Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How To Afford A Day Off

I'm back from a five-day holiday trip with my girl friends in New York City. It was exhausting from all the walking and biking that we did but I still feel refreshed and recharged now that I'm back to the mommy routine. I never realized how important it is to spend time alone, without the husbands and kids, and just be with your friends and relive the days when you were single and carefree. It's not as if I hated being a mom, but like working in an 8-5 job, being a mom is also a daily grind that you need to take a break from.

I may have made an impression to some for doing something extravagant and luxurious but really, there are ways to travel and enjoy without selling your soul. Even if it is in the most expensive city in the world. I am sharing this so that more mommies will be inspired to go, and recharge. Yes you may feel guilty for going away, and leaving the husband alone with the kids but actually, you are doing them a great favor because when you come back they get a happier mommy and wife. (Plus the fact that the kids get the much needed bonding time with daddy).

AIR FARE - At the time I booked a flight from SFO-NYC it was around $500 for a round trip ticket. Understandably so because SFO is one of the most expensive hub in the world so I booked a flight from Oakland Airport instead to save more than $100 and it's just a 40-minute drive from our house anyway. BUT through our credit card points I paid $0 out of pocket to pay for the ticket. I just used the Citibank Thank You points, I was limited to ride their partner airlines but if you don't have airline preference, you're good to go. This is why we use our credit card for everything we purchase-- to collect points! (my friend Claire, has more tips and tricks which hopefully she finds time to blog and I will share it with you)

HOTEL - The first time I went to New York six years ago, I stayed in a friend's house in New Jersey to save money for hotel stay. At that time, I didn't know any better. You may save money but you don't get to maximize your visit because you are always catching the bus and train going in and out of Manhattan. When you watch a Broadway show, you have to run, ride a cab to catch the PATH going to New Jersey because the last train is at 11:30. This time around I booked a hotel inside Manhattan because there's still much to enjoy in New York at night time. I used my favorite Hotwire, how it works is you choose the number of stars you want your hotel to be, then the area where you want to stay then Hotwire gives you a list of "secret hotels" with their prices. They don't give away the names or the exact location of the hotels but they will tell you the similar hotels (example Holiday Inn, Hilton) so you will get an idea what kind of hotel you are booking, and a map of the area where their "secret hotel" could be in.

It's booking a hotel that you don't know not even the exact location, risky it may sound but that's what makes it cheaper. But I don't plan to stay in the hotel the whole day so I just need the area of its location and a three star hotel for a comfortable stay. We got Shoreham Hotel in 5th Ave and 55th which is a skip and a hop away from the shopping street, Central Park and Times Square. This is why we walked most of the time and we were able to change outfits in a bipolar weather. When we need to go to a restroom from all the food that we eat, we just walked back to our hotel. It's that convenient! And we got this room for $128/night (plus tax). If you're travelling with friends, you can split the bill among each other to make it even cheaper.

Normally Shoreham hotel costs $300+ per night. I tried booking through just to show the price difference.

BROADWAY - Never leave NY without watching a Broadway Show! I've only watched two Broadway musicals in total but the fact that the production scurries the world to find their cast is an assurance that there is no bad show. I've always wanted to watch The Book of Mormons after hearing about it everywhere and it didn't fail. It has won 9 Tony Awards including best Musical making the ticket very expensive so book in advance. Compared it with Dan's google discount, my friend's company discount, searched Google for any sites that offer Broadway deals but in the end, my friend found the cheapest rate at the Book of Mormon website itself. $99 for a mezzanine right seats. That's a great deal because when I tried booking for another one for a friend who decided to come with us, the same ticket already cost $156 two days before the show date. Another tip is, 2 pm show time is cheaper but don't waste a day inside a theater. Day times should be spent outside, in central park or shopping and night times must be reserved for Broadway or Off-Broadway shows, clubbing or lingering in Times Square.

SHOPPING - 5th Street is a street with all the flagship stores of many brands, with girl friends around this is one activity that is never skipped. For mommies, this is the only time you can shop without toddlers threatening to open the fitting room door while you're in your underwear. Since it's a flagship store, there are many hidden sale items inside if you make time to look around and focus. Make use of this alone time to search for good deals. In Uniqlo, we found $2 thermal shirts, scarf, $9 New York artists T-shirts, $19 pants and in Zara there were $29 jacket (original $69), $22 dress, $9 shirts and cardigans and many more.

Largest Uniqlo Store I've ever seen!

EXTRA STAY - I traveled 4,000 km from San Francisco to New York, west to east coast so I thought of maximizing the chance and stay for one more day (plus the flight back to Oakland is cheaper on Tuesday). I was supposed to stay in my friend's apartment in Union Square for an unlimited bonding time but something came up that we had to stay in a hotel instead. Good thing, I found a good deal for a last minute hotel booking, and it's on cases like this that you have to use Hotel Tonight. It's an app that offers "for tonight only" deals, hence the name Hotel Tonight. We stayed at a super cute Wyndham Garden Hotel in West Chelsea, it's also along 5th Street for only $130/night all in.

Again, compared to this hotel is $296 per night.

So there. Finding good deals may need a little more work but it's all worth it. This day off wasn't totally FREE, we still had to spend some money to make it possible but this is why we live a simple lifestyle, we don't own a million dollar home, I cook EVERY-SINGLE-DAY instead of eating out, homeschools our preschool, we rent out our cars, etc.. all to save and being able to afford what really matters in life, to be happy. Happiness isn't 100% free but it's an option that you can always choose. *wink*

Saturday, December 19, 2015

SF to Orland Road Trip : All Packed Up

Spacious trunk
Husband and I have always wanted to drive across the US, from west to east coast because we can never do it with our Prius and Nissan EV Leaf, we thought we'll just wait for our retirement and by that time, we can buy an RV to do that grand road trip we've always wanted to do.

But after we got our Tesla, and driven it through Oregon, Napa and the latest, survived a snow storm going up to Lake Tahoe with flying colors, we thought it's ready for it. After all its Supercharger Network has been set up across the country.

San Francisco to Orlando Florida, a distance of 2889 mi (4650 km), according to Google Maps will take us 42 hr to drive. Traversing different climates from mild cold, to cold, snow and tropical. Come join us as we take our 2013 model 85S Tesla for a long ride.

front trunk

SF to Orlando Roadtrip: Kids Entertainment

Whenever we tell our friends that we're going on a 7 day cross country road trip with our 3 yr old and 6 yr old kids, we get this reaction that we're out of our minds. Toddlers have zero patience and they get bored in a blink of an eye, so how do we manage them strapped in their car seats for hours with our sanity still in tact at the end of the trip. Or are we even going to make it?

I take it as an opportunity for me to make them productive because I would be in control of their activities because they won't have any choice but to do the activities I packed and there will be no TV or tablets to distract them. While husband prepares everything needed for our Tesla like software updates, buy portable compressors, snow chain, etc., I on the other hand was busy putting magnets on their puzzles and flash cards.

I made use of the magnetic sheet I bought from Daiso (japanese dollar store) months ago, cut small pieces and stick it on the back of their puzzles, memory game and flash cards so they won't drop them while they play on their baking sheet from The Dollar Store. 

We also bought this Rubbermaid Seat Organizer from Walmart for $11 which I filled in with crayons, snacks, water, hand wipes and legos placed in between their car seats for easy access.

Husband also downloaded vidoes on their tablets through Amazon and Youtube Red so they can watch their favorite shows while offline. But our rule is they can only use their tablets when it's dark because that's the time they can't do their baking sheet activities and so they won't ran out of videos to watch.

Kids' boredom is inevitable but with a little effort and organization, surely it can't stop us parents to go on an adventure.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

My Other Kind of Christmas List

It's the time of the year again! when our house looks like Santa's workshop with all the wrappers, gifts and cards scattered in every corner. When you look around Target that overflows with toys there's no denying that the season of happy, excited kids has come. While it's all about them, I get more excited shopping for my mommy friends because I know that this is when they are busy rushing from store to store to complete the family's list that they tend to forget their own wishlist (other than an organic, safe sleeping pills for kids to make them sound asleep on their strollers while they shop). For me, this is also the time when I get to share with my girl friends my great finds over the year, it's like they are unknowingly subscribed to my annual kikay box. But alas! while going over my great finds, there are some that couldn't make the cut because I'm still waiting for our pet goose to lay the golden egg. So I'm sharing them here in my blog instead, just in case you're a real donya and still thinking of what to give to your bffs.

Angelina Jolie with Cuyana Carry-All tote

Cuyana Tote Bag - The softest and lightest leather bag ever, it's like you're just bringing a plastic bag. When I learned about this bag, I felt really bad with how much I paid for an LV Neverfull that's not even pure leather. It's not a popular, pa "sosyal" brand which is the I reason why I would've wanted to give one to my friends so they will also learn how real quality feels like. Like Angelina Jolie, this bag is no nonsense.
Daniel Wellington Watch - A leather watch to pair the leather tote to complete the preppy look. It just looks clean and simple, with the diamonds giving a hint of girlie.

Burberry Lip and Cheek Bloom - A lip and cheek tint in a pretty pot, who would not want that? It glides on the lips and cheek so smoothly. But for $30 it's kinda pricey to give to all your friends but if you have a bff who collects, and uses up her tints, this is perfect for her. *I just got a mail from Sephora that I just earned $15 from my points and I'm planning to spend it on this*

photo from

Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf - The lady staff in Lululemon convinced me to get the one remaining Vinyasa Scarf during their Black Friday sale because according to her, I can wear it in million ways. Indeed after watching the youtube video on how to use it and tried it on me, plus the soft fabric, I'm in love. And I'm lining up again next year in their Black Friday sale for this scarf.

Lululemon Define Jacket - It's kinda pricey but there's no other jacket I know that define your curves in the right way, I mean really, I don't know how they designed it but it hides your flabs but at the same time shows off your curves. It is snug but not too tight, just enough to keep you warm. Husband loves it on me that he wants me to go back to Lululemon and get more. 

Uniqlo Ultra Stretch Jeans - If only this jeans comes with a pair of long, lean legs I would not hesitate to splurge and give each of my friend this what I call the magic jeans. Uniqlo make the best denim pants hands down, this particular design is so sexy. It's not jeggings, it is denim but it stretches with your movement but it doesn't feel tight at all. If you have a contortionist friend, this is the one for her.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Reading Madeline

Most of you must have gotten the "send one book, get 36 back" invitation in your Facebook Timeline, while I still believe that books are still the best way to nurture the kids' imagination, and sending one book to a kid is always, always a good idea no matter which way or scheme you're giving it to them, I personally just dread the idea of receiving 36 books! I know that mathematically speaking receiving 36 books is not a guarantee but as of the moment the house can't contain any more books. So I'm not ignoring my friends tagging me it's just that I have this #bayareaproblem and I'm one of the San Francisco residents who lives in a shoe.

our small book case, more inside the cabinet, inside
the kids' ottoman and in the garage

I used to buy books for the kids, from Barnes and Noble, Library book sale and garage sales until I realized I don't live in a typical american 1 acre house. But I didn't give up books completely, instead I made use of the public library. Before, I'd bring the kids there and let them choose books to take home but when dinosaurs are coming out of my ears already, I thought it's high time that I put variety on the topics I read to them. 

That's how I learned to use our online library system, where I start by going to Barnes and Noble, take note of the latest or recommended children's books, OR getting book tips from mommy blogs then search the book title thru the online card catalog and place a hold on the book. Then after a few days the library will just send me an email when he book is ready for pick up. All for FREE and no need to make space on our already crowded bookshelf. 

Which brings me to my main purpose of writing this blog: to recommend the book Madeline. If you're one of the moms who is searching for the next good book for your kid. I found this through I Can Teach My Child blog who also wrote about activities you can do after reading. It's not only a nice children's story but I also enjoyed reminiscing my time in Paris because the book showed many popular spots in the unforgettable city. Plus it's written in such a way that you can discuss many topics like Parts of the Body, Math (e.g. counting the 12 girls in two lines, 6 girls per line, 12 minus one when Madeline was in hospital) and even French geography and culture (e.g. they eat bread not rice)

Here's how my little one enjoyed the book and the activities after reading it.

color Madeline and point the different parts of her body

Create Duplo Eiffel Tower


put your hands on both your ears,
and hop along the straight line

where is Paris?

"travelling" from San Francisco to Paris

References for the activities:

Monday, October 26, 2015

Beauty Splurge

Sephora Haul
It's been a while since I last visited Sephora because every time I bring the kids to the mall, I end up getting stuck at the toy's section and dash along the grocery aisle before heading back home. I really think Sephora should just open a stall on the same area as the Toy department for mommies like me!

It's been a while since I bought beauty stuff, the skincare products and makeups I've been using are still the stuff I bought from Seoul and sent to me by friends in Japan. When I was given a good reason to shop at Sephora, I grabbed the chance to buy my longtime wishlist: Clarisonic Mia, SK-II, Origins Intensive Overnight Mask and Benefit How To Look The Best At Everything.

I must say, this is the best beauty haul I've had! None of them will go to my beauty graveyard.

  1. Clarisonic Mia - My pretty hair stylist/colorist told me a year ago that if I have to invest on only one thing on skincare, she strongly recommend the Clarisonic Mia. She swore it made a big difference on her skin. I've only used it 4 times but I already saw great improvement on my skin. It's smoother and clearer now, the small bumps and blackheads are getting less, my acne scars are becoming less visible too. I own a spa in Davao and I have the Ultrasonic facial machine that helped clear my acne-prone skin through sonic frequency the same way Clarisonic is working on our skin. The cheapest is $99 but with how it's working on my skin I don't think I will still need to spend $68/month on facials anymore. *to avoid over exfoliation, it's not recommended to pair this with other exfoliation system like Retinol, Glycolic peel cream, etc..

  2. SK-II Facial Essence Set - It includes the Facial Essence Toner, Lotion and a facial mask. Well I don't need further explanation here, SK-II is SK-II. It's said that your moisturizer works better after you use the Clarisonic Mia and so I paired it with the best Japanese skincare. For mommies, I recommend you keep the bottle away from the kids, I tuck mine inside the bathroom cabinet after every use to secure the glass bottles and my heart from being broken! Que horror! 

  3. Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask - I really didn't know about it until I googled for "overnight mask" and it came up with good reviews. I don't have time to do the facial mask process regularly (mask-wait-rinse) so I thought I needed something that can work while I sleep. The lovely fruity smell is a good bonus while you apply it but the best part is you wake up with that dewy, fresh look in the morning! No need to rinse it because it doesn't harden, it's like your skin just drink the moisture while you sleep! 
    Origins Drink Up Overnight Mask
  4. Benefit How To Look The Best At Everything - YouTube beauty gurus rave about Benefit's the Pore fessional pore minimizer and I wanted to buy Benefit Hello Flawless Brightening Makeup too. Both are kinda pricey so I had to decide between the two fortunately, I stumbled upon this Sephora exclusive set. It has the sample size of both the Porefessional and Hello Flawless, with two shades of concealer and powder. I've tried many pore minimizers before but nothing worked for my large pores but this one from Benefit is an exception! True to its promise, my skin looked poreless (well I can't say flawless because nothing can be done with my acne scar pits anymore, but if you don't have deep scars like mine, it will surely make your skin look FLAWLESS!), I'm so glad I tried this one. I'm sure it would work better with a good foundation or concealer brush or the Beauty Blender but this is just how far my beauty budget could go. If you have extra moolah I highly recommend this set with the Beauty Blender! 

    Benefit Cosmetic: How To Look Best At Everything
I know I splurged this time but when I look at my beauty graveyard (that magic bin where you keep all your unused beauty products), I realized I was just wasting money on buying cheaper versions of what I really wanted. The key is to buy less frequently, and save up for the exact item you want. Make sure also that it's something you're going to use. In reality, I don't get to wear makeup at all, so even if it's tempting I just stay away from buying more eye shadows, blush-ons, and more face powder. As a result, I get more buck for the big purchases such as this and I'm happy.

Note: this is not a paid review.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

FMBM: What To Do With Squash

It's Halloween once again and there are Pumpkins all over the place. Since this veggie is in season, you get plus healthy points in cooking them for the family. Last weekend I found a sliced Butternut Squash in the grocery that looked so pretty and yellow, it's like enticing me saying "take me, i'm seriously healthy!", my sons have been eating Broccoli all week long and I thought this will be a good alternative. 

Now what to do with it?

Two years ago my friends and I had dinner at White House Fusion Cuisine restaurant in Davao City but until now I can still remember how I loved their Pumpkin(or was that Squash?) soup with Nori. I was surprised then how Pumpkin and Nori tasted so well together, the chef is genius! 

I haven't tried replicating it until now for my son's lunch, he is still complaining a toothache and a lose front tooth that's why I had to prepare soft food.

Butternut Squash Soup

You can prepare this ahead of time, like slice, boil and mash the Squash the night before to make that five minute mark we're gunning for in the morning.

In the morning, saute diced onions, and chopped bacon, add in the mashed Squash and pour about a cup and a half of chicken broth or plain water. Let it boil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

When it's done add the shredded Nori in the Squash Soup.

Mix with rice and for the best option, put in an insulated food jar to keep it warm until lunch time.

Little boy had it for breakfast too.

Squash Sandwich

This morning I only had spaghetti(with instant spaghetti sauce in a bottle) for my son's bento and I needed to incorporate a fruit or veggie for his snack to get something healthier for the day. I decided to use the remaining Butternut Squash sitting in the fridge. I know Squash is an unusual player in the sandwich department but I tried this with Sweet Potato and it was a hit, so I thought Squash won't fail me. It shouldn't because I only had 20 minutes for this experiment.

Again this will be faster if you boil and mash it the night before. But since I just thought of it this morning, I had to do everything while boiling the spaghetti pasta. 

Slice, boil and mash Butternut Squash.

Add a little bit (1/2 tsp) of Mayonnaise, a lot of grated cheese, season with a bit of salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped Green Onions for the slight crunch.

I know it's not exactly healthy with the cheese and the Mayo but when it's for the kids, taste is a major concern especially if you're guilty of sneaking in veggies to their snacks.

You can keep the leftover Squash Spread in a tight bottle to serve the next day! Just add more Green Onions. (I'm not sure how long it will keep but to be sure, use it the next day).

Little boy gets to eat it for breakfast too. There was resistance at first, maybe because it's new for him but he finished it all. So I guess the experiment was a success!