Tuesday, October 25, 2011

ShopSpotting: What Are Your Halloween Plans?

Hello ShopSpotters! How has your week been so far? Mine has been quite hectic, as my boyfriend and I have been busy prepping our new home. Come to think of it, it will be my third home in a span of two years. It's a bit crazy when you think about it in those terms, but getting a new place is always exciting, and nakakakilig, notwithstanding all the expense and the headache of figuring out all the logistics. 

A peek into our freshly-painted living room extension. Will blog about the move soon!

With all the craziness that's been happening, I've almost forgotten that it's a Halloween weekend in a few days! Have you made plans yet? We have friends visiting from overseas who want to surf and dive, so we have a weekend excursion in the works. A Halloween party on Saturday night is also a possibility (and yes, I'm excited to dress up in costume!). 
Last year, I came as Smurfette! 
If you need some help in the planning department, may I suggest these ShopSpotted sites to assist you?

I'm betting a lot of people are going out-of-town for the weekend, so it's going to be hard to plan a last-minute getaway. It might be wise to enlist the help of a travel agency, like Grandchi Travel and Tours to book flights and reservations.

When Halloween (and the inevitable costume party once or twice a year) comes around, I find myself on the prowl for costume stores. Well, I'm still on the hunt, but those who want to outfit their little ones can point their browsers to I Am Xave's Mom, which has the most adorable baby costumes and rompers. If you put your tot in one of these plushy numbers, I bet you everyone will want to bite him/her!

Moooo! Cow Romper, P549.

If you're planning to sit out the semeteryo and out-of-town traffic to veg at home, make sure to pick up some pamper products to make your weekend truly chillax.  My Aromacology has an olive and grapefruit body scrub and body butter that's perfect for your at-home spa sesh.

Body Scrub, P250

After an invigorating scrub, slather your skin with the luxurious moisture of Aromacology's Body Butter, P260.

You can also just devote an entire day to online browsing, and maybe even shopping! Check out the super affordable dresses on Glam Kit. Most items are within the P250-350 range, which is such a bargain for a dress!

Dress from Nadine collection, P250.

Next time, I'll blog about Halloween costumes. I want to know what you plan to wear! Tell me, tell me!

Which Red Shoe Should I Buy? Halp!

I'm sure you've all noticed the glut of online sites selling discounted fashion merchandise. I think Gilt was the one that really made this business model so popular, but others have jumped on the bandwagon and have come out with their own spin-offs. One that I like is Refinery29's Reserve. Instead of selling actual merchandise, it sells "...shopping deals, experiences, or limited- edition products every week" that are never available for more than six days a week, maybe even shorter if a deal has sold out. I like it because the brands and sites they feature are carefully selected, and the Reserve deals are often pretty amazing. 

So a few days ago, I finally decided to plunk down some cash for my first Reserve deal: A $200 credit to buy Pour La Victoire Shoes at their website at 50% off. It becomes an even greater bargain if you decide to use it to purchase PLV shoes on sale, which is what I'm doing. 

My first Reserve deal, yay!

Now I need a pair of red shoes. I realized I don't have a proper pair of classic red pumps. The problem is I'm torn. I originally wanted to get these suede Daina pumps...

But then, I'm a little smitten with the tiled sole of these Irina Tiles patent pump.

Isn't that sole so sassy?

Admittedly, I like the look, the hue, and the texture of the suede pump. It's classier, and it'll pair really well with the cropped pants I like to wear lately. BUT, that checkerboard sole!

So yes, I'm torn. And because I've been debating about what to get for days, and because Daina and Irina are still neck and neck, I'm bringing this internal conflict out in the open.

What do YOU like better? Daina or Irina? 

Help me decide!

Friday, October 21, 2011

ShopSpotting: Promoting Your Online Business

Since launching our own accessories line (check out Martina-Martina here!), I've been on the lookout for  ideas to promote the business. I'm even considering attending a few seminars and short courses on digital marketing and social media as my skills are sorely lacking in these areas. Of course, some of the best learnings can be had for free if you have the patience to trawl through the world wide web. Luckily, I also have my own network of friends who have launched successful online businesses, and who were very willing to share some of their promotional and marketing tactics with me. 

Suelas, the company behind those uber comfy foldable flats, uses their Facebook page to market and promote their products. Jackie Tan, co-owner of Suelas, shares that while they do have their own website, it's their FB page that allows them to interact with their customers. For example, Suelas' travel albums showcase their shoes as worn by fans, friends, and family traveling around the world. People readily share, and are excited to see photos of themselves online, and at the same time, the travel albums underscore Suelas' brand philosophy as the shoe that's light on the feet, light on the baggage. 

The Suelas-Rosanna Aranaz collaboration leopard flat in Morocco.

Another great way to build buzz is via promos. Early this year, in a bid to reach 25,000 Facebook fans, Suelas created a postcard that customers could post and tag on their wall to get a P50 discount on one pair. The bigger prize though, was the shoe giveaway, with Suelas raffling off 5 pairs of shoes if they reached the 25,000 mark. Jackie concedes that raffling is one of the best ways promote, and it does not necessarily have to be your own product. 

Lucky fans who tagged this Suelas postcard on their wall got P50 off on their Suelas purchase, plus a chance to win a free pair.

A lot of bloggers do giveaways to increase their site traffic. But the rules of your contests can vary from the simple to the complicated. Frances, of Topaz Horizon, has the following insight on blog contests (taken from a comment she posted on our friend, Nikki's blog, The Picky Dresser

"Me, when I do contests, iba-iba the rules. Either of the following:
1. Leave a comment.
2. Leave a comment on my blog’s FB page.
3. Tweet the contest.
4. Blog about it with a link back to my blog.

# 1 is the simplest and easiest. But minsan nakaka-depress siya kasi kung onti lang sumali, obvious hahaha
#2 is so I get to see the faces that read my blog. I can also reply to them. Some of them nga have become my friends!
#3 is not really my favorite. I did it just once and I felt it didn’t help at all.
#4 is, I still believe, the best way. When a lot of blogs link to you, your blog gets more hits and your Google Page Rank goes higher. For me, this is what really helped launch my blog and made it popular."

ShopSpotters, I'm sure that you also have your own stories to share. I'd love to hear about the promos and marketing strategies you've used for your own businesses, or personal blogs. Even if you're not a business or a blogger, I'd like to know, what contests and promos have attracted your attention, or compelled you to comment or join?

Before I sign off, I'd like to share some interesting sites I've ShopSpotted today:

PHILDESIGN5, a unique site that offers graphic design services at affordable rates. Web design (not including HTML) starts at P4,000.

PHILDESIGN5 list of prices and services

Suncatcher offers solar-powered products for your home. I'm curious to find out of the Pest Killer Light works. 

Pest Killer Light, P700.

PHGIFTS is another site that offers gift ideas, ranging from food and gift baskets, to floral arrangements. I'd bookmark this site for those times when you're out of the country and need to send something from home, e.g. flowers for your Mom on Mother's Day or even just a simple bouquet to make your friend, who just went through a breakup, smile. They offer same day delivery within Metro Manila, and online customer service support. 

I think everyone secretly likes to get flowers (especially if it's delivered to your office—pang show-off haha!). Gerbera bouquet, P1,800.

Lately, I've been on the prowl for local natural beauty products that are free of the chemicals and preservatives found in most department and supermarket beauty products. My current favorite brand and obsession is Human Nature, but I get excited when I discover new ones, like Nanay Earth. Spotted their Drama Cream (P190) on Box All U Want, and thought I'd share it to those of you who are still on a mission to find that perfect skin lightening product. Note that I am NOT endorsing skin whitening for the sake of. But I am sympathetic to those who suffer unattractive discoloration in certain areas, like underarms, or those that result from scars. 

Drama Cream can supposedly lighten dark underarm skin, anal and genital areas, and skin discolorations, reduce the appearance of scars and even out skin tone. Made of alpha arbutin, kojic acid, mulberry extract, carica papaya, emu oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, rosehip seed extract, jojoba oil, glutathione, vitamin E.

And my absolute favorite site of the day goes to Caleb's Closet. Run by a doctor mom, the online shop has a selection of well-curated organic and eco-friendly products that mothers would no doubt love. I'm not pregnant, nor do I have a baby, but even I found things I want to buy! Like the Milea Baby and Milea Apiary Products, all made of organic ingredients. 

Milea Baby Honey Hair and Body Wash boasts of a tried and tested "no tears" formulation and lists ingredients like  acapulco infusion, honey, virgin coconut and corn oil soap, olive leaf extract and calendula extract. I love the travel size, perfect for my yoga toiletry kit. 30 ml, P75.
And they also have great gift ideas for my friends' baby showers!

Confession: My favorite toy when I was a kid was a plastic cash register. I'd hang clothes all around my room and pretend I was an SM cashier lady, mwahaha! This wooden cash register (P930), fashioned out of ecologically-harvested wood and non-toxic paint,  is way more sosyal, may scanner pa!
Back when I was young and didn't know better, my ambition was to become a doctor. Maybe because it was a cool thing to write in those autograph books that were so popular in the ’80s haha! But, if I had this Handy Doctor Set (P1,480) to play with, I probably would have stuck to that ambition if only for a few more years. 

The cutest walker (P2,199)! The Hopping Bunny Walker has two bunnies that hop up and down along with a tapping sound in rhythm. Has a wheel-friction system to slow down the speed when the child is young and unstable, and adjusts to a faster speed when older.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

ShopSpotting: Christmas Shopping

Christmas is near! Well, it's 65 days away to be exact. And while that's technically more than two months away, I know we Pinoys are eager beavers when it comes to celebrating Pasko. My boyfriend can't get over the fact that the malls start playing Christmas carols even BEFORE Halloween comes around, haha! 
My first Christmas in New York was also my first time to have a real tree! It smelled heavenly. 
As early as now, I've started thinking about what presents I'll be giving to friends and family. I have a Christmas list in my planner where I write down the names on one column, and possible presents that I can give on another. Quite organized, right? Not really. I have to be honest, I almost always end up shopping at the very last minute. Either that or I keep changing my mind about what to give that I sometimes end up buying multiple presents for one person, and not having anything on hand for another. Or, I end up buying too many things for myself, which is even worse! 

For those who want to get started on their Christmas shopping, I've ShopSpotted a few affordable gift ideas for you:

For the stylish sister who likes to make a statement, gift her with Asian Vogue Shop's Piano bag. Reminiscent of the fun bag that was Kate Spade's "All Typed Up Clyde" typewriter tote. I find myself wishing I had splurged on that bag! 

Piano bag, P1,350.
The Kate Spade typewriter tote. Photo courtesy of Geek Sugar.
For the best friend who loves to travel, a journal confidant that can bear witness to her musings and adventures. Also comes with vintage-inspired stickers to personalize entries. 

When my boyfriend is acting particularly silly, I always tell him, "You're a monkey!" in jest. We must make a fine pair of primates because he calls me "his" monkey as well. I'd put this USB in his stocking as a joke (a monkey for my monkey!)

I have a few friends who are pregnant, and Cherub's Nest has a selection of baby essentials, baby wearing and nursing products that would make fine presents. My pick: Next9 Tushy Wushy Cloth Diapers (P1,000). These leak-proof cloth diapers come highly recommended by my friend Frances of Topaz Horizon. I like that they are not wasteful—adjustable buttons allow your diaper to grow with your baby, and the diapers and inserts are washable and reusable. 

The pack comes with three leak-proof cloth diapers and three inserts. 
Chocolates always make a good, albeit boring, present, but I'd rather have a present I can eat than something that'll just gather dust on my table. Affordable Clothes has a great selection of goodies that are shipped directly from the US.

Twix Fun Pack (P100). Arguably one of the best candy bars ever created!

Lindt Lindor Truffles White Chocolate (P530). These are delicious! I'd give this to a boss (or maybe keep them for myself heehee).

I even found something I can buy for myself, and my dad! As my close friends know, I'm a borderline narco—I can sleep anywhere and everywhere, even when I'm behind the wheel (I get it from my dad). So I'd probably buy this Nap Zapper for both of us. 

The Nap Zapper (P150) from Kela's Kitchen. "Nap Zapper is an innovative, potentially lifesaving anti-drowsiness alarm. It is worn over the ear and has an electronic position sensor. When your head nods forward, it sounds a loud alarm to instantly wake you and alert your passengers." 

Don't laugh. I'm seriously considering buying this!
For all those officemates that you don't really want to give presents to (but have to anyway, or otherwise you'll be forever branded as a Scrooge), Kela's Kitchen and Keepers has a ton of cheapo but nifty stuff. My favorites:

Super Sleek Multi-Purpose Pen (P55), a Swiss-knife type gadget that unfolds into a pen, knife, bottle and can opener. Pang Mac Gyver! A great present for the boys. 

Mini Envelope Note Pad (P50). Kraft paper pads that fold up into envelopes. A nice addition to any desk, and a fun way to say hi or thank you to friends and co-workers. 

Funky Metal Paper Clips (P60 for each pack of 12). Great for marking magazine and book pages, or sealing small packages. Comes in three designs: teddy bear, lightbulb, and camera.

Have you started Christmas shopping yet? Share your gift list with me!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Trippin': New Jersey Road Trip

For my boyfriend's birthday this year, I bought us $125 BuyWithMe coupons for tandem skydiving in New Jersey. I was pretty pleased with myself at scoring the package on the cheap. Until I told my friends, most of whom laughed at me since they couldn't quite believe I would entrust a death-defying experience to a company that would promote on a discount site! I had done my due research and the company seemed like a pretty solid one, but decided to do another background check after witnessing my friends' laughing disbelief. And that's when I realized that I was reading reviews on the wrong company, and the one that I actually bought tickets for seemed like a newbie as they barely had any reviews! Yikes!

Suiting up for the big jump.

We were made to watch this "informational" video that basically told us that if we die or get injured (even if it was due to company negligence), we could not sue the company. The guy on cam had this fantastic table-grazing beard, and our theory is, the beard is there to distract us, and make us forget we could actually die. 

Up in the air. Boy, we were cramped in this plane. Halos mag-tandayan na kami! The other guy is Pat's tandem partner. 

The view from 10,000 feet, the point where panic starts to slowly creep in.

The big jump!

AAAAGGGGGHHHH!!! The free fall is the scariest part—like 10 crazy roller coaster/octopus rides all together. Of course, the pull of gravity on your face is quite scary too (the horror of wrinkles!).  
Anyway, we were still pretty excited, so we decided to make a road trip out of it when it was finally time to claim our purchase. New Jersey's reputation has suffered adversely from the popularity of the trashy MTV show "Jersey Shore," but I was happy to discover that there is a whole other quaint side to this state that was begging to be explored. We decided to stay at a charming bed and breakfast called Widow McCrea in Frenchtown, which is near New Hope, Pennsylvania, and Lambertville, New Jersey—areas which are known for their delightful shops and charming communities. I was able to do a bit of thrift and vintage shopping during our trip, so I'm sharing a selection of my photos with all of you. 

We stayed at the Anne-James Suite, which was decorated with antiques and Victorian-style knick-knacks. Photo courtesy of Widow McCrea.

My favorite was the bathroom, which had a sunlit jacuzzi nook. Photo courtesy of Widow McCrea

I could have done without the creepy portraits scattered throughout the room. Afraid!
If you're lucky, your fellow b&b guests will be warm, interesting people. You're even luckier if your hosts are fantabulous cooks (Ours was. Just look at the delicious breakfast plate below). However, they lost points when they decided not to serve us breakfast the one morning we got up a bit late. Perpetually hungry me was miffed after that.

Oooh I miss strawberries!
If you decide to go to this area, you must visit the Golden Nugget Flea Market. It's open year round, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. According to their website, it is "a 40-year-old Lambertville institution...Started in 1967, the Golden Nugget is a 'gold mine' of an indoor/outdoor market specializing in antiques, collectibles, art and more. This is not your everyday flea market. We are the East Coast's premier market for vintage and retro items such as furniture & home decor, paintings, clothing, jewelry, Victorian collectibles, sports memorabilia, model trains, books, dolls, arts & crafts, toys & games, lamps, pottery, comic books, vinyl albums, clocks, watches, glass, china, porcelain, garden items, coins, stamps, art deco, hardware and everything else imaginable that is antique or collectible."

Whew, what a list! But they were right, I've never seen so many interesting/cool/kooky/fashionable things in one area. 

It's easy to spend hundreds of dollars in this place. 

Vintage typewriters. I'm unearthing our old elementary school-era clacker so I can use it as home decor!

Why anyone would want to buy creepy hairless doll faces is beyond me.

I would, however, buy these hilarious illustrations of fruit and vegetable citizens.
I lust for these rose gold ceiling lamps.

The $1 box where I scored a black and white vintage pin, and a slim Casio-esque gold digital watch for my friend.

I bought belts from this stall for $5 each!
I was happy to score the gold scale belt. I had a similar one before but the scales fell off. I also bought a black beaded belt that I can't find.

Even the boyfriend managed to find a vintage tennis rack for a bachelor party he was organizing. They were supposed to watch Wimbledon dressed as '70s tennis players, haha!
 I did some vintage shopping as well in the town of Lambertville. My boyfriend and I was just passing through in our car when I spotted a store that had a rack of clothes outside. After spending a couple of hours at the flea market, I was hesitant to ask my boyfriend to stop (he gets grumpy after too much shopping), but he must have seen the longing look in my eye because he decided to park so I could go have a peek. What a sweet man I have!

Good thing my eagle eye spotted Palette Vintage. Anything on a sale rack always catches my eye!

I scored this peachy printed shift for $20, more or less.
And this printed frock for the same price.
I almost didn't buy this, but the ladies at Palette convinced me to get it. I'm happy they did! It has become one of my favorite pieces.

Funny how I wore a mix of thrift and vintage finds to a thrift/vintage shopping expedition. Hat, Strawberry; dress,  St. Luke's Thrift Shop on Hudson Street, NY; belt, Baguio ukay find; bag, bought at FIT Thursday open market; shoes, Aerosoles; earrings, Funk Your Junk (Ottawa, Canada); bracelets, from H&M, muses and lovers, and bamboo bangles I bought in Florida.

 There are also a lot of vintage stores in New Hope. I didn't get to see all of them, but the one store that I did love was Cryer's.

Cryer's sells a lot of collectibles and antiques. 
But they are best known for their high end and remnant fabrics.

I would love to have cushions upholstered in this fabric!

And of course, there were noteworthy shops in Frenchtown (where we stayed) as well. We explored the area on the day we were headed back for New York, so we really didn't have much time to walk around. The most famous shop would have to be Two Buttons, "Eat, Pray, Love" author Elizabeth Gilbert's rambling warehouse of Southeast Asian "unnecessities" ranging from gigantic statues and wood-carved wall hangings, to semi-precious bead jewelry and silk scarves. It's really not a shop. I would imagine this is what a smuggler's den would look like, haha! I'm wondering how she managed to get all those monster stone statues into the country.

I wish I could have these glass lamps hanging in our garden.

"Eat, Pray, Love" translated in God knows how many foreign languages. Free to take home.

My super favorite store of this trip though is Modern Love. Occupying a bright, spacious spot on Race Street, Modern Love peddles the cutest stationary and knick knacks, as well as a fine selection of art and graphic books and magazines. They also sell accessories and clothing. I could have browsed this shop for hours!

Isn't it the cutest store? Photo courtesy of Modern Love.

I told you typewriters make good decor accents! Photo courtesy of Modern Love.
I got a Yoshitomo Nara postcard book.

And these pretty Cath Kidston mix and match stationary set. Powerbooks actually has these as well.
Of course, no trip would be complete without the requisite food tripping. 

We visited Bobolink Dairy Farms in Milford, NJ, where the owners, Nina and Jonathan White practice sustainable and humane farming. This means cows are grass fed and milked seasonally. New Yorkers, Bobolink sells at Farmer's Markets.  Check their schedule here.
I still have dreams about this smoked duck breast. One of the most delicious things I've ever tasted! 

Their artisanal cheeses are made from raw milk, cave-ripened, and aged 60 days or longer. Their rustic breads are baked in a wood-fired over. We bought a special one the day we went, I think it was a focaccia baked with herbs and duck fat. With the cheese, it was superb!

At the Station Pub in Lambertville Station Inn, our server made us a fruity prosecco drink that was not on the menu. 

The fruits soak up the bubbly so at the end of your drink, you have these delicious sinkers to look forward to (I know my boyfriend did!).
Birthday dinner was celebrated at the Milford Oyster House.  Of course the best oysters were the ones that came from Canada!

MOH is quite renowned as a seafood resto. No contest here. My Crab Norfolk (jumbo lump crab sauteed with lemon and black pepper) was simple yet mmm mmm good!

I always make it a point to visit ice cream parlors in small towns. This is Gerenser's Exotic Ice Cream on 22 Main Street, New Hope, PA. 

I like my ice cream chunky and creamy and the ones in these parlors almost always are.

Before heading home, we stopped by Clinton, NJ for lunch. Clinton is famous for its Red Mill, which I must say is quite picturesque. 

I forget where we ate but it was an Italian restaurant with a great view of the Red Mill. Food was ok, nothing spectacular but still good. 

I just don't like it when restos serve a dish swimming in sauce.

And that's the end of our trip! After such a quaint trip, this photo was a jolting reminder that we were back in the modern world again:
Kamusta naman ang Proactiv vending machine!


Yes, we did survive the jump so thank you Skydive Jersey for getting us back to ground in one piece! And yes, I would definitely repeat the experience, especially since the second camera was broken, so I don't have photos of me in midair, poopie. 

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