Monthly Archives: February 2010

Papurchase: Books for Girls (and Enlightened Guys)

For the longest time now, I have secretly yearned to get married at Borders.

That was before I discovered the National Museum also hosted weddings.

THIS IS IN NO WAY A HINT TO MR CHONG. I’m just saying.

But that’s beside the point. The point is that I’ve always loved reading. (Although the literary merit of some of those books is suspect- case in point: Shopaholics.) In my teens, I would spend countless hours haunting the public library or second-hand bookstores. To date, bookshop browsing still remains as one of our favourite date activities or time-fillers.

So it’s no surprise that one of our favourite gifts to each other is The Gift Of Knowledge (by which I mean Vogue).

Here’s a shortlist of some of my favourite books that Mr Chong has so generously gifted me with:

1. Not strictly a book per se, but highly informative nonetheless, heh. One of my top three lifelong dreams (after “get married at Borders” and “die in a hot air balloon”) is an annual subscription to fashion magazine Vogue! Mr Chong made that wish come true last Christmas by ordering twelve months of Vogue for me, and the first issue just arrived today! Thank you sweetheart!

2. Mr Chong and I were lured into an MPH sale and we lingered there till closing time, where he eventually paid for this and stubbornly refused to let me return him the money:

Its sequel has been titled Call of the Mall (really!)

The author, a self-described “urban geographer and retail anthropologist”, has been christened “the Margaret Mead of shopping”.

In a chapter that’s snazzily been entitled, “You Need Hands”, Underhill discusses what he’s termed the “hand allotment issue”, or how shoppers shop when one or both hands isn’t free:

“The most amusing manifestation of the hand issue was in a supermarket I visited. Like just about every retailer in America today, this market had decided to put in a coffee bar, where shoppers could sit and drink. This wasn’t the first coffee shop I’d seen in a supermarke, but it was the first one to truly understand how the whole thing should work. It had also put in cup holders on the shopping carts, meaning that you could drink and drive. That clever little touch sells coffee, I’ll bet.”

Underhill also shares a memory of a young man caught shoplifting classical music tapes on video surveillance:

“Only after watching him take the tapes over and over on the film did I notice that that bag he slipped them into was from a chain that had no location at that mall. I passed on that tidbit to the client’s security executive and told him that they should be watchful whenever such “wrong” bags were spotted in their stores. I got back a note saying that they had discovered several thousand dollars in theft using that method of detection.” 

Some other interesting issues raised by Underhill include:

  • the butt brush effect, or how women who get bumped by other customers tend to leave the shop without buying anything
  • the catchment basin, or how sales of cosmetics increase when there is a recessed space where women feel safe enough to remove their makeup and test out the cosmetics in relative privacy (as opposed to having to endure the butt brush effect)
  • that to entice customers to pull over, petrol stations should put up prominent signs advertising “The Cleanest Toilets On The Highway”

2. I’m now the proud owner of two Jane Austen clothbound beauties, courtesy of my very own Mr Darcy:

Guess which two Mr Chong chose?

4. But my favourite and most recent papurchase is an Alice in Wonderland pop-up book beautifully illustrated by Robert Sabuda.

Behold:

I fell in love with this pop-up book so instantly and irrevocably that I didn’t even wait for Mr Chong to get it for me. I whisked out my credit card and bought it myself. Three clicks cheers for Amazon and worldwide shipping! 

Here’s a video of the Alice in Wonderland pop-up book: Andrew and I love the bit where Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole!

p.s. And who says the ABC is  just for children? Here’s a striking and boldly-designed alphabet book  for those of us who still can’t get enough… the 1930s music is delightful as well!

Couple T-Shirts: Yay or Nay?

Jasmine: Despite our major differences as far as fashion is concerned, I believe that there are two things Andrew and I can safely agree on:

1. He shall never carry my handbag.

2. You can shoot us before we wear couple t-shirts like the ones below:

It ain’t us

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What if we got separated on the MRT and wound up next to a beefy middle-aged guy?

But I have a confession to make.

As of late, Andrew and I have been experimenting with couple dressing. (Hold on, my stylish fashionista girlfriends, don’t shoot me just yet.)

The secret to not looking (too) cheesy is… subtle colour coordination!

Look 1: Colour Coordination

Last week, Andrew texted me to tell me that he was planning to wear his favourite pink polo with his new berms from the high-class, high-fashion behemoth that is Bugis Village. So just before he picked me up for dinner at Naive, I pulled this on:

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Our colour-coordinated pink and grey outfits! Pink is my favourite colour –no surprise there– and it also happens to look really good on Andrew.

Look 2: Complementary Colours

This was taken the day we hosted a tea party for 18. While the picture is kinda dark, the yellow graphics on my pleated skirt pick up the yellow of Andrew’s shirt, while my purple top offsets the yellow hue of his shirt.

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Look 3: Black and White/ Dots and Stripes

This was purely accidental. I promise.

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Perhaps polka dots and Adidas stripes don’t always clash

I just realised that I probably could be an extra in that scene in Stepford Wives where the women go grocery shopping decked out in all their finery:

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When NOT to say "I love you"

Now that Mr Chong has impressed us all with his Dummies’ Guide to Romance, I really must give him an A in the romance department. By the way, everything he has written about is true, although some have since ceased to apply, heh. These gestures don’t have to be extravagant or require boatloads of ka-ching ($$$).

Mr Chong’s prized CD of jazz songs got cut off halfway.

He’d make the wrong turn and lose his way when trying to bring me to a new romantic spot.

We’d forget to bring insect repellent for a trip to a mangrove swamp, and I’d spend the next two weeks feverishly scratching 58 insect bites worsened by eczema.

It may not have been perfect, but each little surprise spoke volumes about how much he loved me and was willing to change for me, from a guy whose idea of courtship was going to church together, to a gentleman who loved to pamper and serve his girlfriend even in the tiniest of ways.

Speaking of love, for the past year, I’ve been following the blog of this amazing woman who, at the ripe old age of 25, is a stay-home mum of FOUR kids. Last year, she and her husband were taking flying lessons when her Cessna crashed and exploded into flames, leaving her with fourth-degree burns over 85% of her body. (Third-degree burns penetrate the upper and lower epidermis; fourth-degree burns penetrate the bone itself.)

Over the past month, Stephanie Nielsen has been in the hospital undergoing surgery, so her husband, whom she affectionately terms Mr Nielsen (hmm.. I see a pattern), took over her blog. The love they have for each other is so inspiring and rare. In one of his posts, Mr Nielsen is describing how he prepares a bath for Stephanie, whom he calls "my girl". His entries are peppered with exclamations like "she is such a sweetheart" and "I love this woman!".

Which led me to think about my Mr Chong, of course.

Mills once told me that if a guy blurts out an "I love you" during the strangest, most random and unlikely of moments, chances are, he truly means it. It is an "I love you" that has caused him to let down his guard, bypass his impulse controls, and temporarily suspend all rational decision-making abilities (be warned that the average male possesses such qualities in extremely limited supply anyway).  In short, it is an "I love you" that is heartfelt, genuine and comes with no strings attached.

The first time Mr Chong said "I love you" was after I had met his parents for the first time. As usual, Mr Chong sent me home. Before we got out of the car, he looked at me seriously, and said, "Dear, I think I’m ready to say this now… I wasn’t sure before, but now I know."

He paused, then whispered, "I love you."

Now it was my turn to pause.

"Erm," I sputtered, caught off-guard, "Thank you."

Since then it has become a running joke between us, where Mr Chong will tell me he loves me, and I will thank him for saying so.

Here are some other times when those three magical words have spilled out, for better or for worse:

During an argument

During a cushion fight in the hall

When I say something silly (which happens fairly often- in such cases, Mr Chong’s "I love you" is usually prefaced with "You’re so cuuute!"… I can hear all my feminazi counterparts groaning!)

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In between bites of nasi briyani (and he’s still chewing!)

Out of the blue, when we are blogging or looking at lesson plans

"Good morning" text messages

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"Good night" text messages

Watching the sun set on Mount Faber

While holding hands in a movie theatre

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When we are stuck in a traffic jam and he suddenly looks over and smiles

Dummy’s Guide to Romance

When I first started dating Jasmine, I have to admit that I really knew close to nothing about dating and romancing a girl.

I recall that the first time we met after I asked her out, it was for a church service with Rev. Kim Song Hei. We had dinner with my cell group leader and it was a good time. On the journey back, I clearly remember this conversation we had:

Jasmine: We’re not going to spend all our dates at church gatherings, right?

Andrew: Erm, of course not.

Jasmine: If we spend so much time at church gatherings, I’ll be falling in love with God and not with you.

Andrew:[at a loss for words and ideas] Yea, I know.

Yes, this was a man whose idea of ‘spending time with a girl’ was inviting her for a church gathering.

Over the course of the past few months, with the help of Google, close guy friends, my brother, and Jasmine herself, I’ve picked up some tips on how to romance a girl and would like to write them here – as a reminder to myself and also for any guy out there who might be as lost as me with regards to romancing a girl.

How to Romance a Girl:

1. Surprise her.

Girls love surprises. They love it when you do something out of the ordinary. Dropping off her favourite snacks, or a random love note in her letter box shows her that you still think about her, even when you are not spending time together. Secretly offering to hold her shopping back, then dropping a love note in her shopping bag makes her feel that you’re still with her, even though you’re not next to her.

Order a bouquet of flowers and get it sent to her place, or even better, her office.

In our early dating days, I used to buy breakfast for my Dearie, but I wouldn’t just pass it over to her when I pick her up. I would hide it in the glove box of my car and ask her to get something for me from the glove box. Sometimes its not just about the gift, but how you give the gift to your Dearie.

This Valentines’ Day, I surprised my Dearie by not just getting her a bouquet, but actually attempting to put together one myself, with much help from her mum. Went down to the cold room at Thomson Road, bought tulips baby’s breath and some rice paper and came back to assemble a bouquet (with much help from Anna) :

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[Yes, I actually did some work in putting the bouquet together. You would have seen the final product in the previous entry!]

2. Be attentive to small things.

My Dearie always says, ‘Romance is about the big and the small’. While we all know that girls love extravagant and public displays of affection, what we guys tend to neglect a lot is the small things. I admit that I’m often oblivious to it too, and require a bit of nudging at times.

Little things like opening the doors for her, taking out the chair for her at dinner tables matter to a girl and make her feel important. Ensuring that you stand on the side of the pavement closer to the road makes her feel protected.

This varies, of course, from girl to girl. I once heard a friend tell me that it was so dumb for guys to stand closer to the road because if a car were to come, it would be the same anyway – either her or the guy would get injured. While I have nothing to say about the feminist perspective, I must say that any girl would appreciate protection from their boyfriend.

Other ‘small things’ you could do include smsing her randomly throughout your work day to let her know you are thinking of her, looking out for what she needs and getting it for her. Make a mental note of the things which catch her eye as she goes shopping and buy them for her without her knowing it.  Take note of the songs she loves and compile a CD of those songs. Be attentive in conversations and see how you can meet some of her needs even if she doesn’t explicitly ask you to. Girls appreciate initiative. 

Take notice when your girlfriend wears a new top, when she puts on make-up (even if its the most subtle form like a lighter shade of lipstick), when she has repainted her nails or done her hair. I have often missed out on these small details, but I’m trying to be more sensitive to these things now. 

3. Be expressive.

It is not in the nature of guys to be expressive about their feelings, but girls do need to be assured constantly that their man loves them and still finds them attractive. Regardless of her love language, it never hurts to tell her once in a while how beautiful you find her, or how much you love her. Inserting a random ‘I love you’ in a conversation works wonders. If you like her dress, tell her how much you like it and why you like it.

Of course, always be prepared to answer questions like ‘What do you love about me?’, ‘What do you love the most about me?’, ‘Do you love me more today than a few months ago?’.

Be expressive of your love for her even in front of others, especially if she’s around. Praise her in front of your parents and her friends. That’s not to say that there’s no room for honesty or teasing each other about your bad points – Dearie and I do a lot of that!

4. Be genuine.

Now, this is where we come to a tricky part about girls, which Marcus and I have both conceded that it’s something we have to live with.

At certain points in your relationship, your girlfriend will probably ask you to do something for her, i.e. to get her that card which she really loves, or that hairpin. She won’t demand that you do it, but she will probably hint subtly or tell you gently and she might follow it up by, “Aiyah, never mind la, no need la. It’s okay.” Of course deep down inside, she wants you to do it, but doesn’t want to seem like she’s forcing you to do it.

What you have to do as a guy is extremely tricky.

You have to please your girlfriend, without making her feel that you’re doing it just because she asked you to. What girls don’t like is their boyfriends being compelled into doing something for them. Your girl wants to know that you genuinely want to please her and appreciate her.

I won’t share too much about how to do that here, because obviously, Jasmine reads this blog too, so do leave a comment if you want some tips. Heh.

(The assumption here, of course, is that your girlfriend is being reasonable and not just merely materialistic. At least for Jasmine (and I won’t speak for all girls here), hinting to me to buy her a present is never about the costs (i.e. she can’t afford it), it’s always about how meaningful it is if it were bought by me. )

Jasmine’s probably sneering when she read this entry now, thinking about how I’ve stopped doing some of the things above. Heh. The basic truth is this – guys are not programmed to be romantic, but every guy can and should be romantic. Hope this has been helpful!

Chinese New Dear (Bad Rhyme But It Works)

Jasmine: So, our very first Valentine’s Day was also the very first day of CNY. After an intense fortnight of clothes-shopping, Mr Chong came away with three shirts from Springfield (one pictured below) and two pairs of G2000 pants, and I scored this GG5 dress (pictured below) at 70% off at the outlet store in Compasspoint!

[Andrew: Shopping for New Year clothes has never been this fun. We were really on a roll. After buying the purple shirt, I almost immediately spotted a white shirt which was rather unconventional in terms of its lining and cutting, and a striped pink shirt. It was ‘love at first sight’ and I couldn’t resist buying them. Yes, I’m aware I’m adopting my Dearie’s shopping lingo. Jasmine got a bit too excited and decided to throw in some socks (which I agree with) and another small sling-bag – at which point I told her, “I think we’re getting carried away.” I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually quite enjoy shopping now – and all the credit goes to my Dearie, of course.

I haven’t mentioned too that Jasmine has the best taste. We went to Springfield with a mission to get that purple shirt, because my Dearie knew that it would definitely look good on me – and she was right!]

[Andrew: I had no idea the shirt was so starkly purple, but Jasmine says that the lighting in her house is extraordinarily good, so I’ll just attribute it to that.]

Jasmine: We visited my mum’s side and his dad’s side of the family. Here’s us tormenting playing with my cute little cousin, Ansel:

So fatherly hor… referring to my dad in the background, of course 😛

[Andrew: Ansel is one of the most adorable babies ever. In the scene above, we offered him a choice between an ang-pow and an orange. He chose the orange. Aww… And his face literally lights up when he sees himself in the mirror. We had a lot of fun making him play peek-a-boo with himself in front of Popo’s mirror. Heh.]

Jasmine: Most people don’t know this but Andrew loves children (whether they love him back is another matter entirely). Once, when my three boy cousins were jumping all over him, I tried to stage an intervention and asked if he needed saving. His reply as he ran past me: “Oh, don’t worry, I invented this game!”

Eye accessories are a must for watching Discovery Channel (mine are my new Miu Miu geek glasses!)

Jasmine: We also had a very swanky lunch with Andrew’s family at Keyaki, a Japanese restaurant at Pan Pacific Hotel on the second day of the Lunar New Year. It’s so posh that when the sliding door opens, you are not greeted by a typical cafe setting, but a frickin’ Japanese landscape garden.

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Andrew’s new shirt from Springfield -Mr Chong had been looking for a white shirt forever and the panelled seaming on this had a really slimming effect- and my dress from Far East (I actually put it back on the rack because it was too pricey, but when we went back two days later it was 50% off!)

With its own bubbling brook and outdoor pavilion.

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Overall I guess the meal was average.

OK. Who am I kidding?

It was quite amazing for a girl who’s never really done fine dining in her life! I really enjoyed my tempura, the sashimi was particularly fresh and my dear and I even had room to polish off a macha green tea ice-cream with red beans. Thank you Uncle for the treat.

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Andrew’s family also had fun ribbing him about when it would be his turn to treat his family to a good meal. I kept quiet during this part- didn’t think they’d take up my suggestion of Popeye’s, heh.

As for Valentine’s, it was a simple affair, drowned out in large part by the CNY festivities. However, on Sunday morning, Mr Chong told me to expect a surprise package (which I thought meant mail), and he promptly delivered a bouquet of pink tulips that he had selected and wrapped himself! (Mr Chong later confessed that he had roped in my mum as a consultant via sms)

[Andrew: More about the bouquet in the next entry.]

Jasmine: My dear’s gonna write about flowers? On his own accord? Will wonders never cease?!

He gave me little surprises throughout the day, such as a card and a bag of Japanese chips, which we snuck into our midnight movie… No prizes for guessing, we caught Valentine’s Day. Along with like, a dozen other couples.

We also gave each other our presents! Earlier during the week, we’d agreed that we wouldn’t spend more than $100 on a gift.

Mr Chong got me a really lovely white jewelry case that he picked out all on his own… Thank you my dear!

And I’d been pestering Mr Chong to make over his room, so I decided to start the ball rolling by buying him bedsheets!

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These aren’t ordinary bedsheets hor. They have a 500-thread count, and they’re from Intero (which is the sister brand of Balmain, the legendary French fashion house). Plus the print resembled chemical molecules, which I thought fitting for a geeky guy’s bedroom!

[Andrew: I’m really impressed by how much thought goes into the presents that Jasmine buys for me. She told me that she knew I would be uncomfortable if she made any changes to my room which were too drastic – which is definitely true! Hence, she decided to go with bedsheets, something subtle, and yet significantly changes the colour scheme of the room. How brilliant!]

Jasmine: I wanted to hand make a collage and get Andrew a white picture frame for the wall too, but couldn’t find one no matter how many film shops I visited. Guess he’ll have to make do with this baby picture of me in the meantime.

Andrew says that his mum is now asking him to change his curtains… With Auntie’s backing, our design project can finally go forward! Whee! Watch this space for our next Ikea date -innocent smile-

(Update: I also splurged on a February the 17th gift for Mr Chong: a Clarins men’s moisturiser revitalising gel. And there was a gift with purchase offer, so Mr Chong is now the proud owner of a Clarins travel kit consisting of aftershave, liquid soap, cleanser, and most importantly… SPF 30 sunscreen. Hallelujah!)

But the best part of V-day was the part we didn’t plan-

When we got back to the car, I blurted out, “Dear, shall we dance?”

“Sure. But how?”

“Turn on the radio. Open your car door. Get out and open mine.”

He gallantly offered his hand.

So we danced, two geeks in the moonlight, in a carpark at Kallang Stadium, as the world watched us go by.

Everything and Everyone

To my Mr Chong

You remind me of my father (even my mother says so!). Your honesty, the way you store your socks in supermarket plastic bags, and how an offer can sway you to buy two packets of Lay’s (“it’s cheaper that way”).

You remind me of the elder brother I never had and always wanted. You protect me, stand up for me, and get abit possessive when I innocently talk about other guys who did this or that.

Sometimes, you remind me of me. Like when you strolled over to the Clinique counter of your own free will yesterday, and proceeded to correct the sales assistant on the function of the two aftershaves she was recommending you. That was impressive. And scary.

But mostly, you remind me of you. How we can laugh together uninhibitedly. Your occasional outbursts of himbotism (me: “what noise does a bunny make?” you: “boing?”). Your daily “good morning” text message. Your patience, care and increasing sensitivity to my hints (I’ve since found that the easiest way to drop a hint is simply to say, “Dear, this is a HINT”.)

Thank you for loving me, caring for me and adamantly refusing to buy me chips. Thank you for your continued commitment to making this work. Thank you for being my best friend- and so much more.

Heart,

Your dear

A Valentines’ Day Tribute

[Written by Andrew]

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A year ago, on Valentines’ Day, a group of NIE students dragged themselves out of bed at 9 a.m., on an early Saturday morning for a Literature field trip. We were just friends then, but you were a special friend.

We had late night conversations on MSN, geeking out over our projects, trying to think of how we could make our projects stand out from the rest. We teased each other, and I admit, I was usually the one out-witted. I remember you had ‘Be nice to Andrew’ days and I always took advantage of those days to tease you mercilessly and watch you try to hold back your insults. I remember how you got so upset when I mentioned that we were both eating the same amount for lunch. After that day, you hardly touched the deep fried chicken chop anymore. Thinking back of all the times we’ve spent at Long John Silvers, now I realise why that was one of the only full meals I often saw you eating at NIE.

We were only friends then, but we definitely did have lots of fun and a very special friendship.

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Last week, as we walked to the Fullerton, for Arts in the City exhibition, I couldn’t help thinking how much we’ve grown as a couple over the past year. Over the past year, you’ve been my pillar of support, my listening ear, my shoulder to cry on. You’ve taken care of me and worried for me, even more than I’ve worried for myself. You’ve pampered me, provided for me, and gone out of your comfort zone to serve me and those who matter to me. You’ve been my voice of reason, my harshest critic and my creative director.

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As our relationship matures, I’ve come to appreciate you not for the things that you do for me, but for who you are and what we share. I enjoy not only the activities we engage in, but the quality of time that we have with each other and how we can just be completely silly with each other – attempting to mimic animal sounds, attempting different variations of ‘laughter’, putting on a ‘ventriloquist’ act where you ‘act’ and I fill in the words. You’ve really helped me to experience new levels of joy in my life and you’ve helped me to laugh more genuinely than I’ve ever done before.

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The start of the year has been a rough one, but here’s my promise to you my Dearie:

  1. I’ll continue to take care of you and learn how to better meet your needs (even if it means having to ignore your persistent requests for chips and monitor your carbohydrate intake. Heh.)
  2. I’ll continue to pamper you with romance and surprises. (Yes, you’ll be the girl that all other girls are jealous of.)
  3. I’ll continue to plan dates that are exciting and refreshing. (No more pre-, main, post structure. I’ll try to go for a date structure that’s more fluid and dynamic. Heh.)
  4. I’ll continue to support you in all the things that matter to you, be it teaching, cell, family and most importantly,
  5. I’ll continue to love you, treasure you and never take you for granted.

Happy Valentines’ Day, my Darling. Thank you for being the love of my life.

Love,
Andrew