Monday, December 30, 2013

Home sweet home.

I'll be honest with you. The majority of people get stressed out by apartment hunting and house searching, and while I do agree that it can be very stressful, I enjoy all the new possible homes!

But let's face it - looking for a new place can be very time consuming, and not all of us have the time. But take it from me, speaking as someone who has moved 10 times in 12 years, the time investment you put in to finding your perfect home will be well worth it!

After switching apartments almost every year since I was 18 (for many different reasons), my husband and I finally became home owners in the summer of 2012. As anyone can imagine, owning a home is a HUGE investment, so why wouldn't you spend the time thinking it over? When you're ready to buy, there are many things to start thinking about: Do you want to be close to the city, or more out in the suburbs? Even if you don't have kids, don't you want to make sure you're in a good school district? What about a fix-me-upper or move-in ready? All these questions aren't meant to stress you out. The fact is, you'll start noticing these things more as you look at different homes. But that's my point: look at different homes!

My husband and I found our dream home in only 1.5 months - but we looked at about 15 houses! Now, I don't want to sound contradictory, but this was probably overboard. Really, after 10 houses, they all start to look alike. But those first 3 to 5 homes are really key to your search, because those are the ones that start to formulate thoughts in your mind. Those are the houses that make you realize the little things that are important to you: do you need a fenced in yard for your pets? Is there an attic for storage? Do you need a basement? What about a Master bathroom? After seeing so many examples of what you do and don't want, by the 7th or 8th house, you'll find what you're looking for!

This is why it is important to have a patient and caring realtor. I was lucky enough to have a friend who we trusted to help us look for a place. But the fact is most realtors only want your commission, so by the 3rd home, they just want you to put an offer in because if you don't, "your dream home will be taken!" Not to sound all philosophical, but if your supposed "dream home" was meant to be, it will be there when you're ready. Do not let anyone pressure you! Who is putting the 20% down for this house? YOU!

The same rule of thumb applies no matter if you're buying or renting: do not be pressured into getting a place you don't want! Just because you're not putting a huge monetary investment towards a rental property, doesn't mean that you shouldn't care about where you're living. This is your home - your place of sanctuary.

Most rental properties can be found easily off Craigslist, but even on Craigslist, there are many apartment-finding services that are eagerly waiting to make money off of you. I am not usually one to use such a service, but the first - and needless to say last - time I did, it was absolutely disastrous!

The service we used was the Apartment GuysOver the phone someone took our information: what type of amenities we were looking for in a place, the TWO different neighborhoods we were interested in, and of course our price range. It turned out that they were actually available that same day to show us 3 places that met our criteria. All 3 were located in only one of the neighborhoods we were interested in, but my impatient-self was very excited to see what they had regardless of. We met them at the 1st house, and right away he tells us that 1 of the 3 houses is not available to show. Ok. kind of disappointing, but we can live with that. But then, the 1st house we did see was well above our price range! How does that help us any?? The 2nd and final home we saw was within our price, but it just wasn't what we were looking for - our Apartment Guy was none too happy to hear that we weren't interested. He immediately goes on about how we need to make a decision, and that we should sign the lease now before it gets snatched up. Naturally, his pushiness completely turned me off from the entire situation.

I however did not want to give up just yet, so I gave him AMPLE opportunity to show us more places - I said things like, "well, we still would like to see some places up north if you have any availability" or "we're open to looking at more places next week" but to him, waiting until next week was absurd. Instead, he kept pushing us to sign on this one place. When he finally realized we wouldn't budge, he quickly walked out and said, "We'll keep in touch then." and left without walking us out.

I of course never heard from him again.

... which was totally fine with me!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My fat secret.

Photo from
I'll be honest with you. Losing weight is something new to me. When I was younger, I was very active and athletic, but like so many other people who go off to college, I gained the Freshman 15... and then some. On top of a condition I have that contributed to me gaining weight, I just got lazy and tired.

I don't want jinx myself, but it's been 4 months now since I've started really motivating myself to lose weight, and I have so far lost 20 lbs! There are definitely many factors to my success thus far, and I am sure I will get into many of them eventually as I keep blogging, but the one thing I want to get into right now is

I have never been one to want to count my calories - in fact, I really looked down upon it because I didn't want to be one of those people. But eventually I gave in, and now calorie counting has been the largest factor to my weight loss! FatSecret has been HUGE to successfully keeping track of my calories. It is so easy to work with, and best of all it's FREE. And while I do not have a smart phone, I'm going to assume almost all of you reading this do, and so download the app for it!

When you go to, it will ask you a few questions to get you started, but then will take you right into the site. As you can see, there are many things you can track here:

My FatSecret Toolbox
You can log in your weight, write down notes for yourself, meet other people in forums and discussion groups and find & share recipes. There are even challenges you can join, like "20 lbs in 4 weeks" or "Just Dance the pounds away".

I am fairly new to FatSecret, and there is still so much more I want to explore on the site, but so far what I have found most useful to me is the Diet Calendar. There are two different types of Diet Calendars: Food Diary and Exercise Diary. In the Exercise Diary, you can list what exercises you've done and for how long, and it will calculate out for you how many calories you've burned.

In the Food Diary, you list everything you eat throughout the day. Now, here is where the ease comes in. You don't have to carry around the back of a box or food package with you to know the nutrition facts - you just type in what you ate in the search engine and it finds all the info for you! Their food database is so extensive, I believe there's only been once so far where it didn't find something I ate. There is also a UPC scanner on the app, so if you are on your smart phone or iPad or whatever, you just scan the UPC code on the outer package of whatever you're eating, and it will pull up all the information for you!

Other cool things about FatSecret, it lists all information about your intake - not just calores - it lists your fiber intake, protein, carbs... even NET carbs! You can also figure out your RDI (Recommended Daily Intake), and everyday it will tell you how much percentage you have under or over based on your Diet Calendar.

I know there are many Weight Loss websites out there that probably do the same stuff - if not more, but FatSecret is just the one that I use, and I have so far been very happy with it. Either way, if you are trying to lose weight, don't wait to long like I did. The technology/websites/apps out there are so plentiful... it gives you no more excuses to sit around and do nothing!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A lot of work for The Happiest Day of Your Life.

I'll be honest with you. I'm actually the absolute farthest from being a girlie-girl, but when it came to my wedding, I definitely made sure I pulled out all the bells and whistles.

I don't know why I thought about this now, because it's been over 2.5 years that I've been married, but I was just thinking about all the planning that goes into a wedding... a BIG wedding that is. Now, I'm not going to explain to you what each of these are because that's not the point of my post, but to give you some perspective: I had a large Filipino wedding that consisted of 250 guests, 18 bridesmaids/groomsmen, 6 ushers, 20 Primary sponsors, 6 Secondary sponsors, 4 readers, 3 flower girls, 3 ring bearers/coin bearers/Bible bearers... and I loved EVERY SINGLE SECOND of planning it!

I have never planned something so intensely that it took up every single day of my life for 1.5 years straight. I completely exhausted every single option I had for dress shops, DJs, reception halls, flowers, photography, gifts, giveaways, cakes, etc etc etc. But I don't regret any second of it, because I had an absolutely wonderful wedding and contrary to popular belief, was able to plan it out so that nothing went wrong the day of... or at least nothing that I new about! ;)

Anyway, I can go on and on about the vendors I chose and why I chose them, and maybe I'll hone in on these eventually in the future, but what randomly popped in my mind today was the dress shops I went to. I've gone to roughly 10 to 15 bridal shops in my life and each one works so differently from the others.

But first, get it out of your head that you need to go to some pretentious bridal shop in some big city to buy a $2,000+ dress. Guess what, all dresses are beautiful, and you'll find a decently priced one eventually.

The pictured dress is the one I got for $800.

With everything else that you have to spend on for a wedding, be smart with your purchases!

Anyway, what really got me thinking though was about how true it is that bridal shops have some really nasty workers! I dunno, maybe they're not married and wish they are, or maybe the married ones are annoyed by the hopeful brides that come in the door, but then get a new job!

What I cannot fathom for the life of me is that these bridal shops - like everything in the wedding industry - rely so heavily on referrals and word of mouth. Do you really think it is smart to make a bride-to-be upset? Guess what, they won't buy your dress, they will not buy their bridal party dresses and tuxes there, they will not refer you to their friends, and nowadays, they can blast you all over the internet... just like I am now.

Throughout my journey of bridal shops, I've come across many bad ones and many good ones, but the one that really was a thorn in my side was House of Brides. Coincidentally, I first encountered House of Brides when I was a bridesmaid for a friend. And just like I stated above, my experience there was so awful that I absolutely steered clear from there when it was time for my wedding. And what is one of the first things I tell my friends who are newly engaged?

For those of you in the Chicagoland area, here are some great places to check out:
Kasia's Bridal
Bella Bianca
VIP Occassions

Like I said, I can go on and on about all the places and vendors I checked out for my wedding, so for all those bride-to-be's out there, please feel free to contact me for suggestions and ideas!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Breakfast does a body good.

I'll be honest with you. I used to NEVER eat breakfast in the morning.
I don't have time. I'm not hungry. We don't have food. blah blah blah. For those of you who were just like me: stop making excuses!

For the last 3.5 months now, I have forced myself to eat breakfast every morning. And not just a cereal bar on-the-go, people! You need a couple of hearty eggs, a slice of toast perhaps, or even a filling fruit smoothie. On top of being able to spend some quality time with my husband before work at the breakfast table, I have never felt more energized and less hungry throughout the rest of the morning, as well as having a dramatic weight loss since then (of course there are other factors for the weight loss, but the breakfast every morning helps!).

If it weren't for the fatty foods and cost, I would go to a breakfast restaurant everyday! Luckily for me, I was able to treat myself this morning. Before going to work, my husband and I went to Kevin's Place in Deerfield, IL. For all you Chicagoland people... you HAVE to come here!

Kevin's Place is the CUTEST little breakfast diner right in the heart of the northern suburb of Deerfield. It's got stools up at the counter just like a 50's diner, as well as a small open area in the back for tables. They have a large array of yummy food on their menu, ranging from pancakes to french toast to waffles to skillets, as well as simple items like eggs and bacon or sausage, or a bagel and cream cheese. 

The best thing about this place though is the personable owner.... and you guessed it... whose name is Kevin! He walked around to each table, asking how everyone was, explaining the menu to them and even taking orders. He would sit down and chat with his regulars too. When we were leaving, he made some small talk with us and always had a huge smile on his face. Just talkin' to him, you knew he truly loved his job.

I don't know about you, but I can't help but fully respect these small and local establishments. In a northern Chicago suburb surrounded by the famous and also-delicious Walker Bros. Pancake House, it's great to get a nice breath of fresh air at a more personable breakfast joint.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I'll be honest with you.

I'll be honest with you. I have NO IDEA what I am doing. I'm only 30 years old and work in computer graphics, yet all this social media stuff scares me! I know, weird, right? I don't even have a smart phone. I am sure I will get into that phenomenon in one of my entries at some point in time.

I don't know how to keep up a good blog. I don't know how to make it known. I don't know how to get it expanded out into Facebook, Google+, Twitter or whatever other social media outlets will come about. I just learned what a twitter handle is, and what the #(insert_word) means.

What I do know is that I love to write. I love to babble. But, more importantly, I love to review things and let everyone know what my opinions are. So, all I can do is start out slow and get the hang of things, and hopefully, eventually everything else will just naturally fall into place.

So what is this blog about? Well, theoretically it will be about anything and everything that you want to know more about.... restaurants I've been to, movies and TV shows I watch, products I use, vacations I've gone on, etc, etc. I'm writing about these things in hopes that you can get something out of my reviews.

So what will make my posts different from others'? Well... i don't know. I like to say that I always give 2 sides to the story; that I'm unbiased and will just lay out the facts. I guess you will be the one to tell me if I succeed in being honest with you.