Penny Tai’s Route to Happiness

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Many of you might remember her as the sweet voice behind “The Love You Want” (《你要的爱》), the ending theme song of immensely popular idol drama “Meteor Garden” back in 2001.

Since then, Penny Tai has released ten more self-penned albums and picked up a “Best Composer” award from the Taiwan’s Golden Melody in 2005 for her song “Love Crazy” (《爱疯了》). In between, the talented Malaysian born singer-songwriter also found time for a rock album with her band “Buddha Jump” and experimented with photography as well as directing music videos. For the latter, the 35-year-old received nomination nods at the Golden Melody for the music videos she produced for singers like Khalil Fong.

And now, the free-spirited individual has added a new title to her belt.

Penny is now boss of her own label “妮乐佛”, which released her latest album titled “Unexpected” (《纯属意外》). The album has since received rave reviews from music critics. The two-year old creative label, which means “Never Fall” in English, saw Penny investing her savings of nearly TWD $8,000,000 (approx SGD$340,000).

On using up all her savings, Penny who was in Singapore last weekend for a promotional tour, has no regrets. “I’m interested in anything that can record down moments in life. I don’t’ have big plans, I am in fact the boss as well as my own subordinate. The money was originally set aside for a house but in the end I used it to make music. It’s something natural for me because this money is given to me by music, I am merely giving it back now. With or without, my life goes on. Many might think I’m silly or I have guts for splurging such a large sum of money, but to me it is something extra so I don’t have to be bothered by the fact that it’s now all gone.”

At the launch of “Unexpected” earlier in May, the petite singer made a most unexpected announcement. Calling this new album as her “graduation piece”, Penny will be taking a hiatus after all promotional activities end early next year. On rumors saying that she will officially retire from showbiz, Penny cleared up the air by saying, “I never said anything about retiring. I just think it’s about time I step outside of this identity and try other things. But without a record company pressurizing me, I really don’t know when my next material will be. Neither do I have plans for what I’ll be doing. What I’m certain about is, I’m definitely going home to my parents. They have allowed me to do what I want for too long, its time I spend time with them.”

But it’s not all bad news for Penny’s supporters. Singapore fans can look forward to a music showcase scheduled for the end of this year. This will be Penny’s first performance in Singapore in nearly 8 years and according to the singer, it will be an entirely different song list from her previous gigs!

W&T: It’s been 8 years since you last promoted your album in Singapore. We feel that you seem a lot happier now, be it in person or musically.
Penny: Yes, I am much more optimistic now. I used to be really demanding on myself but I’ve since learnt to slow down after I was ill a few years back. I rarely get angry nowadays and I love the state I’m in.
Music wise, I used to get inspiration from personal experiences, especially sad ones. So it was really painful, cos’ every time I write something, I am stabbing at an old wound. But now I just want to write heart-warming songs that doesn’t center upon unrequited love. Like the English songs I love, they are usually happy and heartwarming, so why can’t Mandarin ballads be the same?
Of course, my life is my material for music. As you all know, my relationship is very stable now, we rarely quarrel so my emotional songs are mainly centred upon my friends’ bad experiences now.

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Penny Tai and her Taiwanese boyfriend. They have been dating for four years.

W&T: Will marriage be on your cards during your long hiatus?
Penny: Marriage is definitely something that I will eventually get about doing, but not now. Being married is not difficult but it’s the getting married part that daunts me. I think to a certain extent, I have a panic disorder for wedding planning (laughs). It requires a lot of effort, planning and manpower and I guess it’s just not something I think I can handle as of now. If I weren’t a singer, perhaps things would be easier because my boyfriend and I are very much low-profile people.

W&T: What’s your ideal wedding like?
Penny: Something unconventional, but our parents have their preferences as well so that’s the difficult part (laughs). If it wasn’t this, we would have just gone backpacking to celebrate. Sometimes I think why can’t I have an Indian-styled wedding? Or why must I necessarily be in a gown? You know, who said there must be a certain procedure to how I want my wedding to be.
But of course, my friends have been egging me to get married because they are looking forward to my wedding party. They know I can get pretty crazy so that’s another stress, I want to come up with something that pleases everyone. Sounds difficult right? Maybe I should just engage the help of a wedding planner (laughs)!

W&T: Any thoughts about composing your own wedding song?
Penny: Maybe not. But since my theme is unusual, I was thinking of using something special, like the hokkien song “爱拼才会赢”! Now, that’s something fun!

Real Weddings – Evan Kok & Mayer Chan

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Speaking to Evan Kok, 24, and Mayer Chan, 34, it is obvious that this is a couple who strives for excellence. After all, the word ‘perfect’ comes up multiple times during our conversation, and Mayer gleefully coins Evan with the nickname of Mr Perfectionist, a title that he readily accepts.

Setting out to share the joy of food and cooking with their family and friends, Evan and Mayer chose to treat their loved ones to a visual and gastronomic feast at the accoladed Restaurant André, instead of the standard banquet menu from major hotels. Working closely with Chef André, his wife Sudarampai, and Restaurant Manager Stepan Marhoul to customise the menu, the result was an exciting 6-course meal (accompnied with 8 amuse-bouche) that included luxurious dishes such as the slow-roasted Aiguillette baronne, warm foie gras jelly, and chiffonade savoy cabbage. Evan even tried his hand at designing their own wedding cake — a white earl grey lychee-flavoured beauty, which symbolises continuity and purity.

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Full menu: Vanilla Popcorn / Lobster Sandwich / Portobello Crisps, Chicken Marsala Crisps, Tempura Prawns, Edible Soil / Petuna ocean trout with golden ocietra, Cured perfect yolk, Noirmoutier potato mousse / Freshly baked rolls / Line-caught Atlantic turbot roti, Smoked baby eel and barley, Burnt onion and wasabi beurre blanc / Perigord black truffle, Warm foie gras jelly, Fleur de sel / Aiguillette baronne, Chiffonade savoy cabbage, Tacos wafer / Roasted Pork / Wild berry shaved ice, Black fig marmalade, Acacia honey ice cream / “Snickers” / Assorted sweets / Buttered popcorn / Marshmallow

As a couple who believes in less is more, it is no surprise that Evan and Mayer’s wedding was a small and intimate event attended by just 34 guests. “‘The Journey’ was the theme for our wedding as we are a non-typical couple (with the female being more senior), and we faced many challenges along the way,” Evan shared. “To fit the theme, all our guests are people who have seen us through the entire journey of this special relationship.”

Evan and Mayer’s journey began when the two met in church, and “just had to take a second glance at each other”, as Evan  reminisced. Five years forward, the pair, who calls each other their best friend, decided to take their relationship to the next level. Looking back on their experience, Evan and Mayer would not change any part of it and would, in fact, not hesitate to do it all over again.

“I was, without a doubt, the most relaxed bride in the world and I loved it!” Mayer laughed. “In fact, I honestly only voiced a few opinions. Evan planned the whole wedding, from the song list, to the venue, and even my wedding gown!”

Indeed, this meticulous planning manifested over a lengthy two years. Evan admitted, “I am a perfectionist and pretty fussy at that, so I didn’t really think I could trust an external vendor to plan the wedding for me.” That said, Evan did not forget to remind our couples to “plan as best as you can, but when something goes wrong, don’t fret; just laugh about it”!

And that is perhaps the best advice that we can all take away from Evan and Mayer’s experience. After all, what can be a better gift than the smiles and blessings from your loved ones on your special day? For Evan and Mayer, the fun they shared with their close-knit group of family and friends, and their loved ones’ well wishes and compliments are definitely precious momentos that they can keep close to their hearts as they walk on with their journey.

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Credits:
Restaurant André
Benny Ang Photography
Cake over Heels
New Majestic Hotel
Mich MakeOver

Travel: Onboard a Hello Kitty Holiday

Its past midnight and you see long queues snaking out from your neighborhood McDonald’s.

Yes, the Hello Kitty frenzy which first caught on Singapore in the year 2000 is back. If you haven’t been able to lay your hands on the six fancy limited edition collectibles, fret not. Here’s our “Eat Play Rest” list on how you can beat the queue for a wholesome holiday experience with Japan’s most popular cartoon cat.

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Eat! We are sure even those who rarely take pictures of their food will end up snapping away in here. Just imagine, burgers and cakes in the shape of hello kitty, even milkshakes are decorated with the iconic ribbon which the cartoon wears on its left ear. The tasty-looking dishes however has been labeled as mediocre in terms of taste, but if you are not picky about food, pop by and just #foodporn away!

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Hello Kitty Sweets
Address: 90 Da-an Road, Sec 1, Taipei, Taiwan (台北市大安路一段90號)
Opening Hours: 11:30 – 22:00 (Mondays to Sundays)
Website: www.hellokittysweets.com.tw

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Play! Home of Hello Kitty and her fellow Sanrio characters, this indoor theme park opened in the 90s is one place you wouldn’t want to miss when in Tokyo, Japan. Walk into a wonderland where you can visit Hello Kitty’s house (which is decked with renaissance style portraits of her family members like Grandma Kitty, fancy furniture and displays of her jewellery), embark on rides and watch Hello Kitty sing and dance before you. Did we mention that they have merchandise stores everywhere? With possibly the largest collection here, we reckon you wouldn’t have to worry about not getting that limited edition from McDonald’s.

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Sanrio Puroland
Address: 1-31 Ochai, Tama-shi, Tokyo, Japan
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 17:00 (Mondays to Fridays), 9:45 – 18:00 (Saturdays to Sundays)
Website: www.puroland.co.jp/english

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Rest! The scenic nature aside, relax and have fun in the “Hello Kitty Character Room” that’s only available here in Korea’s Jeju Island. With the entire room decorated in pink and Hello Kitty figurines, immerse in ultimate cuteness with your favorite character. We are sure your kids and your inner child will enjoy this.

Lotte Hotel Jeju
Address: Seogwipo-si Saekdal-dong 2812-4
Website: www.lottehoteljeju.com

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Fly! To complete the whole Hello Kitty experience, now you can fly with them. Taiwan’s EVA Air has at the moment 5 Hello Kitty themed aircrafts, where everything from food to the uniforms of flight attendants are branded with the kawaii cartoon’s image. The flights however are not available from Singapore, but you can hop on them from Taipei to 5 other destinations like Hong Kong and Seoul every week.

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EVA Air
Website: http://evakitty.evaair.com/en/

Are you a Hello Kitty fan? have you been to any of the places mentioned above? Drop us a comment about your experience!

Just Married!

We were swarmed with lovely news on Monday (1 July) as wedding bells ring aplenty in the showbiz world. From Canada’s pop-rock princess to South Korea’s leading actress, we just want to say, congratulations!

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Avril Lavigne & Chad Kroeger
It’s no longer complicated. Avril Lavigne, 28, has officially tied the knot with Nickelback’s lead singer Chad Kreoger, 38, in a romantic ceremony held at the Chateau de la Napoule, a medieval castle in the South of France earlier this week. The date chosen for the wedding – 1 July – not only coincides with Canada’s national day, but is also incidentally the couple’s first year anniversary.

According to HELLO! magazine who covered the wedding exclusively, it was a three-day long celebration for the couple with 110 of their closest friends and family. A gothic-themed candlelight ceremony saw Lavigne walk up the aisle in a black strapless tulle Monique Lhuillier gown. This unconventional theme is said to be Lavigne’s decision as she has self-proclaimed to be “obsessed with castles and French décor and goth.”

The musical duo fell madly in love last year while recording Lavigne’s fifth studio album. After one month of dating, Kroeger who admitted that he never expected to get married before meeting Lavigne decided to propose with a 14-carat diamond ring. On how he felt at that moment, Kroeger told Daily Mail, “You can travel the world and sing songs to thousands of people and not have your heartbeat raised at all. But when you get down on one knee and commit yourself to a woman for the rest of your lift, I was very nervous! There was a time in my life that I thought I would never get married but this definitely took me by storm. Honestly, it was more my idea than hers to get married. I’m just lucky she said yes.”

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Han Hye-jin & Ki Sung-Yueng
Describing it as the happiest day of their lives, South Korean actress Han Hye-jin wed footballer Ki Sung-Yueng at the InterContinental Hotel in Seoul on Monday in a formal Christian wedding officiated by a pastor. Korean singer Yangpa lent her voice for the joyous occasion.

The couple, who are 8 years apart, has been swarmed with rumors about Han being pregnant ever since they decided to go public with their relationship earlier in March. The couple started dating in January this year after meeting at a charity football event in Vietnam last June. On their decision to get married after merely six months of dating, Ki Sung-Yueng, 24, said, “I fell in love with her at first sight and instantly thought of marrying her. Things have gone smoothly ever since, and we decided to get married in a flash.”

After the wedding, the midfielder has left for England to prepare for a upcoming match, while Han will remain in Seoul to finish her movie and TV show before leaving for England.

Valentino FW13 Garavani Collection

We were so excited when we saw the pictures for Valentino’s Fall/Winter 2013 Garavani Collection hot off the press. Designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, the collection features strong contrasting pieces that reflect their interpretation of glorified everyday life. In other words, there’s something in there for every woman and every mood — sensual, dominating, or just simple and sleek.

The wide range of the collection can also be seen from its rich palette of blue, pale yellow, scarlet red and gray, and its extravagant choice of fabrics which include wool/silk, chiné silk, alpaca, brocade and carpet.

We can’t decide which pieces we love more — the classic, monotone pieces updated with design elements such as embroidery or sheer fabrics that are so on trend this season; the playful short dresses that scream girly chic with their scallop detailing and a muted palette that is perfect for fall; the dramatic pieces that recall intricate baroque designs and are sublime in their artistry; or the sleek fluid pieces that would be show-stoppers at any function. We can’t wait to share these runway looks with you — which would be your pick?

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