January 31, 2016

January Favorites

Mamma Mia
This movie has recently landed itself on my list of 'Favorite Musicals of All Time' and I sincerely hope you all take the glorious time to enjoy singing Amanda Seyfried and Meryl Streep on a gorgeous beach in Greece.

Us The Duo
You probably know this duo from their viral video cover of the most popular songs of 2015 (view here) but did you know they also have several songs available on iTunes like my current obsession song Slow Down Time (listen here)--literally it has been on repeat for a month now.

That's So Raven
This show was a cornerstone of my childhood (as with any kid born after 1997 and before 2001 really) so when Raven and Anneliese (aka Chelsea!) got together last year to cover the theme song I had such a fangirl moment! Watch the glorious moment here (and then prepare to binge watch the show)

That 70s Show
If you follow me on Twitter (which I recommend--lets be friends!) you'll have noticed some tweets as of late hinting at my 70s Show obsession. I've been binging the show on Netflix for a good three weeks now and if you haven't seen it you really need to because it's fantastic--if you have seen it then talk to me about Jackie and Hyde because I'm still not over it.

Floral Surplice Romper from F21
This romper gets me excited about spring break and summer and music festivals and hanging out with friends for hours and hours. I love rompers because they're simple outfits which means no worrying about finding a matching top + bottom. This lovely romper also comes in black with pink flowers (find here).
January 26, 2016

How To Be Alone

Living alone is something everyone will deal with at least for a brief period of their lives. Some people like the solitude of living alone and some really hate the idea of not having anyone nearby. For the past few weeks, since returning from Christmas break, I have been alone in the apartment (save for my helper Riza and Aggi, of course) because Mom had to stay in the States on business. This is the first time I've had to actually live on my own, paying bills, going grocery shopping, cooking, keeping myself alive etc. all on my own (with tremendous help from Riza, of course). It's been a little preview of adult life and, to be honest, it really hasn't been all smooth sailing. It gets pretty lonely sometimes, living alone, so I've devised a few tips and tricks on how to be alone.

Get a pet -- Pets help everyone feel less lonely, dogs especially! (Says the biased dog-lover) Even just having Aggi puttering around on Sundays when Riza is home and I truly am alone is comforting. It's also a good reminder that there is someone around that depends on you to walk it, feed it, take care of it. It gives you a reason to get out of bed.

Pick up a hobby or a sport -- Every weekend, people with unique cars all drive to the same Coffee Bean down the block from my house and sit for all of the morning just chattering away and looking at the cars. They all just found each other, realized a common interest, and the ritual was born. Find people you have something in common with, have Sunday brunch with a friend every Sunday at a new place, take up a sport, join a book club, walk your dog or your kids around the park with someone else....simple things really that get you interacting with others.

Volunteer -- Mom and I have been volunteering at an orphanage for a long time and the four hours we spend there on Saturdays are some of the happiest of my week. Volunteering is a great way to find people that have the same interests as you, the same passions, and you're doing something to help others!
Get out -- Sitting inside the house, especially when the weather is gorgeous, is a waste of the day. Go for a long walk around your neighborhood or, if the weather is nice, go for a swim at the pool. I'm lucky to live near High Street in BGC so when I take Aggi for her long Saturday walks we're always part of a crowd. It's a nice bit of chaos in a day that's mostly me singing along to my Mamma Mia! soundtrack (which is a blast btw).

Go on a date with yourself -- I know, I know...every Cosmo 'how to love yourself' article ever advice but I still recommend it. If doing things like going out to dinner by yourself give you the heebie jeebies (they do for me anyway) you could always order your favorite food in or take it to go and eat it at home, take it to a park and eat it on a picnic blanket....something I think is a great idea would be going to the farmers' market on Saturday morning and taking your time to walk around, talk to the vendors, find some really great local produce and baked goods 
Get your chores done -- If you're like most people and don't have time to get to the grocery store or the drug store or drop off your dry cleaning during the week, make a schedule and do it on the weekends! It's not the most fun activity but you'll be around people and you'll be out of the house.!

Enjoy the solitude -- During the week I'm always around people, which I do enjoy-I love being around my friends and classmates at school, but come weekend nights with nothing else to do it is nice to relax and not have to talk to anyone....catch up on your tv that you've DVR'd through the week, read a book, take a bath, relax!
Make plans -- Make plans with friends during the week for the weekend. Go to a movie or a concert, have a baking date, have them help you organize your closet-anything!

Recognize that you're not alone 100% of the day -- unless you absolutely do not leave your home at all and nobody comes in or out, you will be around and interact with people. Realizing this, and making it something to look forward to, helps deal with feelings of being alone.

What do you do to feel less lonely?


Ps-I'm off to Hong Kong for 5 days for APAC Swimming tomorrow morning so I won't be posting for a few days. Last APAC ever!! See you guys in 5 days!
January 23, 2016

21 Day Challenge Update 2

Remember how I said in my last update that this week was going to be even more structured? Yeah....that didn't happen exactly as I pictured it. 

The amazing app I touted last week, Lose It, is still a fantastic app--I just didn't use it as much this week. Which probably means I didn't watch what I was eating as much as I should have. I also couldn't stay away from the pandesals with blueberry jelly after morning practice.

I've been active everyday this week except Thursday--a swim meet on Saturday and long walks with Aggi on Saturday and Sundays. I continued avoiding fast food, and at this point after several weeks without any of it my body doesn't even crave it anymore, and shunned my typical Powerade after practice.

I still haven't gotten on the scale, and honestly I don't think sticking to this 21 Day Challenge is going to go too well this week because I'm off to APAC in Hong Kong on Wednesday. I'll be staying with a homestay volunteer family so I can't mandate meals and sugar content besides 'no meat' and I'll be taking what I can get.

We'll see where this 21 Day Challenge (which has not gone as I thought it would) ends in 7 more days! 14 down, 7 to go!

January 19, 2016

How To Be A Morning Person

I'll admit, rolling out of bed as soon as my alarm goes off is sort of my thing....during the week anyway. Not everyone is blessed with the ability to sleep in everyday of the week so if you find yourself more inclined to hit the snooze button than roll out of bed, this is for you.

The first thing you should see when you wake up is something positive. More than likely your day will include not-so-nice things to do at work, school, or home so when you first start your day, make sure you see something positive. And this thing should not be anything with a screen or be plug-in-able. I like to have a small bouquet of fresh flowers in my room, they brighten my morning. You could also give a small cuddle to the pet or significant other that you share your bed with, that's a great way to start your day. Even just glancing out the window at the sun rising is a perfect way to boost your energy levels and your positivity first thing in the morning, even if the last thing you want to do is get out of bed.

No electronics! The first thing you reach for when you wake up should not be your phone (unless it's to turn off an alarm and then put. down.) Give yourself time to wake up, get your body used to light, drink a glass of water, pee, before checking your email or Instagram. Also don't have your phone/iPad/laptop in hand just before you go to sleep. If you're like me and use the alarm on your phone, set it before you even enter your bedroom. Put all your settings the way you want them (I listen to white noise while I sleep, the ocean and rain) before you even go in your room and then don't touch your phone until after you've fully gotten up in the morning. You will sleep better and you'll be more inclined to get up after a restful nights' sleep.

I like to journal before I sleep. A simple prompt I try to do every night is: "Today I'm proud of myself for....", "Today I'm thankful for....", and "Today I could have...." A simple reflection of your day, with a physical pen and paper journal, is a wonderful way to wind down. I also keep a separate journal for when I have more to say or a problem to solve. Working out your problems and reflecting over your day, the good and bad, is a great way to rest better and, in turn, wake up happier! (1 rule if you're going to do the journal prompts, always say at least one thing for each, even if you can't find something you're proud of that day find one tiny thing)

Plan everything the night before. Leave yourself as much time as possible to sleep in the morning by packing everything, lunch, school bag, workout bag etc. at night before you sleep. This routine of putting everything to rights will calm you + you get to sleep more!

Those are my tips on how to be an early riser! Now I want to hear from you! Are you a night owl or an early riser? What makes getting up in the morning easier for you?

January 17, 2016

21 Day Challenge Update 1

Last week I issued myself a 21 Day Challenge, a challenge you can view here. It didn't go exactly as I expected, nothing ever does, but I learned a lot from the challenge so far.
From Tumblr

Avoiding sugar is really hard work! On Monday I was on the bus home and I realized I couldn't drink my standard after-practice Powerade anymore....lots of sugar! Unless you shun all packaged food, you cannot avoid processed sugar it simply cannot be done. I've avoided as much as I can, however intend to really buckle down this week and focus--meaning no more jam on pandesal at school for breakfast after morning practice etc.

I was active all 7 days this week, however didn't get an actual workout in yesterday the way I planned to. I was actually pretty sore from swim practice! I did two practices, one morning one afternoon, on Wednesday and one in the afternoon every other day and intend to do even more this week so working out will be no problem. Saturday and Sunday I did walk a lot, walking Aggi and walking to get flowers from Market Market (#insta), and I swam a bit as it was so gorgeous outside so I was active, just not fully workout active.
From Tumblr

I found this really amazing app that another blogger recommended to keep count of my calories and exercise. It's a weight loss app called Lose It! You log everything you eat, including making new food entries for anything you may cook at home, enter your exercise, and your weight loss goal: it calculates how many calories you can eat in a day to lose the weight you want to lose by the time you set. It's really simple, I highly recommend it!

I haven't actually gotten on the scale lately, I'll do that at the very end of my 3 weeks, so I don't know if I've lost any actual weight but I'm definitely feeling better. Here's to 7 days done! And the next 14!


January 15, 2016

Ginger Cookies

One of my favorite bloggers is Rosie, aka fabulous Brit blogger behind The Londoner, and she shared this recipe for Ginger Pillow Cookies several months ago and I decided an uneventful Friday night was the perfect opportunity to try them out! (My recipe deviates a bit from hers)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp water
1/2 cup brown sugar
Extra granulated sugar to dust
Preheat your oven to 180C or 350F and spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray or parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. (Rosie sifted the ingredients together, which works just as well if you prefer that)

Now, I could not find ground ginger for the life of me so I grabbed the fresh ginger I had in my fridge and grated actual bits into the dry ingredients bowl. This works just fine if you don't have ground ginger however the end result is probably not as ginger-y as it would be with ground ginger.

Next, in a large bowl (or a stand mixer if you have one) cream together the butter and granulated sugar. I don't have a stand mixer so I cut up the butter, which you should let soften for a bit at room temperature first, and dropped it into the bowl of sugar in chunks. You then proceed to mash it with the knife and whisk until the end result is light, fluffy, and exactly how butter + sugar should look like.
Crack the egg into the butter and sugar mixture and then add your water and brown sugar. Mix all the ingredients together before adding the dry ingredients. Your batter will end up slightly crumbly looking but will pinch together in your hand.

Sprinkle a small handful of sugar on a plate. Squish together some batter and roll it into a ball in your hands. Roll that in the sugar and place on the baking tray. I could only fit 6 on my tray, as I'm baking in a toaster oven, but you can fit as many as you like as long as they have room to expand in the oven.
Bake for about 12 minutes. When you take them out of the oven, they'll be wobbly and seem uncooked, that's normal. Leave them on the hot tray for a bit to finish cooking before placing them on the cooling rack. Make sure to eat at least one right out of the oven! They'll be squishy and pull apart instead of crumbling.

Repeat for however many batches you want--and have a glass of milk at the ready! If you try them, let me know how they turn out!

January 9, 2016

21 Day Challenge

In a roundabout way, my obsession with Fixer Upper, a fantastic HGTV show where cutie couple Chip and Joanna Gaines help a couple or family buy a fixer-upper house in Waco, Texas and then fix it up for them so that looks not just like a completely different house but also a catalog page, led to this blog post.
An example of their work

Joanna posted on Instagram something about it being day 8 of a 21 day fitness challenge and it got me thinking (as everything does). She, of course, is following the rather popular 21 Day Fix program that includes meal plans and workouts etc. I've decided to issue myself a 21 day challenge, one I am actually completely capable of sticking to.

As a teenager, I do not have control over household meal plans and so planning out (and then actually preparing) 3 meals + snacks each day for 3 weeks is not possible for me. As such, I've come up with a few guidelines for my own 21 Day Challenge:
  • No chocolate, candies, sodas, fast food, or any processed sugar over 9 grams a day - this one stems from several documentaries I've watched about sugar (including favorites Fed Up and That Sugar Movie - both come highly recommend from me to you) and the horrible side effects processed sugar has on your body. It's very difficult to have under 9 grams of processed sugar a day, there's likely more than that in a glass of orange juice, so this one can only be accomplished by reading labels, avoiding sodas and really any food that comes in a package.
  • Be active all 7 days a week - Sundays are reserved for the lightest exercise so a walk with Aggi around the block, a light swim etc. This one will not be difficult for me personally because I have swim practice to get to this week and have access to a treadmill for non-practice days. Of course it's important to not overdo exercise so my exercise on non-practice days will likely consist of only a run on the treadmill and maybe some pilates exercises, nothing too strenuous. Your body has to relax!
This 21 Day Challenge is simply me challenging myself to a fitness and healthy eating schedule to see what changes my body goes through. I'll be posting 1 post a week every Sunday to check in on progress until the 21 days is up and then we'll see!

Are you going to undertake any sort of 21 Day Challenge? Whether mine or the 21 Day Fix?

January 7, 2016

Songs I Loved in 2015

The Night is Still Young by Nicki Minaj - link

Water Under the Bridge/Hello by Adele - link 1 & 2

Break Up in a Small Town by Sam Hunt - link

I Know What You Did Last Summer by Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes - link

Mr President by Pia Mia - link

Unbreakable Smile by Tori Kelly - link

Gold by Owl City - link

Heartbeat by Carrie Underwood - link  Favorite romantic song

Revival by Selena Gomez - link

Without You by Oh Wonder - link

Another Lonely Night by Adam Lambert - link My favorite music video of the year was this one!

Hurricane by Halsey - link

Blue by Beyonce - link

Girls by The 1975 - link

Shut Up and Dance by WALK THE MOON - link Favorite dance song

Fools by Troye Sivan - link
January 5, 2016

Rewind: 2015

Happy 2016 everyone! I like to look back over the past year during this time, as everyone does, so here we go!

Here are the most notable events from 2015:
Luminescence was the theme of our prom last year and it was breathtakingly gorgeous. My friends, date, and I all had fun dancing late into the night--and I still love my pink dress.

Family Beach Week 2015
My favorite family tradition ( of them) is Family Beach Week. My entire family gathers at one of our beach houses for an entire week of bonding, swimming, and eating!

Spirit Week 2015
My final spirit week in high school! Azure (my house) won the cheer contest and most of the events and it was a confetti-filled fun spectacle send off of spirit week! 

A Debut to Remember
A debutante's debut when she turns 18 is a big milestone in the Philippines and attending my friend's debut was definitely the highlight of the season.

The first pet that I had, the sweetest black lab you'd ever meet, passed this past year. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to deal with--especially from 8,000 miles away. It still pains me sometimes, especially when I visit the home we used to share and the last places I remember her. I miss her everyday still.

My favorite, yummiest foods of 2015:
My favorite brunch spot in all of Manila, they serve up passion fruit mimosas, killer grilled cheese, and the best pastries in all of southeast Asia.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
This dish has become a rapid request, among my teachers, my friends, and my family! I made these for Christmas and not only could Dad, Laura, and D not get enough of them, D's friends loved them too!

Tipsy Pig
A new gastropub just down the street from us in Fort Bonifacio that serves the absolute BEST popcorn shrimp appetizer ever. A must-try if you're in the mood for a casual dinner in BGC.

A high-class, tasting menu, fine dining establishment that serves up the strangest, science-experiment-looking, delicious food in Manila. They're very accommodating of dietary restrictions and Mom and I cannot wait to return.

M&M Blondies
My favorite brownie/blondie recipe of all time! They're sweet but not overly so and the m&m's really make a great crunch and the little bit of chocolate is just enough.

Slutty Brownies
The richest brownies you will ever taste in your life. Full of cookie dough, Oreos, and brownie batter--these are not your regular Friday-night baking session brownies.

The best trips I took in 2015:
For Spring Break, Mom and I went to Thailand--Bangkok and Krabi. Thailand is one of my favorite places on Earth and this trip was one of the best I've ever taken. I can't wait to go back! (Part One, Part Two, Part Three)

College Road Trip
This summer I, along with my mother, my father, my grandmother, and my best friend (not in that order), toured several colleges all up and down the east coast of the US. We went to William & Mary, Davidson, Emory, NYU & Sarah Lawrence, and a bunch of Virginia schools: UVA, JMU, Washington & Lee.

My last overseas trip with the academic bowl, we headed to Shanghai. The competition was the lowlight of the trip, the company and the experience the absolute best part! I love Shanghai so. much. We ate genuine Chinese food, got a taste of ideal fall weather, and walked to Family Mart every day at least once.

Mom and I decided to further explore the Philippines during our last year here during October break so we went to Atmosphere Resort in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental. It was an absolutely gorgeous resort and the spa treatments are the best I've ever experienced!

My Favorite things out of my Favorite posts:
From my April Favorites, Ivory Ella is a company that makes elephant-adorned shirts and water bottles etc. and donates 10% of the proceeds to Save the Elephants, a non-profit organization that preserves elephants in their natural habitat. They have donated over $200,000.

Included in my May Favorites, this documentary focuses on the damage that sugar does to the body and how con-artist-y the sugar industry is. This documentary will scare you, and that's why it's worth it.

A July Favorite, Amber runs one of my favorite blogs on the entire internet. Her family is absolutely gorgeous, as is her hair and her attitude, and honestly her life is my goal.

One of the only albums where I can actually say I love every single song on it. Halsey's soulful lyrics and unique take on music makes this album a gem. Favorite songs include: Gasoline, Hurricane, Colors, and Castle.

Oh Wonder
A duo that makes magical music together--check out Drive and Without You, songs that I've literally had on repeat since their appearance in my November Favorites. favorite Instagram Posts of 2015:

This was my's to 2016! How was your 2015?

January 2, 2016

Resolutions 2016

Happy New Year! I can't actually believe it's 2016 already....I graduate this year! I turn 18 this year! Things are happening so fast. In the nature of the season, here are my resolutions to make 2016 the best it can be.

Live in the present more: I find myself spending too much time living in my thoughts of the future or my memories of the past. It's perfectly fine to imagine how the future will be or fondly remember how the past was but not living in the present will cost you potential memories! An example of this: people at concerts who tape the entire thing--watching what is happening right in front of them through a screen. Take a few pictures, maybe a video or two but don't forget to actually experience the event!

Become fully fluent in sign language: one of the languages I want to become fully fluent in is ASL and I'd like to complete that goal by this time next year. Being able to communicate with people who do not speak the same language as I do is a skill I value highly and intend to expand my linguistic skills into ASL as well.

Do more of what scares me: I try not to let fear stop me from doing what I want to do and I hope to pursue more of that in 2016. There are a lot of big changes and big decisions coming up this year and I can't let fear stop me from doing what I feel is right.

Do more of what I want to do, now what others feel I should do: Again, there are some huge decisions coming up this year regarding my future like college and taking a gap year etc. so this resolution is a reminder to do what I feel is right for me. Too often I find myself going along with what my friends or family think is right even if I don't think so and in the past I've sort of lost myself that way so I hope I can stay true to my own feelings in 2016.

Watch the sun rise and set more often: a rather simple one here...seeing the sunrise is a beautiful start to the day and puts me in a wonderful mood for the rest of the day. Watching the sunset is a great way to relax and wind down, a true signal that your day has ended and relaxation can begin. Plus...sunsets and sunrises are magical and plain 'ol gorgeous. 

What are your resolutions for 2016? Let's make this year fantastic together!