Wednesday, November 25, 2015

MFO Paris Series: Flea Market Finds Part 3 of 3

If you're just looking for unique, inexpensive pasalubong, there's plenty of that at the Porte de Vanves Flea Market too.

There's a stall that sells vintage paper bags and shop packaging for inspiration.

A stall that sells vintage toys. Those toy cars and soldiers are cast from metal, and not plastic. Plenty of old toiletries packaging behind too.

Pretty magnifying glasses.

Supposedly Wedgwood overruns. I compared it to Wedgwood pieces my Mom handed down to me, and these are less fine than what I have. So it's quite possible that these are the ones that did not make it to the stores.

Love these French terrariums. Makes me want to buy them all. I didn't though. I'm still sad about it.

That stall selling the toile bedcovers? They had these vintage dresses and nightgowns too. So pretty.

Sharing with you some of the items I brought home with me. Not a lot, but I am quite happy with my haul as they sure sparked joy at first sight!

My wish is that I get to visit Porte de Vanves at least twice a year, heehee. To be honest, despite the tragic incidents that have happened in Paris this year, I feel no qualms about going back. Paris will triumph over terror. We should think that way too.

How to get there: We took an Uber car both ways, but you may also take line 13 of the Paris Métro and alight at Porte de Vanves, or simply take the bus. 

Marche aux Puces Porte de Vanves 
14th arrondissement 
Ave Marc Sangnier & Ave Georges Lafenstre 
Saturdays & Sundays, 8 am to 1 pm

Sunday, November 22, 2015

MFO Paris Series: Flea Market Finds Part 2 of 3

Wanting that mirror, while holding on to my precious finds

I love, love, home stores. I enjoy browsing inside home stores, that I have to do it alone, otherwise Dada will complain that I take up too much time. Especially since I don't really have anything in mind to buy. I just like looking and adding items to my wishlist for my future French inspired home.

So you can just imagine how I felt like I was in heaven, browsing at Porte de Vanves. Everything was authentically French (but of course, heehee) and everything I would need to outfit a home, be it actual pieces, or for inspiration, would be here.

Enameled iron pots by Nomar (a small pot manufacturing company owned by Staub) and Le Creuset

Gorgeous woven baskets that Jane Birkin would approve of

Limoges tea cups and saucers, gorgeous!

Sevres crystal goblets

French mirrors that I imagine, belonged to a French bistro. I want them! Why didn't I buy them again?

French abubuts, I ended up buying that silver Christofle bowl for 30 euros, heehee

More Christofle goodness

Be still my copper pots and pans loving heart!

There were some linens too!

Found thick linen dish towels, with those classic French stripes. I ended up buying a couple for 10 euros, about the same price I would pay for new ones at La Grande Epicerie, except these ones are thicker and have obviously been around for much longer. I bought some of these ones embroidered with "HC" because, Harvey and Christine, diba?

Toile print bed covers. Chica, chica, chica!

Next up: Part 3 of my Flea Market Finds

Saturday, November 21, 2015

MFO Paris Series: Flea Market Finds Part 1 of 3

You know you've reached a certain age of maturity when shopping at malls and boutiques no longer give you that euphoric thrill. 

More so when you start doing the things your mom loves to do, and in my case, that would be thrifting. For this trip, I had deviated from my typical wish list. More than bags or shoes, I wanted an authentic French bistro table and mirrors. So crazy, in love. And so tita!

My friend Emee told me about her favorite place in Paris for flea market shopping, and no, its not in Clignancourt. It's at Porte de Vanves, in the 14th arrondissement, where most of the locals go.

Emee told us to go early in the morning, before 8 am, while the merchants were still unloading and setting up their wares. That way, we could get first dibs on everything. 

We were so excited, we were there by 7:30 am which was too early. We spent 30 minutes just waiting for most of the sellers to arrive. I'd say, come around 8:30 to 9 am, when everything is pretty much set up, and you still get choice pickings. 

I'm cutting up this post into three parts, because there were just too many great finds! Thank goodness they only took cash, because I would have gone over budget if they accepted credit cards. I wanted to bring everything home.

I can in fact easily furnish an apartment with this visit alone. Here are the furniture pieces that caught my eye. Huhuhu. So sad to leave them on the sidewalk. I felt like they were begging me to take them home.

That chica lady in the truck was refurbishing this secretary desk on the spot.

That bench would look great re-upholstered with Belgian linen.

I'd re-upholster this too with Belgian linen. Restoration Hardware ang peg!

I want that half-circle console table. Great for an entryway.

They also have rugs and mirrors, and I wish I took these hallway runners home. Old school donya.

These are pretty too! Sigh. Now I understand Lynn Yaeger's longing for Porte de Vanves, and how she'd willingly extend her stay in Paris for two weeks, just to browse and ogle the goods here. 

How to get there: We took an Uber car both ways, but you may also take line 13 of the Paris Métro and alight at Porte de Vanves, or simply take the bus.

Marche aux Puces Porte de Vanves
14th arrondissement
Ave Marc Sangnier & Ave Georges Lafenstre
Saturdays & Sundays, 8 am to 1 pm

Next up: Part 2 of my Flea Market Finds

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Johnson's Baby Giving Bath Time at Virlanie

Did you know that more than just starting the day fresh, and then washing off the day's dirt and grime,  your kids' bath time can be so much more? 

Studies have shown that sensorial stimulation is critical to a child's happy, healthy development. Of course, bath time is one ritual where all sensory activities come into play. 

They hear us as we talk and sing to them, and as gushing water from the tap collects around them.

They take in the scent of their shampoo and body wash, as they gleefully splash around in the tub.

They try to catch and pop bubbles as you shampoo their hair to a lather. Getting moisturized after, and being buffed and puffed with powder before getting dressed, it's the stuff childhood memories are made of. 

But more than fun stuff, what we do during bath time also happen to impact many aspects of our children's lives - from their mood and alertness to body weight and bone mass, and even how they will learn and fare in school as well as socialize with others.

Given this, imagine how much more kids who grow up in orphanages need all the hugs, massages, and multi-sensorial bathing experiences they can get.

So when Johnson's Baby invited my mommy friends and I to join them in a Virlanie home in Makati, for a bath time tutorial with the caregivers, of course I said yes!

Virlanie Foundation which runs the home we went to, was established in 1992 by Dominique Lemay, a French social worker, with the help of his Filipino friends.  

Virlanie cares for children in need of special protection - those who are among the poorest of the poor, the abandoned, abused, exploited, neglected, and orphaned.  

Through its various programs and services such as housing, education, health and family reunification/adoption/independent living among many, the children are given a chance for a better future, by "giving back their smiles". 

I would like to think that in our own little ways, the moms and the good folks from Johnson's Baby brought smiles to the kids, and their caregivers that day.

Ate Myrna and company taught the caregivers of Virlanie how to bathe their alagas

We were joined by three midwives from the Integrated Midwives Association of the Philippines (IMAP), headed by Ate Myrna, to teach the caregivers how to bathe their newborn, baby and a toddler wards. Watch these newborn, infant and toddler bathing videos, so you can learn too!

To recap, here are some highlights I've learned from watching the midwives demonstrate how to bathe a newborn, infant and toddler:


- Bath time helps calm baby and give him a sense of security, thanks to swaddle bathing! I didn't know that newborns can be swaddled while bathing too.  Apparently, swaddle bathing helps the baby feel more secure in the water. They stay warmer, with less risk of sudden drops in temperature, and promotes a calm and stress-free experience for them. Kind of like still being in a uterine environment.
- Before immersing baby, make sure to swirl the water so there are no hotspots.
- Gently cleanse around your baby's eyes with a cotton pad dampened with clean, warm water. Use a new cotton pad for each eye and always wipe from the inside corner of the eye outward. Then, using a soft washcloth, wipe around your baby's mouth, nose and whole face, working from the middle outward. Wipe the creases in her neck and don't forget behind her ears! 
- For younger babies, wet a baby washcloth with warm water and use a gentle cleanser formulated for babies, like JOHNSON'S® baby HEAD-TO-TOE® wash. If your baby has more hair, you might try a gentle shampoo, like JOHNSON'S® baby shampoo. 
- Wash the diaper area last and always wash from front to back. 
- Let your baby take a few moments in the bath to enjoy the warm water. Pour cupfuls of water over her body to keep her warm.
- After drying baby, seal moisture with lotion and then pat with powder.


- Bath time is more than just cleaning, it's also a way to excite his senses. 
- Baby graduates from using cotton pads on the face, to washing face using cloth. 


- They can finally use Johnson's Baby Cologne after patting on powder!

Meanwhile, us moms did our bit, by sharing our ideas on how the caregivers can connect with kids. Conci Navarro demonstrated a Hi-5 dance, Michelle Aventajado taught them some yoga moves that they can do with the bigger kids, Jen Chua Caedo Tan taught them how to use a baby sling and highlighted how it can help them care for multiple kids at once, while I shared with them the benefits of reading to children, and finished off by reading an excerpt from one of my all time favorite books, Aesop's Fables.

We spent our entire morning and lunch time at Virlanie, talking to the caregivers, listening to their stories, playing with the kids, and just giving them little ones as many hugs and attention as they wanted. 

While our hearts were bleeding for these tiny beings who have already gone through difficulties early in life, and deserve so much more, we left their home secure in the knowledge that they are cared for and loved by their caregivers as if they were their own. They have found a safe place in Virlanie, and that in itself is something to celebrate and not be sad about.

I would say, we went to Virlanie thinking we were going to teach and share something of ourselves, but instead, we left learning so much from them. Two lessons stood out for me:

1)  Happiness in simple things. Their home was devoid of the comforts we are all accustomed to, their meals and snacks are basic at best, we did not come bearing lavish gifts, but the children and their caregivers were happy to see us, greeted us with curiosity, if not shy smiles, or beaming faces. One does not need a lot to be happy. To live in a home where one is cared for and treated with kindness is in itself a blessing.

2) The power of touch. The children of Virlanie are lucky to be raised in an environment where they are looked after by women who are caring and good natured. It was obvious to us that they were truly concerned about the children and did not hold back in showering them with hugs and affection. They didn't mind having the kids climbing all over them, two or three at a time.

And maybe this is why most of the children at Virlanie are outgoing, sociable and yes, happy and healthy. 

Touch is #SoMuchMore
For the most touch-deprived Filipino babies, every touch means #SoMuchMore. Watch the story of how the caregivers in Virlanie Foundation become mothers with every touch.

For more about Virlanie Foundation, visit and Like the Virlanie Facebook page.

For more on Johnson's Baby visit and Like the Johnson's Baby Philippines Facebook page.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

MFO Paris Series: Pumping in Paris

My pumping essentials*, well half of it: ( __ ) Spectra 9 Plus breast pump kit, ( __ ) Honeysuckle milk bags, ( __ ) Sharpie for labeling, ( __ ) Lysol wipes and spray for disinfecting hands and surfaces, and ( __ ) Cradle baby bottle cleanser. Not seen here are ( __ ) disposable breast pads, ( __ ) extra breast pump parts, ( __ ) adapter, ( __ ) nursing cover and ( __ ) paper towels

The Situation

Prior to my Paris trip, the longest I've been away on a trip and having to pump breast milk was 5 days and 4 nights, and only to Singapore.

That didn't require much planning as I had enough milk stored, Xavi was over a year old and was mixed feeding with cow's milk, and travel time took no more than 6 hours from our hotel to the doorstep of our home.

Planning for this 12 day trip was soooo much more difficult. At 10 months old, Tepper is still purely breast fed. I had to start storing milk weeks before my trip, while still exclusively feeding directly.

With the added pressure of having to have lots of milk stored for him, it affected my milk supply. Thankfully, my friend Didi Tang introduced me to her friend Jackie Lim, who agreed to donate milk to supplement my stash. That took a load off my boobs and my sanity. Thanks Didi and Jackie!

Next, travel time from Paris to Manila, including getting to the airport to have enough time to scan our tax refund forms, waiting in the lounge while transiting, and waiting for our luggage practically meant 24 hours of travel time. I did not know if my breast milk would survive.

The Checklist*

What was for certain though was I was resolute in the idea of pumping breast milk while traveling, and I was going to bring it home.

My friend Chris Daez said she has brought home milk from long haul trips abroad, all I needed was a ( __ ) Fridge-to-Go and ( __ ) Techni Ice, and I'd be fine.

Staying at an Airbnb apartment also proved beneficial to my cause. When staying at hotels, I had to get the bell boy to come and get the milk I've pumped, to be kept in the communal freezer.

This time around, I had a dedicated ( __ ) freezer for my breast milk.

I managed to pump anywhere from 18 to 24 ounces a day, less towards the end because Tepper was not around to keep on feeding heehee. I think I went home with about 30 6 oz bags of breastmilk. I can't even remember anymore exactly. I blame it on three epidurals.

While searching on how to pack French butter for bringing home, I read that wrapping it in newspaper keeps it from melting faster. Figured it would be the same for frozen breast milk. I didn't have newspaper though so I just re-purposed two La Grande Epicerie ( __ ) paper bags into a breast milk wrapper. I then slid packs of brown paper wrapped breast milk bags in ( __ ) Ziploc gallon bags.

I didn't have time to buy the Techni Ice that Chris recommended, but I had some ( __ ) Silver Ice from to take with me to Paris and boy was I glad I brought some along! When I got there, the Monoprix nearest us didn't have any, and I didn't have enough time to look for a store selling  these, so I strongly suggest to bring ice packs for your expressed breast milk.

This Silver Ice packs flat, you'd just have to fill it with water and freeze prior to using it

Tips for Pumping and Packing Breast Milk

1) Pack your breast pump, extra bottles and parts, Ziploc bags and the first half of essentials (see topmost photograph for reference) in your carry on luggage with the insulated bag. I also packed one manual breast pump kit, just as a back up. I was never questioned about my pumping equipment as my luggage went through the baggage scan, even when I had bags of expressed breast milk added through the course of the trip.

2) Estimate how often you will be pumping to ensure you have enough supplies. In my case, I could space my pumping to every 8 hours at the longest, so I only had to pump 3 times while in transit. This meant I had to bring 3 clean bottles so that I use a sterilized one each time I pumped. The used bottles I kept in a Ziploc bag. Pumping for the entire trip amounted to 6 six ounce bags. The expressed breast milk I also kept in a separate Ziploc bag. I also packed disposable breast pads to change with.

3) While on the plane, I asked the flight attendant to keep the expressed breast milk for me in the freezer. She was happy to help me out, and gave me a claim tag so I could ask for the milk back prior to landing.

4) While in the lounge, they didn't keep my milk for me, but they gave me some ice to put in my Ziploc bag. I kept the milk inside the Ziploc bag and only took it out when I handed the bags again to the flight attendant in my connecting flight to Paris.

5) While in Paris, I made sure to pump before leaving the apartment. This allowed me to have enough time to not have to worry about pumping while out. I would resume pumping when we got back to the apartment. The same is the case when we are traveling in Singapore and Hongkong, where I could go back to the hotel to pump. But if you absolutely have to bring your pump with you, make sure to bring a frozen ice pack along to keep your milk cooled.

6) I waited until the last minute to pack my insulated bag with the frozen breast milk in my suit case, just to prolong the time it was frozen. I kept the entire bag in the freezer prior to packing.

7) As much as possible, use a super lightweight suitcase so you don't waste precious kilos. I packed the entire insulated bag in my check-in. Didn't have any trouble with it.

Inside the insulated bag, wedged between the milk bags were ice packs and four bars of Bordier and Echire butter, hahaha. The perks of traveling with what is practically a freezer.

7) Because I made it my priority to bring home about 9 kilos of frozen breast milk and French butter, everything else that took up precious space in my luggage had to go into this balikbayan box. 

My French pharmacy stash, half-empty bottles of toiletries and remaining kitchen paper towels, non-perishable food items, and my used shoes and clothes that I had no immediate use for like jackets, capes, jeans, sweaters, scarves and booties, they all went into a balikbayan box.

I learned of this balikbayan box service by Eliza Travel from my friend Kat Dy, who shared with me this tip years ago. I finally put this information to good use. Heehee. If ever you are in Paris, and need stuff shipped home, contact Liza or Boualem of Eliza Travel at +33-0140506074 or text +33-609182432. We just had to pick up the boxes at their address, on 20 Rue Bois le Vent, 75016 in Paris (Metro: La Muette).

8) Because the frozen breast milk was packed well, it survived the grueling long haul flight. While most of the milk remained rock hard, some had melted a bit. According to my cousin, Dr. Jamie Isip Cumpas, who is an International Board Certified Lactation consultant, as long as the core of the milk bag is still frozen, it is still safe to ingest.

I am happy to report that Tepper drank all of the milk I brought home, he was fine, and there were no issues at all. So yes, pumping while traveling, it can be done!

*I've taken the liberty to put ( __ ) on items you'd have to pack so you can literally tick them off your list

For more tips on pumping while traveling, read THIS and THIS.

Monday, November 09, 2015

MFO Paris Series: The Airbnb Apartment

The first thing I did when I got to our Airbnb apartment after freshening up, was to head out to the pharmacy. 

On the way to one of the many I visited that afternoon, I happened to pass by the Arc de Triomphe, which was oh, just in the neighborhood. 

Crazy good right?!

Our Airbnb apartment was in the 8th arrondissement, a jewel box of a place (read as tiny but pretty, haha) that was clean, bright, airy and complete with all the comforts a traveler would need - washer/dryer, iron, ironing board, extra towels, hair dryer, etc. Our host even had a bottle of wine for us. I immediately felt right at home. Haha.

I loved that while the apartment was contemporary in look and feel, the floors were just as I would expect from Parisian apartments - with those classic chevron wood patterns.

Another plus? I had a full length mirror in my room, that was perfect for my outfit shots. Heehee.

This was the view from my first floor room. I lavettt!

Our apartment was right on Rue Washington, flanked by Avenue des Champs-Élysées on one end, and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré on the other end. Talk about Shopping Temptation Central.

Whenever we would head out towards Champs-Élysées, ito lang naman yung nasa dulo ng kanto. The Louis Vuitton flagship store.

We didn't have an espresso machine in the apartment, but we would get our coffee at the nearby Paul boulangerie, where we would sit outside and watch the early risers walk this scenic stretch of a sidewalk.

We had front row views of Champs-Élysées. Amazing how major this avenue is, but the traffic is nothing like ours here in Manila.

I think we only spent €200 a night for our apartment, which is extremely reasonable considering how well-equipped it is, and of course, the location can't be beat. Gotta love Airbnb. There's nothing like being in Paris and living like a local, in one of the best districts too.

Speaking of which, Airbnb has come up with a convenient mobile app that, through Smart, will now bring the world at the fingertips of Filipino travelers who are in search of a home away from home as well as an immersive travel experience. Read on to find out more:

The Smart x Airbnb Partnership

“A global pioneer in accommodations, Airbnb has revolutionized the way travelers search and book a suitable place to spend their getaways wherever they are headed around the world. It shows how a meaningful mobile innovation can shake things up and enrich the lives of people – and is very much aligned with our vision of a mobile-empowered lifestyle,” said Ariel Fermin, EVP and Head of Consumer Business at Smart.

To celebrate the groundbreaking partnership, all Smart Prepaid, Smart Postpaid and Smart Bro subscribers may enjoy a P2500 discount for a minimum of P8,000 booking at any Airbnb-listed accommodation here and abroad.

Smart subscribers simply have to text SMARTAIRBNB to 2855 for FREE to receive the unique promo code that they can use to activate the discount whenever they complete their Airbnb booking.

The discount is limited to one booking per registered Philippine Airbnb user, but is open to all past and first-time bookers. Booking period us until March 31, 2016 with travel period until December 2016. For more details visit the Smart Airbnb page, and visit to book.

Oh, and while in Paris, I did Smart Surf Abroad, which guarantees no bill shock on data roaming. I was on Waze, Instagram, Whats App, Viber, checking my emails and all that, the entire day, for 10 days and I only paid Php5,500 on data roaming charges.

Yes, I lived a pretty Smart Life while in Paris, staying in an Airbnb apartment and staying connected via Smart Surf Abroad. Too bad we missed out on this Smart x Airbnb discount offer, but there's plenty of time to use this for the next trip. Woohoo!

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