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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Style Inspiration: Diane Gotua, New York

I am so excited to share that I am starting a new section here in the blog, called Style Inspiration.

I often talk about my personal style philosophies here at MFO, but I figured, it would be infinitely more interesting to feature stylish girls and how they found their personal style. Finding our own style is a process, and I hope that this series will not only teach us a thing or ten about how to put together an outfit and where to shop, but also to discover how to dress according to our taste, budget and lifestyle.

I am starting off the series with my friend Diane Gotua, who I met in New York many years ago. I've always loved Diane's classic, effortless style, both for work and on weekends. With more casual dress codes for work, many have forgotten what corporate dressing should be like, and I find that there's plenty of inspiration to learn from Diane, who expertly balances feminine & chic with sharp and work-appropriate when it comes to business dressing. For more on how to dress for work, read this Business Insider article too!

What do you do?

I do strategy for the National Basketball Association, primarily focused on growing our business in international markets. 

What is a day in your life like? How so you spend your weekends?

On most weekdays, I wake up at 6 am. Hit the gym to do a spinning or cardio class. I go back home and get ready while Adrian follows me around.

I'm very focused when I'm at work and typically get home in time for dinner. I feed Adrian, bathe him, play a little, read to him and put him to sleep.

Dwayne and I have Friday every week set for our "date night", simple dinner, happy hour with friends.
Diane and her husband Dwayne

On most weekends, we are completely yaya-free. During the spring and summer, if we are not out of town, we typically spend our weekends in Central Park.

a shot of Poet's Walk at Central Park, from Diane's Instagram account

We go to brunch, have playdates, and invite friends and family over on occasion. We try to make the most out of our weekends and do a lot of day trips.

How would you best describe your style? Why does it work for you? 

Very simple and classic I guess. I usually don't like to spend too much time thinking about what I'm going to wear so I keep my wardrobe very simple.

I know the cuts and silhouettes that suit me and I am most comfortable in dark, neutral shades. I definitely accessorize to make an outfit look and feel a little different, whether with a statement necklace, a pretty belt, dramatic earrings (but still work appropriate) or a great pair of shoes.

It works for me because I am comfortable and confident in whatever I'm wearing and I minimize the risk of putting on an outfit that I don't love because I just keep the ones that I know works and makes me look and feel good about myself.

I really believe that what you wear is a way of expressing yourself so you need to make sure that you are projecting the image you want to project. Since I work in a male-dominated industry, I am always conscious about dressing appropriately and making sure I look sharp and ready to get down to business but I still love to dress up and I refuse to wear a suit everyday so i find ways to play around with my little black dress and still show my style and personality.

I do some travel for work and I do I need outfits that work from day-to-night. Keeping a simple wardrobe with outfits that I can wear in meetings and still wear out to an event or dinner work best for me.

How has your style evolved and how did you know you've finally found your trademark style? 

I used to like being adventurous with colors and prints. I still have a few pieces in my wardrobe that are probably a little more "out there" for me but through the years I've built a wardrobe with key pieces I wear year in and year out.

Sometimes if I find a really good piece, I buy it in various colors, which ends up being just dark, black, or nudes. Not really sure when I found my trademark style but I've noticed that I don't make purchases I regret as often as I used to before.

These days I just get items that I know for sure I will put to good use and don't end up just using once and storing.

What are your wardrobe essentials?

Little black dress (I have too many), a nice fitting white T-shirt and polo shirt, black, navy, khaki, gray blazer, and pencil skirts in the same colors.

Diane in a work appropriate jacket that also "works" on weekend trips

I love my chambrays and also can't live without my jeans, flats for the weekends, and trusty pumps for work.

Where do you shop? 

Anthropologie, American Apparel, Pookie and Sebastian, Zara, Urban Outfitters, Uniqlo, H&M, J.Crew, Banana Republic.

Best style advice you've ever received and what advice would you give to those who want to nail her own personal style? 

Trends fade. Wear what you personally feel most comfortable and confident in.

What would your advice be to someone who wants to build her closet but is on a budget?

Start with a few essential pieces (essential would depend on what you do, what industry you're in) and make sure to invest in good quality pieces that you can wear for while.

Incidentally, Diane's love for out of town trips on weekends has prompted her and her husband Dwayne to put up the weekend travel site, Discoverue.com, which equips users with information, tips and tools tailored for weekend travel by helping them explore activities, places, and events within their local area.

For you dear readers based in New York or the East Coast, Discoverue is something you'd want to learn more about!

Where did the inspiration for Discoverue come from?

The idea of Discoverue came about when I was still working in finance.

I was really devoted to my job and my schedule was impossible to plan around. Dwayne and I would book trips ahead of time but end up canceling them since something always came up at work. It was so frustrating that we gave up planning trips.

Then unexpectedly, a weekend would come and I find myself free. Dwayne and I would want to go somewhere but found it difficult to find options.

We were certain there were a number of interesting things to do and places to explore close by but had little clue where to look. That's why we started Discoverue.

What makes Discoverue special?

Discoverue presents users with options based on real time prices and availability from our partners Expedia, Booking.com, and Hotels.com.

We only show trip options that are rated 3.5 stars or higher by Trip Advisor, further saving users time spent on research and the trip planning processs. Users can filter by distance, budget, what they're in the mood for.

We also curate and feature original content on weekend trip ideas.

Is it NY-centric?

We are launching the NYC edition first and have plans to expand to other Northeast U.S. cities.

For more on Discoverue, visit www.discoverue.com

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

OREO Bento Together

My good friend Naomi is the poster mom for bento baons in my book. She makes the most amaaaaahzing bento baons for her twins. Check out her IG account, @ma2xbento to see what I mean.

While I enjoy looking through her bento baons, I have never even dared try to do one for my kids. I fear that I do not have enough time, and well uhm, I am not super creative when it comes to making characters out of food.

Plus, Naomi has invested a small fortune on her bento making supplies and seeing what choices are out there, as collated by the Bento Mommas (who facilitated our workshop), I am not yet prepared to make the jump into bento baon territory.

That is until I took baby bento steps, thanks to the OREO Bento Together Workshop that I attended with my mommy friends, thanks of course, to OREO!!!

I realized, I can actually make do with the supplies I have at home. All that we basically need is a container, some cupcake liners, scissors, knives, surgical tongs and such.

Of course, I would suggest that we have dedicated tools for food, and we don't use the same scissors and punchers for our kids' craft projects ahihi.

That said, it turns out it's easy to do bento baons as long as you've got everything laid out for you. 

Naomi usually gets her helper to prepare everything so that all she has to do is layout and make something out of the food. The Bento Mommas did the same for us, so that all we have to do is focus on the bento part.

I was surprised at how easy it was, Berry actually took the lead in shaping and putting everything together, that I just helped her refine her work. For the session, we made a bento rice bear and it really was just like that "big circle, small circle, big circle" song we would sing on how to draw a bear.

Big, siopao sized circle for the face, molded into shape using a sandwich sized ziploc bag...

2 small circles for the ears...

Another big circle for the nose...

Et Voila! A rice bear! Eyes and nose were made out of nori.

We then just added fried chicken, corn, and broccoli to complete the lunch set, plus a slice of apple and OREO cookies for dessert.

The Bento Mommas then proceeded to teach us how to make animal theme bento sandwiches, made more special because they're put together using OREO cookies! After their demo, we were then tasked to make our own.

Berry and I were challenged to make a bento bear sandwich! This was made out of a chocolate chip loaf bread from Gardenia, chocolate cream filled OREOs, milky Chiz Whiz, white chocolate chips for the eyes, and good 'ol nori to fashion into the eyes and nose.

Making four of these OREO Bear sandwiches took Berry and I an hour to make though. I realized, it took longer to make the baon than have it eaten for recess!

I laughingly told the Bento Mommas how labor intensive bento-ing is, but they assured me it just takes some practice and getting used to. 

That said, Berry enjoyed making the bento baons and eating them too, I really ought to just train her to make bento baons for herself and Xavi.

Berry, practice makes perfect!!! Lolz!!!

PS - Check out The Phenomenal Mama's OREO Bento Together post for more bento making tips, plus a how to on how her kids made their winning bento cat sandwich made with OREOs!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Christmas 2014 Gift Guide: KOR & JOCO

You know what's a no-fail gift idea?  This.

If we ourselves cannot stop buying sippy cups for our kids, the same goes for adults I think. 

We cannot have enough water/drinking bottles. 

There's always one that's perfect to bring to pilates class, one that fits perfect inside our everyday tote, one that stays cool or hot for hours, and is perfect for long road trips. That sort of thing.

When it comes to water bottles, KOR is a favorite among my friends. 

It's stylish and ergonomically-designed yes, but it's also practical - with features such as a cushioned base, hygienic, easy to drink from spout, an easy to open hinged cap (no worries of losing it!), even an inspirational KOR Stone - for inspiration at every sip. So you really won't "lose it", if ya know what I mean.

But what if like my friends, the people in your gift list already have a KOR or two? Well this is great to have, the KOR NAVA. It turns ordinary tap water into filtered water! The filter is made from 100% pure coconut shell so it's totally natural, no worries about sediments and stuff getting into your drinking water.

In fact, wouldn't it be great to get one for every member of the family? It's perfect to have each one bring this around, especially if your family is the outdoorsy/adventurous type and frequent places where the tap water source is questionable and access to mineral or bottled water is spotty at best.

As if that's not reason enough, through KOR's Thirst for Giving™ program, each time we buy a KOR bottle, KOR donates a percentage of sales to a select group of non-profits focused on water-related causes. Nice no?

But if your friends are more the coffee/tea drinker types than the water therapy kind of peeps, then these JOCO reusable glass coffee cups will float their boat! 

Mel Ongsue-Lee, who distributes KOR and JOCO, sent me these glass coffee cups to try out as well, and I loved it - perfect size, cute to lug around, and made from sturdy glass - the same 100% BPA free, heat resistant, microwave safe borosilicate glass used in cookware, modern baby bottles, even laboratory glassware.

They're not just for adults too! In fact, my kids have co-opted our JOCO cups, and they use these when they drink their hot chocolate or warm milk.

They're great for kids because of the no-slip silicone sleeve, and the splash free lid. If my two little bosses approve, I am sure your bosses and office colleagues will too. These will help them to be kinder to the environment as well, because they get to ditch the paper cups!

At the moment, get your JOCO cups online at www.sunnysunday.com.ph

KOR hydration vessels are available at Howards Storage World, Conlins Element, Alessi, The Flat Shop, The Cutting Edge, Kitchen Pro, Seattles Best, Plana Forma, Beyond Yoga and online at www.sunnysunday.com.ph too!

Start your Christmas shopping na! To get your hands on KOR and JOCO now, click HERE: https://sunnysunday.com.ph/products.do

Monday, September 15, 2014

Christmas 2014 Gift Guide: Vanità Lingerie

a sweet, lacy and very comfy underthing from Vanità

For me at least, there's something intimidating about going inside a lingerie store.

Maybe it's the Catholic school girl in me. I'm more comfortable buying underwear in a department store, and lacy underthings at Anthropologie, Aritzia, Urban Outfitters or Madewell. 

So when I would pass by lingerie store Vanità at the 5/F in the East Wing of Shangri-la Mall, I never even bother to come close. It looks so grown up, womanly, and yes, I'll say it, sexy.

Because it is, it truly is.

But then I realized, why fear a good thing?

The good, no, great thing about Vanità is that it's the kind of place where sexy meets comfy. Tanya Chua of Vanita sent me a couple of pieces to try out, and I have to say there was nothing raunchy, more importantly, itchy about their lingerie.

This is because Vanità offers a range of handmade pieces made from luxurious fabrics - the softest satin and pizzo leavers lace, the highest quality lace in the world. Each piece is designed and made by combining Italian mastery, European systems, Japanese craftsmanship and cutting-edge designs.

From waist-cinching corsets to lingerie sets in sheer lace, to resort wear, each piece is meant to flatter a woman’s body. It's not just about seduction, it's also about feeling good in something that even only you can see.

The woman behind Vanità lingerie is the Italian born Fabiola Marin. Fabiola studied fashion design at the Instituto Marangoni Fashion and Design school in Milan. A sought after designer for the top lingerie brands in the world, she also led a stellar career as Senior Design Manager of the Intimissimi Group, establishing the Intimissimi brand in 1996. To date there are over 10,000 Intimissimi shops in close to 20 shops worldwide. For us here in the Philippines, we've got Vanità.

So if you're like me, maybe it's time to frequently step into their store. Pick up a gift for yourself, or your girl friends this Christmas. Guys, if you are reading this, take the initiative! And you don't even have to wait until Christmas, it's perfect any time of year.

Because in reality, even if she would never admit it, a girl can never have enough of pretty and comfy lingerie.

For updates and inquiries, Like Vanità Lingerie on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Vanitashangrila

5/F Shangri-la East Wing
Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Cudsly: For All Things Babies, Kids & Moms Need + A Giveaway!

When Berry was a baby, I used to buy a lot of her baby stuff, mostly her diapers, online, at diapers.com

For a first time mom who didn't have a nanny to help me out, and who had household chores to take care of on top of mommy duties, this was the best thing ever. 

As soon as I could see that our diapers were running out, I would just order online and get our diapers and other supplies in a day or two, saving me a trip to the grocery and at least an hour of my time getting Berry ready to go out, walking to the grocery, buying and heading back home.

This was the same frame of mind that prompted the young, working moms behind online baby store Cudsly.com to find a solution to their long treks to the crowded supermarkets and baby stores which took away the limited time they had to spend with their children.

I mean, with traffic these days, going out to run errands has really turned into such a chore. That's why I love how with Cudsly I can now buy our kiddie essentials right at home.

After all, Cudsly is a one-stop destination for all our parenting needs. 

With over 2000 products to choose from, Cudsly covers everything, from Diapering & Wipes, Feeding & Nursing, Bath & Skin Care, Health & Safety, Gear, Nursery, Toys, Mom & Maternity, to Clothing, Shoes & Accessories. 

It carries a selection from well-loved brands like Avent, Gerber, Cradle, Happy Baby, Desitin, Mamy Poko, Fisher Price, Lamaze, Halo, Huggies, Tiny Buds, Evenflo to the hottest new innovations in feeding bottles and baby skin care, that my supermom friend, and Xavi's godmother, Gretchen Uy brought to our shores, aka Zo-Li and MD Moms!

Of course, I had to test it out for myself, and I am happy to share that I got my order in two days, complete with constant updates online - from order confirmation to notice of shipment.

My package arrived snugly and safely wrapped in cling wrap, safe and dry.

Everything was there...

...with some MD Moms samples thrown in for good measure.

Bought diapers and a second Zo-Li sippy cup for Xavi, a bib and MD Moms Silky Liquid Powder for Baby #3

Oh oh, I just have to tell you why we love Zo-Li sippy cups, that I just had to get another one for Xavi. 

It has a weighted straw, so it moves into whatever direction the cup is tilted, making sure Xavi sips everything to the last drop! Of course, it's BPA and pthalate free, so they're safe for kids to use multiple times a day.

Gretchen told me how much she loves MD Moms Silky Liquid Powder because it applies like lotion but dries like powder. Paraben-free and preservative-free, it's gentle enough for newborns, perfect for the Little One coming soon!

Now back to Cudsly!

I have to stress, they offer FREE nationwide shipping (Free shipping for orders in Metro Manila over Php 500, and over Php1000 for provincial), as well as, easy and convenient payment via cash on delivery, credit card and PayPal, making life so much easier for busy parents like us. Whew!

I'd like for you to experience Cudsly, so sign up now to get 20% OFF on your next purchase. Not only that, 2 readers get a chance to get Php500 in shopping credits from Cudsly and me, so please join using the Rafflecopter widget below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contest is limited to residents of the Philippines only. 2 Winners of Php500 shopping credits each will be announced on September 23, 2014.

Shop www.cudsly.com now! For updates, Like them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/Cudsly and follow @cudsly on Instagram, Twitter and Google +.
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