About Grace Tan

Grace owns the award-winning business and lifestyle blog, WorkingWithGrace.wordpress.com. She is also the author of the best-selling book 'Blogging For A Living'.

Card Atelier: Unique Handmade Cards You Won’t Find Elsewhere

Imagine it’s your birthday today: Would you be more happy at receiving a “Happy Birthday” message on facebook OR opening your letterbox and retrieving a handmade birthday card with a handwritten message from your friend? :D I know I’d prefer the latter. Also, unique handmade cards blow me away and are way more special than store-bought greeting cards! :D

In Singapore, it’s just too easy to simply whatsapp a friend some birthday wishes but we also know how snail mail has actually become more “valuable” now:

Love Mail

One lady is on a mission to revive the card-giving tradition. Buvi and I are of the same age but I feel I have so much to learn from her. We are both people who have a lot of creative ideas, but she actually translates those ideas into her business of making beautiful handmade greeting cards. We’d usually buy a card to accompany a gift, but the cards that Buvi makes are special gifts themselves!

She started out making cards for her friends, and not for any money. But they, in turn, encouraged her to start a business. When Buvi released her card designs for Valentine’s Day last year, she was surprised at the orders that came in every single day!

A Psychology major, she has also worked as an educational therapist and plans to be an art therapist in future as it’d combine her twin passions of Psychology and Art. As for her card-making business, Card Atelier, she has plans to make it a social enterprise and provide employment opportunities to people with disabilities. *salute*

Here, I have 3 different cards lovingly handmade by Buvi. Read on to find out which is my favorite and follow me on facebook as I’m giving away 2 of them! :D

This first one is a Tridiac card – looks like a normal flip card, but is it one?

Card Atelier handmade greeting card

Open the card and…

Tah-dah! It becomes a 3D work of art that would look beautiful on any desk:

Card Atelier handmade greeting card

You can literally pick any card design on Card Atelier’s website and customize it with your preferred color scheme, message, cartoons, etc.

This next one is a Boxed Card that is popular among people who give out angpows at weddings, celebrations, etc. It comes with a matching binder which you can slide off, and insert a message and your angpow:

Card Atelier handmade greeting card

Once again, this card can be customized to fit any occasion:

Hedgehog card

Wedding Card

And if you are like me, and have a tendency to write lengthy messages (maybe even a poem?) in your cards, then this next card is perfect. It has many message panels and has a certain ‘WOW’ factor to it.

Inspired by the roses on wedding cakes, Buvi added the butterflies to this Blooming Card. It looks like a gift box, and takes a total of 2 hours to make (just this 1 card)!!!

Card Atelier handmade greeting card

Lift the lid, and the side panels fall open just like a blooming flower:

Card Atelier handmade greeting card

It’d be perfect for wedding proposals disguised as birthday gifts, I think:

Card Atelier handmade greeting card

Some will want to give this Blooming Card as a super pretty Teachers’ Day gift:

Teachers' Day card

And Buvi herself has made this SG50 card with orchids on the lid and messages from people who stay in each of the different GRCs!

SG50 handmade card

Aren’t they absolutely stunning? :D

Some customers put watches in the boxes, jewellery, and other trinkets. I’d encourage you to purchase one of these Blooming Cards (my favorite) and customize it to your heart’s content, and make it one gift that the recipient will never forget! :D

As a passionate card designer, Buvi also does custom-made designs for clients who want jumbo cards for instance. So feel free to drop her a note with your ideas.

Here’s a video clip showcasing the Bestsellers from Card Atelier:

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To Order Onlinehttp://cardatelier.com/

To Check Out More Designshttps://www.facebook.com/sgcardatelier

BFF Recommendation of Chinatown’s Best: Lian He Ben Ji Claypot Rice

Lian He Ben Ji Claypot Rice

Would you wait an hour or more for claypot rice on a weekend, in a (possibly hot and humid) Chinatown hawker centre? Well, this is exactly what customers do to get a taste of Lian He Ben Ji’s famous Claypot Rice. So this claypot rice should be even more awesome than Sylvia Lim’s “taste of Fengshan” orh luak, right? And yes, this was what we had for dinner tonight – BFF’s recommendation. :)

A group of us had planned a belated birthday surprise for BFF Steven. The cat (or rather, cake) would have been let out of the bag if we’d suggested Tung Lok Private Dining, for instance. So when Steven said he’d like to have claypot rice for dinner at Chinatown, heh heh, we went ahead with that. Awfully Chocolate’s banana chocolate cake in a Chinatown hawker centre. How’s that for memorable, eh?

Steven Lek

One of the best things that have happened to me since I embarked on my blogging journey is the number of amazing friendships forged. Steven is one of my students-turned-friends. He used to be a ‘big potato’ (an endearing term we use to refer to high-flyers, or ‘big shots’) in Singapore Airlines before he retired (check out his blogpost here and spot his pictures with the late President Wee, and even Princess Diana). There’s so much I admire and appreciate about this guy, but there are two main qualities I’d like to share with you: his Loyalty and his Humility (this one might seem strange if you are familiar with his jokes).

Steven’s a truly loyal friend – one I can count on always. And I don’t use this term “BFF” loosely, like many other people do. I do also think it is pretty amazing that a big potato would be a good friend of mine. Most big potatoes I’ve met are snotty, while Steven’s probably the friendliest big potato ever. While people of a certain social standing tend to “flock together” with others of the same kind, Steven loves making new friends and doesn’t conform to the norm. That’s as odd as having Awfully Chocolate cake in a hawker centre where there’s no air-conditioning. :D

And if you’re still curious about the Claypot Rice stall, its unit number is 02-199:

Chinatown Lian He Ben Ji Claypot Rice

I’d take frog leg porridge over claypot rice any day, but if claypot rice with salted fish is what will make the BFF’s day, then so be it. Ha! If you’re a fan of claypot rice, you should definitely pop by on a weekday when there are fewer diners and the wait is not too long.

The highlight of the meal (for me) was the steamed fish head. This one is super yummy. I believe it’s a fermented bean sauce (don’t quote me on this) and it is really delicious. And cheap – just S$13! You won’t find such great value in restaurants, for sure.

Steamed Fish Head in Hot Sauce

This stall was actually recommended by the drinks seller, when we went to get some sugar cane juice (the two stalls are next to each other). I’ll definitely be back again for this steamed fish head in hot sauce.

Since there were 6 of us, BFF also ordered another fish head from another stall. This second fish seems to be patin, but I’m not sure. It has that peculiar taste that the Chinese describe as being “muddy” that resembles that of the patin fish we’ve eaten in the past. I’m not a fan of this dish, and don’t know which stall it is from, which is just as well.

Chinatown Fish Head

It might be the BFF’s doing – I am now more fussy when it comes to food and am not easily impressed anymore. LOL. Steven’s the one who introduced me to Dancing Crab, Blue Lotus, and many more eating places.

Come back again soon to read about more of my BFF’s foodie recommendations. :D :D :D

GE2015: “Grace Tan Is An Opposition Supporter?”

I shared an article from the States Times Review on my facebook page a week ago with this comment “Some MPs eat oyster omelette, some MPs sit in ball pits. Whatever floats your boat, folks. As long as you stop planting trees and carrying babies whenever a camera is pointed at you. ‪#‎anyimprovementisgood‬

I felt it was neither pro-PAP nor pro-opposition but since the time I tio marked by a particular anonymous entity on facebook, he/she has been “advising” me to remain neutral (which I have done) and asking if I’m an “opposition supporter”. :P

And here’s my response as well:

grace tan GE2015

I believe that we should cast our votes based on each candidate’s merits and not on the party’s failures or successes as a whole. And please, whatever you do, do not simply ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ a candidate based on what you see on social media or mainstream media. Meet that person and decide whether he/she is trustworthy.

Take Tin Pei Ling, for instance. I got some flak from interviewing her in 2012 and letting people know that I think (after meeting her) that she’s not as bimbotic as portrayed online, and that she has a heart for her residents and that they, in turn, are appreciative of what she has done for them. Well, look at her now. :) Only childish and ignorant people would continue making Kate Spade jokes. Grow up please. :P

This month, I also attended a group interview for influencers with a Minister. The last time I met the Minister was a few years ago and I think he has become more comfortable in his own skin and in his role as a politician. And also pretty much resigned to the fact that anything he says can be taken out of context and made into a big hoo-ha online and be made fun of by people, whether they be ignorant or malicious individuals. He might be one of those rare flameproof politicians. Not going to name him in a bid to remain “neutral”. Ha!

During the session I was also reminded of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s “champion grumbler” quote. The first part of it, about Singaporeans being “hard-working, industrious, rugged” might not be 100% true these days but the “champion grumbler” part most certainly remains.

“You know the Singaporean. He is a hard-working, industrious, rugged individual. Or we would not have made the grade. But let us also recognise that he is a champion grumbler.” – Lee Kuan Yew, 1977 speech in Parliament (more quotes here)

I am neither for nor against the PAP or WP or any other political party. I meet the individuals in person and I decide whether I like them or not – which party they belong to does not matter to me. And at this particular session, we heard the Minister’s take on issues close to the hearts of Singaporeans and after some discussion with friends, here are some takeaways and thoughts:

  1. The issue about maids / domestic helpers: Most would argue that they deserve to be given breaks / time off… but we would then go on to complain that they are everywhere, especially along a famous road in Singapore. About 1 in 6 households have maids so it’s inevitable that we’ll see them around on their off days. It’s the same for the foreign workers as well – they can’t just disappear after work so… is it up to us to get used to their presence?
  2. Can we follow the Swiss’ self-service culture or do we stick to the Asian service culture we are proud of, whereby we can wave and have someone come over to serve us? If we don’t want so many foreigners coming in to take jobs we don’t want (the irony), then something’s gotta give.
  3. Life is comfortable here so how do we get regional exposure? Will our young go overseas to get exposure? If they don’t, then how do they compete with the “foreign talent” and take on regional, if not global positions?
  4. In helping the low-income Singaporeans, it’s not so clear-cut as to just reach out to the bottom 10% of income earners because some of them could be asset-rich retirees.
  5. Is the “high” cost of living your #1 concern? Is it because you tend to desire and buy the ‘best’ instead of picking a cheaper, and probably just as good, alternative? For instance, I’ve been told that Sunshine bread and the NTUC housebrand bread come from the same factory. (@_@)
  6. Housing: You want a 4 or 5 room flat when you get married, because you currently live in a 4 or 5 room flat with your parents. Perhaps you want an even bigger flat but forget that your parents started off with a 3 room flat. And therefore you find housing prices too high.
  7. We should perhaps ask ourselves about what we can give back to our country and learn to be grateful for what we have, and to do more for others.

I think that if we quit being such champion grumblers, we might actually feel quite blessed and contented. :P In any case… we have an exciting day tomorrow! :D

Interview with Alva, E-Commerce Evangelist from STRIDEC

Many of us aspire to run businesses online, but most of us lack the know-how to take an idea and implement it successfully. I had the opportunity to chat with Alva Chew from STRIDEC recently. Alva is an e-commerce evangelist who believes that every business can benefit from e-commerce. He has even helped the boss of a watch business in sleepy Chinatown take his business online and make annual revenues of about USD 2-3 million!

Alva STRIDEC

1) You have a guarantee for getting businesses e-commerce ready within 4 weeks. Could you share an overview of what happens during these 4 weeks, and whether it’s hassle-free for the SME owner?

Many business owners think it takes a lot of work and energy to get their business e-commerce ready, as even the development of a normal website can take months! STRIDEC has established a set of best practices and streamlined our processes, so we are able to deliver projects within 4 weeks.

Our “record” thus far is a project which took all of 2 weeks. It was for a company that publishes educational comics. The business owner (also the author) wanted the site launched together with new comics. For this to have happened, we needed our client’s cooperation, involvement and commitment, providing us the required information so the project could be completed in just 2 weeks.

From the client’s perspective, it is completely hassle free as the project is managed by STRIDEC and we hold their hands till the end.

We start with getting a full and in-depth understanding of our client’s business first – get to know their products, customer segment and other specifics of the business. With that understanding, we come up with an e-commerce strategy. design the site, program the site, and do the copywriting and product photography.

Clients are delighted because we offer copywriting and product photography services. Many SME owners don’t have a good understanding of what optimized copy is or how to use product photography to increase the appeal of their products online for potential shoppers.

Our fees vary, of course, depending on the complexity of the project. For your first foray into e-commerce, the investment is around 6K to 8K. Clients who require more add-ons or are ready for more sophistication can pay up to 15 or 25 grand.

2) Why do you think more and more businesses are setting up shop online and are we going to see fewer brick-and-mortar stores?

Looking at trends, whether in Singapore or in the region, that’s a logical conclusion. Most businesses are e-commerce compatible, well, unless you are selling hairstyling services, in which case personal contact is necessary.

If you are selling a product without physical contact required, then yes, every business should start online. You need not set up a physical store and grapple with the manpower crunch or rising rental rates.

With e-commerce, you require an initial investment of 6K to 8K which you can’t do much with if you were to set up a physical store as the rent and renovation will set you back by 20-30K already. Even those carts or small booths in shopping malls require rent of 4 to 5K per month or more!

It’s therefore much easier to get online and use social media platforms to broadcast your brand, and create awareness and exposure. Look at the costs involved – they are much more manageable in the online space, at probably one-third of what you’d otherwise have to pay.

3) What are some common mistakes business owners make when they want to take their business online?

Some think of e-commerce as a technical discipline that a web design company can handle, and carry over their traditional and conventional mindsets of selling in a physical environment. This doesn’t work at all.

Copywriting and photography is very important. While you have a product in a physical store for a customer to see and touch, that doesn’t translate onto e-commerce. You must have quality photography to accentuate the benefits of the product you are selling.

A lot of e-commerce businesses have poor quality photos. Compare these with the top-selling e-commerce platforms and brands, like Amazon and Love Bonito.

When you don’t have a physical outlet, the main means of communication is via the visual aesthetics which have to attract customers to buy. Ordinarily, you’ll have salespeople in the shop and customers can ask the salesperson about the product but with e-commerce, there is nobody there to ask so the copywriting helps customers to understand and get excited about your product.

We take care of the copywriting and product photography, and we’ll educate our clients about key points to look out for when writing the copy. The e-commerce platform is organic, with new products coming in all the time, so clients can pay us a monthly retainer or take charge of the site themselves after learning the industry’s best practices from us.

How you’ll sell an IT gadget will be very different from how you’ll sell a dress. So we’ll share the key points and broad strokes with our customer and essentially, “teach them how to fish”. They will gain a better understanding of what makes e-commerce work. Some may have tried e-commerce previously but were not doing it correctly or were not given the right advice so we are here to help.

4) Share with us a success story of a company that STRIDEC has successfully helped move into the online space.

One of our customers owns a watch retail outlet in Chinatown. He strongly believes in e-commerce, since the time he began trying to sell watches on eBay and Yahoo! auctions previously. He decided to set up his own e-commerce website and came to us 8 years ago. With our help, his business expanded and we also helped build his subsidiary e-commerce sites. He is now operating 8 e-commerce sites which bring in 80% of his annual business revenue, far more than that of his physical outlet! He has even converted a good portion of his store to become a  “back-end office” for admin personnel to do the order processing. E-commerce has helped transformed his business operations and he is easily generating USD2-3million a year just by e-commerce alone. Not too bad a figure for an SME!

5) Which companies would benefit most from STRIDEC’s guidance?

Our belief is that every business can benefit form e-commerce enablement. Name me a business that cannot be enabled with e-commerce, and I’ll show you how to do it. Of course, due to the nature of the products and consumer behavior, some are easier to be sold online.

How about selling coffins online? There is nothing to stop you from selling coffins online. They won’t move as fast as watches, but it’s possible.

Whatever your e-commerce idea is, we can improve and enhance it. So set up your e-commerce front first, put your products on a website, advertise on social media and get people aware. It’s a good way to gauge traction – do people want to buy? You may not even want to invest further in a physical front. If you are doing well right from the get-go online, use whatever surplus to take it further online and make the transaction experience better and more streamlined for the customer.

We do non-obligatory 30-minute consultations over the phone for business owners who don’t know how to get started online or are not getting the results they want.

We have a presence in India, North America, Singapore and Malaysia. In Singapore, we focus on consultation and project management while our development team is in India – we have 20 developers working on various projects.

We can also assist with logistics enablement – if you get orders in, but have problems fulfilling them. Our team in Portland, Oregon can help in sourcing of products not available in Singapore. Our sourcing and concierge unit helps to source from US-based merchants and we can even do dropshipping. Business owners can just focus on projecting and marketing their brand and everything else can be handled on our end – from site to payment collection, order processing, logistics and delivery.

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Get in touch with Alva and his team at: http://worldwide.stridec.com/

BFF’s Recommendation: TungLok Teahouse at Far East Square

TungLok Teahouse mushroom pau

One BFF of mine turned 68 yesterday, and it was his idea to pop by TungLok Teahouse at Far East Square for an early lunch today. He said that the novelty mushroom pau is interesting and highly recommends the deep sea giant garoupa as well. As you see in the picture above, the mushroom-lookalikes are actually pau with mushroom filling. I have to commend the chefs – it must take quite a bit of effort to make the pau resemble shitake mushrooms. Taste-wise, it’s perhaps nothing to rave about as they could have been more generous with the filling. But these paus are so Instagrammable, right? :D

And the main dish that BFF Steven wanted to order again was this Deep Sea Giant Garoupa ($38). This portion comes from a huge 38kg fish and I did not know what to expect – would it be tough and dry? However, it turned out rather chewy, and doesn’t taste like garoupa I’m used to. Anyway, you can choose between two cooking methods for this dish: (1) Braised Giant Garoupa Belly with Roast Pork and Garlic or (2) Steamed Giant Garoupa with Black Fungus and Garlic. We had the steamed version:

TungLok Teahouse Deep Sea Giant Garoupa

We also ate a lot of dimsum that I did not take pictures of. The char siew pao is good, and so is their har gow. The deep-fried items all turned out well so go ahead and order those when you dine at TungLok Teahouse.

What I like most about this restaurant is the effort put into the decor – from the retro-looking chairs and tables, to the paintings on the walls:

TungLok Teahouse

TungLok Teahouse Far East Square

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7-13 Amoy Street, #01-01,
Singapore 049949
Tel: +65 6877 1123

Also at Square 2:

10 Sinaran Drive, #01-73,
Singapore 307506
Tel: +65 6893 1123

Planning A Dream Wedding Online With Bridestory

Bridestory

[ Picture credit: ANSEINA BRIDES / Bridestory ]

Wedding planning is very much a chore for me, so I’m glad friends have stopped asking THAT question – “When are you getting married ah?” The answer will always be “SOON”. Put simply, I’m procrastinating because there are just too many things to consider. I guess this is why many people just give up and shell out good money for a wedding planner instead. (@_@)

So it’s pretty interesting how Bridestory wrote to me recently and introduced me to their online platform which helps couples plan the perfect wedding… online! (And nope… no talk of wedding sponsorship just yet. Haha!)

The website has a really ‘clean’ layout, is very easy to navigate and reminds me of Pinterest actually! :D Have a look:

Bridestory

Established in April 2014, Bridestory is a leading online wedding vendor which has a strong social media presence among Indonesian and international audiences. Their focus is on building an advanced wedding platform that connects engaged couples with wedding vendors around the world. Cool eh? We will no longer have to rely on recommendations from friends and relatives, and can instead select from the best vendors around the world! :D

And I guess there are different kinds of brides – some are the bochup (anything goes) kind, and there are the Bridezilla ones, and many others in-between.

In fact, I am reminded of a YouTube video I watched this week – an interview with Hillary Clinton. And one of the things she shared was about her marriage to Bill. She’d actually bought her wedding dress off a rack just the day before the wedding. :D That sounds pretty incredible (and rather cool too) but quite unthinkable for couples these days.

Usually, lots of prior planning is involved, from selecting that perfect dress to getting it altered to fit well, and of course, co-ordination of the bridesmaids outfits too.

And yes, besides wedding gowns, I’ve found bridesmaid dresses on Bridestory too:

Bridestory bridesmaid dresses

[ Picture Credit: INTOXIQUETTE BRIDESMAIDS / Bridestory ]

One can easily compare prices among vendors, check out their portfolios online, and also send them any queries. I’ll most certainly tell my photographer pals to get their businesses listed on Bridestory while it’s still relatively new in Singapore. :)

And what I love most about this platform is that my options are not restricted to just those wedding vendors located in Singapore – I’m also able to check out vendors in other parts of the world, e.g. Australia, Japan, Taiwan, etc. And there are vendors for everything from Catering to the Honeymoon, while still working within one’s budget of an affordable wedding or a splash-out premium one!

Photoshoot in Japan, anyone? :)

Bridestory Wedding Photographer

[ Photo Credit: MOMOYAMA CANDID / Bridestory ]

Perhaps I’ll share with you my top picks among the local wedding vendors in another post. Stay tuned! :D

Book Review: Penguins Can’t Fly by Jason Kotecki

Penguins Can't Fly by Jason Kotecki

It looks like a book for children, what with the too-cute illustrations and how it’s just the right size as a picture book for kids. But this book ‘Penguins Can’t Fly’ is quite a page-turner. Jason Kotecki is an artist, author and professional speaker who has selected 40 “rules” to include in this book, and he encourages us to break them all, and offers good reasons why this should be done too! And I’ll start by breaking a few rules myself:

“if you obey all the rules you miss all the fun” – katharine hepburn

This book might seem less-than-serious to snobbish readers, but it offers up pearls of wisdom in a most palatable manner. I won’t be able to reproduce all those pages here (some rules are not meant to be broken, unfortunately) but here are some takeaways I got from reading this book:

  1. Every single day is a holiday. It’s just that most days, what to celebrate is up to you.
  2. Pay attention to what your inner child says.
  3. Go ahead and eat dessert first – that’s what you promised yourself as a kid; that when you’re all grown-up, you’ll eat dessert before your meal. *reaches for pint of ice cream* Penguins Can't Fly by Jason Kotecki
  4. Celebrate playfulness. Dance in the rain like a child, hop into a puddle instead of skirting around it!
  5. It’s “okay to consume pizza, cake, or wine for breakfast”
  6. Mondays don’t stink – it’s your job. Change your attitude or change your job. “The REAL key to happiness (and so-called work-life balance) is not figuring out how to work less, but doing more work that matters.
  7. Should you be obsessed about being busy, or appearing to be busy, when you can proudly say “I haven’t been busy at all. I’m just taking life as it comes, enjoying it one moment at a time”? :D
  8. Question all those rules.
  9. Write your own definition of success.
  10. Worried about wrinkles? Well… “no one ever died at the age of one hundred looking like a nineteen-year-old” !!!
  11. “If a dream is realistic, it’s not really a dream. It’s a to-do. If you want to be realistic, be realistic about your fears. After all, most of the things you worry about will never happen.”
  12. Why keep the fine china locked away till there’s a special occasion? Every day is special. Think about that family member who has passed on. Wouldn’t you give just about anything to have one more dinner with that person?
  13. Fact: We will all die with stuff on our to-do list.

And these are just some of the things that Jason shares in this really cool book. You should head out to a bookstore and get a copy, or order one online. I highly recommend that you read it. :)

Penguins Can't Fly by Jason Kotecki

What was most striking for me was that point about keeping the tableware till that fine day when there’s a special occasion. What if that day never comes? What if I die before that day comes? What if the house gets burnt down together with everything in it? Sobering thought, no? Why not understand that every day is special and worth celebrating, as today is a gift and tomorrow is not guaranteed?

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This book retails at S$26.12 (before GST) in all good bookstores :)

Review: Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set A Watchman’

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

I guess Harper Lee has led the life many aspiring novelists can only dream of – publish a book and have it sell over 30 million copies, and have (more than) enough to last a lifetime. Plus, what a lasting legacy the book ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ has. For sure, any other novel that she writes after this will likely pale in comparison (oops), but Harper Lee now gives us ‘Go Set A Watchman’. *wink*

‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ fans can read this second book without fear. Instead of destroying your impressions about the characters, you’ll get a greater insight into what Scout and Atticus really think about racial issues. But… if you have trouble coming to terms with reading about a now-old Atticus Finch (72 years old and almost crippled by rheumatoid arthritis) and a Scout who is quite comfortable doing the unimaginable – SMOKING – then you’d best not read this book. :D

I also came to realize that I missed the character Dill / Charles Baker Harris. I love reading about the things that Dill, Scout and Jem did as kids and the part about Dill dressing up as the “Holy Ghost” in ‘Go Set A Watchman’ was laugh-out-loud-FUNNY! I’ll not spoil it for you… you can go read about it yourself.

I’m not sure if ‘Go Set A Watchman’ was indeed, as Wikipedia says, the original text that should have been published instead of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. But how different things would have been! I’m not sure if Harper Lee would still have gone on to receive “the Pulitzer Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and numerous other literary awards and honours” as the book’s cover sleeve so proudly shares.

Free postcards at the back of the book :D

Go Set A Watchman postcards Harper Lee

My biggest disappointment in reading this book is finding out that Jem had simply keeled over and died one day. Presumably, he had a heart problem, just like his mother had. But we do get to read about Henry Clinton a.k.a. Hank. Hank is Scout’s suitor and when they are together, we get something to laugh about. From the late-night swim in the river (they were caught by spying eyes and said to have been swimming naked, when they were in fact clothed. Atticus’ response was pretty epic and super funny!) to the flashback to Scout’s schooldays when she showed up for a Commencement Dance with a pair of “false bosoms” which did not stay in place during the dance (what Hank did thereafter led to a hilarious situation in school). You’ll really have to read about these instances!

And, of course, there’s no avoiding issues about race and racial tensions in this book.

If more people are like Scout, we’d have fewer outbreaks of racism all around the world. Scout says on p179 that “They were poor, they were diseased and dirty, some were lazy and shiftless, but never in my life was I given the idea that I should despise one, should fear one, should be discourteous to one, or think that I could mistreat one and get away with it”. I would attribute this to Atticus’ not having a second marriage to a white woman and instead, employing a black woman (Calpurnia) to be the cook and also help in raising his two children.

As Scout’s Uncle Jack a.k.a. Dr. Finch says, “You’re color blind, Jean Louise… You always have been, you always will be. The only differences you see between one human and another are differences in looks and intelligence and character and the like. You’ve never been prodded to look at people as a race, and now that race is the burning issue of the day, you’re still unable to think racially. You see only people.” 

We definitely need more people who are color blind when it comes to race. And I do believe that this book still serves a purpose in reinforcing this point, especially when Scout begins to think that Atticus might be a racist and lashes out at him.

Dr Finch explains to Scout that “He (Atticus) was letting you break your icons one by one. He was letting you reduce him to the status of a human being”. And isn’t this what Harper Lee is trying to do for us readers too? *wink*

All in all, I think this book is a good read. Not as mindblowing-ly awesome as ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ has been, but it was great reading about Atticus and Jean Louise again, and the central message about racial issues remains. And perhaps some of us just need to hear it again from Harper Lee. :)

As Dr Finch says, on p264, “Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience.” What does your conscience say to you today about the way racial issues are playing out in your country, in the world you live in, and your response to those issues? :)

Park Hotel Alexandra: Crystal Club Lounge

Park Hotel Alexandra Crystal Club Lounge

I’ve had a most enjoyable stay in Park Hotel Alexandra’s Crystal Club room (click on the link to check out my review) and the Crystal Club Lounge is part of the experience. Located on the 19th floor as well, the lounge offers a quiet setting and great views. I love that there are only a few people at the lounge each time I visit. :D

Park Hotel Alexandra Crystal Club Lounge

Park Hotel Alexandra’s Crystal Club Lounge has a panoramic view that I think you’ll love too. So go check it out if you get the chance. :) And complementary hors d’oeuvres are served at the lounge from 530pm to 730pm* while light refreshments and non-alcoholic drinks are available throughout the day.

*During those 2 hours in the evening, you can drink your fill of the alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and nibble on some of the fruit, cheese and cake. I’d recommend couples to book a staycation in a Crystal Club room and enjoy these perks. I sure had a great time chatting with him over drinks. Too often, we are consumed by work and don’t spend quality time together just chatting with each other over drinks and taking in a scenic view at the same time. :D

Park Hotel Alexandra Crystal Club Lounge

Park Hotel Alexandra staff have impressed me during this visit:

  1. I wanted to head downstairs to the lobby to meet Feby from Febspantry as she’d some cupcakes for me. Alan exited from one of the lifts and I stepped right in, but alas, the elevator was heading upwards instead. And Alan waited for the next lift with me and even apologized for not reacting fast enough in helping me to stop the previous lift (totally not his fault). :D
  2. Sabrina did a great job in the morning, chatting with guests as they waited for an available table for breakfast. *Tip: Head downstairs for breakfast (at The Carvery) EARLY if you don’t want to end up queuing.
  3. Eileen was the only one attending to all the Crystal Club guests during the evening when we had our (free) drinks. When I was eating the coleslaw, she came over with a fresh tray of lemon meringue tarts and offered to replace the one I had taken – she said they taste better when cold.

Park Hotel Alexandra Crystal Club Lounge

After which, she made sure to come by our table, address us by our last names, and ensured that all was well. She also offered me Bailey’s and gin & tonic, and even brought us a bowl of cashew nuts because it seemed like we were happy with our drinks and weren’t going for more food. :D

Free drinks, good service and a great view. What more can one ask for?

Park Hotel Alexandra Crystal Club Lounge

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As for breakfast, it was not at the Crystal Club Lounge during my stay. We headed downstairs for breakfast with all the other hotel guests, at The Carvery. *Breakfast at the Club Lounge (for Club guests) will commence in September 2015.

Park Hotel Alexandra Buffet Breakfast

As with most hotels, there’s an omelette station which serves decent omelettes. The siu mai and pau are pretty good too! But I love the pastries the most! I actually neglected to take a picture of the pastries because I was happily enjoying them! :D

We had a workout session at the gym and also a swim in the hotel’s infinity pool before breakfast, and we were famished. Thankfully, the food did not disappoint. Some angmoh ladies sat at the table next to ours and even they were impressed by the breakfast options.

The infinity pool in front of the restaurant…

Park Hotel Alexandra infinity pool

This staycation was one of the most memorable ones we’ve had (that’s not us in the picture by the way). I’d love to head back here again soon. :) A swim in that pool first thing in the morning is pretty invigorating. You can admire the surroundings without being in a pool that’s too crowded. ;)

Park Hotel Alexandra – My Crystal Club Room Review :)

What I love most about Park Hotel Alexandra has to be its superb location. If you’re a foodie, you won’t have to venture far for good food. Within the hotel itself is The Carvery on level 7, IKEA is just next door (Swedish meatballs, anyone?), Anchorpoint and Alexandra Food Centre are just across the road, and there are a number of old-school bakeries nearby.

Also, to get your sporting goods, Queensway Shopping Centre is across the road as well. If you didn’t bring your gym gear, just head over to Queensway Shopping Centre to get a set then pop back into the hotel’s gym:

Brand-new gym that you’ll love… It’s next to the pool too. Great views!

Park Hotel Alexandra gym

*Here’s a tip for you: Queensway Shopping Centre is a place many of us locals go to for sportswear as there are so many stores there selling everything from Nalgene bottles to football jerseys and running shoes. However, there is a store at the (often-overlooked) basement that has a signboard stating ‘Queensway Sports Warehouse Sale’. The prices here are likely the lowest in the entire complex. :) I’ve bought 2 pairs of Nike shoes here on our previous visit. And he couldn’t resist either…

Queensway Shopping Centre

His Nike purchase (S$79) from this warehouse sale, and from Pedro (S$57) at Anchorpoint:

Queensway Shopping Centre and Anchorpoint

*And oh, when you’re at Queensway Shopping Centre, you can try the laksa which is supposed to be linked to the famous Katong Laksa? We had that for supper *oops*

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Park Hotel Alexandra opened its doors to guests in June 2015, has 442 guestrooms and suites, and is “designed in natural woods, earthy shades and prints that embrace the botanical theme and provide a relaxed and tranquil atmosphere for guests”. I have to agree. I felt right at home here. The only downside of being so new is that it can get a bit difficult to lock/unlock the door.

There are 6 room types: Superior, Deluxe, Premier, Crystal Club, Executive Suite and Park Suite. I stayed in a Crystal Club room and I must say I love the view from the 19th floor! My room (1923) overlooks the hotel pool too! :D

 Park Hotel Alexandra crystal club room

The toilet features a standing shower with a rainshower, and comes stocked with amenities any business or leisure traveler will require.

Park Hotel Alexandra toilet

Park Hotel Alexandra toiletries

For your reading pleasure, there’s a copy of The Straits Times, TIME and Fortune magazines within the room too. The cupcakes were sent to me by Febspantry. :D

Park Hotel Alexandra

Why stay in a Crystal Club room? You get to enjoy perks like late check-out at 3pm, light refreshments and non-alcoholic beverages at the Club Lounge throughout the day (very useful if you have work to catch up on), complimentary use of the club meeting room (one hour per stay), 20% off dining at The Carvery, personalized check-out, etc.

The Coffee Belt at the hotel’s lobby offers barista coffee and artisan teas, together with gourmet wraps and homemade pastries. I haven’t tried them since the F&B at the Crystal Club Lounge is complimentary :DPark Hotel Alexandra The Coffee Belt

~ Soft-launch Promotion ~

Stay a minimum of 2 nights and enjoy 30% off Deluxe rooms, plus 20% off F&B offerings for in-house guests at The Carvery and Aqua Luna. Valid till 31 August 2015. Book via http://www.parkhotelgroup.com/alexandra