Easter Sale!

There is an ongoing sale (and a BIG sale at that) at my site partners’ online stores, and I am so tempted to buy, buy, buy even if I don’t have an immediate need for them because, alam nyo na, sayang ang sale hehe!

But I think these purchases can be justified as ‘investments’, particularly for my “travel essentials”.  You see, AJ and I are seriously thinking of traveling to Japan next year when (hopefully) the visa-free entry policy has taken effect.  Oh, I’d love to see the cherry blossoms and visit Sanrio Puroland!

Here are the sulit items I’ve picked for my wishlist, all of which are discounted at almost half their original prices:

easter_sale1.  Naturalizer’s Delancy Handbag (from $89.00 to $39.99).  What I liked about this bag is that it has lots of zipper pockets.  You will see 2 outside and 1 inside, perfect for keeping those travel documents and money safe.  The magnetic strap closure makes it easy to reach for your things inside.   It’s very roomy and can fit my camera perfectly.  You have the option of carrying it as a shoulder bag (with a 7-inch drop) or as sling / cross-body bag.

2.  Karen Millen Stacked Heeled Ankle Boots (from $360.00 to $250.00).  This elegant leather boot features a slim mid heel that makes it okay for walking.  It can also double as court shoes  when worn with long, straight-cut slacks for those wine dates in the evening.

3.  Lacoste Short Sleeve Jacquard Multi-Color Sweater (from $160.00 to $79.00).   I picked this because I love the colors (so alive and happy!) and because it looks so comfortable to wear.  Made of 100% cotton, it’s gonna be easy to pack (no ironing needed) and can be worn not just as sweater but as top for that modern, preppy look.

4.  Bric’s 22-inches Ultra Light Cargo Duffel (from $200.00 to just $99.00, a steal!).   I’ve just purchased the Cath Kidston Overnight Bag, but this one is too good to pass up!  And it’s not just because of the price, but also the bag’s description:   “Our lightweight duffle is not only functional, it also provides the technical features you need to make your travels enjoyable and hassle-free. New ergonomic styling maximizes inside packing space and it’s soft sided design makes is easy to stow.“  I know AJ might not approve the bubblegum pink color, but it’s cute so let’s have it!  Hehe!   It’s gonna blend beautifully with the pink-themed color of Sanrio Puroland, isn’t it?   =)

Be sure to check out the other sale items at Lacoste, Bric’s, Karen Millen and Naturalizer!  Just click on the sidebar banners at the right and start shopping away!

And as I’ll be out the whole day tomorrow, let me greet each and everyone now a HAPPY EASTER!   May this Easter bring you all together for a great celebration filled with lots of joy, love, happiness and Easter chocolates!

 

Food Post: COCA Cafe @ SM Jazz Mall

I discovered COCA Cafe at SM Jazz in Makati – by accident.

I thought it was the same COCA Restaurant that AJ and I saw SM Aura, but weren’t able to try yet.  We were happy to find ‘it’ at SM Jazz Mall during one of our weekend strolls there.

I asked the male attendant at COCA Cafe if this is the same restaurant with branch at SM Aura and he said he did not know.

I thought we were in a wrong restaurant then.  I contemplated about looking at another restaurant to try at SM Jazz, but the ocean blue color of this side of the wall at COCA Cafe totally charmed me!  It was certainly a color one would want to see after having come from a hot afternoon stroll.

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I immediately ordered some coolers for me and AJ.  I had Tropical Coolers (P150.00), a mix of ripe and sweet tropical fruits with a hint of mint to enhance all fruit flavors.  Perfect for beating the summer heat!

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I also liked AJ’s Ginger Beer (also P150.00), which is very refreshing and not that sweet.  This is ginger ale and lemon juice with a hint of ginger syrup for a nice sweet kick without the buzz. 

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I had Spaghetti Chicken Grapow (P200.00), one of the house favorites.   This is COCA Cafe’s improvised take on Chicken Grapow, a popular dish in Thailand that’s made up of chicken meat, ginger and basil leaves stir-fried with a special Thai sauce.

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The aromatic ginger and mildly spicy flavors of this dish are addicting; I almost forgot to share it with AJ!   The spaghetti noodles were cooked al dente, then evenly coated with the Grapow sauce.   This is one dish that I think I can eat everyday because the chicken, ginger and basil combination guarantee a flavorful dish that’s not nakakaumay, and it’s very light too!

AJ chose a more familiar dish from the menu, the Sweet and Sour Pork rice plate (P200.00).   There’s nothing worth mentioning about this dish; it’s very plain and the sweet and sour tastes are not balanced (sweetness > sourness).  Sorry but I do not recommend this dish.

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To compensate for this lackluster viand, I ordered 2 appetizers from their menu as replacement ulam (viands).  Thankfully, the appetizers did not disappoint.

The COCA Chicken Barbeque was very, very flavorful.  I’d rate it as excellent in terms of taste, but it’s also very expensive at P150.00 for just 3 sticks.

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The Vegetable Spring Rolls (also priced at P150.00) are worth having too.  There’s nothing not to like in these crispy veggie spring rolls with ground meat, mushrooms and glass noodles inside.

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Although the spring rolls were deep-fried, it didn’t leave behind an oily residue in my lips.  That’s a plus point for me, who hates deep fried food that aren’t properly drained in paper towels or in a metal rack.

The food at COCA Cafe are overall good and worth indulging in.  Their menu is a happy mix of familiar and untried but interesting Asian dishes – mostly Thai, with a mix of Chinese and Vietnamese.

And because I couldn’t stop thinking about the COCA restaurant at SM Aura, I asked another male attendant there about it.  He also said he did not know.

So I did the next best thing. I googled “COCA Cafe SM Jazz” and this is what I saw:

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COCA Cafe is indeed affiliated with the COCA Restaurant at SM Aura.  In fact, they’re all from the same company that brought the Mango Tree brand to Manila, and made Thai dishes one of the most sought-after cuisines by Manila’s foodies!

No wonder it feels so right at home!  Ba’t kaya hindi alam ng attendants dun?  Hihi!

That’s one puzzle solved, yey!  And Thai food cravings solved as well!

 COCA Cafe |  SM Jazz Mall, Makati  |  (02) 828 6260  |  https://www.facebook.com/COCAcafePH 

 

Caring for your Pearls

Now that summer has officially set in, I become more mindful of the summer heat’s effect on my pearls.

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I was once very addicted to south sea pearls, but I ‘temporarily’ stopped buying after my 6th set because they require more care than my other gemstone jewelry.  I have mostly pearl earrings (as seen above), with matching ring or pendant.

Because they’re plenty, caring for them is kind of challenging for me.  But I’ve found the perfect way to do it:  I wear them almost all the time!  There is a saying that goes something like “pearls want to be worn” and believe me, there’s a good reason behind this.

You see, pearls are organic, living gemstones.  And for some reason, they love humidity!  That’s why they’re perfect for our tropical climate. That’s the reason also on why they love to be regularly worn – because the humidity in our body keeps the luster shining and happy!

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It’s best to keep the pearls together in a separate jewelry box, and then put it in a spot where ventilation and humidity are abundant.  I put mine in the makeshift vanity table in our bedroom, but away from our colognes.  My jewelry box has 2 small drawers and there are 3 set of pearls per drawer.  I keep the drawers slightly open, to let the air and humidity in.

For added humidity, I placed a small cap (the cap of a spray bottle will do) filled with water inside each drawer. I refill the caps every other week or as soon as the water has dried up.  It’s important that there’s always water there because humidity depends on water vaporization.

During the wet season and humidity is high, I don’t have to worry about refilling the caps.  But during the dry season, when water evaporates fast and humidity drops, my pearls are vulnerable to drying up, losing their luster and worse, discoloration.

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To avoid these,  I follow this trick I read in a magazine before:  I leave the jewelry drawers (containing the pearls) in the bathroom right after bath or shower to give them all the humidity that they love to have.  Try it, it’s very easy to do and would make your pearls last and stay radiant longer!

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Other important tips:

1. Pearl jewelry must be worn last, and taken off first.   Pearls are very sensitive to acid, and high exposure to acid (from perfume, hair product, body oil product, perspiration and other acid-containing substances) will cloud the luster of the pearls, making it look less appealing.   To avoid direct exposure to acid in perfume or hair product, wait for a few minutes before wearing your pearls (or better yet, wear it last!).   Also, take it off as soon as you’re done and wipe with a clean soft cloth to remove whatever substances have remained in its surface.  This habit will keep your pearls happy, and will reduce the occurrence of blemishes.

2. Do not expose your pearls to direct sunlight.   If UV rays have bad effects on our skin, in pearls they bring the worse. Lost of water will already affect its luster, but direct sunlight will corrode the surface and this effect is irreversible.

3.  Do not wet your pearls.  I admit I am sometimes guilty of this because I tend to forget I’m wearing a pearl ring when washing my hands.  When this cannot be avoided, immediately wipe off the watery surface with clean, soft cloth.  But the rule really is to remove your pearl before when washing your hand, since water can be acidic too.

4.  Do not mix pearls with other jewelry.  Pearls are not as hard as diamonds, rubies or tanzanites so if not stored properly, they will get scratches which you may have a hard time removing.  That’s why I have a separate jewelry box for the pearls; it’s much easier for me to check on them too.  And to make sure that the earrings won’t rub on each other, I “pin” them to small-size cut sofa foams (check out this post to get the picture), instead of putting them in pouches.

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I know, I know.  Pearls demand so much TLC from us, but in return, they will reward us (and our generations to come!) with the satisfaction of owning something beautiful from nature – a gift from nature, to be exact – so it’s just fitting that we protect them and care for them.

 

Tulisan Indonesia

I received this lovely, handcrafted clutch last week from my sister-in-law’s sister-in-law, Mba Dyah, who is Indonesian and is one of the sweetest ladies I know (Hi Mba Dyah!).

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The clutch is by Tulisan (which means “handwriting” in Bahasia Indonesian), a well-known local brand in Jakarta that carries “a collection of handmade, limited-edition illustrated prints that are applied to bags, totes and household accessories“.   I call it my Asian version of the UK iconic brand, Cath Kidston.  Hehe!

Each illustrated edition is based on a story reflecting varying themes of the heart and is complemented by color palettes that are hand-selected to illuminate each soulful narrative. Tulisan is for everyone who loves fresh prints and exceptional handmade items.

All illustrations are hand-drawn with pen and ink by Melissa Sunjaya. Her drawings are detailed and spontaneous, allowing mistakes to take part in her creative expression. Her style is distinguished by her playful use of symbolism and bold color palettes.

Check out the fine details of my clutch below.  So pretty to look at!

P1190560bThe folded clutch measures 8.5 x 4.5 inches. Perfect as your every day wallet or as clutch bag to cocktail or tea parties.  It sure is gonna be a conversation piece, with its color and playful print.

P1190570bDesigned with 12 credit card slots, 5 compartments for bills, receipts and business cards, and a zip pocket for change, this clutch is an essential piece for any woman who changes bags frequently.

P1190573bWith enough space to hold a cellphone, lip-gloss and odds and ends, it is the perfect piece to grab and go.

P1190579bMade of water-resistant, non-toxic coated cotton canvas and coated polyester lining.  

From start to finish, each Tulisan product is made with love in Indonesia.

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“To those who wear our collections, it is about colorful storytelling through handcrafted products made with love in small batches.”  - Melissa Sunjaya, Founding Artist and CEO.

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I was so smitten with my clutch, I checked out Tulisan’s online shop to see more of their handcrafted goods.

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Gosh, that Hobo Tote got me at first sight!  The colors are perfect for summer!

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Another thing to love about this Hobo Tote is its flexibility:  it can be carried as a shoulder bag, arm bag or as a shopper’s bag!

hobototeIt’s also available in green.  Here’s the green hobo tote side-by-side with the orange-fuschsia one (my pick!). Photo is from Rakuten Japan.

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Who can’t resist a bag as beautiful and functional such as this??  At dahil tao lang ako, I asked my Mba Dyah if she can buy it for me in Indonesia.  And she said YES!   Yahoo!

I browsed through the rest of Tulisan’s collection and grabe, dami ko pa gusto bilhin!  But it’s really the hobo tote that I keep going back to.  Since I have extra cash with me (from the Cath Kidston bags which I was supposed to buy, but later got as gifts from the hubby), I can buy this bag!  I just hope it’s still available in Indonesia *keeping my fingers crossed*.

Will update you ladies as soon as my Tulisan bag is here.  In the meantime, I invite you to browse through its pretty website and be inspired by its colorful bags and accessories – all of which will remind you of summer time in bloom!

Tulisan Indonesia  |  http://www.tulisan.com  |  For the store list (in the US and in Indonesia), click here.

 

On budgeting household expenses

How do you budget your household expenses?  I do it the very traditional way – through the “envelope system”.

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Yes, these are the actual budget envelopes that I use.  They are made of recycled mail envelopes, prettified with craft papers and alphabet stamps I got from Divisoria last year.

I used to have an old set of these envelopes, made also from recycled mail envelopes but they’re so worn-out already.  Since I have plenty of craft papers at home, I made a fresh batch as my little project last month.  The envelopes are more pleasant-looking now kaya mas nakakagana mag-budget hehe!

So, how does the “envelope system” works?

I found this nicely written article about it at Frugal Living in About.com, which I am quoting in full text below:

  1. Create a budget.   In order for the envelope system to work, you need to know how much money you have coming in and how much money you have going out. Start by creating a budget that reflects your current financial situation.
  2. Divide your spending into categories.   Look over your budget, and divide it into areas of spending: food, gas, clothing, entertainment, etc. Then create an envelope for each category. No need to be fancy; a plain, white envelope with the category written on the front will do.
  3. Fill your envelopesFill each envelope with the money that you’ve allotted to that particular category.
  4. Spend until the money is gone.  Pay for your purchases out of the appropriate envelopes – using the food envelope for food purchases and the clothing envelope for clothing purchases – but only until the money is gone. At that point, all spending in the drained category must cease until the next month.
  5. Put any leftover money into savings.   If you have any money left in your envelopes at the end of the month, add it to your savings or use it to pay down a debt.
  6. Refill again the next month.   Refill the envelopes, and start again. Each month is a new shot at making your budget work.

Since AJ and I are both working, we have agreed to contribute 50-50 to our household expenses.

It’s easy to budget for the rent and internet/telephone subscription because these are fixed expenses (meaning, the amount you pay for these items are the same for each month) so you simply set aside a particular amount to put in the designated envelopes.

On the other hand, expenses for gasoline, electricity and grocery vary depending on our actual need.  To come up with a workable budget for these expense items, we looked at how much we are spending for gasoline, electricity and grocery items in the past 3 months.  I computed the average for each expense item, then added P1,000 as buffer.  For example, I computed the average gasoline consumption at P1,500 per month, then added a P1,000 buffer so our working budget for gasoline is P2,500 per month.

We review our budget every 6 months to see if we need to put more in these envelopes.  So far, we have made only one (1) upward adjustment and that’s in the gasoline budget because AJ brings the car daily to work now.

We also have a designated envelope for our monthly savings, which goes to our joint bank account and small mutual fund investment.

Any leftover budget money is rolled over to the following month as additional budget, instead of adding it into our savings (so we are not following #6 above).  For example, if we save P500 in electricity this month, this P500 becomes an additional budget for electricity for the following month.

We have saved some money from our low electricity bills in December last year up to February this year (the cold season), and this extra money will help pay for the additional charges we are sure to incur now because we have been using the air-con almost every night (summer na k’se).

What about you?  How do you budget your household expenses?  I’d love to know about your ‘style’ and techniques!