My Skincare Routine

I’m going to preface this post by saying I am not an expert in skincare and up until recently, all I really did was wash my face at night and occasionally apply moisturizer before bed if I remembered it. I’ve always thought multi-step routines were ridiculous, expensive and only reserved for hardcore skin care junkies.

My previous AM routine basically consisted of cold water rinse, moisturizer with SPF then day makeup and my PM routine was to wash off makeup with a cream cleanser using my Clarisonic followed by a heavier moisturizer. That’s all I’ve ever done since I can remember.

Then last year my sister introduced me to Thayers Witch Hazel toner. She would not stop talking it up and even her husband chimed in saying he uses it too and how it has worked wonders on their skin. So I bought it, and a year later, it has been a staple in my AM/PM routine. The alcohol free formula is hydrating and it has helped significantly lessen my adult acne. I still occasionally get hormonal breakouts in my jawline but it’s not as bad as it used to be. My skin has been oily since I was a teen and occasional acne is a persistent problem. I would get random dry spots on my cheek during winter but in general, excess oil and large pores were my normal.

My skin isn’t perfect. I bear the marks and scars of someone who has suffered from persistent acne.

My skin isn’t perfect. I bear the marks and scars of someone who has suffered from persistent acne.

So everything new I’ve started doing and products I bought were after I binged on youtube videos by Renee of Gothamista. I discovered Renee after Megan of Undecorated Home mentioned her once on her Instagram Stories. I loved how Renee’s videos were honest in her product reviews and broke down routines and explained how one product worked with another. Sure, she’d mention ingredients with names I can’t pronounce but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t google and look up myself. I watched and rewatched several of her videos trying to determine which of the products she mentioned I would try. It was here that I also discovered The Ordinary. I’m incredibly late to this since this line has been out for a couple of years but what attracted me to their line was the price point. Every single product was under $20, most were under $10. For someone who was new to skincare and wasn’t sure where to begin, I wasn’t about to drop $75 on a miracle serum. The Ordinary’s products and packaging is no fuss with no flowery words like “Radiant Glow” or “Miracle Serum.” The names basically feature the key ingredient in each serum, and if you don’t know what those ingredients do, their website explains each one pretty clearly.

So my new routine is outlined below

AM Routine

  1. Cold Water Rinse

  2. Thayers Witch Hazel Toner

  3. Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1 %

  4. The Ordinary Buffet Peptide

  5. Cerave moisturizer with SPF - I also love Acure Brightening Day Cream

  6. Eye Cream - currently using Volition Helix AM/PM gel but also love Kiehls Avocado Eye Cream

  7. SPF - If using a moisturizer without it.


The concept of double cleansing was new to me but after I tried it, I couldn’t believe much better it was at removing the gunk off my face. I used to avoid any oil products since I thought that’s what I should do because of my oily skin but realized that oil is attracted to oil and is the only thing that can remove it. This discovery has been a game changer for me.

PM Routine

  1. Burts Bees Cleansing Oil

  2. Kiehls Oil-Free Cleanser - Also love the Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Wash

  3. Thayer’s Witch Hazel Toner - twice a week, I do the Seven skin Method

  4. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

  5. The Ordinary Matrixyl 10% + HA OR Lactic Acid 10% + HA (Cannot be combined)

    I alternate these two since the Lactic Acid cannot be combined with a peptide so I use that 2-3 times a week at night and use the Matrixyl on all other nights.

  6. The Ordinary 100% Organic Rosehip Seed Oil mixed with a few drops of the Kiehls Midnight Recovery Concentrate (I do this mostly for the smell since the rosehip seed oil has an earthy scent to it)

  7. Kiehls Ultra Facial Cream

  8. Eye Cream

  9. Optional: twice a week I sleep with Laneige Water Sleeping Mask and recently I’ve been using a clay mask once a week. I have read great things about Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay so I got myself some and will try this week.

I built my routine based on this video. I incorporated new products with ones I already use but may switch my old arsenal up after I use them up to try others. I’ve only started this routine a couple weeks ago and it typically takes 8-12 weeks to see visible results but I can already tell the difference with regards to how my skin feels. My products may not be the same as yours since every one has different skin types. Renee also discusses in one of her videos about the difference about skin type and skin condition and how the latter is affected by environmental factors and seasonal changes and should be addressed accordingly.

I now look forward to my routines, specially at night. It’s like a mini spa day when I’m washing off my day. The multi-step routine that once seemed daunting and unrealistic has now become a crucial and relaxing way to end my day.

So that’s me. The few minutes each day that I now dedicate to skin care is like my little daily self care. Hope you find the routine that works for you.

Beginner Houseplants and Basic Plant Care

I’d like to preface this post by saying that I am not a plant expert. Everything I’m sharing now and in the future are information I’ve collected through experience and personal research. I find myself looking up information on plant care too once in a while and it would do well for you to do the same when you’re having trouble with your plant babies.

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“I love your apartment and all your plants! I don’t have a green thumb. Can you suggest a few houseplants for new plant parents?”

I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked this question or some other version of it. There are countless of articles and blog posts from other plant enthusiasts that have been written about this and yet I still get asked this question all the time. Instead of answering multiple DM’s, typing up the same answer, I decided to do a post about it.

Before I begin, I’d like to share a few basic plant care tips. I figured it would be good to start with this before I start listing plants to buy because without a good working knowledge on plant care, it won’t matter how “easy” a plant is supposed to be, you might just end up killing it anyway. But you won’t, if you follow a few simple rules.

Light

Plants need light. Light is food. We keep hearing about “feeding” plants with fertilizer that there has been a misconception that fertilizer is plant food. Light is the fuel plants need for photosynthesis, the process where plants convert light energy to chemical energy. I’m sure many of you have seen various houseplants being labeled as low light or bright indirect light plants. What do these mean? Lot of newbie plant folks buy low light plants and stick them in the darkest corner of their home, or worse, a windowless room or office cubicle. Again, plants need light. When a plant is labeled “low-light” a better understanding of that would be LOW LIGHT TOLERANT. The amount of light a plant gets will determine how fast it can convert water and carbon dioxide into food that it needs. Got it? Remember this, I’ll go back to that later.

Plant placement is so important because each plant has a certain requirement of how much light they can tolerate. Some don’t need a lot because their leaves will burn. It all depends on the plant. Every plant will have different needs. It would do well to look up plant care tips for your particular plant to know which area in your home it can live in. I attended a plant class once with Summer Rayne-Oakes of Homestead Brooklyn and she said that when it comes to plants, it’s all about THEM, not you. You can’t force a plant to live in a certain area of your home because it looks good there. Where they live needs to be in accordance to their needs and requirements, not yours.

Water

“How often should I water (insert plant here)?” or

“How often do you water your plants?”

The frequency of watering varies depending on a number of factors. How much light is the plant getting? What season is it? Where is the plant located? Which direction is the window facing?

Determining which direction your window faces would help you know what kind of light your plant is getting. Click here to read an article that describes the kind of plants that would do well depending on which direction your plants are facing.

So how often should you water? Again, consider the light. The quality of light (low or high) will determine how quickly the plant can absorb the water through its roots. The higher the light quality, the faster the absorption, and vice versa. Everything depends on the factors that exist in your space. Are your plants getting a lot of sun? In the winter, plants tend to get less light and most go dormant. Since they get less light, they won’t be able to absorb water as fast as they do in the summer. So water less. During the hot summer months, the longer days expose them to a lot more light which makes for faster water absorption which requires you to water more. The location of plants in your home also matters. During winter, plants kept near heating vents tend to dry them out faster too so consider that. You shouldn’t be keeping them near heat vents anyway. Also plants cannot be on YOUR schedule. They cannot be placed on a watering schedule because they determine when they need to be watered, not you. You cannot water them when you think it’s time. I always advice people to stick their fingers in the soil and water only when the top inch or two is dry. If it’s slightly damp, then I would leave it for a couple days and check again before watering.

Watering Method

Whether you water your plants the regular way by pouring water into the pot or use the Bottom Watering method, one thing needs to be stressed here. Water DEEPLY. Shallow watering means watering your pot just enough until the top layer is damp. The problem with this is that plant roots don’t live in the top 1-2 inches of soil, they’re all the way down so shallow watering isn’t doing much for them. My rule of thumb is keep watering until water flows out of the drainage hole then stop. Throw away the water that pools at the bottom of the dish. If it helps you better to water your plants in the tub or sink and wait until they drain, then do that. I personally have figured out how much water my pots can hold so I no longer need to do this. I’ve since bought a Moisture meter on Amazon which tells me which plants need water or not. It’s a good tool if you don’t like getting your hands dirty every time you need to water.

What do you do with pots with no drainage?

Easy answer. Don’t use them. Unless you are past beginner level and know how much water a pot can hold without drowning the plant, I would advice against using pots without drainage holes. This plus non-aerated soil is a sure fire way to drown and kill your plant.

Okay, so everything I’ve mentioned are general rules. Again, look up care requirements for every new plant you get so you’ll have a better understanding what that plant will need. The plant care I’ve mentioned above will work well with the plants I will list below.

Terra Cotta pots are great because they’re porous but watch out for moisture levels.

Terra Cotta pots are great because they’re porous but watch out for moisture levels.

Soil Quality and Aeration

Soil quality is essential for healthy houseplants. No, you don’t need fancy, expensive dirt to pot your houseplants in. I personally use basic potting soil mixed in with 50/50 of Perlite. I make a big batch of it and keep it in a separate bin ready to use anytime I need to repot a plant. I’ve also occasionally used a mix of 1/3 Potting soil, 1/3 Perlite and 1/3 Vermiculite. Don’t ask me why, I read it somewhere years ago and it has never failed me. But the 50/50 perlite mix works fine as well. Perlite keeps your soil aerated, allowing water to flow freely through the soil keeping your root system evenly moist. Non-aerated soil will compact down to a solid brick of dirt over time which will prevent water from flowing through and will create dry pockets in the soil which won’t help your plant no matter how often you say you water it. Aeration is important. Even if you use the potting mix I mentioned you will still need to occasionally aerate by poking holes into the dirt with a chopstick or similar equipment. If you notice that water drains immediately through the drainage hole as soon as you start watering, then it’s time to aerate your soil.

Your plant pot also matters here. A lot of people recommend using terra cotta pots for your plants because it is porous which allows your soil to breath. But because of this, plants in terra cotta pots tend to dry out faster than plants in, say, ceramic pots. I have a few Pilea Peperomioides in different pots and the ones in terra cotta require more frequent watering than the ones in ceramic ones. Same plant, same light quality, different watering needs.

Easy Beginner Houseplants

So now you want to know what plants to start with? Great! Below I will list the plants I personally started with and encouraged me to continue buying more. I advice you to take it slow when it comes to plant shopping. Learn the ropes and see how you do with one or a few of these before you move on to more complicated plants. I learned the hard way in the past when I overbought plants way beyond my ability to care for them. In general I’ve learned through experience that some plants can’t survive in my apartment due to light requirements and humidity levels so I tend to stick with what works.

Snake Plant or Sansevieria

Can tolerate low-light environments but will thrive in medium to moderate light areas. I have a few of these and I notice the patterns on the leaves on those near windows are more prominent and grow faster than those far from the windows.







Devil’s Ivy/Pothos

There are several varieties of pothos but their care generally remains the same. Just like the previous plant, these can tolerate low light areas but will grow faster and develop beautiful leaf variegations when given proper sunlight. If you want your pothos plants to trail and grow bushy, long vines, give it bright indirect light. Pothos leaves with wilt and curl when it needs water but better figure out the soil moisture and don’t let it get to the point that it wilts before you water it.

ZZ plant on the right

ZZ plant on the right

ZZ Plant

I cannot think of a plant easier than a ZZ Plant. I water mine once every 3-4 weeks and they’re kept far away from the windows. I water very deeply every time I do but zz plants have root bulbs that hold water so they don’t need to be watered as often as most leafy plants do. I’ve occasionally forgotten to water them as long as two months and none have died on me. I have two that are almost 3 years old.

Peace Lily

Peace Lily


Peace Lily

Another plant that is advertised as low light. The problem here is, if you want the plant to keep shooting out its white flowers, it needs more light than the far end of your room. The downside is, the more light you give it, the more water it will need. This plant will tell you when you’ve not watered enough because its leaves will droop. Water immediately when it gets to this point before roots dry out and die.


Spider Plants

Similar care as most of the plants I’ve already mentioned and this one shoots out babies when cared for well. Very easily propagated and shared.


Good rule of thumb is to mimic cacti’s natural habitat

Good rule of thumb is to mimic cacti’s natural habitat

Cactus or Succulents

If you’re like me and have heard time and time again that cactus or succulent plants are the easiest yet you have killed several of them. Don’t despair. They are actually very easy if you know what their needs are. Think of the environment these plants normally live in, the Desert right? Deserts are very hot and very dry but occasionally when it rains, it does so for days until it floods and then it stops and dries out again. Mimic that environment in your home. These types of plants do very well in south facing windows because it’s bright for most of the day. Water infrequently, depending on your home environment and the season, around once every 3-4 weeks. But when you do, water very deeply until the soil is soaked and ignore it again for another 3-4 weeks. Allow the soil to completely dry out (not just the top inch) before watering again. These plants are built to hold a lot of water so for as long as it gets plenty of sun, it will be very happy.

Brasil Philodendron

Brasil Philodendron

Philodendrons

There are several varieties of these but in general requires the same care as a pothos, depending on the species. There are few that require high humidity environments so consider that when purchasing one.

In conclusion

I’ve had my pothos since 2009 and I’ve propagated it to multiple plants. There were times when we lived in a cave-like studio apartment that I thought it wouldn’t survive but it still lives to this day and is crawling on the wall above Vien’s aquarium. It wasn’t a variegated one when I bought it but it seems to love the light it’s getting and is giving out beautiful variegated leaves. My point is, I started small and made sure I got the hang of these few easy houseplants before I acquired the more complicated ones that need different soil moisture or humidity levels. I’ve killed a lot more than you think and I’m still still constantly learning. I’ve also realized that not all plants can survive in my home environment or some plants just don’t work for me (Damn you string of pearls!) so I’ve stopped buying them. Having a plant is similar to any kind of relationship. If you’re nice to them, they’ll love you back. If you overparent, then they tend to rebel and self destruct. It’s a learning process so don’t let plant failures deter you from becoming the crazy plant lady you always wanted to be.

For plant tools I use, shop my Amazon Storefront.

cariPro Ultrasonic Toothbrush Review (Giveaway CLOSED)

I mentioned in my Instagram stories a couple weeks ago about receiving an electric toothbrush from Smile Brilliant. They reached out to me about trying out their cariPRO Ultrasonic toothbrush and of course I had to say yes. I was excited to try something different since I had only ever used a cheap electric toothbrush I bought from Bed, Bath and Beyond with one of their 20% coupons. I had no prior experience with an electric toothbrush before that so I had no idea what better felt like. I tried the cariPRO toothbrush as soon as I ripped the box open and I’m not going to tell you words such as “AMAZING! FANTASTIC!” because who really describes a toothbrush like that? Not me. You know how my mouth felt after though? CLEAN. Like different clean. My previous electric toothbrush had a round oscillating head that was fine because I didn’t know any different. Comparing the two brush heads made it seem that the cariPRO brush heads were a tad too big but that would be a quick misconception. The shape of the cariPRO brushes were great for reaching the back of my teeth, an observation shared by my husband which I will share a bit more about later.

CariPRO Brush Modes

The toothbrush has 5 modes, 3 cleaning modes and 2 other modes best paired with the other three. For a description of each mode, see the graphic I grabbed from the guide they sent me.

So the modes have been very helpful for me because I have slightly sensitive teeth. Blame it on aging plus I grind my teeth when I sleep so my teeth are particularly sensitive in the morning. I’ve been wearing a night guard for about three years now but the damage grinding has done for years prior to that isn’t something I can reverse. So my previous toothbrush can cause bleeding some mornings but I haven’t had that issue with the cariPRO brush. I typically use the Clean mode paired with the Gum Care mode every night. I love the four 30-second bursts that remind you to brush a different quadrant of your teeth giving your a total of two minutes which is the amount of time you should be brushing your teeth anyway. The head vibrates at about 40,000 vibrations per minute which is comparable to the leading sonic toothbrushes that cost about twice as much and significantly more than the cheaper electric toothbrushes on the market. I was almost swayed by an ad I saw on the subway for a $25 electric toothbrush that had an automatic brush head subscription until I realized it ran on AAA batteries. The cariPRO is rechargeable and has a waterproof housing that’s safe to use while you’re in the shower or bath.

Smile Brilliant sent over two brush heads so I decided to give the other one to my husband Vien and we switch the heads out whenever we need to use it and it’s worked great for him as well. He’s switched over from using a regular manual toothbrush. He’s not a man of many words but when I asked him how he likes it, he says his mouth feels a lot cleaner and he likes how it reaches parts of his mouth that he normally can’t clean properly with a manual toothbrush. His only gripe? He wishes the tongue scraper on the back of each brush head had a wider textured area.

***GIVEAWAY CLOSED***

So want to own one yourself? Enter through the link below to get a chance to win!

ENTER TO WIN your own Individual Toothbrush Package (worth $119) complete with TWO brush heads and charging dock

Open to all USA, UK, Australia and Canada residents.

Can’t wait to see if you win one? Use the code KARILOPEZ20 to get 20% off your package of choice! Everyone’s a winner!

You can find more information about the cariPRO toothbrush and Smile Brilliant through their website.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on oral hygiene and my review is from the point of view of someone who is looking to improve on my oral hygiene habits. I did my own quick research on the benefits of sonic toothbrushes so feel free to do your own research.

Exploring CBD

The start of the year is when I schedule all my annual doctor’s appointments. I see my primary care physician for my annual physical, my OB-GYN for my PAP and typically see my dentist around this time as well. During my PCP visit, my doctor asked me about any issued I’ve been having lately. I’m generally in decent health except for some chronic neck, shoulder and lower back pains. I always ignored this and just reminded myself that everyone suffers from back pains and it isn’t something special that needs to be addressed. My husband insisted I bring it up so I casually mentioned it to my doc. He asked if I would like muscle relaxers. He said it could help ease the pain temporarily until I find the root of my pain. I’ve never taken them before so I said I’ll try it. He did warn me that it would make me drowsy and having taken medication in the past that caused drowsiness, I said sure. I knew what to expect. I took it before bed and hoped that I’d be good and pain free in the morning. I woke up the next day feeling welded to my bed. I could not move but my alarm was screaming at me to get up and get ready for work. I felt heavily drugged and I initially thought I was just tired and about an hour in it dawned on me that I was experiencing the effects of the muscle relaxers. A feeling I have never felt before. Was I in pain? NO. But was I alive? I wasn’t sure. It was a horrible day and the side effects lasted a full 24 hours, longer than the pain relieving effects did. My husband threw the bottle of pills in the trash as soon as we got home. I was never taking that again. So now I though to myself, how do I deal with the pain now? I’ve had lower back pain since I was a teen and my mom took me a doctor and an x-ray showed that a vertebrae wasn’t sitting right in my lower back was causing the pain but it was not serious enough to merit surgery. I was told that pregnancy would be difficult for me.

So why CBD?

I’ve heard about it but knew little about it. So I went to ask my Instagram community for recommendations. As the brand suggestions flooded in, I read all I can about CBD. As much as Google gave me. If you’re here scratching your head wondering what I’m taking about and what the hell CBD is, CLICK HERE. Everyone else can keep reading. So why CBD? Well why not? I’ve tried prescription strength ibuprofen and we all know what those things do to your liver. I’ve tried turmeric too with absolutely zero effects. Even when I was at the height of my gym rat phase, exercise did nothing for my pain. Don’t tell me to take yoga okay. If someone else mentions yoga, imma lose it. Listen, I gave yoga a real try. I DID. Multiple times I tried it and I JUST CANNOT BRING MYSELF TO LIKE IT. The whole time I’m in there, I keep asking myself WHY?!?

But I digress, I decided to give CBD a try. Marijuana isn’t alien to me. I’ve heard of its benefits for cancer patients and those with epilepsy and other ailments. Recent surge of CBD has it being the cure all for pain and anxiety. And of course, I’ve been smoking that shit on and off since I was 18. Does that shock you? I don’t know who you’ve been following if any of this is surprising to you.

The recommendations poured in and I now had a big task of looking up every single product rec sent to me to see which ones I was going to try.

We couldn’t pass up a dispensary tour during our visit to California

We couldn’t pass up a dispensary tour during our visit to California

How did I pick the brands I tried?

First off, the CBD market is so saturated that if I hadn’t asked my followers for recommendations, I honestly wouldn’t know where to begin. There are a ton of choices and no way for me to verify which one was better. So I narrowed it down with the number of recommendations a brand got. Then narrowed it down further with price. Then there was the issue of Full Spectrum CBD and CBD Isolate. A good article I read on the differences between the two can be found by clicking this link. To summarize, both oils are extracted from the hemp plant. Full Spectrum is full of all the terpenes, cannabinoids, etc found in hemp, all of which have therapeutic value and create what is known as the entourage effect. This includes very small trace amounts of THC but not enough to get you high. But I’ve read taking full spectrum can give you a positive result on a drug test which brings us to CBD Isolate. CBD Isolate is just that. It’s pure CBD without all the other cannabinoids. If you read that article that I linked then you will note that CBD contains all the benefits of all the hemp’s cannabinoids combined, without the THC. So it’s great for people who want the benefits of CBD without having to worry about the legality of having THC in your system. This is great for people where marijuana is not legal or athletes who require drug testing. You will hear a lot of talk about Full Spectrum being better at delivering pain relief but there are those who will swear on CBD Isolate’s effectivity too. It’s a matter of choice and one that I will not make for you. I also read this article about what to know before buying CBD. Did I follow it? Not really. But I figured you might want that information anyway. You’re welcome.

Tinctures? Edibles? Vape oil? Balms?

There are a multitude of ways to use CBD. When choosing which kind I was going to try, I also had to decide how I was going to use it. I ended up trying one of each tincture (oils to be taken sublingually or in a beverage) in Full Spectrum and Isolate. I also decided to try a few balms and a vape oil for its convenience. I picked Pure Relief (Full Spectrum) because it was the most recommended and because they offered sample sizes of their tinctures and balms. For those not ready to commit to a full sized bottle, this is a good place to start. CBD Extreme Athlete products was VERY HIGHLY recommended by a very close friend who uses it religiously and has recommended it to his own family. You’ll notice that CBD Extreme Athlete’s marketing is directed towards athletes and is CBD Isolate. They emphasize on their product being THC and drug free. Scrolling through Thoughcloud’s website can be overwhelming given the variety of products they offer but I decided to give their e-liquids a try. I also tried CBD tea from The Brothers Apothecary.

How long does CBD take to kick in and how long do the effects last?

This all depends on a person’s health, weight, pain tolerance and method of delivery. Lots of articles available that explain this but this article explains it pretty well I think. Dosage and strength of the CBD you’re taking matters too. Start small and see how you feel and up the dosage until it gives your the relief you’re asking for. There isn’t a standard dosage for CBD, you will read and hear people saying take 1ml (a full dropper) of tincture to start but consider the strength of CBD you’re taking too. Tincture strength vary by brand and can go from 250mg, 500mg up to 1500mg or more.

How did I start?

I didn’t know what to expect to be honest. I took half a dropper of a 500mg tincture and waited. I was expecting to “get high” as marijuana usually does. The best way I can describe the initial feeling I got was gravity pulling my shoulders down. Like someone wrapping me in a weighted blanket. My head didn’t feel cloudy like being high does but my body felt relaxed like I was high but not. It was a bizarre sensation at first that confused me. It was because I was waiting for the effect that I noticed this. You don’t usually wait for Advil to kick in. This wasn’t a feeling that I felt again in the doses that followed because I wasn’t paying attention to it anymore. But did notice the pain that I usually have in my neck and shoulders has lifted significantly. I did some experiments and tried going off it some days to see how I felt and noticed the difference in how I feel towards the end of the day. Without it, I was exhausted by day’s end. Both balms I tried worked well but it works no differently than applying some Icy Hot or Bengay to your sore muscles. Again, it’s an alternative. It’s up to you if the holistic value is worth the $$.

Does it really relieve pain?

I’m not sure how to answer this since I’m still learning dosage myself. I will say that it mutes down your pain. The best metaphor I can think of is putting on earplugs to dull out your spouse’s loud snoring so you can sleep. Does that make sense? You still hear the snoring but its at a comfortable level that you get to have some sleep. This has been my experience but I’ve gotten feedback from plenty others with much more serious conditions and swear it has relieved them of their issues. So I have more to learn about this.

Why don’t you just smoke weed? Why all this fuss over CBD?

I can’t count the number of times someone sent me this. First off, I live in New York state which is still behind on marijuana legalization. Second, I am not a high functioning stoner and is the reason I went off it. It doesn’t matter which kind I take, you’ll have to peel me off the couch. I’m utterly useless when high and I’d like to be able to function like a normal adult at work so this is not an option for me.

Will I continue using CBD now?

Yes but I don’t think I will use it on a daily basis. Primarily because of cost. CBD is not cheap. I see myself taking it as often as I would if I needed to pop an Advil. I do enjoy the vape though and it’s one that I reach for more often than the rest mostly for its convenience. In the beginning I thought it wasn’t working because I didn’t get that weighted feeling I initially described but soon realized it did aid with my pain specially one a day I forgot to take a tincture and my neck pain was so intense I took a few puffs of the vape pen and relief was almost instant.

I hope this shed just a bit of light on CBD for those who have been curious and/or hesitant to try. It would do well for you to do some further research on your own so you can better decide if CBD is right for you. I am in no means an expert on this matter and can only offer information based on my own experience. Good luck!

My Immigrant Story

This is my immigrant story.

I‘ve been married once before. It didn’t last very long and it didn’t end very well. That will need to be a story for another time. The only reason I mention this is because when he decided it was over for him, I found myself in this country, with no home, little to no money and nothing more than whatever I had in two suitcases. I was lost, confused and filled with shame. I had left Manila with so much hope and everyone knew I had no plans to return and was fully intending to spend the rest of my years in San Francisco in happily married bliss. It didn’t quite work out that way. I was stuck in California, temporarily staying with my then sister-in-law who herself had no idea why or how everything turned out the way it did. Both his family and mine were in shock. I have friends in California that I hadn’t seen or spoken to much and I decided to see all of them as a distraction. I spent the next 3 months staying between her place and other friend’s apartments trying to figure out what my next move would be.

Hanging out in a friend’s garage, drinking all the beers, coloring in books and playing Garage Band.

Hanging out in a friend’s garage, drinking all the beers, coloring in books and playing Garage Band.

My former sister in law’s apartment served as my home base as I moved up and down California trying to get my things out of my ex-husband’s apartment. He refused to let me back to “his” apartment so I had pick up my things from my father-in-law’s house. I didn’t have any immediate close family in the west coast so I had nowhere to go. I discovered new friendships during this time and reconnected with such amazing people who were supportive and patient with me. My mom, who felt the need to get me out of there, reached out to her sister in New York and asked her for help. My aunt immediately reached out to me and offered to pay for my ticket to fly to New York and stay with her and I accepted. I went to Las Vegas to see one of my best friends to spend some time with her before flying east since I didn’t know when I’d be able to visit again. I was 26 years old, I had just left my whole life in Manila and my husband just left me. At this point, I was just riding the wave and going wherever it decided to take me. I landed in New York City on October 7, 2008. It was meant to be temporary. Just until I figured out what my next steps were. I had no clue this city would become my home, where I would find love again and discover friendships and connections with people I never would have found elsewhere. But the road to this point wasn’t exactly easy.

I arrived in New York City during the Fall of 2008.

I arrived in New York City during the Fall of 2008.

So I finally got here. But I was still heartbroken, had no money and despite my aunt being extremely generous with her home, I knew I couldn’t keep spending my days watching TV and eating everything in the kitchen. I avoided going out since I had no money to spend and if I did, I would wander a few blocks around her apartment in Queens. After several weeks of this, insanity was adding to the heartbreak. Outside of family, I only knew two people in NYC, a girl friend from grade school and my ex from college. My ex found out what happened and understanding my need to do something, suggested I get a job waiting tables in the city. Just so I can make a little money and have something to do everyday. I had never waited tables in my life and knew absolutely nothing of city life but I was desperate for a distraction. I had been crying in the shower a lot up to that point. I met up with him and one of his friends one day in December and armed with several photocopies of my resume, we walked around the east and west village. We went door to door asking restaurants if they were hiring. After two hours of walking, I got a job at a now shuttered vegetarian restaurant on 7th Avenue. They knew I had no experience but they had just opened a month prior and needed help. My luck was picking up.

Dressing for winter wasn’t something I was familiar with

Dressing for winter wasn’t something I was familiar with

I worked at that restaurant like a dog. From open till close most days. I started making a bit of money. But I was also commuting between my Aunt’s apartment in Queens and the West Village. She didn’t live near the subway and I needed to take the bus to and from the station. When my shift ended late at night I would often find myself standing inside a bank to get away from the bitter cold because I had just missed the bus and it ran once an hour after midnight. On some nights I would walk 30 plus blocks home from the station in knee deep of snow just to get to bed only to wake up and do it all over again. A few weeks of this and I knew I needed to move somewhere within reasonable commuting distance to the restaurant. I had met a few people and found myself roommates in a 4 bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. But a certain date was coming and a decision still had to be made.

There is something I haven’t mentioned yet in this story. Everything I’ve told you so far happened under a 6 month period. Six months is the maximum length of time a person with a tourist visa who visits the US is allowed to stay in the country. My 6 month time limit was almost up. I needed to decide if I was going to leave before the visa ends or to stay. I had just reconnected with family members I hadn’t seen and made lots of new friends. I had never had an apartment that I was personally responsible for before and I was making money and paying my own bills. I was on my feet and I was feeling more myself again. My apartment was feeling like home and the people surrounding me knew little of my old life. I felt like I had pressed the reset button.

Central Park, Spring of 2009

Central Park, Spring of 2009

Roommates surprised me on my birthday by filing my tiny room with balloons.

Roommates surprised me on my birthday by filing my tiny room with balloons.

I don’t need to tell you which choice I made, you wouldn’t be reading this now if I had left all that and flown back to Manila. Call it unlawful presence, call me undocumented or an illegal immigrant, that’s what I was for the next 4 years. I couldn’t get an ID, open a bank account or get a non-cash paying job since I had no papers to show for myself. I had no credit and couldn’t get a credit card so I had to work with whatever cash I brought home from waiting tables. The restaurant I worked at soon decided they couldn’t pay me under the table and I only worked for tips. The kitchen staff was nice and they always fed me. I’d “visit” work sometimes even on my day off just because I knew they would feed me and that’s a meal I wouldn’t have to spend on. Money was hard, I cried a lot and questioned my choices but I soldiered on. I had made my bed and I had to lay in it. I worked at the restaurant until I became a nanny and kept that job for the next few years working for different families. But I constantly kept asking myself how long I could keep doing this.

I stayed single for 3 years since my separation. I went on no dates and had zero interest in a relationship. To be honest, I enjoyed this time very much. I learned a lot about myself in those 3 years and allowed myself to heal. I learned more about what I want and would not tolerate in my next relationship if I ever got to that point. I also knew the only way I would be able to obtain legal status in the US was through marriage. I had this worrying thought that if anything were to happen to my mother in Manila, that I wouldn’t be able to see her without leaving my life in the US permanently.

One of the first photos of us together. He took me to Atlantic City on the weekend of my birthday.

One of the first photos of us together. He took me to Atlantic City on the weekend of my birthday.

So I went online and reluctantly signed up for a dating website. Online dating wasn’t as common as it is now but I knew my introverted self was never going to meet someone the regular way. Two weeks later, I met Vien. Our story is better shared another time. My divorce wasn’t finalized until about a month after I met him. That was 3 years after my ex left me. I told Vien my situation soon after we started seeing each other so he knew what I was looking for. He was surprisingly open to it. A year later we were married and about 6 months after that I received my permanent resident card. Yes it was a green card marriage but it was far from a fake relationship. Whenever I’m asked how Vien proposed I always end up squirming and responding it was an agreement rather than a proposal. We’ve been together 7 years now which is the longest relationship either one of us have ever been in. New York City standard of living is expensive and we struggle with money more than we’d care to admit but we’re in it together and we make the most out of it. I finally became a US citizen in December of 2017. I applied for citizenship mostly out of a desire for the right to vote after Trump won, more than anything else.


I’m glad my first marriage ended, otherwise I wouldn’t be here, with him, living my best life. 

Photos by @WeRomantics.  www.WeRomantics.com

Photos by @WeRomantics. www.WeRomantics.com

I posted a 5-part series on my Instagram feed @theaccidentalbohemian sharing details of how I came to live in New York City. This is a compilation of all five posts.

Escape with Getaway House

Hello and welcome to my semi-quick guide to planning your own stay with Getaway House. What is Getaway House you say? Well, before we begin, I think it's best you head over to their site here

https://getaway.house/

Done? You browsed around? Pretty cool huh? 

They have three outposts in the Northeast. One in Boston, another in New York and the latest one is near Washington DC. I will be sharing my experience with their New York site as I've visited it 3 times.

One thing I will note is that each cabin is different in terms of layout and features so it's best to be prepared or message the staff at Getaway once you've picked your dates. For example, some of the older cabins do not have AC so if you're visiting in the summer and this is important for you, message the staff and ask if any of the newer cabins that are equipped with air conditioning are available on your preferred dates. 

They refrain from telling you where the exact location of the cabins are so I will do the same here. The point of this is so you don't over plan your trip. The cabins are meant for you to escape the rush of the city where time is money everything is on a schedule. 

What can you do while there? Read a book, take naps, build a fire, take a hike, or just be still. In all three of our stays, we opted to just stay and rest and enjoy the silence, which is a rarity while living in NYC. We would then take a short hike after we check out or explore a nearby town on our way back home. 

One thing I've been asked a lot is what to pack. Honestly you can pack as much or as little as you want. It all depends on what you plan to do during your stay and how you are getting there. Getaway was designed to be accessible via public transport. The New York outpost can be reached via Amtrak and a quick 20 minute cab ride from the station. If you are taking public transport, you can pack food for your stay but note that each cabin is equipped with just a small mini fridge so it's best to bring very little perishable items as possible. Think along the lines of instant oatmeal, dried pasta and jarred sauce. There is a well equipped kitchenette with dinnerware and cookware for use. I will note that the knives in the cabin were a bit dull so we did bring our own for meal prep. They have snacks and provisions available for purchase in the cabin just like your standard hotel mini bar without the obscene prices so feel free to snack on those.

 

If you are driving, there is a pretty great supermarket in the next town over about a 10 minute drive from the site and depending on the time of your visit, there is a great farm stand about a 5 minute drive south where you can pick up fresh seasonal produce and eggs. Since the fridge was small and we had a car, we bought steaks and ribs just before dinner so we didn't have to bother trying to store them in the fridge.

So what's the cabin like? It's PERFECT. It has everything you need and nothing you don't. The bed is absolutely comfortable and the views are refreshing to wake up to. One thing you do need to adjust to is their "space age" composting toilet. If you've never used one before, I will say that it's an experience. They encourage you to flush after every other use since you are limited to 15 flushes per cartridge. If you ever need a cartridge change, it's easy to reach out to them and someone will pop over to give you a fresh one. The showers get hot quick which is fantastic but the water pressure in the older cabins can be a bit weak but isn't a deal breaker. They provide towels so no need to pack your own. They also encourage you to use their provided biodegradable toiletries for showering but do bring your own toothpaste. Bug spray is a must during the warmer months. Headlamps and flashlights would be great too if you plan on staying out at night while sitting by the campfire. 

One thing I will say is that it is a cabin in the WOODS. So expect the same as when you're camping. Keep all food items inside to not attract bears or small animals. I'm not trying to scare you, it's just common sense. We were there in the early and late fall and again in late spring and in our last visit, we encountered quite a few bugs which is unavoidable. All these are part of enjoying the outdoors.

"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone"

Embrace the bugs, feel the sun on your skin, listen to the wind blowing through the trees and enjoy a s'more or two.

Got it? Good. Now go reserve your dates and take that much needed break. Weekends can be booked full way in advance so it's best to pick dates in the middle of the week. The staff of Getaway are extremely helpful and are quick to respond to any and all of your concerns so do not hesitate to reach out to them. 

This is one of my absolute favorite out of town hideouts and one we will revisit over and over again.

 

Getaway House

https://getaway.house/

Getaway FAQs

 

Budget Traveler's Guide to Tulum Part TWO

Hello and welcome to part two of my budget travel guide to Tulum. If you haven't read part one, you may do so through here. You read it? Good. So in part installment we are going to quickly run through the typical tourist sites most people who visit this area come to see. I'm sure there are more to see but during my visits, these are cenotes and archaeological sites I've been to. Some of them I've visited more than once. So here we go...

Mayan Archaeological Ruins

Tulum Ruins

There are plenty of Mayan Ruins in this part of Mexico but the three that are normally featured in tours are Coba Ruins, Tulum Ruins and Chichen Itza. Since we're assuming you're based in Tulum, we'll start from there. The Mayan ruins in Tulum are located by the beach. The ruins, against the background of the Caribbean Sea, make for a very picturesque visit. The best part? After walking around the hot and humid sun, you can quickly head down to the beach and jump in the water to cool off. There are usually vendors right at the exit selling popsicles and fresh coconuts if you need refreshments. You cannot go into or climb the ruins since most of the structures are roped off to protect them. Don't be like that obnoxious blonde pop star who thought his fame would allow him to go beyond the roped area and disrespect this sacred space. Who am I referring to? Let's just say "Is it too late now to say Sorry?" Why yes, it is.

Coba Ruins

Pyramid Ixmoja

Pyramid Ixmoja

The small town of Coba is an easy 45 minute drive from Tulum. Signs are very easy to follow and the road runs straight from Tulum to Coba. Out of the three sites I'm mentioning here, this is the only one you can climb and touch. The ruins are located in the middle of the jungle and require a short 20-30 minute hike to get to Ixmoja, the largest pyramid in Coba. Ixmoja is about 42 meters high and you can climb the steps up to the top if you dare. The view from the top is amazing and you won't regret it. Be careful going up and down since the steps are uneven and may not bode well for those with fear or heights. They have pedicabs and bicycles for rent at the entrance for those who don't want to hike in the heat. We were trying to be cheap so we chose to walk. If I were to compare the ruins between Coba and Tulum, I would say Coba has a lot more interesting spots to see and feels a lot more interactive. The only downside to Coba is that after you scale up and down and walk through the jungle and back, you're sure to be a sweaty hot mess with no beach nearby to cool you down. Make sure you bring water and probably an extra shirt. I've been here twice and we always pair a visit to Coba with a visit to a cenote after. Try to be at Coba in the morning before the sun is high so you have time to drive back, have lunch and hit a cenote after. Cenote sites usually close around 5-6pm.

 

Chichen Itza

If you think of Mayan ruins or even Google "Mayan Ruins" Chichen Itza is usually the first thing that comes up. This is THE ruin of all ruins in my opinion. The ruins of Chichen Itza are a two hour drive from Tulum. Just like the ruins in Tulum, the structures are roped off but the perimeter is closer so you are able to see the carvings and designs on the stone. Chichen Itza is also the most beautiful and protected of all three. One can easily spend a couple of hours walking around exploring. Fun thing to try: If you stand at the foot of the main pyramid right in the center and clap your hands, the sound echoes back at you like the sound of a bird squawking. It was pretty cool. The drive to Chichen Itza, will take you through the beautiful town of Valladolid which has a charm of its own. If you rented a car, stop by here for a quick meal or a snack on your way back.

Cenotes

Cenote Ik-kil

According to Wikipedia, a cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Cenotes are found everywhere in the Yucatan Peninsula. You will find signs of them everywhere. We chose to go to the ones that are more established and maintained for cleanliness. I highly recommend bringing aqua shoes for swimming since cenotes can have sharp rocks or algae you wouldn't want to step on.

Cenote Ik-kil

I will start here since it is close to Chichen Itza and the most picturesque of the cenotes I will mention here. Cenote Ik-kil is also one of those cenotes that are at the top of Google's image list when you look up "cenote." It is beautiful here but be aware that most tours that go to Chichen Itza stop here so expect it to be crowded.

 

Grand Cenote

This cenote is the closest one from Tulum. It's small but fun to explore plus there are small fish and turtles that will surely delight young children. On my first visit, the turtles and fish were free to swim around  amongst visitors but the following year, we saw that they had netted a section of the water to keep them from swimming with the people. This is one of the clearest signs of Tulum's growing popularity. More areas are becoming less accessible due to disrespectful tourists. A few years ago, one could still climb to the top of Chichen Itza but have since prohibited it due to vandalism. I am sure in a couple of years, no Mayan pyramid will be available for tourists to climb. 

Cenote Dos Ojos

Dos Ojos means "two eyes" which describes the layout of this cenote. Dos Ojos are two eye shaped caves next two each other. There's not a lot of life to see in the water but this place is popular amongst cave divers since you can go under one cave and exit the other. There are guides who  offer snorkel tours for groups if you'd like to explore the cave further. I would have loved to do this but my companions and I were all afraid of the dark and have watched too many scary cave movies like The Descent and Sanctum. Maybe on my next visit, I'll finally be brave enough to try it.

Casa Cenote

This is a cenote that connects to the ocean is the only one not technically in a cave. You swim along a narrow straight along mangroves. The water is calm and some have chose to paddleboard here.

 

Cenote Azul

Of all the cenotes I've mentioned, this is the one most teeming with life. However, it is worth pointing out that because there's a lot of life here, that the water is also filled with algae. If this doesn't concern you, then it's worth a visit. I would also like to mention that it is HIGHLY recommended to use only BIODEGRADEABLE sunscreen when swimming to protect life under water. 

 

Dining

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There are plenty of dining options in Tulum. There's a whole stretch of resorts and restaurants by the beach that can cater to your cravings from Mexican, Italian and Japanese. But as I did with lodging, I mostly chose to eat in town where it's cheaper without sacrificing quality or flavor. Below are a list of restaurants I've been to and would highly recommend if you choose to dine in Tulum town proper. 

El Camello Jr. (Mexican/Seafood)

El Camello Jr.

El Camello Jr.

This is number one on my list and always my first stop upon arriving in Tulum before we even check in to our hotel. I always visit this place at least three times during my visit because food is cheap but very good. Locals recommend this place and it gets fairly busy most days and there's typically a wait if you happen to arrive late in the day. What do I eat here? CEVICHE. Lots and lots of ceviche. We also order from grilled or steamed fish with rice but ceviche is the top item on everyone's list here.

La Barracuda (Mexican/Seafood)

Same type of food as El Camello Jr. It's good if you're hungry and there's a long wait for El Camello since it's just across the street.

Sale & Pepe (Italian)

Here's some Italian food when you're tired of eating tacos or ceviche. Pretty decent pasta and pizza options. This is literally on the corner of the hotel we stayed at that's why it's our first choice for dining when we're too tired to go anywhere further away.

Brunch at Del Cielo Tulum

Brunch at Del Cielo Tulum

Del Cielo Tulum (Brunch, Sandwiches, pastries, coffee)

Excellent for breakfast or lunch. Great coffee, delicious sandwiches, pancakes and fresh bread and pastries. You can't go wrong here.

Pizzeria Manglar (Pizza)

The best brick oven pizza at un unbeatable price. All their pies are around 5USD and can feed two people well. Or if you're starving from a day of swimming, get a pie and pasta to share. 

La Malquerida (Mexican)

Typical Mexican fare. Good location for people watching and easy spot to catch a meal after shopping in town.

Pizzeria Manglar

Pizzeria Manglar

La Coqueta (Mexican)

Same as La Malquerida and good for breakfast and lunch.

El Asadero

Excellent steakhouse in town. Because they have an open kitchen, prepare to smell like grilled meat after dinner. Portions are hearty and delicious.

Batey's Mojito Bar

I don't drink much when I go on vacation but this place is very popular. They use fresh sugar cane juice in all their mojitos, which come in different flavors. They're delicious and occasionally will have a live band playing. I highly recommend grabbing a drink here at least once.

Tacos al pastor from La Zebra

Tacos al pastor from La Zebra

La Zebra

This isn't in Tulum town but I felt the need to mention it because the food is very good and the mango mojitos are DELICIOUS. It's located by the beach and according to a friend has a dedicated Salsa night one day of the week. 

Hartwood Tulum

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Hard to get reservations depending on the time of year. Visit their website here where they'll normally say if reservations via email are allowed. Otherwise, you will have to come midday to reserve a table for dinner. Or you could chance it and see if you can walk in for dinner. The wait can be long so come as early as possible. The food is a bit on the pricey side but very good. Reviews are mixed since their menu depends on that morning's catch so food offerings vary everyday. We ordered a variety of dishes to share and nothing was disappointing.

Arte Helado

Very good gelato with fresh and local ingredients. Try the mango gelato! So good we kept coming back.

Hope you enjoyed reading my picture filled guide to Tulum. It is and will always be one of my favorite places ever. It's gotten a bit more expensive with every visit and the surge in tourism will only make it more so in the coming years. Visit soon while it's still pretty affordable.