An Exercise In Trivial Pursuits

Fatshion, Food & Frivolities – Life in Las Vegas & Singapore


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10 things I learnt in 2017

With the turn of the year, I’ve been seeing all these reflections/resolutions type posts all over social media. For obvious reasons, I’m just grateful that I got through the year in one piece and I’m so glad to put it behind me. 2017 was a challenging year for our family and I’m happy to report what I’ve learnt:

  1. Taking turns to be the strong one made our marriage stronger. T and I are powered by love for our son but our confidence is equally shaken with fear for our son’s uncertain future. I’m glad we have each other for support.
  2. Driving is tiring – especially when you don’t have enough sleep. The 2nd half of the year saw me on the road driving for an average of 2-6 hours a day because of G’s appointments. 30-40 minutes each way to and from appointments several times a day.
  3. A Mom Car aka minivan isn’t that bad. Couldn’t have imagined that the 1st car I’d ever own would be so uncool and practical. My Chrysler Pacifica drives great (25MPG), is conducive for toddler naps and hauls a lot of mobility gear easily! No shame in saying that I’ve become the mother I need to be.
  4. Flying with a special needs child requires a lot of planning. Other than domestic flights, our family did 2 international trips in 2017 – Panama and Singapore. Imagine carrying the extra supplies – food, wipes, bottles, nappies, clothes etc; the car seat; the baby carrier for when his body goes crazy and needs to be held down; his stroller; and all his medications – just for the flight. Oh yeah and changing nappies in a cramp airplane bathroom with a disabled toddler is next level stuff!
  5. Special needs equipment is so complicated! In 2017, G received his wheelchair (adaptive stroller), gait trainer, prone/supine Stander and leg braces (AFOs). We also started trialing the Cochlear America Kanso. I’ve had to familiarize myself with all the apparatus and on top of the daily house chores, toddler activities and trek to appointments, I had to be conscientious about setting aside enough time for them all.
  6. Never say no to extra help. The best gift anyone has given me is respite. You can’t pour from an empty jug and I need to be 100% to be the mother that my little guy needs. (That and Americans say res-pit, not ris-spite)
  7. My favourite thing to do with my family is nothing. Our days are long and schedules packed. I love nothing more than just having the 3 of us in our den – tv, toys and takeout.
  8. I cannot afford to look back. Some weeks I just have to power through and tick off one thing at a time. My coping mechanism is to keep going forward and not to dwell on what I can’t change. Hey! Whaddya know? I did 2017! Let’s finish 2018 next!
  9. I like keeping tabs on the little things. G’s happy, he’s eaten several meals, he’s laughing at Mickey Mouse and he’s had more than 1 bowel movement. Who cares if he’s still unable to sit, stand, walk or talk? I’m still thankful for every day we have him. It could be worse.
  10. I have nothing for this point. I’ve learnt a lot of other frivolous things in 2017 but nothing else notable. Oh yeah my son is cute. I made a really cheeky and an adorable human being – I might be biased but maybe someday someone would look beyond his disabilities and love him like I do.


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VegeNation (Las Vegas)

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T and I have been to the newly opened VegeNation twice. The first time we went, it was before their official opening. I have been following them on Instagram for quite a while and have heard about them from our neighbour Brandon who’s opening a Po-Boy shop just down the row from them. The entire area is up and coming with lots of hipster and start-up types as a result of the Downtown Revitalisation Project which I’ve talked about a few times.

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The first time we went, T and I ate so much I thought I would die. I like the decor, the ambience and location. It’s in town and hip but not crowded and noisy like The Strip. It also helps that both of us are vegetarians (not Vegan but this restaurant is Vegan-friendly). Prices are very reasonable and service pretty standard – nothing bad to say about them. I like the funky names on their menu items – Pho-King-Delicious (a mushroom/veggie noodles in broth), Mama Mia (spaghetti and “meat”balls), Muchas Gracias (sweet potato quesadilla) etc. Expect to pay about $3-5 for drinks and $9-12 for entrees.

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This is not the kind of vegetarian place that is all salads and health foods. I can barely tell that I had the good stuff – quinoa, chia seeds, shirataki noodles. But it’s all good and delicious! I guarantee the steak and potatoes guys would forgive this place if they gave it a chance. It’s pretty good! I also like that some of the drinks are refillable. You expect that of regular fountain sodas but I’m talking about the nice stuff like hibiscus punch and the coconut water lemonade that we ordered. The servers happily top your drinks up without asking too!

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The second time we went was just a few days ago. Our friend from Singapore was in Vegas for a holiday and he was getting wiped out with The Strip. Did all the touristy things – casino hopped, watched shows etc. So we decided to take him a little outside for lunch. We walked around the Downtown Container Park to show him a more hip and family-friendly area of Vegas before going to Vegenation for lunch. (After that, we took him 30 minutes away from town into Red Rock Canyon and he loved the contrast.)
IMG_1506_2 IMG_1507_2With the power of 3, this time we had more desserts. Previously T and I shared the blueberry cheesecake and I was already so stuffed that I could barely enjoy it. I nibbled a little on T’s brownie sundae and had a small taste of the chocolate tacos Adrian ordered.

All in all, I can’t wait to go back there again. I have a new detour to my Las Vegas guide now! I’m ready to take on more family and friends who come visit! We’re getting better with showing people around and taking them to interesting places outside the casinos!

VegeNation – recommended for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike! I hope they have one closer to where I live. 4/5*

VegeNation

616 E Carson Ave Ste 130

Las Vegas, NV 89191

PH (702) 366 8515


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GDC Mix & PAX East 2015

There’s no turning back now! The game’s launching in a week! EEEKS! Exciting times… and to think it all started when I moved here in 2013. The first time T ever attended a conference or tradeshow for Axiom Verge was Indiecade (September 2013) in Culver City, California. It was something he’s never dared to do because he was afraid. I went with him to that very first one to pitch to different companies and we’ve never looked back since! 2 weeks ago, we returned from touring the game and have been quite exhausted till now. I think we’re picking up wind from the launch of the game being so close too.

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So we left our house in our Jeep – exhibition gear, clothes and our dog, Max. We drove almost 6 hours to Arizona where my FIL lived and spent the night there. From Phoenix airport, we flew out to San Francisco (and left Max with my in-laws). We spent a few days there and got some sight-seeing done on top of the multiple interviews and our showing at a press event called GDC Mix. We didn’t attend the main event – GDC (Game Developers’ Conference) but instead conserved most of our money and energy for the next event. I enjoyed seeing San Francisco. It’s like Seattle but less wet and beautifully green this time of year. Also, we got to hang out with T’s sister when we stayed at her guest cottage. His niece Sophia was the sweetest, most perfect child.

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After a few days in San Francisco, we flew to frigid Boston. There, T’s cousin Patty picked us up from the airport and we were really fortunate that they could house us because we couldn’t get a hotel except for 2 nights. Her son Drew gave up his room for us and bunked in with his sisters for the nights we were there.

T also had his very first 2 Uber experiences there! HAHA!

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PAX East was really well-attended. Because of budget constraints, we almost didn’t show there. T applied for the Indie Mega Booth but for some reason wasn’t selected (maybe they thought 1 guy making an entire game wasn’t indie enough *koffkoff*). At the very last minute though, Phedran tweeted T about the possibility of sharing a space with the Cooler Master guys and it turned out to be even better! We had lines almost all the time even though we had 3 different machines set up – we even went out to Walmart to buy a TV on set-up day to ensure we had enough stations. Very last minute but so necessary.  It was a great experience overall and money well spent, even if we all agree it shouldn’t be held in this frigid weather. Apparently last year’s event was held in April, so I don’t understand why they had to move it. It also overlapped with GDC (another reason why we didn’t do the main event there). But it’s over now and if we have to do another show in snow, I think we might skip the event. Hahaha…

Oh yes, Axiom Verge also won Destructoid’s Best of PAX Editor’s Choice! w00t!

I must say another big Thank You to Dan who made sure there was lots of press coverage and his tireless energy for 3 back to back promotional events (he even went to SXSW Interactive in Austin for us a few days after PAX East ended).

I’m sure I’m missing out on a lot of details from the 12 days we were away from home and moving from state to state but it’s all good, right? With each event, I learn to up my logistical game so T really just has to concentrate on making the game and showing it. I not only pack t-shirts for sale (we accept cash and credit/debit cards using SQUARE) and stickers or buttons for giveaway but we now also have 4 different printed banners as well as an acrylic sign. I also pack extra business cards, 2 extension cables, disinfectant wipes and extra headphones. My key learning lesson from this trip is to pack a chair (and I went out to buy a foldable camping chair when I got home). There weren’t enough chairs to go around so Tom and Dan ended up sitting on the floor whenever they got tired.

But that’s it for now and our next adventure is going to be in Los Angeles, mid-June. We’re planning to head to E3! Hopefully it all works out!


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Support my husband’s game – Axiom Verge

It’s official! Details of the first release of T’s much-awaited game Axiom Verge was announced a few days ago via the Playstation blog. The PS4 version will be out 31st March 2015 for the Americas and 1st April 2015 for Europe.

And just today, they also announced that PS PLUS members get a discount during launch week!

If you know anyone who owns a PS4 or loves metroidvanias or retro-style video games, please alert them to it! It will also be coming out at a later date for PS VITA. T is currently working on a PC release so anyone with a PC around the world can purchase a download from Steam very soon!

As I’ve previously mentioned, video games hold no weight in my life – perhaps a little unfortunate for someone who is married to a game developer. I am happy watching from the sidelines.

In the last few days, I have been following comments on both the US blog post as well as the one for Europe. I then made the mistake of going to NeoGAF to read more. While there are many who are genuinely stoked for the game, there are also countless who argue that USD20 is too much for an indie game. Some assumed indie equated to poor quality when compared with games produced by big studios, some mentioned investment value, some others are just too cheap to pay anything more than a pittance. I don’t know about video games but I have never seen people argue the price down for an album from an indie band. How weird is that?

If you like the game, buy it. If you can’t afford it, don’t.

It made me sad to see people questioning the production value of something I’ve seen being slaved over by one extremely lonesome man for 5 years. If he wasn’t spending all his free time working on it while holding down a full-time job, he worked 12hr days for 7 days a week when he finally went indie full-time.

T is precise and meticulous while at work. He is friendly and considerate to those around him though incredibly shy and introverted. He never set out to create a game just for profit. He really truly loves what he does.

On many a night, he would bring his sketch book to bed – yes, he hand draws the scary stuff you see in the game. On others, he would get up at 2am (hours after we’ve gone to bed) and excuse himself (yes, he’s very gentlemanly that way) to go back up to his office to work, often till daybreak.

The game was the centre of his life – until I moved in and we got married. As a singleton, he worked on Axiom Verge every day after work and on weekends. I was determined to entertain myself despite having no friends here, just so he would still have lots of time to do that. If you know me, that required all the self-control I could muster.

About 6 months ago, he left his day job and dived into the development of the game full time – thankfully, with the aid of Sony’s Pub Fund. But without the security of a regular income or health insurance, we had to be more aware financially. I think we have done pretty decently by being thrifty. My grocery budget for food has been about USD35 a week for the both of us. I cook almost every meal we eat except for the occasional meal out with friends or family. And as you know, I’m now a super bargain hunter – despite how much I love clothes, shoes, accessories and cosmetics I haven’t bought anything full priced since I left my job. I obviously can’t afford it anymore. Also, for the first few months after he left his job, we actually went without health insurance and even had to ration the remaining bit of our medications as well as rescheduled appointments until early this year.

I’ve been poorly of late and I’m breaking the small kitty we have with all my medical bills. My dizzy spells and hypoglycemia induced delirium keeps T on his toes.  On top of that, he had to take me to my countless doctors’ appointments and lab work several times a week while trying to finish the last leg of his game so he could launch it. But life is an on-going challenge for everyone – some unpredictable things happen, some as a result of the choices we make. I’m sure we’re not the only ones struggling and it definitely could be alot worse.

My husband is a man who is not motivated by money. He sold his Corvette in a heartbeat to raise funds to treat our dog when he had cancer. Everyone thought he was crazy and told me to talk him out of it. But that’s the man I married. When he loves something or someone, he does it with everything he’s got. We actually talked about selling our house and moving into an apartment if it needs be. I even took pictures of our furniture for online listing! And you know, I’ve told him that if this game doesn’t sell well and takes him to the poor house, I’m going along for the ride.

The game will do whatever it will do. I haven’t a clue on the gaming industry and have absolutely no insight to this genre at all. The fact that it’s completed and he did it entirely by himself is already a feather in his cap. His education, experience and skills shines through the final product. If it doesn’t translate to real dollars, so be it. I married a man who dared to dream and has put everything on the line to see it materialize. And I would like to reaffirm that his conviction to his craft is not for nought.

There is something super attractive about a man so passionate for his work. I love seeing the joy in his eyes when he is drawing, animating and programming. And I want him to be able to do it for as long as he can. We can always go back to Singapore and I will return to work so that he can stay home to work on his next game while helping to raise our offspring. *Koffkoff*

Anyway, what I understand of the game is that, while reminiscent of the art style in Metroid (also didn’t know what this was until he showed me a few months ago), it controls like Contra (this I know) and is influenced by a whole slew of features in other retro games – ultimately boyhood fantasies from the 80s almagamated.

So anyway, long rambly post over. Please support my husband’s game – Axiom Verge because

  1. This is a game that will entertain you for hours – days and days if you are super thorough.
  2. It is at most only USD20.
  3. T is a sweetie pie.
  4. We’re crowdfunding for diapers!
  5. You are curious to see what I have given up my wonderful life in Singapore for.


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Christmas in New York 2014

I lie here in bed next to my snoring husband as I hammer out this post on my iPhone. It’s a quarter to 9 in the morning and I’ve already pottered around the house doing some chores – mostly laundry and lunch prep. We got home close to 11pm last night after flying out of New York State through Syracuse airport. We had originally gotten tickets in and out of JFK but the trauma of driving through New York City traffic after we arrived summoned our courage to spend another $2k to change our exit arrangements. So unlike the previous trips, we never ventured back into the city again.

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Our first stop was Nanuet where T’s grandmother still lived in the house his mother grew up in. It’s been there since the 40s and T’s Grandfather Swanson built it. We however checked ourselves into the Candlewood Suites, just 5 minutes away from that house, and stayed 2 nights. Good price, very nice amenities, updated interior, clean and spacious. So I don’t know what the fuss and low ratings for this place is for. And considering that we’ve stayed in at least 4 other hotels this year, I can say that we have a good idea of what decent accommodation entails.

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Christmas Eve was a cosy and quiet affair – just Grammy, T’s mom and the both of us. We had some spaghetti and meatballs, opened some presents, ate cookies and cake, then watched tv.

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On Christmas Day, we had brunch at his Aunt Kathy’s house (I also met his cousin Ray and his wife Sveva, who are doctors who live in Maine, for the first time) then we drove over 4 hours across upstate New York to Cato, near Syracuse, where T’s mom recently bought a house. One woman, 9 acres of land and a 3 bedroom house. Gulp! We spent another 2 nights there with her – a quiet Christmas dinner after a long day of driving, then the next day she showed us around her new hometown. We also went to her favourite junk shop – Ruby’s Antiques and Gifts. You see, as a retired nurse, she has a lot of time on her hands and she’s always itching to create and fix things up. Most of the furniture in her house were bought and refinished by herself. And other than gardening, she loves thrifting.

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Our last visit with T’s east coast family is another 3+hours drive away in the Adirondack region. His mother’s brother Uncle Joe owns 100 acres of land there and has recently added a huge mansion they custom built. They had an existing cabin which they use as a weekend retreat and hunting lodge for years. We had such a nice time with even more family – his cousin Patty’s family (husband and 3 kids) were there from Massachusetts too.

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And because the main house isn’t all completed yet, there wasn’t enough space to house all of us, we got to spend 2 nights in the cabin!! I thought it was a bit exciting and a bit scary all at once but I’m so glad we had the opportunity. I’m actually alright sleeping anywhere as long as I can take a hot shower and wash my hair in the morning after I get up. But a hunting cabin in the woods is pretty darn cool!

And that was our Christmas in New York. My favourite part about Christmas is family, then maybe followed closely by the feasting hahaha…


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Make-up Tips for the Holiday Season

You might have bought the perfect party dress and dancing shoes, but you can’t really complete your look without perfection in your make-up too. There’s still time to hone those skills and get a new holiday palette to test drive at home!

So before you go all out with the Christmas makeup (gold eyeshadow, green eyeliner and wine-red lipstick, anyone?) this season, here are some fail-proof makeup tips for you:

Shimmer & Shine

Screen shot 2014-12-15 at AM 09.18.57Tinsel looks good on Christmas trees, but it can look good on you too. To get that festive shimmer, highlight your best features with a glittering powder. Sweep it over your cheekbones, under your brow bone, and the inner corners of your eyes. Pink-based highlighters work well on fair-skinned ladies, while medium- to darker-skinned ladies should go for golden tones (think bronzer).

Brows

Lily+Collins+Stars+Glamour+Honors+Women+Year+wefJOnNzevmlBrows help to frame your face, and defined brows not only make you look more wide awake, they also add a certain allure to your look. Lily Collins certainly nailed that baby doll look with her strong brows, cat eye flick, and nude lipstick.

So make extra effort to groom your brows! Comb the hairs and fill in the bare spots with an eyebrow pencil. Invest in a comprehensive and handy brow-grooming kit that comes equipped with tweezers, a mirror, brow pencil, powder, brush, and wax for a complete brow touch-up.

Eyeliner

139449928-750x1024The best way to define your eyes for a bold, elegant look is by sweeping black eyeliner across the top eyelid. There’s a reason why this is a go-to must-have makeup tool for many celebrities, including Sarah Jessica Parker and Angelina Jolie. Swap your pencil for a gel or liquid eyeliner for a sleeker, more dramatic look. While it is a little more difficult to control in the beginning, you’d be glad you ditched the pencil!

For winged-tip eyeliner, close your eye and begin from the inner corner. Move the line outward and extend it slightly at the outer corner. If you find it difficult to hold your hand steady, make little dashes along the lash line and then connect them later. Stick to a neutral tone for the rest of the eyelid so the black really pops.

Blusher

best-blush-640x480To get that festive glow, blusher is your best friend. Dial up your natural rosiness by mixing complementary blush colours, one lighter and one darker, or start off with a paler shade and layer a darker shade over it. Just remember not to go in with a heavy hand and no solid lines! Layering and round strokes is key! A fluffy brush for your blusher is definitely going to make a bigger difference.

Eye Shadow

olivia-wilde-blue-shimmery-eyeshadowEye shadow can be risky, as there’s a tendency to get carried away and smear it all over your eye. But for the holiday season, eye shadow is perfect for upping the drama. Take your look to another level by adding flecks of gold, purple, or green to your basic grey eyeshadow.

Be sure to contain the colour in the crease between the eye and brow bone, though. Bringing it all the way up to the brow bone can make you look dated and over-the-top. And if you do go overboard with the shadow, soften it by dabbing with a makeup sponge.

What are some of YOUR holiday makeup tips? How do you get party-ready? Share your tips in the Comments section below!


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The Best Scents for Your Mood

Scents, as we all know, can do wonders for your mood. They can calm you down, invigorate you, improve your alertness, relief stress. Indeed, scents are so mysteriously magical that there is a whole science devoted to it.

Aromatherapy as a science began in the early 20th century, when a French chemist by the name of René-Maurice Gattefossé discovered the healing properties of lavender oil when applied it to a burn on his hand resulting from an explosion in his laboratory.

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Since then, aromatherapy has been an area of research and development in many cosmetics companies.

Our sense of smell plays a role in receiving information from the scent receptors in our nose, and then communicating that input with parts of our brain that are responsible for our emotions and memories. So when we breathe in essential oils, these parts of our brains are stimulated, and in turn affect our physical, mental, and emotional health.

There are a few common scents in women’s fragrance that come with their benefits such as

  • Invigoration: Rosemary, citrus scents like orange and lemon.
  • Stress Relief: Lavender, Jasmine, Ylang Ylang.
  • Sleep Aid: Lavender, Chamomile, Sandalwood.
  • Mood Elevation: Peppermint, Bergamot.

And here are the benefits of the most popular scents:

LAVENDER

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It has calming properties that help relieve emotional stress. It has a soothing effect on nerves and can relieve depression and nervous tension, as well as treat headaches and migraines.

LEMON

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It improves concentration and has calming properties. It also has antibacterial properties and can help to fight colds and sore throats by boosting the body’s immune system and improving blood circulation.

JASMINE

Like lavender, Jasmine is also used to calm nerves. It is also widely used as an anti-depressant thanks to its mood-lifting properties.

ROSEMARY

Monday blues? Spritz on a whiff of rosemary. Apart from memory boosting effects, rosemary has stimulating properties that help fight physical exhaustion, mental fatigue, and headaches. The wonder herb can also be used to relieve muscle aches and pains.

CINNAMON

It has stimulating properties that can help fight the fatigue monster and improve concentration.

PEPPERMINT

Try a spray of peppermint when brainstorming. An energy booster, this scent invigorates the mind, promotes concentration and stimulates clear thinking.

Aromatherapy is pretty amazing. Whether it’s for setting the mood at a candlelight dinner, a relaxing bath, or even at work, scents can be a simple yet powerful tool for managing stress or creating the perfect environment of your choice. Your favourite scent can be your trademark, and lift your mood, so you’re walking on cloud nine all day. Have your found your signature scent yet?

What are some scents that improve your mood, boost productivity or make you feel most confident in? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below!