Saturday, April 30, 2016

Strawberry and Pink Theme Birthday

This year, for my daughter's birthday, I decided to exert a little extra effort for her party. We never really hosted a real children's birthday party before because hubby and I are both lazy when it comes to organizing events. But I was thinking that our daughter is now at an age when she will really appreciate having a birthday party with her friends.

I have shared some useful links at the bottom of this post to make my site more useful to parents planning to hold a birthday party for their kids.

Strawberry and everything pink theme

I made some pink lemonade, sponge cake and some fruit and marshmallow kebabs

I was very glad to have had the help of my friend who was visiting from France. She helped me with the decorations.

The day started really early for me, preparing the cake and the lemonade and the fruit kebabs. I didn't realize how much time and effort it takes to do all these preparations. It took me half the day to set up everything, even with the sponge cake being baked the night before. I'm so glad I had the instinct to do that.

My very simple Sponge Cake with whipped cream frosting
To entertain the kids, I made them blow bubbles and left them to run around at the playground. Some of the kids went swimming in our little kiddie pool even though it was a little bit rainy and cold for a swim. I also covered the tables with white paper so they can draw all over them with crayons and put stickers on them. Kids are crazy about stickers. I always carry around a few sheets of them when I travel with my little girl. It keeps her entertained.

I also made my very own pull-string strawberry piñata out of some thick pink, red and green craft paper. This really took a lot of effort. I don't think I'm ever doing it again. I will just buy the ready made one next time. It was a bit rainy outside and so I had to hang it inside the function room. Still, it was quite a success with the kids.


Kids enjoying the goodies out of my DIY pull-string strawberry piñata

Fun times with friends

Enjoying her presents
Throwing this special party for my daughter reminded me so much of the times my aunt would throw big birthday parties for myself and my siblings when we were kids. It made me appreciate my aunt even more. 

Birthday parties are such special times for kids, especially during this time in their lives when they really appreciate all the love and attention that you show them. Plus, it's also a good time (and excuse) to get to be a kid all over again.

Useful links and sources:

Balloons and party supplies from Dreams and Confetti 
Baking supplies from Bake King
Marshmallows and candies from Muji
Party favors from Spotlight and Daiso
Craft papers from Artfriend
My daughter's cute birthday clothes from Cotton On Kids

And here's a link to my Pinterest Board, where I posted other stuff that you might just find useful.

P. S.
I had to adjust the sugar measurements for the Sponge Cake because I found it a little too sweet. Same with the Pink Lemonade. The marshmallows from the Japanese shop, Muji are heart-shaped, not very sweet at all, and on sale! And for the piñata, I made the strawberry design myself. ;)

Friday, April 15, 2016

And Death Shall Have No Dominion

Emergency flight back home

Grieving this week on a week that is supposed to be meant for celebrating numerous happy occasions... life's many ironies.

This week has been quite an extraordinary week -- there were two birthdays, a wedding and a funeral. Life is like a soap opera, or even a movie sometimes.

It's really difficult to lose a loved one. Especially one that is closest to you. And one who cared and dedicated her whole life to you, even though she didn't really have to.

I find it really difficult to search for words about how I feel, but I just want to say, I will forever be grateful to those who have been very sensitive to really feel and partake with my grief, despite miles and oceans of separation -- friends who took the time to ask and to listen, family and neighbors who lived close and far away, long forgotten faces who suddenly appeared out of nowhere to condole and console. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Les Misérables in Singapore

While browsing for events to keep my daughter occupied during her upcoming two-week school break, I chanced upon Sistic's ad on Les Misérables. I have always been a big fan of this show because I have always been a big fan of Lea Salonga.

Les Miz in Singapore! :)

Although, I have already seen it in London during my trip in 2008, it still piqued my interest to see it again because one of the cast members is again a Filipina. I'm a bit disappointed, though, to find on the web site that she is not included in the Singapore cast. And so I hesitated to book, but I decided that I want to see it again, anyway.

Seeing Les Miz for the first time in London -- it was a cold, drizzly night, but totally worth that wet walk to and from Picadilly Circus station.
Les Miserables, despite being a story about the French Revolution, will always, always take me back to London. I had such a nice time during my trip there -- pub-crawling, visiting Stone Henge, seeing the city of Bath and the museums and then this show! The people were so nice and chatty. I went during the summer but there was always a bit of rain during the day. It did not do anything to dampen my enthusiasm, though. 

Ice cream in the cold while crossing Tower Bridge
Now, reading the book in its original French version has always been in my list of things to do, but still have never quite gotten there. I get discouraged with how much of a handful (literally and figuratively) read it is, especially with my eyes getting more easily tired than usual these past years. Luckily, I chanced upon this Youtube channel where they read the book en français. How very convenient. Now, I don't have any excuse anymore.

Now about that show, I'll let you know how it is after I see it end of June. ;)

Monday, March 28, 2016

Pink Lemonade

In my search for everything pink for the upcoming Birthday Celebration of my daughter, I've come across "pink lemonade" on Pinterest. Since I love lemons and my daughter loves pink, I decided to test out this recipe that I found on Youtube. It was quite easy to make, and I love the fact that it uses raspberries for color, not an artificial food coloring.

Having a gouté for one with my Pink Lemonade + Bonne Maman treats
You can make your lemonade as pink as you want. I prefer to have mine with just a hint of pink. But upon serving it for snack to my daughter, she complained that it's orange, not pink. She just likes to complain all the time. I wonder whom she got that from? :D

Happy Easter! :)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

My Trusted Skin Care Products

It's always difficult to give your whole-hearted trust and loyalty to anything or anyone because more often than not, you get betrayed or let down. And I know you'll agree with me that this is also true when it comes to beauty and skin care products. Today, I am sharing with you some of my tried and tested, trusted names in skin care:

My favorite body lotion -- Crabtree and Evelyn. I used to get the Goat Milk scent, but they discontinued it several years ago.

At the top of my list for body moisturizers is Crabtree and Evelyn. I discovered this all by myself when I stumbled upon its tiny store in Old Greenbelt back in the early 2000's, which means I have been using this product for over ten years! Whether in the tropics, or visiting countries with maritime or continental weather, this is the perfect body moisturizer for my skin type, which tends to be on the dry side. What I love about it is that it's such a nice experience when you apply it onto the skin -- the delicious smell, the way it glides so smoothly, and how you immediately feel it being absorbed by your skin very quickly. Best of all, it has a non-greasy feel. But for areas that need more moisturizing like the feet, elbows, etc, I apply Argan Oil (I highly recommend Kiehl's).


Such a delicious smell for a body scrub

The last time I was at Crabtree and Evelyn, I decided to try another product, which is this refreshing and fragrantly scented body scrub. Now, I'm not really finicky and difficult when it comes to body scrubs. I usually use the strawberry scented one from The Body Shop, but since I'm a great fan of refreshing and fruity scents, I decided to be a little adventurous this time, and tried this one with pomegranate, argan and grapeseed. I have no regrets because I really liked it. It's not the best scrub I've tried but it really does the trick, especially if like me, you have a very picky nose when it comes to scents.

when hope is not enough night-time serum from Philosophy

Since last year, I've decided to add this brand called, Philosophy into my list of must-buys when it comes to skin care. I have totally fallen in-love with their facial wash. It's very, very mild although it's being marketed as a make-up remover as well. Aside from the facial wash, I also use the their brightening eye cream which is not so bad. I don't really have much to say about this eye cream because it's the first one that I've tried so I don't have any basis for comparison. But I can say that I don't really have any complaints about it. This time, though, I've decided to also try this serum from their product line called, "When hope is not enough" (they have such cute names) to add to my night-time skin regimen. It's quite nice. It leaves my skin feeling fresh and really moisturized when I wake up the next day. I don't use it every day though, just twice weekly.

Manuka Honey from New Zealand

Last in my list is something that may come as a surprise. You usually find it in the kitchen and not behind your bathroom closet. I actually use Manuka Honey from New Zealand as a face mask. And once a week, I use it as a facial scrub, mixed together with a T3 scrub that I bought from Aesop. It's actually quite a cute coincidence that the scrub that I used was purchased in Australia and the honey is a souvenir from a recent trip in New Zealand, and after scrubbing my face, I would apply the cold mud pack from the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, which I also bought from my trip. I have recently gotten into the habit of buying skin care products as souvenir from my trips, which is not a bad thing at all.

And that's about it. I actually keep my list short when it comes to skin care products. I still believe that the less chemical you put on your face, the better.

Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts about my list, and if you have other products in mind that you are loyal to.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Escapes and Escapades

Introducing, my very own travel blog: Escapecapades.com

The About Page of my new Travel Blog


For the longest time, I've dreamed of creating my very own blog that is just dedicated to my travels. And here it is now!

Read and enjoy! :)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Rotorua


From Hobbiton Movie Set in MataMata, we drove farther down South for about a couple of hours to reach Rotorua. We arrived late in the afternoon, so we only had time for dinner. We just had dinner at one of the not-so-interesting restaurants in this area at the city center called, Eat Street. And then it was a bit cold and rainy. We had a nice relaxing restful sleep at the motel after a tiring day from Hobbiton.

The next day, we visited Kuirau Hot Pools Park, which is in the middle of the city center. At first, I was not so impressed about it. But then I immediately figured out it's a huge park and we started in the less interesting parts. Later on, we found a place where we can soak our feet in a hot pool. My daughter and I enjoyed it very much. And then at the end, there was a huge, smoky, hot water lake filled with various shades of yellow, red, amber and greenish shades of mineral deposits.

At midday, we went to have lunch in one of the restaurants facing the lake. It was a hot and humid day, but nice and windy. It was quite a nice area for a promenade, but the restaurants were so-so. Later during our trip on the way back to Auckland, we stopped by Tauranga and had lunch in front of the lake there. It was so much nicer.


my favorite thing to do in parks -- tree-climbing in a mini-skirt! ;)

Lovely colors on the hot, smoky lake of Kuirau Park Hot Pools... was a bit stinky though.

This hot lake is the highlight of Kuirau Hot Pools Park. There is even a tiny, rickety bridge right in the middle of it. A bit scary to cross at high tide.

I went back the next day, a bit before sunset to take some long exposure, wide angle shots with my big camera. My shots didn't really turn out any nicer than the filtered iPhone ones that I posted on Instagram, though.

We stayed in the area where all the cute little motels are located. I chose to book on Asure Palm Court. My little girl and I totally loved the girly flowery decorations around the motel. And we most especially loved the jacuzzi tub in our room. :)

We also loved that the nice old Lolo owner gave us a quiet corner where we wouldn't hear all the vehicles in the parking area getting in and out of the hotel. Most of the other rooms are either facing the main road or the parking area.

Our room number

Charming flowery decorations at the motel

the jacuzzi hot tub at our motel room... this was huge and deep (up to my chest), but you can sit on the sides.

Later in the afternoon hubby and I decided to take a short walk in the Redwoods Forest by ourselves. I totally enjoyed this relaxing walk with my husband. We left our daughter to the in-laws to visit the zoo while we walked under the canopy of tall Sequoia trees and huge Silver Ferns for no more than an hour. There were different trails but I was not up for all the other trails that would take about four hours or more.

In the evening, we had dinner at a place close to our motel at a restaurant called Urbano Bistro. I quite enjoyed the food and the ambience. The staff were also very nice and friendly.

Small plane at Rotorua Lake

Rotorua Lake at lunch time

'neath the Sequoia trees at the Redwoods Forest walk

Tall ferns at Whakarewarewa Redwoods forest

On our third day in Rotorua, we went to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. It was just about a little more than an hours' drive from our motel. We spent about two hours walking around the whole park filled with boiling mud pools and colorful hot lakes. The highlight of the trip was the Champagne Pool. It was crazy hot, not just because of the hot pools, but because there weren't much shady trees in the area. It's advisable to put on a sun hat, sunglasses and sunblock on this trip. And it's essential to drink lots of water.

The Lady Knox fake geyser

one of the many boiling mud pits

This is the biggest hot pool in Wai-O-Tapu
I read in one of the information boards that Mt Pinatubo of my very own country is one of the biggest ash cloud producers in the history of volcanic eruptions. I am not surprised at all, as I have witnessed this myself. During the time of Mt Pinatubo eruption (which was in my early teens), I went up to our rooftop to see in amazement the thick mushroom-like ash cloud coming out of it. Back then, I didn't even know there was an active volcano close to our province. In the next few hours, everything was covered in thick darkness at midday, and it was raining ash and soot and tiny rocks. And there were these lightning flashes that were just all red, with thunder sounding like bombs! I thought it was the end of the world! The next day, there was about a meter of ash covering the whole landscape. To this day, I still get the shivers every time I think about the time Mt. Pinatubo erupted. And I still can't imagine myself going near the crater lake of the now, peaceful volcano, that has become a famous trekking site.

Mt Pinatubo of the Philippines is one of the biggest ash cloud producers in volcanic history

Champagne Pool -- the highlight of the Wai-O-Tapu walks

This hot pool is a unique milky muddy green color, which just looks fascinating in person

Before the Hot Pools visit in Wai-O-Tapu, we went to see the geyser called, Lady Knox, which they manually trigger to erupt twice a day. I have been warned by Tripadvisor reviewers to avoid this tourist trap, but everybody wanted to see it anyway since we arrived there just in time. It was nothing special. And the place where they do it is a bit cramped, overcrowded and dusty. Plus, the road is so tiny, it causes major traffic jams going back to the main entrance to the Hot Pools. So, don't bother seeing it if you ever are in the area.





After the walk at Wai-O-Tapu, we decided to relax and take a dip in the hot pools of Waikite Valley. The paved road on the way to the hot pools were making crackling sounds because they were melting in the heat from underground. It was really strange.

We were disappointed with the hot pools of Waikite as they were crowded and dirty. The bathrooms and shower stalls were also not well-maintained. But for a price of NZD 5, it's not such a bad idea, if you're not maarte like me.

So there you have it, that's the last bit of my New Zealand trip. I hope you enjoyed reading my Christmas and New Year adventure in Middle-Earth. :)

Please book your stay at Asure Palm Court here: