The lure of Southern Living

I have always lived in the North. I grew up in Pampanga and then moved back to the metro for college and I have been living the city life even up to now. But I always knew there’s something about living in the South. I hear it from friends who are from the South and they always exude a sense of comfort that’s almost exclusive to them southern dwellers.

And then there’s Tagaytay, the sophisticated lady city south of the metro. Perfect climate, amazing views, country-style living, the modern comforts of the city perfectly melding with nature. Who doesn’t like to live here? My husband and I think this is the closest thing when we just want a quick break or vacay.  We love to go even just for lunch and coffee, usually on a weekend. We’d always talk about the possibilities of moving here or perhaps retiring here one day.

So just last week, when I joined a gathering organized by Avida Land in its prime development project right in the heart of Tagaytay, I found it as a perfect chance to explore those possibilities. It was held on a Wednesday, just the perfect day – no weekend out-of-town rush – to see how life could go on a regular hump and grind day when you’re living in the South.

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We came from Makati and just a few minutes on the road, I already felt the contrast as we drove away from the hustle of city and into the hushed atmosphere outside of it. Amazingly, the travel itself was smooth and fast. I was having a chat with one of my “Blisstified” friends on the way and before we knew it, we were tucked in the countryside. With travel this smooth on a regular day, yes, it wouldn’t be a problem to go back and forth the metro for some business matters. Maybe even better and therapeutic than harassing your way through Metro Manila traffic if you lived in it.

 

It wasn’t long before we arrived at Serin Tagaytay and had a tour of the development. It’s nestled in a very good location in the heart of Tagaytay – a good distance away from all the tourist-y spots that Tagaytay is known so you can steer away from the clamor, but still along the main road which makes it very accessible.

I really like the name, Serin. It promises serenity, peace and composure. And as I stepped into Serin West Tower 1, I knew it can live up to that promise. With high ceilings and huge glass windows plus the rustic feel, you won’t feel closed out from the majestic views and freshness of nature, instead, it lets you be surrounded by it and dwell in the midst of it all.

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Now, on to the nest itself. We were given a chance to check out a one-bedroom Serin East model unit housed in the pavilion. And my first impression was just “wow!”, because the floor area seemed a lot bigger than most 1BR units that I’ve seen. It was around 40 sqm (if I’m not mistaken) but the lay-out of the interior was carefully and practically thought of. It has a living area perfect to receive some guests, a dining area and kitchen to enjoy a hearty meal or some wine and cheese and good conversations, and a bedroom where you can enjoy some privacy without feeling claustrophobic. I could picture me, my husband, and our little boy having a lazy breakfast in bed.

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What I also like about Serin Tagaytay is the community that is built around it. Avida is known for developing sustainable estates and Serin is no exception. The nearby Ayala Malls Serin provides a perfect venue and access to other comforts such as restaurants and coffee shops when we feel like going out for some fresh air, and necessities like a department store and a grocery for errands.  Soon, I know it will have amenities for leisure, too, where we can go swimming or strolling or just out in the lawns and enjoying the breeze and feeling like we’re on vacay everyday.

So, after seeing these possibilities, do I see myself and my family living in the South? Yes, yes..we definitely could get used to it, yeah?

🙂

 

What’s your magic hour?

Me-time, anyone? Yes, please!

I think you would all agree with me that this has now become a necessity. Just like sleep. What with all the frenzy of our daily lives, it has become such an important time that we set aside for ourselves. But often, what we do during this time is never a question. The real question is when do we actually find the time to do it?

Others have learned to master the art of injecting this precious bit of time seamlessly into their schedule like it was actually a part of their daily IT. When I was still working, I sort of had a touch of this art. Like how I would spend my lunch break at the nail spa at the back of our office for a quick mani or to get my brows done or to make a quick trip to the mall when emails are scarce and deadlines seem far. Amusingly, my officemates and I called it “cutting” – short for “cutting classes”. Haha!

Then, when I became a full-time mom and wife, this has become almost impossible to achieve when you have a little toddler who clings on to you like you’re a life-saver almost every minute and a husband who also thinks of you most the same way after a stressful day at  his work. Don’t get me wrong, I love my two boys to the moon and back to all the ends of the earth. And I love being their life-saver! It has been the reason why I was willing to put me-time at the far seat. But, it was also why the need for my own time has become stronger than ever. I need life-saving too, right?  Or at least save something for myself.

So how did I do it? The “magic hour”. This is the time that I know I can have the peace and quiet I need for myself, but without compromising the hours that my main priorities (my husband and son) need or demand of me. In order to identify this, I had to take note of my routine:

My son wakes up at 6 am and that means the same for me. We have breakfast, play time, bath time, snack time, and before we know it, it’s mid-day already. Meanwhile, my husband goes to work after breakfast and won’t be back until late afternoon. Tino takes his nap time at 12noon to 2pm or 3pm, so that’s my time to eat a hearty lunch , take a bath, and do whatever needs to get done like pay bills online, confirm appointments, do our store inventories, call up suppliers for projects, etc.,. At 2 or 3, Tino wakes up, eats lunch, play or TV time, and we do all other toddler things that take up most of the afternoon. By 5, husband is usually home and that’s when I start juggling my attention between my two boys. We have dinner, give Tino a bath and put him to sleep. Then it’s our QT as a couple – we watch an episode or two of our current TV series, talk, eat, until we both get sleepy around 11pm.

That’s a full day! So where’s my magic hour? This is where I got reminded that a day is 24 hours and not 12, and that I could go out of that box. I have begun to realize that my magic hour is anytime between 12 am, when my husband has finally caught sleep, and 6 am, just before the little one wakes up for a brand new day. Usually it happens around 4 to 5 am, when my body has had some rest and my mind has reboot for fresh and positive thoughts.

It usually coincides with the break of dawn. And it’s such a perfect time of peace and quiet for me, when it’s just me and my thoughts throwing ideas, goals and dreams at each other.   I have been calling it “dawning”, which for me, means a whole lot more than just verbalizing whatever I was doing at that holy hour. It signifies new beginnings, new hopes, new things , just like what the break of dawn signifies, too.

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And what do I do? I write, read, pray, make skeletal plans and to-do lists for my personal projects, do online window shopping (!!!). It was never a question of what to do, because there are always so many things I want to do. They may not be the same kind of activities I used to do and the kind of “me-time” I used to have, like getting a mani-pedi, doing actual shopping, hanging in a coffee shop. But those are my kind of things now.

I don’t mean to tell you that you should do exactly the same. But committing to making that time for yourself, that “me-time”, does a whole lot of good things for your well-being. It’s a way to nurture your own magic, your own winsomehood. The kind of saving we give ourselves. Try to find that magic hour for you. Maybe it’s your commute from house to work or that last hour before going to bed. Or your lunch break.

When you’ve figured it out, I would love to hear about it.

🙂

Why journaling is good for you

I think that any girl who grew up in a bedroom with walls painted in pink probably had a diary, kept somewhere not too obvious like inside the pillowcase, at the bottom of the closet or in a shoebox. I used to be one of those girls. But like most women I know now, we think that diaries or journals, like slam book with all its define-love-kind of questions, are childish. We grow up and throw them, burn them, or simply forget about them.

Well, I did not totally forget the habit. While I had long foregone the act of keeping an actual formal journal, I’d still write random thoughts and doodles in a small notebook, in my planner, or even in the notes app of my phone. I know that thoughts are fleeting and in just a few moments they can slip my mind. So I write them down. And then that’s when I forget them.

When I started blogging, I began to think that this is the modern form of journaling. Because what you write in your blog is quite the same as what you would write in your journal, isn’t it?

So a month ago when I saw a post by Make it Blissful about a journaling workshop happening at the A Handmade Affair event, I signed up, hoping to be able to use the learnings for my blogging. Luckily, I was chosen as one of the participants.  And this was when I learned the thin line that separates journaling from blogging or other form of thought-sharing for that matter.

 

 

When Martine asked us the question “what do you write in your journal?”, answers from the group were quite the expected ones. Random thoughts. Devotionals. Prayers. Sometimes songs or poems. And I thought to myself, “yep, exact same things I could blog about” (or perhaps, even share to my closest friend).

But when she asked us to make an actual journal entry using the materials provided for in the workshop, that’s when the distinction began to appear clearer for me. That day, I had a petty fight with my husband and most of what I was thinking and feeling that day had to do with it. So naturally, what I came up with for the workshop was about my feelings for him. When I was finished, my journal entry made it clear for me why journaling is different from any other form of thought-sharing. You see, I could write a blog entry about my husband, yes. But what I poured out in that journal entry are a bit too personal that I wouldn’t have put it that way, had I written it in a blog post.

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Journals are a great way to immortalize the moments in our lives – moments that made us happy, sad, grateful, hopeful, or sometimes even hateful. These moments do not stay with us forever but all of them contribute to who or what we become. I realized I stopped formal journaling when I was in college (the little random notes in random pieces of paper don’t count – I don’t even remember them or have them with me anymore!). And now that I think I’m a more mature person, what I have are only memories, sometimes even blurry ones. It would have been nice to look back with something tangible.

It’s also a great form of release – no holds barred -because it should be a personal and private thing for you. It’s the perfect place to put multiple exclamation points, to draw hearts all over, to paint the perfect abstract that nobody gets, because it’s your personal space and you understand it better than anyone. And after you poured it out in your journal, you come out more stable and confident and with better hold of your thoughts and emotions. More often, it’s how we can keep our sanity, right?

Then I realized, it does help you communicate better with other people because journaling can help you make sense of things. For others to understand you, you first must have a good understanding of what you think or how you feel. And that’s part of the therapeutic effect of journaling to our wellbeing.

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I also learned in the workshop that journaling is healing and a proven success tool. Aren’t all the biographies of all the great people – the elite performers in business and leadership, of people who successfully battled a disease and are now testimonies of hope – inspired by their journals?

And your journal entry doesn’t have to be all written words. You can draw your goals and declarations, paint your feelings, make a collage of all your dreams, enlist your things-to-be-grateful-for, calligraphy your prayers. You can be creative about it! Make it a fun and purposeful form of ME-time, where you have the best conversation with yourself.

So, let’s make journaling a habit, shall we?

 

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xoxo

Yummy shared:Veggie and Tuna Pasta ala Pansit Gisado

While I’ve decided to subject myself to some kind of “writing pause” this week, I still thought this might be a good, easy-breezy thing to share with you guys especially that weekend is coming up.

Sidestory: I signed up for a blogging workshop happening this weekend so I thought of going into this “writing pause” until I finish the workshop…mostly hoping to get more direction for this blog (aka our ‘hood ;-P) and to check if there are some areas I’ve been doing wrong (this pause was to not further the damage done, haha!)

Sidenote: Now, I am not (yet, maybe? hahaha!) a foodie or a food blogger here, so please bear with me if this recipe post is not as detailed to the gram and pinch and to the minute.

I learned this recipe from my sister Sarah, who is the real kitchen savvy among us 3 girls. She got it from my mom and my aunts. Yup, she’s the one who really got the world-known Kapampangan trait of being a whiz in the kitchen! She loves experimenting with different dishes and this pasta dish is just one of her many pasta experiments! Think of a marriage between an Italian oil-based pasta and Pinoy pancit gisado with lots of sahog!

So here it goes:

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Veggie and Tuna Pasta ala Pansit Gisado

Ingredients:

  • Cooked pasta (around 200 grams would do for 3-4 servings, I guess); 1-2 canned tuna in oil or brine, drained (you may also use panfried cream dory as alternative or chunks of chicken breast); 1 can of mushrooms; cherry tomatoes; medley of veggies (carrots, beans, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce etc.,.); chopped black olives; chopped garlic (lots of it!); chopped fresh parsley; olive oil; salt and pepper to taste

Here’s how:

  • Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil in a pan, then add in the garlic. Make sure the garlic doesn’t get too cooked or burnt because you’d still want to have the garlicky taste.
  • Add the drained tuna or alternative and cook for 2-3 minutes
  • Add the veggies: start with the beans, then the rest, except the lettuce and parsley. Be sure not to overcook! Crunchy veggies is yummy!
  • Toss in the pasta and mix. You may add some drizzle of olive oil again if it gets too dry
  • Add black olives, salt and pepper
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and top with chopped lettuce and parsley
  • Enjoy!

 

Yup, that’s it. Easy peasy and very healthy! Go try it this weekend!

🙂

Spring cleaning season? Here are some tips!

Whether it be ushering into married life or motherhood, moving in or out, moving on after a break-up, or simply just feeling the need for a refresh, sometimes there are season changes in our lives that require us to declutter (both physically and, hmm..okay..emotionally).

For me, that season was when I made the decision to become a full-time mom.  New routines and new responsibilities required me to revisit our stuff and lifestyle and make some tweaks. I personally call it “nesting season” because I felt like a mother hen whose main responsibility at the moment was to safe keep and organize her nest. I’m sure you know the benefits. Nesting not only helps free up more space for you but it also helps put some order into your life, starting with your personal things and living space. It has also helped me become a more practical person by eliminating the things I don’t need or use and appreciate the things I already have. Plus it always, always feels liberating after a good sweep.

It’s been weeks since I got myself into this nesting or spring cleaning season. I’m not quite done yet, but I was able to gain some learnings and tips from this experience, which I am happy to share here:

  • Have a decluttering goal. Obviously you know you need to get rid of stuff but knowing why helps put things in perspective. Do you need a wardrobe change? Do you need to declutter because you’re planning to set up a small reading nook or your baby’s nursery in the corner?  This helps you save time and effort in mulling over whether you should keep or get rid of something because you already have an idea of what you would need. The last thing you want to happen is to just randomly pick things to dispose then realize afterwards that you actually need them so you’ll just end up buying a replacement for each. That defeats the whole purpose. Example, when I did a closet purge, I took note of how my new routine as a full-time mom is going to look like – less business and corporate meetings, more mommy errands so my goal was to have more comfortable outfits. I knew immediately to dispose most of my corporate and formal wear and stick with casual, breastfeeding-friendly clothes.
  • Make an inventory of your stuff. Knowing the things that you already have on-hand can make decluttering faster and more efficient. Since I don’t have time to do a physical inventory, I like to do this step mentally. Like while I am putting my son to sleep, I focus on one cabinet or drawer (as if I had x-ray vision) and rack my brain to remember what stuff did we store in that cabinet. I do a mental checklist of what to keep and not and when my son is already fast asleep, I go for a beeline for the things I mentally noted to dispose. And when you’re done with that space, be sure to take another inventory of what’s left in there for next season’s spring cleaning.
  • Realize it’s a whole season. What I didn’t like about spring cleaning before was the aftermath. I would try to finish going through the storage spaces and stuff in one day only to find out that I have a huge pile on the bed or on the floor or in the storage room and it would take another day or two or even more to put them away for real. I now realize that it’s not something you can finish in a day (unless you have a dump or a truck waiting just outside your house). It can last for a week, a month, or even an entire season. You can do it by batch or kind (clothes for day 1, shoes day 2, toys for day 3, etc.,)  or even by area or corner of your room (top cabinet for day 1, bottom drawer for day 2, kitchen day 3). Plus, you actually feel more accomplished this way because you’ve totally swept one area before moving on to another.
  • Keep your emotions in check. More often than not, this is the hard part. What makes spring cleaning a big FAIL is when you hang on to the memories you have of each item.  Then you’ll end up not disposing anything at all. Keep any hang-ups at bay and just consider the items for their practical purpose. Remember, these are excess baggage and clutter. Go back to your reason and your goal. And just look forward to the new season!
  • Find new purpose for your stuff. Don’t just throw them away, especially if they are still in good condition. Donate to charity, or sell them in buy and sell sites and groups  (I wrote about one good buy and sell group that I know in my previous post.) Finding new purpose and a new home for your stuff makes the whole spring cleaning exercise more fulfilling and helps take away the emotional baggage you have, knowing that your personal things are also moving on, like you. And yes, you can actually earn from them!

Happy purging, decluttering, spring cleaning, nesting or whatever you call it! 🙂

Earn from purging! The Manila Online Garage Sale

So, lately I have been into major spring cleaning and purging. I began to realize the value of spring cleaning (or “nesting season”, as I like to call it) when I moved in with my husband at his parent’s house and the only personal nest I’ve got is a 20-something sqm bedroom that I now share with him and our handful little angel. I had to learn to keep just the things we need and use to maintain the room as liveable a space as possible.

But one big dilemma of doing this whole spring-cleaning exercise is what to do with all the things you decided to let go of. Sayang to just throw them, especially if they are still in good condition, right?!

Last year, we had major decluttering at home (just a few months after dad passed away) so we organized a garage sale in our neighborhood. It was super fun, not to mention a major hit! But it wasn’t so easy to pull off. First, your neighborhood should be up for it because you need a captured market. Second, you literally should have a garage because you need a space to turn into a mini warehouse. And lastly, it calls for major general cleaning and purging in one go because you should have as much stuff to sell as possible to make the time and effort all worth it.

This year, while we were all fumbling with the thought of another garage sale, my sister-in-law and another close friend ushered me into this group on FB called The Manila Online Garage Sale (MOGS). Yes folks, garage sale just got E-ven better!

MOGS is a closed group but once you get in, it’s like being virtually transported to a buzzing marketplace full of good finds, both used and pre-loved and even brand new! You know the thrill you feel when you go to a bazaar or a warehouse sale? It’s exactly the same thrill when you log into the group page (or at least for me haha!). The members get to buy, sell, and bid on items, which are mostly sold below the average market price. Great deals, SALE, anyone?. If those words didn’t excite you, I don’t know what will (kidding ;-).

Most of the items being sold by members of the group are stuff that they have at home but they no longer use or need. You can find homewares, kitchenwares, home decors, appliances, clothes, shoes, bags, little trinkets, and basically anything. Much like a garage sale, but all transactions are done online until a sale is made. The group has 8000+ members so you can expect a wide variety and assortment of items for sale everyday.

But what I like most about this group is the kind of culture and vibe that it was able to cultivate and sustain among its members. I am also a part of other buy and sell groups in Facebook, but I could say that this is one of the most dynamic. While others mainly just serve as a free site to post ads without actual active buyers, MOGS has managed to maintain an environment where most members actually participate and benefit both as a buyer and seller. So if you intend to sell, you already have a captured market for your goods. And if you intend to buy, most of the time at least one member can offer you what you need.

There are also certain rules in the group that are meant to protect both parties. Such as rules that prohibit selling of fake and counterfeit items and unhygienic products. Proof of authenticity especially for high-value items is a must. Sellers should also openly disclose the condition of the items they are selling, especially used and pre-loved ones. Buyers, on the other hand, should be committed in follow-through of sales done and not leave the seller hanging. So even if deals are done online, you can be assured of authenticity and transparency and honesty of transactions.

I believe that was all thanks to the group’s creators and admins. I had a little virtual chat with them a few weeks back and I really admire the vision they had for the group and how they were able to carry it out. Managing a group with thousands of members online (and still growing organically!), most of whom you do not personally know, is a tough job. These guys have their own businesses and professions and careers to run and social lives to live but they are able to squeeze in some of their time to ensure the group doesn’t fall off. They have done a great job shaping and revising rules, screening members, and resolving any issues within the group. And they just it do it out of passion.

Yes, I admit I can be a little shopaholic at times. But being part of the group also taught me important lessons such as being smarter and practical with my purchases. I realized I have also become more mindful of my personal stuff, knowing that when the time comes that I won’t need or want it anymore it should still be in good condition to serve its purpose to someone else. And most importantly, I became more aware of the value of the things I have. This whole nesting and purging season I had with MOGS even allowed me to earn and it has helped us with our finances. Would you believe we were able to raise our whole travel fund for the year just from selling items we no longer use in this group! Little treasures are everywhere and sometimes you just have to look around.

Happy purging!

Credits: Special thanks to the group’s admins for sharing some info and thoughts: Natalie, a policy maker and regulator by profession with masters in finance, and Christine and Raymond, husband and wife who run their own business. 

Momo Beach House: Beach house of your dreams!

My husband and I love to travel (who doesn’t anyway?!). Road trips, local trips, and out-of-the-country. When it was just us two, we didn’t care much about the fancy perks like accommodation, tours, and transfers. All we needed was a bag and a Gatorade, and we can be out and about plotting our own itinerary, eating in local carinderias, trying out adventures like water rafting, reeking of the glorious smell of sun, sand, and sea, and sleeping in inns or hotels with just the basic amenities.

But all these had to change when our little boy came into the picture. Of course, we would always choose to travel and be with him (no matter how difficult it can get traveling with a baby!). But the little things I used to just shrug about I now nitpick all for the safety and comfort of our boy.

So this year, all our travels have to be carefully planned, as we still need to work within a budget but without compromising the needs of my little boy. Our first travel this year was in Bicol for a friend’s wedding. Second was our family’s summer trip in Bohol, which included my mother-in-law and my husband’s brother’s family.

Since we were traveling with kids, accommodation was among the top priority. We were looking at the usual beach hotels in Bohol but thankfully, we chanced upon Momo Beach House in a group deal site. We immediately researched about the place and found really nice photos and reviews. Not a day passed and we decided to book a family room.

DSC01067Momo Beach House sits along the shallow shore of Momo Beach, one of the beaches in Panglao Island. It is less developed than the famous Alona Beach and Dumaluan Beach, thus, less crowded. While the sand wasn’t as white and fine as that in Dumaluan Beach, I really liked the privacy and seclusion.

Online photos and reviews got us sold, but wait ’till you see the place for real! It was even more quaint and charming in reality! It was like stepping inside your lola’s nice beach house! The ambience was very homey and welcoming. The furnitures and interiors were well-thought of but not overdone. Everything was kept clean and laid-back. I even let Tino walk around the reception area barefoot, just like he’d usually do around the house.

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Tino  playing with his shoes. Because life is better barefoot! 🙂

Each little trinket that you would see was like the trinkets filled with fond memories of your childhood that your mom or lola displayed in the beach house of your dreams. Like the tiny seashells you collected with your little sister, the sand you preserved in a bottle, your kuya’s  futsal table, and the books you used to read in your teens. The white sheer curtains that surrounded the receiving area seem like the ones your lola would “kula” under the sun for hours. The whole resort wasn’t also so big and intimidating. It really lived up to its name of a beach house and coming here really felt like finally being home.

What I also loved was the staff. Perhaps it’s the Boholanos’ trait, or the Amorita Group of Resorts’ signature service, but the staff were very nice and respectful. I imagined them as the helpers we’ve had for years and are considered family (again, in that ancestral beach house of my dreams! ;)). Cindy, the resort manager, was like the cousin I played with many summers ago, who chose to live peacefully in the province with lola than go to the big city with us.

As soon as we arrived, all our needs were taken care of. During our stay, all the ates and kuyas attended to us like we were their balikbayan relatives. I immediately knew we hit the jackpot when Cindy asked me if I needed a sterilizer! Yes! They provided a sterilizer in our room because they knew we have a baby with us! How thoughtful is that?!

So for 3 days and 2 nights we had a peaceful and relaxing time at the beach house. Good timing, the house wasn’t booked at all while we were there (save for a couple, who were probably honeymoon-ing) so we practically had the whole place to ourselves!

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The only downside, I must say, is the limited choices on food. The beach house has a small kitchen and dining area, but their menu was not so varied. The prices were also a bit steep for the serving they offer. We would always look for seafood-fest when on vacation but didn’t find this in their menu. Though I think the staff would happily cook whatever you request as long as they have the ingredients in their kitchen.

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We enjoyed our home-cooked breakfast of tocino, dried fish, and longganisa with garlic rice and eggs. And unlimited coffee!

Overall, we loved the place so much it now sits on the top spot for our dream vacation house! It exudes the peace and security that you feel when you know you’re home in your parents’ ancestral house, away from the busyness and chaos of the city. It makes you want to stay there forever and not go back to the hustle and bustle you call your “life”, because that is THE life. It’s the beach house you would always keep coming back to every summer.

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Us at lola’s beach house, with our Ate Daisy, Ate Beth, and Ate Anna on both sides, and my cousin Cindy on my left.  (P.S., I’m still imagining here, so no, not their real names and Cindy’s not really my cousin >< :p)

And did I mention about the sterilizer?! That one was the winner for me! Traveling moms with baby in tow would understand! 😀

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*slow clap