Thursday, January 30, 2014

Summer STAYCATION Suggestions 2014

Our tourism logo says."It's More Fun In The Philippines!"  And it is indeed true!  We have so many islands to explore that Filipinos need not venture out of the country for some summer fun.  In this post I am compiling some of the travel destinations we have visited in the past few years.

Dumaguete is not really a top-of-mind destination for Filipino travelers, but this sleepy town attracts a considerable number of foreign tourists, perhaps because of its proximity to some of the country's best diving sites, the whale sharks swimming around Oslob, and the dolphin sightings in the nearby city of Bais. We were lucky enough to be able to swim with the whale sharks, and you can read about our whale shark experience here.  

We stayed at Hotel Essencia, a hotel that is conveniently located in the middle of downtown Dumaguete, walking distance away from everything else.  Click here to know more about our accomodations and how we got around the city.
Read ALL my post about Dumaguete here.


Iloilo is another place we visited because J participated in another swimming event, the Batang Pinoy National Championship.  I initially thought that our 5-day stay would provide sufficient time to squeeze in a city tour; but quickly realized after having spent half-day cheering my daughter on by the poolside, under the humid Iloilo sun, I was too pooped to actually go around the city. Nevertheless,you will still be getting the dish on Iloilo's must-visit restaurants and what pasalubongs to buy here in this post.  And if you want to make the most out of your money in terms of accomodation, then you won't go wrong with Days Hotel Iloilo.  You can read my review on the hotel right here.  

At Tatoy's, one of the best seafood restos I've tried.
Read ALL my post about Iloilo here

ANVAYA COVE in Morong, Bataan
Anvaya Cove will indulge the water lover in you as you take your pick of four pools that lay side-by-side. A lap pool on the right most, followed by an infinity pool that appear to blend seamlessly with the waters of Subic Bay, then a Jacuzzi and, tucked in a corner, a kiddie pool with a slide.

I wrote about the accomodation and the facilities in our first visit here.  And on our second visit, I mentioned about the Nature Trail activities like a rope obstacle course that the kids enjoyed because they got to release their inner Indiana Jones.  There's also a trial that took us into the middle of a very thick bamboo forest; we step gingerly on boulders as we make our way through stream beds that are almost dried up. The last stop in this adventure was taking the zipline
Read ALL my post about Anvaya Cove in Bataan here

ACUATICO in Laiya, Batangas.

Acuatico in Laiya, Batangas doesn’t have the wide and spacious frontage that other resorts have, but it lays claim to having the best pool among the Laiya resorts, or even the whole of Batangas, for that matter.  The pièce de résistance - the infinity edge pool that looks out to the open sea.

Read ALL my post about Acuatico Resort in Laiya, Batangas here

Have you finally decided where to bring your family this summer?  You can also read my other post about Summer Vacation Plans 2014 if you are thinking of going out of the country.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Weekend Footnotes

I woke up 5:15am today to prepare my kids' lunch for school, and went back to sleep right after.  I only got off my bed again at 8am when the hubby woke me up for our daily breakfast date, before he leaves for work.  I am still too pooped from last weekend's activities, and my body is demanding some more rest!:)

Last week was the start of the Palarong Pambansa (NCR meet) festivities.  Our city of San Juan hosted this year's regional games, and so a parade was in order to officially start the games.
San Juan swimmers pose for photos before we go to the assembly for the parade of athletes
For three straight days, Wednesday to Friday, I was at the poolside cheering for my girls!  J has moved up to compete for the secondary girls of San Juan, and B made it to represent the elementary girls of San Juan. It made both girls so proud to represent their school and city in this year's Palarong NCR.  It was no easy feat for this tired mama as I sat by the bleachers with the other swim-moms, cheering our kids on from sunrise to sundown.
Since I had less time to prepare my family's meals, being that I am also at the poolside for the entire day, meals were limited to rice toppings with meat and veggies that are quick to prepare.  The photo below shows one such meal that took me less than 30 minutes to do.  The roasted black sesame seeds sprinkled on top makes the meals seem so much more special and elaborate that it actually is, don't you think?:)
Grilled chicken with roasted sesame dressing and steamed brocolli 
Moving on to other topic, here's a quick rundown on where I ate the past few weeks...

I think three days of swim-mom duty ought to be rewarded with 2 whole pizzas, eaten in bed while catching up on my favorite tv shows.:) Everyone agrees!
I met up with some friends at The Red Crab over at Eastwood Mall a couple of weeks ago.  The pancit sa tinta was so good that no one minded the black stains it left on our teeth.
The Red Crab Alimango House
Ground Floor, Eastwood Mall, Quezon City

Meeting up with friends over good food is really one of my simple joys.  Trying new restos are made more fun with them.  So I find myself at Tampopo trying the house specialty, the Tampopo Black Pig Shabu Ramen.  The Black Pig, also known as Kurobota in Japanese, is prized for its exceptional flavor and tenderness.
Unit 115, Ground Floor Promenade 3, Greenhills

Our favorite cupcake shop is now nearer!  Cupcakes by Sonja has a new location at the new addition to the Promenade in Greenhills.
Cupcakes By Sonja
Ground Floor Promenade 3, Greenhills

How about you, how did your weekend go?


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Summer Vacation Suggestions 2014

Summer Vacation!  Two words that mean so much joy to both kids and moms who don't have to wake up early.  Yay!

In a few more weeks, summer is going to be upon us already. Soon enough, the kids will be asking, "where are we going?" Do you have a destination in mind already? 

I know where I will be taking my family this summer, and I have already started planning our itinerary. Shempre, pati itinerary DIY! My daughter, B, and I station ourselves in front of the computer as we research about our upcoming trip.  She enjoys it so much, and feels so valued that she has a say in which hotel to choose!:)

We love taking our time during trips because this allows us to stay in an area long enough for the kids to explore it until they've satisfied their natural curiosity for their surrounding. But no matter how long or short a trip is, only one thing matters: take lots of travel photos and make sure to document them in a photo album, with anecdotes if you have the time. I can't begin to tell you how much my kids and I love to re-read my previous blog post about our trips.

We went to Taiwan last 2013, but somehow I wasn't able to do a blog post about it.  But even if it's a year ago already, I feel like I want to do a catch-up post on Taiwan.  I should because we made so many wonderful memories there!

I have written in a 2009 travel post on Korea, "Being able to look at a photo and give a chuckle or to giggle uncontrollably in recollection of something... these are the travel souvenirs I wish my children would carry with them as they grow older, forever locked in their hearts. It is true that traveling creates character, tolerance, insight and confidence, but most of all it creates memories, which, hopefully, will keep us connected even when distance will later separate us.".

If you are still clueless on where you are taking your family, let me invite you to join me as I re-visit some of my travel posts. If you have young kids, the countries we've visited are perfect for them!

Our Singapore trip ranks as one of the kids' all-time fave. I couldn't blame them! We spent 8 leisurely days touring this tiny country. We took time to enjoy ALL the sights! They enjoyed this room at the Marina Bay Sands so much that they did not even want to leave the room anymore! Click here to read more about where we stayed in Singapore and how we got around.
The hotel's infinity pool was a sight to behold, especially during bright sunny mornings!
The Singapore Zoo was also another fun destination that the kids spent the entire day going around. I kid you not - an entire day! Read all about our experience at the Singapore Zoo right here.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dumaguete: Where to Eat and What Pasalubong to Buy

To read ALL post about Dumaguete, click here.

When we were in Dumaguete for the 2013 Palarong Pambansa, where J represented the NCR for the swimming event, here are some of the restaurants we ate at: 

1. SansRival Bakeshop and Bistro have been a fixture in Dumaguete for over a quarter of a century.  Even before we left for Dumaguete, friends were already saying that the Sans Rival and Silvanas were one of the best; and have won in the 24 Best Desserts of the Philippines by the Phil Daily Inquirer - Lifestyle section, Dec. 2009.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Weekend Footnotes

Weekends are usually always about eating out for my family.  This time around we tried Lugang Cafe at SM Aura.  Lugang specializes in Taiwanese cuisine, and we have tried it several times before at the Greenhills branch, and it never fails to make our tummies happy.  This new branch doesn't disappoint , as well.
Xiao Long Bao is a MUST order for my son.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

iPad App {Sketches}

a sketch done by my 13- y/o daughter

Do you have any rule on how your kids use electronics?

My kids are not that addicted to electronic gadgets, but I think when left to idleness they could easily get captivated by it. I monitor the use of their gadgets, and try to keep a suitable balance by encouraging them to finish a creative pursuit before they play with their iPads or X-box.

This is easier to keep an eye on when school is on; during summer and Christmas break, it takes an extra effort to keep them off electronics. I am lucky that I have dutiful kids who have been blessed with obedient hearts; as such they already know that the best way to spend their time is to engage in recreation with things that remain inanimate until they put them in motion - Lego, sketching, coloring, etc. I have spent years guiding them that this is the best kind of play.  But of course, initially they would compare with their friends and ask, "how come so-and-so gets to play with the iPad even during school days?" or "But so-and-so can play with the iPad the whole day during weekends!"  But because through the years I never gave in, they have accepted it fully now.

And so while we have, so far, only purchased one app for their iPad (Minecraft); nevertheless, I also understand that the iPad can be also used as a gadget for productivity with the right kind of apps. It's just a matter of looking for the right kind of app that my kids will be interested in.

During the last Christmas break, my daughter was able to make good use of her iPad by doing some amazing sketches using the app also called Sketches. 

Sketches is a FREE app, and is by far one of the best drawing app that we have come acrossIt is fairly easy to navigate so even a child can finish a sketch in no time.

Here she draws a word art for the year 2014

 Her take on "us" girls

I think she already has summer on her mind with her sketches of the beach and ice-cream!

And this Japanese girl is my favorite sketch so far! I just love how dainty it looks. If you pay more attention, you will notice how she was able to create different textures within the artwork by using the simple technique of shading.  I have been drawing and painting with my kids every summer since they were this tall, and it makes my heart burst with affection to see that all those summer art lessons have not gone to waste!

If you have kids who are also inclined toward the arts, what iPad apps do they use to cultivate their interest?


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Weekend Footnotes

It's back to the daily grind for me and the rest of the moms with school-aged kids. It seems like the holiday break just flew by... Bitin! How did you spend the last few days of the Christmas break?

We were invited last Saturday to the first birthday party of the youngest sister of one J's good friends. It was an Alice-in-Wonderland themed party held at the Isla Ballroom of the EDSA Shangri-la Hotel.  There were a lot of activities for the kids - cupcake decorating booth, face-painting, glitter tattoo, a booth for decorating a mad-hatters hat (for the boys) and a booth for designing fascinators (for the girls).
Since J was seated with her friends, B and I made the most of our being early by having fun. We tried on fascinators and took selfies.:)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Phenomenal Tip: What To Do With Holiday Left-Overs

Now that the holiday festivities are done, do you also find your kitchen brimming with left-overs? There are party left-overs and heaps of foodie gifts.  What do you do with them?  

I usually look at this as an opportunity... an opportunity to escape from cooking.  Hahaha! I often prepare so much food (on purpose) on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve... to have leftovers! Isang pahirapan lang, and I escape from kitchen duty for about 1-2 days. #lazycook

Here's how I keep party left-oversI portion them out freezer-safe containers, in quantities good enough for my family of five. I put effort in organizing the storage of our excess holiday food, because I know I will appreciate it a few days or even weeks down the line. Not only will my husband be thanking me for being cost-effective, I will also be benefiting from the food-storage planning that I made. I don’t know about you, but I have always avoided cooking for a few days after preparing all the food for Christmas Eve and New year’s Eve. Is there such a thing as getting umay from doing too much cooking? Holiday left-overs are there to MY rescue!

My parents-in-law host the Christmas party for their side of the family every year. They have this first week of December, and their party signifies the start of the holidays for us. This year, my sister-in-law wisely planned ahead and brought re-usable food storage containers. All their guests usually look forward to bringing home a portion of their favorite food – and I am no exception!:)