Category Archives: Everyday Life

My 2018 Reading Challenge

Fact: I write better when I read more. Reading also helps me relax and unwind, especially after long days spent in front of the computer. I’ve found that I sleep better, too, when I choose to read before bed instead of watching TV or playing games on my phone.  Generally, I’m better when I read. And so it’s kinda odd that I stopped.

I used to read a lot when I was younger. I would read all the time, actually. Even in the shower. With the water running. I mastered the art of the one-handed bath when I was 12. I know, it sounds gross, but I promise I was always clean. See, I wasn’t kidding, I was always reading. Then came motherhood, and adulting, and work, and life. I had to make time for everything else. In doing so I lost time for my books, and in effect I lost time for myself.

For several years my book collection sat neglected, tucked away in drawers in my old room. Then, weeks ago my mom went on a mad cleaning spree because my sister was coming home from New York, and would be needing that old room in the Alabang house. Whatever stuff the boys and I left there had to be pulled out. And so, my books finally came home with me. 

Seeing them all felt like reuniting with a bunch of old friends. There were some still wrapped in plastic, unopened and unread. Some, I had actually forgotten that I had. Other books remained unfinished over the years, abandoned for one reason or another. And then there were the old favorites – Angela’s Ashes, Interview With The Vampire, The Green Mile, The Godfather, and others that I would love to read again. 

So this year, I’m challenging myself to read more. I owe it to those books that I spent all that money on (and those that my dad and MrC spent on, too!) And, more importantly, I owe it to me. I owe it to myself to make time to read because I know that I’ll be better off if I do. The mere thought of it excites me. Seriously, my idea of me-time is an afternoon on the couch with a good book, a cup of coffee, and a plate of cookies. Oras lang ang puhunan, guys. All I need to do is make time for it, and make time I shall. 

24 books is the goal this year. So far, these are the ones I’ve finished:

  1. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (My second favorite so far this year!)
  2. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami 
  3. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  4. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  5. Heartburn by Nora Ephron
  6. Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
  7. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  8. The Client by John Grisham
  9. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  10. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  11. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
  12. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (My favorite so far this year!)
  13. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

I am currently reading The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I can’t believe I’ve never read this before!

I initially thought of posting reviews of the books I read this year, but I don’t think I’m gonna end up doing that anymore. Unless you guys want me to? Let me know!

The Year That Was – 2017 Edition!

Hi, everybody! Happy New Year! I can’t believe that 2018 is actually here!

I don’t know about you guys, but I always see the start of a new year as an exciting time. I, personally, look forward to filling in loved ones’ birthdays and important dates in a new planner every January. I love the whole idea that we have another 365 days to fill with milestones and memories.

The first few days of a new year is also a great time to look back on the year that’s just passed. And what an amazing one 2017 was for me and my family.

January began with a double dose of happiness on the Cuyugan side – Lola Bandel (aka MrC’s mom, nicknamed Lola Bandel by the kiddo) was home, and the family welcomed brand-new baby Luna. 

As for my de Castro family, we got treated to a double dose of happiness in January, too. The first was a surprise visit from one of my favorite cousins, Bolito. He was here for only a few weeks, visiting from Australia, and I love that our  home was one of his stops during his trip. Then, we celebrated the 91st birthday of our Tita Glo, the last living sibling of my Loli. She has no kids of her own, and so we all sorta belong to her in a way, my cousins and I.

February is always special because it’s my birth month. My sister-in-law was in town, and there was lots of family time, friend time, and food time. All the things I love! Lol.

One memorable super blooper from March was the day I got locked in our downstairs bathroom. It took about an hour, and my best friend’s dad bringing a locksmith over to get me out. 

My father-in-law arrived in Manila at the end of that month, too. He was the last of our Cuyugan Balikbayan series of house guests for the year.

In April, we celebrated Little MrC’s birthday with his cousins at home. I love that we were able to do this! It reminded me of all the fun at-home birthday parties my siblings and I had when we were little. This year, I think we’re gonna take all the kids out to see a movie. There are a lot of nice ones coming up, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that one of them will be showing on this boy’s birthday week.


Cousins are the best! #LittleMrC11th

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The boys and I got to go to the beach for a day in May, yay! I think it’s great that Batangas is only a couple of hours away, and we can drive down there whenever we want to. This was a nice end to a long summer, and a great way to celebrate MrC’s birthday.

It was back to school time for the kiddo in June, and MrC moved to a new company. Meanwhile, I got surprised with an unexpected work trip to El Nido. It’s been years since I was there last, and it was nice exploring the newly developed areas in Lio. I had a monster eczema attack, though, so I was really uncomfortable the whole time! Hassle lang.

July and August were nice and quiet, a welcome change from the eventful first half of the year.

And then in September, the husbandry and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary.  With food. Obviously.

I also ended the month with another surprise trip, this time to Davao. I’m really happy about this because I got to spend time with friends and relatives I hadn’t seen in a long time.


When in Wildflour. #notglutenfree #carbs #sorrynotsorry

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I couldn’t leave Davao yesterday without making time to see friends and family. πŸ’• Typically, I request for the earliest possible flight home when I have to work out of town, but this time I decided to take a day for myself instead. I’m happy I did. It was so nice catching up with everyone. I’m glad I got to spend time with my aunts and cousins who live on the other end of the Philippines. Last time I saw them was nearly 10 years ago, I think. Spending time with relatives, even just for a few hours, really gives me a warm, fuzzy, happy feeling. It’s so important to me that I get to do this, and that i get to know them. Sana, next time around, can go with my family in tow naman. πŸ’š I also love that I got to try a new, chic restaurant for lunch. Bon Apetit’s grilled tuna steak is πŸ‘ŒπŸ‘ŒπŸ‘Œ. It was so nice hanging out with old work friends, reminiscing, and making chismis. I’m glad for friends like these, na even though we don’t see each other often, we just pick up where we left off each time we do. Minsan talaga, taking just a few hours to do our own thing can be such a sanity saver for busy moms. And spending time with people who matter makes the experience extra sweet. Thank goodness for husbandries who understand that need, and pick us up pa when we’re good and done. And for grandparents who take our kids, too, so we don’t have to worry while we enjoy our me-time. Hastag blessed nga naman! Now, after all that, I’m so happy to be home. Tired but happy. Heart is full. Back to regular programming. Good morning! #kwentooftheday #damingsinabi #thismomlife #momlife #ohanameansfamily #freindsarefamilytoo #toomanyhashtags #whenindavao

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October came, and the family got together to cheer for daddy in his first-ever Historic Mini Racers race. He did as well as could be, for a beginner, but more importantly he had an awesome time. I’m glad we were there to see it.

And then there was Halloween, which is always a fun occasion at my mom’s house.

In November, I got a flat tire for the first time. I didn’t know how to change a tire (I still don’t) and I was lucky that a kind trike driver helped me find a guy to change the tire.

On the upside, I got to start the holidays early with my Mothers Who Brunch friends, too. Plus I won a Severin Mr. Twister Spiralizer at the event. Lucky duck!


Oh my gosh this car. This car. We have been through so much together. My first accident (I was rear-ended by a texting mom. Lightly lang naman.) My first stupid self-accident (I hit the gate and wall of our garage. Remember that giant dent+scratch @mommanmanila Hahaha!) And then that one time when the transmission failed on me and I had to drive home with acceleration/deceleration issues. Nadiskargahan narin pala ako ng battery once, in our garage. And I found out when I was about to take the kiddo to school. And now my first flat. Thank God we were inside the village already and not crazy Alabang Zapote. Thank God I have so many relatives who live close by (thank you for the help Ate @margsflorendo!) And thank God for the manong trike driver who took my “Please manong hanap ka ng makaka change ng gulong ko. Please please please?” damsel in distress act (which really wasn’t an act haha I didn’t learn anything in automotive class) seriously, and came through with a guy with a jack and a tire iron that he picked up from who knows where. I am now eating ice cream in my kitchen. Ayoko na umalis. Ever. That is all. #kwentooftheday #ihatedriving #driversweetmother #adulting

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Big winners at the Mothers Who Brunch event!

December came and all the festivities began. In the middle of it all, on Christmas Eve, our cat of 20 years, Sasha, passed away. It was sad, but I’m also glad that she’s no longer in pain.

We ended the month, and the year with Baby Luna’s first birthday party, and finally with a family dinner to welcome 2018.

Now that I look back on it, I realize just how full my 2017 was. It’s the kind of happy, fulfilling full, though, and not the rushed, busy, hectic type. I’m glad that we chose to spend our time the way we did last year, ups and downs included. 

Here’s looking ahead to a spectacular 2018.

Writing For Myself

I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t believe that it’s already November! It feels like 2017 has gone by so quickly. But then, when I really stop and think about it, I realize that we’ve actually done so much this year, and January feels like an oh-so-distant memory. What a whirlwind it has been.

I even got to go to the beach. Twice!

There is one thing, though, that I haven’t been able to do as much as I wanted to this year. I haven’t been able to write enough for myself.

Ironically, I write all the time. My computer is one of the most overworked things in this house. 80 percent of the time, though, it’s for other people. 

This will sound really silly, but last week I found myself feeling jealous over an article I wrote for someone else’s site. It was a wonderful piece, heartfelt and entertaining. The words matched this persons photos perfectly. How I wish I could have made more time to create posts like that for myself. 

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? It has to come from me. I’m in charge of figuring out how to use my time, energy, and brain cells. It’s up to me to decide to write for myself instead of for someone else, at least for one day out of the week, or even just a few hours in a day. 

So why haven’t I done it? 

Well, life. My unending list of things to do each day. Bills that come every month. Lack of time. Lack of energy. Lack of motivation. Lack of brain space to process my rough ideas. Excuses, choices, reasons and more. And none of this is gonna change unless I do.

So, like countless other times before, I am making a promise to myself to dedicate more of my writing time to the things that matter to me.

I actually started already last September. I’m right smack in the middle of a very important project that has taken me years to start. It’s huge. It’s one of those childhood dream come true kinds of things. It’s scary, and it’s insanely difficult. This is one project that I fully intend to see through, no matter what. 


Labor of love. #passionproject #romanceclassya

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This blog post is also (yet another) start. There are so many things that I want, and need to write about here. I’m embarrassed to say that some of my pending posts are from 2015. It’s really time to get working on those. Plus, I have a few other social media-related baby projects in the works, too.

It all seems so overwhelming now that I have it all written out, but I know for sure that this is not impossible. What will really matter now is sticking to my timelines and deadlines, both for work and for myself. Something I’m, admittedly, not very good at. LOL.

So here’s to that, and here’s to me, and here’s to doing things that matter. I already know that it’s gonna be worth it.

What about you guys? Any passions projects currently in the works? Tell me about it, and let’s cheer each other on!

Life With Eczema

Over the past couple of months I’ve been dealing with the worst eczema flare-up of my life.

The condition that I have is nothing new to me. I was first diagnosed with atopic dermatitis at the age of 12. It comes and it goes, but never truly goes away. That’s the real curse of eczema, as anyone who suffers from the same disease would know. 

Back when I was younger, I didn’t know a lot of people with eczema. These days, though, nearly everyone and their children suffer from it. While misery loves company, I really do feel sad about this. Why do more and more people have to suffer through this insufferable itch that I’ve been dealing with for more than half my life? What’s causing it? Is it the food? The quality of our air and water? All the chemical-laden products we use on ourselves and our homes? 

I wonder if anyone actually has an answer. Then again, I wouldn’t bank on it. Just as sure as this annoying disease is incurable, it is also virtually impossible to identify what exactly triggers a flare-up. Everything about it is one big guessing game.

So what are we poor unfortunate souls who suffer from eczema to do then? Deal with it is all. And dealing with it is something I’ve been doing for so long. 

I never thought about writing about my life with eczema before because mine has always been reasonably manageable. Until now.

Just one of those days

The past summer was intensely hot, extremely humid, and very, very dusty – three things that I already know can irritate my skin. All that, plus that the stress that I’ve had to deal with over the last few months (which I don’t really want to talk about), my not-so-healthy food choices as of late, and the harsh bath and laundry soaps that I’ve been using (because I’m hard-headed like that), made a real recipe for disaster. By mid-June, I found myself faced with a case of uncontrollable eczema.

I’ll post a photo so you guys have an idea what I was going through when this monster of a flare-up started, but be warned. It’s not pretty. It’s actually kinda disturbing. Especially if you get grossed out easily.


Believe it or not, this was nothing compared to the rest of my body. I cropped the really bad parts out.

My face says it all. So itchy!!!

When this photo was taken I had just arrived home from El Nido. When I left, I already had a lot of red spots on my arms, the backs of my knees, and my torso. By my third day in Palawan, most of the spots had transformed into (the dreaded) weeping eczema.

Not only was I suffering though sweaty days and hard water showers while I was there, but my skin was sticking to my clothes and cracking already, too. It goes without saying that it was one beach trip that I, unfortunately, did not fully enjoy. Thank goodness it wasn’t my first time there or I would have been devastated.

It’s been nearly two months since then, and I’m happy to say that I’m a lot better now. I’m not completely rash-free yet, but my skin is back to being manageable. It hasn’t been easy getting back to this state, but it has been 100% worth it.

Here’s everything I did to get better.

First, I changed my diet. I’ve been doing my best to stay away from dairy, eggs, chicken, and wheat. No, I have not been able to completely abstain from these things because that would be really sad. But I’ve cut back significantly. 

I stopped putting milk in my coffee, and instead I drink it black now. I’ve shifted to soy or almond milk for my cereal. I still haven’t found a dairy-free yogurt alternative, though, so if you know of one please tell me. As for wheat, this is something we’ve kinda gotten used to living without, since Little MrC is gluten-sensitive, too. Though, I have to admit that every once in a while I do allow myself (and even my son) to enjoy real bread. Like yesterday, when I had avo toast for breakfast at E.A.C.H. So good. So worth it.

Eggs and chicken, on the other hand, I’m really trying to cut out completely. Eggs in baked goods, and mayonnaise are my only exceptions. Among everything I’ve eliminated from my diet, it’s chicken and eggs that have really caused a skin reaction whenever I was careless enough to eat them. My cousins and aunts who also have eczema react badly to them, too, so I’m not surprised that it’s the same for me.

Apart from the dietary changes, I’ve also changed my bath soap. What I’m using isn’t actually soap, but a soap replacement (or at least I think that’s what my dermatologist called it) called Eczekleen. Thank goodness it’s easy to find in Mercury Drugstore. I also tried using Cetaphil Restoraderm for Eczema, but that made me itchy. Sigh.

I’ve also started moisturizing regularly. I’m ashamed to say this is not a habit I formed over the years, but now I have no choice but to do it. I tried Cetaphil for eczema for this, too, but that made me itchy the same way the body wash did. I’ve been doing well so far with Planet Noah Oasis Soothing Baby VoCo Cream, which I get from Sesou Nature Source.

I changed my laundry soap, too, but just for my clothes. The boys are doing ok with the commercial detergent and fabric conditioner combo that we’ve been using for years. I, on the other hand, need to wash my clothes separately, using either Human Nature liquid laundry detergent or grated Perla. Between the two, I like Perla better. It’s more tedious to use, though, because I have to grate and melt it before I can start washing. But hey, you gotta do what you gotta do, right?

The one final change I made that has really helped was to stay away from stress. When I saw my dermatologist the day after I came home from Palawan, she asked if I had been stressed out. When I said yes, she gave me a look that said, “You should know better by now”. She has been treating my atopic dermatitis since day one, see, and after years and years, she already knows how I should be dealing with it.

As she usually does, she had me start on topical steroids. This time, though, for the first time ever, because things were so bad I had to take oral steroids, antihistamines and antibiotics, too. That was not fun.

The combination of meds made me feel weak and sleepy, and for some reason my mouth and tongue ended up covered in sores. I don’t think I ever want to have to go through that again, and I remind myself of this every time I decide to eat bread or ice cream.

Ultimately, it’s gonna take an entire lifestyle shift for me to be able to manage my eczema from here on out, probably because I’m older and my body can no longer keep up the way it used to when I was a kid. So there. I have a reason to write about my life with eczema now.

I’ll definitely be sharing what works for me and what doesn’t in hopes that the information might help someone else. At the same time, if any of you have tried anything that worked for you, please share! I need all the help I can get.