap my Instagram icon. My boyfriend is a techie too, and I started to notice that we would often end up spending our date nights together with our phones instead of actually interacting with one another! I found this to be really sad, and knew something had to be done. 

Now I have a 'zero checking Instagram' policy when I'm with other people. The ideal thing to do when you’re in any social situation is to not be on your phone at all, but nowadays it's unavoidable. The max I will go is to quickly snap a photo to be posted later on. That's fair game, right? 

I just try hard not to sit there and scroll through my feed when I’m hanging out with other people. Most of all when I'm with someone taking me out on a date! 

#4: Instagram is bringing out your dark side 

Sometimes I become bothered by the way Instagram can bring out my uglier side. I often have knee-jerk reactions of judging another person's photo, and if my fingers type a little faster than my brain can think through, I end up typing a comment that can actually be hurtful before I catch myself and frantically delete while cursing myself for being such a troll. 

Whether it is posting comments that hurt others’ feelings, posting up pictures that paint a false lifestyle, or even getting a little too nosy with other people’s lives, if you feel that Instagram is causing you to become someone even you won't want to be friends with... it might be time for an insta-hiatus. Quit Instagram for a week to detox, and then try again after setting some boundaries for yourself about what you won't do on the app. 

5 places to get a Matcha fix

5 places to get a Matcha fix

Matcha is a finely ground green tea powder best known for being used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, as well as for their numerous health benefits

It used to be that only the wealthy were able to get their Matcha cravings satisfied at these tea ceremonies, but thankfully, matcha is now widely available all over the world - including right here on our humble little island. 

From matcha lattes to soft serve ice creams, check out these 5 places to get some delectable green tea desserts.

1. Matchaya

Tucked away in a corner of Icon Village, Matchaya serves a wide medley of matcha delights from a quaint wooden structure. You can find bottled matcha, matcha soft serve ice cream, and matcha powder all of top quality - All of which also went through 100+ stringent taste tests before being launched. An iced matcha latte goes for $4.90.

Located at:
Icon Village, 12 Gopeng St, #01-72

2. Tsujiri

The closest competitor to Matchaya, Tsujiri was established in 1860 and can be considered the Godfather of Matcha by being one of the first few to spread matcha to many countries including Singapore. It serves an assortment of matcha desserts, from lattes to parfaits. 

The O-Maccha is a classic flavour that can't be missed, and is what the matcha purists usually order. Be warned, it's not your typical watered down Starbucks version and can be incredibly potent. An O-Maccha Milk Ice Blended will cost $5.50.

Located at: 
100AM, 100 Tras Street #01-14
313 Somerset, 313 Orchard Road #B3-53
The Central, 6 Eu Tong Sen Street #01-74

3. One Man Coffee

Yes, we get that One Man Coffee is known more for their freshly ground coffee, but they make a mean matcha latte too. You can taste the fresh milk in the latte, and yet it doesn't overpower the matcha flavour. If you're planning to get some studying done while sipping on this aromatic brew, head to their quieter outlet in Kinesis at Fusionopolis. 

Located at:
215R Upper Thomson Road
MyVillage@Serangoon Garden, 1 Maju Avenue, #B1-23/24
Kinesis, 4 Fusionopolis Way, #01-15,
15 Cheong Chin Nam Road

4. Maccha House

One of the best things about Maccha House is their matcha dessert special at $14.99 that comprises of 6 different kinds of matcha desserts, including their signature matcha parfait and green tea mochi. Give it a try the next time you hit town with friends. 

Located at:
Orchard Central, 181 Orchard Road, #B1-40
Fountain of Wealth, Suntec City, 3 Temasek Boulevard, #B1-172

5. Nana's Green Tea

Nana's Green Tea's extensive menu ensures that you'll be spoilt for choice. Order a simple matcha latte and you'll have the option of adding whipped cream, mochi balls, vanilla ice cream, matcha ice cream (!!) and many more. They also offer set lunches at $13.90 that let's you pair a donburi rice bowl with your drink. 

Located at: 
The Atrium @ Orchard, Plaza Singapura 60B, #03-80/82

 

6 pet friendly cafes to chill with your furry friend at

6 pet friendly cafes to chill with your furry friend at

This one's for the pet owners, or if we happen to hang out with friends who own pets. Haven't you noticed how we seem to be reduced to cooing, baby-talking weirdos when interacting with our pets? Pets are so much a part of our family that we can't help but feel guilty when we leave them alone at home when we leave for school every morning.

But now, thanks to the thoughtfulness of cafe owners who just so happen to be animal lovers or pet owners too, the number of pet-friendly cafes are on the rise in Singapore. You can finally get to chill with your furkids someplace other than Bishan park, Siloso beach, or your bed.

The best part? You also get to celebrate your furry love's birthday at these places!

1. Paw Pet-radise Café

The paw-fect place for your furry love to spend some quality time with you, this cafe at Balestier Road offers up meaty menu of mostly doggie treats -- such as liver bone brownies, and chunky pork bones. But fret not, hooman! This place also serves delectable mains like their signature Gyudon beef bowl with onsen egg.

Address: 530 Balestier Road, Monville Mansion #01-07, Singapore 329857

2. Happenstance Café

With plenty of pet-friendly amenities like potty trays and fresh bowls of water, this is a great place to bring your furry friend along to mingle with other four-legged visitors while you chow down on interesting bites like Japanese Salmon Goujon and Firecracker Squid Cubes. The space is a tad small, so it helps to call in advance to reserve a table. 

Address: 35 Opal Crescent, Singapore 328425

3. Wagging Rights

Feed, groom and socialize your pet all under one woof! Wagging Rights specialises in handmade gourmet dog food, such as their house specialty -- the grain-free Chicken Terrine. They also offer grooming and doggie daycare services, as well as an in-house playground for your buddy to clamber all over. Definitely the place to bring your furball to celebrate a birthday.

Address: 337 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427590

4. Coastes

Whether tearing through the salt spray, or digging in the sand, I like to think that a dog's idea of heaven is a day out on the beach. With the pet-friendly Coastes located along Siloso Beach, it serves as the perfect place to chill out after your dog has exhausted itself running and swimming all day. And while its napping, you get to work on your tan too.

Address: 50 Siloso Beach Walk, Singapore 099000

5. Ah B Café

If pets can get to go to country clubs, this might be the place they'd go to. Located within Sunny Complex, Ah B Café has a pet-friendly pool, as well as tons of bean bag seats where your furry friend can lounge on and mingle with other paw-ssible friends. Pets can also roam around freely within the cafe compounds. While the cafe only serves meals for humans, ‘Pawlicious’ next door can rustle up some amazing treats for your pets.

Address: 110 Turf Club Rd, Singapore 288000

6. The Green Door

Hidden among the lush gardens of Dempsey Hill, The Green Door effortlessly blends the line between indoor-and-out in an enchanting way complete with vintage furniture and great food. Tuck into a rack of ribs, and sneak some for your pet too. A little on the pricier side, this is the place to bring your furry pal to for a special occasion. 

Address: 13A Dempsey Road, Singapore 247694

Should we be concerned about the Selfie Culture?

Should we be concerned about the Selfie Culture?

I literally had to sit my boyfriend down and explain to him why it was important for me to Snapchat the new and interesting things we experienced when travelling overseas.

He was growing annoyed with the way he always had to wait until I had snapped a photo of the food we're about the partake, before getting to taste it. Or the way he would turn around to excitedly talk to me about something beautiful that was unfolding before our eyes, only to see that I was looking at it through my iPhone's camera lens instead of savouring the moment for what it was.

Me. All the damn time. 

Me. All the damn time. 

I understood where he was coming from. But could he also see my point of view? Snapchat-ing has become a way for me to compile travel diaries of the places we went to, as well as to share them with close friends. I showed him a compilation of snaps that made up an entire week of our trip to Osaka, and I could see him appreciating the memories re-unfolding before him again.

We had managed to reach a tentative compromise.

The selfie culture

The phenomenon of constant photo-taking or video-taking with a phone is something that occured only within the last decade. While it’s debatable when holding out your phone to take a photo of yourself became a ‘thing’, in 2013, ‘selfie’ was named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries.

It's defined as  “A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website." With over 200 million users on Snapchat, and over 600 million on Instagram, more and more young people are using selfies to communicate with each other.

And it’s not just to communicate, but every moment, mundane or not, seems to need to be captured, just in case. Sometimes I find myself thinking in squares when I'm taking a photo because I want to use it as an Instagram post later. I know of certain friends who carefully edit and curate their selfies, posting them at certain times of day – and making sure it is not too frequently or infrequently - in order to get the right number of likes.

I also know of certain friends who will delete a photo they have posted just because it doesn’t get likes quickly enough. Is all of this really necessary? Should we be concerned about the long-term effects?

What are the dangers of the selfie culture?

Branding yourself is not a new concept. However, branding yourself with a certain image that you want the world (or your followers) to see is the new form of personal branding.

Someone might only post photos with white backgrounds, or of a certain filter, or perhaps within a certain pantone colour theme. Selfies often are captioned with poems or song lyrics. Sometimes, the more elusive and random, the better. I guess there's nothing wrong with all of these. I would argue that it only becomes dangerous when a lot more of our time is spent capturing moments rather than living life and enjoying moments.

The danger of this selfie culture is the constant comparison game. Even though the majority of millennials are doing it, most still fall victim to comparing themselves to the picture-perfect-fantasy-life that others are portraying. Or worse, that the media is flooding us with. The power of these social connections, can give you a high when you receive positive reinforcement, and a low when you seemingly don’t. Comparing the number of likes can then become a slippery slope leading to potential issues such as depression and self-harm, low self esteem and narcissism.

So what is the solution?

Change your mindset from Dependence to Independence. Instead of trying to get a rush of connection, power, and self-worth from how many people like your photos, find a different way that puts you in control.

Find your experience of connection by forming deep, real bonds with people who genuinely care about you, and that you care about too.

Find your experience of power by pushing through your fears and challenging yourself by not posting anything on social media for 24 hours. I started this as a kind of dare to myself, but slowly found that I was relishing the offline moments and now have managed to wean myself off constantly checking Facebook and Instagram every few hours. 

It's not about never taking another selfie ever again, or shutting down your social platforms. It’s about filling those desires in other ways (in real ways) so you no longer need anything from selfies. And their importance diminishes.

10 things to do when you're running late

10 things to do when you're running late

So you went clubbing until 4am, and in your tipsiness used the Calculator app to set an alarm instead of the Clock app.

Hey, it happens....

Hey, it happens....

Now you're trying to brush your teeth while putting on your jeans, and hailing a Grabtaxi at the same time.

Oh, how it sucks to be running late.

Most people know the importance of being on time. Most people also know that being consistently late is rude. However, there are times when you just can't help it. Something happens to slow you down, and there're no way you can make it to class, a date, an appointment, a meeting, or any other engagement by the stated time.

10 things you should do if you know you're going to be late: 

  1. Call or text as soon as you know you can't make it on time. Nothing irks me more than having to wait for someone running late, and there was no apology or advanced notice whatsoever. It makes me feel unimportant and disrespected.
     
  2. Stay calm and don't freak out. Take a deep breath and mentally calculate how long it will take to get to your appointment.
     
  3. Do everything in your power to get to your destination as soon as possible. If you overslept, put on less makeup or don't dawdle by hmm-ing and haw-ing over the perfect outfit to wear.
     
  4. Don't be flustered and risk injury in your haste. The last thing you want happening is to trip and fall, or get yourself injured in your hurry.
     
  5. If you're going to be more than 30 minutes late, offer to reschedule to another time or date of the other person's convenience.
     
  6. If the person is willing to wait, offer an apology once you arrive, and be sure to offer to buy that person a drink or a meal to show that you are apologetic about keeping him/her waiting.
     
  7. Explain why you're late, but resist the urge to blame someone else. If you keep doing this, it makes you appear incapable of taking charge of your life.
     
  8. Don't let your tardiness ruin the remainder of your day. Move forward but make every effort possible to be on time for everything else that you have on your calendar that day.
     
  9. If others make sarcastic remarks about your lateness, avoid the urge to argue or justify yourself. You won't win, and it's a huge waste of time.
     
  10. Do whatever you have to do to be on time in the future. Even if it means setting six alarm clocks, or getting your family members to physically drag you out of bed. 

How to prevent being late in the future:

If you know you're the type to be habitually late, here are some things you can do to prevent it.

Plan ahead. This includes laying out your clothes the night before and calculating the time it will take to get where you're going.

This includes knowing where you're going. If you've never been to the location before, Google map it, and if it's something super important like a job interview, take a trip to the place a few days before to familiarize yourself with it. It's frustrating trying to find a place when you're pressed for time, and worst still when you show up all sweaty and flustered.

Don't procrastinate. You might be Instagram-ing your breakfast and waiting until the last minute to leave, which can cause you to be late if there's a traffic jam or a train breakdown. Leave at least 15 mins earlier if it's for an important event to make sure you arrive on time and without stress.

What to say to nosy people

What to say to nosy people

We've all been asked rude questions in our lives. It could be from strangers, acquaintances, or even by close friends. (Just because your best buddy is asking an uncomfortable question, doesn't mean that you are obligated to answer) 

Although everyone slips up now and then, like saying congratulations to someone whom you thought was pregnant, but she's actually just fat... Some people seem to relish being nosy in every aspect of your life.

Although it's tempting to scream "Mind your own business!" in their faces, here's how to respond to rude and nosy people with grace and tact:

1. Give them the benefit of doubt

People are often unaware that they are exhibiting poor manners. But even if they know what they're doing, you should never stoop to responding to bad manners with worse manners.

For example, if someone asks if you've gained weight recently "'cos you look fatter", it's a terribly insensitive remark, but respond with smile and say, “I’m feeling wonderful. How about you?”

The tone should be even and not sarcastic. That should get the point across that you don’t want to honour a rude question with an answer. If possible, just laugh without answering the question and then change the subject. 

2. As much as you can, be prepared with responses

For times when you may have no choice but to find yourself in a hot spot of being asked awkward questions, such as being the only single person sitting at a Chinese New Year dinner, you need to arm yourself with some answers. Even if it’s a question that's asked with good intentions as they want you to be happy, hearing it over and over will make you anything but happy.

As soon as you're being interrogated by that rude auntie you've been avoiding the whole time about when you're going to get married, prepare several responses to handle her. You can choose to give them the answer that are looking for such as, "I would like to, but I haven't found someone to spend the rest of my life with yet.", or with a joke such as, "aiyah, I haven't found someone that is as pretty as you yet!"

If you are emotionally prepared to handle the questions from nosy people, it will help greatly in preventing yourself from feeling frustrated or being caught in a spot. 

3. Set boundaries

There is such an abundance of rude questions, not to mention people who ask them, that you could spend all day thinking of sarcastic responses. Instead of wasting your valuable time, have a few standard replies that work in a variety of situations, but more importantly, set a boundary for yourself.

As long as the question involve certain topics that you are uncomfortable with answering, decide to not respond with an answer at all. This is usually a last resort method, but by ignoring that person, it lets them know that you consider them rude for asking such a question.

If it's a close friend, you may want to respond seriously and transparently in hopes that he/she will not ask you those questions again. Pause, smile, and say, “Did you really just ask me that? Why would you ask me such a rude question?”

If that person is someone important to you, and sees you as important too, it will help your friendship become stronger by talking it out. 

Signs that it's time to clear your wardrobe

Signs that it's time to clear your wardrobe

Admit it. The last time you actually cleaned out your wardrobe was probably during Chinese New Year when your mother insisted on you taking part in some form of spring cleaning.

Well. We're coming to the end of February. How's your wardrobe doing? Almost everyone agrees that wardrobes should cleaned out regularly so get to declutter, as well as prevent yourself from purchasing too many clothes.

As we grow older, our fashion tastes evolve and we get to reevaluate some of our clothing choices. (Camisoles and black bra straps combo, anyone?) If any of these following signs resonate with you, it may be time to start clearing out that wardrobe:

1. Because it's a damn mess

If your wardrobe looks like it was taken straight from the set of a movie about a lazy, spoiled teenager, you probably already know you need to clean it out. If you’re overwhelmed by the mere thought of it, here’s a complete closet organization checklist to kick start that clearing.

2. You've started working

If you're a fresh graduate looking to start your first job soon, you'll know that there's going to be some major clothes buying happening soon. If you're going to be working in an office, there's going to be blazers and buttoned-down shirts, and other office-appropriate attire.

Even if you're going to be working outside of an office environment, there's still a need to evaluate your wardrobe to make sure it’s work-appropriate.

3. You've started working and are constantly running late in the mornings

Use this opportunity to move your work clothes to the easiest-to-reach spots in your wardrobe to be more efficient in the mornings. You can also consider piecing together a work "uniform". Just like how Steve Jobs wears the same outfit of black turtleneck and jeans, you can put together button-down shirt, dress pants, and ballet flats as your go-to outfit. 

Another way to time-save is to choose simple outfits. The ladies may find dresses a lot easier to wear and accessorize, as compared to deciding on separate tops and bottoms.

4. You begin working out regularly 

Your new year's resolution for exercising regularly is going extremely well, and your new activity is requiring new clothes. Whether it's going to the gym or picking up rock-climbing, support your healthy habits by dedicating an entire fitness drawer to gym clothes.

This makes it easier to retrieve and wear your workout gear. Not to mention also easier to store them back after they're washed, instead of tossing them on your chair and watching them pile up over the weeks...

5. You've gotten older (and your clothes haven't)

If you're still wearing the same clothes you wore 5 or 10 years ago, congratulations, it obviously shows you have not gain an ounce of weight over the years. But it's also long past the time for a good clothing overhaul. This is especially important if you're not even wearing those old clothes, but they are still tucked somewhere in your wardrobe taking up space and growing moldy. 

6. You need some cash

Is your wardrobe stuffed with clothes you've only worn once and then regretted buying? Or clothes that you've grown out for both physically as well as emotionally? Grab a few friends and rent a table at the next flea, or post them all up on Carousell to see how much your clutter is worth to someone else. Selling your used clothes is a great way to declutter your wardrobe, as well as earn some extra lunch money. 

7. You're feeling down

If you’re feeling sad or stressed, studies have shown that a good bout of cleaning can help to reduce levels of diurnal cortisol, a measure of stress. So the next time you're feeling blue, blast some music on Spotify and give that wardrobe a good tackle. Watching that mess turn into orderliness may just work wonders for your mood. 

4 foods that are good for health, but actually bad for digestion

4 foods that are good for health, but actually bad for digestion

A strong digestive system ensures that you won't suffer all sorts of digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. It will also prevent other health issues such as weight gain, eczema, chronic exhaustion and asthma.

Good digestion starts in the mouth. Some foods may seem healthy, and they are, but if you already have a weak stomach or are just recovering from an illness, it's best to not each so much of these 4 foods as they can be harmful to your digestion. 

1. Chocolate

While it’s not the healthiest of choices, a little bit of chocolate (especially dark chocolate) can serve as an energy boost after a strenuous workout.

But if you suffer from constipation or irritable bowel syndrome, chocolate can actually worsen the symptoms. Those with lactose intolerance may also react badly to the dairy in milk chocolate as it stimulate cramps, bloating, and diarrhoea.

2. Diary Products

Speaking of dairy, while getting the right amount of calcium is crucial in a balanced diet, many people can develop lactose intolerance from the diary found in milk and cheese. It can cause a lot of discomfort such as bloating, gas, and cramps.

The problem occurs when a person doesn’t make enough of the lactase enzyme which helps break down the lactose in dairy products. If you find yourself experiencing an upset tummy often after ingesting high lactose foods such as soft cheeses and milk, it's time to stop.

3. Berries

While berries can be full of vitamins and antioxidants, the types of berries that have tiny seeds in them such as strawberries, kiwi and figs can pose a risk to the digestive system especially those that have suffered from intestinal inflammation, infection or appendicitis before.

Eating these berries could cause them to get lodged in the intestinal pockets and create much discomfort while eating, so perhaps it's best to avoid eating too much of them. Or if you do want to eat them, to make sure you have a glass of water handy to wash the seeds down.

4. Corn

While corn is full of fibre and may seem like a good food for our digestion, it actually contains cellulose, which is a type of fibre that we are unable to digest due to us missing a certain enzyme in our bodies.

The fibre is corn actually ends up going in and coming out of our bodies in pretty much the same state. Our body has a hard time digesting it, and if your stomach is actually feeling weak either due to recovering from an illness or being lactose intolerance, it will be good to avoid corn in your diet. 

How to have a good school-life balance

How to have a good school-life balance

Ask to take a peek into any Singaporean students' calendar and you can bet that it's packed to the brim. A typical weekday can consist of school, followed my remedial classes or CCAs; then it's back home for dinner, and home tuition straight after.

With ballet lessons, piano lessons, friends, parents and homework all demanding for your time, how can you mix school and family, yet still make time to care of yourself? It's definitely possible. Here are some tips to help you juggle without losing balance.

1. Learn to compartmentalize

If you feel like you’re being pulled in different directions constantly, it helps to mentally divide all those responsibilities into three areas — your school work, your family and your self. School work includes your tuition and/or other lessons such as learning a new instrument or skill. Your family includes activities and spending time with your parents, siblings or relatives. Your self includes exercising, maintaining relationships with your friends and other social activities like serving in church or volunteering at an animal shelter.

You’re not going to naturally cover all three areas every day, so you need to consciously decide how best to nurture each area. Often, it all mixes together. Sometimes, you may find yourself doing all three at once like thinking about that maths assignment you have not completed while spending time with your family on a Saturday, and you all happen to be walking at East Coast Park before dinner, so you're getting in your exercise.

By compartmentalizing, you'll not feel so overwhelmed and stressed out by everything lumping together, and you'll also begin to see that all these responsibilities actually add to creating a balanced, full life. 

2. Be flexible about what deserves your attention the most

You're not going to be able to achieve perfect balance between school, family, and personal care every day. In fact, it's practically impossible. Some mornings you'll wake up thinking, "Okay! This is what's going to happen today" and lay out your schedule mentally to decide what deserves your attention the most.

But by mid-afternoon when the entire class gets called to stay back for another 2 hours, and your friend last minute cancels on your pre-arranged dinner plans, and all the things you wanted to happen today goes awry, you're going to be upset. 

Don’t stress about it or be too hard on yourself. Allow yourself to deal with whatever surprises come your way, guilt-­free. Even if you've decided to focus your attention on a whole bunch of things, there’s never enough time to do it all. So pick and choose wisely based on what you feel needs you the most. Just remember, at this age, school will always triumph hanging out with friends. If you can, combine the two so your attention is not split up. Have more study dates with your friends instead and then go grab a meal or movie together.

3. Never let any one area overwhelm the rest

If one of those three areas (school, family, and personal) is monopolizing your time, you have to tell yourself that it’s time to put it away. Too much of something becomes a bad thing. Having time to study is great, but if you're holed up in your room mugging until you start skipping meals, then perhaps it's time to put those lecture notes away and go out for a run. 

Similarly, too much of exercising with your gym buddies until you "forgot" to study for that upcoming test is not prioritizing your time properly. It's all about self-control. At some point, one area has to give in to the other. But don't worry. Tomorrow is a brand new day and you get to go back to enriching all those areas all over again. 

6 free or cheap places you can study at

6 free or cheap places you can study at

One of the most common fixtures in Singapore's Starbucks and fast food outlets are the phenomenon of students hogging seats for hours on end to study, often nursing only a single drink. Some of them can even be spotted sleeping. 

Did you know you can save up to $766 a year by foregoing your usual Starbucks drink? Instead of hogging the tables at eating places with books and lecture notes strewn everywhere, here are 6 free or cheap places where students can study at.

1. Libraries

Libraries these days are getting pretty swanky with aesthetically pleasing interiors and plush seats. Library@Orchard has stylish reading corners, while the main National Library branch has a dedicated study room and a rooftop garden where students can take a breather in-between cram sessions. 

They also have numerous power points for laptop/phone charging, and some libraries like Ang Mo Kio Public Library and Woodlands Regional Library even have Cafe Galilee outlets inside so you can easily get a cuppa as you study. 

If you can fight the urge to stop and pose for fancy Instagram selfies, these are really conducive spaces to get lost in your lecture notes. 

2. Community Clubs 

No, community clubs (CCs) are not just places for senior citizens to go and learn sewing or do taichi, neither are they just places for you to meet your MPs during Chinese New Year. Most CCs have conducive, well-equipped study rooms. 

In Nee Soon South CC, there's an air-conditioned study room with about 20 seats opened from 9am to 10pm daily. They charge a membership fee of $12 per year. Comparatively, that's the equivalent of 2 trips to Starbucks!

Bishan CC also has a study room with about 15 tables, open from 9am to 10pm daily. During exam periods, it opens 24 hours, with snacks and drinks available for free.

3. Airport

Ranked one of the world's best airports, and in the eyes of local students, also ranked the most popular study haunts in Singapore. It's open 24/7, has free Wi-Fi, and not to mention free air-conditioning too. There are also multiple eateries for you to find comfort food when you're feeling peckish from exam stress. 

There are many peaceful common areas, like the aviation gallery at Terminal 3, where you can find students sprawled on the carpets concentrating on their Ten Year Series.

Just remember to never to leave your belongings unattended because with the high security in the area, people might notify the police if they feel your belongings are suspicious. Wouldn't want to lose that laptop three days before an exam, would you?

4. Universities

Studying here would make total sense, because these buildings are literally meant for education. Most people do not know this, but some parts of university grounds are open to public access.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) has numerous study spots. One of the more popular spots is the area in front of the Basement 1 Starbucks. It's technically the Education Resource Centre and not owned by Starbucks, so you don't really have to buy a drink to sit at the tables.

Another favourite (possibly since it's situated in the heart of town) is Singapore Management University (SMU). At the ground level and basement level, there are empty chairs and tables all around the public access areas with power plugs and Wi-Fi. So grab a table, blend in, and study away. 

5. Pay-per-use study areas

Pay-per-use study areas such as Desk Next Door and The Study Area have sprung up recently, with entrepreneurs tapping on the increasing competition among students vying for good study spaces. For a flat fee, students can book a desk space to study for hours at a stretch, and have access to Wi-Fi and power points, and even beverages and snacks.

Most of the services charge an average of $1 an hour, with cheaper rates if you book a seat for longer stretches of time. This can spur students on to study more, since the longer you sit there the less you pay. 

6. Hospitals

So I learnt this recently for myself while visiting a sick relative at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Yishun. There were students all around the ground level hanging out and studying at the available tables. I guess they enjoyed the quietness and sense of calm and serenity. If you're not germophobic about catching a virus, the area can be quite conducive and beautiful with the sprawling view of Yishun Pond stretching into the distance. 

Hospitals are also open round the clock. While there's no convenient access to power plugs, there’s usually free Wi-Fi courtesy of Wireless@SG.

4 fun things to do when your friends come visit this Chinese New Year

4 fun things to do when your friends come visit this Chinese New Year

There's nothing greater than heading over to your buddy's house to "bai nian", spend some quality time with friends, and receive an ang bao on top of having fun.

Most Singaporeans will go to a karaoke lounge or darts bar to amuse themselves, but how about turning your home into a space to do those exact same things so you don't have to spend your ang bao money that soon.

Here are 4 fun (and free!) things to do with friends this Chinese New Year:

Sing KTV

Have you ever asked yourself, in the middle of a karaoke session with drunken friends, why you were actually paying $30 to listen to the world’s worst singer for 2 hours? Now, your life would have been so much better if your friends had been singing back at your place. Not only would you not have had to pay to listen to awful singing, your neighbours would also have promptly put a stop to the tone-deaf warbler.

Easily recreate the KTV experience at home. And no, you don’t even have to spend a few hundred bucks on one of those overpriced karaoke machines loaded with Jay Chou songs.

First, get two wireless microphones, which can be bought on Qoo10 for less than $20. Then, find the karaoke version of virtually every song that exists in an actual karaoke lounge on YouTube (The karaoke version is the video whereby the singer’s voice has been cut out and lyrics flash across the screen).

Coupled with an internet connection and a laptop, you have your very own personal karaoke system! (angry neighbour not included) 

Throw Darts

I personally think dart bars are one of the dodgiest places with the garish neon lights and rows of blinking dart machines. But they are actually one of the popular past times of Singaporeans who consider the game a challenge. Of course, most others would see it as just another way to keep you occupied when there’s an awkward lull in the conversation.

Why pay when you can buy your own dart board for less than $40? Get a basic set on Qoo10, or if you’re a more serious player you might want to invest in a better board from a merchant like this one. Buy a few bottles of beer from the supermarket, and you and your buddies are all set for the night.

Watch Movies

The average Singaporean visits the cinema 4.2 times a year, which is remarkably high by global standards. Most don't realise that all this sinking into cool, springy seats in the air-conditioned darkness of a cinema adds up to a lot of money spent. 

Watching a movie on Chinese New Year for example, can cost on average $12. Even higher if it's a blockbuster that's newly released that week. 

If you're not in a rush to catch the latest movie once it's out, get a VGA cable on Qoo10 for less than $15 to connect your laptop to a bigger screen like a tv or another computer screen. If you or your friends have a Netflix account, you can stream the latest movies for free. Even if none of you have an account, you can sign up free for a month, but don't forget to cancel the account before it starts charging. 

Buy some chips or microwavable popcorn from the supermarket, and enjoy the show.

Play Mahjong

The quintessential sound of Chinese New Year is either "gong xi gong xi gong xi niiiii~" blaring through the shopping malls' speakers, or the shuffling sound of mahjong tiles.

In mahjong, there is some skill and memory work involved. (It has been scientifically proven that mahjong prevents dementia) And for some reason, the Chinese like to put their hard-earned money in the hands of fate when playing mahjong, to try and reap more than what they have put in. 

Because we live in an amazing world, if you don't have mahjong tiles or table, you can now rent one for $20 from here. Mahjong tiles can also be bought for as low as $2 at Cash Converters. But based on personal experience, I have knocked on neighbours' doors to ask to borrow a mahjong table before and been successful. Nothing beats the spirit of community during the Lunar New Year. 

6 ways to help you get better sleep

6 ways to help you get better sleep

Did you know we spend up to 40% of our lives sleeping? With that much time spent snoozing away, shouldn't we want to ensure that we get the best type of sleep possible? 

Most of us know that getting a good night's sleep is vital for our overall health and help us stay alert the following day, but too few of us actually make those eight hours with our heads on the pillow a priority. To help you remember how being really, really rested feels like, here are 6 tips to help you sleep better. 

1. Know how much sleep you should get for your age

The National Sleep Foundation released the results of a global study that took more than two years to complete. The results provided a guideline on how much sleep we really need at various stages of our lives. 

Which means if you're in tertiary studies (between the age of 18-25), you will require 7-9 hours of sleep every night to function optimally. Whereas if you are between the age of 14-17 years, studying in secondary school, you will need slightly more sleep of at least 8-10 hours every night.

Keeping to your optimal sleep range will ensure that you constantly feel rested and performing at your peak.

2. Have a nighttime routine that will ease you easily into bedtime

Lying in bed face-up on your pillow watching YouTube videos is the perfect kind of sleep sabotage. Not to mention it also increases your chances of dropping your phone on your face. Blue light from your phone screen tricks your body into thinking it's still daytime and keeps your brain stimulated. 

Help ease yourself into a restful state by cutting out all vigorous activities like exercise, as well as caffeine and alcohol 3 hours before you go to bed. You can make it even easier to fall asleep by taking a hot bath or reading a book an hour before you say goodnight. 

3. Get the right type of pillow

If you have been sleeping on the same yellowing pillow since primary school, perhaps it's time to replace it with one that will actually support and cradle your head. Better yet, get a pillow that is best suited for your sleeping style.

If you like to sleep facing up, a memory foam pillow will be most ideal as the dense foam will mold to your neck and head and cradle it properly as you sleep. If you are a stomach sleeper, there is nothing better than the delicate fluff of down pillows; which are also cushiony and reduces perspiration during sleep. Side sleepers will benefit from polyester pillows which comes in a variety of thickness, depending on whether you sleep in air-con or with fan breeze. 

Now that you know the type of pillow you should get, a good place to go to is Ikea, where you can find a proper one for as low as $12.90.

4. Make your bed smell wonderful

According to The National Sleep Foundation, any smell that helps you relax can help you get to sleep faster. I personally love lavender, and crawling into bed with the scent all around me is very soothing by itself. There are a couple of ways to make your bed and space around it smell great. 

Singaporeans seem to be obsessed with scented candles down, so make a trip to the nearest Yankee Candle to sniff around for a scent that is calming to you (just be careful to blow them out before you fall asleep). Room sprays and reed diffusers are a good alternative if you are worried you'd wake up to burning curtains. A simple hack is to add a few drops of essential oil to a spray bottle, add some water, shake well and spritz on your bedsheets and blanket. By the time you finish brushing your teeth, the dampness will have dried and you can crawl into a tiny slice of heaven.

5. Listen to soothing podcasts 

If you find it hard to put aside your phones when you're in bed, you might as well make them work for you. Listen to some soothing podcasts that tell non-stressful stories. Some great ones are Sleep With Me or Welcome to Night Vale.

I can also personally recommend this. On nights when I can’t seem to calm down because I have too much going on in my brain, I listen to either of these podcasts to help distract myself and to unwind (disclaimer: although Night Vale can be a little too exciting some episodes)

6. Start tracking your sleep 

We can all do without hitting snooze ten times every morning until our mums barge into the room yelling that we're going to be late for school. Make use of technology to help you track your sleep so you can monitor your sleep patterns, as well as wake up calmly.

You can download tons of apps like Calm to help you relax, track, and monitor your sleep habits. But I personally like the Bedtime feature that now comes in almost every iPhone's clock app that can help you achieve more consistent sleep. See how it works here