Monthly Archives: August 2016

Eyeliner Ruler

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For all of you who find it really hard to achieve that perfectly matched pair of cat’s eye flicks, here’s a small bit indispensable piece of kit you need to have in your make-up bag.

S$2 buys a set of 3 short lengths of bendy, rubbery ‘ruler’ which you can use to draw the lines to the same length and at the same angle. Daughter #2 gave this the big thumbs up and said: “it’s cool! It can be really difficult to make the lines the same, the number of times you have to take it off to do it again… “

For added amusement, the rulers also have a cut out star and heart, so you can stencil those in as well. These are Korean, obviously.


Fashionable Feet

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You know how naked your feet can feel when you are lounging by the pool in a nice hotel… you have your best swimsuit on, with a fancy sarong or floaty cover-up to hand, perhaps a stylish sunhat and a matching bag… yet even with a colourful pedicure, something seems to be missing.

If you really want to accessorise to within an inch of your life, these lace and crochet decorations might catch your eye. They won’t mind getting wet, they don’t have slippery soles, they take up no room at all in your bag, but they give you just the pretty accent you need to saunter barefoot to the bar.

The lace strips are the simplest, the others use elasticated thread for loops that go round your ankle and over your big toe, or just a string with a flower on the end to wind around your leg. Even the beaded designs are surprisingly comfortable and whichever ones I choose, they make me feel like I have tried to fit in on those occasions I find myself beside a 5* pool.

I bought all of these in New York, but if you are handy with a crochet hook or a beading needle you could probably run up something to match your swimwear very quickly.

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Coffee Bags

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The only surprising thing about this idea is – considering how long tea bags have been around – that it has not been on sale until now.

Mind you, it reminds me of the days before fancy fruit and flower flavoured gourmet teas, when your basic ‘builder’s tea’ tasted pretty much of floor sweepings from the tea factory.

I should mention at this point that I have been round a tea plantation in Sri Lanka and examined at first hand the different quality of leaves which are produced. What goes into standard tea bags really does look like sawdust in comparison with the hand-picked superior leaves destined for the special brands.

So, I fully expect that future generations of coffee bags will be vastly better than this particular offering, which is quite frankly the coffee version of floor sweepings. One sip had me thinking of that Peanuts cartoon where Charlie Brown is offered a cup of cocoa that has actually been made by stirring a cup of hot water with a brown crayon.

But, since I bought this in a Jakarta supermarket and have had fun experimenting with it (adding cocoa does not turn this into a drinkable mocha…) I will say that if all you really need is a caffeine fix in the morning, this might well do the trick.

Mood Lipstick

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This was more of a joke than a useable lipstick. It looks blue, but turns pink when it reacts with the moisture of your lips. Daughter #2 thought it might be a good prank, if you were able to make your lips very dry first, then lick them to transform the colour. Potentially, you could let then your lips dry out again so they would gradually turn blue (and presumably scare the life out of your companions…)

Although the pink colour is way too vivid to wear out, it becomes a lot more subtle and wearable once you start to take it off, so maybe it won’t be consigned immediately to the dressing-up box.

Filipino Sachets

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I am all for anything which comes in a travel size, so was delighted by the sheer range of unusual items I found in various Manila shops.

They had all the things you might usually expect, but rather than miniature jars and bottles – the sort of quarter-size products you find in the travel section of UK pharmacies and supermarkets – these were like the sachets you tend to get as samples from the beauty counter.

And some of them held surprising things. I’ve had toothpaste in tiny tubes, for example, but never in a foil sachet. Ditto the liquid deodorant and ‘feminine wash’. For a swift night or two away in one location, they are actually just the thing.

Once I’d noticed these, I was also quite taken by the food items packaged in a similar way. There were literally dozens of sandwich spreads, cheese related products and even butter, none of them apparently needing refrigeration.

I realise that for some of the local population, storing food in a fridge isn’t an option, nor is the possibility of buying a larger and more expensive package of these things. Many of the available items could also make up part of a picnic which won’t expire before you get where you are going. Whatever your reason for buying products in sachets this small (and inexpensive), it is rather nice to see they are actually there on sale.

Eye Shadow Transfer

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This is another of those mad ideas which looks fabulous in the packet but is so much trouble to apply that it turns out not to be worth the effort. Which is a shame, because if you really could go out with such an amazing design on your lids, you would definitely turn heads.

Like all transfers, these need trimming down first, which in the case of trying to fit them to the shape of your own eyelids, is pretty difficult. Next you need to peel off the protective plastic film, position it all just right, then soak off the paper backing to transfer the design to your skin.

Let’s stop a moment to consider the reality of doing this before you go out on the town. You already have your makeup on, so getting water everywhere is not a good plan. The transfer is really sticky, and you need to sit there with your eye closed so it dries flat on your eyelid. This takes time… twice, and even longer when you discover your eyelids are somehow glued shut so must be prised open gently in an effort not to damage the design.

The end result was, frankly, awful. The design you see when you buy it is actually the undeside, which means the true colours are very much stronger than you are expecting. Plus normal facial movements make the pattern seem wrinkled even on young eyelids.

The only mercy was that the design peeled off fairly easily. It was fun to try, and at 35 Thai Baht a packet, reasonably cheap, but we won’t be trying it again.

Indian Chocolate

Category : Food

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Who knew they grew cocoa in India? It was a surprise to me, but I suppose the southern states are pretty much on a level with that part of South America where most of the world’s cocoa beans come from, so it does make some sort of sense.

I found home grown chocolate bars in Mumbai airport, whilst hunting down ways to spend my last remaining rupees, and was delighted at the chance to give them a try. The cute packaging was a nice bonus, too.

This was billed as ‘silky chocolate’ and there was nothing wrong with it, although it has a long way to go before coming anywhere close to the Swiss and Belgian versions which currently rule the chocolate world.

But this relatively new industry is well worth supporting, as it gives business opportunities to Tamil Nadu farmers, has introduced the concept of organic agriculture to a whole new area, and can only get better as time goes on. I wish them lots of luck and look forward to trying this again next time.

Cosmetic Camo Cream

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Here in Singapore, all the boys (and as many girls as want to) spend 2 years doing National Service between school and university. It’s a rite of passage, during which a certain amount of time is spent training in the jungle, and putting on camouflage cream is just one of the things new recruits need to master.

But it isn’t half as much fun as it looks – army issue camo cream is apparently some sort of vegetable paste which melts like oil on your face. In the rain, it washes into your eyes and really stings. And it goes without saying that whatever the cream is made of, it is harsh on teenage skin.

In a charming attempt to remedy this problem, Korean cosmetics firm Innisfree has come up with a handy compact containing 3 camouflage colours that promise to be gentle with your complexion. It is light, non-sticky and contains protection from UV rays. The perfect gift, in fact, for a Singapore girl to give a boyfriend in the army.

Of course we had to try this, and a suitable recruit was enlisted to compare this ‘extreme power camo cream’ with regular army issue.

And it turns out that it would probably be more use for non-army games like paintballing, or possibly for dressing up. Our tester was polite about the quality but swiftly informed us that out on manoeuvres this would never work. When you are in the jungle, you must be able to ‘camo up’ in 30 seconds or less, so you need to be able to squeeze a big dollop from a tube rather than fiddle around with a palm-sized mirrored compact. What he didn’t say was that this would be far too girly for any NS man to use, but he didn’t really need to.

The matching wipes, however, did get the thumbs up – all the cream was off and face clean again in a matter of moments. So maybe we can just buy him more of those to say thanks for being such a good sport!

Phone Bench

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There are so many silly things on which to rest your mobile phone, but I particularly liked this one…

It’s a ‘Realistic Park Bench’, and holds your phone in a reclining position exactly as you yourself would stretch out to enjoy the afternoon sun.

This one came from Tokyo, flat packed like regular furniture but considerably easier to put together. Daughter #1 found it ideal for watching YouTube in bed, and it clearly works so well I am sorry there isn’t a larger size which might accommodate my Kindle…

Banana Ketchup

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Wherever I travel, I always like to visit a supermarket, to see what the locals are buying and eating – somehow it makes me feel less of a tourist, and gives me an idea of what it might be like to live there rather than just pass through.

Obviously, I always end up buying a few interesting local ingredients, and this was something that came back with me from the Philippines.

Rumour has it that traditional, US-style, tomato ketchup was highly popular when it was introduced to the Philippines by the military stationed there. But during World War 2, authentic supplies were hard to come by, plus there was a distinct shortage of tomatoes. There were, however, plenty of bananas…

So, banana ketchup was born, and packed with all sorts of flavourings and colourings to turn it into something resembling the real thing. It isn’t pretending, this is clearly made with bananas and called ‘catsup’ rather than ‘ketchup’, but it is used for pretty much all the same things and is extremely popular all over the Philippines.

The main ingredient is mashed banana, but – like tomato ketchup – there is also a lot of sugar, vinegar and spices. And artificial additives.

It is safe to say that we did not really like it. The texture is watery, the taste is sweet, and the additives do nothing to make it smell appetising. It certainly does not taste like banana at all. Daughter #2 dipped boiled potatoes in it and pronounced it ‘not vile’, which is hardly a recommendation. Her Dad ruled it was ‘truly disgusting’, I found it too tasteless to bother persevering with.

Still, although it won’t be taking up room in the kitchen cupboard any longer, it was interesting to try…