Thursday, December 5, 2013

Our short weekend trip

Last Friday, we had a small family road trip to Acuaverde Resort in La Iya, Batangas.  We chanced upon the resort promo in my favorite groupon site, Deal Grocer.   The overnight promo with full board meals (dinner-breakfast-lunch) for two was for P5,500.  We just added an extra P800 since we were checking in on a Friday.  We have been wanting to take R to the beach and the deal was very timely.  I am not so much a fan of the sun, so for me, the perfect time to hit the beach would be around November to February.

Officially, this would be R's first beach experience.  Well, he has been to Punta Fuego and Anvaya, but he was not able to enjoy the beach at that time since it was too cold (Fuego) and there were jelly fishes (Anvaya).  We were worried that he would not like walking on the sand, but to our surprise, he loved it so much that it was hard to make him go back to our room.

I will now bombared to with captioned photos from our trip.

It took us three hours to get to Acuaverde. Checking in was a breeze.  There was a small playground right in front of our cottage, which is a plus for families with kids.

This is the Casa La Iya room.  It has a queen sized bed, air conditioner, LCD TV and a private veranda overlooking the resort and the beach.   The room is quite small, but still had a little space where R could play on the side of the bed.

The bathroom had the basic necessities.  I wish it was bigger, though.  

There is a foot wash near the steps of every cottage which was a nice surprise.
They have a small aviary in the middle of the restaurant that kept R entertained every time we ate. 
The package came with full board meals and unlimited iced tea and coffee.  The food they served was buffet style.  I would not really say it's the best, but it was decent.  
Acuaverde has the same owners as Aquatico, which is just its neighbor.  They are still in the process of building the swimming pool.  However, my son was just happy playing in the sand.  I'm sure that if he had his way, he would just stay there all day long.
There are several lounge beds and chairs at the beachfront.  Majority of the guests at that time were British, who were there for a wedding.

We cannot wait to go back here again.  Hopefully, the pool will already be functional.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mommy Eats: Patio Vera

For thirteen years now, I always make sure that I do not have any plans on the first week of December to celebrate my sister's (aka BFF) birthday with orphans.  Right after the party at White Cross Orphanage in San Juan, we headed to Patio Vera in Marikina.  It was everyone's first time there.

Patio Vera is located in a narrow road and there is only street parking. Good thing that we arrived at 5 o'clock in the afternoon so we got all the available parking slots on the side of the street.   I can imagine what a parking nightmare it will be if we arrived later!  

Anyway, moving on to the restaurant, once we entered, it felt like we were immediately transformed to another place!  It is an old house turned restaurant (well the other half), which adds to its character.  You get to learn a little about the family's history and appreciate the house's rustic interiors.  There was nothing not to like about its vintage decors and inviting al fresco dining set up. We all agreed to have our dinner in the lounge area which was a unanimous favorite. 

    The menu consists of Filipino dishes.  Price wise, it's a little above average.

     Above :  I love the entry way's vignette!
     Below: The bar area to the right as you enters the gates of Patio Vera

    I love the rustic interiors and unique decors (hanging chair, who would have thought of that!). Truly, there is no place in Patio Vera that does not fail to interest anyone.

                  The common bathroom's quirky interiors.

    I am not a huge fan of al fresco dining, but this one was an exemption.

     Appetizers consisted of the complimentary bread with balsamic vinegar, Salipcao (which we all loved) and Calamares.

   Some pictures of the main course included  Seafood Pasta, Sardine Pasta, Paella con Carne, Lechon Kawali and Chicharon Sisig con Lechon.The Seafood Pasta was an instant crowd favorite.  The Sisig was missing the crunchiness.  

    Boy were we stuffed and still had a few bags that we took home. We decided to have dessert at Tiyo's (also in Marikina) though.  The bill unwittingly came in a shoe!  Now, that's unique!

It was a night of gastronomical journey in Marikina and I can't wait to bring my family here soon!

Happy birthday again to my sis!  

DIY: Painting stripes

This is a rather late post since I finally completed painting our room two weeks ago.  I initially wanted to stencil the whole room which I blogged about here.  However, I hesitated.  Since I am so crazy about combining different prints now a days, I decided on stenciling one side of the room and going with stripes as my accent wall.  It did take me quite a while to paint the stripes because I was not so sure if the color combination will make sense.  So, it took me almost three months before making a decision and test it out.   

I did my project for two nights right after R slept.  Combining my work hours, it only took me roughly two hours to do everything.  It was relatively easy project and I am already thinking about doing my son's room soon.  

One down, three more to go.

Our room is all striped up!  I like the combination of stripes and print.

My little nook in our little room.  I love how it made our room feel bigger!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Gone too soon

The first of December was welcomed with the sudden death of one of my favorite Hollywood stars, Paul Walker.  I have been a fan even before Fast and the Furious and it was truly heartbreaking.  Sorry hubby, but yes I was kinda affected.  I liked him not only for his  good looks, but because he never had any controversies tagged to his name.  

F&F will never be the same without him.  Rest in Peace, Paul Walker.  Thank you for making movies that will always be remembered.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

After the storm

More than two weeks has passed after the most powerful typhoon on earth hit my country, the Philippines.    The magnitude of destruction is beyond comprehension.  Many lives have been lost, houses swept away by strong winds and water that engulfed the affected areas.  It still feels so surreal that this could happen.  Until now,  I tear up whenever I see news of what Yolanda left is with.  The road to recovery will indeed be a tedious and challenging one, but I pray for the people's strength and faith that there will be a better tomorrow.   I am at awe with the outpour of help from my countrymen as well as the international community.  It just goes to show that there is still a lot of good people in this world.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Toddler activity: the salt dough experiment

R is not fond of touching slimy or gooey things.  That is why most of the sensory activities that I do with him would exposing him to such textures.  Pinterest has been my go to site when looking for toddler activities.  I pin away everything that interests me and just check out the individual links when I need to come up with a new activity.

For this week, we tried making the salt dough.  You just mix salt, water and flour and you have a soft dough that's ready to be worked!  R poured the ingredients by himself but took a backseat when it came to mixing.  He really did not want to do anything with it!  After the dough was formed, I pulled out the cookie cutters and this was what got his attention.  He got so giddy when he saw the Christmas tree cookie cutter!  He kept on saying "tee."  This was the ice breaker!  He enjoyed making dough cut outs.  To make him use his hands more, I gave him a ball of dough and asked him to follow what I did.  We squished and rolled the clay and made snake doughs, which he loved so much that he kept on swirling and making them crawl on the tray.

This is a very good activity for sensory play.  The consistency is softer than a clay making it easier to manipulate.  You can even make a memorabilia out of it by having your kid mark his hand or feet on the dough and bake it!  We were not able to do it since we did not have time to heat the oven. But we will definitely do this again!

                  All you need are 1/2 c flour, 1/2 c salt, 1/2c water, and a bowl for mixing!

                    R making his Christmas tree dough.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The good and the BAD cholesterol

Our tests results (lab test, that is) are in and we all have bad cholesterol beyond the acceptable limit.  I, being the healthier looking between my hubby and our helper have the lowest score, just a few points over the limit.  The two, who you would assume would be in a healthier state, have higher bad cholesterol than me.  This just goes to prove that thin does not necessarily mean healthy.  I pretty much had an incling that they would have higher scores becuase of their food choices.  Now, since we all need to take some medication (I for a month and the other two for three months), it is an eye opener that we really must alter or eating habits.  We seriously need to avoid fried foods (or at least lessen it), drink more water and exercise.  As my brother (a personal trainer and crossfit coach in Canada) keeps reminding us, no diet can help you if you do not change your lifestyle.  True that!  I have went off track for the past three weeks from my exercise regimen and eating 'cleaner food'  after I got sick.  This is indeed a wake up call since it's the first time that I went off any limit.  I will go back doing T25 plus some running on weekends with the hubby and be more serious about drinking green smoothies.  I commit to join Superfood Grocer's 10 day challenge.  So, in case you see my Instagram bombarded with daily pictures of my daily dose of green smoothie beginning  Monday, you can ignore it, or cheer me on.  Either way, the goal is to motivate myself and be healthier, not just for me but especially for my hubby and son (and fututre kid).  

                                         Superfood Grocer's challenge.

    Photos taken from Superfood Grocer's ebook.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Super typhoon is driving me nuts!

This super typhoon is freaking me out! Although Manila will not be directly hit by typhoon Yolanda, this urban jungle is prone to flood even with the slightest rain.  Blame it on poor urban planning.  And as an Ondoy victim,  I get all nuts whenever there is a storm that's brewing.  For the past three years, there has never been a year that R and I evacuate for safety to my uncle's house and camp there for several days.  I am thankful though that we have not experienced any flood since Ondoy.  I honestly do not know if I can handle one again!   

I hope the typhoon will weaken.  Please, God.  Give our country a break.  We just went through several typhoons and earthquakes.  What's even worse is that I read in the newspaper a couple of days ago that the Philippines belongs to the top 10 countries that will suffer severe damages due to climate change. Should we evacuate now to another country? Sigh, it is super scary that I do not even want to read more about it.  

Thank you God for making me a Mom.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fun at the Little Gym

It is R's 3rd week at the Little Gym and I am so happy that he enjoys his classes there. It is actually the first time wherein he does not hold on to the entrance of the door, stopping me to go inside. We have been to Gymboree, Summer Class in ISYC and Kindermusik (trial class) and I experienced the same behavior every time. I am not saying that the classes/programs that he attended were not good. It's just not for him.

One day, I was looking for other institutions for R that offered once a week classes to follow through on his summer school experience. I was looking for a school that will meet his needs. He loves to run a lot, so that was one of my major requirement. A program that will further hone his dexterity and at the same time improve his social skills. I did some research on the net for other alternatives and came across reviews about the Little Gym.

The Little Gym along Julia Vargas in Ortigas has been there for quite sometime. I guess the reason why I never checked it out was because I had an impression that they were only offering gymnastics. I wish I knew what they had to offer earlier! During our trial class, R was running around like crazy. He loved how spacious the place was! Lots of room for running! The class had a similar flow with the other schools, but a plus is that they involve gymnastics in teaching kids. At first, I was afraid that R might be afraid of walking on the balance beam or swinging on the low and high bars, but he surprised me because he actively participated in all of the tasks. He was having fun!

What made me decide to enroll him at the Little gym was because of their progressive approach. For the first time, I heard the teacher assure the parents that it is alright to let the kids wander off, especially if it is their first time. We were asked to just stay with the group and just call on our child from time to time. I felt relieved because I was not stressing myself on making R join the group all the time. There wasn't any nagging from me or crying from R. True to the teacher's words, R (and the other children) would gravitate towards the group and join the activities.

So far, both of us are enjoying his classes so much.  In the three weeks that we have spent  at the Little Gym, I am seeing how he is very comfortable with his teacher and surroundings, and is being more sociable towards his classmates.

The enrollment fee may be a little bit higher compared to Gymboree and Kindermusik, covering 12 weeks, but my hubby and I were willing to give it a try because we saw how it can benefit R.  This is really worth an investment.

Holidays without the mall

How was your long weekend?  I hope you guys had a blast as much as I did.  We did not go out of town or anything.  Honestly, I am not the type to plan trips that will coincide with holidays, knowing how the traffic scene will look like.  Stress.    We had a simple, yet fun long weekend, sans R getting sick after trick or treating.  This was also the first time that we did not hang out in any malls and it was such a refreshing change!  Don't get me wrong.  I love going to the mall.  A week cannot pass by without visiting the mall.  I feel incomplete and I kinda get irritable (haha!)  The week that had passed was truly an exception and I congratulate myself for breathing in some fresh air.

R had fever Friday morning, but thank God, it quickly went away after drinking paracetamol.  Come late afternoon, my hubby and I were kinda getting bored and decided to dine by the Manila Bay.  We wanted something different and wanted R to experience eating by the Bay.  It was a quick drive to Harbor View, which is one of the restaurants that my family and I used to frequent when I was younger.  On our way, R got so giddy seeing the huge ferris wheel in Star City, which can be seen at the other side of the bay where we dined.  We totally loved the cool breeze.  It was a new experience for R as well.  It was his first time to see this side of Manila and dine by the bay.

I had to order my all time favorite Nilasing na Hipon.  I missed it so much!  I think the last time I had that was five years ago!  I was solved.  I was not able to take a lot of pictures because the little boy was everywhere and kept on pulling me towards the trick or treat pail.

Harbor View.
My little elf.

Mama, pshhhh.
We opted to sit inside.  
My Nilasing na hipon!
Al Fresco dining by the bay.

Come Sunday morning, we headed to UP so that R could run.  We also brought his tricycle, knowing that he would get tired.  Initially, he was riding his tricycle.  But probably after seeing all those people walking, jogging, running, and biking, he decided to join them. And run did he!  Boy, did excerised that morning! The expression from my son's face every time he runs and see such a huge space is priceless.  It's as if he is in heaven.  He just kept on running and taking everything in.  He must have been so exhausted on our way back because he asked his Dad to buy him juice and quietly sat on his tricycle, drinking.

It was truly one of my ideal weekends, just hanging out with my boys and enjoying the simple and cheap things that life can offer.

Sunday morning fun at UP.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Food trip days

Fridays are usually food trip days since R has class at The Little gym.  I have been quite busy to do separate reviews, so here are some of our food escapades for the last two weeks.

                     Ginza Bairin at the UP Town Center is a must for Katsu lovers like me!

          Pancake house's Limited edition Salted Caramel & Walnut pancake is so good!

                            Green Pastures at the East Wing of Shangri-la mall is always
                                      full.  Organic food + good food = winner!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What's new: The UP Town Center

UP town center opened its doors to the public probably a month ago.  This is the new hip and up coming go to place for people on this other side of Manila.  It must be a joy to the students of UP, Miriam, and Ateneo that there is a mall nearby and probably an additional traffic nightmare for those living there.  It is being developed by Ayala Land Inc (ALI).  It will be a mixed development with retail shops, restaurants, and offices.

Currently, they have a number of restaurants and cafes already operating and the only retail store that I was able to see was Cotton On.  The restaurants that I saw that were already operational are Ba Nois, Highlands Cafe, Steveston Pizza, Vanilla Cupcake Bakery, Ryu ramen & curry, Tokyo Tonteki,  IHOP (yes, without the long line), Ginza Bairin (which was my purpose of going there, more on that on a separate post), Tea rock Milk tea cafe, Dulcelin Gourmet, Boon Tong Kee, Salu salo, 8 Cuts Burger Blend, Liberty New York Steakhouse,  Casa Verde, Pinac, the Primary Kitchen bar, Kos Greek  Quzeri, and Red Onion Cafe.

It was a good thing that we arrived early.  We did it on purpose so that we could secure a parking space.   Honestly, if you go there during peak hours, I doubt if you will be able to park.  They only have two small uncovered parking spaces on the sides of the mall.  So, in case you are planning to dine there, better if you go during the lean hours or weekdays.  But I hope they will soon have a bigger parking lot, especially with all the restaurants there.

Similar to the other Ayala developments, the UP town center also utilizes a lot of open space.  I like the idea of open space, especially if you have children who love to wander and run.  However, it may not be too toddler friendly during the rainy season and at this time since it is still not yet fully developed.  I also find  the restaurants in front close to the main road.  So, imagine me panting and running after R because he might go straight to the road. There were plants separating the pedestrian pavement from the main road alright, but I think they can put a fence or something.   Well, maybe that is the 'praning' (paranoid) mom in me, but better be safe than sorry.  My son really runs so fast, so those are the things that run in my mind.  

Anyway, I am pretty sure that this place will be another foodie's haven.  I am sure to go back soon, weekly perhaps, to try out all the restaurants out there!

P.S.  Sorry I have no pictures of the complex to show you.  I was busy running after my two year old.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Toddler Activity : Build a tree

During my me time last week, I spent around an hour at True Value looking for things that I can use for R's activity time.  Honestly, I have been running out of ideas on indoor activities lately.  R loves the outdoors and playing with water, but we are not able to do that as often because of the rain.  I was excited to see a lot of items on sale.  One of the things that I saw was this Build a Cling Christmas tree at 50% off.  For P50 it was definitely a steal.  Since Christmas is around the corner I thought of doing an activity with R where he could build his own tree using these removable stickers.  Boy, did he have fun sticking it on the mirror.  Now, everytime he enters his room, he would proudly point at the Christmas tree that he decorated.  I should probably hoard some more Build a Cling for future activities!

                  This is how it should look like.

                              R is also into stickers, so this activity was very timely.

   Half way through the activity and R's tree is looking good!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mommy cooks : Fishballs with home made sauce ala Manong's

Fishballs are one of the most popular street foods here in Manila.  I remember back in my highschool, there was a Fishball vendor that was always swarmed with people - from students to Yayas to drivers.  Everyone simply enjoyed it, seemingly taken away by what is known as  Manong's secret sauce.  When I was in collge, we would sometimes troop to UP (University of the Philippines) for our fishball fix.  That was some years ago when the internet was still not that accessible and only those street vendors knew about that sweet sauce.

A couple of months back, there were several posts in FB on Manong's secret sauce.  Obviously, it has gone viral and that secret is not a secret anymore!  I did not immediately try out the recipe since I am trying to veer away from too much oily food.  But my dear husband, who is a sucker for Filipino street food (Isaw, kwek-kwek, BBQ, etc) has been bugging me to cook Fishballs.  And so, I finally gave in today and scoured the net for that magical sauce.  The net has a lot of entries on this and most of the recent ones have the same recipe.  Honestly, I do not know who I should credit for this recipe, but whoever you are, thank you for spreading the love. 

It was a sure hit and my husband loved it so much.  I think he went on a fishball binge! 

Without further adieu, here is the recipe to Manong's fishball sauce which I kind of tweaked to suit my taste.  

1 small white onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced (original recipe calls for 2)
3 T cornstarch (original recipe just calls for 2)
2 T flour (I actually used oat flour, but it still tasted good)
3/4 c brown sugar
4 c water
4T soy sauce
1 silli labuyo, chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Dissolve the cornstarch, flour, soy sauce and sugar in the water.  (Make sure that the water is not hot).
2. Once dissolved, bring the ingredients to a boil, stirring occasionally.
3. Lower heat and put the onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Let the sauce simmer until you get your desired consistency. 
5. Serve with fired Fishballs, squid balls or even kikiam.

Mommy Eats : Chef Tatung at Acacia Estates

I have been hearing and reading good reviews about Chef Tatung.  As you know, I love good deals, that's why I subscribe to groupons.  I came across Chef Tatung's anniversary promo in Ensogo and grabbed the opportunity to finally try out this restaurant.

Tatung's Garden Cafe  became a hit a few years back when Chef Myke Sarthou opened his home for private dinners in Quezon City.  However, by word of mouth, people started to flock his place and it became a foodie's haven.  Tatung's Garden Cafe was then opened to the public.

A year ago, Chef Mike opened his new restaurant in Taguig.  It is located in the sprawling property of the DMCI group called Acacia Estates.   For this restaurant,  he  concentrated on serving Filipino heirloom dishes.

Going to Chef Tatung was quite a travel for us, coming from the LA, aka lower Antipolo (lol) especially on a Saturday.  However, when you get to Acacia Estates, it's pretty easy to spot the restaurant. Set amidst the low rise condominiums and some greenery, it automatically feels like you are far away from the city.  Upon entering the restaurant, you are greeted by Filipino arcticrafts and furniture.  The dining hall is huge but still gives a homey feel.  There was also a big function room to the right of the main wing where they hold their Sunday buffet and Sugbahan. 

We quickly scoured the menu to place our orders.  There were some items though that we're not available like the Lumpiang ubod, Lemongrass Chicken Relleno and Sago't gulaman.  We settled for the Tamarind Glazed Butterfly tilapia, Pokipoki Gratin, Binagoongang Pork Skewers, and Tatung's Fried Rice.  For dessert, we ordered  the Warm Tsoknut Chocolate Cake and the Pichi-pichi with Quezo de bola.  

Among all the food that we ordered, what stood out was the Pokipoki Gratin and Chef Tatung's rice.  Pokipoki is an Ilocano cuisine.  I love Chef Tatung's version of this with layers of vigan longganisa, eggplant, egg, tomatoes, and carabao mozarella cheese.  Mouth watering, indeed!  Tatung's fried rice on the other hand reminds me of Kiampung Rice (Chinese fried rice cooked in Pork Stew).  It was so good and filling and was already a meal itself.   For the dessert, both had a unique taste and were really good.  My son devoured the Warm Tsoknut Chocolate Cake like there was no tomorrow, that's why I was not able to get a picture of it because I was stopping him from eating it too fast!  The Pichi-pichi with Quezo de Bola blew me away.  It has a different texture compared to the other Pichi-Pichi's out there.  It is slimy and that's what made it perfect!  The melted Quezo de Bola  gave it a different twist. I was totally sold!

I cannot wait to go back to Chef Tatung soon and try out the famous Slow Roasted Lechon Belly and another serving or two of that Pichi-pichi!    

Chef Tatung's Garden Cafe is part of  Manila's 115 Restaurants we love.

Facade of Chef Tatung at Acacia Estates.

R checking out the banga at the entrance.
Spacious dining area.
Chef Tatung.
The ladies' washroom mirror.

Love the mix and match chairs.

Our Saturday Lunch.

The very filling Tatung's fried rice.
You have to try the Pokipoki Gratin.
Chicken Inasal
Tamarind Glazed Butterfly tilapia
Binagoongang Pork Skewers.

Pichi Pichi with Quezo de Bola is bliss!
Now this is what you call a super highchair.  Nice concept, but it was way too high and is pretty unsafe for the kids.

R and my niece on the mini stage.


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