Summer Dreams 2014

coming soon

Granada Nicaragua

In Search or the Perfect Ceviche and other adventures out soon in my TravelOkcity column, Leisure+Adventure Magazine, and here.

Marshall Islands

Got Wasabi? (A deep sea fishing adventure in the Marshall Islands)

Prairie Dog Town

Adventures in the city of Oklahoma and beyond in my travel column, TravelOkcity.

Hefner Lake Park

Adventures in the city of Oklahoma and beyond in my travel column, TravelOkcity.

Huahin, Thailand

The warm hospitality of a boutique hotel in the beach resort town of royalty in the northern part of the Malay Peninsula.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

‘Tis the Season to Resurrect the Bikini

Published by Total Fitness Magazine

I did get to wear my yellow polka dot number, postpartum.

My husband and I are sun and sea worshippers. He having lived in a secluded beach paradise in Micronesia for over five years, and me having lived most of my life in a tropical country, we are constantly shaking sand off our feet. And then we moved to the Midwest and with winter bearing down on us, sun burn became the least of our worries.
But as we’re slowly defrosting, we are fast tracking our summer this spring by booking tickets to the Little Corn Island in Nicaragua, hoping to get our tan on and our reggae groovin’. 

Getting our tan on at the Surf Shack in Roi Namur, Marshall Islands.

Suddenly, under the five layers of thermal clothing, I find my long forgotten abs. I used to do about a hundred crunches almost every day and climb the stairs from the ground floor all the way to the 25th  and back. Now all the exercise that I do is the frequent baby lifting (roughly 22 pounds and growing) and picking up after my boys (that includes my husband) and the occasional running around to take pictures for my articles. Aside from that, my belly button and everything around it pretty much hasn’t seen the light of day or any kind of muscle activity for over 2 years now since I found out that I had a jumping jelly bean breeding in me. And as my son grows, so does my tummy. 

Docked by Obella to enjoy the sun. We had the whole island to ourselves!

It’s both an unfortunate and fortunate thing, but the only thing that seems to fatten up with my body is my core. I say fortunate because it’s all I have to worry about and something that can easily be camouflaged with the right accessory or a suck of the breath and a smile. But it’s also unfortunate, especially during bikini season, when it’s the only thing that seems to swell, making me look like I’m suffering kwashiorkor or a bad case of malnutrition.

In our little private island, Obella. Read more about it here.

I’ve always been on the slim side. In fact, skinny was an understatement back in high school, but I guess age has contributed a few pounds to my frame moving me close to the category of slim. I’m either blessed with a very active metabolism or I have overstaying uninvited dinner guests partying in my stomach. And although diet by tapeworm is quickly becoming a trend (in case you haven’t heard, some people ingest tapeworm to lose weight), high metabolism is my preferred diet pill.

Self portrait in Bintan, Indonesia.

The teensy weensy yellow polka dot bikini (I kid you not: it is yellow and polka dotted and yes, fashion experts say that bikinis are more flattering for the thin frame) has been purchased but the belly dilemma has yet to be dealt with. My husband on the other hand has been working hard to shed off the love handles that fatherhood has blessed him with. He’s been working out almost every day while I look for clues in the form of paw prints. I could do 4 sets of oblique crunches while the Blues Clues gang sat on their thinking chair, but then there’s always SpongeBob Squarepants tomorrow.

Getting our goof on at Coco Loco, Palawan.

With our get-ready-for-the-beach regimen, our diet has changed too. On more than one occasion, we’ve listened to numerous comments by the cashier ringing up our groceries. Roasted Chicken. Ching, says the cash register in agreement. “Eating healthy tonight?” Ceasar Salad. Ching. “Now this is a light meal!” Wheat bread. Ching. Ching. “On a diet?”

Don't take me seriously.

My husband is doing more than just eating right. He’s enrolled in CrossFit classes, a strength and conditioning brand that combines weightlifting, gymnastics, sprinting, powerlifting, and rowing to improve endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, agility and the whole shebang, when all he really wants is to look good in a Speedo. He better do all the rowing when we get to the beach.

Low tide at Roi Namur.

So far he’s lost 11 pounds in a month, and I am still working on getting back to my 100 a day crunches. If all else fails, there’s always the tankini.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Stylish for a Steal

Published by Leisure + Adventure Travel
 (an excerpt)

Got these killer shoes from Guess for a steal.

I’m a thief. I am not ashamed to admit it.  In fact, I am proud to say that I rob retailers, because I acquire my loot for a steal. No, I don’t shoplift. I simply get my goods close to nothing, that it’s almost unfair to the vendor. This is why the fashion police are always on my designer heels, not because I broke the cardinal rule of thou shall not go matchy-matchy, but because they want to know where I got my Swiss Army bomber jacket for $5. 

I got my shopping genes from my nanay (Woodbury Outlet Mall, NY)

And when I say cheap, I’m not talking about quality. After all, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, and company do not reside on a street called shabby. They’re all about quality and style but - sadly for shopaholics like us - not too affordable; that is, if you don’t know where to look in the right places. But don’t fret avid pusher of the shopping cart, I know where America’s most wanted brands for less hide. If you’re vacationing in the U.S. and shopping for pasalubong or stylish souvenirs, go bargain hunting with me. I promise to dress you chic without robbing your bank.

With some of my favorite shopping buddies. These girls CAN shop!

Outlet Malls

Once in a while branded stores mark down their merchandize for a limited time during a promotional sale event. But if you want round-the-year bargains, then head to the factory outlet malls where you can get designer brands for 25% to 80% off every day.  Factory outlets or outlet malls house more than 100 luxury stores that sell stocks from last season (but even some are current!). So if you don’t mind being accused of being “so last season”, then the outlet mall should be the scene of the crime.

In good company with Marc, Michael, and Mischka.

There are over a hundred outlet malls across the U.S. They carry names likes Fendi, Coach, Ralph Lauren, Guess, Tommy Hilfiger, Tory Burch, Chloe, and the luxury list goes on.  A day is not enough to explore these malls fully, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed, so I usually head to my favorite stores and make a bee line for the clearance rack, because that is where the honey is.

Exhibit A: a $59 Banana Republic silver sequined skirt that I got for $4. I got a mustard colored tank top for the same price, but that’s only because it wasn’t red tagged. Yes, may I repeat: everything is on sale at the outlet malls. At Calvin Klein, I scored a $9 leather belt that was originally over $30. 

Why, hello there Louis!

Warehouse Sale

Google your favorite brands, because they hold annual warehouse sales that may be  in your area. The Victorinox Swiss Army warehouse sale in Monroe Connecticut falls during the spring and autumn seasons. To avoid the crowds, go early on a weekday. We went on a Thursday morning, but we still had to wait in line for about an hour. It was worth the wait though.  I thought I’d go home with a handful of Swiss Army knives at half the price, but I took home more than that. In fact, I scored a $325 green pleated skirt dress. I would not pay 300 bucks for a dress, not even a pair of shoes. I would however be more than willing to part with $9 for the same dress. It’s hard to believe that a $300 Victorinox dress would be marked down to spare change, which is why I still keep the receipt and tag as proof.

I can smell a sale from a mile away, but this one stinks!

Some outlet shops, like Nordstrom Rack, are found outside the outlet malls. Nordstrom Rack offers a wide selection of apparel and accessories from the regular stores at not so regular prices. Exhibit A: D&G red wooden soles originally at $445 has been reduced to $149 and change. Store all your stash in a $20 Steve Madden satchel originally at $100. This way, if you’re caught red handed, at least you get caught in style.

My Modus Operandi
For a clean getaway without spending more than I planned and maybe even spending much less, I do the following:

This smooth operator will fall in line for a steal (Swiss Army HQ, CT).

Online operation
There is a number of online retailers that sell discounted name brands like and  They usually feature exclusive offers from designer brands up to 80% off. By shopping online, you don’t have to worry about aching feet. I also know of another site where you can shop for high end designer brands like Prada, LV, Chanel etc. with great discounts. Email me here and I will share this best kept secret!

Careful at the checkpoint
Sometimes regular priced items would find themselves in the $10 dollar rack, and by the time you’re at the cashier, you’d be too embarrassed to return your pick and end up paying more than you planned. Don’t be afraid to clarify with sales attendants or even the cashier. Some stores have price check stations where you can run the barcode to verify the price.

Be a haggle hag
It doesn’t work the same way in the tiangges but on certain occasions, you can negotiate a better price especially if the merchandize is not in perfect condition. A little stain (that can easily be removed) or a missing button may get you an extra 10-25% off.

Subscribe to your favorite store and they'll regularly send you coupons

Double discounts
The beauty of shopping in the U.S. is that they allow you to double coupons. So if you picked up a top at the clearance rack for $4 (originally $14); you’ll be able to shave a few dollars more if you have a coupon (usually given away at the door or as inserts in the 
Sunday paper or check online).

Check out the back of your receipt. Some stores encourage you to join their survey online and in return give you 15% off your next purchase. You can use that on top of your coupon for a piece that’s already in clearance.

Mind the tax
You may think you have broken free with a bargain, but remember that prices in the United States do not include the sales tax in the tag. Sales tax can add up to 9% more to your purchase (in some cases and states, the sales tax is exempted for items over $100). Only a few states and territories are exempted from the sales tax. So if you’re in Guam,  Delaware, or New Hampshire, that’s where you should shop till you drop. Also check your state’s calendar for the annual tax free weekend shopping holiday.

Sometimes Nine West takes off an additional
30-50% off to items already on sale.

Sale Schedules
To maximize your savings even more, watch out for sales events like Black Friday which happens the day following thanksgiving or the labor day sale or the one day sale. They usually take off at least 20% to everything including the clearance items. But don’t be lining up at the door at the crack of dawn. Sometimes these sales do extend throughout the weekend.

Return and exchange
As long as you have the receipt, you can return or exchange any item purchased  that has not been damaged. Go ahead and test drive a pair of stilettos for a day, and if you find that it is killing your feet, you can return it. Review the receipt for return policies.

This sequined number is from Juicy Couture at 75% off

Read the fine print
Sometimes a flashing ‘sale” sign can leave you blind. It is not always as it seems to be. Nine West at the outlet malls usually lure people in with the Buy One Get One Off promo. The existing discounts are good enough, but the 50% off on the second pair may only apply to regular items. 

Read the rest of the article in Leisure+Adventure Travel Magazine (Yes, I have more saving tips and one more secret location to reveal!)