Entertaining for the Holidays

Earlier last month I was asked to give a short talk on entertaining for the holidays. 

I seized the opportunity to make some new friends, enjoy the company of some “old” friends, and an opportunity to enjoy The Sage Grill in Makati Shangrila Hotel.

Makati Shangrila has always held a an important place in my growth and history here in The Philippines, but I will leave that for another post, and another story.

When entertaining guests, I have always loved creating details for my guests to enjoy.

When entertaining guests, I have always loved creating details for my guests to enjoy.

At any rate, I wanted to share some of the tips I shared with some of the lovely ladies who were in attendance at the exclusive Business World Ladies Who Lunch Special Holiday Gathering because I’m sure that if you are new to entertaining you might find them helpful as well.

1.  Create Your Guest List

  • Decide on who you would like to invite. (Family? High School Barkada? Co-Parents at school? Officemates?)
  • Decide on the theme of your party. (Trim the Tree? Pot Luck? Cookie Swap? White Elephant?)
  • Send an invite. Remember, it doesn’t have to be formal. It just should give your guests an idea of what to expect, when to arrive, and if they should come prepared with anything.
When inviting my friends for my annual Cookie Swap, I am sure to invite friends who really enjoy baking so they don't get stressed out with the amount of cookies that we have to make.

When inviting my friends for my annual Cookie Swap, I am sure to invite friends who really enjoy baking so they don’t get stressed out with the amount of cookies that we have to make.

2. Plan your Menu and Details

  • Think of the dishes you would like to make, order, or request the help to prepare. Don’t try to do it all. 
  • Look to social media and other websites to help you in your planning and finding inspiration.
  • Consider center pieces for your table, decorations, and linens
Creating a menu with easy but delicious dishes keeps your stress factor low. I make this pesto often and keep little tubs of it in the freezer for even the surprise guests that might come over during the holidays.

Creating a menu with easy but delicious dishes keeps your stress factor low. I make this pesto often and keep little tubs of it in the freezer for even the surprise guests that might come over during the holidays.

3. Create a play list

  • Use your apps to help you create a play list that is fun, festive and will keep the party going long after your first guest arrives.
One of the details that I enjoy putting together for the table is fresh flowers. It just says that you put extra special effort into entertaining your guests.

One of the details that I enjoy putting together for the table is fresh flowers. It just says that you put extra special effort into entertaining your guests.

4. Set the Stage

  • Bring all those details together to make sure that your guests enjoy themselves when they enter your home. The environment should be warm and welcoming.
  • Have the table set, the candles lit, and the comforting smells of Christmas wafting through the air.
But I don't always use fresh flowers...especially if everything I'm making is from my kitchen. I choose to focus on details but I also do not want to be overwhelmed.

But I don’t always use fresh flowers…especially if everything I’m making is from my kitchen. I choose to focus on details but I also do not want to be overwhelmed.

5. Set out the appetizers

  • When your guests arrrive, chances are they had to brave the traffic to get to your home. Set out a plate of appetizers and snacks as well as a big batch of drinks ready to be poured.
Aside from preparing appetizers, you can create a dessert buffet which is something that your guests will look forward to as well. This dessert buffet was a collaboration by my friend Vangie, Gelli's Ninang - Dianna, Joanna from Cuppy Puppy, and myself.

Aside from preparing appetizers, you can create a dessert buffet which is something that your guests will look forward to as well. This dessert buffet was a collaboration by my friend Vangie, Gelli’s Ninang – Dianna, Joanna from Cuppy Puppy, and myself.

6. Brief the help

  • No matter whether you hired a caterer to take care of the details, or you have your house helpers assisting as you do it all yourself, make sure everyone knows what is expected of them.
  • Assign someone to replenish the appetizers or buffet and someone to refresh the powder room every hour.
Creating a theme and mood that you can carry all through out your home that is inviting and welcoming is not very hard. Using what you have at home and combining that with inexpensive additions make take a little bit more effort and time, but the results can be appreciated by all.

Creating a theme and mood that you can carry all through out your home that is inviting and welcoming is not very hard. Using what you have at home and combining that with inexpensive additions make take a little bit more effort and time, but the results can be appreciated by all.

7. Welcome Brigade

  • When your guests arrive, give them a quick tour of the house so that they can help themselves as other guests arrive.
  • Point out where the snacks are, if the boys are listening to music in the den, and where the lavatory is located. This way they do not have to interrupt and ask later.

 

 

Getting ready for my interstellar friends… #mommanmanila #MnMChristmas

A photo posted by Michelle Aventajado (@mommanmanila) on

8. Try something NEW

  • Be sure to change up one detail of your event to make it memorable to your guests.
  • Whether you decide to make a special dish that is not traditionally served on the holidays, or a theme, or even a game, it will end up being a hit for those who haven’t experienced or tried it before.
Trying to make a new dish for your guests is a great idea. But it's also good to stick to the recipes that are family favorites, like this sausage stuffing for Thanksgiving!

Trying to make a new dish for your guests is a great idea. But it’s also good to stick to the recipes that are family favorites, like this sausage stuffing for Thanksgiving!

9. Take 5

  • Everyone loves a hostess who is relaxed, calm and sure of herself. 
  • Make time to have a mani-pedi or a massage to pamper yourself before the party so that you can welcome them into your home at your best.
Finding your groove in entertaining can make things easier on everyone. Figuring out what works for you can sometimes be a matter of trial and error.

Finding your groove in entertaining can make things easier on everyone. Figuring out what works for you can sometimes be a matter of trial and error.

10. KEEP CALM AND PARTY ON

  •  Most of all, “Never let ‘em see you sweat.” In other words, don’t worry if everything didn’t come together as you planned, because no one will even know the difference. Simply go with the flow and enjoy your company and the season of celebrating in gratitude.

5 Reasons why I love The Little Apprentice Preschool

Choosing the perfect preschool for your child is no easy feat. As an educator, I know how important the formative years are, and I also know that with the amount of pressure our children are subject through out their educational careers, we need to make sure our kids get exactly the right start to learning and growing into what will be their most important job as kids…

I have always told my big kids that the only job they have to be really good at is being a student. (Uhm. I’m repeating the words of my father again, there.) I have encouraged good study habits, stayed up long hours fostering these habits, and hope to be able to say that I have encouraged my kids to be critical thinkers. 

BUT…we are talking about PRESCHOOL here, and preschool should be nothing but fun! It should be singing, and dancing, and running, and reading, and clapping, and FUN. Learning through play was always the most important criteria for choosing a preschool for ALL of my children. 

When we moved to Manila 8 years ago, I realized that many parents sent their lil’s to school much earlier than I am used to. In fact, Gia’s first experience in school was at the ripe old age of 4, just like her brothers. When we first moved I entertained the idea of sending Diego to preschool a little earlier, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. 

Funny thing is-Nino’s good friend Melissa owned a preschool in the area that we wanted to live in. While there was (and still is) a TON of preschools to choose from when we moved, we obviously leaned towards one where there was a personal connection to as well. Melissa was super patient with my long list of questions that I emailed Nino when I was still in NY buttoning up our affairs with the selling of our house and our tidying up our responsibilities.

I asked about the reading program. I asked about manipulatives. I asked everything a teacher (with teacher friends) would ask to help us make the right decision for our little boy. But, I did not make the decision to enroll Diego all those years until I visited the preschool for myself.

1. The History

The Little Apprentice opened with five partners way back in 2003. This same group of ladies opened a preschool even before that which is still in existence today. So, if you calculate the years that they have been molding minds, we should start with their first school (Child) which opened in 1999.

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These teachers are the same teachers who taught Miguel when we first arrived in Manila, and Diego after Miguel moved on to “big school.” I have a history with this school and they know my family. The level of caring and concern that comes along with that personal history cannot be compared.

 

As a teacher, I will always value the education that I received when I was handed my degree, however, I know that there is nothing that compares to the practical life experience of doing something you love for this long. The teachers LOVE what they are doing…and it shows. It shows in the patience that is afforded my daughter when she is having a bad day and doesn’t want to let Teacher Boom go from her embrace, and it shows every time there is a program put together for the parents to enjoy.

2. The Playground

Not many schools here have a covered playground complete with sandboxes, water tables, jungle gyms, and toy cars. These are all important when educating little ones, because you are not just facilitating social skills, and learning through play, you are helping each child reach the gross motor milestones of jumping, climbing, skipping, hopping and pedaling. 

One of the things I love most about TLA is their outdoor playground. Not many preschools in Manila have one...

One of the things I love most about TLA is their outdoor playground. Not many preschools in Manila have one…

Preschool should be a sensory experience. The kids who attend TLA have an outdoor playground that stimulates all of their senses. This is what we want for our 3 and 4 year olds!

On her second day at preschool, I remembered how they played and dressed her accordingly...time to do a little shopping for the school girl! Stretchy pants and sneakers a must!! (especially if your girl likes to do splits like Gelli.)

The sandbox is one of Gelli’s favorite places to play in on the playground.

3. The Friendship

Yes.

Kids need friends.

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And so do Mommas!

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Gelli with another friend while we were riding the jeepney around Filicity!

As our children move from independent play (side by side playing but not necessarily playing together) to playing together, we can see that many of our kids have developed a preference for one or two friends. In Gelli’s case, she always asks for Maddy…and it warms my heart when she does.

But even more than that…I have become friendly with the other parents whose children attend the same class that Gellibean does simply because we see each other all the time. We have a viber group where Teacher Boom lets us know any important information that the forgetful Mommas (like me) might have overlooked. One thing I can see is how each Momma is willing to help the other from something as simple as putting together the kids’ holiday costumes for the Christmas program or in planning something special for Teacher’s Day as well.

4. The Field Trips

Learning takes place every day…every where…in every way…

TLA plans fantastic learning experiences OUTSIDE the classroom for the kiddos and I love this.

So far, Gelli has been on three field trips this year.

We visited her classmate’s house and learned about our Family.

One of Gelli's classmates hosted our first field trip in her home. Gelli had a blast!

One of Gelli’s classmates hosted our first field trip in her home. Gelli had a blast!

We went to Jamba Juice and learned about Healthy Eating.

Gelli donned an apron and hat as if she was part of the Jamba Juice team behind the counter!

Gelli donned an apron and hat as if she was part of the Jamba Juice team behind the counter!

She chose her own healthy fruits to add to her shake which she thoroughly enjoyed.

She chose her own healthy fruits to add to her shake which she thoroughly enjoyed.

We rode a jeepney and a tricycle and learned about different modes of transportation. 

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Despite the crummy weather the kids all had a great time riding the jeepney which gave us a ride all around Filicity :-)

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Gelli loved the fresh air while riding the tricycle. She enjoyed herself so much she was protesting when it was time to stop and get off!

5. The Bulletin Board

This was a valuable resource in the beginning of the year.

This was a valuable resource in the beginning of the year because I’m so terrible with names!

Need Healthy Snack Ideas? I do!

Need Healthy Snack Ideas? I do!

I think it's super important to have a wall like this to communicate anything you want the parents to know. I can take a quick gander and catch up on what's happening in school this way.

I think it’s super important to have a wall like this to communicate anything you want the parents to know. I can take a quick gander and catch up on what’s happening in school this way.

Every classroom has a bulletin board for the kids. The kids can see pics of themselves, their teachers, letters, numbers, shapes, and colors. But the bulletin board OUTSIDE the classrooms is for us :-) It’s a great resource for busy mommas like me who like to look at things for quick ideas, information, and for what to expect in the coming month’s theme for the classroom.

When I think back to all of my big kids and their preschool experiences, it was just as exciting for me as it was for them. Choosing the right school for my kiddos was an important start for their educational careers. Initially, when I started thinking about where to send Gellibean, I was wondering if I should send her to a “special” school. I am so glad that I went with my gut and decided to enroll her in TLA. When the kids are learning at this level, there’s no need for extra special attention since everyone is learning the same way…

By choosing a school that facilitates learning through play, I know that Gelli will continue to enjoy herself and her friends as she reaches the goals we have set for her with her therapists. It’s through the love and support of her family, friends, and teachers that she can explore the world and reach her full potential.

 

 

www.thelittleapprenticepreschool.com 

The Little Apprentice on Facebook

The Little Apprentice on Instagram

 

 

Gift Guide: So True Naturals plus a Giveaway

I love giving gifts that are handmade. I always appreciate the handmade gifts just a little more (of course I’m grateful for all gifts and presents) simply because I know a little more effort goes into the hand made gifts than the store bought. 

I have been a big fan of So True Naturals ever since I met Mia more than a year ago. I value the work and dedication that she put into her small business which grew out of the love for her children. I have been lucky enough to be able to nurture a wonderful friendship with her and we have spent quite a few afternoons, laughing, eating, and sharing parts of ourselves over delicious food and drink, as moms often do.

I have seen Mia’s small business grow into a company which now has international outlets carrying her hand made castille soap. So True is not only available (for shipping) nationwide in the Philippines, but it is also available in Singapore at Plume and Preen. So True also ships all products worldwide. YES, you read that correctly, Mia now ships her handmade soaps all over the world for people who truly value the artisanal hand made castille soap that she has perfected. 

Since I last wrote about Mia and So True, she has expanded her product list with two new items that I really enjoy in the home. After steering clear of liquid soap because of the tedious and often dangerous process before, she has perfected the art of making liquid castile soap so much so that she is HOOKED! Truth be told, I have always preferred liquid soap at the sink over a bar.  This is why I had asked Mia to teach me how to make liquid soap way back when our friendship was still budding :-)

You can find this liquid version of her castile soap exclusively online, in Plume and Preen, and in Bao Bao Babies (in Cebu). Each of the four scents is packaged in an amber glass bottle and retails for Php 440 (250ml) and Php720 (500ml).  

Scents include: Lavender, Peppermint, Verbena and Pomegranate

Scents include: Lavender, Peppermint, Verbena and Pomegranate (Photo Credit So True Facebook Page)

Mia has also formulated her own elegant version of a reed diffuser and I can’t wait to try it!

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Long-lasting and effective reed diffuser scents exclusively blended by So True Naturals!  Scents available: Apple & Pear, The Christmas Blend, Rosemary Mint, Citrus Luxe, and Lavender. (Photo Credit: So True Facebook Page)

During the holidays, I try my best to make my home the most inviting it can be. When I do this, it’s because I want my guests to be delighted in every “sense.” (You should think of  the 5 senses when your guests enter your home.) Utilizing a reed diffuser in a Christmas Blend effectively welcomes your guests with a subtle but pleasurable holiday scent that delight.

So True Reed Diffusers retail for Php825 (150ml bottle) and they last about two months. Each bottle comes packed in signature So True boxes, and just like the liquid castile soap, the reed diffusers are available here in the Philippines, of course in the online store, and Plume and Preen in Singapore.

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The Quad Box comes with four different soaps. (Lemongrass, Vida, Fresca, Rosemary Lavender Mint)

BUT I have a special surprise for all of you. Mia has graciously sponsored a Christmas give away for all of you! I have been waiting to do this giveaway for some time now. (Keep in mind we talked about this LAST Christmas!!! HOMAYGASH-why did I take so long?) Thank Goodness Mia didn’t mind when we discussed it again-in fact, she insisted on sponsoring all fresh soaps and scents.

I will pick three winners via rafflecopter who will win one of these three gift boxes of So True castile soap.

I will pick three winners via rafflecopter . Each winner will receive one box from this set of three So True castile Gift Boxes. Retail value of boxed sets are  Php1260 (4 varieties) , Php680 (3 varieties) and Ph365 (single soap).

I super love these gift boxes. They come filled with the scents that you may already know and love which are perfect for Christmas or other special occasions. They are limited, so if you would like to order them for your corporate gifts or special friends then be sure to contact Mia right away through the website. 

 

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Lemongrass is vibrant and light. Perfect way to start your morning.

Now, if you aren’t used to using real castile soap, I should share that you definitely need a soap saver. Pick one up because these soaps are so pure that they can melt away super fast! I make my bars super tipid by cutting in half and just storing the other half until I have a “mini” bar. They are so super mild, I use it for Gelli most of the time, but I have to admit that I keep my own bar by my sink in the bathroom because I just love the scent. 

Now, I can even replace it with a bottle of liquid castile soap if I wanted because Mia makes it in liquid form.

Please note: I will pick the three winners at the end of the Rafflecopter contest on the 17th :-) Each winner will randomly receive one of the three boxes pictured above. All entries must be from the Philippines. 

It’s simple to enter:

  • Like So True Naturals on Facebook.
  • Follow @SoTrueNaturals on Instagram.
  • Follow @mommanmanila on Twitter.
  • Tweet about the Giveaway.
  • Follow @mommanmanila on Instagram.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 
 
So True stockists:
 
 
 
 
 

#FeelTheBounce with Skechers GO Walk 2

I am a mom on the GO.

The days when I have items on a list that are usually a mile long, are the days when I need the most help and the most support. These are also the days I need the most support and comfort on my feet because it usually means I am running walking all around town trying to get my job (s) done.

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When I think of Skechers, the first thing that pops into my mind is the fact that every year we end up in the Skechers outlet in Festival Mall for the kids’ school shoes. As part of their uniform they are all required to wear black leather shoes. I buy Skechers every year because they are the only shoes that actually LAST all year long. My kids are tough on their shoes and when we buy Skechers school shoes I know I will not have to buy a replacement pair unless someone has a growth spurt.

So for me: Skechers means durability.

But after attending the most recent bloggers event organized by Martha Santa Barbara of The Beauty Junkee, I realized that The Skechers GO Walk 2 shoe is SO much more.

I was pretty sure I wanted the black lace ups on the left, but I had to try on a bunch of other styles, just to be sure.

I was pretty sure I wanted the black lace ups on the left, but I had to try on a bunch of other styles, just to be sure. These were the three styles and colors that I had narrowed it down to…

The first thing I noticed when I was trying on the different styles of GO Walk 2’s was that they were all super LIGHT. As in feather light…they didn’t feel heavy like a sneaker. 

There are a few different styles to choose from with lots of different colors.

There are a few different styles to choose from with lots of different colors. These are some of the different colors for the slip ons. 

I also noticed that all the slip ons have this Quick Fit Portal. See that little hole in the back by the heel? It makes it them easier to slip and take off.  

I was really drawn to the black lace ups with the pink ribbon embroidered on the side. This led me to believe that this shoe was specifically designed to somehow support Breast Cancer Survivors as well. I like the idea that they LOOKed like a sneaker, but that they were lighter and easier to wear. 

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See the way the shoe bends? That’s the V-Stride midsole technology at work. What does that mean? It means that the scientists at Skechers studied how a barefoot step rolls from outer heel to inner toe. So wearing the GO Walk 2 is just as natural as if you were walking barefoot. It’s really like you’re wearing nothing at all…

PLUS there is this Anti-Microbial insole which keeps moisture away and helps inhibit odor. (So no smelly sneaker odor either.) AND the 4 Way Stretch Mesh gives way for your toes to move and  breathe too. 

There are lots of other scientific advancements that make these GO Walks better than all the other kinds of walking shoes out there. But the real test for all of us (bloggers) was in the action that followed after we chose which pair we would be wearing for the day.

Martha had prepared all of us by asking us to dress comfortably for the event and when all the bloggers arrived, we learned that we would be participating in an Amazing Race type of competition.

My team was Team Yellow.

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Earth of Earthling Gorgeous , Lilian of The Go Mom, Moi, Louise of Mommy Practicality, and Gladys of Moomy Musings.

Then there was Team Red…

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Camille Buhain of The Soshal Network, Michelle Martinez of Xoxo Mrs Martinez, Rowena Lim Lei of Animetric ‘s World, Rochelle Rivera of rochellerivera.com, and Kathrine Rivera of Kathrivera.com

 And the winning team was Team Green…

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Kaycee Enerva of Kikay si Kat, Ruth of Ruthilicious, Liz of Project Vanity, and Arian Ari is in Wonderland.

 Each team had to complete a series of tasks and challenges, snap a picture, and GO Walk 2 meet the next challenge. Of course all the teams ran instead of actually walking…(I realized how out of shape I was) and you could see that many of the ladies involved were quite competitive.

Lilian reads our first task to complete.

Lilian reads our first task to complete.

The Yellow Team decided that Earth would be our official photographer by not only taking pictures of the assigned tasks and items to find, but she would be responsible for posting to social media as well on behalf of the team with the appropriate hashtags.

Here are some photos from her IG account: 

 

#SHOEFIE #SkechersGoWalk #FeeltheBounce

A photo posted by Earth Rullan (@earthlingorgeous) on

 

#SkechersGoWalk #FeeltheBounce ttaveling having fun A photo posted by Earth Rullan (@earthlingorgeous) on

There was 8 tasks we had to complete in order to try our hands at claiming first place. I have to admit, the competition was fierce. Not only were we seriously all out running, there was little time for reprieve. The moment we felt comfortable in how we were progressing through our tasks, we realized that we were being passed by another team!

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From the first task of finding something soft (we chose a pillow) in Landmark, to running all the way across Glorietta to take a shoefie at Glorietta Park, and then finally putting together a Skechers outfit with the apparel available at the store, we really had our work cut out for us!  

Sadly, we did not take home First Place, but gosh-we had fun doing it.

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Things that I really like about this pair of Skechers GO Walk 2 shoes?

  • They are light weight. I seriously don’t feel like I have shoes on while I’m wearing.
  • They are perfect for me to wear with my yoga pants running walking around town. 
  • They let my feet breathe, (Confession: I don’t wear socks.) so I’m not worried about stinky toesies.
  • They have three distinct styles of slip-ons, boat shoes, and lace ups-all equally comfortable.
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Thank you Skechers PH! L-R: Katrina Ong, Lilian, Nikka Peralta, Lui CastaƱeda, and Martha Sta Barbara.

As much fun as I had running ALL around Glorietta and Landmark with these girls, would you believe me when I say that my feet didn’t hurt? My body ached from the work out…(no joke) and my hips were sore from all the running…but my feet? They didn’t hurt one bit.

http://www.skechers.com.ph/

https://www.facebook.com/SkechersPhilippines

http://instagram.com/skechersph

https://twitter.com/SkechersPH

 

DIY Holiday Gift Guide 2014

When it comes to Christmas, making each of your gifts is not realistic but you can certainly make a few things that would the recipients would surely appreciate.

Check out this list of gift items I have put together for Christmases past, things I am putting together for this Christmas, and ideas I’m filing away for Christmas next year.

For your Coffee Drinkers:  Chocolate Covered Spoons with Personalized Mug.

 

Crafting some #Christmas #diy gifts. I try to do something homemade each year.

A photo posted by Michelle Aventajado (@mommanmanila) on

For your Desk:  Desk Set with Personalized Pad.

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For the Whole Family:  Movie Night Bucket for the Whole Family.

I’ve given my own version of this (forgot to snap a picture) which was a bit different. Instead of a disposable bucket, I used a Christmas themed bowl I found in Uniwide and bought microwave popcorn, chips, and candy to stuff it with. I included a personalized Christmas ornament for every member of the receiving family and wrapped the entire bowl in cellophane. Dress it up with some thick ribbon and you have a gift that covers the entire family you are giving it to! Be sure the movie that you include is NOT pirated, and rated G :-)

For your Co-Moms:  Hand-Stamped Personalized Gift Cards.

With an alphabet letter set from Paper Chic Studio, you can make your own set of personalized cards for your friends. I chose natural, rustic colors with a hemp ribbon. Keeping it monotone with brown pigment ink makes it even more rustic.

With an alphabet letter set from Paper Chic Studio, you can make your own set of personalized cards for your friends. I chose natural, rustic colors with a hemp ribbon. Keeping it monotone with brown pigment ink makes it even more rustic.

For your friends who have a sweet tooth:  Cookies in a cute container 

 

 

Ready for delivery! #christmas #cookies

 

A photo posted by Michelle Aventajado (@mommanmanila) on

For your DIY’ers: Decorate a Cookie Kit

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I give this to my ABC Kids every year. It’s a big hit and ensures that everyone decorates the cookies together for some quality family time. 

For your Baker Friends:

The star of this show is not really the personalized stickers for your baking friend.

The star of this show is not really the personalized stickers for your friend…

…it’s the Built NY Oven Mitt.

Your baker friend will totally appreciate the protection of the neoprene oven mitt when pulling her Christmas Cookies out of the oven. Wrap the mitt and package with an affordable wooden spoon. Put your personalized stickers in a clear envelope and wrap all together for a perfect gift which is practical and can be reused again and again. 

For your Bento Packing Momma: All the Daiso Stores that I have been to have me feeling like a kid in a candy store. I would love it if someone picked up a bunch of affordable bento tools for me! If I was to give these items as a gift I would package them in a brown (or white) paper lunch bag for a super cute effect. But if braving the malls is not your thing, check out The Bento Mommas and have your order shipped to your door. Then package it off neatly and send your clever Christmas gift to the recipient.

Photo Credit: https://www.ihearnaptime.com

Photo Credit: https://www.ihearnaptime.com

I wish I could make each gift for those people that I love and care about detailed and completely personalized. Unfortunately, there are just not enough hours in the day…maybe I need to start my Christmas lists and gifts much earlier so I don’t feel so overwhelmed when it comes time to hunker down and start putting them together.

At any rate, I hope some of my ideas, were able to give you some NEW ideas. I always appreciate the well thought, put together, and prettily packed gifts that I receive.  

 

 

Crate and Barrel Gift Guide

OMG.

Crate and Barrel is here.

It’s really here. 

Remember when I was posting a while back through my gratitude challenge about how grateful I was able to spend some time with my cousin? Well, that particular cousin, was the International Trainer who came from Crate Corporate to train the staff and orient them for the new Crate Opening in Megamall Fashion Hall.

I was just beside myself waiting for the opening! These are the store openings I get really excited for! 

So because I was able to snap a few pictures and walk around before the mad dash to fill our baskets and carts started, I wanted to share some of these things with you just in time for Christmas. I plan to post a lot on all my Crate and Barrel finds so be sure to be on the look out for fun posts with lots of great products for the hearth and home.

For those of you who are not famliar with Crate and Barrel, it began as a family owned business which started in 1962. Gordon and Carole Segal of Chicago, Illinois first opened their doors  after they were inspired by the well designed and affordable products they found on their honeymoon in Europe. They were able to open up their first store  which was mostly home furnishings using the CRATES and the BARRELS that their inventory had been shipped in. Hence, the name Crate & Barrel.

Years after opening, this iconic store which has most everything for the home with outlets in major North American cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Dallas. They have even penetrated the international market with franchise locations in Dubai, Singapore, Mexico, and now-The Philippines. 

How happy am I that SM Retail has opened one of my favorite stores in SM Megamall??? 

Today, Crate is my go to store for everything kitchen. I am inspired to create meals that are a step above what I would normally prepare for my family when I visit the Housewares section of any Crate outlet. I look for the little clever items that can make lunch packing easier for my kids, cut meal time preparation in half, or cookbooks to guide me through unexplored cuisines. I know that when I buy at Crate, I will not only be assisted by knowledgeable staff who know the uses and the tricks to using the small appliances that they sell but that I am assured of the quality and the return policy.

When I was still living in NY, I would often visit the warehouse sales, the outlets in various outlet shopping malls for deals and steals. Aside from looking for great deals, I would be sure to check out their Paramus, NJ store for everything that was new, current, and in season as well. 

From my sturdy silverware set that I used yesterday in our makeshift Thanksgiving dinner, to our hutch where I proudly display the Wedgewood China that we received as part of our wedding gifts, and the Steamer Bar that sits in our living room waiting for when we have guests…we are a Crate Family who appreciates what goes into quality for the home and for the kitchen.

Check out my photo stream of the opening last week that I was so lucky to attend!

There was a ton of people in attendance for the opening!!! I was able to chat for only a few minutes with my cousin's friend April. She is in the green dress. I remember her from Paramus!

There was a ton of people in attendance for the opening!!! I was able to chat for only a few minutes with my cousin’s friend April. She is in the green dress and would you believe that I remember her from Paramus!

My guy certainly wasn't as excited as I was for the opening, but he did accompany me all the way to Megamall so that I wouldn't have to go by myself.

My guy certainly wasn’t as excited as I was for the opening, but he did accompany me all the way to Megamall so that I wouldn’t have to go by myself.

Since my house is fully furnished na, I was looking at more of the accessories and housewares section. I love the neutral colors in this grouping.

Since my house is fully furnished na, I was looking at more of the accessories and housewares section. I love the neutral colors in this grouping of pillows.

Crate always has really cute gift items too. I swear they think of everything. I picked up a Mr. & Mr. ring dish for my dear friends Arlu and Anthony.

Crate always has really cute gift items too. I swear they think of everything. I picked up a Mr. & Mr. ring dish for my dear friends Arlu and Anthony who just tied the knot this summer in New York.

I can totally imagine using these chargers in a woodland fairy themed party. I no longer have to beg my husband to cut up some wood on the side of the road when a tree falls during a storm.

I can totally imagine using these chargers in a woodland fairy themed party. I no longer have to beg my husband to cut up some wood on the side of the road after some of the trees fall during a storm. It’s here in Crate already!!!

Like I said earlier...I really wasn't looking too much at the furniture (although I LOVE Crate furniture and my home now is a testament to that) I wouldn't mind finding a place for this table. Both Tin and I were saying how nice it would be to make our pie crusts on that marble surface!!!

Like I said earlier…I really wasn’t looking too much at the furniture (although I LOVE Crate furniture and my home now, is a testament to that) I wouldn’t mind finding a place for this table. Both Tin and I were saying how nice it would be to make our pie crusts on that marble surface!!!

Tin is also a pie maker too! She shared that she likes to make apple pie (just like me) and that her hubby Harvey LOVES it! Doesn't she look fab? Would you guess that she is about to have baby number 3 looking this great?

Tin is also a pie maker too! She shared that she likes to make apple pie (just like me) and that her hubby Harvey LOVES it! Doesn’t she look fab? Would you guess that she is about to have baby number 3 looking this great?

In my dream house, I have an herb garden close to the kitchen. These herb cutting scissors would make a great gift in a basket with some potted herbs for your  friend who loves to cook! (

In my dream house, I have an herb garden close to the kitchen. These herb cutting scissors would make a great gift in a basket with some potted herbs for your friend who loves to cook! Add the Herbsicle Ice Cube maker so that your friend can store fresh herbs for future use as well! I would LOVE to receive that as a gift for my kitchen :-)

If we are talking about Gift Ideas from Crate, I really could go on and on. Check out this super cute Tea Infuser. Package with some loose tea and a cute collectible tea cup from Instagram online seller, Bella Shoppers and it's perfect for your favorite tea drinker.

If we are talking about Gift Ideas from Crate, I really could go on and on. Check out this super cute Tea Infuser. Package with some loose tea and a cute collectible tea cup from Instagram online seller, Bella Shoppers and it’s perfect for your favorite tea drinker.

My friends have always asked me how I roast my garlic. This makes roasting garlic a no brainer. Easy to use by slicing the tops off your garlic head, drizzling with a little EVOO, some oregano, salt and pepper-and you can serve roasted garlic with fresh toasted focaccia.

My friends have always asked me how I roast my garlic. This makes roasting garlic a no brainer. Easy to use by slicing the tops off your garlic head, drizzling with a little EVOO, some oregano, salt and pepper-and you can serve roasted garlic with fresh toasted focaccia.

Lunch packing can be made easy with the right tools. From dippers, to stainless steel containers, and resusable, washable bags, you can visit this section of Housewares and find everything you need.

Lunch packing can be made easy with the right tools. From dippers, to stainless steel containers, and resusable, washable bags, you can visit this section of Housewares and find everything you need.

When I'm cooking, I need a fresh dishtowel to keep my hands clean. I wash my hands often, so I keep one dishtowel near the sink and one on the counter. This way I'm sure nothing is cross contaminated.

When I’m cooking, I need a fresh dishtowel to keep my hands clean. I wash my hands often, so I keep one dishtowel near the sink and one on the counter. This way I’m sure nothing is cross contaminated. I like the waffle dishtowels because even when drying the dishes-they do not leave behind any lint on your glasses.

I love the novelty of pulling these milk jugs from the fridge!!! Aren't they super cute?

I love the novelty of pulling these milk jugs from the fridge!!! Aren’t they super cute?

I am a self proclaimed Cheese Momster. (In case you didn't know :-) ) I would love it if someone put these items in a Christmas gift basket for me...wouldn't you? Or, if you didn't want to spend for all three, choose anything from the cheese accessory section (I just made that up but they are all bunched together in one area so you can find everything easily.) and then package it with a nice piece of cheese from Santi's or Earle's.

I am a self proclaimed Cheese Momster. (In case you didn’t know :-) ) I would love it if someone put these items in a Christmas gift basket for me…wouldn’t you? Or, if you didn’t want to spend for all three, choose anything from the cheese accessory section (I just made that up but they are all bunched together in one area so you can find everything easily.) and then package it with a nice piece of cheese from Santi’s or Earle’s.

I love the idea of this gift. It's a pretty plate. But that's not all. Many times I give a gift of a cake, cupcakes, or cookies in a box. Eliminate the box and put the baked item on the plate and package it with the little book that comes with it. Inside, you write what you gave the recipient, on what occasion, a small note, and picture of the item on the plate. Then the person can regift the plate with the book to another person who they would like to bake for until the book is filled. It's the gift that keeps on giving! Cute no?

I love the idea of this gift. It’s a pretty plate. But that’s not all. Many times I give a gift of a cake, cupcakes, or cookies in a box. Eliminate the box and put the baked item on the plate and package it with the little book that comes with it. Inside, you write what you gave the recipient, on what occasion, a small note, and picture of the item on the plate. Then the person can regift the plate with the book to another person who they would like to bake for until the book is filled. It’s the gift that keeps on giving! Cute no?

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Do you have a bar and like to entertain? I found this super helpful in explaining all the different types of barware you can invest in. Actually, I found a lot of items that would be great for my bar.

Like these decanters:

Which one would you choose?

Which one would you choose?

For a more casual gathering-these beer plates would be great for apps, or even an outdoor barbeque. I love the packaging. I find it so clever.

For a more casual gathering-these beer plates would be great for apps, or even an outdoor barbeque. I love the packaging. I find it so clever.

I have this one cousin...who loves placemats. I know that she would love this wall...In fact...I love this wall...In fact, I think I have a thing for placemats as well. Prices range from about Php200-Php500+ per placemat.

I have this one cousin…who loves placemats. I know that she would love this wall…In fact…I love this wall…In fact, I think I have a thing for placemats as well. Prices range from about Php200-Php500+ per placemat.

I collect cook books. Feel free to put in a good word for me for Santa...any of these will do :-)

I collect cook books. Feel free to put in a good word for me for Santa…any of these will do :-) But seriously, Crate has a whole slew of cookbooks to choose from. 

I said I didn't really browse the furniture while I was there during the opening, but I was drawn to the Drew Chair.

I said I didn’t really browse the furniture while I was there during the opening, but I was drawn to the Drew Chair.

And this mirror. The Elgin Floor Mirror retails for Php36,799.

And this mirror. The Elgin Floor Mirror retails for Php36,799.

Even cute little items that would work well on my shelving. Can you guess which decorative piece might be calling my name?

Even cute little items that would work well on my shelving. Can you guess which decorative piece might be calling my name?

But in all honesty…this is probably one of my most favorite parts of the store. While I love the furniture, I love the decorative pillows, and clever ways to package gifts, I also LOVE the gadget wall. So many of these gadgets can make your life easy while you are in the kitchen cooking up something good. I will tell you about some of these gadgets in future posts. I have gadgets that I have purchase years ago from this same wall in the Paramus store. Some I have even purchased from their Madison Avenue store while I was visiting my cousin during her stint there. 

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Any gadget on this wall would be a welcome gift for someone who likes to spend time in the kitchen. Looking forward to checkin out some new gadgets now that Crate is here in Manila…

 Obviously, when you walk into a store like Crate & Barrel, there will be things that you will be drawn to…you will find products to make your life easier, small appliances to help you eat and drink healthier, and furniture that will warm up any room in your home to make it more inviting. 

I only chose a few things that I wanted to share with you that I found helpful and which would fit well in my home, but I’m sure if you take some time to explore the store -you’ll find lotsa things that would work well in your home as well.

Have you gone and visited already? What did you find that you were drawn to? 

Please share!!!

For more information:

Crate and Barrel

SM Megamall Fashion Hall

Mon-Sun: 10am to 10pm

www.crateandbarrel.com

https://www.facebook.com/CrateandBarrelPhilippines

http://instagram.com/crateandbarrelph

Homemade Beef Tapa Recipe

So I think I have perfected my homemade Beef Tapa Recipe.

Everyone eats their Tapsilog differently. I like mine with home made atchara, fresh tomatoes, and an egg fried over easy.

Everyone eats their Tapsilog differently. I like mine with home made atchara, fresh tomatoes, and an egg fried over easy.

I have always made my own tapa at home. I felt like it was so much easier to do than making my own tocino. I thought I would share this recipe because it’s so super simple. I’m making a big batch tomorrow for my Filipino brunch that I will serve on Saturday for my annual cookie swap.

Do you have your own recipe for the tried and true Pinoy Brekkie items that we all love? 

Would love to hear about your recipes and what works for you!

Homemade Tapa
Easy to make Tapa done by marinating the day before with just a few ingredients.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 kilo of thinly sliced beef sirloin
  2. 4 cloves garlic peeled and minced
  3. 1/2 c. dark brown sugar
  4. 1/4 c. Kikoman Soy Sauce
  5. 2 cubes of Beef Bouillon (without MSG)
  6. Salt and Pepper to taste
  7. Canola oil to fry
Instructions
  1. Wash and prepare your sirloin.
  2. Break up your beef bouillon cubes into a powder.
  3. Add all ingredients into a bowl with the thinly sliced sirloin and massage to distribute ingredients evenly.
  4. Let this mixture marinate for one whole day. I package the meet into two different resealable bags for our family of 6. When it has marinated for one day, I fry one bag and freeze the other to be cooked at a later date.
  5. Fry in a little bit of canola oil on a medium low fire and serve with your own sidings, rice, and egg.
Notes
  1. Tip: Double the recipe and package in smaller resealable bags to keep in the freezer.
  2. Substitution: If you do not want to use beef bouillon, a tasty substitute is Braggs Liquid Amino Acids.
Momma 'N Manila http://www.mommanmanila.com/

Shell #ReadySetBuild

I love these little collections that come out every now and then with promotions from different companies. I really don’t collect too much of anything for myself save for my magnets (which is a very small collection to begin with) and my salt and pepper shakers, BUT the kids have lots of collections.

One collection that they really all enjoy is their Legos.

Even Ate loves Legos. (She collects Minifigs.)

Gelli isn’t so into them yet. 

But this is what happens, they will get a set…build it together…assemble and display.

One set that they really had a good time putting together is their Lego #ReadySetBuild Shell V-Power Nitro+ Collection.

SVPN+ LEGO Collection

This collection can be added to every time you fill up (Php1500 value) with Shell fuels. When you purchase Php1500 worth of Shell Fuel, you are given the chance to purchase a piece to complete your collection for a steal of only Php150. If your kids collect Legos then you know that this is a deal of all deals! 

We had a great time with all the different places to take photos when the 1:1 Ferrari was here in ATC!

We had a great time with all the different places to take photos when the 1:1 Ferrari was here in ATC!

This limited-edition collection celebrates the shared passion for performance in Shell’s 60-year Technical Partnership with Scuderia Ferrari and is the second collection to be released by Shell since their debut collection was launched in the Philippines in 2012. The collection includes 4 iconic Ferrari model cars, a Finish Line and Podium with a Scuderia Ferrari Engineer Minifigure, and a Shell Station modelled after the one at Firorano Circuit, and a Shell Scientist Minifigure.

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But these cars aren’t just any kind of Lego cars. They have pull back motors! Each mini model which Shell and Ferrari and Lego worked on together for more than 6 months features the smallest pull back motor ever produced by the Lego Group. This means that each vehicle can travel more than 2 meters from a single pull.

The kids had a #ReadySetBuild race with another little boy who was there to see the Ferrari.

The kids had a #ReadySetBuild race with another little boy who was there to see the Ferrari.

Besides collecting all of these fun Lego Models, your kids can also sit in a real live 1:1 sized Lego Formula 1 Race Car that was inspired by the Ferrari 150 Italia. If this is your thing, then be sure to check out the 1:1 model this coming weekend (Nov. 28-30) in SM City CEBU.

Even Gelli had a good time checking out the Lego car!

Even Gelli had a good time checking out the Lego car!

If you live near Eastwood Mall, then you should head on over this weekend to catch the four Lego model cars that are the half-sized replicas of the real cars inspired by the Shell V-Power Nitro+ Lego Collection! Check out the 1:2 model cars this Saturday and Sunday at Eastwood Mall for your photo opportunities.

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If you would like to see the 1:1 Shell #ReadySetBuild Ferrari this coming weekend, make sure to visit SM City Cebu!

For more information on the Shell V-Power Nitro+ Lego Collection please log onto www.shell.com.ph/LEGO.

Hi-5 and a Merry SM Christmas

We have had a busy two weeks. 

So many fun things for the whole family.

But the highlight of the last two weeks was an invitation to kick off the holiday season at SM Megamall with a Hi-5 Concert and a chance to Meet and Greet the cast.

 

 

Here @smmegamall for Hi-5!!! Someone is very excited!!

A video posted by Michelle Aventajado (@mommanmanila) on

It takes a lot for this family of 6 to leave the comfort of Alabang but because we have a certain toddler who absolutely adores Hi-5 and the songs that they sing, it was a no brainer to attend when we were invited by my friend Abby.

We were all super excited for the show to start!

We were all super excited for the show to start!

With the newly opened Megamall Fashion Hall, we have been spending a lot more time in exploring Megamall. We have enjoyed quite a few of the restaurants, and now that Crate and Barrel just opened, I can speak for myself in saying that I will be there OFTEN to do some shopping. 

Hi-5 is the musical gift that Australia has given the world through Disney Junior. To be honest, Gelli isn’t the only one who watches the show…sometimes, we all sit down and watch it with her…which also means that we all know the words to the songs too.

Once the Merry Rainbow Christmas Factory was set to open, we knew it would be a great time listening and dancing along to our favorite songs with the fab five from Australia!

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Steven Tan SVP for Operations of SM Supermalls and Ian Mathay of SM Megamall open the Christmas Rainbow Factory with the help of some celebrity friends.

And then the real fun begins! Just look at Gelli’s different expressions! She’s not sure whether to laugh, scream, cry, or clap!!! I think she was scared at first because the music suddenly got really loud, but when she realized that they were actually dancing and singing up on that stage, you can see the wonder in her expressions!

 

Hi-5 sang about 5 or 6 songs which were a mix of their tried and true tunes that everyone knows the words to, some newer songs that I wasn’t so familiar with, and some Christmas songs to get us all into the Christmas spirit.

 

One of the things I love about SM Supermalls is their commitment to give back. Through their SM Cares Foundation, I have seen various projects through The Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines help our communities. Through employee trainings, DSAPI has also created an awareness of children with special needs that was only made possible through SM’s commitment to making their malls a SAFE place for everyone. And this Christmas…through their Bears of Joy program, if you buy a bear for your child you are also providing a second bear for a child who greatly deserves a hug because of extreme circumstances.

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Happy recipients are given their bears by Hans Sy, Steven Tan, and the cast of Hi5.

Now that we have only four more weekends before Christmas is finally here, be sure to check out the SM Supermall near you for deals, contests, and give aways that will have us all feeling the Merry Christmas Spirit.

If you didn’t get a chance to catch the FAB FIVE this time around, DON’T WORRY! They are coming to Resorts World in December! For more information on how to get tickets for that show call 470-6956 or 668-9535. You can also visit www.vivrefort.com.

https://www.facebook.com/smmegamall

https://www.facebook.com/smsupermalls

http://instagram.com/smmegamall

Easy Lunch Boxes GIVEAWAY

Many of you who come to the blog or my Instagram account often, know that I enjoy packing healthy, nutritious, and fun lunches for my kiddos. Lately, I have been getting quite a few inquiries on my IG account as to what kind of lunch box containers I prefer to use. While I have lots of different containers that I have tried, used, and continue to go back to, my favorite lunch container of choice is Easy Lunch Boxes.

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Easy Lunch Boxes are the NUMBER 1 SELLING brand of lunch boxes on Amazon. They are sturdy, safe, durable, and convenient. I love how there are three separate compartments which offers the space and convenience to pack sandwiches, fruit, veggie sticks, and even a baked dessert which comes from my own kitchen. The kids like finger food sometimes, and if I choose not to pack a sandwich, it’s very easy to use silicon cups to divide the bigger compartment into smaller ones so that the kids have lots of choices.

 

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I have always loved the initiative that MOMS have when putting things together for their kids. It comes as no surprise to me that KELLY LESTER, chief lunch packer and CEO of Easy Lunch Boxes came up with the idea to pack her children’s lunches in safe easy (talaga) containers. MOMS are natural problem solvers…it’s a job requirement, so when Kelly created these containers she made sure that they are lead free, pvc free, BPA free, vinyl free, AND meet strict FDA requirements for food storage.

 

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These containers are microwave, freezer, and dishwasher safe. That makes keeping your lunches cold is easier and warming them up is easy too. (Do you see a recurring word here?)

KEY WORD FOR MOMMAS:  EASY. YES. EASY.

I have always said here on the blog that I love anything that makes my life easy. This is one of those things. It ranks right up there with my small kitchen appliances which help me pack lunches for my kids as well. 

 Take note:  You do NOT want to pack soupy lunches in our favorite containers. Save the soupy lunches for thermoses which will keep them warm as well. This has never been a problem for our household, because while the kids DO like soup in their lunch, they also like them nice and hot which means our insulated containers work best for these types of lunch items.

 So, as an early Christmas gift to those lunch packing Mommas, Kelly Lester of www.easylunchboxes.com has agreed to sponsor a giveaway for all of you to enter for a chance to WIN one set of four lunchbox containers AND an insulated lunch bag to carry them in. 

Just follow the mechanics on the Rafflecopter Widget to enter for your chance to win. A Random winner will be chosen at the end of two weeks. Winner must email me (mish@mommanmanila.com) your full name, your email address, and your mailing address. After I receive this information I will forward to Easy Lunch Boxes and you will receive a coupon code to order your lunch boxes online. Winner may choose their lunch bag color.

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway