Category Archives: Home Sweet Home

The #BetterMe Sessions: Better Relationships with Household Helpers

I have been trying to write this post for weeks but the mojo for it was hard to come by. Well, there’s no better time to write about it than now. I am, once again, household help-free. Our 4-year yaya went on vacation last Christmas and didn’t come back. Don’t freak. I am not upset by that fact. I am no stranger to a yaya-free environment. But this incident got me thinking back to the session we had with Coach Pia of The One Core on having better relationships with household helpers. It was a long morning, but I wanted to share with you guys the points that I took home with me, and hope that these will help you in your domestic dramas (don’t we all have them).

Wants vs. Needs

Coach Pia first had us make a list of characteristics of our ideal home. We had similar lists – organized, safe, environmental, etc. We were then asked to list down the tasks involved in making this list happen, which area of the house needed the work, the specific tasks involved to do it and importantly, WHO was in charge. With this we then determined which characteristics were “Wants” versus “Needs” and if the person involved in doing this work felt it was a “Want” or a “Need” as well.

In my own home, one of my needs was to a spotless and organized kitchen. To my helper, this was not a need. It was not even a want. We had constant disagreements and I felt I was endlessly reminding her of how I wanted the kitchen to be kept. To me it was important; to her I was being OA. What could’ve worked was for me to explain why this was a need for me, for her to understand the reasons behind my nitpicking and to communicate how important it was to me.

This is not just for your household helpers, but for the rest of the family as well. It works both ways too. As mothers who run the house, we sometimes feel we have a say on what goes for EVERYTHING and fail to see that the other members of the family have needs as well. So if the husband asks for a bike rack, doesn’t want it, but NEEDS it, then by jove, let’s try and make that happen. Being able to meet and compromise on everybody’s wants and needs is the first step to a harmonious household.

Willingness vs. Ability

When it comes to household helpers, there are varying degrees of willingness and ability we have to live with. We also have to figure out what levels we ourselves can live with. Check if your helper is:

  • Willing and able
  • Willing but not able
  • Not willing but able
  • Not willing and not able

I think I’ve encountered kasambahay in all these levels of willingness and ability. Sad to say, most of my friends who have trouble with their household employees have people who fall under the “not willing and not able” category. For me, I am quite content with “willing but not able” because then you can train them how to handle things in your household. I will never have anyone who is “not willing but able” stay with me because from my experience, they are smart-ass, eye-rolling, complaining, sass-mouthing people who will leave you at the drop of a hat with no consideration at all.

So once you’ve assessed your helper, assess the tasks that need to be accomplished in your household. Are these tasks well within the scope of her willingness and ability? Maybe you’re asking and expecting too much.

Go back to the values.

In line with needs, wants, willingness and ability, it’s very important to explain the core values of the family to our helpers. If you are a working, breastfeeding mom, for example, simple directions about the storage and handling of milk sometimes will not suffice. I have heard many moms literally cry over spilled and wasted milk. But, if you explain the benefits, the care and the effort you put into expressing milk, then she might be able to understand why she should thaw with care, check for spoilage, not throw leftover milk, and so forth. That is, if she is WILLING and ABLE.

+++++++++

It was a really fruitful morning, and we were fortunate to have the session, thanks to the wonderful people of Marca Piña Cheeseballs, Tonkita by Arix and Gustare Kitchen as the venue. We took home some very useful household cleaning implements from Tonkita (homemaker’s goody bag dream items, hear hear). I really like this two-well bucket. #homemakerjoys

The food at Gustare Kitchen was so yummy! I especially liked this squid ink sotanghon, which reminded me of my lola’s recipe. They also have packed meals ready for takeout. Perfect for condo-dwellers, small families and people who just need a break from cooking.

We also learned about Marca Piña Cheeseball (which was the perfect companion to grapes and made an awesome snack during the session). We had this session right before Christmas last year, so the timing was perfect. Who doesn’t get giddy over cheeseballs during Christmas season?

I think all of us went home that day with a bit of wisdom on how to handle our household. I hope there will less domestic drama for all of us this year!

Thank you Coach Pia! Looking forward to the next #BetterMe session!

 

Preparing for the Power Rate Surge: Meralco’s Electricity Saving Tips

Who does not dread the electricity bill? I do, especially during the summer. During a luncheon hosted by Meralco I attended some days ago, I was enlightened on the surges in power charges and what we can do to cope. Did you know that regular maintenance of power plants (usually every couple of years) results in an increase in generation charges at this time of the year? That was news to me. From now on, I will expect that extra cost and duly prepare for the increase in rates come November.

At the luncheon was Alfred, their resident Energy Baron (see what they did there?) who shared with us some pointers on how to make our home more energy efficient. But first let’s take some time to pay tribute to the Beef Muscovado of Grace Park. Oh yum.

Now on to the tips.

Get one of these and do not overload it.

I’ve always known that unplugging electrical devices helps in cutting electricity costs. But I’ve always been lazy to always do it so I end up not unplugging appliances and devices very often. To add to that, the extra heat generated by electrical devices on standby is extra work for your airconditioner, resulting in extra power consumption as well! A surge protector like this, with the on and off switch can solve that problem with just a flick of your finger (or in my case, my big toe). But then, do not overload your surge protectors and compromise the safety of your homes.

Time it.

Put anything that’s on for an extended period on a timer. In our case, it’s the airconditioner, which I always forget to turn off. One idea I got from the luncheon is this: Christmas lights on a timer! Not only is it energy-efficient, it’s safe too.

Pay attention to the yellow tags.

The yellow tags attached to the aircons, refrigerators and other appliances is actually an indicator on how energy efficient that machine is. The higher the Energy Efficient Factor (EEF), the better.

Let there be light.

Bring up those curtains and let natural light come in! It’s also a good thing that incorporating natural light into home design has become a trend, and one that’s here to stay it seems. It will cut down on your electricity by eliminating the need for daytime use of your houselights (which you should remember to turn off when not in use – a simple tip that we always forget!) If you’re still using incandescent bulbs at home, then it’s high time you switch to CFL and better, LED. Check out this chart to see how much energy you save with CFL and LED – 40 to 62%!!

Keep your cool without the costs.

We all love cool environments, but did you know that setting your aircon thermostat to even just a couple of degrees higher can efficiently cut down on electricity costs? So consider bringing up the temp to a comfortable 23 to 25 degrees instead of 16-18 degrees. Help your airconditioner as well by reducing outside heat when you turn it on, and that means lowering the blinds and making sure all openings are sealed. Positioning also helps. Avoid putting any appliances or devices that generate heat near your airconditioner (like a TV) or it will make your aircon work harder to compensate.

Speaking of cool environments, they also told us that they know of people who turn off their refrigerators at night, thinking they could save on electricity. (Seriously???) This actually costs more, because the extra work it takes to cool down the interior of a refrigerator will cost more. Safe concept for those who turn off their airconditioners every 2 hours only to turn them on again after a couple of hours.

Maintenance is key.

Get your airconditioners regularly cleaned. Defrost when 1/4 of ice has formed in your freezer. If you have a frost-free refrigerator, good for you! (But manual frost-frees take more electricity. Go inverter for refs!) Clean your lamps and bulbs for better light output.

Meralco also introduced us to their app, Move. Move stands for MeralcO Virtual Engine. It’s a cool app you can download for your smartphone or tablet that gives you information on power maintenance schedules, locations of BayadCenter bill payment facilities, a directory of Meralco offices nationwide, the Meralco AppCal (where you can input your energy bill and see which appliance is consuming the most energy) and view your latest Meralco bill.

It’s also got this interface with power saving tips and cute animation that’s great for sharing energy efficiency with your kids.

Siya ang nag-intro ng app. OKAY LANG.

Like this post if you think I look like Jollibee in this picture. Photo courtesy of My Mom Friday.

Juaco of the Loyola Meralco Sparks football team.

Photo courtesy of My Mom Friday.

Thanks Meralco for hosting the lunch! Hopefully with advisories and tips, we can all weather the surge in power rates until everything goes back to normal. Until then, let’s do this!

So with these tips, let’s hope that you and I will weather this surge in power rates. Things will normalize early next year. Till then, let’s do this!

*This post is sponsored by Meralco.

Lock and Lock Love!

I’ve always been a fan of Lock and Lock. Ever since I saw their stuff on department store shelves, I loved them already. In our house, Lock and Lock is all over the place.

In our ref.

On the pantry shelf.

In Basti’s lunchbox.

Michelle of My Mom Friday couldn’t get me more excited when she invited bloggers for a Lock and Lock event at their Araneta Ave. showroom. She really knows what tickles my shopping fancies. It was a nice intimate gathering of parenting, lifestyle and food bloggers. My seatmates were Jenny of COANM and cutie E.

Top: Michelle, Jenny, too-happy-me, Tina; Jenny and E.
Bottom: Jane, Noemi, Rochelle; Kris, Rochelle; the Lock & Lock store on Araneta Ave.

We were treated to a Korean food cooking demo using Lock and Lock’s ceramic coated cookware. (Insert my drooling face here) I want the entire Ceramica cookware line!

And then, we were treated to a shopping spree! I was in heaven, because I have been wanting these glass containers FOREVER.

I hate it when you put food to store in plastic containers and you end up with smelly and stained boxes. I am so tired of the scrubbing, citrus rinsing, baking soda and vinegar treating… aaargh!! #housewifeproblems With these I will now store my extra spaghetti sauce without fear. I will cook with achuete with less hesitation. If The Painter wants a stock of paksiw na isda in the refrigerator, then by jove, he shall have it! Not only that, the Borosilicate technology makes it super safe to take the containers from oven to table without fear of the container shattering into a million pieces or chemicals leaking into your food.

I also chose this baking dish.

It’s perfect for just-me-and-Basti baked macaroni.

I love my Lock and Lock Boroseal containers!! I want more!! I’m making the gradual move to an all-glass container house, but it won’t be for a loooong time. Not while Basti still has small hands.

Thanks My Mom Friday for the invite (and the photos), and Lock and Lock for the wonderful afternoon. Check out the pictures on My Mom Friday’s Facebook page.

Lock & Lock Stores:

Shangri-la Mall
Eastwood City
Glorietta 4
Lucky Chinatown Mall
Alabang Town Center
Banilad Town Center, Cebu City

Got Time? Organize! The Candy Shop Labels and More

During Habagat I was very worried because water reached waist-high in the area where The Painter has his studio and he got stranded for a couple of days. Instead of sitting around being a nervous wreck, I turned my attention and energy to organizing my house. Lots of pictures, so prepare thy bandwidth.

Quick share: For breakfast, The Painter eats a bowl of rolled oats with Spanish sardines. Everyday. Every single freaking day, I kid you not. As a result, I have a lot of these:

I clean them and remove the labels. I have about 10 of these at any given time. The rest I give to the dyaryo-bote guy from the baranggay. I decided to use these jars instead of plastic containers. After years of using plastic containers I’m getting plastic-fatigue. There’s really nothing like the feel of glass.

I saw the exact same bottles being sold at Saizen for 85 pesos each. So if you want to do the same, just buy Spanish sardines. For the more or less the same price you get the bottle AND sardines.

I found craft paper sticker sheets at National Book Store and printed some labels I found for free on the internet.

I used these on the bottles and organized my bathroom countertop. Cute noh.

I wanted to do the same to my kitchen stuff, but I knew the inkjet labels were no good. Constant washing will just kill my efforts. I remembered that The Candy Shop by 101 Grams of Eye Candy sold repositionable labels that would be perfect for my kitchen jars. I asked her to print the same labels on this special sticker paper.

And voila!

Attach, and remove when you need to wash the jars. Stick ’em again. Genius.

Along with the special labels I had done, P also sent over more The Candy Shop stuff. I went nuts!!! I love them!!!

I used these repositionable labels on my sugar and creamer containers. They fit better than my round ones. (Wala na pala akong creamer)

I attached the label plates to my Japan Home Store fileboxes. Regular ones for me, Orley, homeschool and blogging stuff, and a super cute robot-themed one for Basti’s stuff.

This is my way of organizing. I assign a box to each person of the family and I dump everything there for proper filing later. I have two other boxes that says “Bills” and “Household Crapola”. That’s lesson no. 42 of my future class, Productive Procrastination. Hehe. P shares more ideas for using these label plates here.

Now this Candy Shop product eez DA BOMB. It’s an acrylic sheet!

I printed out and laminated tracing mats for Basti’s writing exercises. It didn’t work out so well. I couldn’t get the marker stains off so easily, even if I used whiteboard markers!

With the acrylic sheet over the mat, both Basti and I had no problems. Great writing surface for him, no-fuss clean up for me. We used our regular kid-safe markers and they came off with just a swipe of a tissue.

This will be really useful when Basti goes to school and gets worksheets and workbooks.

photo courtesy of 101 grams of eye candy

 

The Candy Shop also has regular labels and these clever Recycle stickers. Do you have a closet-full of perfect condition store  bags like me? #shopaholic Use them as gift bags and stick these on. Reduce waste! No to Habagat flooding!

photo courtesy of 101 grams of eye candy
photo courtesy of 101 grams of eye candy

 

Labeling is cathartic. Thanks P and The Candy Shop for these wonderful, practical, affordable and lovely labels. I’m a super duper fan!

Order your own The Candy Shop goodies from The Candy Shop on Facebook.

 

 

My La Vida No Yaya Wishlist

Recently, I posted about how I’m doing so far without any household help. I mentioned there that around my house, I have little things that give me joy and actually make my life easier as a homemaker. Well, I’ve decided to expand and make a wishlist of stuff for my life without yaya. If these existed, my house would be heaven on earth.

A dishwasher.

This was also mentioned by Rone in a comment on my maid-less post. I actually tried looking for a dishwasher to buy here in Manila, but they were either a) second-hand and beat-up or b) too damn expensive. If some enterprising person out there would start selling affordable dishwashers, I believe more maid-less households would happen. I swear, washing dishes takes the better part of my day.

A bangin’ refrigerator

It doesn’t have to be a monstrosity like this one:

photo from theluxehome.com

But imagine an easy-to-clean, energy-efficient, organized, beautiful refrigerator? Oh grocery shopping would be a joy. I don’t know how these look like from the inside, but they’re so cute. I can work with these. (images from smeg.com)

        

While I’m at it, I might as wear a pinafore, an apron and put my hair up in curls. How Mad Men of me.

A Rainbow

A friend of mine put me on that dreaded referral list that everyone hates and I felt like I was betraying her if I didn’t allow the Rainbow guy to do a demo in my house. Luckily, the person who came for the demo was not a hard-seller, was very good-natured and did a great job of making me appreciate the vaccuum-that-might-as-well-be-a-car-it’s-so-darn-expensive.

Just check out the before and after photos of the water bowl where all the gunk goes in, and the stuff that was in a strip of my mattress and of my floor. Fifty shades of gross!

I’d go crazy using that Rainbow system on everything. I’d clean the screens. I’d sweep in between the floorboards. I’d give my mattress and pillows a run every week. Heck, maybe it’ll even do a better job in giving Basti a bath.

Better sidewalks, less pollution and an efficient commuter system.

I had a taste of this when I was living in China. Save for the occasional spit bomb and crazy driver (okay, crazy drivers in China: not occasional), it was pretty pleasant where I lived. Winters were a little harsh, but spring was awesome. I could run 10k in pure bliss.

I loved the bus stop system and taxis were easy and cheap. I still dream of bringing Basti back there in springtime and take him down to Xinghai Guangchang and fly a kite by the boardwalk. If only things were better here in Manila, it would be such a treat to spend the day doing chores, then stop at the park for a playdate, then get back home in time for dinner still keeping my wits about.

Grocery delivery

When I had just given birth, this was my wish everyday. I know Rustan’s had this before – Grocering if I remember right – but somehow it didn’t click. I think it was just timing. Could Rustan’s, SM or Shopwise launch this again? I promise you I know several people who will be your customers already. I am not alone.

Drive thru ATMS

I know there was one in Greenhills a long time ago, but like Grocering, it disappeared. Have you ever tried to withdraw money from an ATM with a child sleeping in the carseat? I have, and I’ll never do it again. It’s nerve-wracking. So now I have to unstrap the child from the seat, haul him out, wear him, and do it backwards. I’m still very vulnerable, IMO.

A trustworthy, professional day care center.

I’m lucky I can get my mom to watch Basti when I have somewhere I have to be and I can’t bring him. But seriously, if there were a day care center here that was clean, with professional staff (CPR training, health certificates, training etcetera etcetera), I’d pay for that. Really. And I’m not talking about a place like Gymboree where I can leave a child with a yaya. I’m talking about really LEAVING him, like they do in the States. I worked in a day care for the summer in San Francisco and I think we did alright. If I could do it when I was 19 years old, I’m sure there are very capable ones who can do the same here, with the right capital and management.

And lastly,..

Irona.

Har har har.

Livin’ La Vida No Yaya: Dealing With A Maid-less Household

We’re now into our 6th month of a no-maid, no-yaya household. I told myself I would give it 6 months, and I’m so settled in our routine I actually feel we can do this as a lifestyle choice. I don’t know how I’ll feel if I get pregnant with a second child, but let’s deal with that if that happens, shall we?

People from other countries may roll their eyes at my small victory. Until you’ve lived in Metro Manila, please reserve judgement. Having household help is more the norm than the exception here, and I’ve been regarded as insane for going against the grain.

So right now, I am enjoying having the household under my full control. Ok, that’s a lie, because there are days when Basti is lord of the house. Not just one person has asked me how I’m surviving. Look, I won’t pretend that I’m running a perfect household, but it’s a level of order that I can live with, and that’s enough for me. What I love most is, the level of order and cleanliness of my home is way higher than it was when I had a maid. It goes to show that genuine TLC beats paid help anyday.

Now I will delve into bulletpoints, because I can’t think coherently at the moment.

  • I love that I have full control of housekeeping expenses. All three maids that I had in my married life were inexplicably wasteful of things like laundry soap, dishwashing liquid, cooking oil, rice  and other things. My supermarket  bill always sent me reeling. Now that I do all the household chores myself, I’m using all the same amounts at half the rate when I had help.
  • Speaking of expenses, not having a maid put a really significant amount back in my pocket! I use that extra amount now for little treats for us – a nice meal out when I don’t feel like cooking, extras in the pantry (good cheese, pricey deli items)  and extra aircon time. It’s also nice not to worry about her when we’re out. My last helper, for example, almost never appreciated the food when we ate out. It’s a double whammy – I feel guilty that she didn’t have a good meal, and I feel guilty for the food left on her plate. I have an issue with leftover food.
  • I also love buying kitchen implements that are a little more expensive than my usual. I love kitchen things, but I’ve seen one too many non-stick pans and good knives go to waste from improper use.
  • No drama for this mama. I don’t think I have to explain this item to anyone who’s ever had to manage a household with maids.

There are mundane things around my house that give me a lift and a small bit of joy; the tiny hooks I installed that keep my favorite pots and pans conveniently within arm’s reach, my little 5-cup rice cooker that’s perfect for me, The Painter and Basti, the little bins from Saizen that keeps our refrigerator organized, my Swiffer.

Some insights I gained in these six months that kept me sane:

  • If you can’t do it, don’t. Delegate. If I think I have to do everything around the house myself, I’ll be screaming everyday for the rest of my life. Instead, I get the laundry done by a service (Metropole’s wash-and-fold service is perfect!), and I borrow my mother’s maid once a month to do a general cleaning of the house and the kitchen. I do not like scrubbing down tile floors and I hate cleaning under kitchen sinks. It’s my deathly fear of the Cucaracha.
  • If I don’t want to cook, we eat out. What do we live in the middle of Ortigas Center for if not for this convenience? I am a breath away from Tiendesitas, Hap Chang, SM Hypermart and yes, even Jollibee, Chowking and McDonald’s. If I’m willing to drive, Basti and I hop over to Mom and Tina’s for some steak and eggs, to Cab Cafe for Pinoy Pasta, Pancake House for waffles, or (to hell with my thighs), the yummy and affordable buffet at the Ace Water Spa Cafe.
  • I put the rooms in order of priority. It’s my cardinal rule that the kitchen shall always be clean and disinfected – it’s where the Insect-Formerly-Known-As-Voldermort likes to thrive the most. The bedroom is next, the playroom is last. A toy out of place is just a toy out of place. I found myself saying this out loud in the playroom once – “If you toys really do move when I’m not looking, I give you my full permission to go back to where you belong. I won’t freak out.” I stared at Woody, urging him to nod in agreement. Alas.
  • A yaya-less child will be a little grimy for most of the day. Live with it. I can’t chase Basti around with wipes, and an extra shirt all day. Sometimes he lies on the kitchen floor, waving his arms and pretending to be Buzz Lightyear. Or suddenly he’s all about crayons and murals and living room walls. He’ll live. I’ll live. Breathe.
  • Even if my house is a mess, I don’t leave it looking like one myself. You can clean up the house when you get back. But looking lousy and feeling lousy because I look awful is not something I want for myself. Or the company I keep.

I know more and more families are choosing a household-help-less setup these days, and not feeling helpless at all. How about you mommies who are in the same boat as I am? What are your household tips?