Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Our Quick Trip To Antartica

To quote my penguin boy, Miro, "This is a dream come true!"

And indeed it was.  Manila Ocean Park's latest attraction, Trails to Antartica, does not disappoint AT ALL.  Specially if you've had a thing for penguins for the most part of your childhood (like Miro), and a thing for value-for-money family entertainment for the most part of your adulthood (like me).  

For Php300, you get to experience 4 parts of the tour.

There's the Antartic Facts section where you learn tidbits about the frozen land.
The very loopy and long Ice Slide --which I'm pretty sure would've been loads of fun if we didn't chicken out.  *sigh*   Note to self:  Next time, bring will power and a box of badass.

The actual Penguin Exhibit that featured the cutest flightless birds in adorable waddling and synchronized swimming.

We paid an extra Php250 for the Penguin Feeding experience.  Believe me, it was so worth it!  The package comes complete with a CD of your hi-res pictures the organizers take during the feeding activity.  So personalized!

There was Penguin Touching, too!  It was absolutely free because it was absolutely disallowed.  This makes Miro the only kid in that tour who managed to sneak a pat on a penguin's head!  Oh, boy, you rock!  :P

Then there was the Snow Village, the grand finale.  It was a room that simulated freeze-your-buns-off winter climate!  This is a big thing for us tropic settlers whose seasons only play between wet and dry and dry and wet.  We even had a snowball fight --one that would've lasted more than 5 minutes if our fingers didn't threaten to fall off.  Note to self:  Next time, bring common sense and mittens!

Don't let this season end without dropping by Manila Ocean Park's Trails to Antartica.  It's not everyday you get to see snow and penguins in our little part of the world.  But thanks to this, it just made a boy's childhood dream a reality.  To quote Miro, "Mimi, my next dream is to live in Antartica!"

Oh, boy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Deck the halls with Dinos!

Family Project Weekend presents home-made refrigerator magnets.
Dinosaur refrigerator magnets.
That in itself hits so many levels of coolness!

It was one of those Mould-and-Paint Crafts Kits from 4M --a Christmas present from Tita Annie which was definitely up Kenji's alley.  Dinosaurs?  Magnets?  The opportunity to mess up the living room with Plaster of Paris?  Yup, definitely up Kenji's alley.

Now, it may look daunting at first but this project is fairly easy to accomplish, and very kid-friendly.  Kenji worked the plaster mix himself.

Pouring the quick-hardening mixture into the dino mould is his favorite part.

Waiting for it to dry --not so much.

An hour later came the fun part:  Popping the prehistoric sculpted figures out of the plastic mould!  This requires lots of care specially if you're thinking of letting your kid do the popping.  You can trim the edges of the figures with a knife to give them a cleaner look.

The 'funnest part'?  Painting!  Kenji went to town dabbing his dinos with what he calls 'crazy colors.  I don't like brown dinosaurs.  Brown is boring.'.  Good point.

He asked me to help him apply some of the tinier details.  And then it's waiting for more drying again.  If your child's patience doesn't run dry before the plaster does, then it's time to stick on the magnets!  Magnet strips with back adhesives also come with the package.  You may want to help your kid with this step.  It gets a little tricky.

Finally --time to adorn the fridge with these dinos' magnetic glory!  Woohoo!
Of course, Kenji and I had to push the envelope a bit so we made Jurassic foliage and volcano cut outs to keep the dinos from feeling homesick.

Uh-huh, this boy is proud of his work.  This one's for you, Tita Annie!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Phone, with a Cherry on top

Miro wants a phone for all the wrong reasons.  He needs it as a storage facility for his multitude of downloaded songs.  He needs it so he can record home movies.  He needs it to take pictures.  He needs it for the bluetooth app because he insists my phone should have copies of his handiwork.  And it has to be a phone because it's handier and cooler that way.

Texting and calling... nah, not interested.  Yet, anyway.

For this kind of need --and if this is your child's first phone-- it would be ridiculous to get him something as flashy and high techy as an iPhone.  Come on --I can't even afford an iPhone for myself!
So where do you run to?  Cherry Mobile or MyPhone!  For the holiday season, they have loads of units selling off at insanely low prices.  All loaded with multimedia apps and even promotional giveaways.

For Miro, we got Cherry Mobile's D11.  Great sound quality!  With memory space that can store a band's entire career in songs in.  That's a big thing for Miro since he's turning out to be quite a music buff.  The video and camera quality, eh, not so much.  But Miro has always been keen on lighting his home movies to perfection so this compensates big time for the cameraphone's grainy quality output.

The package came complete with accessories, too.  So it is quite a steal.

It's not much.  But my boy is sincerely thrilled for having his very own phone now.  It's like a right of passage in Middle School nowadays.  In my day, all you had to have was a Hollie Hobbes lunch box and you're in the In Crowd.  Geez.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Personalize Pasko with Midnight Snacks

I'm big on personalizing stuff.  I go full rabid mode on this come Christmas.  I'm not the kind who will buy presents in bulk.  I'm the kind who will go the extra mile in making sure each gift has a personal meaning to the person receiving it.

Not too easy when we're talking about the entire teaching staff of my children's school, is it?

Thank goodness --and sweetness-- for a lovely little thing called Midnight Snacks.  Run by the young, insanely creative oven queen, Larisse --Midnight Snacks bakes delicious cakes and goes the extra mile from there.  Midnight Snacks personalizes each cake according to your whim.  And gives brilliant inputs, too!

Just look at this masterpiece!  It's a 12-inch round cake with Chocolate Buttercream filling and icing covered in Marshmallow Fondant.  Got you drooling there, huh?  But wait --there's more.  The whole surface is shaped into my sons' school emblem in unbelievable detail (Read this:  It's not sucking up when it's the season for giving, hmp!).

Carefully sculpted at the foot of the cake is the image and likeness of my boy, Miro, in perky, holiday spirit.

To the right, it's my boy Kenji with his dog Alpha --who happens to be an unofficial mascot of the school-- crafted in delectably edible form.

Capping the personal touch is the greeting on the side of the cake.  I'm unabashedly proud of that. :P  The Oohs and Aahs from the teachers --oh, that made me even prouder.

The good thing about this luscious cake idea is that it's something the teachers can eat and enjoy together as they bond before the school closes for the holidays.  It's a lot more meaningful than when they get their own random gifts and then head on their separate ways.  Pasko (as we know it) is also the season for sharing, after all.

The better thing:  They'll remember that it's your children who made that meaningful, flavorful moment happen.  *super slow clap*

If you're thinking of giving much more for Pasko and beyond, go personalized.  Share the impeccable inside-and-out goodness of Midnight Snacks.  I did.  And I'll do it again!

Friday, December 16, 2011

'Tis the season for MB Cupcakes

Cupcakes are forever.  But if you want to make your child's Christmas Show's After Party more festive, MB Cupcakes has the sweet deal for you.

Snow-tipped Snickerdoodles that are simply heavenly.

And divine Red Velvets sprinkled with Christmas confetti and cheer.

These are what I got for the celebratory potluck that followed the success of my boys' school Yuletide performance.  And let me tell you --from the array of finger foods the other parents brought, my MB Cupcakes stood out by sheer holiday looks!  And let's not forget the awesome taste.  The box sat empty in just a few minutes!

If I got your mouth watering, it will be great to know that MB Cupcakes is the brainchild of sisters Ana and Keena.  You've heard about the sisters of TV's DC Cupcakes' fame, right?  Well, these siblings of MB Cupcakes are our local version.  They may not have the same celebrity status --yet!-- but creativity and culinary prowess are guaranteed! 
Good for you, getting a bite out of their baked goodies is just a phone call away.  Check out their Facebook page and see what other sweet deals they can whip up for you.  Believe me, there are a lot!

But for the holidays, I recommend these babies in this handsome red box.  For such a huge occasion --by my personal experience-- they most definitely steal the show.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Papier Mache Weekend is in order!
On our work table:  Harry Potter wands!  Ooh... exciting idea Miro and Kenji thought of over popcorn.  With my husband finally getting them the complete DVD collection of Harry Potter films, the Harry Hangover isn't leaving this household just yet.  Not that I mind.  Wand-making was awesome stuff!

If you don't have access to Olivander's, don't mope.  All you need is access to newspaper, tape, glue, and toilet paper.  And yes, barbecue sticks.  Barbecue sticks do wonders strengthening wand papier maches.  Just don't forget to clip the pointy tips off specially if you're crafting with your kids.

Here's the fun part:  sculpting newspaper and bands of tape around the barbecue sticks to approximate the look of the actual epic movie series' wands --which, I just learned from my boys, have their own distinct characteristics and personalities.  Interesting.

Ok, time to TP!  Slathering glue and tissue paper all over your wand paper sculptures will prove to be a little tricky due to the intricate details.  Be sure to cover those nooks and crannies without losing out on the shape.  For this, you'll need a thinner, softer tissue brand.  The kind that will be pliable enough to keep shape, but sturdy enough not to fall apart when brushed over with strong glue.

Let it dry completely before applying a second layer of tissue and glue.  On our second application, we left ours to dry overnight.  Overnight drying gives you stronger papier mache.  And when you're working with wands which will be handled a lot and used for powerful spells and ne'er do wells, yeah, you'll want them hardy and dauntless.

Now, the fun part for Miro:  painting the wands!  We use regular poster paints on our papier maches.  And Miro went to town mixing hues to get the colors down pat.  He's driven!  Wonder where he got that from... hmmm...

VOILA!  Or, should I say, AVADA KA-WAND-AH!
We've made Harry Potter's wand complete with the wooden handle texture, Voldemort's wand with the chiseled bone/fang grip, and Dumbledore's powerful weapon of choice, the finely crafted Elderwand.

We did a good job, I think.  And papier mache, as always, gave us good bonding time.
Why not start your own Papier Mache Weekend with your kids?  You won't believe how magical it gets each time.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dough It Yourself

When I was a little girl, a standard field trip would mean going to the Manila Zoo, the Planetarium, and some food factory where we were exposed to how the food we liked were made.  It was all about seeing and believing.

My boys had their field trip early this week.  It was to the Science Discovery Center, the Mall of Asia Skating Rink, and to the Greenwich Pizza Parlor.  The big difference:  both Miro and Kenji were not only exposed --they were allowed to experience.  Every stop was completely hands-on.  It was all about seeing, doing, and understanding.

I made the IDs.  But the aprons were authentic give-aways.
On today's post, I'm focusing on Greenwich which not only gave the school a kitchen tour, a pizza lecture, and a bunch of games and prizes --but actually had the kids make their own pizzas as well!  It's called the Greenwich Pizza-Making Camp.  For a couple of golden hours, children were allowed to man the dough, the ingredients, and the oven (under careful supervision, of course).  Something they don't usually get to do at home.

That's a big thing for my boys.  Discovery is one thing.  But learning the ropes to an adult activity --that's empowering.  In fact, when it was time to eat their pizza creations, both decided to take theirs home to give to their Mimi and Dada.  Just so we know that today, they were honorary adult chefs... and they made pizza specially for us.  Yummy ones, too!

Ok, so Miro had to eat half of his on the trip home ("I was hungry, ok!") but we were still awfully proud. :)
Good call, Greenwich!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Aww, Nuts!

Let me get this out in the open first.  I know Mixed Nuts have always existed.  I'm not a big fan of them.  I'm a purist when it comes to nuts.  I like how salty they are, and on occasion, how sweet they are.  But never together.  That would be like an abomination to me.
Shows you how small my food world is, doesn't it?

Anyway, this friend of mine DIY's mixed nuts for kicks.  She experiments with contrasting flavors like it was ...natural.  She's like Frankenstein and was more than thrilled to get Igor (that would be me) to dash purity and join her in the troubled dark side.  Theatrically-speaking.

She started me off with something she calls 'basic'.  Salted pili nuts with Sweetened pili nuts.  Ok... it took a while for my taste buds to get accustomed to the changing flavors per bite.  But it was interesting --and I was in a rather devil-may-care attitude that day-- so I kinda liked it.

Then, she introduced me to Salted Peanuts with Wheat Nuts.  The chaos of clashing textures was seriously off-putting.  I had to acquire the feeling.  After a few tentative chews, I finally got the hang of it and started enjoying it.

Pushing the envelope, her next salvo consisted of Roasted Nuts with ...Anchovy.  Gasp!  That felt so wrong on so many levels.  Fish?  Nuts?  Have you gone completely mad???
Apparently not, because I loved the strange salty-sweet combination, too.  And this combo, I just dove in and loved on the get-go.
Wow, I can get used to this mixing thing!

The moment I said that, she whipped out her oddest concoction yet --Cheese Chips with Choco Sticks.  Geez, Lousie!  I was just getting used to the Mixed NUTS idea!  And why does this remind me so much of Miro's 'French Fries Dipped in Hot Fudge Sundae' recipe?!!

It was good, too, of course.

The key is to take in both flavors at the same time, let them play their opposing melodies, and give the cacophony a chance to blend together to form a beautiful song.  It helps to be open-minded, too.  Aside from my friend, that rat in Ratatoiulle --he makes a brilliant point.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In Awe of the Ayala Triangle Light Show

"It's like being in a video game!  Like Tron!  But with more colors!"
"And music!"
"Yeah!  And music! "
"And stars that glow!  Like a video game!"
"I already said that!"

My kids just rambled on and on in complete amazement under the pulsing hues of Ayala Triangle's Festival of Lights.  This is Ayala's yearly Yuletide offering, and we finally found the time to go!  So excuse me if I sound like an excited child on Christmas morn in this post.  Or, a totally tripped-out hippie.

It's a concert.  Not just your garden variety array of pretty blinking lights on a mall wall.  These lights dance in tune to Christmas songs in spectacular choreography.  Huge lit stars throb to a beat and then die down to make way for darkness... only to be interrupted by the laser-like lights that start flashing in as more lights above the towering trees vibrate with varying degrees of radiance.

The awesome thing is that you can walk right into this concierto.  Be among the pulsating lights and sounds, and feel like you're part of something magical.  It's an enchanting feeling.  And yes, a kind of 'you have to be there' thing.

The disarming display ends with the giant stars folding and closing like morning glories falling into a well-deserved sleep.  Music becomes a soft, lilting hum.  And then you are surrounded by gleaming white tear drop lights falling all about you.  Sudden serenity.  A lovely segue from the energetic, enigmatic show that was.

It's a free attraction that runs from 6 to 8 nightly all throughout the season.  If you haven't seen it, believe me, you'll need to.  Honestly, who doesn't need to experience magic nowadays?

The Festival of Lights at the Ayala Triangle.  So much like the Bermuda Triangle, you do get lost in it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happier Feet 2

This month is just full of 'Happy' posts, huh?
This time it's a happy review on Happy Feet 2!

Personally, I like it better than the original Happy Feet flick.  This sequel was a lot more focused making it more interesting, thus, giving you more time to enjoy the movie than overwork the braincells.

Ah... this calls for an enumeration!

1.  I love how the concept of global warming was hinted, but not blatantly slapped on you.  It was enough for the story to tell you how grave this phenomenon is.  One huge thing that sort of threw me off with Happy Feet 1 was the sudden animal rights thingy that was shoved unceremoniously at the end of the film.  Oh yeah, Happy Feet 2 knew the concept of smooth.

2.  The awkwardness of Mumble struggling with maturity and fighting for the acceptance of his own son is just spot on.  His awkwardness this time around was charming.  I didn't quite get why they had to make his son 'different', too, though.  Sure, awkward's cute every now and then but do we really have to make it genetic?

3.  I love the introduction of the new player, Sven, the crazy cool Puffin/Penguin.  Even Brian, the great elephant seal.  New characters in a sequel --specially those who really shake things up-- always work for me.  Comebacking characters make me smile, too.  Love how that crazy bird alien abductee is still after baby penguins!

4.  I love the introduction of Bill and Will, the Krills --and Will's rabid ambition to go up the food chain.  Nice story on aiming for a goal and journeying to achieve it.  This was a full blown movie all on its own.  Yet it segued perfectly as intermittent comic relief/sub plot through the main story of Mumble.

5.  I love how the humans are made more 'human' here.  This time, they don't just grab a penguin off the ice to study them.  They take care of them, heal them, play Led Zep with them.  Sure, I would've wanted more from them in the end --but then this IS a penguin story.

6.  I think the songs are better now, too.  I mean, hello, Pink!

Ok, back up.  Not everything is perfect.  Speaking of songs, that grand solo number of Eric, Mumble's baby, was just... how do I say this nicely... HORRIFYING!  The song was weirdly without melody.  And the baby penguin's singing voice!  Aaaargggh... that voice!!!  He's cute and all and I can even forgive his anger management issues... but THAT VOICE!

I'm stopping there right now.  We did have fun.  I just tend to nitpick like the judgmental hag I am.
So please take your seat --cover your ears when baby Eric starts to open his beak, hehe-- and enjoy the show.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Have a Happy Even After

Ana, my one and only BFA, has always been one of my idols in the strength and drive department.  We're friends kept apart by our different passions and pursuits, but I know what she's been through... and I know how she took that obstacle and beat it to the ground with a 3-inch stiletto.

So, when out of the blue, she told me that she has a book coming out, the first thing I said was, "It's about time!"

Now, Happy Even After isn't your typical hardbound.  It's a plethora of thoughts, quotes, and tales told by popular and not-so popular solo moms carefully compiled to form a club journal of sorts.  

The page-turner's aim is pretty simple:  Inspire, empower, and engage other solo moms to find their own strength and tell their own Happy Even After stories as persevering providers and as perfect mothers in a private book.  A journal of your most challenging yet most worthwhile journey, so to speak.  A personal diary you can visit and revisit to remind you that being solo doesn't mean being alone.

It's functional.


And most of all... highly educational. :)

That's the essence of living a life Happy Even After.  Have your own today.  Visit to order your copy.