A Baguio Family Trip!

It was raining pretty hard the other day and my daughter looked up at me and said, “We’re going back up to Baguio next year, right?”. That question, coupled with her look – raised eyebrows, worried eyes, tentative smile – I knew that what she really meant was, “We’re going to Baguio next weekend, right?”Things to do & Places to see in

The trip, which used to take the better part of the day, has been cut in half because of TPLEx, meaning its now possible to reach one of the top tourist destinations in the North in 5 hours or less (coming from Metro Manila). And that’s driving on relatively smooth roads across scenic landscape, which makes it a very appealing trip to make especially if you have children.c boutique signWhen you get to Baguio, you will never run out of things to do! The hotel that we stayed in was called C Boutique hotel, located on Gibraltar road. It’s very close to Wright Park, which was also the first place we went to when we got there. A nice and cozy hotel (they didn’t have air-conditioning but it was cold when we went so we didn’t mind at all), we liked the little fire pit and quiet comfort the place offered.fire pit
The area we stayed in had many small stores, ukay-ukay, cute little ponies with bright pink hair and wonderful plants all around. At Wright Park, my daughter didn’t want to ride the horses but we did eat at “Kanto”, one of the restos that was a part of the Ketchup Food community. Their burgers and fries were very, very good.

Next, we decided to check out Burnham Park. This was a gold mine for the kids! They loved the playground, we went riding in the skate park, we picnicked at the garden and bought toys for my daughters. elephantThere’s a children’s park which has different playground sets scattered throughout the area. We arrived after lunch and the place was packed with kids. Warning! If there are a lot of people, your child will wait quite some time for his or her turn at the swings. However, if he or she doesn’t mind just running around the playground sets and going down the slide, then she won’t get too impatient. skate parkWe left when it was starting to get dark and since we weren’t familiar with the restos in the area we decided to just go to the mall and ended up eating at David’s Tea House in SM Baguio. It’s very, very cold in the evenings so please make sure you bundle up the little ones!

The following day we went to the Botanical Garden. It’s a beautiful place where, near the entrance, visitors could don the Ifugao costume for a fee. There were actual members of the Ifugao tribe actually in front of the garden, but so many people were taking pictures and we couldn’t wait for our turn. botanic treesInside the Botanical Garden, we saw massive pine trees and huge sculptures scattered throughout the park, there were bridges and walkways and a tunnel that was quite spacious. botanical bridgeI thought my kids would get bored in the Botanical Garden and surprisingly, they enjoyed it! They skipped and ran around the gazebos and wanted their photos taken with the flowers. Z didn’t want to leave the mini-bridge and she wanted to feed the koi fish! botanic gazebo

We had enough time to make a quick trip to Camp John Hay. This was where Z was able to go horseback riding. It’s more organised than the ones we saw outside and the trail that the horses went on are also far from actual roads which I appreciated so much. cjh horseI didn’t realise that it worried me a lot seeing those horses walking right along the fast vehicles on the highway. The trail inside Camp John Hay felt much safer for me. My daughter loved this so much we went back the following day! But don’t worry, there are lots of other things you could do in Camp John Hay. camp john hayThere’s a butterfly sanctuary you can also visit, we wanted to go inside but they were closed when we went so we had to skip it. One thing you shouldn’t miss while at Camp John Hay is the Vizco strawberry shortcake. Sweet but airy and tastes so divine! No wonder people were raving about this online. The  Mile Hi Centre or outlet yard was another good place to shop in the area, from really cheap native souvenirs, toys and sporting goods and fashionable clothes (some branded) at very good deals.

Yet another ‘tradition’ when one goes to Baguio would be the boat ride at Burnham Park. We decided to go back to the park and do this. I was a bit hesitant about doing this because the water was not clean and the gas fumes were pretty strong. However, the girls totally enjoyed this! boatWe were 3 adults and 3 kids in one blue swan boat and it cost about 200 Pesos for an hour. We went boat riding late in the day and the man-made lagoon in the middle of the park had so many boats in it that we traversed the lagoon very slowly and couldn’t help but bump into other boats. Although it wasn’t jarring or scary, I have to say that I didn’t really enjoy those moments that much either. Friendly advice? Go for it when there aren’t that many people, I’m sure the experience would be calming and you’d love it more. Burnham park is huge, I heard there was an orchidarium and a football field but we didn’t go to this area any more.

Let me also talk a bit about the morning we decided to go to Mine’s View Park. This place offers a stunning view of Baguio, but be warned! There were so many people we could hardly walk straight! Parking was very difficult. The children must have been very confused because they were jostled left and right, I ended up carrying my toddler most of the time because people were in a hurry and the space was super tight. mines viewThere were a lot of establishments by the side that sold very nice souvenirs so I ended up buying pamaypay (fans), magnets and t-shirts that had “Baguio” printed on it. To be honest, we didn’t stay very long because we were overwhelmed by the crowd. If you have a tight sched and you want something relaxing during your trip, perhaps you can skip this completely.

When we were leaving the city, we stopped by The Hillside. Cafe Adriana at The Hillside is a place that any foodie would love. Their menu sounds very elegant and sophisticated with their take on classic Filipino and Spanish cuisine. We had to wait a while for the food to arrive because the place was busy Sunday lunch time (about 45 minutes for the food to arrive) so while waiting, the kids and I strolled on the balcony of the building that offered a breath-stealing view of Baguio. view adrianaThe price of their meals are pretty reasonable with main dishes that are about 350-450 Pesos, everything tasted amazingly delicious and we had to stop ourselves from ordering a second round. cafe adrianaWe did not have any problems with service as their wait staff made sure we had water and pika-pika while waiting for the food to arrive.

Our Baguio trip was something my daughters remembered even months after we had gone. They could not forget the horseback riding and the weather, and we’ve already promised to go back soon!

Over all, its a good place to plan a family vacation with plenty of tourist attractions suitable for the entire family. Most of the restaurants offer reasonably priced meals that are delicious and the weather (cold in the morning and evening, but hot and sunny in between with cold winds) are a good change from the stifling heat of Metro Manila. The drive was also not so bad (read my post about it here) and I’ve heard from my husband that taking the first class bus up to Baguio was also a very good experience.

Planning a trip soon or have you gone recently up north? Let me know how your trip went!

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The Broad: Waiting Works

engaged!         Today was a good day for my husband and me! We woke up at 12:30pm (!) – this NEVER happens to us by the way – and we were panicking and rushing because there were still a million things we wanted to do while in Los Angeles. The hubs’ class starts on Monday and when he goes to class he will be busy from 7am until 8pm for the entire week, meaning we won’t have the chance to go around anymore so we have to squeeze in as many attractions as possible the week before his classes start.

Earlier this morning, we facetimed with our two little girls which probably explained why we got up so late. We woke up at 4am (LA time) so we could call them up at 8am (Manila time). The girls have a busy day ahead of them – Kidzoona and games with their aunts so they were happy babies. After chatting with them we promptly fell back to sleep.image-0-02-01-0cc13c1995f06de581e43cebedb8dc5d359c428ac6bf8804cd562393299423c5-V

So…it was almost 1pm and the whole morning’s shot. We wanted to go to The Broad, but after checking online, advanced tickets were no longer available. The next open schedule would be on October 3rd and this was completely unacceptable (our flight back is on the 20th!). The hubs insisted we go anyway and just try our luck. 20170909_162158

I’m so happy that we did! When our Lyft driver dropped us off, there was no line at the front of The Broad! They immediately handed over our museum tickets and we walked inside! The great thing about The Broad is that it’s free for everyone to enjoy. The Infinity Mirrored Room by Yayoi Kusama is arguably the most popular exhibit in The Broad that time we went. There was a queue to see it and were in line about 30 minutes before we got to sign up on the iPad. The app on the tablet will be inform you how long you have to wait to get inside the Infinity Mirrored Room. The staff of The Broad were regularly informing all of us in line that the slots for the Infinity Mirrored Room was full and that the sign up was purely standby. Again, we wanted to take our chances since we were at The Broad already.

So we clearly didn’t want to wait 180 minutes just to see the Infinity Mirrored Room but we figured, ‘Let’s go around, if we’re done touring the galleries and we haven’t been called then we go tour Downtown.’20170909_164624

The galleries on the 3rd level of The Broad were wonderful! Wide open spaces filled with art of different textures, styles, colors, influences and creative process. From Haring, Koons, Warhol to Baldessari, Therrien, and Takashi Murakami, who had an 80-foot painting that was jaw-dropping beautiful. 20170909_16360520170909_163033

It was time for us to chat with our daughters again so we decided to leave The Broad and look for a place to eat. In the middle of our FaceTime, I got a text saying we could view the Infinity Mirrored Room! We dashed back inside and it was a wonderful 45second view of this mirror lined chamber of dazzling lights. I love how this installation has the tag ‘The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away’ because that is how you feel inside the small room : a small soul in an endless space with periods of darkness and bursts of dazzling light. Kusama’s vision for the room was pretty daunting but her execution was so perfect. We were so fortunate we got to see it!20170909_17435420170909_174344

My tip for going to The Broad and seeing the Infinity Mirrored Room? Book tickets early. But on the off chance that you’re like me and you weren’t able to reserve those advance timed tickets, you should still go. We went on a Saturday afternoon and we thought we would have zero chances of getting in The Broad, much less The Infinity Mirrored Room! Turns out, with a bit of patience, we got to see both!image-0-02-01-146b19e517eef586859f0934f021ba2b2c93a60310fa9db48d652477391620d6-V

Since we were Downtown already, we also crossed off the Bradbury building and The Last Bookstore from our list – but that’s a post for another day!

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Cute FROZEN Cake For My Daughters’ Non-Birthday

 

Cute FROZEN

Both my daughters’ celebrate their birthdays in April. I had originally planned to make them a gorgeous Frozen cake for their birthday since they love, love, love the movie (insert toddler singing “Let It Go” times 100). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to bake them that promised cake. I planned to do it though, I really did,  I even bought those adorable Frozen royal icing toppers of Elsa, Anna and Olaf. They ended up inside my baking cabinet and the Disney royals languished there for a good three months before I finally got around to baking that cake. So, I finally decided it was high time for me to bake them that Frozen cake plus I’d be my daughter’s hero forever! _DSC0081 I still had to make sure the frosting and decor of the cake  were part of the Frozen theme, I didn’t want to disappoint my kids after all! Sadly, the royal icing toppers broke from the time they spent in the cabinet. I must have bumped things into them from time to time. I was pretty determined to use them though so I didn’t care even if they were cracked and pieces were missing. _DSC0092

I chose three pastel colors for the cake: blue, pink and green. I thought these three pastel colors would go perfectly well with the toppers but still maintain that Frozen vibe. I baked this chocolate cake that was moist and super delicious, I’ve used this recipe many times so I knew the cake would taste delicious! It’s actually a family favourite and very easy to make (get the recipe here).

For the frosting, I didn’t want to use a buttercream that was too sweet because my kids would never eat that, so I opted for a plain Swiss buttercream that ended up being colored blue, pink or green. Those ombre cakes that could be seen all over Pinterest and look absolutely lovely?_DSC0090 That was my plan for my daughters’ cake. They were relatively easy to apply, the Swiss buttercream was as smooth as silk (recipe here). I was worried initially that it would melt into a big, gooey mess but it held! The frosting will never be able to hold its shape if piped as a flower though; I think it’d be good only for icing the cake. The buttercream will not crust, and I’ve found that if you put this in the fridge it will sweat when you take it out in room temp. Try not to put too much decorations on the sides of the cake if you do this so all your hard work will not go to waste.

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After smearing the three different colors onto the sides of the cake, I smoothed with a spatula and then placed the Frozen royal icing toppers on top! I had to be very careful with placing them on top because again some of the pieces had already broken off. And that’s it! Cake is DONE!

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My girls WENT CRAZY! They loved this Frozen-inspired cake so much, we had to sing “Happy Birthday” at least 10 times with them alternating on who would blow the candle. I think the birthday candle was half its original height by the time we were through, it was so funny! 

The Frozen cake was delicious and although it took me months to bake it for my kids, I am over the moon that I did. After all, it doesn’t have to be one’s birthday to celebrate with cake, right? Next year, I want to make my kids two-tier cakes for their birthdays. Hopefully, I bake and make them on their actual special day!

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Decorating Panda Cupcakes with your Child!

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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.

Panda decorating

 

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!