Terrific Ten

My daughter Bea turned 10 years old last June 5. We tried to keep the celebration as simple as possible but, as parents, my husband and I take our little girl’s dreams very seriously. You will recall that Bea’s 9th birthday last year was a tribute to her most favorite celebrity of all, Taylor Swift. Then early this year, around February, it was officially announced that Ms. Swift was set to stage the Manila leg of her RED Concert Tour on June 6, a day after my little girl’s birthday. So what could we, poor parents, do?

Well, of course, I eagerly lined up for concert tickets the moment they went on sale. It was last March 7, a day before my 40th birthday. I was in SM Mall of Asia‘s concert ticket counter at around ten minutes past the mall opening and there were about 10 to 12 persons ahead of me in the queue. It was such a nerve-wracking experience as the much-coveted tickets got sold out in less than 2 hours! Fortunately, I was able to secure two VIP tickets for me and Bea. I was just as thrilled as she was!

red-hot ticket

red-hot ticket

Fast-forward to June 5, 2014 — the day of Bea’s 10th birthday. The “theme” was her top ten favorite things at the moment (including John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars). We invited her barkada to afternoon snacks at the Hard Rock Cafe Makati in Glorietta. It’s such a cool place to dine at because it offers kid’s meals for ages 10 and below.

birthday girl with her friends

birthday girl with her friends

Naturally, I brought in a cake because, what’s a birthday without one? I want to try a different cake-maker every year, and this year I decided to order from PH Bakehouse. PH stands for Project Happiness, but it might as well be a patriotic name for a proudly Pinoy online cake shop. I’ve known the homebaker, Iris, for years as an online friend and I really wanted to show my support for her business but I was hesitant to order a cake from her because she’s based in Cavite and I was afraid that I’d have difficulty with the pick-up. Good thing I inquired because I learned that SM Sucat is one of her pick-up points, and it’s very accessible from our house. This 6-inch custom-made chocolate cake covered with fondant was very well-crafted and scrumptious, too. Bea was so delighted, she ate the cake for days.

cake by PH Bakehouse

cake by PH Bakehouse

After getting full at the Hard Rock Cafe, the girls went on a group movie date in Glorietta Cinema. You see, it was the opening day for The Fault in Our Stars, the tearjerker movie, so I treated Bea and her friends plus one chaperone to the movie.  (I guess the universe conspired to make this birthday one of the most expensive celebrations to date.) Bea is such a huge fan of the book and now, because of it, she has added Amsterdam to her list of dream travel destinations. Guess who cried her eyes out in the movie house? Yes, it was me.

movie date

movie date

It was such a fun day but the celebration didn’t end there. The next day, June 6, we checked in at Microtel Hotel Mall of Asia, which is a stone’s throw away from the MOA Arena, the venue of the RED concert. The hotel is really nice and wholesome, perfect for weekend family getaways. Everyone in the staff was so courteous and friendly, they even let us check in earlier than usual. The food at the hotel’s in-house Millie’s Restaurant is also very good.

Microtel Hotel Mall of Asia

Microtel Hotel Mall of Asia

The concert was slated for 8:00 p.m. and by 6:30 p.m. we were all set to go. Bea’s friend Andy also went with us and they both could not contain their excitement. For my daughter Bea, it was her first major concert experience and I wanted it to be nothing short of spectacular.

at the MOA Arena VIP entrance

at the MOA Arena VIP entrance

The show actually started at exactly 9 o’clock, and as soon as the lights went down, pandemonium ensued. Seeing Taylor Swift in the flesh was a dream-come-true for my little girl and even I was awed and mesmerized by the beautiful superstar the entire night. She’s like a real-life Barbie doll, but so much better because she can sing, dance and entertain us with the songs she’s written. Taylor Swift is a such a sweet young lady and a phenomenal performer and she rightly deserves all her success in the music business. Here are two of my favorite snapshots from the concert –

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“We are never ever ever getting back together….”

Then Bea found this photo on Twitter (full credit and big thanks to the owner), which captured her story that night: she was close enough to touch her idol but the security personnel stopped her. At least, she has this photo to show for it –

"...close enough to touch..."

“…close enough to touch…”

Well, it was still a wonderful night and a very unforgettable concert experience for Bea. It showed her that it’s always good to dream and that anything is possible. Even though you don’t always get what you wish for, dreams are what keep us going. And although she wasn’t able to touch Taylor Swift‘s hand, Bea’s 10th birthday weekend was still awesome!

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

Categories: Mommy Diaries, Staycation | 2 Comments

Ice Cream Dreams

With the summer temperatures soaring to as high as 39 degrees Celsius, it’s always a great idea to eat ice cream. Gone are the days when our flavor choices are limited to the usual chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, ube and cheese. We’re now in the age of artisan ice cream brands. Local ice cream these days comes in a variety of novelty flavors ranging from the  downright bizarre such as salted egg or sili (chili) to the seemingly absurd like green mango with bagoong (shrimp paste) or champorado with dilis (dried anchovies). I kid you not.

However adventurous I am with new tastes, I still haven’t found the chance to try the aforementioned flavors (I would surely love to!). But here are 3 ice cream flavors that I recently tried and loved:

Candied Bacon Ice Cream from Merry Moo (P70/scoop)

I first tried Sebastian’s Ice Cream‘s take on bacon-in-ice-cream a couple of years ago. It’s called Cheddar Bacon, but because of its sharp cheddar cheese taste, it didn’t seem like a dessert-type of frozen delight for me. It was good, but I prefer this Candied Bacon Ice Cream from Merry Moo. I just love anything with bacon in it — and this scoop is real meaty but still has that creamy, delicious sweetness that I look for in ice cream.

Candied Bacon Ice Cream from Merry Moo

Candied Bacon Ice Cream from Merry Moo

Half-baked Madagascar from Mad Mark’s Creamery and Good Eats (P85/scoop)

The “half-baked” part refers to the chunks of yummy chocolate chip cookies folded into its signature vanilla ice cream. The Creamery uses premium Madagascar vanilla beans to  make its special ice cream from scratch. It’s so good, I felt quite sorry about sharing the scoop with my daughter Bea. Next time we’ll go for double scoops!

Half-baked Madagascar from Mad Mark's Creamery

Half-baked Madagascar from Mad Mark’s Creamery

Rainbow Ice Cream from New Zealand Natural (P95/scoop)

What exactly does a rainbow taste like? Strangely, this Rainbow Ice Cream reminded me so much of the taste of my childhood favorite Mandarin Orange Royale from Coney Island Ice Cream. Well, simply put, it tastes like happiness! Swirls of orange, green and purple colors make this ice cream flavor very appealing, but its velvety smooth texture is a testament to New Zealand’s global position as one of the world’s leaders in exporting dairy products.  This well-loved imported ice cream brand started out as a small ice creamery in Christchurch, NZ some 30 years ago and is now being sold in over 20 countries around the world.

Rainbow Ice Cream from New Zealand Natural

Rainbow Ice Cream from New Zealand Natural

Forget about the calories. I’ll worry about my waistline later. For now all I want to do is indulge in one of the best things in life — ice cream!

Categories: Cravings | Leave a comment

Summer Getaway: Hong Kong

I know I said our family didn’t have plans for this summer vacation and that was true. But something incredibly wonderful happened and we just found ourselves packing our bags for a family trip to Hong Kong. It’s been 6 long years since we all visited so I was really looking forward to setting foot on Asia’s famed “fragrant harbor” once again.

It’s my 4th time to visit Hong Kong, but actually, our third time in 2008 was very brief since we embarked on a cruise ship from the Ocean Terminal and stayed only an extra night in Kowloon for some last-minute shopping. During our Hong Kong trips in 2002, 2007 and 2008, we stayed in only one hotel: Marco Polo Prince.  This time, we were booked in The Park Lane Hong Kong along Gloucester Road in Causeway Bay. Even though it was my first time to stay there, I instantly felt right at home. For one thing, its location is superb. And for another, the hotel turned 40 years old earlier this year — exactly as old as I am!

The Park Lane Hong Kong

The Park Lane Hong Kong

We called Room 811 of The Park Lane Hong Kong our home for four days and three nights. The Family Room wasn’t exactly huge, but it was comfortable enough for us. We loved the fact that shops like HMV and IKEA are housed in the hotel building, but once we step outside the hotel, an endless shopping paradise awaits.

If New York is the city that doesn’t sleep, I dare say that Hong Kong is the city that doesn’t blink. People are always moving, rushing about, crossing the streets, shopping, eating… the streets are bustling with activity! The lights are glaring (and not a single light bulb that’s not in order) and the sounds of busy feet echo in my head. Being one of the most densely-populated areas in the world, the city is so dynamic that to spend the day sleeping would be such a waste. As for me, traveling entails a lot of eating and that’s one of the best parts of being in a foreign land — sampling the culinary treasures of the place. So eat and eat I did.

a taste of Hong Kong

the flavors of Hong Kong

It was the perfect time to escape the summer heat in Manila as it was still spring in Hong Kong. The occasional showers in the day did not dampen our plans to revisit Ocean Park Hong Kong on our second day and Hong Kong Disneyland on our third day. Honestly, I preferred the drizzles and the chilly temperature over a hot, sunny day.

Hong Kong theme parks

Hong Kong theme parks

Ocean Park Hong Kong is a must-visit for any tourist in the city. I noted so many changes since I’ve been there in 2002 and 2007 — the park got bigger and added more attractions for the whole family to enjoy. Bea was totally thrilled to see real live giant pandas, penguins and arctic foxes. She was not so thrilled with the cable car ride, though, but I insisted on it because a visit to Ocean Park Hong Kong will not be complete without the cable car experience. The ride was scary and exhilarating at the same — it gives a panoramic view of the entire park and its surrounding area, with the highest level at 673 feet!

Admission prices for a day-pass:

Adult – HK$ 320  (about P1,800)
Child (3 to 11 years old) – HK$ 160 (about P890)
 

Hong Kong Disneyland is, of course, a magical destination for the young and the young-at-heart. We first took Bea to the park when she was only 3 years old so she has very limited memory of that time, if at all, but now she’s almost 10  and she felt like it was her first time (again).  It’s a relatively small theme park but because of the volume of visitors, one day is hardly enough to cover all 7 grounds: Tomorrowland, Toy Story Land, Fantasyland, Adventureland, Mystic Point, Grizzly Gulch and Main Street, USA.

Admission prices for a day-pass:

Adult – HK$450 (about P2,500)
Child  (3 to 11 years old) – HK$320 (about P1,800)
Senior (65 years old and older) – HK$100 (about P560)
 

I’m so grateful for our latest Hong Kong trip because it gave us another summer to remember as a family. I was really impressed by the MTR system in Hong Kong. EFFICIENCY is a word that constantly came to my mind as I keenly observed the transport systems in HK. I only wish that our country can learn from this global city.

Categories: Wanderlust | 2 Comments

Summer Getaway: White Rock Waterpark and Beach Hotel

Itching to go somewhere out of town but on a shoestring budget? Why not have a pocket vacation to a nearby resort? My family and I don’t have anything planned for the summer, so my daughter Bea and I decided to go to my hometown of Olongapo on the last weekend of March. Once there, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to take a day-trip to White Rock Waterpark and Beach Hotel located in Matain, Subic, Zambales — just approximately 20 minutes away from Olongapo City.

Bea soaking up the sun in White Rock

Bea soaking up the sun in White Rock

The resort has been there since I was a kid, but I didn’t realize it had improved so much over the last several years. The sprawling 7-hectare property now boasts of two wave pools, a kiddie pool with water slides, an adult pool, a zipline facility, hotel rooms and villas, and a scenic beach, among others. The day tour rate is P650 per person and P325 for children ages 3 to 7. The fee includes a free use of kayak and access to the waterpark’s facilities. We totally enjoyed the Giant Wave Pool — Bea stayed there for hours dancing and just splashing in the cool water.  The waves run for 30 minutes every hour on the hour accompanied by loud, happy tunes. That was really fun!

White Rock Waterpark and Beach Hotel

White Rock Waterpark and Beach Hotel

We dined at the resort’s in-house Sunset Cafe, but bringing of food and drinks is allowed provided that the guests will rent a table. I prefer just ordering off the restaurant’s menu. Anyway, we haven’t had so much fun on the beach in such a long time! Because I grew up in a small city very close to beaches, I became so sick of going to the beach when I became older. I always avoided the beach and preferred to go somewhere rather cooler and indoors. But I didn’t want to deprive my little girl of some fun under the sun, and our trip to White Rock was definitely awesome. I wouldn’t mind going back. Just a piece of advice: Don’t forget to bring sunblock and apply it as often as possible.

Cost of this getaway:

Bus fare from Victory Liner Pasay station to Olongapo : P218 x 2 = P436
Jeepney fares to and from White Rock:  P92
Entrance fee to White Rock: P650 x 2 = P1,300
Lunch and snacks in Sunset Cafe: P975
Souvenirs (bracelet and keychains): P140
Bus fare from Victory Liner Olongapo to Pasay: P223 x 2 = P446

Total cost: P3,389.00

Categories: Weekend Getaway | 2 Comments

Raffles Makati

Someone once proclaimed that life begins at 40 (it’s actually the title of a 1932 non-fiction book authored by Walter B. Pitkin). I personally believe my life really began at 25, but I still wanted to make a big deal out of turning 40.  So on my 40th birthday last March 8, I chose to celebrate that milestone with my loved ones in this luxury hotel: Raffles Makati.

The Lobby / Writers Bar

The Lobby / Writers Bar

Inaugurated on December 3, 2012, Raffles Makati boasts of over 200 residences for extended stays or private ownership and only 32 suites (broken down into 23 Junior Suites, 8 Executive Suites and 1 Presidential Suite) for hotel guests. Booking online was such a cinch, and I was able to reserve a Junior Suite about a full month before my birthday. Upon confirmation, though, I was informed via email that the Raffles swimming pool will be under rectification during our stay. I have to admit I was very, very disappointed. But even that didn’t douse my excitement about our overnight stay.

Writers Bar

so happy at 40

Upon arrival, we were immediately treated to welcome drinks at the Writers Bar. My husband Caloy had coffee, I had tea and our daughter Bea had fresh orange juice. Peanuts and potato chips were also served on the table. After that, we were ushered into our junior suite , where this sweet surprise was waiting for me –

Happy birthday to me!

Happy birthday to me!

On the small dining table in our suite were some delectable pastries and confections as well as a chocolate cake adorned with fresh mixed berries. There was also a welcome card signed by the hotel’s manager, Mr. David Batchelor. But my heartfelt thanks goes out to the ever-gorgeous Monique Toda, Director of Communications of Raffles Makati, for arranging this wonderful surprise and for making sure I had the grandest time on my birthday. One of the perks of blogging is meeting important people in the hospitality industry, and Monique is the sweetest (and the most beautiful) hotel executive I’ve ever met through the years. I just love her!

Suite 908

Suite 908

The lobby of Raffles Makati may not be as grand as, say, Makati Shangri-La or The Peninsula Manila, but the rooms are  sublime. The Raffles Junior Suite exudes an understated elegance while still being tastefully stylish. The 60-square-meter accommodation has spotless hardwood floors, a nice parlor with charming furnishings, a separate living room and dining area, a walk-in closet and a very spacious bathroom. Everything about the suite is impressive.

our room for a night

our room for a night

Afternoon tea service at the Writers Bar is inclusive in the room package and I was so looking forward to it. Offered daily from 2:30 to 5:30 in the afternoon, the Simply Classic Afternoon Tea set is said to be good for two persons, but in reality, it can be shared by 4 to 6 (if they all have tiny appetites). Seriously, four of us partook of the set and we still had so much leftovers (that is not to say that the food wasn’t good, it was just plenty). We started with some finger sandwiches (roast beef, smoked salmon,  ham, cucumber, and egg salad), then moved on to scones served with clotted cream and jam, and then finally a three-tiered serving tray with tartlets, choux pastries, cakes and macarons.

afternoon tea set

afternoon tea set

I’m  a self-confessed tea lover (I’d like to believe I was some sort of British royalty in my previous life… haha!) and I must say I really enjoyed the gourmet tea at Raffles. It’s by Harney & Sons Master Tea Blenders, and I fell in love with its tea selections instantly.

"Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world." T'ien Yiheng

“Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world.” — T’ien Yiheng

Cocktails follow from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., also at the Writers Bar. My husband and I took the opportunity to have our “date night” and enjoyed our free canapés and unlimited specialty cocktails and beer. I got to try the iconic Singapore Sling, a drink consisting of gin, cherry brandy, pineapple juice, lime juice and lemon juice. My favorite foodie/travel host, Anthony Bourdain thinks it’s disgusting, but I kind of liked it. What I didn’t like was the Cranberry and Cucumber Mojito, just because it had way too much cucumber. Ulk.

left: Classic Singapore Sling; right: Cranberry and Cucumber Mojito

left: Classic Singapore Sling; right: Cranberry and Cucumber Mojito

The morning after, dear husband and I had a sumptuous breakfast at Spectrum, the hotel’s all-day buffet restaurant. The breakfast spread was awesome without being overwhelmingly excessive. What sets Spectrum apart from all other hotel restaurants is the fresh honey station, where guests can see real live honey bees hard at work! I love taking my tea with honey so I really appreciated this unique feature.

*burp*

*burp*

We couldn’t leave the hotel without taking a dip in the pool over at Fairmont Makati, which shares the same address with Raffles. Fairmont‘s pool is admittedly bigger and perhaps even nicer, but Raffles‘ is more private. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to enjoy it because of the ongoing rectification. Maybe that was a good thing because my husband said that we shall be back for it.

Fairmont Makati's swimming pool

Fairmont Makati’s swimming pool

Making that decision to spend my 40th birthday in Raffles Makati proved to be right, and the luxurious and relaxing experience was truly worth the price of the overnight stay. I mean, if life indeed begins at forty, this is exactly where I want it to start.

Categories: Hotels, Staycation | Leave a comment

Spread the LOVE

The sweetest treat came on Valentine’s Day in the form of these Premium Fudgy Brownies from Mary Grace Cafe. Imagine, the cafe gave out 143 boxes of these humongous brownies absolutely free to the first 143 persons who signed up on its facebook page! How sweet is that? It took me only about a minute to register and what I got in return were the chocolatiest brownies ever!

"Love is all you need." -- The Beatles

“Love is all you need.” — The Beatles

I’ve always loved Mary Grace, the cafe and the lady behind it. She does not know me at all personally, but I remember seeing her when her first cafe in Serendra opened in 2006. Ms. Mary Grace Dimacali graciously held open the door of her restaurant so that I could ease my Bea’s stroller into it. She had this warm smile on her face that one can easily surmise was genuine. Her warm and friendly personality is evident in her shops and her staff. They seem to be very well-trained and happy in their work environment. Ms. Mary Grace is precisely the kind of entrepreneur that this country needs — a loving mom and a dedicated wife who values home, family and faith. She spreads love all around with her comforting dishes and delicious cakes and pastries.

Someday I hope to be just like her.

Categories: Cravings, Promotions/Freebies | Leave a comment

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka’s Shio Ramen

At first, I couldn’t understand why people would be willing to wait in line just to get a table at Hokkaido Ramen Santouka in Glorietta.  But then again, I was never really into ramen. My cravings for Japanese food usually revolve around sukiyaki, sashimi, okonomiyaki and even takoyaki. Ramen, a typical Japanese noodle soup dish, is something that I’ve only recently learned to appreciate. So I guess you can say I’m a neophyte to this whole ramen craze.

As I have learned from my research, sometime in March 1988, a modest ramen shop called Ramen Santouka opened its very first store on the island of Hokkaido in Japan. It offered only one item on its menu– Shio Ramen (salt-flavored ramen). Soon enough, it became a big hit and now it can be enjoyed all over Japan and around Asia. Here’s why:

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Shio Ramen

The soup is not served piping-hot as one would expect, but just the right temperature because the broth is only simmered, never boiled. Imagine all those pigs’ bones simmered for about 20 hours… yes, 20 hours! What you get is a creamy, rich and flavorful soup base for your ramen. Then they add in salt for its signature shio ramen (other soup flavors are miso [soybean paste] and shoyu [soy sauce] — which I have yet to try).

My daughter Bea says her favorite component of the shio ramen are the noodles, which are perfectly flavored to complement the delicious soup. I, on the other hand, love every single ingredient in the bowl. One slurp of the soup and I instantly felt like I was transported to Japan, one of my dream travel destinations. The chasu quite simply melts in the mouth while the menma and kikurage provide an extra layer of texture with their bit of firmness to the bite. The shio ramen is the only one garnished with the umezuke, which gives a slightly sour taste to the ramen. All together, the shio ramen is one perfect dish for the cool weather we’ve all been experiencing these past couple of weeks.

Categories: Cravings | Leave a comment

St. Giles Makati (St. Giles Classic Hotel)

I won an overnight stay in St. Giles Makati from its photo contest on facebook (there were only 7 entries and 5 winners, go figure) and I used the free accommodation right away. I was with my husband, Caloy and our daughter, Bea and we wondered who Saint Giles was and how come a hotel chain was named after him. I searched his name on Google and read about his life but couldn’t find the connection. Anyway, among other things, Saint Giles is the “patron saint of Edinburgh, Scotland, where the St. Giles Cathedral is a prominent landmark.” (Wikipedia)

Now back to our wonderful, albeit short stay at St. Giles Makati last December…

the lobby/reception

the lobby/reception

Towering at 35 stories high, St. Giles Makati is situated right smack in the center of one of Makati’s busiest districts, along Makati Avenue corner Kalayaan Avenue. My husband was attending a Christmas party at the A. Venue Mall the day we checked in at the hotel, and it was so convenient because the place was just nearby. We were warmly welcomed by the hotel’s Ms. Armina Mangune and were billeted on the 28th floor, specifically in Room 2820, which offered a nice view of the bustling Makati Avenue.

Room 2820

Room 2820

The hotel has a total of 512 rooms that evoke subtle elegance and feature simple, no-frills interiors that are ideal for business travelers. Our room was very clean and there was a lot of space to move around, plus it looked brand-new — after all, the hotel’s only been around for a couple of years. It’s equipped with all the amenities that make for a pleasant and relaxing stay. A fresh fruit platter greeted us upon entering the room, as well as a personalized card from the hotel’s general manager and a handwritten note from our room attendant. Such a friendly gesture!

desk / TV

desk / TV

There’s a small swimming pool on the roof top — the 35th floor — which also houses the Presidential Suite. A gym facility can also be found there, and the view of the city can be quite arresting. Bea and I took a dip in the chilly water on a cool December morning.

pool area

pool area

When you step outside the hotel, there is no shortage of restaurant choices since Makati Avenue is lined with hundreds of dining establishments and then some. In fact, Bea and I walked from the hotel all the way to the Ayala Triangle Gardens at night time, but eventually had dinner at North Park right across St. Giles Makati. For those who prefer to confine themselves in the hotel, however, there’s the in-house BayLeaf Restaurant on the second floor, where breakfast is also served to hotel guests.

BayLeaf Restaurant

BayLeaf Restaurant

The breakfast fare was typically what we always have at home, but it’s alright since I didn’t want to eat too much, anyway.

my breakfast plate

my breakfast plate

Surely our experience at St. Giles Makati has been delightful and hassle-free. Special thanks to the Assistant Communications and Marketing Manager, Ms. Armina Mangune, for making all the arrangements and for the warm hospitality.

Categories: Promotions/Freebies, Staycation | Leave a comment

A note of thanks

At the start of 2013, I took on a challenge posted by one of my online friends on facebook: a gratitude jar or box. The idea is to fill the jar or box with notes about things or events — big or small — that make one grateful. But because there’s so much to be thankful for every single day, I decided to just choose the ones I will jot down and put in my jar.

my gratitude jar

my gratitude jar

In a few hours, we shall bid 2013 goodbye. It wasn’t exactly a great year, what with all the political scandals, calamities and tragic events that shook our nation. On a personal note, we lost our dearest Daddy in March this year. We all know he is happier now, but it still aches to think that he’s no longer with us physically.

Still, God always gives us countless reasons to praise and thank Him. These are some of the notes I found in my jar at the end of 2013:

- January 3: First day back in school and Bea didn’t give me a hard time.

- January 9: Perfect day with my Caloy. I went to the gym while he played tennis and then we had a longsilog breakfast together in a neighborhood carinderia. I love my husband so much!

- February 18: Won a hotel suite accommodation in Hotel Celeste from a facebook contest.

- March 1: Thank you, Lord, for a safe and wonderful 3-day trip to Ilocos!

- March 8: Thank you, Lord, for a great and memorable birthday! Feeling fine at 39. [written on the back of a gate pass slip from Victoria Court - Malate *wink*]

- May 6: Nanay and Poppie’s 40th anniversary weekend celebration at Holiday Inn and Suites Makati

- June 5: Bea’s very enjoyable 9th birthday celebration at Red Box and Hotel Celeste

- July: Won a Club Epicure Premiere membership from New World Makati Hotel

- August 11: Got a free room upgrade to a Deluxe Suite in Hotel H2O. Super fun long weekend with the family! Thank you, Lord!

- August 14: Caloy surprised me with a Goldilocks Caramel Popcorn.

- Hassle-free claiming of Enhanced Availment Benefit from PhilPlans

- found new friends and lunch buddies in the persons of Arlene, Dette and Gem

- afternoon tea dates with my closest friend, Rodelyn

- Won an overnight stay at St. Giles Makati Hotel from its facebook contest.

- Watched Alice in Wonderland (Onstage Greenbelt 1), Cinderella (Resorts World Manila) and Disney on Ice: Treasure Trove (Smart Araneta Coliseum)

- celebrated our 10th anniversary as a married couple

For all these and thousands more, I am very, very grateful. I thank God Almighty for the gift of life, love, family, friends and salvation. I am hopeful that 2014 will bring many glorious surprises and delightful adventures.

May 2014 be our best year yet.

Categories: From the Heart | 3 Comments

Churros by Cioccolata

Previously I wrote about our free overnight stay at The Bayleaf Intramuros, where we had the most sinfully delicious bagnet from its restaurant, 9 Spoons. Due to lack of time, I was not able to dine at the other hotel dining outlet called Cioccolata Churros Cafe, a charming little spot that specializes in pastries (churros being its signature product, obviously), sandwiches plus coffee and tea concoctions. I vowed to myself that I will go back there to sample the churros, so one early morning I took the LRT from Vito Cruz to the Central Station near the Manila City Hall and walked all the way to the walled city.

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Cioccolata Churros Cafe

Without wasting any minute upon arrival at the cafe, I ordered the original churros with cacao dip (P95) and paid extra for the additional caramel dip (P30). It took a while before it was served but that was fine with me as I had way too much time in my hands.  Churros are a traditional breakfast food particularly in Spain, Portugal, Mexico and Argentina.  They are fried dough pastries (similar to doughnuts) usually accompanied by thick hot chocolate as a dip. The origin of the churros is still debatable, but one story traces their roots in Spain. It is said that the first churros were made by shepherds and that the pastry was named after a breed of Spanish sheep called, well, churro.

churros with cacao and caramel dips

churros with cacao and caramel dips

Here in Manila, I’ve always been a fan of Dulcinea’s Churros con Chocolate. Cioccolata‘s version comes very close to Dulcinea‘s in terms of appearance, texture and taste. It has a slightly crunchy exterior and a soft interior. The stark difference, as far as I could tell, lies in the native cacao dip. The one in Cioccolata is darker and thicker, making it much bitter and, oddly, with a bit of a tangy aftertaste. But it was good.

cacao dip

cacao dip

However, because I’m partial to all things sweet, I actually liked the caramel dip better.  Some might say it’s overly sweet, but I preferred it over the bittersweet chocolate. I’ve never had churros dipped in caramel sauce before and my tastebuds were pleasantly surprised by this new pairing.

caramel dip

caramel dip

I found it so lovely to be sitting in a churros cafe in the city’s oldest district built by the Spanish colonial government, enjoying this popular Spanish treat. I imagined myself sitting quietly in a quaint churreria in Spain, munching on warm, freshly-cooked churros while watching people rushing about on their way to work or school. What a truly nice way to kick off the morning.

Categories: Cravings | Leave a comment