Shopping anywhere, anytime, with technology

If there’s one other major impact that technology has on our lifestyle, it is certainly in the way we go about with our purchases. Today, instead of making a trip to the shopping malls or even to the eateries or outlets, just let the fingers do all the walking.

Be it on the computer, ipad or a handphone, consumers can pick up just about anything they want online. So, if you visit the shopping malls and see a noticeable drop in human traffic, it isn’t necessarily because business is bad. It’s just that many shoppers have taken another route to tap on the convenience of shopping. A survey done by PayPal and market research firm lpsos in 2015 found that 69 per cent of online shoppers in Singapore made Eurchases both locally and overseas. The online expenditure y Singapore consumers is expected to grow 55 per cent from 2014 to 2017. Another study by Temasek and Google released in May 2016 showed that the e-commerce market here is expected to be worth $7.46 billion by 2025.

Take the fashion stores for example, many reputable brands and departmental stores have their own online shopping platform. The popularity of e-commerce has also driven budding entrepreneurs to set up online retail shops, also known as e-tailers, carrying generous selections of top- sellers from various brands. These shops will ship internationally, sometimes for free or a flat fee if you hit a certain amount of expenses at check-out.

Go on-line and browse these fashionable shops catering to men and women, sometimes children too, that ship to Singapore.

Macy’s, one of the popular US’s departmental stores, sells an impressive variety of wearables for all ages on top of its lifestyle products. Aside from some mainstream brands, it features a large portfolio of private brands with products that are exclusively sold in its stores.
Website: http://www.macys.com

Opening Ceremony, based in the US, is well known for its unconventional and quirky designs. Occasionally, it also collaborates with big-name designers to create limited-edition capsule collections.
Website: http://www.openingceremony.com

Selfridges is touted as London’s Greatest Store, and has also done consistently well to be recognized as Best Department Store in the World by the Intercontinental Group of Department Stores in consecutive years. Its liberal selection of products, from clothes to jewellery to gadgets and more, will keep you entertained for days.
Website: http://www.selfridges.com

Colette is a cult store in Paris among hipsters, artists and fashionistas, known for bringing design, art, culture and fashion together in its three-level concept store. Colette collaborates with influential creatives around the world to co-create products, which can be found on its online store.
Website: http://en.colette.fr

Stylebop, based in Germany, features the works of over 250 designers, including big names like Valentino, Fendi, Balmain and McQueen, just to name a few. Its fashion editorials under the Inspiration section would be highly beneficial to those who need a little help with deciding what goes in their wardrobes.
Website: www.stylebop.com

In Singapore, there’s a whole host of stores lined up at Orchard Road which also offer their fashion merchandise online, such as Tangs, Robinsons, Metro, Isetan and Takashimaya. With Foodpanda,GrabFood and other delivery services by fast food chains like McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC and many more, consumers are spoilt for choice. Then there are e-tailers that cater specifically to Singapore-based customers, like Q0010.sg and Lazada. And it’s not just for clothes. If your car needs special parts that are not carried by the motor garages here, you can order online, parts for all makes of cars from the US and Europe. Just make sure you give them the correct make and model of your car, and the year of manufacture.

Many websites are user-friendly and some will even quote comparison prices between the normal and after sale discounts, in Singapore dollars. Common payment methods include credit card, debit card and Paypal.


Read the stores’ policies carefully; certain policies like free shipping and returns may not apply to all countries
Know your measurements, check the size charts. Size labels are not always universal!
Due to differences in screen calibration, be prepared for minor colour differences.
Know what other customers are saying by checking reviews and the shops’ social media accounts
Pool orders with friends to get that minimum amount required for free shipping
Budget! We tend to be more free with money when paying online versus paying with cash.

Happy shopping!

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.

Picture from Unsplash


A Whole New Two-Wheel Generation

If there’s one evolving trend which didn’t need so much push to get Singaporeans and others on board, it is the use of various mobility devices and e-bikes to get in and around our city state.

Like ducks to water, young and old alike they can be seen, some a bit awkwardly and others dexterously, zipping from one destination to another, often with a gleeful look on their faces. It is indeed gratifying to see white-haired uncles and aunties who have mobility issues being able to move around on their own. Equally delightful is the sight of young kids on their kick-scooters and adults getting about their lives with a breeze.

We used to see skateboards and roller-bladers, but increasingly the younger people are moving on to more zippy two-wheelers.

Bicycles, including the power-assisted ones, have also been making a stronger presence in the past five years. They are expected to latch on to the great mobility movement especially with the push for a car-lite city. On any day, just go around our Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC and you can spot residents happily getting about on their devices, be it on a trip to the hawker centre, the shopping mall or even to the library or community centre.

There is now a gradual paradigm shift and you see working adults riding e-bikes and other mobility scooters around the Central Business Districts and other office areas. Even the SMRT trains started a trial to allow passengers with foldable bicycles and personal mobility devices (PMD) on buses and trains at all hours, instead of just off-peak hours.

However, as with all things that move with wheels, there’s a need to exercise responsibility, with the safety of the riders and the other road users in mind. This is especially for the e-bikes and PMDs when they are riding along the pathways, pedestrian walkways and void decks, and at road crossings too.

When you take into account that these devices can go at speeds of between 10 and 25kmh, an accident can cause serious injury. So, let us continue to enjoy our new found “toy” but do give consideration to others too. We don’t have to wait till fatal accidents take place before we sit up and awake ourselves. Surely, we do not need to let the LTA enforcement officers issue summons before we smarten up our riding.

Here are some simple guidelines to follow:

-Check your vehicles to make sure the brakes and lights are working before you start your journey;
-Be attentive of your surroundings and look out for pedestrians and others;
-Take note that electric bikes are allowed on roads, and cycling or shared paths, but NOT on footpaths under the Land Transport Authority (LTA) rules;
-Never use your handphones when you are riding (stop by the side where you are visible if you must use your handphone);
-Don’t weave in and out of pedestrians expecting others to look out for you;
-Cyclists must be mindful of the road safety rules when travelling on the road.

Many of our residents may have travelled to Europe, l.e. France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden or even to Australia or Japan. You may observe how the cycling is done in such an enjoyable and relaxed atmosphere. Young men and women going about their lives exercising good road courtesy, and of course there are many places where special lots are provided for them to alight and park.

– This article first appeared in a Town Council newsletter.
Picture from Pixabay


Summer Vacations: Beat the Heat when you Travel

Summer vacation is the longest break in many countries for a good reason. It is the time of the year when the skies are bright and blue, when flowers bloom in a multitude of brilliant colours. It is also the time in the northern hemisphere when the daylight hours are the longest, and there is more sun than rain. If you love the sand and the sea, then you’ll be spoilt for choice. The beauty and fine weather of summer makes it one of the best times to travel to any where.

Yet summer also means intensely hot temperatures, sometimes made worst by sudden heat waves, and an increased risk of heat-related illnesses and fatal heat strokes. With each year creating a new record tempera-ture-wise, we can only expect the summers to get hotter. Last summer, the British suffered a sweltering heat wave that saw the temperate go as high as 34 degrees Celsius. The year before, Kitzingen in Germany was blasted with a heatwave of 40.3 degrees Celsius. To think that many of us cite escaping the hot and humid Singapore weather as one of the reasons for our getaways!

Still, the heat should not stop us from enjoying resplendent blooms or pristine beach waters. Here are some tips to make the high temperatures more tolerable.

Pack light clothing is a given, but dressing for summer can be a conundrum. While tank tops and shorts seem like the obvious answer, you’ll be exposing a large part of your bare skin to scorching hot sun rays. And, if you don’t diligently apply sunblock, you’ll certainly wind up with bad sunburn. The trick is to bring a large scarf made of light, cooling material —cotton, silk and linen are good choices. You can wrap it around your neck, or drape over your shoulders and arms when the sun gets too scorching. But don’t get lazy with the sunblock. A breathable hat with shade, and sunglasses will help keep the heat off your head. Even guys can go for the newsboy caps or sun hats — it can help make a fashion statement too!

Mini electric fans are good to have for keeping you cool, but sometimes, manual fanning works better when you fan with gusto. Foldable nylon frisbees are not only capable of conjuring a decent amount of wind with light fanning motions, they are also incredibly convenient to carry around. If you can spare the extra space, cooling mists and wet wipes will improve your mood considerably in the sweltering sun.

The good thing about summer is that the sun stays up longer, which gives greater flexibility in planning activities. Hence you might want to plan the museum trip in mid-day, and head to the sunflower field nearer to the evening, which is said to be the best time for outdoor photography.

Consuming plenty of water is essential to keep you cool and hydrated. Make sure you bring a refillable water bottle with you. These days, many public attractions and outdoor spaces will have drinking fountains. If you must buy water, then it is an expense that you must not spare. Surely it is more worthwhile to spend on water, than on medical fees incurred from a heat stroke on top of a ruined trip.

Above all, listen to your body. Headaches, fatigue, thirst and dizziness are common initial signs of heat-related illnesses, and you should immediately stop, take shelter, rest and drink water.

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.
Picture from Pixabay


Music may not be for every child

Music touches each of us in many different ways. For some it is an expression of our emotions, a way to relax or an inspiration to get things going. We can’t get away from music. Look at how beautifully the birds sing even without any formal training. It is not surprising that many parents would want their children to learn music. They want them to not only appreciate but also partake in this wonderful realm of harmony, rhythm and melody.

Learning music certainly has its merits as it sharpens concentration, co-ordination, listening skills, and the list goes on. ”Musical activity throughout life may serve as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of aging,” said lead researcher Dr Brenda Hanna-Pladdy. “Since studying an instrument requires years of practice and learning, it may create alternate connections in the brain that could compensate for cognitive declines as we get older” This study was done on 70 healthy adults age 60 to 83 who were divided into groups based on their levels of musical experience. The musicians performed better on several cognitive tests than individuals who had never studied an instrument or learned how to read music. The research findings were published online in the American Psychological Association journal Neuropsychology.

But before you go running to the music school with your kids in tow, do give a thought whether or not your child is inclined to music or has an interest in the subject. There are many literature on what to look for in your child to try and gauge his/her interest. Here’s a few thoughts that you can consider:

If you see your child sing along merrily and enjoying a song, do take note that singing is not the same as learning a musical instrument. Or, watch how the toddlers clap the hands to keep rhythm with the music, which is also one of the tell-tale signs. Another is to listen to how the child speaks when he/she hears a sound. According to some experts, musically gifted children are often more aware of sounds than other children. Thus, if your kid talks about flowing water or music coming from the neighbour’s house, it’s an example of awareness to what the child is hearing.

Learning to play an instrument requires an interest that can endure hours of practice, concentration, co-ordination and so on. Of course, there are the exams to be taken at the end of a year.

Once, one parent said she wanted her daughter to learn the piano because it would be a fall back in case she is not academically inclined. ”At least she would have a music qualification to become a music teacher and make a living,” she said. So imagine being in the shoes of her daughter. It you don’t have an interest in music, how frustrating it must be to sit for hours learning and practising at an age when many of your friends would be playing!

An interesting observation I like to share is my encounter with some adults who are committed to learning to play an instrument but much as they try they just can’t synchronise with the rhythm. Their hurdle is that they don’t have a sense of rhythm and worse some don’t even know when they are off-key. This is something that can be taught, but up to a point one has to recognise that perhaps in some of us, we are just not cut out for certain musical instruments.

There are many reasons advanced by music teachers and others on the merits of learning music. Some of them include building up of self- confidence, nurturing an ability to concentrate, developing discipline to improving memory. By and large I would agree with most of these and certainly there’s a lot of fun be it just singing or playing any musical instrument. I am quite sure it offers a lot of opportunities for creativity but you must have a passion for music to be able to deliver a melodious tune.

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.
Image from Pixabay


Ramblings of summer…

There are friends who are mesmerised by the mention of the word summer. About the first thing that comes to their mind is “it’s the holiday season, basking under the bright sunshine”. Well in many ways, especially those living in the northern and southern hemisphere, this is true.

Indeed, even those who live on sunny Singapore, where its perpetually summer on every other month save for days when it rains, we too get caught up in this summer mood. To begin with, it’s the school holiday season, so the kids would tug at their parents to bring them abroad. And, there begins the mad rush from as early as March for parents to start booking for their sojourn to Asia, or further to US and Europe.

If I may extract a poem written by one Jim Milks that I stumbled upon the web, to describe his idea of what summer is:

A warm summer day
without a cloud in sight
A baby bird
Taking its first flight
This is what summer means to me

Trees full of leaves
Giving me shade
My dad and I
Fishing in the glade
This is what summer means to me.

Yes, indeed it sounds more like summer to me when I was a kid, living in a simple neighbourhood designed by the SIT (Singapore Improvement Trust) before HDB came into the picture. We never dreamt of big ticket holidays. June holidays were a time to frolic under the sun, kite flying, or playing by the big drain behind my block of flat, running around the field with my football, or a game of badminton and that’s about all. Occasionally, I would be invited to go on a ride on a Vespa scooter. That’s about all there is to summer school holiday season.

I was fortunate to have done a summer course in a university in the US. Yes, almost everyone was away except for a number of us, several housewives (whom I knew because they came for lecture with baskets filled not with books but with groceries), but, of course, there was no summer loving so don’t ask me to “Tell me more…” (John Travolta’s Grease).

There were other occasions in the UK, where we spent hours in Hyde Park, at times at Speaker’s Corner or just lazing on the grass, chatting and enjoying the beautiful summer’s day. As the years passed, I joined the maddening crowd in Europe from Paris, Amsterdam, Bonn and even Waikiki beach in Hawaii. One occasion that is vividly carved in my memory is when I was with the crowd in a pub in a beer garden. There was no need for rehearsal as each time it came to the chorus of “Que Sera Sera.. whatever will be, will be…” everyone stood up and joined in with jugs of spilling beer in hand. Oh, it was electrifying!  It’s part of the 80s SMS – or what is called the Summer Madness Syndrome.

Whatever it is undoubtedly summer is a time of joy, to let yourself loose and go and enjoy your life while you have the health, the energy and the time to do so. Or, you may choose just to laze around, read a book or two and do the things that you want to but haven’t had the time for.

You don’t have to go overseas to find joy; just cycling around Singapore can be very interesting. And you’ll realise how many things around us we never noticed because we were always in a hurry, in a bus, a train or a car. I saw squirrels scampering among the trees. Or go on any of the many heritage trails.  Bird watching anyone? Maybe pause and think when was the last time you visited a museum? What about discovering the different places of worship in our midst? Or, go island hopping – Singapore is made up of 63 islands you know? And, if you are a history buff, there’s a whole lot of stuff to look for from the time Raffles landed in Singapore. – BY SUNNY WEE

Image from Pixabay