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"Aaah! I wish I could make more time for exercise."

"I wish I could be more motivated to work out!"

"Dammit, it's so hard to stay consistent with my exercise routine. I'll never get back in shape!"

Are these thoughts that you've had at one point or another? Do they sound familiar to you? Well, just know that you're not alone. Most of us out there can't skip out of bed for a run on a regular, consistent basis. Staying in shape and exercising regularly takes commitment, discipline and motivation. But even to the best of us, life comes in the way. Fatigue or laziness creeps in. Heck, even raising kids is a great excuse to throw out there! But in my opinion, the only way to make regular exercise sustainable is to make it realistically fit into our everyday lives.

After having my second baby recently, my core has taken a beating and my body is out of shape. I am determined to whip myself back into shape. But I know that juggling two kids and going back to work will present me with quite a challenge in making time for exercise. This is why I'm starting out with short workouts which I can realistically squeeze into my day, for at least a few times a week. Here's how I plan to do it:

Step 1: Measure my waist and record my weight on day 1.

Step 2: Take on a 30-day squat-lunge-plank challenge! Every day, I will follow the schedule shown here. Please refer to my video below for doing a series of squat-lunge-plank exercises (rest days are included) and also this previous post on the appropriate technique for doing them. These exercises in themselves will not make me lose weight but they will certainly help to tone my abdominal area and lower body. I will be supplementing these exercises with 20-30 mins of running and ab crunches 2-4 times a week, depending on my time. If your fitness level allows you to do more than that, go ahead! (Diet will also play a key role in helping with the weight loss but that's a separate issue for another day!)

Step 3: Measure my waist and record my weight on day 30. At the end of the month-long challenge, my goal is to see whether or not these exercises made a difference.

Many of you saw my posting on Instastories about this challenge and asked about it. I'd like to share this with all of you and ask if anyone is interested to join. Follow me on Instagram (@urbanmantra1) and my Instastories to stay updated and to connect with me using the #SLPChallenge. We can do it together!


Ever since baby Arjun’s arrival, our home has come alive with new sounds - the sweet sounds of a baby cooing, the playful shouts of a toddler, the gentle jingling of a rattle, the screeching of toy cars. Moments of peace and quiet are found only when Krishnav is at school and the baby is sleeping, two things which don’t always coincide. Indeed, life is just a little bit crazier and there is always something or someone demanding my attention.

Almost three months into my new role as a mother of two, I’m finding that the biggest challenge for me has been balancing time between both my boys. Given their age gap, the demands of each child are different. My 2.5 month old baby mostly requires my physical presence at this stage in the form of breast-feeding and other aspects of baby care. Meanwhile, my 4-year old is a mini-adult with a completely different set of demands, those that require a lot more of my physical, emotional, and mental energy. He enjoys conversations and likes storytelling. One minute he’s happy and active, and the next he’s whining and making unreasonable demands to seek attention. He is curious and asks thought-provoking questions which require thoughtful responses back. In other words, he’s a formidable presence in the house which cannot be ignored. But when the baby is hungry and crying, he cannot be ignored either. What is one to do? It’s a juggling act for sure. And when you’re tired and sleep-deprived, it’s a big challenge to maintain your patience through it all.

Over the last two months, I’ve figured out a few ways to balance the needs of a newborn and a toddler. Here are a few practical approaches which have worked for me:

1. Do activities with the toddler while feeding the baby: I realized early on that Krishnav likes sitting and chatting with me while I’m nursing the baby. Instead of sending him away, I started seeing that as a way to spend time with him while bonding with the baby over breast-feeding. We talk about his day in school, I tell him stories, read to him, etc. Sometimes, my presence is enough as he quietly plays with his toys next to me while I nurse the baby.

2. Find ways to spend one-on-one time with the older child: I found that this exclusive “Krishnav & Mummy” time was something that Krishnav really enjoyed and reassured him feel that he’s still loved, no matter what. Times when the baby is napping or when someone can watch the baby for a little while are great opportunities to do this. It could be something really simple, like reading him books or taking him out to the park.

3. Do things that can involve both the baby and the older one: Sounds tricky but it’s possible. Book reading, singing songs together, and an outing with both kids to a playground are simple things you can do. For example, while reading a book to Krishnav, I place the baby on my lap so he can listen too. While it is of course too early for him to understand the story, he is listening to the familiar sound of his mother’s voice, seeing bright colors and pictures and getting introduced to the world of books. Win-win situation!

4. Give the older one a greater sense of responsibility: This can be related to helping out with the baby, like fetching a diaper, or doing simple chores around the house, like helping to set the table. I was surprised how up to the task and eager Krishnav was to help in these matters! It made him feel included, indeed an important, contributing member of the house! It is also an opportunity to spend time with him.

5. Encourage independent play for the older child: While it has been important to spend time with Krishnav to prevent him from feeling isolated, I also think it is necessary to encourage independent play. This is both good for his development and my sanity! The ways I have tried to encourage independent play:
- Avoiding interruptions and letting Krishnav be when I see him playing by himself
- Giving him a little activity or min-project to do so that he can focus on something at hand (Eg. Can you draw me a picture about so-and-so? Can you line up all your superhero action figures and count them?)
- Occupying him with a combination of open-ended and close-ended toys. Open-ended toys, such as Legos and play dough, encourage creative thinking while close-ended toys, such as puzzles, help with focusing on task completion. With my 4-year old, I've observed that having a combination of such toys, rather than just one kind, fosters longer periods of self-play.

The early days of managing and making time for two kids are tough but I’m sure it gets easier over time. For those of you who have been in the same situation, what are things that you did to get through this challenging phase?
A scarf is one of those accessories that never goes out of style. It's probably the most versatile article of clothing you didn't know you had! Back in 2013, I wrote a two-part series on how you can maximize the use of a scarf in various ways (Part I and Part II are here if you wanna check out those posts). With the headscarf look becoming in-fashion now, I was reminded of this old blogpost and felt inspired to do a new version. So here I am, four years later...and I decided to have a reboot of the "Different Ways to Style a Scarf" post.

The Classic Way
So of course, there is the classic way of wearing a scarf around your neck. Winter or summer, a scarf adds another dimension to your look. Now that I live in a hot, tropical climate, I use a very light and thin fabric for a scarf if I ever choose to wear one.

Classic with a Twist
To add more visual interest to a scarf worn around your neck, why not get creative and add a piece of jewelry? As shown in the picture below, I strung the scarf through a statement ring just to mix things up a bit. A brooch would work just as well. 

Scarf as a Headpiece
This is currently all the rage right now. You can find tons of online tutorials (here's one I liked) and Pinterest posts on the different ways to wear a scarf as a head wrap. I'm amazed at the number of different styles you can wear it! A head wrap can really transform your whole look. While I personally don't have the habit of wearing a scarf as a headpiece, I've lately begun to experiment more with this look and I really like how it looks. 

Accessory to your Handbag
Want to give an updated look to your old handbag? Say hello your trusty scarf! I recommend using a short scarf and attaching it to the side of your bag's handle. Another way is to twist the scarf across the handle of the purse as shown below. Notice how I've even used a cocktail ring to secure the scarf in place. The chain print scarf works really well when pairing it with a classic handbag.

Scarf as a Top
Believe it or not, you can also fashion a scarf as a top! Ideally, you use one with square proportions rather than a long rectangular one but yes...it is possible. Here in the picture, I tied 2 ends of the scarf around my neck and the other 2 ends behind my back. Thrown on a blazer to pull the look together and you're ready to go! In the summers, skip the blazer and wear it as a halter top (the tie-dye print bandanna scarf would work really well for the summery look).

Scarf as a Belt
Is there no end to the different ways you can use a scarf? In this picture, I've worn it around my waist to add a bit of flair to these high-waisted palazzo pants. You could just as easily pair it with a dress to achieve a more figure-defining look.

So what are the ways YOU have used a scarf? Are there any other ways to style a scarf that I didn't think of? Would love to hear from you!
Pink gingham top from The Closet Lover | Shorts from Top Shop | Earrings from Lovisa |
Shoes from Charles and Keith | Purse from Coach | Sunglasses from Cole Haan
It hit me recently that this month of August marks three years since I moved from New York to Singapore. In these three short years, I've learned to appreciate kopi, crave gulu melaka pandan cake and ice chendol, makaan on rice and sayur lodeh at the hawker center, adopt Singlish terms into my lexicon (blur like sotong, anyone?), and understood what it's like to be a kiasu parent (scroll to the bottom of the post to see what these terms mean!). I've come to greatly value the ease of living here and being able to raise my kids in a safe environment. What's more, Singapore is such a green city (it was recently named as the greenest city in the world) and that is something to be proud of!

Other things that have made living in Singapore memorable so far...

Personally for me, proximity to family has been a big bonus. Earlier we used to save up our limited vacation days to make the painfully long journey from the U.S. to Asia to see our parents and extended family once a year. Now we can meet them much more often with flights to Thailand and India (where my family is based) being just a few short hours. I love how my children can grow up with seeing their grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles so frequently and being able to develop a close relationship with them. The closeness of family ties is undoubtedly among the highlights of moving here.

The ability to travel to different countries is probably something many will list out as a big advantage to living in the Little Red Dot. The connectivity and the relatively short flights to nearby countries like Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, etc...allow you to check many a place off your bucket list! My husband and I ourselves have traveled to many interesting places in the past three years - Luang Prabang, Bali, Siem Reap, Langkawi, Phuket, etc and we hope to see more!

Last but not least, having an excellent set of friends has been a big blessing! In fact, my greatest fear about moving to Singapore was whether we would be able to make a good friend circle. But as it turned out, we met and got connected to various different people and formed a great set of friends. That has certainly colored our experience here in a positive way. After all, friends make the place!

On a separate note - I'm loving this pink gingham top from a local store called The Closet Lover. Dramatic, ruffled sleeves are in this season and I love the sweet color and design of this top. Outfit details below!

Singlish terms:
  • Kopi: The local coffee in Singapore
  • Gula melaka: Coconut palm sugar; often an ingredient used in making sweets
  • Ice chendol: A local icy dessert
  • Makaan: A Malay word adopted into everyday Singlish referring to "eat" 
  • Sayur lodeh: A vegetable curry made with coconut milk 
  • Kiasu: Refers to the feeling of not wanting to miss out on opportunities or get left behind; Singaporeans are known to be very "kiasu" :)

What do you look for when you buy jewelry? In recent years, more and more I’m attracted to jewelry that is unique and meaningful. It first started when I learned about 31 Bits, a socially conscious jewelry company that uses recycled bead products produced by displaced women in Uganda. Since then, the interest in collecting pieces of jewelry that have a story to tell has remained with me. Furthermore, in our fast-paced lives where women have to balance work life with home life, I look for jewelry that strikes a balance of style and ease of wear. It has to be versatile and able to transition from day to night if needed.

This is why I find the jewelry collection from Eden + Elie so appealing. This Singapore-based jewelry brand was the brainchild of Stephanie Choo, a working mom who wanted to create jewelry that is meaningful. Stephanie initially started off by personally and painstakingly making each jewelry piece by herself. You only have to look at the jewelry pieces to appreciate how delicate and lovely they are.

Over time, Stephanie has worked to train local artisans to handcraft each piece of delicate and exquisite piece of jewelry designed by her. The materials for making the jewelry are ethically sourced and of premium quality. What's more is that the metals are plated with 24K gold which allow for durability in this hot weather! Importantly, Eden + Elie has also made efforts to hire and train individuals from disadvantaged communities to add social value. In a world where mass produced, fast fashion reigns supreme, I find this commendable.

I’m so excited to partner with Eden + Elie to host a giveaway for all my readers! The winner of the giveaway would receive the Everyday Necklace (as shown in my pictures) valued at $169. Entering is easy and is open to participants from all countries*!

1. Please follow me on Instagram (@urbanmantra1) and on Facebook (@urbanmantrablog)
2. Please follow Eden + Elie on Instagram (@edenandelie) and on Facebook (@edenandelie)
3. Tag two friends on my Instagram page.

Winner will be announced on Aug 15, 2017.
*Terms & Conditions may apply.