I was on my 23rd week of pregnancy when I decided to throw a very casual baby shower or rather a gender reveal. It was a little too early but it’s also a way for me finally meet some friends whom I was not able to see for quite some time due to my condition. Besides, I know how excited they are for me.
We went for a congenital ultrasound early in the morning. Guess what? It’s a boy! Wish granted for me, though whatever gender is ok. All we’re praying for is a healthy baby. We hurried back home to cook and prepare for the gender reveal. Our guests came late which gave us enough time to cook and prepare.
Lek helped me do a simple wall decoration and prepared some games. The foods we prepared are more like comfort food. I prepared a potato salad casserole and fruit salad, bought a banana cake and brownies from bakeries and Jayson cooked French fries and Pansit. He also made some home-made peanut butter in case they want some sandwich.
The games that Lek prepared were so fun and so suitable for my Maersk friends. There were four games:
1. Create our Baby’s face – My 8 guests were grouped by pairs. They were given an A4 printout of my face and Jayson’s face and another paper with a baby’s face shape outlined. They had to come up with a baby’s look out of our faces. Best creation wins. For this game, Natz and Era won.
2. Charades – This is a game in which players had to guess the title of a song or movie with the baby word in them from pantomimed clues. We grouped them into 2 and it was Era, Natz, Joy and Rhianne who won the game.
3. Guess the Song title – There’s a team representative for every round who will pick a song title and an animal sound he/she can use to sing some lines from the song. Team members have to guess the song within a minute. If the team members were not able to guess the song, the other team can steal to get a point. It was the same group who won this game.
4. Guess my Baby’s Name – I told my guests to get a piece of paper and a pen. I told them a clue for my baby’s name. Barang who was actually the first one to give me her guess won the game.
Those were all the games that we did. By the way, my best friend’s mom and sister also came. I think I spent almost half an hour to open their wonderful gifts for my baby! It was evening already when we finished and my friends were still full to eat dinner. Too bad my high school friends were not able to come.
Hereditary premature graying hair has been my problem since I was 16 years old. So, as soon as I reached college, I started coloring my hair to cover the gray hair. And as my hair grows fast, I regularly do it every 4-6 weeks.
Now, I am 18 weeks pregnant and this problem of mine got bigger because, as we all know, hair colors are made with a lot of chemicals. Even those hair colors from natural product stores still have a minimum amount of ammonia.
Luckily, I found the Beauty Secrets Clinic over the internet. This clinic, like its name implies, offers the secret for healthy beautiful skin and hair, whatever your health condition is. Their hair color is made from organic ingredients and is chemical-free.
Ms. Jinnie Uy, owner and director of Beauty Secrets clinic, is a health advocate. She strongly believes that “prevention is better than cure” and we are what we eat. The chemicals in the products that we use and eat destroy our healthy cells, thus causing sickness like cancer over time.
The hair color (Radico Colour Me) looks and smells organic. It covers virgin hair easily, but if you’ve been doing hair color or other salon treatments before, the first dose of hair color will not cover the hair entirely as it will neutralize the chemicals you still have in your hair. You have to come back after a couple of days for another round.
Beauty Secrets Clinic has a section for Hair Secret Organic Clinic which offers hair services. The organic hair color costs P2,500 and above, depending on your hair length. You can also buy their hair color product which is on promotion at the moment — a box weighing 100 grams costs P3,500, which is normally P5,000. It will be good for 2-3 uses depending on your hair length.
Radico Colour Me didn’t stain my skin and towel after my bath as well. It is neither itchy nor harsh in the scalp. Though the dye tones are limited, it is 100% safe. It solves the hair dye problems of pregnant women like me, and even cancer patients and survivors.
I was finally able to try an adult coloring book. I did a page with an illustration of Japanese lanterns hung up on a garden. The details are so elaborate and it took me a day to finished it. It was a way to distress for some people but I found it stressing as I colored small details and tried to make the shading of the colors even. I wanted to stop but I can’t leave it unfinished. I was telling myself not to do it again as I was coloring. I’ll rather draw, paint or color Sam’s coloring books.
To prove myself that it is better to draw, this morning, I grabbed my untouched canvass pad that I bought a few years ago and a pencil. I looked for pregnant women’s photos in the internet for inspiration and started to draw. After almost three hours, taaddaaa! Here’s my artwork. It’s simple but I was so happy with the outcome since I can’t even remember the last time I drew or painted. A good alternative for photography.
Day 5 – Jenolan Caves
Another spectacular attraction in Blue Mountains is the Jenolan Caves, which was our itinerary for the next day. Instead of visiting a zoo, Cath promised us that we would go see kangaroos and wallabies in the wild so she booked us a cabin at Jenolan Caves Cottages.
It was already dark on our way there. The Kangaroo Crossing signs in the road made us excited and Cath drove extra careful. We even saw actual kangaroos crossing the road. The passageway to the Jenolan Caves Cottages was in a forest full of woods. Imagining the place as a setting for thriller movie like ‘Into the woods’ gave us the creeps. However, the cabins looked homey. The wooden interior and fireplace gave it a cozy feel. What’s more homey was our home-cooked dinner of Pan Grilled Salmon, Broccoli and fresh mushroom soup.
Ging was the first to wake up the next day. Though I was still sleepy, I was more excited to see kangaroos so I woke up and prepared my camera phone the moment I saw Ging getting hers. We went out to the veranda. First, we saw one then there came another. We hurried to the other room to wake up Liza by pulling her legs. There were too many kangaroos already when we went out again. I think they’re used to people feeding them that’s why they go near cabins when they saw us. They look harmless but it was our first time to see them near so it was only when Mex found a playmate at the playground that we went down from the cabin to get closer to them.
It was something special, but we found out later that they were wallabies and not kangaroos, haha. It was almost afternoon when we reached Jenolan Caves – a tourist site with restaurants and lodgings built around 11 show caves and underground rivers. It has the world’s oldest caves so visiting is a must.
There are different timings for cave tours and these tours are categorized by what you can see inside the cave, the size of the group that can be accommodated, and the level of difficulty exploring it. Prices for cave tours range from 35 AUD to 220 AUD; however there are self-guided audio tours that come free when you buy a cave tour ticket.
While waiting for The Orient Cave tour to commence, we explored the Grand Arch – a cave ruin big enough to host an event like a concert, located at the entrance of Jenolan Caves. Bush walking is also for free and Jenolan is offering 6 scenic tracks. We walked around the surreal Blue Lake. Blue Lake track was an easy walk; it lasted for 20-30 mins. We passed by a very nice De Burgh’s bridge before seeing the flora and trees. The lake was a very blue color. There are also a lot of animals, I even heard a couple of kids telling their dad that they saw a snake near a rock but too bad I was not able to see the platypus living in the area.
After a nice introduction to the tourist site, we headed to the meeting place for the Orient cave tour where some tourists were already waiting. The tour is kids-friendly; the tour guide made the kids count the steps from the meeting point to the Cave entrance ‘Binoomea Cut’. The LED lights that are installed in the caves gave us a different way to view its grandest limestone formations. It took us 90 minutes to tour this 470 meters long, average difficulty cave. I never knew that there could be too much caves in just one place until my trip to Jenolan.
Somewhere down the Hartley road, the Talisman, wood fired pizza café, came to our view and the words ‘wood fired pizza’ made us curious so we stopped by for some coffee and pizza. The coffee was nicely brewed and the ingredients of pizza were fresh. The dough tasted nice and for me, as long as the ingredients are fresh, the taste will never go wrong. The place is rustic and quirky at the same time. A portion of the place had a display of merchandise that was both bohemian and modern.
It was still early in the evening when we reached the CBD area of Sydney so we just decided to watch a movie in an outdoor movie house. How cool is that for someone who hasn’t tried it? The movie house was like a big open parking lot with an establishment where people can buy snacks to go with their movie-watching. Some people even brought chairs to watch the movie outside their cars. It was our longest day in Sydney.
Day 6 – Circular Quay and Darling Harbour
Our 4th day in Sydney was a day without a tour guide. Cath drop us off at DFO and went to work while Mex came with us to explore the city. DFO is said to be the best shopping place in the country but when we saw the prices of the items, we all thought that the sale items in Singapore are much cheaper. We ended up not buying anything. Outside the mall, there was a Korean event that is open to public. We had some Korean food while Mex played in one of the play booths. It was a bit hard for us to go to Circular Quay from that place as the Koreans in the bus stop didn’t speak English, while the others didn’t know what bus we could take until a Filipino family suggested that we take a bus to the subway and go to Circular Quay by train.
The first place we went to at Circular Quay is the Museum of Contemporary Arts – a building that looks like boxes arranged asymmetrically in The Rocks. This museum is dedicated to exhibiting and collecting contemporary art, both from across the country and around the world. The exhibition that time was Primavera 2014. I won’t forget the single video work of Madison Brycoft “Entitled” wherein a lady shaved her head and place an octopus on the top of it. There was also the installation called Audio Helmet. Mex tried the helmet and wore it while exploring the room when a guide told us that he had to put the helmet back in its place.
We then stopped by at Paddys Market. Tourists go there for all the souvenirs they need. The market is clean and spacey and souvenir prices are less expensive compared outside. There are small koala bear stuffed toys for 5 AUD, refrigerator magnets worth 4 for 10 AUD, shot glasses priced at 10 AUD for 4 pieces and a lot more.
The last place we went to is Darling Harbour, where there were small events like film viewing and etc. The place glowed from the colorful night lights. I remember talking with a hotel guest at work saying that Singapore is like Darling Harbour and indeed they are similar in a lot of ways.
We had a harder time going home since we couldn’t find our way to the subway but we found some interesting scenes like some places in the city we passed by and a guy in Mario costume playing an electric guitar in the street. Those made us enjoy roaming around the CBD by just commuting
Day 7 – Hunter Valley
The last but definitely not the least place that we visited was the place I’ve been excited to visit. It’s for people who are interested to see where some of the known wines came from – The Hunter Valley. It seemed far but it was actually just two hours from Sydney and it gave us the feel of unobtrusive country charm. Too bad there was no event at the time.
On our way to Hunter Valley, we passed by a coffee shop with the most interesting interior and a wonderful patio named The Crossings. They specialize in coffee and they also sell authentic bits and pieces. I bought a kangaroo-shaped bottle opener that is made from metal and made by the hand of a blacksmith. It cost 40AUD, which is quite expensive but I really fell in love with the craftsmanship involved.
We stopped by another premier attraction in the area, which is the Hunter Valley Chocolate company. Here, they make fine chocolates with Australian dried fruits. They also sell gelato and some drinks. We bought some chocolates and nougats to bring to Singapore.
And then, finally, we made it to Hunter Valley vineyards and it seemed like they just harvested grapes. There are over 80 wineries in the area and they also offer tours covering from how to grow grapes, the process to produce wine and wine appreciation. Too bad we didn’t book for any tour; nevertheless we enjoyed strolling in the vineyards.
The next day, we spent the morning organizing our baggage and things. We didn’t feel like leaving but we had no choice, haha. We were able to maximize our time in Sydney because of Cath. Everything was amazing and unforgettable and I am hoping to come back.
Whenever I think of Valentine’s date, a picture of crowded malls and restaurants is the first that comes to mind. I can’t even remember the last time I was out for Valentine’s day.
Now, I’m back in Manila. Lala and I have been trying to make up for our two years of long distance relationship. We decided to go out and have an unusual Valentines date.
We went to Quiapo, Manila, not to tour around one of the most notorious market in the world for counterfeit and pirated goods but to shop for mountain bike accessories.
Quezon boulevard in Quiapo is one of the well-known places for buying bicycles and accessories. And if you’re up for buying cheap China-made accessories, there are a lot of sidewalk vendors offering a range of products.
Lala bought the following: Bottle cage mount – P80 Bike seat cover – P100 Bike front light – P120 Bicycle bell – P180
For serious cyclists, there are quality products in some of the shops. However I don’t suggest buying bicycles here as it is much cheaper in Cartimar in Libertad, Pasay.
When in Quiapo, don’t eat fastfood at the Filipino restaurants because the place is known for old Chinese eateries. One of the famous restaurants here is Ma Mon Luk.
Ma Mon Luk is named after a Chinese-Filipino chef/entrepreneur who is the innovator of siopao and mami here in Philippines. The eatery is an indoor open space ventilated with huge ceiling fans. The menu, plus framed write-ups and newspaper clips about the eatery hang on their wooden wall.
The place is an image of restaurant settings in Filipino movies during the 80s. They offer a limited selection of food, from mami, siopao, siomai, softdrinks, and bottled water.
We tried the special mami, special siopao, and siomai. The noodles was ok but the mami soup was too gamey for me to eat. Their siopao is good but it has a lot of salted egg inside, making it salty. Their siomai is big and meaty.
The noodles and siopao are handmade and the serving is quite big for me. That’s the reason why the price is not that cheap. It was a good experience eating out in a tradionally old eatery but overall the food there is not something I would crave for.
It was definitely a unique way to spend Valentines Day. It was like a tour in a some ways as I was also introduced to other known eateries in the area.
It’s been a year now since the best travel I’ve ever had. I’ve been away from blogging for a while, because I’ve been reviewing for MCP and studying PMP, but here I am now, unemployed and I have ample time to write about it.
This place is known for making good tasting wines. The famous Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and a lot of their places are featured in different magazines all over the world. Because of those, I knew I loved Australia before I met it.
It is very easy and convenient to apply for an Australia Tourist Visa in Singapore. You can either do it via the AVEC Center, which provides visa application processing services, or online at this link. Visa application fees range from 135 AUD to 340 AUD. We applied via AVEC Center and we were advised that the processing would take 10 days. However, after 5 days, the VISA was ready. We paid a service fee of 42 SGD. My cousin residing in Dubai tried to apply for a VISA online and it took them almost a month. We flew via Scoot, a Singapore based low-cost airline with routes predominantly from Singapore to Australia or China.
Day 1 – Brighton Beach and King Cross
We were welcomed with a big hug from Liza’s friend Cath. After some rest and a snack at her house in Kogarah, she brought us to Hurricane Grill, a modern steakhouse in Grande Parade, Brighton Le-Sands. The restaurant just closed for lunch so we hung out at Brighton Le-Sands Beach first where we met some new friends. We went back to Hurricane Grill again, and this time it was open for dinner and we were their first customers for dinner that day. We tried the Pork Ribs, Prawns, Pumpkin Soup and Octopus Salad. The meat is very tender and tasteful; I also love the soup and salad a lot. It is actually the best soup and salad I’ve ever tasted. This is food to come back for.
After the nicest welcome dinner, we headed to King Cross. We booked a room for sharing at Jackaroo Hostel for that night; we shared a room with a nice Argentinian girl looking for a job in Sydney. We were able to roam around King Cross, take some photos and enjoy ice cream on a chilly night. Some people welcomed us by photobombing.
Day 2 – Wattamolla and South Coast Wollongong
We had our first Australian breakfast of oats, milk, wheat breads, Vegemite, and some gluten-free wafer-like cereal, which I forgot the name of. Everything is plain and healthy and some were new to our taste.
Cath with her smarty pants son Mexie fetched us for a day in Wattamolla beach. Wattamolla is the first National Park in Australia with cliffs broken by beaches and deep river valleys. It is located in the south of Sydney. We went there for a picnic and sunbathing and there are more activities you can enjoy there, like kayaking, swimming, cycling, birds and whale-watching (just bring a binocular). But if you are looking for a more adventurous activity, you can jump in the water from 10-meter-high coastal cliffs.
We were already hungry by mid-afternoon. Cath drove us to the Wollogong area for a nice early dinner at Bombora Restaurant. This restaurant, set high in Wollongong Harbour has an indoor and outdoor dining space that gives access to an impressive view of the area. We ordered their specialty, which is the Bombora Basket. We also tried their mussels, Fish of the Day and Chicken Parmigiana. The food was good and we were so full that we didn’t finish the Hot Chocolate Prune Cake and Poached Pear.
While waiting for the food, I tried to explore the area formerly known as Baltimore Basin. It is home to a large fishing fleet — the reason why Pelicans love to stay in the area. It is an ideal place to hang out with friends or to just have a walk, as it is near a historic lighthouse named Wollongong Breakwater Lighthouse.
Day 3 – Bondi Beach, Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and Manly Beach
It was a bit chilly for me that day, but Cath said that it’s good weather for the beach again so we went to Bondi Beach. Bondi Beach is a popular beach near the central district of Sydney. Aussies are beach lovers, and I was amazed how they enjoy the beach in a chilly weather. The beach wasn’t that crowded that day — I’ve seen how packed Bondi Beach is in the summer in photos.
After chilling in the beach, we walked 3 kilometers to have lunch at JG café. Cath was craving for Filipino food and she found this Filipino restaurant on the Internet. We tried to walk fast so that we didn’t feel cold, so I was like a bit sweaty and cold at the same time. JG Café is a Filipino-owned restaurant serving Filipino and Western food. They also serve baked goods like cupcakes readily available in a display shelf. The food is ok but not that great, but the service of the owner is great. He chatted with us for us not be bored while waiting for our food.
We headed to the suburbs with our heavy tummy. We were so excited to finally see the central business district, particularly Ging. Circular Quay is a picturesque place. I especially like how it looked like with the before-sunset glow. We visited the Sydney Opera House, which is famous for being one of the most distinctive buildings of 20th century. It received attention during Sydney 2000 Olympics for being included in the Olympic Torch route to the Olympic stadium. From then, it became the backdrop of some Olympic events. Near the Opera House is the Sydney Harbour Bridge — the world’s largest steel arch bridge standing at its highest point 440 ft. above Sydney Harbour. I was in awe – I was so happy to see these places.
We caught a ferry to Manly Beach to enjoy the view of the area from water. It was getting cold so we did not walk around Manly Beach, or maybe the real reason was because we were enticed by the nicest smell of coffee and chocolate from Max Brenner. I know! There’s Max Brenner in Singapore and even in Philippines, but we are just humans with sweet tooths and a love for coffee.
Day 4 – Blue Mountains
Our target place for this day was a world heritage-listed site named Blue Mountains. Before going there, we had a late lunch at Yellow Deli in Katoomba. The place made me feel like I was in a movie setting. The deli looks interestingly organic, like the food they serve. The interior is composed of wooden bucket inspired warm lights; the tables and the chairs are made from different sizes of recycled timbers that gave us an eccentric feel. The toilet is just as cozy with walls of old photos and newspaper articles that are readable. The menu is mostly sandwiches and salads but the quality of the breads and greens are so good. We tried the soup of the week, which is pumpkin soup, plus the smoked chicken sandwich, the best Reuben sandwich I’ve ever tasted, and a Chef Salad. The choices of drinks are very fascinating; I loved both the Hot Apple Cider and the Hot Not Chocolate.
We enjoyed the stimulating lunch and the ambiance of the Deli, and it was already mid-afternoon when we arrived at Blue Mountains. The place is said to be called Blue Mountains because of the blue haze that hovers over the area. It is a famous tourist spot for nature lovers and a popular place for rock climbers, mountain bikers and hikers. We don’t have much time; we focus on a particular place which is the Scenic World. This tourist attraction provides a scenic experience for tourists. The Scenic Walkway gave us a feel of touring a Jurassic rainforest. The Scenic Cableway gave us a panoramic view of the Blue Mountains and the Scenic Railway which thrilled us with its 52 degree incline riding experience with the steepest passenger railway in the world. Too bad they are open until 5pm only we were not able to try the Scenic Skyway. It’s nature adventure overload!
To be continued…