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Manila shopping: The new & improved Bleach

I may have been adventurous with dining out on my recent trip home, but when it comes to shopping I’m completely a creature of habit. I have a roster of favorite shops in Manila that I hit for what I’ve come to think of as a kind of annual restocking.

My shopping list might not all be the stuff of Pinterest-worthy blog posts (plastic file folders and Japan-made pens at National Bookstore, for example), but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the store that’s consistently at the top of my list got a major makeover. I’m talking about Bleach, formerly known as Bleach Catastrophe.

Bleach Greenbelt new look

In the six years I’ve lived away from home, my yearly trips home are never complete without a few new goodies from this store. Some of my favorite shirts of Marlon’s are from here, and I wore Bleach all throughout my pregnancy (which says a lot about their roomy yet flattering cuts).

Bleach Greenbelt menswear

Alongside the launch of an updated look for her store, Bleach owner Tinay Villamiel also expanded into home and interior items with a pared-down, modern sensibility.

Bleach Greenbelt new interior

I love that these are designed and made in the Philippines, using natural materials (linen, canvas and cotton), but offer a younger, hipper alternative to the usual Asian-Filipiniana fare.

Bleach Greenbelt new home items

Bleach Greenbelt banquet placemat

Bleach Greenbelt eggs and bacon tote

Maybe I’ve just gotten used to seeing a lot of gray, but after the sensory overload that is Manila, Bleach was a welcome visual break with its subtle palette. It’s refreshing to see something a little bit different, like these French- and Scandinavian-inspired details tucked into Bleach’s clothing, homeware and interiors. We all crave a little something that will transport us elsewhere, which also explains the proliferation of Buddha heads in homes across Europe.

Bleach Greenbelt merci dress

Bleach Greenbelt oui pillow

Bleach Greenbelt French inspired details

I like the new home items, but I do miss the wider clothing selection of the old store. I’ve always loved Bleach’s comfy basics with a twist—although every time I visit the store, there always happens to be some kind of pearl-earring-and-Lacoste-wearing preppy girl who’s walking out looking like she doesn’t get it. Haha.

Naturally I couldn’t leave without picking up a couple of things for myself: this cozy charcoal gray graphic sweatshirt…

Bleach Greenbelt gray sweatshirt

and this little black dress with an asymmetrical hemline for just Php 495, or €7. Ridiculously affordable, even if you’re not converting to Euros!

Bleach Greenbelt little black dress

Looks like this LBD will have to stay hidden for a few more months before it makes a debut. Can it be spring now, please?

Before and after: Nursery

It’s been a while since I blogged about the baby room, so I figured: why not do a nursery update? Quite a few things have changed since my last post about Tala’s room, and I’d love to show them to you.

The biggest change in the nursery has been the crib. From its previous incarnation as a bassinet…

Nursery before with Stokke bassinet

… our Stokke Sleepi had to be reconfigured into its crib form when Tala started sleeping in her room at three months. Have I said how much I love this bed and that it can grow with our baby?

Stokke Sleepi crib with mosquito net

Tala also outgrew her duyan, which now serves as a storage basket under the crib. And yes, that is a kulambo! The mosquito net became absolutely essential in the summer. Who knew that mosquitoes were part of the Amsterdam canal house dream? Though the weather has turned, we’ve kept the mosquito net up—because as Invader Stu has so perceptively pointed out, mosquitoes here don’t leave, they just put on an extra scarf.

More details and pictures after the jump!

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Guest post at Eclectic Trends

Today, you can find me over at Gudy Herder’s blog Eclectic Trends with a guest post!

Store Without A Home Haarlemmerdijk window

Gudy is a stylist, visual merchandising trainer and ceramic lover with impeccable taste. So when she asked me to do a shop visit as a guest post, I decided to feature a beautiful interior and living store right in my own neighborhood. Store Without A Home is full of dreamy, whimsical things for the home, located on a fantastic shopping street just a few minutes’ walk from my own home.

Here are some more images that didn’t make the cut for the final blog post. For the full tour of this lovely store, head on over to Gudy’s blog!

Store Without A Home Haarlemmerdijk dresser table

Store Without A Home Haarlemmerdijk ceramics

Store Without A Home Haarlemmerdijk neon Dream On

It was my first time to approach a store about taking photos for a blog post. I was a little nervous at first, but shop owner Janwillem was so kind and welcoming (and so very particular about placing things just so!). It was fun and I’m glad Gudy gave me the opportunity.

I’m curious: is this the kind of post you’d like to see more of on Currystrumpet? Let me know!

Simple joys and something special

How was your weekend? Feeling tired and a little broke after our recent trip to Maastricht (plus we’re saving up for the Big Trip of the year in a week’s time), Marlon and I decided to stay in all weekend long. I know, married couples are boring, they never want to go out anymore, blah blah blah. Am I just getting old, or is staying at home simply more appealing now?

Whether forced by an empty wallet or by choice, staying in can be extremely recharging and satisfying. I think the key is to mix simple pleasures with a little something special. A Masterchef Australia marathon (such a good show!) on the couch with this adorable face napping on my belly (yes, a long naptime helps!)… now that’s a prime example of a simple pleasure that doesn’t cost a thing.

Tala napping

So is being treated to the sight of the funniest bedhead ever…

Tala bedhead

… and using cuddles and playtime to put the work week firmly into the past (especially for Daddy).

Daddy and Tala

The fun part is injecting a little something extraordinary into what would otherwise be an ordinary weekend. Just one well-chosen treat can make staying at home closer to being a pleasure than a belt-tightening measure. It could be a decadent hot chocolate or a new book to curl up with on the couch.

For us, of course, it’s food. On Saturday mornings, Marlon likes to take Tala for a walk to the Noordermarkt, giving me one precious baby-free morning a week. This weekend, he came home from the market with a large, very pregnant and very LIVE lobster, wild and not farmed, from the Netherlands’ own North Sea.

Marlon's lobster dinner

If you can get over the creepy factor of a plastic bag rustling in your fridge and can handle them without getting pinched, lobsters are the easiest luxurious dinner. Just drop in a pot, cover and wait a few minutes. We had ours with potato wedges and sweet potato fries, a lime, cilantro, garlic and butter sauce, and white wine from the grocery.

Lobster and wine

What simple joys do you enjoy during a weekend at home? And what’s your favorite way to inject something special into a stay-at-home weekend?

Heatwave!

The heatwave sweeping Europe has ensured at that long last, the Netherlands is finally being treated to a real summer. By “real summer”, I mean humidity levels of 90+ percent and temperatures of about 28-32 degrees, very close to Manila’s. And we are loving it!

Baby pool bubbles

We set up our balcony this weekend with pillows and a duvet for Tala to wriggle around on, and bought an inflatable baby pool that could easily fit an overheated parent if necessary. We rigged a wine crate up as a table and stocked it with ice cold ginger beer, sangria fresca, spicy mango hummus and vegetable crisps, and whipped up strawberry smoothies and frozen coffee slushies. We slathered on the SPF, watched Tala splash around on her back in the water, and blew bubbles over her as she made the funniest faces.

Post-splash nap

After enjoying the sun, we retreated to the cool shade of the house, switched on the electric fan we brought from Singapore (a rarity in these parts) and passed out multiple times. Family naps are the best!

Cat and baby napping

Tala learned to roll over last week, just a few hours after I published her four-month blog post. Since then she’s been experimenting with different ways to sleep. Most often, she sleeps exactly as I do: sprawled on her stomach, head turned to one side. The first few nights after she learned to roll over, I was compelled to keep checking on her in her sleep. But she’s a strong girl—she’s never face-planted while rolling over and she always manages to put her head to the side, so I guess she’s in the clear.

The heatwave continues throughout the week, so I’m keeping the baby pool permanently filled and stocking the freezer with more frozen coffees. Side note: Dutch cafes do not sell iced coffee, even in the worst heat. I’m amazed the business-savvy Dutch haven’t seized upon the opportunity to charge more for a few cubes of ice.

The heat reminds me of home, but with a more celebratory feel—nobody is inside cowering beside the airconditioner, they’re all out in various states of undress, having the time of their lives. Because we all know this won’t last forever.

How do you plan to keep cool this week?

In the pantry: Glass jars & chalkboard paint

As I get older, I find myself becoming more and more like my mother and grandmother. Do you feel the same way? I’ve begun taking on some of their habits—even habits that used to annoy me!

One such habit is my grandmother’s penchant for saving and reusing discarded things. Every Christmas, Nanay would open her presents at an agonizingly slow pace, carefully peeling off tape, salvaging ribbons from the pile of wrapping on the floor, and neatly folding gift wrap to be reused the following year. It drove us all a little bonkers. We always told her to just rip off the paper and toss it—something, having lived through the scarcity of wartime, she was simply incapable of doing.

My grandmother also kept empty glass bottles and jars for purposes unknown. A few months before she died, I sat by her bedside one afternoon talking about the wedding with my mom and Marlon. She was 91, bedridden and feeding through a tube by this time.

She apologized for not having anything to give us as a wedding present—except four empty glass jars of Lily’s Peanut Butter (the kind with flowers painted on) that she’d asked her nurses to save. The nurses were embarrassed to bring out the glasses, but I barely held back my tears as I took them and thanked her. Even thinking about it now makes me cry!

Maybe Nanay was just ahead of her time. Today we call my grandmother’s habit by new, hip names: upcycling, repurposing. I now save bottles and jam jars, and use them to organize our kitchen pantry.

Our pantry is a huge drawer that’s about 1.2 meters wide and 30 cm deep (a little less than four feet wide and a foot deep). It can get messy, so I put loose things—like nuts, spices, and lentils—into recycled jars.

Kitchen pantry drawer

To make things easier to find, I labeled all the lids. Initially I used washi tape, but I scrapped that in favor of some leftover chalkboard paint from Tala’s nursery. Painting all the lids a single color helped unify the entire assortment.

Kitchen organization repurposed jars

I wrote the contents of each jar on the lid with a chalkboard marker…

Kitchen organization chalkboard jars
and the pantry drawer looks all the better for it!

Saving jars is an ongoing project, and not just because it helps me organize my kitchen. Each time I steam the label off a pasta sauce bottle or wash an empty jam jar, I think a little bit about my grandmother. I’m pretty sure she would have been pleased.

Nesting instincts

To end the week, I just wanted to share something that I’ve kept my eye on all week long. On Monday I found new inhabitants under the ceiling of our balcony, lodged in the trellis where our wisteria climbs. Looks like we’re about to become a two-family home!

Pigeon's nest

The nest is growing day by day, thanks to the efforts of the hardworking Papa Pigeon. He flies off to collect twigs and places them just so, while Mama Pigeon sits at home contentedly. This reminds me so much of Marlon and myself in my last three months of pregnancy, that I may have gotten sniffly a few times.

Papa Pigeon

Not all building materials make the cut, as I discovered from this pile of discarded twigs on the balcony floor. Perhaps Papa has finer design sensibilities than the average pigeon, and thus is a little picky.

Discarded twigs

No eggs yet, but once they’re laid they will incubate for 17-19 days.

Pigeon nesting

Marlon is making barbaric noises about omelets, and I know pigeons are the vermin of the sky, but I’m just looking forward to seeing the baby birdies when they hatch! Won’t that be sweet?

What’s in the box?

I’ve been trying to fight it, but the takeover of our home by baby stuff has begun. Recently it became apparent that I needed somewhere to put Tala during the day that wasn’t the couch, floor or bassinet. Enter The Box.

Tala's box

The box, or playpen as it’s known elsewhere, seems to be a Dutch baby essential. After being offered several boxes, I finally gave in and took one sight unseen. Luckily, it fits in nicely with the warm wood and eclectic style of our living room. Sigh of relief.

Confession time: despite my resistance to baby stuff outside Tala’s room and ours, I actually had fun furnishing the box.

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Chalkboard drawings in the nursery

Marlon and I finally got to do the one thing we’d been itching to do since painting the chalkboard wall in Tala’s nursery: draw on it! It only took one rainy afternoon (lots of those in Amsterdam) to turn our blank “canvas” from this…

Nursery chalkboard wall-before

into this.

Nursery chalkboard wall-after

Want a closer look at the details?

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Unicorn from Planet Fur

While gathering inspiration for how to decorate the baby room, I saw an unbelievable number of animal heads. Stags, rhinos, bears, stuffed and mounted on walls like hunting was a kindergarten pastime. Along with chevron prints, cloud pillows and moustaches, animal heads seemed to be a huge trend in the world of children’s rooms. I just didn’t get it.

“I’ll never put an animal head in my child’s room,” I sniffed, adding this to a growing list of “when I am a mom, I will never”—a list that includes posting pictures of Tala when she’s sick, or making her feel guilty about what I went through when I was pregnant and in labor.

Anyway. I ate my words when I saw this unicorn trophy from Planet Fur, an Etsy shop filled with whimsical, hand-sewn felt creatures by Dutch blogger, crafter shop owner Marlous Snijders. I simply had to have it.

Planet Fur felt unicorn

All my “I-will-nevers” faded in the face of my lifelong unicorn obsession. I first discovered them in a book when I was five, and it was love at first sight. I collected them all throughout grade school, and consider A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L’Engle one of my favorite young adult books ever because one of the main characters is a unicorn. I even have a unicorn tattoo.

Marloes made my daughter her very own unicorn trophy using the pink and gray color palette of Tala’s room. Now, this little guardian presides over diaper changes from the wall beside her changing mat. Maybe he (or she?) needs a name… what do you think?