Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why I Love Beijing

Last month, my husband and I took a much needed break and flew to the land of peking duck... Beijing, China! :)

I was very excited about this trip because it's been more than two years since our last escape without the kids. Don't get me wrong, I love this season of my life when I am over-the-top busy with my precious children. But of course, I want to share quality time with my original "panganay" too! :))

Anyway, Beijing was our choice destination for three reasons: 1) It was just a 4-hour flight from Manila; 2) I have always dreamed of stepping on the Great Wall of China; 3) We can see so much in a short time (as parents, we couldn't be away too long!).

So off we went to our Beijing mega-date! Here's a round-up of the 5 things I found most fascinating on our trip :)

1. The Beijing Subway

At the time of our trip, Manila had enormous problems about our MRT (well, til now actually), so using Beijing's version made me super envious! I  really wish that we had the same efficient and reliable public transportation system. Our guide, Sheila, mentioned that the city was experiencing massive traffic jams too often, and so now the government is beefing up their public transport system to encourage people to keep their cars in the house and just take the train or bus. Is our government listening to this??? Hehe.

Travel tip: The subway costs only ¥2, whatever the distance, so make sure to take advantage of it. I suggest booking a hotel close to a subway station. (We were booked at Novotel Xin Quiao.) A few steps and you can get to almost every major tourist spot via subway. 
2. The food.


My husband trying the scorpions. Eeeewwww!!!

I don't remember any meal of ours that was dull. We especially loved the restaurant choices of our guide. She took us to the yummiest places where the locals go, and had us try the best Chinese food! The food at our hotel was also great, which made our lives sooo easy! Pag gutom kami, bababa nalang kami. Hehe. Of course, we ventured out a few times as well. We had a date at Dadong, Beijing's most popular peking duck restaurant... and yes, the duck was amazing! Nuff said.

Travel Tip: Set out on foot on the colorful Wangfujing Street, Beijing's famous night market, where exotic delicacies like fried scorpions are sold! 

3. The history.

One off my bucket list: standing on the Great Wall of China! :)
Day 1: Great Wall at Mutianyu & the Summer Palace
This was what brought me to Beijing in the first place. The Great Wall, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square. The political science major (and royal fan) in me was just so fascinated with these structures that hark back to the era of Imperial China.

I throughly enjoyed our time at the Great Wall. We traveled to the Mutianyu part of the wall where there were only a handful of tourists, so when we got there, it felt like we had a whole stretch for ourselves. It was surreal walking on that awesome structure... I could hardly imagine men building them for decades!

Day 2 (AM): Tiananmen Square & Forbidden City
Day 2 (PM): Visiting the hutongs (old residential area of Beijing) in a traditional rickshaw
Temple of Heaven
Travel Tip: We traveled 1.5 hours to get to the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu, and it is worth it! Avoid the crowds that can diminish your experience of the wall by saving a couple more hours to get to Mutianyu. Plus, you get the thrill of riding a hanging chair (like an open cable car) and a tobogan! 

4. The modernity.

Beijing Olympic Park
One of the coolest things about Beijing is that not only are the historical structures a few kilometers away from each other, but also their modern buildings are right in the heart of the city. I think it's a testament to the Chinese urban planning that they were able to marry history with modernity in their capital.

Travel Tip: The Olympic Park has its own subway stop, so it's really a breeze to visit this complex on your own. I believe it's best to visit in the late afternoon (just before sunset), so that you can wait for the lights to go up. They say the Cube is magical at night!

5. The quality time.

We saved one night to watch the Kung Fu show at the Red Theatre. I highly recommend this! The show was fantastic :)
Cheers to more mega-dates like this!
This may not be a big deal to many, but to me, Beijing will always remind me of the first time I got an 8-hour sleep at night--no night feedings! Hehehe. But seriously, the time I shared with my husband will always be a highlight of this trip. Like I said, it's been a while since we ventured out with just the two of us. Our Beijing trip sort of brought back our days as a couple and it reminded me why I married Julz. NAAAAAKS. Cheesy.

Also, because of the language barrier, it can be quite stressful going around Beijing. This is why it's important to have a travel buddy who will not add stress into the whole trying-to-understand-things and will get even just your facial expression! :)

Travel Tip: Catch the Legend of Kung Fu at the Red Theatre. You may get discounted tickets by emailing beijingshows@gmail.com. Upon receipt of your email, they will give you a reservation name and instructions where you'll pick up and pay your tickets. No need for downpayment for this one! :)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Life Lessons I've Learned From Blogging

I had a very interesting and fulfilling week. The past seven days were a mix of family, work, and me-time. Needless to say, I'm one happy and recharged mommy!

On Wednesday, I got to attend what is probably the mommy event of the year-- Mom-Me Time 2014. This was hosted by Baby and Breakfast, in partnership with Wanders & Wonders and Babyland. I will talk more about this in my next post as I want to wait for the official photos (my phone snapshots just won't do justice to the prettiness of the event!).
Okay... I guess one photo won't hurt... Lol ;)

Then on Saturday, I went to the uber charming La Creperie in Salcedo, Makati to be part of Martine de Luna's Blissful Blogging 101 workshop.

I love La Creperie!!! And my Lulu DK Tattoo! :)
First, allow me to say that I was so excited to be part of the workshop! (Thank you, Patty, for inviting me!) I've long wanted to listen to blog guru Martine, but just didn't have enough guts to set a date with her (I felt I was a non-worthy blogger hahaha). Now I know I shouldn't have thought that way because Martine is soooo nice. I'm sure she knows I'm no biggie in the blogging world, but she never made me feel that way--quite the contrary, she made me feel that MY blog is a significant platform for me and my community!

So now, I have all these crazy wonderful ideas for my blog. I have finally come full circle from my blogging burnout!
I literally sat beside Martine aka the Blog Therapist so I can absorb all her blogging bliss. Haha!
More than that, I learned a lot from Martine that goes beyond blogging. Below you'll find the 3 life lessons I learned from blogging :) I hope it'll have the same impact on you as it had on me :)

1. The value of discipline.
We all know this from our childhood, but it was only during the workshop that I realized that blogging, no matter how seemingly "free" and unrestricted it is, requires discipline too. A blogger needs discipline to sit down, write and edit quality posts, to post them according to a schedule, and to keep the blog consistent and harmonious. This is all the more true when a blogger wants to grow her blog or brand.

You see, even if it is a passion or a God-given talent, one still needs discipline to cultivate it and grow it. As renowned author John Maxwell puts it, "Talent is not enough."

Such is life as well. If we want to grow something--a career, a business, even marriage and motherhood--we need discipline. Every conceivable resource we have is finite, so we cannot afford to be reckless about it. For instance, I only have 24 hours in a day--it is up to me how I'll make use of that time and break them down in a way that allows me to be most efficient and productive.

2. The value of purpose.
Hand in hand with discipline is purpose. Just as a blogger must be intentional about blogging, so must we be intentional with our life too. Discipline makes sense only when we have purpose.

Purpose is the ultimate, meaningful life goal we have. One can find her purpose in being a mother, or a career woman, or a missionary.

If you're a long-time reader of my blog, you must've noticed that I haven't posted as often as before, and the few articles I do have pale in comparison with the quality of what I published in the past. I guess that's because I've lost both purpose and discipline for my blog. I'm glad to say I've found that purpose again :)

3. The value of self-development.
It pays to invest in yourself, re-define your limits, and develop new skills.

My love for blogging is rooted in my passion for writing. I took that for granted, and it resulted to me being stagnant and uninspired. My writing showed that.

And so I've learned that there is absolutely nothing wrong in spending some money for self-improvement. In fact, the wealthiest, most successful people in the world says this is an essential--because learning never stops!

Read books, attend workshops and seminars, engage in meaningful conversations with wise and positive people, go back to school... these are just some of the many things we can do to make better versions of ourselves! :)


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Job and Me


Almost one year ago, I wrote about a very desperate time in my life. It was a moment when my heart was just aching for answers from my God, after a series of events that rocked my most treasured blessing—my family.

I had echoed Job’s cries then: “What I always feared has happened to me. What I dreaded has come true. I have no peace, no quietness. I have no rest; only trouble comes.” (Job 3:25-26)

I’ve memorized the heartache, and I remember it to this day.

Although I never doubted God’s power, I felt confused and, somehow, abandoned. I felt I needed answers--a proper justification--for what was happening to me.

But last night, as I was “reviewing” for my storytelling time for Jaden, I came across the story of Job again. This time, I read until the very end.

I was struck at God’s response to Job’s cries and complaints. Perhaps because I used Job’s words as mine, I felt that God was talking to me, too.

I couldn’t help tearing up when I read Chapters 38 and 39 of the Book of Job. Allow me to quote a few lines:
“Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:
‘Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell me, if you know so much,
Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line?
What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning starts sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?
 Who kept the sea inside its boundaries as it burst from the womb?
 Have you ever commanded the morning to appear,
And caused the dawn to rise in the east?’”
 
I was humbled. I realized how great and mighty, how all-knowing and powerful the Lord is, and how entitled of me to feel that I deserved answers as soon as I demanded them.

The Lord has been nothing but good, merciful, faithful and gracious to me for 31 years and counting. His track record in my life is sterling, marred only by my own stubborness. How did I ever even consider that He is far from me when I need Him? How did I ever even feel that I had “no rest”? Have I forgotten that He is my rest?

I guess that’s what happens when we focus on our feelings. Frail and fleeting, emotions can literally take us down and snatch our gaze onto ourselves, instead of on the Lord. Because I was too focused on my troubles and my desperation, I forgot that these are the very moments when God wants me to just surrender and trust in His power. No, I didn’t need to know the why’s and the how’s of His plan—I just needed to have faith.

Just as I quoted Job before, I borrow his words again today: “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me… I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.” (Job 42:2-5)

Today, 329 days after I cried out to God, I can say that I have healed. Yes, I do remember the pain, but God has long mended the broken heart that I carried for months. My faith went through fire, and now it as solid as a diamond. Because of the lessons of the past, I have learned that, whether in seasons of tears or joys, faith should come before my feelings.

As I survey our blessings, I believe my family’s time to laugh has come and God is giving us a peek into the beautiful plan He has for us.

And for the final time, I will make reference to Job, because somehow, I know that something this wonderful will happen to me too:

“CONCLUSION: The LORD Blesses Job 
 When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before! Then all his brothers, sisters, and former friends came and feasted with him in his home. And they consoled him and comforted him because of all the trials the Lord had brought against him. And each of them brough him a gift of money and a gold ring.
 So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning...” 
 (Job 42:10-16)
Certainly, the Lord delights in greatly blessing us and it is my prayer that whoever you are reading this very personal piece right now, will affirm God's goodness in your life too :)

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Tapping My Competitiveness

From school, I brought Jaden to work today because I had to rush something for a client. I got him lunch and proceeded to tell him to eat by himself while I beat my deadline.

Midway through his meal, Jaden goes, "Mom, can you feed me?"

"No, you have to do it by yourself," I reply.

Jaden slumps and says, "I'm tired already..." 

I don't look up this time. I just tell him, "Please, anak. Finish your food."

After a while, from the corner of my eye, I see him sit up with huge smile on his face. 

Then he turns serious again.

And then out loud, and in his cute lambing (almost singsong) voice, Jaden says, "You know, mommy? Ate Violet is REALLY GREAT at feeding me... 

...You kaya?"

Omg. This kid.




Monday, October 06, 2014

My Picks from BEAUTYMNL.com

A few days ago, I opened my inbox and out popped mail from Deal Grocer announcing the opening of its "baby sis". I instantly got curious and found myself clicking the link to BeautyMNL.com.

Ayun na. Hindi na ako nakatrabaho for about one hour. Haha.

BeautyMNL.com is an online shopping site that was made for ME! Hehe. Ok, I am exaggerating. But it did feel like that for that first hour I was glued to my laptop scanning all the pretty things for sale.

The stuff for skin care, the RMK makeup, and the accessories were the ones that really called out to me: "Bilhin mo na ko... You deserve me!!!" It didn't help that I was in the middle of a tiring work week, so paniwalang-paniwala ako na deserve ko talaga lahat sila! Lol.

As if that wasn't enough, the 20% discount made shopping all the more irresistible! Yep, we get 20% off on our first purchase, and then another 10% rebate on our next purchases! Wooza!

Anyway, here are my picks from BeautyMNL.com. Wish ko lang mabili ko lahat sila! Hehehe.







Visit BeautyMNL now and make your own wish list! :)
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