Things I miss about New York

So almost three weeks ago, I had to hop on a plane and go to New York.

I had very little time to prepare for the trip, and in the beginning it was in no way, a vacation. I had decided to come to New York to be with my niece who was in critical condition in the ICU, and my sister, who is her momma. I packed quickly, and jumped on the next plane so that I would be with my sister and her family as soon as possible after my niece’s surgery.

My younger sister and I planned to help out so that my older sister could catch her breath. My sis has always been an influence on me as we were growing up, and now that I have daughters of my own, I have always emphasized the importance of their sisterhood bond. Both my daughters know that despite the big gap in age that their relationship cannot be compared to any other relationship in the world forever and ever and evahhh…

So the good thing is, my niece has recovered. She is not at her best yet, but she is well on her way. She has a bit of a challenge in front of her, but I do think that if she commits to a healthier lifestyle that she will be able to take better care of herself AND recover FULLY. 


Every Thanksgiving, I ask the people sitting at my table to share one thing they are grateful for. Some people aren’t as comfortable expressing themselves as others, and that’s ok. However, I believe if you live a life of gratitude, it just feels better, and you’l resalize that you’ll have more things to be grateful for. This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the gift of good health for my niece @jess_ballinger. After hearing her condition a few weeks ago, I couldn’t sit in Manila and know what was going on so far away in the ICU in Westchester. I had to get on a plane and be by her side as she recovered. (Because I always had faith that she would recover.) I’m so glad you are on the mend Jessie. I love you! #family #thanksgiving #ressagirls #grateful #gratitude

A photo posted by Michelle Aventajado (@mommanmanila) on

I miss cute and convenient things from the grocery store.

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Ok. I do have a love affair with butter for my cooking, but it's not that serious. I just think it's the cutest thing that they have a HALF of a stick of butter conveniently packaged AND that butter comes in the shape of a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.

I miss my favorite pizza.

My favorite slice was always a corner "Fresca" from Posa Posa Too in The Woodbury Commons. Since then, they have moved and are at a new location still in town and still with the same great corner slice.

My favorite slice was always a corner "Fresca" from Posa Posa Too in The Woodbury Commons. Since then, they have moved and are at a new location still in town and still with the same great corner slice.

Ok, living in Manila was very challenging when I first arrived because I could not find my Italian American comfort foods right away. But the good thing is, after more than 9 years of living here, I have been able to find some very good comfort food (YES, PIZZA.) quite near by.

I miss running into random high school friends that I get to keep up with only on Facebook because I live so far away.

I love coming from a town where we all know our graduating class. I graduated with a class of just a little over 300 kids. My nephew's graduating class is almost 4X the size.

I love coming from a town where we all know our graduating class. I graduated with a class of just a little over 300 kids. My nephew's graduating class is almost 4X the size.

Funny thing, when I was young, I couldn't wait to leave the small town that I was from. I wanted to get out, to see the world and to meet new people. I just didn't understand what I understand now. There is something to be said for people who knew you way back when...especially if those people are still your friends now...

I miss my neighborhood ITALIAN DELI.

This is the neighborhood deli that I would visit every Sunday with my father for our bread and Italian treats. It looks a little different on the outside, but the crew on the inside is all still the same. Photo Credit:

This is the neighborhood deli that I would visit every Sunday with my father for our bread and Italian treats. It looks a little different on the outside, but the crew on the inside is all still the same. Photo Credit:

Before moving away, I would go to this deli with my dad (and then later for my dad) to pick up cold cuts, raviolis, cookies, cannolis, and fresh mozzarella. (mooh-SA-rel, you can say it with me)

This is the deli where everyone behind the counter knew your name, your wife's name, and your preference of products that they happily offered up to their patrons (usually with an Italian background.)

They make their own ravioli, fill fresh cannolis when you order them, and hand pull the mozzarella every morning.

P.S. I was able to learn a little bit about this age old process, and I will share that with you in another post.

I miss shopping at The Woodbury Commons


The beauty of shopping in a country that is coming up on winter, is the sales for summer items. #score A photo posted by Michelle Aventajado (@mommanmanila) on

Truth: One of my first jobs while I was in high school was working in a retail store in The Commons. While I was living so close to this super outlet mall, I took it for that I have moved away, I can appreciate all the deals and the steals it has to offer.

I miss the sights, the sounds, and the smell of Autumn in NY

I snapped this photo in the car with my friend Fayth. We had hot bagels in the back and were looking for parking so we could go up to her place.

I snapped this photo in the car with my friend Fayth. We had hot bagels in the back and were looking for parking so we could go up to her place. This is a very different sight than the trees up in Monroe. Most of the leaves had already fallen by the time I arrived.


Jones Farm was one of my favorite places to visit in Cornwall, NY. Besides having the best apple cider donuts and the best carrot cake, they also had a small petting zoo and cute country gift shop that I would spend at least an hour browsing around while the kids would play outside.

Warm boots and coordinating layers are one of my favorite outfits to welcome the change from Summer to Fall.

Warm boots and coordinating layers are one of my favorite outfits to welcome the change from Summer to Fall. #sisters

I miss my friends and family.

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Not sure if you noticed or not...lots of the things that I miss are the people and the food that I am familiar with. That's why we call it comfort...It's what we know, what's warm and fuzzy, just like what we grew up with. 

I am all for growing up, moving on, and leaving the place where you grew up, because it's only by leaving your bubble that you can expand your understanding of the world around you. I think that the best gift my parents ever gave me. They gave me the gift of travel while I was still young and impressionable. I experienced a great many things that I would not have understood if I had stayed in Monroe and never ventured out.

But now, after living abroad for more than 9 years, and making Manila my home, I also enjoy the chance to go back to upstate New reconnect with my roots, my childhood friends, and soak up the love, craziness, and excitement of being in a place which is so familiar that people know your name, and they know who you were when you were much younger....


Johnson and Johnson Outreach at Virlanie

I heard of the Virlanie Foundation through a friend of mine quite a few years ago.

She was unable to have children and looked into the foundation as a way to give back to the community we live in, and spend time with kids who were waiting to be adopted into loving homes. I know that she enjoyed her time she spent monthly at the organization in Makati, and she said it was hugely gratifying to be able to hug on and kiss on the kiddies that she would visit with from time to time.

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Marlon from Virlanie gives us an idea of the work that the Virlanie Foundation does.

The Virlanie Foundation established the Babies and Toddlers Home in 2013 to be able to provide a nurturing, loving and caring environment for very young children from 0-3 years old. Many of these children suffered abuse or neglect, and some of them were surrendered by their relatives. These young ones were considered “at risk” and prone to child trafficking and abuse.

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I was invited to take part in a small outreach that Johnson & Johnsons was giving for the caregivers of these beautiful children by The SoMoms. The informative seminar would offer new ways to help the children develop and grow through the sensory experiences of bath time.

Together with some of my other mom blogger friends and Johnson and Johnson Brand Ambassador Rica Peralejo, we reinforced our learning of the importance of providing sensory experiences for all of our children, young and old.


Dra. Theresa Hilario-Jimenez gave an informative talk where the caregivers learned how sensory experiences alter the development of the brain. Here are some of the key points from her talk:

  • A complex, stimulus rich environment produces a wealth of experiences that generally lead to the improved functioning of the brain. 
  • Touch can release the hormone oxytocin, which can encourage or reinforce the feeling of closeness that comes with bonding.
  • Routine touching and massage can improve baby’s physiologic, cognitive, emotional and social development.
  • Nurturing relationships and enriching environments established through sensory experiences improves the Executive Brain Functions of all children.
  • By providing a nurturing environment for children, through sensory rich experiences like bath time and massage rituals, caregivers are setting the stage for them to be productive and successful members of society and ultimately shaping the future with each life they touch.

After meeting the children when they came home from their day at school, we were able to get to know them a little bit more during their snack time. 

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Something that I found really interesting was how independent the children were at such an early age. These kids who came home from nursery school, were sitting properly at a table, eating their snack with some of these kids as young as three years old.

After lunch, The Integrated Midwives Association of the Philippines demonstrated the proper ways to give a newborn, and infant, and a toddler a bath using the same Johnson’s & Johnson’s products that we all know and love. 

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Ms. Myrna demonstrated the proper way to bathe an infant using the swaddle method. I had never heard of this method before, but also found it interesting that the baby was bathed while being swaddled.

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The suggested way to bathe toddlers was not much different than what I know and understand, but it was a good refresher to watch each midwife’s explanations and demonstration.

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Of course, the bigger the kids get, the easier it can be to clean up and make bath time fun.

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Both Rica and Kris also shared a little bit about their journey in motherhood. There is a connection that is made through this sharing that helps all of us realize that we are all in this together.

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One thing that both Rica and I were amazed about was the fact that even if these caregivers did not give birth to the babies that they were caring for, it was CLEAR that their touch was a MOTHER’S touch…their love for the children they were caring for was also a MOTHER’S love. 

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Kris was so moved by the entire experience with Virlanie, the children, the people who were present and giving of themselves, that she pledged she would be sponsoring a child to help further the Virlanie Mission. 

After watching all the midwives and listening to the sharing of both Rica and Kris, one thing I found myself doing was thinking about how each of my babies was during their bath times. When they were infants, bath times was one of my favorite times with them…right up there with breastfeeding and rocking them to sleep. I would sing to each of my children and make sure that they enjoyed each of these different times of day we had together.

Each of The SoMoms was asked to share something with the caregivers that we do with our own children which we know is beneficial to their health and development as well. This is something that I have always appreciated about this group that I am happy to be a member of. The SoMoms all bring so many different things to the table and the sharing of our passions is enriching. I enjoy learning from each of my momma friends…it offers me so much more in my own parenting journey AND in my life.

Jen Tan shared how baby wearing is not only good for momma but good for the baby too. She even donated a few slings for the caregivers to use for the infants.

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Jen shared how Attachment Parenting benefits children as they grow. She shared how to baby wear the infants so that they are more secure as they grow up. 

  • Baby wearing provides an environment where the baby cries much less. 
  • Baby is closer to the mother/caregiver and feels more secure.
  • This enables the baby to be in a quieter ALERT state, thereby learning more from his surroundings.
  • Babies are at the eye level of the baby wearer. He sees and hears what the baby wearer sees and hears promoting learning because we know that the saying goes “Babies are like sponges.”
  • Therefore, there is more time to bond with your baby, promoting healthier physical, mental, and emotional development.
  • And on top of that-Mommy has free hands to do other things! Hello!!! We always say we need one more set of hands!

Tin shared how reading aloud to children can also help in their development.

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Children who have parents who read aloud to them can benefit from: 

  • The mental exercise of reading books aloud encourages critical thinking. 
  • Children who enjoy reading books have an increased vocabulary.
  • Children who are read aloud to have a better understanding of their feelings and empathy for others.
  • Children who enjoy read aloud times in their daily schedules can entertain themselves by picking up a book. They will find joy and entertainment in reading.

Of the many things that Conci can do, she is also a dancer. (I didn’t know this!) She shared how dancing with the kids can help their growth and development as well.

Conci shares a few benefits of dancing with the caregivers.

Conci shares a few benefits of dancing with the caregivers.

Children who enjoy dance as an activity can:

  • enjoy improved physical health by getting their heart rate up.
  • improved social and communication skills
  • have a positive and improved self esteem
  • nurture creativity and the appreciation of the arts.

I was able to share a quick lesson on yoga. I was able to teach the little ones how to complete a Sun Salutation. I wish I could have worked with the newborn baby, because it’s equally as easy to work with the infants for infant yoga as it is for kids yoga. The only difference between practicing yoga for an infant is that the caregiver is manipulating the baby’s body to hold the poses. The infant will STILL benefit from each of the poses EVEN if they are not doing it by themselves.

Infant and Baby Yoga is actually practiced best right after the bath. It is very similar to infant massage.

Infant and Baby Yoga is actually practiced best right after the bath. It is very similar to infant massage.

SO, poses which help relieve gas and improve digestion are first on the list when working with an infant. They are quite easy and not scary at all. In fact, I was practicing yoga with Gellibean when I brought her home from the hospital at two weeks old. I believe it helped her greatly with hypotonia and her delicate digestive tract due to duodenal atresia.

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I always enjoy the opportunity to share how a little bit of yoga can go a long way for any aged child.

Children who practice yoga:

  • Sleep better
  • Breathe better
  • Eat healthier
  • Have better posture
  • They enjoy an improved self esteem and self awareness.
  • They have better digestion.
  • They are more aware of the world we live in.

The opportunity to share myself in such a small and intimate way was truly rewarding. I enjoyed spending time with these children, their caregivers and the J & J Team. I count my blessings to be given moments where I can share my gifts, and be reminded just how much each child deserves #somuchmore. And even if I don’t live in a perfect world where every child’s needs are met, I do live in a world where organizations like Virlanie #HelpOurBabies by doing everything they can to meet their babies’ needs who are in their care.

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Click on the photo to visit the Johnson & Johnson Facebook page to learn more about the power of touch.

Thank you Johnson & Johnson for giving me the opportunity to join this outreach and refresh the importance of sensory experiences in child rearing. It was a wonderful day well spent with the children and the staff of Virlanie Foundation. 

Martin Yan’s Taste of Vietnam

Recently, I was invited to a very special dinner in The New World Hotel by my friend Sabrina.

This exclusive dinner by hosted Asian Food Channel, was part of their Celebrity Chef Tour for Chef Martin Tan and was held in only four countries covering Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, and Taiwan.

Derek Chang, Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Scripps Networks interactive shares “Celebrity Chef Tours offer viewers real live ways to engage and interact with the Chefs and TV Hosts that is both personal and fun. ” 

He is right. This evening was fun, engaging, and a great opportunity for the regular viewer at home (like me) to get to know Chef Yan a bit better not only in the kitchen, but personally as well. It was nice to be able to ask Chef questions about his restaurant in San Francisco, his kids and whether or not they are following in his footsteps for their love of food.

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Martin Yan’s Taste of Asia is a show that so many people are familiar with. I think pretty much anyone who knows Chinese food, and knows about Asian Food Channel (or Food Channel back home,) knows Martin Yan because has been cooking up good food for decades.

During his time here in the city, he created an exclusive six course dinner which was set in The New World Hotel for some very special dinner guests. HOORAY FOR ME that I was one of the chosen few!

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Chef Martin Yan welcomes Chef Jonas Ng of Le Jardin to the very intimate event.

I was really excited to attend this particular event because it would be something of a “mom’s night out,” for me. Some of my friends (not actually all are mommas) would be in attendance too. The good thing is, I was sure that we would have a good time together because we all like to EAT!!!

Dinner Menu


Pomelo and Prawn Delight


Hot and Sour Pineapple Fish Soup


Trio of Seafood Fresh Rice Rolls 

with 2 dipping sauces

Wok-Seared “Shaking” Beef

Char-grilled Spring Chicken over a Bed of Mixed Greens

Sweet Jackfruit in Sago Coconut Milk

Ok…so for those of you who are not in the know… “Mom’s night out” does not actually involve drinking and partying every single time (only some times) we are together. In fact, on this particular night, “Momma’s night out” involved drinking hot water with lemon and superior knife teaching skills by none other than Chef Martin Yan himself.

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Bloggers, Hot Water with Lemon Drinkers, and Ladies who like to eat! L-R: Joei of Joei and Me, me :-), Tina of The Phenomenal Mama, Sabrina of Sinfully Sabrina, and Joey of 80 Breakfasts.

Chef does not just have a knack for creating delicious food. He’s charming and techie as well!

How cute is Chef?

How cute is he snapping a photo with Nicole’s daughter? Nicole blogs here.

All of the dishes that he served on this particular night were influenced from many of his travels to and from Asia. (After all, his show is “Taste of Asia.”) 


Pomelo and Prawn Delight reminded me a little of my favorite Thai salad that my friend Tum taught me to make.

Martin Yan’s Taste of Vietnam is currently airing on Asian Food Channel. To learn more about his explorations while he was in Vietnam and some new dishes that are Vietnamese inspired you can catch his new show and learn more about the landscape, the people, and the heritage behind Vietnam’s best loved dishes. 

Since food and lifestyle shows are really the only shows that I prefer to watch, I will try and catch this televised tour of Vietnam on Fridays at 7 pm. (4 shows will air back to back, so you can tune in any time after 7!)


Trio of Fresh Seafood Rice rolls, reminds me of the Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls that my friend Sabrina taught me how to make. I would never think of putting fish and squid in the spring roll, so this was an interesting fresh take on a dish that I have already come to love.

Hot and Sour

Hot and Sour Pineapple Fish Soup. 

NOTE:  Sitting in the front row as a student in a college classroom was something I was sure to do in a class that I wasn’t so interested in. It would force me to pay attention to a teacher and a subject that I wouldn’t always be so keen on learning more about. in other words, it kept me honest in the class that I would much rather sleep through.

Chef Martin Yan with host Jamie Fournier before he begins his demonstration.

Chef Martin Yan with host Jamie Fournier before he begins his demonstration.

BUT sitting in the front row, when a Chef like Martin Yan is demonstrating how to use a Chinese Chef’s Knife, and filet a chicken in less than 18 seconds?


That is a make shift classroom that you MAKE SURE to sit in the front row for, simply because it’s fun and exciting. Plus, if you’re lucky, you might pick up a few extra pointers in the kitchen.

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Sitting in the front row has benefits.

How lucky was I, that Chef had asked for a volunteer to come up and help him prepare the Wok-Seared “Shaking” Beef? Of course, I was happy to volunteer (wink wink) not only because I was enjoying Chef Yan, but because I also enjoy putting on a show every now and then too. (Say it isn’t so…)

I learned how to proper julienne with a knife (what looked like a cleaver to me) that I would never have had the opportunity to use. I tossed and shook up some yummy beef cubes into something that my whole family would love, And I got to take a selfie with a famous chef who is talented, funny, and endearing.

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Thanks for this shot Tina!

And now of course, my angle of Wok-Seared “Shaking” Beef and our “selfwe”…or is it “we-fie?”

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And from my angle…

I will defintiely be making this dish for the family at home.

I will definitely be making this dish for the family at home. 

It was quick and easy, with almost all of the ingredients being staples in my pantry! Let me know if you try to make it yourself? Take a photo and tag me please!

PS. Want to know an added bonus to the evening? Chef Yan was so impressed with my knife skills that he said he would gift me one of his very own chef knives from his collection!!! CAN YOU SAY EGGZOITED?

Wok-Seared Shaking Beef
Serves 4
Write a review
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
  1. 2 tsp soy sauce
  2. 2 tsp corn starch
  3. salt and pepper to taste
  4. 1 pound sirloin beef cut into 1" cubes
  5. 2 Tbs cooking oil
  6. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  7. 1/2 red onion cut into 1" squares
  8. 1 green onion cut into 1" lengths
  9. 1/2 green bell pepper cut into 1" squares
  10. 1/red bell pepper cut into 1" squares
  11. 1Tbs fish sauce
  12. 1Tbs hoison sauce
  13. 1Tbs chili sauce
  14. 1Tbs water
  15. 2 tsp rice vinegar
  16. 2 tsp soy sauce
  17. 2 Tbs rice wine
  18. 1Tbs unsalted butter
  19. 1 bunch watercress washed and trimmed
  1. Combine marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Add beef; stir to coat.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour
  3. Heat wok over high heat until hot. Add oil, swirling to coat side. Add beef; cook until a brown crust forms on the edges, about 3 minutes. Remove beef and set aside.
  4. Add garlic, red onion, and green oinion and cook until fragrant. Add sliced red chili, green and red bell peppers and stir fry for 1 minute. Return beef.
  5. Add fish sauce, hoisin sauce, water, rice vinegar, and soy sauce. Stir evenly to coat beef.
  6. Add rice wine and flambe beef. Add butter, mix until butter melts and is evenly distributed.
  7. To serve; arrange watercress on a platter and place hot beef on top.
Momma 'N Manila

What to expect from a Diamond Peel at Vietura

Confession: Previously, I have been encouraged by others to try a Diamond Peel. I never did the research to find out what it was, but I always felt anything that involved the word “PEEL,” was not something I wanted to try. I remember a friend of mine years ago was sitting at breakfast with us. We were a small group of ladies and would meet once a month for breakfast to learn more about one another, and to try and find some kind of sisterhood amongst the ladies seated at the table.

Anyway, while we were sitting together eating breakfast her face became drier and drier…it was like she was almost shedding….I was half listening to the chatter at the time, because with a table full of women there is always more than one conversation going on at the same time. I remember her saying something about a “PEEL.” I thought to myself that that was something I did NOT want to learn more about, because it was like she was shedding a whole layer of skin.

So, I never asked what kind of peel she did. I felt it was impolite to draw even more attention to her peeling skin. It was the kind of peeling when you get a really bad sunburn and you actually can peel off big pieces of skin…of course I know you are NOT actually supposed to peel it, but since I didn’t ask, I really don’t even know what kind of treatment she had…

Another Confession: As I am getting older, I realize that I cannot fight the signs of my age. I really do have a daughter who will be graduating high school soon…and that puts me a certain age group.

But I would like to continue in my quest for gracefully maturing….

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Before anything, I experienced the calming cleaning effects of a Facial Skin Spa.

Luckily, I have been able to invest a little bit more time in myself, and explore new NON-invasive ways to take better care of myself, and my SKIN. This is why I was willing to learn more about what a Diamond Peel involved.

The Diamond Peel at Vietura was painless. It was relaxing and only took a little more than an hour of my busy Monday afternoon. There was no recovery time. My skin did NOT peel off, much to my surprise since I had the misconception that it would!

Benefits of a Rejuvenating Facial and Diamond Peel at Vietura:

  • brighter skin
  • fairer complexion
  • less visible pimple and scarring marks
  • tightening of the pores

My session with the technician started with her cleansing my face. This was done with soap and a relaxing facial massage. 

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The massage was followed by a facial scrub. It smelled yummy…like berries and I remember asking about the scent. From what I could remember, it was an antioxidant facial scrub which makes sense since it smelled like berries.

The thing about facials is that, you can really see just how dirty your face is in the before and after shots. (or if you are gross like me and ask to see what they cleaned from your face…)

So after the steaming to open up the pores, there is a tiny little vacuum that precedes the semi-annoying cleaning and pricking to remove the blackheads, whiteheads and dirt.

After all my pores were clean, there is a high frequency wand that she used to help close the pores which smelled a little rusty. I’m not sure why it smells that way, but it’s certainly not because there was any rust present. 

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Once pores are smaller, a collagen mask is applied with a brush, which also felt a little like a massage…in fact the entire process is so relaxing. I liked that my technician was willing to answer all of my questions about each step of the way. 

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After about 15 minutes the floral smelling collagen mask was dry and removed gently with some cotton pads. 

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After that, she explained that it was time for the Diamond Peel. My misconception of a Diamond Peel could not have been further from the reality! It really just looked like a scratchy version of the small vacuum that was used to clean my pores early. It felt a bit like sandpaper, but was not painful AT ALL. 

After the Diamond Peel was finished, moisturizer was applied and I was left to relax for a few minutes more before standing up and preparing myself to go home. I was so relaxed, I almost fell asleep on the table.

NOTE: Doc Paolo advised me to steer clear of washing my face for the next 6 hours to avoid any adverse reactions. 

Possible side effects can be:

  • Stinging sensation for those people with sensitive skin
  • redness

I experienced just a little bit of redness, and not much more than that. Overall, my skin was smoother and looked rejuvenated, supple, and clean. I felt like I was glowing. 

They say that you can do a diamond peel about every 4 weeks. It just sloughs off the dead skin, cleans up your pores, and makes your skin brighter…I think that that is totally doable for me. Will surely make time to do this again. It was a delicious treatment and a nice break from all the busy things I do in a day.

Next time, I’ll make a day of it, possibly go with a girlfriend and then have merienda afterwards somewhere in the hotel. 

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Click on the photo from Facebook to be taken to the Vietura website so you can avail of their special promo for the facial that I received before my Diamond Peel. The treatments that are on sale does not include a diamond peel.

Vietura Aesthetic Lifestyle

Vietura on Facebook

Vietura on Instagram

Vietura on Twitter

Sofitel Philippine Plaza

Thank you Doc Paolo and Agnes for always taking care of me when I come to Vietura. 

Rest Relax Recharge Repeat

Lately, I’ve been running on empty.

I think I’ve known it for some time now, but because there were always so many things that needed to get done in a day, I just kept pushing.

I’m pretty sure every other momma out there knows exactly what I’m talking about. Especially the multi tasking mommas, and the working mommas, and the stay at home mommas, and the breastfeeding mommas, and the mommas who run their own businesses, cook, clean, take care of their babies, and have households to run, and marriages to nurture. I’m sure it’s even harder for the mommas who are doing it all on their own…those mommas are actually poppas too…they are the kinda mommas who have even less time on their own because they do it all on their own with very little help from anyone…

But don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I’m just well aware of the fact that sometimes, I bite off way more than I can chew. It’s just par for the course for a momma of four who tries to be hands on.

Last week I went to Bali for a the Best Buddies Asia Pacific Oceania Forum.

Yes, I said Bali.

But believe you me, when I say it was mostly work. I didn’t get to sit by the pool, or the beach, or even that sit that still for very long. It was an intimate gathering of seven country directors, program managers, and faculty advisors sharing what works for them in their perspective chapters.

It was enlightening, and inspiring. It was the sharing of ideas that had me taking notes, writing things down, and texting friends back home for help with new projects that I wanted to start with my buddies.

The days leading up to the forum were hectic, at best. Preparing for the kids to be left with my parents, picking up my passport last minute, sending Nino and Gia off to Bacolod, and making sure everyone had everything they needed, so I could be completely present and in the conference room where I would be sitting and hoping to learn more about different ways to further inclusion back home.

I learned a TON.  


@bestbuddiesasiapac Jacinta Chau from #BestBuddiesMacau shares her experience with her Citizen Program. #BestBuddiesAsiaPac A photo posted by BestBuddiesPHL (@bestbuddiesphl) on

And I promise to tell you more about what I learned in the coming months with different activities I hope to do with DLSZ Best Buddies.

BUT, I also learned just how tired I was. I came home on the red eye from Bali at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning. I hugged all my kiddies that were home, and then slept for a long time. When I woke up, I prepared for the family vacation that I have been looking forward to since July when my sister, my parents, Nino, and I planned for sem break.

I have said once before how salt water is incredibly healing and therapeutic. Going to the beach is something I look forward to because I feel like it’s the time when I can hit the “pause” button. Maybe, I can even call it the “reset” button. It’s the time that I use to slow down. The sound of the ocean waves, the sand between my toes, and the smell of the salt water has a calming effect on me.

I can recharge.

And this morning?

This morning was probably the best way that I could Relax, Recharge, and Reset.

Gelli woke up this morning pretty early. (earlier than usual) But when she woke up, she was sweet as pie, turned to me and said two things. She said she wanted to see her Ninang, and she wanted to build a sand castle. So, we knocked on Ninang’s door, and laid on the swing until the sun came up. 


And we started our morning with Gelli playing in the sand.



and Resting…(even if it was 5am)

And I realized that I needed exactly that…I needed quiet time with Gellibean. Quiet time to be thankful for another sunrise. Quiet time to reflect on the past few days. Quiet time to be grateful that I could hit the pause button, spend some time with the family, and remember why I do everything I do…

The running ragged part? That just means I need to be better organized…I can still manage it all with a little help from my friends and family…

The recharging part? 

Well, I got that when I saw Gelli playing in the sand trying to build her castle…


How do you Rest, Relax, and Recharge?


Healthy Kitchen Workshop by Lia Bernardo

Just last week, I was able to attend a workshop on Health and Wellbeing given by Lia Bernardo, in Mango Tree Restaurant in BGC. Lia Bernardo is not just an integrative health consultant. She is also a dear friend. 

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Photo Credit: Lia Bernardo

I wrote about Mango Tree awhile back and I still have a deep fondness and affection for the owners and the staff who are not only very good at serving really great Thai food, they are also staunch advocates of children and adults with special needs.

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This workshop was such an eye opening experience for me. I have always said that I try to feed my family in healthy ways, by giving them fresh local ingredients as much as I can. I also try to bake our goodies so that there are no preservatives, and less processed sugar in the sweets that they eat. In fact, one day, I hope to quit sugar all together but that’s for a different post, and a different time, when I have much more time to research and prepare our food all the time.

Through this talk, my friend Lia opened my mind up to the fact that if we are fully aware of what we are putting into our bodies, we can heal ourselves naturally. I have always researched all natural websites and alternative ways to treat my kids when they are sick, but I had never given much thought to the fact that so much of our food intake can act as medicine as well.

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Photo Credit: Lia Bernardo

Ok. Let’s agree that there are some basic principles that I already have an understanding of before we go into the key points of “food as medicine” that I picked up from Lia. 

  • Fresh is best. Raw is better.
  • Eat 5 colors a day. (This is what I have always told my kids.)
  • Read the labels.
  • Home made vs. store bought. 
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Take a look at these Kirilian images. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what do these photos say about the energry that our food gives off. SOURCE:

Let’s add some more principles to these from Lia…

  • Everything has energy. (I knew this. I really did.)
  • You are what you eat. (REALLY. TRULY, DEEPLY.)
  • Take your nutrition from your food and not a capsule.

Flashback: You know, when I was pregnant, my doctor told me that, if I was craving something, I should eat it. (Save for sweets and desserts.) This meant, if I was craving a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or a steak with green beans, it usually meant that my body needed protein.

Conversely, something I hadn’t thought of before was the fact that if we really don’t like something (like we are repulsed by it?) then it means that our body doesn’t want it or need it…and we should not force ourselves to eat it. 

If you think about it, and you learn the foods that are good for you or the foods that “resonate with you.” (meaning they make you feel good too) then you are automatically on the road to balancing your mind, body, and soul. 

And we all know that we just want to achieve that balance? RIght? I feel like I am always trying to achieve some sort of balance in my life and if eating the right foods…Superfoods to be exact, will help? Then, I’m all for working these foods into my diet.

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Photo Credit: Lia Bernardo

We have all heard of Superfoods. RIGHT? (Please say that you have heard of Superfoods?)

According to Mr. Google, Superfoods are nutrient rich foods which are considered to be especially beneficial for health and wellbeing.

Check out some of the Superfoods that Lia shared with us and the healing properties that they possess. All of them are readily available here in Manila and are actually quite affordable.

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Lia said she starts her morning every day with this smoothie. 

  • Turmeric
    • Naturally helps in digestion, in purifying the blood, heals wounds, acts as a skin tonic, analgesic, antiseptic, antibiotic, fat metabolizer, cholesterol reducer, gas reducer, expectorant and acts as an anticarcinogen agent

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  • Kangkong
    • Naturally provides iron, helps with anemia, lowers blood sugar, is a great source of fiber and contains protein, vitamins A, B, and C. 
  • Okra
    • Great for people who suffer from IBS, stomach ulcers, respiratory problems, hearth health, healthy skin, regulates blood sugar, great for weight loss, and good for those who suffer from anemia.
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Yum Sum O: Prawn Pomelo Salad with Cilantro

  • Cilantro
    • May prevent cardiovascular damage, is good for those who suffer from diabetes, digestive system, fiber, rich in calcium, lowers bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol,  can reduce the feeling of nausea and is a great HEAVY METAL CLEANSER.
  • Coconut Water
    • Can help with athlete’s foot, pimples, acne, dementia & Alzheimer’s, burns, cuts, scrapes, eczema, thrush, bladder infections, yeast infections, allergies, ear infections and so much more.
  • Malunggay
    • Is rich in iron, vitamin c, potassium, protein, vitamin A, calcium, and vitamin E
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Tom Yum Hed: Spicy Thai mixed mushroom soup with lemongrass, kaffir lime, and red chillies.

  • Kaffir Lime
    • Leaves are great for dental health, can aid in digestion, purify the blood, and awaken the senses
  • Tamarind
    • Is a great antioxidant, and an excellent source of potassium, iron, selenium, calcium, zinc, and magnesium.
  • Galangal
    • is good for abdominal pain and discomfort due to digestive problems, can cure motion sickness, improves blood circulation in your hands and feet, and can treat arhtritis

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  • Lemongrass
    • Helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels, strengthens the immune system, can reduce fever, combats unpleasant body odor, and is an antiseptic agent.
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Kai Jiew Hom: Thai style omelette with spring onions and coriander.

  • Basil
    • Can help sharpen your memory, helps fight a cold, has antibacterial properties and can treat the bites of insects and leeches
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This was delicious. Yum Ma Khua Phao Song Goong: Grilled eggplant salad with shrimp

  • Eggplant
    • Can Prevent cancer, promote weight loss, improves skin tone, lowers bad cholesterol, is a good source of fiber, vitamins A B & C, and can gently treat your hair
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Photo Credit: Lia Bernardo

  • AND Four FOODS that can heal as antibiotics (Oregano, Garlic, Ginseng, Echinacea)

Benefits of Drinking Lemon Water

  • Boosts your immune system
  • Balances pH
  • Flushes out unwanted materials
  • Decreases wrinkles and blemishes
  • Relives tooth pain
  • Relieves respiratory problems
  • Cures throat infection
  • Excellent for weight loss
  • Reduces Fever
  • Blood purifier

Ok. So, I always drink lemon water. That’s not a problem. I receive the benefits of lemon water every day because I drink lemon water every day, all day. 

I have been exploring cooking Asian food so much more, so using many of these ingredients at least weekly is very easy for me now. Through many of my cooking classes and also some new found friends who love the being in the kitchen as much as I do, I have a new fondness for exploring Asian flavors. Good thing, were were gifted with some new recipes to try out in our own homes! 

You know what I realized? If I don’t feel like cooking, or I am too lazy to put something that’s healthy for me and my family…there is always another place I can go which is a no brainer. 

Mango Tree.

Thai food has all of these FRESH ingredients and then some. Maybe I should start learning some more Thai dishes as well…after all, I have always loved the salty, sweet, sour, spicy flavors that layer one on top of another while I enjoy this cuisine. 

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Thank you Gwen for the invite to the Healthy Kitchen workshop! It was wonderful to see Lia in action, and great to catch up with Mawi, over healthy delicious food that makes me happy!

For more information on classes and workshops that Lia offers please visit

Mango Tree Manila is located in BGC. For reservations you can call 02-621-3233.



Mothers Who Brunch Spooky Edition

If y’all follow me on Instagram, you have probably already figured out how much I love Halloween. And if you have been reading my posts for a while now, then you would also remember this post about a Halloween shindig from last year.

Well, my friend Sabrina, loves Halloween just as much as I do, and together we were able to invite some mommas who were game to come and party with us in the Viking Range Showroom with one of their littles, to learn something new, and celebrate one of our favorite holidays.

We had a wonderful menu planned for our mommas and kiddos.


Photo Credit: Jay Santos

For this event, we asked the children to introduce their moms and share something that that they did with their momma which was fun and memorable.


Kids who brunch! #motherswhobrunchspookyedition #motherswhobrunch #vikingrangeph #littlemrc

A photo posted by MrsC | Patricia Cuyugan (@mrspcuyugan) on


Some of the kiddos were a little shy, but that didn’t stop them from getting to know one another later and having some good old fashioned fun together.


Photo Credit: Jay Santos

While the children were learning how to make their own ice cream from scratch with the help of Teachers Josh and Babu from Engineering for Kids, the moms were sewing DIY Halloween Trick or Treat Bags with the help of Ann from Ant’s Pocket. 



Photo Credit: Jay Santos

 I LOVE both of these activities and think they are equally fabulous. Years ago, when I was still a Brownie Troop Leader, we taught the girls how to make ice cream in much of the same way that Engineering for Kids taught our Halloween party guests this past weekend. If you are planning a kiddie birthday party, both of these suppliers can come in and provide services that are not the “run of the mill” magic shows or juggling acts. Hands on activities, with learning that is based in STEM education for the kids, will always be top on my list when comparing fun things to DO over fun things to WATCH.


Photo Credit: Jay Santos 

If you have been following our Mothers Who Brunch series, you’ll also know how much fun Sabrina and I have with the details… Check out some of the details from our last gathering:

I love using any excuse to bring a pop of color into our buffet. Totally digging on my Rachel Ray casseroles that were a steal in Dapitan.

I love using any excuse to bring a pop of color into our buffet. Totally digging on my Rachel Ray casseroles that were a steal in Dapitan. Photo Credit: Jay Santos

Ann from Ant's Pocket had everything set up for each momma to choose which Sew Your Own Loot Bag they wanted to work on.

Ann from Ant’s Pocket had everything set up for each momma to choose which Sew Your Own Loot Bag they wanted to work on.

This was the most popular spot for the kids, once their ice cream activity was completed. Pottly N Tubby can customize any tent for your lil according to your colors and your theme.

This was the most popular spot for the kids, once their ice cream activity was completed. Pottly N Tubby can customize any tent for your lil according to your colors and your theme.

Styling by Boqueria Lifestyle Market makes it easy for Sabrina and I to focus on the food. It's really so much easier to plan the menu when you aren't worried about the decorating!

Styling by Boqueria Lifestyle Market makes it easy for Sabrina and I to focus on the food. It’s really so much easier to plan the menu when you aren’t worried about the decorating!  Aren’t these painted calabasas so much fun?

We had some cute plushie visitors too! #Handmade Ghost from Ant's Pocket.

We had some cute plushie visitors too! #Handmade Ghost from Ant’s Pocket.

This little pumpkin patch corner is one I would visit again!

This little pumpkin patch corner is one I would visit again!

All this Halloween fun has to come with some good eats. And when Sab and I put our mind to the menu, we are sure to have fun!

Coffin sandwiches (aka Creamy Chicken Pesto Salad Sandwiches) were enjoyed by the mommas.

Coffin sandwiches (aka Creamy Chicken Pesto Salad Sandwiches) were enjoyed by the mommas.

While the kids enjoyed Shrunken Head Punch. Sab carved these apples first thing Saturday morning and they came out awesome!

The kids LOVED the Shrunken Head Punch. Sab carved these apples first thing Saturday morning and they came out awesome!

I shared with the moms, just how easy it is to make Organic Kale Chips with some good olive oil and finishing salt.

I shared with the moms, just how easy it is to make Organic Kale Chips with some good olive oil and finishing salt.

Witches Brew Spinach and Gruyere Soup to start us off.

Witches Brew Spinach and Gruyere Soup to start us off.

Ready eat Ribs from JAM Foods just needed to be warmed in the oven and served with a little extra BBQ sauce! HOW EASY IS THAT?

Ready eat Ribs from JAM Foods just needed to be warmed in the oven and served with a little extra BBQ sauce! HOW EASY IS THAT?

Mini Mummy Pizzas were thrown in the oven early, so that meant that the kids could nosh on these as soon as they arrived. We made some bacon options for the mommas as well, just in case ;-)

Mini Mummy Pizzas were thrown in the oven early, so that meant that the kids could nosh on these as soon as they arrived. We made some bacon options for the mommas as well, just in case 😉 (You can pick up the mini pizzas at Pastry Armoire for a very reasonable price.-I stock them in my house.)  Photo Credit: Jay Santos


Spooky Graveyard Taco Dip by @motherswhobrunch for #motherswhobrunchspookyedition #motherswhobrunch #vikingrangeph A photo posted by Michelle Aventajado (@mommanmanila) on

Because we don’t eat as soon as our guests arrive, Sabrina and I always try to have a few appetizers like the Graveyard Dip, the mini mummy pizzas, and two different types of popcorn.

Marshmallow Popcorn balls for the kids.

Marshmallow Popcorn balls for the kids. Photo Credit: Jay Santos

And Coco Cayenne Popcorn made for the mommas. This healthy version is made with coco sugar from Coco Natura.

And Coco Cayenne Popcorn made for the mommas. This healthy version is made with coco sugar from Coco Natura. Photo Credit: Jay Santos

We also served Truffle Mac & Cheese which was wiped out and enjoyed not just by the mommas but also by the kiddos! Easy to bake Bat wings (aka chicken wings) are finished with Zin salt. An easy salad to throw together for the mommas was done with WHISK Raspberry Vinagrette.

Salad, Sandwiches, Chicken Wings...all easy to make dishes for a brunch that catered to both adults and kids with a discerning palate.

Salad, Sandwiches, Chicken Wings…all easy to make dishes for a brunch that catered to both adults and kids with a discerning palate. Photo Credit: Patty Cuyugan

But Halloween is not Halloween without some SWEETS!

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Cupcakes by Sonja, is not just about Cupcakes. Check out this beautifully detailed cake that they can custom make for any occasion.

And these cupcakes!!! HOW CUTE are these??

And these cupcakes!!! HOW CUTE are these??


While Sabrina and I enjoy cooking and gathering mommas in the Viking Range Showroom to learn something new and give them some recipes for the kitchen arsenal, we really cannot do it without the help of our sponsors. Some of the Mommas who visited with us on this particular day, were asking just how we are able to do it all…how we are able to put together these menus with the details, and then cook and serve the dishes while still looking pretty.

I’ll tell you how…using the superior equipment that we have in the Viking Showroom makes it SO easy. In fact, this was the first time that we used every rack in every oven!!! 

Special THANKS to all of our Sponsors:

Viking Range Philippines

Boqueria Lifestyle Market

Thank you GLAD for all of the products that make being in the kitchen and preparing for 15 moms and kiddos a breeze.  The Cook & Bake parchment paper made it easy to bake everything that filled all the racks in each oven!

Clorox Wipes makes cleaning up spills and messes with kids easier in my home. We keep on container in the kitchen and one container in all the bathrooms.

Thank you so much to the SMILE Group and Engineering for Kids for sponsoring such a fun and educational activity for the kiddos to learn more about science. I think we might even have some molecular gastronomists after that activity! Look out for their Challenge Island Launch which is specifically for bigger gatherings, parties, corporate team building, and family reunions. If you’re curious about what a Challenge Island Party is all about, check out this post from Diego’s birthday this year.

Ann from Ant’s Pocket is easy to work with and can make any gathering even more personalized and fun. All we did was send Ann some pegs of what we envisioned our tablescapes and decor to be, and she came up with the Halloween ornaments AND plushies to gift the kiddos with. She can do small and big parties, create giveaways, centerpieces, and even provide the activity for the kids to create something to take home. Crafty and patient, she knows how to work with children.

Pottly N Tubby has a variety of home items that will make any child’s room the perfect retreat. I’ve been eyeing their tents for some time now, and I SUPER love that this tent they created just for our event had OWLS!!!! 

When I first moved here, Cupcakes by Sonja was my answer to the cravings that I would have from a certain cupakery back home in New York. Since then Sonja has become a friend. From Gia’s 8th birthday in her shop in Serendra, to her sponsorship of cookie kits for Gia’s 13th birthday that she held in an orphanage, and to the consistent quality of sweets and sweet treats in her opening up three more branches all over the metro. We are thankful that Sonja created our Halloween themed desserts.

Drinking lemon water every day is easy with the help of Chuckie from Lemons & Greens. Easy order placement and delivery to your door step with only the freshest of ingredients enables all of us to make healthy choices.

Jam Foods is the answer to every busy mommas desire to have fun in the kitchen. With distributors all over the metro, you can order USDA PRIME meats, marinated and ready to be cooked or even warmed up to serve your family only the best tapa ever. (and no need to marinate and make yourself!) The ribs were so easy to defrost and just warm up in the oven! THEY WERE FALL OFF THE BONE DELICIOUS.

As we all try to make healthier choices, we know eliminating processed sugars from our diet can be made by substituting Coco Natura Coco Sugar in our recipes. Our Coco Cayenne Popcorn was a big hit with the Mommas thanks to the nutty caramel flavor of our favorite coco sugar!

Zin Manila has the perfect finishing salts and peppers for all your dishes. There is more of a move towards these artisanal sea, rock, and flavored salts that can make your dishes pop with that little something extra. I am taking advantage of that little extra flavor and working them into many of my dishes.

Whisk dips and dressings are perfect for me to use in the kitchen as an added bonus to saving time. Without any preservatives and all natural goodness and flavors, I can throw together a salad and a meal that is good for the fam bam and tasty too. I SUPER loved their garlic jam. I suggest you pick up a bottle of that right away! Plus-you can order gift packs for your momma friends as well.


Grandparents Day at TLA

One of my biggest fears when I was moving here almost a decade ago, was the fact that my children would be so far from my family, that they might not remember them.

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In particular, I was most concerned about the relationship between my parents and my kids.

I always wanted my kids to have a really great relationship with my parents.


Photo Credit: Jay Santos

I had a wonderful relationship with my Nana. She lived with us while I was growing up and I loved going to her part of the house, laying on her plastic wrapped sofa and resting my head in her lap so she could scratch my back while we watched her “programs.” My Nana’s programs consisted of the soap operas which would fill her afternoons before she would go downstairs to see what was being cooked up for dinner by our live in housekeeper. 


My grandmother and my great grandmother. New York, New York.

My Nana always had a stash of Spearmint Life Savers in her bag, and an address book that was brimming with folded papers held together by multiple rubber bands encircling the folded paper mess.  Nana smelled like powder and Jean Nate, and if I was lucky, she would share Hershey Kisses with me too. Her hands were baby soft, and often times if she wasn’t scratching my back, I was holding her hand, playing with the soft pads of her fingertips.

This was in the home we grew up in NY. Dad was always really great about taking ritual family photos. (I'm not quite sure why I look so angry in this photo.)

This was in the home we grew up in NY. Dad was always really great about taking ritual family photos. (I’m not quite sure why I look so angry in this photo.)

I would help her put her contact lenses in by sitting on the floor in front of her folding table, and guiding her fingers so each lens would be properly placed over her pupil. I would hold up the mirror for her, and then when she needed me to, I would even put her drops in her eyes when her lenses would bother her.


Having a housekeeper present was not something that my Nana was used to, coming of age during The Great Depression, but because my mom worked, we always had a helper who could manage the daily grind at home and get us on the school bus while my mom and dad brought home the bacon. When our yaya/housekeeper was hard on me, I would seek refuge behind my nana’s pant legs and house coat. She always wore this red and blue housecoat when she came downstairs to work in the kitchen.

Nana is about 35 years old in this photo.

Nana is about 35 years old in this photo.

There are little things that I remember about my grandma…like those Hershey Kisses, the way she smelled powdery fresh, and the way she would dip her saltines in her afternoon tea. Then there are big things, like how she cried when I got spanked for the first time because she didn’t agree with my punishment. I pushed my baby brother down in the kiddie pool, and of course, I got into really big trouble with my dad. I was sent to bed without dinner, but my mom and my nana came up with a fried egg and some buttered toast because they couldn’t imagine me going to bed hungry.

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My birthday 2011

Thankfully, moving to Manila wasn’t as bleak as I previously thought it would be for my children’s relationship with my parents. In fact, I’m so very pleased with how close my kids are to my parents. Gelli often looks for Mama and actually asks to call her, while my kids enjoy quality time with my parents either sleeping over their condo, or when they come and visit us here in our home.

Gellis birthday 2015

Gelli’s birthday 2015

Even if my parents aren’t always here in Manila with us, the advancement of technology, iPhones, and the internet,  provide my kids the opportunity to see their grandparents whenever they  are missing them. We can all see each other face to face with the use of apps, Face Time, and built in webcams.

November 2011

November 2011

I know my mom was worried too! She thought that since she and my dad hadn’t returned in more than a year to Manila, that Gelli might forget them. Thankfully, her fears were never realized. When Mom and Dad arrived, Gelli took one look at them, ran towards them and hugged them both. I actually saw a wave of relief wash over my mom’s face, as she enveloped Gelli with hugs and kisses, just the way I remember my Nana used to hug and kiss me.

Holiday season 2013

My parents don’t stay with us, but they are close enough that we can see each other every day. Even just the other week, when my mom heard how sick I was when I was down with a fever, the very next day she was at our house, with chicken soup, and reinforcements like nobody’s business. 

Simply because, that’s what moms do. 

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And Grandmas too.

Grandparents Day at TLA is just one of the many programs that the teachers and staff put together all throughout the year which Nino and I look forward to. My mom put it on her calendar the moment I let her know we would be celebrating their special day. We were all so excited (and maybe even a little nervous) to see the kids dance and put on their performance… (as long as no one was going to do any stage diving!!!)

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And the kids did a great job! For the most part, no one tried to jump off the stage :-) Almost everyone was able to participate in the dance routine, no one cried, and no one threw up! HOORAY FOR TODDLERS graduating to Juniors who will soon be Seniors before we even know it!


Each set of grandparents took home a special star painted by their apo. Inside was a little note that read:

Dear God,

You knew how lonely we would become one day

When our children would all grow up, get married and move away,

So you gave us GRANDCHILDREN to visit our lonely nest

Bringing youth back into our lives and our later years to bless.

Bless them and watch over them,

safe and happy may they be.

Thank you for my GRANDKIDS, Lord they mean so much to me.

Things I loved about the day:

  • Each set of Grandparents had reserved seating :-) No one was fighting to seats to see their apo.
  • Each set of Grandparents got to take home an original work of art by their apo.
  • Gelli didn’t hurt anyone. (She’s a little rough lately, because she has two older brothers.)
  • Even some of the Grandparents put on their own dance number.
  • I have video documenting the whole thing.
  • The details with which TLA prepares most every celebration were clear and present.

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Things I didn’t love about the day.

  • It was the last activity in a long weekend that was jam packed. This meant that I was not at my best. I was recovering from being sick, hosting an event, and attending two others from the night before. I WAS EXHAUSTED.
  • Nino and I had to be in two different places at once. That meant, I only had one phone camera to shoot with. So, I don’t have photos :-( I only have video :-( (And I’m confused why this video is so blurry?)
  • I didn’t even get a photo of Gelli with her classmates :-( (I was just so darned tired at the end of it all that I couldn’t bring myself to bring Gelli back to the classroom so we could try and get all the kids to pose.)

Thank goodness, I have some co parents who were quick to snap photos!

Warming up in the classroom...

Warming up in the classroom…

Tell me these kids aren’t the cutest?

I’m not sure if there are lots of other preschools which put on programs like this. It certainly wasn’t a requirement for me when I was deciding on Gelli’s schooling, however, it is something I really do look forward to as a parent because these are the moments that memories are made of…from the videos and the photos, Gelli will know that her grandparents are present and excited to watch her grow.

Check out The Little Apprentice on Facebook and Instagram.


Best Buddies Zumba with Roxy

I have this friend Rosanne. She’s a Superwoman. She’s one of those women who can pretty much do anything, she is successful in business, and does what she loves. She’s my kinda people. 

Roxy (aka Teacher Rosanne from TLA) and our President Joie.

Roxy (aka Teacher Rosanne from TLA) and our President Joie.

I asked her to help my #DLSZBestBuddies out with their October activity, this year, for a number of different reasons

  • Zumba is happy.
  • Zumba is fun.
  • Zumba gets the heart going.
  • I knew the kids would LOVE it.

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And they did.

The thing about my Best Buddies this year is that they are pretty much doing most of the work on their own running our club. They have elected their board, and their board (as well as the rest of the club) is constantly surprising me (and Ms. Mau and Ms. Juay) with all of the things they can accomplish in preparing for their Buddies from Integrated Movement Academy’s arrival and time spent in DLSZ.

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Ok-for those of you just tuning in: 

What is Best Buddies?

Best Buddies is an International Organization that was started over 25 years ago by Anthony Kennedy Shriver. He had a vision, just like his Momma, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. He wanted to make the world a better place through friendship, much the same way his mom made the  world a better place through sports.

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So what does that mean? 

It means that we match kids from our school in one on one friendships with another school. Our partner school is a school that caters to kids with special needs. We ask our kids to commit to us for one year, and within that year, we ask them to get to know their buddy and spend time with their buddy in a wholesome and meaningful way.

After our very successful MATCHING PARTY  where the kids came up with the idea to “Find your FriendCHIPs,” Zumba proved to be an excellent activity for the kids to kick off the first Saturday of this October.

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Rosanne, or Roxy as we like to call her, has this way with kids. Mind you, she works with KIDS OF ALL AGES. She is also a partner in the school that I have trusted 3 of my 4 children with in the beginnings of their education. The Little Apprentice was my preschool of choice when we moved here from New York. As an educator, myself, I know the importance of choosing a good preschool, and believe you-me…TLA has the goods.

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Anyway, Roxy did a fantastic job of warming up the kids slowly. She explained everything very clearly, and kept things light and fun. Before the event, I was a bit worried that some of my kids (keep in mind these kids are in high school and can be a bit self conscious) might not feel so comfortable with dancing in public and with partners. I’m so glad that my fears were not realized because everyone was just so game. 

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This may also have been partly because our president Joie De Luzuriaga also gave them the pep talk just a couple of days before the event saying to not only come in bright happy colors ready to Zumba but to bring their “ready for anything and game to Zumba” attitude. 

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Either way, this combination of people involved in the whole Zumba day was a success, no matter how you slice it.

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After our gentle warm up, we were so happy that Brother Bernie could join us for a bit. Brother Bernie has been so supportive of our cause from day one and has attended each of our events, excited to get to know the kids and their buddies. I’m so grateful for his support and belief in furthering inclusion. THANKS BROTHER BERNIE!

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Before beginning our Zumba activities again, Roxy explained to the kids that they might need to get a drink. Sometimes, she explained, we don’t even know that we are thirsty…especially when we are exercising and breaking a sweat like many of the kids were. 

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There were a couple of times during the day that I was filled with emotion. The next activity which was of course Zumba based, was also a lesson in KINDNESS. (Of course, the tears were flowing again.) Roxy asked half of the group to sit down with their buddies and watch as the other half of our buddies followed the dance steps she taught them to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.”

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She also asked that the group sitting pay close attention to their buddies on the other side of the gym, dancing, moving, and grooving. She asked them to pay close attention because she also wanted the resting buddies to share something that they observed which their buddies did well. In a world where “Kindness is underrated,” and kids don’t often pay attention for very long because they get distracted easily, this was a nice reminder for them. THANK YOU ROXY.

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Of course, just like in yoga and how we have to have everything balanced-she asked the same of the other half of our group and there was so more kindness, cheer, and love that I was happy to witness. I’ve seen a lot of kids at this age resort to cruelty and just plain being mean…this part of being a teenager always broke my heart…but here…with Best Buddies, I get to balance all that out with the beautiful moments shared in a simple activity like Zumba.

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For snack, we thought it would be a good idea to have some fresh fruit and water for the kids, so that they wouldn’t feel heavy. The kids snacked on Fuji apples while they were catching their breath for the next activity Roxy would facilitate.

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There are lots of different ways for the kids to connect. The activity we help them organize once a month is just one way for these kids to get to know each other. During this Zumba activity, I should have known that Roxy would pull out all the stops to help these kids interact with one another even more. The mirroring activity which followed our quick snack time did just that. Mirroring movements with their buddies was another way for the kids to connect on a different level. There are benefits to mirroring and mimicry…even Oprah believes that in most situations it’s a good thing.

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Not wanting to overwhelm the kids with too much, the last activity with Roxy was another partner activity where the students coordinated dance steps and worked on a routine together…through the cha-cha…

This was fun, sweet, and a great way to end the morning’s activities.

Our Best Buddies in DLSZ prepared for a snack for their Buddies from IMAI.  On the healthier side, they chose a simple chicken fillet and rice meal to share with their friends after the workout was done and they could sit and enjoy each other’s company before going home. These kids prepared for this snack by making sure they had enough money to cover their own meal as well as the meal of their buddy. This idea was presented by Joie, and after she suggested it, everyone was completely on board.

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All in all, it was a successful activity that the kids put together to spend some more time with their buddies from IMAI.

Each time I work with these kids…I come home filled with gratitude. I’ll be honest. When we first started Best Buddies last year at this time, I wasn’t sure that all the kids would hit it off and that I would see real friendships formed. Yesterday, was just another lesson for me….

This lesson presented itself to me in a series of little moments. These are the moments when I know I’m doing something good.

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Someone helping another to tie his shoe that came unlaced, another student grabbing a chair for his buddy because he was tired and needed to sit, and still another young lady, helping her buddy by getting his food for him and serving him. These little moments, the little acts of service and helping one another are things friends would do for each other all the time…but this time, it’s just a little different. This time, it fills me with a little more gratitude and maybe even gets me a little teary eyed. IT MAKES ME THANKFUL.

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Then there are the bigger moments that I noticed when a group of boys began playing frisbee and pulled their buddies up from their chairs (and those buddies who took a little while to warm up jumped in too) to teach them that with the flick of their wrist, they could throw the disc and play catch too. And what I saw were some really great kids…just being their really great selves. During that moment, I said a little prayer that Gelli would meet big girls like that when she was their age…that they would be kind to her, and maybe teach her something new if she was willing…and really just try to be her friend.

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And here…in this activity…that friendship-that’s what it is all about.

If you would like to know more about Best Buddies click here.

Thank you ROXY for sharing your time and your expertise with us. Thank you for bringing so much light and love to our Saturday morning. The kids had a great time, and you can see that from the photos I snapped.

Zumba with Roxy


Mothers Who Brunch goes Asian

My friend Sab and I have lovingly put together a series of events for Viking Range Philippines. We only have three more events left before the end of the year, and planning each themed event is just as exciting as the one before. You see, Sab and I really love putting these events together so that we can share the joy of cooking and entertaining with some of our fellow mommas. We hope to inspire other mommas to get cooking in the kitchen because despite what many people think, it’s not that hard at all.IMG_9135 copy

Mothers Who Brunch Goes Asian is actually an idea that came out of the fact that I have always found Asian flavors in my cooking a bit daunting. My comfort food is mostly American Italian and to have to throw something together with Asian flair used to be quite intimidating to me.

That is, until THE Nina Daza asked me to put together some recipes for Appetite Magazine. I think with anything that is a bit of a challenge, it’s the getting started that can sometimes hold us up. The challenge (at least for me) lies in getting over that initial hump or perception of something being difficult (even if only in my mind), because truth is, once I get started in the kitchen, I just have to look for my taste testers to inspire me to move on and improve. 

This was one of the recipes that Gia and put together for the Appetite June issue.

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps. This was one of the recipes that Gia and put together for the Appetite June issue.

Nina asked me to put together Asian inspired recipes for the June issue and while I was a bit nervous about it, all I had to do was bring along my best girl to the Viking Kitchen to find my way. Together we came up with some recipes that she not only loved, but has asked me to make again and again.   

What was even more exciting about this day was the fact that Gia was featured in Buzzfeed for coming with me to work!

Check out the post here.

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On the other hand, Asian flavors are very comfortable for Sab. She can handle an Asian menu with ease and still look pretty when everything is served. And once Sab and I got started in the kitchen…truth is, we are able to pull most everything off with ease. Back home, I would have my friends that I would cook with in the kitchen. We would flow…we would drink wine…we would have fun. It took me a while to find those kinds of friends here, but through my cookfests with yoga friends, and now having fun in the kitchen with Sabrina, I think I may have found some ladies who are just as happy being in the kitchen, as I am.

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Photo Credit Sabrina Go

Sab and I enjoy putting these events together, conceptualizing, making mood boards and searching for pegs which exemplify the look and feel of what we want our guests and friends to experience when they come and have brunch with us. We prepare as much as we can before hand so that we can relax and enjoy our friends during the event, while still showcasing the cooking capability of the Viking appliances.

Photo Credit Sabrina Go

It was so easy to prepare and grill this Cedar Plank Salmon. From easy Marinade to easy Grilling. Click here for the recipe. Photo Credit Sabrina Go

We love collaborating with professionals like Steph and Lady of Boqueria Lifestyle Market because while we have the pegs and the ideas in our heads, they can set the atmosphere and the table in a way that is fresh, exciting, and of course Instagram worthy for our guests. Collaborating with Boqueria Lifestyle Market makes it easier for us to focus on the menu, the food we want to serve, and a fun activity for the moms to enjoy.

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The ladies who braved the typhoon like weather to join us in the kitchen L-R T-B: Maggie, Jackie, Tin, Sab, Me, Em, Lady, Steph, Nicole, Helene, Kate, Nicole, Patty, and Vangie

Preparing everything in advance when you  have guests (or in this case a cooking event that brings Moms together for some me time) is easy when you have the right tools. We enjoy the use of the tools in the kitchen to cook, and I also enjoy the time we spend in the kitchen before hand to bring everything together. 

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We just took the cover off the stockpot for the photo. But you can see how easily the Viking side by side refrigerator freezer can fit most anything.

Brining the pork belly  was easy to do, because the huge stockpot that Sab had the meat in, easily fit in the Viking side by side refrigerator. Marinating the fish and the chicken in our Lee Kum Kee marinades was equally as easy to do in the GLAD zipper bags and using the Press & Seal food wrap. Preparing these dishes ahead of time, makes the actual cooking process on the following day for Mothers Who Brunch Goes Asian seamless.

Photo Credit Sabrina Go

Photo Credit Sabrina Go

Even the smaller sized GLAD plastic wrap is perfect for our bowls where we prepped the fresh ingredients for the spring rolls. Seriously, storing everything in the fridge is really gross when your flavors mix with the others. Like-you don’t want your mini leche flan brownies that are sponsored by Pastry Armoire tasting like salmon marinating in my oyster sauce marinade!

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Marinating my salmon with my Lee Kum Kee Marinade was super easy. You can marinate this dish as early as 24 hours ahead or as little as 30 minutes. Of course the longer you can marinate, the more flavorful the salmon will be.

When it came time to set up everything on the day of our event, all we had to do was let our meats and fish rest from being in the refrigerator, grill or bake, and then serve!

Check out how lovely this gathering of women was last month.

Part of what Sabrina and I  enjoy about getting together with the women who attend Mothers Who Brunch is being able to share a little something with them of ourselves. Besides being in the kitchen, both Sab and I enjoy making a house a home for our families and that includes more than just putting deliciously health prepared meals on the table.

For this event we were able to bring someone in to teach us Ikebana. 

Add to the Ikebana lesson these beautiful vases sponsored by L'indochine, and it truly was a treat for our Mommas to learn something new and take home something pretty.

Add to the Ikebana lesson these beautiful vases sponsored by L’indochine, and it truly was a treat for our Mommas to learn something new and take home something pretty.

After our Ikebana lesson, we asked Chef Arnold to share his Gourmet Tinapa Rice recipe and demonstrate just how easy it is to throw together this quick and filling meal.


Chef Arnold and Sab are preparing for his demo, while I am wanting to sneak just one of the Matcha Blondies from Pastry Armoire.

One of the other facets to Mothers Who Brunch is our desire to share with the moms, not just kitchen tips, easy recipes, and fun new things to learn, but also tried and true products that are good for us, good for me time, and if we can bring in LOCAL businesses and factor that into the mix then we are even happier.

Besides sharing his easy to make Gourmet Tinapa Rice, Chef Arnold also shared that to bring out a smoky flavor in your citrus you can grill your lemon wedges before garnishing your Tinapa Rice.

Besides sharing his easy to make Gourmet Tinapa Rice, Chef Arnold also shared that to bring out a smoky flavor in your citrus you can grill your lemon wedges before garnishing your Tinapa Rice.

It’s always a pleasure to get in the VIKING kitchen. As I’m writing this post, I’m imagining what my kitchen will be like when we start to build our new home. I get excited knowing that everything will be that much easier when I prepare a meal for my family…

But what I love even more, is sharing the ease with which all mommas can prepare meals for the families. It doesn’t have to be difficult, and no, everything doesn’t have to be home made. In fact when we use products like Lee Kum Kee, Deep Dips, and Glad, we make our lives easier in the kitchen. And as a momma…easy is good. EASY IS REAL GOOD.

Thank you to all of our generous sponsors who supported our desire to share with our mommas the very same products we love and enjoy using, ourselves. From the make up and skincare products, to the products that make our homes prettier and our lives easier in the kitchen. We are truly grateful. 

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Most of all thank you to Viking for encouraging Mommas to venture into the kitchen and explore new ways to prepare meals for our families.

Thanks also to Jay Santos for capturing the essence of what Mothers Who Brunch is all about, not just with your photos but with this BTS video.