Monday, June 3, 2013

My Blog Has Moved

There are new things coming up for this blog. And in preparation for the exciting times ahead, the blog will be moving to a new home!  While I will still be writing about our phenomenal life, it will now have a new name. 

From now on, I will be doing all of my posting at the phenomenal mama

I hope you could all bookmark the new site and follow me there!

I will still be keeping this blog open so you can read all of my old posts.  But you won't miss a thing with the new blog as it will have all of the old posts, as well. 

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

7 Layer Dip Roll-Ups

One of the things I couldn't escape from this summer, aside from the heat, is my kids' big appetite. They are in the house a lot, and so it would seem that I am always in the kitchen cooking up a storm. I find that it takes up a lot of my time just to feed them; so whenever I can, I try to make a huge batch of something, and keep a good deal of second servings in the fridge. Whenever they are hungry again, like maybe after two hours (I kid you not!), they could just grab one roll and eat!:)

One of my favorite recipes to do whenever I go this big batch route is the 7-Layer Dip Roll-Ups. It keeps well in the fridge for upto 2 days, and it can be eaten cold which works really well for busy moms like me. Tee-hee-hee!

From what the name suggest, it should be made up of 7 ingredients to make up the layers, but I like to keep mine extra busy so the more the merrier works for me.:)
7-Layer Dip Roll-Ups
500 grams ground beef
one pack of Taco mix (I use Mc Cormick)
one head of lettuce, shredded
1 can refried beans
3-4 cups shredded Cheddar-Monterey Jack cheese blend
1 container sour cream
1 cup guacamole (if I am out of time I just put in sliced avocados drizzled with calamansi and salt)
1 can diced tomatoes, drained of juices
a few tablespoons of black olives, chopped
1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1. In a large skillet, brown ground beef, and add taco mix. set aside to cool to room temperature.
2. Spread the ground beef into the bottom of a 9x13 inch serving tray.  
3.  Layer in no particular order: beans, sour cream,guacamole/sliced avocados, diced tomatoes, olives, green pepper
4. Sprinkle with a generous topping of cheese. And enjoy!

You can serve this dish immediately with nacho chips, like how the Phenomenal Papa likes it; or refrigerate it over night and serve cold like a salad. If you are making this as a roll-up, spread a thin layer of the 7-layer mixture onto each tortilla. Roll up each tortilla, and wrap with aluminum foil to keep the rolls tucked in.  Keeps in the fridge for upto 2 days.

Makes for easy grab and go snacks for the kids to eat in the car when we are in a hurry, too!

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Phenomenal Tip: Eco-bags and Grocery Shopping

The city where I live in has implemented the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance since September of 2012.  All business establishments are instructed to encourage the use reusable bags instead of plastic bags.  As stipulated, the city shall be imposing a  fee of P2 to consumers who insist on using plastic bags. 

It took me some time to get used to doing my grocery shopping using eco-bags.  There were days then when I had to ask the bagger to put everything in a box for me because I forgot my eco-bags at home. In the early days of using eco-bags, one of the problems I encountered was how the bagger would just dump everything I bought in the 2 large reusable bags that I brought along, without any regard for grouping items together.  Thus, the toiletries would be mixed with the pantry items, cleaning supplies and vegetables.  This makes packing away at home a major headache also, since everything is topsy-turvy.  I just couldn't stand the disorderly way of bagging that I have since always placed 5 reusable bags in all of the cars so I am never caught empty handed, just in case grocery shopping is an errand I have to do for the day.
My MO as soon as I step in the grocery is to place five eco-bags inside my cart: 1.  fruits and vegetables; 2.  dry goods (pasta, bread, dairy, and other pantry items); 3.  toiletries and personal effects; 4.  cleaning essentials (laundry detergent, etc); 5.  frozen meats.  As I start to shop, I place the items in the corresponding eco-bag.

When the time comes for me to pay at the counter, I simply just load the 5 bags onto the counter and inform the cashier and bagger to return all the items to the bag where they came from.   This new system has saved me from putting each and every single item onto the counter.  Whereas before, I would go back and forth between my cart and the counter multiple times to ferry each grocery item, I now only have to do that in the same number of times as I have reusable bags.  Not only have I put order in the bagging of my groceries, I have also saved my back! :)

I have a dedicated bag for frozen meat, which is washed after every use. Just to make sure that the meat drippings and food bacteria from raw meat do not contaminate other surfaces.  If we are not careful, these reusable bags could be a cause for bacteria to transfer from the grocery cart to our kitchen and pantry.

And because I have this new system, grocery shopping is now tolerable... slightly therapeutic, even.:)  Sharing a photo which I posted earlier in my Instagram account.   Belated Happy Mother's Day to all the moms!

Excuse the dressy outfit, I just came from a blogger event.  Such is the life of a mom!


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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

2013 Palarong Pambansa

I just came back from Dumaguete after doing chaperone duties accompanying my eldest as she participated in the swimming event for the recently concluded Palarong Pambansa which was held in the city of Dumaguete, Negros Oriental from April 21 to April 27, 2013.  The Palaro, which has been held annually since 1948, is the biggest sporting event in the country, composed of elementary and secondary school students from public and private schools from all the 17 regions of the Philippines.
We landed in Dumaguete just in time to witness the colorful parade of athletes, joined by a marching band and marjorettes, as they passed by the streets of Dumaguete; a thick throng of people crowding the streets cheering for the student-athletes.  It was a festive and lively display which I enjoyed, in spite of the blaring afternoon sun. 
For the uninitiated, the Palarong Pambansa is actually a series of meets, starting at the school level,followed by provincial, then regional, and finally culminates in the national games known as Palarong Pambansa.  The process of selection starts in the first semester of the school year, wherein preliminary meets are undertaken by the individual or team athletes, and the top two winners in each school are selected to represent the school in the district meet.  The process of getting the top two victors is repeated in the regional level until the final two athletes/team qualify to move up to the national level of competition. 

Delegates were assigned billeting quarters in the different public schools of Negros Oriental.  For the delegates of NCR, the Dumaguete City High School served as the temporary housing for all the NCR athletes, coaches and support staff.  In addition shuttle buses were also provided to shuttle the athletes and coaches from the billeting quarters to the playing venues.
Food is served for breakfast, lunch, merienda and dinner - for free, ha!  Moreover, fresh fruits, bottled water, juices and Gatorade were also provided for free everyday during the entire duration of the games.  The DepEd of Dumaguete also made sure that the sleeping areas for the athletes were comfortable as the rooms were provided with padded mattresses for sleeping.  I have heard that some of the previous sleeping accommodations for the past games were not so comfortable, with the athletes being made to sleep on top of school tables, or worse on the cold floor with just a banig .

But most of the NCR athletes, like us, did not stay at the assigned biletting quarters, and instead each booked their own hotel rooms.  But there are a lot of other student-athletes who slept at the public school, and most of them came unchaperoned.  The athletes who stayed at the quarters had to contend with doing their own chores such as washing their own clothes and cleaning up their dishes after every meal.  It would have been a very educational experience for J if she also had the chance to sleep at the headquarters, even just for a night. 

The girl in the photo below is a member of the NCR-girls baseball  team.  I chanced upon a group of them inside the girls' room cubicles washing their jerseys.  I took a photo with the intention of showing my own daughter how washing her own suit after every meet is not a chore that should be met with dread, but should be viewed as an opportunity - a chance to develop larger life skills like independence, industriousness and self-reliance.  

Here are the NCR girls being briefed by their coach on the first day of the meet.  A total of 8 girls to represent the elementary division, and another 10 to represent the secondary division.

This is my daughter’s first Palaro experience, and the entire episode is nothing but wonderful for her.  She was able to muster mental strength as she overcame her jitters in her first event, the 100-meter butterfly, to qualify for the finals, placing seventh in the morning prelims with a time of 1:17.  After prevailing over her struggle to calm her nerves, she finally clocked in her personal best time of 1:14 during the finals in the afternoon, shaving off 3 seconds from her prelims time.  She was gunning for a third place finish, but actually placed fourth overall in the 100-meter butterfly. Still, even without the podium finish, we are both satisfied with how she performed.
She went on to win silver in her two other events:  the 4x50 freestyle and the 4x100 freestyle.

On our last competition day, the parents of one of the NCR swimmers hosted a thanksgiving party for all of the NCR swimmers.  It was a delightful change to see the swimmers have the chance to talk to each other outside of the pool for a change... wearing clothes other than swim suits, and their feet fitted with shoes other than the usual flipflops.  The NCR coaches took on the task of hosting the program and providing entertainment.

Dumaguete lived up to their promise that this year’s games would be "clean, green and high-tech."  We are impressed with our Palaro experience as we got timely results and photo updates via various social media sites.  Even the Phenomenal Papa, who was left behind in Manila, got the game results a few minutes after they happened.  Kudos to the Dumaguete provincial government for one of the most organized Palaro games! 

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Phenomenal Tip: An Organized Kitchen

Meal planning and food prepping are two very important areas in my life as a homemaker.  The Phenomenal Papa and the kids are big eaters, and so meal times are events which they look forward to with great anticipation.  I always try to make an effort to prepare delicious and nutritious meals for breakfast, school lunch baon, merienda/after-school snacks, and dinner.   But I am also a busy with other duties such as bringing the kids to and from their activities, helping my youngest with homework (on school days), and other things that domestic engineers attend to.  Having said that, an organized kitchen makes my meal planning and preparation run as efficiently and smoothly as possible.

One of the areas in my house that I intentionally maintain to keep organized is my kitchen, specifically my pantry and refrigerator.  
I like to keep a lot of things in my refrigerator; not necessarily leftovers, mine is more like a depository of the numerous condiments that I use in cooking.  To keep everything in order, here are some of the things that I observe:

1.  USE PLASTIC BINS.  The single most important thing that I have implemented to maintain the order inside my ref is the use of  plastic baskets that I buy from Saizen or SM Megamall.   I like to organize like items in one basket.  Vitamins in one container, condiments in another one, jams and salad dressing in yet another.

Similarly, each type of freezer item gets its own basket: beef, pork, fish, frozen vegetables and fruits for the kids' smoothies, etc.    

This system works for me because it makes it very simple for me to see which items are running low and need replenishment.   It also cuts in half the amount of time I search for items in the ref and freezer.  I just pull out a bin, get the item, and return. 

2.   FREEZE THINGS FLAT.  To get the most out of the freezer space, I freeze items flat (such as ground beef and pork, etc) and then, once they are completely frozen I stand them up in the individual plastic baskets.  I usually buy meat by the kilo and ask the butcher to pass them through the grinder twice; then I ask him to pack them individually in 200-gram pouches.   
3. FIRST IN, FIRST OUT.   I also follow the FIFO rule.  I make sure that the newly bought item is placed behind the item that has already been there.  Essentially what that means is I use things up in the order that I purchase them.  

4.  Label everything.  I usually marinate a portion of newly-purchased meat right after I get home, and I label every container so I don't have to double guess the contents. My schedule is always crazy since I bring the kids around to their different activities.  More so when it's a school day, since my kids also bring lunch baon to school.  If I don't prepare in advance, I don't think I could afford to wake up at the time I do, and have time to prepare their lunch.  Since I already marinated most of the meat in advance, all the maid has to do is look at the menu the night before and move the corresponding container to the ref to let it defrost in the ref overnight.

In a few days, I will be flying out to chaperone my eldest for the biggest sporting event in the country, Palarong Pambansa. So even if I won't personally cook food for the other members of my family, they won't feel it that much as I have already prepared meals for them, all just ready to be cooked.

Another area that I pay close attention to is my pantry.  The pantry is one small space that has to function big.  So it is important that it is organized in a way that keeps it easy to search for items on a daily basis.  I love to visit my pantry, and I admit to intentionally leaving the door open a few times just to look at it.  An organized pantry does make me smile 

Like what I do to my refrigerator, my pantry items are also organized to type.  Similar items are placed together. 
 My pantry is sized generously that I also have an area for all my baking ingredients, and even a space for the Phenomenal Papa's fave drinks.

I hope you are able to pick up  get a few of my tips on kitchen organization to use in your own kitchen!  I would also like to hear how you keep your own kitchen spic and span! Do share!

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Phenomenal Tip: DIY Light Switch Dress-Up with Washi Tape

My blog has moved.  Please read more post at the phenomenal mama.   I hope you follow me there to read NEW posts!

There’s something about simple projects that makes me really happy! I have purchased several rolls of washi tapes the past month, and they've all just been sitting idly.  I intend to do some crafts with the kiddos using washi tape, but since we have not gotten around to agreeing on what to do yet, I just went on ahead and got crafty yesterday afternoon - by myself!  

Oh how fun it was to just have some time to do crafts by myself!  When it comes to crafting, I usually supervise the 2 younger kids, so I do not technically do crafts, instead I watch over them as they do the project.  This is one fun project to do when you're one crafty momma who doesn't have a lot of free time on your hands.

Doing this lightswitch dress-up with washi tape took me less than 5 minutes, from taking off the switch plate to finally putting it back up.  Really!  It is that easy.  The only materials you need are:  washi tape and scissors.

1.  Remove plates from the wall  using a metal spatula or scissors.

2.  Choose washi tape to match the theme of the room.  The girls' room is painted a combination of citron and aquamarine.  So I chose my teal colored washi tape for this project.

3.   Make sure to apply tapes in straight line.
4.  In addition, make sure the patterns are lined up against each other.
5.  Cut tape with scissors when you reach the ends and tuck it under the back of the plate.

6.  When you reach the corners, simply cut along the edge.

7.  Then tuck one part in.

8.  The other remaining part, you cut diagonally before you tuck in. 
9.  Makes for a clean finish!
10.  Put back plates.  Step back and admire your handiwork!  

You can view more washi-taped light switches right here

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Monday, April 1, 2013

BYS Make-up 101

As a mom to three active kids, I rarely have time for long beauty treatments, nor a daily full-on beauty regimen. My daily make-up routine usually lasts all of 10 minutes: tinted moisturizer with SPF, powder, blush, gloss! I normally just tie my long hair up in a bun to get things moving along faster. 

But coming from a recent make-up 101class, I realized that taking an effort to fix myself up offers me an extra dose of happy in an otherwise regular day.
A few weeks ago, I was invited for a make-up training session hosted by BYS Cosmetics. I was daunted to find myself face to face with this huge box full of make-up. I am not a make-up junkie, so seeing all these beauty products in one place really overwhelmed me.
I came out of the session feeling more confident of my newly-found make-up skills.   Here is a step by step on how to put on make-up that will surely get you compliments. 

1. PRIMER. Apply primer to entire face, and let set for 1 minute.
2. LIQUID FOUNDATION. The BYS matte liquid foundation is perfect for oily skin as it offers coverage without the extra moisture. An extra thirty seconds is well-spent to make sure that you blend the foundation carefully.
3. LOOSE POWDER. To make sure that make-up stays on longer, set it by sweeping some powder with a kabuki brush.
4. EYEBROWS. Fill in brows with an angled brush and some powder. Personally, this step is so important for me as they bring my face out
4. BRONZER. Bronzer is used to contour the face and gives it a radiant, luminous glow.  Apply on the side of the face; on the forehead, near the hairline; sides of the bridge of the nose to give illusion of height.
5. BLUSHER. Apply on the cheeks to provide a natural, long-lasting highlight to cheekbones.
6. EYELINER. Use a shade of warm brown as it is less harsh looking than black. Line upper lid, and finish by curling the eyelashes.
7. EYESHADOW and MASCARA. Using soft, gentle strokes, add neutral colored eyeshadow first to act as the base; follow with a darker shade on the crease; finish by adding a very light eyeshadow (or some loose powder will do) on the browbone.  This will serve to clean-up theyour eyes and give the illusion of .  If you have time to spare, swipe mascara one or two times on upper lashes.
8. LIPS. Apply a tinted lip balm for the day, or a long-wearing lipstick for special events.
And now, anytime I feel lazy and pressed for time, all I just have to do is look at my before and after pics to convince myself that a few added minutes to my morning routine can spell the difference between frumpy and fabulous.:)

The BYS swag bag.  Complete with all the essentials!
BYS Cosmetics is an Australian cosmetics brand which has recently made its way into the Philippine market. I love the BYS Minerals Naturale line. Their mineral make-up is formulated with all-natural ingredients free of chemicals, dyes, preservatives and talc.  BYS mineral products are quick and easy to apply, and provide a complete, smooth, natural coverage in just one step.

Another standout from BYS is its line of Baked Cosmetics . The Baked Bronzers and Blushers are made with a formula that keeps oiliness and moisture at bay and hides impurities. Texture is ultra silky and may be used wet for thicker coverage and dry for a more natural, lighter effect. 

BYS is a new affordable cosmetic line in the Philippines now available in 26 selected SM and Watson’s outlets in Metro Manila and a few key cities like Cebu. 
Like BYS Cosmetics on Facebook to get updates on products.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What's In My Cart: My Favorite Pancake Mix

One of my family's favorite breakfast food is pancakes. They love it when it is piled this high and layered with maple syrup, whipped cream cheese, and bacon.  Scrumptious!
There is no shame in admitting that I use a pancake mix.  When I prepare breakfast, time is usually of the essence, especially if the family want to sit down and eat together on the table before C leaves for the office.  With a pancake mix, I just add egg, water and oil, and pancakes are served in no time. 

I have tried almost all the pancake mixes available in the market.  For a long time, I've been a loyal Pillsbury user, and then I shifted to Magnolia Pancake Mix.  I prefer to add my own eggs so I do not buy the one-step pancake mix, where all you have to add is water.  Between the two brands, my kids like Magnolia better, but I found it a bit too sweet for my taste.
We have tried the imported mixes like Betty Crocker and Krusteaz, but we did not find the flavor and texture outstanding; plus the gigantic boxes they came in made storing them in the pantry a hassle. 

After testing almost all the brands available, our family have found our favorite: MAYA Original Hotcake Mix.  As they claim in the package, it is really fluffy and tasty.  The 500-gram box comes with 2 plastic packets inside, but we are a family of big eaters so the entire box is just right for my family of five, with no leftovers.

And because the bacon bits really did make me happy today, here's my recipe for the Pancakes with Bacon, Whipped Cream Cheese, and Maple Syrup
  • Pancake mix
  • bacon, cut up to bits
  • 4 ozs. cream cheese, cubed and at room temperature
  • 2 tbsps all purpose cream
  • maple syrup, or if not available from your grocery, any pancake syrup
1.follow package directions

{Bacon Bits:}
1.Cook bacon bits in a non-stick pan without putting oil.  Cook until the bacon has rendered its own fat and the bacon bits are nicely brown.
2.Drain oil, and put on kitchen towels to take out excess oil 
3.Let cool.

{Whipped Cream Cheese}
1.Whisk together cream cheese and cream until light and airy.    

Assemble in layers and enjoy! 

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