a peek through the cloud of secrets. .

 Como Agua Para Chocolate  by Devilishly Pleasurable

The lovely Sarah over at the literally and visually-delightful Cloud of Secrets tagged  me for a round of "I love your blog" Q&A. I enjoyed reading her answers and drooling at her amazing photography, and am delighted that I am able to sit down now and work on my own post. . .

1. Why did you create the blog
I was working on the final draft of my Masters thesis when it all happened. I thought, I have an iPhoto that is chock full of photographs of clothes, people and things that I love, I've always loved fashion (and shoes!), and why not make a chronologically-displaced blog? Prior to that I had two fashion sites where I pulled the plug two weeks into their making because they lacked soul and spirit, and I still have foxholes all over the internet where I muse lyrical, wax sentimental or flood with articles and subjects that interest me. Devilishly Pleasurable was created to be a photodiary,  but I guess the rambler and talkative person in me caved in. . which is why I haven't still pulled the plug on this. It required loads of courage though, as I wanted it to be a proper project of mine, and hence posted links on Facebook. Things like that are best done at 4am at night when you think you are as courageous as a lioness and tiger combined, and then when you start to fret and wonder in the morning, it's too late. It's a great place to linger around. . and I enjoy pouring my energies into this space. After all, I am always tinkering about my Mac, and have loads of shots captured of me looking like a Mac Addict without me knowing, such as these:
Shot of me sitting in a strange position during a sleepover at Lulu's sister's seaside house which she calls "The Secretary Shot" except that I tell her, "Secretaries don't go about in PJs"; contrasted with another shot taken before a presentation, also by Lulu.

2. What kind of blogs do you follow
There are a few categories. I enjoy looking at some blogs for their photographs and styling-- stuff I feed on when I'm awake and sipping my morning tea before beginning the day. These might simply be easy to look at, and really aren't very thought-provoking. . but still a visual treat for the eyes. The other category would be those that are diverse, dynamic and unique. Often do they have their own voice and style, and offer a peek into their lives and their minds. These blogs, to me, are the vibrant ones of a strong community of interesting characters-- sites that require me to take my time to carefully peruse. These are also the same blogs I regularly comment on.

3. Favourite makeup brand?
image source here 

I have problems deciding because I am greedy; often do I say 'both' to an either-or and think that the characters in Three Wishes were silly-- I'd ask for unlimited wishes as one of my wishes. So, let's narrow it down then. I love Dior for their deep colours and luxe packaging, Bobbi Brown for her flattering shades, Stila for the gorgeous lip colours (and applicators!) and beautiful illustrations, and finally, MAC for their campaigns which integrate social awareness, flamboyance, amazing typography and a lustfully-extravagant array of shades, nuances and hues.

4. Favourite clothing brand?
June 2008

There's nothing like vintage, whether raided from charity shops, my mother's closet or my grandmother's. I love hand-me-downs, and look for possibilities in every piece I see. Whether they are too small or too large, there is always something these unique items can be turned into. The photograph above is one of my favourite finds from my mother's wardrobe ever. When I pulled it out, I wondered, "Why have I never seen that before?" Pieces like that are those that touch you deep within without you ever knowing why. The most classic form of polka dots that I have ever seen, in a beautiful sheer combination of turquoise and black, complete with intricate buttons and a luxe tie. The funny thing was how I remembered suddenly bursting out, "Old Mother Hubbard!" (no idea why I burst out into a nursery rhyme) and my sharp mother knew she had to go to the cupboard. And she gave me this piece, complete with a matching skirt, that she saved up for back in the day. Today I use it as a light summer jacket but this is one of the few precious pieces that I do not dare to use too often.

5. Your indispensable makeup product?
my favourite products 

I was about to type "red lipstick"-- Dior 845 Rouge Allure or Chanel 14 Passion-- and then I thought, hmm, I love my Chanel Noir eyeshadow collection (that I excitedly pre-ordered months before it was launched) since I use it everyday. Then, it hit me that nope, those are not my essentials. Rather, it is my trusty eyebrow pencil from Maybelline in Charcoal Grey. I favour a strong brow, and trim them regularly with tweezers or thread them if I am back in Singapore (too expensive in the UK. It's about £2 in Singapore). In the past year have I thought I misplaced my eyebrow pencil twice and was thrown into a state of panic. Strong brows frame your face, and accentuate my cheekbones.

I once was thrown into the chair of a makeup artiste for my cousin's wedding. I was 21 then, and she was probably about ten years older (according to my cousin who knows her) and in flip flops and terry towel dresses. Which is fine with me because she looked quite good in them but that style isn't my cup of tea. And you can keep your own style as long as you don't impose your rules on me. Now, when I was 16 people mistook me for my brother's aunt, which was quite insulting but I look light years different now. When I was 20 people thought I was at least 27. So at 21, the general consensus was that I looked 26. Or sounded 26, because of the way I speak and think and my general outlook to life. Plus by that time I was pretty much financially independent too. So I had no problems looking 26. But, said makeup artiste was aghast that I was actually 21 and said I looked older than my cousin, which was fine by me. I don't really give a shit about how old you think I am. (Also because my mother had the same problem when she was younger, now she's 54 and looks 40. And whenever she meets old friends and neighbours they are amazed. So proud of her). What took the cake was how the makeup artiste started instructing me on how to look young, as though I asked her to make me look young; and kept insisting on giving me a demure, damsel-ish look for that night, complete with demure curls. Which scared the hell out of me. She also instructed in a patronising 'oh you look so old' manner that I used a lighter coloured brow pencil to make me look younger, and have delicate little brows. Which made me want to bolt off my seat. Now, I generally do my own makeup, and also used do freelance makeup for people going for proms and D&Ds, so I know my way around. I am also quite receptive to new looks and new ideas (you should just ask D) so it wasn't me pigeonholed in my makeup ways. By the time she was done, I nearly fainted. Oh God, I was turned into one of those demure Kawaii-wannabes and there is not one demure or Kawaii or cute-ish bone or gene in me. Later on, I happily shook up the curls, applied loads of deep browns and blacks onto the pinks she slathered my eyes with, and of course, accentuated my brows. The memories still give me the Shiver Me Timbers effect.

[Anyway if you are confused about how I could look older than 30 at 16, and then 27 at 20, before 26 at 21. . maybe I am reverse-aging. The only conclusion I have delusionally come to.]

6. Your favourite colour?

image source here

Red. I gravitate towards Red like a bull on Encierro (plus it happens to fall on my birthday!) and I think it really is my colour. It feels like second skin and is flattering on me. But, I never used to love red lipstick as I thought my lips were too thick for them. Growing up, I used to be teased alot about big lips, quite possibly because Orientalist cultures prefer thin lips (i.e. demure, cute, Hello Kitty has no mouth, whatever). Although I secretly always liked big lips. Then I have Angelina Jolie to thank for. She made us pouty women proud. And then, I started reading how we are evolutionarily-wired to like full lips-- sign of loads of estrogen, together with cheekbones, big eyes and a symmetrical face. Sometimes in smug moments I think, so evolution says I am fit (okay, I know Herbert Spencer bastardised what 'fitness' means). So I started playing with lip glosses. Came to the UK where gloomy skies dictate colour on your face or compete with the weather for the Who's Gloomier Award. The red lipsticks that I bought (and were gifted) back in Sing came out-- shades that I fussily picked out trawling through so many different counters because 'your lipstick meets you, not you choose it'-- so did my lip brush, as I began to paint them on the way my mother does. Wow, red lipstick is my thing, I realised. And it became a regular feature, even if I am still trying to convince myself that I am not a savage so I have to learn to eat very carefully in red lippie. At present, I am craving a red silk or chiffon halter-neck long dress with a high-waisted bodice. . . . . .

7. Your perfume?
Annick Goutal perfume, pretty earrings and plums that D plucked.

Perfume is a latest must-have of mine, as I learn to be more in-tune with myself and celebrate the finesse of life. Prior to a few months back, I would probably wear them once a year but had a whole collection lined up in Sing that were gifted to me. I think I've always preferred male scents though, and am an expert at them, shopping for them for/with various friends. Except that they put female-attracting pheromones into male perfumes, which means I should not wear them but smell them on people I like to smell. So earlier this year when I came to the UK, I realised, "Oh perfumes are cheap in the UK!" About half or a-third of the Singapore price; for instance, Bvlgari's Omnia goes for as little as £20. A dream come true. So, I remembered I've always loved Encens Flamboyant by Annick Goutal, part of the Les Orientalistes range, and described on her site as:
An ode to frankincense, masterfully blended in three formats: Frankincense essence emerges first, a distillation of tears of frankincense, whose ethereal and mineral freshness evoke cold stone. Black pepper and rose berry bring a pungency and edginess. Then comes frankincense resinoid, a warm and balmy scent, steeped in precious spices, cardamom and nutmeg. Finally, "Vieille église" frankincense deliciously burnt and warmed by woody balsam fir, welcoming and sweet, and pure extract of lentisque. Drawn from arid vegetation, it is also used in Kiphi, the prized Pharaonic perfume.
But, as my luck would have it, it was . . £100. I nearly died of shock, and remembered just why I could never afford it back home. So I took a deep breath and bought it anyway, as a birthday present to myself and indulged in the comforting sensuality of frankincense and cardamom. As you can imagine, I love deep, sensual, spicy senses that take me to another world of spice traders traversing across the treacherous deserts and mystical beauties with special powers draped in rich fabrics and peering out through beaded curtains in dim candle-lit rooms where incense wafts out of ornate gold burners.

I also love Bvlgari's Omnia (the bottle itself is a work of art), infused with saffron, ginger, black peppercorn, cardamom, masala tea, white chocolate and Indian wood. Last but not least, YSL's Opium. I loved that scent since I was a little child, an irresistible blend of mandarin orange, plum, clove, coriander, pepper, bay leaf, jasmine, rose, Lily of the Valley, carnation, cinnamon, peach, orris root, sandalwood, cedarwood, myrrh, opopanax, labdanum, benzoin, castoreum, amber, incense, musk, patchouli, tolu and vetiver. I also have two roll-on bottles of scents by Chant Aromatics called Old Whore and Kyphii (yes, blended according to the ancient Kyphii formula), and keep a selection of pure essential oils in my favourite scents that I burn regularly. Oriental medicinal smells also rouse me, whilst I sometimes wonder why shouldn't we wear scents of pure chocolate, or hearty beef pasta if floral scents are so popular. Apart from that, I am really coveting the other two scents in Les Orientalistes collection-- Ambre Fetiche and Myrrhe Ardente by Annick Goutal. Aren't the names delightful?

8. Your favourite film?
Movie screencap taken from here.

It would have to be Como Agua Para Chocolate, based on the original book by Laura Esquivel. I read the book umpteenth times, moved by its literary elegance, darkness and simplicity, interspersed with energy transmuted across in cooking and the many recipes. And of course, the tale of haunting love traversing dimensions, the ongoing civil war and a wretched mother. I watched the film in Spanish, aided by my weak command of the language and every time I caught it, there was always some new insight to be gained. Most movies that I watch after reading the novel are often disappointments, and I started to conclude that I prefer the scenes playing in my head. But this was an exception. Pure genius. The series of shots right at the top of the post was inspired by the movie, made with Photobooth, a PJ top worn as a dress (as you can see, it is a habit to wear my PJs out), a corsage on a hat, and a vintage necklace worn as a bracelet. Because the MAC LipGlass in Boldheart tasted and smelled like dark chocolate.

9. What country would you like to visit and why?

Egypt. I have always been drawn towards ancient cultures and fascinated immensely by Egypt. The desert, the winds, the Pyramids and the curses all tie together to captivate me. Actually, if I could, I would love to travel the world in the Orient Express. This would be my route: Singapore > Kuala Lumpur > Thailand > China > Russia > Middle East > Europe. I think back when I was developing a deeper friendship with D, I once mentioned this and he was all excited, telling me it has been a long-standing dream of his too. . Now, we'll wait and see. Wait and hope, like Edmund Dantes went. .

10. Make the last question and answer for yourself. What are you craving for most at this very moment.
Yours truly, whipping up Chocolate Soup.

Chocolate buffet, in Singapore. (Yes, there is such a thing. Watch out for a post soon!)

And now, I have to tag the Blogs I Love. . . and am looking forward to reading your answers too! Love of Lace, Taxonomy of My Wardrobe, Pull Your Socks Up, The Elegant Bohemian, Vintage Vixen, Respect the Shoes, Tashrin, Leia's Delights, Big Girl Small Budget Tiny Town and Asian Cajuns.

All you have to do is: Do an entry with the prize, answer the questions, give the prize to 10 blogs.


  1. Love these kind of posts, it's so fabulous to find out more about our virtual friends. I love your PJ'd secretary pose and I'm going to hunt down your cheap grey Maybelline pencil for myself. xxx

  2. Hurrah for vintage! I love red too, and Opium (which is my mums favourite perfume as well).

    With the appearing older thing, I think it has a lot to do with confidence. I have a friend who everyone think is older than she is, and I don't think it is to do with her skin or anything like that, but because she is very confident and assured in her own style. I think that it is a good thing when people think you are older than you are, because it means you already have that inner confidence that for many people takes years to achieve!

  3. As I was reading this post, I was thinking, "I'm so happy I started following this blog. Every post is so different and fun, and I always adore the images she includes." So I happily read along, enjoying your answers, and then I saw that you tagged me at the bottom! Thank you SO much, I'm beaming from ear to ear. I hope you have a lovely weekend my dear! xx


  4. P, what a great post! I love your shoes in the second picture of you sitting on the steps....they are gorgeous! A chocolate buffet? WOW! Who knew Heaven was in Singapore?! LOL You're just too sweet to tag me! That's been and I think will remain one of my favorite things about blogging, meeting some fascinating women and really connecting with some of them, like you! ~Serene

  5. Como Agua Para Chocolate / Like Water for Chocolate was kind of amaaaaazing. My parents got it free with a newspaper and I thought it would be a terrible drag, but my sister put it on before I could leave and then I was glued to it.

  6. Incredible answers; thank you for responding! I love the story of your acceptance and accentuation of your lips. I often wondered why pretty, feminine anime and manga characters have barely visible mouths. Interesting that that's considered a desirable feature in some parts of the world. Is it the idea of silence, being mute? A preference for babyfaced "cuteness" as opposed to strong beauty? I don't know.

    I love your fantasy evoked by deep, sensual, spicy scents - the traders and the mystical beauties. You might almost make me like spicy, rich orientals for myself -- I've never felt they were quite suited to my powdery pale anglo-Irishness, relatively conservative clothing, and midwestern American lifestyle, though. Once in a while I'll put on my good pajamas and go to bed with some Shalimar or another cozy-warm spiced vanilla, amber, or chocolate gourmand scent. But not by day.

    Speaking of which, I very much look forward to your chocolate buffet post! The chocolatier near me recently started a "build your own candy bar," with a menu of chocolates, fillings, and mix-ins. My town gets more and more interesting.

  7. Oh God - that's three people that have tagged me! Getting to it I promise!! Funny I thought you would be a red kind of girl! And I detect a fellow chocoholic. Might have to hunt down that Mac Lipglass you mention. Your make-up is always fabulous in your post piccies so not suprised at all other people get you to do theirs.

  8. @Vix.. that pencil is fabulous. I can imagine the colour will suit you too :)

    @Penny-- thanks for the vote of confidence. Oh, Opium is just fabulous. .

    @Leia. . hope you had a great weekend too. Your blog is fab and I am so happy to have discovered it as well :)

    @Serene- Thanks! I will have to post that series up. Lulu did an awesome job with that series actually, and it was last year that it happened. Which reminds me, I have too many things sitting about my hard drives! If you'd like to taste Heaven in Singapore, do make sure your holiday coincides with the weekend ;)

    @IllustratorClaire.. I am tempted to watch that show again

    @Sarah-- I think it might have to do with demure and unthreatening or whatsoever that I cannot give two hoots about. I was reading an article in the NY Times about how cute is seen as unthreatening and not a challenge, but in the end, the threshold towards 'cute' is low which might make it backfire. Cute should be reserved for babies and pets, period. Chocolate gourmand scents sound fabulous. . Makes me want to sip a hot mug of spiced Chai or dark chocolate with nutmeg in it! Chocolate buffet post should be soon hopefully :)

    @Veshoevius-- Heh, people enjoy reading you, that's why! Yesh! I am an utter chocoholic, I would be tons richer if not for the amount I spent on chocolate.

  9. Love this post! It's so great to get to know a bit more about fellow bloggers : ) I've been to Cairo, Egypt and it's fabulous..I totally encourage you to go someday!


  10. @Samantha-- thank you! I'm dying to go to Egypt! Till then. .

  11. Dear: I quoted a few lines of your lovely writing in my new post here:

    Although the quote is inserted pretty organically, I think it's clear with the quotation marks and positioning and because it's in a paragraph all about you that it's your words. I will be happy to think of a way to make the attribution more clear if you wish, though, esp. considering recent copycatting discussions.

  12. @Cloud of SecretsHello Sarah! Of course you can use those. It's far from copycat ;)

    In fact, I'm immensely flattered by your use of that snippet.

    P.S. Copycatting doesn't extend to those who are passionate about something :)

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