Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Birthday Dinner at Hong Kong Chef

Last Saturday, I had my birthday dinner at Hong Kong Chef, located along Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City. I opted to hold my birthday treat here as my family already likes the food and Hubby Volts was craving for cuttlefish. :-)

We ordered Yang Chow Fried Rice (Mica's requirement), Soy Chicken, Beef with Brocolli (another staple), Two-way Fish (fresh, as in alive prior to cooking, fish served in two dishes - as steamed fish and as fish broth), Fried Cuttlefish and Spicy Schezhuan Prawns.

I particularly loved the cuttlefish and their version of Beef with Brocolli. The Two-Way Fish was way over-priced, though (Note to self: Don't let Daddy order this next time). But all in all, a satisfying meal enjoyed with the people dearest to me. (Although, I think I had way too much MSG; the back of my head was aching on the way home)

Sleep and Breastfeeding

I have often wondered why Gabe and I would both nod off to sleep a few minutes into the feeding. It turns out that breast milk contains a hormone - the delta sleep-inducing peptide (DSIP) - that induce sleep in both moms and babies.
In their article on this subject, authors B.J. Pollard and C.J.D. Pomfrett says
DSIP is present in relatively high concentrations in human milk (10-30 ng mL-1).
Any mother who has breast-fed her babies will attest to the ability of a feed to
induce sleep.
So aside from giving moms an opportunity to bond with their little ones, breastfeeding also allows both moms and babies to catch some much-needed zzzzzs.

SKY Fun Club at Ark Avilon Zoo

Last Saturday, Mica and I headed off to Ark Avilon Zoo in Fronterra Verde to join the SKY Fun Club Activity and for some mom-daughter bonding time.

Mica and I had fun viewing the animal exhibits, particularly the feeding station where Mica was accosted by several cute little bunnies, attracted by the juicy carrot at the end of Mica's stick.

Regrettably, we did not stay long enough to see Colin, the monkey with the Crocs shoes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ice Cream Heaven - Chocolate Truffles of Selecta Gold Series

I'm a dessert addict. I love ice cream. I love chocolate. I love ice cream with chocolate. Make that ice cream with loads of chocolate and I'll be in my own version of heaven.

Therefore, it's really no wonder that I would be drawn to the Selecta Gold Series, particularly the Chocolate Truffles flavor.

What a decadent treat! Each spoonful had big pieces of chewy chocolatey truffles with generous swirls of chocolate syrup. Kudos to Rolando Laudico of Bistro Filipino and to the people of Selecta Ice Cream for creating this little piece of chocolate heaven.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Accessories for the Kikay in All of Us

A dear friend of mine, Gigi, recently launched her own line of jewelry and accessories. The great thing about this venture is that her customers are assured that the pieces they buy from her are one-of-a-kind. So if you're getting married and want a stunning crystal chain, or if you're having a party and would like to give your guests something special as a remembrance or just want the perfect accessory to glam up your day-to-day outfits, I suggest you visit the Buchichi Accessories Multiply site.

Happy accessories shopping!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Visita Iglesia 09

Yesterday was Maundy Thursday. Mom, Mica and I spent the afternoon on our family's annual practice of Visita Iglesia. I make it a point to spend this "bonding" time with my mom and my daughter, a tradition to be kept alive by the women in our family. As luck would have it, we were accompanied by my brother, Kuya Jay, who served as our driver, saving me the headache of searching for parking spaces and navigating the unusually empty thoroughfares. :-)
Visita Iglesia - the tradition of visiting seven churches and reciting the Stations of the Cross in each church - is an old Filipino tradition, most probably dating back to the Spanish colonial era. I find it a good excuse to spend time with my family while sightseeing along the way to the churches. This time, we went to churches near our home but those that we don't usually go to: The Sta. Lucia Eucharistic Adoration Chapel along Manggahan, the Holy Family Chapel in Eastood City, the Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of the Abandoned in Marikina, the Christ the King Church near Green Meadows, the Sta. Clara de Montefalco Parish in Pasig and lastly, Pasig Church. That makes only six churches; for the past five years, we haven't completed all seven churches. I'm not so much into the penance aspect of the practice, as I enjoy the family time aspect of it more. The highlight of the day is always the halo-halo merienda we enjoy en route to the last church.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Spongebob and the Big Wave

I hope to bring Mica to the Spongebob and the Big Wave Party to be held at the Bonifacio Global City Open Field, Taguig City on April 25 (Saturday) from 2pm to 6pm.

Also, Spongebob and the Big Wave special episode premieres on April 26 (Sunday) at 10am on Nickelodeon.

Spongebob Squarepants is Mica's favorite program on Nickelodeon.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Another Kabab Fix

Hubby Volts was craving for his kabab fix again so I took him to Persian Square in Ortigas Home Depot along Julia Vargas Ave. as a treat. I've been trying to wean him away from his Behrouz addiction so instead of letting him suffer with his kabab craving, I suggested trying out a new kabab place again this week.

We were glad to discover that it was a family-friendly place but still retained a posh yet authentic Persian interior. Mica, in particular, was amused by the indoor fountain. Blue lights dotted the dark gray stone floor. Embedded on this floor, you can also find a sculpture of Iran.

Volts and Mica each had the Chelo Kabab Koobideh set meal (two skewers of seasoned ground beef). I on the other hand, had the Chelo Kabab Barg (seasoned filet mignon). Both set meals already include a heap of steaming Basmati rice topped with saffron, butter, two grilled tomatoes and a few onion slices. Mirza Ghasemi (grilled eggplant) and ox brain complete our meal.
The food was great and the portions were big. We left the place so full Volts had to take a short walk around the parking lot with Gabe. With a total bill of a little of P1,500, the experience was well woth the expense.

I made a deal with Volts that the next time we dine out, it would be in an Asian fusion resto, which I have been looking forward to for quite a long time.

Welcome to Tweenworld!

Today, I bought Mica the latest issue of Total Girl Magazine. From time to time, I buy her copies of the magazine to encourage her to read.

Currently, Total Girl is the only monthly glossy magazine catering to girls age 9-12 years old, or what marketers now call "tweens." According to the magazine's online media kit, a Total Girl is "fashion-conscious, values her friendships and wants to be more confident." The magazine is chock-full of tween celebrity news (Miley Cyrus, anyone?) as well as articles on fashion, hygiene and tween DIY. To date, the magazine has two stand-alone issues: the Total Girl Slambook (which Mica begged me to buy her last Christmas) and the Total Girl School Diary (coming out this month so I'm sure Mica will be using her puppy-dog eyes at me again when we go anywhere near a magazine stand).

From a marketer's perspective, the magazine is a God-send. It has a captive niche audience who is welcoming (or susceptible?) to messages that taps into the tween's need to be confident and accepted by her peers. So if a grade school Queen Bee comes to school wearing a brand of lip gloss advertised in the magazine, I'm sure that the other little darlings in the school will soon be pointing out the item to their parents in the stores. It has a lot of buzz potential because its readers talk about the magazine to their friends (tweens call them "besties" or "BFFs"), and its online equivalent, TotalGirl.com.ph, is an online forum for tweens with nearly 8,000 members making over a million posts on various topics.

From a mom's perspective, I sometimes get concerned about the sheer volume of marketing messages that assail my daughter everytime she opens the magazine. From breakfast cereal ads, the P699 flip-flops featured in the "So Hot Right Now" section, to the girly Littlest Pet Shop game controller featured in the "Totally Hot Tech" section, trendy non-essentials find their way to my daughter's consciousness. On the other hand, the magazine has also enabled my daughter in ways that I wasn't when I was her age. It's Totally DIY section provides easy recipes for yummy treats that my little girl can make by herself (or with some help from me or her ever-loyal Yaya) or an arts and crafts project to bolster her creativity. The advice column, "TG to the Rescue," provides readers with tips on how to cope with bestie arguments, sibling rivalries, school mean girls and crushes. My favorite section is "Totally Embarassing" where readers coontribute their most humiliating experiences. Reading the faux pas made by these adolescent girls makes me remember my own embarassing moments and I'm glad that Mica has a way of knowing that she's not alone in facing the various awkward moments of growing up.

Right now, I'm considering subscribing to the magazine so Mica will have something to look forward to every month (the same way I feel about my mom's Reader's Digest). I feel that marketing message overload or no, Mica truly benefits from reading the magazine. While I hope I'm not raising a future shopaholic, I'm positive that I'm raising a happy, well-adjusted and well-informed little girl.

Friday, April 3, 2009

My Little Girl, Now a Big Sister

I saw my daughter's report card today. I can't help noticing that her grades have vastly improved since her baby brother Gabe was born. I haven't been able to help her review for her 4th quarter exam (busy with the new baby) but her grades for the 4th quarter are highest for the year. It seems that having Gabe around helped her grow up and, little by little, become more of a young lady rather than my little girl.

I'm so proud of the way she adjusted to being an older sister after eight-and-a-half years of being an only child. When I see her singing to her baby brother or trying to entertain him by imitating Hannah Montana as he lies in his crib, I just feel so lucky at being blessed with a kind-hearted daughter.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

In Pursuit of a Life More Organized

On Christmas Eve last year, at my officemate Joy's suggestion, I went to the nearest Powerbooks branch (the one in Shangri-la Plaza) to buy an organizer.

Now, marketing work is seldom easy, with so many things cooking all at the same time. Plus, trying to build a life as a newlywed (at a little over a year and six months since our rushed wedding mayhem, I still consider myself a newlywed!) and keeping track of the family's social calendar make being organized all the more important.

From the time I received my first school diary to write my homework assignments in, I have been searching for the organizer that is perfect for me. Back in high school, when the cool (read: moneyed) kids bought their organizers from Tickles in Glorietta, I bought one of the generic ones in National BookStore. I compensated for my organizer's lack of individuality (no clotch cover with bear prints) by pasting all sorts of pictures and my own poetry to really make it my own. I revived my organizer habit back when I was in JobStreet and I bought the last copy of the Franklin Covey Organizer in National Bookstore. I got quite frustrated later on, as I couldn't find refills and had to resort to photocopying the planner pages I wanted. I also bought a Palm Tungsten E but I sold it a year later when I bought my first laptop. In 2007, Hubby Volts gave me with a nearly filled-up coupon for the Starbucks Planner, and when Starbucks had the "double your stickers promo," I bought six of their featured blends and gave them away at the office just to complete the required stickers and get the planner.

However, I didn't feel that Starbucks 2009 Planner was worth the same amount of trouble (or money) just to get it so I decided to look for one that suits me and just buy it. Hence my trip to Powerbooks Shangri-la.

At first, I was interested in This Journal will Actually Change Your Life but the chic cover design of the Belle de Jour Power Planner caught my eye. Designed for the Pinay fashionista (which, fortunately or unfortunately, I am not), the planner is filled with little sayings on female empowerment and tips on fashion, grooming and travel, as well as distinctly "female" sections such as a Menstrual Tracker and a Health Checker. I ended buying the planner but disposing of the many coupons stuffed in there. I love it for having an appointments portion and a space for a daily to-do list at the bottom. This makes it so much easier for me to plan my days.

Since then, I have used this organizer to plan and monitor my tasks as well as track my business, personal and family schedules.

However, I would prefer an organizer that has more organizing tools for working women like me such as a project planning and monitoring section but this may not be in line with the planner's "fashionista" core market.

All in all, I'm quite happy with my BDJ Planner and I'm looking forward to getting the 2010 BDJ Planner next year.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Gentle Reader's Double Posting

I'm an avid follower of the Miss Manners column in MSN.com. I make it a point to visit the site at around 3pm every Monday to get my weekly dose of advice from the grande dame of etiquette. Last year, I discovered Slate.com and its own etiquette advice column Dear Prudence and has been regularly checking the column ever since.

Two weeks ago, a Gentle Reader (what Miss Manners calls her letter-senders) asked for advice on whether to send a thank-you note for an offending wedding gift from her husband's relatives. Hubby's aunt and uncle gifted the newlyweds with a co-written book on marital infidelity along with a card inviting the newlyweds to attend and pay for one of their weekend seminars.

Last Friday, I came across exactly the same story in the Dear Prudence column.

Miss Manners and Prudence concur that Gentle Reader (or, in Dear Prudence's case, Insulted Bride) should still write her new aunt and uncle a thank-you note. Miss Manners suggests mentioning something along the lines of being sad for the other couples with troubled marriages, yet thankful for their own happiness. Prudence, more tongue-in-cheek, suggests mentioning that they hope that they don't ever have the occasion to use that wedding gift.

Aside from the varied treatments that the advice columnists have for the same scenario, what I found really amusing is that the bride wrote to at least two advice columnists about it! The bride was probably (1) looking for multiple viewpoints on the same issue; (2) in a hurry to solve her etiquette dilemma and decided to follow whichever columnist answers first; or (3) hoping that the offending aunt and uncle run across these columns and be chagrined about their faux pas.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting my etiquette advice fix again later this week. I hope I can again find a little gem just like Insulted Bride's dilemma.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The War at Home: An Interpretation

I was on my way to the office this morning when I came across an opinion poll in Unang Hirit (the bus I was riding has a TV set tuned in to GMA 7). Arnold Clavio and the UH gang were soliciting feedback via SMS on whether or not Filipinos should react to being called a "nation of servants." One texter replied "Id rather be called nation of servants, than be called the Land of Triads, illegal drugs and pirated CD's and DVD's."

Curious, I Googled the phrase "nation of servants" and located the article "The War at Home" written by Chip Tsao. (Note: As of this writing, the HK Magazine web page is inaccessible. The article is also located here.)

The article was written as a reaction of a "patriotic Chinese man" to the piece of legislation recently enacted by the Philippine government to affirm the country's sovereignty over the outlying islands in the Spratly chain and Scarborough shoal; China currently has a competing claim over both island chains.

To paraphrase, Chao does not mind the "insults" of larger and more powerful countries (such as Russia and Japan) against the Chinese (in the form of sinking a freighter ship by the Russians and the planting of the Japanese flag on Diaoyu Island) but he takes umbrage over the "blatant threat" from the Philippine congress "to send gunboats to the South China sea to defend the islands from China if necessary." He further writes "As a nation of servants, you don't flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter." He goes on to mention how he gave a stern lecture to his domestic assistant (read: domestic helper) Louisa, an international politics degree holder from the University of Manila, on how he would terminate her employment if war ever breaks out between the Philippines and China. He also mentions how friends make their Filipina maids say "China, Madam/Sir!" alound (ala "Sir, yes sir!") whenever the word "Spratly" is heard.

As his narrative goes from being naggingly offensive to absolutely absurd, it becomes clear that the article is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. It calls attention to China's exaggerated reactions (such as China's Foreign Ministry summoning a Philippine Embassy official to protest against the passing of the bill and the Chinese Embassy in Manila issuing statement that reiterates China's "indisputable sovereignty over these islands and their adjacent waters).

So why all the vitriol leveled at Chao? Couldn't we Filipinos identify a satirical piece when we see one? Can't we take a joke?

I think that it's simply because the plight of the Filipino domestic helpers abroad hits a highly sensitized nerve in all of us. Our Flor Contemplacions are always present at the back of our minds: that behind the dollar remittances that pay for this month's sack of rice, school tuition, a new house or even just a new PSP, a loved one is far away, toiling through God-knows-what. We all have heard stories of Filipino domestics who were verbally or physically abused by their employers. And these same domestics take a long time to leave their employers or even report the abuse, just because their family depends on their wages in order to survive.

Chao may have used his Louisa to illustrate how inconsequential the enacted legislation is but he also underscores our weakness as a nation. Really, how can a country so poor that it allows its citizens to work abroad as domestics take on China's military superiority? The same way Louisa can't argue with Chao's flawed logic despite her international politics degree.

I can't push others who were offended by Chao's comments to just laugh at the satire and get the joke. Because, really, what we as individuals and as a people endure and are willing to go through in order to feed our families is no laughing matter.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

New Kabab Place in Robinsons Pioneer

One of hubby's preferred cuisines is Mediterranean. I had a passing interest ever since I saw the "Kabab ni Bob" place in one of my favorite movies. However, when hubby discovered Behrouz in Metrowalk, he would always try to convince me to go there but I would often go halfheartedly because (1) the place didn't have a pleasant ambiance (the interior looked like a cheap cafeteria; plus, there's a talking parrot that caws while you eat) and (2) the prices were astronomical. Between the two of us, hubby and I would spend over P800!

I took advantage of my "pregnant wife privileges" and refused to eat there from the third month of pregnancy onwards but having given birth last December, I really didn't have any excuse anymore. Since then, knowing that hubby would sometimes crave for his kabab fix, I have been looking for an alternative to Behrouz.

I was in Robinsons Pioneer this afternoon with hubby, my kids and my in-laws and while I was strolling around, I came across a newly-opened Mediterranean resto called Pasha. Scanning their menu, I determined that their prices were reasonable so I resolved to suggest that we go there for dinner.

As expected, hubby welcomed my suggestion (with much enthusiasm!).

It turns out that Pasha is still on dry run. Their menu is not yet complete and the dining area downstairs from their main hall is still in disarray.

As for the food, we ordered Chicken Kabab Platter, Beef Kabab Platter and some shawarmas. The taste was pretty decent. I'm sure hubby appreciated the heat from the chilis. My baby girl Mica doesn't like spicy food so she ended up eating leftover spaghetti from our snack earlier in KFC. The bottomless Lipton Iced Tea they served was a perfect companion to all the spice. The presentation looked quite authentic (the kababs were alternated with tomatoes, peppers and onions in skewers which Behrouz does not even bother to do) and the mutabal was better than most I have tasted.

Best of all, though, is the price. Total bill for five people amounted to a little less than P900 (they applied a 10% introductory discount but for a meal for five at P180 per head is great!). The place could still work out some kinks (eg. the waiter got my brother-in-law's order wrong, the bill was pretty slow in arriving, etc.)

All in all, I would recommend Pasha as an alternative to pricier restos if you're craving your own kabab fix.