Nothing’s slick as Gaston Luga – A Backpack Review (And exclusive discount code!)

We’d been on the lookout for a new bag for the Barn Owl that would be suitable not only for work and everyday use, but for travelling, and we were so pleased to have been contacted by the fine folk from Swedish retailer, Gaston Luga!

I have always associated haversacks with children and school, which is why I don’t carry them myself for fear of looking like a student. However, I have to say that after looking through the beautifully designed bags available on the Gaston Luga website, I am now convinced that these are an elegant grown-up version of the backpack!

With all the colours and styles available to choose from, it was difficult to pick our favourite but in the end, we picked out this gorgeous bag in olive and brown that combines style with practicality.

The bag arrived within a few days of ordering via DHL express, and it was much more beautiful than I expected! The bag is constructed from a thick and durable canvas, with faux leather straps and beautiful stitching. We were pleased to find that the buckles on the bag are purely for decoration as the straps are affixed with magnetic closures for convenience. I particularly like the four metal feet under the bag that not only help it stand upright when you put it down, but stops the bottom of the bag from scraping the ground.

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We love pockets

The main compartment of the bag closes with a sturdy drawstring and has a nice padded laptop sleeve, as well as pockets to fit the Barn Owl’s spectacles case and phone – and when we’re on the go, he likes to tuck his phone in the unique Gaston Luga ‘passport pocket’. There’s also a little zippered outer pocket which comfortably fits all his odds and ends.

The Barn Owl has been using this bag everyday for the last four months and we recently took the backpack along with us on our last trip abroad. It really travels well and is super-comfortable to wear, even when there’s a two year old sitting on your shoulders!

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Gaston Luga was here

A Bonus for Owls Well Readers: Gaston Luga is offering a 15% discount on all Gaston Luga merchandise! Just enter the code owlswell15 at checkout to have the discount applied to your order.

Buyer’s Note: We received the Clässic backpack from Gaston Luga for the purposes of this interview. If you would like to buy your own backpack, check out the Gaston Luga website here. Gaston Luga quite often throws in some seasonal freebies (usually a cardholder or luggage tag) with every backpack order, so keep an eye out for them! Additionally, if you are ordering from outside the EU, you automatically get a 20% off tax rebate. With free DHL international shipping thrown in and 15% with the Owls Well discount code, that’s more than SGD$100 in savings – a real bargain!

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Maternity and Nursingwear – My Top 6 Favourite Online Retailers

So last week, I talked about some tips for choosing maternity and nursing wear that you won’t hate to wear after one year (as well as some hacks for making non-specialty store clothes work for you).

Winter walking on the Elkmont trail

Nothing covers up a pregnant belly better than a large coat.

Well, here are my Top 5 favourite online stores (both local and abroad) where I got some of my most-loved outfits that I wore throughout my pregnancy and breastfeeding journey, as well as a few buyers tips!

The Owls Well Shopping Guide: Top 6 Best Online Maternity and Nursingwear Retailers

Local Retailers

1. Uniqlo

Uniqlo is a Japanese brand and their clothes are generally affordable, well-designed, and their online store has impeccable customer service. In Singapore, Uniqlo offers free delivery for orders above SGD60.

I love the Uniqlo Airism Bratop range (both the tanks and camisoles). They’re also super-smooth and designed to wick sweat away from the body, which makes them ideal to wear during pregnancy and breastfeeding days. The material stretches well and doesn’t lose its shape even after being used as nursing tanks – wore them underneath everything and just pulled down the neckline for easy access to the milk bar.

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Picture credit: Uniqlo

I also liked their Relaco 3/4 shorts for lounging around the house. These are wide leg, super soft cotton trousers with an elasticated waist which are very stretchy and comfortable. I wore these as pyjama bottoms for the duration of my pregnancy, and they never lost their elasticity!

Buyers note: Look out for the frequent sales and online exclusive offers – the Airism range frequently goes on sale for at least 20% off!

2. Mummy’s Secret

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Picture Credit: Mummy’s Secret

If you like cutesy and girly Korean and Japanese fashions, and you want to stock up your wardrobe with a few basics that won’t break the bank, Mummy’s Secret is a great little online store with fast and efficient service.

I got some really cheap and cheerful cotton basics from here – leggings, shorts as well as tunic tops and casual dresses which are all a steal between SGD6-25.

Buyer’s Note: Make sure you pay attention to the sizes and the dimensions of the clothes on each page before buying because the sizes do vary. It is also worth opting for courier delivery for a flat fee of SGD$6.

3. Dote

Dote is a homegrown maternity and nursingwear label by a local fashion designer mom and is my go-to online store when I’m looking for something pretty and special.

Some of my favourite tops and dresses are from Dote, and they still come out to play even though I am no longer breastfeeding, just because they are so lovely and flattering to the figure!

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Picture Credit: Dote Studio

What I particularly like about Dote is that all their maternitywear converts into nursingwear so that they can be worn post-pregnancy – and that their nursing access openings are extremely cleverly hidden in a variety of different ways.

Buyer’s Note: The clothes from Dote are a little more pricey but they are beautifully made and wash well, so keep an eye out for their frequent end of season sales and discount codes!

4. Mothers En Vogue

I do believe that Mothers En Vogue is one of the first homegrown maternity labels in Singapore and for a long time, they did corner the market with their range of fashionable maternity officewear.

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Picture Credit: Mothers En Vogue

I find their designs in jersey fabric a little too clingy for my taste in general but I do like their cold weather range. If you need one or two items for travel, the Mothers En Vogue knit sweaters, tunics and long-sleeved tops are great value, especially if you pick the designs that will allow you to breastfeed discreetly. Their shorts and jeans are pretty comfortable too!

Buyer’s Note: Although the cotton jersey fabric used on most of their designs is very soft and comfortable, they do fit snugly to show off your figure and baby bump. If you prefer something less clingy, pick their ‘slouchy’ styles are more airy. The clothes are also quite pricey, but sale section also gets updated very often, so check back often!

Overseas Retailers

5. J Crew

With flat fee shipping from the US for a mere SGD14, you can really get some great bargains from the J Crew sale section, where everything is 75% off or more.

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Picture Credit: J Crew

Their maternity pull-on shorts are super comfortable, wash well, and won’t hurt you with zips and buttons. I have also heard good things about their jeans (although I don’t own any myself).

Buyer’s Note: Don’t bother looking at the regular-priced clothes section unless you are prepared to splurge. The prices will make you gag.

6. Next

If you like trendy and reasonably priced European fashion, Next is where you gotta go for simple, clean designs in beautiful fabrics. They also have a very nice selection of very flattering maternity swimwear and they also stock the popular and stylish maternity brand, Mamalicious.

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Picture Credit: Next Direct

Buyer’s Note: Delivery to Singapore is free for orders about SGD50. Not all the maternity clothes are suitable for breastfeeding, so do check the description carefully.

Check out my top tips for choosing a wardrobe that will see you throughout your pregnancy to your breastfeeding days!

Maternity and Nursingwear – Top tips for choosing a new wardrobe

When I was expecting J, my first child, I ruined quite a few of my clothes, stretching them out beyond belief in my refusal to buy maternity wear.

Reasons why I did not want to buy maternity wear:

  1. Maternity wear is expensive
  2. Maternity wear is ugly
  3. I’d only be wearing them for 9 months so why bother

I had resorted to sneaking teeshirts from the Barn Owl’s drawers when he decided that Enough Was Enough and insisted that I get some new clothes.

Unfortunately, I was also suffering from terrible all-day-long sickness, and even walking around the house was making me dizzy. I could not bear to bring myself to go down to the high street to buy circus tents to wear.

Which is when I discovered the big bad world of online shopping!

I also discovered that maternity and nursing wear has changed drastically in the last decade or so, and most things are comfortable, chic and reasonably priced. I have since changed my attitude towards buying clothes during pregnancy and I highly recommend that expectant ladies invest in good quality maternity wear.

Now, this is not to say that you have to necessarily go to a specialist shop to purchase purpose-built maternity wear. You just have to know what to look out for when choosing clothes for this stage of your life. I didn’t figure this one out until I was well into my second pregnancy and had a better idea of what sort of clothes would work well in the transition from pregnancy to the postpartum state.

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At the beginning of my third trimester expecting Thumper

Reasons why I recommend expectant ladies to purchase maternity and nursing wear:

  1. Pre-pregnancy clothes will stay nice and not turn into shapeless bags
  2. Husband will stop complaining about missing shirts (and shorts)
  3. The clothes will actually be worn for much, MUCH longer than 9 months, especially if one is breastfeeding and takes a longer time to regain pre-pregnancy shape
  4. The clothes are usually super comfortable and flattering to the figure which makes a big difference to your outlook on life when you’re approaching the size of a whale, hurting all over and feeling miserable about stretch marks
  5. Most maternity clothes also double up as nursing wear which makes life very easy if you decide to breastfeed or use a breast pump.

So here are my top tips to keep in mind when looking for maternity or nursing wear (as well as some hacks for making regular clothes work for you)!

Owls Well Guide to choosing Maternity and Nursingwear

1. For bottoms, look for styles with a fully elasticated panel that extends over the top of your bump. This panel can then be worn over the top of your bump, folded down midway or even scrunched up under the bump, and will stretch and shrink to accommodate the changes in size during and after your pregnancy.

I have found this style to be the most comfortable as it doesn’t slip down when you walk (or run) around or lose elasticity, so it lasts the longest. Additionally, I think looks great for after pregnancy because the elasticated panel smooths over all your wobbly bits!

Regular clothes hack #1: Yoga pants with a high waistband and soft, stretchy and breathable material would work well too – size up if you’re worried about it getting too tight and uncomfortable towards the end of your pregnancy! Look for maxi or midi-length skirts with elasticated waists, plenty of pleats and gathers for loads of room and to make sure that hemlines stay decent in the front as your belly burgeons.

2. For tops and tees, try to find styles that will last you through those nursing days. This can either be combination maternity-to-nursingwear tops or have any of the following features:

  • Buttons that go all the way up the front (at at least mid way)
  • Wrap tops
  • Loose fitting or flowing tops, or oversized, boxed-shaped tees
  • Trapeze or swing tops that are narrow on top and loose at the hips
  • Styles with pleats, ruching, gathers, shirring and smocking (basically anything that has extra hidden fabric with a little ‘give’) are your friends

Regular clothes hack #2: Look for longer length tops or tunics – these won’t turn into crop tops and will cover your bump neatly well into the last trimester. Long cardigans,  cute serapes or ponchos, as well as loosely draped wrapped tops are great cool weather gear and can also double-up as great nursing covers!

3. Although in general I prefer separates for maternity and nursing wear, it is probably a good idea to get one or two really nice dresses for special occasions. You never know you might have to go to a party, a wedding, or just dress up for date night (I suggest a movie and a fancy restaurant). Take your time and choose something really nice that you might even deign to wear after your pregnancy – you can always cinch in the waist with a belt!

Regular clothes hack #3: Maxi dresses are your friend – especially high waisted or empire line styles!

4. Many nursing tops and dresses now have very cleverly hidden openings for easy access to the milk bar. However, do avoid nursing access openings that have a zip or velcro closure. Who wants little zip teethmarks all along the side of your boob? Or start a breastfeeding session with a loud ripping sound that will frighten the birds? Nobody, that’s who.

Regular clothes hack #4: Look for tops and dresses that have a hidden bra shelf and stretchy open neckline – quick and easy pull-down access!

5. For lingerie, stick with your usual bikini style panties (boy shorts if you want more coverage at the back) and wear them under your belly, just be prepared to buy new pants as these will surely be stretched all out of shape. Stick with breathable cotton and seamless styles as keeping cool and comfortable is key to preventing nasty infections.

6. As for bras, your breasts are likely to get tender during pregnancy and will definitely change in shape and size. Ditch all your underwire bras, and find some good quality maternity and nursing bras that are not only soft, breathable, stretchy and easily adjustable to accommodate fluctuations in size (which can be +/- a whole cup or two every few hours), but provide good support so that you don’t get backache. Most nursing bras will come with drop-down cups, so find ones that you can clip and unclip easily with one hand.

Regular clothes hack #5: If you don’t fluctuate in size much, a good sports bra or sports tank, crop top or camisole with an inbuilt bra shelf are a good option. They’ll be comfortable, give good support and wick sweat away from the body to boot. Layer them under your other clothes to use them as nursing bras.

Check out my Top 6 Favourite Online Maternity and Nursingwear Retailers here

Author Showcase: Leo Lionni – Children’s book author and illustrator

Now that J has become a confident reader, I have started asking him to read to Little E and Thumper. It brings me great joy to see all three of them together, looking through a picture book together.

One of our current favourite children’s book authors is Leo Lionni, who wrote and illustrated more than forty award-winning children’s books. I love his colourful and bold graphic style with its use of paper collage and watercolours. His stories are just as lovely and captivating as his pictures, and they are a joy to read aloud!

“I believe that a good children’s book should appeal to all people who have not completely lost their original joy and wonder in life. The fact is that I don’t make books for children at all. I make them for that part of us, of myself and of my friends, which has never changed, which is still a child.”
― Leo Lionni

We currently own only two books by Leo Lionni, “Alexander and the Wind-up Mouse” and “Matthew’s Dream” – but I am hoping that we will be able to expand out library soon!

Alexander and the Wind-up Mouse” is a fun little book about Alexander the mouse who envies the seemingly cushy life of his only friend, Willy, a mechanical toy mouse. Alexander seeks a magic pebble that will grant him a single wish. Eventually, Willy is discarded by his owner, and Alexander must choose between using his wish for himself or for his dear friend. This is such a beautiful book about unselfish love and friendship, I cannot help but feel very moved at the end!

Matthew’s Dream“, a colourful book about Matthew, a little mouse who visits an art museum and becomes inspired by the beautiful abstract works that he sees. This is a very interesting book that is a great way to discuss the interpretation and appreciation of art and aesthetics! I was very surprised at the way Leo Lionni was able to clearly communicate such abstract concepts to children, but it really opened up their eyes and helped them to look at the world around them in a new way.

Beautiful stories, beautiful pictures

Stories and pictures that captivate

It just so happened that a few months ago, the Japanese casual wear designer, Uniqlo, was selling kids clothes bearing Leo Lionni designs. When I spied them in store, all I could think of was ‘WOOHOO!’ I just had to pick out a few for Little E to wear. She was so excited to see the paper mice from her favourite stories on the dresses, which she likes to put on whenever we are reading from the books.

We also found a great Leo Lionni paper mouse craft that is available as a free printable, courtesy of Random House publishing.

We just printed it out and Little E carefully cut out each part with a pair of safety scissors. For the mouse’s body, we used Leo Lionni’s own technique of tearing the paper, so that the body would have a furry appearance!

We used double-sided tape to fix the arms, legs, eye and tail to the mouse body, and then taped the whole thing to a straw so that Little E could play with it like a puppet!

How to make a Paper Mouse

Little E makes a paper Alexander mouse!

You can download the template for the paper mouse as well as other free Leo Lionni printables here.

A Special for Owls Well Readers: Well done for reading to the end! MPH Bookstores Singapore is kindly sponsoring a giveaway of “Alexander and the Wind-up Mouse” by Leo Lionni to THREE lucky Owls Well Readers! Huzzah!

To take part in this giveaway:

  1. Be a fan of the Owls Well Facebook page
  2. Like and share this post on Facebook and tag three friends – make sure your post is public!
  3. Leave a comment below telling me about your first ‘best’ friend (or your child’s first ‘best’ friend), as well the name of your Facebook account that you used to like and share the page. Don’t forget to include your email address! (If you would like to send me the email address privately, leave a comment for the other answers, then email me at 4owlswell [at] gmail [dot] com)

(Giveaway is open to anyone with a Singapore address and will end on 20th October 2015. Winners will be picked via Random.org – just make sure you complete all 3 easy steps!)

P.S. Special thanks to MPH Bookstores Singapore for being awesome and acquiescing to my request for review copies of all the books listed in this post!

P.P.S. This post was written in memory of Leo Lionni who passed away at the age of 89 on 11 October 1999.

Update: This giveaway is now closed and the winners have been emailed – thanks for playing!

An SG50 Party

With Singapore’s 50th National Day coming up, everyone over here in Singapore is getting all excited about the upcoming SG50 National Day Parade, which has been practising hard over the last few weeks.

SG50 parties are popping up all over the place, and the Aged P decided to throw a small potluck party with some home cooked dishes given an SG50 twist!

A vegetable dish, A pasta dish and A SG50 Funpack

A vegetable dish, A pasta dish and A SG50 Funpack

The Aged P made the vegetable dish with white radish, wongbok cabbage and carrots boiled in a clear chicken broth with dried scallops and shiitake mushrooms. You can see she layered the vegetables with the white radish slices on top, then added a crescent moon and five stars carved from carrot.

Our good ole Uncle J-the-chef made one of his chinese-italian fusion pastas with ’50’ spelled out in cherry tomatoes and quail eggs dyed red.

We also had a Red food (Foochow noodle soup made with red yeast) and White drinks (Soya bean juice), but I think that a traditional Teh Tarik (made according to the instructions on my SG50 ‘funpack’) would be fun for a party too!

We’re going to meet with the Aged Ps at their place on the 9th of August (actual SG50 day) and watch the National Day Parade and enjoy the fireworks on TV together in air-con comfort.

For people who are too far away to enjoy an SG50 party, you can still celebrate in your own way – you can check out the Owls Well SG50 Playlist or you can make just like A Becky Lee, who went to have a very special SG50 themed manicure!

So patriotic and fashionable!

So patriotic and fashionable!

 

Toko Aljunied saves the (Racial Harmony) Day!

In Singapore, we celebrate Racial Harmony Day on the 21st July every year. This takes place on the anniversary of the 1964 racial riots in Singapore where a celebratory procession (following the president Yusof bin Ishak’s formal address) in honour of the Prophet Muhammed’s birthday turned violent, leading to the death of 23 people and leaving 454 people injured. These riots exposed the serious racial tension between the many races that make up the Singapore population.

On Racial Harmony Day, school going kids are encouraged to wear traditional ethnic costumes to school and the day is set aside to celebrate Singapore’s success in building a racially harmonious society with a rich and diverse cultural heritage. In Little E’s kindergarten, they will have the opportunity to sample traditional snacks during class.

Usually, I put Little E in her Chinese New Year cheongsam, but as we did not celebrate Chinese New Year this year, I was at a loss as to what to do.

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The Barn Owl and I at our engagement celebration

Then I remembered that I needed to get her a special outfit for A Becky Lee’s wedding dinner later this year and I was planning to get myself measured up for a new sarong kebaya for the occasion (having outgrown the kebaya that I wore for my own engagement celebration more than 10 years ago).

So why not get her a little one to match? Additionally, it would be appropriate to celebrate our family’s Peranakan heritage on Racial Harmony Day!

Yay!

I had purchased my sarong kebaya many years ago during a trip to Malacca with the Aged Ps, but this time, I decided that I would look for a kebaya shop locally.

I asked around my network of friends and found out from Delphine (from Life in the Wee Hours) about Toko Aljunied, which is a very well-established Batik and Kebaya shop, located on Arab Street. She’d been there a few years ago to buy outfits for herself and her daughter, and had been very impressed with them.

I had no idea at the time, but Toko Aljunied has tailored traditional Peranakan wear for local stage and television productions such as ‘Emily of Emerald Hill’ and ‘The Little Nyonya’, and is generally favoured by our current Prime Minister as the place to get beautiful one-of-a-kind silk batik shirts for formal functions!

Shopping for a mini-Kebaya at Toko Aljunied (91 Arab Street)

Shopping for a mini-Kebaya at Toko Aljunied (91 Arab Street)

Parking at Arab Street is normally a nightmare, however, Toko Aljunied is two minutes walk from the Golden Landmark Shopping Centre which has a nice basement carpark. Win!!

At Toko Aljunied, the Makcik who owns the store kindly brought out a few ready-made tops in Little E’s size, saying that she would adjust the sleeves on the spot if they were too big for her. I noticed that the material used to make the sheer tops were all traditional cotton robia, which is a very fine, light cotton voile, and the lace-like embellishments (known as ‘sulam’) along the collar, hem and cuffs were all embroidered directly onto the material – that is, they weren’t appliqués that were stitched on.

The tops came in a variety of colours, and Little E chose a delicate pink shade which received a nod of approval from the Makcik. I was about to open my mouth to protest (WHY PINK WHY) when the Makcik fixed me with a stern gaze and said, firmly, “This one is good for her – very chantek!”

Now comes the difficult part – matching the kebaya top with a sarong skirt! With my poor colour sense, I would get lost and confused in the multitude of colours and swirling motifs that make up the batik print so I was very pleased when the Makcik proceeded to expertly pair the top with a variety of sarongs, each making the whole outfit look more beautiful than the last.

Eventually, the Makcik picked out a sarong with red, purple and gold ‘ikat’ print which really made the colours of the kebaya shine. The Makcik advised us to get the sarong in a longer length and fold it over at the waist, saying “Let her wear it for longer otherwise so sayang, what a waste.”

Although the child-sized kebaya top is conveniently fastened together with hidden popper buttons, no sarong kebaya ensemble is complete without the ‘kerosang’, a fancy three-piece brooch joined together with a long chain. The Makcik picked out two types of ‘kerosang’ for Little E, one with gold with rhinestones in the shape of a flower and one set with purple stones. Little E went with the purple stones, so the Makcik went to the front of the store and picked out purple flower hair clips to match!

All in all, the whole ensemble set us back SGD$80, which is very reasonable! Best of all, Little E loved it. You can see her happy little face in the picture above, as she clutched the shopping bag with its precious cargo!

She could not WAIT to put her kebaya on for Racial Harmony Day! Look how happy she is! She was going about proclaiming, “I’m wearing a kebaya because my Ah Kong is a Baba so I am a Little Nyonya girl!”

Little Nyonya proudly wearing her kebaya!

Little Nyonya proudly wearing her kebaya!

I am so glad the Little E is embracing her Peranakan heritage! I am now thinking of revisiting the shop to get J a traditional batik shirt…and I must remember to get the Aged Ps to bring them to the Peranakan Museum again.

Toko Aljunied is located at 91 Arab Street, Singapore 199797

Tel:+6562946897

Email: radialjunied@gmail.com

Opening Hours are from 1100-1900 on Monday to Saturdays and from 1100-1700 on Sundays

Expert Tips for Managing Awkward Hair (or The Soda Spa at le blanc by mashu)

I have to confess that I have been neglecting my own personal hair care in favour of learning how to manage Little E’s curly locks. Fortunately, I have straight hair which is generally pretty easy to manage. My challenge is finding the time to style it all pretty and visit the hairdressers.

To be perfectly honest, getting to the hairdressers is a real big deal for me because I have to find time in my weekday schedule (or rather, the children’s schedules) and then co-ordinate with the Aged Ps to find a time where babysitting the kids is a possibility. Which is why my current method of hairstyling consists of the following steps:

  1. Visit hairdresser and get hair cut short. Really short. Preferably into a bob which requires little attention.
  2. Allow hair to grow out for about 6 months until it reaches Awkward Hair Stage where it is neither long nor short and just looks untidy all the time.
  3. Look untidy all the time until hair grows long enough to tie into a pony tail or until it is convenient to visit the hairdresser.

My utter failure to pay attention to my crowning glory (or haystack, as it was beginning to resemble) has gotten much worse lately due to Baby #3. Pregnancy hormones usually lead to a change in hair growth, quality and texture, which usually leads to most expectant moms sporting thicker, glossier-looking manes. In my case, unfortunately, my hair became both coarse and dry.

This change in texture, combined with the fact that my hair had reached Awkward Hair Stage was really starting to get me down so I was overjoyed when the up-and-coming hair salon, le blanc by mashu, invited me for a haircut-and-styling session (with their Creative Director Masaeki Ueda) and their signature Soda Spa Scalp Treatment!

le blanc by mashu is a well-established (25 years and counting!), award-winning chain of hair salons in Osaka, Japan, with a reputation for not only customising the latest trends to suit each individual’s style and natural beauty but is also committed to affordability.

The team of Japanese hairstylists working at the newly opened Plaza Singapura location have flown in from Osaka to establish themselves under the watchful eye of Creative Director, Masaeki Ueda, whose goal is to empower women to style their own hair without breaking their bank accounts. I was surprised to find out that rates for a senior hairstylist at le blanc by mashu starts at a mere SGD$45 which is about half of what other premium hair salons are charging!

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le blanc by mashu – a very plush hair salon!

I have to say that the interior of the salon is very welcoming and comfortable! I was ushered to my chair and served a very refreshing cup of green tea, then taken to the shampoo room for the Soda Spa Scalp Treatment.

Now, one of the signature hair services provided by le blanc by mashu is the use of carbonated water or ‘tansan‘ spa water as part of their hair-washing regime. As far as I understand it, every customer will enjoy having their hair washed and rinsed in bubbly ‘tansan‘ water, which is reputed to deep cleanse hair follicles and improve circulation to the scalp.

The Soda Spa Scalp Treatment (SGD$110) is a more intense treatment which is supposed to improve hair quality, reduce hair loss and maintain a healthy, dandruff-free scalp. This involves massaging a large quantity frothy and pleasant-smelling Soda Spa Foam, a mousse containing concentrated carbon dioxide (you can see the pink Soda Spa Foam bottle in the picture above) into the scalp and hair which is then wrapped in a towel and steamed for ten minutes. After the foam is rinsed off with more ‘tansan’ spa water, Sparkling Spa Shower hair tonic (from the gold bottle in the picture above) is applied liberally to the scalp. This is a fizzy blend of concentrated carbon dioxide with all sorts of interesting herbal extracts including ginseng, ginger, witch hazel and angelica root which feels highly refreshing and energising!

WARNING: SCIENCE!!!

Now, I am quite a skeptical person, so I did a little bit of research into the effects of carbonated water on the skin. We all know that throughout history, people have built health farms around bubbling hot springs and visiting these spas to ‘take the waters’ has long been touted to have positive health benefits especially for those people suffering from skin lesions. I always maintained that it was the act of relaxing in a steaming long bath and being massaged by warm hands that improved circulation and general well-being.

However, there is evidence that carbon dioxide and carbonated water does have a positive effect on irritated skin (such as in dermatitis or eczema), with the mildly acidic water providing an antiseptic effect and the flushing of carbon dioxide leading to blood capillary dilatation, thereby increasing circulation to the area and stimulating the sympathetic nervous system. It is no wonder that carbon-dioxide lasers are being used in dermatology and aesthetic medicine to treat scars and improve wound healing.

I have no doubt that the soda water has a good effect on the scalp, but I was surprised to see the results of the treatment on my hair. I found that my coarse and dry hair became noticeably softer and silkier after the treatment. It was light, bouncy, and incredibly shiny. Hooray!

Although I was given a canister of Soda Spa Foam as well as sample bottles of Shiseido Fuente Forte shampoo and conditioner (the hair salon only uses Shiseido hair care products and colouring treatments) to take home so as to prolong the effects of the treatment, I decided to use my usual hair products to see how long the salon-effect would last.

Surprisingly, my hair remained at that level of silky softness for nearly 2 weeks – I would wake up every morning, run my fingers through my hair and not feel a single snag or tangle. I didn’t even have to brush it.

After the Soda Spa Treatment, I was led back to my plush chair where Mr Ueda inspected the haystack and we chatted about how best to manage the Awkward Hair Stage. Any concerns I had about communicating with the Japanese hairstylists were quickly eradicated as Mr Ueda turned out to be highly intuitive – deducing that as a busy mom, I don’t often have time to visit the hair salon or spend a lot of time styling hair.

To my surprise, he didn’t encourage me (like most other hairdressers do) to cut my hair short into a simple wash-and-wear bob or pixie crop, as in a month or so it would grow too long and no longer hold its neat shape. His advice was to neaten the ends of my hair (so that it looks less obviously like an overgrown bob, which it was) then allow the hair to grow long enough such that the weight of it would pull it straight and even. Until then, he would teach me how to manage the Awkward Hair Stage.

Here are his tips on how to manage the Awkward Hair Stage.

Masaeki Ueda’s Expert Advice on How to Manage the Awkward Hair Stage

When straight hair reaches the ‘neither long nor short’ stage, it tends to follow the curve of the head and neck, so that it is both lifeless on top and lying in untidy-looking kinks at the bottom. Here’s how to get around this problem:

  1. Perm the lower half of your hair. The ringlets will look cute and bouncy, and because they curl ‘every which way’, it is surprisingly easy to maintain – just wash, scrunch and go!
  2. For expectant moms who should not be doing chemical perms, just apply a teensy bit of hair wax to the ends of the hair, and use curling tongs lightly on the ends to achieve the same effect.
  3. When blowdrying hair, aim the nozzle of the hairdryer upwards whilst twisting sections of your hair around your finger. This will naturally make your hair curl inwards towards your face and give it more bounce on the top.
  4. Do not blow-dry hair with the nozzle facing downwards or the hair will ‘set’ against your head and neck so that your hair is flat on top and kinks out at the bottom.
  5. A zig-zag hair parting gives extra bounce to flat hair and looks interesting to boot!
Goodbye Awkward Hair!

Goodbye Awkward Hair!

Meimei, the kind folk at le blanc by mashu also gave me two vouchers for another cut-and-styling session with the Soda Spa Scalp Treatment, and I had such a great time there, I am going to give them to you and the Aged P for when you come a-visiting for that Special Occasion later this year! The both of you deserve some pampering!

As for me, I will definitely be visiting the salon again once the pregnancy hormones have worn off – and I’m going to try out that perm Mr Ueda recommended!

P.S. le blanc by mashu is running a special promotion from now until the end of March 2015 – book a Soda Spa Scalp Treatment and get 50% off the price of a hair cut! Bargain!!

le blanc et mashu

Plaza Singapura
68 Orchard Road
#04-31
Opening Hours: Daily from 1100-1930
Tel: 6333 4681/4682