Welcome to our website !

Diwali is a special time of year for many South Asians. While Singapore's current restrictions will not allow for group gatherings and celebrations for Diwali, one thing is certain - we all are, nonetheless, looking for ways to make the Festival of Lights special for our family and friends. I've had the distinct pleasure of being able to try products and services by many South Asian entrepreneurs by virtue of being in the social media space, and am so grateful for that. As a way to support them, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a Diwali gift guide specific for Singapore-based brands and businesses creating festive gift boxes and hampers!

I have personally tried and tested over 95% of the products/services relating to the festive season in the list below. If I have missed any, please do let me know and I'd love to add to this list.

Fun fact: Almost all of the tags below are women-led businesses and I love the idea of supporting them further!

Be it natural essential oils and remedies, eco-friendly stationery, handcrafted candles, blockprinted table linen, and other pieces to add a beautiful touch to your home - I've enjoyed them all

Think chocolates, mithais (some even vegan), kulfi, and other mouthwatering delights tailored for the festive season and packaged beautifully for gifting!
Healthyish and Happy - Cardamom rose laddoos made with all the good stuff (nuts, dates, spices!)
Amrta Chocolates - Delicious artisanal chocolates in festive flavors and shapes
Indian Spice Box - Organic indian spice boxes in beautiful packaging
The Nut Bite - Customizable box with a variety of nuts in different flavorings; includes candles/diffusers
Her Rise Above - Variety of gifting hampers put together by a business essentials program for women
Bombay Kulfi - Assorted kulfi flavors (paan, mango, gulkand, you name it!)
From the Pan - Mithai box
Nourish - Vegan mithai box
Indulge by Ekta - Diwali cookies
Save A Gram - Colunteer run, social enterprise that promotes organic grains, spices, and tea

Highly recomend these organic, natural skincare brands that don't break the bank

My recomendations for books and crafts to bring to life the magic of this season with kids
T4 Tales - "Kahani Purani", a storybook of the Ramayan for kids, in different languages)
Indigrow Kids - Festive bundle consisting of books, puzzles, and games related to India)
Book Bear - Diwali bundle of books related to the Ramayan and the Festival of Lights)
Nimbu Kids - Adorable ethnic wear for the little ones with a fashion sustainability ethos)
Lime and Lemon Kidswear - Ethical brand for kids clothing, including ethnic wear)

There are tons of ethnic fashion and jewellry brands and I can't possibly list them all. But here are some local brands across different price ranges that will get you sorted for the festive season!
Twinkle Toes (jooties)

It's probably the most "daring" thing I've ever done in recent times - to travel during a pandemic and clock in a total of 4 weeks of hotel-based quarantine (in Singapore and Thailand)! These are unusual experiences in unusual times. But half the battle is won when you enter a required quarantine with a positive, can-do approach. A hotel quarantine is not a breeze. But there are things you can do to make your stay as comfortable as possible within a confined space. In this post, I'm going to share all the resources and things you should consider bringing with you so that you are fully prepared for the long stay. 

To set your expectations, the hotel facilities dedicated for quarantine in Singapore comprise of standard rooms. As a family with kids, you can request for two adjoining rooms with a connecting door (email at ICA_SHNhotelneeds@ica.gov.sg) OR you can look into upgrading to a suite which provides more space and even a kitchenette. Our family stayed in two conected standard rooms - these rooms do NOT have a balcony or open windows, there is no laundry service or room cleaning service, and there is a limited set menu from which to order meals. 

With that said, below are some of the items I think are helpful to carry:

  • Wet wipes or an all-natural surface cleaner (Ollie Oils has a good one) to clean surfaces in your room/living space/bathroom. It was especially handy becaue the kids would eat on a small table and inevitably drop food on the floor or dirty the table. So wet wipes were really handy! 
  • Room deodorizer or spray: With no open windows, there is no fresh air in quarantine. Add to that the fact that you're eating, sleeping, and exercising in the same space for several days at a stretch. A deodorizer really helps to freshen up the air and remove any odors or staleness in the air. 
  • The Laundress is a line of non-toxic products which I found very useful for travel: The "Crease Release" is a spray which removes wrinkles from clothing without the need for ironing (available via different websites in Singapore and Amazon). They also have laundry detergent and other cleaning items that you may want to check out! 
  • Plastic tupperware/boxes to store food left over from your meals: You'll find that you don't necessarily finish all the food and some food items are good to save for the next day. So some storage containers are helpful to have. 
  • Pack enough inner wear (i.e., undergarments) to last the duration of the quarantine if you don't plan to wash your own dirty clothes. Also, to reduce unnecessary laundry build-up, I feel there's no shame in repeating your outfits since you're indoors and sweat-free anyway
  • Pack vitamin D supplements: In general, it's good to take vitamins! But more importanlty, since you're not exposed to the sun for a long stretch of time, preempt a vitamin D deficiency by taking your supplements
  • Entertainment for grown-ups: Books/Kindle, embroidery kit, adult coloring books, your Apple TV device... whatever you need to keep sane and calm
  • Entertainment for kids: Refer to my Instagram post with my recs (this warrants a separate post in itself!)
  • A bit of indulgence: If you're with young kids, there may not be much time for relaxation but you can still bring a touch of indulgence into your quarantine. I suggest bringing some essential oils or ordering bubble bars or bath bombs from Lush to be delivered to your hotel
Useful Resources:
  • Rental needs: www.happyshn.com is a website which allows you to rent items you might need for your quarantine, such as a microwave, exercise equipment, yoga mat, fans, vaccuums, portable washing machines, etc. It's a brilliant idea and we used it for renting a microwave - easy and fast delivery!
  • Online workouts: I highly recommend doing short workouts or getting some movement into your day during quarantine. It really helped to boost our spirits and alleviated that "cooped in" feeling. There are tons of workouts you can do in your hotel room - search for PopSugar Fitness, Brian Syuki for walking-based workouts, and SELF for HIIT/cardio on Youtube (20-30 min workout routines worked great for me personally). In addition, you can pack resistance bands or light weights to support your workouts!
  • Good delivery apps (Food Panda, Deliveroo, and Grab Food) and alcohaul.sg for delivery of spirits to lift your spirits! :) They helped to break the monotony of the hotel food and gave us something to look forward to whenever we ordered something. 
I hope you found this list helpful. Good luck to those of you embarking on any travels and get ready to face quarantine like a boss! If you have any questions, just email me at urbanmantra1@gmail.com or DM on Instagram

Balancing work and parenthood is challenging and at times, really overwhelming. But time management and learning how to juggle all the different facets of your life is key! As a working professional, a mom to 2 boys, and an active blogger, I often get asked how I “do it all and make it look so easy”. Be under no illusion - it’s NOT easy and I DON'T do it all. Have you heard of the saying of how serene a duck looks on the surface, but underneath he's paddling like hell? Yeah, that’s me.

I’m certainly no expert but would humbly like to share some practices which have been effective for me in better balancing my life goals and ambitions.

1. Ask yourself what you want in life and focus your energies accordingly.

Are you looking to build a high-profile career or develop your own business? Or are you looking for a steady job that keeps you satisfied, pays the bills, and gives you balance in life? If you don’t know the answer, then sort that out first. Because you need that clarity on a meta-level to decide where you want to focus your energies on and how you tackle the different facets of your life (be it kids, a career, or non-professional endeavours).

Example: Upon self-inflection several years ago, I realized I wanted a balanced lifestyle with regards to my job, family, and personal pursuits. I sought a career path that gives me meaning and purpose without necessarily the highest-ranking positions. I wanted to be a hands-on Mom to my kids. I wanted space to pursue my own passion projects (i.e., blog/Instgram). So with that clarity, I divide my life roughly into the following framework: 40% work, 40% family & kids, 20% personal endeavours. This bigger picture helps me figure out where to channel my time and efforts. 

2. Be flexible and adjust your priorities as needed.

Priorities are not static. No single week is the same in terms of what's on your plate. So at the start of the week, I make a mental or written list of what needs to be done and rank them in order of importance. At certain times, work will reign supreme because there’s a major deadline coming up and everything else takes a backstep. Other times, I may divert more of my attention to my children to get some quality time. Be flexible and not guilty in knowing that priorities do shuffle around. 

3. Create a strong support(ive) system.

It takes a village so don’t try to do it all on your own. Between my husband, a reliable helper, trusty friends, and a good school, I ensure that my kids are well-taken care of, happy, and well-adjusted. On the work front, I seek jobs which allow flexibility and are supportive of working mothers and their schedules - this makes a BIG difference in maintaining work-life balance!

4. Be efficient & work smart!

One of my greatest strengths is the ability to get stuff done. I achieve that by being super disciplined and efficient across all areas of my life. How?
  • Work smart: I calculate the areas of my life where I need to work hard versus work smart. For example, I don’t compromise on my kid’s learning but I let it go if they didn’t eat the most healthy meal every single day of the week (for some, that priority may be flipped). At work, I will dedicate much more time for a big report with high visibility and impact but for a lower priority project, I would put in just enough effort to keep the ball rolling but not agonize over every small aspect. Know when to give your 80% versus your 110%.
  • Goes without saying, stay on top of things with to-do lists! :)
  • On the home front, I try to create efficiencies in small ways so that the household can run smoothly: weekly meal planning, online grocery shopping at the start of a new week, outsource ironing work with hired help, order in, have the kids help with chores, etc.
5. Lay boundaries to make space for family or personal life.

We all know that work can easily spill over our personal life if we don't lay clear boundaries. So here are two tips that I apply:
  • Both I and my husband block out our work calendars for certain times of the day when we want to be with the kids. That way, no one schedules work meetings and people learn to be more respectful of your time.
  • Secondly, let’s get better at saying NO in the workplace or acknowledging when we need more resources and support. By having the courage to say NO or conversely, ask for help, we are setting ourselves up for a more manageable lifestyle.
If you found this post helpful, do let me know! I would also love to hear your thoughts on how you balance work and life. 

About three years ago, I left my old job without another in hand. I knew I had gone as far as I could in that job and the company was going through turbulent times. It was time to look elsewhere. At the same time, I also wanted to spend more time with my kids. To quit a job without knowing where I was going next was a scary thing to do. But it was also the right thing to do...for me at that time in my life. Ultimately, I did take that break which lasted 6-7 months (fairly short in the grand scheme of things). I have no regrets and haven't looked back since.

Many of us may be at a juncture where we're considering a career break. Are you deliberating whether it is the right move? Are you worried how it will impact your career trajectory or prospects of finding a job later on? I want to let you Moms out there know that taking a career break for family (or even other reasons) need NOT equate to career suicide.

From my own personal experience, I made 4 revelations which I'd like to share with you. These revelations require a proactive and productive mindset and worked well for me. Hopefully, they can may help you emerge on the other side of your career break, happier and wiser. 

#1. Treat the break as an investment towards yourself and your next phase in life. Being on a career break doesn’t mean you’re sitting idle. I found myself busy in various ways, balancing quality time with the kids while also pursuing interests which I never had time for before. For example, I took a course on social media marketing (for my own interest) and attended seminars on AI (incidentally, same field as my role now). This leads me to my next point....

#2. Make a strategic plan and stick to it. Going in, I didn't know how long my career break was going to be. But one thing I did know was that I didn't plan to be out of the job market for very long (not more than 1-2 years). So I made a monthly plan of action and stuck to it (it helps to brainstorm and talk it through with your partner too). I signed up for seminars and workshops on various topics. I created a bucket list of fun and educational things I wanted to do. I made a point to meet 2-5 people on a professional level weekly for "coffee chats". I even used LinkedIn to “cold-call” people working in companies or jobs of interest to me. Some of the things that I did were also relevant to add to my resume.

#3. The gap in your resume is NOT a bad thing; it’s HOW you explain it that matters. When you do return to the job market, there is no shame in explaining to potential employers that you chose to prioritize family and at the same time reassess where you wanted to take your career. Normalize this thinking and talk about it frankly. In my case, as I spoke to various people in different companies, this reasoning was accepted without question (I recognize that this isn't the case in all industries). Secondly, outline the list of activities, projects, or courses you did for self-development - this shows initiative and a growth mindset. Lastly, don’t be apologetic or guilty about taking time off! Sadly, we are made to believe we somehow failed by choosing to be at home and giving up a job. Own it and be self-assured that you’ll get back to work when the time is right. This confident attitude makes a difference during interviews. 

#4. View this break through a macro lens. A break is a tiny blip in your overall life timeline. We have many years of working ahead of us. So a break is GOOD for us! It forces us to reset our thinking and is an opportunity to reassess career paths. Believe that you can & will climb back!

Bottom line? Be productive in ways that help you on a personal or professional front and enjoy it. Network. Upskill yourself with courses or seminars. Make genuine interactions with people who are in the line of work you want to break into. Freelance. Read lots. Do something you always wanted to do that is not career related! The best part? You get to do it on your own terms and convenience! You never know how these experiences will lead to something in the future.

Lastly, let’s not forget to focus on the very reason for wanting to quit working for a while: our children! This phase is one we’ll never get back so let’s fully embrace it and make it count.

We've all suffered from imposter syndrome at some time in our life! That feeling of inadequacy, insecurity, not feeling like you measure up compared to everyone else. I have experienced it myself - I remember feeling it acutely whenever I have started a new job or role at work. I would see the shiny, polished exteriors of my coworkers who seemed so confident and comfortable and feel even more hypercritical of myself. Do I belong here? What if they realize I'm a bad hire? It's a terrible, sinking feeling but it can be overcome!

Be brave enough to believe in your own ability.

I'd like to share some tips that worked for me as I've dealt with imposter syndrome. I hope you'll find it useful for yourself as well:

1. Realize you're not alone: There's a lot of people out there who give the impression of "fake it till you make it". But in reality, they have their own insecurities too. It's normal to experience self-doubt. Knowing you're not the only one is assuring.

2. Focus on the facts: Make a "brag sheet" where you objectively list out your accomplishments at work. Sometimes, our emotions blur our reality. We often perceive our negative thoughts and shortcomings to be worse than they really are. Appreciate your own positive achievements (big and small) based on fact with this list. It really works!

3. Put your best foot forward: Coming into a new role and unsure of yourself? Rely on your strengths and do what you do best. There may be a steep learning curve on a subject matter but you can still use certain transferrable skills to make a strong impression. For example, when I shifted careers from Pharma to Tech, there was a lot of technical stuff I didn't know. But I used my ability to connect with people, manage stakeholders, and communicate effectively as a rock and to demonstrate value (while working to catch up on other areas).

4. Positive affirmations: "I am good, I do my best, and I cannot control the rest". Repeat this to yourself and you will feel more in control. Release that inner critic inside of you.

5. Open up to others: You need not share every dire thought you have been experiencing but opening up to your coworkers can lead to surprising results. After a few months at a new job, I remember jokingly telling a coworker that I felt so insecure when I had started my job because everyone else around me is just so smart. To my surprise, my coworker replied, "Oh yeah, I totally get you. I had this imposter syndrome for the longest time!". We ended up chatting about it and exchanging our thoughts on it and it was so helpful! 

Imposter syndrome can make us hesitant to speak up, accept a new role, or apply for that dream job. It can eat away at our self-confidence and lead to a downward spiral. Don't let it get to you. I hope the advice I shared above can help you realize the power of your own self!