Oct 14, 2017

Our Humble Home (Part 1)

We are two and a half months away from the end of 2017 so let me tell you another late kwento from earlier this year. Remember when I mentioned in this post that we passed on an anniversary getaway because we were saving up for an investment? Well, I am very happy to share with you that we finally got it... OUR VERY OWN HOUSE!!!

Adulting goal #1: a 2-storey 3-bedroom house. Check! :)

It was turned over to us late last year and we've been very happy since. In fact too happy we've been coming home every month! Crazy! But seriously, this is something that I want for my family even before Dad's passing. In fact the day he fell into coma, we were supposed to go house viewing. That's why it's a dream that is so close to my heart. And then Jhay and I had Maddie. The desire to have a house that is truly ours grew stronger than ever. You see, we used to have a very small house and there was one time I heard Maddie saying "Excuse me, fan" (she meant the electric fanbecause she cannot pass through). Yes, it was that small. It was the last straw for me. Since then we said no to every seat sale, every mindless shopping trip, every fancy dinner. We thought we'd rather save up to give Maddie a better home.

And then finally it happened. And boy, was it surreal. When we moved in, J and I just couldn't help but look at each other and smile and tell ourselves, "We made it, Honey." I will never forget the first night my entire family slept there. Imagine we only had 2 sofas, an Ikea study table, 1 A/C and some mattresses (the bed frames weren't even there yet), but when I saw how happy the kids were, I swear I really had to stop and look up to hold back the tears. You know, when you get something you've worked so hard for, it gives you a different kind of high. It's actually addictive. Suddenly you want to work harder to tick off all the other things in your bucket list. Suddenly you want the days to go faster so that you could get your next paycheck and buy that appliance or piece of furniture. Suddenly, OTs are okay because it's gonna help you get the goddamn customized closet built to complete your Pinterest-worthy room. Oh God, how do I start thanking You?

Me, my sisters and our Lola dear, on our first night :)

Now done with being all emotional and on to the fun part! House tour!!!

First off: the living and dining area

This part of the house is very basic. I decided to put in more effort on the design later because I have to stick to a budget. But I'm okay as long as the I have a pretty nice TV, comfy sofas to sit the entire family and a decent dining table. All from SM Home and SM Appliance Center. My pangarap furniture and mirror wall on the dining area can wait :)

Oh, did you notice our dining lights? I first saw such on Anne Curtis' house feature in Real Living and I got smitten. Then I saw that Jenni Epperson has them too! Unfortunately, I don't know where to get the exact Tom Ford pieces (and whether I can afford it.. haha!) so I got mine from Lazada. Actually, I got a bit disappointed when it was delivered because it's a lot smaller than the advertised photos but thankfully when the three of them were hung, it still worked! Oh boy, copper is just love! ❤️❤️❤️

Now let me show you the wet and dry kitchen that honestly still need a lot of work. 

I got the wet kitchen made by a neighborhood karpintero and for me, it's just okaynot perfect, but not too bad either. I wanted more hanging storage but figured it's gonna make the room smaller (and hotter) than it already is. Maybe I will just put some ledges so I can keep an array of spices (pangarap ko din yun!) and other decorative stuff there. I must visit Ikea soon.

The dry kitchen is already built when the unit was turned over, so I decided not to touch itjust not yet. We only bought the purple fridge (which I loooove!) and all the small electronics. It's still missing my KitchenAid but that has to wait till I'm settling in the Philippines for good.

Also, when I have a budget na, I want to add backsplash to the walls. It's quite plain and boring now. I want to squeeze in a mini bar there somewhere too, but this time I plan to consult professionals so I can make better use of the space. Do you know a contractor who is good but not too expensive? Referral pls?

Now, let's go up, shall we?

As I said, the house has 3 bedrooms upstairs. I converted the smaller of the common rooms into Maddie's playroom.

I have always wanted a pretty pink room full of toys, so this is another dream come true. For a few months, this was my baby girl's happy place but later, she started complaining, "My playroom has no aircon!" So needless to say, I have another addition to the long list of items to save up for. Kaloka na ang mga bagets ngayon!

This naman is the other side of the room...

So cute the wall decal, right? It's actually a growth chart, pero awa ng Diyos Maddie is now turning 4 years old and I still haven't marked her height. I got it from the US along with my Corelle plates and T-fal cookware and asked my friend to pack a Balikbayan box for me. So much cheaper there, I tell you!

The other room naman is what Maddie calls Aunties' Room.

Since it's also not too big, I opted for a double-sized bunk with pull out. It's perfect for my mom and 5 sisters. In the morning there's more space because they can put away the pull-out bed. I had it customized because the furniture stores only had double-single bunks. It's a bit costly due to the size and also because it's hardwood but for me since it's gonna last for some 10-15 years, it's not bad narinMy only problem with this room is I cannot fit in enough clothes storage. It has space only for a 3-door wardrobe, and it's barely enough for 6 ladies.

Lastly, the Master Bedroom. 

Because idol ko si Mommy Fleur, I also chose a gray accent wall. But i guess my shade of gray is quite light it's not noticeable in photos. It's still a long way to go to a Pinterest-worthy room. I didn't go all out with the furnishings too because we hardly stay there. Again, I'll put in more effort when we're coming home for good. But wait, can I just tell you how much I adore our bed? This is the one thing that we really splurged on because we all deserve a peaceful, comfortable sleep after a hard day's work. As in even when we're in Singapore, we look forward to our vacations because we miss our bed. Haha! The tufted headboard is a must for me, and the drawers are nice-to-have but because it's custom-made, I got to have them both! I really opted for hardwood because we are both on the heavy side and Maddie sleeps with us too. Our Slumberland mattress we got at 50% off at SM with 2 pillows free so it's sulit. The night stands are free as well with the 2 beds so the price is not bad at all.

Our room also has provision for a huge closet but because I want to maximize the space again and I have too many specifications, the best option is to have it customized. If only we have Ikea in PH, no? I started asking for quotation but my goodness, 60k minimum! Marami-raming weekend work pa ang kailangan ko! :P

This pala is the master bathroom. Actually all 3 T&B look the same. I just upgraded the shower headit used to be the very old school shower.

I forgot, we also have this small space upstairs that I want to convert into a study area since we still have 4 students in the family.

I’m just looking for an L-shaped desk to accommodate two computers. I told you, I have sooooo many things in my to-buy list I sometimes just want to try my luck in the lottery so I can buy them all at once (as of this writing somebody won 8 freaking million SGD!).

Okay, I think I have shown you almost all the corners of the house (except for the small room downstairs which I don’t have a decent picture of). Long, long way to go to achieve my dream house but we’ll get there. As they say, nothing worth having ever comes easy. Baby steps lang, mga beshie! Hihi.

I wanted to share with you the house blessing too, but I'll save it for part 2. Stay tuned! :D

Jul 9, 2017

Maddie Moments: Post-3rd Birthday Shoot at Mayad Beginnings

Hello, hello, my very few readers! I am still alive! 2 years of blogging break and I am back now because 1) I miss writing 2) I just renewed my domain and I want to get my money's worth! Hahaha. Seriously though, I sooooo missed doing this. I also felt that I need a rehab from Facebook and I think blogging is a good diversion. Still online but much more worthwhile. Right?

So for my comeback post, let me share with you Maddie's post-birthday shoot with no less than Mayad Beginnings! Mayad Beginnings is the family and lifestyle photography arm of Mayad Studios -- yup, the famous wedding photographers! We were lucky because they had a contest in Instagram back in April, and even luckier because we were one of the two winners. Let me share with you my entry... (and oh, follow me in IG will you? :D)

TBH, I prayed to win because I want Maddie to have a yearly shoot to mark her milestones but I don't want to spend so much. She was here with us for two months and while I am very thankful for the precious time with our daughter, it also meant hurting our bank account (Singapore being the world's most expensive city to live in). So when I was informed by the Mayad team that we were chosen, oh boy I was on cloud 9! And to think that they are one of the industry's best, it was like hitting the jackpot!

After a few exchanges with their staff over IG, we got a slot on April 21st, 1pm. Days before the shoot, we were sent a mood board to help us with our outfit choices. I got even more excited because the color palette consists of beige, blush and gold which are my current favorites (blame it on Pinterest!) For the little girl I didn't have any problem -- I got her dress from Cotton On in like 15 minutes and it couldn't be more perfect for the theme. Then I got her sandals and crown headband from H&M. Easy-peasy. For J he just got himself a pink polo from G2000, and a nice pair of brown shoes from SM - all done. The hard part  really was choosing my dress because out of excitement, I bought a beige and black dress before I received the mood board. It was dominantly black so it's gonna kill the soft and feminine mood. I searched high and low for a new dress but time wasn't on my side. The night before our flight, my husband went through our closet and found a Dorothy Perkins dress that I bought some months ago but haven't really worn. I tried it on et voila, I have an outfit! Moral of the story: Shopping for more than what you currently need isn't a bad idea after all ;-)

Then came the day of the shoot. Locating their studio in Quezon City was a breeze, thanks to Waze. Traffic is also bearable so we arrived there with a few minutes to spare. The staff was very welcoming and I was quite surprised that they were all very young (like millennial kind of young). But I guess that worked to our advantage because Maddie felt like they were just her aunties (hello my millennial sisters!) That's one step to warm Maddie up. There was also another set in the studio with some toys so we played a bit to make her more comfortable.

A bit of side kwento: she saw a toy whisk among the stash of props and said "Remember Mommy, we use this when we were baking?" It's a beautiful feeling knowing that kids remember what you do together. So a little piece of advice to young moms like myself, spend more time with them and engage them in your activities. They are gonna treasure those moments, and I'm sure you will too!

Okay sorry to digress. When Maddie seemed ready, we were led to the actual set. The theme was Bedtime Story and the backdrop was just gorgeous - it was prettier in person, I tell you! Another thing worth the mention is the photographer (forgot the name though) because she was very nice and patient with our baby girl. Maddie was shy as usual but she followed the photog's instructions very well.  She asked her to smile, say "Three!" since she's three years old and turn the pages of a book while asking her some shapes and colors. It was an interactive session, so Maddie loosened up just a few minutes into it.

Unlike her infant photoshoot, they didn't mind when I took BTS shots. So here's one from my phone :-)

Shall I make more kwento while I show you the official photos? :D

Kumbaga sa exercise, stretching palang 'to :)
But I like this because it captured her shy yet still adorable personality.

I'm three, folks!!!

This one I want to hang on her future reading nook ^^, I hope someday, Anak, you fall in love with books.

Her Daddy's mini-me!

This is one of the two I've chosen to be printed 12x18. When I saw this I realized, anlaki-laki na ng anak ko! Can we just slow down a bit? T_T

After that, we joined her for photos already. Please bear with my humongous arms nalang, ha? Thankie :)

My favorite shot of them all! We are all so happy here. That's the real Maddie, bungisngis! :)

Our obligatory kiss shot. We have shots like this yearly! Planning to do this for as long as she lets us to ^^,

This is the other photo that I got printed. Planning to get the two framed in rose gold (specific eh? :)) and put up the wall above our bed. If you know where I can get customized frames, comment please? TIA!

In fairness, magaling sa candid ang asawa ko! :)

I'm jealous of this one. Huhu.

I told you, excuse the arm T_T

Her photos with her daddy look more natural than ours. Kainis! Hahaha.

I requested for a photo just the two of us, and the photog obliged. Maddie happily moved to the side, too. Then when I looked at her, she was also smiling while watching us. Katuwa!

Then nainggit, sumali na! :D I would have chosen this for blow-up but Jhay's eyes were so small here. Sayang!

Then, towards the end, hubby suggested this pose. Good job, Daddy!

And this one. Just love. Super inggit talaga ang Mommy! T_T
Actually, they are closer in real life, so I guess their photos reflect that. I couldn't complain, really. Seeing them like this also warms my heart.

This is such a cutie, too! This is the last one na pala, after this she was shy na ulit. But it's okay, I think we got great photos already.

After that, I hugged Maddie and told her that she did an awesome job in front of the camera. So proud of her! We got the photos two weeks later and I was squealing in delight! Ang ganda lang talaga. Even J loved every single shot.

We are very grateful to Mayad Beginnings for the opportunity. While doing this post, I checked out their website and saw the published rates. Naloka ako ng slight! I showed J and asked if we can do this again for Maddie's 4th birthday shoot but he said only if it's free. Hahaha. But I think now that we experienced a real professional shoot, my standard got even higher. Maybe I should start saving up so I can afford another session with them. I think the quality of the photos as well as their work ethics make the price worth it. Thanks again, Mayad! More followers to come, and more and more years of capturing beautiful memories!

On a final note, I highly recommend Mayad Beginnings to parents who are willing to go all out for their little ones' milestone shoots. After all, they are only young once :D


Aug 25, 2015

Anniversary Dinner at Serenity Spanish Bar and Restaurant

Last June, Jhay and I celebrated our 10th anniversary as a couple and at the same time our 2nd wedding anniversary (yes, we got married on the same date :D). It's such a big milestone having been together for a decade so initially I was planning an out-of-the-country trip or at least a beach getaway but in the end, none of that happened because (1) I am fickle-minded, I cannot decide where to go up to the last minute and (2) we figured we better put the finances towards an investment that we've been dreaming about since forever.

So yeah, no grand getaway for us this year. But my husband had a pretty bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolates and a little plush toy delivered to my office first thing in the morning of June 4th -- something he hasn't done in a while. He even had a short, sweet note with it that made my heart melt like vanilla ice cream on a scorching summer day.

Lakas maka-teenager ng bouquet no? Hihi.

After work, we had a lovely dinner at Serenity Spanish Bar and Restaurant. What I liked about the place is its romantic yet laid-back vibe made more wonderful by the live music and a spectacular view of Sentosa Island. For people like us who are used to alternating fast food and home-cooked meals, this is indeed a treat!

We were seated right across the mini stage so we really enjoyed the good old ballads as well as some Spanish songs whose lyrics we may not understand but still have soothing melodies.

Behind me is Sentosa at sunset. Too bad I forgot to take a photo of the view outside.

We ordered calamari for starters. The serving is quite small but it's very crispy. The squid was really fresh, too. It was gone in 5 minutes or less. Haha.

For the main course, we had Crispy Pork Knuckle (Crispy Pata for us Filipinos) and the house specialty Seafood Paella. I know our choices are quite lame because both dishes are common in the Philippines as well but sadly, I'm not one to settle for the unfamiliar. I find happiness in food that gives me a feeling of home. That or I'm just making excuses ;P

Anyway.. here's what they look like...

Again, the serving is quite small for the price. It is really just good for 2 persons. It is, however, very flavorful and since it's my first time to eat Paella, it made me look forward to exploring other variations of this dish.

And then this. It's deadly, yes, but it's also devilishly good! Best crispy pata I've tasted. The skin is perfectly crispy and the meat... soooo tender! The level of saltiness was also spot-on. And have you noticed the sauce beside it? It's made of tomatoes and cinnamon and it made the whole thing work. Like, really. I'd go back to Serenity just for this :)

The obligatory "date night" shot :)

Overall, we were satisfied with the food but we can't say the same in terms of value for money. We paid around S$ 150 including taxes and service charge and to be honest we can eat in other restos thrice for the same amount. Well maybe we paid for the relaxing ambiance and the location. It's a place to just chill and take everything slow -- something that we don't get to experience every day :)

Happy 10 years to us, honey!
Praying for more and more decades of love, bliss and blessings for our family! :)

Aug 18, 2015

My Baking Adventures Part 1

Since I have briefly mentioned in this post that I have been baking the past few months, I figured I should share a bit more about this new hobby. I started experimenting with the oven 2 years ago but back then I only bake pre-mixed pastries like brownies and double chocolate cookies. Just add oil and eggs and you're done! Easy-peasy! Baking a cake was a slightly different story so it was only late last year that I had the guts to try it. And friends, promise not to laugh, but this is how my very first cake looked like...

M is for Maddie! Actually, that's me trying to be artistic. I know, it only made things worse! Haha!

But still, my first customers thought it's nice. Or maybe they just love me enough not to hurt my feelings. Lol.

It doesn't look very pretty but it tasted okay. I blamed it to a lot of other things - maybe because it was only a boxed cake mix or maybe the lack of proper baking tools like an electric mixer, piping nozzles or turn table. I could go on and on. That said, I started watching Youtube videos on how to bake from scratch and I frequented baking supply shops and hoarded whatever stuff I saw on those videos.

 First things first. I bought an electric mixer. Just a basic and cheap one but it does the job. I swear, my baking life has been a whole lot better since! :D

I tested the new kitchen gadget and this is the result. There's a bit of improvement on the cake's appearance but more importantly, the mixer made baking quite effortless. No more painful arms after the buttercream preparation! =)

My 2nd cake straight from a Betty Crocker box. Haha.

Since baking became more enjoyable after I got the mixer, I continued shopping for other tools.

Yes, I even got myself a turntable because based on the tutorials, frosting will be a piece of cake when you have one (turns out it's not always the case. haha)

 Even in Daiso (the 2 dollar store), I would go straight to the baking department.

I got so addicted to it that there was one time I spent more than 60 SGD in one go.
I stopped after that because I got some good scolding from my husband. Hahaha.

Even so, I continued receiving gifts from wonderful friends so my bakeware collection grew and grew. 

...Until such time that I felt I am ready to try baking a cake from scratch :D

My first attempt was a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I went a little overboard with the carrots so it's heavier and more moist than intended.

It looks good, doesn't it? :) However, my critique husband didn't like it because he doesn't have an idea how a carrot cake tastes like but according to my officemates, it's actually nice! Woohoo!

My first cake baked from scratch. Achievement unlocked! :)

On the same day, I baked chocolate chip cookies as well! J would always comment that when it comes to baking, I don't get tired. To be honest, I get tired, too! But there's just something about it that makes the exhaustion worth it. Perhaps, seeing the flour and butter and eggs and sugar magically transform into something beautiful and sinfully delicious? :)

Can't wait for it to cool, I just had to take one bite!

I tried many other cakes thereafter. I did a red velvet thrice, slowly improving with every try.

1st try: Friends teased me that it was a brown velvet instead of red! Haha! Personally, I'm also not too impressed because I can still taste the flour.

2nd try: The taste and color is so much better now but the other layer crumbled so I had to make do with this. The frosting is also a bit runny.

The last try was a request by one of my close friends for their housewarming party and finally, it was a hit! The guests (mostly our officemates as well) loved it and wouldn't believe that I baked it! :)

I've also made a Filipino favorite, Brazo de Mercedes. Looks good on the outside although I still haven't perfected the custard filling. One day, Maudey. One day :)

Was also able to make meringue cookies from the left over egg whites.
Surprisingly, I got a thumbs up from J for this! =)

Lastly, the cake that I'm most proud of... my Double Chocolate Cake! It's the first time I tried making a ganache (the glossy top layer) and I'm oh so amazed at how pretty it turned out! Scroll all the way up and compare it to my very first cake. Haven't I come a long way already? :D

It's Maddie's 9th month celebration that day hence the number candle.

And because I was too happy about it, I baked the same cake for our Christmas party here at home! Noticed where the cake sits? At this point I've already bought myself a decent cake stand. It's not cheap but I bought it anyway thinking that I will someday have a dessert buffet business and I can put it to good use. Hahaha. Daydreaming 101.

That was also the last real cake that I baked but I still make cupcakes every now and then and just recently, I tried making a Yema Cake because it's a highly-sought-after dessert in the Philippines. Let me tell you more on those in the next installment of My Baking Adventures! 

And oh, if you want the recipes, let me know in the comments! :D

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