Thursday, July 18, 2019

Paperless Post: Beautiful Customizable Online Invitations for Every Occasion

Service Review

I know things have been pretty quiet around here lately but I am very much alive folks! A quick trip back home kept me away from blogging for a few weeks.

So if you don’t know this already, I express myself best through words. I believe that I am more a writer than a talker (many who know me well may disagree since the latter classification suits my extrovert personality!). But I’d say I am able to convey much more through writing than speaking and that is where I am most at ease. If you are wondering where I am going with this, today's post is all about expression and communication. 

I was recently contacted my Paperless Post, an e-commerce company based in New York City that focuses on design-driven online and printed stationery. Paperless Post partners with leading fashion designers including kate spade new york, Jonathan Adler, and Oscar de la Renta. The company kindly credited my account with coins to try the Paperless Post service in exchange for a review on my blog.

Let me start by saying that I was (and probably always will be) a fan of snail mail. I still have treasured stacks of hand-written letters, birthday and holiday greeting cards from my exchanges with friends and cousins during my teenage years and early adult life. Even for my own wedding, the invitation card that I distributed to my closest friends, colleagues and teachers was carefully hand-written in my signature cursive style. I am a huge fan of the old fashioned approach.

But ever since the internet took control of our lives, this tradition is slowly fading away. It isn’t really surprising. Let’s get real - in today’s fast-paced and busy world, time is a precious commodity. Sending traditional print cards requires multiple steps from selecting and buying the card from the local store to writing  a personal note, buying a stamp and then delivering it via mailbox or post office. The whole shebang takes time and money, not to mention effort.

Online cards on the other hand come at a fraction of the cost (or sometimes even free), saves on paper, are easily accessible, can be personalized, only requires an internet connection and can be sent to anyone, anywhere in an instant! 

I’ll admit – as a mom of young girls, I receive a fair amount of birthday invitations. A few of them printed invitation cards and most others, digital cards (mainly sent through WhatsApp). It has happened a few times that I have misplaced the printed invites and spent a considerable chunk of time turning the house upside-down in order to find them! Digital cards on the other hand are easy to recover - all I have to do is whip out my phone and quickly re-confirm the date and time. Although printed cards do look and feel beautiful and convey a more personal touch, not too many people look back on the days of tedious envelope folding and stamp sticking with fondness.

The original artwork at Paperless Post is created by a collaborative group of artists, designers and letterers. Every year, over a thousand unique invitations and cards are designed in their in-house studio.

Using this platform, you can design & create your own invitations using an impressive selection of designs for birthdays, weddings, holidays, celebrations, parties, announcements and more.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Book review: the Century trilogy by Ken Follett

This is the most time-consuming and tricky book review I have ever written! Reviewing three novels (each around 800-1000+ pages long) is not a simple task as you can imagine. I can't even wrap my head around the hours of extensive research, painstaking effort and revisions the author Ken Follett took to complete them! But this is one review I just had to do it because these three books come together to form a literary masterpiece that I believe everyone should read.

Reading the Century trilogy is akin to taking a history lesson - only far more interesting than anything that comes out of a classroom! The author takes the reader on a vivid journey back in time to the events preceding World War I. Through the lives of five fictional families, he recounts the most important historical events of the twentieth century namely,
1. World War I that followed after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary with Germany and Austria-Hungary on the one hand, and Russia, France, and Great Britain on the other
2. World War II that arose from the political takeover of Germany by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party, Italian Fascism, and Japanese militarism. The principal belligerents were the Axis powers - Germany, Italy, and Japan against the Allies - France, Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union and
3. Cold War, the open yet restricted rivalry that developed after World War II between the communist states and capitalist states.


The novels narrate the story of five inextricably linked families - American, German, Russian, English and Welsh - as three generations navigate through almost 80 years that sees wars, hardship, suffering,  tyranny, uprising, political unrest and revolutions. The lives of the characters illuminate the violent and world-changing vacillations of the 20th century. The author has inserted real historical figures into the story, and their interaction with the fictional characters has been skillfully executed.

World War I was a significant turning point in the political, cultural, economic, and social climate of the world. The war and its immediate aftermath sparked numerous revolutions and uprisings. Despite the creation of League of Nations, a body that was intended to prevent future wars, the Second World War followed just over twenty years later. World War II included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war. The high-octane storytelling moves the characters through these series of events offering unique perspectives and experiences. Additionally, the reader is given insights into anti-communist uprisings, such as the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and Czechoslovakia's Prague Spring in 1968, and the botched US Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba in 1961.

Aside from the obvious history and politics, the rich story Ken Follett weaves sheds light on women's suffrage, the nuclear arms race, condition of soldiers in the trenches, American civil rights, interracial relationships, conscription, opposition to the Vietnam war, activism for freedom of speech, alternative media, sexual revolution, the changing music scene, rise of the hippie and alternative lifestyles and even experimentation with drugs.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Cafe review: Choupinette at Bukit Timah, Singapore

So, this is how a typical Whatsapp conversation with my friend Hwee Teng goes,

Me: (Getting straight to the point while skipping the social niceties and other polite shit) 
Hey HT, I want to check out XX Cafe. I've heard the XX they serve is good. 
Her: Okay!
Me: When you free?
Her: Anytime
Her: Cool! Let's catch up Sunday morning. Can? 
She: 👍👍

That's how simple it is and possibly the main reason why despite working together for barely 2 years back in 2011, we have remained good friends ever since. Apart from living in the same neighborhood, being former colleagues and sharing a common love for food, coffee, quaint desserts, food photography, travel and hazelnuts, now that she is married, we have more to jabber about! 

I have a tendency to seek no-filter friendships quite similar to the relationship I share with my sister. The kind that creates a safe space for me to be my real and true self, even the waspish, self-absorbed, petty version of me that won't win any popularity contests. I believe that the friends who have stuck by me the longest, overlook my failings in favour of my better personality traits such loyalty, integrity, reliability and accept/love (I hope!) me for who I am.

Friendship is like any other relationship - it takes time and effort. If the feelings are mutual, the effort will be equal. I can honestly say that for the two of us, this has always felt organic. We have always been able to make time for each other despite work and family commitments and I can only hope that it stays the same. She is my first choice for an accomplice when I get an invitation to review a particular restaurant or when I voluntarily want to check out any food establishment. Over the years, I’ve probably influenced her a little bit which is noticeable when her response to food evaluation is a much more thoughtful and articulate description rather than a customary nonchalant shrug accompanied by a “not bad” 😂 She is a self-confessed glutton (much like me) and so when I'm with her, I never feel judged on the amount of food I can tuck away! 

She was the one who suggested Choupinette after I wanted to catch up and hear all the details of her recent marriage registration. I'm not going to bore you with how much I love brunch (I've already highlighted that many many times on the blog!). All I'll say is that I will never ever say no to a place serving all-day breakfast. 

Choupinette has been around since 2002. It is a charming french heaven for breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea time, all-day dining.

The cafe is quite small (a hole-in-the-wall kinda thing) with a rustic homely decor yet popular and predictably crowded on weekends. Note that they don't accept reservations on weekends so you will get a seat if it is your lucky day!

As we made our way to the cafe at 10am on a bright and cheery Sunday, I noticed that the place was filled with a mix of both locals and expats, families mostly. We were fortunate that there were two tables left.

What struck me was even though the cafe was crowded, it wasn't noisy and we were able to relax and chatter the morning away!

I had heard that the eggs benny was good and so I had already decided what I was going to order. The menu at Choupinette is limited but they do have some well-loved breakfast items as well as the baked goods on display that I mentioned earlier. Aside from a la carte dishes, the cafe offers breakfast sets. All sets are served with fruit juice and any coffee or hot tea or hot chocolate.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Baker's Corner: Pumpkin Spiced Chocolate Chip Bread

You know whenever I open Instagram during the fall/autumn season, I see a deluge of pumpkin and squash recipes. An orange-kissed feast for the eyes! Every year I have this tendency to bookmark half a dozen recipes but somehow never get around to making them. 

Living in Singapore, we don't have fall. We don't have distinct seasons at all really. We have hot and humid summer all year round (and that may sound like a good thing but we do sometimes wish otherwise!). We do get rain pretty every month but it usually isn't a depressing gloomy spell of weather that seems to last forever. The rain patterns are quite random, short-lived and provide much-needed respite from the relentless heat. 

Residents of Singapore don't really have to wait for seasons to enjoy seasonal produce. Most of Singapore's fruits and vegetables are imported from the rest of the world. So, we really can enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables that are considered seasonal, all year round such as pumpkin, butternut squash, yam, beets, sweet potatoes, avocado, asparagus, melons, fresh berries, pineapple, lychee, longon, dragonfruit and stone fruits. Hitting the right vegetable and fruit seasons will obviously enhance the flavour of the produce and make the produce slightly more affordable but I don't really find it significant. Only fruits like durian and mango show up in markets during specific months and enjoy royal status! 

I use butternut squash and pumpkin in my cooking only occasionally. Mostly in soups, salads, pasta and risotto. I used to use it much more frequently when my twins were toddlers, making homemade puree and freezing individual containers to be mixed in with their food whenever suitable. I suffer from a lack of creativity when it comes to the squash family and I've been looking to change that. 

I recently wanted to bake something that would serve as an evening snack for my kids. Anything homemade surpasses the processed snacks available in supermarkets so I do occasionally make the effort. I didn't want it to be something too sweet and indulgent though. So I searched online for some pumpkin bread recipes. There are a lot of recipe out there but I sat down and formulated my own with mixed nuts and semi-sweet chocolate chips. What started off as a recipe testing actually ended up on my blog because everyone  at home loved it and I definitely would want to make this again! To me it is always a good sign if my kids ask for second (and third) helpings and hours later also remember to ask for it! I used a generous amount of homemade pumpkin puree, aromatic spices, mixed nuts and chocolate chips so the bread turned out naturally yellow hued, intoxicatingly fragrant, sweet, nutty and moist with delightful bursts of chocolate. This recipe below states 3/4 cup sugar but you can slash it to 1/2 cup if you are keen on reducing the sugar content because the inherent sweetness of the pumpkin and the chunks of chocolate make up for it. 

This is a great recipe (if I do say so myself 😉). It is very easy, doesn't require creaming/persistent beating and has pretty a simple ingredient list so as long as you can get your hands on orange pumpkin or butternut squash, you are good to go!