travel

The Rembrandt hotel in London

James and I just got back from Europe on Monday – we were in London for a friend’s wedding and then went to Paris for our “babymoon.” I put “babymoon” in quotes because we would’ve gone to Paris even if I wasn’t pregnant ;).

I wanted to write down some of the highlights of our trip (plus a few tips/reminders for next time!) before I forget.

To prevent each post from being too long, I’ll divide each city into 3 parts: hotel, landmarks & food/transportation.

Starting with our hotel in London…

In London, we stayed at The Rembrandt in South Kensington for 4 nights. We deliberated a lot on which hotel to stay at because we liked how The Rembrandt included free breakfast but the pictures of the hotel interior & rooms didn’t look that appealing to us – everything was red! Red carpet, red curtains, red pillows, etc. We ended up taking a chance on The Rembrandt anyway because we heard that food was expensive in London so we figured it’d be worth the cost savings and we were SO GLAD we took that chance!

The hotel ended up being a LOT nicer than the pictures and the free breakfast was pretty amazing. There were a lot of food options to choose from: cereals, croissants/toast/muffins, a salad/fruit bar/yogurt bar and a station with hot foods like scrambled eggs, different kinds of sausages (the veggie sausage was my favorite!), grilled tomatoes… and there was also someone making fresh customized omelets. The ambiance of the restaurant was also really nice – high ceilings, large windows, comfortable tables and chairs, etc.

Our hotel room was very clean and comfortable and I think pretty spacious for European standards (or at least compared to our hotel in Paris). The bathtub even had jets, which we didn’t get around to using. But definitely nice to have if you’re into taking baths!

The best part about the hotel though (for us, at least) was the free smartphone that they provided. James and I only bought a SIM card for his phone because my iPhone was locked (more on this later) so having a second phone was a HUGE help. To conserve battery on James’ phone, we would use the hotel phone to look up directions, search for restaurants, etc. and there were a couple of times where we’d split up for a few hours to do our own thing and didn’t have to worry about how to get in touch with one another because we could each have a phone.

The location was also really nice and convenient. The Rembrandt is located right across from the V&A Museum and a bus stop. If you wanted to take the Underground (aka The Tube), it was only a 5 minute walk from the hotel. Near the Underground was also a lot of restaurants and dessert places. And even though the hotel was near a lot of landmarks (the V&A Museum, the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, Kensington Gardens and Harrods), it felt less like a tourist spot and more like a residential neighborhood.

I would give this hotel a 5 out of 5 stars and would definitely consider staying there again. The only reason why we would stay at another hotel is if we wanted to try living in a different neighborhood next time.

zero waste

Who Gives A Crap

I decided to give this 100% recycled toilet paper a try after one of my favorite bloggers wrote a post about it.

The timing couldn’t have been better – I was on my last roll of toilet paper and needed to buy some more anyway. Since I’m always looking for ways to make my life a little more eco-friendly and sustainable, the fact that Who Gives A Crap makes all their products from environmentally friendly materials (no trees!) and donates 50% of their profits to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world, piqued my interest.

I’m not going to lie, their products are kind of expensive ($1-$1.25 per roll). But I’m willing to pay a premium because I believe in their mission. Like Bea Johnson always says, “buying is voting.”

It helps that the toilet paper is actually quite thick and soft so it doesn’t feel like you’re using recycled toilet paper.

baby

My two favorite boys…

baby announcement 1
{My two favorite boys are both September babies!}

I haven’t posted publicly in a while but I’ve been blogging privately almost every week for about 4 months now.

In January, I found out I was pregnant! Even though we had been actively trying for a few months, it was still a bit of a surprise because I took a pregnancy test a few days before my missed period and it was negative. So when I took it again a week later, I really wasn’t expecting to see double lines.

I’m 20 weeks pregnant today and finally announced the news on social media. Quite a few people knew already because we found out the gender at 11 weeks from the results of the NIPT and passed out cake pops revealing the baby’s gender to our family, friends and coworkers when I was 14 weeks pregnant.

To be honest, we actually preferred a girl and experienced gender disappointment when we first found out we were having a boy. But it didn’t take very long for us get over it. After hearing his strong heartbeat and seeing him move around and kick at my 12 week ultrasound, any remaining feelings of disappointment were replaced with feelings of gratitude – gratitude for being pregnant, for having a pretty smooth pregnancy and for having a healthy baby.

And now, I’m actually feeling pretty excited about having a boy (so many of my friends are also having boys this year!) and daydream about how cute and crazy it will be raising a mini version of James :).

personal · zero waste

my menstrual cup experience (TMI warning!)

If talking about periods makes you uncomfortable, you may want to skip this post ;). Otherwise, prepare for some TMI.

I was first introduce to the menstrual cup about a year ago from a friend who was just starting to use it. She showed me this video, which does a pretty good job of highlighting what to expect.

Even though menstrual cups aren’t that expensive, I wasn’t ready to spend $25 on something I had a high chance of giving up on after one try. I knew it would take at least a couple of cycles to perfect and I wasn’t ready to make that commitment.

When I turned 30 this past August, I decided to kick my zero waste efforts up a notch by working on having zero waste periods. So I finally took the plunge and bought the pink LENA cup in small.

My first time I using it was a disaster. I had a really hard time getting it in – I couldn’t get a good grip on any of the folds so sometimes it’d pop open before it was completely in. And once it was in, I couldn’t really tell if it opened all the way or if it was positioned correctly. But when I’d see how much blood had leaked onto my pantyliner, I knew I was doing something wrong. Taking it out the first time was just as (if not more) challenging as putting it in. I remember it was suctioned so securely and so far up, I started to panic a little. But once I “bared down” (i.e. relax as if you were going number 2), the cup lowered enough to where I was able to grab the stem and wiggle the cup down even further. Once I was able to reach the bottom of the cup with my index finger and thumb, I squeezed the bottom to “pop” the suction and slip it out. I rinsed it with warm water and slipped it back in for another try.

The next few cycles were pretty similar. Some days it wouldn’t leak much (or at all) and I’d think I was getting the hang of it. Other days it would leak so much I’d have to keep changing my pantyliner. I couldn’t consistently get it to not leak.

The breakthrough came during my last cycle. I finally decided to try to find my cervix, which I was really squeamish about. I didn’t expect to feel it because I assumed it was really high up (inside me) but when I reached in, I was able to feel it pretty quickly and clearly. Feeling it helped me visualize what my cup would look like if it was suctioned properly below it. Between my last cycle and this cycle, my friend (the same friend who introduced me to the cup) also showed me this video, which helped me realize I was always trying to insert the cup straight up instead of at an angle.

During my most recent cycle, I only had one instance where I leaked and I’m pretty sure it’s because I inserted it straight up again so it didn’t suction properly. Once I reinserted it at an angle, I didn’t leak any more.

For those of you who are going to be trying a menstrual cup for the first time (or if you’re having a hard time perfecting it), my main tips are:

  • Try it for the first time when you’ll be at home for a long period of time. It makes dealing with leaks and reinserting it over and over again a lot easier. You don’t need the stress of someone wondering why you’re in the bathroom so often or for so long.
  • Try to find your cervix when you’re on your period so you have a better idea of what you’re try to work around/contain. Yes, your hands will get dirty. Yes, it’s kind of gross at first. But you’ll get over it pretty quickly. The reason why I say try to find your cervix when you’re on your period is because I think it’s lower during your period (at least for me it is). I can’t reach my cervix when I’m not on my period.
  • Try different folds. I like the punch fold the best.
  • Try to pop it open as soon as the tip is in. I feel like doing this makes it impossible for your cervix to be outside of the cup.
  • Slip it in at an angle, NOT straight up. When I tried slipping it in straight up, it was very difficult and not very smooth (almost like I was trying to force it in). Now that I have the angle down, once I get the tip in, the cup literally gets “sucked” up.
  • My biggest tip is: DON’T GIVE UP! I don’t think anyone gets it perfectly their first cycle. I think part of the reason is because we’re not that comfortable touching our lady parts (especially when we’re on our periods!) so the first few tries are more about getting more familiar with your body.
home

evacuation checklist

{pc: LA Times}

All the fires going on in southern California right now have made me think (once again) about what I would do if I had only 10 minutes to evacuate my home. About 25% of our office is out today because they either have be on standby for evacuation or they just have no way of getting in because of all the freeway closures.

Since I’ve thought about this before, I currently have an evacuation checklist inside my desk drawer. A checklist is handy because when you have to grab things in a rush, you’re likely to forget something that was important even though it seems like common sense now – like your passport. My checklist has the following items:

  • our accordion file that has our car titles, passports, my citizenship certificate, our marriage certificate and other important documents
  • our memory box that has our engagement photos, wedding photos, all the letters & cards James wrote me and other sentimental items we’ve collected over the last 10 years
  • the watch that my mom gifted James on our wedding day
  • my engagement ring (if I wasn’t wearing it already)

I’ve also thought about scenarios where I don’t even get a chance to evacuate my home because either the fire was so sudden or maybe I just can’t get to my home because of street/freeway closures. To prepare for this, I started scanning a lot of the documents on my checklist and uploading photos onto Flickr. I’m not done digitizing and backing up everything but I definitely feel the urgency to finish this sooner than later.

home

master bathroom remodel

James calls this bathroom “my bathroom” because if it was his bathroom, it would look completely different.

As you can probably tell by now, I’m a big fan of marble. It’s minimal and timeless.

Literally every part of this bathroom is new so there’s not a whole lot to explain. The before and after photos say it all:

{before – so many wall mirrors!}
{after}
{before}
{after}
{after}

Sources: shower & bath wall tiles, shower floor mosaic, floor tiles by Choice Granite // vanity // sink faucets // shower faucet // tub// bath faucet // toilet (gift) // mirror (custom) // vanity lights // medicine cabinet  

home

new shoe cabinet

When I started college, my mom bought me this multi-functional store unit (see below). It has since gone through at least 5 moves with me. I never really loved the look but it was functional and, most importantly, free. So I kept bringing it with me to each new apartment, which was always a pain because not only was it heavy, but one of the wheels would keep falling off.

In our current apartment, it served as an entryway catch-all and storage unit for some of James’ shoes. But as you can see, it didn’t fit very many pairs so I kept tripping over the pairs that he left scattered all over the floor. Another thing that didn’t work well with this unit was the shape. It was really low (maybe up to my thigh) and wide.

When I saw this shoe cabinet as I was flipping through the new Ikea catalog, I knew it would be the perfect replacement. Not only did it take up less floor space because of it’s tall and narrow shape, but it was also inexpensive – only $25!

Now, all of James’ shoes are neatly stored and we gained some square footage back, which is important when you’re living in only 480 square feet!

{the unit we were using before}