Barbie’s New Look

I have a weird relationship with Barbie dolls.  When we were growing up, I used to publicly denounce them as “stupid brainless girly toys” because that was what everyone else called them.

But, I secretly really enjoyed playing with my Princess Barbie doll. I loved brushing her plastic hair and dressing her up in her Princess Dress complete with homemade paper hat.  I secretly wanted to sew new dresses her, but never did.  Heck, one of the papers I did in University was about Barbie’s influence on feminist culture!

So, it’s no surprise that I’m super-excited for the new line of Barbie Fashionistas dolls, which not only include new body types like petite, curvy and tall, but also include new heads and skin colours!  I was very pleased to note that one of the dolls sported a generic-looking Asian face, complete with dead-straight hair.  It’s just a nice step in a new direction.

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Plus, it’s in keeping with Barbie’s long and (might I add) illustrious history of being a positive role model for little girls.  I mean, she’s one of the first toys for girls that represented a career other than homemaking and she’s gone on to embody over 150 different careers, including Game Developer and three-term President of the United States of America.

Over the years, Barbie has had some (small) controversy over issues like her unrealistic figure and her temporary divorce from Ken.  Still, these issues aside, it’s clear that Mattel is moving in a more body positive direction and the dolls are clearly quality items.

So, I’m going to support Mattel in this endeavor.  It’s great to see Barbies in multiple shapes and colours and I hope that they keep up the good work!

Last Minute Chinese New Year Cleaning (with Ecover)

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Ecover’s Household Cleaning and Laundry Range

When Ecover Singapore sent over their Ecover Zero range for me to try, they also sent along an assortment of their regular range of eco-friendly household cleaning products. I have been using these in the house over the last 6 months and I have to say that they are pretty good!

The Ecover Washing-Up Liquid, just like it’s counterpart from the Ecover Zero range, cuts through grease very effectively – and all without the use of non-biodegradable foam boosters that are all show and no action. I like to dilute the liquid (one part washing-up liquid to four parts filtered water) into separate bottle which I can then happily squeeze over the dishwashing sponge, so I find that a small amount of washing-up liquid really goes a long way.

I like the Ecover All-Purpose Cleaner very much as well, which has a nice lemon scent. I like to dilute this into a handheld spray bottle and use to clean all the surfaces in the house, giving it a nice squeaky clean shine with no residual stickiness. The Toilet Cleaner also does a decent job of cleaning the commode and preventing calcified deposits from building up, although I find that I need to leave it to ‘sit’ in the bowl a little longer than I normally would in order to get that really clean sparkle.

The only product that I would not use again would be the Ecover Stain Remover. Although it does remove collar stains well from the Barn Owl’s shirts, I found it rather messy and drippy to apply.

Ecover products use fragrances derived from plant-based ingredients which are very subtle and pleasant. I especially like the smell of the Delicate Laundry Liquid, which has a nice lavender scent. However, if you have delicate skin that is sensitive to perfumes, try the fragrance-free Ecover Zero range instead. You can read my review of the Ecover Zero range here.

(You can find Ecover products online at the Ecover Singapore website which offers free shipping within Singapore for orders over SGD$30! Use the code OWLSWELL20 upon checkout to enjoy 20% off storewide. The code is valid until 29 Feb 2016.)

Family Heirlooms in the Making

So, after A Becky Lee and The Boobook announced their engagement, I wanted to get something really special for her as a wedding gift.

My family had recently received some treasured possessions from our late Grandfather’s estate (the Aged P’s dad), which included some jade pieces that belonged to our late Grandmother who died when I was a very small girl. The minute I saw the jade pieces, which included a pair of jade doughnuts, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them – bring them to Choo Yilin.

Now, I have been a closet fan of Choo Yilin for years, ever since I stumbled across her website years back, when J was born. At the time, she had a small site on Etsy, but I was really impressed with her commitment to sustainable luxury and the way she used her designs to communicate important social, environmental and cultural messages.

Many times over the years, I saw Choo Yilin’s jewelry brand pop up in various collaborations with environmental-awareness groups such as World Wildlife Fund and non-profit charities such as UNIFEM. I was impressed by the efforts that she made in sourcing for fair-trade jade and precious stones, going through great lengths to ensure that the supply chain is conflict-free. Additionally, I liked the fact that she worked directly with hilltribe artisans from Thailand who crafted her designs, finding ways to support and redevelop their community.

So, I booked an appointment for myself and A Becky Lee, and we headed down to Joo Chiat, where her shophouse is located.

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There’s nothing like Tea and Some Pretties

We were met by one of Choo Yilin’s in-house designers, Samantha, who chatted with us over a cup of tea, inspecting the jade pieces that we brought and showing us a variety of designs and options, each more beautiful than the last.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that the Grandma’s jade doughnuts were both type A jadeite, completely pure and untreated, which was evident in the level of translucency each piece displayed. Apparently, it is common to find jade pieces that have been artificially enhanced with colour treatments and polymer injections.

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Some of the gorgeous ready-to-wear designs available in store mixed in with Grandma’s jade doughnuts

In the end, A Becky Lee and I decided on turning the jade doughnuts into matching necklaces using one of Choo Yilin’s existing Peranakan-inspired designs, a cherry blossom branch studded with semi-precious gems.

We chose different combinations of gemstones, depending on their particular significance to us, then selected the colour of the metal that we wanted to use. Samantha told us that we could also choose the shade of each gemstone if we wanted – however, as both of us are terrible with colours, we chose to leave that part up to her expert eye.

It would take a few months for the necklaces to be completed – and I can hardly wait to see the result!

Thumper sleeping through the entire process

Samantha’s copious notes on our jade doughnuts, and a sample of the design we chose. Please note Thumper sleeping through the entire bespoke jewellery-making process!

Now the process of bespoke jewellery-making is pretty costly, but it was worth it for myself to make something truly meaningful to commemorate our sisterly bond on the occasion of A Becky Lee’s wedding. I really do hope that our necklaces will be worn often and remind us of our heritage and family.

One day, I hope to be able to take Grandma’s broken red jade bangle do something special with it…but first I will have to save up my pennies for another trip to Choo Yilin!

Are you ready for a Challenge?!

So, Meimei, with all your woolly masses and fancy new knitting needles, are you ready for a Challenge?

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Yes, I am asking you for a challenge. (Picture Credit: Homestarrunner.com)

Seriously though, since The Boobook has banned you from adding more fancy wool from Etsy to your stash, I’m going to challenge you to completing at least THREE projects by the end of 2016.

The projects have to include one or more of the following elements – feel free to combine them in whatever manner you wish:

  • A gift for the Aged P that she will actually use on more than one occasion
  • An Infinity Scarf
  • A fancy beret that is not a pathetic beanie hat.
  • A project showcasing  a completely new technique
  • A project using a little-used technique that you tend to avoid because it requires some practice

P.S. I don’t suppose your new knitting needles will also include PVC pipes for making cuddly blankets using giant wool.

P.P.S. Also, if you use this knitting machine, you don’t need to do three projects.

Last Minute CNY Shopping at Sea Apple

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Little E wearing a modern cheongsam from Sea Apple in ‘Sophie’

If you’re still looking for something cute and modern for your little living doll this Chinese New Year, definitely check out Sea Apple, the latest online boutique for childrenswear!

Su Mei, the founder and designer behind Sea Apple, got in contact with me not long ago and was kind enough to send Little E one of the gorgeous cheongsams from her first Chinese New Year collection! Thanks Su Mei!

I am really impressed by Su Mei’s eye for detail and subtlety, and the fact that this first collection represents the courage and fortitude it took for her to pursue her dream. Su Mei tells me that whilst she was still working as a civil servant, she actively took courses in fashion construction and design in Singapore and London, and took time off to walk the fabric markets all over the world.

Her first collection is a mixture of beautiful prints and lush fabrics, showcasing Su Mei’s simple, modern aesthetic. I haven’t seen any modern cheongsam designs for little girls on the market at the moment, so these are really special! Each dress is not only fun and chic, but is clearly designed with practical comfort in mind – something that I think is missing from many ‘little cheongsam’ designs on the market.

The dress that I picked for Little E is made from a sweet cotton lawn, light and airy, with a lovely 1930s vintage Liberty Art print of blooming hydrangeas. The short mandarin collar and the box pleat detail make the dress really comfortable to wear and move about in – and it looks so pretty! I’m so excited for Little E to be wearing a Liberty print dress – it just brings back memories of browsing in the Liberty of London store during my University days.

I am really looking forward to when Su Mei releases her summer collection which is going to include something for the boys and the little babies too. I’m going to be looking out for something special for J and Thumper!

See more of Sea Apple’s CNY collection here.

P.S. If you’re thinking of nabbing one of the Sea Apple dresses for CNY, here’s a launch special just for Owls Well Readers! Just enter the code Owls10 at checkout to get SGD$10 off your order! (Code is valid until 7th Feb 2016) 

How NOT to Decorate Your Bedroom

Sorry Debs, I didn’t end up going to see Quidam this weekend, as the Boobook and I already had other plans.

We ended up at Pillow Talk, instead, buying sheets for the new Queen bed that we have.  Pillow Talk is by the way an absolutely fantastic place to buy new bedding.  Their clearance aisle is always good for a bargain.  I don’t mind buying shop-soiled and old bedding as the “soiling” is never biological and usually washes out easily.

Also, they have everything, from ugly ornaments and useless bric-a-brac, to duvets and towels, to beautiful bedspreads.

A Becky Lee:  Boobook!  Look at this!  It’s 500 thread count and it’s going for $20.  It’s soooo cheap!

The Boobook: Yes, but it’s also a Playboy bedspread.

A Becky Lee: But it’s cheap and it’ll feel fantastic.

The Boobook:  It’s also a hideous shade of neon Fuchsia.

A Becky Lee: But we sleep with our eyes closed.  We won’t actually have to look at it.

The Boobook:  We are also not a teenage boy.

A Becky Lee:  Point

He didn’t let me buy the bedspread.