Vegan Travels: Photographing the Domes at Gardens by the Bay

If you missed my previous post about my layover in Frankfurt, you can check that out here. If you’d like to see all of the photos that I didn’t share in the blog post, you can check out the Flickr album with 131 photos here.

So after my uneventful layover in Frankfurt, I finally arrived in Singapore, 12 hours ahead of my timezone and absolutely exhausted. I spent all day Monday working, although I did get to have some great food and drive through China Town and Little India. But on Tuesday, I had the entire day to myself before beginning my late-night return, so I decided to visit Gardens by the Bay.

A view of the Supertree Grove
A view of the Supertree Grove

One of the first things I noticed when I arrived in Singapore was how green the city was; even the highways were forested with gorgeous lush trees on the sides of the road. This is because the founding Prime Minster, Lee Kuan Yew, was also the Chief Gardener and he promoted a plan that would make Singapore a “Garden City.” Later on, that plan has been transformed into making Singapore a “City in a Garden,” by continuing to prioritize greenery and gardens within the city. While you can see the trees and flowers as soon as you step out of the airport, this dedication to being a City in a Garden really shows at Gardens by the Bay, a 250-acre park that was developed on reclaimed land.

I had done some research in advance on Singapore and its unique attractions, and since Gardens by the Bay seemed quite promising for some photos, I brought my camera and a couple lenses. I packed my Nikon D3300, 18-55mm kit lens, and 50mm f/1.8 lens in a Travelon Crossbody and set off for lunch and then the gardens! Even though Singapore is very low in crime, I much prefer bags that don’t look like camera bags, and this crossbody had the sturdiness, water resistance, and zippers that are important to me as well.

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Vegan Travels: A Layover in Frankfurt

Over the last week or so, I have been in Singapore or traveling to/from Singapore. I spent two nights on a plane, about eight hours in Frankfurt on a layover, and two full days in Singapore. This was my first long-haul trip, as typically I stick to traveling within the States, so this was also my first trip to Asia and first experience in Europe. Singapore itself has a reputation as a mini-utopia (albeit a very strict one) and an excellent place for doing business, so I was excited to see what this city-state was like in person.

img_20160917_170253The journey there was quite lengthy (from Friday night to Sunday morning my time), but that’s because I had a long layover in Frankfurt, Germany. I partially planned this so I could see a bit of Germany as I’ve always had an interest in the country and would really like to do a full tour of Europe some day, and also since I was unsure of how long it would take to get from one plane to another, I opted for a longer layover as opposed to an astonishingly brief hour layover (why would the website suggest that? I have no idea). My biggest gripe with the States is that it is so difficult to experience other countries and cultures and I’ve always been jealous of these smaller countries, especially those that facilitate easy travel between countries in the Schengen Area (another interesting tidbit I learned when preparing for my travels).

When I arrived in Germany, I decided to take advantage of the mass transit options in practically every other large city besides home and head to the city to experience a small section of Germany. The Frankfurt airport itself is obviously quite large but has pretty clear signage everywhere in both German and English, so navigating was relatively easy. McDonald’s and KFC are quite common in both Germany and Singapore, and in Singapore, both restaurants deliver! (I can only imagine how the obesity epidemic would expand, quite literally, if that was offered here.) Getting through immigration in Germany to exit the airport was shockingly easy for visitors, although I was jealous of the automated lanes that were offered for EU citizens (not the first or last time that I am jealous of the bonuses that come with being in the EU), which had a longer line but proceeded much quicker. The German police officer checked my passport, asked my final destination, stamped my passport, and I was on my way. And yes, getting in and out of Germany really was that simple every time. The “land of the free” could do with some pointers.

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Makeup Rehab: The Current Inventory

So after the makeup decluttering, it’s time to take stock of my current makeup collection and what I am keeping/using. Then I won’t be tempted to impulse buy because it looks pretty or I don’t know if I have a dupe in my collection. After I’ve figured out what I’m definitely keeping in my collection, I’ll know what I’m missing and all of my future makeup purchases will be planned.

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Makeup Rehab: The Decluttering

I really like makeup. I love to wear it, look at other people wear it, attempt to replicate their makeup on my face (which usually never turns out as well), and I especially love to buy it. Swatching from the displays at Sephora, seeing reviews and tutorials on YouTube, and seeing the never-ending sponsorships and promotions and ads from Instagram. Shopping with the promise that all I need is this makeup palette and I’ll look just as stunning as the professional makeup artist who used it in those advertisements or videos.

So I’ve bought makeup. I’ve bought a lot of it. And I haven’t hit pan on any of the eyeshadows or blushes I’ve purchased. I catch myself still looking at makeup palettes, without thinking if I already own a shade that is either a dupe or similar enough for my use. Embarrassingly, I realized the other day that I have about a dozen eyeshadow palettes and in reality, I only regularly use one or two. So I’ve decided to declutter some of my makeup, especially the makeup I bought before going cruelty-free. I’m getting rid of six lipsticks (none are cruelty-free, so I plan on purchasing vegan lipsticks as replacements for the shades I’ll actually use) and four eyeshadow palettes. I threw out a few mascaras that are either old or not cruelty-free, and I will be returning five items that I recently purchased from Ulta because they are either the wrong color, horrible application, or burn my face (ouch).

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Book Review: The Last Wish (The Witcher #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski

Title: The Last Wish: Introducing The Witcher

Author: Andrzej Sapkowski

Published: May 1, 2008 (English translation)

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Final Rating: 5/5

The Witcher video game series is one of my favorite games to play. I’ll admit that I haven’t finished them yet, but I love the play style and storyline. When I found out that it was originally based on a fantasy series that was actually a New York Times bestseller, my book-loving heart had to read them! The books were originally written in Polish, and the first two books in the series (seven in total) are written as short story collections. All books, except for the last one, have officially-released translations, and they are all available on Kindle or Audible.

I loved The Last Wish. It was simply a straightforward, uncluttered, and action-packed collection of stories about Geralt of Rivia. There wasn’t a lot of unnecessary time spent on world-crafting or conlangs or lore or exposition. The world, lore, and character development fell into place as I read, and there wasn’t a dull moment of plowing through attempts to match Tolkien in high fantasy or history. It is a book written for fantasy lovers and people who like action and swordfights. I wasn’t lost in trying to keep up with a hundred characters or trying to figure out the geography or political setting. I simply could enjoy the series as a well-written, uniquely creative, and continuously-moving tale of monsters, fairy tales, and Geralt, who kills those monsters and somehow woos women while he’s at it.

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Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Title: The Handmaid’s Tale

Author: Margaret Atwood

Published: 1985

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Final Rating: 5/5

It is rare that I have the attention span to focus on a book until it is completely finished, but I began reading The Handmaid’s Tale as part of a Goodreads group’s book discussion around 11am Tuesday morning on the plane and finished it later that night in the hotel room. I couldn’t stop thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it and I was reading it every chance I could get, completely immersed in the experience. My thoughts on this are still abstract, so this review will read a little abruptly and harshly at times.

I had tried reading the book before a few months ago (coincidentally on another plane trip) but didn’t get very far because I found the writing style disjointed and tough to follow. This time, I viewed the jumpy writing style as a stream of consciousness (my own internal monologue is never linear or predictable), and it felt like I personally was Offred. I was invested in her responses and dreams and actions, and perhaps because she never stated her real name, it made me identify with her even more.

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Book Review: Dead Man Hand by T.M. Simmons

Title: Dead Man Hand (Dead Man Mysteries Book 3)

Author: T.M. Simmons

Published: September 1, 2012

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Final Rating: 1/5

This is the third book in the Dead Man Mysteries series. I remember reading the first book, Dead Man Talking, because it is free for the Kindle. It is a paranormal murder mystery series, and I enjoyed the first two books as far as “fluff” novels go. A “fluff” novel is anything that I would consider a light read or something that isn’t particularly complex or dense. It’s a nice mental shift from keeping Middle-earth history straight with Tolkien or processing a non-fiction science book. Plus they’re easy to read and help me get to my 2016 book goal.

514wxi68nclBut back to the book, this is the third book in the series, and the first two were decent reads. Each book features a new mystery with the same characters who have been requested to help out with a ghost that refuses to move on and wants to stay in the area and keep haunting their old homes. Alice Carpenter is a writer with a Rottweiler and Siamese (who are impossibly well-behaved and are smarter than most humans, which requires the biggest suspension of disbelief on my part). She is close friends with Granny, a fiery old lady with quite the accent (reflected in the writing); her Aunt Twila, who is experienced at this whole ghost-hunting thing; and Jack, her ex-husband that Alice still has the hots for but since he doesn’t believe in ghosts, that complicates her lovemaking desires. Each book takes them to a new location with new ghosts, a new murder they have to solve, and new smoldering looks from Jack.

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