Keep Calm and Eat Cupcakes

Did you know that the earliest reference to a cupcake dates back to the year 1796? It was a recipe that called for “a cake to be baked in small cups” printed in the first known cookbook written by an American and simply titled American Cookery. However, it was not until 1828 when the term “cupcake” was used in another cookbook. A cupcake, as everyone knows, is a small version of a cake that is meant to be enjoyed by an individual. It’s also known as a fairy cake in Britain, although it can be quite smaller than the average cupcake.

We’ve all been eating cupcakes all our lives, but when I was growing up they were mostly the homemade kind. Here in the metropolis, the first store that was set up solely dedicated to specialty cupcakes was Cupcakes by Sonja in Serendra. Established almost 8 years ago in September 2006, it has now expanded to 11 shops all over the metro. It’s always a delight to step inside the cute little shop in Serendra and instantly get a sugar rush just by looking at and smelling its sweet creations. I was among its first customers in its original store and have tried nearly all the cupcake varieties, but my favorite remains: the Berries ‘N Cream cupcake.

Peppermint Patty (pink frosting), Vanilla Sunshine (blue frosting) and my favorite Berries 'N Cream (white frosting)

Peppermint Patty (pink frosting), Vanilla Sunshine (blue frosting) and Berries ‘N Cream (white frosting)

Nowadays, there are so many cupcake brands available and, of course, I want to try them all. I’ve featured quite a few cupcakes here in my blog and on my facebook page, such as those from Vanilla Cupcake Bakery, Sophie’s Mom, The Royal Touch and Slice. But given my insatiable appetite for sweets, I’m forever lusting for cakes and cupcakes. I once bought half-a-dozen cupcakes from GIGI Coffee & Cupcakes in Shangri-la Plaza. Gigi Gaerlan, the maker of these cupcakes, is also known as the creator of the custaroon, a hybrid of custard and macaroon. Her cupcakes are reasonably-priced and extremely moist, so I was very happy with them, particularly the Green Tea cupcake.

assorted cupcakes from GIGI Coffee & Cupcakes

assorted cupcakes from GIGI Coffee & Cupcakes

Singapore’s famous cupcakery, Twelve Cupcakes, has made its way to our shores. The concept is anchored on 12 standard flavors, then there are a few various special flavors available everyday. I’ve tasted a lot of cupcakes and I mean A LOT, so I didn’t have high expectations for these babies because I know that Filipinos can whip up exceptionally yummy and lovely cupcakes. So I was pleasantly surprised when I took a bite of the Strawberry Vanilla cupcake — so delicately soft and not-too-sweet. My daughter Bea fell in love with the Red Velvet cupcake. In fact, when we were in Hong Kong a few months back, she requested me to buy one for her again.

Strawberry Vanilla, Red Velvet and Chocolate Vanilla from Twelve Cupcakes

Strawberry Vanilla, Red Velvet and Chocolate Vanilla from Twelve Cupcakes

Life is short. Eat more cupcakes!

Categories: Cravings | Leave a comment

Easy Recipe: Graham Balls

A couple of weeks ago, when my daughter Bea came home from school, she excitedly narrated to me how her day went. They had their victory party in class to conclude their election, and everyone brought potluck-style food for sharing. She told me she ate pizza, barbecue and homemade graham balls. She couldn’t stop raving about the latter and told me that she wanted to ask her classmate for the recipe but she was quite shy as they are not yet close friends. So I googled “graham balls recipe” and found that it’s a very simple and easy to make no-bake dessert or snack. Even my ten-year-old can do it herself. I immediately bought the ingredients and we had fun making the balls.

Graham Balls

Graham Balls

You will need –

  • 1 pack (200 g) M.Y. San Crushed Graham Crackers [Honey Graham flavor]
  • 1 small can (168 ml) Alaska Sweetened Condensed Filled Milk [or any other brand of your choice]
  • 1/4 cup Alaska Evaporated Milk
  • 1 small pack of marshmallows
  • more crushed graham crackers for dusting

Procedure –

  • In a large bowl, combine crushed graham crackers, condensed milk and evaporated milk. Mix thoroughly until its consistency becomes similar to a dough.
  • Scoop a small portion from the mixture and press it flatly against the palm of your hand. Place a marshmallow in the middle then fold the dough to close. Roll it using both palms to form a ball.
  • Roll the ball onto more crushed graham to prevent it from sticking to the other balls. (You may also use candy sprinkles, dessicated coconut or chocolate powder.)
  • Refrigerate the balls for at least an hour then enjoy!

This recipe yields about 14 balls. The graham balls are absolutely delicious and nutritious as a snack for kids and adults alike. They’re not too sweet, fun to make and even more fun to eat. Try making them with your kids today.

Categories: Cravings, In My Kitchen | Leave a comment

Ascott Makati

In celebration of its 30th anniversary, Ascott The Residence is offering special promo rates from April 1 to December 31, 2014 for all of its properties around the globe. Ascott was established in Singapore back in 1984 and has now grown into a leading luxury serviced apartment owner/operator. I took advantage of its online Flash Sale for Members last June to book a 3-Bedroom Deluxe for 2 nights in time for my dear mother-in-law’s birthday weekend most recently. We wanted to make this affair an annual family tradition (last year we stayed in Hotel H2O for her birthday weekend). I got a sweet low rate of P8,760+++ per night for the 3-bedroom apartment (without breakfast) that I booked online.

Ascott Makati Lobby

Ascott Makati Lobby

We checked in last Friday, August 8, and because it was our first time to stay in Ascott, we weren’t expecting it to be so elegantly grandiose. However, I was informed at the front desk that my preferred residence was not available that day due to “maintenance issues” and that the Guest Service Supervisor, Ariane, sent me an e-mail about it the day before. I told her that I do not check my e-mail everyday, hence I didn’t get to read her message. Anyhow, in lieu of a 3-Bedroom Deluxe, she offered me two units of a 2-Bedroom Deluxe for the same price, plus complimentary breakfast for 6 persons as “a gesture of our sincerest apologies.” So instead of getting three bedrooms, we got a total of four! How could I refuse? Well, then, apologies accepted!

welcome drinks and the birthday celebrator

welcome drinks and the birthday celebrator

Each 2-Bedroom Deluxe has a floor area of more than 100 square meters, which gave us massive family space. Each unit features a master’s bedroom, another bedroom, 2 bathrooms, a living area, a 4-seater dining table, a kitchenette complete with a kitchen sink and all the essential appliances and utensils that a family would need: a huge refrigerator with freezer, a big oven and a microwave oven, rice cooker, chinaware, silverware and glassware — the works! There’s even a washing machine and dryer. It’s really a home away from home.

our home for the weekend

our home for the weekend

Aside from a huge outdoor swimming pool on the 6th level, there’s also a fully-equipped gym, aerobics room, game room with billiards and game console,  spa and massage center, and — get this — tennis courts! Can any other hotel beat that?

fun in the pool

fun in the pool

Breakfast is served at Cafe on the 6th. Its breakfast spread is pretty basic compared with the other hotels’ offerings, but I loved the food (plus, it’s complimentary!) especially the pancakes, bacon, and the cheesy baked baby potatoes. Yum! I also truly appreciated the warmth and hospitality of all the staff. They even surprised my mom-in-law with a small, personalized cake and balloons while serenading her with the birthday song. Massive thanks!

Cafe on the 6th

Cafe on the 6th

Aside from its prized location (we just went down and there’s Glorietta and SM Makati), what I loved most about Ascott Makati was its high-speed wireless internet service (because, let’s face it, most of us can’t survive a weekend without the net). We had a remarkably comfortable stay and would surely recommend Ascott Makati to all our friends and relatives. My only complaint, which I’m sure can easily be fixed, is the clogged drain in the shower area of the bathroom assigned to us (Room 1805). It took a long while before the water went down the drain, which created a pool on the floor. But other than that, everything about our 2-night stay was nice and cozy. It’s another birthday to remember for our dearest darling Mommy, who is still pretty at 83.

Categories: Family, Staycation | Leave a comment

The Royal Touch Gourmet Cupcakes

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be royalty? Or do you fancy having an English tea party experience? Well, there’s a place in town that can satisfy the Anglophile in you: The Royal Touch Gourmet Cupcakes.

The Royal Touch in Resorts World Manila

The Royal Touch in Resorts World Manila

Sipping tea is one of my favorite things in the world, and I’ve always dreamt of visiting London ever since I became a big fan of the Beatles when I was 18. I’m still hoping to fulfill that dream, so I was very happy when I found out that this cupcake shop was co-founded by Chef Carolyn Robb, who served as Personal Chef to the Royal Family (Prince Charles, Princess Diana, and their sons, Princes William and Harry) for over a decade. Together with an American business partner, she established The Royal Touch to spread the British tea culture across the globe.

left: Queen of Nutella / right: Chocolate Strawberry Marchioness

left: Queen of Nutella / right: Chocolate Strawberry Marchioness

It’s no secret that I absolutely love tea and cupcakes, which is why The Royal Touch is such a happy place for me. It’s so lovely and elegant, it’s like a sanctuary where I can retreat and just quietly enjoy my tea. On my first visit, I had a pot of Buckingham Palace Earl Grey Tea (P100/pot) and the mere scent of the tea instantly lifted my mood. Surely, “there is little in life a good cup of tea cannot cure.” I’m not sure if the tea is from Harrods, London’s celebrated department store, but there are tins of Harrods tea on the display shelves of the store. Whatever brand it is, the luxurious tea is worth the trip to Resorts World.

left: assorted mini-cupcakes / right Apple Duchess

left: assorted mini-cupcakes / right: Apple Duchess

Meanwhile, the cupcakes are so pretty and with flavors so sophisticated (like the Princess Rose Petal and the White Chocolate and Cranberry Vidame), it’s so easy to fall in love with them as well. Each is a unique flavor and texture experience. For instance, the Queen of Nutella Cupcake has a chewy, brownie-like texture topped with Nutella buttercream frosting and garnished with Valrhona chocolate pearls; the extremely fudgy Chocolate Biscuit Cupcake — the cake version of which was served at the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton — is nothing like any other cupcake I’ve tasted before; while the Chocolate Strawberry Marchioness features a soft chocolate sponge cake with strawberry filling and topped with a fresh strawberry.

The Royal Touch is my favorite cupcake store at the moment. I’ve dined there 3 times in the past two weeks and I still want to come back for more. Until my dream trip to London is realized, this tiny shop will be my little piece of heaven in the city.

The Royal Touch Gourmet Cupcakes
Ground Floor, Maxims Hotel
Resorts World Manila
Categories: Cravings | Leave a comment

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.

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