TALK TUESDAY: Our Pocket Maternity Shoott

A little side note about this post:  had to update it a bit from when I initially wrote it.  But my opinion stays the same.  Man, talk about catching up huh?

One of the things that I wanted to have is a maternity shoot.  My sisters had it when they first had their babies in the Philippines, so that was something I’ve always had an eye out for.  What I didn’t account for is the price difference between the Philippines and the US.  For one, at Php5,000 (US$95) I can already get a decent shoot in a studio for a good two hours with an in-house makeup artist.  Here, I would need a budget of at least US$500 for the artist’s fee, studio time and some digital copies with print releases.  I will have to do my own hair and makeup if I want to save up a bit.

That was a cost I wasn’t prepared for, but that photoshoot was something I had looked forward to since we found out we’re expecting.  I couldn’t just let go of the idea, as vain as it sounds.  My relief came when I found out about Shoott.

Shoott gives you access to experienced photographers in the Metro NYC area to shoot for 30 minutes free at a preset location.  You only pay for the photos you like, ranging from $15 a photo to a full gallery of 40+ photos at just $220.  They don’t just do maternity shoots; they also shoot families, children, and lifestyle.  You can also pick out the photos that you want for your curate feed and with a minimal fee, you can request for a bit more editing to your photos.

We scheduled our Shoott at Hamilton Park in Jersey City a week before our baby shower.  (For a list of other venues and locations, click here.)  I wanted to have the same outfit that we were going to wear to our shower and with fall right around the corner, reds and khakis were our go to.  Our photographer Kym met up with us at the gazebo and started to work right away.

The good thing about having Kym is that she’s shot so many times at Hamilton Park already.  She knows where to go, the pockets of that little oasis that would frame a good shot, so even if it was a pretty packed weekend, we were able to find those little sections of the park all to ourselves.  We even got to shoot on the street.

Definitely, 30 minutes just flew by.  Kym was very personable and warm; the Husband who’s naturally reserved came out of his shell.  I don’t really know how he does that!  He’s so reserved when I’m trying to take a selfie with him, but bring a professional photographer with you and his inner model comes out.  Hahaha.

Anyway, here’s a little snippet of that day.  We received the photos 3 days after shoot day, with a little editing here and there.  I would also like to give a quick shoutout to one of my favorite makeup YouTubers Robert Welsh (YouTube, Facebook).  His tips helped me get myself ready for this shoot.

I do wish I got the extra editing so that those back bulges would be far smoother, but hey, what kind of a pregnant woman would I be if it’s all smooth sailing?

Worried about COVID-19 exposure during your shoot?  Shoott has you covered.  They have the following policies in place:

    • They will only do outdoor shoots, where you can interact with family members you’ve already been quarantining with.
    • They will only send you healthy photographers, who have been following safer-at-home guidelines.
    • That 6 feet apart thing?  Hardcore implemented.
    • And they will mask up.  As will you of course.  Well, before and after the shoot.
    • If your locality changes laws that will make you cancel, they will waive all cancellation charges.

To learn more about their COVID-19 response, click here.

Oh, and if you use this link, you will get 10% off your entire purchase.  To be completely transparent, each completed session through this link gives me a little incentive (at no additional cost to you), but no pressure!  Just didn’t want to let you pass up an opportunity for a little savings.

So… am I looking forward to another Shoott?  Of course.  Hopefully, the weather becomes more bearable and we can take our Little One out.  It pains me that we can’t travel yet, but I could sure use some photos of him outdoors.

Have you tried Shoott?  How was your experience?  Let me know in the comments!

FEELS FRIDAY: My Pregnancy Gift to Myself

It has been a while since I last wrote on this page and, no this is not a declaration that I am pregnant again.  While I wish I had updated my blog in a more timely manner so that I have full documentation of my pregnancy journey, let’s just say my emotions were then incapable of balancing so much at the time.  Now that I’m looking back, I can confidently talk about my experience and hopefully, it helps the next reader or so.

This is not a topic that’s commonly talked about — at least not in my household.  But it’s something that I truly believe was the best gift I’ve ever given myself.  In fact, I would even consider it as a gift from The Husband; he did after all urge me to go get it.

My pregnancy gift to myself is… going back to therapy.

As a person with a history of depression, the years leading up to my pregnancy was pretty rough.  After all, I originally did not intend to get pregnant.  I was perfectly content living the rest of my life with The Husband.  But, being a witness to someone else’s mortality shook me up pretty well and my thinking shifted from NO KIDS FO LIFE to OMG I WANT AN EXACT COPY OF THE BEST PERSON I KNOW AKA THE HUSBAND.

(Side bar:  I know my kid will be his own person.  I’m not really trying to recreate my spouse.  This is for those who think that I am trying to duplicate my spouse.  I made a choice to be a parent because I want to be a parent.  If my kid turns out to be like his dad, that’s just a bonus, not a goal.  Mmmmkay?)

Then of course, there’s the struggle of conceiving.  I had thought that the moment I got off the pill, I would be pregnant in a smack.  Big fat nope.  A year after being off the pill, I went to my OB who then referred me to a specialist because it was “better to see the complete picture of what we’re working with.”  Tests upon tests and six months later, we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility.

Let me dwell on that for a second.  WTF RIGHT?!  I mean, what in seven hells is that?  After all that difficulty, they’re telling us that technically there’s nothing wrong and that conceptually we should be conceiving naturally, but eh, sorry?  For a moment, I wished so hard for something to be wrong.  That way, I would know that there’s something to be fixed, to be remedied.  But nope, unexplained infertility it is.

And just when we have come to terms with our options — hormone therapy, IUI, IVF, surrogacy and adoption (and yes, in that order) — the strip gave me two lines.  Flashing before my eyes is the stick screaming PREGNANT.

To go from not wanting to have kids, to wanting to have one, to not being able to have one, to not being able to explain why we can’t make one, to accepting that we are seeking extraordinary means to conceive, to actually conceiving in a span of 18 months????  Let’s just say it was mentally and emotionally exhausting.  While my depression was at an all-time high (yes, even higher than the time when my father died) upon hearing the unexplained infertility news, the pregnancy news kicked another condition in high gear:  anxiety.

My sisters will definitely tell you that I probably read everything that you can read about getting pregnant and being pregnant, and in therapy, I have learned that too much knowledge is not power.  LOL.  In my head, I was so prepared.  But each morning I woke up pregnant, all I had in my mind were the negative probabilities:  miscarriage, genetic illnesses, still birth.  It was getting out of control.  In fact, it was so out of hand that while driving to work, I would need to pull over because I kept visualizing that I would crash into the car in front of me and my child would be squashed under the steering wheel.

I never saw myself as someone pessimistic, until I realized that my mind had only retained all the worst case scenarios of my pregnancy and very little of the best case.

Therapy was a relief, a gift that just keeps on giving.  I learned various types of coping mechanisms and I found myself rekindling my love for journaling.  Because of therapy, I was able to manage my anxieties, get my controlling nature under control (LOL OMG), and find the silver lining in every Final Destination-like scenario in my head. I went at least twice a month, and in some months, thrice.  It was enough for me to feel more prepared and more relaxed as my pregnancy progressed.

Whenever I would speak to The Husband about my pregnancy journey, he would always say that it took me a while to be truly and wholly happy.  On the outside, I looked glowing and excited, but he knew my worries, my concerns.  He knew the nights when I would just stay up and check if the baby is moving.  He knew how bad it got that he bought a doppler that we can use at home, so each time I feel any tinge of worry, I can just go ahead and listen to our baby’s heartbeat.

He encouraged me to go through with therapy, and in fact, was the one who brought it up.  And I am so grateful that he did.  Therapy not only helped strengthen my resolve; it also helped The Husband feel that we have a solid support team in this absolutely insane journey.  I wasn’t passing on my anxieties to him, I wasn’t making family uncomfortable by being so negative and worrisome, and well, honestly, I slept better at night.  And I needed that doppler less and less.

I do want to put out a disclaimer though.  Going to therapy early on in the pregnancy does not guarantee that you’ll escape the horror that is post-partum depression.  That, my dear friends, is a topic for another time.

What about you?  What was the best non-material gift you gave yourself when you found out you were pregnant?

Little Women (2019) Trailer is Here and I am a mess

Nothing else can break my brief blogging pause other than Saoirse Ronan and Emma Watson sharing the big screen.

I wasn’t planning on writing anything today, but I took a quick break from work and took a peek at Facebook and lo and behold, the complete reimagination of Josephine March unfolded before my eyes.  It is with that character that I first loved Winona Ryder and it is with that character that I loves Saoirse Ronan more.

Beautiful people, here’s the new trailer of Little Women.  I am beyond thrilled.

Be still, my racing heart.

TALK TUESDAY: The Love for Snail Mail

I love snail mail.  Let’s start with that.  I love receiving handwritten notes.  I love going through the bills and spam and seeing a personally scribbled letter made out especially for me.  I love the idea of words flying through air and space, so special that it required extra postage, so intimate that the immediacy of technology just doesn’t give it justice.  Maybe I’m just being romantic, but why not?  I love snail mail.

When I was in the Philippines, my love for letters and postcards was a bit more difficult to communicate.  While we did have postal offices, they weren’t as efficient as I would like.  Most of the time, when I would attempt to send a postcard to our family here in New Jersey, it would be a hit or miss if it ever gets to them.  I always picked out interesting postcards, especially when they came out with 3D ones.  But those never made it to them.

This letter is from my niece Kai Mykonos. I always have two addresses saved for her, and she always surprises me where she’s going to send her reply.

I had this image in my head that the postal worker would see my beautiful postcard, read what it’s the back and decide to keep it for himself.  At first it would make me mad, but soon enough, it would turn into hope — hope that it inspires them, hope that it brightens their day.  Then I just write another one.

My aunt recently went on a Italian tour and she sent this postcard from Rome.

Postcards have become a staple, especially when my niece Machiko started learning how to read and write.  It has become her preferred souvenir whenever I would go on work travels, so I always made an effort to find a post office and mail one in.  When I moved here, she challenged me to find better stamps, make it more colorful.

This combo letter from Machiko and Jared made the Husband and I laugh so much. Thank you for the name suggestions, kids!

I love it when Machiko becomes so creative with her letters. This envelope stationery gave me so many butterflies. She wrote one for each of us.

Slowly, it became my secret courier.  Whenever I would have news, as big as the last one, I would always write it to my best friend/sister Marga first.  I would hold it in as long as I could until she gets the letter, Facetimes me, screams in my face, and then we can talk about it.  Something about writing things down makes it all the more real; holding it in your hands makes it all the more real.

A week before receiving this mail from a very dear friend, I saw her get engaged. This is from where the question was popped. I’m so happy for her.

Soon enough, my friends started doing the same.  In a world of instant messaging, nothing beats the love that comes from the moment the ink is absorbed by the paper.

One of our wedding godparents frequents Japan. She makes sure to send one or two for every visit. I truly appreciate that about her.

From one of my childhood best friends, before her Tokyo postcards, she used to send them from Budapest. I have to dig those out from my box, but these, I often use as bookmarks.

You would get medical bills, phone bills, credit card offers, junk mail and voila!  In the thick of it all, there it is.  A note.  Sometimes with a picture, sometimes so thick that the envelope barely closes over it.  You see where it’s from and your fingers run over the stamps, seeing how far it traveled to get to you.  And there it is.  In the hustle and bustle of the everyday grind and more, the world pauses as you read your letter, your postcard, and for a moment, everything is quiet but the words that lift off those pages.

Mixed media postcard from Machiko. She makes me up my snail mail game.

I love snail mail.

Would you like to receive one from me?  Send me an email with your preferred address at ohcarlaloo@gmail.com.  

REVIEW: Eyebrow Microblading at EverTrue Salon NYC

I’ve never had brows.  It’s that simple.

This was an actual conversation with one of my nieces:

Niece:  Tita Carla, I want to ask you something, but I don’t want to bring back any bad memories.
Me:  Go ahead, baby, what is it?
Niece:  What happened to your eyebrows?  Were they burned as a child or something?
Me:  *tries not to cry*

It’s not that I’m severely displeased by it; it’s just a noticeable void across my face.

I have been blessed by having friends who never hesitated to put my brows on for me, and friends who have connected me to makeup artists that made sure I am all put together and ready.

So when EverTrue Salon announced a promo for their SoHo location, I knew I just had to get on board.  After a few back and forth emails that secured my appointment, I found myself — accompanied by the ever supportive Husband — trotting down West Broadway and buzzing in on a cool November afternoon.

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Hello Soho! Our new salon in the middle of Soho is now open— come visit us at 400 West Broadway (bet Spring and Broome). Now there are three EverTrue locations for Microblading! . . To celebrate we are offering $400 Brow or Eyeliner Microblading with our Soho specialists @anna_wong_evertruesalon & @cathy_xu_evertruesalon (a $115 savings). Thru November 2018 and only while appointments are available. . . Also, $600 Brow, Eyeliner, or Lip treatments with Senior Specialist @jenny_lei_evertruesalon 😍 . . We look forward to seeing you in Soho, Flatiron, or Chicago Oak Street . . Soho: @cathy_xu_evertruesalon @anna_wong_evertruesalon @jenny_lei_evertruesalon (Senior Specialist) Flatiron: @jen_delica_evertruesalon @stephanie_lin_evertruesalon @may.lin.evertruesalon @sammi.thor.evertruesalon @judy_lu_evertruesalon (Senior Specialist) @michelle_x_wu (Master Therapist) Chicago Oak Street: @jackie_lum_evertruesalon Founder/ Creative Director: @ramonatlarge . . #evertruesalon #bespokebrows #microblading #microbladingnyc #microbladingchicago #specialists #salon

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My artist of choice is Cathy Xu.  Frankly speaking, I have been stalking this salon for over a year now.  My not so brave heart was the only reason why I was hesitant to book their services, but after a lot of encouragement from The Husband, I dove right in.

The main reason why I chose EverTrue is because their artists seem to create the brows according to the shape of the face, not according to what is brow trendy.  And I have to admit, I’m glad that they make the brows sisters, not twins.  It looks so much more natural!

I immediately voiced my concerns for the pain with Cathy.  I have a couple of tattoos on me, but this would be the first on my face, albeit semi-permanent.  Cathy made sure my comfort is key.  After penciling in the stencil for my approval, she slathered on the numbing cream and left it longer than she normally would.

Cathy stenciled how the brows would look like. After a few tweaks here and there, we both agreed this shape is best for my face.

The supportive husband

Cathy took her time, and the pain was minimal, barely a nail scratch.  In 30 minutes, my brows were all done, and I immediately felt better about my decision.

Immediately after the procedure

The Husband took me out to Chinatown for a celebratory lunch, where he took photos of my new brows and sent it to friends.  They all immediately replied with, “Hey we can tell your expressions now!”  LOL.  Our friends, ladies and gents.

Lunching at Chinatown

Day 2 turned my brows dark af and the scabbing started to happen in Day 5-6.  I must have scratched the corner of one of my brows whilst sleeping, so you can immediately tell that there’s a spot missing.  Thankfully, a 6 week touch up was scheduled before I left the salon, so come the second week of January 2019, my brows were even more flawless than the first time.

If you look at the right eyebrow, the tip is slightly faded aka missing lol. Scratched it during the healing process, sorry my bad.  Taken in December.

Would I do it again?  Yes.  While I do have some regrets not booking the 6 month touch up during my last appointment, I’m also glad because I would not have been able to do so.  My brows have been on for 8 months now, and they still look good.

Right after the perfecting session/touch up in January

Taken June 10

I’m hoping to come back by the end of the year, if not early next year, for another session.  Because of these brows, I just use concealer, blush and some mascara and I’m good to go for the day.  The confidence is real.  Oh yes.

My official before and after photos:

EverTrue Salon has locations in Flat Iron, SoHo and Chicago.  To learn more about their services, visit their website here.


Disclaimer:  The opinions I have of the service are entirely my own and are not connected or affiliated with the business.  There is no exchange of free service.  Everything availed of was paid by me.