Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mommy Tools - Clothing Labels

Alyannah has a tendency to forget things. At the age of five. Can you believe it?!? She would often ask me where her toy/book/pencil/ruler/notebook is and I would always tell her that she should know where it is because she's the one using it. One time, when I picked her up from summer school, I noticed that her water bottle was missing so I asked her where she placed it. She just gave me a blank stare. Good thing her teacher was within earshot so she told me where Yan could have left it.
When they had a field trip to the IMAX theater to watch Kung Fu Panda, they were required to bring a jacket in case they feel cold. Knowing how forgetful my little girl is, I gave her specific instructions not to take off her jacket because I'm sure that she will forget about it especially when she starts playing. According to the teacher, Yan did keep her jacket on even while playing even when she was starting to sweat. The teacher told Yan to remove her jacket but she refused. Masunuring bata.
That's why I should label all her things so that in case it gets lost, especially in school, it can be returned to her. My original plan was to order iron-on labels for Alyannah's school uniforms online, but I found them too expensive (USD23 for a set of 50 + shipping costs). I also saw cheaper rates, but they do not ship internationally. Writing her name on the uniform was never an option because 1) I find it too tacky, 2) I can't bring myself to write on clothes with a permanent marker, and 3) it's too damn tacky! So what's a mom like me got to do?

Make the labels myself.
Materials: ribbon (I chose pink of course), thread and needle.
First, you write the name on the ribon using a pencil, then follow the pattern with the thread and needle.
Ginawa ko na lang Aly kasi kung Alyannah ang tatahiin ko, baka abutin ako ng pasko.
Here's how the labels look like after sewing them on the uniforms.
Side kwento: I remember when my mom told me the story behind my nickname. A lot of people used to ask me kasi why my nickname starts with a "K", when my real name starts with a "C". According to my mom, my original nickname was spelled "Chrisanne" -- it's a combination of my first two names (Christine Anne). Nung bata pa kasi ako at hindi pa uso ang computer, my mom had to make labels using a sticker and a pen. I can't remember exactly what those labels were for, basta I remember my mom getting tamad from writing so she shortened it. Thus, Chrisanne became Krisan.
Parang history repeated itself when I shortened Alyannah's name to Aly when I was making the labels. Iba na talaga pag tinatamad -- you learn to innovate. Hehe!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Girl Talk

This one is for the ladies.
Let's talk about women's health, shall we?
If you read the Credit Card Scam entry, then you must be wondering what we were doing in the hospital last Saturday. I've been seeing an OB-GYN regularly for the past couple of weeks for two things: 1) because we're trying to have a baby, and 2) because of my ASCUS pap smear result
ASCUS stands for Atypical Squamous Cells of Undetermined Significance. It's the most common type of abnormal pap smear. My doctor said that it's not cancer, but I need to undergo a series of tests to determine if the abnormal cells are caused by HPV (Human Papillomavirus), which can potentially cause cervical cancer.
When we found out about the ASCUS pap smear result, the doctor gave me three options: 1) have another pap smear after four months to see if the test will yield the same result; 2) submit the remaining tissue from my previous pap smear for HPV DNA testing and see the results in two weeks; 3) undergo a procedure called colposcopy on that same day. With option 3, we can determine right away if the abnormal cells were indeed caused by HPV.
Now, my choice would depend on my level of anxiety. Can I keep it cool and wait for another four months? Or do I want to see the results right away so I can save myself from worrying? Since the OB-GYN told me that ASCUS is not exactly life threatening, I went for option 2.
After two weeks, we went back to BNH hospital. The result: positive for HPV. So our next step was to undergo colposcopy. It's a 20-minute procedure where she will use a camera to look for abnormal areas in my cervix. If she finds any abnormal areas, she will take tissue samples for biopsy. The procedure will have to wait for another week because I had my period that day.
So last Saturday, I had my colposcopy. I'm not going to describe the procedure here, but if you want to know more about it, just google it. All I can say is, it wasn't painful, but it was very, very uncomfortable. Sorta kinda like having mild dysmenorrhea. My OB-GYN found some abnormal areas which are viral in nature. Nothing serious and nothing to worry about. It should go away by itself, but I should get regular pap smears every six months.
I will be seeing her again this coming Saturday for the biopsy results.
When I told my sister Angel about this, she was alarmed because she just attended a seminar about women's health and the picture that they painted was not a pretty one. Turns out, the whole ASCUS scenario back home is more serious because some of them were not caught early on. Like I mentioned before, HPV can potentially lead to cervical cancer. Luckily, this type of cancer progresses gradually therefore it's preventable and treatable if caught in its early stages.
I would really recommend -- no, I strongly encourage my gal pals out there to visit your gynecologist regularly. I've already told my bestfriends Pat, Ria and Fides to see one. A pap smear may not be the most comfortable thing in the world, but what's a couple minutes of discomfort when your entire life depends on it?
In my case, I'm glad we were able to detect it right away so my mom and my sister can stop worrying. Oh, and yes, I still have many more years of shopping bliss to come :) it's Richard's turn to worry.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Credit Card Scams

Richard wants me to post this to serve as a warning to family and friends back home. I've read about these credit card scams before but I never imagined that this would happen to us. Here's the story:
Last Saturday afternoon when we were at Central Department Store, Richard's Mastercard was declined. It was weird because he just used the same card 30 minutes ago to pay for doctor's fees at BNH hospital. Although this has never happened to us before, we dismissed it as a phone line problem and forgot about it. Then, when he arrived in Manila the next day, he tried to use his card again when he checked-in at the hotel. Again, it was declined. Teka...hindi na yata tama to. His card was declined twice in a row in two different countries. Syempre nagtaka na sya. He didn't panic, though. He just payed in cash (good thing he had cash with him!) and decided to just call the credit card company the next day.
Well, his card was indeed cancelled because someone from Australia used it to purchase THB200,000 worth of items from God knows where. Mga walanghiya! The credit card people thought it was suspicious because it was a very big amount. Then their suspicions were confirmed when our BNH Hospital bill came. Turns out, the transaction from Australia and our Bangkok transaction happened on the same day. Imposible naman yata yun. At that moment, they cancelled Richard's card. Kaya pala hindi na namin sya magamit 30 minutes later. I shouldn't be thankful for being in the hospital last Saturday, but I guess if it weren't for that, we wouldn't know that Richard's credit card info has been stolen! Good thing too that he's in Manila now so that he can get his replacement card right away. Hay...everything happens for a reason talaga.
The card company said that the thieves must have gotten his information or card number thru wire tapping. Richard tried to recall how it happened and narrowed it down to the time when he had dinner with his officemates.
So to our dear family and friends back home -- and to those who are living in other countries as well, we don't want the same thing to happen to you so please be careful when you use your credit card! Remember, it's better to be safe than sorry! Let me end this post with a few tips that I found on

Credit Card Scam in Malls Bared; 9-ways to Protect Yourself

1) If you must apply for a credit card, do it personally at the bank or on the bank’s website.

2) We Filipinos often give out personal information carelessly, like when we fill up raffle forms, etc. Do not give out personal information such as date of birth, your mother’s maiden name, your SSS number, your TIN, etc. unless you absolutely have to. Keep in mind that often, when you call up your bank, all they need to verify that it’s really you is any two of these bits of information.

3) Do not just throw away your old credit-card receipts and bank or financial records. Burn them if you can or soak them wet, but don’t just throw them in the trash. A bit paranoid, you might think, but we’re talking about your money in the bank.

4) Check your statement of account regularly. If a purchase is listed there that you did not make, verify with the bank immediately.

5) If someone calls you asking information about your account, do not give it out immediately. Verify whether the caller is indeed from the bank. Ask him to give you a number that you can call and the name of his supervisor. Then call that number. This may be cumbersome but, since we’re talking about your life savings, it should be worth the trouble. If he can’t, tell him that you’d just go to a branch to give the information he wanted.

6) Avoid using your credit card in places (restaurants, etc.) where you cannot see the cashier who is processing your card or the waiter that just took your card. There have been reports of establishments swiping your card on gadgets to steal the card’s data.

7) If you buy stuff online regularly, try to have a separate card for such purchases, one that has a lower credit limit. Or use a debit-card (such as Unionbank’s Eon) with a limited amount in it. Or use PayPal.

8) Never transact on a website whose URL does not have the https prefix. The “S” stands for secured.

9) Banks and financial institutions do not, as a rule, solicit personal information via email. If you received an email that asks you to update your account by logging on to a website, it’s a phishing email and you should never, under any circumstances, click it or log on to the website. Delete the email immediately.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Valdez Family Goes Green

We've been hearing a lot lately about global warming, saving the planet, etc., and I am proud to say that the Valdez Family is going green. We are doing our part to help save Mother Earth in our own little way.

Starting with...saying no to plastic. I've been using these reusable shopping bags back when we were still in Manila.

Rustan's Reusable Shopping Bag

I realized that one bag is not enough for my purchases here. I considered buying Baggus and Envirosax online, but I found them too expensive (Rustan's bag costs less than a hundred) so I asked my bestfriend Pat to send me some when my mom came over to visit. So now, I never leave home without them, especially when we're going shopping.

These bags are pretty sturdy, and a lot of items can fit inside -- more than the items shown here.

I use these bags even when we're at the department store. Sure, paper bags are biodegradable, but they are slowly starting to pile up in our stockroom so they just might eventually end up in the trash. Plus, I prefer to carry my purchases on my shoulder because I need to keep my hands free so I can hold my daughter's hand while we're walking. The only downside is, while most supermarkets here discourage the use of plastic, they still have to train their staff on how to properly load the groceries inside the reusable bags. They just throw everything inside so the items get all messed up. Tsk...tsk...

Also, we stopped buying bottled water from the supermarket. We used to consume 18 1.5ml bottles of water in a week so you can just imagine how much plastic goes to our trash. Fortunately, we came across this guy who delivers those five-gallon water bottles to our building so we asked him to send us a brochure and we immediately signed up for a Sprinkle Drinking Water membership.
They have an ongoing promo where new members receive an electric water pump. Cool!
The water pump makes it easy to fill our glass pitchers which we keep inside the ref so we can drink cold water anytime.
New members receive this kit from Sprinkle. It includes a member's manual, two issues of Sprinkle newsletter, a couple of stickers and a booklet of coupons.
Here are the coupons.
Each coupon is good for one five-gallon bottle. It costs THB60 + 7% VAT. More expensive compared to Manila rates, but cheaper than the bottled water in supermarkets where a 1.5ml bottle costs THB10-15. Members use these to pay for their water. You can pay for them online, thru the bank or using your atm. They will send you one booklet (24 coupons). They deliver once a week and in case you won't be home on delivery day, you can just leave your empty bottle along with a coupon outside your apartment.
It's cool to be green!

Our Big Girl Baby

I was looking through our blog to check for typos when I noticed the pink dress that Yan is wearing in one of the photos in The Life of a Toyota Wife entry. It's the same dress that she's wearing in one of our framed family photos which was taken more than a year ago.

Notice the amount of exposed leg in both pictures? Boy, the milk that she drinks three times a day sure is working!

My New Housewife Gadget

I'm not a techie so I don't get turned on by the latest gadgets. All those MB's, Gigs, and so and so's mean nothing to me. I would love to add more techie terms, but this is all I can think of. Haha! My husband bought me this laptop only because we needed one so we can stay in touch with our relatives back home. I have a phone, but it's low tech. I just bought it so I can call or text my husband when I need to meet him somewhere.

If there's something that I can truly lust for to the point that I will lose sleep just thinking about it, it's kitchen gadgets. Oh my, just thinking about the KitchenAid Artisan Mixer is making my heart beat faster. Corning Ware at 30% off?!! I'll be there at the snap of a finger. for houseware is indeed my new addiction.

So what's my latest acquisition? A brand-new Tefal Food Steamer. Why a steamer? Here's why:

It's no secret that I'm a neat freak, just like Monica Gellar of Friends. It drives my husband nuts at times but hey, as a stay-at-home mom, I think it would be a shame if the house is not spic and span!

One of the things that I hate is a dirty, smelly kitchen. Ugh! Hate, hate, hate it! Just one whiff of that malansa smell totally ruins my day. That's why I rarely cook fried fish because I don't want the kitchen to have that fishy smell. Our apartment has poor ventilation. The last time we cooked fried fish in the kitchen, the stench did not go away until the next day even after soaping and scrubbing the stove area. So I have to be creative because I don't want my poor husband and daughter to eat chicken, pork, beef and shrimp all the time. We need to eat fish. They love fish!

I searched the internet for new ideas and I discovered Pinoy Cook. It's a blog by Connie Veneracion that features recipes that she cooked for her family, her own restaurant observations, and just about anything about Filipino food. She had a couple of steamed fish recipes which I really wanted to try. So I bought the ingredients and the steamer on the same week. Yeah, I was that excited.

For my steamer's debut, I tried the Steamed Tilapia recipe.
Here's our new steamer at work.
Steamed Tilapia with ginger and garlic. Sarap!
Richard and Yan loved the tilapia. I love that our kitchen had no malansa smell after I cooked it. In fact, it smelled really good! The aroma of ginger and sesame seed oil filled the entire kitchen and to me, it's the smell of culinary success. Now I can include fish in our weekly diet without having to deal with icky oil splatters and the dreaded fishy smell.
I also use the steamer for cooking rice and it's a lot better than using the rice cooker. The rice is more fluffy and there's no tutong so nothing is wasted. Neat! Richard and I are trying to lose weight so we don't eat rice in the evening. We only cook one cup for Alyannah and since our rice cooker does not have telfon lining, most of it sticks to the bottom and you can no longer eat it.
I love my new kitchen gadget! If you have a fantastic recipe that requires steaming, please feel free to share them with me :)

Catching Up With An Old Friend

Last Friday we met with Mike Bayot, an ex-Highlands colleague and husband of my good friend Janet. He used to be the MIS Manager of Tagaytay Highlands and now he's with The Four Seasons at Maldives. He's in town for a weeklong IT convention at The Four Seasons Bangkok. We took him to MBK for pasalubong shopping, trying our best to complete the list that Janet sent to me via email, then we capped the night off with dinner and chit chat.

It was a short meeting, but we enjoyed sir Mike's company very much. He had a lot of stories to share and the best part is, he gave us a couple of budget-saving tips on how to use the internet (wink, wink).

Sir Mike, we hope you enjoyed your stay! Let's do this again with your family. You are welcome to stay with us anytime :) Right, Alyannah?
You betcha!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Life of a Toyota Wife

Richard flew to Manila yesterday for a weeklong business trip. So Yan and I will be home alone for the next couple of days. Bummer. This is going to be one very long week for me.

You know, I should be getting used to my husband's business trips by now. He's been going in and out of the country for as long as I can remember. But I guess the fact that we are thousands of miles away from home with no family and friends makes being left behind more difficult for me.

When Richard went home last Monday to tell me that his trip has been confirmed, I was stunned. It felt like a ton of bricks fell from the ceiling and landed on top of me. That's how bad I felt and my husband probably felt really sorry for me so he told me that Yan and I can come with him. I should be thrilled, but the thing is, this trip's confirmation was so last minute that we didn't have any room for it in our budget. After making a mental computation of the expenses that our trip will incur, I decided to stay at home instead. Besides, my friends will be arriving in a couple of days so it shouldn't be so bad.

Still, I feel bad. Before leaving the house yesterday, I gave Richard a big hug and asked him not to go (it's a long shot, but what the heck?) and he told me, "I'll be back before you know it. You should just go shopping para malibang kayo". That's sweet, but suddenly the thought of going shopping even with my husband's blessing does not excite me. I'm going to miss him a lot. I already do.

You see, the best part of my day is sometime between 6:30 and 7:30 in the evening. That's the time when Richard comes home from work. When he goes through the front door, he lights up the entire house with his big smile and enthusiasm. From that moment on, he will talk non-stop about anything and everything that happened to him during the day. Talking is his stress relief. Now that he's out of the country, the house will be a little more quiet save for Alyannah's occasional babble.

Sigh...I guess Richard's business trips is one part of being a Toyota wife that falls under the "I hate but there's nothing I can do about it" category. It's similar to gaining weight: you hate when it happens but there's really nothing you can do about it, except drown your misery in a bowl of vanilla ice cream with butterscotch and whipped cream.

Oh well, I hope "before you know it" happens soon...
We miss you, sweetie! Take care always! We love you!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Kodak Moment

While Richard and I were busy doing household chores the other night, this is what our little girl was doing...
...she was trying to read her dad's Time magazine! She looked so cute, I just had to take a picture but I hid behind the couch so that she won't see me.
Definitely a Kodak moment.

Balcony Party

Last Friday, 18 July, was Buddhist Lent Day in Thailand. No work for Richard today, but we just stayed at home. As my mom would say, "himala at hindi yata kayo nagpunta sa mall". So to commemorate this miraculous event, we had a mini party in our balcony.
We had...
...ham, egg and tomato sandwiches...
...cheesy fries...
a juice and fruit jelly.
Can't wait to get her hands on the cheesy fries!
I love preparing meals for Richard and Yan. I love it more when they get super excited, kahit minsan paulit-ulit ang ulam namin. Hehe! That's why I'm inspired to come up with different gimmicks to make our ordinary meals more fun and extra special for them.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Loving the Weekend Market

We've been spending several Saturdays at the weekend market lately and I must say it's starting to grow on me. I used to hate going to Chatuchak because it's hot as hell, the toilets are dreadful and it's always cramped with so many people making "rubbing elbows" a very unpleasant experience because you are most likely to rub into someone's sweaty and sticky elbow. Sure there are lots of stuff that you can find there, if you know were to go. Looking for a good buy is like digging for the Yamashita Treasure because Chatuchak is huge and hard to navigate especially if it's your first time. So the trick is, if you see something that you really like, buy it right away but don't forget to haggle like there's no tomorrow. Don't even think about looking for another store that sells it for a lower price because chances are, you might not find the first store if you want to go back. This happened to me several times so I would end up going home tired, frustrated and without any purchases.

Well, I've learned my lesson and that's why I'm beginning to love Chatuchak. Here are some of the stuff that I have accumulated from my weekend market trips.

Green Ikea coffee mugs for only THB15 each.

Tray, THB150; roses in small pots, THB90 each; candles, two for THB100.

Whimsical candles, three for THB100. Notice the pink and violet theme? It's for Alyannah's bathroom.

Coffee-scented floating candles (great for eliminating kitchen odors!), three for THB100; glass container, THB10 each.

Oil burner, THB80; candles, THB90 + 45.

Wine glass, THB50 each.

Dansk serving bowls (same color as Ikea mug), THB15 each.

And for our latest discovery, the book ukay-ukay!

For Richard - current issues of Newseek, Forbes, Time, Fortune Magazine + two hardbound books, all for THB200.

For me - back issues of InStyle and Vogue Magazine, all for only THB160. I even spotted current issues of Vogue for only THB150 but that will be for our next visit.

Laundry hamper for Alyannah's bathroom, THB280.

Decorative wicker balls, THB20 each.

I simply can't get enough of the inexpensive home decor at Chatuchak! Richard loves the books that he found that are good-as-new at rock-bottom prices! We will definitely be coming back to the weekend market for more fabulous finds and cheap thrills.

Home Improvement

Meet our latest family project -- our new and improved balcony!
Richard and I had always wanted a place where we can sit and talk while having coffee. We agreed that our dreamhouse must have a veranda complete with lounge chairs, comfy cushions and other stuff to complete that relaxing vibe. Since our dreamhouse will take a couple of years to build -- more like a couple of years to START to build, we had to make do with the small balcony in our apartment.
Living in a serviced apartment has its pros and cons. It's nice to have housekeeping staff who cleans your room six times a week, you get fresh towels everyday, they empty the trash for you, they have excellent security and everything is just a phone call away. When you don't feel like cooking, you can order room service. When you need to buy something but you don't want to go out, the convenience store on the fourth floor can deliver the items to your unit! With this kind of service, I sometimes find it hard to leave our apartment -- except when there's a big sale in the malls! Needless to say, Yan and I do not get much fresh air. Bangkok is not actually pollution-free but I guess it's better than aircon-recyled air! With this kind of service, you can stay holed up in your apartment for days and that is the downside.
You see, living in a building gives you very limited outdoor space. It's a far cry from our humble barangay in Tagaytay where there are trees everywhere, the weather is perfect, and the view is stunning (if you're in Starbucks that is)! Sure you get a nice view when you look out the window. You see other windows and balconies too! If you want to see trees or a view of the pool, you have to look down. Not a good idea if you have fear of heights. There are times when the view can be awful like this one time I saw a half naked lola hanging up her laundry on her balcony. She only had a skirt on so her boobs were literally hanging loose! Exposed to the entire neighborhood! Yikes! I almost sprayed my morning coffee on our curtains.
So how do you address the problem of staying in your apartment and getting a feel of the outdoors at the same time? You furnish your balcony! And that's exactly what we did. We spent months looking for the perfect garden set, and once we found the one that we were looking for, we spent a couple more weeks to complete decorating it.

Here's our balcony before; bare and boring.

Now here's our balcony with the garden set. Still a bit bare, but it's starting to look interesting. I wanted to buy teakwood chairs, but they're more expensive. One chair costs as much as this entire set! Plus, I thought that with plastic, it's ok if the furniture gets wet in case it rains!

To give our balcony a total garden feel, it needs foliage. So we headed to the weekend market (more about that on the next post!) to buy some plants.

My little girl was very happy to see so many flowers in one place! Halatang sabik sa outdoors. Haha!

This shot was taken by Richard. Ahluvit!
So many plants and flowers to choose from!
I don't have a green thumb so I had to ask my mom for advice on what kind of plant will be perfect for our balcony. She told me that it has to be a plant that you can put under the sun (apparently, there are plants that need to be placed under the shade or else they will wilt). So armed with this single piece of information that I have, the first thing that I asked the seller was: "ok to put under the sun?" (sometimes you need to speak barok english so they can understand you because not all Thais can speak or understand english) She said yes, so my follow-up question was, "water plant everyday?". The manang laughed at me. Of course I have to water everyday! At that point, she seemed to have second thoughts about selling me any plants because she probably thought I won't water them at all! Haha! But we were able to buy a couple of plants.
Alyannah helping mom with the plants. Excited talaga sya!
I wanted to have a yellow and orange theme for our balcony so I bought plants of the same color.
The plants came with a free black pot, but I'm so OC so I bought white pots to make them look clean and to match the existing furniture.
This is Alyannah's self-appointed spot in the balcony. You can't make her sit anywhere else but here.
This is our balcony with flowers. It may not seem much now, but we will be adding more plants soon to make it look more like a mini garden. Let's just hope that the plants will survive its first week. Haha!