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Girl
Short answer: No I am not.

You see I just got a new pair of running shoes as a gift from the husband. It was with a 30% discount and because of the No Spending rule, he bought it for me, with a side comment that my personal challenge will cost him a lot of money. It begs the question then, if I want to shop guilt-free, do I just hassle the husband to buy me things?

Well, not really. (Assuming he gives me presents because he loves me and not just to shut me up).

If I bought the shoes myself, I still didn’t violate the No Spending rule because, among other running-related things, shoes are exception #5. It was particularly necessary now because of the constant pain under my feet. This injury is caused by wearing worn out shoes. Not surprising because the two pairs I’m now using have trained and ran two marathons already. The pink Nike Air Zoom were practically the only shoes I wore during my pregnancy and after birth because, well, they’re only ones that still fit.

But what about the cans of tuna and corn for lunch that I included in the household grocery list (so from the joint account?) The husband sometimes also brings sandwich for lunch so I think I can also include mine every once in a while. Most days, I get by with our dinner left-over or from my colleagues’.

And the three oliebollen I bought a few nights ago? That cost me €3 but my husband’s happiness while biting into the moist, sweet and firm deliciousness of those fried dough, was priceless. And they are only sold during Christmas time, only two months in a year. Is that too much of an indulgence?

And besides, I ran home last night instead of taking the public transport so that saved me about €4. See it all evens out in the end.

In the last two weeks, I spent €22 for Brazilian wax (it’s been a jungle down in for the last 14 months that the husband needs a machete to navigate), €3 for the oliebollen,  €10 for coffee and cake for two people, and well the shoes are  gift (and also falls under exceptions).

So far, so good. Don’t you think?

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It’s January 1, 2018 and my Unplugged days will be coming to an end. Tomorrow I will install Instagram on my phone again and I will post on my Facebook timeline. Yes, I will be back on regular programming in social media.

But how did the last two weeks go? Let’s take a look:

Created a new blog.
I feel like The Weekend Traveller doesn’t suit my lifestyle anymore. I created this blog when I moved to the Netherlands and started travelling in the weekends during breaks from my job. I’ve since taken on so many other roles – publisher, mother, manager, runner, etc. I bought a house together with the husband and that demands a completely different lifestyle than I used to have when we were living in his small apartment. Girl From The Barrio is that girl who started dreaming on a small island and now fulfilling these dreams in the big world.

Started several personal challenges.
These have been on my mind for a while but I just didn’t make have the opportunity to start. Half in 30 is my way to go back to running as 9 months of no training and no races, No Spending is an attempt to cut back on my mindless spending and accumulating unnecessary stuff, and #MeatlessWeekend is a recognition of that glaring fact that the meat industry is actually harming the environment and no matter how I harp on sustainability, protecting the environment, etc, if I don’t take action, my words are meaningless. Soon I would be writing some of my shorter articles in Dutch as well. After 8 years of living here, I think I must now learn to practice my writing in my adapted language.

Spent time writing.
Of course, I did not only start a new blog, I wrote several articles as well. Writing would seem like a mindless and easy task, especially if you consider yourself a writer, but in reality you need considerable effort and time to pen down your ideas, check your grammar and sentence constructions, re-write, take and upload photos, etc. That is quiet a feat with a nine-month old baby and a household to run.

The time I spent with the kid and the husband cannot be quantified in the list above. Needless to say, I spent more time with them, playing, laughing, eating. The kid demands more attention these days, she asks for it now. The few hours that the husband and I have in the evening, after the kid goes to bed and before we ourselves would doze off, are really precious, even though we would often spend it just reading together. I was also able to meet up with two good friends, an activity I’m not particularly good at.

I still have a hard time putting the phone away. As an alternative to checking Instagram, I would check the weather and my bank account. Of course I’m almost always chatting with my mother. There is not a day would pass that I’m not talking to her. Comes with being an expat. But I think I’ve made quite an improvement already, in being away from social media for a few weeks.

Since I plan to build Girl From The Barrio into a well-read blog, I’d be experimenting in scheduling my social media use. Maybe only in the weekends, or during particular days? I don’t know which approach would be best but I’m sure I’ll find my way around it.

Any tips?

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So last week I decided I’ve had quite enough of social media. I removed Instagram and Twitter (Facebook app is not installed on my phone) and began my hiatus. Just like that. That I read how social is ripping society apart got nothing to do with it, really. I’ve just gotten tired of social media, of being a voyeur to other people’s lives.

I’m nearly surviving week 1. I have not opened any of my social media account. I’m on FB Messenger though, because I use it to communicate with my folks in the Philippines. I’ve tried converting everybody to WhatsApp but it was no use.

It felt so liberating not to have to check my Instagram before I go to bed or this morning before I left the house. It seems like I have more time to play with my daughter. Surprisingly I don’t feel the desire to open any of my accounts.

I thought it would be difficult to take this retreat, that I may have to block Facebook from my browser. But I didn’t have an ounce of interest to even type the url. It feels like I’m winning against something. Against addiction? Not really. If ever I’m winning something in this, it’s a little more quality time with the people closest to me.

It feels strange not to “promote” my blogs on my social media platform, even stranger to think that I’ll probably be the only one reading what I’m writing now.  But maybe that’s the point of this whole exercise. To go back to that tiny world where only I and my loved ones exist. Now I’m being really individualistic.

I don’t know how long this hiatus would last. I didn’t set a deadline. I’m enjoying it immensely though and that’s a disconcerting thought. It’s not that I mind being forgotten as I am sure the people who matters to me will always make an effort to connect. It’s that thought of being detached from what’s happening in the world, socially, politically. That if I leave social media for good, I’ll settle into this safe and happy life while letting the world’s ailment slide away from my mind. Maybe you’d accuse me of gloating but knowing that there is an imperfect world out there, where hunger, crime, abuse and climate change are tearing lives apart, keeps me grounded.

Or probably I won’t be able to be away that long. For now, we’ll see. (This is just like talking to myself).

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I saw this gadget on a magazine a few nights ago – “a docking station that charges mobile phone while protecting you from magnetic radiation, made of cider wood, €70, a must have for people who uses their mobile phones as alarm clock.”

“€70 for a docking station/alarm clock holder?! Gah, people have so much money!” I thought while reading the short feature. My alarm clock costs €10 and it does its job just fine.

We have one rule in the bedroom. No gadget is allowed in the bedrooms especially the ones with wifi. The only gadget we have upstairs is a baby phone in the kid’s room. And we’ve been religiously following this rule for four years now.

It started in our old apartment. We’ve ditched the TV already so I thought husband and I would have more quality time together in the evenings. But I noticed that we’ve only substituted the TV with a mobile phone and our noses would be stuck on our smartphones until the middle of the night.

Two people, supposedly in a happy relationship, lying next to each other, each with a glowing device in their faces, absorbed in whatever is happening in the outside world except with each other.

Yes, it is as pathetic as it sounds.

So bedroom rule #1 came into effect. No more mobile devices. I bought a simple analog alarm clock that’s meant for only one function – to wake us up in the morning. Yes, even the fancy Philips alarm clock with radio and adjusting natural light ended in the bin ( a little bit broken though).

I’m very active on social media and I am the sort of person who gets really affected with all the terrible things happening around the world. I carry them to sleep, the news makes me anxious, and sad, and depressed. Whenever I need to untangle myself from the frustrating realities of our world, I go to my bedroom. There I have my books, piles of magazines, my open closet, the crisp white sheet of my bed and the thick duvet where I like to bury myself whenever I need to curl up in fetal position and cry my heart out. My own little sanctuary where the Internet with all its misery and its shallowness and its vanity, is not allowed to reach me.

Yes, it is as relaxing as it sounds.

Every day, my little family and I retire to this haven early in the evening and the world outside disappears.

Do you bring your gadgets to the bedroom?

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In 2015 I won a dinner voucher from debuikvan.nl, for €75/person a three-course meal with free aperitif at FG Restaurant. Now, that amount will only buy you lunch with a glass of wine at this 2-star Michelin restaurant so I was quiet happy. But I’ve completely forgotten about it until more than a year later. Nonetheless FG allowed us to still use it for our 9th anniversary. So heavily pregnant sometimes in December last year, we booked a table for two for probably our last quiet dinner together.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about these promotional meals at chic restaurants, is that they’ll probably give you the cheapest in the menu. It’s fixed so you can’t choose. It will either be salmon, chicken or deer in autumn/winter. So we went without too much expectations.

FG restaurant had just moved to its new location in De Hofbogen (beside FG Food Labs) that summer of 2016. The new FG departed from its casual chic interior in Lloydstraat and went for a futuristic, relaxed ambiance with playful lights and high fauteuil. Too high that I drowned in them even in my heaviest.

As usual, the food and service at FG Restaurant were elegant and undoubtedly delectable, worthy of the Michelin stars. And I myself is a fan of the chef. From his Ivy days, to his FG Food Labs, to FG Bistro, even the short-lived FG Noodle Bar, if Francois Geurds opens a restaurant, I will eat there (when is the okonomiyaki bar opening again?).

Even with this dinner, he was gracious. It was a 3-course meal (if you should know, there’s actually no 3-course meal on the FG menu) but we probably got more than 10 dishes. There were fish, deer, that tom kai soup, my favourite canelé bordelaise, the chocolate bar with gold trimmings (bit dry though) and the dessert that was served in a smoking jar (fancy). They were all delicious and the staff were ever so gracious – the maître fromager who enticed me with cheese suitable for pregnant women, the sommelier whose wine recommendation I couldn’t refuse, the lady at the door who gave us goodies to take home and Francois himself who always comes to your table to ask if the food was alright.

But!

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