Lifestyle Blogger. Promdi. Filipina.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Pandemic Diaries: Health Update

If you have been one of the handful of people who have been reading my blog, you would probably remember my post about being unsure about going to see my doctor because of my fear of getting infected while I am in the hospital. I was scheduled for my regular check-up this month, but I have been too scared to go until my sister convinced me to at least get my regular blood work done to be sure that I am healthy.

I decided to go to the hospital early, so for my blood work I fasted earlier so I had to get my tests done early in the morning at 6 AM, just so that there won’t be that much people at the hospital. I made the right decision because apart from an elderly couple who had the same idea, there was no one else outside waiting for assistance. 

Thankfully, the hospital that I went to take the necessary precautions to make sure that everyone who visits is safe. There is a tent where you register, and they check you for symptoms before you can request for whatever it is you need in the hospital. I was separated from the nurse (in full PPE) by a plastic sheet and there was only a small partition where you can insert the paper that you have to sign and where I had to submit my doctor’s request for blood tests. They basically filled up my form for me and all I had to do was sign at a small portion at the end of the sheet of paper, after which there was a foot-powered bottle of alcohol that I could use after touching their pen and paper. 

When they were ready for my test, I was ushered in and sprayed with alcohol while I stepped on a sanitizing foot mat. I was then directed to another area where there was a partition again where the nurse (also in full PPE) was separated from me by another plastic sheet. To get my blood, I had to insert my arm in a hole made through the plastic. It was quick and easy, and I was done in a few minutes.

I entered the hospital to make my payment, and there were only a few people inside who were separated from me by a window to accept my payment. 

Usually when I have a check-up with my doctor, I must go there an hour in advance to be added to the list of patients. The last time I was there I learned that he was only taking fifteen patients per day, as opposed to when he used to be there until all the patients were seen. I learned that morning that the new policy, while he still took in fifteen per day, was to get listed as early as 8am for the 2pm check-up. I would have gotten listed for the check-up since I was confident with my safety in the hospital due to the precautions they were taking but I learned that I couldn’t: my doctor has stopped taking patients since the last week of August and there was no word on when he would be back. According to some people he had self-quarantined because he was feeling COVID 19 symptoms – you can bet that made me even more hesitant about seeing him when he gets back to work!

It was a good thing that my blood tests mostly were OK. My blood sugar is the lowest it has been in more than a year. My blood tests for kidney health showed that everything was normal. The only problem was my being slightly high in the cholesterol department, which I was told could be corrected by proper diet and exercise (I am working on that).

At this point, I do not know when I will see my doctor again. If I can just keep taking the tests on a regular basis to make sure everything is normal, I will just keep doing that to stay healthy. I think the best thing for me right now is to go on a diet, exercise and keep taking my maintenance medicines for now and probably until this pandemic is over, unless anything serious happens which would need medical attention (which I hope will never happen). 

What do you think?


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Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Online Shopping Tips

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we live our lives. Even for someone like me who tends to stay home often, being at home and not leaving the house at all has been a huge change. Apart from the one day that I have to report to the office per week, there is no motivation to go out, and even if there was, I often try to find ways to just stay home to be safe. The number of daily new cases in our municipality has not gone down so I feel the need to stay home as much as possible since I am one of those with at-risk conditions. Because of that, most of my shopping for my daily needs has been made online.

My sister usually takes care of the fresh produce that we need at home since we can usually buy them in our neighborhood. We do not even have to leave our street to buy vegetables, meat, and seafood, which is a good thing. As for our other needs, groceries, other food items and home essentials, we have taken to purchasing them online via Lazada.


Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay


Some of the people I know have been hesitant about buying online and I cannot blame them. There are a lot of bogus sellers out there and it can be difficult to figure out who is trustworthy or not. In the past few years that I have been purchasing items online, I have had my share of hits and misses with it. But, as they say, you can learn from your mistakes and that is something that I want to share with all of you.

Here are some tips for online shopping, particularly when using Lazada. I hope these tips will help you when you make your online purchases. Happy shopping!


Buy from the Official Store

If you can, it is best to buy from the official stores that are on Lazada. For example, if you need toiletries, go straight to the Procter & Gamble or Unilever store. You can school supplies? National Bookstore has an official store there too. Same goes for when you need gadgets. Apple and Samsung have official stores on Lazada as well. I could go on and on with this one. 

You can be assured that you are getting the real deal when you are buying from the official store. These stores also pack their products very well for shipping so you can be assured that they will arrive in good condition.


Use the Filter

I always use this option. Whenever I search for an item, I filter to 4 stars and up items to make sure that the ones that are shown during the search are the items with trustworthy sellers. I have to point out though that some may have 4 stars and up reviews but only have one reviewer so it’s best to check out only the ones with a lot of positive reviews. 


Buy Local

There are so many items on Lazada that are from their Global site. Buying from a seller overseas can be a hassle if you are not satisfied with the item. It is so difficult to have them replaced and sometimes the seller seems to have difficulty conversing in English that it is hard for the person complaining to get a positive response. I haven’t experienced this personally, but I have seen reviews where the buyers were complaining, then the seller responds in broken English in a way that seems like they did not quite understand what the buyer was talking about.

There is always a risk with buying online. There’s an even bigger risk if you buy it from an overseas seller with very little English comprehension.


Check the Reviews

The star ratings are not enough to be sure that you are buying a good item. I prefer to read the reviews and see if those stars were trustworthy or not. 

I have noticed that there are items whose reviews seem scripted. Some are in Tagalog but are obviously only from someone only pretending to be Filipino (this is usually with some of the Global products, the reviews seem to have been translated through Google Translate). It can be time-consuming but reading reviews will give you an idea if the product is good or not and if the seller is worth taking the risk for (if it is not a big name, official store).


Check the Seller Profile

Another thing that I have discovered that helps is checking the seller profile. When you see the item, go to the seller profile, and check their seller ratings, chat response rate and if they ship on time.  That would give you an idea if the seller is easy to deal with in case you have any issues.


Start Small

If there is an item that you really like that is from a store that you are not familiar with, it may be best to start small. Try to buy an item that is not that expensive from the store to test the quality of the product and their service. If all goes well, then you could buy the more expensive item you were interested in from the same store.


Know Your Rights

One of the most important things about online selling is to know your rights. When I purchased a bedside table, the item delivered was missing the drawer from the table. I sent it to the seller and posted photos as proof and I got the item replaced. Most recently, an item was labelled as delivered when it was not received so I contacted both Lazada and the seller/store itself immediately for help. My purchase was refunded the following week.

Make sure that you take note of the names of the people delivering your orders and the notifications you get regarding deliveries just in case you have issues like mine regarding orders that never arrive. It also helps to save the phone numbers of the delivery person when they send you an SMS for deliveries just in case they are the same person who will deliver next time (because they usually are).


Anyone out there with additional tips? Leave me a comment and share them here!

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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Book Review: Sex and Vanity

Kevin Kwan, the writer of the Crazy Rich Asian series of books, has recently come out with a new novel called Sex and Vanity. As a fan of his books, I knew it was something that I had to have and read. I   do not know if being a fan was an advantage or disadvantage to reading the book: it was an advantage that I was familiar with his writing style, but it was a disadvantage that I expected too much from the book. I am not saying that it is bad, more of it not being what I expected.

Credit: Penguin Books

Sex and Vanity is about Lucie Churchill, a half-Asian young woman who has a scandalous summer fling in Capri which catches up with her years later when she is about to be married to the most eligible bachelor in the US. The book has a similar feel as Crazy Rich Asians with all the luxury and the name and brand dropping in every chapter. At some point though all the name dropping and the constant emphasis on how luxurious everyone’s lives are can get to be too much. I felt like it was fine to a certain extent, but it sometimes felt like a book filler more than anything else.

As far as the romance element in the book goes, I thought that while it was understandable for there to be tension between Lucie and George because of the summer fling/scandal, there did not seem to be enough to establish how the two fell for each other. There was enough reason for Lucie to make that crucial life decision at the end, but I felt like the novel made it seem it was largely because of George, even if to me that did not make that much sense.

I like that the book tackled how half-Asians struggle with their identity: when Lucie talks about the struggle to fit in as half-white and half-Asian and feeling not completely being accepted by both sides of her, I am reminded of friends who are of similar descent who have similar conflicting feelings.

If there is anything that I loved about this book it is the amazing supporting characters. Kevin Kwan seems to have a knack for having supporting characters who could just as easily have books about them. For Sex and Vanity my favorites would have to be Lucie’s fiancĂ©e, who is just so over the top but so into the entire thing that I can imagine him making such an interesting character to watch if it ever became a movie like Crazy Rich Asians. Another one that I love is George’s mother, another character that seems to march to a different drummer who I would love to see onscreen (if it ever happens).

While this book is separate from the Crazy Rich Asians series, it does give a nod to the previous books in a way by mentioning that during the wedding where Lucie and George had their fling that one of the guests was Astrid, a prominent character from the first series. It was not specifically mentioned that it was the same Astrid, but I would like to think that it was. 

If you liked Crazy Rich Asians, you would enjoy this book. Just do not expect too much from it like I did because as nice to read as this was, I liked Crazy Rich Asians better. The whole crazy rich white people concept just did not do it for me the same way the previous books did. I think maybe it is because I am Asian, so the former made more sense and was more relatable. It’s still a good read though.


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Monday, September 7, 2020

Album Review: Ronan Keating Twenty Twenty

Ronan Keating has been one of my favorite male singers since his Boyzone days. I have been to the last two Boyzone concerts in Manila because of this guy. When I heard that he was releasing a new album to celebrate his 20 years as a solo artist, I eagerly waited for it on Spotify.

I would like to think of this latest album as his album of duets and an album of wedding songs. There are several duets in the album, with a couple featuring artists that I like such as Shania Twain, Robbie Williams, and Alison Kraus. I call it an album of wedding songs because so many of the songs would make great songs to dance to during a wedding which, when I think about it, is something that his first solo single, When You Say Nothing At All, has been all these years.



As usual, Ronan has come up with a good collection of songs, but naturally, I do have my favorites, like Forever Ain’t Enough, One of a Kind (the orchestral version), Little Thing Called Love, Only Lovers and Forever and Ever Amen (duet with Shania Twain). Special mention must go to the song The Big Goodbye, a duet by Ronan and Robbie Williams (who wrote the track years ago when Stephen Gately, who was also from Boyzone, died).

I think that Twenty Twenty is a good representation of where Ronan Keating is as an artist and as a person. I love that the songs seem to reflect the kind of man that he has become: the love that he has for his wife, the happiness of being in a good relationship and all that. I think this was more than evident in that line from One of a Kind where he talks about wishing his mother could see his son. I know Ronan did not write that song (one of the people credited was Westlife singer Shane Filan) but that sounded like it was really made for him since his mother passed away from cancer back during his Boyzone days. I was so moved when I heard that line knowing that it fit his story perfectly well. The way Ronan sang that line I knew that the line really hit home with him.



It was a good touch that they included three songs that were part of his solo album: Lovin Each Day, Life is a Rollercoaster and When You Say Nothing at All (a duet with Alison Krauss). The three songs were re-recorded and given a different spin, and I enjoyed listening to these new versions as much as I did the originals. Lovin Each Day is one song that when I heard the first few bars, I knew that it was the same song, but different enough to feel fresh and enjoyable after all these years. Being my favorites from that first album, it was nice to hear them given new life and being introduced to a new generation with this new album.



This album came out during the same week that Taylor Swift’s Folklore came out. At first, I thought that it would take a beating from Folklore but I was happy to hear that it still did well against Taylor Swift, even beating her at the number one spot for a time in several areas. 

Hopefully, one day Ronan Keating can come back in the country to promote this album (or any other future album) when the pandemic is over. I am still hoping that one day we can all find a way to continue with our lives and have events such as concerts without risking each other’s health. I hope that one day I can listen to this guy sing live again here in the country. 

Here’s hoping it happens soon.


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Sunday, September 6, 2020

New Obsession: Korean Celebrity Vloggers

With most people staying at home, celebrities have been using social media to be able to stay visible and in touch with their fans. I’ve noticed that more and more celebrities are embracing all forms of social media, particularly video, to remind their fans (and their sponsors, most likely) that they are still around.

This pandemic and the quarantines imposed on all of us have made me watch a lot of Korean dramas. My curiosity got the better of me and I went on Instagram, where I found that many of the Korean celebrities, I liked now have accounts. Back in the day when I first started being a fan of K-Dramas, most of them kept to social media accounts in Korea. I am glad that they now embraced more global means of staying in touch with their fans. 

These days my favorite way of keeping tabs on some of my favorite Korean stars is not just Instagram, but also YouTube, where some of my favorites maintain channels and post interesting videos for their fans. 

Here are some of the stars whose channels I have subscribed to on YouTube:


Sandara Park

Honestly, I was not a fan of her work when she was still in the Philippines. To her credit, I think it had more to do with the image that was given to her rather than her talent. When she was part of 2NE1 I became a fan and have followed her on social media. I love that she has bloomed into a real star in Korea and that she has made a name for herself on a more global scale. I admire that she has not forgotten to acknowledge her beginnings in the Philippines and that it still holds a special place in her heart.


Park Min Young

I became a fan of Park Min Young because of the rom com Her Private Life. I was following her on Instagram at first when she shared that she was going to launch her own YouTube channel. I like that she gives glimpses into her personal life with videos of her making kimchi, showing people around her house and office and things like that. 


Park Seo Jun

My cousin is the one who is a fan and introduced me to his work. I remember searching for something to share with her when I discovered his YouTube channel. Like Park Min Young, this channel shows glimpses of his personal life by showing behind the scenes footage of him from work, hanging out with his staff and even footage of his trip to the Philippines.

He seems so different from the characters that he plays in K Dramas. He is so much better behind the scenes than the roles he plays. I guess that means he is a good actor!


Yoon Eun Hye

As I have mentioned in a previous blog, this lady is one of my favorite Korean actresses. It has been way too long since I have last seen her in a good drama. I was so happy when she became active on social media and (recently) decided to start her own channel on YouTube. 

It’s just too bad that unlike the other celebrities who have placed English subtitles on her videos, Eun Hye’s videos are completely in Korean, even the subtitles. I hope that one day she can add English subs to her videos, I know a lot of other fans are hoping for that too!


Siwon Choi

My favorite guy from Super Junior launched his channel to reach out to his fans during this pandemic. 

So far, he has featured a personal message to fans, and some behind the scenes of him working. He has even gone live for the channel, something the other celebrities I follow have not done yet.


Daniel Henney

OK, he is mostly a celebrity in the US but given his start in Korean and his roots, I had to include my favorite guy in this entry. He usually posts the same videos on IGTV but I still like that he does what he can to keep his fans updated on him and his projects. 

I miss the nice videos he used to do when he had his official website from when he was mostly in Korea (a video that featured the song Don’t Wait by Dashboard Confessional comes to mind). I love the stuff he had there that for some reason did not get migrated to his YouTube channel. 

Well, that is about it. I know there are probably more Korean celebrities out there with channels on YouTube but so far, it is only these people that I follow. 


I would love to hear what you all think of their channels/videos when you get the chance to see them! Leave me a comment and let me know which one you like the most!


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Saturday, September 5, 2020

Recipe Tried: Chrissy Teigen's Mac and Cheese

I have been a follower of Chrissy Teigen on social media because of her old blog, the one where she shared a lot of her recipes. This was before she came out with her cookbooks. She still has a blog today but it is under the name of her brand, Cravings by Chrissy Teigen. Last year I decided to try her Mac and Cheese recipe from the cookbook that I found on Brown Eyed Baker

Here is how I did it (with a few adjustments because of the availability of ingredients):


Breadcrumbs


8 slices white sandwich bread (torn into pieces)
6  cloves garlic (minced)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt – [I used ordinary sea salt since we do not have kosher]
½  teaspoon black pepper
5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Pasta


1 pound pasta shells – [About half a kilo]
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ cup unsalted butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
12 ounces cheddar cheese (shredded (3 cups))
12 ounces Swiss or Gruyere cheese (shredded (3 cups))
12 ounces American cheese (diced small) – [For all three types of cheese, I substituted a three-cheese pack with the same combination that I found in the supermarket.]
2 teaspoons kosher salt – [Again, I used ordinary sea salt]
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with butter.

For the Breadcrumbs: 

The instructions were to process the bread in a food processor until it formed fine crumbs. Our processor is teeny-tiny so we had to attempt to crumble the bread by hand before we could put it on our processor (on of those hand-held ones). It was quite the process to accomplish. The total crumbs should be around 4 cups. 

After that, butter is heated in a skillet. Once it foamed, I added the garlic and cooked for a few minutes. Before the garlic could brown, I added the breadcrumbs, cooking by stirring and increasing the heat until the bread is toasty and brown. Add the salt and pepper and transfer to cool and add the Parmesan cheese.

For the Mac and Cheese: 

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and rinse then toss with olive oil.

For the cheese, heat butter in a large pan until melted, whisking as you cook. Add the flour until it turns a light brown and toasted color then gradually add the milk. Once the sauce boils, reduce the heat and cook until it thickens then you add the cheese, whisking until the sauce becomes smooth. Stir in the salt, pepper and cayenne then add the pasta. 

In the pre-heated pan, add the pasta then the breadcrumbs on top. Bake until the topping is crisp, and the cheese is bubbling. 


I must admit, making concessions with the ingredients and not having the right equipment at home to make this may have affected the way that the Mac and Cheese tasted. Being Filipino, this is not the typical way that most of us enjoy this type of pasta. The whole breadcrumbs topping thing is new to us, so we were not sure of what to make of it when we were eating it. 

It was not bad, considering that I made some changes with the cheese and with the amount of ingredients -- I was feeding a family of 8, so I had to double everything to come up with a larger amount of pasta, which may not have been a good idea since I was trying this for the first time. 

There are still a couple of recipes from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook that I have tried that I have not blogged about, but I plan on sharing them here soon. Again, I made some changes to adapt to what I had on hand, but I still believe I did a good job, nevertheless. 

Until next time, stay safe everyone!

 




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Friday, September 4, 2020

My Favorite T. Swift Leading Men

If my previous post on her latest album Folklore has not made it obvious yet, I am a Taylor Swift fan. I have been a fan of her music since her early years. I have always considered her to be incredibly talented and very smart with the way she makes decisions regarding her craft.

One of those types of decisions that I am thankful for is the type of guys that she chooses to be leading men in her music videos. She has had several them through the years – a mix of celebrities, athletes, models, and fellow singers. I’ve noticed that when I trim them down to my favorites I really do have a certain type of guy that I am often attracted to: dark hair, strong jaw, intense eyes and of course, a very handsome face.

Here are my favorite leading men from Taylor Swift’s music videos, in no particular order:


Reeve Carney

Actor, singer and currently the star of Broadway’s Hadestown, Reeve Carney has that signature bad boy look that was simply perfect for the music video I Knew You Were Trouble. 

Carney is currently dating his Hadestown co-star Eva Noblezada.


Vladimir Perrin

Vladimir is a French actor who co-starred with Taylor Swift in the music video for Begin Again. He looked so handsome in that video, so clean and proper and all that. It is hard to reconcile the music video look with his current facial hair covered face. He is still handsome, but I like him better with his clean-cut look in the music video.


Sean O’Pry

Considered one of the top male models of his time, Sean O’Pry is Taylor’s leading man in the video for Blank Space. He became so popular because of this video that he even came here to the Philippines to become an endorser for a local clothing brand.


Justin Gaston

In his younger years, Justin Gaston became Taylor Swift’s on-screen love interest for her video for the song Love Story. This handsome man is apparently also a singer-songwriter and has songs on Spotify.

Today, he is a very handsome husband and father of two ridiculously cute little girls.


Noah Mills

Actor and model Noah Mills was the ex-boyfriend that Taylor swore that she will never get back together with in the video We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.

He recently starred in a couple of TV shows: The Brave and The Enemy Within.


Brandon Routh

Surprise! Former Superman Brandon Routh played Taylor’s lover, the cheating husband who was having an affair with her secretary character for the music video of Sugarland’s Babe. 

I cannot resist adding him to this list, even if they were pair in a video that was not for one of her official music videos. It is still a song she wrote and sang backing vocals for, so I am using that as my excuse!


Scott Eastwood

Out of all the music videos that Taylor has made with onscreen boyfriends, Wildest Dreams would have to be my favorite. While I cannot say that Scott Eastwood is the most handsome of them all (because they are all equally good looking), it is the storyline that this video had that was my favorite. Would be nice if they made it into an actual movie. If Taylor Swift is reading this, I am just going to put that out there in case you want to make that happen.


So far with Folklore, only one video has come out and there is no onscreen love interest for that one. Maybe one day if she decides to have a love interest again in her videos (her latest video didn't have one), I can add another guy to this list!


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Thursday, September 3, 2020

Pandemic Diaries: My Health Dilemma

As I am writing this, there are seven new cases of COVID-positive cases in our area, one of whom has already died. As much as the news says that the previous MECQ was successful in lowering the number of cases in the country and experts are saying that we are nearing the flattening of the curve, it still does not feel that way to me. Without the vaccine, without the proper medication for this virus, I still do not feel safe.

There was a post on Facebook from one of the nearby hospitals about how they cannot accept more patients at this time. Another hospital that is a bit farther off has posted a similar letter online. It is really hard to think that the worst is behind us or that we are nearing some sort lowering of the curve when these are the things that you see and hear about in the area where you live. 

Image by Darko Stojanovic from Pixabay

I am scheduled to have my quarterly check-up with my physician this month. I have been telling my family that I am scared to go to the hospital. The one I am going to is still open, but considering that the other ones nearby are already having difficulties with the number of patients, I think that it would be logical to expect that this one will soon become overwhelmed as well. I have been careful so that I can avoid getting infected, but I am afraid that going to the hospital might expose me to the virus. 

Three months ago, I discussed this with my doctor, and he told me that it was important that I see him at least once every three months to make sure that I am doing well. Given that I am suffering from several chronic diseases, he thinks that it is more important than ever during this pandemic for me to be sure that I am getting the right medication for my condition so that I can stay healthy. I know he has a point, but that still does not alleviate my fears of getting sick from being in a hospital. 

A friend of mine has told me to be calm and not to worry. He gave me a lecture on the statistics of how many of the COVID-positive patients/people infected are asymptomatic or suffer from very mild symptoms. He says it is rare for people to have serious/critical COVID these days, and even rarer to die from it if you base it on the current numbers. I would like to believe that, but I still have anxiety over being the exception to the rule given my health condition. I know I worry too much, but these days if worrying would mean being more careful and being safer, I prefer to be a worrywart. Plus, how accurate are these numbers considering that on more than one occasion the numbers had to be adjusted to correct the entries?

Right now, I am still on the fence about going to my check-up. My mother is as anxious as I am and does not want me to go. She says if I feel fine, it may be safer to just stay at home. My sister, on the other hand, would rather that I be sure that I am healthy now so that I can be safer from the virus while the pandemic is still ongoing. They both have valid reasons for me to help make my decision but I’m still not sure which one is the right one.

If you were in my place, what would you do? Would you go to the hospital for your regular check-up and tests or would you just stay at home?


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