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One skirt, four ways

Sometimes, out of the clear blue sky, lightning strikes. Your pulse quickens. Your pupils dilate. Yes, it’s lust at first sight. Retail lust. Unfortunately for my bank account, this time it happened in the aisle of my local Cue store.

Don’t get me wrong; I like to think of myself as being relatively cautious and sensible in my purchases. But when my eyes lit upon this skirt, I knew it was meant to be. Cue calls it the Graphic Contrast Floral Pencil Skirt. I call it the Radiant Skirt of Glorious Beauty. It was both a statement and a classic, at once functional and a work of art. It was a foregone conclusion that we belonged together. I just needed to make it work double-time to justify its price.

Fortunately, a printed pencil skirt is surprisingly versatile. To use that tired retail trope, it’s the classic ‘desk to bar’ item. Let me demonstrate.


1.  Wedding/Cocktail/Any dressy occasion, really, short of black-tie. The sheen of the skirt dresses up any fitted top, and all that remains is to add some killer black pumps and a clutch. Do forgive my ineptitude with bling, though. I believe Linette is planning a post on jewellery.

2.  Dressy-casual. Call me crazy, but I actually think this pairs surprisingly well with a grey chambray skirt and quirky flats.  If this were a movie, the person wearing this outfit might be at work in a relatively creative environment. An art gallery? An advertising agency?


3.  All of a sudden, the addition of a leather jacket and some wildly impractical heels turns the ladylike skirt into something else again.

4.  And finally, when paired with a simple black top with a high neckline and a sensible black tote, it becomes work-appropriate.

Do you have any multi-tasking clothing items? Or even any post-expenditure justifications for splurges (sigh)?


Ballet for n00bs

[Warning: this is a relatively long post. I was in the mood.]

Ballet? Why are you doing ballet now? Isn’t that for little girls?”

Since I started going for beginner’s adult ballet classes at the start of last year, I have heard various iterations of this question, asked in the most patronising and incredulous of tones. It is difficult to explain this, but I will try.

I have always associated sports and physical activities in general with feelings of humiliation and failure. A fast metabolism is the only thing standing between me and morbid obesity. (Thank you, Powers That Be.) Unfortunately, over the years, my appalling lack of physical fitness has become less of a charming oddity and more of a serious health liability. Ballet seemed like a particularly enjoyable way to get started on being fit.

But to be honest, the biggest reason I chose to do ballet is that I have always wanted to do so, but have never thought I was good enough. At the start of last year, I found myself in a bit of a dark place mentally. Ballet was part of my attempt at digging myself out. For about an hour a week, I learnt an art form. I was in a room where there was lovely music and all that mattered was purity and grace of motion. There was no competition and no meanness in the studio I was at (The Dance Workshop, if anyone is interested). It was like medicine.

All this is a very rambling way of saying that it is worthwhile to start learning ballet at any age. I mean, I have seen a 70 year old woman en pointe. Nothing surprises me anymore.

What to wear


Leotard – Energetiks; Tights – Energetiks;  Shoes – Bloch; Necklace – When Adam Met Eve

For the first few lessons, it should be sufficient to wear close-fitting and comfortable clothes with socks. After that, your teacher may delicately hint that you should some full-sole ballet slippers. I suggest going to a shop and trying them on instead of buying them online. They are supposed to fit like a glove, and there is not much room for error.

What to expect

In any ballet class anywhere in the world, the class will consist of three components: barre work, centre work and a performance section (oh, the horror).

Without going into too much detail, the barre section is where you learn and practice basic steps. For those looking to do ballet as a form of exercise, I find the barre exercises to be especially good for strengthening and toning the lower body. Centre work generally consolidates the steps you have just learnt, without the support of the barre. This is also where the ‘cardio’ component kicks in, with lots of jumps and faster steps. The performance section is where everything comes together. You move across the room in small groups, performing the steps you have just learnt. This is usually followed by a stretching and cooling down section.

If all this sounds intimidating… well, it is, for the first time. At the first ballet class I went to, I was flopping about like a fish out of water. It was quite a sight. For a first-timer, I recommend standing in the middle of the room so there are people both in front and behind you to copy from. (Heh.) But things get dramatically better after the first two lessons, especially if you practise.

How to practise

I found watching YouTube channels with simple demonstration videos to be the most helpful. For example, theballet00 and the Royal Opera House’s Insight Ballet Glossary are excellent. Because I am a very slow learner with poor coordination, being able to pause and rewind was a godsend.

Ballet exercises are also surprisingly easy to incorporate in everyday life. Standing at the kitchen counter? Do some pliés while you’re at it. Watching TV? Practise your developpés. You may not transform into Uliana Lopatkina anytime soon, but every little bit helps with the development of strength and flexibility.

Right now, I may be flexible, but I certainly am not strong. I haven’t been back to The Dance Workshop in a few months (travels), and will probably get my ass kicked by my wonderful teacher. Can’t wait.

Have you started learning something new as an adult? I would love to hear about your experiences!

Makeup Mondays #2 – Shu Uemura Lightbulb Foundation Review

Full coverage foundations always remind of my early college days of smokey eyes, nude lips, and my beloved M.A.C Studio Fix Fluid – it’s definitely the Studio Fix smell and the morning ritual of slathering on the cake face. Since then, I have associated heavier coverage foundations with matte finishes that often make the drier areas of my now combination skin noticeably drier, and consequently, more dull. Lately I’ve stuck to sheerer formulas like the By Terry Sheer Expert, but every lass needs a full coverage foundation in her arsenal, aye?  If you love a glow and are in the market for a kick ass full coverage foundation that delivers just that, the Shu Uemura Lightbulb foundation formulas are a winner. Read More

Links Roundup #1

(Image source: hollyhocksandtulips

Hooray, it’s the end of the first week of The Timber Owls! Thank you all so much for dropping by. Linette and I are both humbled and thrilled. What are you all up to this long weekend? Here are some links I have read and loved over the last week.

Addictive weekend music.

Murakami plays agony aunt.

Important conversations we should all have.

Step 1 of being a tough mofo: the pushup.

This sounds like what happens every time I go shopping in Singapore.

Açaí Smoothie Recipe

While I don’t claim to be an early riser, I am a big believer of starting the day right with a nutritious breakfast and always on the lookout for new recipes to supercharge my day. Unless you’ve been avoiding clean-eating/raw/superfood movement, you might have noticed açaí smoothie bowls have certainly been flooding Pinterest and Instagram feeds. With the superberry açaí, big things do come in small packages. All the way from Brazil, these berries pack a punch – high in antioxidants, omegas 3, 6, and 9, rich in fibre and low in sugar. And top it off, they taste like wild berries and dark chocolate. Yes, it’s almost too good to be true. Read More

How to survive an all-nighter

…And I don’t mean the sexy kind. Unfortunately, I am a connoisseur of the dubious art of the working all-nighter and have done this more times than I care to admit. But this is a shame-free zone! We are here to talk about how to weather this crisis with grace and emerge the next day looking like a human being, instead of a zombie/swamp monster hybrid.  Read More

Makeup Mondays #1: Two-toned Lips

Welcome to the first post of the featurette Makeup Mondays on The Timber owls – be sure to check back for beauty related posts at the start of each week! I do apologise for another lipstick-centric post. I promise it’ll be something different next week.

I sometimes get bored with just one lip colour. Thankfully, there’s a solution for that! On days when I’m feeling slightly more experimental, and if the occasion is appropriate, I find multi-tonal, or ombre lips a fun way to play around with lips colours. But the application can be troublesome and it is an effort having to tote around two different lipsticks. The solution? The Two Tone Lip Bar from Korean beauty brand Laneige. Read More

Capsule Wardrobe: Conservative Corporate, Part 2

Having outlined in my previous post my guidelines for a professional wardrobe, I dove into my wardrobe and pulled out… not very many clothes. Oh, woe! But this, at least, culls those items that I have tried waaay too hard to make work-appropriate over the last five years. I have tried to make the items in my capsule wardrobe as interchangeable as possible. Most tops go with most bottoms, and I can put any cardigan over any outfit in case of arctic air conditioning.  Read More

Capsule Wardrobe: Conservative Corporate, Part 1

I have always been a little envious of men’s corporate style. Their wardrobes are so simple. Each item has an obvious function and there are prescribed guidelines about how each item should fit. Found a shirt that fits well? Get five of them in different colours. Wear a different one every day of the week, with trousers that match interchangeably with each shirt. Sorted. There is something so appealingly workman-like and logical about that. Read More