Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bifesta Bright Up Cleansing Lotion

The Bifesta cleansing lotions have received many good reviews from beauty bloggers. Several Asian bloggers like to compare the Bifesta Cleansing Lotions with the Bioderma Sensibio removers. I decided to get one in Taiwan if the price was right.

With only the Bifesta Moist Cleansing Lotion and the Bright Up Cleansing Lotion were available to choose from on the day of my flight leaving Taiwan, I decided to go with the Bright Up one. I was actually on the lookout for the Bifesta Eye Makeup Remover but couldn't find it in the Watsons store.

Before this, I had typically removed makeup via cleansing oils, cleansing milks and bi-phase removers (for eye & lip areas). I would then proceed to wash my face with a cleanser and this process is typically known as double cleansing. Apparently, the Bifesta makeup cleansers promises to keep your face clean without the need to double cleanse. Its various cleansing lotions also claim to have skincare properties; the Bright Up Cleansing Lotion promises to brighten up your skin after extensive use. 

Actually I have to admit that after years of using makeup removers which leave a 'layer' on the face and requiring a further wash-off with a gel cleanser, the Bifesta Cleansing Lotion is very different and takes getting used to. I sometimes pour makeup remover into my palm and start patting it on my face and subsequently rubbing the makeup off (when I forget to bring cotton pads into the washroom). This does not work with the Bifesta Cleansing Lotion as it is the consistency of water. You will need cotton pads or some textile material to absorb the lotion before using it. Perhaps "Cleansing Water" is a more apt description, "lotion" to me conjures up a runny texture.

On the other hand, this Cleansing Lotion is very good at its job. In fact, I used it to remove eyeliner on a few occasions when I couldn't find my eye makeup remover. It does not sting the eyes and is quite effective at removing eyeliner.    

Unlike some Japanese brands which do a different version of products for overseas markets and a version for the Japanese domestic market, the Bifesta cleansing lotions sold outside Japan appear to be the same as the ones sold in Japan. 

I purchased this at NT$350/S$14.70 RRP (I think I got a 15% discount on it but the receipt shows an overall discount off my total spend) and the Bright Up Cleansing Lotion sells for S$18.90 in various locations in Singapore. This is an extremely friendly price, considering the lotion is 300ml. 

Disclaimer: I did not receive any payment or payment in kind for writing this blog post. Any opinions mentioned are my own.

Tangs and Takashimaya

I'm no stranger to online shopping (hears scoffing in the background). In fact, I love online shopping, especially in the hours that I can't sleep. However, I've been conditional online shopping recently. Instead of buying makeup from the US and having them shipped over, I've been looking at buying them locally where possible. I still shop online for the brands or products which are not here yet.  

One reason is that I've realised that online shopping is not as cheap as it looks, even when I shop during sale times. The international shipping charged by consolidators can be high if you're only getting a few items. And there's the wait. 

Another is that more beauty brands have established themselves in Singapore, taking the distance out of overseas brands. We still don't get the full collection (for example no eyeshadow palette from MAC's All About Orange collection) nor all the shades (for example Revlon's ColorStay Foundation) but things have been improving.

I love to wander around the beauty halls of departmental stores but I spend much more time at these two compared to the rest.
MAC All About Orange collection launched in Singapore before US/UK

Tangs (I go to the Tangs Orchard store) stocks Aveda, Sulwhasoo, NARS, Giorgio Armani, Burberry Beauty just to name a few brands. Tangs holds members' closed door sales a few times every year where they give a whopping 12% rebate off your purchase. In their recent members' sale, they were also giving away a $25 beauty voucher with a minimum spend of $250.

NARS GWP offer at the Tangs members' closed door sale

Other than the usual departmental suspects (Bobbi Brown, Chanel, Dior, Lancome, etc), Takashimaya stocks several Japanese brands. Think Albion, Lunasol, Kanebo, Cosme Decorte AQMW and Kose. There's also the Watsons flagship store, Aveda/The Body Shop/Kiehl's/MAC stores within Ngee Ann City which is a 2 mins walk away from the Takashimaya departmental store.

Lunasol GWP offer at the Takashimaya sale

I wasn't able to make it down when Tangs did their members' closed door sale earlier this month but I made my way to Takashimaya on the first day of their sale (members enjoyed an additional 10% off all prices during the first 3 days of the sale). 

Cosme Decorte GWP offer at the Takashimaya sale

It was then that I realised that although the beauty brands had published their GWPs offerings for the sale, the brands were having discounts/rebate vouchers alongside which was not stated in the brochure. One brand was offering a $15 voucher with every purchase of $100 and another was doing 20% off with a minimum spend of $500. And Takashimaya cardmembers got to enjoy an additional 10% off on top of these vouchers/discounts. 

Considering that the 2 brands having the offers were brands not found at duty free stores in Singapore, it was an amazing deal! I was mighty tempted to stock up but stopped myself by insisting that I shop my stash before I get any pricey products.

It's easy to support the local retail economy when stores like these are getting really smart with their pricing and offerings!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Clothes transformation: Adding details to cuffs

I decided to add some detail to the cuffs of my capris since I dragged out the sewing machine. Adding a strip of patterned fabric to the cuff seemed like a good idea. 

Upturned cuff (underside to work on)

Decide on the fabric and cut a strip approximately:
Length: The same as the capri/pant leg +seam allowance (I'm not a gifted seamstress, so decided to err on the side of caution and added 5 cm as seam allowance)
Width: Width of cuff, 0.5A (shown in drawings) +seam allowance (I chose to add 2 cm on each side for the seam allowance, hence the width I used was 0.5A+ 2*2 cm)

Pin the fabric strip into place covering the cuff

Pin the seam allowance on the underside of the cuff

Machine stitch the seam allowance on the underside of the cuff in place (I used a zig-zag stitch so I wouldn't have to worry abt the fabric fraying) 

Machine stitch the other seam allowance (don't worry if the stitch isn't straight, this stitch will be hidden once you fold up the cuff) 

Fold up the cuff and machine stitch the cuff in place (you can skip this step if you don't want to make the cuffs a permanent part of the capris)

I used a straight line stitch to ensure the cuff will remain but any stitch should do. The zigzag stitch you see is the one used to secure the seam allowance and effectively 'locking' the fabric strip into place at the cuff.

What the cuff looks like after you've folded the cuff (there are no visible stitches in sight

End product hanging on the wall

Difficulty rating: 2 out of 5
Machine sewing: Preferred

Clothes transformation: Cuffed capris, part two

To cuff capris (or any pants/shorts), these are the real life pictures instead of the drawings showing in part one.

 The turned up section is A (as shown in the drawings)

Fold it down again and you get the visible cuff you wanted!

When folded down, the actual visible cuff is 0.5A length

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Clothes transformation: Cuffed capris

I had a pair of trousers which were at the risk of being thrown out as bleach was accidentally split onto it. Luckily, the stain and hole, although big, was at the lower leg section. 

I decided to alter the trousers to capris instead, cutting away the stained area. And since I was at it, I might as well make them cuffed capris. 

This is a basic post on how to make cuffed capris/shorts/pants. I'll share how to add detail to the cuffed capris next Monday. 

First establish the length of the capris/shorts that you want. This length is "X" indicated in the diagram above. If you want a visible cuff of 0.5A cm, your pants would have to be "X cm+A cm+seam allowance".

Fold the pant legs upwards, showing the underside (underside is represented by the blue stripes). "A" is actually the length of the underside of the pants. In the case of a 5 cm cuff, "A" is 10 cm.  

Fold the underside section down to reveal the original side of the pants. The visible cuffed section is actually 0.5A in length. Visible cuff showing= 5 cm.

Sew into place by machine or hand. 

Difficulty rating: 1 out of 5
Machine sewing: No necessarily but preferred

MAC All About Orange, part two

After finding out that Singapore was getting the All About Orange collection before the official USA launch date, I was extremely keen to try out this MAC collection for myself. 

MAC AAO Sushi Kiss  (left upper lip is left bare on purpose)

I didn't managed to try the products on the first day of their launch, but I did pop by the stores yesterday and swatched a few lipsticks. 

I personally liked the look of Tart & Trendy and Neon Orange when I saw the pictures online at MAC Korea's blog (access it on the mobile phone to see the names of products in English, somehow Google Translate doesn't work on the desktop). Alas, I had no time to swatch them on my lips.

For more information, you can refer to Mag's blog or Hijin's blog

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Takashimaya Sale May 2013

Takashimaya's newsletter on their sale in Mary 2013 should have reached all their cardmembers by now. 

The sale starts from Fri 24 May to Sun 16 Jun 2013 but there is a Takashimaya Cardholders' special for the first 3 days where cardholders would receive an additional 10% off on top of the promotional prices or sets. 

I've scanned the entire beauty newsletter, do drop me a note if you wish to see what beauty offers are available at Takashimaya. 

I enjoy shopping at Takashimaya and will be there on Friday with my card at the ready!

Integrate eyebrow pencil

I purchased the Integrate Eyebrow Pencil (shade: GY941) when I was in Taiwan in March. Integrate is one brands belonging to Shiseido and their eyebrow pencil has received good feedback, including from one of my favourite Singaporean beauty bloggers.  

At about S$8.50 (NT$200), the pencil is a drugstore beauty dream: excellent value for money, good staying power, easy to draw. The pencil itself is slim and is more effective at drawing strokes rather than filling in gaps in eyebrows (I also bought the Integrate eyebrow palette, will review it another day). 

One end is the eyebrow pencil itself which requires twisting to extend the nib and the other end is a spool to blend and brush out the strokes. 

My only complaint about this product is that it breaks too easily. I typically store this upright in a holder (just like you would store normal pens and pencils) with the occasional horizontal position and I've had the pencil break off twice. Just 1.5 months after purchasing it, there is no more product for me to use. Hence, the switch to the Integrate eyebrow palette. 

Disclaimer: I did not receive any payment or payment in kind for writing this blog post. Any opinions mentioned are my own.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Lady First Singapore version

女人我最大 has decided to do a Singapore version, possibly to cater to the South East Asian viewers. More commonly known by its initials as pronounced, NRWZD typically introduces makeup products via its expert hairstylist/makeup artist/stylist. 

I've been watching the original Taiwanese show for the longest time and part of the draw for me is try and identify the products used. To avoid outright advertising products, they conceal the brand names via stickers. But the producers typically identify most of the products on the show's blog. When they get the products wrong, the avid viewers are quick to react on forums and blogs. I've often astonished Mr E by shouting out the brand when they do a close-up of the product (with stickers over the brand), just like Bingo.

For the first episode of a well-loved show, it went down quite well. Localising the show brought a team of Singaporean minor celebrities and bloggers onto the show and some of them were naturally awkward on screen. The Singapore version was sponsored by Watsons, hence the episode featured mostly products sold at Watsons stores.

The only non-Watsons brands I spotted were Kevin Beautymaker (demonstrated by Kevin himself) and Benefit. I look forward to more episodes as the Taiwanese experts get familiar with Singapore's weather and  adapt techniques for Singapore.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

MAC All About Orange

MAC's All About Orange is going to be launched in Singapore on 22 May. USA is expected to get it on 6 June and UK is also supposed to receive it in June. Singapore is getting it ahead of USA and UK!

Score one for Team Singapore! 

After years of seeing collections and products come late to Singapore and Asia (or never coming at all), I'm heartened by this news. Not too sure if MAC will launch All about Orange in all the MAC counters/boutiques islandwide, but I do know that Tangs Singapore will have this collection on this date. 

If the collection is only available at Tangs Singapore (at the start), it would mean that MAC views Tangs, possibly the doyenne of departmental retail in Singapore, as a worthy partner. MAC has often partnered with Nordstrom (USA) to launch MAC exclusives and *fingers crossed*, perhaps a similar collaboration is not far off in Singapore?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Quirky finds in 100yen stores

I was wandering around Daiso since Mr effort had to check something out in a nearby store.

Hygienic Cleansing Wipes (meant for lady parts). The back of the box says "Etiquette of monthly periods. Clean hips without bidet."

Eyebrow sealer coat

Apparently, this product is well received. Purchased this to try it out, item is made in Taiwan.

Disclaimer: I did not receive any payment or payment in kind for writing this blog post. Any opinions mentioned are my own.

Mothers and babies

I just don't get how some retailers structure their promotions. 

Given that Mothers' Day falls in May, there are a zillion Mothers' Day promotions. Most of them center around what gifts to get for a mother. 

But Amazon clearly has decided to go its own path. The Amazon Mom Appreciation Event uses a promotional code (BABY0513) to save 20% on selected baby products. Yes, baby products. 

How does buying baby products show appreciation for moms, I wonder?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sales in Singapore - May 2013

The departmental stores in Singapore are starting to kick off The Great Singapore Sale season.

15-17 May - Cardmembers' Preview of The Great Singapore Sale. The DM sent to cardmembers came with coupons for 
a) $10 voucher with mini. purchase of $100
b) $30 voucher with mini purchase of $180
c) $50 voucher with mini purchase of $250

17 May - Private cardmembers' sale.
Additional information can be found here.
Like the private sale in March, 10% of purchase amounts would be given in the form of vouchers for beauty purchases.

Update: Just found via facebook that Ettusais will be giving away luggage as GWP upon purchases of S$180 of ettusais products. The luggage looks lovely and is likely to go out in a dash! 

Quite frankly, I am waiting for the Takashimaya members sale (also known as Taka Day in late May, typically after Mother's Day). 2013 is Takashimaya's 20th year anniversary and I do believe they might go beyond the usual discounts. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Group dining in - HK

Chinese cuisine is designed for communal sharing and is excellent for group dining. By group dining, I mean parties of 3 and above. Most Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong have standard table settings for 6 adults per table comfortably and usually will be able to dig up bigger tables if your party is more than 6. 

Dim Sum is an excellent breakfast/brunch/lunch option for group dining in Hong Kong
Places to go include:
- Lei Garden, Time Square, Causeway Bay
- Yung Kee, 32-40 Wellington Street, Central
- Lin Heung, 160-164 Wellington Street, Central
- Maxim City Hall, City Hall Low Block, Central 
- Island Tang, the Galleria, Central*
- Jasmine Place, Jardine House, Central
-Chiuchow Garden Restaurant, Jardine House, Central

If you're thinking of having dim sum on a Friday/Sat/Sunday/public holiday in HK, get there early. As early as you can, after they open for business. 

Island Tang, Central

Mini cut glass 'brandy decanters' for sauces 

appetizer of soy (firm tofu) and lard in a mildy spicy sauce

The restaurants in Central typically sees a business crow for lunch and it is usually difficult to get a table during peak lunch time without reservations. 

* For small groups (4-6 adults), the atmosphere at Island Tang is excellent. Affiliated to the Shanghai Tang clothing line, Island Tang serves high quality predominantly Cantonese food. On my trip there, our party of 4 ordered a wagyu beef puff that had no roots in Cantonese cuisine. It was wagyu beef (Japanese) encased in a puff pastry envelope (French). Cantonese dim sum like har kow (steamed prawn dumplings) and chong fan (long rice noodle rolls) are also on the menu.

Island Tang itself exudes British colonial roots, similar to the vibe given by Long Bar in Singapore. Comfy leather gentlemen club chairs, overhead fans silently whirring (accompanied by air-conditioners tucked away) and mini heavy glass 'brandy decanters' holding sauces are a blogger's dream. Do note to make reservations if you want a table at lunch time, I believe they don't hold any tables for walk-ins.

All the restaurants stated above are excellent choices for dinner as well. I would add 2 more places for group dining for dinner 
- Under Bridge Spicy Crab, Shop 6-9, G/F 405-419 Lockhart Road, Wanchai
There is a row of seafood restaurants at the above address which serve the famous typhoon crab dish of Hong Kong. I would also recommend ordering the 'alien' prawn dish, you can find the fresh 'alien' prawns swimming in tanks near the entrance of the restaurants (can't remember the exact Cantonese/Mandarin term for them). 
- Amaroni's Little Italy, Hysen Place, Causeway Bay
This Italian restaurant serves big portions for serving and it is recommended you check with the servers before ordering a pasta/pizza for every adult there as you would normally do in Italian restaurants. I've ordered one meatball pasta and one salad to share between 2 adults and 1 toddler and we couldn't finish the food! 

Dining solo in - Hong Kong

Dining solo in any country or city poses a set of problems. The lack of variety that you can order when dining alone (as opposed to ordering a variety where there are two or four stomaches present) is, by far, the most important. 

In Hong Kong, this issue is somewhat mitigated by the presence of restaurants and dining places that cater to the "order food, eat food and get out" crowd. They range from noodle/congeee shops to Japanese sushi bars, where one is seldom expected to linger after finishing your meal. In fact, some of these dining places pack tables so tightly (space is at a premium in most of HK) that you might feel your fellow diners' elbow touch yours.

There are of course places that cater to those who want to finish their after meal coffee leisurely. But this post is not about those.

First up - Noodle/Congee shops

1) Law Fu Kee Noodle Shop (2 branches)
Locations: 144 Queen St and 140 Des Voeux Road

Menu in traditional Chinese at Law Fu Kee

Making wontons by hand

Sui kow (water dumplings) in soup

Sliced fish and pig's liver congee

I couldn't finish both all the sui kows and the congee in one sitting when trying out Law Fu Kee by myself for the first time at their Sheung Wan location. When I went to the Central branch, I had a toddler in tow and 1 adult+1 child also couldn't finish the same order (1 order of sui kow+1 order of congee). 

2) Mak's Noodles
This noodle shop needs no recommendation. Possibly the most famous noodle shop in Hong Kong, it has been widely covered by blogs and media. 
Location: 77 Wellington Street, Central

Comparative size of wonton with a Singapore 50-cents coin

If you're going to Mak's Noodles for lunch/dinner, forget about ordering 1 bowl. You would need at least 2 or 3. Each order is small, probably half the size of other noodle stores. Each wonton is approximately the size of a Singapore 50-cents coin and there aren't many in each order. Mak's Noodles is best for an afternoon snack, if you've finished shopping at Central. On one occasion when I was there at 10.45 am, they refused to open for business even though I asked for takeaway (their official opening hours start from 11 am). Do not get there earlier than 11 am.  

3) Wing Wah Noodle Shop (not affiliated to the Wing Wah chain of bakeries)
Location: 89 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai
Known for bamboo pressed noodles

Knowing my love for noodles, Mr effort brought me to this place, so technically we were dining for two. But this noodle shop is also good for dining solo. I ordered their famous Ha Zi Lo Mien (literally translated to 'prawn roe dry noodle') to compare against Lau Sum Kee's (read on). The noodle came with a dollop of oyster sauce by the side which you're meant to mix in with the noodle. I insisted on eating the noodle without mixing the oyster sauce and found it too dry. The texture of the noodles had a tad less bite than Lau Sum Kee's (or as Chinese speakers in Asia call it, less 'Q').

The good thing is that this shop is air conditioned and offers a menu in English if you don't read traditional Chinese. 

4) Lau Sum Kee Noodle Ka
Location: 82 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon
Known for bamboo pressed noodles

I went to this noodle shop with a toddler in tow, so technically not dining alone. By the way, don't expect high chairs in noodle shops. My toddler sat mostly on my lap or on the normal (meant for adults) stool while I had a hand behind her to ensure she didn't fall backwards. 

The ha zi lo mien here came with generous lashings of ha zi (prawn roe). I also ordered their wonton noodles which was bamboo pressed noodles in soup accompanied by wontons. I preferred Lau Sum Kee's version to Wing Wah's version but the long trek to Sham Shui Po is a deterrent. 

Ha zi lo mien

5) Ho Hung Kee Congee and Noodle Shop
Location: 2 Sharp Street East, Causeway Bay

This noodle shop is known for its beef rice noodle (or beef hor fun). Famous gourmet Chua Lan is quoted "Ho Hung Kee uses lard to cook its stir-fried beef rice noodle. That's why I appreciate it!" Although I'm not a fan of lard, I had to try this beef rice noodle which comes highly recommended by him. 

When I reached the shop, it was peak lunch hour and the queue in line for a seat was snaking out the door. I decided to buy a takeaway and eat in the comfort of my hotel room. The rice noodles did have the 'wok hei' (literally translated to 'wok fire', used to describe the slight smokiness and charring which comes with stir-frying at high temperatures) and the lard made the taste delicious. However, the beef was artificially tenderized and the taste of the beef was affected. The beef was very soft but at the cost of the taste. 

Second - non Chinese cuisine

6) Genki Sushi
Locations: Several branches islandwide, HK
Personally ate at the branch at Windsor House, Causeway Bay

Genki Sushi is your typical Japanese restaurant with a sushi bar counter suitable for solo diners. 

7) Nha Trang
Locations: Several in HK
Personally ate at the Wan Chai branch

Pho with beef slices 

Clockwise from top: Fried spring rolls, sugar cane prawns, dipping sauce and assorted raw greens 

I was recommended Nha Trang after lamenting the lack of good Vietnamese food in Singapore. This tip came from a Vietnamese (UK-based) gentleman who travelled to HK extensively, so I thought it had to rival the pho shops in Vietnam. Expectations were set very high and sadly, they fell a little short (I should have remembered that the recommender is no foodie!).

All the food above was meant for one person (me). I did manage to polish all of them off and waddled back to the hotel. The food itself was excellent and I have nothing to complain about.

8) Bread
Before donQ opened a branch in Takashimaya Singapore, I would buy baguettes from donQ Hong Kong and happily hand carry them back. I think more than a few stewardess' eyebrows were raised whenever they saw baguettes peeking out of my hand carry bags on flights from HK to Singapore.  

Look at the lovely bubbles of carbon dioxide in the baguettes (can't remember the French term for the bubbles in baguettes)

I no longer hand carry baguettes back from HK, but I do pop by the donQ store to pick up breads for a quick breakfast or just for snacking.

9) Tai Hing

Sadly I didn't manage to try a recommended iced milk tea in my last trip to HK. But I did manage to drink iced milk tea from Tai Hing and it was good. Tai Hing is known more for its roast meats (I didn't try the food) and I would recommend ordering iced milk tea if you need a drink to accompany your meal.

10) Dessert

Mango pomelo dessert is actually one of my favourite desserts. I didn't have much time or stomach for desserts on my last trip. But I managed to eat Xu Liu Shan at HK International Airport before checking in for my flight on my last trip. There are other more highly recommended dessert shops/chains, but for time and convenience, the airport branch is pretty good!   

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Banila Co it Radiant CC cream

Banila Co is a South Korean brand known for its base makeup. 

The Banila Co Let me dressed (yes, that is the grammatically incorrect name) BB cream is, in my opinion, one of the best BB creams suited for Chinese skin or skin with yellow tones. I first read about Let me dressed BB cream from Bubzbeauty who rated it as one of the top BB creams in 2012. 

Banila Co released a CC cream in January 2013. Banila Co it Radiant CC cream purposed to whiten, moisturize and acts as a color control makeup base with SPF30 PA+++. I ordered this when I was placing my Gmarket Korea order in April 2013. 

The instructions online indicated to use this 30 mins before you actually intend to show your face to the public. I assume that they found that the effect is best after 30 mins.

Update on 22 May 2013: I took new pictures when I used the CC cream one morning. 

Updated on 22 May 2013
Left to right #nofilters (same camera phone):
1 - partial view of face and neck w/ the CC cream on (I have different skin tones on my face and neck due to years of using sunscreen & skincare products on my face while ignoring my neck)
2 - Immediately after applying Banila Co it Radiant CC cream. (slight pinkish cast to skin)
3 - 5 mins after application.  The product had absorbed and there was only a pale pink/luminating cast to my skin
4 - 25 mins after application. The product had absorbed fully and the pale pink cast was at its minimum. 

On the whole, I would say that I prefer this CC cream to the BB creams I have tried in the past (Missha Perfect Cover BB Cream did not work for me despite the numerous favourable reviews online). The coverage is sheer and provides a luminating effect.

Luminous skin is not oily skin, contrary to what some people think. There is a fine line between looking dewy/luminous and oil-slick. I find that this looks dewy/luminous on me. I would personally use this to create a 'not wearing any makeup' look on a good skin day or for highlighting certain areas e.g. cheekbones etc. 

My skin characteristics: I have dehydrated but oily skin and is prone to dry patches around the nasolabial folds (laugh lines) occasionally. Colourwise, my skin looks natural in MAC NC25/ Lancome Teint Miracle O-03/Makeup Store Cream. 

Banila Co It Radiant CC cream retails at approximately S$28/- (25,000 kwon) for 30 ml.

Disclaimer: I did not receive any payment or payment in kind for writing this blog post. Any opinions expressed are my own.