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On a recent trip to Chiang Mai (read my travel post about it here), I had mentioned about where I went shopping for local items. Among the places I recommended was the Saturday night market where you can find lots of local silver jewelry and clothing with ethnic designs. While I was there, I picked up this cotton top with a design commonly seen in Chiang Mai ethnic costumes. If you don't know what Chiang Mai traditional costumes look like, click here. They are incredibly beautiful and ornate with eye-catching details and colors. In my case, the embroidery and the pom pom detailing have been adapted into a modern top which I styled into a casual Sunday outfit. 

Here's to wishing you all a very bright and happy Sunday and week ahead!

Top: Chiang Mai shopping | Shorts: SeaFolly | Shoes: Express | Purse: Coach | 
Sunglasses: Polaroid | Bracelets: Lauren Elan Collections

I recently came upon an old letter I wrote to myself  two years ago. It was about my son's horrible sleeping habits. As a new mother, my son's lack of sleep training was the most troubling thing on my mind at the time and I constantly questioned whether I was doing things all wrong. Looking back at it now, I can't believe I fretted so much. My son's sleeping habits now don't seem like an issue of epic proportions as they did back then. This issue which plagued me so much eventually went away (through a combination of measures we took as parents and the fact that my son grew out of it).

As I currently deal with a new set of hurdles with a toddler who has a mind of his own, my letter-to-self is a reminder that each phase of raising my child will present with new challenges. At any given time, we're simply dealing with one leg out of the many more to come in this marathon, complete with highs and lows. I tell myself to keep things in perspective.

Here's to taking a look back and sharing something I wrote two years ago...

I watch my 9-month old son tensely as he sleeps in his crib, his breath rising and falling evenly. Ironically, this peaceful act of sleep has of late been the source of much mental turmoil and disturbance for me. I’ll admit it - I’m a member of Sleep Deprived Mothers Anonymous dealing with a baby with frequent night wakings. And yes, I’m guilty of the crime of nursing and rocking my son to sleep.

Modern day parenting guides tell me a lot of things that give me cause for concern - that my baby should be able to sleep through the night by now, that I’m encouraging an unhealthy dependency in my son on nursing and the rocking motion as a means to fall asleep. Apparently, I have failed to instill good sleep habits in him. As a result, he doesn’t know how to self-soothe and fall asleep on his own. Bad mommy.

I know i’m not alone in my agony in dealing with a baby that doesn’t sleep well. I see countless mothers in the online mommy groups desperately seeking advice, tips, and suggestions on all matters of child sleep habits - how to teach their baby to sleep through the night, how to encourage them to fall asleep on their own, how to prevent night wakings, and so on. It’s a whole field, I tell you. One that I never knew existed until I joined the Zombie Mommy Club.

And now, I find myself asking fellow mommies utterly ridiculous questions like, “What technique did you use to put your baby to sleep? CIO? Shush-pat? Modified CIO?” “What did do you if he cried upon placing him in the crib? Did you continue patting him or did you pick him up? If so, for how long?” Since when did putting a baby to sleep become such a science? Or rather, such a practiced art?

“I use a rocking sarong and play sweet lullabies in the backdrop”, responded one mommy I asked beseechingly for help. “I use an electronic rocking chair and it works like a charm. It doesn’t break the habit of rocking but at least you don’t have to do it yourself”, said another. Great…

Something like nursing and cradling my child to sleep that felt so right in the beginning has turned into a self-inflicted torment. Now I fret constantly that I’ll be rocking my son to sleep well into adulthood. I research ways to instill better sleep habits in my son. I even talk in baby sleep lingo, uttering terms like, sleep training, self-soothing, Ferberizing, and sleep consultant. My parents look at me blankly. These words never existed in their time.

I feel like we live in a generation where we try to mould a baby’s habits to suit our busy lifestyle. Add to that the volumes of sleep training books that exist, each dictating various schools of thought and causing us to overanalyze every little thing. I would argue that our mothers did all the current “don’ts” of parenting like rocking, nursing, and cosleeping, yet we ultimately learned how to fall asleep on our own. Maybe it just took us longer to get there but patience was something our parents seemed to have a lot more than us. There were no online forums, mommy groups, and BabyCenter for them to refer to. They simply did what they knew and what came naturally to them. And we all turned out alright, didn’t we? And so I continue to straddle two mental states. Sometimes fretful that I’m not doing enough to remedy this darn sleep situation. Sometimes assured in the belief that it’ll all work out on its own.

In my pre-baby years, making time for exercise wasn’t the uphill battle that it is now. As a fitness junkie, I loved trying new and challenging exercise routines, such as high-intensity Bollywood dance workouts, military-style bootcamps, running, and yoga (regular and aerial). Fast forward 3 years later… Saying that making time for exercise is a challenge is putting it mildly. In between handling a job which sometimes requires travel, raising an active toddler who needs constant attention, running a household, and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life, making time for exercise fell off the priority list. Gradually, I noticed my level of energy dropping. Besides the weight creeping back up, I was taking the lazy way out with eating what was convenient and not necessarily what was healthy and right for me.

It was time to take control of the situation. So recently, I have taken measures that were effective for me towards a healthier, fitter lifestyle. Each person may have their own way, but I’d like to share what worked for me. They’re simple tips which can be incorporated into your busy life to make sure you take care of yourself for the long run. Think of it as a change in lifestyle rather than a crash diet.

The “fit lifestyle” tip I’d like to share today: Find the type of exercise you enjoy..and then go do it!

Why do we find excuses to avoid going to the gym to run on the treadmill? Probably because we hate doing it! But perhaps if we picked a workout we actually enjoy, we would feel more motivated and more inclined to stick with it. Case in point: My husband hates the gym and will avoid entering it at all costs. But ask him to play tennis any day of the week, and he’ll jump at the idea.

I implemented this idea in my own life by getting back to what I love, running. Besides finding the workout I enjoy doing, I took some key steps to ensure I stick to it:

1.       Make time for exercise, even if it’s 20 to 30 minutes: I started waking up just 30 minutes earlier in the morning so that I could go running. I’m sure we can manage to squeeze in that amount of time at least a couple times a week. It’s so doable and it’s a start!
2.       Find someone to work out with: I knew that I would stick to my running goals much more once I had a running partner. A workout partner keeps you motivated and accountable. Personally, I hate being the one to bail on others so once running plans are set, I make sure I adhere to them
3.       Find ways to keep your workout interesting: In my case, my husband and I signed up for races in different countries and in unique settings to keep us constantly challenged and excited. So far, we have done a run through the Singapore Zoo, a green heritage trail in Singapore, and the Angkor Wat run in Cambodia. Currently we are training for a 10K in Vietnam in the mountainous Sapa Valley!
4.       Adjust your fitness routine to your current lifestyle: In the past, I could have managed more time and more days a week for my exercise. But now with a busy mommy-and-work life, I’ve decided not to set unrealistic standards and timelines on my fitness goals. If I can manage three workouts in a week along with healthy-to-decent eating habits, I consider myself very successful. There will be weeks when I’m really good and weeks when I’m not. I don’t stress about it because I’m in this for the long run.

So explore different workouts and find the one you love. Is it yoga, a dance workout, table tennis, or
brisk walks? Whatever it is, find a way to incorporate some of it into your life. 
It was my father's birthday this week. Luckily, his birthday coincided with a visit that my parents made to Singapore. We decided to take a walk in Kallang Park together on the evening of my father's birthday. At the park, it was so endearing to see my dad playing with my son, Krishnav. They get along like a house on fire, and my son knows he can get away with anything with his nana (grandpa). Take a look at the picture I included at the end, and you'll see what I mean!

Given that it was a birthday occasion, I decided to wear a bright and happy dress. I just got back from a trip to the States where I shopped up a storm. I love these Cole Haan sunglasses which I picked up from Nordstrom Rack - they were such a steal! I also just discovered this store called Nakamol in Chicago. Nakamol is the designer who makes beautiful everyday wear jewelry pieces, like the druzy ring I wore (picture below). Special thanks to my mom who patiently took these pictures of me at the park!

Shift dress from Lulu's (no longer available) | Cole Haan sunglasses from Nordstrom Rack | Nude strap sandals from DMK Singapore | Rings from Nakamol and street shopping in Chiang Mai | Bracelet by Charles & Keith | Kate Spade purse (old) and watch | Lipstick by Marc Jacobs 
I recently had the chance to travel to Chiang Mai for work (how lucky am I!). Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand located up north, nestled among the mountains and hills. The weather is usually cooler up there, especially during the winter months. I happened to visit in the midst of a heat wave (lucky me again!). Somehow, I managed to tolerate 40 deg C weather because everything else about Chiang Mai was just so enjoyable, from the food to the people to the sights to see. I had last visited this hill station/city over 20 years ago as a young child. It was a sleepy little town then, which has now burgoened into a hipster, trendy city. There's a pity in that but also unique, interesting pockets of town that have emerged as a result of this change. 

In the short 3 day visit, I managed to squeeze in a sufficient amount of time to re-aquaint myself with the city. Here are some of my main recommendations along with my photo diary: 

Walked the 300 steps up to the top of the hill where the temple, Wat Doi Suthep, is located
Khao soi is a must-try in Chiang Mai
Dhara Devi Hotel is an old temple ground transformed into a luxurious hotel. Walk around the property to appreciate the beauty of ancient temple ruins juxtaposed against the modern hotel
Dhara Devi Hotel: The remnants of an old temple wall artfully assimilated into a 
luxury hotel with modern vibes
Wat Doi Suthep temple is beautiful and a striking color of gold in the morning light
Pretty little knick-knacks at the Saturday night market
Some restaurant recommendations:
David's Kitchen is ranked the #1 best restarant in Chiang Mai...and for good reason too! It's serves up fusion/modern Thai and Western cuisine set in a cozy home. You'll love the intimate setting and the highly personalized service. Be sure to make reservations in advance! 

Khao Soi Lam Duan for the traditional Khao Soi soup noodle dish. It is traditional a northern "Isaan" Thai cuisine. This restaurant is a shack literally but the taxis/tuk tuk drivers know about it. There are several other khao soi places around town and I'm sure they're great as well

Dhara Devi Hotel for drinks at the bar. It's a temple converted into a luxury hotel and while most of us can't afford to stay there, it's definitely worth a visit to walk around the beautiful property with its mysterious vibes followed by drinks at the hotel bar. I suggest visiting after 6pm when the sun is setting, making for prime time picturesque shots

Temple visits: 
Wat Doi Suthep is a 25-30 min drive outside the city center. I suggest waking up early and going around 6am. It's on a hilltop and you'll get a spectacular view of the city below. 

Wat Chedi Luang and some other smaller temples are located within the city. You can cover them relatively quickly within a couple hours

Night markets: I usually find the night markets overly touristy so I would avoid it. However, I did enjoy the Saturday night market which has a mix of everything, including traditional Thai souvenirs, silver jewelry and other trinkets. There is a Sunday night market as well.

Other activities to do in Chiang Mai:
Nimmanhaemin Road is an awfully cumbersome name but this hipster neighborhood is worth visiting for its local boutiques and cafes/restaurants. For vegetarians like me out there, there is a restaurant called Ancharn Vegetarian Restaurant that is worth visiting and well rated by TripAdvisor

Visit the Elephant Nature Park to take a ride on the elephants. While I haven't visited this place personally, I hear good things about it. It's a rescue and rehabilitation center for elephants so you can rest assured that our trunky friends are treated well.

Flight of the Gibbons is a zipline canopy tour if you're looking for an adrenaline rush

Spa it up! There are lots of spas/massage places of all price ranges. While I don't have a specific one to recommend, most are usually okay to good in terms of quality.

Getting around: 
The taxis aren't metered but you can get to most places for around 200-300 baht. Tuk tuks are cheaper than taxis if you're willing to brave the heat!