Friday, August 31, 2007

Want to try mineral makeup for (almost) free?

As a female, I simply cannot resist shopping. For anything. And even though I don't wear makeup on a daily basis (due to highly sensitive skin), I still devour beauty magazines and blogs for the latest tips and reviews on that next product that will make me, well, more beautiful! And when you throw in the words FREE SAMPLE... well, I'm your customer. Heh.

Some random blog-hopping from
Paris Beaverbanks' All About Shopping! site led me to Viva Woman and to this entry titled: Free samples from Everyday Minerals. Yup, that got me hook, line and sinker.

Everyday Minerals really wants to get you to try out their product and since not everyone is interested in buying a full size product before they're really, really sure they like it, the folks there have come up with a free sample kit for you to try out a range of their stuff. Called their Free Sample Makeup Kit, you get small sample sizes (good for 3 - 6 applications) of 3 foundations, 1 blush & face color and 1 concealer. It's completely free, only you have to pay the international shipping cost of USD5.05. (Which for me is like writing one sponsored post. This is definitely NOT a sponsored post, okay?) In Malaysian Ringgit that works out to about MYR17.17 based on an exchange rate of 3.4.

I'm pretty keen to test run mineral makeup since it's supposed to be all natural and won't clog pores so I selected my colors, paid for the shipping cost and am now waiting for my samples to arrive!

p.s. You may also find
Paris Beaverbanks' review on mineral makeup to be rather enlightening. *grin*

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Nokia N80 Internet edition phone review - Part One

Yes, as I've been going on and on for ages now, I got a new phone - the Nokia N80 Internet edition. When it first debuted, it was supposedly THE phone to end all other phones. That is, until the Nokia N95 and Apple's iPhone came out. Haha. Anyway, humor me by reading through my review, okay?

I wanted the Nokia N80 Internet edition for a couple of reasons. Uh, so it was actually only one reason. I lusted after a phone that had wifi capabilities and would allow me to surf to my heart's content (or as long as the battery lasted, whichever came first). Anything else that came along with the phone was simply a bonus in my books.

Phone Design
The N80 is a slider phone and a first for me as I've only used candybar phones all my life. While there were some complaints about springback problems in slider phones, so far I have not encountered any (or maybe they have remedied it by now). And this is despite opening/closing it several times a day.

The phone is a little bit chunky and is quite possibly the "fattest" phone built by Nokia. Bad news for the ladies - it doesn't fit into the standard mobile phone pockets sewn into handbags nowadays. It would fit into a man's shirt pocket, but then you'd get that hanging pocket look that doesn't exactly endear you to the ladies.

Because of its considerable size, the N80 looks and feels solid and secure. But I read a couple of user reviews that said it was rather delicate - i.e. should not be dropped. I didn't want to damage my precious, so I'm using a crystal case that I got from the vendor for free. The downside? The crystal case bulks it up even more, and feels a wee bit oily to the touch. It also keeps finger and palm prints very well too. Grrrrr.

I have had no problems with the buttons, seeing that I have regular sized fingers and I use a two handed style of texting. But one handed texting works just fine for me too although those with smaller palms might find it harder to reach the buttons on the side. The numerical buttons are lit up with blue light when you activate the phone by opening the spring slider, so you can text in the dark if you want to. My only gripe is the four-way directional button, which is silver and a bit dodgy to touch. It doesn't give a nice feel when you press it to select, and I worry that this button would eventually give out on me one day! (Especially when I use the phone to surf and scroll down a long webpage or something.) But that's just a minor gripe.

The screen is considerably large enough that you don't have to squint at it, and there is a secondary camera on top for video-calls. Because the N80 features a power save mode, there is a flashing blue light to indicate if the phone is on or off. I found the light to be both helpful as well as distracting. It helps me to locate the phone in the dark recesses of my bag, but the blinking blue light was so strong that I could see it dimly through the lining of my bag! Definitely an attention grabber in dark cinema halls. Heh.

On the sides you'll find the Mini SD card slot and dedicated camera button (no zoom button though) and on the back, the main camera. I didn't particularly like the fact that the plastic over lens is unshielded (no external cover) unlike other Nokia designs because you might accidentally scratch it unknowingly.

Operating System
The N80 uses the Series 60 interface, which is a great change from my old phone (even though it was a Nokia too). It took some getting used to and I found myself going around in circles on the menu for the first two days. After I got the hang of it, it wasn't so bad and I quite like the icons and menu setting. There are a number of background themes for you to use or you can choose the option of setting a picture as your wallpaper. I tried that at first, but reverted back to the pre-set background themes because I couldn't read the icons and menu when the picture showed! And maybe it is the reflective nature of the crystal case covering I am using, but I needed to change the light intensity to read the phone outdoors in bright daylight conditions. Works fine indoors and at night though.

On first start-up, I found the operating system sluggish to respond and I reasoned that it was probably because the battery wasn't fully charged then (this was when I was testing it at the vendor). Taking it home for the full 8 hour initial charge helped things somewhat, but until today, I don't feel that the system is running optimally. Opening / closing certain applications like the calendar or notes took a few seconds longer than I imagined it would take. Using similar applications on my mum's new Nokia 3110 Classic (also running the same OS) was significantly faster in comparison. However, the more often I use an application, the faster the phone seems to work.

You'll also want to tweak the menu around so that applications and programs which you use regularly are accessible from the main menu of the phone itself, without having to go into submenu levels. It took over two weeks of trial and error before I had my main screen user-friendly for me and I'm still rearranging some of the icons by number of times used so I can call it up quickly. But then again, different people work differently, so you may not find this affecting your phone usage. I'm still getting used to the different functions that the buttons have even after a month of owning the phone as I occasionally press the wrong button when I intended for something else instead.

Stay tuned for Part Two!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hush Puppies Happy Hour sales

As a recovering shopaholic who now limits herself to only whatever is truly necessary, I suppose one might be forgiven if I binge every now and then. It is unfortunate that the month of August is the Malaysia Mega Sale month, which means that every shop worth its salt will be having some form of sale. And I would be doing my fellow shopaholics a disservice if I didn't let them know about a truly great bargain, right?

Yesterday, I didn't have to be coaxed to part with some of my hard-earned moolah at the Hush Puppies Happy Hour sales. What's the big deal about this sale? Nothing much except that the good folks at HP decided to reward you for shopping there with a further discount on top of the already discounted price. How does that work out? Take for example a top costing RM99.90 at 50% discount. That's RM49.95. Now tack on the happy hour additional 20% discount to the already discounted price of RM49.95. Your final purchase price? RM39.96. Is that a good deal or what?

There's a catch, of course. The catch is that the additional discount can only be gotten during the pre-set "happy hour", which was between 4.00pm - 5.00pm yesterday. And, the additional 20% discount doesn't apply to all items, just selected ones. As normal, let the buyer beware. :o)

The Hush Puppies Happy Hour sales will be running daily until 02 September 2007 at the Subang Parade outlet (not sure if other outlets also have this promotion).

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My VMI experience - Part Three

In Part Two of my VMI experience, I blogged about purchasing my VMI card. In Part Three here, I use the VMI card to make my first withdrawal.

My VMI card came by PosLaju the day after Michael mailed it out. Extremely efficient, both Michael and PosLaju! Inside, I found the VMI card, terms and conditions and instructions on how to confirm registration of the card online. When you purchase the VMI card from the reseller, you have to provide your personal details to them so that they can register the card for you online with VMI and email back to you the online confirmation. Once you have your physical VMI card with you, you will need to log-on to the VMI website and do a very simple confirmation with the confirmation number in the letter under the card. Once you have confirmed with this number, VMI will prompt you to choose both a password (6 digit) and PIN number (4 digit) that will be used in future to access your accounts. These are very important numbers, so don't forget it!

Upon confirming my VMI card, I logged into PayPal and added my VMI card as my US bank account. It went smoothly, and I transferred an initial sum of USD70 to try it out. Why USD70? Because I wanted to withdraw USD50 as an experiment, and you need to keep USD10 in your VMI account at all times, and USD10 to cover the cost of miscellaneous fees. The account will be credited with your transfer within 2 - 3 working days and it should be noted that no matter how much you transfer at any one time, VMI charges a transaction fee of USD3. Also, when you withdraw your monies from the ATM, VMI also charges a flat fee of USD5 so you should think carefully when you actually decide to make a withdrawal.

I made my transfer on Sunday night and checked my account on Thursday and voila, my money was there. On Saturday I headed to the ATM machine at CIMB Bank and with great anticipation, used my VMI card to withdraw RM170 or approximately USD49+, just under USD50. And yes, it worked! I couldn't believe I was holding on to the crisp new ringgits earned from my part-time blogging.

So yes, VMI does work for me (and well, I might add!) and I'll be using this in future to withdraw my earnings. If you're thinking of getting the VMI card yourself, be sure to read and understand the fees as well as the terms and conditions.

For an excellent pictoral step-by-step guide of how to add VMI to your PayPal and the withdrawal process, please visit Hong Kiat's blog here.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

My VMI experience - Part Two

In Part One, I blogged about why I chose VMI and their local affiliate. In Part Two here, I will blog about my experience in purchasing the VMI card.

Having decided upon the Malaysian affiliate for easier contact, I was pleasantly surprised by the speed of response to my email enquiry by Michael Choong. Not only did he confirm that he was a supplier of the VMI card in Malaysia, he also provided me with the latest promotional rates of VMI as well as the registration form in his initial email. At that point of time (25 July 2007), VMI was running a promotion where each card was sold at USD 28 (normal price USD 30) inclusive of free shipping within Malaysia by Pos Laju. He promised immediate posting of the card on the same day as payment, meaning that I could get my hands on the card within 1 - 2 business days of confirming my order.

I had only one burning query - could he confirm that the VMI card was suitable for use with the PayPal account? Michael reassured me that there were Malaysians who had managed to withdraw their PayPal funds with the VMI card as recently as yesterday. With that assurance in hand, I decided to go ahead and place my order for the VMI card in order to take advantage of the reduced price promotion (which was until 31 July 2007). Michael accepts payment via PayPal, and on the same day that I made my payment and returned my completed registration form, he sent me an email to say that the package was on its way and that I should receive it the following day (which was a Saturday).

And sure enough, the Pos Laju envelope arrived on Saturday. So far, so good!

In Part Three, I register my VMI card and perform a money transfer. That's coming right up!

p.s. If you are interested in getting the VMI card from Michael Choong, please do let him know that I referred you - my email is rinnah.lee[at] - there is a small commission involved for me! *grin*

Thursday, August 2, 2007

My VMI experience - Part One

Part of the reason why I blog is so that I can make money. Money, moolah, dinero, dollar, yen, rupee... it's all about the $$$. I like to write and if I'm paid for doing so, great! Now most of my blog-for-money efforts are paid for using PayPal. I'm paid in USD and PayPal is a good system that's secure (I haven't heard of any fraud cases happening yet!). But the thing about PayPal is that it's so secure, I can't touch any of my money in there. This is because PayPal only recognizes banks from certain countries ( e.g. Singapore) or a US bank account. And therein lies the problem for Malaysians using PayPal. Unless you happen to have bank accounts in the approved countries, all you can do is look at your money as it exists only online. But... there are ways to get around this PayPal system. There are a number of ways you can do it, but I'm going to blog about my experience with VMI.

What is VMI? VMI stands for Virtual Money Inc
, a US bank (Southwest Bank) backed international debit card. Using VMI as your US bank account, Malaysian PayPal users can then transfer money from PayPal to VMI and use the local ATM machines to withdraw their hard-earned cash. Sounds simple enough? It is.

My VMI journey started on 25 July 2007, while I was searching for the cheapest and easiest way of getting my PayPal monies. A number of Malaysian bloggers had blogged about the methods they use (HSBC, e*trade, VMI, 3rd party transaction) but what made me choose VMI was Hong Kiat's blog entry on how easy it was to use VMI. I'm always looking for the easiest (but legal!) way out. No sense in making things any tougher for yourself, right?

There were a number of people who were VMI affiliates, so I emailed two or three of them to judge the speed of response. They were all super prompt (amazing!) but in the end I chose a Malaysian affiliate. Might as well have a local whom you can contact in case of any trouble.

And how did the first contact go? That's in Part Two...