Wellness Workshop - The Butterfly Project

Sunday, September 29, 2019
It isn’t new to you guys that I’m part of a pretty fun blogger community called The Butterfly Project. It is such a fun, wholesome community led by the one and only Tammy Lim, once a ‘plus-size’ kitten, now a Keto-dieting, health-conscious leader. She put together the Health & Beauty workshop, a first-of-its kind for the community with workshops catering to the mind, body and soul. So on a sweltering mid-August Saturday, I put on a ‘neutral’ outfit in line with the dress code of the day, and made my way to the workshop.




The venue sponsor of the day was Hilton Kuala Lumpur, which name requires no introduction. The unique brand of Hilton hospitality is world-class for a reason. 


Delectable fruits by Hilton 

We were warmly welcomed by Jessica, and soon after arrival, were roped into a fun physical activity to get the heart pumping and blood flowing. Imagine the horror for those adorned in heels and full makeup when we had to stretch, squat and more.

Hilton KL wanted us to share about their gym and spa facilities, which unlike other hotels, is completely equipped to be your monthly gym. It has an incredible range of equipment, dance studios with free yoga and spin classes for members (schedule here), personal trainers on standby as well as spa facilities for those interested in taking it easy. With a pool, jacuzzi, Hilton-class changing rooms and showers as well as easy accessibility via KL Central, the Hilton Gym is most certainly a viable alternative from other mainstream gyms.

They have other perks as well which will make your money worth it, like… maybe you’ll meet your next business investor at the gym? Besides that very real but also half-in-jest possibility, a membership gets you 25% off ALL bills at Hilton outlets (I heard this even applies to drinks at their bar!) and a 25% discount off all spa treatments. With that, you’ll very quickly have the chance to ‘earn back’ the membership price of RM233.20 a month for 6 months. I pay RM220 for my commercial gym, so this is a decent price for a world-class facility.


If you’re worried about parking fees, gym members also get 2 hours free parking at Hilton Hotel – so even better!

https://life.hiltonkl.com/gym

As a blog reader, go ahead and see for yourself how the gym is. A one-day free trial is applicable. Simply quote ‘Butterfly’ at the front desk to be eligible.

After that introduction and tour, we had three fun workshops awaiting us for the day. They split us up into groups and got us to attend each workshop in turn, ensuring that the group never became too big so we could better learn from each session.

Self Care by Minc.Care


Hosted by entrepreneur and counsellor, Minnie Chang, Minc.Care’s offered services are fairly new in Malaysia but valued and highly subscribed overseas. Her services include 1:1 coaching services, journaling workshops or self-care, goal setting for emotional well-being and other helpful therapy.


For the workshop she hosted, we started off seated in a circle around yoga mats and asked to introduce ourselves in a word. The word she chose was kind. I, naturally, said talkative. It’s easy to describe ourselves with a less personal description, i.e. tall, short; or rely on our careers, i.e. lawyer, accountant; but to say simply – I am k i n d, was a little difficult for me. Because what if I taught I was kind? Or smart? But others didn’t think so.. So already in that simple exercise of describing ourselves, I found myself thinking a little more about the person I like to be identified as. And I think, if I were to repeat the exercise, I would say that I am joyful/positive/optimistic. That’s the outlook I believe I have, and what I am proud to embody – rather than just a characteristic.

With that over and done, we opened the goodiebags before us, and found an adorable pen, journal prompts, a self-care habit tracker template and a blank sheet with the word ‘Dear’ on top of it. We were to write a letter to our current-self, from the perspective of our future self. 


At least, that’s what I understood the instruction to be, and it was such a healthy and wholesome way to pay a little attention to our feelings at present which left me feeling more grounded and hopeful about the future. Through prompts from Minnie and sharing from the rest of the butterflies, a number of us got to share some of our struggles and thoughts in a safe environment.

Truly a workshop like no other, especially in an increasingly fast-paced world. I would imagine it’ll be  a really interesting activity to have for a primary school reunion (she can certainly adjust the intimacy level to be more appropriate – after all, most of us in the group hadn’t met each other many times before and we still got to have a good time) or if you’re interested in personal coaching for your goals or aspirations, feel free to get in touch with her. She also offers corporate training to companies seeking to incentivise their employees.

Therapy is a big deal in the US and is apparently a useful way to help us understand ourselves. Minnie’s programs are destigmatising and really, why is taking care of your mind so much harder than taking care of your body? If personal trainers work, a personal coach should too.

Use the code BUTTERFLY10 to get 10% off any of her services on her website. Code is valid till 18 December 2019.

Clay Mask Workshop by Naturally Handmade


100% natural, vegan, chemical-free, cruelty-free and environmentally-friendly. Naturally Handmade promises all of that, along with solid set up story that deserves a listen. Having grown up constantly hearing the idea that she needed to be fair to be beautiful, founder Bavani Gopala Krishnan found herself using all sorts of chemical products to bleach her skin, eventually damaging it.


She realised that in her pursuit of society’s ideals, she ended up causing more harm than good. With the realisation that skincare should be good for you and improve the way you feel rather than the other way around, she started preparing her own clay masks. They were so good that she turned it into a business, and Naturally Handmade now has a range of signature products ranging from natural insect repellent to lotions and more.

The workshop was fairly straightforward, as she introduced us to the variety of ingredients that form a claymask. Different clay bases perform different functions, and when mixed with the right super food (pomegranate powder anyone?) you get a cooling, moisturising and firming mask that is completely natural.

Just a note – although it’s natural, it does not mean that your skin won’t react adversely to it. When trying new products with ingredients you are not familiar with, it’s always a good idea to patch test first (smear a little on the back of your hand) to see if your skin likes it. If it does, mask away!
I brought home a powdered mask, that I’ll activate by mixing in with water, yogurt, or milk which will turn it into a clay paste. This is definitely the next sleepover activity I’ll be trying.

Aromatherapy Essential Oils with Plant Origins


The benefits of essential oils are not unheard of. The right combination can help you sleep better, help get rid of headaches, make you feel calmer and even reduce period cramps! With Plant Origins, you’re introduced to a range of affordable essential oils, perfect for using as a roll-on perfume or even to diffuse at your workplace or at home.




We were given the option to smell a variety of scents, some putrid in their intensity, others addictive in their sweetness. I ultimately chose a combination of Bergamot, Jasmine and Grapefruit, resulting in a scent so good, I’m convinced Jo Malone would bottle it.

If you’re interested in getting essential oils at wholesale prices, you’d want to check out Plant Origins. For a party or event, feel free to host your own essential oils workshop. All you’ll need are a few bottles of essential oils, a carrier oil (basically a base to hold all the scents together) such as coconut oil, and perhaps a roller bottle for your guests to mix it all in? You won’t need much – as each drop of essential oil is extremely concentrated, a little goes a long way!

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I had a great time at the workshop. Thanks again to The Butterfly Project for the invitation, and for all the workshop hosts for putting together such an enjoyable event. 

Review: Belgische Chocolatier @ 163 Retail Park, Mont Kiara

Sunday, September 22, 2019


I have always been a chocolate fan, but I will admit that I know very little about chocolate. As far as I was concerned, all I needed to know was whether it tasted good. With that said, over the years, I’ve had some incredible chocolate from different places, manufactured by different brands. Swiss chocolate is one of my favourites for its creaminess but Belgian chocolate is a very close second due to the richness of flavour in the chocolate. Thinking of chocolate gets me so excited, I’m honestly tempted to take a certification in chocolate tasting! Well, I’ll add it to the bucket list!


Recently, I had the sheer pleasure of reviewing the offerings at Belgische Chocolatier, a new chocolate desserts store at 163 Retail Park @ Mont Kiara. Joining the likes of the many chocolate eateries Malaysia has seen pop up in recent years like dip’n’dip as well as Salon Du Chocolat, Belgische Chocolatier sets itself apart by more than its name.

Quality of Chocolate
They pride themselves in only using Callebaut chocolate, a Belgian chocolate brand with a long and distinguished history. Ahem, let’s get into the chocolate lesson.


So Callebaut is a Belgian couverture chocolate brand, which is chocolate with a high cocoa butter content. This makes it particularly creamy to melt and keeps the flavour consistent even when used in a variety of desserts, and whether solid or melted.
The store is so cute

The store is designed to be particularly accommodating to parties, events and workshops. With natural sunlight streaming through, adorable ‘chocolate splashes’ against the walls and ceilings, as well as plenty of seating all around, it’s a great place for an after meal dessert.
Tell me about the food..

Three words.


Best.

Churros.


Ever.

And I don’t say this lightly. I’ve been to Spain. I’ve been to America. And I’ve had churros in both those countries, countries where churros are meant to be amazing. But I found that the ones I had in Belgische was the absolute best I’ve ever had. Crispy and fluffy, perfectly flavoured and not too dense, they went incredibly well with the chocolate, and on their own as well. I am desperately keen for someone else to go and try this dish – just to see if I’m imagining things! The churros were topped with a light dusting of sugar and cinnamon but feel free to ask them to hold on the extra coatings and have it plain with just chocolate to taste it as it is. (Celine, I'm looking at you!) 


We had their Brownie Crepe as well, a delightful combination of crispy brownie, soft crepe and delicious chocolate that left us longing for an encore. 


I’ve always been a fan of fettucine crepe, and the one here comes with chocolate AND ice cream, the perfect mix for when you’re craving the depth of chocolate, but the refreshing cool of icecream. The crepe at Belgische is flavourful and soft, which I think is a testament to their recipe which apparently took months to perfect. It left me wondering if I could permanently opt for crepe to fulfil my daily carb needs.


Their walnut brownie wasn’t a winner for me, because the brownie was crispy and more biscuit like. I know many of the other reviewers were big fans of this because a crispy brownie plus creamy chocolate & ice cream is apparently a stellar combination, but I’ve always been one to prefer fudgy, gooey, mud-like brownies and didn’t have any more of this. 



However, what I looked for, I found in their chocolate lava cake, a gooey, decadent offering of chocolate, more chocolate and premium vanilla ice cream (though you may opt for other ice cream flavours too!).


If you wanted your food served with some drama, their sizzling brownie delivered that in spades, with a brownie that came out more moist than the walnut one. It was a spectacular visual and audio show of sizzling chocolate against hot pan, creamy ice cream and a hot, yummy brownie.


They gave us a variety of special things to try, less common than other places. The Krispy Bowl was an incredible treat of rice krispies and hot rich chocolate, leaving me wishing my childhood breakfasts started out this sweet.

And finally, if you’ve ever wished you had molten chocolate to drink, allow me to introduce the Three Musketeers. Dumas would've never imagined his work materialising into three shot glasses of milk chocolate, white chocolate and dark chocolate, meant for drinking, and completely, absolutely, ridiculously sinful. Of course, you could always order this as a side for that extra dash of chocolate on anything else you’ve ordered (such as the churros) but I’m sure some chocoholics would find nothing better than to down this in a go.


Their menu has so much more to offer. Their triple heart doughnut was an absolute hit with the other girls, but I was feeling too stuffed that I didn’t manage to try it. Their chocolate sushi crepe was also another popular dish, with every bite melding multiple textures and flavours together – something I also did not manage to try.


They serve coffee and other drinks from chai lattes to hojicha so if you’re not there for the chocolate, rest assured, you’ll find something else to enjoy as well!

You should try it if..

·       You love chocolate

·       You’re looking for a dessert place that’s chill and not too expensive

·       You want to try the best churros ever

·       You’re an adventurous dessert hunter and want a twist on the regular chocolate desserts (sushi perhaps?)

·       You’re in a large group of friends and want to share dessert

·       You want to try Callebaut Belgian chocolate

·       You're already at Kiara 163 and.. might as well! 

Minding Money Tips
As usual, my food reviews come with some tips on how you can get the best out of a restaurant. If you’re a student, you’re entitled to a 10% discount at every visit! Just flash your student card and you’re immediately entitled to that discount. If you want to get in touch for a party (graduation event? birthday celebration for kids? launch event?), you could get 30% off!  



With some of my friends - Sylvia, Ashley and Joanne

Thank you to Belgische Chocolatier for the food and the hospitality, and thank you to The Butterfly Project for securing the review opportunity.


Address1F-16, 163 Retail Park, Mont Kiara, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur

How To Take The Perfect Flatlay for Business and Personal Shots

Monday, September 9, 2019

If you’ve ever struggled with taking the perfect flatlay, then this is the post for you! Flatlays are arguably an Instagram essential, and whether you’re trying to capture mouthwatering displays of food spread across a table or that gorgeously packaged new skincare product on an artfully arranged bed of flowers, a well taken flatlay can highlight a product, be a fun way to express your creativity and of course, become ultimate #instagramgoals.



This post is only possible thanks to The Butterfly Project, From The Top (flatlay experts – find them on Instagram) and Avant GardeBlooms. Towards the end of July, I had the privilege of attending an intimate 15-member workshop for taking flatlays, taught by Azrin who’s a lecturer by profession and a flatlay hobbyist. She has hosted workshops for creatives and professionals interested in using flatlays either in a personal capacity or for commercial use, and having attended this Flatlay Partea (it was a tea party and I loved the cheesy pun!) at Delectable by Su in Glasshouse Seputeh, I can tell you firsthand that food and flatlays go very well together.


Upon arrival, we were treated to a drink and goodie bag by Althea Korea with some of their signature products: their beauty blender (Meringue Puffs) and fruit sheet masks (with even more punny names). With the sweet treats from Delectable by Su laid out for us, fresh flowers by Avant Garde Blooms all over, and with the sunlight streaming in through the huge ground-to-ceiling windows, it was like stepping into a tea party wonderland – fortunately, no mad hatters in sight!



The workshop was interactive in the best possible way. Azrin would initially guide us through some key essentials for taking a flatlay, carry out a demonstration, then allow us to work with the props and goodies to trial test our own shots. She’d then come by and offer helpful suggestions on whether a set up was too cluttered, if another colour would enhance the ‘featured’ item better, on how to use flowers and petals and tealeaves for that ‘effortlessly’ busy effect. She guided us on how to take ‘clean’ flatlays, where items are neatly arranged in symmetry (think packing flatlays!) and even ‘messy’ ones, where things would look ‘sprawled out’ across a surface.

Over the break, we were given the chance to eat any of the food on display (but at the same time – were told that we might want to save some treats for the second flatlay activity later on!). I loved loved loved the lemon meringue tart, had numerous chocolate mousse pots which was rich and creamy and enjoyed many mini croissants and sandwiches before the break was up.

That’s when competitive mode kicked in, and we had the chance to group up into teams of 3 to take The Ultimate Flatlay. Our challenge? Feature Althea’s Meringue Puffs. Thankfully, these blenders are already so cute that it was easy to marry them with the tea party theme and props that we had at our disposal.

Pic by Eros

My group members were the dynamic duo of Ashley and Sylvia, both of which have an incredible eye for detail. After arranging and rearranging and rearranging again, this was the photo we came up with:


Which I think was pretty gorgeous, if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, we did not win – but it was pretty tough to choose a winner because everyone’s shot was so good!

The other groups:





I learned so much from this workshop, and am happy to share some tips that I learned both at the workshop thanks to From The Top and also after trying it out a few more times at home. 

What is a Flatlay?

Before we dive into the details, we need to understand what a flatlay is. As you’d gather from its name, a flatlay is a photo taken from the top, where the viewpoint is 90 degrees from the flat surface. So that’s something that cannot be compromised – if you’re into taking creative angles, that no longer makes it a flatlay. Instead, your creativity is showcased through the layout of the items, rather than the angle of the photo.

Flatlay Top Tips

   1. Think of your ‘thing’

Have a focus. Find a pivotal object that you want to highlight or show as a centre of the photo. This helps you determine the colour scheme, theme and props that you’ll need before taking a photo. For instance, if you’re photographing a sandwich, it would look good on a picnic background or some sort of dainty tea party theme, but if you were photographing a burger, it might not be the most cohesive photo to pair that with a tea party setting.


2. The Backdrop

Choose your background wisely! One of the most useful things I learned at the workshop is that we can totally create our own backdrops. We don’t even need a marble table or a pink desk. Getting manila cards, old cloths or coloured paper to serve as the backdrop allows you to have a portable flatlay workstation that’s affordable and easy-to-work-with. From The Top’s workshop allowed us to work with samples of card in a variety of colours and textures (like marble!). Head to your local craft store to find a material that works for you!

3. Pop Your Props

From The Top’s strategy for ensuring that their props ‘pop’ in the photo is to arrange the photo by colour. This tip is super helpful for choosing which items should be in the photo. Personally, I’ve always had issues knowing what to feature. Sometimes in my head, I know that I have a few pretty items that would be nice to photograph, but because I didn’t plan the colours properly, the photo ends up looking ‘busy’ or disjointed, and it doesn’t make a good flatlay.

4. Right Ratio!

It’s also pivotal to have an idea of the ratio that you want to post. Some prefer a ‘portrait’ style photo with a 4:5 ratio for Instagram, whilst others are happy with the square. If you’re shooting a flatlay for a client, have in mind the kind of dimensions you want for the photo. The same shot for a square would look significantly different on a promotional banner. When in doubt, shoot as wide as possible, then crop it close.

5. Change and Arrange

From The Top taught us to take a look at the shots mid-shoot in order to see what they look like on screen. Sometimes, in person and on-screen have a different look and rather than take all the shots and edit later, you may need to take a breath, take a look at the photo, maybe play around with the ratios, and if you think it needs some adjustments, make some rearrangements and try shooting again.

6. Fresh flowers

As much as possible, if you’re using flowers in your shot, use fresh flowers! Fake flowers don’t look as good in a photo, and you have a lot more room to work with if you can scatter petals and leaves to fill up the blank spaces. At the workshop, Avant Garde Blooms supplied the flowers (where I learned that you can get some beautiful imported roses from Kenya) but even plucking leaves from the trees in your garden is an option!

And that’s some top tips I learned at the workshop! Hopefully I did justice to Azrin's instructions. 

I’ll wrap up this post with samples of flatlays taken by From The Top, which were huge inspirations to me.

 

If you would like tips from the flatlay guru herself or want some practical hands-on lessons, reach out to From The Top to join one of their workshops. Maybe even organise a flatlay party with your friends. I think it’ll be a fun bachelorette party or birthday party event to do if you and your friends enjoy Instagram, or just as a way to learn a new skill!

If you loved the flowers in this post as much as I did, Avant Garde Blooms have an amazing flower subscription service starting from only RM50 a month. I love having fresh flowers at home, and whether you’re subscribing to decorate your own home, or subscribing to treat your partner every month Avant Garde Blooms makes it easy: https://www.avantgardeblooms.com/

Since the workshop, I’ve gotten comments that my flatlay pictures have greatly improved and I’m so grateful to The Butterfly Project for giving me the opportunity to equip myself with some handy-dandy blogger skills!

Till next time!

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