My Mom

My mom was never my best friend or even my friend. We didn’t always agree, but I respected her. My mom was a very good provider- she always had her medical billing job at a hospital (she sometimes brought work home, when it was busy), a couple side jobs (ie. making lumpia), and later, her own business (Bay Area bus tours to Reno- she was one of the first people to do that). For many years, she was the matriarch, the head of the household. We had incredible stability being in the same house for many years (and my mom owned one car). She didn’t do it alone- she had the support of my grandparents and extended family members, like my uncles, and later, my aunt (I appreciate it, to this day). We never had an empty refrigerator and we always had food in our bellies. Grocery shopping always meant a full cart. (If she had business trips, she would always bring something back for us.)  

Shopping trips (clothing and shoes) were for us (I loved Back To School shopping), and she’d often pass on buying herself things (but she did start shopping for herself in later years). We had our weekly home tasks (dishes, cleaning, laundry, harvesting from our garden, food prep, caring for our dog, etc.), so we had a weekly allowance. An important job- our number one priority, however, was our school work- she did expect us to get straight A’s (*I was an A & B student* but I made Honor Roll, and graduated With Honors from High School). Education was really important to her (she was a teacher).  Sunday mornings were for church (this was a given). 

The only thing we missed out on, looking back, was vacations (compared to other kids), because my mom was always working. I don’t think it was a big deal because everything else was handled (dental appointment, doctor appointments, school events, and other necessities). I did notice that we did have one thing few of my friends owned, and that was a piano. I didn’t like them at the time (wished I went further), but we had weekly piano lessons. And, something really important, my mom always provided a birthday party (Pancit, Lumpia, a birthday cake, and 7-Up) for my class in elementary school.

Growing up, my mom always told us why she came to the US, that it was really hard to advance in her home country, the Philippines. I knew how lucky we were, and came to appreciate everything that my mom did, being a single parent. In her own right, she was able to achieve the American Dream (she came to the US with friends, she got her green card, later, became a citizen, she had a job, she had a family, she bought her home, she had her own business).

My mom was a good mom. She worked hard, she made sacrifices. The best feature I have from my mom is her resilience (I wouldn’t have been able to get over my own challenges without it). I saw her overcome the divorce and she beat cancer. My mom is a survivor. She kicked butt, time and time again. She was practical, fair (she didn’t have favorites), always stressed the importance of sharing between me and my sister, and taught us important lessons along the way. She never wanted us to feel like we were missing anything from our lives. I love my mom.      


How to Downsize- in a nutshell

I know it’s a bummer that you have to take time out of your weeknights (weekdays, if you work nights) or weekend (if you work monday through friday) to do this, but it IS very necessary. You have to go through all of your stuff– there, I said IT (it’s true, though). If this seems daunting, do this major overhaul, in smaller chunks rather than tackling everything all at once (this works for most people- it helped me). If you can do something everyday, that would make a huge difference (tackle things room by room). Ideally, this should be done before a big move (but maybe I am speaking in utopian terms) to make the transition easier. I guess this involves having a concrete time frame as this information would give you some planning time.

My husband started a year before we moved, but we still weren’t entirely prepared because we found a smaller space. It was chaos for a couple of weeks, but we got through it. Looking back, we had too much stuff, and moving into a smaller space, forced us to face it all and pare down. It is hard to be a hoarder or a collector in a small space. But, it is a motivator to keep things looking nice at home. We also needed to get smaller-scale furniture because big furniture doesn’t work in a small space. 

You will need to decide what belongings are very important to you. If it is something you love, wear, or use frequently, this is KEEP. If you are not sure, I suggest placing those items in a box, then, revisit the entire box in one year’s time (if you have not touched it, it’s time to get rid of it). Broken things that cannot be salvaged can go into the TOSS pile. REPAIR*If you have items that need service or repair, place those in a box or bag inside your car (clothing that needs dry cleaning or alterations, watches that need new batteries, or broken jewelry that need to go to the repair shop, or shoes that need repairs).* Specialty items (baby/toddler items, we found were great things to sell) can go into the SELL pile (the freebie local paper ad here is called The Nifty Nickel, or you can try craigslist, ebay, thred up, tradesy, listia, etc.).  We also had a big Yard Sale to get rid of a ton of things, unused gifts, unused household items, things you thought that you needed but ended up not using at all (it is amazing how easy it is for things to collect, over the years). Whatever was left over, was immediately DONATE, loaded up into two cars (ok, some select few items went for another go selling through craigslist). The following items, in good condition, can be donated to the women’s shelter, Savers, Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. are: clothing, shoes, household items, decor, furniture, electronics (but you will need to check to see what is still being accepted, for example, beds are not .) If you have family members or friends, you can GIVE them your unwanted items too.

Here are the organizing categories again: KEEP- TOSS- (REVISIT IN ONE YEAR)- REPAIR- SELL- DONATE- GIVE

My husband started his own projects a few months ago. He went through all of his CD’s, saved all of the songs he wanted on the PC, in our music library. He went through all of his sneakers. BTW, your shoes, if they are in very used condition (*this means past being donated to Savers/ Goodwill/ Salvation Army*), can be recycled at Nike Factory Outlet stores as well as Timberland Factory Outlet stores (offers a discount when you buy a new pair from them…I know that sounds funny, but I am  sharing information). He went through all of his aloha wear shirts (only kept the ones he loved). (If something went up for sale on ebay, but no hits, he would try another avenue, like our Yard Sale. This is something you might want to try, if you have the time.) He went through all of the electronics. We went through all of our bed linens and towels. He went through our son’s toys and books. We really pared down the baby items (and it’s quite popular on craigslist).

I continually go through our son’s clothing, because he is growing up so fast! I also go through my clothing and shoes and from time to time, about 4x a year- if something was not perfect on me, I didn’t wear it much, or it was uncomfortable in any way, that was enough reason to let it go (most of it, along with our son’s clothing went to Thred Up; I chose the regular bag- the site then selects items to purchase from me and some items went to consignment; the rest gets donated, I suppose. There are other options with the site.). Ladies, the statistic is that we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time.

Before we buy new things, we ask ourselves if we truly need it. If we need it, it goes on the master shopping list. We also politely decline if someone asks us if we need their unwanted items. (If you were wondering what happened to the funds from the Yard Sale, it went to a new bistro style patio set much better-suited to our small patio- but we sold the old one on craigslist.)



Birthday Freebies- 2017 edition

– Sephora- tarte set
$25.00- Claimjumper + freebie (dessert)
$11.69- Red Robin + freebie (dessert)
$10.00- Godiva
$7.59- Zabas
$6.19- Tropical Smoothie Cafe
$9.29- Golden Corral
$18.00- Grimaldi’s
$9.69- + 20% off (lunch)- Sweet Tomatoes
$4.50- Ben & Jerrys
$35.00- Fogo De Chao
$6.35- Einsteins
$1.35- Yogurtland
$11.49- Lucilles
$8.63- Jersey Mikes
$15.00- Bare Minerals- eyeshadow
$12.00- Rosati’s- Sm thin cheese pizza
$3.99- Victoria’s Secret- panty

Yes, I belong to a lot of e-mail clubs, but there are lots of rewards, so that’s why I signed up!

Cruise Packing List: finding inspiration and style, Part One

We’ve been on two Mexican Riviera cruises on two different lines porting at the same places (Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerta Vallarta). I didn’t know what to bring, on the 1st trip, but I knew that it would take some research (I had a general idea). We weren’t going to a formal dinner. I made a list for me, and another one for our son (my husband had one for himself). I intended to pack my clothing into my carry-on along with our large joint one (everything else, our son’s clothing/ shoes, plus my husband’s clothing/ shoes). After the 1st trip, I had a better idea. It helps to know the following things, though. 

Some questions to ask and consider:

(1) What is your style? When I was doing some online research, some women had some cruise clothing guides which were not my style, either hoochie mama or 20-something. I’m in between those extremes, dress modestly, prefer classics and beach brands to fads, but I really do like my dresses! Whatever you prefer, you must dress in your style, because you should be comfortable.

(2) Are you a minimalist (10 pieces or less) or do you like bringing much more than that (20 plus pieces)? If you don’t mind mixing and matching, bringing some essentials is good enough for you. Some items can go double-duty, like a kimono jacket could double as a layer or a coverup. Your dress can be worn as a skirt (layer a button-down shirt or cardigan over it). Your PJ’s could be your gym outfit. Your travel outfit could be your warmer clothing items. I was cold a lot while we were on deck and pretty much used all my long-sleeves and scarves. (Honorable mention: It looks like the infinity dress is also frequently referenced on other sites.) It might help if you checked your closet and laid possible contenders on your bed and tried mixing and matching them, to make sure that the pieces will work together. 

In addition, I also have cosmetics which go double-duty (Philosophy three-in-one gel, Josie Maran lip and cheek tint, and raw shea butter can be used for many other uses, too).

(3) Will you bringing a large suitcase or do you prefer using a carry-on bag? Some people also prefer backpacks. This will also be an important factor.  

(4) Are you travelling with little ones? You’ll be packing for more people. You’ll need another list of essentials. And maybe a backpack for his/her toys.

(5) What types of activities/excursions will you be doing? This will determine what types of clothing you will need to bring. Also, consider comfortable walking shoes and comfortable sandals- those are musts! Swimwear is needed, especially since there are pools on the ship and beaches to visit at each port.

(6) Do you have a fabric preference? Lots of the non-wrinkle clothing is polyester, but that doesn’t fare well in hotter climates. I don’t like the way polyester sticks to you when you are sweaty, so I avoid polyester items. This also leads into the weather that you expect for your destination. If you don’t want any weird tan lines, this also must be taken into consideration when selecting your clothing (some tanks have strappy backlines). (For cooler climates or cooler deck nights, merino wool is favored, so check out the brands Smart Wool and Icebreaker.)

Websites for inspiration:

(A huge resource)

(one suitcase—this one’s my absolute favorite!)

(I really like her picture of her packing list- such a smart idea to use packing cubes!)

(Lots of packing lists and travel tips.)

(There are so many packing lists on this site.)

Some brands/ websites known for their travel wear:

womens, mens, shoes, luggage


womens athleisure wear, sportswear

womens, mens, shoes

womens, mens, shoes


womens, mens


womens, mens, shoes, luggage

(Useful if you are searching for something specific, especially if it is a retired style or print, and don’t mind purchasing it second-hand.)

I hope this post contained useful information. I’ll be posting another cruise guide soon. 

The Full-time Working Mom’s Challenges

I must admit that  when I had my baby, I was worried about the transition back into the workplace after taking maternity leave. As a full-time working mom, there is a sense of guilt (yes, it is very real, this feeling, and, heavy, at that) with leaving your child in another’s hands. But I am not independently wealthy (although I did possess personal assets, not debt, before getting married), and my income was needed. My sister is a stay-at-home mom and with four kids, it amazes me that she is able to do that. What I am saying, essentially, is there is a sense of admiration for other women who can do this, and at the same time, lots of respect.

I think that the idea of having it all or trying to keep a balance (*always ebbing and flowing*) is a blanket generic generality (and society expects a lot from us, too, at the same time). It’s pretty much a juggling act, every day, monday through friday, day in, day out. Some things get done, while others don’t. If you can live with that, you might have an easier time, because acceptance is a huge part of it. I depend heavily on written lists, because if I commit to memory, I could drive myself crazy, with every task and project (the anxiety could keep one up at night). Deadlines force action (ie. Dmv registration). It throws off plans, sure, but sometimes you just gotta roll with it. (Doing something/maintenance/ cleaning, everyday also helps out, rather than letting all of those tasks pile up on you.) It’s important to set realistic goals, don’t list out 20 items on one day!

I used to get so upset about the things not getting done that I forgot about all the little victories, the tasks that actually got done, thus, marked off my list—that is what truly mattered. I’ve changed my mindset. The bigger picture is, if I’ve done my best on that day, then, that is enough for me. It isn’t the end of the world if something has to wait for the next day, or even the next day, for that matter. (Doctor and other appointments get saved on my cell phone calendar right away.)

Side note: I do think that one must make time daily to exercise (weights, yoga, pilates, dancing, boxing, martial arts, interval training, swimming), meditate, time to be creative (knit, sew, crafts), or whatever other activity you enjoy (creating art, doing crossword puzzles, adult coloring books, pet your dogs or other animals, reading). I know it’s difficult, but please take some time for yourself too. Even just a short walk has good health benefits. If you do something you like, you’re more likely to make this little act a regular activity in your routine.

Sure, some planning is in order in the arena of time management (bring a grocery list when grocery shopping, or cooking once, preparing several dishes for the week, or buying meat in bulk, cutting them up, packaging them separately, and freezing for future use or lunch prep on sundays for the work week)


We are finally moving, Now What?!

Earlier this year, I thought it was crazy fast how we contacted an investor directly and set an appointment to get an offer. BOOM! After a few days (lots of back and forth on our thoughts and feelings), trying to see about our other options (the other investor was not so cut and dry; he was the middle man; we didn’t like that), we accepted the offer. The next problem was, would we find something updated, modern, and newer in our price range in the area of town we preferred? A Bump. The first property we were to look at had sold one hour before our appointment time (the listing agent hadn’t changed the  SOLD status in the system). We were disappointed (it was really nice). We looked at other properties the following day, and found one (it was even better than the one we “lost”- not a thing to upgrade, we needed something move-in ready), so we had our realtor write up an offer. There were six offers on the same property (it was a new listing) but ours was accepted. Excited. Thrilled. Ecstatic.

Of course, all the real work would begin after the accepted offer. One big new change, is, it is a major downsizing operation for us (this is ok with us, we’re fine with that). We’ve been in the same house since 2005. We have to get rid of about 30% of our stuff. It would be one thing to be packing. The other, is, I’ve got to go through things (lots of things—hubby says I am a hoarder (a hoarder can’t walk around freely in his/her home, I reason), but I have collections, my “organized chaos”) to decide if it stays, gets donated, or sold at the yard sale that we are having. Going through stuff is quite time-consuming. I will be glad when it’s all done. I will also feel relief. I know that I’ve been holding on to stuff, and I’ve been dreading the time to face it all. Well, the time is now. (And if we need to a second-coming Purge (post-move), so be it.)

Does this sound easy? Well, sort of… (1) Time is a factor, at first we thought the timeline would be two months. But then, after the purchase contract was set, it moved up by a month! (2) We had planned a vacation (this was made last year). (3) While on vacation, our son’s relapsed cold, which in turn, transferred over to my husband who is sick now, too. (4) I work full-time, so I can only work on things at home for a few hours each week night. On weekends, I can do more, but can’t really make too much noise when our son is napping, either. Yes, all of these things are just examples of life happening when you make plans. Hiccups, bumps, life presses on. I just gotta keep going. I’ve got to get things finished.

My husband, prior to getting sick, has been doing things daily (plus, he did start packing things last year to give us a start), but then, keeps telling me “I don’t know if we have room for this.” So, we have these tough decisions to make, and need to let go of a lot, but I keep trying to focus on the positive end of it all, we are trading up, though others see this is as downsizing (negatively); however, I am quick to point out that we don’t even utilize parts of our current home (it isn’t functional, lots of areas need repair/ attention, and the huge yard we don’t use, it’s a shame…), and the upkeep on the outside maintenance is no longer our problem (we don’t currently have an association, but we get letters saying we need to cut our weeds down and that our trash receptacles need to be placed out of sight, or else we will  be fined—also, the neighborhood is trying to get Landmark status). I would rather give up things than get a storage unit because I did that before, and it was not worth it, in the end.

This move is what we’ve been wanting for so long, and I know it’s been a tough road, but I really want to make a fresh start. I really want a better life for our family.

PS.) I started this blog post months ago, so we’re much more settled and life is less chaotic (moving’s such a huge process).


Bittersweet Goodbye to our home

I love watching home makeover shows on the HGTV and DIY channels. I also thought it would be cool to really customize our space. We had an old home, which was built in 1954. This means no insulation, few storage options, two prong outlets, and lots of unused areas (ie. not functional) of our home, both inside and outside. Many things have mounted over the years (it was getting pretty hard to ignore), and all things considered, we really don’t have $75,000 to plunk into our home, nor did we have the time, due to our toddler and overall busy daily lives (it’s become a fixer-upper, sadly) to get it updated. The neighborhood is changing as the original owners are dying, and there are basically a handful of homes which are white elephants (translation: a constant revolving door of neighbors). Tons of foot traffic (esp. by transients and homeless people) brings garbage, cigarette butts, and other people’s dog poop into our front yard and/ or curbside.

Here’s what was wrong with our home:

(1) No insulation (this was probably the worst feature, it was not comfortable)

(2) No storage (we had one hallway closet that we used for linens)

(3) Two- prong outlets (we had to use those convertor plugs)

(4) Unused space (inside and outside)- kitchen, backyard, storage room (was a conversion)

(5) Bugs—this was the worst I’d seen and I’ve been in many homes over the course of my life

(6) Mold (this was affecting our young son and our senior male dog who has allergies)

(7) Landscaping (front and back- huge, but one of our dogs uses it)

(8) Horrible smells (there was a weird backup line that was very very strong)

(9) Plumbing and pipes (a plumber told us we would need about $8000- to replace the pipes)

(10) Popcorn ceiling (hate those!)

(11) The kitchen was outdated and needed updating (I keep noticing the cabinets in ’80’s movies and home search shows)

(12) The bathroom was outdated and needs updating (the toilet and sink are broken)

(13) All of the tiles were difficult to clean and many tiles were broken/cracked

(14) The windows are double pane and very wide (making it difficult to cover)

(15) Rain damage- likely, a roof problem but our handyman could not find the issue

(16) The siding has come off in several areas (very very windy at times)

(17) Lighting inside the living room was limited as the owner before us, removed one crucial fixture in the dining area

(18) I always thought a fence around the property would maybe keep people and their animals off of the front yard (we had lots of lamps)

(19) There were cracks in the walls, and one in particular bothers are son, who described his room as “broken”

(20) One of the doors was not the right type of door (it was glass and simply painted over to conceal it) and is not fully secure

(21) All of the flooring needed replacing, including the light brown carpets in the bedrooms

(22) Bars on all the windows

Here are some of the features of the house that I did like:

(1) the ranch style, single story property

(2) the front patio enclosed with a gated fence

(3) the open living room and dining room

(4) the size of the backyard was huge (big enough for a pool)

(5) there are three bedrooms and two bathrooms

(6) in two of the bedrooms, I liked the closets, which was from floor to ceiling, the bottom level were drawers, the middle part was for hanging clothing, and the top parts were cabinets (we stored seasonal clothing there)

(7) the living room had some rounded edges connecting the walls to the ceiling, interesting architecture, which added character

(8) the size of the kitchen was nice (most of the space was not functional)

(9) the mirrored wall when you walked through the front door

We had lots of pictures and memories over the dozen plus years, (even had several dogs, who passed away), but we had to move on with the next stage of our lives. We wanted a better neighborhood, in a better side of town, and a newer home. Sure, we downsized by getting a condominium instead of a single residential home, but so far, I’m loving the lower cost of living (we have four less monthly/ quarterly bills), less maintenance overall, we have access to three community pools, and our community is gated.