The Random Writings of Rachel

Random Encounters and a Drinkable Watermelon

1. How cool is this?? We went to a 4th of July party, and the hostess was handing out personal-sized watermelons that had been blended and iced on the inside so that you could stick a straw in and drink them. It was awesome. Try it sometime.

2. At the Singapore Airport, the security person looked at my passport, looked at me, and said, "You've changed!" I laughed nervously, and said, "Well, I'm older now..." and he just laughed and said, "Oh, no, no, I didn't mean that." and handed me back my passport. I don't really know what he meant by "changed"....although, upon reflection, the blue-green hair that I had in real life might have been a bit of a contrast to the all-brown locks in my passport photo.

3. At the mall, our family was headed down the escalator, and a guy who works at a shop in the food court stepped on somewhere in the middle of our group. I stepped forward a couple steps to say something to my parents, and when I passed him, the guy said, "Hey, that's not fair! This is my spot, I'm part of this family, too!"

That's all for now, but I thought those stories simply needed to be told. Have you had any small encounters or new discoveries lately that you want to share?

How to Achieve a Better Ponytail

Ponytails are pretty awesome. Easy to do, work on most hair types, and perfect for reducing heat during the long, humid days of summer (or...the year-round tropical heat in Malaysia). But they get a bad rap for being the quintessential symbol of no-effort hair. In reality, though, there's no reason why anyone can't look great with her hair up in a ponytail, and here are my tips on how to feel more confident about the ponytail you rock when the temperatures are blazing.

First of all, let's start with a really bad ponytail so that we can get it out of our system:

The parted-in-the-middle, completely unstyled ponytail resting on the middle of the nape of the neck. This low ponytail is nearly universally unflattering, but remains popular simply because it's easy. However, it's just as easy to create much more flattering ponytail just by changing the position:

And look at that! We've achieve a bouncier, spunkier look that shows off the natural volume in her hair simply by raising the ponytail. If you are completely opposed to a high ponytail--perhaps your hair is naturally very heavy, or else you want a less sporty look, then opt for a low side ponytail, as in the picture below:

This is a low, sleek, comfortable ponytail, but looks ever so much more interesting than the nape-of-the-neck ponytail just because we've added a flattering angle to the position of the ponytail by placing it off center. So that's what basic ponytails look like on my mini-model, who has very thick hair, all one length, with a wavy texture.

A ponytail looks pretty different on me, with my short, heavily layered hair with loose curls. If your hair is short and layered--do not be afraid, a ponytail may yet be within your grasp! Use the magic of hairpins and/or a headband. I prefer soft plastic headbands. Notice that even though my hair is quite short, I keep the ponytail significantly higher than the nape of the neck for a better look.

But what should we do about bangs?

 Often, you're wearing a ponytail for practical reasons and don't want bangs hanging in your face. The true athlete's solution is usually to pull them straight back from the face with a wide stretchy headband. For someone with a high forehead like myself, that look is quite unflattering. A softer, prettier option is to pull the bangs to the side somehow--braiding, twisting, adding a pin or a clip. This is more flattering for most face shapes, so if you're not actually in the midst of playing a really hardcore sport, I recommend this as a better option for keeping your bangs out of your face.

MaryGrace has very heavy, thick, long, curly locks. She naturally has a lot of volume at the ends of her ponytail, but less at the base, because of how heavy her hair is. A great trick for making the base of your ponytail a little thickier and spunkier is to add a butterfly clip somewhere inside the ponytail base, under a top layer of hair that will fall and cover it. This will help create a ponytail that's more balanced--not one where all the volume is at the ends of the hair.

You'll notice that I also did a twist with MaryGrace's bangs, to add more interest and create a more flattering ponytail style.

Now, ponytails can become quite elaborate. You can add cornrows, teasing for volume, hair falls, pretty clips, or all sorts of interesting extras. I recommend that you do when it suits your style and the occasion. Here, I have just endeavored to show you simple ponytails that take no more time than the average "throw your hair up" 'do, but just use positioning and bang-styling strategies that result in a prettier look, one which wouldn't be out of place either at the gym or at the mall.

Here's a few more tips for achieving your best ponytail:

- For a really sleek look, without the wet-and-stuck-to-your-head effect, spray hairspray on your fine toothed comb and use that to brush your hair up into a ponytail.

- Use a straightener or a curling iron to add polish to the length of your ponytail.It's MUCH faster to curl your hair after it's already in the ponytail than to do it before and then gather it into a ponytail.

- On the same note, if you have naturally curly hair and live in a humid climate, probably don't bother with a straightener on your ponytail unless you're only spending time in air-con--the straight look won't last.

- Use a cloth-covered elastic instead of anything like a rubber band to put your hair up, this will help minimize breakage. Pick out a color that blends well with your hair, or else a favorite color. I detest orange so I'll just be depressed if I put an orange hairband in my hair. Don't choose colors that you don't actually like!


What techniques do you use to make sure you feel confident, even when your hair is just in a ponytail?

Purple Hair + Orange Dress

I had a startling amount of free time on Saturday, which resulted in a slightly new 'do. No big surprises here, and if you follow me on instagram, you've already seen the sneak peek. Mom was my partner-in-crime for this haircolor endeavor, and aren't you impressed by the great job she did? I love it--it feels very 'me'. This is probably my second favorite haircolor after dark brown.

What's funny to me is that the last time I featured this dress on the blog, my hair was just about exactly the same color, only significantly shorter. Now is just about the time when I'd normally be chopping all my hair off again, but I did just get a curling iron for my birthday so I think that will motivate me to let it keep growing for a little while. That, and the ability to throw it all in a ponytail on these tropically hot days is very enticing. I'm actually thinking of writing a blog post about how to do an awesome ponytail...because ponytails always seem to get kind of a bad rap in the hairstyles department, maybe just because they are easy, but they have the potential to look pretty awesome.

On this day, I trained some teenagers in the perfect orange-peeling technique, which seemed appropriate, given the shade of the dress.

So yeah, my weekend was characterized by haircolor and oranges - what was your weekend like?

Visit Entopia! (Butterflies, Beetles, and Bees, Oh My!)

I was invited to attend the Grand Opening Ceremony of Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm this morning, and I was not sure what to expect. When thinking about what I would wear, my butterfly dress was an obvious choice.

The outdoor tent where the Grand Opening Ceremony was hosted was perfectly elegant--decorated in turquoise and white, the colors of Entopia. There were even chandeliers hanging from the ceiling!

The lion dance started off the ceremony, and I was delighted by these 'customized' lion dance costumes, color-coordinated with the rest of the decor and branded with the Entopia name.

Entopia is a re-imagination of the Penang Butterfly Farm, which opened about 30 years ago. During the ceremony, they played a nostalgic slideshow of photos from the Penang Butterfly Farm that used to be. I will admit that I actually teared up looking at the old photos--I visited the butterfly farm probably four or more times during my teen years and all the images were very familiar. The Penang Butterfly Farm was where we took Angel on his first day in Malaysia!

After the dance and song performances, and the heartfelt speeches, the ribbon was cut and we were allowed to go on an official tour of the new facilities. Hurray!

All I can say is, WOW! Entopia is much, much larger that the Penang Butterfly Farm that was (the expansion brought the park from 30k sq. feet. to 100k sq. feet), and is completely re-imagined and updated for a whole new generation of bug-lovers. It's easy to tell that a lot of thought, care, and creativity were put into the design of the park. Natureland, where butterflies roam free, houses about 50,000 butterflies.

And because you're probably here for pictures of butterflies, I'll stop chatting right now and show you some:

Butterflies are still the star of the show at Entopia, but there are plenty of other cool critters to check out. Dragonflies get their own special dome.

Natureland is an enclosed, greenhouse-like space. This region is known for it's brutally hot days, but misting inside Natureland kept the climate feeling quite comfortable.

You can even eat inside the butterfly habitat (or in the actual restaurant, if you prefer), when you order a meal from Tapestree.

Once leaving Natureland, you head into the darker and cooler Cocoon. The Cocoon is a place for many educational exhibits--but don't worry, there's still quite a few more live insects to check out once you get inside! You can read information all about a butterfly life cycle and the kinds of foods different animals eat.

One region that I thought was really fun was Downtown Entopia, which is styled as if the bugs themselves built a town! There's cafes with bug-appropriate menus, a toy store and a library, and even a bridal studio where the latest in bug-and-plant-inspired bridal couture is modeled!

There was an 'Antique Shop' of sorts, in which you could read about a lot of the old beliefs that surrounded different types of insects in years past. I loved reading this story about maggots, because it's one tale I learned back in elementary school--and one with a lesson--scientists are sometimes completely and utterly wrong. Like when they think that maggots are created from rotten meat.

Here were a few of the flavors available in the ice cream shop for bugs:

Would you sit on this bench?

I spent an incredible morning at Entopia, and after I had finished touring the facilities, I was able to eat a delicious catered lunch. The heart-warming opening ceremony, the high-quality park, and the delicious lunch provided for the media and special guests all worked together to create an amazing opening day experience for all involved. I highly recommend visiting Entopia whenever you're in the area! I think this is going to be a brand new hotspot for visitors to Penang from all around the world.

They included a sampling of their merchandise in the bags they gave to all who attended the event, and I love the design and colors of this mug! And you can bet those tiny bookmarks are going right into my current reads.

Thanks, Entopia, for inviting me to share in your Grand Opening Event! I know that this park is already an incredible addition to lists of fun things to do here, and I'm already thinking about when I'll go back! Regular entrance fee is 49RM for adults and 29RM for children and seniors, but there are discounts available if you buy your tickets online or if you visit during their opening celebration up until the 31st of July.

Feel free to pin this post so you won't have any excuse to forget about the awesomeness that is Entopia:

Have you ever visited a butterfly park of this sort? How do you feel about insects?

July is the Best Birthday Month

In case you were unaware--July is birthday month.

Granted, all months are technically birthday months, for all sorts of people. But July is the most important and the best birthday month. You can probably guess why.

It's my birthday month!!

But wait, there's more.

It's Angel's birthday month!!

And that's not all, it's mom's birthday month!! And her twin's!!

Both of our birthdays are in the latter half of the month, but due to family travel, we celebrated both with the family this past weekend, including special request homemade birthday dinners. Angel's birthday dinner: beef stew with mint surprise cookies. Mine: pulled pork BBQ sandwiches with homemade yeast rolls, cucumber salad, and ice cream.

Not a birthday cake between the two of us...because we don't really like cake. Angel's most exciting present was a Dake's Annotated Bible, and mine was a curling iron, but you get a picture of my chips instead of a curling iron. Since I was a teenager, I've always asked for a bag of chips that I don't have to share with anyone for my birthday.

But I've been rather remiss in my birthday month listing thus far. July is also birthday month for:

Amanda, aka The Lady Okie, AND her husband. (adopting the same strategy of marrying someone with a birthday close to your own, I see.

Rachel, of This Italian Family, is also celebrating her birthday. She had a great name, and while I'm not 100% sure of the spelling, I'm just going to choose -el because that's the best spelling there is.

Beka, of Sunshine to the Square Inch, who has actually visited Malaysia and whose house has a REALLY COOL bathroom. (The things we know about other bloggers....)

Is it your birthday this month, too? How are you celebrating?