An Exercise In Trivial Pursuits

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


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Fat-shionista #580

IMG_7639What I’m wearing today:

Top: Orange frilled strappy tank top with blue stars from TOPSHOP

Outerwear: Sheer mustard yellow jacket from some small shop in FAR EAST PLAZA

Accessories: Grey Chinese knot necklace from 2014happy5866 on eBay; Black bow headband from ASOS

Bottom: Grey knit mini skirt from COTTON ON

Footwear: Tan Bow-Tie Ballet Flats from OLD NAVY

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10 Things In Our Vegetarian Pantry

I’m often asked about the restrictions in my vegetarian diet but as I’ve proven in my varied meatless recipes, I eat a lot of different things even if I am by a far measure considered anywhere near being a good cook!

This post is inspired by my recent obsession with trying to bring our savings up to at least 50% per grocery run (extreme couponing is difficult when you tend to be brand loyal). I have a small pantry and we’re only a 2-person household, so stockpiling hundreds of boxes of the same thing is rather ridiculous for me as I don’t want to worry about expiry dates, keeping things dust-free and clutter around the house.

Here are a list of 10 things I stock up on and keep an eye out for coupons or sales. I try not to stock up more than 3 to 6 months of ANYTHING (including loo roll and toiletries) because I don’t want to so many things lying around collecting dust. Also I have better things to do than clean them, rotate them, keep an inventory. HAH!

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1. SILK Soy and Almond Milk

I would be happy to drink regular milk – anything that’s $2.99 per gallon or less. But T prefers the taste of Soy Milk, especially this brand. At our regular grocery store, this usually goes for about $3.60 – $3.90 for a half gallon carton so I don’t buy it that often. Recently though, I chanced upon another grocery store selling it at $2.99 AND I also had coupons for them. And since they last longer than regular milk, I bought up enough to last us for the next 2 months! However, because this other grocery store is further than the regular one we go to, I’m not sure if I’ll make the trip there just to buy soy milk unless I’m in the area or there are extreme savings to be had. (The Chocolate Almond Milk is mine btw. I’ll drink them when they’re cheap, if not it’s back to regular dairy for me.)

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2. TRUVIA

Truvia is a sugar substitute and supposedly much better than other alternative sweeteners because it’s stevia-based. I use them to sweeten hot drinks from time to time but mostly bake with them. They’re definitely a lot pricier than regular sugar so I bought a bunch of them when I found coupons and when they went on sale. As a diabetic, I do what I can even if I can’t keep my sweet tooth at bay. So far, we haven’t been able to tell the difference. I’ve baked for T, my neighbours as well as my in-laws! So yeah, it works!

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3. RAGU Pasta Sauce

I’m not brand loyal to pasta sauce but T is and this is his favourite. That is to say, if we do ever run out of pasta sauce and there’s something cheaper, I won’t buy RAGU but when possible, I will stock up so we won’t be in that uncomfortable situation where I want to stoically stick to my budget and T has to eat something he doesn’t like. I do make extra effort to buy as many bottles as I can (without being a hoarder) when they are about $1 each – clipping coupons, looking out for promotions etc. These keep well and I make pasta at least once every 7 to 10 days. There are many different flavours that are vegetarian-friendly, so that helps!

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4. BARILLA Whole Grain Pasta

I began the switch to whole grain pasta only several months ago and I wasn’t brand loyal at all. T has had bad experiences with other whole grain, brown rice and quinoa-based pasta so he wasn’t too keen on the switch till we tried Barilla. Unlike the other brands we’ve tried, this cooks well and doesn’t taste any different from regular pasta. I managed to stock up about 3 months’ worth of their whole grain pasta through couponing and crazy checking of sales. This is what’s left of it. The cheapest I’ve ever gotten them for is about 67c per box, which I think is rather decent especially when coupons don’t double here in Las Vegas and I don’t deliberately hunt for coupons other than the ones I get in my mail.

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5. MORNINGSTAR FARMS Veggie Meat Products

I try to keep at least a few varieties of soy meat in the freezer so we can have different sources of protein. They keep longer than tofu and they do help keep those junk food/meat cravings at bay. We always have the Grillers Recipe Crumbles (they’re like minced pork/beef) because T loves them in his pasta sauce (I make a vegetarian bolognese thing with it) AND my favourite are the Bacon strips even though there are so many things in their range that I really like. These things can get really pricey so I only ever buy them when it’s at a price point I want, therefore sales and coupons come into play again. If not, we can go months without touching them and only eat tofu and eggs for protein.

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6. BOCA Burgers

I’m married to an American man/child. How can we go without burgers (or pizza)? I find BOCA burgers on sale more often than I do other brands of veggie protein and burgers are so easy to deal with so I always have 2 to 3 boxes around. Just the other day, I came back from yoga and before I went to shower, I greased up a pan, popped a few patties into the oven while I refreshed myself. Then when I was done, I went back to the kitchen to grab some multigrain burger rolls, melt a slice of 2% American cheese on the freshly grilled patties, add some fresh veggies between the buns and that’s it. Lunch was ready in 30 minutes! Depending on what veggies are on sale that week, sometimes we have it with a slice of tomato, sometimes cucumber, sometimes lettuce and if we get lucky, we get to have an entire side salad AND steamed corn on the cob!

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7. GARDEIN

I love Gardein (garden +  protein – so clever right?) but they never last very long in our house – this is the last of my stash until it costs about $3 a pack again. I’ve used them for grilled satay (marinated in the teriyaki sauce), they’re easy to throw into a stir-fry (beefless tips and broccoli)  and I’ve done creamy “roast chicken” pastas as well as a “battered chicken” pot pie. So easy, so delicious! I wish I could afford them for every meal!

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8. Frozen Vegetables

We’re vegetarians, of course we eat vegetables at every meal. Unfortunately we live in Nevada, so even when we go to the farmers’ market, the fresh produce isn’t very fresh by the time we get them. Also, there are seldom coupons for fresh fruit and veggies, so I buy frozen ones most of the time. I’m not brand loyal but I do have a certain price point that I’ll work with. I’ve read that fresh vegetables aren’t necessarily always better because produce is flash frozen at the point when they are at their freshest and most nutritious. No shame in buying frozen vegetables – especially if you’ve been basically living off your savings for the last 10 months without a job in sight. I don’t spend more than $5 on fresh produce for both of us each week because while I think it’s necessary to get your vitamins from the source, I try to make-do with whatever is in season thus cheap.

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9. YOPLAIT Light Yoghurt

This actually started with my sister. Before that, I would buy whatever yoghurt was cheapest and always stick to plain vanilla (it’s also my go-to flavour for ice cream). When my family came to visit last December, my sisters went crazy when the Yoplait at our regular supermarket went on sale for 50c each. They stocked up on the WHIPS range and once I tried it, I liked it. I’ve been buying 10-20 each time it goes on sale because T loves the Banana Cream Pie and Boston Cream Pie flavours (which he says are really close to the real thing).

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10. KELLOGG’S Special K

Actually it’s between this and Cheerios – which are healthier. We used to always buy Captain Crunch because T loves the peanut butter flavour but ever since I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, I’ve been looking for alternatives. I stock up on General Mill’s heart-healthy Cheerios when they’re at a good price point but I buy Kellogg’s products whenever I can because I take part in their rewards programme (MorningStar Farms products also earns you Kellogg’s points for redeeming products, vouchers, coupons and partaking in sweepstakes). So if Cheerios and Special K are the same price – always Special K.

My meatless pantry is quite decent, right?


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Elvis, Atomic Testing and Sex (museums) in Las Vegas

During our 3 day “mini-moon” where T’s company gave him extra days to celebrate our wedding, we became tourists in the city we currently live in. T is originally from upstate New York and while he’s lived here for about 5 years, there is still a lot he hasn’t seen. To be honest, Las Vegas is one of those cities where there’s just so much to see and do, you’ll never be bored! Just the major shows and exhibits alone, keep changing all the time. We however skipped the bright lights and headed for lesser known museums with Groupon offers. YUP! I’m couponing again!

We spent a total of USD45 for the both of us visiting:

20131112-182542.jpg1. Atomic Testing Museum (with a visit to the AREA 51 exhibit) $20

We started with this museum because we wanted an off-the-Strip experience. No neon lights, no crazy partying. Some serious stuff, you know? Why this museum is so important is that the testing were done in Nevada. I’ve always kinda-sorta known some stuff about the bombs used in WWII but I never knew much otherwise. The atomic testing here definitely changed the history of this State and the world – affecting the land, the forced migration of Native Americans and devastation that followed after.

If you’re curious about the related historical events, there are films, photos, depiction of life in that era and lots of archived materials from the atomic testing programme itself. Extremely informative and educational (might not be something you want to bring your 3-8 year old kids to unless they are into this kind of thing).

The Area 51 exhibit though, was a total let-down for me. T rated 6/10 because he actually found some of the information about planes and technology (minimally explained) interesting. It was more like 4/10 for me. Poor quality displays and unclear curation that looked like it could have been done by some secondary school class (with a little bit of help from a teacher).

20131112-182710.jpg2. The King’s Ransom Museum – Personal Treasures of Elvis Presley $10

I think at $5 per person, this was really worth our time (even if it took us a while to find this place which is actually on Fremont Street and not The Strip). While this was really quite fun, I wouldn’t call it a museum. It’s a good-sized collection of random Elvis-related items. Some photos and trivia from his childhood, many were clothes he wore in movies and concerts, personal possessions that were given away to miscellaneous people in his life and even a section with Lisa-Marie’s childhood toys.

My favourite item in the entire collection was a library slip of a book he signed out for as an Elementary School kid. I’m not sure if it’s real or a copy but I think that if it is real, it’s awesome! I love books and as a child, I was always borrowing books in school and my mother would take us to the library in Toa Payoh every weekend to loan new ones. How did they even find that book with the slip? It wasn’t till much later that he became famous. Who’d have thought to save every single library loan slip signed!?

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3. Erotic Heritage Museum $15

$7.50 per person is reasonable, I think – plus it’s near The Strip and very appropriate for Vegas! If you think it’s all pornography and smut, you’re only 1/3 right. It’s not pure pornography because it’s called the Erotic Heritage Museum for a reason (though maybe a little thinly disguised). There are videos, porn movies, sex toys, ancient artwork (Chinese porcelain figurines, Japanese paintings, handwritten Persian sex manuals etc), the evolution of selling sex throughout history, celebrity scandals etc. There’s also a small library outside the curated space of the museum with books on human sexuality.

I wouldn’t recommend this place if you’re purely looking for porn, also it’s a museum – how things get to be in a museum is that they are dead (or too freaking old). The porn stuff on display are the classics (if you can even call them that) that don’t seem to go beyond 1988. It was quite fascinating though and we spent about an hour in there.

Because Las Vegas is largely a tourist destination, there are so many other interesting little places to visit. I’ll definitely be checking out everything from Madame Tussauds, to Bodies… The Exhibition, to the Pinball Hall of Fame and all the little odd ones that are waiting to be discovered! So fun!!!


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Couponing (Las Vegas): 60-minute couple’s in-studio photo shoot USD30 at Che·za·ray Photography

Date: 30 May 2013

Deal: 60-minute couple’s in-studio photo shoot with two 8″x10″ prints and two 5″x7″ prints for USD30

  • $30 for a Couples Photography Package ($395 Value)
  • 60-minute in-studio photo shoot
  • Two 8″x10″ prints
  • Two 5″x7″ prints

How it went:

T bought the Groupon voucher at my request and proceeded to make the appointment with the studio. All this was done through e-mail and really quite easy. An e-mail confirmation was sent about a week before the shoot to fill in some release forms (basically signing our rights to the pictures away and allowing the photographer to use them as he deems fit i.e. like stock photo or his portfolio). But here’s the thing, Mister being Mister didn’t bother reading it or filling out the form until I bugged him about it and this was like 2 days before the shoot. So the first confirmation said our shoot was 30 May 2013 and to arrive on time with hair and make-up done. BUT when we sent the release form back, it suddenly changed to 31 May 2013 and Mister being Mister, didn’t read it so we turned up at the previous appointment time. There’s a boo boo!

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Getting to the venue was no problem at all. Upon arrival we rang a bell, T tried calling the number found in the e-mail correspondence and we were told that we weren’t supposed to be there. The photographer assumed we were his 4pm appointment and were 2 hours early, then told us to come back. I was upset and disappointed. T still thought that the photographer got it wrong and went to check the first e-mail again. We left and never went back at 4pm. I was angry and wanted to get him to write to Groupon for refund. But Mister is kind and gentle, unlike me. He doesn’t like being antagonistic and said I could write the e-mail if I wanted to because he couldn’t do it. It was good that I didn’t because Cesare (the photographer) rang back shortly after that conversation and it turns out that our appointment was for the next day. Cesare asked T a bunch of questions about our hair colour and eye-colour, then gave instructions for what to do and what kind of clothes to bring. After disconnecting, T double checked his email and realised there indeed was a 2nd e-mail sent just the day before to change it to 31 May!

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Cesare’s studio was an extension in his home, not unlike an extra garage. Inside, it was spacious and air-conditioned (respite much needed from the desert sun). Lining one side of the wall were large portraits of A-listers like Sharon Stone, Antonio Banderas and Morgan Freeman in their younger days. On the opposite end was a bathroom – toilet, vanity/basin, shower. Other than that, the studio housed several shelving of magazines and random photography equipment, as well as a computer station and backdrops. Cesare himself was friendly and in general, nice. He tried to make us feel comfortable in front of the camera (mostly T, not me). He tried cracking some jokes to help T break into a smile and we did some practice poses before we changed and did the actual shoot.

I can’t remember how many photos he took but we ended up only choosing 2 even though there were so many more. On top of the USD30, we paid another USD200 for digital touch-ups (much needed) and high-resolution digital files (so that we can print or send it out to our family, or just use it for a profile photo on Facebook). Selection was quite fast because I knew what I wanted in a photo and T was easy with my choices. At the same time, T didn’t like how he looked (not because the photography was bad but he thought he looked fat as he has recently gained weight). I thought T looked adorable in the pictures but because he didn’t and I respect that, here’s the one that’s approved by both of us…

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I have seen other photographs taken by Cesare on his facebook page and I do realise that he takes better pictures than those of us. I supposed it’s the subject – we’re just not good looking enough maybe? No make-over. These are our own clothes, I did my hair and make-up. T obviously did his own hair *koffkoff*.

Would I recommend Cesare Bonazza? Yes. He’s professional and easy to work with. It really helps that he’s in a good location too.

Is this Groupon really worth $395? I don’t think so. At least not for my shallow pockets. Imagine if I had paid the US$395 in full and on top of that, an additional top-up (the US$200 was already discounted for 50% apparently) for touch-ups and the digital files – that’s US$800 just for 2 photos.

But we had fun. I like doing random things like that just for the experience. No regrets about it. I can’t wait to do another fun studio shoot with T soon!


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Couponing: $32 Gelish Manicure and Spa Pedicure (worth $126) at Almost Paradise in 2 locations

Date: 7 May 2013

Deal: SGD 32 for Gelish Manicure and Spa Pedicure (worth $126).

•Uses OPI, Zoya and Tins nail polish
•Revitalize dull looking nails
•Removes excess cuticles
•Spa manicure and pedicure include foot scrub, hands and feet mask
•Gelish manicure with longer lasting results
•Expert nail therapists

How it went:

Instructions on the Groupon voucher said to sms and book. I tried on 16 April and then again on 19 April – no reply. So I rang the shop and got through after 2 tries. I wasn’t impressed at all. The address on the groupon said “Raffles Place: The Arcade #03-11A”. It turns out that #03-11A was some other shop and they are actually #03-11. No signage outside the salon, only a sticker saying “Solone” – which turns out to be the brand name of a line of Taiwanese cosmetics. First impressions going downhill. The name of this salon is ALMOST PARADISE and not by any measure is it even close to decent. Look at the pictures and judge for yourself. Can we just cut to the chase and say FALSE ADVERTISING ALERT!!!!??!

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To be fair though, the entire process of mani and pedi took less than 30 minutes so I could go back to work in a jiffy. Gelish nails dry fast and my nails are already groomed and short. The nail technician who was doing my hands charged me S$10 to remove what’s left of my last gelish manicure (about 1/4 of my nails). She said that my nails were already short so she’d just shape them. All was well until I was done with my manicure and realised that she didn’t do a good job of cleaning up my cuticles and hello… hangnail after a manicure?!

My pedicurist did try her best with my horrible feet cuticles (I blame running for all the rough skin around the toenails) but the “spa” part of the pedicure was rather perfunctory. It was basically a) remove cuticles and file down nails b) buff the soles with a file c) scrub feet and ankles d) 3-4 brush strokes worth of something (on my shins only) that was maybe moisturiser or a mask.

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I chose a really light colour for my hands so you can’t really muck that up too much. And as for my feet… Up close, you can see that it’s got streaks and it’s not smooth – who’s going to go near my feet though?

So ALMOST PARADISE it is not. I paid a total of S$42 for the experience and I dare them to charge S$126 that they say it’s worth. Not recommend. Buyers beware!


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Couponing: SGD18 instead of SGD48 for Classic Gelish Manicure @ Orchard

Date: 22 February 2013

Deal: SGD 18 instead of SGD 48 for Classic Gelish Manicure @ Orchard

– One session of Classic Gelish Manicure
– BeauMax uses SuperNail ProGel
– Wide range of colours to choose from
– Experienced, skilled nail therapists
– Central location in Orchard

How it went:

All the above were true and I was happy. Found International Building easily (it’s right next to Shaw Towers, with the 24hr TCC at the ground floor) and the lifts were fast/accessible. If you like the convenience of town but are afraid of Orchard Road prices, and do not want the noise in the maze that is Far East Plaza, this is a good option. This building is quiet and not bustling with activities. Very private and cosy.

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Other than nail services, they also provide facials, waxing and massages. There are 3 rooms and a total of 8 integrated seats (high-back cushioned seating with individual taps for soaking feet) for mani-pedis.

The deal said I could call, SMS or email to book an appointment. I emailed on 18 February and didn’t get a reply, so I smsed on 19th February and within 2 hours, my appointment was confirmed.

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I opted to do additional nail art and I kept going back and forth with what I wanted. My therapist patiently explained to me the various prices for all the various types available while she was cleaning my cuticles and shaping my nails. I then settled on adding polka dots to all my nails and 2 hand crafted acrylic bows for an additional $25. So I paid a total of $43. I like gel-based polishes because they are quick to dry and long-lasting. So that’s okay. (Everything took me about 50minutes and I went out with my polish completely dried, so no weird finger action there.)

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Overall a good experience – they didn’t hard sell when I told them I couldn’t commit to a 10-session package because I’m not sure how long I’ll be here and I only do my nails once every 2 months or so. They have a good deal going though – $38.80 x 10 sessions includes soak off and 3 additional FOC glitter overlays.

Recommended!! Check out http://www.beaumaxme.com


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Rants & Raves: Good customer support from StreetDeal

I was supposed to go to Bangkok for a cheap holiday with my friend Natalie and last year I ended up buying a coupon from StreetDeal at S$199 per pax for 4Days 3 Nights, inclusive of flights and accomodation. Sounds too good to be true? It was.

I emailed Dynamikz Travels in November last year and followed all instructions down to a T, only to get an email notification that they were too busy to entertain me so I went down to their office with my friend to book the holiday instead. It was a dingy and messy office located in Orchard Towers. A Filipino guy called Ben sorted out the travel bookings for us and we were due to fly on 3 February 2012 and return on 6 February 2012.

Natalie was supposed to top up S$372 on both our behalf. Our top-up was only due on 15 January 2012 and Nat wrote them on 4 January to double check some rumours because Nat’s mum read stuff about scams and problems with these cheap travel deals and we were both worried in case we got caught in them. On January 12 this year, Ben wrote to Natalie and we were told that the booking had to be cancelled because of the Bangkok floods. Their answer was for us to wait till later this year to rebook and they’ll extend the promotion to us till October 2012.

Last month, I wrote in again to rebook and I received an automated email from them telling me to contact STREETDEAL directly for a refund.

On 17 July, I emailed StreetDeal’s customer support and within days, I had my problems sorted out. The customer service officer who served me was a Mrs Jessy Retnam and by 26 July, the amount I paid StreetDeal was refunded back into my credit card.

Dynamikz Travel is bad but StreetDeal is not. This will not deter me from shopping the daily deal sites, especially StreetDeal since I know that they have excellent customer support and I’ll be safe using their portal.

This is definitely a rave. Thumbs up for good customer service from StreetDeal!