A good one

We just got back from an out of town trip and before I even recount our adventures, I suddenly felt an overpowering wave of gratefulness. So I end tonight with thoughts and thanks and hopes and prayers…

I complain often of how stillness is elusive but this weekend reminded me that my opportunities outweigh my perceived limitations. That I am in control and able while others are without a choice.

I worry about not having enough while others worry about not having any. This weekend reminded me to be thankful of challenging work as it is a means to not only making ends meet but living leisurely.

I pray to be grateful. I hope to not forget.

I hope to work hard. I pray to remember everyday.

I pray to be humbled. I hope to be good.

I have great friends!

Someone made me realize that the I have great circles of friends — circles because I have more than one.

  1. They’re not afraid to tell the truth or to break bad news. Of course, this can be very uncomfortable at times but it keeps all of us grounded.
  2. They don’t take sides! Another great realization which had me admiring each of them so much more. They might have their opinions on who is right or wrong but they don’t actively take factions, they just keep on going back to 1.
  3. They tell me and they tell on me. People call it backbiting, I think it’s keeping peace. The intention was, is, and will always be to resolve issues. Again, we go back to 1 & 2.
  4. Not out of sight, out of mind. There’s no real drama about feeling or being left out. We’re also understand that there might be more social circles in our lives so join or not, we’re friends the next day (this does not apply to set in stone dates though unless the reason trumps the event).
  5. They all understand 1, 2, 3 & 4 — well, most of them anyway. I guess that’s enough.

Fixing Fried Hair

I’ve had my hair straightened thrice, relaxed once, and rebonded about 6 times. Rebonding has always been great until the last one and I ended up with really brittle hair with most strands breaking at the point where it was last flat-ironed. I’ve been trying to revive it with BenchFix’s Kerastase treatments but it could take months and probably would require chopping all the damage off, which might leave me with about ear-length hair. Cry!

After trolling a ton of health & beauty websites and several weeks of contemplating, I finally decided to try out Permanent Blowdry (also recommended by Marjh). Since we were somewhere in Quezon City, I chose to checkout Great Cuts Salon in Timog. The receptionist was nice enough to inform me that they actually have an ongoing promo with CashCashPinoy  and even offered to use their PC so I can buy it online. Unfortunately, vouchers can only be redeemed starting 5th of November. Given the crazy schedule at work, I knew if I didn’t do it that day, it probably won’t happen for months so I opted to pay the full price.

Though I asked for the permanent blowdry, the salon staff were all recommending the Brazilian Blowout instead. I was very hesitant as there’s a great deal on the net about the “aldehyde” concerns with this treatment. I voiced out my concern but was assured that their products/supplies were tested and all have BFAD approval. Convinced, I decided to have the Brazilian Blowout, some hair coloring, and a trim.

Like what I would normally do in a salon, I left my extremely fried hair to the expertise of the Sr. Stylist and my only condition was it needs to look good. First thing that they did was wash my hair with clarifying shampoo. This was to remove all dirt and products from the hair so treatment will be more effective. Hair color needed to be done first and the plan was to lighten my hair and put a color that will blend well with current hair color. He ended up choosing a Tobacco Beige mixed with Very Light Blonde.

While we were waiting for the color to soak, I asked on what maintenance should I have after the treatment. Using a sulfate-free shampoo is a definite must, which would preserve as well as delay the stripping of keratin in the hair, but what they absolutely recommend is to use a sulfate-free shampoo with keratin. My questions opened the opportunity to upsell their Keralove maintenance kit (shampoo, conditioner, and leave-on). The set seemed promising but I never heard of the brand so I decided to google Keralove before deciding to buy it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any useful review so I decided to pass until I get to compare it with Keratin Complex.

The next few steps were pretty standard: another shampoo, applied keratin treatment, another wash. As they were finishing the nth wash, the stylist then informs me that we will be going up to the Blowout lab. I imagined the lab they were talking about and asked why there was a special lab. Apparently the next part of the treatment can get very smoky. They joked that the next step was like being in the clouds thus, the lab was placed on the second floor and was equipped with exhaust fans.

The lab was not much different from the ground floor salon except that we would need to wear hospital masks and optional goggles. I sighed because I knew that this definitely not the formaldehyde-free process they had earlier assured. They applied treatment, explained that flat-ironing will seal the keratin into the hair but a by-product evaporates causing all the smoke. This was the most uncomfortable phase of the whole process. Though I didn’t smell the fumes like what most people wrote in their blogs, whatever chemical was being used stung my eyes like hell. I had goggles on but still had to keep my eyes closed throughout most of the flat-ironing process.

Alas, we finished that step! We went down to rinse and apply the Brazilian Blowout masque. They kept the mask twice longer than usual because of the damage that my hair has. The last step for the day was a haircut and the stylist was hesitant as he kept saying that the treatment had already fixed most of my hair issues but I insisted since I read somewhere that getting healthy hair involved chopping off as much of the damaged length as possible.

Like every other person who had Brazilian Blowout, I cannot deny that the results are just simply amazing! I have never been happier with my hair. I would have been completely satisfied if the treatment didn’t sting my eyes so bad and if I could only get rid of the worrisome potential side effects of formaldehyde exposure.

Most of you are probably curious how it was after the first wash, below are a pictures taken  7-days after the treatment. I am simply loving it.

And just to compare, here’s my hair before the treatment:

Friends kept on asking me what I did to my hair and I was more than happy to tell them about Brazilian Blowout however, I can’t help but tell them about the flat-ironing process and all that’s being said on the blogs. I personally feel that each person who decides to get the treatment should know all the risks they’re taking for that shiny, straight hair. Personally, I don’t think I will go for a second Brazilian Blowout — unless they actually invent a credible formaldehyde-free version. I think having it done once would not cause health issues but multiple exposure can definitely be harmful.

But I am positively-head-over-heels-in-love with the my hair so I am already in search of similar but safer alternatives. So far, I am considering Great Cuts’ Permanent Blowdry or Piandre’s Keratin Complex Smoothing Therapy. In the meantime, since I had already endured formaldehyde evaporation, I intend to try and keep my fabulous hair as long as possible. Thus, the search for keratin maintenance begins…

Salon: Great Cuts Salon
Services Tried: Brazilian Blowout, Hair Colour, Haircut
Stylist: Jun Almencion
Cost: P6500 – Brazilian Blowout & Haircut; P1500 – Hair Colour
How long will it last: about 4 months
Total Pampering Time: 3 hours

3-0 Date Night

Only seeing each other on weekends, Nice and I decided not to share my birthday with anyone else but us. And of course, because our upstairs bathroom decided to ensure we couldn’t do anything else the whole day (to be written in a short while… or maybe not).

Nice made reservations at Cafe Ysabel, a quaint restaurant inside San Juan. He said that he had always wanted to try this place but has never had the chance to. When asked how he found out about the place, he explains that it was near where he worked for his first job. I then teased him if I was the girl he had first wanted to bring here.

As soon as Nice told me where we were going, I immediately googled the place. I was both impressed and happily surprised that 1) it’s the restaurant for Center of Asian Culinary Studies, 2) it was visited by No Reservations’ Anthony Bourdain, and 3) it’s housed in a 1927 ancestral home.  Definitely everything interesting!

The house was definitely beautiful. The outside of the house had a park feel to it — I especially loved the porch, the stairs and the Koi Pond. The interior was intricately designed with a lot of period pieces and murals lined all the walls and ceilings. The dim lighting helped create a very romantic ambiance inside the restaurant (which kinda made me sleepy).

They served complimentary focaccia bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Since I’m more of a bread than a rice person, this was an extremely welcomed treat. There were 2 pieces of bread, supposedly 1 for Nice and 1 for me — but I consumed mine and half of Nice’s portion.

Nice and I were trying to pretend to be healthy so we ordered Asparagus and Tagaytay Green Salad to start. We didn’t care too much for the salad as we found the asparagus a bit to heavy for salads and after the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, another oil based course was a bit too much.

For mains, we ordered the Norwegian Salmon Steak and the Paella Sulipeña to share. My love of Paella has rubbed off to him (like most of everything I like!). The mains were both absolutely amazing! Perfectly cooked salmon and extremely tasty paella. Unfortunately, Nice and I ruined our appetites by eating nachos and burrito from a Greenhills stall. We ended up taking home 3/4 of the Paella (which didn’t go to waste, we had a lovely breakfast the next day!).

All my friends know that I’m a big desert fan. Now, I’m not sure if I just was too full from eating fast food mexican but I didn’t find any dessert that appetizing. But on a different day, I would have probably gorged on their Peter Pan Pie — chocolate ice cream, butterscotch and Belgian chocolate in a cookie crust.

Cafe Ysabel is no doubt one of Manila’s best restaurants and definitely fit for a date night. For some reason it didn’t fit my mood that night, the dim light ambiance made me a bit sleepy and the ancestral feel to the house made me feel stiff like I was transported to strict grandmom’s house where you were told not to be playful lest you break anything. LOL.

That wouldn’t stop me from going back though and next time, I wouldn’t eat cheap fast food before going.

Restaurant: Cafe Ysabel
Where: 455 P. Guevarra Street, San Juan Metro Manil
Food Tried: Asparagus and Tagaytay Green Salad, Norwegian Salmon Steak, Paella Sulipeña
Cost: About P1400
Recommended: Definitely!

To the Land Down Under

Woke up quite early today but unfortunately, not early enough to execute yesterday’s plan. Time was never my good friend and today wasn’t the day that we will forge a friendship. Good thing I had the most awesome fiacé who immediately rushed home to drive me to the airport (despite the fact that he’s the first person who would like to keep me from leaving).

My last minute flight itinerary is great! I flew out of Manila at 1230pm and landed in Hong Kong at 240pm. I then waited for my 830pm connecting flight to Sydney. 5 hours and 55 minutes doesn’t sound so bad except probably if you’re traveling alone… oh wait, I did travel alone.

The flight to Hong Kong was painless and I think it’s first place in all the 3 flights I have taken on this trip so far. On boarding the plane, I was hoping that I will be sitting beside “normal” folks. I got myself an aisle seat and had ok seatmates, right beside me was a Filipino guy who I think just got a contract outside the country and was flying for the first time (he seemed a little bit nervous and was fumbling with almost everything in the plane) and on the window seat  was a Caucasian backpacker who spent most of her time seating on her feet or asleep in the plane. We  just politely smiled at each other when passing food trays and basically left each other to ourselves (perfect!).

Also, I must say Cathay Pacific deserves a thumbs up for their fantastic on-flight entertainment. They had a huge line-up of movies: Black Swan, Morning Glory, Burlesque, Due Date, 127 Hours, Tangled, Unstoppable amongst others. Here’s a link where you could check their in-flight move lineup:  http://www.cathaypacific.com/cpa/en_HK/whatonboard/entertainment/movies.  I kinda wished that I was spending the 5 hour layover inside the plane instead.

The bright side and the downside of HKIA is that you get stuck in one of the world’s largest terminal airports. It wasn’t my first time in this particular airport but I still spent 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get to the shops and restos. It’s also extremely busy that have to watch your things all the time.

I held back on shopping so I just went around through the stores taking note of the designer items I long to have. After 5 long hours of waiting, it was already time for boarding.

Boarding the plane, I sensed that this was not going to be a flight as nice as the first one. I still got an aisle seat but was seated next to uni 2 vacation-ing uni students. If it were 5 years earlier, I probably wouldn’t have been bothered by their loud chattering, high energy, and sloppy clothes. So sadly, this confirms the fact that I am older than I would like to be. 😛

It’s the first time that I’ve used Qantas so I am very excited to see how good they are. Man, was I disappointed. First off, the planes were a lot older than the CX ones and the entertainment system wasn’t as good, as if CX was already using HDTV while QF still uses CRT. But those were acceptable, what bothered me was the FA assigned to our section. One because he seemed to flirting with the 2 uni girls that were sitting beside me. I used the word ‘seem’ because I just can’t accept the idea that a middle-aged man would be flirting with girls that could already be his daughters. Maybe it was fatherly love… but he did keep on giving them alcohol even when they didn’t request for additional ones. Second was that he kept offering me Chinese food and he’d always seemed surprised that I ask for the western dishes every time. I know I’m Asian but anyone can have diversity in their taste buds, right?

Overall, it wasn’t  that bad. But next time I book a flight, I’m definitely flying Asian airlines. I’ve heard good reviews about Singapore and would like to see how they compare to Cathay.