Lifestyle Blogger. Promdi. Filipina.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Post About Denim

Last month I attended a holiday party that had denim as a clothing theme. I thought it was an easy enough theme to follow until I realized that didn’t actually own anything denim – not anymore anyway. I own a lot of pants that look like denim but aren’t, and a dress which had a color that was about as close to denim as I could get but that was about it. I opted for the dress but it did make me think about why I don’t own anything denim anymore. 

As a student back in the day, prior to the new millennium, I was all for denim. Mostly it was jeans and shorts (jackets just gave me a whole lot of Filipino action star-ish vibes for me), maybe a skirt or two. I loved that denim can be worn as something very casual but can also go dressy/ a bit more formal depending on how you pair it with other clothes, shoes and accessories. With one pair of jeans I could look like a rocker in boots and a t-shirt but I could also look ready to make a formal report in class in the same jeans paired with nice shoes and a blouse. 

I think I stopped wearing denim when I started gaining weight. I was feeling frustrated about the weight gain and not fitting into the kind of denim jeans I used to that I stopped wearing them altogether – opting for the faux denim pants that I normally wear these days. It was hard enough getting into denim jeans that fit right when I was at my slimmest, what more now? I just don’t want to be bothered by it.  

If I ever lose the weight though, I don’t think that I’d be wearing much of denim either. Something about growing older (and climate change while living in a tropical country) has shifted my style to other types of clothing these days. I’d love to wear denim jeans again one day, but probably not as often as I used to back then. I think it’s because I find myself more attracted to light fabrics these days, so denim would probably be more of an option than a regular staple for me.  

Nevertheless, I found the denim theme of the party to be interesting. People wore denim in many different ways; I think that parts of one’s personality were revealed depending on how they wore denim during the party. Some kept it casual by pairing denim jeans with a shirt while some were more playful and opted to wear overalls or denim dresses. And yes, some went “Pinoy Action Star” with the denim jacket! Surprisingly though, I also discovered that a nice denim jacket could also be paired with a really nice dress, giving a more formal outfit a bit of an edgy vibe.  

Some might say that being in my 40s probably makes me feel too old to be wearing denim – I've seen some sites that have dictated how women of a certain age should not wear denim anymore and that it is not classy or age-appropriate to wear it – but I disagree. I think that people should not let their fashion choices be dictated by others. For me, I just happen to be comfortable wearing something else these days but if people my age or older still opt to wear denim, it’s their choice.  

What do you think about denim? Do you wear it regularly or do you prefer other types of clothes/fabrics like me? I’d love to know what you think (especially those who are in their 40s and up!). 

Photo Credit/Source: Edrock Photography

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Review: Samsung Galaxy Fit

A couple of years back, I bought a fitness watch from Lazada. It cost less than a thousand pesos and it measured my steps, calories burned, heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels. While my main purpose for it was to count my steps, I found myself wanting more from it and its partner app. Luckily for me, when I switched back to a Samsung phone recently, it came with a free Samsung Galaxy Fit

The Galaxy Fit watch, compared to my Lazada-bought one, is significantly less bulky. I also find the light and the colors on the display brighter and of a higher quality, much like the screens of any Samsung mobile phone. It’s so light that I sometimes forget that I’m wearing it and I end up accidentally hitting it everywhere. I was a little worried that I would crack the display but so far that hasn’t happened. I ended up buying a screen protector to make sure that I could avoid that from happening, but I don’t put it on a lot because it makes the watch bulky and difficult to charge. 

Another thing that I like about the watch is that it has a long battery life. I sometimes go a few days without recharging it. I can monitor my exercise for the day, my steps made, my heartbeat/pulse rate, stress levels and sleep all from this watch and I can sync up my data with the Samsung Health app, which also helps me to monitor my eating habits so I can check my calorie intake compared to how much I have burned for the day. The watch also gives me notifications from my phone when I am connected to it via Bluetooth. I love that I can do all that without having to constantly charge the watch. 

Another feature that I like is how it has the option to continuously monitor my heart rate and can alert me if it rises to a higher-than-normal level. As someone with a heart condition, this is a very useful thing to have. I know that there is nothing better than getting checked at a hospital and seeing a doctor, but I like that it can tell me to do that even if I do not feel anything wrong at any given time. I’ve often had difficulty breathing that sometimes I do not notice when it is worse than normal so this is something I need. 

One interesting thing that I’ve noticed about the watch is that compared to my Lazada-bought fitness watch, this one is not too sensitive when it comes to counting steps. I often take a tricycle to work and the Lazada-bought watch often counted as steps the bumps that I experience while on the road. The Galaxy Fit does not do that.  

It’s also noteworthy to mention that the watch measures not just the sleep during the evening, but during the day as well. However, the watch adds the sleep during the day to the one made at night instead of logging it as separates instances of sleep. Nevertheless, I like how it measures how often I get good sleep (which, sadly, is not that often these days). 

The watch does not take too long to charge, which is another plus, although I wish that it did have a plug to go along with its USB charger. I wish the cord could have been a little bit longer too. 

So far, I am enjoying the Galaxy Fit Watch. I hope I get a long life from this one. I once owned an Atmos Fit and I cracked it less than a year from buying it. I don’t know if there are service centers for smart watches so that one ended up in a box somewhere in the house. I asked Samsung about help with the watch (such as screen protectors and whatnot) and they didn’t have any available and couldn’t offer any help (which is why the protector I bought was from Lazada, from a source in China). 

Keeping my fingers crossed that Samsung Galaxy Fit lasts me a full year at the very least! Hopefully, it will last longer than that! 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Sunday Update 4: Family

Another week has passed in 2020. I can’t believe how fast the days have been. I feel like it was only yesterday we were celebrating the new year and now we just celebrated Chinese New Year! Only one more week to go before it’s a whole other month!  

So much has already happened in the past few weeks, it sometimes feels like a whole year of events have happened in that span of time: Taal Volcano, Corona Novel Virus, the US-Iran thing, Harry and Meghan stepping down as royals...I really wish there was more of the good than bad but lately it’s been more of the latter. If this is an indication of what the rest of the year will be like, I don’t know if I should be excited or worried about what the rest of 2020 could be. 

Work has been busy and honestly not altogether that pleasant. It has been a challenge so far and I am just keeping my fingers crossed for it all to be better as the year goes. Hoping that the work situation will get better is the only thing that motivates me to go to work these days. If that hope ever ran out, I can’t imagine what I’d do to get myself going. 

I have been weighing my options as far as work is concerned. Should my obligations outweigh my personal happiness or my health (both physical and mental)? It’s something that has been on my mind this past week. Trying to figure out how much is too much of my happiness and health that can be sacrificed for a job, how many challenges I can tolerate before it forces me into the type of person that I don’t want to’s a lot to think about considering I have been in this industry for almost two decades. 

Enough about work, the highlight of my week has been a visit from my aunt who has been living abroad. She flew in from Switzerland recently and I haven’t seen her in years, I was glad that she took the time out of her short trip to stop by and have lunch with us to catch up. I grew up having her around a lot when I was younger and she was always someone I could count on when I needed someone to talk to and ask for help from. She’s like a second mom not just to me and my sisters but to all of my cousins as well, which is why we all call her Mommy instead of Auntie or Tita. 

As per her request, we prepared a boodle fight – a traditional Filipino meal on banana leaves where we eat with our hands. We bought some vegetables, seafood and fish that were steamed and there was also some chicken adobo and salted eggs. Aside from that, we also invited a local street food vendor, who everyone in this part of town calls “Idol,” to serve fish, squid and chicken balls, kikiam and kwek kwek. It was a fun afternoon of catching up and pigging out not just with my aunt but with a couple of my cousins as well, exchanging fond childhood memories of our summers at our grandmother’s house and all the cousins get togethers we often had when we were kids. 

With this past week come and gone, it’s time for the final week of January 2020 to kick in. It’s my birthday month coming up and I’m hoping that it’s better than this one because I really need good things to happen! Please let there be good things coming soon! 


Saturday, January 25, 2020

Recipes Tried: Focaccia Bread with Bacon Chicken Liver Pate

Food is my jam. I love food. I have an appreciation for a variety of food but there are some that I favor more than others. One thing that I am not too big a fan of is bread. My family is a fan of bread but the love of it just hasn’t stuck with me. However, there is one type of bread that I am a fan of, and that is focaccia. I used to buy it from The French Baker when my sister worked there but now that she isn’t, I found myself craving for it so I looked up a recipe online from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

The recipe is simple enough and didn’t require that much ingredients so I decided it was something that I could do on my own. I’d pair it with another thing that I’ve been wanting to try: homemade liver pate – the recipe I found for this one was something I found on  Mommypotamus

This is what I did for the focaccia bread: 

Mix the following with a stand mixer to prepare the dough: 

1 cup warm water 
2 teaspoons sugar 
2 teaspoons yeast 

The instructions were to whisk with a mixer’s dough hook or paddle attachment. I didn’t have those so I used the standard attachments that our mixer had. There was also a specified temperature for the water but since I didn’t have a thermometer for it, I just boiled some water then let it simmer until it was cool enough to handle but still warm enough to mix.  

After whisking, the dough should be covered and allowed to rest for five minutes. Later, add another cup of water, ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 cup of flour. The recipe said to beat it on low speed for 20 seconds and then add 3 ½ cups of flour, continuing to beat on low speed for 2 more minutes. 

Honestly, the mixer I owned only had one speed so I used whatever I could work with. I didn’t follow the time frame instructed but just based it on what the dough looked like. I used another ½ cup of flour to the dough to stop it from being sticky so that I could knead it, adding a bit of flour as I go. Again, the recipe called for a specific number of minutes to knead, but my sister told me that as long as the dough was no longer sticking and was bouncy, I could let it rest/rise. 

I greased a bowl with oil (I used olive oil) and placed the dough in it, letting it be coated with oil before I covered it with a plastic wrap. I was supposed to let it rise for 3 hours or until it was double in size – it was more of the latter for me. The dough initially filled half the bowl and so when the dough filled it up, I decided it was ready. 

The recipe said that I was supposed to flatten the dough by punching it down (loved that part) and then to flatten it onto an oiled baking pan (again, I used olive oil), letting it rest again. According the website, it should rest in the refrigerator for 1 to 24 hours. The longer the better. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have that much refrigerator space and had people wanting to try the bread so I let it rest for only an hour.  

After letting the dough rest, it should be taken out of the refrigerator, covered, and allowed to sit at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 450°F for 10-15 minutes. While waiting, whisk 4 tablespoons olive oil, minced garlic cloves (2 cloves), and herbs together to be used as toppings for the bread. Dimple the dough surface and drizzle the toppings over the dough. I used my hands to spread it all over the bread and sprinkled it with salt and pepper. It was suggested to use chopped fresh herbs but since they weren’t available, I followed the instructions of using 2 tablespoons of dried herbs: a mix of thyme and rosemary. I would have added basil as the website indicated but it just wasn’t available at the time. 

The dough was supposed to be baked for 20-23 minutes but I think I was done in 15 minutes because the bottom of the bread was already crispy by then. I cut it up and served it to my family – some with cream cheese on top and some with the bacon chicken liver pate that I am also sharing on this post. My mother liked the plain version though, so I'm glad it was also good on its own.

For the Bacon Chicken Liver Pate, I cooked 8 oz of bacon and let it crisp. Using some of the grease from the bacon, I sautéed 5 garlic cloves, later adding 1 lb of chicken livers, 2 ¼ tsp dried thyme and 2 ¼ tsp dried rosemary. Once the livers were cooked, I set it aside to cool.

Letting the livers cool...

With the cooled livers, I added the bacon, ½ tsp salt and 1/3 cup grease from the bacon and mixed it with a food processor until it became a paste. After that, I was ready to serve it with the focaccia bread!

I was happy with the pate, but for some reason the pate that wasn’t used went bad after a few days. I don’t know if I what I did wrong with how I kept it but it weirdly froze in the refrigerator. By the time it thawed it just wasn’t good anymore.

Overall however, I'm happy with how everything was once I was done. I could do better preserving food after the fact, but fresh from the kitchen, everything was great. Thank you Sally's Baking Addiction and Mommypotamus for the recipes!


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Some Thoughts on My Grandparents

As a woman in my 40’s I no longer have my grandparents around. Both sides of grandparents have passed away, with the most recent one being my maternal grandmother who died three years ago. I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone else but I didn’t really know my grandparents. While I considered myself close to my paternal grandmother when I was younger, I never really knew her apart from being a doting grandmother who loved her coffee and soap operas. I never knew my paternal grandfather and did not know my maternal one well either (he was separated from my grandmother by the time I was in the picture). In short, my grandparents were mysteries to me apart from being actual grandparents. 

I never got the chance to know each grandparent as a person: as a human being who was also young once and lived a life full of experiences I would have, in hindsight, been interested to learn about. Now that I am older, I am fascinated about my family history. Looking at old pictures make me want to know more.  What kind of childhood did they have? What kind of kids were they? What made them into the people that I knew when I was growing up?

One thing I’ve been trying to do to learn more about who my grandparents are is by looking back at old records to find out about their families: their parents, siblings, their own grandparents...things like that. I feel like the more I can find out about that, the more I can find out about who they were when they were younger. 

My paternal grandparents are a big question mark. Aside from my grandfather’s siblings and everyone down the line, I don’t know much about him: who his parents are, where they were from originally, etc. With his wife, my grandmother, all I know of her background is her name. That’s it. No siblings, no parents, nothing. I feel bad not knowing anything and now that most of the people who knew her have passed, there is no one to ask. It’s such a weird thing that I wish I knew more. There aren’t even pictures of my paternal grandparents from when they were young, which is something my maternal grandparents (or grandmother, specifically) can boast of having – another weird thing since to my knowledge my paternal grandparents were the more financially abundant ones. 

My maternal grandmother Nanay at the right. Mamang, her sister, is at the left.

Photos aside, with my working in the town where she grew up, I feel that I have gotten to know not just my (maternal) grandmother (who I grew up calling Nanay), but her older sister (who we call Mamang) as well. Whenever I meet people who find out who my grandmother is, I always hear about how religious she is and how she served in the church when she was still alive. I also often hear about how my work ethic reminds them of Mamang; the way people say it gives me a sense of pride because I can tell that they had such high regard for her work ethic and integrity. Sometimes people tell fond stories of them, and I appreciate that. While I wish I could have known these things from Nanay or Mamang themselves, the former was not really much of a talker and the latter was only the type who would tell stories when I asked (and I hardly ever did).  

Now that I am older and my mother is a grandmother herself, it makes me think about the regret I feel that I did not get to know my grandparents more when I was younger. I wish I spent more time with them. I wish I asked them questions – the right kind of questions – while they were still alive. 

How many of us can say that we really know our grandparents? I hope that kids these days, considering that we are living with a generation practically glued to our phones, can still take the time to know their grandparents. There is so much history to discover and so much that we can learn from about ourselves through them.  Believe me, when you are older and need to understand why you act the way you do, you'd be surprised to know it's a personality trait you inherited from someone in your family far up the chain. Plus, it wouldn't hurt to know your family medical history from that far back too. 

If your grandparents are still alive, give them a call (or a text, or if they are not gadget-averse, a DM). Say hi. You don’t know how much time you have with them left so it’s best to enjoy whatever time you can share while you have it. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

My Makeup Look

Recently I was talking to my family about makeup. My sisters and I talked about when we first started putting on makeup and just how much we use on a regular basis. Consensus has been on starting in college but never really going full-on until it was necessary during work. Even then none of us have ever been into putting on too much, opting for a less-is-more look every time. The no makeup look is what we often go for. 

I have never been comfortable with packing on the makeup, even if it is for work. Most days I prefer just putting on some lip and cheek tint and putting some eyebrow makeup (because my thyroid condition thinned out my brows...and because, as they say, “kilay is life”). I don’t even put on powder lately. Just some moisturizer and a little BB cream. 

Still, I can’t deny that there are days when I need to use a little more makeup for certain occasions. I’ve looked at several makeup tutorials and I have to admit I have been very curious about doing my makeup in a less-than-natural look. I just don’t know if that it would ever be the kind of makeup that I would apply on myself on a regular basis.  

The whole Instagram makeup thing that involves a lot of contouring is something that I have tried a couple of times, just not too heavy the way most people do it. My sister tells me that it's all about higlighting now so that is something I do more of than contouring these days.

Here’s what I do and the products that I use to make it happen. Please note that I do not mention any brands. I think that when it comes to makeup, we tend to have brands that are best for our skin and of course, our budget. I've given links as samples but please choose what you think is best for you!!! 

Moisturizer – It goes without saying that you should start with a clean face. Best to wash your face first and then lightly put on some moisturizer. I place small dots of it all over my face and neck and spread it evenly across everything.  

Lip Balm - If you moisturize your skin, your lips should get the same amount of care. When you brush your teeth, be sure to brush your lips to make sure that the dry, flaky parts would be removed before you put on lip balm. That way you can put on lip color evenly. 

BB Cream – I put on BB cream the same way that I put on my moisturizer. I use it as a form of primer for my face before I put on any makeup. 

Sun block – I’m in a bit of a debate with myself about applying sunblock, since it says on my BB cream that it already has some sun protection. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be extra careful so I put this on too. I love Belo’s Tinted Sunblock because it gives my skin a smooth finish.  

Eyebrow Liner - I put on my brows with an eyebrow liner just so that I can have a starting layer while I put on my makeup.  

Foundation - I try not to put too much on. I tend to just put small dots of it on my face that I blend and spread around. I don’t like having foundation that looks too thick/heavy or cakey. I once did that and it felt uncomfortable for me.  

Concealer - Again, like foundation, I try to only put small dots of it on the critical areas (under my eyes, on my eyelids, around my brows and lips to make them pop) before I blend.  

Powder - When I was younger, I used to put on powder with the sponge that it came with. These days I use a makeup brush and I tap it onto my face. It helps to set my makeup and to blend it all together. 

Lip Liner - My lips are a bit uneven so I like lining them so that I could give the illusion that it looks more symmetrical than it actually is. I use it as a base for my lip color too. 

Eyeliner - This is something I don’t do often, but when I do, I use a gel liner and draw a thin line on my upper lash line. I do a cat eye when I feel like it but normally I don’t. 

Eyeshadow - Again, something that I normally don’t do but when I have to, I tend to use natural looking colors. I don’t make it complicated. Just a light base, darker near the upper lash line then I blend.  

Mascara - I don’t have much of eyelashes so I usually skip this one. When I feel like it, I curl my lashes a bit then just put on one layer of mascara, which I try to dry quickly with a blow dryer (I do the same with my gel liner btw). 

Blush - Sometimes I use a cheek tint, but when I’m all foundation-ed and contoured, I brush on the blush on my cheekbones to give it more emphasis. I’m not comfortable going for too dark shades, so I go for rosy colors more.  

Highlighter - This is my favorite part of the whole process to be honest. I love putting it on the bridge of my nose, on my cheeks and on the arch of my brows. I love the way my face looks with it and the way it gives me a glow.  

Eyebrow Liner and Powder/Pomade - After all the makeup I put on, I try to add a little line and powder to color my brows again and I set the shape with brow pomade.  

Lip Color - I normally use lip crayons but these days I use liquid lipstick if I want to keep it on longer. If it’s too matte I also put on some gloss right at the center just to give it a fuller, less dry look. 

Setting Spray - To end the process, I spray on some setting spray that will help keep my makeup on throughout the day. 

Well, that’s it! Here’s a little before and after for you all to see how this changes my face: 

L-R: My Makeup Look, No Makeup Look, Makeup as done by a professional!

Guess what? The entire process, just the thought of it, is exhausting! That’s why I don’t like putting on that much makeup unless I really have to. I’m on the less is more train of thought as much as possible. Can you blame me? It's just too much work! 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Sunday Update 3 : Taal

The past week has been nothing short of eventful. As most of the world knows, Taal Volcano spewed out ash last Sunday afternoon, blanketing towns as far as Metro Manila with the grey powder. By the end of the day, an Alert Level 4 was raised, warning the public that a major eruption was imminent in what can only be predicted as being as close as hours or days.  Several towns in nearby Batangas Province, which is practically next door to the town where I work, have been evacuated as they are in the 14km danger zone in the event of the eruption.  Since then there have been constant earthquakes, fissures have been reported in various places in Batangas and a lava fountain has been spotted in Taal. A deadly eruption, according to experts, is expected. 

Our view from home last weekend.

Being a nearby province, I have been to several towns in Batangas a number of times. Seeing the ashfall covered towns in the news has been shocking – it's like the towns have been edited to grayscale. There was no color at all. Some homes had collapsed roofs from the weight of the ashfall. Some were damaged from the fissures that raised the ground so high there seemed to be two levels of road. People had to be forcibly evacuated to centers across the provinces of Batangas and Cavite, many refusing to leave their homes behind. As the week went on many had gone back to get some of their personal belongings and pets even when the government has emphasized the danger of an imminent eruption. 

One thing that annoyed me so much about what happened was the negativity from some people who were reacting to how evacuees were handling the natural disaster. Some had called out residents who left their pets behind, which I think was not fair. So many of them did not want to do that. But when your life is on the line and the only thing you can bring is the clothes you are wearing; I cannot fault them for not being able to bring their pets. We cannot judge them for that unless we ourselves were in that same situation.  

Some people were placing blame on the government agency PhilVolcs for not warning people properly. That is also not fair. There have been warnings as early as last year, I remember because I made note of that when we booked a stay in a hotel in Tagaytay City at the time. The supposed government inquiry on who is to blame for lack of preparation and warning is also in bad taste. I don’t think that this is the time to be finger-pointing and playing the blame game. That can be done later. What’s important now is that the people who need the help can get it -- not just now but all the way until after this is all over. It should not be about whose fault it is but about how we can help.  

With the sad turn of events, there has been a glimmer of hope. Throughout the week I have seen so many private vehicles pass me on my way to work, all filled with food, clothing and water to bring to the people who have been displaced to evacuation centers. All over the news, so many people have been making efforts to help by volunteering and donating. I hope that people will continue to do so for a long time. I know that these people will continue to need help long after the danger has passed. People need to rebuild and start over. So many of them have lost everything, they will need all of us to help them get back on their feet. 

Another light-hearted turn of events has been the news of evacuees having fun trying on the clothes that have been donated to them. So many of them left with the clothes on their backs and have not had a change of clothes since they moved. Unfortunately, some donations included work uniforms and items that were not suitable for living in evacuation centers. Nevertheless, the evacuees tried them on and had a good time laughing at how ridiculous some of the items have been. If warms my heart to see how they can all still have a good laugh given their current living situation.  

Several friends and family have reached out to check if me and my family are OK. Apart from light ash fall and the dizzy spells we get from the earthquakes, we are fine and we are grateful to be fine given that Tagaytay, which is the closest place in the province to Taal, is only around 30 minutes away. Right now, we don’t know what will happen, but we are all hoping that it can all be over soon. Whether that means that the eruption will finally happen, or that the danger will pass and the magma will subside, we just hope that this can end.  

There are so many people are living in evacuation centers, in one town alone I was surprised by how many people there are. All the women (several of whom are pregnant), children (and babies), the senior citizens and people with disabilities...they deserve to be home. To rebuild, to start over and to thrive again. While volunteers and local governments can assist them in these evacuation centers, I’m sure there is nothing better for them than being back home. I hope one day soon they can go back to that.

With some centers getting more donations than others, the provincial government of Batangas has established a donation hub to better distribute the goods being given by volunteers. A list of contact details, as well as items that are needed, can be found here. Donations via other government agencies or private groups are also possible, contact details were recently posted on CNN Philippines


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Book Review: We Met in December

One thing people need to know about me is that I’m a sucker for a feel-good, romantic comedy. Add the element of Christmas and you have me hooked. It’s no surprise that I tend to gravitate towards books and films of the same theme (hence my obsession with Hallmark Christmas/Romance movies). When I read the premise of two people who meet, become flatmates and fall in love in the span between two Christmases, it was a no-brainer for me to want to read it.  

we met in december
Cover Credit: Harper Collins

We Met in December is the story of Jess and Alex, who become roommates in a house in Notting Hill, signing into a one-year lease at a place where there is a no-relationships rule between housemates. While the two have an instant connection the moment they met, the house rules mean tiptoeing over the fact that they have an obvious connection. With the two of them getting involved with other people before their lease is up, do they even have a chance? 

The story reminded me of another holiday book that I read called One Day in December by Josie Silver, because it was also about two people who met in December and had feelings for each other that they could not reciprocate due to circumstances beyond their control. Another book that was also slightly similar in plot was One Day by David Nicholls. Both books, however, had a slightly longer timeline compared to Jess and Alex’ one-year lease at the Notting Hill home of their common friend Becky. Coincidentally, One Day is also mentioned in this book as Jess’ favorite. 

While I enjoyed the “will they or won’t they” plot of the book, I felt that there were several aspects of the book that I wanted more out of. For one, I felt that while Alex’ personal journey was hashed out to show that his jump into a different career path was part of his growth as a person, the book did not do the same for Jess. She was also on a sort of jump by moving away from her family and entering a new industry but the personal effects this had on her was not reflected on as much. There were more parts of the book about how being a nurse was like (for Alex) compared to what publishing life was like (for Jess). There was also a bit of a build-up on Jess’ relationship with her mother that I thought would have a pay-off at the end but there was no resolution of that aspect of her life at the end of the book other than her mother being mentioned as accepting of her relationship. 

What I did like about the book were the moments when Jess and Alex were together. Their long walks that gave them the opportunity to build on their friendship that ultimately confirmed that their attraction to each other was a real connection. I love that there was an emphasis on love being something more than a spark. It was something that these two characters built on that helped develop their feelings for one another once they got to know each other.  

We Met in December showed that while there are some relationships that “look good” or are convenient, there is something to be said about one being seemingly perfect compared to what is real. We can’t go into relationships just because it is what is expected of us. We can’t be with someone because that is the type of person that people expect us to be with. Love cannot be forced, no matter how hot and perfect the other person is. 

As with One Day in December and One Day, We Met in December’s lead characters had me frustrated about how their feelings for each other and hard it was for them to open up and say what they really felt out of fear from the house rules (which I don’t buy one bit) and fear of ruining their friendship (which I understand completely). But then, what is a good romantic book without a good (and oftentimes long and hard) journey to love? Isn’t that why people like romance novels? 

The book describes Jess (and me, to be honest) perfectly: 

"The trouble with me is I've always been a daydreamer. Always been a sucker for a romantic film, always loved a book with a good old-fashioned happy ever after ending." 

If you are not over the holidays yet or if you are a hopeless romantic like me who enjoys a good Hallmark movie or two, you will enjoy this book. I would love to read more rom-coms this year, hopefully my selection for 2020 will get better as the months roll by. Here’s to more romance and happily ever afters! 

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Art of Habi in Maragondon Cavite

One of the things that fascinated me when I moved to the province were the locally-produced products in my grandmother’s hometown. One of those products is a fabric/textile that people call “habi.”  

Photo Credit: Edrock Photography

The word “habi” means “to weave.” In the town of Maragondon, Cavite this is the term used for the locally woven fabric that is commonly produced to make towels, table runners and blankets. During the time that I discovered it (which was more than a decade ago), I learned that in the early days there were many people in town who could produce the fabric, weaving it using a traditional loom made of wood/bamboo.  

Back then my co-worker and I were looking in town for the fabric to buy as gifts, and we discovered that there was only one person who was still actively doing it. I thought that was too bad since it is an art that should be retained and it is something that could set the town apart from the others. I was also disappointed with the lack of options – it would have been nice if there were more types of items to choose from or different types of material that it could be made from. 

Photo Credit: Edrock Photography

Photo Credit: Edrock Photography

Thankfully, I found out that Maragondon has started putting more attention to this product and has launched an annual Kawayan and Habi Festival, which will be celebrated every December. The festival, which had a street dancing competition where participants wore habi items on their costumes, also included a fashion show/competition featuring clothing made from the fabric. This was exciting for me because it showed the potential of this product, something that could put the town on the map. After all, habi products are being sold in the Metro at high prices, and coming up with clothing and accessories produced locally could help make Maragondon known outside of the province (or dare I say it, internationally). 

Some of the products for sale during the festival included shawls and cover-ups. There were also bamboo products for sale and what caught my attention were the bags – why not make them with the fabric as its main artwork as well? Just a thought! 

Photo Credit: Edrock Photography

Photo Credit: Edrock Photography

Photo Credit: Edrock Photography

I think that this festival is a step in the right direction as far as promoting the product is concerned. I hope that apart from the usual products made from habi, they can expand to make clothing that can be sold not just around the country but internationally as well. I think that the local producers already have the know-how, this time it’s just a matter of finding the creative and innovative ideas that can make it something to watch out for. I hope that the people making these products can have the support to make this happen and that it can be marketed in a way that would help to encourage more people in town to pursue the craft because of its profitability. 

Photo Credit: Edrock Photography

One thing I noticed from the festival was that, being on its first year (if I’m not mistaken), is that most of the people who were there to witness it were the locals. It would have been great if people invited outsiders – people who were not from Maragondon – to witness the festival. There were news crews in the days prior, but I think it would have also been great to have people who could help grow the industry that was being promoted. Bloggers/vloggers (I hate the term influencer) could help to promote this as it will give them material to add to their channels and at the same time promote the town and its products. Prominent designers or retailers could also be invited to the fashion shows – this can help show the potential of the products and could possibly be enticed to help bring the products to the public. 

Photo Credit: Edrock Photography

Photo Credit: Edrock Photography

Photo Credit: Edrock Photography

I’m really very excited with the way the first festival was conducted and I am looking forward to future festivals to come. I hope that the industry can grow into something that could help the town of Maragondon to be known for the products that it currently produces. My grandmother’s hometown will always have a special place in my heart and I only want the best for it! 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Going Green in 2020

One of the things that I want to do this year is to be more earth-friendly. I have already been more conscious during the past year about lessening my trash and the use of plastics and such, but I feel that this year I need to make it not just a habit or something that I am trying but an actual lifestyle. Here are some of the things that I am currently doing and some that I aim to do this year to make this an earth-friendly 2020: 

earth friendly 2020
Image by annca from Pixabay

BYOU (Bring Your Own Utensils) and Tumblers 

This is something that I’ve been doing since last year. I used to buy food outside when I’m at work. Food that comes in plastic and/or styrofoam with a plastic spoon and fork. I now bring my own food to work, utensils and all. It can be a bit of a hassle lugging around my own tumbler, food containers and utensils but it does make a difference. When I think about how much I put in the trash every single work day from buying food outside, it horrifies me that I have contributed that much trash that will not go away in my lifetime. By at least bringing my own food at work with utensils and tumblers, I can lessen the trash that I contribute to the planet.  

This by no means is still a perfect practice. There are times when people still offer me food in plastic and I can’t turn them down, but I do my best to avoid it as much as I can.  

BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag) 

This is something that has a dual purpose for me. When shopping, I make it a point to bring my own bag. That way, it won’t be packed in plastic or in a paper bag that will be thrown away after one use. It also helps me to avoid unnecessary shopping, because I will not buy anything unless I have my reusable shopping bag. 

Avoid Plastic as Much as Possible 

I know that manufacturers haven’t made it easy for us by having almost everything in plastic containers, but I am making the conscious effort to avoid them whenever I can. I have bought (and am currently using) a plastic-free toothbrush. I am looking into the alternatives for other items that I use on a regular basis as well.  

I think in these days when plastic packaging on products is hard to avoid, it’s more about being aware and being conscious about alternatives when they are available. For example, if you use shampoo in bottles, it’s time to give shampoo bars a try. If you buy coffee in sachets, try buying them in cans or bottles. Again, not the perfect solution until manufacturers provide alternate packaging but we should at least do what we can! 


This is something that I am determined to try this year. It won’t be easy since we do not have much of a garden/land area to speak of, but I am trying to figure out ways to work this out. Composting would entail burying biodegradable waste in soil so looking for a place to do that at home (possibly via a large plant box and purchased soil) is something that I am currently working on. If anyone has suggestions, I would appreciate the heads up! 

Avoid Overconsumption 

Today it’s so easy to just keep buying things, particularly things that we don’t really need but get interested in because of our current culture of consumption. With online shops making it easy to randomly buy things at the click of a button, there is a big tendency to impulse buy (and, as some might put it, emotional shopping). Having too much stuff will eventually lead to too much waste. Same thing with too much shopping leading to too much packaging (all that plastic and bubble wrap...just the thought of it is giving me anxiety). 

We need to be smart shoppers. Buying only what we need, when we need it. One of the things that I’ve decided to cut back on is shopping for makeup. I have this tendency to impulse buy, so this year I have decided that unless I run out of what I currently have today, I am not buying more lip color, blush or any other item that I use on my face. Same goes with other things. We need to think about whether we really need that new dress, new shoes, new gadgets, etc. We need to be conscious about this as we are with avoiding plastic! 


Another important thing to do is to recycle. Let’s not throw away things that we can still reuse or repurpose. I’m not talking about hoarding things, but more about being conscious about what we throw away. If we can’t use it but you think someone else can, why not give it away instead of throwing it out?  

With all the trash that the world is currently carrying that will keep piling up until we have no space anymore, we all need to do our part to lessen the load. We might think that what we do won’t make a difference but if we all do our part; I believe we can make a difference. I just hope that the big companies, the manufacturers, the big businesses and all will do their part to help reduce waste as well. As a lot of people have been saying, the next ten years is crucial in ensuring that we can avoid the worst of what climate change will bring.  

Let’s all try to make a difference this year, the world depends on it! 

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Sunday Update 2: Back to Work

First week of work for 2020, all done!  

How was everyone’s first work week for 2020? As much as I would like to say that the holiday has left me feeling refreshed and ready for work, it really is very far from that. My brain is still on holiday mode and it’s difficult to adjust to being back at the office. It’s, as a friend of mine said, “trying to normalize work after holiday hangovers.” 

back to work

It’s been a struggle to be on work mode after two weeks on leave. Just the fact that it’s a non-stop list of things to do from the minute I wake up is an adjustment. I miss waking up and taking my time with having breakfast. I miss hanging out with my niece and nephews. I miss being able to binge-watch whatever I want on Netflix if I wanted to.  


One of my nephews, who lives a couple of hours away, finally had to go home over the weekend. While this week meant I had to go to work, my nephew had to go home and be back to school last Monday. It was sad to see him go. I was so used to having him around the house. It’ll be a while before I see him again – during the summer vacation, most likely. 

2019 was very stressful for me workwise, so I had my apprehensions about going back to work. It was frustrating to see this week that I had to face similar situations that I experienced last year all over again. I know it was wishful thinking to hope that the new year would result in refreshed co-workers and a better work situation but I guess I was hoping the new year could lead to a better start for all of us. Some things never change, I guess? 

This past week I made a promise to myself to try not to stress too much on things when I really don't have to. I’m the type of person who tends to go above and beyond for the job, and I am usually the one they can count on to fix things when things go wrong. This time around I’ve decided to step back – I'll do my job, but I won’t be bending over backwards and give myself unnecessary stress because of other people. People need to take responsibility for their actions and decisions and not take for granted that I will be there to fix things and smooth things out. Tough love for them, self-care for me.  

There’s so much going on in the news: the fires in Australia, the tensions between the US and Iran, the news that the Ukranian plane crash was actually caused by an Iranian missile that killed many Canadian citizens and the news of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan stepping back from senior royal duties to live in Canada. So much change and upheavals going on all over the world, I can only hope that the year won’t be as turbulent as this first month seems to be. 

Speaking of turbulence...I know there’s only been one episode so far (but a 3-hour episode, FYI), but I am obsessed with Peter Weber’s season of The Bachelor. I really liked him during Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette. I thought he was one of those really nice, genuine guys and he deserves to find someone for him. Having Hannah Brown back to talk to him and open up old wounds/feelings was made for such an exciting first episode! I can’t wait to see what happens! 

The highlight of my week -- however -- was not about work or the news or The Bachelor: it was talking to someone who made me smile. A real, honest to goodness, warm-your-heart kind of smile. I think we all deserve days when we can have a smile like that. I’m glad I had it in the first week of the year. I'll take every win that I can get!

I hope that you all had a good first week for 2020. I’m off to enjoy what's left of my weekend – get out there and do the same! 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Review: Danarra Aromatherapy Oil

I have been a fan of aromatherapy for more than a decade now. I started with the massages, until I started using air revitalizers and dehumidifiers, which led me to my obsession with Mia Maison’s scents. For the past few years I have been a constant user of pain relief rubs/balms, with some smelling more like mint/menthol and others with more aromatherapy-like scents that smell more like perfume than old-person body pain. I recently discovered a new brand for aromatherapy pain relief called Danarra and I am currently obsessed with it!

danarra aromatherapy essential oil

The first time I discovered Danarra Aromatherapy Essential Oils was when I was in line waiting at Watson’s and saw the product on display. I’ve always liked the lavender scent so when I saw that it was available, I decided to give it a try. I wasn’t sure if it was good or not when I bought it. Fortunately for me, it was worth the purchase. I don’t just use the scent to relax and sleep well, I use it for my other aches and pains as well. 

When I used the roll-on at work, I remember one of my co-workers suddenly asking who put on perfume at the time because it smelled good. I was happy about that comment because usually when I put my usual pain relief creams and such the usual question is “who is the old person with aches and pains right now?” 

Not only does the oil smell good, but it also works. It does relieve me of my aches and pains whenever I use it. I think it actually works a little too well since people always want to borrow the roll-on and use it on themselves. I end up running out of oil in just one month because I’m not the only person using it! I’ve even had someone borrow it and not return it (and yes, the person asked if she can keep it) because of how effective it was.

danarra aromatherapy essential oil

I’ve been so satisfied with the product that I recently purchased the other scents available at Watsons: Sport (mood booster), Flowery Citrus (for energy),  and Green Tea (to clear your mind). There are other scents called Young (cool and fresh) and Classic Menthol (to destress) but Watson's didn't have them available at the time. All the scents I've bought smell really good so I think that buying them was worth the money. It’s still way cheaper than buying premium brand essential oils since one 10 ml bottle/roll-on is only worth P89.00.  

As much as I appreciate the more luxury-brand aromatherapy options out there, I am happy that there are also brands like Danarra that are just as effective for a fraction of the price that is good for people like me who are on a bit of a budget. It’s also easy to carry around with the spill-free roll-on bottle that is smaller than some of the balms that I usually bring along. It also uses natural ingredients, something that I have been worrying about when using things on my skin for pain relief.  

I know there are other aromatherapy oils out there for pain relief that I have yet to try, but for now, this is my new favorite. My previous favorite was something I could only buy online so it was a bit of a hassle (and stressful to receive with all the bubble wrap/packaging). The fact that Danarra is available at Watson’s and Mercury Drug means I could get one at any time when I run out.  

If anyone has a suggestion (something in a similar price range, smells good, easily accessible and does not remind you of a typical Asian old person’s menthol smell), I am willing to try it! 

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

January Playlist: Reclaim

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, 2020 for me is the year that I am to reclaim the person that I have lost while I have been busy with everything else in my life. For this month, I thought I’d create a playlist that would help me and hopefully other people (women in particular), who would like to do the same thing. Here is the playlist I created on Spotify for this:

As you may have noticed, I am a fan of Natasha Bedingfield. I think her early work/music has a good collection of songs that fit well into my goals for reclaiming myself from my busy life and responsibilities. Unwritten inspires me to believe that I can still change and grow because “the rest is still unwritten.” Weightless inspires me to let go of the things that are holding me back from being who I really am. No More What Ifs is about going for things, without hesitation. Her other song, Sojourn (hidden in the track at 7:10), inspires me to go for it because it’s the “perfect day to get away” and my life is “a sojourn from the norm,” which is coincidentally what I called an earlier blog of mine years ago. 

All the other songs are included to inspire people to be Brave, become a Girl on Fire and to Rise Up and acknowledge their true selves, saying This is Me.  The song You Gotta Be calls on the listener to be bad, bold, wiser while Demi Lovato’s song is self-explanatory, asking “what’s wrong with being confident?” 

Mary J. Blige’s song Just Fine says it’s time to live life and it feels good to get it right, something that I want to be able to do by reclaiming myself this year. The song I’m Coming Out may be a bit old, but I’ve always felt that it’s something that pushes me to be real and I hope it does the same for others too. Another old song, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, has always been a favorite. The image of Cyndi Lauper being true to herself and having fun with it is inspiring and just the right message for wanting to be who I am without hesitation and fear of the opinion of others. As the Bon Jovi song goes, It’s My Life anyway. 

The songs by Selena Gomez, Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce are all about owning your personal power. Acknowledging that we want something, we can take it. We can make our own money. We can run the world if we want to.  As women, we have our own power. We don’t need to be define by what the expectations of other people are. As Jennifer Lopez sings, I Ain’t Your Mama.  

I had to add the three last songs because of how much I love them. Lizzo’s Truth Hurts doesn’t exactly fit the theme, but the singer herself is an inspiration for me to accept who I am (overweight and all) and to get back the confidence that I lost when I gained weight. Kelly Clarkson’s Whole Lotta Woman also fits into that idea. 

Lastly, Little Mix’ Wings is another personal favorite. I never realized until I listened to it again recently how much it fits into the theme of my year. It’s really time to spread my wings, because as the song goes, “these wings are made to fly.” 

Now that I think about it, the playlist also reflects a lot of the things that I want to change about myself: my confidence, my need to spread my wings beyond what I do now and being true to myself as who I am and not the person people expect me to be.

I hope you all enjoy this playlist. I've been listening to it all week and I've been enjoying how it reminds me of what I want to accomplish this year. I hope it can do the same for you!

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

My Online Banking Experience

I have a confession to make: I had a love-hate relationship with banks. There was a time that I only had an account because that was where my salary was deposited. For most of my adult life, I saved money the old-fashioned way: by keeping it at home (not that there was a lot of cash to begin with since I usually spent it all eventually). Even when I did eventually become a regular depositor of a certain bank, I was still very hesitant to use online banking. I’ve heard so many horror stories and I wasn’t sure if I could handle the stress if it ever happened to me.  

It was only last year that I decided to take the plunge into the online side of banking. I have to admit that it has made the management of money and the payment of bills easier for me. Not that there aren’t any setbacks to it (because there have been) but in general it has been a convenient way for me to get things done financially. 

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The advantage for me with the whole process is that I don’t have to wait in long lines anymore to pay my bills. Unfortunately, not all my bills can be paid online just yet – living in the province still has its disadvantages when it comes to this – but I am hoping that eventually those other services will allow online payments.  

Another plus is that I am able to keep track of my expenses anytime through my phone or tablet. I hardly ever carry cash around these days and instead use a debit or credit card for most of my payments. That way everything is recorded and easy for me to access via mobile banking apps. I’ve always been the type of person who forgets where I spend some of my money so having the ability to record and check my expenses helps a lot. Going paperless and not having to run around different payment centers also means less of a carbon footprint so it’s better for the environment! 

If you want to try online banking, here are some tips based on my experiences about what to do: 

Choose your bank wisely. 

Decide on what is the most important thing for you. Do you want a bank that is closer to work or home? Do you want a bank that is not always full of people so you can go in and out easily? Do you want one with an easy to use app? Decide on which one is the most important factor for you and then you can start from there. 

Do your research. 

Ask people which banks they use for online banking and how their banking experience has been. Check out the mobile apps and the reviews on the App stores for Google and Apple. I was surprised to discover that one of the banks I used and preferred had an app that was so behind compared to all the others. I decided that the convenience of an easy to use app was important to me so I switched banks. 

Decide where you want to use the mobile apps. 

Image by Jess Foami from Pixabay

Most banking apps can only be used on one device. If you installed it on your phone, you can’t install it on your tablet since another device has already been registered. I think it’s a security precaution. In any case, make sure to just keep the app on one device. I once tried to put it on two devices and had to go through the long process of resetting and reinstalling the app, which was not easy and took a long time.  

Make use of the security features.  

If there is a two-factor authentication feature for the app, make sure that you opt in. If you can use biometrics to log in, use that as well. If there is an OTP feature, make sure to use it to ensure that any expenses or transfers from your account would result in a notification via email and/or text to you. 

Know the customer service channels. 

Once you’ve chosen a bank and downloaded the app, make sure that you also have the customer service number in case of any emergency. Find out if they have an official Twitter and/or Facebook account that you can reach out to in case of any issues. 

Be careful! 

One thing I discovered after I started online banking is that I’ve received emails that are supposedly from the banks that I use. It’s very easy to be fooled into clicking a link that could possibly cause so many problems for you because of how they also use the bank logos and whatnot. If you get anything of the sort, it’s best to ignore it and just check the app since most banks leave any necessary messages for updating your account there. Or better yet, if you are not sure if the email is legitimate or not, call their customer service hotline.  

Speaking of calls, you should also be careful of people who call saying they are from your bank. Not all these callers are real apparently and are out to get the answers to your security questions on your account. Never give security details over the phone. In case the person says it is necessary and you are unsure of what to do, hang up and call the customer service hotline directly to verify if what the previous caller said was true.  

Know where you connect. 

As easy as it is to use a mobile app, you also have to be aware of where you are connected. Make sure that you are using a secure connection like the wi-fi in your home. Avoid free wi-fi in public places as a security precaution and use your phone data instead if necessary.  

With technology being how it is now; online banking is something that I think will eventually be the norm in the future. It’s best that we learn how to use it (safely) and to our advantage. 

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