139 When You Realize It's Been a Full Year Already...

One more post before this and I would've been writing my 140th! For 2014! Damn.
This image is mine. Do not take without crediting.
I'll be heading overseas to visit some relatives for the New Year tomorrow, and hence won't have my laptop with me when 2014 knocks to do my quintessential "let's look back at the old year" post. Thus, here I am, doing it two days early! I'll be looking back at last year's post, to review how I've fared on my challenges and resolutions, and set some new ones for the year ahead.

(I apologize if the image above is super contrived. But I've never known a year ahead so void of schedule or certainty, so I'll need all the contrived luck I can get!)

Looking back at last year's post:

  1. "Things I'm worried about for 2013: A levels. That's just it, actually." And I was right to be worried! Not so much about the exams but its preparations. The papers flew by really quickly, and though of course there were days when studying was really unfruitful and laborious, one month on I'm quite prepared to say I'm proud of the effort I put in, and there aren't any regrets that come to mind right now. (I suppose I'll say differently when the results come out.)
  2. "I want to be content." I must say I actually failed on this one. What I have learnt is to deal with the discontented feelings as they come with a calm and rational mindset. That to be emotionally affected by heavy blows is perfectly alright, but letting them weigh you down is not. Also, that it is definitely not okay to carry others' crosses. 
  3. "...to continue wearing that red asymmetrical skirt." 'Smatter of fact, I sold it off yesterday. But I must say it has earned back its two years' worth of wardrobe place: most memorably, at Nanyang Homecoming two years ago! Also, oxblood (or 'wine', as it is now called) seems to be a perpetually stylish colour, though oddly enough not predominant in my wardrobe. 

Looking back at 2013:
Things I'm grateful for
  1. My family. For being the perfect sounding board for all my crazy ideas and emotions, for bearing through dinners when I was alternatively surly or unnaturally hyperactive, for not commenting as I consistently overdressed every Sunday (especially during A levels period), and for not saying anything when my shower playlist turned emotional. To put it lightly.
  2. Friends from every corner. I may not talk to each of you all the time but you have each of you been a crucial pillar of support for me at different times. For my 409 friends, for reminding me how to laugh at the silliest times; for my A14 friends, for going through our newest and strangest struggles together; for my ballet friends, for giving me a telescope to the world outside my school; for everyone else who has some way or another reminded me that life is a jigsaw puzzle and it's best not to get too caught up by one piece.
  3. The church. The heavily allegorical architecture of St. Mary's has lent me to my subconscious resolution for 2013: to find, in every Mass, something to reflect on. This has ranged from the day's Reading to even the words that are repeated every Sunday but fail to sink in: for example, the previously quoted "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life", and even "Peace be with you." Finding these pockets of peace has been immensely helpful to get me through each week.

Things I've learnt
  1. You are never too good for anyone, or anything. Open your mind to make friends from every quarter, however much you may have written them off before. Same goes for pursuing interests.
  2. You're always going to know more now than you knew then, to rephrase Taylor Swift. In other words, there is no place for regrets, only new lessons learnt.
  3. Patience is a virtue. In lessons, in relationships. And hard work is always more fulfilling than none.
  4. You can't regret it if you were being true to yourself. You may be sad about the consequences but you can't truly regret them if they didn't arise from your actions. If someone else's beliefs and thought processes are responsible for landing you in your bad position, then don't be bitter, but don't cut yourself up about it either. Just move on. 
  5. You'll never know everything: about anyone, or anything. 

Looking ahead at 2014:
Things I'm worried about:
  1. Primarily, my A level results, and that of my university and scholarship applications. I only pray my hardest that this time next year will land me somewhere I am happy to be. But then again, that is one of the things I have learnt about myself: I am "stronger than I think", and that ultimately what is more important than where I end up, is what I make of it. 
  2. Where am I going?!

Things I want to learn:
  1. Don't compare yourself to the 2%.
  2. Stop being so harsh on yourself. Which is related to #1. This is my key personal goal for 2014. 
  3. Stop being so harsh on others.  Auntiedom can come at the cost of being hurtful to others, and that's something I want to avoid in 2014. 

(I don't know why but my descriptions all got shorter and shorter)
(Maybe because it's already midnight now)
(Or because I'm running away from the fact that my second 2013 resolution was to 'get fitter')
-I'll try to sleep earlier in 2014.

138 How To Tackle Flea Markets, Warehouse Sales, and Bargains of Any Kind

Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Photo credit: Pinterest
I haven't had the best history with sales.

When it comes to warehouse sales, my first experience was Love, Bonito's last year. It was something that I really wanted to go to but hadn't made up my mind on, especially since it was on a school night, but when my shopping buddy turned out to be free that evening, we embarked on a madcap journey, which consisted us taking a bus to my house after school, me lending her a dress to wear since she hadn't come prepared, and us taking a cab all the way to the business district where the sale was being held. We arrived about half an hour (or less) before they were due to close on the last day, and consequently shopped around like a pair of hassled chickens till they told the shoppers to wrap up. 

I bought a lavender dress that day that I still haven't worn till this day. It fits alright, but I should've known I wouldn't be too comfortable with anything with spaghetti straps. I distinctly remember my mindset being, "I don't care if I don't particularly like it-- I've come this far-- I can't leave empty-handed!" It's an easy mindset to slip into, given the frazzled nature of the experience, the time limit, and the very enticing 'sales' signs everywhere. (That, and seeing LB's owners like celebrities at the entrance. Consider me starstruck.)

Today I went for my second: Her Velvet Vase's. I was tempted by the tastefully done adverts (which, by the way, promised a "spring garden sale"), the posh venue (Marriott Hotel! in Orchard Road!), and the fact that though I had mysteriously never purchased from them before, I did have my eye on a few items online that I hoped would be at the sale. 

I went with my mum, and as we neared the entrance (and passed by more and more girls with happy faces and full fabric bags with the brand logo printed on the front), I became more and more excited. It's like Confessions of a Shopaholic says: shopping is like visiting a volcano. You'll get more and more signs as you reach the core.

However, the sale turned out to be rather disappointing. I suppose being a few hours late cost us the best designs, and so we left without buying anything, sadly enough. We then went on to Far East Plaza (where four dresses in different shops tempted me profusely, but ended up being tossed into the "nice, but not wow" category), Topshop Knightsbridge (also with tempting "50% SALES" signs, only with the small caveat discovered later, "for members"), and 313 Somerset. My Christmas ang bao money ended up being spent in my last stop: Forever 21, where I hadn't expected to find anything other than pretty-from-far clothes made of crepe chiffon. 

a navy button-up of sturdy cotton, and burnished gold dress shorts in what feels like Thai silk- for $15 apiece!
Which brings me to the subject of my post: how to tackle flea markets, warehouse sales, and bargains of any kind! I decided after my last How To post that all this time spent perusing racks and magazines alike must be put to good use, so here are my best tips:
  1. What you wear to the sales is as important as what you'll be leaving it with. If you're going to a get-down-and-dirty sale like HVV's (or like any warehouse sale, for that matter), do as the Romans and wear as body-hugging and unobtrusive clothes as you can without being skanky. I noticed several girls wearing tank tops and denim shorts (with, perhaps, a layer over that could be peeled off easily, like a flannel shirt) to the warehouse sale, then shimmying gowns over it. This's a useful plan of attack for places with no fitting rooms.
    For places that do have fitting rooms, however, consider things with: no layers, no belts, no buttons, and basically something that can be zipped on and off, like a dress. (Dresses, however, are tricky if you're shopping with someone else and want to come out of the fitting room to show them a top you have on, because then half your dress will be hanging around your hips and that is hardly flattering for anyone. Bring a full set to try on, even if you don't want to buy half of it, if so.)
    And, most importantly, be comfortable. Nothing zaps a shopping trip faster than you clumping along in heels you should've broken in or left in the house in the first place, or you slouching because your clothes don't sit well. 
  2. Consider each piece as if it wasn't on sale. Now, what I normally read is "ask yourself if you'd buy it at the original price", but we all know the sales price plays a huge part of the decision, particularly if the original price is way out of your range. My edited tip: "ask yourself if you'd buy it at the sales price, but without knowing it was on sale". For example, a dress may seem like a huge bargain if the price tag reads it was $50 slashed to $15, but consider that the material is cheap and will likely snag soon and it isn't even worth paying the fifteen dollars.
    Pay attention to cut, material, design, and whether it fits your style and your existing wardrobe, whether or not the item is discounted.
  3. Discard anything that does not 'wow' you immediately. For places with no fitting rooms, this is particularly true unless you are looking for basics. If you hang on to things with only a 'meh' impression on you, chances are you're under the "BUT IT'S A SALE" mentality. If you are shopping for basics, again, take note of cut, material, design, and fit. For places with fitting rooms, this allows you a bit more time to model in front of the mirror and think about it, but be warned: the more you stare, the more you may be inclined to just go "ahh, let's just pay already". Take note of your gut instinct, things that say, "but I don't quite like this neckline", or "this colour looks a little dull on my skin tone". It's like a relationship: it may look good on paper, but if it doesn't fit in real life, discard it. Trust the photos, not the paper!
  4. That being said, take time to walk around. This is to (a) find the best deals, particularly if an item looks like it may be sold elsewhere (very common with blogshop items); (b) think about items you love, but are costly (like this $56 cheongsam I tried on today-- lovely, but way out of the budget!); and (c) consider what you really need in your closet anyway. Shops leverage on the time of the year very heavily during festive periods. You need to really consider if the item you're buying will last beyond whatever period you're buying it in/from. (Partly why I didn't buy the cheongsam- when else am I going to wear it?!)
  5. Don't be afraid to walk away empty-handed. If it wasn't meant to be, it wasn't meant to be. Que sera sera!
Hope this helps. If anyone has any more tips, please let me know! :)

137 Merry Christmas!

Have yourself a very Merry Christmas!

Have yourself a very Merry Christmas! by adaydreamer featuring christmas jumpers

Early, I know.

Also, I edited the template! Finally! I was inspired by K is for Kani's new template, which is minimalist, clean, and beautiful, but I love my green owls too much to let them go. Instead, I played with fonts, colours, and borders: and gave myself a new profile on the right.

Photo credit: ReactionGIFs.com


136 Sticks and Stones

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

Such an innocuous chant, with the rhythm of a nursery rhyme, but somehow I feel I'm never able to reach the state of nirvana it describes. It takes a great deal of strength of character not to be impacted by words, spoken or otherwise. 

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about the person I've become, and how easily I have slipped into the habit of letting disparaging comments about other people slide: from my mouth and others'. Nearly every Sunday at Mass, the congregation is dismissed with the words, "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life." Have I been glorifying Him with my life? What worth is my peace if it comes at the cost of others'?

Often I spend very long thinking about how others have hurt me, without sparing a thought for how I have hurt others. 

Being jealous used to be my key problem; but being prideful is another, seemingly contradictory, yet equally pressing, one. More insidious than the outward displays of arrogance are the little voices in your head that think, "I'm so much better," "She doesn't deserve this," "Who does she think she is?!" (Even the littlest of voices. Those that go, "She's too fat to be wearing that dress." And you're too unimportant to be making that judgment!) It's these voices that lead to words, and actions, and attitudes.

I went for Confession on Thursday, just before Advent ends. Confession, for non-Catholics, is when you confess your sins to a priest. He then absolves them in the name of the Lord, but it doesn't end there. It does mean that the Lord forgives you, and you can release your burden. But just like a shopaholic who has recently paid off all her debts knows, a bonus in the paycheck doesn't save you from incurring more debt. The priest also gives you penance, prayers to say as you think about why you did what you did, and how you --and the Lord-- can work to stop doing them. 

It made me think of this illustration:
Credit: Amanda Geisinger
In the illustration, God is the angry cloud, and Jesus the 'God made Man' who takes the arrows for us. But I was thinking of another explanation.

Before Jesus came, we all shot arrows at each other with our hurtful words and nasty actions. But you don't see these wounds on the surface; they're below the skin, festering hurts, gathering habits. Over time these accumulate, weakening us, and yet we don't know any other way to live, so we continue taking aim. Now imagine Jesus diving in front of arrows for us, while healing old wounds. He strengthens us, and protects us, but we have to remember we are not just the victim.

We are also the perpetrators of wounds and hurts.

It would make Jesus's job so much easier if we just stopped shooting.

And that, for me, is my main takeaway from Confession this year.

135 Help me clear my closet! :)

I have edited the blog template of my selling blog to make it easier to navigate and purchase. Sold items will, as usual, be removed to prevent confusion. Help me clear my closet and bring home something lovely for yourself or as a gift at the same time! :)

134 A-Twirlin'

Went to KissJane Citylink today and, um, accidentally bought two dresses. I'm already imagining tea parties... Read my review here.

132 What to Wear: Job Interviews

After being quizzed on what to wear for a job interview by a friend, and after facing that very same difficulty myself, I have compiled a collection of 4 looks for job interviews of varying levels of formality. I must disclaim two things: (1) these are assuming you are a fresh graduate, looking to intern or do simple admin jobs: this (at least, according to my mother) affects the level of formality that is in turn expected of you; (2) I am not an expert by any means. If you somehow have the advice of a style expert at hand, who is very familiar with etiquette at the workplace, by all means discard this guide, and tell me what you find out!

I myself went for a job interview a few weeks ago, and successfully landed an internship at an e-commerce firm which sells clothes. I will not reveal its name yet as I somehow don't feel it's right at this juncture, but suffice to say it has been featured here before and I am a big fan, so I am very excited to start work come the new year! My work will generally be learning all I can, but from my talk with the founder I can surmise it will comprise marketing, graphic design, writing, and other bits and bobs; all of which I love, of course.

What I wore: a grey cotton 3/4-sleeve top, my white Melanie skirt from Missypixie (reviewed here), a pair of white canvas loafers from H&M (bought at $5 and then worn all over Chiangmai on my recently concluded holiday-- what a steal! though it is right now very grubby and needs a scrub), and my much loved Kenix clutch, also from Missypixie. Kenix is cobalt blue, and hence served as my pop of colour in an otherwise greyscale outfit. As you can see, I've pretty much stuck to the plan with the second set above, 'Just Popping By', except reversing white for black. I think it's a pretty fool-proof look for someone just out of school!

Okay, just a few general tips, if you're completely clueless (this serves for general day-to-day 'WHAT DO I WEAR' conundrums, too):
  1. Find out your body type, and Google for what flatters you most. This is important, as it helps you carry yourself better with more poise and confidence. They say looks don't matter, but they certainly help cement a good first impression. Right off the top of my head, high-waisted skirts that hit one or two inches above the knee are good for hourglass or pear shapes with thick thighs. 
  2. Google is your best friend. This works in any case. Be resourceful! If it doesn't give you answers, it will at least give you a clue as to what to expect, or give you a nudge in the right direction to figure things out for yourself. Goes for 'what does smart casual mean', 'what does XX company do', 'what to expect at an interview', etc. etc. 
  3. Look at the right people. Not the competition, but those who have already landed the job! That's who you want to emulate. Hence, if all the people working at the firm you're applying to wear buttoned-up shirts and pencil skirts (as they do in law firms), you should expect to meet that level of formality if you land the job too. Then again, do take note of seniority: as an intern, you do not need to be as dressed up as, say, the partners of the company, though you still do need to take into account that as an employee you will be representing the firm. 
  4. Stock up on good basics. Light shopping before the interview is good if you have just graduated and have zilch workwear, even those you can pinch from your parents. Just one set of separates (a button-up blouse in a solid colour and soft material, and a flattering pair of trousers/skirt) will do until you land your job. Then do your research and fill your closet with things than can work both in and out of the office. When I went for my internship interview, the girls who weren't at the forefront of customer service were basically wearing shorts as they edited spreads, etc. So I haven't been busying myself with formal wear, but have gotten myself clean ballet flats and low-heeled sandals that will look presentable, but not too formal. 
  5. When in doubt, wear a white button-up blouse. Google (or search your wardrobe) for what shade of white works best for you. For me, it's a very, very light cream: just a tinge of off-white. Roll up your sleeves and undo a button if everyone around you looks super casual; cuff your sleeves at your wrists and button up all the way if everyone else (at the workplace) is doing so. Such blouses also go with jeans (preferably straight-leg, to mimic a trouser) or flippy skirts (once again, about two inches above the knee, nothing too short) well when you don't want to be too formal. 
I keep emphasizing formality, but really it's all about appropriateness. Keep things appropriate for your age and your target audience. Keep silhouettes clean and simple, and stay away from anything overtly trendy: fringed bags, studded collars, and the like. Then again, this could be my classic preferences talking...

To further illustrate my point, here're two pictures of items I own and love, and two paragraphs of me blathering on about why I love them:
Clutch: Missypixie 'Kenix'
At the most I've pushed it, Kenix can fit: passport | cardigan | book | pen, plasters, hair ties | valuables (iPod, wallet, phone | water bottle, for travelling; or: cardigan | umbrella | pen, etc | valuables, and, I'm sure, even more. Plus its sling can be adjusted or even removed for a night out! I sound like I'm selling this, but really I'm not; I just love it that much, and am tempted to buy the other colour (cream) and/or the same colour to hoard and keep forever. I find myself dressing in blues just so I can carry this out!
Shoes: Charles & Keith (scores at the outlet store in Anchorpoint Mall today!)
I found these two beauties for $19.90 each. Which is amazing, because (1) they usually cost twice that much; (2) these actually fit my humongously huge feet; (3) they have 2 inch block heels, which are so rare to find! My only quibble is that these seem to be factory discards, as the anti-slip stickers on the soles seem more bubble wrap than anti-slip. Hopefully with prolonged wear they will be better! :) I've loved the shoes on the left since I saw them on Drea Chong way back in August, and then on Cleo in November. I even emailed Charles & Keith to ask about them, but got no reply, and hunted physical stores to no avail. Seems like providence was waiting for this very moment to deliver these babies at a steal! :)

Okay, very chunky post, sorry sorry sorry, verbal diarrhea is one of my key problems. Hope this post has helped anyone who needed it! :)

131 Promenade

Looks like the Bangkok leg of our trip is going to be cancelled due to the protests, which have shown no sign of slowing down :( I can't say how incredibly disappointed I am. Like I mentioned in my earlier post, we'd abstained from holidays due to my A levels, and sometimes I miss Bangkok so much it gets visceral. I must say the memories have gotten blurred around the edges as it's now been four years since we moved (!!), but sometimes I want to get away to somewhere messy instead of geometric. Plus, the shopaholic side of me is very sad that I have been saving up for nothing.

In the meantime, partially to cheer myself up, I've made an inspiration board for my prom look. Prom is in 3 days! Yay! ...It also means I only have 3 days to figure out how the Duchess of Cambridge does. her. hair. It is so amazingly beautiful!! I am very lucky I managed to score pearl-accented bobby pins from Accessorize (on sale) (best luck) the other day, because I've been looking for them ever since... the Duchess of Cambridge did her hair that way. Which was on the Jubilee Tour, last year.

On more recent inspirations, though, Suki Waterhouse's make-up is simply amazing. I liked her lilac gown too, despite its revealing nature-- perhaps I'm just a sucker for lilac and lace. I'm very glad I held on to a lilac eyeshadow I received as a gift ... maybe four years ago. (When you only wear make-up once or twice a year, you don't really bother buying new palettes.)

The night of prom's going to be super busy as I have to juggle getting ready for prom with getting ready for another big event-- my Oxford interview! Fingers majorly crossed. I've never felt so dimwitted.

[unedited] Also, just came back from a 3D2N stay at Changi. Ahh...

130 Jet Set

Pastel Jetset

Pastel Jetset by adaydreamer featuring Topshop

We'd planned a trip to Chiangmai, then Bangkok, for next week, so please pray that the protests will end by then! This has literally been pushing me through my A levels.

129 Old Gold

Photo taken by me; do not repost without credit.
Because life goes on and July afternoons turn to old gold...
-Graham Swift, 'Waterland'
(I can't believe that book is no longer my exam text. But I still appreciate Swift's lyrical moments, even if they are more than occasionally stuffed down your throat.)

One week of official freedom has gone by already! I can't believe how fast time flies, cliched as that sounds. Recently some events have happened that have made me question exactly how much I have grown and the strength of my commitment to the ethos mentioned in this post, that God's call does not require achievements. Sometimes I can't help but second guess myself and think that I was so much better two years ago; but then I have to remind myself of all the times I tried to be someone I wasn't, and how miserable that made me feel. There is no doubt I have grown somehow more introverted, readier to think than act, but hopefully, "[the day will come] when the risk it took to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." (Anais Nin) There is no glory in acting on the impulse and failing to take into consideration other people's feelings, but there is also no glory in thinking too much of other people's opinions and never getting up as a consequence. I guess I'm still finding that rickety balance.

It's a balance that also needs to be found on my own, without the need to bring anyone down with me. It is so much easier to feel better about yourself when someone else is doing equally, if not more, crappily. But, as Nick Joaquin said, “... the moment you start thinking of yourself alone, absolutely alone, and related to nothing and to no one, you realize it’s silly to worry and fuss over what you are. You are simply what you are. And you feel as if you had closed a door forever on everything that’s unpleasant.” 

My parents have both asked me, Do you have a back-up plan? And by that, they mean "a back-up plan other than Law", because, as much as I have applied to certain universities as my 'back-up', I have seldom considered what I would do if I do not get into Law. It's a tough call, especially since two years ago, I hadn't even considered Law as my final option, and now, it seems so unmoveable. Sometimes I find it hard to justify why I want to go into Law --a trip-up I hope won't happen in my interviews-- but apart from it appealing to the side of me that likes justice, responsibility, and respectability, I also like how it seems to combine my conflicting sides: the rational (sometimes coldly so) side of me that is always harsh on myself, and the emotional side of me that leads me to want to listen to, and tell, stories.

I said I hoped I would reconcile myself with whatever results I get, and this is going to be hard because even one week after freedom I'm still going through some papers in my head, thinking of things I should have written. It's going to be so much easier to reconcile with if I still get into a Law course I'd like. And as noble as it would be to pledge to reconcile myself with my results whatever happens, I'm still hoping for the best.

Perhaps my New Year's resolution next year should be to stop comparing myself with the 2%.

In the meantime, as I did not manage to secure the internship I wanted, I will have to start looking out for jobs I can do. During my exams I couldn't wait to begin-- think of all the myriad possibilities!-- but somehow I feel the sword of judgment coming down upon me, and I fear my greatest fear is not the lack of companionship but being so weighed down by what others think of me that I may never be able to fly.

A very moody post for a quite moody, a little sleepy, me. Sorry if you came here looking for something cheery! I might post some Polyvore sets next as a mood-booster, then.