Date weekend: Oregon coast

Oregon, USA
The weekend trip to Oregon was a much needed break for both husband and I since we haven't been on a holiday together for  a while. Our journey started quite late on Friday but early enough to avoid the office traffic. We drove down south and reached Lincoln City at night to spend the night there (I love our hotel btw!). The next day, we explored Oregon coast and drove up north towards Portland. It was sweet although there's not much to say about Oregon during the trip. We missed a lot of tourist spots because it was such a short visit but we hope next time we get to explore other parts of the state. Oregon, we'll definitely meet again! 

The highlights of our visit: 
1. We went to Tillamook Cheese Factory and had their yummy fresh ice-cream.
2. I had the best Indian food in Portland. The restaurant is called Siri India
3. We had the famous school bus grilled cheese.
4. We drove around some neighborhoods in Portland. I like the buildings. Their designs have character but man, they're almost as expensive as Seattle!


Tried and tested: Coconut oil

Recently, I've been using coconut oil in my beauty regimen after discovering its benefits. Coconut oil is like an all-rounder in skincare and health because it is good for almost everything you can think of. It is safe to say that I've been using coconut oil on and off for about two months now. I can tell that my skin is a lot softer compared to when I was first introduced to this super oil. I'm only going to talk about the beauty benefits of coconut oil because as far as health is concern, I can't say that every claim is proven to be correct. So I'd rather not write about it because I don't want to give false information.

1. It's an amazing moisturizer 
This has been a staple for my beauty routine. I scooped a small amount with my hand and slather it all over my body. I like to top it with my own body lotion because I like my body to have a sweet scent. I do this in the morning after shower and before bedtime. I like how smooth my skin feels when I wake up in the morning. I have tried using it for my face because coconut oil is also known for its ability to fight wrinkles. But after a few days my face started breaking out. I didn't know why so I did some reasearch and it turns out that coconut oil tends to clog pores. So I won't recommend using it as a moisturizer on the face, especially if you have a sensitive skin.

2. It's good for hair and scalp
Coconut oil is rich in nutrients such as Vitamin E and Vitamin K which are good for strengthening, shine and growth of hair. On top of that, it's antifungal and antibacterial properties help in eliminating dandruff and lice. That said, it can help with your baby's cradle cap too! I like to use coconut oil as a hair mask once a week. I scooped out a small amount on my palm and run it through my hair with my fingers, making sure I massage it all over my scalp for a few minutes. Usually I put my hair in a bun and sleep with the mask on.

3. It provides dental hygiene
One thing coconut oil is famous for nowadays is 'oil pulling'. It is an Ayurvedic medicinal ancient practice used for dental hygiene. It involves swishing coconut oil in your mouth for 10 - 20 minutes before spitting it out (source). Oil pulling has a lot of benefits such as boosting immunities, increase overall oral hygiene, whitens teeth, reduces bad breath, balances hormones, clear sinuses, helps with jaw problems and a lot of other benefits. I have not tried this yet but I'm willing to give it a go because of the benefits it has to offer. Here is the right method for oil pulling that I found online:

4. It's a substitute for your makeup remover
Coconut oil may work better than any of your makeup remover. Sure it's oily but it's not hard to remove and wash off. Using cotton pad or your own finger, massage the oil on your dry face making sure you lightly rub in around your eyes especially your lashes. And then take a hot damp cloth and wipe the residue until there's no trace of makeup left on your face. Then was your face with your favorite cleanser. Your face will feel soft and hydrated at the same time.

5. Fights cellulite and stretch marks
Cellulite is one of the beautiful flaws that women have as they age. It's that one flaw that we have to accept naturally. It's the same as wrinkles. It will happen. There are so many laser treatments and commercial products that aim to fight cellulites. But there's also natural ways of fighting it. Coconut oil is known for its benefit to reduce the appearance of cellulite. In case you didn't know, coffee is also known for the same benefit, plus it is a natural exfoliator. You can easily make your own coffee + coconut oil scrub for your body. For pregnant women especially, you can rub the coconut oil all over your belly on a daily basis to prevent stretch marks. I heard that it works!

6. It's a natural healing remedy
Coconut oil contains antibacterial and anti fungal properties. Hence it is a good healing agent. It has proven to heal scars and burns. I'm prone to accidents when it comes to frying food. I've had a few experience when I have oil splattered on my hands while cooking. I immediately applied coconut oil on the affected area. The next morning, I see no trace of burns or redness on my skin at all. Other than that, it's really good for diaper rash, rashes in general and itchyness. I like to use it on the driest part of my body (my legs) because I tend to scratch them in the middle of the night. I notice that I don't have red bumps on my legs anymore. It's like a miracle worker!


Bath and Body Works semi-annual sale is here!

Ok I'm a sucker for Bath and Body Works stuff and I use them on a daily basis. The best thing is that they always have sale and I keep getting coupons every time I purchase something in the store. The last time I went on a massive shopping spree was during our last vacation in Seattle. I think it was the semi-annual sale in January. I'm so excited now that the summer semi-annual sale is here. I just need to stock up on some of these stuff.

The sale started this week's Monday and ends early July if I'm not mistaken. It's always better to go early because you wanna grab the stuff you want before they go out of stock. I went on the first day and managed to get a few to add to my collection. The best deal is the 75% off body care items and I think the hand soaps was $3 each. I paid less than $50 for these babies after the discount and I used my $10 off coupon. Now I'm thinking whether I should go back for more.


Snowlake on a sunny day

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Snow Lake Trail, North Bend, WA 98045, USA
Our hike to Snowlake started on a very hot Sunday afternoon. The sky was clear and there was no sign of cloud at all. I remember how I hated walking in the sun. I'm crankier and I feel weaker when it's hot. Plus I wasn't feeling a hundred percent but it was the determination that motivated me to go.

If I had to rate the hike, I would say it's between easy to moderate depending on how your stamina is. It's not as steep as Ira Springs Trail but the trail is rocky almost all the way up. I tripped a few times which is not good at all! The hike towards the lake took us approximately 2.5 hours then we took about 15 minutes to relax by the water and enjoy the view and its surroundings.

We spent the next 1.5 hours hiking down towards the parking lot. It's always faster hiking back because the trail goes downhill. It also helped when the weather cooled down a bit so we don't have to stop for a quick water break.

I personally prefer hiking in a cooler weather. But I don't mind hiking in the sun and feeling all sticky for a clear view like this.


How to look for a good wedding photographer

Ok I was a bit hesitant to write this post because I don't like to making people lose their job. But I'm not dropping names and at the same time I feel like other people should be aware about giving their money to dishonest people. I was in a situation of feeling cheated which really tested my patience. By writing this, I hope I can save some people from experiencing the same thing as I did.

Most of us have heard some unpleasant stories about wedding photographers. There are so many unethical photographers nowadays doing business. And these people are making the industry look bad. These (amateur) photographers are also making it hard for the pioneers and other great photographers to survive in this wedding business.

To be honest, it's not hard to be a photographer. As long as you know how to pick up a camera, take pictures and edit them, you're on your way to becoming one. It's an easy money-making business but so many people are abusing it. I'm surrounded by people with good photography background so I can differentiate between good photography and bad. I can safely say that only less than 50% of wedding photographers (in Malaysia) can truly be called top-notch photographers (from gathering their team, customer service, communication and delivery).

Quality photographers are so hard to find nowadays. Most photographers are either lacking experience, have no communication skills, attitude problems or just don't know what they're doing - which result to many couples getting cheated by their own photographers. Sadly, my husband and I are among the unlucky ones. I'm not gonna go into details because it was a tiring chasing game for us. All I can say is that we know our way out and we got our pictures from our photographer. We didn't harass nor lose our temper at the guy. Well, he's still a human and whatever he did or problems he claimed he was facing, let that be between him and the Mighty One. (Hint: If you find out who my photographer is, you might not want to go anywhere near him).

Anyway, lesson learned. I realized that wedding is one of those life events that you want to be able to remember forever. It's important to have the right people involved in it. Especially those you're giving your money to. Future bride and groom, please do your research on the people and services you're planning on hiring (from catering to decorations, photographers to makeup artist and other stuff). It's important because after all the stress you go through during the wedding process, you don't wanna be having problems with the people that you're paying for their service.

Photographers should be in the top three priority list because pictures are everything. I listed down a few tips on finding photographers based on my experience (and things I should've done back then). I hope this guide can help you find the best photographers for your wedding day.

1. Set your budget. You have to have a fixed budget for everything. So stick to it and look for a few options based on that budget and your preference.

2. Have a shortlist. Break it into 3 - 5 photographers before you make a decision. It's easier to have a small list so that you're focused on the most ideal options than having so many potentials.

3. Avoid looking for photographers at wedding expo. Chances of them getting overbooked is high especially if they are offering attractive wedding packages. I may be wrong but I can come up with two reasons photographers get involved in these kind of expos: 1. They're desperate for customers and 2. They have customers but they want more so that they can get more money. More reasons to not hire them...

4. Meet your photographers in person. Don't just deal with your photographer via phone or email. The best thing to do is to meet them to discuss the cost, delivery time, the event and any agreement you can make.

 5. Chemistry is the key for a comfortable working environment. But it's not easy to have chemistry with your photographer. One of the ways to create chemistry is to have a pre-wedding session with them. Not only this allows you to connect with them, you can also study their style and vice versa.

6. Study their portfolio. Every photographer has their own style of taking pictures right to editing them. You can tell by looking at their portfolio. If their style fit what you want, then go for it. If you're not keen on  their style except that their price fits your budget - then you might just have to consider and look at a few other options. Even if you tell the photographers the style of pictures you want them to take, they may not be able to deliver up to your expectation - just because that it's not their style.

7. Put it in paper. Make sure you have everything in black and white in case anything happens. If you list down every detail and have both parties sign the agreement, that means both of you are agreeable to everything listed on the paper. These are the things that you want to put on the paper: How many events, working hours, no. of photographers, no. of albums (size and pages), any extra stuff (posters, canvas pictures, banners), raw pictures and edited pictures, delivery time. This is crucial to make sure that you get your album (3 - 4 months max should be the cut off time).


Misty morning on Ira Springs Trail

Mason Lake, Washington 98546, USA
Our second week of hiking started on a misty Sunday morning. We decided to go to Mason Lake through Ira Springs Trail since we wanted something slightly challenging than the first hike we did. And boy, it was a pretty damn good workout! 

The first part was a smooth hike along the path covered by forest trees. We hiked for over one mile until we reached the end of a straight path - and then the real hike started. The trail elevates as the path zig-zags its way up. It was hell of a climb but definitely not a boring trail. We hiked passed a beautiful green garden, 'flinstones town' and the trail led us all the way down to Mason Lake. We walked halfway around the lake to look for a private spot where we could have our snacks. It felt peaceful out there. Unfortunately, the visibility was very low so we didn't get to enjoy the the lake as much. 

Ira Springs Trail took my breath away.  It is one of those hikes that you have to experience on a clear day. I was already blown away by the trail even though the weather was not at its best. Imagine being there when the sun is up - exceptionally beautiful!