Category: Living

Smart Travels: Madrid

I’m doing a thread of smart travels to help those who are planning their future trips make the most out of their journeys.

Madrid, as I’ve learned, is a city that comes alive in the afternoon. Breakfasts at our normal Filipino times (7 to 8 am) is practically unheard of. When you go to the mall at 10 (yes, the mall does open early), don’t expect the dining places to be open earlier than 12 or 12:30.

TIP #1: Breakfast

If your hotel does not serve breakfast, make sure you go to the grocery and buy easy breakfast food that you can prepare, like fruits, cheese and bread. This is especially important if you’re traveling with kids. They will get fussy and no one wants that. Now, if you’re really not keen on making preparations, or stocking food, look for the San Gines Churreria which is open 24 hours. Churros dipped in hot chocolate is a perfectly acceptable breakfast for Spaniards.

TIP #2: Free Walking Tours

Now, if you’re ever wanting to learn about Madrid’s rich history and their leaders (eg. Isabel II), you might want to take advantage of some companies that give free walking tours. All you need to do is sign up online and you’re set for a walk around the city. Cost? Just tip your guide! You’ll also most likely have a coffee break at another Churreria 😊

TIP #3: Free Museum Entrance

Just like Milan, Spain’s museums offer free entrance an hour before closing time. By the time you finish your walking tour, have a coffee break and take a very late lunch (around 3-ish), you’ll most likely be just in time to take advantage of this freebie.

TIP #4: Flamenco!

Wondering what to do with the money you’ve saved taking advantage of all the freebies? Why splurge on a Flamenco night of course! Yes, it’s bit pricey (about €40), but it comes with a free drink and an hour long of feverish dancing! Cap your night off with some paella from the nearby mercato and you’re set!

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Smart Travels: Milan

Milan is quite an expensive place to visit, with museums costing on average € 15, and simple meals at € 10. However, if you’re smart, you can still save a few euros without depriving yourself of a good time.

TIP 1: Transport Cards

There are 2 types of transpo tickets that can get you around the city. One is a €1.50 card that expires within 90 minutes after use. There’s another that’s €4.50, that can be used for the entire day. Now, you might think that the obvious choice is the €4.50 one since it’s for the whole day. But here’s the thing—sometimes, you will really only need to use it twice (going to one place, and then going back to the hotel). That means you’ll actually be better off with the one-time use card. Remember, Milan is a walking city. If you’re going to the center where all the museums and shops are, you just might opt for walking.

*Note: kids 10 and below ride free.

TIP 2: Museums

How many museums can you possibly go through in a day? Now that really depends on the museum and your patience in walking. Some, like the Biblioteca Pinacoteca Accademia Ambrosiana, are all in Italian. While there are important pieces there from Da Vinci, like some paintings and his codex, there are hardly any English translations. You will need an audioguide to survive this. A complete walkthrough might take you about 2 hours. So, assuming you do a museum in the morning, take a leisurely lunch, a walk/in the park/shopping in the afternoon, you should just be on time to avail of the ‘free’ museum pass—around 4 or 5 pm, an hour before the museum closes. I suggest to research about the museum and go directly to its most important pieces to save on time. A beautiful place to visit in the afternoon is the Castellos Sforzesco. You can buy food-to-go and then eat it at the park.

TIP 3: Food

There aren’t really any “cheap” food in Milan, unless you prefer to eat standing up. But there are some good deals. We tried the Trattoria de Pino and it serves 3-course meals for only €16! It also comes with either mineral water or a glass of wine. You can also order ala carte for the young ones. Ask for the Filipino waiter so that he can explain the menu in English.

TIP 4: Souvenir Shopping

I really didn’t do souvenir research in any of my previous travels, until a recent one in Korea. Because there were so many products, I thought it would be best to search the net for recommended ones. I did the same for Italy and got some really good deals!

Unique stuff to buy:

Marvis Toothpaste: Yes, who would’ve thunk it would be a good idea to bring home toothpaste? Well, for one thing, it’s an Italian brand. It has a cult following that swears by it. And it comes in very quirky flavors and great packaging. Buy them in pharmaceuticals or select groceries.

Soaps: Italy is home to scents so don’t forget to grab a couple. I didn’t put here any brand in particular because they had so many suggestions.

Door Knobs: I swear I’ve never seen so many different knobs in my life! Sold in hardware stores

Happy travels!

Comfort Food @Nono’s

In Manila, good restaurants are never far away. On one of my “Wednesday Date Days” with hubby, we stepped into Nono’s, a recently opened restaurant located in the newly renovated Podium. For those who haven’t been to Podium recently, you will be pleasantly surprised to see its fresh look complimented with a ton of new restaurants! We’ve tried a couple already and so far, I’ve been happy with our choices.

Now, back to Nono’s. Stepping into its calming vintage green interior and loads of fresh greenery definitely takes me back to the sixties.

As they touted their comfort food, I, of course, ordered fried chicken (my definition of comfort food). We also ordered cheese wontons and a plate of pasta for sharing.

The cheese wontons were yummy, with a drizzling of honey and nuts. With the way it looks, I assume the wontons were torched.  It was just enough to satisfy my cravings for cheese, without ruining my appetite.

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Cheesy wontons drizzled with honey and nuts

The plate of pasta was too much for a party of two, but it would be a great order for bigger groups. I loved the freshness of the cherry tomatoes and had I not stopped myself, I could’ve easily gorged on the flavorful garlic bread.

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Carb fest!

Now on to the pièce de résistance—the fried chicken to  be dipped in gravy and honey! It came with a side of potatoes and corn (no diet here folks!) Among the three orders though, I’m afraid this was my least favorite. Not that the chicken tasted bad. I just didn’t like the gravy, which was too peppery for my taste. Hubby, on the other hand, enjoyed it. When the staff asked me if I was enjoying the meal, I said that I was, except for the gravy. And you know what? She was kind enough to make me a fresh batch. That’s service!

Nono’s is located at the second level of The Podium Mall.
12 ADB ave. Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City.
(02) 637 5147
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Leave the diet at home.

3 Reasons Why Color Manila Runs are Not for Kids

Last February 24, daughter and I went for our third fun run. This time, we wanted to try something different and when I saw the ad for the Color Manila Black Light event, I signed us up immediately. Husband was not very happy with my decision, asking me if it was safe for me to bring our daughter. The run was slated to start way into the night (9:20 pm to be exact) and he feared that the venue (McKinley Hill) would be too dark. But I was insistent, saying that our daughter was up for it and we’d be extra careful. Plus, the kit was supposed to come with headlights so I was thinking that we were well-prepared for the dark.

Unfortunately (and I hate it when this happens), hubby was right, but not for the reasons that he gave.

Here are my top 3 reasons why I would not repeat a run with Color Manila if I had to tag a kid along:

  1. It was waaaaay too crowded. I don’t know if they oversold the fun run, but you couldn’t safely run in that kind of crowd. Because the roads were too narrow, my daughter got hit on the face by a runner who was going the opposite way. I think the organizers picked the wrong venue for this. If repeated, they should put a cap on how many people can fit on the road.
  2. As most of the participants were young-ish (mostly in their early 20’s), they were quite playful. One of them initiated a tag game with her friend, and they would weave through the crowd as they tried to “tag” each other–very unsafe. The others would stop midwalk to take a selfie or to literally swim in the powdered coloring. I’m not a serious runner, but I do jog. If somebody suddenly stops in front of me,  I could actually hit them.
  3. There are certain areas in McKinley, particularly the white lanes that are uncharacteristically slippery. In the 5k run, we had to go through it around three times, and in all those three times, I had to walk very very slowly just to make sure we didn’t fall.

While the pictures may look like we had loads of fun, in my mind, I was extremely conscious that I could be endangering my child by exposing her to a place as crowded as this. Mommies, there are many family-friendly fun runs out there. Not Color Run Manila, please.

Dining at Foo’d

Many of my friends turned forty this year. And it’s been a lot of fun seeing how they decided to celebrate their personal milestones. A college friend of mine had her very own pictorial with her besties, while another one decided to treat us to a 5-course dinner. Since it’s a rare occurrence for me to be treated to such a fancy meal, I decided to write about it.

The dinner was held at Foo’d by Davide Oldani, a relatively new resto in Shangri-la BGC. When you receive their menu, they will give you their standard signature dish. However, they’ll also give you many other options in case you don’t like one (or more) of the items. So, you have a lot of room to customize your menu. I chose their signature 5-course meal which consisted of Cipollo Caramellata, Truffle Cacio e Pepe, Salmon D’o, Pork Ribs and Dark Chocolate Mousse for dessert (fancy names I will explain later).

As the orders come in, the chef will approach you to explain what he is serving. It was a bit hard to listen to him because I was hungry and wanted to eat the moment the food arrived. Hahaha.

Ok, now to evaluate each plate. By the way, they also served appetizers, such as super flaky breadsticks and complimentary bread. However, I suggest you go easy on these because a five-course meal is very filling, even if the servings look tiny.

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Complimentary bread

The first plate was the cipollo caramellata. It was white onion on a very flaky pie crust. The edges of the crust and the onion had a caramel coat on top, making this a very sweet appetizer. I love white onions and if you’ve ever had one, it really is already sweet on its own. I loved this first dish, but I was also very conscious that I still have four more plates to go.

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Cipollo Caramellata- caramelized onions, 24 months aged grana palano gelato, grana Padano hot cream

The second dish was truffle cacio e pepe–spaghetti with lemon and truffle oil. I loved this dish and hope that someday, I can replicate it. The truffle oil wasn’t overpowering so you only had a hint of mushroom. But the lemon in the pasta was so refreshing. I could eat this on its own and be very satisfied with it.

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Spaghetti, lemon, pecorino romano, black pepper, truffle oil

On the third plate, we were given the option of seabass or salmon. I’ve always enjoyed salmon so I opted for this one. The salmon skin was crispy, but in my humble opinion, the salmon itself was a little overcooked. So, out of the five dishes, this was my least favorite. However, my friend who ordered the seabass said that it was melts-in-your-mouth delicious.

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Seabass or salmon, lettuce, caviar d’o

The fourth plate was my meat dish. I had a lot of choices, from wagyu to conchinillo, but I picked this for health reasons. Hahahaha! Under it was a flavorful gravy, which hubby likened to Mang Tomas, but of course, it wasn’t. The pork was very soft and easy to chew. This would be perfect for those on a keto diet because it wasn’t paired with any rice.

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Pork Ribs (I actually forgot to write down the correct name of this dish)

And the finale was a dark chocolate mousse. I’ve got to say, I think the bit of rock salt sprinkled on the chocolate and the freeze-dried raspberries really made the flavors pop. Too bad I had taken coffee before going to Foo’d. Otherwise, it would have made a perfect partner, and a great way to end to this five-course meal.

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Cacao crumble, framboise, dark chocolate gelato

Beauty Review: Etude House Bebe Foot Mask

 

I’ve always used cosmetics by Etude House, but this was my first time to try its Bebe Foot Mask. On a recent trip to Korea, I purchased a box for myself because I wanted to have softer and more evenly-colored skin on my feet.

At the back of the package, it says that the mask can remove dead skin cells and can lessen foot odor.

The Etude House Bebe Foot Mask box is light green, with an illustration of a pair of feet. I’ve had to clarify with the sales woman that this was in fact a peeling foot mask, and not one that just moisturizes the feet.

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The foot sheets were quite big on me, which is why it was helpful that the sheets came with a tie that you could wrap around your ankles. I carefully poured the liquid inside each foot sheet and tied it. Note to those who would want to try this: Make sure that before you do this, you’ve done everything that you need to do (eg. go to the bathroom, get some snacks, set up a movie to watch, etc.) because it is quite a long wait before you can take the sheets off, and it can get cumbersome (and possibly unsafe) to walk around with wet and slippery sheets on your feet. After the hour and a half is up, I removed the sheets, washed the excess solution from my feet and wiped it dry. Except for my feet feeling cold, I didn’t notice anything different the whole time I was wearing the sheets. I thought that maybe the procedure didn’t work.

But lo and behold! Exactly 4 days after wearing the sheets, the skin on my feet began to peel in big chunks, revealing pinkish skin underneath my grayish-yellow dead skin. I’m grateful because a couple of days ago, my feet were soaking wet from the rain, and I was really doubtingl that the solution could still work. But it has. Already, my sole is looking a lot better. Plus, even the top of my foot is starting to peel, which means my discolored skin can even out.

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Graphic content! Avert your eyes if peeling skin gross you out =P

 

Beauty Review: MBD White Lily Brightening Essence Mask

The My Beauty Diary brand was first introduced to me by my niece who went to Taiwan and bought a pack for herself. She said that MBD was a well-known brand for sheet masks. And so naturally, when I went to Taiwan, I searched for it and found it on sale at a Cosmed store (something like our Watsons here in the Ph).

On the front of the packaging, this mask claims that it is for brightening and freshening. The essences from olive leaf extracts and the sodium ascorbyl phosphate is supposed to brighten skin complexion.

The My Beauty Diary White Lily Brightening Essence Mask comes in a shiny light green box with seven masks in it. It is very attractively packaged, with drawings of white lilies sprinkled on the box and on the mask sleeve.

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When I opened the package, I was a bit surprised that the under the mask was a foil-like backing. I was hesitant at first to throw it away, but I realized that it might have been placed there to allow for easier opening of the mask.

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When I placed the mask on my face, I noticed the light floral scent of the mask, which was relaxing to me since I can be easily nauseated with strong scents. The mask came a little bit short on my forehead, but long on my chin, which was to be expected since I have a small face.

I set a timer for the product to stay on my face for 20 minutes. About 10 minutes in, I could feel a bit of tingling on my skin, which might be the acids working. By twenty minutes, I could already feel the mask beginning to dry out, which in my opinion, is a good sign since I feel like my face is absorbing the product well enough. I’ve tried masks before that never seem to dry out, and the whole time, you are left feeling sticky and gooey. This was not like that, and once I removed the mask, I could feel tightness around my face. In a few minutes, the liquid was completely absorbed by my skin, leaving no sticky residue. However, I didn’t notice the brightening effect, most likely since I always apply my masks in the evening, when I’m about to sleep.

Conclusion: I plan to repurchase the My Beauty Diary White Lily Brightening Essence Mask since I like how it made my skin feel firmer and smoother. It is also quite reasonably priced.

A Taste of Hello Kitty

Historically, this is not the first Hello Kitty Cafe in the Philippines. So, to those who blogged that the Hello Kitty Cafe in BGC was the first HK Cafe in the Philippines, I’m sorry to dispute your claim, but this is wrong info. When hubby and I were still dating (early 2000’s), I distinctly remember going to a Hello Kitty restaurant situated in a mall. I tried searching it online, but so far, I have not been able to pinpoint exactly which mall (it was either SM North Edsa, or Megamall). I even remember ordering a sort of gelatin-like concoction shaped like Hello Kitty’s head. I recall that everything on the menu was quite pricey. Mostly, I remember that the food was not good. At all. I dutifully packed my souvenir (a Hello Kitty table napkin) and left, swearing I would never eat their atrocious food again.

So, in all honesty, I was thinking that when this new one opened up, I would again do my duty as a loyal HK fan, go in, take pictures, “experience” the Hello Kitty-ness of everything, raise an eyebrow on the prices of items, and then never again return because I didn’t like the food. I was correct on all accounts, except for one. First, the Hello Kitty dining experience was pretty good and consistent with the theme. Except for the restroom (C’mon, cafe guys! You can purchase HK toilet rolls. You just need to do a bit of research!), which was really just a restroom with a bit of decal, the overall store was pretty classy, with the HK bows stamped, carved and stuck on almost everything. HK cutlery would be a nice addition, but methinks they purposely didn’t do that so as not to “lose” their forks and spoons to clients wanting a souvenir.

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Perfect place for a bro date…pretty bows for pretty guys!

The items were a bit on the high side, with the main meals hitting 350 php and up. But I guess my biggest surprise (and the thing I was wrong about) was that the food was actually good. Really. I’m not saying this because I was momentarily distracted by the pastel bows on my herbed pork. I’m also not saying this just because I happen to like French food (most of the food on the menu were French). Even my benefactor, (let’s call him Professor J) said that the food was decent. We ordered the roasted pumpkin soup, mMoroccan chicken, herbed pork, spaghetti bolognese and another dish that I forgot.

My daughter dearest polished her plate off in no time at all!

Suffice it to say, I was wrong…the HK Cafe in Uptown BGC is a place I would go back to…mainly because I failed to sample their desserts. Ahaha!

Happy eating!

5 Tips for Beach Travels with Kids

The sun is my enemy, obviously.

Frankly, I’m not what you would call a beach person. I love a lot of things about the seaside–obviously, one is that in most cases, the air is clean and pollution-free. I love strolling on the sand, looking at seashells and fishies when I go snorkeling and waddling. Swimming, on the other hand, that’s another story altogether. I have a little bit of a fear of the breadth and depth of the seas. And because I am a mom, I am doubly worried that I might lose sight of my child whilst I frolic in the waters. 
But, having said that, I still find relaxation whenever I do go the beach. And as I also want you to have as stress-free time when you go with your family, here are five tips that I want to share with you.

1. Have your child wear his/her bathing suit before traveling. I am the type of person who hits the beach the minute I get there. If you’re that type as well, simply wear your bathing suit inside your regular clothes. Tours nowadays begin with island hopping anyway, so it’s most convenient that all you need to do is peel off your outer clothing and you’re good to go! Putting the bathing suits on your kids beforehand also saves on a lot of time. Your super excited kid won’t have to wait for mommy to put on his trunks.

There’s her swimsuit peeking from underneath her floral dress

2. Bring an inflatable life vest for your child. I used to pack an actual life vest for my daughter, but it does consume a lot of space. An inflatable life vest solved my packing problems, and it made it easier for us to lug the life vest in our carryon. (FYI: When my child didn’t know how to swim yet, I had her wear a life vest on the beach, just in case a strong wave hit the shore. I know, I am a worrywart. ) 

3. Bring 2 sets of slippers. You could bring a pair of aqua shoes, or just plain rubber slippers will also do, plus an extra one for when you enter your hotel room. This way you don’t bring in the beach to your room and the bed.

4. Bring mesh bags. Mesh bags are not only great to store your wet clothes in, they’re also awesome for storing your child’s sand toys! Again, this helps lessen the sand you bring home.

5. Check beforehand the government’s policy on shell-picking. There are are some places in the Philippines where bringing home shells from the beach is prohibited. Palawan and Romblon are two of those provinces. Knowing what is allowed will save on heartache when the child refuses to part with his/her beloved collection. 

My HK Marathon Journey (Part I)


On October 21, 2017 (age: 40 years, 2 months and 6 days exactly), I will join a 5k marathon with my daughter. 5k marathon? Big whooping deal for some regular runners, but not for me. The last 5k marathon I ran was when I was in high school, so yeah, I need to train if my goal is to come out of the run alive.

As with most marathons, there is a cause for this run…an important cause that is near and dear to my heart. I am running for (and hopefully with) Hello Kitty! Yes, it’s a Hello Kitty Run here in the Philippines and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

I work better with concrete goals, so I have outlined my plan for the success of this run, the definition of successful being that 1.) most importantly, I don’t collapse and die; 2. I don’t injure myself or my daughter; and 3.) we finish and be deserving of the finisher’s medal.

So here is where I’m at right now.

June 25- My good friends tag me in the official announcement of the HK run via FB. By tagging me, they have proven that they are GREAT friends, and have my best interests in mind. I respond with a resounding YES!!! I speak with my daughter and we agree to run together just so that in case we come in first place, headline reads “Adorbs Mother-Daughter Win the Marathon,” and not “Crazy 40-year old HK Fan Runs Marathon Solo.”

June 26 onwards – In the days that follow, I watch Youtubers and get advice for diet and running tips. I buy a bag of Muesli and replace one of my meals with muesli and yoghurt (something to do with energy). I also shift drinking my morning fruit shake before I do my morning walks. Daughter and I also schedule our walks to establish a routine. 


July 1 – At around 4 am, I pay for the registration fee. Can’t be too early for this. I don’t want to waste my efforts only to find out that I’ve no slot anymore.

So that’s where I’m at right now. Envisioning abs by October. Planning to craft cat ears as well…Stay tuned!