Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Style Profile: Me

Wokay, so I haven't been featured on The Sartorialist or run a fashion blog, but I just love interviews because they summarise someone of interest in just a few words. I think it's also great for me to answer interview questions to learn more about myself - things that we never have time to sit down and discover.

I stole the questions from The Sartorialist *ahem*. Can general questions be copyrighted?


First job?

I think it was at Coffee Bean Mid Valley during the semester break of my IT studies.

Current profession?

Graphic designer. I love the term, but I think it has such a dependent tone to it, unlike other creative titles like 'writer' or 'painter'. Still, I wouldn't want to be anything other than a graphic designer. I can't see myself being happy doing anything else. Except maybe a bookstore owner :s

Who has influenced your design style?

I'm so embarrassed to admit that I don't know many designers by their work, but by name and reputation. I see work as work and designers as people. I come across lots of studio work that I love and that inspire me. I really admire Bibliotheque in UK and Happycentro in Italy. And as for people, I really connected with Michael Bierut of Pentagram after reading an interview with him. That's how individual designers become my favourite people - by their characters rather than their work.

Who has influenced your fashion?

I like a more grown-up Alexa Chung style. I also love aristocratic English style - tweed, hunting attire, ruffles and sharp tailoring. Kirsten Dunst's style and a touch of the Olsen twins also inspire me.

How has your style evolved over the past 5 years?

I think I'm a bit more put-together and am able to tame the adventurous side better than in the past.

Athletics? Hobbies?

Ballet, because I like the discipline and beauty and strength involved. And because nobody knows how hard it really is. My hobbies are computer games and reading.

Never caught wearing?

A scrunchie.

What are your go-to wardrobe staples?

Shapeless but textured sweaters and dresses. This cotton black dress (above) seems to crop up a lot in my pictures.

Which shops could you spend the whole day in?

Bookshops and supermarkets. Vintage shops.

What do you wear when traveling?

The same as usual, but I tend to be a bit more experimental and regret it later.

Most visually inspiring place you’ve been?

Scotland - Edinburgh and the mountains. Probably Lapland once I have been there to see the northern lights.

Do you cherish any particular heirloom pieces?

Do I have any? It would have been cheongsams from my grandmother if we were the same shape and size.

Most memorable gift?

Maxi the mini, from my mother is one. Agatha, the golden goblin fairy, from my stepdad (or was it mum?) is another.

Most stylish movie?

Most recently, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. And next up, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I don't remember older movies very well.

How have you surprised yourself recently?

Maybe... by spending a big chunk of money on a piano for myself. I never spend big chunks of money.

What do you never consider an indulgence?

Buying design books, Agatha Christies and Neil Gaimans.

Most important style advice you’ve received?  

Must be something from my sister, although I don't remember any at the top of my head now.

What do you feel most powerful wearing?

Thin, womanly heels in patent nude or leopard print.

Sartorial rule you never follow?

I don't know any sartorial rules. I just try not to look boring. Baby tee and jeans? I'd rather wear a clown suit out. Heh.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Home-cooked Greek food

It's always great when friends or friends' parents are cooks and love cooking. This is what happened with Super Harry when we met up for drinks on Saturday. Got to talking about Greek restaurants and food, and next thing we know, he's on the phone with his dad asking if he wouldn't mind cooking for us the next night.

That is how Schrobbenmaster, Yelleh Belleh and I were treated to a wonderful home-cooked meal of Greek food :D

I have the worst knowledge in the world of Greek food - this is only the third time I'm having it (second time in Super Harry's house). And I'm pretty sure they sniggered politely when I asked if this was moussaka:

No, Super Harry says, it's lasagna, Greek-style.

I'm not a 'meat in slabs and chunks' fan, but the yellow dish in the centre there was super awesome. Pork and potatoes.

Then of course there was feta cheese and olives with homemade bread. There was some discussion as to whether this particular feta was made with only sheep's milk or half sheep and half goat. I found it a tad sour ("... maybe the milk isn't good anymore!" says Super Harry's dad *ahem, worried*), but I really liked the homemade bread.

Best part of any meal is the dessert, in my opinion. And desserts from Super Harry's mum NEVER fail. She's beginning to cement her reputation in my head that she is an infallible dessert maker. The white 'pau' looking ones are crumbly biscuity almondy cookies and the brown earthquake looking ones are crumbly soft fudgy chocolatey cookies. Heavenly food!

It was pretty amazing how at that one table, we had about four languages being spoken - Greek, Dutch, English and Malay. And a Greek news channel playing in the background. The world is indeed small and yet so big. Love it :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bruxelles 2012 - the arty city

I just really like Brussels. I wouldn't live there and I wouldn't go there every weekend, but as a city, it's definitely a place I would recommend to people.

There are so many things to discover if you're into the arts and creative scene. I didn't make it into any cultural venue or museum this trip, but I saw a lot of shops, and boy were they nice shops.

Almost all bookshops had old, secondhand arty books, almost all comic stores had anything you would want to find. Almost all music shops were vintage and collector's, and the variety of everything a hipster would want is staggering.

I even bought two piano books, even though I don't have a piano. Yet.

After buying my piano books.

Art landscaping in front of the Royal Library.


Saved from financial ruin by all the books being in French.

Cappuccino with Belgian chocolate powder on top. Luxurious! But not that tasty, actually.

Grand Place.

Nativity scene under the thatched roof left over from Christmas.

This is a community service message: Don't buy waffles from this shop. They're mushy and don't represent the opinions of Belgian waffles nationwide.

I wanted to buy these cushion stools but there was no price attached. After browsing the shop and seeing the prices of salt and pepper shakers (averaging € 60/pair), I decided that my purse wouldn't like me very much if I bought them. Super cute though.

This shop is located in the gay quarter of Brussels and I'm absolutely convinced to be targeted only at gays. Because straight singles and couples in general just can't afford these things for their homes. Somehow, gays always have the best stuff in their homes, doncha think??

Nice girl with nice eyes makes nice earrings which Yelleh Belleh bought.

Yet another bookstore. I just can't get enough.

Super beautiful Christmas nature decorations. I wanted to decorate my place nature-style for Christmas 2011, but I just couldn't find enough. It doesn't seem very popular to have nature-style decor :s :s

Nice, bright mustard door in the middle of the ghetto.

Famous Marché aux Puces flea market, open daily from 6am to 2pm.

Yelleh Belleh bargaining with an Arabic Dude:

YB: How much is this?
AD: Ten euro.
YB: That's too expensive, can you make it cheaper?
AD: Uh. How much you want?
YB: Uh, seven euro?
AD: Uh... (calls over Arabic Dude 2 and discusses)... (turns back to YB)... eight euro.
YB: Uh, that's too expensive. Never mind, I don't want it.
(After standing still for 5 seconds)
AD: Five euro.
YB: Oh. Okay.

Yelleh Belleh's shoulder hurt from the heavy backpack.

View while I was waiting for her to finish putting muscle gel on.

Buying last minute beer at De Bier Tempel just off Grand Place. Tourist prices, so don't go there if you want to get Belgian beer at normal prices. We were just in a rush as we had a train to catch. After paying for the beer, we actually had 7 minutes to run to the train station, with our heavy backpacks and 6 bottles of beer in plastic bags. We arrived on the platform panting and cramping just as the train pulled in. Talk about cutting it close!

Good trip overall and nice to see Brussels again :)

Bruxelles 2012 - an extensive review of Max Hotel vs. Chic and Basic

Happy new year boys and girls!

I have been so slack with posting and one of my new year's resolutions is, no, not to blog more regularly, but to only post what JUST happened, meaning I will stop back-blogging from now on. This is to help future me, when looking for old posts on certain dates.

So, my first trip of the year was on the first weekend of the year (pure coincidence), and it was to Brussels with Yelleh Belleh.

Did I mention that she's here for an internship at my office in Amsterdam? Yep.

So we took the train down to Brussels for a very affordable price of € 34,20 each return. And I found a hotel online called Max Hotel, which looked like the Chic and Basic I stayed at in Madrid. I really loved that hotel and was excited to have found a similar offering in Brussels.

Looks like the hotel review will come first. Here goes...

The Max Hotel people call it a new kind of concept of urban hotel for a reasonable price at a great location. This is very true, as it was on a main street parallel to the main shopping street of Brussels, and only a 10-minute walk (if you know your way) to Grand Place, the main square.

Because this hotel concept was so similar to Chic and Basic, I couldn't help constantly comparing the two.

First impressions
When you first enter the premises of Max Hotel, outside the main doors, you're faced with two machines to check in and out. I found this super cool, as all your booking details are in the database and all you have to do is enter your booking number and insert your card for confirmation.

At Chic and Basic, it's just like a normal hotel with a small check-in desk and a friendly Spanish dude to help you out. I think both ways suit me just fine. The human touch is pleasant and welcoming, but the machine method is just super cool. Unless something goes wrong and you're stuck outside the doors till the hotel guy sees you from the CCTV.

The room
At Max Hotel, the room was much larger than Chic and Basic's. It was pretty much like a standard sized hotel room in a standard 3 or 4 star hotel. The bathroom was also very nice and reasonably sized. Chic and Basic's bathroom was nice and modern, but the weird thing was the sink being in the room itself. It looked weird, but it was nice for watching TV while brushing my teeth and washing my face :P

So first impression of the room at Max Hotel was good. Until I discovered there was no safe to keep our passports in. Something which Chic and Basic had. Okay, never mind, not such a huge inconvenience (although I really like having a safe in the room).

We gave our feet a rest (we had only checked in at 3pm, after walking for 4 hours in the city) for about 10 minutes, then freshened up and headed out again.

The amenities
All the amenities in these kinds of hotels are never located in your room. In Chic and Basic, it was in the lobby and in Max Hotel it was on the first floor in a sort of lounge area. The big difference and winning point for Chic and Basic is that they were all free - coffee, tea, chocolate powder, cinnamon powder, all kinds of powder for your drinks, biscuits, cookies, milk, boiling water... in Madrid, I would get ready in the morning (or evening) and head out, picking up a coffee and biscuit for the walk to Baker Jo's hotel up the road. At Max Hotel, you have to pay for everything. I was quite disappointed at this discovery.

Even more disappointing was that they don't provide little shampoo and shower gel bottles to guests. You actually have to buy those two at the vending machine on the first floor for € 1 each. I guess we should just be thankful that bath towels were provided *rolls eyes*. Oh, and there is no free WiFi either. You have to pay for that per 24 or 72 hours to use in your room. For us who were only staying less than a day, and out of the room most of the time, it wasn't worth it.

The night
While we were out, we smelt so many waffles around that we just had to find a good place to have one. Unfortunately, we chose the wrong shop. The waffles were mushy and way too sweet and dripping with too much chocolate sauce. Yelleh Belleh even stained my scarf that she was borrowing, with chocolate sauce :( I hope it comes off.

We'd also decided that we needed to have Belgian chips. So at 7pm, we bought a bag of chips to share. And that was our dinner for the day, as we weren't hungry anymore. Being Malaysian, we were worried that we'd get hungry later on in the hotel, so we thought of getting cup noodles for the room. "But," I wondered aloud, "Does the hotel have boiling water?". We figured that they had to provide hot water to make tea, but in the end, we couldn't find any good cup noodles, so we decided to be strong and go without food (because we didn't want anything else).

The next morning
We had bought a little shampoo bottle from the Max Hotel vending machine because the convenience stores were selling the full-sized bottles for way too much than was appropriate. So all prepared, I stepped into the shower, and got a pleasant surprise in the form of a rain shower. How luxurious!

So, we get a rain shower, but we don't get free shampoo and shower gel. I just find that too strange. Sure, most people don't like hotel shampoos and would rather use their own, but we're talking about a cheap and easy hotel here, where either half-on-a-budget travellers or one-night travellers stay. We people are not super fussy about shampoo, really. I'd rather have free amenities than a rain shower any day.

Okay then, on the other hand, say you are really fussy about your hair and body and don't care about them not providing shampoo and shower gel. I realised, while rubbing the € 1 shampoo into my hair, that the shower area is WAY too small for a rain shower fitting. The rain was just everywhere and was getting into my eyes, and there was nowhere to step away from it, except by going back out of the shower area. I had to switch from rain to normal shower head mode, which was attached to the wall at a lower level. That solved the problem, but it didn't take away the basic inappropriateness of having the rain shower.

In conclusion
It sounds like I have a lot of complaints about the Max Hotel, but in reality, I did like it. My conclusion is that it's convenient and affordable and very comfortable to stay in. I just find that some of the things they did were useless and would have been better replaced by other basic things. I don't need such a big room, or a rain shower. What I need in place of those things is a safe, free amenities and free WiFi. In that department, Chic and Basic really wins top place. I still love it loads and would look for a Chic and Basic wherever I go.