Singapore Diary #1: Old Favorites

During my first week in Singapore, I spent most of my time with my students at the school, though we did get to go on a tour of the city to see all the prominent neighborhoods – Chinatown, Little India, and Kampong Glam (the Malay area). Last time I was here, I mostly just walked through these streets, so it was fun to see them with an actual guide and learn more about their history. Of course, I stopped by Haji Lane and checked out the shop where I got the cat brooch (The Dulcet Fig). This time they were having a sale on their brooches so I splurged and bought two. I even met the cat again!


Chinatown at night, and the Sultan Mosque

Graffiti in Haji Lane

Little India at night

Kampong Glam’s Sultan Palace (now the Malay Heritage Center)

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown, outside…

… and inside

Lunar New Year decorations in Chinatown

And finally, here’s some gnarly-looking “medicine” being sold in Chinatown:

Dried lizards. Yum!

I’ll be back next week with new things I’ve discovered in Singapore!


Book Reviews: February 2017

It’s been a short and busy month, so I only managed 3 books, but my reactions to them vary widely, so here goes:

books_17-02

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen by Rudolf Erich Raspe:

My only knowledge of this book of tall tales comes from the adaptation by Terry Gilliam (I’ve never seen the movie, but I know of it), but it was on sale and I thought it would be a fun, quick read. Well, it’s certainly quick, but not as entertaining as I hoped. Some tales get a chuckle or two from me, others are just too random and meandering for my taste. 2/5

The Rainbow Troops by Andrea Hirata:

This book was recommended to be by one of the editors at the publishing house I freelance for, so I thought it was worth considering. It’s about a group of children on a remote Indonesian island who defy all odds to maintain their rights to an education, so I thought it would be one of those sweet, charming, inspirational children’s book (in the vein of one of my favorite books, Totto-chan). Boy, was I wrong, on both counts. This could have been a great book, but the writing was terrible. The author keeps telling us everything instead of showing us, so the inspirational becomes preachy, the moving becomes cheesy, the funny becomes cliched. And it was supposed to be semi-autobiographical, but I didn’t buy any of the stuff that happened in it nor did I connect to any of the characters. I don’t think I’m going to take a recommendation from these editors ever again. But then, these are the people who thought a pile of garbage like The Atlantis Gene (it’s not even a best-selling pile of garbage like, say, the Twilight series) is worth translating, so what did I expect? 1/5

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer:

No, this is not a sci-fi/fantasy time-traveling story, it’s just non-fiction book about life in Elizabethan England, both the good and the bad, the glorious of a “Golden Age” and the not-so-glorious. It is incredibly detailed, but it’s written like a travelogue, with chapters devoted to what to eat, what to wear, where to stay, how to travel, what to do for entertainment, etc. so it’s really easy to read. Some may find the details tedious, but I love it. I’m going to read his other book, The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England, as well. 5/5

So that’s it for me this month. What books have you guys read?


Hello From Singapore

singapore outfit by 14 shades of grey

Just a quick post to let you guys know my week in Singapore is going well. It’s been raining almost every day, so it’s a lot cooler than I expected. I could’ve worn jeans if I wanted to! Still, I didn’t regret my packing strategy – I have plenty of choices for mix-and-match. The above outfit is a good sampler of what I wear most days (often I would have to add my blazer as well, because like I said, Singaporeans like their AC set to “arctic”.) I actually left a pair of sandals at home – three pairs of shoes are plenty – and I didn’t miss them at all.

I’m pretty busy with my students in classes and on excursions so I won’t be able to post much in the next two weeks, but there will be SIA posts on Monday as usual. See you guys!


Singapore Packing List II

Remember when I went to Singapore for 3 days to see Dylan Moran back in 2015? And I said I wished I had stayed longer? Well, wish granted – I’m going to back Singapore, for 3 weeks this time, on a work trip. I’m shepherding a group of students to participate in an exchange program with another university there, which is pretty exciting. Still, I’m glad that I’ve already been to Singapore; that means I can better focus on my task and help the students instead of figuring out a new country.

Of course, it helps with the packing as well. I’ve never packed for a business trip before, but luckily it’s a pretty casual affair, so my packing list came together pretty quickly. I didn’t have the time to doodle or paint it this time, so a quick photo will have to do:

singapore packing list by 14 shades of grey

Tops: 2 button-ups (white & blue print), 2 sleeveless blouses (white & blue print), 2 dressy tees (black & white), and 2 casual tees (black & gray)

Bottoms: 2 wide-leg pants (black & white), 1 casual navy linen pants, & 1 dressy gray linen pants

Shoes: 1 pair of black flats and 2 pairs of sandals (brown & nude)

Accessories: 1 scarf, 1 necklace, 1 brooch

As you can see, it’s all light, natural fabric in neutral colors, to maximize the mix and match. Now, the difficult thing is that we’re having a cold snap here in Hanoi, meaning I’m going to travel from one climate to another. So I had to plan a separate airplane outfit, something that’s warm enough and can still be worn in Singapore:

singapore airplane outfit by 14 shades of grey

My trusty striped tee, a black blazer, black khaki pants, a big (but light) scarf, and sneakers. We’re going to walk a lot, so the sneakers are a must, and they tend to crank their AC to “arctic”, so I suspect the scarf and blazer won’t be superfluous either. With each trip, my packing gets a little better, so we’ll see how well I packed this time!


SIA Inspiration: Georgia O’Keeffe 3.0

Erin is back after her hiatus, with a pick for the next SIA – “Pond in the Woods” by SIA favorite Georgia O’Keeffe, which Erin saw at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe:

“Colorful but not overly bright” is how Erin describes it, and I think it’s spot on! I think this is my favorite O’Keeffe out of all the paintings we’ve featured in SIA, because the muted shades of blue, green, and brown are right up my alley. This shouldn’t be too hard.

Remember to send Erin (looplooks@gmail.com) your outfit by next Monday, February 13. Enjoy!


Year Of The Rooster

It’s not the Year of the Rooster until tomorrow, but I know I would be too busy celebrating (i.e. stuffing my face), so here are some photos from yesterday’s Lunar New Year market that I went with my sister. This year, my dad was so busy that all of our preparations were done beforehand, so there wasn’t that exciting rush in the few days leading up to the New Year. To make up for it, my sister and I decided to go to the Old Quarter to check out the traditional market there – not because we needed to buy anything, but because we simply wanted to bask in that atmosphere. It was quite fun, but insanely crowded. I probably wouldn’t brave it if my sister hadn’t insisted.

lunar new year market by 14 shades of grey

lunar new year market by 14 shades of grey

lunar new year market by 14 shades of grey

lunar new year market by 14 shades of greyAn often-encountered sight around the Lunar New Year: huge pots of chưng cakes boiling away

lunar new year market by 14 shades of grey

lunar new year market by 14 shades of grey

lunar new year market by 14 shades of grey

lunar new year market by 14 shades of grey
Antique stalls

lunar new year market by 14 shades of greyPiggy banks (kids are often given piggy banks at the start of a new year, for their lucky money)

lunar new year market by 14 shades of grey

lunar new year market by 14 shades of greyThese are not a Lunar New Year thing, but they’re too delicious not to be included – donut holes

So anyway, Happy the Year of the Rooster! I’ll be back next week with (hopefully) a couple of outfit posts!

year of the roosterOriginal art by my niece


Book Reviews: January 2017

It’s the last Wednesday of January, that means it’s time for the first book review post of 2017. It’s been a… pretty interesting month of reading, as you’ll see:

books_17-01

Gentlemen & Players by Joanne Harris:

As I’ve said, my reading goal for this year is to read more mysteries and thrillers, so I started with this book, which has been on my to-read list since forever. It’s set at an English private school for boys, with alternate chapters told from the points of view of an unnamed narrator who has infiltrated the school with the intention of bringing it down, and a teacher on the brink of retirement trying to figure out who the saboteur is. I was drawn to it because of the setting and because apparently there was a mind-blowing twist at the end. Now that I have read it, I have to say that the twist is not that mind-blowing as I expected – I guessed it, about halfway through the book – but it’s a very captivating, edge-of-your-seat kind of story nevertheless. 4/5

The Snowman by Jo Nesbø:

My second attempt at a mystery novel is another Harry Hole book. I’ve read Nemesis for work a while ago and thought it was enjoyable but not particularly memorable, and I was hoping that this one – which is probably the most popular of the series, considering it’s being made into a movie – would be better. It sees the anti-hero detective Harry Hole on the trail of a serial killer, who kidnaps and kills women and always leaves a snowman at the scene of the crime. I like it better than Nemesis, and the last few chapters are super suspenseful, but my impression of it remains – it’s all very standard. Harry Hole is your standard troubled detective struggling with alcoholism and an obsessive streak; his partner is your standard loose cannon; and the serial killer is your standard psychopath. It’s fun, but not great. 3.5/5

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness:

After the two mysteries, I want to read something shorter, so I went with this, even though it’s not particularly light either – it’s a dark fantasy story about a boy, whose mother is dying of cancer, that gets visisted by an ancient tree monster and is taught some Important Lessons about truths and death. A lot of people talk about how haunting this is and how it makes them cry, but I have to be the unpopular opinion here: I don’t get what the fuss is all about. It’s not bad, exactly, I just don’t have any emotional connection to it. It feels very… predictable and formulaic, to be honest. The fact that the author didn’t come up with the original idea (another writer did, but she passed away before she could write it) probably have something to do with it. I can’t help but think that if the original author had managed to write it, or if it was picked up by someone like, say, Neil Gaiman, who did this kind of stories quite well (The Graveyard Book and Ocean at the End of the Lane, anyone?), it would’ve been amazing. Sadly, it just fell flat. 2/5

Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling:

This 18th century collection of stories can best be described as a Chinese version of The Twilight Zone, as they all feature ghosts, demons, spirits and other fantastical elements. I’ve read the odd stories here and there, but didn’t get a chance to read the entire collection until now. They’re not really scary, and some can be repetitive (I’ve lost count of how many stories that are about a young man meeting a beautiful woman who turns out to be a fox demon), but they’re kinda fun too. A good “bathroom book”, because the stories are short and you can put it down anytime 😛 3/5