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Vote for your favourite grocery and appliance brands and stand to win a $100 Takashimaya voucher!

Smart Shopper Home Awards 2016

Illustration: Anton Deviatnikov, 123rf.com

 

Have 10 minutes to spare?

We are polling for the most popular brands of food and drinks, home and kitchen appliances, home and cleaning products and grocers and we want to hear from you!

For this mega survey, we have put together a list of 112 categories for voting, from staples like milk and cheese, to appliances like ovens, washers and air conditioners!

The results of this poll will be published in the December 2016 and January 2017 issues of Simply Her. Five lucky winners stand to win a $100 Takashimaya voucher each! So provide us with your full name and contact details, and vote by 11pm, August 17, 2016, to be eligible for this lucky draw.

Winners will be notified by e-mail by September.

Click here to vote!

 

TRUE STORY: This woman is a sugar mummy to a man half her age

TRUE STORY: 42 years old and bored, she spiced up her life and became a sugar mummy to a charming man half her age

Photo: Andrea De Martin /123rf.com

If a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, then becoming a bona fide sugar mummy was certainly what the doctor ordered. I had just turned 42, which, for you pop-culture nerds out there, is the meaning of life, according to Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 

 

However, instead of finding “the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything”, my life was in danger of become a meaningless cliche called mid-life crisis. My ex and I had finally settled our divorce and I was a free woman, so to speak. But how, I wondered, was I to get back into the dating jungle after 10 years of monogamous lockdown? Helpful girlfriends instantly came to my aid, whipping out their mobile phones and introducing me to a whole new world of dating apps, fingers flying across the screen in dizzying swipes.

 

Read Also: TRUE STORY: 'I finally found my soulmate after 16 years of searching!'

 

I quickly got into the game and was hooked. I put up a couple of photos and set my search criteria to men between the ages of 35 and 55. Guys started messaging me – lots of guys. I noticed, though, that many of them had baggage and a certain Neanderthal approach. Their caveman demeanour, however, was sheathed in the thinnest skin; they took cheeky banter as criticism and were quick to go on the defensive when asked... well, just about anything. A common refrain after asking what I thought was a seeming innocuous question: “Why are women always...?’’

After a couple of lacklustre dates, I decided I was going to pack it in with the online dating thing. Then one night, just before bed, my phone buzzed. The message: “Mr Grey will see you now.” The sender? Twenty-nine-year-old Jack* – clearly, the app’s age filter wasn’t working – who had no photo on his profile page. 

I laughed and texted back: “Great line. Does it actually work?” 

His response was quick: “I managed to get a reply from you, didn’t I? Even though I don’t have a photo ;)’’

 

Read Also: TRUE STORY: She discovered her boyfriend kept nude photos of his ex, so she uploaded them online

 

Lust and Affection 

And that was how it started. Finally, I met someone who could banter and flirt intelligently (and who could actually spell). We met up soon after for coffee. I was a bit nervous that he would turn out looking like Jabba the Hut or Jar Jar Binks or any of the creatures from the Star Wars films, but to my delight, Jack was more like a young and handsome Kylo Ren. I liked what I saw, and he had already seen and liked my photos on my profile. The chemistry was instant. We chatted for awhile, but we both knew it was a polite prelude to the main event. I quickly paid the bill and we headed back to my car, where the real date began. 

Let’s just say that Jack made me feel like a woman again. In bed and in our little talks, he treated me like a goddess, with the kind of respect and devotion that was a cross between lust and affection for a senior aunt. Yes, it was weird, but it didn’t make it any less amazing.

As it turned out, Jack was a lot younger than he said he was; his real age was 24. He had lied because he was afraid older women wouldn’t respond to him if they knew he was so young. He said girls his age were silly and frivolous, and wanted to settle down too quickly. He had a girlfriend – a sweet young thing he would eventually marry – but she didn’t excite him the way older women did. And she certainly couldn’t buy him nice things like I could, or take him to fancy restaurants, like I did. 

 

Read Also: TRUE STORY: "I looked for love online, but was cheated of $100,000 instead"

 

Actually, we only dined once at a proper restaurant. It was awkward because I felt like people were staring at us and wondering if I was a mother buying her son a nice meal to celebrate his graduation. Except we laughed just a bit too loudly and our eyes were just a little too shiny, thanks to the heady effects of the copious amount of champagne we were quaffing. 

Did I have second thoughts after realising that he was young enough to be my son? Yes, but they were fleeting. Jack didn’t behave like a spoilt brat. He was handsome, funny and charming. And he was a whole lot more mature than many older men I knew.

 Was I a sugar mummy? I guess I was. We never clearly established that I would be the one paying for things all the time, but it somehow became the norm and I didn’t mind. I was earning enough as a senior bank executive and he was still waiting to start his first job – also at a bank. 

What was explicitly clear though, was that we were not an item. Nor were we exclusive. Jack had his girlfriend and, I assume, other sugar mummies, while I wasn’t ready to enter into anything serious with any man. Nor was I bold enough to flaunt my new toy boy in public, or introduce him to my friends and acquaintances. Our encounters were usually at my apartment, fuelled by champagne and single malts, and culminating in silk sheets and happy smiles.  

 

Read Also: TRUE STORY: "I almost cheated on my husband"

 

We lived in a blissful bubble and established a nice rhythm of conditional intimacy. We met regularly and were very focused about what we were meeting for. Most of the time, there was little conversation apart from the usual small talk.  

When we became a little more comfortable with each other, we’d occasionally talk about movies, books and the state of the world in general. We also discussed the latest watches – he was a watch enthusiast and sported a Panerai Luminor; I didn’t ask if it was a gift from one of his other lady friends. Indeed, we steered clear of personal topics. I didn’t ask about his girlfriend, he didn’t ask about my personal life. By then, I had started dating properly again and was seeing a few men.   

I don’t know exactly how it happened, but gradually, we met up less often. I was busy with work and with my dates; he had started his first job and was caught up with making new friends at his workplace. One day, after about six months, we stopped becoming a regular thing. There was no drama. I didn’t even notice it had ended. 

 

Read Also: TRUE STORY: "I wanted to kill my unborn child and then myself"​

 

Moving On

It’s been a year since and I now have a boyfriend. Things are looking good at work and I’ve just been promoted. 

Then, late one night, my phone buzzes. I’m at home, ready to go through a pile of spreadsheets. I glance down at the screen: “Mr Grey would like to see you now.’’ 

My hands are shaking so much, I drop the phone. I stare at it, lying there on the carpet, as the screen fades to black. Then, it buzzes again. “Mr Grey would REALLY like to see you now.’’ I switch off my phone and go back to work. 

I have not replied to Jack. My boyfriend and I are still a fairly new thing, and I don’t want to jeopardise it with a dalliance, no matter how delicious the thought. But I still glance at those messages now and then. Honestly, I can’t say for sure that I won’t reply one day.

 

Read Also: TRUE STORY "I met my husband while on vacation!"

 

*Names have been changed.

3 car tips to extend the life of your car

3 car tips to extend the life of your car

Photo: siraphol/ 123rf.com

Does your car often give you a bumpy, jerky ride?

A spokesperson from the Auto-mobile Association of Singapore (AAS) cited car breakdowns, a flat battery, an unsmooth ride and air-conditioner issues as some of the problems commonly faced by drivers.

Here are various factors that affect the quality of your drive.

 

 

USE THE RIGHT PETROL

Selecting the right type of petrol helps your car run in its most optimal condition, said the AAS spokesperson.

While most cars will run on any grade of petrol, every car model comes with a recommended octane rating that should be adhered to.

The spokesperson said: “Your car’s owner handbook should have information of the recommended octane rating.”

 

Read Also: 4 tips to grow your money in your 30s and 40s

 

CHOOSE THE RIGHT TYPE OF ENGINE OIL

Confused about the differences between various types of engine oils?

The spokesperson said: “Mineral oil is the naturally occurring oil that is extracted from crude oil. It offers the least protection to engine components and needs to be replaced often.”

You should replace mineral oil every 5,000km or three months, whichever comes first.

Fully synthetic oil, or man-made oil, enhances the vehicle’s performance. It lasts longer than mineral oil. It should be replaced every 10,000km or six months, whichever comes first, said the spokesperson.

 

Read Also: Expensive food and drinks to avoid on a budget airline flight​

 

Lastly, semi-synthetic oil is an amalgamation of man-made oil and mineral oil. It should be replaced every 8,000 to 10,000km. But why is synthetic oil the best option for a better drive?

The spokesperson from AAS said: “Synthetic oil can withstand higher temperatures and work longer without losing its lubricating qualities.

“Friction among an engine’s moving parts takes away energy, and uses more fuel that would otherwise be used to move the car. Due to its friction-reducing properties, an engine that is lubricated with synthetic oil will run more efficiently than one that uses mineral or semi-synthetic oil.”

The spokesperson said drivers should consider other factors, like the oil replacement interval, quality of oil and whether it can withstand adverse conditions, reliability and source of the product, and lastly, its price.

Remember that the cheapest option isn’t necessarily what is best for your car. “Car owners should be aware fully synthetic engine oils can cost more than three times the price of mineral or semi-synthetic oils, although their benefits can pay off in the long run.”

 

Read Also: How to decide if you should renew your car's COE or buy a new or used car​

 

 TAKE CARE OF YOUR CAR PARTS

Keeping your car components in good condition helps to improve the quality of your ride. AAS gave the following tips.

1. Tyres

Check your car’s owner manual for the appropriate pressure of both front and rear tyres that will provide your car with the most optimal tyre performance and fuel efficiency.

2. Brakes

To ensure optimal brake performance, have your brakes checked regularly by a service mechanic to ensure they are in good working condition.

The AAS spokesperson said: “Most drivers do not realise the condition of the brake discs or pads affects the braking action and stopping distance in cars.

“To clean a car's disc brakes, most car manufacturers recommend giving the brakes an occasional hard tap to clear the brake disc or pad. Do this on an empty road so as not to endanger other vehicles or pedestrians.”

Check the brake fluid level monthly and replace it at intervals recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.

 

Read Also: Smart ways to save on car insurance in Singapore

 

3. Engine

Engine oil should be replaced in accordance with the car manufacturer’s recommended intervals.

Inspect the level of engine oil regularly. Driving with a very low engine oil level can cause serious engine damage.

“If you continue driving past the regular oil replacement interval, the increased friction will result in mechanical wear. The engine may become contaminated with carbon deposits or sludge,” said the AAS spokesperson.

4. Car battery

Dirt and dampness can damage your battery case and cause it to lose charge. Ensure that the case and terminals are checked and cleaned during major servicing. The battery must be kept secure at all times, as vehicle vibrations may damage the battery plates.

5. Engine cooling system

This keeps the engine temperature under control. Check the coolant level regularly to avoid overheating and damaging the engine.

 

Read Also: Smart ways to save on car insurance in Singapore

 

6. Air conditioning unit

To avoid costly repairs, this should be serviced every 40,000km.

The AAS spokesperson said: “Clean the air duct to remove odour-causing bacteria and fungi. The dust and pollen filters should be replaced during maintenance to improve hygiene and air quality. Check the system’s refrigerant gas and ensure it is topped up to the manufacturer’s recommended levels.”

 

 

 

This article was originally published in The Straits Times Classified. 

 

Try some TCM the next time your period pains you with nausea and cramps

Try some TCM the next time your period pains you with nausea and cramps

Photo: Katarzyna Białasiewicz/ 123rf.com

Menstrual pain, known as dysmenorrhoea, is a problem that many of us put up with every month. The pain and discomfort, which can be severe for some, are caused by your uterus working harder to dislodge and expel its lining. These contractions are triggered by hormone-like compounds called prostaglandins – the higher your prostaglandin levels, the more intense the uterine contractions and the more pain you will experience. 

Besides pain in the abdomen, lower back and legs, dysmenorrhoea is also associated with headaches, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, acne, digestive issues like bloat, diarrhoea and constipation, painful and tender breasts, and even fainting. Emotional symptoms may include irritability, moodiness and anxiety. 

 

Read Also: 15 weird vagina problems and how to deal with them

 

Menstrual Cramps Explained  

According to Traditonal Chinese Medicine (TCM) physician Wen Hong, a senior consultant at the General Health department at Life!Clinic, period pain and discomfort are due to a number of internal and external factors. 

“The most common external cause is ‘coldness’ in the pelvic region,” she shares. “Internal causes may be due to a stagnation of qi, or energy flow, and a deficiency in the blood,” she explains.

“When you lose blood during your period, you also lose its ‘splenic component’ which leads to a decrease in splenic function. This causes the bloat that some women experience. If you suffer from backache during your period, that’s a sign of a deficiency in your renal function, caused by a loss of the renal component of your blood,” she adds.

Wen Hong clarifies that TCM is not the same as Western medicine. So, a deficiency in renal function in TCM is not equivalent to kidney disease in Western medicine.

In addition to these problems affecting the body, in TCM, menstrual pain and discomfort can also be caused by emotional problems, an unhealthy diet, work stress, and a poor constitution. 

“Together, these lead to an imbalance in the body,” says Goh You Li, a TCM physician at Raffles Chinese Medicine. “The symptoms are how your body lets you know that the imbalance needs to be addressed. If the symptoms are affecting your daily routine or have become unbearable, you should seek treatment as soon as possible.” 

 

Read Also: Keep your heart healthy with the right fitness regime

 

Relieve Period Pain With TCM

There is no blanket remedy for period pain and other issues associated with menstruation. As every body is different, so too are the causes behind the symptoms. And these causes must be addressed in different ways, according to your constitution, lifestyle, diet and other factors. 

TCM treatments for menstrual pain vary, from herbal therapy and acupuncture to external heat therapy and moxibustion, which involves the burning of mugwort, a small, spongy herb, over the skin. 

“In TCM, we believe that we can balance a person’s constitution to minimise pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms,” says Wen Hong. 

“So, for example, if you experience fatigue, this means that you have a deficiency in your qi and blood. We then use the tonifying method of treatment.” 

Whatever your symptoms, a TCM physician will have to first assess your medical history and examine your tongue and pulse before giving you a diagnosis. “What works for one woman may not work for another,” Wen Hong says.

You Li adds that whatever your symptoms, it’s important to keep warm when you’re having your period – this is crucial to prevent the various symptoms that are largely due to coldness affecting one’s blood circulation and flow of qi.

 

Read Also: What to do if you can't get pregnant

 

TRUE STORY: She's $60K in debt, because she wants to give her six children a better life

TRUE STORY: She's $60K in debt, because she wants to give her six children a better life

Photo: mheld/ 123rf.com

She is $60,000 in debt and has to work two jobs, just so she can send her six children to school.

In hope of a better life for them, the 54-year-old woman, Anna (not her real name), puts almost every cent she earns into her children’s education.

She spends up to 16 hours a day, five days a week, working as a full-time cleaning supervisor, and another eight hours on her days off working part-time in a kitchen.

This allows her to take home about $3,300 a month, while her 55-year-old technician husband brings home about $1,900.

Yet their salaries have not been enough to cover their children’s expenses and send them to school, resulting in them having chalked up $60,000 in debt from bank loans.

 

Read Also: TRUE STORY: “Fortune tellers nearly destroyed my life”

 

ROOF

There are various bursaries and assistance schemes available, but Anna said she does not apply for them as she feels others need them more.

“At least we have a roof over our head and can work,” she said. “There are others who don’t even have a home or who are disabled who need the help more.”

Anna herself stopped studying after secondary school, but she hopes that her children pursue further education. “I want to raise them up to have a better life than mine, and so, education is important,” she said.

“I don’t want them to make the same mistakes I did, not studying when they can.” The story of parents sinking all their money into their children is a common one. 

But unlike the average family, the couple have six children, and work to support all but one, a daughter, who has married and moved out. That daughter, 29, stopped studying after her O levels and is now financially independent.

But four of Anna’s children took the polytechnic route, each costing her about $20,000 for their three-year course. Anna did not use money from her Central Provident Fund (CPF) for their education as she is using it to pay for their four-room flat.

Her husband used his for their education, but even then it was not enough.

Her 23-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter have completed their polytechnic education, while two of her other sons, aged 21 and 22, are still studying in a polytechnic.

Her youngest son is 16 and she hopes that he, too, will continue his studies after secondary school.

 

Read Also: TRUE STORY: 'The man I lost my virginity to was actually a woman!'

 

STRUGGLE

But money continues to be a problem. Before 2014, Anna and her husband had to carry the financial burden alone, struggling to make ends meet.

The couple ate all their meals at home, choosing to split whatever little money they had left among their children. “We couldn’t afford to eat outside, but our children had to eat in school,” she said.

“They were each given $5 a day, even when studying in poly, because that’s all we had.” She added that the family was also very careful when using utilities at home.

“We had to take money from relatives to even have electricity for lights,” she said. “There were times that we didn’t have money to even top up the gas to cook.”

The financial burden Anna carried almost caused her to break down, but then she found out about Credit Counselling Singapore (CCS). “I thought, I’m on my own in this, that nobody can help me,” she said.

“Then I happened to watch a programme on television which said I could call CCS.” Anna approached CCS in 2014 and they negotiated with the bank on her behalf, coming up with a plan for her to pay back the debt.

 

Read Also: TRUE STORY: "My husband doesn't know I share him with my twin sister."

 

She said the plan drawn up by CCS has helped her greatly and she should be able to settle her debt within five years. But if her children make it to university, she would not hesitate taking another loan and accumulating more debt.

“I would do the same thing and live with the debt. It’s very important for them to get an education,” she said. “I prefer to be poor myself and my children get good jobs. If they can go to university, we’ll work something out so they can go.”

Anna does not expect her children to pay her back for their education fees and only hopes they go on to be successful and contributing members of society.

“I want them to have better lives, to be independent,” she said. “If they give me money each month next time, then good. But if they don’t, I’m happy just to know that they can survive on their own.”

She added that her dream was always to own her own food stall, but it has to be put aside for now. “No matter how hard it is, I have to continue doing what I’m doing now, just so I can settle the debt and my children,” she said.

“It really isn’t easy at times, but I tell myself that at least I still have my two hands, and so I can work and hopefully make a better life for them.” 

 

Read Also: TRUE STORY: "I battled depression after a car accident left me paralysed, then my marriage fell apart"​

 

MORE PARENTS GOING INTO DEBT FOR KIDS' EDUCATION 

Credit Counselling Singapore (CCS) figures obtained by The New Paper show that last year, 579 cited this reason as to why they got into debt.

This is nearly double that of the year before.  Education is a top priority for Singaporeans, said CCS general manager Tan Huey Min.

“There are so many private education institutions, from enrichment classes for young children to tertiary degrees, set up in the past years,” she told TNP.

“It is common to hear parents spending thousands of dollars per month to send their children to expensive kindergarten or enrichment classes and that people have taken study loans.”

 

Read Also: TRUE STORY: "I slept with my sister's fiance the night before their wedding"

 

This ties in with a Value of Education survey series by global bank HSBC. It asked more than 6,200 parents across 13 countries - including 395 parents from Singapore - as well as Hong Kong and Taiwan, about their ambitions and concerns regarding their children’s education, reported The Straits Times.

The survey found that parents here spend an average of $21,000 a year on their child’s university education, with 52 per cent willing to go into debt to fund their child’s university or college education.

“Singaporeans are placing their children’s education at the top of their financial pyramid, often at the expense of other financial commitments and ambitions,” said the HSBC report released last month.

Ms Tan warned that without careful financial planning, it is easy to end up with overwhelming debt. Here is her advice for those intending to invest in further education:

 

Read Also: TRUE STORY: "My husband's porn habit hurt me so much I made him believe I was having an affair"

 

FOR PARENTS

Before signing your children up for any enrichment classes or deciding where to send your child for further education, ensure that the overall expenses needed to be paid each month — such as food, transportation, utilities - is within the income taken home.

Otherwise, you would be incurring debt while sending your children for classes or further studies, and if this situation is left unnoticed, it will lead to a debt problem.

FOR YOUNG ADULTS

Before deciding where to study, have a discussion with your parents about their financial capabilities and do not make your parents feel guilty if they cannot afford to send you overseas.

FOR WORKING ADULTS

Use the correct loan product (such as a study loan) to pay your tuition fees, and make sure your loan instalment is within your capacity to service.

If possible, save part of, if not the whole amount, before enrolling in the course. Better still, research and apply for scholarships and grants.

The article was originally publIshed in The New Paper.