Not According to What We Deserve

Last November, I was asked by a blogger friend, Jane Go of Sugargospice, to write an article for her site. I said yes. But when she told me the deadline for it was December 2, I was like oh dear, bad timing! Edric and I were helping out with a big parenting conference the weekend before the article was due.

However, I had given my word so I told Jane I would follow through. Plus, she was incredibly persistent in a sweet way! Right, Jane?! She wasn’t expecting a literary masterpiece anyway. All she needed was a fun and light entry on Christmas in our household. So I finished the write-up just in time and sent it to her.

About two weeks after I turned in my article she got in touch with me. She invited me and my family to join her and her other guest bloggers for dinner at Phoenix Court in The Bellevue Hotel, Alabang. Jane added that Mr. Ryan Chan, Corporate Director for Communications and Marketing had graciously offered to give us all an overnight stay with our families. Alabang was pretty out of town for us Manila peeps. What a treat! Edric and I were really excited!

Mr. Chan was incredibly generous. He gave our family two adjoining rooms, a suite on the 19th floor of the Tower Wing and we were received as Signature Club guests.

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The kids thought it was so fun to have to use a card key to access floors 19 to 21. Simple joys. A special lounge is dedicated to signature club guests with complimentary drinks and hor d’oeuvres provided in the evening. We didn’t have time to avail of those but we did enjoy breakfast there the next day. I can imagine how businessmen, businesswomen and VIPs would appreciate the exclusive perks that come with being a Signature Club guest. Checking out, for example, was done on the 21st floor and it was very efficient.

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As for the rooms we stayed in…wow! Rooms 1921 and 1922. The kids started squealing with delight when we entered! They threw themselves onto the king-sized beds and made exclamatory statements about how wonderful the rooms were.

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Besides the sophisticated and modern decor which one might expect from a hotel suite, I appreciated all the thoughtful details. There was a personally signed note left on the table and a token gift, two plates of fresh fruits with fat strawberries (which I ate. Yummo), and a bottle of wine for Edric and I to share. The staff were very attentive, too. They were very friendly and eager to make our stay comfortable.

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We left for dinner at Phoenix Court (which was amazing!) in a hurry and didn’t have time to tidy-up. So, what a pleasant surprise it was to come back to an impeccable room with a re-stocked supply of Acca Kappa bath and beauty products. The kids used up all the shower gel in the afternoon to make their bubble bath!

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I also appreciated the numerous bottles of complimentary water they provided. As a breastfeeding mom I drink a ton of water so this little item mattered alot. For signature club guests they actually provide complimentary (non-alcoholic) drinks all day.

The great service extended to other areas. When we went down to the Pastry Corner to sample their delicious baked goods, a woman who worked close to the front desk offered to escort us. I asked her for directions but instead of mouthing out instructions she kindly said she would walk us over to it. In fact, she even waited for us while we were chatting with some old friends we ran into. I didn’t realize she was still standing there until Edric and I finished conversing with our friends and she let us know that she would be going back to the lobby.

Edric also left one of his white long sleeve shirts in our hotel room. He called the hotel a few days after we had left and they informed him that it had been set aside for him to pick up. Whew, it belongs to his show sponsor so I’m glad he didn’t lose it!

My favorite part of the room we stayed in was the bed. I’m thinking of designing one similar to it for our new house. Even Catalina liked it.
She plopped her head on to the spread and stayed there for a while without screaming to be held.

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It was very comfortable. I don’t remember my dreams that night which means I had deeper sleep! Usually I have three or four weird dreams a night because I get awoken by Catalina so many times.

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She looks angry here…In fact, when I tickle her, she gets angry! ha ha ha, which makes me want to tickle her more!

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The lounge on the 21st floor offered panoramic views of the city. I liked the feel of this lounge — quiet, fewer guests, lots of natural light, scenic views, and very responsive staff. I preferred it to their Cafe D’Asie. The food was delicious at Cafe D’Asie but it took them a while to refill the buffet stations during lunch. I didn’t mind too much because I am not really a buffet kind of gal unless it is a breakfast buffet. A few tasty dishes to choose from and great service are more appealing a combination. That’s why I liked the 21st floor.

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The Continental Breakfast had a spread that was very limited but I liked the meal I ate. Their service was to be applauded. They responded to our requests immediately — eggs cooked in our preferred way. Mine had to be somewhere between soft and hard boiled. The kids wanted omelettes or scrambled eggs. And they also requested pancakes, which they got. The waiter kept asking us if we needed anything and if we were well served. I appreciated his proactive-ness.

My kids had such a great time they didn’t want to leave. Edan even cried! I couldn’t believe it! My seven year old had become attached to the Bellevue overnight! He felt so badly about leaving he even hid in a corner to sulk. It was very uncharacteristic of him so Edric talked with him afterwards to help him process his feelings and have the right attitude.

Edric told him two things — gratitude and hope. It’s okay to feel sad when something you like is taken away or you have to leave an experience behind. But you need to be grateful that you were given the opportunity to enjoy what you had in the first place. Furthermore, it is always good to hope that one day, Lord willing, you may be given the very thing that was taken away or something even better.

I want to apply Edric’s lesson to my own circumstance. I am so grateful that we were given the night’s stay at Bellevue and treated to three huge meals. (Unfortunately I gained weight. I know this because my pants are tighter. Ack.) It was also a privilege to interact with other writers whom we shared dinner with at Phoenix Court. Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet, Didi Tiu of CanDishhh Tales, Franny Ang of Frannywanny, Michelle Martinez of Mrs. Martinez’s Raves & Rants, Richie Zamora of The Pickiest Eater, Rowena Wendy Lei of Animetric’s World, and Sumi Go of The Purple Doll.

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Because I don’t attend a lot of events, I am not very in the know about the blogosphere. In fact, I’m not very useful as a food critic, entertainment junkie, world traveler, or tech expert. But I learned a lot from tips shared by seasoned bloggers who sat at the same table we did. Of course, I got to know Jane and her family better which was wonderful…

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Jane also handed me and her other guests amazing gifts from Glamour Box, My Pink Wasabi, Angus Beef Tapa from Jam Foods and Co, and a caviar cake from Grace Y. Oh, and she also delivered a chocolate cake from Aggy’s Cakes and Sweets to my room for my belated birthday. Edric loved this!
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I made the mistake of sharing it with our house help and he wasn’t able to have a second serving. This was disappointing for him but good for his health.

From Glamour Box…

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It is nice as a hydrating mist but I actually like it as a light body spray because it smells so delicate…

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This gave my skin a nice glow for New Year’s Eve…

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Tried this right away and it went on very smoothly. I get chapped lips so often this will come in very handy…

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I don’t wear a lot of lipstick but I wore this one for New Year’s Eve. It was bright and red (and I’m so glad it matched my skin tone which is on the yellow-side.)

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I have yet to try this but I’m looking forward to using it…

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I wish I had known about My Pink Wasabi gift boxes before Christmas. They are so creative. It would have been great to give these chocolates as gifts.

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The Tapa we got from Jam Foods and Co. was eaten Monday morning. Yum!

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Who would have thought a single, simple article written to keep a promise and be a blessing (in a very small way) could reap all of this?! I was overwhelmed by the goodness of the Lord through Jane, her sponsors and Mr. Ryan Chan. I wasn’t required to write about all of this, but this experience made me think about God’s nature and hope in who he is. When we walk with him, he delights to bless us. And he never blesses us according to what we deserve but according to who He is — above and beyond what we can ever hope or imagine! That’s the 2014 we have to look forward to if we follow him! Happy New Year!

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A Place for Everything

For the obsessive compulsive women out there, like my sister-in-law (I love you Jenny!) or the women who need help organizing their things (that’s me!), Keeping It Together or KIT for short, is the store to go to. A woman can never have too many containers and bags to put her things in. And once you become a wife and mother, you need even more storage and organizing solutions. KIT carries a plethora of options for every need — kids’ snacks, lunches, bottles, drinks, gym clothes, swim gear, diapers, toiletries, cosmetics, hiking or camping gear.

My friend, Michelle Taruc, is about to open another branch of KIT in SM North Edsa and she sent me some samples. I was thrilled!

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I really like their water proof, food safe, PVC and lead-proof carry-anything-in-them bags by Itzy Ritzy (the prints are super cute). She also sent me a leak proof bottle for travel (the kind that won’t explode under pressure), a beach bag which will come in handy when the kids go to the park to swim; a bag that can be used as a compartment in my luggage; and a pillow bag (never thought I needed one until now).

Whenever my kids bring pillows on long road trips, they tend to drag them on the floor when they carry them to the car. Ack. I have to keep reminding them to hold their pillows higher. Well, here is KIT’s solution — a pillow bag! Clever.

My favorite of all…the bottom of KIT’s store bags, which reads “To God Be the Glory.” Indeed! God is a God of order. Just read the books of Leviticus and Numbers.

I am excited to put these KIT products to good use. They are a fun, practical, and easy way to fulfill my husband’s fantasy…a more organized me! Thanks Michelle and KIT!

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KIT opens at Sm North edsa 2nd floor bridgeway carpark level 3, near JCO’s this weekend.

Family Photo Shoot


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It was a perfectly sunny Friday morning, July 19, when we headed off to Pinto Gallery for a family photo shoot. We had prayed for good weather because it had been raining that week — the unpredictable sort of rain we tend to get in the Philippines. But Friday turned out to be just the right amount of sun. Okay, there was a lot of sun. I was sweating for most of the shoot…all of us were. Yet it was worth it!

When photographer, Jay Jay, and his wife, Tine Lucas, offered to take our family photos I was thrilled. I’ve seen their work and it is pretty magical and creative. I love their concepts and how they make a story out of each photo they take and make. I say “make” because Tine is a stylist so she knows how to put together all the little details that count.

We had no idea how grand a production they were cooking up. Wow. I was blown away. They assembled a team of hair and make-up artists (Gerry Penaso), events stylist (Eve and Company), Lifestyle by Feliz (Tine’s group), and Chestknots Studios (Jay Jay’s group). Of course, there was the very picturesque and romantic setting of Pinto Gallery in Antipolo to complete the “look” they were going for.

mendoza68I had never seen Jay Jay and Tine in action with their team before and when I finally did I was incredibly impressed. First, they work so well together — a compliment to each other’s abilities. Second, they work so hard. Third, they know how to make everyone comfortable and in their element. It’s not easy to photograph a big family like ours. With 4 young children and pregnant me, there were lots of details and factors to consider. We had psyched the kids up for that morning which helped, but it was the very natural way that Jay Jay and Tine got us all to interact and behave in front of the camera that made a big difference. Of course, the props that Eve & Co. brought to the site transported us to some sort of fantasy garden setting, too.

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This shoot exceeded our expectations and it was such a fun bonding activity for our family. Edric and the boys enjoyed being outdoors, and Tiana liked all the clothes she got to wear.

mendoza84mendoza391It took about half a day to take all the photos and I just saw a lot of them posted on Chestknots’ site this afternoon. What a blessing and gift that day was. It almost made me want to get pregnant all over again…MAYBE. But if we don’t (which is probably the more likely option), we have the best photos to remember that point in time, and lots of pictures to frame for our new home.

Since I am not pressured to advertise anything on this site (and I’d like to keep it that way), I’m happy to be able to talk about products, services, occasions, people, and things that I really appreciate and would recommend to family, friends, and readers. Well, these guys are one of those things I would recommend. And they are better together. Jay Jay and his team are great photographers but each shot becomes unique when infused with Tine’s sense of style and artistry. I’m thrilled that they are doing more family-type photos. Pre-nuptial photos and wedding photos are wonderfully romantic but personally, I feel that celebrating the gift of family is even more important. Looking through the photos made me reflect on the journey that Edric and I have had as a couple — from just 2 of us, to three, to four, to five, to six and soon to be seven. The multiplied love and joy chronicled in each photo is a testament to God’s goodness, faithfulness and grace. Edric and I cannot thank Jay Jay and Tine enough for capturing in photographs the priceless memory of our children — their youth, innocence, tenderness, and happy smiles. And for making Edric and I remember how amazing 12 years of marriage have been and will continue to be for as long as Christ is at the center of it!

View the photos here: Mendoza Family Shoot

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Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar

Just got back from an overnight stay in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, in Bataan. It’s a heritage resort conceptualized to resemble an old town. Old Filipino houses from different areas of the Philippines were transported to the resort. For homeschooling families (or any family), it’s a great place to experience a visit to the past. Of course, the rooms and amenities are modern and comfortable, but it is truly a unique experience…not your typical resort. There was a fabulous cultural show last night in the “town square,” and they have tours that allow you to visit the houses and uncover their intriguing histories. Their restaurants are a little bit pricey but worth it! Las Casas Filipinas also has a pool and clean beach.

A friend of mine, Monique Ong, told me about this place a few months ago. When I found out that this was the same spot Edric’s dad wanted to take the family to, I was thrilled! Unlike my family, whose vacation spots revolve around nearby golf clubs and sports facilities, Edric’s family really enjoys the beach. Our kids do, too. They can spend hours in the sand doing nothing but digging holes for who knows what purpose.

I am blessed with such wonderful in-laws. I married into a family that is very close knit, godly, and loving. It was a joy to spend the weekend with them.

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Dirty, Sweaty, Stinky

I was at the park with my kids one afternoon, when I heard a mom freaking out about her son’s dirty shoes. In the background, I caught sight of my own kids looking like a bunch of scalawags compared to the neat little boy who was being protected from mud at all costs. They were making soupy sand with a water hose and tossing sand bombs. Disheveled hair, sweaty bodies, and muddy feet and legs made for quite a sight as they and their cousins took over the sandbox.

I don’t mind dirt. Kids need dirt once in a while. As long as they don’t eat it and as long as they take baths after they are done rolling around in it, then that’s quite alright with me.

My parents were the same way with my siblings and I growing up. They let us run around barefoot in the yard, climb trees, dig traps, slip and slid down the grass, play house and make actual fires for cooking our “food.” We could explore any part of the house, even the roof, and we spent a whole lot of time with our stinky pets (I had a native monkey). My siblings displayed mud balls on the bathroom counter like little trophies and we almost always had black feet when we came back into the house. I don’t remember wearing much either. We were always half-naked or so it seemed (until we hit puberty, of course).

Those were fun years.

It’s harder to replicate that kind of childhood for our kids because we are urbanites. Living in the heart of the city doesn’t give them much opportunity for mud adventures. I miss that kind of outdoorsy lifestyle which has been replaced by computer games, tv, Internet, IPods, IPads, etc.

I did some research on outdoor play and discovered that playing outside has many benefits that we don’t always think about. It helps improve eyesight, it encourages an appreciation for God’s creation, it exposes children to many opportunities to enhance their gross motor skills. They also invent games when they are outdoors. Running around, leaping, jumping, swinging, climbing are all great for burning calories, and these activities keep kids less susceptible to developing obesity and heart disease. Exposure to vitamin D from the sun (during less intense times of the day) also keeps them healthier. Furthermore, being surrounded by nature engages all of their senses. The National Wildlife Federation even claims that kids who get outside “need less medication and are less prone to depression.”

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Edric and I have to be creative as city people homeschooling our kids. The fact that our kids’ default mode is to play inside is not their fault, but ours. Edric and I may go running on some mornings but the kids don’t join us because it is way too early. And we spend most of our day inside. So our kids do the same and will continue to do so unless we are more purposeful about their daily activities.

I remember how intentional my parents were with us. They had daily morning walks with us. We would swim in the nearby club together. They built a simple, outdoor playground, and a mini basketball court in the backyard. We had a rope that hung from a tree so we could swing on it. And they got us all kinds of pets.

Edric and I may not be able to do exactly the same for our kids because of space constraints, but recently, we have been trying harder to instill a love for the outdoors in them. Even if we live in the city, there are many things that we can do for free or inexpensively. A condo lifestyle shouldn’t be a hindrance or an excuse.

One of the things we have done is enroll our older boys in a Football (soccer) club – Azkals Global Football. We pay 300 pesos/child for every 2.5 hours of soccer training. The group we joined is an all homeschoolers group of kids, which is great. The coaches are more exacting of the kids, too (which we prefer.) They toughen up the boys. Our little kids accompany them and play beside the field. During the rest of the week, we try to take the kids to a nearby park or go to High Street. Sometimes, we take walks with the kids, too.

The good news is our kids are starting to really like playing outside, but it is still a pitiful amount of time compared to what we had growing up. We really hope to condition them to prefer the outdoors as their play area of choice. But Edric and I can’t just hope that our children will prefer to play outside, we have to go outside with them. So we are doing that whenever we can.

Today, our playgroup was at a park. The kids ran around with their friends and they invented all sorts of games. I loved hearing them laugh and shout out game rules. They would come panting back to where the moms were gathered to ask for a drink or a snack every now and then. I looked at all their sweaty faces and dirtied clothes and I thought, this is what kids should be doing in the afternoons…getting sweaty, dirty, and stinky while playing outside. That’s the stuff that childhood memories are made of!

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Baking Fun at The Cookery Place

My kids were invited to attend a workshop at The Cookery Place by Tina, a mom in our homeschool playgroup. The boys learned how to make a bunch of different desserts. It was educational and totally worth the time.

What I really like about this cooking studio is how personable and accommodating Chef Jan and Chef Rhenee are. They are so patient with kids and always smiling. My kids had a blast last time we attended a cooking class on how to make Japanese Food.

Experiences like these remind me why I love the homeschooling lifestyle. The kids get to enjoy so many varied experiences beyond books and academics. They really learn useful, real-life skills.

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Hacienda Isabella

Today was a blessed day spent in the company of beautiful women whose hearts are wholly devoted to the Lord. I was refreshed by our morning’s meditation on Psalm 103. The food overflowed. The conversation was delightful. Prayer time was comforting. And the kids went exploring. They played baseball in the field, went swimming, and ran around the place to their hearts’ content. What a day to escape and bring to remembrance the goodness of God!

Everyone needs a day like this…

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My ageless mother!

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They are all shouting at the same time

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Tiana’s “big sister”

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The accidental model pose, just ignore the belly!

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I ended with a photo of my mom because it was her idea to get a bunch of ladies out of the city to Hacienda Isabela for a day retreat. But more than that, I am incredibly grateful to the Lord for a mom who has been my spiritual mentor and example since I was a wee little thing. She is my benchmark for maximized womanhood — a woman who is defined by her love for Jesus and others, and beautiful inside and out because of it.