Of Goodness

I know what you’re thinking—this is going to be one of those preachy articles about charity. Probably written by a person who wants praise for it, to feel better about herself. That’s not entirely false, actually, but give me a chance and keep reading.

Let’s start by establishing the fact that I grew up pretty self-involved. I am an only child of two people who waited a long time to have a baby, so I was doted on and cared for every minute of every day. Sharing was not really in my vocabulary, as you can imagine. I floated through school being responsible, studious and obedient, and it pleased me to often be referred to as ‘good’. Life, as far as I knew, was also always ‘good’. I did not see or experience anything to show me otherwise.

And then, in my junior year of college, I happened to be in a Theology class that required a semester of community immersion. Our group was assigned to go to the Cribs Foundation in Marikina every Saturday for the duration of that sem. We were tasked to help out with the orphaned babies there, feed them, play with them, put them to sleep, etc. I remember my first thought was that we were lucky—we would get to hang with a bunch of cute babies instead of living in the slums or visiting prisoners, which would have been umm, uncomfortable to say the least.

So we went to the orphanage that first day and it was fun, everyone loves babies after all. The hours flew by, and before I knew it the immersion was over. On our last visit, one of the babies was crying and clinging onto me before I put her in her crib, as though she knew that would be the last time we would see each other.

Then it hit me—how many more goodbyes would this child have to say in her lifetime? The babies could only stay in this orphanage for a few years. If they were not adopted within that time, they would have to be placed in different shelters. How many volunteers, caretakers, foster families and adoptive parents might she go through? Who would care to cherish and celebrate any of her milestones, her first steps, her first words, or when she started to read and write? Who would hug her in the middle of the night when there’s thunder and lightning and bad dreams? Who would defend her from bullies? Who would encourage her to pursue her dreams—or worse, would she even have the luxury to dream?

I cried that day because it became all too real to me that the world isn’t fair. Here I was, brought up with the very best my parents could offer. While there were 25 other children in that center, and a multitude more around the world, who may never experience that kind of love, that kind of care and support. And I cried too because of how shallow and insignificant I felt, to not be able to do anything much except offer a few hours of my time that semester, in the midst of partying with my friends, studying for exams, having crushes on boys and planning my future career in the corporate world.

In my mid twenties, I realized my life felt quite empty, like something was missing. I wanted to give back somehow, so I sought to join a group of girls called the Zugbuana Jaycees, who were known for community efforts around Cebu. In the seven or eight years that I was an active member, and eventually leader, of that group, my friends and I managed to complete a lot of projects, from huge fashion show fundraisers for the benefit of sexually abused women and children, to granting scholarships to children from impoverished families, to livelihood or hygiene workshops at children’s centers, medical missions, activities for the handicapped, and so on. After every event I would give myself a little pat on the back and tell myself—‘you did good today.’ But you see, that wasn’t all. Because at the back of my mind, I wasn’t sure if I was doing all that because I really wanted to help, or because I wanted to feel good about myself, to tell myself I’m doing my part, I’m doing what a good person is supposed to do, or perhaps I wanted people to think that I was a good person. Maybe it was all of it, and somehow it just never felt like it was enough. I let that thought simmer for some time and moved along.

Today, at thirty plus years old (ha!), I have finally come to realize there is nothing to prove to anyone, nothing to prove to myself. I know whatever I do will never be enough to make a real dent in the world. And you know what? That is ok. For as long as I can make things just a little better, just a little easier for someone, it is good enough. For as long as small acts of kindness might inspire others to do a little more for others as well, it is good enough. As a wise friend of mine told me, the concept of depth is relative to everyone—what might have been a random thing for me, like smiling at a stranger, might have meant the world to that person on a really bad day.  So for as long as you accept whatever shortcomings you have, start each day with an earnest heart, and do whatever you can, yes it is good enough.

And so, about 15 years after that first visit to Cribs Foundation, I found myself back there again, with some of my close friends, this time bringing things to help the orphanage. It still breaks my heart to see babies as young as 13 days brought there because they were abandoned at the hospital, to think of what happens when they get sick, or scared, to know that we cannot really shelter them from the evils in this world. But to see how many people were so eager to help and give, to spend time on a weekend, to hold a child and make her smile, hoping that she will find her way to a loving family and grow up to be a fine young lady someday, hoping she will think of all the volunteers, caretakers and donors at that center, and somehow feel there is still some kindness and goodness left here—that is not just good enough. That is everything. Because in as much as we were helping these babies, they were helping us too: they were teaching us hope, they were strengthening our faith.

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So the point I’m making is that we all need to believe that everyone can make a difference. Whether it’s for a cause like these orphans, or for the sick and elderly, the soldiers fighting to protect our country, animal welfare, prisoners, farmers, victims of abuse and human trafficking, the environment, or even for causes closer to home like taking care of our household help, extending more patience and understanding to family members, being sincere to people at work—we can all spare a little kindness, a little charity. J.K. Rowling says it perfectly: ‘We do not need magic to change the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.’

 

*In case you want to know more about the Cribs Foundation and wish to help out as well, check out their website at www.cribsfoundation.com.

The Elegance of Saying No

Sometime last year, I wrote an article entitled ‘The Magic of the Yes’.   It pretty much stated all the reasons it would be a life-changing experience to say Yes to new experiences, new friends, new challenges, to seize the day and grab the bull by the horns. Over months of reflection though, while I still strongly believe that our default answer to life should be a deep, resounding Yes, I’ve come to realize there are certain things we need to learn to say No to as well.

‘Elegance is refusal’, Coco Chanel once said and I’ve come to understand what she meant. To live a life you love, a life you can be proud of and look back on without any trace of regret, you need to leave some things behind. Here’s my list. You should make one for yourself too.

  1. Say no to harmful substances. This is the most obvious. There are some things in life that can give you a heady rush but a bad fall, and it’s just not worth it. Examples– Drugs. Too much liquor. And umm, bad boys?
  2. Say no to bad food. Life is too short to scarf down canned food, fast food, junk food, and basically anything that is not natural and nourishing. You think your body will never know the difference, but it does– and you don’t want to regret it by getting sick, having a bad mood or feeling weak when you are supposed to be in the pink of health, enjoying every moment. So yes, spend the extra cash on your proper nutrition. That is one expense you’ll never regret.
  3. Say no to empty conversations. If it’s gossip about other people, gleeful accounts of somebody else’s mistakes or downfall, a stream of name dropping and bragging, or random nonsense small talk with people you can’t truly connect with, just avoid it. Spend your time with people who broaden your horizons, feed your imagination and enrich your soul.  modern-prints-and-posters
  4. Say no to fake friends. There are ‘friends’ who are only your friends when times are good—either they ride on the winds of your success, enjoy freebies, social media attention, or benefit from you in some way. There are also ‘friends’ who are only your friends when times are bad—they cannot handle seeing you do better and secretly resent it when you are living a good life. Lastly, there are ‘friends’ who are neither of these, but are simply not good people. They drain the life out of you, backstab and bitch about others, and just aren’t a healthy influence. All of these people do not need to be in your life, and it’s time to cut them loose.  lose
  5. Say no to one-sided relationships. It is one thing to go the extra mile for love, to bear hardships and whatever else, to make extra efforts to make a person feel special, to understand moods and quirks and bad days, bad months, or even a bad year. It is quite another to keep doing this and not receive enough in return– to be taken for granted, played with, set aside, talked down to or ignored. It’s really very simple. Choose people who choose you.  1960339864-sometimes-you-need-to-give-up-on-people-not-because-you-dont-care-but-because-they-dont-quote-1
  6. Say no to being too busy to enjoy life. Since we really aren’t sure how much time we have in this world, stop procrastinating and start enjoying life. Do what you’ve always dreamed of. Yes, you can be busy. But sometimes ‘busy’ becomes an excuse and a fallback for not taking that long deserved vacation, for not spending enough time with your family, for not getting out there to meet new people, for not learning new things like languages or hobbies, for not starting a business of your own, for not really living. Because really living requires courage, and passion, and energy, and love. So what’s it gonna be?  life
  7. Say no to settling for less than you deserve. This applies to everything. If you are not getting the customer service you deserve or paid for, then say so. If you are not getting the love and care you give, then go. If you are not getting the respect you earned through your work, or simply for being who you are, then leave. Enough with the ‘puede na (this will do)’. Life is too short to make do with scraps and crumbs. If you deserve better, believe it and go get it.  heels
  8. Say no to status quo. Do not be afraid to rock the boat once in a while, because the only way to remain relevant in this world is to change. Do not keep doing the same thing but expecting a different result. There is always a better way, there is always room for improvement. Keep setting the bar higher for yourself and know that you have the capability to surpass even your wildest dreams.
  9. Say no to ugly clothes. This column wouldn’t be called Kikay and you wouldn’t even be reading this article if you don’t appreciate the importance of good aesthetics. And to add to living out your full potential, make sure you always look your best anywhere you go by only wearing what really, really looks good on you. I mean c’mon— surely you know that a trend overkill usually makes people look like roadkill? So if you’re going to open your wallet and spend money anyway, it better be to pay for only the very best you can afford. Never mind if you have fewer things and simpler clothes, as long as anything you put on makes you look like a million bucks.

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    Sometimes I want to give people these shirt as a gift… 

  10. Say no to anything that doesn’t light you up from the inside out. Once upon a time, an organizing consultant named Marie Kondo came up with the ‘KonMari’ method of tidying up, and it became a runaway hit. The basic principle is that you keep only what ‘sparks joy’ in your home and in your life. You are supposed to pick up the object, study how it makes you feel, and if it brings back a happy memory or is simply something you love, then keep it and find a proper place for it. Everything else needs to be discarded. And yes, this does not only apply to things but to the rest of your life too. Make room and free up space for only those that matter. The rest of it is just noise.

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    Read this book!

 

So you see? While there is magic in Yes, there can also be elegance in No.

 

Follow #kikaycebu ‘s adventures on Instagram at miazamora116.

Summer Essentials

In case you missed it, summer is in full swing and everything is burning up–it is that hot!!! School’s out, work people are on vacation mode, and the annual party called summer in the Philippines is definitely raging this year. Don’t miss out on these must-haves to keep you looking fabulous all season long:

  1. agnes b. Lunettes– This très chic French fashion brand first opened its doors in 1975, and now has more than a hundred stores all over the world. It’s known for classic apparel, accessories, watches, jewelry, and eyewear. A couple of weeks ago, the eye care center Ideal Vision launched the very first line of agnes b. eyewear made available in the Philippines, and the whole collection is delightful! The styles are timeless and elegant, whether for glasses or sunglasses, but come with a fresh twist, like colored or striped frames, mirrorized lenses, and flattering shapes—all embodying the brand’s free spirited vibe.   I think I just found a new favorite! Check them out at select Ideal Vision branches soon. Visit idealvisioncenter.com.ph. and like or follow Ideal Vision Center on Facebook and Instagram for all updates.

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    Fresh frames by agnes b.

  2. Tipsy Pops– I tried one of these and after that first taste I Just. Could. Not. Stop! Such an awesome idea to create these yummy alcoholic popsicles perfect for any summer bash. They come in all your favorite flavors too: Piñacolada, Kalamansi Margarita, Mango Rum, Strawberry Daiquiri, Orange Arancello, Seabreeze, Bloody Sunset, and Tropical Tequila Sunrise! You can order a party stash by emailing tipsypops2015@gmail.com, or swing by Cebu’s number one weekend market Sugbo Mercado IT Park for your fix. Check out their Facebook page at facebook.com/lickmoderately.

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    You know you want this…

  3. The chic one piece– Yes, those itsy bitsy bikinis will never go out of style, but if you want to amp up the ante on the fashion front this year, go for a sexy one piece instead. Whether it’s the side cut-out variety, the lace up neckline, or the sideboob-baring type, you’ll surely sizzle like the sun. Check out styles at Cotton On, Forever 21, or the many online shops available and rock it like you mean it at the beach!

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    A Cotton On one piece– bet you’ve never seen denim look this good!

  4. Metallic tattoos– Move over, henna, and don’t even get me started on those ridiculous flower crowns. The coolest body adornments to wear this season are of the metallic kind, on smooth, bronzed skin setting off resort chic dresses and lace up sandals.   The easiest way is via stick on metallic/glitter tattoos, or even better, try out metallic body paint with a friend! Now who’s a gleaming goddess?  2da069525e2b251eb6d1ad470dd58ca1
  5. Inflatables– We went crazy for them last year, and we’re definitely still crazy for them this year! Buy your giant rainbow unicorn, swan, winged horse, donut or slice of pizza and float away to summer bliss. A word of caution: it’s better to use these babies in the pool instead of the sea, it’s kinda hard to get back to shore against the current on a giant inflatable creature, unless you tie it down.

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    Take your new pet unicorn to the beach!

  6. Yellow– Literally the color of summer (and Coldplay), and what a heyday it’s having right now! Make sure to add a splash of lemon yellow to your wardrobe this season, whether via a bright yellow top worn with denims or whites, or a skirt/shorts, a bag, or a pair of gorgeous yellow heels. Trust me, it’s impossible not to be happy wearing such a vibrant color, and more smiles will be headed your way.

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    Loving this butter yellow top from Stradivarius

  7. Crop tops– As the temperature gets hotter, the tops grow smaller. So I hope you did all your crunches, core work and everything you possibly could to get a flat tummy (and abs, perhaps?) in time for summer…because since 90’s fashion is so back, we are seeing blouses shrink to Britney Spears 1997 levels filling up all the fashion racks. Wear with high waisted jeans/shorts, or drawstring-waist skirts.

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    Tiny tops to wear on endless summer nights

So there’s my lucky seven for the summer. Now all you need is some sun, sea, sand, and an awesome Spotify playlist, and you’re all set to have the best season ever. Have fun, kikays!

Beauty Bulletin 2017

Hello darlings! Spring is here, and it’s not only the flowers that need to get blooming. We’re lucky to be living in this day and age of flash technology, where products get upgraded at the blink of an eye. When you read up on all the latest beauty loot below, you can’t help but wonder what they’ll think of next! So get your online shopping face ready, take out those credit cards, and I’ll bet you you’ll be ordering away by the end of this article. Here are the top 10 products I’m excited about for 2017:

  1. Dyson hair dryer– We all know Dyson for their hi-tech cleaning machines, but they’ve gone a step further and created hair dryer that is as quiet as they come! With 3 precise speed settings and 4 precise heat settings, this gadget is going to revolutionize your blowout, not to mention make your husbands very happy! An even better idea—tell him to get you one if he wants to be able to hear anything while you’re doing your hair!  dyson-supersonic-iron-fuchsia
  2. Avene or L’oreal Micellar water– Cleansing oil is a thing of the past, you can say goodbye to that greasy, sticky feeling in this humid tropical climate of ours. These days girls in the know are using Micellar water, which feels literally just like water but deep cleans your face of all gunk—from makeup to waterproof lipstick, deep seated dirt and whatever else. No need to go anywhere near the sink! Just swipe that dirt away with a cotton ball and crash into bed.  loreal
  3. Charlotte Tilsbury Dry Sheet Mask– You know how using those individually wrapped face masks can get super messy? Here’s a mask that’s completely dry, like a sheet of paper. There’s a thing to put on your ears to keep it in place, and the idea is to massage your face for about 30 seconds before the product comes out of the sheet and onto your skin- everything you need from hydration to brightness to smoothness and lift. And you can use it up to 3 times, which is more than you can say for your messy mask.  multi-pack-mask
  4. Cutex BB Nail Concealer– When you’re always getting your nails polished, you know very well that there are periods where you need them to rest and breathe. But you can’t exactly go around with yellow, brittle nails no matter how clean they are! So this BB nail concealer is infused with vitamins to help your nails recover from damage, but hides any discoloration under a healthy, pinkish hue. Nice!  cutex-bb-nail-concealer-0-5-oz
  5. L’oreal Extraordinary Clay Pre-Shampoo Mask– For those of you with oily roots, this clay-texture mask absorbs all that excess oil so that you can clean your tresses properly. Just massage into your scalp for 5 minutes, and when rinsed out, your roots are completely clear and the ends much softer. Who wouldn’t be a fan?  loreal2
  6. Shiseido Synchro Skin Glow– How about a foundation so smart that it knows your skin better than you do? Yes, sounds unbelievable. But this fluid foundation (with SPF 20, mind you) has a special sensing technology that gets in sync with your complexion and adjusts itself throughout the day as your oil levels- and stress levels- change. So you’ll always have that gorgeous glow and just the right level of hydration.  shiseido
  7. Urban Decay Vice Liquid Lipstick– We’ve all used waterproof lipstick, and long-wearing lipstick, but this baby is transfer-proof too. That means, once that color is on your lips, it ain’t going nowhere. No lipstick marks on your teacup, bf’s face, or whatever. And it comes in 30 shades, so you’ll definitely find your perfect match.  urban
  8. Murad Matte Effect Blotting Perfector– This little gem is a cushion compact that contains a serum that immediately absorbs grease, perfect for those besieged with oily skin. It dries down to a clear, velvety finish and goes over your makeup without messing up your perfect blending and contouring. You know that saying ‘oiliness is next to ugliness’… murad
  9. Tweezerman Expertweeze Lighted Slant Tweezer-Even when you tweeze your brows during the day, it can sometimes get difficult to see what you’re doing. This tweezer has a built in LED light and is slanted in such a way that it makes it easier to catch those little buggers of hair strands. How did we even survive without this?  tweezer
  10. HiMirror– Okayyy so I saved the best for last. The Hi Mirror is a data protected smart mirror that not only analyzes your skin but also suggests a customized skincare routine, offer beauty tips and track progress. I am totally sold on this one! Check it out on amazon.com.  Hello Santa baby, any chance you’ll give me my Christmas gift early this year?hi-mirror-640px

 

I don’t know what my credit card bill is going to look like after this rampage, but hey—your best investment is and will always be yourself. As that famous brand tagline goes, ‘Because I’m Worth It’. Cheers and tell me your kikay stories on muskwie@yahoo.com or Tweet @MiaZamora116.

Of Charms and Crystals

It’s only been a recent thing of mine—this fascination with crystals and what they can do. To be honest, I was never a new age kind of girl. I’ve been very conservative with my beliefs, and always avoided discussions about metaphysics, or anything I would label as supernatural. Life is busy enough as it is, I didn’t want to think about things I couldn’t see.

But then, one thing led to another. Being in HR, I was exposed to the 7 Habits for Highly Effective People workshop (Stephen Covey), and it was particularly Habit 1 that struck me the most: Be Proactive. In any situation, and despite any conditions, you always have a choice. Your thoughts affect your words, actions, mood and general well-being. So the ultimate power is to control and choose the thoughts you allow into your mind.

Then my boss clued me in on a video and book called The Secret (Rhonda Bynes), and it was quite a revelation. It shows you that what you believe, what you think, creates your reality because of the energy you create. And since all of matter is energy (quantum physics, anyone?), then the Universe responds to you based on this vibration. Therefore, if you want to be happy, abundant and healthy, you need to start believing, feeling and acting as though you already are, and the rest will just follow. This is how you can manifest your desires into reality. How would you feel if you had everything you ever wanted right now—pretty grateful and overflowing with excitement, right? So start channeling that feeling, be grateful and appreciative of all the big and little blessings, and soon you’ll find even more things to be grateful about, including your heart’s desires. Let the worries slip away because the Big Guy up there has our back, always.

Then I was fortunate enough to have met an energy healer named Michelle almost two years ago…it’s a long story, but at that time I felt stuck in a rut and needed a life shift. She explained to me that she could sense I had issues with control and a lack of self-confidence, among other things, which happened to be spot on. After some meditations she said, ‘get a rose quartz crystal generator and put it on your bedside.’ At the time, I was thinking I had stepped into some new-age Twilight Zone. Wands? Generator? Crystals? But then again, what did I have to lose, right? So yes, I bought a small rose quartz crystal and put it right beside my bed. Over some time, I noticed a shift in how I felt. I was better at letting things go, at making choices that were good for me, at appreciating myself. So I looked up the rose quartz benefits online and it said—self-love and healing. One day, the crystal broke squarely in half, and I panicked. Did it mean I was cursed? The healer said it only meant that it had served its purpose in my life, and I could give both pieces away to whoever might need it.

Last Christmas, my best friend gave me a citrine crystal bracelet. At the time I wasn’t even sure what crystal it was, I just thought it was pretty and started wearing it. In a few weeks’ time, things that I wanted seemed to just come easier, and I felt cheerful and more excited than I did in a long while. True enough, I looked up the properties of citrine and the online source said it was a prosperity and happiness stone.

Now don’t get me wrong, I haven’t gone batty. This ‘discovery’ has not replaced or diminished my faith or praying habits in any way.   I just feel like the crystals amplify whatever energy I feed into them and remind me to always be positive and grateful.   People who know me know that when I get into something, I usually get really invested in it—so in typical fashion, I bought a crystal book and started reading. Here are some of the uses of the popular crystals and gems we use as accessories:

  1. Jade– This green stone is a special gemstone of healing, calmness and stability. It relieves anxiety and lightens emotions developed from fear, and blocks negative energy or influences from affecting the individual wearing it. Jade promotes wisdom, balance and peace, is said to help you realize your full potential, and can also be used as a dream enhancer if you sleep with a piece of it under your pillow. It is also known for prosperity, and keeping a jade stone where you usually stash coins is supposed to attract abundance.

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    Jade Bangle

  2. Rose Quartz– Named as such for its delicate pink color, this crystal is associated with love, compassion, healing and comfort. It can help dissolve emotional wounds, fears and resentments, and facilitates circulation of love around your aura. Because it allows you a deep sense of personal fulfillment and contentment, it makes it easier to give and receive love from others. It is also known for beauty, and there are treatment centers that use a polished rose quartz stone for facials and massages.

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    Rose Quartz pendant

  3. Citrine– With its happy yellow energy, the citrine draws in abundance, success and prosperity and instills self-confidence and self esteem. It is a great crystal for manifesting, imagination, and personal will, helping you transform your dreams and wishes into tangible form. It also encourages new beginnings and fresh pursuits, allowing you to let go of the past and move onward and upward. Your lemon yellow stone also wards away negative vibes, including those who might break your heart!

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    I’m in love with these citrine earrings!!!

  4. Amethyst– This deep purple stone is said to calm, protect and cleanse the spirit. It can help detoxify the body, removes negative ions from the surroundings, and is even used as an ingredient in those foot detoxification pads. It helps with physical ailments and nervous disorders (nightmares, insomnia) by stimulating and soothing the mind and the emotions, allowing one to remain clear and centered while opening to spiritual direction. Amethyst is also known to enhance creativity, passion, intuition and imagination.

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    Amethyst cluster ring

  5. Turquoise– A stone used for protection from injury and evil from the olden times, it is also used for self-acceptance, self-forgiveness and the release of useless regrets. Turquoise is a strengthening stone—good for exhaustion, depression, or panic attacks, as well as enhancing the immune system. It is supposed to be specifically effective for the brain, eyes, ears, throat, relieving migraines, viruses, etc. It can also help calm your nerves and stabilize mood swings. Very cool (literally).

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    Turquoise cuff

  6. Lapis Lazuli– This is a crystal of truth, promoting self-awareness, self-expression and inner truth while diminishing repressed anger and disease.  It encourages honesty and compassion in dealing with others, and allows you to communicate or express your thoughts and emotions better. It is physically beneficial to the throat and ears, thyroid, and is said to help with problems like vertigo and blood pressure.

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    Breathtaking lapis lazuli

  7. Ruby– A fiery red crystal of passion, the ruby stimulates circulation, strengthening your heart and blood vessels. It can act as a catalyst of all forms of love, deepens a couple’s relationship and encourages closeness and commitment. It is also said to help in fertility and also sharpens the mind, helping maintain energy and concentration. Ruby can protect the wearer’s home from fire and robbery, and can transform anger into positive energy. Interestingly, it also frees the wearer from martyrdom and heightens protection of the oppressed.

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    Ruby-licious!

  8. Emerald– This is a beautiful green stone of vitality, also strongly connected with the heart. You can wear it out of sight (near the heart) to attract love, compassion and balance between partners- in fact it was used as an offering to Venus in ancient Greek history since she was the goddess of love. It is also a stone of wisdom, balancing the mind and the emotions and increasing memory, mental acuity and eloquence in speech, and enhancing success in business.

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    How to wow with an emerald

  9. Moonstone– This stone is linked to the magic of the moon, protecting travelers in their journeys, attracting first love or new love, reconciling estranged loves, encouraging fidelity and fertility.   It promotes peace, alignment with God, composure and tranquility. For women, it aids in honing intuition and cleanses negative vibes from all energy centers. It stimulates inspiration, serendipity, and synchronicity.

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    Mystic moonstone

  10. Aquamarine– Legends call this stone the treasure of mermaids, as it was used by sailors to invoke the calmness of the sea. It is also known as the stone of eternal youth, inspiring truth, trust and letting go. It allows you to articulate your truth with courage and conviction, so it is helpful to those who speak as a profession. It is also good for long haul travel, whether by air, sea or land. Since it is a cooling stone, it can help in treating infections and is good for alleviating problems with breathing or the lungs.

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    Alluring Aquamarine

 

Gosh—now I want them all! So those are the stories behind your famous birthstones and bling. Honor them with your intentions when you wear them and see whether you notice any difference in your energy. And if you’re interested to learn more, visit www.crystalvaults.com, plus read up on chakras (energy centers) at http://www.chakras.info. Tell me about your experiences! Here’s to a more balanced life.

Tokyo Drift

When one thinks of mega cities, Tokyo always appears near the top of the list. I’ve always been fascinated with this bustling Asian hub because it showcases the best of the best from this side of the world, going head to head with New York, London, Paris, and Sydney in terms of cutting edge technology, style, culture, sophistication, and modernism. Tokyo excels in so many things, from food to fashion, that it’s hard not to feel a bit jealous and overwhelmed when you visit—especially when you’re trying to cover as much as you can in just a few days! I happened to be lucky enough to make a trip there a couple of weeks ago, and here are my absolute favorite things about this Japanese gem of a city:

  1. Food– You can’t leave Tokyo without going to the Tsukiji Fish Market for a super fresh meal. Be there pretty early, like 9-10 am, to line up at the popular restaurants inside the market and so as not run out of food. Prepare to wait in line at least an hour, and for the dishes to spoil you for life–because after this, Jap food at any other restaurant will never taste the same! Another must-try is Ichiran, which I now fondly call ‘antisocial ramen’. You line up, place your order via vending machine, choose your preference for flavor, and sit at a tiny cubicle for one. Then the window opens, your ramen comes out, and that’s that. It’s so efficient and so good! You don’t even need to say a word to anyone the entire time—perfect for hungry travelers.
  2. Shopping– Japan is known for several world-class brands like Onitsuka Tiger, SuperDry, Royce chocolates, Mikimoto pearls, Muji, Seiko, Uniqlo, Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and (surprise!) Comme des Garcons. Stock up on your favorites here. And as far as shopping centers go, can anything be better than Takashimaya? If outlet stores for branded items are more your thing, go to Gotemba and shop to your heart’s content, with the majestic Mt. Fuji in the background.
  3. Monuments– Despite the general look and feel of the city being ultra modern, it has plenty of preserved culture and tradition over centuries. Go to the Tokyo railway station, built as early as 1914, and take in its beautiful architecture. A short walk away is the Imperial Palace, and the lush garden that surrounds it. Also check out the Meiji Jingu Shrine, a Shinto shrine lovingly dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. You’ll see barrels and sake and wine offered to these deities, and a line of people waiting to have their turn to worship—with a ceremonial bow, two claps, and another bow. Lastly, if you have more time (because I wasn’t able to), go the the Sensoji temple in Asakusa, Tokyo’s oldest (at 645AD) and most significant Buddhist temple.

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    Tokyo Station

  4. Modern Marvels– You won’t run out of these here. First off, head over to the Shibuya scramble (right outside the Shibuya station where the Hachiko statue is located), where you’ll see massive crowds of people all rushing in several different directions. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen and gives you a real ‘hustle and bustle’ feeling that can only come from a huge city. On a clear, beautiful night, go see the glowing Tokyo Tower peeking over Ropponggi Hills.   For cosplay fans, you must hang out at Harajuku, where all the kooky costume folk make an appearance. The Japanese transportation system is also in itself a modern marvel—arriving on the dot, down to the last minute, and getting you everywhere quickly and super efficiently. You can even cross over to different cities via the Shinkansen bullet train.

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    Tokyo Tower making an appearance

  5. Natural wonders– In my opinion, the very best thing you can do in Tokyo is to go see Mount Fuji. It is absolutely stunning, snow-capped tip and all. If you’re lucky, you can see it from the airplane window shortly before landing in Narita Airport, or from the window of your train ride to and from Tokyo. You’ll need to arrange a guided tour for better convenience, or go on your own via bus or train from Shinjuku station. This mountain can be quite elusive– winter is apparently the best time to go because there is hardly any precipitation to block the view, but be prepared for super chilly weather and very strong winds! I actually lost my glove trying to take a shaky selfie and did not know if I’d make it back inside the building without getting (literally) blown away, but it was so worth it. There are 5 lakes surrounding Mt. Fuji, and all of them can give you a breathtaking vantage point. You can do a cruise on a pirate ship over Lake Ashi, or take a cable car from a viewing station in Hakone– either way it’s bound to be unforgettable.

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    Hello gorgeous.

  6. Nightlife– Oh you’ll have a lot of choices in this department. There are a lot of restaurants and bars around Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ropponggi, and Ginza. My favorite was a little place in Shinjuku called the Golden Gai, where there are clusters of little bars and taverns where locals hang out for a drink after work. Have an Asahi beer or a Suntory whisky highball (what yummy discovery with cola or ginger ale), eat a bunch of takoyaki balls, and chat with new friends.

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    Enjoying a Suntory Highball and some Yakitori sticks

  7. Seasonal activities– There are different things you can do depending on the changing seasons in Japan. In the spring, of course, everybody goes nuts over the cherry blossoms that bloom in full color all over the country. One of the best places to see this in Tokyo is the Shinjuku-Gyoen National Park—and there happened to be a few blossoming trees towards the end of winter! It felt like they came out just for me, and I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. In the fall, parks around Japan transform from green to gorgeous reds, oranges and yellows; it’s quite a sight to behold. In the winter, a popular activity is to go to an onsen, which is a hot spring bath. You can also go ice skating or take a look at the magnificent winter illuminations in Marunouchi, Yoyogi park, Shiodome, etc. These people sure know how to create a winter wonderland!
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    Stunning winter illuminations at Shiodome

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    My little miracle 🙂  Sakura in the winter!

  8. People– The Japanese are consistently the most polite, accommodating, pleasant people I have ever come across, and not in a pushy, fakely warm sort of way. They ensure you are comfortable, they give you the best directions they can manage (and even accompany you to the place sometimes just to make sure you get it), they are quiet and efficient and go the extra mile in their work. And although the average person on the street may have a little trouble speaking English, their smiles more than make up for it.

 

It is for these reasons, and many other beautiful memories, that I will always love this city. Till next time, Tokyo!

2017 Trend Report

Hello fashionistas! While I am personally a big fan of classic wardrobe staples that never go out of style, let’s face it—once in a while, our closets need a bit of a boost to stay current. It’s been a while since I’ve been out shopping (life gets in the way like that), but I finally had time to browse the net for fashion updates and look around in stores, and what I found was quite surprising. The trends of today are completely different from my normal style! Was I going around looking like a certified Tita stuck in a time warp all this time?! So here’s my roundup of what’s fresh for 2017.   Get your hands on them stat, and you’ll pass for a millennial.

  1. Greenery– Let’s start with this. Pantone’s 2017 color of the year is called ‘greenery’. And no, it is not the rich forest green you would expect. It actually reminds me of a vegetable, and I am not thrilled about that, but we could all use a zing of color in our lives. Check your instagram feed- if all you’ve been wearing lately is boring, basic black, it’s time to take action. Wear this color with white, dove gray, or beige as its neutral base.  pantone-color-of-the-year-2017-greenery-15-0343
  2. Embroidery– Well what do you know? My grandmother’s embroidered items are now all the rage, cropping up on lace tops, striped polos, and even on bags, jackets and shoes! You don’t need to be all decked out in needlework to be considered stylish, so just pick one or two items for a quick wardrobe refresher. My favorites are the embroidered button down shirts at Zara, and the black lace tops and shoulder bags with embroidered flowers at Stradivarius.

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    Zara embroidered shirt

  3. Matte, nude lips– As far as makeup goes, the big revolution has been in lipsticks, with hordes of women stocking up on matte, all-day-long brands like Colourpop, Kylie, and Nyx. Nude is the color of choice, ranging from the barely-there tans, to brick, to deep brown.

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    Well hello there Kylie.

  4. Chokers– If you’re a child of the 90s, you would remember this trend. Well, the black chokers are back in full force baby! You can use the stretchy nylon ones that look like a lace tattoo on your neck, or a simple long black leather cord tied up stylishly. Obviously, this looks good with a V neckline or button down shirt.  choker
  5. Straight, center part hair– Time to say goodbye to sexy beach waves and take out your hair straightening iron, ladies! Part your hair in the middle a la Liv Tyler in Empire Records or Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner of today, and better suck in those cheeks or contour them well so as to create an oval shaped face.

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    Mila Kunis rockin the ‘do

  6. Cropped, ribbed tops– Also taken from the 90s book, tops are getting smaller and smaller. Look for the ribbed, stretchy variety and wear with anything from pencil skirts to cropped wide pants. I am crossing my fingers you’ve been doing your ab work all this time, because it looks like this trend will be around for a while!

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    Gigi or Kendall- who wore it better?

  7. Sneakers– I do not know how this happened, but somehow it has become acceptable for sneakers to be worn as actual shoes, and even be considered stylish. In fact, as a lazy bombshell, I do not understand this whole athleisure trend at all, but c’est la vie. So yes, white sneakers (first popularized by Adidas Stan Smiths), those things called Yeezys, NMDs, metallic slip-ons, Nike flyknits—you need these in your life right now.

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    Adidas NMDs

  8. Colored lenses– Not contact lenses, silly. Sunglasses! The rounder, more geometric, or more colorful, the better. Never mind if it makes you look a bit like Willy Wonka, the point is they’re quirky and cute, and can add a pop of life to an otherwise dull outfit. I’m currently lusting over the Dior SoReal, which is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Awesome design.

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    Want!  Need!

  9. Flare jeans– It was bound to happen. Our skinny jeans and jeggings have to be set aside, because the flare is back. Wear with one of the aforementioned tiny tops and chunky sandals, and you’re good to go.

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    Ugh I hate you Miranda Kerr!!

  10. Zip up varsity jacket– The collegiate varsity jacket has generated a lot of interest in recent months, with popular brands coming up with silk, floral and embroidered varieties. You have to admit, while it again invokes the anti-glam ‘athleisure’ feel, it is both comfy and cool.   This is one trend I very much approve of.

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    Another hit by Zara

  11. Shoulder bag– Whether it’s a drawstring bucket bag or a mini, a shoulder sling bag is your accessory du jour at present. Isn’t it awesome to finally have your hands free to chat with friends and boylets on Viber or Whatsapp without having to lug those dreadful oversize slouchy bags on your arm? The only other alternative is the mini backpack, like the Prada one from the 90s. I’m not sure how legit a 30 something year old would look wearing a backpack, but whatever. That’s beside the point.

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    Got this at Stradivarius- what a steal!

  12. Pleats– And to round up this dainty dozen, I’m hearing my mom’s voice screeching ‘electric pleats!!!’ when she saw a pleated skirt hanging in a store. The ideal length for this is mid-calf, or palazzo style, and it looks good with (again) cropped and tiny tops. Very classy, ladylike, and polished.

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    Swish!

Here’s to looking good all day, every day! Cheers, chicas. Till our next catch up.