5 Things

I have updates πŸ™‚ Let’s start with the bad because I’m a pessimist.

  1. My vitamin levels are still messed up. Despite taking prescribed amounts of supplements, I don’t seem to have enough of it in my reserve. So I’ve been prescribed even more supplements. Oh joy. <sarcasm>
  2. As a result of #1, my Doctor has put me on sick leave for a few days. She thinks I need to reduce my stress levels as my magnesium levels have dropped. According to my Doctor, when you’re stressed, you’re draining your magnesium. I’m hoping this time off work will help my health – though it’s a strange feeling to not go to work. My leave starts Monday but I’m still going to go to work that day as I have some loose ends to tie up. I really hope my body heals during this time off.
  3. I have to study Mindfulness. I started out with a book on it but then I got a bit distracted and didn’t continue. But now I have little choice, so let’s see if I can keep at it.
  4. I’m in love with Aesop’s Camelia Nut Facial Hydrating Cream. It’s so soothing and moisturizing that my skin drinks it up. Literally. I apply some, look away from the mirror and look back into the mirror — poof! I cannot tell which part of my face I just moisturized. I usually add a few drops of facial oil with the moisturiser though as my skin has become dry instead of oily. The human body is such a mystery πŸ™‚
  5. I’m in love with Aesop. They recently opened a store in Oslo and I have been dropping by from time to time to find out more about their products, get some samples, try them, *cough* buy them *cough* and then enjoy what I’ve bought. As mentioned above, the Camelia Nut Facial Hydrating Cream is amazing in winter. The Control gel heals pimples without any burning or stinging sensation. It does take time, but the area of the skin where I apply it doesn’t flake or dry out. The pimple usually shrinks after an application or two, and doesn’t scar as much. The Parsley Seed Facial Cleansing Oil is very effective to remove face makeup but I use a separate eye makeup remover. This oil really loosens my face makeup and then I go in with a second cleanser as I’m a huge fan of double cleansing. I’m obsessed with clean skin. If you live in a cold country, the Geranium Leaf Hydrating Body Treatment works wonders on dry skin. I apply a generous amount post shower onto my body and my skin doesn’t feel dry at all, despite the sub-zero temperatures here in Norway.

So there you have it. 5 updates from me πŸ™‚

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5 Reasons Why I Love Berlin

Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom)

My first visit to Berlin in September 2009 was for business. I was a little bit unfortunate to end up staying in an old, slightly eerie apartment for 3 whole weeks – and let me say it was a bit disturbing. However, that’s not Berlin’s fault πŸ™‚ I should have found a better apartment to live in. That situation was remedied in my second visit when the bf found a rather new hotel right in the middle of the city. Of course we ended up in that same hotel this time, on our third visit.

Why would anybody go to the same city three times over the span of three years, anyway? Simple:

  1. Culture – Berlin is jam packed with people from all over the world. If you sit in the S-Bahn (their Subway system), you will hear so many different languages being spoken at the same time. I get really happy when I hear a group of people speaking English. Ah, the Queen’s language is like music to my ears. I love the Berlin lifestyle – of course I haven’t really lived there long enough – but the little that I know, it looks like a lot of fun. The people are nice and friendly (really, the German stereotype does not apply) and you get amazing service. Of course it helps that I am usually around Berlin with a German speaking person, but even when I was there alone for work, I never had any problem with just speaking English. The stores are open till much later than Oslo, and once a month they are open on Sundays. Because there are people from all around the world in this city, the variety of items is amazing.
  2. Food – need I say more? Every time I visit Berlin, I come across a new restaurant serving very good food at very reasonable prices. Now my measurement of how reasonable a restaurant is, can be a bit skewed as the cost of living in Oslo is much more expensive than in Berlin. Having said that, many of my friends in Berlin do not seem to mind the restaurants we eat at (and the price of the dishes there). So, which are my favourite hangouts? YamYam for really good Korean food and Cafe Einstein Stammhaus for delicious brunch or lunch that will take you back to the 1920s. Apart from these two restaurants, there are tons of cafes around the city. The bf and I go into random cafes for coffee (I’m usually surveying the cakes) for the fun of it and we’ve never experienced such a thing as “a bad cafe” before. Recently I was hunting for Churros and stumbled upon Nibs Cacao in Savignyplatz. We went there on Sunday and I have to say – the Chocolate con Churros were really good. I’ve never eaten the authentic version from Spain yet, though. Someday I will πŸ™‚
  3. Shopping – The best part about shopping in Berlin is actually the tax refund. Oh wait, it’s also the huge variety you get. See, Germany has a population of 81.7 million (thank you Wikipedia!) – you can imagine the variety the population can command, especially in the capital city. I love shopping in Berlin because you can come across a lot more designs and variation of clothing, unlike the usual stuff you would buy in a normal shopping mall. Take Hackescher Markt for example. This area has a lot of nice small boutiques where you can purchase non-mainstream bags and shoes. *sigh* If only I could go on a shopping spree in Berlin … now that would be a dream come true πŸ˜‰ My favourite malls are Alexa and KaDeWe. I wouldn’t say shopping in Berlin is cheap but it can be very worth the money because if you live outside of the European Union (Norway is not part of E.U.), you can claim approximately 10% of your purchase value (if it is more than 25 Euros) back. This is really fun when shopping because you feel like you’re getting a 10% discount on your purchase. Of course there is a procedure to claim this money back (ask the store if they do Tax Free shopping, then fill in the forms and show the items + forms at Customs at the airport [before checking in for your flight] and then you can claim the money back from Global Blue. It is a wee bit of work, but hey, it’s money πŸ™‚
  4. History + Sightseeing – There is a lot to see in Berlin – if History is your cup of tea. Brandenburg Gate is a nice view for sure. What used to symbolize a divided city is now the symbol of unity. I can’t seem to take good photographs of this monument unless I lie on the ground πŸ™‚ Well, someday I might do just that. The Holocaust Memorial is another place worth visiting. Until today, I cannot make myself walk through it as it breaks my heart to know that human beings can be so cruel to each other. Take a walk through Savignyplatz if old architecture excites you. Savignyplatz has buildings that were not destroyed during the war, and they are very pretty. Here‘s a quick look. One more spot to sight-see would be the TV tower. I don’t know why but I’ve walked past this building so many times but not gone inside for a real view. I’m strange like that. But don’t make the mistake I make, take a look at the TV tower if you’re around Berlin πŸ™‚
  5. Affordable – As I’ve mentioned before, the prices in Berlin is relatively cheap compared to other capital cities I’ve been to. It is cheaper than London to a certain extent as well (again, purely my opinion). The public transport (S-Bahn/U-Bahn) have reasonably priced tickets and the entire city is so well connected by these trains that you won’t really need a taxi or a car (unless you’re lazy like me and don’t enjoy lugging around your luggage). Food in Berlin is inexpensive: a regular meal will set you back approximately 5 to 7 Euros. Beer prices are 2.50 Euros onwards.

There is so much to do in this beautiful city – I’m just highlighting a few options. The next time you are looking for a place to visit, do consider Berlin πŸ˜‰

Tips for Surviving Winter from a Summer Being

I’m a Summer being – born in sunny Kuala Lumpur and lived in sunny Brisbane for a couple of years as well. You can imagine my excitement when I came to Oslo for a job interview and it was snowing the moment I stepped out of the hotel. I was one of those strange people who blew air out for fun just to watch it turn into steam.

Winter is beautiful – snow makes the whole city look clean and new. Unfortunately winter, in Oslo especially, can be very cold, dark, and depressing. If you’re not used to the dry weather and cold temperatures your body will object. This year marks my fourth winter in Norway and here are some survival/adapting tips I have compiled over the years. They have worked for me and hopefully they will work for you.

1. Accept that there is nothing you can do to influence the weather

This is really important. The moment you accept that you cannot influence the weather in any way, you will not say things like “I hate the cold” or “This weather sucks”. Accepting that it will be cold and slightly miserable (if you let yourself be) for the next couple of months is the first step to enjoying winter. I notice if I’m grouchy about the weather, I am more likely to slip on ice, than if I’m in a good mood and more accepting with the weather. If you can’t embrace winter, at least try not to hate it. Hating the weather colours your day, making it look worse than it is.

2. Invest in proper winter gear

You need a good jacket (or two) and a good pair of shoes. I recommend Timberland (no, I’m not being paid to endorse them ;)) as they make really good winter coats – the puffer jacket type – and shoes with very good soles that almost never slip on ice. Winter gear is not cheap but if you buy a good jacket and a good pair of shoes, they will last you for years. A good pair of shoes can last for at least two winters. If I find a good jacket/shoes on sale in Autumn or even Spring, I usually buy it. Winter shoes can wear off easily if you walk on a lot of gravel. Jackets can last for more than two winters if you take good care of them. Some other winter gear you will need would be: a good pair of gloves (something water resistant), a scarf (wool or acrylic), and a beanie/hat.

3. Wear appropriate layers

This is a bit similar to point 2. The Norwegians believe that there is no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothes. I used to laugh about this with my fellow expatriate friends (because some of us expatriates enjoy whinging about the weather – it’s like our favourite pastime ;)). But you know what? This is completely true. If you wear your layers: wool socks, wool tights inside your jeans (I remove mine the moment I reach work) and wool singlet/thermal top inside your sweater (I normally don’t wear this. My skin is a bit sensitive to wool sometimes so I wear a cotton singlet with a sweater on top. Always two layers, never just one.) – you will feel much warmer. Being cold is tough, but the worse part I feel is when you go indoors, you feel your body start to thaw, and then you get itchy. Certain parts of your skin get so dry that it will start to itch. This itchiness is very uncomfortable, especially if you’re at work or at a cafe, etc. If you start scratching it just gets worse. The solution is to dress appropriately to avoid the itchiness in the first place.

4. Moisturize after showering and before going to bed

I usually shower in the mornings so I always moisturize immediately after my shower. I also moisturize before going to bed – especially my hands and feet. My hands really suffer in winter, they get very dry, requiring a lot of moisturizing and extra care. Another part that needs extra care, for me at least, are my lips. They are much better this winter than they used to be. Moisturizing correctly also helps prevent and soothe itchiness. Cold weather causes dry skin which can itch. Don’t forget to moisturize your face properly or your skin will peel from the cold and the wind. I have this issue normally in the beginning of winter, but after a few days and intense moisturizing, it gets better.

5. Drink plenty of water

Winter is very dry: both outdoors and indoors. Outdoors because of the temperature and lack of humidity; indoors because of central heating. Central heating does help laundry dry much quicker, but it can strip quite a bit of moisture from your body. So drink plenty of water.

6. Eat properly

To survive the cold weather, you need to eat properly. Winter is not the time to go on a no carb diet. A good warm meal after a hard day’s work puts that fire in your belly (I hear whiskey does the same too – but I wouldn’t know ;)). If you don’t eat properly in winter, you will crave sugar. I can literally see a mug of hot cocoa in front of my eyes when I’m starving, on my way home from work. To prevent this, I try to eat a small tub of yoghurt or something an hour before I leave work. Otherwise I will cave and eat too much sugary food. I try to switch to more tea than coffee in winter because caffeine dehydrates you and although tea does have caffeine, I’d like to believe it has less caffeine than coffee. I drink heaps of green/white/black tea in Autumn/Winter.

7. Go outdoors

It’s very easy to stay indoors and just lounge around in your pyjamas all day in winter. Try to avoid doing this too often though because as comfortable as it is indoors, going outdoors helps the body build resistance to the cold temperatures. If you keep taking walks and going to the gym/supermarket/mall, etc. during winter, you will notice that you can handle the cold better. It is still cold, but your body will be able to sense the temperatures better – there’s a big difference between -6 C and -1 C and when it becomes -1 C after days of -6 C, you’ll kind of enjoy it .. okay maybe not enjoy but at least appreciate it. So, sit in a cafe, meet up with your friends, watch a movie, go window shopping, sign up for salsa lessons, learn a new language – just do something instead of hiding in your apartment. Having something to look forward to always helps.

8. Know that it is not permanent

Seasons change. Winters come and go. To avoid feeling depressed and miserable, keep telling yourself that Spring is not far away and Summer will be here eventually, and so on. It helps with the soul.

P/s – I’m no doctor; this is purely my own observation after surviving four winters in chilly Scandinavia.

Tips for Bargain Shopping

Okay, I confess – I’m a bit of a shopaholic. I don’t think I’m at the point where I have to freeze my credit card but I have months where I have to avoid the malls or the shopping hot spots.

Come to think of it, I don’t have a credit card because my Dad is a banker for the past 40 years (not Monopoly style πŸ™‚ – real life) and I’ve heard tons of credit card horror stories, so I have resolved never to take a credit card – unless it’s desperate…not for Chanel bags or trips to French Polynesia.

Now, my kind of shopping is bargain shopping. I try to stretch my typical budget, as far as possible. Sometimes it results in a pair of pants and a top. Sometimes it’s two pairs of shoes. Other times it’s enough makeup for 6 months. In other words, less is not more.

I have bargain shopping in my genes. In fact, all the women in my family do. We do have our occasional splurges, but otherwise, most shopping is for bargains only.

Here are a few tips how to go bargain shopping.

1. Set a budget

I normally set a budget so that my eyes will spot items at that price or below only. This is a bit tricky if I’m in an expensive shop, so I usually avoid expensive shops unless I’m looking for something exclusive (note: splurge). Of course if you’re going to splurge, then don’t set a budget πŸ™‚

2. Be patient

Sometimes I really like a piece in a particular shop that does not really justify its price. What do you do then? My suggestion is to be patient. Come back a few weeks (or a month) later. It might be on sale. This is a trick I use very often and it does work. I once drooled at a floral top in a shop. About 5 months later (I had decided that it probably wasn’t meant for me) I found it in a bargain bin at 10% of it’s original price. Score!

3. Pick up membership cards

A lot of stores have membership cards that let you accumulate points for your spending or sometimes even additional card member privileges (e.g. 20% storewide discount). I usually apply for these cards and keep them. You never know when they might come in handy. Of course these type of membership cards are double edged swords πŸ˜‰ because you may receive updates via e-mail or mail that attempt to lure you to their stores. Be strong, my friends! [*cough* easier said than done]

4. Use the Internet

If you want something slightly more expensive, Internet shopping is one way of getting a bargain. E-bay, Amazon, etc. definitely helps me to find a bargain. I’ve picked up skin care products for a fraction of Β the price on E-bay.

5. Don’t be afraid of crowds

Now this is a bit of a challenge because getting stuck in crowds is not really pleasant. I remember my one an only Boxing Day experience in London (Christmas 2007) where my sister and I were outside a huge store at 6.30am in the morning. The crowd had not started there yet, until they opened the doors and I was very uncomfortable. Having lived in Oslo for almost a year then, I had gotten used to the lack of or reduced crowds in shops. The trick here is not to wear your nice stuff – don’t wear your nice watch or carry your favorite handbag or wear patent leather shoes that could get scuffed if someone stepped on your foot. That way you’ll be more at ease in a crowd. Also, don’t be afraid to ransack some of the bargain bins – you never know what you will find πŸ™‚

I hope these tips come in handy for your next shopping adventure πŸ™‚