Decorating Panda Cupcakes with your Child!

From Google Images

I don’t know about you but my daughter loved these Monde Special Mamons that you could dress up as Pandas! They came out with these perhaps a year ago? What? You don’t remember them? Gasp! I don’t see them anymore which is really sad, but to be honest, even when they were available only the bigger supermarkets would carry them. I mean, the neighborhood Savemore  just didn’t make the cut.

 

I recall my daughter would beg for those Panda mamons (which are like soft cupcakes)! She never forgot about them from the first time she was given them at a grand aunt’s house.

I wasn’t able to take pictures of the packaging and the royal icing decorations included in the package. However, CF Toys  did post a neat video on Youtube of how it works.

They’re basically pre-packed mamons or naked cupcakes, about 6 per pack and they have sugar icing for the Panda’s skin and royal icing to serve as decorations for the Panda’s features.

You spread the icing thinly on the cupcake then add in the Panda’s features, they come in a variety so it’s really fun to play around so that each cupcake has a different facial expression. And the best part? After decorating your Panda mamons and taking pictures – you can eat the whole thing!

Z loved doing this. She never got bored of decorating her Panda mamons.

                                        Z carefully spreading the frosting

I let her do everything, from spreading the icing to sticking the “expressions” on the cupcake. It can be pretty messy so make sure you make your child wear an apron, a damp towel nearby would help too.

I wish they had these again, it’s a fun bonding idea for you and your child. It helps stoke their creativity and with gripping, spreading and “pasting” the Panda features, their motor skills are once again developed. The laughter and giggles you’ll be sharing with your child while doing your Panda cupcakes are also priceless!

Z’s beautiful Panda Special Mamon!

***This is not sponsored by Monde in any way***

Soap Surprise! An easy, practical and unique gift idea!

March last year I enrolled in a soap making class in Makati. It was a cold process soap making class that I will perhaps write more extensively about next time. This time I want to share with you some of the easy soaps I have done since then.

Soap Surprise!

Easy soaps? What do you mean? Well, as I’ve mentioned, the cold process soap making method (which I learned at the workshop that I attended) was a heck of a lot more complicated than the melt and pour soap making method. Primarily because, as the name implies, for this soap all I had to do was melt the soap base and pour them in molds. Once they were firm enough, I pulled them out and ta-dah! Soap is rocking the house.

20160508_074828

I wanted to make soaps as my daughter’s Christmas gifts in school. I wanted them to be homemade, cute and useful.

20160508_075743

Here are some of the things to take note of if you want to do this project. I used the melt and pour soap base I had ordered many months before from Soap Scentral. They cost about 220 Pesos per kilo. I also got the soap molds from them and they were pricey at 999 Pesos. I wanted to put erasers inside the soaps I made, I got this idea from Pinterest. In fact, the steps that I took were outlined fabulously well in the tutorial on Soap Deli News, I just chose to use erasers so that when they’ve used up the soap they could still use the erasers for school! The erasers I bought as a set for less then a hundred pesos.

I basically melted the soap in the microwave then poured them in the molds, when it could hold the weight of the cute erasers I bought I placed the erasers on top of the first layer of soap.

20160511_180629

Make sure to spray all the surfaces that the soap will touch with alcohol, it will make the soap adhere better to the dry soap as well as to the erasers that you’ve put in. Then, I coloured the base of the soap using colorants which I had also bought from Soap Scentral. The red colorant was 190 Pesos while the purple one was 230 Pesos. Once they were dry, I popped them out of the mold and sealed them with cling wrap. I didn’t want all sorts of things to stick to the soap so the seal really helps a lot with handling.

20161203_173439

I wanted to make the soaps extra cute by adding personalised gift tags to them! Screen Shot 2017-06-24 at 1.03.46 AM           soap gift tag 6 to a sheet

My daughter loooooved this soap idea and she made sure she kept one for herself! I even gave some of the soaps to her teachers. I also didn’t stop there, I coloured small batches of the soap, placed them in the molds and made more soap for the house.

 

20160512_090746

20160512_100022_001

This is a really fun and different activity you could do with some help from your child. I promise you,he or she will be so proud holding the finished product in their squeaky clean hands!

20161206104357

 

Toddler Gymnastics: a great idea for your baby!

So you know I’m a huge believer in keeping my children active and as far away from the TV screen, tablet or mpbile phone as much as possible. Z has been taking swimming classes for the past three summers which is great (she loves the water too so it’s not that hard to get her on board). We signed her up with CAL swim school again coz we’re loyal that way (we’re really happy with them and you can read an old post of mine about them here). She’s got a new coach and she was a bit strict in the beginning but Z loves her! Follows her with no question and even wears her swim cap & goggles with no complaints! Hooray!

Our dilemma was E, my 2nd daughter. She has about three months of summer break before her school starts in August. The minimum age requirement for CAL is 3 years old and E just turned two. Thankfully at Celebrity Sports they were offering Toddler Gymnastics via Let’s Cartwheel. Signed E up in a second!

The toddlers gymnastics reminded me quite a lot about Little Gym, which we enrolled Z in when she was about a year old. The kids do their warm-up and stretching, they do their gymnastics at the bar, beam or mat (depends on what the coach has lined up for that day) and then they do their cool down. It’s only an hour long so don’t expect mind boggling catapults and turns. There were probably 6 girls in E’s class and they were amazing! The good thing I guess about teaching kids at this age is they’re so exuberant!

They copied their coach even before he finished his demo, the girls were already scurrying about, trying to finish the step as early as possible so they could move on to the next one.

The tuition fee wasn’t that expensive which was an added bonus for us, as much as I would have loved for E to attend Little Gym, the fee for Let’s Cartwheel was a quarter of how much we paid at Little Gym. It was also much farther (Little Gym was in Ortigas and Celebrity Sports was near UP Diliman). In terms of the activities they were taught in class, the exercises they did in Toddler Gymnastics were very similar except Little Gym had a lot more singing and dancing.

                                                                     Doing the crab walk.

The good thing about exposing them to gymnastics or to any sport for that matter at this age is that it helps so much with their motor skills. I noticed with E, her balance has improved in leaps and bounds. When she does the forward roll, I don’t worry about her putting too much pressure on her neck because she knows to put her weight on her hands. It’s amazing! Of course she does it at home all the time and sometimes I tell her to stop already or else she will get dizzy.

These tiny kids, they have such strength in them that it’s so wonderful when they realize it. They become independent yet they know how to be a part of a team.

Stretching their legs during cool down.

They learn self-regulation because they wait for their turn (although admittedly E usually runs around or does the step anyway). Most of all, they develop their social skills, which was another plus for me.

We are down to our last month of Let’s Cartwheel and we have generally been very happy with the results. My husband said next year maybe the girls could do soccer or football. We’ll see!

A First Timer’s Drive Up To Baguio

My husband had work that kept him in Baguio since early in the year, and when April came around, carrying with it the dry, intense heat and the sweltering sweat of summer in the city, we decided we should treat the kids (and ourselves, really) to a trip up north. Unfortunately, the hubs was already in the Cordilleras and I was going to have to drive our 2 daughters plus the nannies by myself. Which I had never done before.

Don’t get me wrong, I was so excited! I scoured blogs for activities in Pine City that would interest any children below 5 years old. I had asked foodie friends about the best places and dishes to eat while we were there (Don Henrico’s taco salad, Vizcos’ strawberry shortcake, Cafe Adriana by the Hill Station’s, um, everything). BUT. I was not thrilled to be the driver for the trip.A First Timer's

So anyway, what was a sleep deprived  mother to do? We didn’t really have much of a choice since we wanted the kids to go with us and taking the bus was really out of the question. On to the first part of our travel prep! For any trip that covers  a bit of a distance, make sure your vehicle is up to the task. Safety first! I brought our gently-driven sedan to the manufacturer for its regular kilometer check-up before we hit the road. I also made sure all of the tires were still in good condition and that the gas tank was full.

I’ve read some blogs on driving to Baguio and some even had video tutorials for which streets or exits were less busy compared to others. There were articles that tackled the drive and the story of the city. Some said they were able to get there in three hours or even less. We left Quezon City at 5:40am and got to Baguio around 9:30am. Not bad for a first time, long-distance driver. But this was also the travel time if you choose not to stop anywhere. Tip: Get down from your vehicle at NLEx for the nice restos and coffee chops. Learn from my mistake! The kids fell asleep in the car and I didn’t want to wake them during a pit stop along NLEx. They woke up when we were already on TPLEx and guess what? There was nothing. Just long stretches of highway and small towns that had those little eateries for the adventurous backpacker. Not exactly kid-friendly places by the highway here. It’ll be when you reach Baguio that you’ll see the familiar restaurants and by then, you’re butt will be complaining!

The route I ended up taking was different from the ones I had read about in blogs. I took the Urdaneta exit instead of Binalonan. Why? Binalonan was outnumbered. I had hooked up to Waze during the drive and that was the recommended route. I also asked the guy at the toll on SLEx which exit would he suggest for Baguio and he said, “Urdaneta”. So Urdaneta-2, Binalonan- 1.

There were plenty of road signs leading to Baguio, which was very reassuring. Driving was smooth and easy pretty much throughout the trip. When we got to Kennon road, at the foot of Kennon the road drastically narrows and there were many vehicles lined up so traffic was slow-moving. The zigzags were also a bit intimidating because at times the rock face seemed be jutting out at sharp angles. In any case, zigzag road + two lane highway = you’re not expected to be driving like a lunatic. I loved the view of Kennon, it’s like you’re closed off from the rest of the world because of the looming mountain, the gigantic boulders and the lush greenery that embraces you. A scattering of houses and electric lines haphazardly crossing vast spaces of varying heights depicted a harsh way of life but I couldn’t help but admire those people who could live isolated on the face of an unstable mountain.

There were some areas of Kennon where they have nets in sections of the mountain. Those stories you hear of landslides burying people on their way up? Yup. It is a brutal reality which is why you should always be alert when you travel this way.

The Lion’s head when you get to Kennon is apparently a big deal. The brightly painted yellow sculpture looked so different from the one I remember when I visited the city as a kid. This place is also the start of really bad traffic in Baguio, there were so many tourists coming down from their vehicles so they could have their pictures taken with the massive figure. The area next to the Lion’s head had been transformed into a market that carried all sorts of souvenirs from the city. From food to household items to native costumes, they pretty much have it all there.

The streets of Baguio itself can be very confusing. There were so many roundabouts, bisecting streets, little shortcuts, and even road work that, to someone who stayed in the small city for close to a week, I still had to resort to Waze every single time we went out.

It’s still a charming city, even if it is packed with tourists. At least now it isn’t as difficult to get to this place as before, then again maybe that explains the number of tourists!

Microtel by Wyndham UP Technohub: A Mom’s Review

My family and I frequently go to Microtel UP Technohub, it’s such a handy hotel to go to in a jiffy. It’s located close to where we live, it’s also very affordable and for my child who loves to go swimming, they have a pool on their roof deck that’s always clean and doesn’t get packed (usually) which makes it perfect for families to enjoy!

To describe the modest building,

Microtel by Wyndham – UP Technohub has 120 guestrooms housed in a 6-storey block in the UP-Ayala Land Technohub’s commercial development along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, Philippines

I wish I was able to take pictures of their rooms the several times we have stayed there, but their website does have good photos of the accommodations (click on the quote above to go to their site). I have booked all of our staycations at Microtel through their website and find it incredibly easy and convenient. Another thing worth mentioning is that all of the times I managed to book our stay online, the price turned out to be cheaper than if we had phoned the hotel or walked-in. Yey!

The rooms we have gotten the previous times we’ve stayed there were all pretty big. It does not give you the feeling that you’re cramped, despite us bringing the two girls along with their yaya’s. The bed is clean and sheets are soft, they have a ledge which looks out onto the grounds of the Ayala Technohub by the side of the building. Lastly the bathrooms were also very clean and spacious. The downside would have to be that there is no space in the room’s refrigerator for us to put our water or juices in (or even my expressed breastmilk!), we had to walk till the end of the corridor so we could get ice from the ice chest. It can be a bit of a hassle especially if your room is at the end of the hall, farthest from the ice chest.

They don’t have a kids play area which I find very unfortunate, they have a grassy part of the hotel (middle of the hotel) near the restaurant but I have to confess my kids have never gone there.

The restaurant is located on the ground floor and it isn’t as glamorous as you would normally see in other hotels. This has more of a business feel to it with one major table that has all the entrees, a small table to the side for the bread and another one for the cereals and juices. Pretty perfunctory: eat and when you’re done, get up and go to your rooms or explore the amenities. As for taste, since we do only eat in the restaurant for breakfast is your usual Filipino fare; tocino, fish, eggs and rice. Nothing too exotic or extraordinary, the taste is also the usual: not overwhelmingly delicious but its also not bad either.

Pool on the roof deck of Microtel. As you can see, it can get pretty crowded.

The swimming pool is on the small side so if there’s a couple of families swimming, chances are youll be soaking the water and not swimming so much. I like the fact that there is always a lifeguard present. You can order food from the restaurant to be brought up to you and they make beach towels available for the swimmers too.

A few meters away from Microtel is Ayala Technohub. This is where we would go to eat our meals, from Mister Kebab to Kanin Klub to Mini stop and Figaro, they even have a CDR king at the 2nd floor. BPI is on the first level. Very, very convenient should you choose to step out of your Microtel rooms.

Microtel offers massage service in the rooms by the way, my husband and I haven’t tried it but we’ve always told ourselves we would. It’s hard when the 2 kids have to stay in the same unit. The hotel also has function rooms, we have seen wedding receptions being held there and birthday parties. Again, I only wish they had a kids area but other than that its a pretty nice place to check in for a staycation without breaking the bank.

How about you, what best budget and family-friendly hotels would you recommend?

***This post is not sponsored by Microtel by Wyndham UP Technohub. I am simply sharing my personal experience. My family and I paid for all the expenses as well as the overnight stay in the hotel.***

Novotel Araneta QC: A Mom’s Review

Thanks to my sister-in-law who introduce to us the concept of taking a staycation on Christmas eve, we decided to try out Novotel Manila in Araneta Center, Cubao Quezon City last 2016.

my-reviewThe reasons we chose Novotel Araneta were pretty simple. The hotel’s location was ideal, it  wasn’t that far from where we live so we were not worried about getting caught in holiday traffic and spending hours trapped in the car with a preschooler and a toddler (I know you feel me, mommies!). Novotel was pretty affordable too. Compared with the other hotels which still had rooms available on Christmas eve, Novotel Araneta was cheaper by about Php 4,000. For one Superior room for 2 adults and 2 children (inclusive of breakfast buffet for two) we spent about Php 7,000. Sofitel and Marco Polo were offering rooms from 10 to 12,000 pesos overnight. It also had all the amenities we were looking for: parking, swimming pool, play area for the kids and they offered buffet breakfast. We were excited!

20161224_131901

Gifts for the kids at check-in!

So first things first! Parking was very easy at Novotel Araneta, there was so much space! What met us at the check-in lobby was completely different though. Remember this was Christmas eve, so there was quite a crowd at the reception area! There were probably five hotel staff processing guests at the counter facing the entrance. Then, they had set up additional tables near the doors where people could also check in at these “satellite stations”. We thought that we were going to get stuck at reception for hours! Fortunately the manager (I assume he was the manager because he looked senior compared to the others) saw us and noticed the kids were getting impatient so he directed us to another staff member to check us in. He even gave us eclairs and stuffed toy keychains for the kiddos, so sweet! We booked online (via booking.com – very easy and worry-free!), so after asking for my IDs we just had to pay the security deposit of Php 5,000 and we were done! We were in line for probably 20 minutes and the check-in process took 5 minutes, whew!

Since there were a lot of guests, waiting/riding the elevators can be a bit tricky. There were times when we waited quite a while for the cars to come along, most of the time there would be other people in the car so we had to get to our floors in batches because all of us wouldn’t fit.

The room itself was cute. That’s probably my best description for it. It’s a lot smaller compared to rooms offered by other hotels for the same number of people in my group. I wouldn’t recommend you invite friends or family to visit you in the rooms because the size is just enough for two adults and two kids. I imagine that if there were more people than that, it would be incredibly cramped. The bathroom doesn’t have a lock which is fine I guess if you’re a parent like me since you wont be worried about your young children accidentally locking themselves in. Unfortunately, my toddler had a tendency to rush in while my husband was “sitting on the potty” which annoyed him to no end. My main complaint would be that we didn’t have hot water in the shower. My toddler cried while taking a bath because she couldn’t take the water, it was freezing! I wanted to call reception and complain but my husband said we were staying only one night anyway and because of the Christmas rush he seriously doubted that they would be able to help us out.

My favourite part was probably the buffet breakfast! Food was deeeelicious! They had quite the variety too, from Indian, European to American breakfast alongside the usual Filipino fare. Try their ube ensaymada, ube-ensaymadaI must have eaten at least 5 pieces of it! They had delicious fruit shakes, my husband liked the coffee and their hot chocolate was also yummy! They had a long table for salads, as well as desserts, and since it was Christmas – they had puto bumbong made right on the spot! I was so happy about the food that all my frustration over the broken shower heater instantly evaporated!

One of the main reasons we chose Novotel Araneta was the amenities. On the 6th floor, we found the swimming pool, there was the gym, the spa and the kids’ play area. There was also a nice garden with a gazebo that seemed ideal for those garden wedding ceremonies. Novotel QC has two swimming pools: a kiddie pool and an adult pool, they are not heated so when my kids went poolswimming, I couldn’t really allow them to stay too long in the water since it was very cold. The afternoon of December 24th, there really weren’t a lot of people swimming so there was a lot of space, but Christmas morning the pool was packed! And not just the pool, but every table, bench and even the outdoor playground beside the pool had lots of kids and parents! We had to swim in the adult pool with the kids because there really wasn’t much room to swim around in the kiddie pool anymore. Good thing, we had gone swimming the day before so we still felt good about our short pool session on the second day.

We decided the children should stay at the Kids Club of Novotel Araneta instead, still located on the 6th floor. This place is kind of like the hotel’s “kidzoona” as my daughter loves to call it. I have to say, as a mom, I thoroughly enjoyed the Kids Club! kisaThe staff was attentive, the place looked and felt clean, and there were enough activities to keep my two young children occupied for more than an hour without resorting to putting a gadget in front of them! I will post a more comprehensive review of Novotel Araneta’s Kids Club in the future as this one is already quite lengthy, but my kids absolutely loved this section of the hotel.

Checking out of the hotel (don’t forget this was Christmas day) was a test of patience. Fortunately, my husband volunteered to line up while we were in the play area so we really didn’t stand around waiting for our turn at the reception. He was probably in line for close to forty five minutes, so this is something you should prepare for if you’re checking out during the holiday season.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable stay. I will probably update this post with more pictures from my husband’s dslr as my phone pics are not that pretty. It was a restful staycation for the family and the children really enjoyed themselves. I wouldn’t mind going back, and I’ll make sure they have hot water in the bathroom next time! I might also want to try this out again when it is not a holiday. Despite the crowd, the hotel staff were always courteous and accommodating and this more than made up for the long lines at the reception.

I hope this post helps you decide if you should bring your family for a Novotel Araneta staycation! Let me know what you think of the hotel too!

***This post is not sponsored by Novotel Araneta. I am simply sharing my personal experience. My family and I paid for all the expenses as well as the overnight stay in the hotel.***

New Year, New Home

I’m writing to you from our brand new home! Well, technically it isn’t really OURS but hey why quibble over the details right?20161203_140624

My husband and I have been dreaming of owning our very own house for-freakin-ever. We have looked at probably close to a thousand hundred different properties throught the course of our five-year rental history. We’ve looked at condo units, pre-selling and RFOs, townhouses, duplexes, foreclosed units and small houses in gated villages. We’ve prioritized Quezon City since this is where our kids go to school but have kept an open mind and even looked at properties in Pasig, San Juan or Mandaluyong.

Turns out our dream house is just way beyond our budget.new-yearnew-home

Oh, there was this one time when we almost bought a townhouse. We got the bank approval, we had the downpayment and we had even paid the bank fees. Then we had a family emergency coupled with a misunderstanding with the seller…and poof! Goodbye house!

img_20170104_185309_503

Our old apartment which had the living room, dining area and kitchen in a small, cramped space.

Our two bedroom, two T&B, and one car garage apartment had become too small for my family of two adults, two growing girls, two yayas and a day maid. Every time we had visitors over, there were bound to be one or two persons standing in our living room for lack of space.

The choice we had to make was (1) stick with our current unit and save for the downpayment of our future house; or (2) move to a bigger apartment and forego the dream of buying our own place.

It’s simple, really. We were hoping to buy property in an area that was selling houses for twenty million pesos while our budget was only five. Heck, even condominium units (3BR or more) in the area we wanted cost as much as a house! We realised that even if we got bank approval for a housing loan, we had to pay for the equity, the transfer of the title, all of the utilities, any renovation we needed done on the house plus other incidentals we had not thought of. In the beginning, we had just enough for the downpayment. Eventually we had to come to terms with the fact that we needed so much more for other expenses.

For Option 1, if we pushed through with purchasing a house we wouldn’t be able to travel, no more staycations, definitely no more eating out, movies, massages and all the small luxuries we allowed ourselves and never really paid much attention to. We’d be pushing ourselves all the time to pay the mortgage plus have enough for household expenses, salaries of our help, and emergency money for, well, emergencies.

Option number 2 would mean that we would be spending so much more on rent that we might not save as much for a future house. But we would still be able to enjoy certain things, such as traveling or treating ourselves to mind-blowing food.

It was a heartbreakingly difficult decision. I cannot tell you how many times I broke down and cried and begged my husband for that dream home, or insisted we would be able to make it work. To be fair, he never told me otherwise! He would always say that whatever decision, I made he would support me. It took time for me to calm down and accept the fact that we just weren’t ready for that leap. 20161126_144730

Our ideal location (and it is all about location, location, location if you’re living in Metro Manila) was Teacher’s Village in Diliman. We found a lovely townhouse that had a lot of room and garage space. It’s far from perfect: we had repairs to deal with and it was no longer in a gated community (which my girls loved in our former apartment), but it was close to their schools and it really seemed a house my children could actually grow up in. There’s so much space, we’re so not used to it! It was such a far cry from our previous apartment that we didn’t have a hard time deciding whether or not to get it. The terms were much higher than we expected but we grabbed the opportunity and a month later we moved our things to this place.

20161203_135025I second guess myself from time to time. I ask myself, “should I have been more patient and saved up for a house of my own?’ Or sometimes I feel guilty when I see that my daughters don’t have playmates or kids their age playing in our street. Or we pass by a nice house with a “For Sale” sign and an image flashes in my head of us living in that place. I have my ups and downs…but I try very hard to count all of the things that I am grateful for in my life. I tell myself over and over again to be more patient. And in the back of my mind will always be that hope of a nice enough house I could one day call “mine”.