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Summer Business Idea

We want our kids to have a fulfilling career when they grow up.  We want them to do something that they are passionate about.  Thus, we are opening them to as many options as possible and encourage their little endeavors.  One thing that my husband I would like to instill in our children is to be business-minded – to be risk-takers, because we believe success comes from taking risks, following your dream, doing something you are passionate about.  We don’t want them to be tied to a job they are forced to do.  We don’t want them to dread every waking day going to work.

So, since our eldest daughter (9 years old) seems to have an interest in business, we patiently answer all her questions about money, finances, taxes, setting up a business, etc.  I even enrolled her in a workshop teaching kids about money and the basics of saving and investing.

A few days ago, she asked if she could start a business at home this summer break.  She wants to set up a store and sell ice pops, cupcakes and cookies.  I immediately imagined the mess it would create in the kitchen, and who else will bake the goodies?  Me, of course!  Then I remembered our commitment to support her ideas, even if it means a very messy kitchen!

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Samples

I wanted to let her experience setting up a business so I asked her what her plan was.  I did not tell her what to do and how to go about it.  I asked questions about how she intends to set up her business and these are her answers:

Who will be your customers?  My playmates

How will they know you’re selling cookies and cupcakes?  I’ll put a poster in the gate

Then, she and her little sister excitedly got a cartolina and designed a poster.  She also made flyers for me to print and distribute to our neighbors.  She made the flyers in the computer using MS Word.  She wanted me to print and distribute but before I obliged, I saw the opportunity to ask another question which will make her think.  Printing the flyers in colored ink will be very expensive.  And if we will spend money to buy colored ink to print her flyers for her business then we’d have to add the ink cost to the price of her goodies – like how we consider the ingredients to know how much we will sell their goods.  I asked if she thinks her playmates can afford.  She paused and told me, “Don’t print it anymore.”  I think she understands the concept of cost of goods sold and operating expenses already!  🙂

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They will use the money that they saved to buy the ingredients, and my task this weekend is to help them buy ingredients for their goodies and come up with a pricing scheme.  Of course, I’ll let them participate in the computation but somehow I have a feeling I will end up shouldering most of the costs!

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Their business capital

They’re all set for  their first business venture.  I hope this sparks more brilliant ideas in the future.

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How We Switched to Real Food

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It all started when we heard news that a very close friend of ours was diagnosed with colon cancer.  It was a shock because he was just in his early 30s, just starting to enjoy life.  Cancer and sickness is the last thing we want to worry about at our age. Being the paranoid that I am, I started researching about cancer and the digestive system.  And while I was going through some articles I came upon a blog article from 100 Days of Real Food about how bad processed food is to our body.  It got me interested so I started reading the article. The blog opened my eyes and I realized that we have been feeding ourselves junk all this time, and much of our health issues – my daughters’ health issues – can be attributed to our eating habits.  After reading through the blog, I made a decision to change the way we eat and see food.  Here’s how we did it:

1. I made extra effort to cook for my family.  I was never fond of cooking.  I never had to learn how to cook because when I was single my mother cooked for us.  When I got married and we lived with my in-laws, my mother-in-law cooked.  When we moved to our own place, I tried to cook a little, but I was working then so our house helper did most of the cooking.  I knew the basic dishes – Adobo, Sinigang, Caldereta, Nilaga.  But I made them with Calderata mix, sinigang mix, and most of the time we had fried food – hotdogs, chicken nuggets, corned beef, luncheon meat, longanisa, ham, bacon, etc.  So the decision to cook was a very big commitment for me.  Instead of eating outside, having food delivered, or buying takeout, I cooked.  I planned our meals, searched for easy recipes in the internet.  I looked for simple recipes, took note of the ingredients, and made a meal plan.  I did the meal plan every Saturday, and then every Sunday I would go to the grocery store and buy a week’s supply of ingredients.

2. We slowly cut down on canned goods and frozen processed meat.  We grew up eating tocino, longanisa and hotdog for breakfast.  Abstaining from the processed foods that we got so used to eating was hard at first but we were able to do it.  First on the list were hotdogs!  We stayed away from chicken nuggets, luncheon meat, corned beef, longanisa, tocino and ham.  What did we eat for breakfast? Cereals, oatmeal, bread and fruits.  I searched for breakfast recipes in the internet.  My favorite sites for recipes are Panlasang Pinoy and allrecipes.

3. When we got used to eating home-cooked meals, I decided to take our real food commitment a little further.  I’ve read that most items we see in the supermarket have ingredients that have been known to cause certain types of diseases.  We started checking the ingredient list of items that we usually buy.  We dropped items with a list of more than 5 ingredients, and those with ingredients you cannot even pronounce or wouldn’t cook with at home, from our grocery list.  We wanted to eat real food so the bouillon cubes, sinigang mix, caldereta mix, canned cream of mushroom had to go.  I made my own soup stock, made my own cream of mushroom.  If I can make it from scratch, then I won’t buy a ready mix/ready made item.  We tried to be as basic and as natural as we can.  It was very hard at first because we were used to the salty flavor of seasonings and MSG. Everything was bland. The kids didn’t want to eat and they complained. There were times when I felt so hurt and discouraged. What kept me going was the thought that I am doing all this for my family’s well-being.

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My homemade Cream of Mushroom made from fresh button mushrooms

4.  We explained to the kids why we changed the way we eat – why we don’t buy their favorite chicken nuggets and hotdogs anymore.  Why we don’t buy cupcakes and biscuits from the supermarket anymore.  I showed them articles and videos of how too much sweets and salt can be bad for our health.  I showed them a documentary of how burgers and chicken from fast food joints are produced.

5.  We explained to our extended family our decision to change our diet.  We talked to our parents about our “real food commitment.”  At first they did not understand why we don’t want to use chicken cubes or Magic Sarap, why we don’t want the kids to drink iced tea, or eat biscuits.  Eventually they understood and got used to it.  The kids bring their own snacks whenever they visit their grandparents.

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Apple and Celery for merienda

Processed foods is a part of our daily diet.  What I intend to control is my family’s intake of highly processed food.  We buy cheese, mayonnaise, peanut butter, cookie butter, tomato sauce, ice cream (although my goal is to make our own ice cream someday!) and cakes (I’ve been trying to make cakes but still needs more practice), but we limit our consumption of these sweet treats.  We make our own cupcakes, cookies, banana bread and cheesecakes.  I plan to learn how to make pandesal and bread. I allow them to eat chocolates and some candies on rare occasions just to let them “experience” it and not feel left out by other kids.  Kids are kids and the more we deprive them the more they’d want those treats.  We are still transitioning from a highly processed food diet to a real food diet.  So far we have completely eliminated sodas, store-bought fruit juices, iced teas, chips, and canned goods from our diet.  We are still in the process of reducing meat consumption and increasing the variety of vegetables we eat.

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I let them participate in simple recipes to get them to appreciate cooking and baking

This is my commitment to my family as a mother.  I commit to giving them my time and energy.  Cooking can sometimes be very tiring and time-consuming.  I must admit that there were days when I just didn’t have the energy to put something together and just opted to have a meal delivered.  Most days, I summon all my energy to create healthy meals for them.  I want them to enjoy a long and healthy life, free from sickness.  I hope that by doing this, my children will realize the value of eating real food, and will also give the same commitment to their family in the future.

Memories of Malaysia

Our stay in Malaysia, no matter how brief, was full of unforgettable memories pleasant and not. We will definitely miss these places.

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Cyberheights Villas

Cyberheights was our first home in Malaysia.  I loved how quiet the place was, especially the view from our terrace – the Putrajaya Lake and the Putrajaya International Convention Center.  I would just sit at the sofa on lazy afternoons enjoy the view.

Cyberheights Villa terrace view at night Cyberheights Villa terrace view Cyberheights Villa terrace view

Picnics at Putrajaya Lake

The jogging trail at Cyberheights Villa is perfect for weekend early morning picnics.  We would bring our breakfast there and eat while the kids run around and play.

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Cyberheights Jogging Trail

Putrajaya Shangri-la

We celebrated our 8th Wedding Anniversary in Putrajaya Shangri-la Hotel.  It was our first hotel experience in Malaysia.  We only went there to eat lunch but the kids loved the place so we decided to check in.  We were surprised to find out that there were a lot of Filipino hotel staff there.  They gave us complimentary cakes and wine 🙂

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At Putrajaya Shangri-la January 2012

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At Putrajaya Shangri-la February 2013

Batu Caves and Genting Highlands, March 2012

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Old Town White Coffee and Tokyo Cafe

We eat here whenever I’m too lazy to cook lunch or dinner.  We love the Nasi Lemak Ayam.  Tokyo Cafe is just across Old Town White Coffee.  The kids love eating here because it is less crowded than old town, and we get to share bento boxes everytime.

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Our meal of Nasi Lemak Ayam and Fish Fillet

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Tokyo Cafe Bento Box

Putra Square and the Prime Minister’s Office

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Shaftsbury Square

We would always go to Starbucks and Chatime in Shaftsbury square every weekend afternoon because the place is so quiet.

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At Starbucks Shaftsbury Square.  It was a Sunday afternoon and we have the store all to ourselves

Cyberjaya Playgrounds

There are a lot of playgrounds in Cyberjaya.  We would go there on afternoons to let the kids run and play.

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The Swimming Pool at Cyberview Gardens

Friends over at Cyberview Gardens would often invite the kids for a swim.

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Swimming with new friends

Schools:  REAL Kids Cyberjaya and SK Cyberjaya

Overall, the kids had a wonderful experience attending school and experiencing to be with other kids of different nationalities.  Plus they also learned basic Mandarin and Bahasa.

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The Petronas Towers, Dec. 2011

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Gold Coast Morib WaterPark, Feb 2013

Our first out of town trip after a very stressful and problematic 2012.

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i-City Shah Alam, March 2013

i-City Shah Alam

Selamat Datang ke Malaysia!

This is a continuation of my first post about my husband deciding to work abroad. On January 2011 he left to seek employment in Singapore, but an opportunity opened in Malaysia, so he took it.  After months of sleepless nights, weighing pros and cons, and tearful discussions with the girls, we finally did it.

On November 2011 we left the comfort and familiarity of our home and went to live with Dadi in Cyberjaya, Malaysia.  Everything felt so unreal and it felt like I was in a dream.  The kids were so excited to see their Dad, no idea of the kind of life and the challenges that awaited them.

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Selamat Datang ke Malaysia!

I, too, was excited. I left the security of my job of 10 years to be a housewife.  It was something that I have always dreamed of – wake up and prepare breakfast, cook lunch, dinner and merienda, help the girls study, play with them.  I imagined a happy life. I was prepared to live the reality of a dream.

The first 2 months were bliss.  We were in a foreign land, everything was new.  We went out a lot, ate out a lot, tried local food.  Our first trip to the mall to do groceries gave me a  headache because I had to go through all of the items on the shelf before choosing which to buy.  Plus I always had to check my translator app because almost everything was in Bahasa.  Everything was unfamiliar but I liked it.  It was an adventure.

ImageImageAt the Alamanda Mall in Putrajaya: the kids enjoyed the play area and kiddie rides

Christmas passed and it was time to look for a school for the girls.  My youngest was 4 years old that time, and finding a pre-school with English as the medium of instruction was easy.  It was a challenge finding a primary school for my eldest daughter, who was 7 that time.  I did search for schools months before our arrival and I even had email exchanges with the school admins.  Everything was supposed to be all planned out but we encountered some financial roadblocks.  We were supposed to send our eldest daughter to an english-medium primary school but had to cancel.  We ended up opting for the National School, with Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction in all subjects (except English, of course).

January school opening came and it went pretty well with our youngest girl.  She went to school without any hesitation.  Classmates were a mix of local Malay, Chinese and Indian students.  We were lucky because she had a Filipina classmate.  Ate’s school experience was different.  Hers was a big school with so many noisy children running around.  The class was predominantly Muslim Malay.  She did not want to enter the school premises.  It took us a while before we got to her classroom.  I had a long discussion with her homeroom teacher.  She was crying and pulling my hand, wanting to go back home.  We finally convinced her to go inside the classroom, but I promised I would wait outside until she said it was OK for me to leave.

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Little Iris’ first day in school.  I did not get to take a picture of ate Ivy because of the back-to-school anxiety.

I never had this kind of back-to-school blues with her before.  I thought it was only because it was her first day.  Little did we know that would be the start of a very challenging life for our family.  From that day on, going to school was a game of tug of war.  I would literally drag her our of the taxi all the way up to her classroom in the 3rd floor, crying.  Every morning she would get astma attacks, cough and throw up on the way to school.  Every day she would cry and ask and plead to go home (back to the Philippines), to her old school, to her old friends.  I would explain why we needed to be there – the family needs to stay together, Dadi has a higher paying job in Malaysia.  And so our dilemma began – to stay or not to stay…

A 180° Turn

“Working overseas is NOT and WILL NEVER BE an option.”

I remember me and my husband saying this when we were starting our family.  Going away to another country and leaving the family was unthinkable.  We could not bear the thought of leaving the family in exchange for a higher salary.  Then something happened.  The needs of our family of 4 was starting to grow.  We moved out of our parents’ house to live on our own, our youngest daughter was about to start school.  Items on the budget list suddenly started pouring in – school fees, water, electricity, phone bills, loan amortization, credit card bills, groceries, helper salaries.

I worked in a bank while my husband worked in a BPO.  Every payday our salaries would just literally pass through our hands (some of it we do not actually get to hold because of online bills payment).  No savings, no extra.  One night while we were discussing our financial situation and career opportunities, he made a proposal.  He thought of going to Singapore to try his luck.  After a lengthy discussion, weighing pros and cons, we had a mutual agreement.  So Singapore it is!

The plan was for him to go to Singapore and find a higher paying job.  If he is lucky enough to find a high paying job he’ll take me and the kids and we’ll live happily ever after in Singapore – where the air and streets are cleaner and where crime rates are lower.

So January of 2011 my husband left and tried his luck in Singapore.  It was hard to explain to the kids why Dadi had to leave. Every night they would cry and ask why.  It was hard to explain, but even harder to hold back my tears while I tried to console them.

And so I realized that nothing is permanent, nothing ever goes as planned, nothing is 100% sure, and that we can wake up one day with a new set of priorities.

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