Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Swell Sweets Cookie and Cupcake Decorating Workshop


Even if I bake often, I have not really learned how to decorate my cupcakes and cookies that well. I follow a few of our local bakers because their creations really serve as inspiration and eye-candy to me. One of the cake suppliers I've been following on IG is Swell Sweets. Her creations are always unique and well-executed.  When my daughters and I received an invitation from Swell Sweets to attend a workshop at their commissary, we could not say YES fast enough!

These are the works of my 2 daughters during the Swell Sweets Summer Cookie and Cupcake Decorating Workshop


Monday, April 27, 2015

Suds Laundry & Dry Cleaners

I'd like to think that I am somewhat efficient in my job as a homemaker. I like to believe that I am capable of maintaining cleanliness and order at home. I am generally on top of things and I try tomake sure that everything is running smoothly.

But if there's anything I don't quite like to do as a homemaker, it's having to go to the dry-cleaners to have C's barongs and suits cleaned. You must be like, "What? There's nothing to it." You see, parking is a pain in the laundromat that is nearest us. Whenever I have to bring something or pick something up from the laundromat, I always set it aside and push it back as much as I can.

So much so that I remember one time when I brought C's suit to the cleaners, and because parking was such a hassle I kept on delaying claiming it until I forgot about it, and I only remembered when we had a wedding to attend and he asked me to take it out from his closet. That's when I remembered it's still with the dry cleaners. Panic! Naturally I hurried over to claim it, only to find out that I lost the claim stub. Patay! I ended having to stay in the laundromat for close to an hour as I helped them look for his suit among the piles of clothes. Of course, I had to show proof of ownership so we also had to trace their old receipts and records for more than 6 months back. Whew! I am sure the attendant was not thrilled with me. Teehee! At di rin ako natuwa sa sarili ko.

Di ba pwede na may laundromat/dry cleaners na may delivery service? Parang Jollibee, McDo or Shakeys? Teehee!

When Suds offered for me to try their laundry/dry clean pick-up service, I did not think twice to say yes! Pick-up ba kamo? Sold!


Friday, April 24, 2015

Little Girls + Tea Parties


Ever since my 3 kids started going to school, I have always prayed for them to find great friends. And for the most part, we are blessed that their friends are great ones. Upto this day, I continuously pray that they attract and maintain friends who are a good influence to them. In the same manner, I've also asked God to not let anyone of them experience the suffering that can happen when they associate with friends who can be a bad influence in their lives. Better yet, I request God to take out anyone who does not have a godly influence on them.

The friends of my second daughter, B, are the most creative and imaginative. I love that in this day of gadgets, their playdates are filled with imaginative play full of dress-ups, castles, fairies, wizards, princesses, wands... all the good stuff that their creative and highly imaginative minds are made of! Just a few weeks ago, one of her friends thought of inviting everyone in their group for a tea party! How fun, di ba? 

It was just the perfect time also to use the floral plates and cups that Melawares sent over a few months ago. I asked the mom of the host if it was ok with her that I send over the plates so our girls could use it for their tea party. Good thing she said yes. Perfect addition, don't you think?


Monday, April 20, 2015

Weekend Footnotes: A Wedding at Mango Farm

It's been such a long time since someone has gotten married in the family. So when we learned that our younger cousin is getting married, everyone looked forward to a reason for the extended family to get-together.

There's always something specially intoxicating about a romantic and enchanting garden wedding. Notwithstanding the summer heat, I think almost everyone present at the Mango Farm reception will agree that the lovely and ethereal set-up did wonders to the heart.

There was a lot of crying, emotional speeches from both sides, drinking and dancing. The brother of the groom shifted to being a party DJ, and went over to the booth "played his set."  But of course, we left the dancing to the younger set, because it was way past our curfew already. teehee!

Enjoy the sweetest details captured by my camera that day.


 Notice the 4 cute and standout messages we all commissioned my J to doodle for us. She really has an artisitic bent which I think she should enhance some more.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Project Mom Favorite Finds Fair + Mother's Day Giveaway

Mother's Day is one of the celebrations that is always closest to the heart of all moms. And no one knows this better than the 2 beautiful moms behind the book, Project Mom, Bianca Araneta-Elizalde and Amanda Griffin-Jacob. This coming Mothers’ Day, Glorietta in collaboration with Amanda and Bianca, will host a one-of-a-kind campaign just for moms.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Japan: Ways To SAVE So You Can SPLURGE

Click here to read ALL my JAPAN posts.

Traveling expense for our family of 5 can easily inflate if we are not careful about our spending when we were in Japan. We make a conscious effort to save on some things so we could splurge on others. Read how we do it:

HOW TO SAVE SO YOU CAN SPLURGE


HOW TO SAVE on Accommodation

1. Compare the rate on travel sites versus the hotel’s site. 

Turns out, in our case, the hotel was offering a cheaper rate; plus it was easier communicating with a live person who can immediately answer any of my questions and accommodate my requests.
Discussing with a live person comes in handy when I had to negotiate for a lower rate:
a.  I was able to avail of a discount by taking their weekly rate which they offer to guests who stay for more that 7 days. I am not sure if I could’ve gotten that if I booked via the online site.
b.  I did not avail of the "complimentary" breakfast that came with the room. We were in Osaka, after all, the food capital of Japan! Also, I am sure we would NOT enjoy eating the same and limited breakfast the hotel usually offers as standard fare anyway.
c.  I was also able to further lower our cost by asking them to take out the daily housekeeping. Instead we got housekeeping services every other day, but the towels are changed daily and trash is also taken out daily. Besides, my kids are old already so there wasn’t any mess to clean up on a daily basis anyway.


2.  Consider a Budget Hotel.  

My 2 sisters decided to join us on our trip at the last minute and all the rooms at Fraser Residences were occupied already. So they booked at Toyoki Inn, the perfect hotel for the no-frills budget traveler. Being a budget hotel, keep in mind that you generally get what you pay for: a very small room, no closet but just hooks on the wall to hang your clothes, be prepared to stow your bags underneath the bed.

The kids and I helped them check-out on their last day. While the room was very small, it was immaculately clean and everything needed was provided for. My sisters' room has a full-sized bed that can fit two person comfortably.

http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/04/japan-2014-where-to-stay-in-osaka_25.html




HOW TO SAVE on Transportation

In the face of the perceived difficulties of travelling without a tour group in Japan, I think with enough research prior to the trip, any visitor will find Japan very easy to navigate. Otherwise, you'll end up wasting your time and money as you go around the complex train station of Japan taking the wrong trains. We saved ourselves the trouble of getting lost by doing some thorough research ahead of our trip.

1.  Do some thorough research for your trip - BEFORE your trip.  

Traveling to a country where English is not spoken as much is really no trouble if a thorough research was done prior to the trip. Here are the websites and apps which have helped me plan for our trip.
http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/04/japan-2014-websites-and-apps-to-help.html


2.  Make a detailed Tour Itinerary. 

The itinerary that I laid out was very specific, complete with directions on how to get to a specific attraction and the suggested time allotted for it. Of course, we were not able to stick to the time on the itinerary but it was essential that it was there to give us an overview on how long we should stay in one area if we decide to cover everything that was on the itinerary.
http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/04/japan-2014-osaka-kyoto-nara-kobe-trip.html


3.  Make a Commuting Itinerary.  

Assuming you are also taking a self-guided tour to Japan, I have already mentioned in a previous post the importance of planning and making a commuting itinerary. It is THE most important thing for an independent tourist.  Again, the railway system of Japan is complex, but a thorough commuting itinerary will prevent you from getting lost in its maze. :)
http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/04/japan-2014-how-to-get-around-kansai-how.html


4.  Know your train options.  

There are several railway service provider in Japan so it's best to know your options and routes thoroughly before you even step foot on the train station.

If you are traveling from KIX Airport to Nanba Osaka, look at your options: I have discussed this thoroughly in this post.



5. Railway Passes Do Not Always Pay Off.

I have also mentioned here that most passes do not really pay-off since the savings are dependent on time. Taking on the pass means speeding through the sights, not really an ideal way to enjoy any place.

But we found out that there are also travel cards that offer value and savings.  Certain packages such as the Osaka Kaiyu Ticket, the Yokoso Osaka Ticket and the Kanku Tokuwari Rapi:t Ticket were good deals. You can read more about why I chose those railway passes to give the most value for money here

Japan has a very efficient railway system, but if you are a group of 4 adults (or in our case 2 adults, 1 teen, 2 kids), for shorter distances, traveling by taxi is the more economical option.




HOW TO SAVE on Food

I have trained my kids early on to eat whatever’s on the table so I never had any problem with them being picky about food when we travel or eat out. Whenever we travel, we try to expose them to what the locals eat.  While they eat anything and everything, they also WANT to eat ALL the time.:)  So if I do not do some careful planning on our meals, our budget would soon go over-the-top crazy.

1. Visit the market. 

You can enjoy the food at the market at a fraction of the restaurant cost. In this trip, we visited two local market; Nishiki Ichiba in Kyoto and Kuromon-Ichiba in Osaka. Everyone loved the food market, that we even visited Kuromon twice! We were even able to view a tuna cutting ceremony which you can view right here.
  


2. Have a picnic. 

Park grounds don't cost anything, and you can just buy a hanami bento that they sell so cheaply in the basement food court of department stores. I took the kids to a hanami picnic.. Hanami literally means cherry blossom viewing. So a this kind of picnic involves eating while enjoying the sakura blooms. It's picnic under the sakura blooms... complete with a curtain of falling petals.



3. Take advantage of the daily sales at the basement food hall of department stores. 

The basement food hall is my fave place to shop after 6pm because almost everything is on sale! If you plan to buy from the food hall, it is best to come early because the items sell really fast. No time to be indecisive. I learned this because the first time we went, I went around the first time to check on what's on sale. By the time I came back to get what I wanted, sold out na! Ganon kabilis!



 Even the beef is on sale! Asan ka pa!


d. Bring a reusable water bottle container

You can refill your container at water fountains and/or restaurants. You are not only saving the earth, but this will save you from buying your drinks at convenience stores when your kids get thirsty. Also, we fill up our containers at the hotel’s food outlet before we head out for the day. This way our purchase of bottled water is minimized.


e. Bring snacks 

I let my kids bring snacks in their bag to curb their hunger, so I don’t feel trapped to buy over-priced food at stores located in touristy places. I buy a big amount of snacks from the food hall (at a discount, shempre!) or at the grocery, and store them inside the refrigerator so the kids just get whatever they want before we head out for the day.  I don’t know if this only applies to me since my kids are really such BIG eaters.



HOW TO SAVE on Activities

Many things to enjoy in Japan are absolutely free. Having a hanami picnic with my kids was one of my to-do list for Japan. C wasn't really that enthusiastic about it, but for me it was one of the defining moments of our Japan family trip. An authentic Japan experience that didn't cost anything! What are some more ways to enjoy Japan without paying for anything?

1. See a street concert, or cultural event.

A street concert in Osaka

2. Catch a magnificent sunset



3. Enjoy God's beautiful creation

This one is one of the beautiful gardens at the Osaka Castle grounds. 

4. Take a Walking Date around the park while your kids are playing

We enjoyed walking around the Maruyama Koen in Kyoto



5. Go Drainspotting


 Go on your own treasure hunt as you collect photos of these colorful and unique manhole covers which decorate the roads of Japan.



HOW TO SAVE on Shopping For Pasalubong

1. Check the supermarket for food items that are not available at home. 
Because my family loves food, I sometimes like to think that everyone is like us and will appreciate food as pasalubong.


2. Try looking at the 100 Yen stores. 
They have a lot of choices for quirky items, including a bento materials, lot of home organization stuff, Sanrio items, washi tapes, and a lot more.



3. The KitKat store 
The KitKat store along Shinsaibashi offers a lot of different flavors of KitKat and a lot of other Japanese brands of snacks.


As I've said, I really think food is the best pasalubong to give, especially when you have a lot of people to get gifts for. I don't think anyone can go wrong with food because everyone needs to eat, di ba?

4. For friends and family back home that are office supplies addicts, you can go to Tokyu Hands and get lost in there for about an hour or two. Instax films, Frixion pens, Copic markers are available in great assortment.




SPLURGE on what matters most to your FAMILY:

1. Space and comfort in your chosen accommodation

It mattered to us that we have enough space to walk around in, and not feel so cramped so we got a one-bedroom suite on the executive floor. Our room had separate sleeping and living quarters, a walk-in closet and a completely functioning kitchen. Coming home to a restful space was important to us
We booked at Fraser Residences, a family-friendly hotel which had the things we prioritized for a hotel: good location and big enough space for the five of us. Fraser Residences is perfect for families with kids who value a spacious retreat to come home to after a tiring day of sightseeing. It is walking distance away for where all the actions is: sightseeing, shopping and dining




2. Stay longer. 

We chose to stay longer to explore the Kansai area, we do not want to be constrained by time and feel like we have to rush through everything. The 11 days we stayed in Japan is still one of our favorite trips ever, which we hope to be able to do again in the near future.


3. Enjoy the beef, fresh seafood and juiciest strawberries. 

Since we were in Japan, home of Kobe beef, C also had several slabs of Kobe beef. Eat until sawa. Enjoy the freshest sushi and the biggest and sweetest strawberries you can ever eat!



For ALL my Japan posts:

1. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/03/phenomenal-tip-my-10-step-guide-on-how.html
2. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/04/japan-2014-osaka-kyoto-nara-kobe-trip.html
3. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/04/japan-2014-websites-and-apps-to-help.html



4. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/04/japan-2014-snippets-of-our-vacation.html
5. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/04/japan-2014-where-to-stay-in-osaka.html
6. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/04/japan-2014-where-to-stay-in-osaka_25.html



7. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/04/japan-2014-how-to-get-around-kansai-how.html
8. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/05/japan-2014-day-1-arrival-at-osaka.html
9. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/05/japan-2014-day-2-universal-studios-japan.html



10. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/05/japan-2014-day-2-ippudo-ramen-osaka.html
11. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/05/japan-2014-day-3-eastern-kyoto.html
12. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/05/japan-2014-day-3-eastern-kyoto_16.html



13. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/05/japan-2014-day-3-eastern-kyoto-kodaiji.html
14. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/07/japan-2014-day-4-western-kyoto.html
15. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/07/japan-2014-day-4-western-kyoto-kinkakuji.html



16. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/11/japan-2014-day-5-downtown-kyoto-nishiki.html
17. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2014/12/japan-2014-day-5-southern-kyoto-fushimi.html
18. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2015/01/japan-2014-day-5-nara-nara-deer-park.html



19. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2015/01/japan-2014-day-6-osaka-kuromon-ichiba.html
20. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2015/01/japan-2014-day-6-osaka-tempozan-harbor.html
21. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2015/01/japan-2014-day-7-osaka-shinsaibashi.html



22. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2015/01/japan-2014-day-8-kobe-kitano-district.html
23. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2015/01/japan-2014-day-8-kobe-kobe-steak-lunch.html
24. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2015/01/japan-2014-day-8-kobe-meriken-park.html






28. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2015/04/japan-2014-day-10-osaka-osaka-museum-of.html
29. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2015/04/japan-2014-drainspotting-in-japan-art.html
30. http://thephenomenalmama.blogspot.com/2015/04/japan-2014-ways-to-save-so-you-can.html



Click here to read ALL my JAPAN posts.


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