Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One Bag… And Then Some More

I have never been an advocate of traveling light. When I was single, I would bring along 2 brimming suitcases full of “girl” essentials. The sight of me lugging along two gigantic baggage must have been a hilarious airport sight, giving not a few porters a chuckle. Now that I have kids, I have toned it down a whole lot and have managed to fit all of our essentials in 2 suitcases – if our destination is a resort. But for a city tour kind of thing, I try my very, very best to keep it down to just 3 suitcases, plus one carry-on trolley.

I am the family’s designated packer for every trip. I have mastered this craft so well that I can now effortlessly pack 3 suitcases in one go, if there’s an urgent need for it. However, as most trip goes, I usually start packing 3 days before a big trip. Packing for a few hours at a time, taking breaks every now and then. Packing for 5 may seem daunting at first but through the years I have thought out a technique that keeps packing organized and systematic.

I discovered packing cubes early on in my marriage, and I cannot extol its merits enough. I managed to keep our clothes in order by segregating and putting everything in containers designed for that purpose. I would put all underwear and toiletires in our his-and-hers bags, another one for the sleeping clothes, still another one for the shirts, the list goes on. That way as we search through everything that we brought with us for the trip, the clothes don’t end up scattered and messy inside the luggage.

I remember when the kids were much younger, going away on trips means carrying almost the whole nursery with me. The portable playpen, bottle sterilizer, electric thermos, blender, booster seat, baby tub, et al. The baby clothes alone would fit almost a whole suitcase. Thankfully, as they grow older their traveling essentials decrease.

Since C cannot be counted on to lend a hand during packing, I have made 2 packing checklists, one for C and me, and the other one for the kids to ease the confusion (and avoid the backaches). These lists are a life saver and I have not yet experienced leaving anything behind because of them. 



Save for that one time we took J to her first Disneyland trip. Everything was ready and packed the night before.   On the morning of departure, I was supposed to fix myself up and do a little bit of make up, when C decided that we have to leave already. Ok, no big deal, I thought to myself, I will just fix myself up at the airport’s waiting lounge. As I was rummaging through my bag to get our passports and tickets for check-in, I realized that I left my make up bag behind! In my hurry to go down the stairs, I left my entire make-up bag in the bathroom. Without exaggerating, let me tell you that was one traumatic traveling experience. I had to buy new ones as soon as we landed to replace the ones I left behind.

Two suitcases done and the third one still lying around empty, I am right on time. I still have a full day to go. The third suitcase is going to make its debut this trip. I just got it recently – as a freebie! Chris has a new BDO Titanium Card (of which I am a supplementary cardholder), and the mechanics says that if the cardholder spends a minimum of PHP70 grand for the first two months of card usage, the suitcase set is free. How wonderful is that. Talk about perfect timing!
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Winter Fashion 101

We are leaving for Korea in a few days, I find my head filled with confusion and excitement, the feelings alternating with each other. There are so many things to pack, so many checklists to mark off, countless bits and pieces to clean up before we leave. I try to prioritize, but I constantly and rudely get interrupted by a thought bubble in my head about something that always seem more important than the task on hand. Tsk! Tsk!

What makes packing for this trip harder than the previous ones is that we will be staying in three different hotels for the first three nights. To minimize the number of luggage to be opened each day, I have segregated our clothes into clusters. Two luggage contain our clothing divided for the first and second half of the trip, and the last one for other travel needs.

For someone living in the tropics, keeping an up to date winter wardrobe is a wasted and expensive indulgence. My operative fashion word when buying winter clothes is timeless classic. I will only buy it if it is: 1.not trendy (so I can wear it eight years from now and call it vintage), 2.reasonably priced (I don’t know how soon I’ll be wearing it again or how often), 3.in a neutral color (black, beige, gray or deep brown). So with those restrictions carefully set, I went here, here, and here to have a glimpse of winter fashion in the opposite side of the world.

While surfing for winter fashion inspirations, I decided to make a quick check at CNN-weather. It showed that temperature at Incheon and Seoul is at subzero degrees. With that cruel weather to welcome us when we land, I want to ensure that the kids bring enough of the proper clothing to stay warm and toasty at all times. In temperatures this chilly, proper layering is key to a comfortable trip. Here’s how I plan to keep the kids warm: Start with a woolen (preferably merino) thermal undershirt with a snug (but not tight) fit, then add a long sleeved shirt over that, then put on a sweater, finish with a heavy coat with hood, preferably with down insulation. Should they get too warm, layering makes it easy to just peel clothing off one at a time.

Legs should not be forgotten, start with thermal underpants and finish with heavy duty jeans. And since feet come in contact with the ground, it is key to wear thick soled shoes (to keep feet as far from the ground as possible) and heavy wool socks, double up if possible. I started paying more attention to materials after almost getting my toes frostbitten a few years back. I doubled up on cotton socks under my boots, mistakenly thinking that this would make my feet warm. Instead I got too warm, which made my feet sweat, and which made my socks wet and which ultimately made me very, very cold. I have since invested in wool socks, which stays warm even when wet. While cotton is our preferred material in the tropics, it is the worst material to wear in harsh, cold weather, it doesn’t trap body heat and worse, its fibers are loosely woven that cold air easily passes through. On the other hand, wool, fleece and polyester are good materials to insulate the body and trap heat.

Matching accessories like hats, scarves and gloves not only look nice, but they are essential to maintaining body warmth. Head, neck and hands should always be kept warm.

Help me pray that I do a good job of keeping everyone warm - and fashionably so!
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

J has got game

J has surprised me by loving soccer. She started with the sport early this summer. I wanted the kids to try out different sports so they can decide for themselves what they enjoyed to do and wanted to pursue. After the soccer clinic has ended, she enrolled in a weekend football program, where she is registered upto now.

She is gentle and non-confrontational, so the aggressiveness needed by the sport was something she just could not turn on when she is on the field. I remember watching her during her first few sessions, she would run after the ball but would hesitate to get it from an opponent. I had to explain to her that in this sport, getting the ball from the opponent is not "grabbing", it is simply how the game is played. But being who she is, she is not one to charge at the ball, dribble it from across the field to score a goal. It's not in her character to be the hard-hitting striker. She has found a position she is good at, where her heart is comfortable playing. She is a solid and reliable defender. Strikers from opposing teams have a difficult time getting the ball past her and her team's goalie has found fewer balls to watch over.
In a recent mixed group tournament, she found herself in a group of ten kids from ages six to eight, of which, three of them are girls. She was the only girl in her group to play in all five qualifying games. She has surely come a long way from where she started in the sport.
Their team went on to win 2nd runner-up in their age category. She went home at the end of the day exhausted from playing (she slept the whole ride home), her skin a shade darker (even with re-applying sunblock every 2 hours), but with pride in herself and exhilaration in her heart.
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Moving Up the Cake Ladder

Although I have always loved to bake, I have for the most part stayed away from whole cakes that needed expertise in decorating, preferring instead to make miniature cupcakes, bars and cookies.

Lately however, I have been feeling daring and experimental. I feel like it’s time I expanded my dessert repertoire. So with the numerous pot-luck dinner parties all lined up this holiday season, I unreservedly offered to bring not just one, but two desserts to the dinner buffet table.

In my first try, the strawberries sank in the whipped cream frosting. I must have been taking my sweet time to decorate that the cream warmed up to room temperature. Still, I managed to impress our friends, I got compliments from the wives of C's Tuesday group.

The second time I made it, it was for my co-parents in J's class. I was going to make it for ladies who really know their way around the kitchen, so the was a little pressure there. This time around, I made sure to put the cake back in the refrigerator after putting the swirls to make the cream firm up. After a few minutes, I took the cake out again and added the luscious berries. Here is what it looked like:

The tiramisu was relatively easy to make as I have been making this for years, but I used to make this trifle-style, in a glass baking dish. So the challenge now was to make the cake as divine looking as it was delectable. As predicted, it was complicated to pretty up the sides of the cake, so I decided to cover up my lack of talent and improvised by putting ladyfingers around the sides and tying it up with a festive colored ribbon.

Friends who can't wait to slice and enjoy the cake...


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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Personal Space


I remember my first desk at the young age of 5 or 6. It was a desk with a hutch, with wide open shelves. I remember it to be so big that if I wanted to, I could slip in easily in the desk drawer. My Dad is very particular with having almost all our home furniture made with Narra. Understandably, Narra is the premier local wood of choice for high quality furniture. Not only is its durability time-tested, it is also known for its very beautiful grain and beautiful finish. My old desk has served its purpose well. It taught me how to be organized with my things at a young age. Albeit, it could very well be the root of my pack rat mind-set.

When we moved to Manila, my mother thought it best to sell those lovely desks, my sister’s and mine. As soon as we were settled, she had another one custom built for all of us siblings. Naturally they were made with the same wood, although now smaller in scale, considering the number of desks that were to be accommodated in the study room. Having had to share a room ( and clothes, shoes, books, and most things else for that matter) for the entire duration of my single life, the desk was the one item that I consider truly my own. It was mine exclusively, a stand-out in my eye, especially among the collectively owned possessions at home.

When I got married and moved to a new house with C, I left the old one behind. Imprudently thinking that with 4 rooms and a lot of space to fill up, I wouldn’t be needing it anymore. The empty house quickly filled up with the rapid addition of young ones . With it, drawers, cabinets, shelves and other places of storage instantly became filled up with things, not all of them necessarily needed. Things soon got lost in the clutter that accumulated daily.

And so I now come full circle, back where I came from. Wanting something that’s exclusively mine among the collective possessions at home. And so I began dreaming of having a desk just like the one I had.

I am beside myself with excitement. My new desk has just been delivered, and there’s something about the smell of it that gives me a buzz. I just realized that Narra wood gives off an odor similar to camphor oil. And so for the moment I am in heaven on earth.

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Twilight

Like most teens in my generation, I got captivated by Sweet Dreams and Sweet Valley High. But unlike the typical teenaged girl, I did not progress to Danielle Steel and company. Towards the middle of high school, I was introduced to Sidney Sheldon and then quickly moved on to Michael Crichton, John Grisham, et al. Reading best sellers soon became trite, the plots clich├ęd. I soon began to initiate myself into the world of non-fiction, and this personal discovery was a state of great luxury and comfort for me. Topics are usually autobiographies of personalities who piqued my curiosity or historical events that made a mark. I remember reading books about the sinking of the Titanic, Greek mythology (no doubt inspired by mythology in reading class during junior high), ancient Rome and Greece (most especially the relationship between Brutus and Julius Caesar, Anthony and Cleopatra), Persian Empire (particularly under the reign of King Xerxes where the Battle of Thermopolis happened. Inspired inpart by the book of Esther in the Bible), Alexander the Great, Katharine Graham, Princess Diana, Jacqueline Onassis, JFK Jr, Audrey Hepburn, and of course the list goes on and on. An assortment of topics, really. Oh! And some Archie Comics also thrown in for good measure. At one point, the late Kevyn Aucoin’s book was almost a must buy – until good logic turned me around and saved me.

A few months ago, however, I received a call from a friend requesting me to ask C if she could borrow a certain book. Unfortunately for her, C was away on business that time. She mentioned that she was just done reading Twilight, (the first book) and urgently had to read the sequel right away. She told me C mentioned that he bought the book, but I told her I was positive that I did not see him reading it around the house. But just the same I told her I will ask him once he gets back.

But this friend surprised me by traveling all the way to Serendra that night to go to Fully Booked and purchased all 3 remaining books to complete her Twilight collection. And this is already after searching for it at almost all of the bookstores with no luck. I was so intrigued by this book because of the reaction that it got from my usually level headed friend that I had to send an SMS and ask C about it. She was right. C had indeed ordered it from Amazon, intending it to be a gift for J. My sis-in-law, borrowed it right away, as soon as it was delivered.

It is absolutely out of character for me to be interested in the horror-fantasy literary genre. I was not lured by Anne Rice with her aristocratic vampire, Lestat. Regardless that it was made into a movie with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, and much later into a Broadway musical. Neither did Harry Potter elicit any interest from me, even when it was raking in millions of dollars in book sales and movie tickets.

However when I found out that the Twilight series fall into dark romance, that is where my attraction with the saga started. As soon as I began reading the first book, I found myself a willing captive to the book’s thin plot and shallow characters. I read it without dissecting the way the book was written. It is essentially a love story; and what girl, regardless of age, can resist a good and simple love story?

It’s not the greatest book in the world, but I generously own up to the fact that I read it in a day’s time. I simply could not put it down. It was pure enjoyment, let me tell you. I have read all four books in one week. And I am now back to reading the first book, all the better to refresh my memory for when the movie comes out this weekend.

Before this Twilight saga piqued my interest, my bedside companions were Epicenter: Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future by Joel Rosenberg and The Shack by William Young. Both are heavy reads, and so I take a break from one and read the other. Don’t ask me how I do it, that’s just how I plan to go on till I actually finish it. But being rudely interrupted by Twilight, I might take some time to go back.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Essence of Being R

With R turning one year older a few weeks ago and with nothing better to do one lazy afternoon, I decided to do an impromptu photo shoot to try to encapsulate the essence of being R. To capture for posterity his numerous moods and hilarious antics, if that was at all possible.

I caught him an eager and willing participant, as can be seen by his wide smile, reaching his ears.

I click and click away. Tho novelty of sitting for the camera has started to wear thin on him, and his interest has shifted back to the Ritz crackers he was busy munching on before I interrupted him for this shoot.

Unmindful of his disinterest with me and the camera, I continue to take photo after photo. Continuously asking him to shift his attention from the bag of crackers he was hard at work eating to "smile" at me. Hence, this photo...

Not willing to give up that easily, I went on with my task. And R, not wanting to give up without a fight, gave me this "masterpiece." Maybe, celebrities tired of running away from paparazzis could learn a thing or two...
I guess that was my cue to finally put down the camera and give him a hug for being mischievously adorable . tee-hee-hee!
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Monday, September 22, 2008

Cupcake train

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

For this year's celebration, R wanted a Thomas the Train birthday cake. I made use of this occasion to test a new chocolate cupcake recipe. I am always on the look-out for the perfect chocolate cake recipe, and I think I have finally found it with this last one. It is moist and chocolate-y, without being overly sweet. I have tried a lot of recipes which includes a vegan one from Divvies, and the one I made for J's birthday party was a Martha Stewart recipe. (While Martha's cupcakes were wonderful to look at, with beautiful domes, they lacked flavor and moisture.) For the frosting, I relied on my trusty Swiss Meringue Buttercream for its flavor and stability to hold up at room temp in spite of Manila's sweltering heat.


Here we are, taking a break after frosting all the cupcakes. R loves to help whenever I am in the kitchen. He was tasked to put the sprinkles on all those cupcakes.


This is taken at his school party, where all his classmates went crazy over the cupcake train. I got great compliments from the parents, too.


Here is a closer view of the cupcake train.


And here is the birthday boy, loving those cupcakes!

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My girl, J



J celebrated her 8th birthday (sooo) many Fridays ago. I started a draft on this post a few months back, but I never go to finish. My main job (being a SAHM) has kept me busy that the blog posts have been very few and far between. So here's one more try at it....

She just wanted a simple celebration with her good friends. And so on that day, twelve girls took over our house with their shrieks, laughter and girly interests. The late afternoon celebration quickly extended into late evening. J was still in her personal cloud nine long after the last guest went home. While I was exhausted from baking and frosting all those cupcakes. She wanted some Pokemon cupcakes, and so I bravely told her she'll have it - not knowing how hard it was. After several tries and not going anywhere with the cupcakes, I finally succumbed to time pressure and took the easy way out. I put on swirls and threw in some sprinkles... voila!


J is slowly growing up to be her own person. She is naturally kind, oftentimes funny, most of the time forgetful. She is curious about everything around her. She loves reading Junie B. Jones, Archie, and looks forward to the delivery of my InStyle monthly subscription. Loves walking around in my stilletos, platforms and wedges; getting a kick that we have the same shoe size already.

Sometimes when I look at her I am amazed at how fast she is growing up. And it makes me question myself. Am I patient enough? Kind enough? Loving enough? Understanding enough? Am I the best mom that I can be? Can she see God's goodness in me?

In a recent Guidance class activity, she proudly came home announcing that she got the most number of friendship bracelets. All the girls were given a friendship bracelet and they were supposed to give it to a "good friend". It made me so proud to see her in such high spirits, delighted in the fact that almost half of the class favored her to be their "friend". But she quickly mentioned that she is not part of the "club girls" which she went on to describe as being "chitter-chatter girls", which I assume would be their equivalent of the bully kids. One of the girls who gave her a bracelet, a notorious girl, who has a long standing history of being the class bully, wrote down, "thank you for always being nice and kind to me." Awww!

It seems to me that most of the girls chose her not because she is fun to be with (even if she is), but more so because of her genuine kindness towards other people. Seems to me like I am not doing so bad in this thing called motherhood after all. :)
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Thursday, July 17, 2008

One La Salle Run

waiting at the assembly area at 530 am under the overcast sky

We showed up that Sunday to join over 5,000 participants for the One Run. One Family. One La Salle. The Fort was literally a sea of green and white as runners started pouring in at the assembly area at 5:30 am. A green singlet came with the race bib upon registration, and although it wasn't a race requirement to wear it, we wanted to do so as a show of force and support for our beloved school.

By 6 am, the assembly area was crammed-full with people waiting for the race to start. Everybody was heady with excitement. The long queue outside the tent for last minute registration showed no sign of receding, more people were lining up to join.

It began to rain a few minutes before the race started, and almost everybody ran to the tents for cover, including J and me. But then again, why bother, right? We were all going to get wet anyway during the race. C bravely held his ground and allowed himself to get drenched by the rain. Just the day before, J got soaked in the rain during her soccer practice, and at the back of my neurotic-mommy mind I was a little worried that she might catch something if she gets soaked 2 days in a row. It was the start of her exam week, it would be dreadful to have her get sick. I brushed that anxious thought quickly away, while hurriedly trying to attract positive thoughts by bringing to mind that she had a perfect class attendance in her previous grade level as a testament to her good physical shape. (She didn't get sick, just in case you're wondering)

The 16k professional runners went ahead, followed by the 5k serious runners. We, the 3k fun run group, left the starting line last.



after the race in sunny weather

I heard a lot of grumbling afterwards that the race could've been more organized, a lot of 5k runners got lost and unknowingly mixed in with the 3k runners due to lack of race markers. J, for one, went on about the lootbag. If you can, go back to the last kiddie party you attended and then fast forward to the end of the party during loot bag distribution. Chaotic and frenzied, right? Think of the frenetic and uncontrolled mess we found ourselves in as we lined up for this dang thing - with over 5,000 people queueing with us. The wait was almost as long as it took us to run, and the big letdown was finding out on the way home, as we were perusing it inside the car, that all it contained was old issue magazines, think 2007 old. Be that as it may, there were a lot of other freebies waiting for those who are patient enough to endure the looong wait. Krispy Kreme, Gatorade, Milo, Tropical Hut, etc. Freebies, of any kind, are a big come-on for me. I am a sucker for it - solid! Only, there was no way I could get C to wait in line for that, so straight home we go.

It was a day to remember. This is our 2nd race as a family, and our second run in the rain, as well. Our Nike Bowermans are giving a shout-out for a good scrubbing. :)
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Monday, June 23, 2008

EnduRANce

Values are better caught, and not taught, right? My first race turned out to be a valuable lesson in determination, commitment and perseverance.

When I started training, my goal was to have the endurance to finish the race, even if it means walking all the way to it. My online running mentor said, this could be done by starting slow and pacing myself, picking up speed only towards the end of the race. It said that I shouldn't feel pressured to have the other runners pass me by. No problem in that area.

On The Day, call time was at 5:15 am at Manila Polo to give time for a walk through and some race guidelines. Pag-asa predicted a typhoon coming, but you can never be sure with these guys. We brushed the typhoon signal aside for more important matters on hand, the race and the subsequent celebratory breakfast and awarding at Pancake House along McKinley Hill.

I was in the middle of my 2nd lap when it started to drizzle. And then the drizzle quickly turned into a downpour. I didn't want to quit the race. I trained for it and I wanted to finish it. Add to the fact that J was running with us, it would be the perfect chance to show her that if we commit to something, we follow through upto the very end. So run in the rain, we did! Soaked to the bone, I remember fretting about my new shoes getting drenched and muddy. tee-hee-hee! :)

I ran the race at my own pace, and what do you know? I placed second in the 3k category, and won for us 2 tickets to the Powerplant Cinema. J also got a prize for finishing the race. We headed to PowerPlant for our movie date, with a movie of J's choice, KungFu Panda.

I am sure she will treasure the memories of running her very first race, and running the second half of it (gleefully) in the rain. Hopefully, I was able to first-handedly expose her to the values of determination and commitment . That if we set our mind to doing something, setbacks will only slow us down but won't stop us from reaching our goals.
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Friday, June 20, 2008

Show and tell

J usually makes use of the time going home to tell me of the events that transpired during the day. This afternoon was no exception. She mentioned that they were assigned a partner, were given a few minutes to talk and then asked to stand in front of the class to describe each other. J and her partner talked about each other's favorite things and characteristics. She was described as cheerful, among others.

She went on to tell me that one girl, looked at her partner from top to bottom, and then proceeds to say what she has observed, "she has dark skin..." eliciting a prompt rebuttal from the girl concerned, "I am not dark!" With hands on the waist and a stomp of her feet to further emphasize her absolute disapproval of that opinion, as if it were the worst thing in the world. J said the whole class erupted in laughter at this candid exchange.

Another one described her partner as chubby. Nothing wrong with that, except that I know this girl, and she is anything but chubby. She is nowhere near chubby, she is what we might call a happy medium.

From the kids' point of view, the above mentioned exchanges offers a comic relief from an otherwise boring class. But as a parent, the tongue in cheek narrative is a reflection of how appearances, and not characteristics, make a central case on how we view others and ourselves. Point is, these kids have become unknowingly influenced by our society's biased concept of beauty being synonymous with fair skin and being skinny.

Even with my own kids, it is so hard to instill in them that self worth is not based on one's looks. My 2 girls always makes a fuss when it comes to what to wear every Sunday. Always asking my approval, "Mom, do I look pretty?" And I always answer in the positive, but with a follow up, "but God looks at our hearts."

While it is important to take care of our appearance and make an effort to look good, it must be be complementary to a heart that's always centered on God.
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Back to school

The kids are on their second week of school. School time always means everything falls into an anticipated routine once more (i.e pick up the younger ones, have lunch with them, take a nap....) . It's a long list of things which describes who I am.

I take pleasure that my schedule falls into a routine, makes me appreciate my place in this world... as a wife and a mom. I find comfort that the day's activities unfold predictably, everyday the same as weeks that has passed, only made much sweeter than the last because of the presence and laughter of loved ones.

B started big school and is adjusting quite well, I suppose. Parents were welcome to stay during the first day of class, and so I took advantage of that opportunity. Teacher called each of the kids by their full name, upon which each one is expected to stand up and wave hello to everybody in the room and say out loud the name that they preferred to be called. When it was B's turn, I almost had to catch my jaw from falling off as I heard her say, "Therese". What? Since when?

Although it is indeed one of the attachments to her kilometric name, we have never used it, save for her certificate of birth. When I was finally able to bring her aside, all she could say was, "what? She asked me what I want to be called. I want to be called Therese from now on, I think it is a nice name." I gently explained to her that she is not used to answering to that name, that she might not realize that her teacher is calling her.

Whew! What a B-moment that was indeed!
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Friday, June 13, 2008

As fast as you can

C's Tuesday group have been caught up in the running craze, and after joining several races they have now organized a duathlon exclusively for family and a few good friends. So as a dutiful wife and for the spirit of fun, I decided that I will participate, lack of stamina and training notwithstanding. :) Just to give you an idea of the participants' intensity level, one of the wives recently won a gold during a recent race.

As I obviously do not want to make a complete fool of myself, I started training this week. Granted that I will be running a 3K race only, and most probably will be running with all the kids. Hahaha! So yesterday, I brought the girls to school and proceeded to train for around 30-45 minutes. I started going around the block, walking for the first round, and then walking and jogging alternately, picking up speed slowly. And if you know me, then you know that I do give a new dimension to the word S-L-O-W. :) C has convinced me to bring a waistbag for my ipod, mobile and a self defense spray. It would be ideal to have a running mate with the same abilities to make my run more enjoyable and a whole lot safer, but since I don't have that luxury, I simply rely on God to watch over me - and a mini-can of Mace on my right hand.

A day later, I have aching shins. A short and snappy visit to the web and I discovered that running on concrete gives runners shinsplints. So I made a mental note to self to only run on asphalt. I have a lot more miles to log in, but this is certainly the start of a great adventure.

I have a training plan and a running schedule to stick to, to make sure that I progress at a steady pace, free from injuries, and to maintain my level of interest in my new "sport". And to further cement myself to the activity, I went ahead and splurged on my running gear. I figured that if I can't make it to the finish line first, I might as well finish it "fashionably" last. I bought myself some dry-fit running shirts from Nike and Puma, a pair of Nike trainer pants, and New Balance running shoes worthy to be worn by the professional runner.

Alright!
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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Good Night and Sweet Dreams

My family usually call it a day when most people are just starting their evenings. I would really hate to be in the shoes of the mommy whose kids are up and about, jumping and bouncing, talking and shrieking at the ungawdly hour of 10pm. For C and me, the hours after 830 during weeknights are very precious. We use it to connect with each other as a couple. It's our time! And yes, we are very possessive about it.
A usual weekday bedtime routine for my family would have C reading the NightLight Devotional Book with the kids, followed by our night prayer, and then hugs and kisses for each other. We try to take turns to be prayer leaders, to encourage the kids to be an active participant in the process. But after reading this post, I am sure you will agree that prayer time would look a lot less like squabbling and more like praying if C just leads.
Our prayer session tonight went something like this:
B: Family, are you ready to pray? (And she waits for all of us to answer, "Yes, we are"). Everybody put your hands together... I said please put your hands together.... that includes you, mom. Dear God, we thank you for our wonderful parents. We thank you for our food, our wonderful house, for achi and syoti, for ah-ma, for angkong, for uncle tony, akoh sherry, baby sasha, for cathy, henny, sage, maya, clauie, wowo, wowa, charmaine, uncle jay, for uncle tony (again!). We also thank you for our study table, our toys, our bed, our aircon ( she looks around the room, like taking an inventory of everything, and give thanks - for practically everything.)
By this time, R starts to get antsy or bored and opts to start his own prayer. And C is the third voice that joins in asking for an atmosphere of reverence. So at this point in our prayer time, it is like listening to a radio that's on the wrong frequency. You hear different voices making everything incomprehensible, not unlike the annoying radio static.
Undeterred, B continues her non stop talking, oops, praying, till R realizes that it's no point competing with someone who is the resident chatter queen, and finally gives up).
B: We pray that you help us to be kind, wonderful (apparently, wonderful is her favorite adjective for the moment), and let us have good manners. For syoti, we pray that he stops being makulit, and please don't let him be funny, and teach him to have good manners, (and again, for emphasis, just in case Lord didn't hear her the first time) please don't let him be funny and stop him from being makulit. For achi, we pray that her feet stops growing too fast. (Ok, now we really know that this is a major concern). Please help me to be wonderful. Please protect our family from bad persons, bad classmates, bad teachers. Protect us from fire, earthquake, and accidents..... (Long pause as she thinks of more things to pray for.)
J: B, say Amen. If you can't think of anything else to say, please end your prayer and say Amen! Stop pausing already! You're taking too long!!!
B: I'm not yet done. I'm just resting. Can you please wait? 
This is where we step in to tell J to give B time to finish her prayer.
B: Lord please give us good dreams and to wake up tomorrow feeling refreshed. We ask you to please heal wowo Mon in Singapore; please heal ah-ma's ears, please take away the ouchie in her ears; please help mommy's throat to get better because if she has sore throat she is cranky to everybody.Long pause again... till finally she decides to conclude her prayer and proceeds to say amen - to everyone's relief!
As soon as she says Amen, J start her lecture once again, "Next time if you don't know what to say, you can just end it and say, Amen. That's what I do when I don't know what to say next."
B, still adamant, "but I am not done yet, I was just resting."
J ends the conversation by rolling her eyes, "Hainaku! I am going to go crazy!"
And if it is J's turn to be in charge, like it was yesterday, the opposite of the above discussion happens:
J: Dear God, we thank you for daddy, mommy, B and R. We thank you for giving us our family. We pray that you always keep us safe from harm, accidents, and bad people. In Jesus name we pray, amen.
B: Why is it so short? You forgot to thank God about.......
But we should really just let C do it most of the time, and just take their prayer requests. Because, really, sometimes B makes night-time prayer seem like an hour long service. :)
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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Ark Avilon Zoo


R and I recently attended the 4th birthday party of his classmate and so-called girlfriend, Kyleen. I know it's crazy for me to be tolerating this, but he honestly likes this li'l girl. I can't blame him; really, she is such a cutie and so nice, too.

The mom texted me a save-the-date message a few days before the party, which really would have sufficed. Still, the invite was courteously delivered to our house. The thoughtful gesture is highly appreciated and truly speaks a lot about her. R was giddy with excitement when we got the invite and that was the highlight of his day - getting a card from Kyleen.

Of course, when we found out that it was going to be at the Ark Avilon, R's joy could not be contained. It's the zoo, after all!

The celebrant's mom carefully planned everything to make sure the kids were engrossed with age-appropriate and creative pre-party activities. The kids were provided with medium sized pebbles, paint brush and acrylic paints to make to creative paper weights with the child's choice of animal painted on the stones. Or if the kids were not of the creative kind, they could go bird watching as there were lots of exotic fowls freely roaming around.

A guided tour of the zoo was also exclusively arranged for our group, with the tour ending in the petting area where all the kids hurriedly and crazily rushed to feed the rabbits, hamsters, et al with all the leafy greens their tiny hands could grab. No animal was spared, as even the most satiated one who instinctively turned his head away from the source of food was unfortunately met by another chubby hand willing to find a mouth to feed. All that's left for the poor rodents to do were to wish that they were meat eaters instead. Kidding!

Thanks for the wonderful party, Helen!
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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pinoy Pride















Late
ly, Bea Valdes and Tina Ocampo have been charming fashion editors and style mavens all over the world by showcasing Filipino craftsmanship at its best with their evening bags and accessories. They have both recently wowed the audience at the Vendome luxury trade show in Paris.


Bea has come a long way since being featured in Vogue in June 2005, where the magazine called her bags, "the must-have evening bag for the year." It was said that when she went to the US to present her creations, the fashion editors over at Vogue loved her work so much that her designs were immediately photographed and she was soon after scheduled for a photo shoot and interview to go with her handiwork.

Click here to view her first Vogue appearance, for her second Vogue feature here. And click here to view her tv interview.

I seriously love her work and would love to own at
least one of her creations - if only I can afford it. :) Uppermost left pic shows the Ophelia necklace, a variation of the Ophelie necklace shown in the InStyle spread, just in case you want to understand why it costs US$2,150.00, or simply to scrutinize the consummate artisanship of her pieces.


Even designer of the moment, Tory Burch, is in awe of Tina Maristela Ocampo. Instyle's April issue featured an interview with Burch for the Welcome To My Life section, and Tina's minaudieres made a small appearance in the interview, too.
Pic 2 shows Tina's Pacquiao clutch named after modern day hero and boxing champ, Manny Pacquiao. Pic 3 shows the Mother of Pearl clutch made famous by Drew Barrymore at the 2007 Golden Globes.

Abante Pinoy!







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Pinoy InStyle

I have been reading InStyle since 15 years ago ( since I was 13. Tee-hee! :)). Throughout most of my single life, I always looked forward to that time of the month to get my subscription. It was one of my guilty pleasures.

However, after I got married and when the kids came one after the other, I somehow got sidetracked into other things that were more domesticated, hence the interest in cookbooks, attachment parenting, arts and crafts, and with all things Nigella and Martha. :)

Two years ago, C surprised me by renewing my subscription to InStyle. It was a blissful yet heartrending moment for me; overjoyed that even after 12 years of being together (with a combined total of 6 years of pre-menstrual syndrome, pregnancy sensitivity, post-natal depression, and all the other attitude-changing effects of my female hormones), C still hasn't changed his loving thoughtfulness towards me. He is still as funny, romantic and generous as the day I first met him, but that is another story that deserves an entire post. Going back to where we are, the grounding reality that I am now a parent to 3 kids is undeniably a stark contrast to those days where I could max out my credit card and leave a zero balance in my payroll account just to buy the latest fashion It-anything (another one of my guilty pleasures).

Looking through the glossy pages, at the present, is like a practice in restrained indulgence for me. I know I can dip my hand in the fashion cookie jar, nonetheless, I only get to take out one small cookie at a time. As opposed to being the spendthrift fashion cookie monster and cleaning out the entire jar in one swipe.

Here are some hand candies from Pinoys who make us all proud by landing in this month's issue. They all got featured together in one spread on page 255. All right!


click on pic for enlarged view

Abalone Minaudieres by Celestina Maynila New York of Tina Maristela Ocampo
Ophelie Necklace by Bea Valdes
Rattan Bag by Rafe New York of Rafe Totengco
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Monday, May 5, 2008

SDC: Make It Monday (Gift Tags)

The idea for this project was like a double edged sword of blessing. This is an activity that I know the kids will love and it would also mean that I will never run out of gift tags. With 3 kids in school, each with their own set of friends, we get invited to a lot of kiddie parties and somehow I always end up running out of gift tags to use. I (sometimes) end up dashing to the bookstore at the last minute to get one or, if laziness drops by for a visit, I (most of the time) just cut up a board paper to size and use that as a gift tag. tsk! :)

With this project behind us now, I am secured of a sizeable stash of gift tags to last me a year. :)


click on the pic for an enlarged view
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SDC: Make It Monday (Sand Art)

My kids have a fascination with colored sand. They love to gently sift through it and see how they can create their very own rainbow as they pile up the different colors one on top of the other. It is like being the creator of their own universe - their glass bottle universe, that is.

So that day, my dining table was reincarnated as an indoor sand table. I poured the different colored sands into different containers and placed a plastic spoon in each to prevent the colors from mixing. I had them make two activities with it, sand painting and sand art bottles. I gave them each a small clear glass bottle with a natural cork cover for the sand art bottle. For the sand painting, I just chose an image from the net (of their choice, of course) and printed it our on board paper.

This activity was one of the easiest to do, almost no supervision needed.


click on the pic for an enlarged view
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Thursday, April 17, 2008

SDC: Field Trip Friday - Nature Park

For our Field Trip Friday (which I moved to a Saturday) I took the kids to La Mesa Eco-Park. We haven't been there before, but I heard some good reviews about the place so I decided to check it out with the kids in tow, plus my sisters and nephew and niece.

I was having a Nigella Lawson moment again, and baked corn muffins early in the morning to bring to the park for our lunch picnic. That was going to be our food contribution. My sisters took it upon themselves to bring BBQ and pancit palabok made by my mom's cook, of course. Come lunch time, the kids wouldn't touch my muffins finding them too "grainy". A quick aside about the corn muffins: I made them with organic medium ground cornmeal and organic ground flaxseed, bought from Healthy Options. So there was a price premium to that, which I thought shouldn't matter because it was healthier. I personally liked the nuttiness that it brought to the muffins. I guess it's just me. My own kids wouldn't touch them, and preferred to use them as fish food instead. Those traitors! :)

click on the pic for enlarged view


Click on pic for enlarged view

The park is clean and the attractions are well-maintained. There are a lot of activities to do : fishing, koi fish feeding, biking, swimming, butterfly park, hiking trail, if you count the numerous flowers blooming, then you also have a botanical garden. All in all, I'd have to say the park is worth another visit - if the place is not crowded. So going on a weekend or on a holiday is definitely out of the question. The weekend crowd is just about as crazy as Megamall having a sale - only this is worse! Entrance cost P50 and if you are a Quezon City resident you get additional discount, if you can show them a valid ID. Take a hint from the entrance fee!

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SDC: Make It Monday (Tie Dye Shirts)

If you have the patience for it, tye-dyeing with your kids can be a really wonderful bonding activity, and a great way for the kids to make their own summer fashion statement. If you are a newbie to the tie-dye fashion bug, make like me and head off to the nearest computer and look it up in the web. There are a lot of resources available to help you get started and get some tips from the experts along the way.

It is really simple and the materials needed can easily be found at any
grocery or department store: bowls, rubber bands, marbles, fabric dyes, hot water, clothespins, and of course the garments to be dyed.. Since I only had one size of marbles lying around the house, and I wanted a variety in our spherical patterns, I made do and used salad macaroni instead.

It was a make-your-own fashion adventure for the kids, as I made
them choose what pattern and color they wanted for their shirts. J chose to have a blue striped shirt, with some green in the middle to break the monotony. B, my li'l fashionista was adamant and wanted a "golden yellow" (her exact words) shirt with spherical patterns. R decided on a blue ombre.

The whole morning was spent soaking up the garm
ents in the dye. Since the dye is permanent, I had the kids don C's tatty shirts. The over-sized tees, which I pinned with clothespins at the sleeves gathering towards the neckline, made them look like ancient Romans and they had a kick out of it.

The expressive patterns that resulted when we took off the rubber bands thrilled the kids. I am sure this is one activity that won't be forgotten.
click on the pic for a larger view


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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Attachment Parenting

I would just like to share with everybody what my friend, Betty P, e-mailed me about the importance of having one-on-one time with each of our kids. I remember attending a parenting seminar by Maribel Dionisio sponsored by B and R's pre-school early this year, where one-on-one time was also mentioned as vital to our relationship with our kids.. I did take her example to heart and encouraged C to do the same. We started incorporating that to our family routine, although not as often as the kids liked it to be.

Let me share with you what transpired on a recent one-on-one date between C and my eldest, J. They both left home after dinner to have dessert. This was J's reward for actively participating in a recently concluded soccer clinic sponsored by our church. As C shared with me, banter was light at first. They had fun talking about whose nose was bigger, archie trivia (did you know that Mr. Lodge's first name is Hiram?), and J fretting the fact that she got her dad's genes. She worried that her feet would grow so big and her height would shoot up making her the biggest girl in class - and that no one would like her because of this.

Then they moved on to more serious matters of the heart. J mentioned that mommy was grumpy a lot lately. And so, of course, C, being the good husband that he is, justified that i might just be pre-occupied and tired, and needed some personal time. That rationalization went well with her, but after thinking (i guess) about it, she wanted to know why couldn't I simply make my cup bigger? If I had a bigger cup, then it won't be filled right away, she reasoned. Yes, of course! Now, why didn't I think of that first? :)

Having shared that, I am grateful that my "grumpiness" has been called to my attention. Of course, I want to make life at home as pleasant for my family as possible, and a being grumpy mom is not the way to do it.


Here is the article, which I am attaching in full.


Keeping Attachment Strong

By Toni Schutta, Parent Coach for Unlimited Growth Potential and President of Families First Coaching

What makes a good mother?
"You don't need to be rich or
smart or talented or funny. You just have to be there." -Psychologist Robert Karen

A
friend, shared a wonderful story recently in a seminar on "Smart Parenting." She said that ever since her children were little, she's set aside special one-on-one time with each of her children. She made a commitment to do this once a week and put it on the calendar. As her children became teenagers, this became harder to do, but yet they persevered.

One time, my friend had an important work commitment that conflicted with the breakfast date she'd made with her 15-year-old son. When she told him that they'd have to postpone, he actually got tears in his eyes, even though they were just postponing the date until the next day.

Wouldn't we all love to have that type of bond with our children, at any age?


We talk a lot about "attachment" when our children are young, but then the conversation fades to other topics. I contend that we must work diligently to make sure our attachment with our children is ever-growing and ever deepening. In fact, I believe that keeping attachment strong
is our most critical task.

Attachment is the basis from which discipline, respect, communication and authority grow. When your attachment is firmly grounded, the other parenting duties are more likely to be effective.


Many factors contribute to keeping "attachment" alive as our children grow. Being emotionally available to our children, loving them unconditionally, meeting their basic needs, being consistent in our discipline, being responsive to their pain and maintaining open communication, to name a few. But I'd like to go out on a limb and say that one of the most concrete things that you can do to deepen attachment is to spend one-on-one "special time" each week with each child.


Why is this so important?

A child is far more likely to reveal intimate feelings to you when you're alone with them. It¹s highly unlikely that a child, who may be feeling vulnerable already, will reveal perceived weaknesses in front of a sibling. But, given time to let down their guard with a parent, they may let you in on struggles they wouldn't reveal at the dinner table.


By having your sole attention, the child will feel valued. You're making a huge statement to them that nothing else is more important to you.


Your child will treasure this time. Remember when your kids were little and they¹d say "Look at me!"? They still need us to look at them and let them know that they're #1.


In his book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families" Stephen Covey talks about an "Emotional Bank Account" that you can develop with other family members. He says
the Emotional Bank Account "is like a financial account that can make deposits by proactively doing things that build trust in the relationship, or you can make withdrawals by reactively doing things that decrease the level of trust."

Things like being kind, apologizing, not criticizing others, keeping promises, forgiving and providing unconditional love, all contribute to the bank account. I'd say that weekly
one-on-one time with each child would contribute a substantial deposit in the emotional bank account from which you could leverage things like compliance to your requests, respect, and honest communication.

Given that attachment is the base from which all other aspects of parenting flow, I hope you'll consider making this weekly "investment" that is guaranteed to bring you even closer to your child.


Here are some guidelines for getting started:

*Start small. You can commit to as little as 15 to 30 minutes a week.

*Put the special time on the calendar in ink! Try very hard to keep that commitment.

*Let the child choose how you spend your time together.


The child's inner needs will direct them to choose an activity that brings them joy. Let the child be the leader for a change! (Before you get started, feel free to set boundaries about the activities, such as the amount of time or the cost.)


Relax, and enjoy this special time with your child!
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Thursday, April 10, 2008

You go, soccer girl!

Sharing with you the photo layout that I made of J during the one-week soccer clinic at Corinthians. I have decided that this summer is going to be a sports-filled summer for the kids. And the plan is, after soccer comes swimming, and in between that biking - without trainer wheels!


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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

My Cup Runs Over

With three kids that came one after the other, and with the two younger ones that came so close together, I have always experienced a limit to my creativity, energy, and most important of all, patience, when dealing with them. In my quest to be God's best for my kids, I continuously attend parenting seminars sponsored by the school or church, read parenting articles and books... anything to motivate and inspire me. No matter how many articles I read or seminars I attend, inspite of my best efforts, my patience still leaves me at those times when I need it the most.

J would ask me every so often which child do I love best. How do you answer that? Each one of them is truly unique and one child's strength is the other's weak spot.

Take J for example, she is the perfect eldest child - patient with her younger siblings, joyfully helpful with chores, and her willingness to try new things is just simply God-sent especially when I need to encourage the 2 younger ones to participate in a new activity/sport. But she is not that diligent when it comes to matters of hygiene and organization.

B, on the other hand, doesn't need to be reminded to arrange her things in a neat and orderly manner. She is fastidious and attentive to detail and this is where my problem with her stubbornness comes in. She wants to do things her way and at her own pace. Threats and glares don't work on her. She takes some time to adjust to new places, people and activities.

R, being the only boy and the youngest one at that, is emotionally attached to me.
He is constantly trying to compete with B for my attention, prompting B to call him her echo. However, he also lives to please his dad. His playful spirit and active body makes for a tired yaya.

I try to have some quiet time in the morning when they are all still sleeping, and pray for more patience and love to give during the day, wisdom to teach and lead by example. But on the days that everything just go from bad to worse, when frustration, annoyance, exasperation, irritation, infuriation (well, you get the drift) takes over, I end up hating myself at the end of the day because I know I had let myself and the kids down again.

To let the kids understand where my frustration comes from, I have thought of a simple way to illustrate how negative feelings build up. I started with J since the I didn't think the 2 younger ones would be able to understand it yet. I brought her to the sink and showed her an empty cup. I turned on the tap a little and let some water drip to the cup. I did this a couple of times till the cup was almost full. I stopped (for added drama, of course) and pointed out to her that now all it takes was just one tiny drop to make the water inside the cup overflow. And having said that, I turned on the tap again, and true enough the water overflowed. And that, I said, was how Mommy sometimes just simply blows her top at seemingly petty acts. Presentation done. Point made.

I thought of Stormie Omartian and remembered that it's not being a perfect parent that makes a difference in our children's lives. It's a being a praying parent that does! As Stormie wrote: For it's the power of God that penetrates a child's life when a parent prays. God knows our thoughts and our needs, but he responds to our prayers.

And with that, I say good night. Tomorrow morning will find me praying again for more patience
and love to give during the day, wisdom to teach and lead by example.
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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Pampanga Food Trip

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

 I decided to re-acquaint myself with my mother's hometown of Pampanga after reading so many food bloggers rave about their culinary food trips to San Fernando. This trip is the first time in a looong while that I will be spending an entire day in the town which holds in its roads and landmarks all the cherished memories I have of summer days of long ago.

My grandfather started his own restaurant, hotel, and appliance store along Henson st. in Angeles City as a way to comfortably raise 9 kids. Along the way, all my titos somehow got involved in the same line of business. I remember spending those summer vacations in the province and eating anything that I want, anytime of the day. (Actually, since I spent my grade school years in Davao, it was more of moving from one province to the other.) My grandparents' residence was on the the second floor of the restaurant and during summers, this is what I call home. Upon waking, I simply ordered whatever i fancied and the kitchen will have it ready in no time. Breakfast was usually
pritong baboy (no doubt they contributed to those stubborn cellulites I couldn't get rid of now) and garlic rice. And if my lola ate with me, she would usually share 1 cheek of a ripe mango with me. The other cheek, she would eat with her rice, yes, as ulam! Lunch would usually be at the Chinese restaurant of my Tito M in Balibago, along MacArthur Hi-way. I remember loving their toasted bihon (which i still crave to this day! Occasionally, my mom brings this as pasalubong for me when she visits her family in Angeles), crab fooyung, nido soup and of course the patatim. And for dessert, my cousin, J, li'l sis, C, and I would just cross the street and head over to my Tito E's bakeshop, where the ube cake is simply to die for. The three of us would then head over to Century and get one room for ourselves. (You can view the hotel's webpage right here, which my brother designed by the way.) We would spend the afternoon watching videos, or lounge by the pool to get a tan. I also remember with fondness that if the travel bug hit us, those summer afternoons were also spent traversing the MacArthur Hi-way from Nepomart (to indulge our sweet tooth with imported candies and chocolates which Nepo was bursting to the seams with) upto the far end of Dau (to shop for PX clothes and shoes.) **Fashion Flashback (or Nightmare): hi-cut Reeboks in eye-numbing colors, Tretorn, K-swiss, acid washed denims and baggy jeans were the height of teen-fashion those days). At night, we would head over to Phase4, a dance club located at the same compound of the hotel, and order strawberry daiquiris ( I was feeling very grown up at twelve). With this culinary gorging every summer, I am very lucky indeed that I haven't turned into a pig.

Last Saturday, with our 3 kids in tow, safely buckled up in each of their own car seats, C and I started our own culinary journey by leaving Manila a few minutes past ten o'clock in the morning. We agreed we wouldn't be doing the usual Shell Select stopover to leave room in our stomach for the feast that was waiting for us at Pampanga. The kids were busy watching a Veggie Tales DVD and singing along to the songs, and that kept them busy for the entire trip. We took the San Fernando exit and headed straight for Everybody's Cafe. This cafe is not actually a cafe but a glorified carenderia of sorts. We had the most wonderful lunch, and the most wonderful thing of all was that it did not burn a hole in C's wallet. This is the best of the best when it comes to provincial comfort food. The kids ate up everything. J loved the lechon kawali and fried hito, which is best eaten dipped in balo-balo and then wrapped with mustasa, B finished her bulalo soup, R finished off the morcon. This resto is a personal fave for it truly represents Pampanga cuisine at its best. The food is great, price is cheap, and the service is fast. It doesn't hurt that it also showcases the wildly exotic cuisine that is uniquely Kapampangan. Think Fear Factor exotic... crickets, carabao, frogs, et al.

Our next destination was Abe's Farm (same owner of Abe's over at Serendra). I actually had reservation made here for lunch, but canceled at the last minute since the disappointment of my Abe's experience at Serendra still haunts me. Still, i wanted to check the place out as a possible weekend destination with the kids, an alternative to Tagaytay. It is located at the foot of Mt. Arayat so the place was quite windy and cool. They have a wading pool and have tied up with Nurture Spa to offer relaxing massages for weary travelers. And weary is what you are going to be once you get there.
But going back to Abe's... I remember Manila being all abuzz when Abe's opened an outlet at Serendra about 2 years ago. The long queue of guest who were willing to wait 2-3 hours just to get a table intrigued me. So i made reservations and hauled C and the kids to try this new and much talked about Kapampangan resto. Growing up with a mom and a family cook who are Kapampangans has not been beneficial for me as this has left me with such a high standard - gustatorily. Suffice it to say that i was not impressed at all and am in fact wondering what the fuss was all about. But let's move on to more relevant fodders, i mean, matters.

After that, we were off to search for Cold Spoon. This is located in such an out-of-the way spot that we got lost looking for it. I had to call Joan (the Korean owner) 2 times before we finally got it right. But everything was worth it. The yogurt tasted just right and very creamy. The tanginess of the yogurt was not overbearing like Nestle's. Plus, you get to order toppings. Unfortunately for us, almost everybody was suffering from sore throat so we had to muster every bit of self control to just get a few bites in and not pig out. The place only had two tables inside and plenty more outside. But under the scorching heat of the Philippine summer sun, everybody was pushing their way in. We gave up our table and left right after we were done with our orders.

Since i already ordered a Chocolate Decadence Cake from Doren Tayag a few days before we left Manila, i scheduled to meet up with her to get the cake. She normally doesn't do meet-ups, and would just ask customers to pick up orders from her Carmenville house. But she made an exception this time and agreed to meet me at Susie's right in the middle of Nepo. Doren has been one of the family's favorite persons to go to when we are craving for out of this world cakes. Her rhum cakes are also the best that I have tasted, and that is saying a lot because I have first tasted her rhum cakes more that a decade ago.

Susie's is a required pit stop whenever in Pampanga if only for their heavenly tibok-tibok.
Lola L would always bring this from Angeles whenever she comes to Manila for a visit. Although, the Cassava is another yummy kakanin that this place serves. Puto is good. Palabok, one of the best. Leche Flan, creamy. Sapin-sapin, mochi, kuchinta, et al. This is kakanin heaven, I tell you. And did I already mention that the tibok-tibok is heavenly? :)

There are numerous other restaurants to try that haven't been mentioned. Like Nathaniel's, Aurely's, Perfect Loaf, Zapata's, Jun-Jun's, Sub-delicious, Corazon's, Cabigtings, and the list really goes on and on.

 

Choice of restaurant for dinner was a no-brainer. It just had to be C Italian Dining. Awarded by the Phil. Tatler as Best Restaurant for 2 years in a row, and rightfully so! The star of the show, for me, is the panizza. Pizza with a crust so thin, you eat it rolled - with alfalfa sprouts and my favorite, arugula. This is such a unique take on eating pizza. Plus, how can anything go wrong with arugula in it? Of course, for C, the house specialty would be the flank steak, but since this one is meant for sharing (4-6 persons) we didn't order this time. But he vows to come back with enough company next time to order this.
 

Right about this time, tiredness and slumber came to visit the kids. This ensured a quiet trip back to Manila where we relived the day's events in our minds, contented and fortunate that we went through this pleasurable experience with each other. The quiet time gave me the perfect chance to give thanks to Him who is the source of all good things.

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