Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Princess Project!

I am so in love with The Princess Project!  It is an organization that works year-round to provide prom dresses to those who cannot afford it! With prom season fast approaching for high school students, I wanted to take the time to highlight the work of the volunteers who make these girls really feel like princesses!

Karen Martin, a good friend of mine, is the chairperson this year for the San Diego chapter.  This organization has groups up and down the State of California!

She invited us to come out and support the Time Warp 80's Prom event!  I brought my sister Mae and BF Wendy to a night of fun!

We arrived at the San Diego Hall of Champions dressed up in our '80s gear and immediately took to picture taking as there were many photo opp locations!


There was a special butterfly background that the Butterfly Effect sponsored. They donated $1 to The Princess Project any time anyone texted his/her picture to the organization.

There were lots of goodies to eat and a silent auction going on too! Really amazing items, anything from a jewelry party for six, Sea World tickets, Zoo tickets, salon supplies, jewelry, two nights at a four-star hotel and more! I bid on some Padre tickets for a game vs. the Dodgers for my partner at work and won!  It was fun going back and checking if my bid was still good and then upping it if I needed to!

When you checked in you were given a number to wear.  Other guests could nominate you and submit their ballot for Prom King or Queen!  A random number was pulled from each box to crown the night's King and Queen!
We had fun exploring the building and meeting a new friend, Arlene!
Jodi Kodesh from NBC was our emcee for the night and took a picture with us too! 

It was rewarding to support my friend's organization and get the word out there about this amazing project!  In San Diego, the Princess Project's storefront is located at Horton Plaza. You have to make an appointment to see the dresses. If you have a girl in need of a dress for prom or know someone who does, please share! 

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Total Mom Makeover Show!

Photo credit:  Daisy Teh
I've been blogging for a little over two years now and I've been able to meet some amazing people through it! One of those people is Daisy Teh, known as The "It" Mom.
The "It" Mom, Daisy Teh!
She's someone that I definitely admire for how her hard work has brought her and her family exciting opportunities and adventures through blogging.  I friended her on Facebook and subscribed to her page and blog. At the start of the new year, she wrote a very personal post about how her blog's purpose has changed over the years. Here is an excerpt from her post, Vow to Stand Out:
"For the last five years, TheItMom.com has evolved through the good times and the bad. This blog has been my haven of whatever I’ve wanted to post in my life. It’s been my diary of what I’ve been comfortable posting publicly, and it’s been a way for me to supplement my income as an amazing side hustle.
But God opened my eyes to purpose, and that purpose isn’t just about me…it’s about you, The It Moms of the world who want to stand out. I’m often asked what The It Mom means, but I cannot categorize you in any type of specific box. I can’t say beauty, because it isn’t all about cosmetics, anti-aging skin care, or hair. I can’t say fashion or style, because what’s the point of dressing trendy or stylish when you have nothing of substance to offer? And no, ‘IT’ does not stand for Information Technology! ‘It’ means you are ‘It’…you are everything you could possibly be in your life."
Daisy also shared how she's had the vision of providing transformations to women, particularly moms because she has identified with moms who put everyone else's needs above their own and often fall into a rut, not intentionally of course, but finding that they've "let themselves go."  Since writing that post, Daisy made a huge commitment to go forward with this mission, in fact calling it her ministry, of helping moms remind themselves of their confidence and beauty by partnering with several fashion, style and beauty experts to create a reality webshow which will begin airing it’s first season every Thursday at 8/7pm Central beginning April 6, 2017. Each episode will feature one mom’s unique story and their vow to stand out from the crowd.
So what does this have to do with me?  Well, one day, browsing through Facebook in mid-January, I saw a post with a link to the application for a Mom Makeover. The window to apply was short, only a week or so.  I said to myself, "Why not?" I even shared the link with some of my best friends.  I answered the questions as honestly as I could, injecting some self-deprecating humor as I usually do, and clicked "submit."   
Then, on January 31st, I received a phone call midday from a number I didn't recognize. I let it go to voicemail as I was on lunch supervision at school.  The message was from Daisy! I had been selected as one of the 12 moms on the first season of the Total Mom Makeover Show! They received over 500 applications! You bet I called her back right away! I was beside myself!  She said contracts will be sent shortly.
Contract? Yes, I checked my email a day or two later and there it was, an email containing a four-page contract! Hmmm, what was I signing up for?  Did I tell you that I saw a palm reader in Vegas in December and she told me to carefully screen a contract this year? See that post here. The palm reader did not say that it was going to be anything bad, but I thought it was an odd thing for her to tell me.  So I read the contract, legalese and all! You know how you get vibes about people when you talk to them? After reading several of her posts and talking to her, I trusted Daisy from our short conversation. Mostly, seeing this contract made me extremely impressed at the massive project she was undertaking.  The fact that she felt it was her "calling" to help moms regain their sense of self moved me. I digitally signed my autograph and hit "send."
Those of you who have known me, know I am not particularly shy. I've been told that people can find me from far away because they'll hear my laugh. I guess I am loud, at least my daughters say so. I like to meet new people and sort of interview them, hopefully not making them feel awkward or uncomfortable! I was a cheerleader in high school and started my professional life as a teacher so I'm use to being in front of people. I'm in my forties now. I don't think my personality has changed very much, however, my looks have.  I am a petite-plus mom, petite only because I'm 5'1'. Twenty-five years of being married to a husband who cooks great food, I have temptation around me daily.  I hate going to the doctor and being weighed because I'm the heaviest I've ever been. Lately, I haven't really enjoyed shopping because clothes just don't fit me like they used to.  
I had a massage recently, where the very nice Chinese man noticed I drank cold water.  He suggested that I drink warm water  because "your tummy is over-sized, the warm water will help with digestion and get the grease out." Great. I smiled at him and nodded. He didn't offend me because I know he had good intentions. But nowadays, even my legs and feet are "over-sized" hahaha.  I stopped trying to find tall boots years ago because none would go up my calves!  My motivation to exercise has also declined. I used to at least try to walk around my neighborhood two to three times a week, but that has gone to the wayside. Needless to say, I wish I was less pleasingly plump. But, I have time to change that right! I shall open my heart to receiving all the information I can so that I can do my best with what I have to work with! I'm so looking forward to what is in store for my Mom Makeover!

So this is what I know, exactly five days from now, I and the other 11 moms will be meeting the "Dream Team" of stylists and experts for a whirlwind all-expense paid weekend in Newport Beach, CA.

We will each be receiving:
  • A personalized hair styling session by celebrity hairstylist, Dusty Simington, who has styled the likes of Tiffany Theisen, Jenny Garth, and Daisy Fuentes. 
  • A personalized makeup session with products from It Cosmetics and lashes from Make-up Pro
  • A manicure session by an expert manicurist
  • A personalized styling session by expert and/or celebrity fashion stylists
  • A shopping experience with a personal stylist
  • Tutorials on skincare and beauty
  • Professional photoshoot and personal interview
  • Jewelry from Alex and Ani.
  • Outfit(s) provided by Adrianna Papell
Can you believe it?  I am still pinching myself. I will try my best to social media-ize my experience live as much as possible.  For more information on the upcoming show, please click here.  
Thank you to Daisy Teh and her team for making this possible. This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to re-discover how to put more effort into myself and hit "reset."  #TheItMomMakeover

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sweetwater Educators Karangalan Scholarship



Photo credit to Lysabeth Luansing-Garcia
The Sweetwater Educators Karangalan Scholarship began in the year 2000.  The word “Karangalan” means pride, dignity and honor.  Our committee has awarded close to 260 scholarships over the last 15 years to well-deserving Filipino-American High School seniors furthering their education. Our winners have all demonstrated academic excellence, involvement in school activities and leadership in community service. In fact, many of our winners are the valedictorian or salutatorian of their respective high schools. There are 12 high schools in the Sweetwater Union High School District located within the area between South San Diego and as far north as National City, CA.  
Our committee is made up of teachers, counselors, and administrators. Each scholar receives anywhere from $100 to $700 in scholarship money. Over the years, we have awarded close to $76,500 to students. 100% of our funds come from donations and money raised through fundraising.  Here is a link if you feel compelled to donate. Our goal this year is to raise $5000. In the past we have also received in kind support for our scholarship from organizations such as “The Filipino Press”, the Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce of San Diego, as well as assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’ office. Along with a check received at the annual Magkaisa conference, students are featured in publications, receive certificates and a Filipino-themed stole to wear at their high school graduations. 
A big part of my involvement is fundraising.  One fundraiser we do at my school is Filipino Food Friday!  We receive orders from staff members and a portion of the cost goes to the scholarship. Staff enjoy lumpia, pancit, chicken adobo, chicken barbecue and turon from local turo-turo places. We've even had thai tea and milk tea offered as well from our good friends at Snoice. 

Image may contain: 7 people, people smiling
Special thanks to Lorena and Mike who help me organize!

In addition to Filipino Food Fridays, our next fundraiser is scheduled to happen next month!  We're also planning a silent auction of all kinds of good stuff!
Special thanks to Chef DJ Tangalin for making this happen! I first met Chef DJ as a blogger attending a tasting menu at one of his former restaurants. He was so humble, hospitable, with such HUGE TALENT, I immediately became a fan. He is now the executive chef at Tidal. Wherever he is at, DJ always features a few signature Filipino fusion items on his menus. I love that he pays tribute to his heritage in his food. I've followed him since in his career began here in San Diego and I am very grateful for his involvement with our scholarship. Search under my tabs "For Foodies" for previous posts on him.
Photo credit to K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune
As an educator working in National City, where there is a heavy Filipino-American population as well as many living near the poverty level, I find extreme satisfaction and reward contributing to an organization where we are directly investing in our youth.  Many of our past recipients of the scholarship keep in touch and let us know what they have been up to.  Check them out here.

Here is the information on the Karangalan Fundraiser Dinner!  Seating will be limited as it will be an intimate event! If you cannot make it that day,  I hope you can also be involved as no donation is too small for furthering our youth's education goals. Follow us on Facebook too!

Friday, December 30, 2016

L and D go to White Castle! A Girl's Getaway in Las Vegas!

A few days ago, one of my BFs and I went on a quick girl's getaway trip to one of our favorite cities, Las Vegas!!!  It's been a long time since we've done an overnight trip, so we were really excited to escape for a few days! D and I have been friends since 3rd grade! We went to elementary, middle, and high school together and 30+ years later, we still hang out. Here we are on the plane, on the first flight of the day!
I enjoyed this trip for many reasons!  First, it was almost 72 hours of not having to worry about anything and anyone other than ourselves!!  We both have sons who are really attached to us. So having some alone time and personal space were really refreshing! We did what we wanted, ate what we wanted and even tried some new things!  Most of all, we shared stories and laughed with and AT each other. That's how best friends should be able to hang.

USING LYFT
We planned this trip literally a week before we went so we looked at it as a gift from our husbands and to ourselves. However since it was last minute, we didn't have a chance to save for it. So being on a budget, one of the things we decided to pass on was renting a car.  I had used Uber on a previous family trip earlier this year and loved it. It  being a Tuesday when we arrived, I had previously seen T-Mobile Tuesday giveaways that typically included a free Lyft ride. I found it and quickly redeemed it on my phone and scheduled our first ride from the airport to our hotel. We had to look for the designated floor in the airport parking garage for rideshares. (Actually, since Lyft and Uber have exploded, almost all of the hotels have a separate entrance designated for rideshares away from the main entrance. I don't know how taxi cabs will continue with these other options providing competitive rates for the same service, but I digress.)  Anyway, our driver was there within minutes and delivered us promptly to our hotel. I thought the ride was free, but I was charged $14 something! The airports adds on a couple fees. I didn't read the fine print on the T-Mobile giveaway. The free ride was available starting three days later.  D laughed at me!  Oh well, read the fine print folks!

D didn't have a Lyft account yet, so she signed up and we took advantage of the new user promo. Lyft gave her a $50 credit, which was $5 off the first 10 rides. And since she signed up with my referral link, I got a $10 credit.  So at least I got one ride free!  We used Lyft at least 7 times while we were there and most of our rides were either free because they were under $5 (using the applied promo) or ranged from $1 to $9.  Overall, the costs of using Lyft during the time we were there did not exceed $35 TOTAL! Can you imagine what we would have spent in terms of renting a car, gas, parking fees (which the major hotels charge now) plus the time spent driving place to place, looking for a parking space and walking to an entrance.  All but one of our drivers received 5 star ratings from us. Most of them were former limo drivers or past taxi drivers. They were friendly, courteous, offered water bottles, snacks and phone charging service.

The one female driver we got, I would rate 2 stars for these reasons: First, she got lost finding us and passed by us TWICE! We were standing out in the cold for ten minutes even after giving her a description of where we were. She had to call us twice as well. Though she was nice enough and apologized profusely for not finding us. Secondly, two stars because her car smelled like smoke!!! Yuck.  I wrapped my scarf around my mouth and nose to minimize the odor.   Then, she delivered us to the hotel NEXT DOOR to where we wanted to go.  She said she was following her GPS.  We went through the back streets to try to get to our hotel, but you know pedestrians there, they cross even on red, so we literally got held up at a corner.  D finally told her that we would just get off there at this corner.  I was relieved because I was able to get out of that car and BREATHE! Other than her, every driver was familiar with the ins and outs of the hotels we went to and knew where to go. We never waited longer than three minutes for a pick up, and this was door to door service. Thumbs up to Lyft! The next trip we go on, we plan to do the Uber new user promotion for discounted/free rides!!!

21,000+ STEPS A DAY SO WE COULD EAT!
Since we stayed at a hotel in the middle of the strip, we did a lot of casino hopping and walked over 21,000 steps a day! I'm a total foodie, D not so much, but she was game. So we would walk, eat, walk (and play too!), have a snack, 2-3 hours later eat, walk some more, eat, it was a literal work out! The pedometer on my phone said I reached my highest walking records of the year the two full days we were there! These are all the casinos we visited:
Bally's
Paris-beautiful Eiffel Tower at night
Lucky Dragon
Side note on Lucky Dragon:  It just opened and imo, not worth visiting. Very small casino. Like 5 people were playing there including us. Although the food court looked promising! More people were standing in line for the bao buns than playing slots. How will they survive?  My theory is that it is a front for a Chinese billionaire laundering his money through, hahaha, just kidding! It is a beautifully decorated casino though. Here's Lucky's Dragon's chandelier! Back to the list....
Cromwell
Flamingo
Margaritaville
Rio
Caesar's Palace
Wynn-Gorgeous Christmas and flower decorations!


Mirage
Treasure Island
Gold Coast
Golden Nugget
Golden Gate
Binions
The California
Palazzo
and here we are in front of the SLS statue
That's eighteen casinos in two and a half days! Whew! And like I said, walk, eat, walk, eat, so now, a few pictures of the food...I ate an Umami burger for the first time!  $15 but oh so good! I'm going to replicate that parmesan crisp at home!
We also explored the Grand Bazaar shops in front of Bally's around 8:30 pm one night. There were a lot of people lined up outside this particular ramen eatery.  It was like 35 degrees or something like that, and I wanted a hot soup, so we signed our names up on the clipboard. You know the place must be relatively good if they have a clipboard system, right?  A couple even came outside with an employee after they ate and took a picture with him. I couldn't figure out if he was the owner or what. While we waited, I looked the place up. Ramen-Ya is the sister restaurant to San Francisco's Michelin starred Katana. No wonder people wanted to eat here. After a 45 minute wait, we were seated. The food is good and very reasonably priced! This is the Tonkatsu ramen with karaage and gyoza.
There was also a counter-service schwarma place a couple doors down, no seating though, that also had a long line.  Wahlburgers is located in this marketplace too.  We're going to visit those next time!

And last but not least, D and I made it to White Castle! It wasn't our mission or anything, but we were walking by and saw it! It is on the strip inside Casino Royale. The line wasn't long and people were ordering sliders like crazy. The people in front of us spent $60! The sliders are small and can be purchased in packs of ten and even a case of one hundred is available! We just ate our lunch two hours earlier, so we both just had one double cheese slider.  Shame on me, I forgot to take a picture!!! Here's one I found on the internet, but ours was not as high, it was smushed down and that's what it tasted like, smush. Baby food texture meat with really soft bread.  I guess because they steam the patties on top of the onions or something like that. I've had White Castle before and it was alright, but not something I would stand in a long line for!  D said it tasted just like the frozen ones so I don't really understand the hype.
LAS VEGAS FIRSTS!
Although I have been to Vegas many many times since I turned 21, there were some firsts that I experienced on this trip.
  • I rode on the complimentary tram between Mirage and Treasure Island for the first time.  It was fun and since it was so early, we had the whole train car to ourselves for the two minute jaunt. 
  • We went window shopping at Fashion Show Mall and a really cute salesgirl called us over to try on hair extension products from Sohostyle.  We both have never worn extensions before and why not, she wasn't pushing to make a sale. She was Korean, so we connected on K-pop, lol!! She told us the hair was human hair from China. The girl said you can cut and even dye them, just take them to your hairdresser.  D had about 4 pieces of 2-inch wide extensions snapped into her crown to add thickness. We couldn't believe how D's matched her hair color so well and were really easy to clip in. They were indistinguishable from her own hair! Since I already have thick hair, she took a piece that had an invisible headband and put it on me like a crown with the hair in the back to add length. She also added a lighter brown piece on the side to see what "highlights" would look like.  Six pieces will run you around $200. We took a picture and gave the hair back, lol! D told me later that females in China grow their hair and donate it to the monasteries and the monks sell them to earn money. I never knew that! Here we are with longer and thicker hair!
  • Another first was having a Benihana chef who was tatted up and down on his arms!We went there for the "show" and really, for the fried rice, hahaha! Lunch is very affordable there. I was surprised that a restaurant would let tattoos show. Also, you know the onion ring volcano that they build and pour water into so it'll steam on the grill? Well he actually poured some liquor or something and then set it on fire with a lighter! They can't do that here in San Diego. Really, anything must go in Vegas!
Here's our teppanyaki chef, Cody, working the spatula! He's from Osaka, j/k!  He was very nice. He asked me and D if we were going to watch any shows and said "Chippendales?" I quickly replied, "Why, is that where you work after this? Will we be seeing you there?"  He laughed and ended up talking to mostly me the rest of the time. I guess he felt comfortable after he asked us all what we do and when I told him I am an Assistant Principal, he said, "Oh, I would have been spending a lot of time in your office." He looked like Chris Pratt to me.

(Birdwalk) The family of 3 next to us at the table was very interesting.  Caucasian Dad, Chinese mom and their daughter. Chef Cody asked us all where we were from.  They said they were from San Francisco but just for about 9 months now. They moved from Shanghai.  I asked them if they were able to see the opening of Shanghai Disneyland.  "No." the mom said, however the Dad did some work for it! Then we learned that they have traveled all around the world and the little girl, who is seven, with the exception of Shanghai Disneyland, had been to ALL OF THE OTHER DISNEYLANDs already! OMG, this little girl has completed my bucket list and she's only SEVEN! This is one moment, out of many, where D was laughing at me after the meal.  Remember Chef Cody asked if any of us were going to see any shows? The mom mentioned they were trying to get Blue Man Group tickets the previous night but were too late. I tried to sell them on this show we saw last year, the Mac King Comedy show, only around $15 and told them they had tickets at the Half Price Tix store in the mall so a really good price! This was before we heard the mom talk to us about travelling every year to Paris, Spain, Denmark, Netherlands, all over Europe  and that their daughter is bilingual in English and Mandarin and that the Dad worked for Disney, etc! These people were rich!!! And here I was telling them all about this great bargain show, LOL! They obviously didn't have to worry about a budget while on vacation. We had a really good laugh about that, oh well! Back to "firsts"...
  • Another "first" was visiting the Taco Bell Cantina that just opened! D is a huge Taco Bell fan and said there were only four locations in the country. So we walked over there one night to check it out! The place was more like a club than a fast food restaurant. Bumping music playing and dark lighting added to the atmosphere. They had the regular menu, but you could add alcohol to the freezes. Seating was located upstairs or on the front patio.  They even had an exhibition window so you can see your food being prepared.   The employees were having a great time, singing and dancing to the current jam being played! I counted that as another free show, lol!



All this for $5!
  • The final Las Vegas "first" on this trip was getting my palms read! I have always wanted to do this! We went downtown to Fremont street and there was this small trailer in the middle with a sign outside for Palm Readings and/or Tarot Card readings. I peered inside to see if the person was creepy.  She was actually young, pregnant, and looked like Mila Kunis!  Ok, I decided to do it. Just for the entertainment value alone, it was worth my $20.  I don't want to write down here what she told me, but a year from now we'll see if she was accurate! It was a positive experience!
We had so much fun on this trip! We decided to try and make this an annual one. My husband has been taking an annual Las Vegas trip with his buddies for at least 9 years now so now I say, ME TOO, ME TOO! 

My 2017 Las Vegas wish list
  • Watch a show, JLo, Britney, Mariah, even Backstreet or Boys II Men! (Thunder Down Under, just kidding!!!)
  • Eat at a nice casino buffet.  We didn't hit even one on this trip!
  • Get a pastry from Carlo's Bakery! The line was way too long when we passed by.
  • Use a bigger suitcase to leave room for some shopping!
  • Sign D up and use free new user credits on Uber, hahaha! 
  • Mimic our pose every year from now on with Binion's million dollars until we're really old and gray!  It's free you know!
To close, ladies, if you have the opportunity to escape your daily life for a few days, DO IT! We didn't win a monetary jackpot, but D and I came back happy, relaxed and ready to get back to being the best wife and mom we can be! Giggling with her for three days really made this a memorable trip! We were definitely rejuvenated and added another memory to our friendship book!
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