Smart Parenting's BEST for Baby Awards

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I am a person who likes to list things.  I like ballpens so I like writing down stuff on paper!  Lists make life easier if you ask me.  It makes life more organized.  Hahaha!  Yes, the OC in me is typing away!

When I hear of friends who are pregnant for the first time.  I send them my baby checklist and a list of things to bring to the hospital.  I voluntarily send it to them (even without them asking!) because I know it can and will help them somehow.  I can be pushy, but what the heck if it gets to help them right?

My Panget relied on Amazon's bestseller list for babies.  It helped him a lot because it eliminated the process of researching here and there.  Since there was a list, at least your work is cut short and narrowed down - all you need to do is research on the particulars.

Smart Parenting magazine has been around for quite a while now.  And it's so nice that they finally did the Best for Baby Awards! I think it has been a long time coming - and I'm glad they did it this year!

Here are the winners!!

I was able to speak to the lovely and charming editor in chief of Smart Parenting - Mia.  We discussed on how they were able to come up with the nominees and the winners.  The top criteria was that the products should be widely available and easily accessible to consumers and readers.  They used brands that were top of mind and were often the go-to products.  When they were able to pool together the brands - they then did a test that was a lab type of test.  The winners were picked based on the result of the lab tests that they made themselves.

There are some products that I agree and disagree on - but that's just me, right?  I think the general idea is what is good for the majority.  There were brands that wanted to be included but failed the category of availability (since you need to buy them online or through a reseller on FB)  The result that they came out with was very fair in my opinion.  So, I am looking forward to next year's Best for Baby Awards!!

Congratulations again Smart Parenting!!

Starbucks Reserve Grand Launch

Friday, September 26, 2014

Would you believe that Starbucks has been in the country for close to 17 years now?  Yes, that's how long they've been serving us with wonderful coffee!  This year, I was witness to the first ever Starbucks Reserve store in Tomas Morato.  Starbucks Reserve upped the ante by giving us with exotic, rare, ultra premium and exquisite coffees from around the world!

This is the newest Starbucks Reserve store in Signa Residences in Makati.

Isn't she a beauty?  I was so marveled when I saw the store!!  It felt like I was transported to a cafe somewhere far away.  Look at those jars that are on display - those are 300 jars of coffee beans!  I think the high ceiling was the trick - and it's beautiful!  I had the pleasure of meeting Nina - she does the store renovations for Starbucks - and I told her how much of a good job she has done because all the stores look so nice and inviting!  Good job, Nina!

What is special about this particular store is that they have the Clover brewing system.  This brewing system uses a vacuum press to create your cup of coffee in front of you!  We were treated to a demonstration and we were all impressed with what we saw!  It was so hi-tech, I mean I am used to the old reliable coffee makers and french press but this one - wow, I can't believe that there's a machine that just does that!  And it's a SINGLE cup EVERY time.  I can just imagine the delight of this coffee experience for coffee enthusiasts.

As with all Starbucks Reserve stores - the baristas in charge are ALL coffee masters!  Starbucks Reserve stores also have their own exclusive food items, note that these aren't available in regular Starbucks stores.

These Chocolate Caramel Tarts are so good and gooey!
If you're a sweet tooth, then this is definitely for you!! 

This is the Italian Garlic Cream Cheese on Multigrain Bread
I so appreciate the smell of bread and this multigrain bread smelled particularly lovely.
Combined with the garlic cream cheese - it was sooo good and savoury!

The Salted Caramel Eclairs
Who doesn't love salted caramel?  Hahaha!! 

Everyone who knows me know how much I love vanilla and this White Chocolate Vanilla Eclair did not disappoint!  In fact, I had two of these!  Yes - two!  I don't think I will ever be on a diet!  Hahaha..

Enjoy these exclusive food offerings at a Starbucks Reserve store.  See you there!

8Cuts Burger & Linguini Fini

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Last weekend, we were very early in Megamall - as in really early.  We got there while the mall was still closed (but they were letting in cars in the parking areas).  It was my first time to be early in SM - and they were very strict, ha!  No one could enter - as in NO ONE.  When the clock struck 10am and right after playing the 'We've Got It All For You' song - they started to let people in.

Our first stop was Active Fun.  I previously let the kids play there and they enjoyed their time there so much.  So after paying for their playtime - my kids were made to wait.  I wondered why, so I asked the attendants who were cleaning.  I asked them 'What time do you open?' and this was the reply I got - 'We're still cleaning'.  One of my pet peeve is poor listening skills.  I then was irked and told them 'I was merely asking what time you opened, so that next time - I can bring my kids at that time so they won't need to wait'  The nicer attendant replied 'We open at 10am, it's just that we were late in cleaning up'  Sigh.  I just wanted to the time right?  Tsk.. Tks...

So after their playtime - we then decided to walk around and look for a restaurant.  If you were to ask me - there is only one answer that I will give - and that is Tim Ho Wan - because I knew at that time, the line will be minimal.  But then my Panget wanted somewhere else.  We didn't even think of Ippudo because we weren't impressed when we tried it in Hong Kong and Osaka.  I'd love to be impressed with Manila branch though.

My Panget just decided on 8Cuts Burger.  The magic word was that it was from the same group as Manam - and you know how much we enjoyed Manam right?  We were seated immediately and the first thing that I asked was if they allowed crossover order form Linguini Fini - and they said YES!  I was ecstatic and giddy!  I so love pizza and I wanted to try theirs!  I was hitting 2 birds with one stone. Hooray!

The menu is quite straightforward.  They served quarter pound burgers and devil was in the details.  For the kids, I ordered them the white sauce pasta with mushrooms and some chicken fingers.  The yayas chose to have cheese burgers.  I ordered fries and The Hangover while my Panget got Q-Daddy.

The pasta with mushrooms.  I wasn't able to take a picture of the chicken fingers! 
The pasta was good, although I would add a little more salt?  
The chicken fingers were great as my kids ate them in a flash!  The bonus was that the breading was crispy and kept the chicken moist, surprisingly!

This is the Cheeseburger.
Both my Yayas liked it very much.  They said it was very filling and really good.
I trust their word on it!  Kailee wanted to steal the bread away from the burger.  Hahaha!!

The Q-Daddy
My Panget was very happy with this burger.  Although, what could have made it better was if he ordered a double patty!  Why?  He was so bitin with his order that he ate MY burger.
I am a loving wife and a very thoughtful one.  I had a feeling that he will still be hungry so, to pre-empt, I ordered myself the Hangover burger (the magic word was arugula!) and it was good!  (See the picture below)  I had a two bites and I have him the rest.

The Hangover Burger
I was sold on the Arugula.  Yes, that's how much I love Arugula!
It was good though, even if I had just two bites.  Hahaha!  I enjoyed those two bites.

This is Linguini Fini's Manila Caprese Pizza

This was what was recommended to me.  And I loved it!  I ate most of it (not all ha! - I had to bring home some because I couldn't finish it all!  I would if I could!  Hahaha!)  The crust was just right, it was chewy enough but not soggy.  I enjoyed this pizza very much because it was so simple!  I like my pizzas that way.  The crust was a combination of chewy on some parts and crispy on some parts.  The kids liked munching on them.  This pizza order came a bit late - but it was understandable as I was from the other (sister) restaurant.  Xyver our server apologized for the delay.

As I've said in my Manam post - our experience was made more enjoyable because of the service that we got.  Xyver our server was very attentive and efficient.  I have to stay it again, that the management must be doing something different with the training as I was impressed once again!  Good customer service is one of the things that will make me come back to a restaurant.  Good service will make you forgive the quality of the food, but that's just me.  I was so happy that they allowed crossover orders - but had they not, I would have respected their decision anyway.

8Cuts Burger
Mega Fashion Hall

Bento making with Oreos!

Monday, September 22, 2014

For the past year or so, I have been seeing so many bento meals for kids in my social media feeds.  I know for a fact that bento is something Japanese but it has evolved now to what I know - as a creative way to make a kid's meal more fun!

Last month, Kailee and I attended a Bento workshop by The Bento Mommas and Oreos.  I swear, I have a new found respect for mommies/daddies making bento meals for their kids.  It's not an easy task - I mean, you have to have (major) creativity and ingenuity and patience and lots and lots of time.

I initially thought that it was easy, well - do this and that - voila, a bento.  But it's more than that - one should be able to plan what kind of bento to prepare, the available ingredients, tools to use.  During the workshop - I've a gained an admiration for the parents who make bento.  It takes a lot of getting used to .  The cutting, the preparing, the molding and the presentation.  The meal planning too!  So to the dedication of all parents - I salute you guys!!

Look at the different tools you can use!  I was told that when you start bento making - it becomes addicting!  Addicting to make and addicting to collect the tools!

Hello BentoMommas!!

Together with Oreos, we were taught the basics and mind you, it wasn't easy, but man was it soooo fun to do!  I guess, through time - when you get the hang of it - it will come naturally.  I learned that making a bento is not just a 'do whatever with whatever' we need to incorporate the Go, Glow and Grow food into the bento for it to be more practical.  Of course, we don't want to compromise the health of our kids right?

 These were the tools we used in the bento Workshop.
OREOS galore to help us with our creativity!!  

Some of the things that we used in the workshop:
Brown Rice, White Rice, ChizWhiz, assorted candy sprinkles, 
Broccoli, Corn, Pretzels, Cutting tools like scissors and punchers, 
dried Seaweed (Nori), mini choco chips, marshmallows, and OREOs!!

Step One (1)
Wash your hands!  Yes, we have to be very clean in preparing our bentos!
Remember, our kids will eat what we prepare so we need everything to be clean and sanitized!
You can use plastic gloves to prepare, but nothing beats using our actual hands to mold and shape the rice.  Just make sure you wash your hand before and after!

Make sure too that all that you will be needing, tools and ingredients is within reach.
This saves you the time of going back and forth looking for them and getting them.
The OC in me talking says that everything should be organized, prepared and planned out!

Step Two (2)
Molding the brown and white rice.
There was a reason why we were given two kinds of rice.  I initially thought that it was there because some of the moms preferred brown rice.  I was wrong!  It was for the bento making really.
See the brown and white rice below.  Guess, what do you think we are making?

Honestly, with the picture above, it looks like - a hidden Mickey!  But actually, we were taught to make a bear!  So see my bear's transformation!

It's quite getting there, right?

Yes, it's officially a bear made of rice!  Brown and white!

I think I went overboard and made a fat bear!  Hahaha..
Look at that double chin, well - sort of double chin!!

Go, Grow and Glow Food!
(Go - Rice, Grow - Chicken, Glow - Veggies)
And of course - OREOs!

The SoMoms and their kids hard at work!
Everyone enjoyed the chaos and the workshop!

Here is my finished product!
What do you think?
I was so very proud of this, my FIRST ever bento creation!

And here is where the SUPER fun started, we had to make our own bentos using OREOS!
The challenge:  Make a BEE out of Oreos.
For a person who is not very creative, it was such a task!  But in fairness, 
Kailee and I had such a blast!  We had unlimited OREOs!  I actually just wanted to use as few Oreos as possible why?  So I can take them home and eat them!  Hahaha..  Katakawan!
But seriously - we had all the Oreos that we can have and look at what I made below.
I have to be honest, Kailee was of little help because she was eating all the Oreos!  Hahaha..

What do you think?
I think I did well, on my first ever bento challenge.
I know it needs a lot more work and CREATIVITY!  But I'm sure I'll get there with practice!
As they say, practice makes perfect!
(Kidding aside, I'm OC that way that I will make one dish over and over again until I perfect it!  Hahaha.  I'm sure when that happens, Kailee will just tell me to stop making one!  Hahah)

Here's a step by step guide on how I made my Oreo bento:
1.  Get one Choco bread and one White bread.  Using a heart shape cookie cutter, cut the Choco bread using the biggest size cutter, then use the next (smaller) size cutter to cut the white bread
2.  Scoop out all the yellow cream filling of the Action Fruit Oreos (I used a LOT, i mean a LOT!)
3.  Use some of the yellow cream filling to bind the heart shaped choco and white bread.  Make sure to put the smaller piece on top and the bigger piece at the back (so there is an accent!)
4.  Spread our as much yellow filling from the Action Fruit Oreos to the smaller (white) piece of bread.  Make sure to follow the shape of the heart!
5.  Cut up strips of Nori to make the black stripes of the bee and also his antenna!
6.  Use a circular puncher for the eyes of the Bee
7.  Now, place the strips carefully aligned using tweezers!  (It's really helpful!)
8.  Place the heart shaped bee on the top center of the container
9.  Use cupcake liners to (separate the bee from the other food) and fill it up with Oreos to make the bee have wings!  I just added the grapes to fill up the container!  But it worked well right?

Here are what the other creative moms on my table did.
Mine looked the least imaginative compared to theirs!  Hahaha..
Top Left was the winning bento made by The Phenomenal Mama - Tina!
Top Right was by Cai of Apples and Dumplings
Lower Right is by yours truly!  Hahaha..

Thank you so much Oreos!  Kailee and I had sooooo much fun!!

Revisiting Green Pastures

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

We so enjoyed our meal in Green Pastures more than a month ago, that we decided to come back last Sunday.  Here is my previous post on Green Pastures.  We were ready for the wait - we got there at 11am and the place was still empty.  I left my name and funny that the staff remembered it, strange right?  I guess, I am not forgettable and very charming?  Just kidding.  So I told her that we'd like to be listed for the 12noon and she obliged.  But after walking around the mall, my Panget realized that it was nearing 12noon and we walked to Green Pastures.  When the staff saw me, she immediately led the way - we had a table!  Yahoo!!

Ordering was quite a task.  I wanted to get everything on the menu.  I was so confused on what to get that ordering for both me and my Panget took a while.  We got the Autumn Salad, Duck You Fries, Duck Fat Fried Chicken, Porchetta and Fish and Chips.  

This is the Autumn Salad and its also good!
I've noticed before that Green Pastures' salad is neverending - this one is the same!  Even if I ate a LOT of greens already, there seems to be some more in the bowl!  We even had to take home some since we weren't able to finish it!

I had to order the Duck You fries once again because I love love french fries and my kids love it too!
So enjoyed this appetizer, especially the spritzer vinegar!

This is the Porchetta.  Meat on bread - literally.  It was love at first bite.  I so looooooved this dish!
If you like tender meat on bread, then this is the perfect dish for you.  WIth my first bite, I knew that my Panget would love this dish, and so I told him to have it.  But he insisted on waiting for his Fish and Chip - and in the end, we exchanged orders.  This is how much I love my Panget, that despite loving this dish so much - I had to sacrifice, but not after a few bites here and there.  Hahaha!

Here's a closer look on the Porchetta.  Looks very good, right?

This is the Duck Fat Fried Chicken - and it's soooo tender!  Kailee loved this and I liked it too!  It was so very flavorful!  The skin was crispy and the meat was very juicy and oh so very tender!  The bones of the chicken were practically non existent!  Haha.. The magic was in the sauces - the roasted catsup (Kailee loved this and ate it all!) and the honey something (this was marvelous, I can't explain it but you know the taste of something that you don't like but you like?  The type that you know the taste is weird YET you still try it every time?  Ganon!).  Oh my gosh.  I was so bowled over with the combination.  Winner!!

This is the dish that arrived so very very late.  John, who was very nice apologized for this and said that there was something with the kitchen because all of the fish and chips orders were delayed.  Fish and chips for me is a very basic dish that you just get as a back up in case you're undecided on what to eat.  So if you aske me, I don't usually get this - unless I am unimpressed with the restaurant, but my Panget wanted something 'healthy' so he got this.  Since it arrived late - it was freshly cooked.  When my Panget cut a piece - you can still see the steam from the fish meat.  He had to wait for a few seconds to eat it.  But he was too hungry!  So I just gave him my Porchetta.  He then tried the fish and wasn't impressed.  I on the other hand was liking it.  The fish was really good and light, it wasn't the ordinary dory fish that most restaurants serve for their fish and chips.  It tasted really fresh - I was impressed with the body of the fish.  Add the spritzer vinegar and the flavor comes out.  The breading too was lovely as it was very crispy!

We again enjoyed our meal at Green Pastures.  The service was also impeccable - I have to say that service makes a huge huge difference.  Thank you to John - thank you for your wonderful service to us!  Kudos to the staff and crew behind Green Pastures!  You have a fan in me!!

Autumn with Starbucks

Monday, September 15, 2014

Autumn is my favorite season.  I know there's no autumn in Manila, but I was lucky enough to witness it in Beijing when I lived there for half a year.  Autumn is the most beautiful season for me because you can see the leaves turn from green to yellow to orange to red to dark brown.  When you see the changing of the colors day by day - you will be amazed with its beauty.  It's so beautiful that you will stop in your tracks to admire nature.  I wish though, that we have that - so everyone will appreciate the beauty of the seasons.

Starting tomorrow, September 16 - Starbucks is launching the new Autumn Starbucks card.

Isn't she a beauty?  Get this and add it to your growing collection of Starbucks Cards!

Together with the launch of the Starbucks Card are the new featured drinks:

The ones on top are the Dark Caramel Latte
The ones at the bottom are the French Vanilla Latte

I'm very excited to try these new drinks tomorrow!!

Oh!  There's a special TREAT for all Starbucks Card lovers - from September 16 to 22, for every P300.00 load you put into your card - you will earn ONE (1) beverage star!  Yes, yes yes!  You read that right!  Just by loading your cards (in the amount of P300.00) you earn a beverage star!!

Garlic and Lemon by Karen

Obviously, I like to eat.  So when I see food pics on my IG that interests me - I get curious.  This is what happened when I saw Michelle of MyMomFriday's IG post on Garlic and Lemon.  It got me so curious that I ordered.  Karen is such a pleasant person to text with - she suggests and is very candid.  A few days after placing my order, the goods arrived and here they are!!

The picture above is the Wonton.
It was frozen when it was delivered and I suggest you place it in the freezer immediately too!!
Just be careful in thawing because when I thawed mine before cooking, the skin was sticky and was falling off the wonton ball.  But nevertheless - it tasted good.  Below is a my version of a wonton noodle soup.

The wonton was good enough.  I wish though, there would be more shrimp - since I knew that when one says wonton - it should be made of shrimp with a little meat.  I guess here in Manila, it's the opposite!  Hahaha.. But it's good and I like that's is a good sized wanton that is packed with meat and flavor.

Above is the Tafo Puff.  I have to admit that I hated this when I was younger, I didn't know better!  Haha.. These can be steamed according to Karen, but for me - oil is better!  Hahaha.  Yes, I love oil.  So I fried these babies and below is what happened.

The Taro Puff kinda crumbled, but it was okay.  It's not the best, but it's good enough for me!!  Of course you won't be able to compare this side by side with a restaurant Taro Puff - but I think this can hold on it's own.  The taro is rich and if you like taro, then this is for you! I wish there were more meat though, but that's just me.  My Panget liked it and ate most of it.  Hahaha!!  He likes taro very much!

This one is really really really good!  The Skinless Longganisa!  I was so excited to try this and I loved every bit of it!  The taste is so perfect, the right combination of sweet and garlicky!  It was very very tasty!  I swear, you can ask my helper at home - I had to ask her to cook more for me when I first tried it!  I initially asked her to cook 3 pieces but it wasn't enough!  She had to cook more!!  This is Karen's gem, this one you should really really order!!  My Panget liked it but wished there were more garlic, but for me the taste is just right, tamang tama ang timpla!

Look at that beauty.  WOW!  It's pretty right?  But I swear, it tastes even better than it looks!! :)  You guys need to try it!!

You may call, text, Viber or message Karen of Garlic and Lemon on FB to inquire and to order!
Here' is their Facebook Page - Garlic and Lemon.  I'm so happy that I found her!!  Now, when I'm not in the mood to cook or is missing a helper or two, I won't have a hard time thinking of what to prepare!  Hehehe...

Thank you Karen!!

Viking's Mid Autumn Festival Celebration

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mid-Autumn Festival is an event looked forward by most everyone - simply because of the moon cakes (and also the dice games!  hahaha..)  The past few years, I have seen many variations of the moon cakes.  Different ingredients, different versions - and now Viking's is presenting their own version of moon cakes to their patrons, from hot dishes to delicious desserts!

These special moon cakes will be available on ALL weekends of September!

Beef Bourguignon Mooncake with Cahron Sauce (on top) is so meaty good.  I especially loved the Choron sauce as it made this particular beef mooncake's taste stand out.  The Minced Goat Cheese Mooncake with Mango Coulis (the one at the bottom) is also good - if you like the taste of lamb, the goat cheese's flavor is very strong, thus I'm sure you're enjoy it.

This is the Salted Lotus Mooncake.  If you enjoy the traditional mooncake - then this is for you!!

On the left is the Asado Mooncake - it has bits and pieces of the asado tucked in the mooncake.  The taste is different from what we are familiar with but still good.  The one on the right is the Crusty Shrimp cheese Mooncake - it's made of a puff pastry and oh my gosh, it's really really good!  This has to be my favorite mooncake of all the hot mooncakes presented.  I swear, the taste is WOW!

The yellow one is the Choco Trifile Mooncake - one bit into and it and I fell in love with it!  The texture and the taste is really really really good.  If you like chocolates then this one is for you!  I swear, every bite I made - I paid it a compliment.  That was how much I loved this particular dessert mooncake!  The pink on is the Wild Berry Cheese Mooncake - it has a cheesecake filling inside.  If you like the taste of berries, then you will like this pink and sweet dessert.

Look at that chocolatey goodness.  I wish they sold this though, because I would have bought a lot and hoarded it at home.

These dishes are available on all weekends of September in all Vikings branches!

Vikings Luxury Buffet