How to Apply for a UK Visa

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If you’re a Philippine passport holder like myself, the journey to the United Kingdom begins with the visa application. There are different types of visas such as Work Visa, Student Visa, Family Visa, but I will only be discussing about the General Visitor Visa, which my daughter Bea and I applied for.

The first step involved finalizing all our travel plans including the dates and arrangements for our accommodations during our short visit to the UK. Once we’ve decided on the dates, I started filling out the online application form. As a rule, one can apply for a UK visa up to three months before the proposed date of travel.

The following is the simple step-by-step process of applying online for a UK visa:

  • Sign up at Visa4UK.
  • Once you’ve registered, completely fill out the application form.
  • After completing the form, it will prompt you to sign the declaration.
  • Next step is to choose your appointment date. (This is the day you will submit all the documentary requirements in person.)
  • Make an online payment. The visa fee is GBP 83 or USD 142 (roughly PHP 6,400+ depending on the prevailing exchange rate) per application. This amount is non-refundable whether your visa is granted or not.
  • Print your application.

The following are the documents you need to submit on your appointment:

  • current and valid Philippine passport
  • two (2) pieces passport-size colored photos (with white or cream background)
  • all previous passports
  • evidence of your marital status (this can be a marriage certificate, civil partnership certificate, divorce certificate or death certificate)
  • evidence of current employment or studies (when applicable)
  • proof of financial capability (this can be in the form of bank statements or bank books, bank certificates, pay slips, income tax returns, business permits/bank account statements, property deeds, and the like)
  • airline booking confirmation
  • hotel booking confirmation
  • a planned itinerary (can be travel agent bookings)
  • supporting letter from friends or family in the UK who will be your host family (when applicable)
  • completed visa application form (printed)

***Important reminders:

(1) The UK Visa Application Centre is managed by VFS Global Services Philippines Private Inc. in partnership with the British Embassy Manila.

(2) The Centre is located at the Mezzanine Floor Unit M01, Ecoplaza Building, 2305 Pasong Tamo Extension Makati City.
 
(3) Please arrive 15 minutes before your appointed time. Get a number from the reception desk. Proceed to the specified room and wait for your number to be called.
 

(4) Bringing of bags and cellphones is not allowed inside the UK Visa Application Centre. There is, however, a cloaking service for a flat rate of one hundred pesos.

(5) If you are in a rush to get a visa, you may opt for the priority service and pay the extra fee (about USD 100). This will get your visa application processed in 2 to 3 days.

Once your number is called, you need to submit all the required documents to the person at the counter, who will then issue a claim stub that you will need when you return to get your passport. Before leaving the premises, you will have to wait for your turn for the Biometric Enrollment. This is where you will have your fingerprints and digital photo taken.

My personal experience was very satisfactory. It took me about 45 minutes from the time I arrived at the Centre to the time I finished the biometrics. I did not avail myself of the priority service and was told that I can come back to get our passports after 15 working days. I submitted all our documents on August 26, 2014 and I was expecting to get the result on September 17th. However, I received an email dated September 2, 2014 that our visas will be ready for dispatch shortly. So I picked up our passports with our 6-month multiple entry visas on September 8th.

To be honest, I was a little proud of myself for having obtained our visas on my own. Previously I had sought the help of travel agents and/or other government agencies for my other visas (US Visa, Schengen Visa via the German Embassy and Chinese Visa) but now I know that I can do it myself. A clean, decent travel history coupled with a lot of prayers can really help in obtaining a UK Visa.

I am so grateful beyond words.

Categories: Wanderlust | Leave a comment

Puto Bumbong Season

When I was a kid (that means ages ago), the sight of puto bumbong being sold on the streets heralded the beginning of the Yuletide. This Filipino delicacy used to be a seasonal treat as it was traditionally enjoyed only around Christmas time, but nowadays it’s not hard to find it all year round. Made from a special variety of ground glutinous rice — dried and colored a distinct purple — puto bumbong is cooked inside bamboo tubes in a special Pinoy-style steamer. It is then slathered with butter or margarine and served with muscovado sugar and grated coconut.

I’ve rounded up 4 restaurants where one can savor puto bumbong in the metro, but I counted out hotel dining outlets that serve this Pinoy favorite:

1. Cafe Via Mare can be relied upon to serve puto bumbong any time of the year in all of its branches. For P65 for two pieces, it’s a perfect afternoon snack treat that can already satisfy a purple craving.

puto bumbong from Cafe Via Mare

puto bumbong from Cafe Via Mare

2. Mangan, the Kapampangan specialty restaurant, also offers this delicacy and is very generous with its serving. One order of puto bumbong has 5 chewy pieces at only P95.

puto bumbong from Mangan

puto bumbong from Mangan

 3. DADS World Buffet has people lining up for its puto bumbong as part of its Filipino dessert spread as well as its Merienda Buffet selection. The person in charge of cooking it couldn’t seem to keep up with the demand for this beloved delicacy — his tray always runs out of puto bumbong in the blink of an eye. I actually waited about 10 minutes to get my portion and, yes, it was worth waiting for.

DADS puto bumbong

puto bumbong from DADS World Buffet

4. Dekada Historic Filipino Cuisine in Glorietta proudly lists puto bumbong on its menu. However, it took me 4 attempts to order it before I could finally taste it. The first 3 attempts were met with “Sorry, Ma’am, not available po.” The fourth time was the charm… or was it? My friend Steffi and I had to wait for almost an hour with constant follow-ups before this plate of puto bumbong was served on our table. For the price of P148 for 4 pieces, I really wouldn’t recommend it. It’s served with cheese, by the way, but I still don’t think it’s worth the long wait.

puto bumbong from Dekada

puto bumbong from Dekada

I believe puto bumbong is something that we don’t really crave for its taste but for the nostalgia it brings: the innocent years, going to early-morning mass at Christmas, the cool December breeze. I bet the younger generation can’t fully appreciate it. Only the oldies like me can understand what I’m talking about.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The French Connection

If you can’t go to France just yet, then let France come to you… or at least to your table. Learn more about French gastronomy through local restaurants/shops and experience the sophisticated flavors and textures of French cuisine. Here are some of my favorite French food finds in Manila:

Salade Lyonnaise from La Creperie

From the French region of Lyon comes this salad consisting of leafy greens, bacon, poached egg, croutons and vinaigrette. What’s not to love?

Salade Lyonnaise

Salade Lyonnaise

Beef Bourguignon from The French Baker

If you’re having a hard time pronouncing it, just say Beef Burgundy. This traditional main dish originated from the Burgundy region of France, hence its name. It’s  a stew that has beef slowly simmered in red wine.  Remember the movie Julie and Julia?

Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon

Mille-feuille from Poetry & Prose Patisserie

It’s pronounced as mil-foy or something that sounds like that. What it literally means is “a thousand leaves” — it’s made up of sheets of puff pastry and layered with crème pâtissière. It’s very, very French and very, very delicious.

Mille-feuille

Mille-feuille

Beignet from Café Provençal

Beignet (pronounced ben-yey) is French for “fried dough” and is generally regarded as traditional French doughnuts, except that they’re square or rectangular in shape and without holes. Café Provençal‘s beignets are the softest and the lightest fritters I’ve ever sunk my teeth into. They felt like clouds of delicately sweet bread with a taste that’s so simple and yet so unforgettable. I can’t even decide which of the dips is my favorite — they’re both really good. Too bad, Café Provençal has closed down and has since resurrected as Duck & Buvette in Shangri-la Mall. I just wish it retained the beignet in its current menu.

beignets

beignets

Crepe from Café Breton

Did you know that the French word crepe was derived from the Latin crispa (meaning “curled”)? This very thin pancake is usually served with a variety of fillings that can be savory or sweet. Since I love sweets, my crepe of choice is this hot and cold treat, Adam and Eve from Café Breton. It has stewed apples with cinnamon embraced by delicate crepe and crowned with vanilla ice cream. I don’t think it can get any better than this.

Adam and Eve Crepe

Adam and Eve Crepe

Macarons from Sinfully by Makati Shangri-la

By now, everyone knows what macarons are. These colorful, dainty cookies are described in a Parisian website as “little bites of heaven” — crisp, chewy, melt-in-the-mouth delicious sweets that come in a wide variety of flavors. These gems from Sinfully by Makati Shangri-la are truly divine! Vive le macaron!

Macarons

Macarons

Mariage Frères Thé (available at Lartizan Boulangerie Française)

For tea afficionados, the Paris-based gourmet tea brand Mariage Frères (Mariage Brothers) is now being served at The French Baker‘s more upscale patisserie, Lartizan Boulangerie Française. I tried its Rouge Provence Tea once and its flavor and aroma instantly lifted my mood. Thank God for tea!

gourmet tea brand from Paris

gourmet tea brand from Paris

Oh, I can’t wait to visit Paris again!

Categories: Cravings | Leave a comment

I Have a Dream…

When I was 18, I stopped schooling for a year and became a complete bum. It was during that time when I repeatedly watched a TV show called Steve O’Neal’s Remembering The Beatles on Channel 5. This was back in the early 1990s, when I suddenly got hit by Beatlemania — two decades too late. The show made a huge impact in my life. I fell in love with the legendary John Lennon and became fascinated with all things British. Someday, I told myself, I will go to London and walk down Abbey Road (a busy thoroughfare in London which is also the title of the Beatles’ 1969 album).

Yeah, yeah, yeah….

So much has happened since then. I came close to visiting London when I studied in Germany several years ago and applied for a UK visa while I was in Berlin, but then my passport was only valid for less than 2 months by the time I had saved up for the trip so my visa application was not granted. My dream trip to London remained just that — a dream. However, a couple of years later, I got married to my dream man who, according to some people, has a resemblance to John Lennon. Despite our considerable age gap, our mutual love for the Beatles’ music was one of the very first things that brought us together as friends. Perhaps he found it  refreshing to meet someone as young as I was (back then) who was so crazy about the Beatles.

"If you never chase your dream, you will never catch them."

“If you never chase your dreams, you will never catch them.”

At the start of 2014, I resolved to make one of my dreams come true. A guest pastor in our church told us one Sunday to “visualize your dream and surround yourself with things that will remind you of it” and that’s exactly what I did. I bought a lot of stuff that will constantly remind me of my dream destination: books, notebooks, pens, mugs, t-shirts, a passport holder, a luggage tag, and many more. I read somewhere that if you envision your dream and wish for it, it will be given to you at the proper time. I requested my closest friend, Rodelyn, to give me this travel guidebook “Top 10 London” for my 40th birthday last March. On the first page, she scribbled this quote from C.S. Lewis: “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Well, guess what? I’d still like to pursue my old dream. It’s been 22 years since I dreamed about it, maybe it’s about time I make it come true.

"When you cease to dream, you cease to live."

“When you cease to dream, you cease to live.”

 “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” — Walt Disney

Categories: All About Me, Wanderlust | 3 Comments

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 (ideal for baon to school). Try making them with your kids today.

Graham Balls with Candy Sprinkles

Graham Balls with Candy Sprinkles

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
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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 –

pizap.com14035747291371

“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