Wednesday, October 28, 2015

SKINvesting with Luminisce

As I have always done in the past, I will be the first to tell you that I was not blessed with flawless, pore-less, ultra-smooth skin. That's me not so much bravely admitting a secret, as simply stating what can be seen.

In fact, skin care was quite a struggle, especially in my teens. It is a miracle that I got through that phase with my self-esteem unscathed.

I wish I could say I've long passed the phase of acne. That would be a dream! But to be completely honest, I still get zits even today at 32! They're considerably less (thankfully!), but they now come with other skin problems like dark spots, dry patches, and fine lines!

Unlike long ago, however, dealing with them is no longer a struggle!

Luminisce is on the 2nd floor of the Mercury Drug Bldg (across St. Lukes) in BGC

Two years ago, I met Dr. Kaycee Reyes at her then newly-opened clinic in BGC. My first impression of her was that she was very unassuming, refined, and gentle. As a doctor, it was immediately clear to me that she knows skin and has a genuine heart for her patients.

As I got to know her better, I realized that I was not mistaken with my first impression! If I missed anything, it was probably the fact that Dr. Kaycee also has real passion for her job. This is seen in her continuous pursuit of training and improvement in dermatology and laser technology, as well as in her efforts in helping others understand proper skin care and wellness. (She writes a regular column in a major spreadsheet, appears on TV for consults, and goes on radio too!)

Thus, it was no surprise to me when Luminisce, Kaycee's baby-slash-clinic, grew to be one of the sought-after skin care centers in Manila. The Philippines' most beautiful came frolicking to her clinic! And telling the world about it too!

What came as a surprise to me was that, even after Kaycee would have famous names on her patient list, my favorite doctor and her staff never gave me second-rate treatments. Although I was a non-celebrity, I felt I was a real VIP in Luminisce.

I'm a proud SKINvestor!

Not only would Kaycee listen to my skin problems, she would also give me enough time to pour out anything else that stressed me out! Over time, Luminisce became my sanctuary. Kaycee became my friend. And probably everyone at the clinic knew that I was visiting because I needed a skin tune-up AND a break for myself, a relaxing me-time as I like to call it.

Indeed, gone are the days when I dreaded facials because they hurt. Gone are the days when I would spend hard-earned money on treatments that weren't customized for my own skin. Gone are the days when I wouldn't understand the treatments! And gone are the days of disappointment and frustration over my skin.

At Luminisce, I found a home. SKINvesting became part of a pleasant journey to overall wellness. At 32, I am now aware more than ever that wellness is essential in living the life that we've always dreamed of. There should be no guilt when you take care of your skin, of your health, of yourself. Everyone benefits from a happy and healthy woman!

Luminisce and I believe in this deeply, and so, to celebrate their upcoming anniversary, we are giving two of my readers a chance to be pampered with trademark Luminisce treatment & services! I don't know about you, but I think this is just PERFECT!

All you have to do is:
1. Follow @luminisce_official, @stellapastores, and @audreyangcos on Instagram.
2. Upload a SELFIE with the hashtags #skinvestorstreat and #skinvestingwithstella.
3. Answer the question, "Why do you deserve to have an afternoon pampering session with Luminisce?"
4. Email your answer to with the Subject "Skinvesting with Stella".
5. Please include your complete name, address, and contact number in your email.

I highly encourage you to join! Please spread the word, too! After all, SKINvesting is more than just a beauty regimen, it is a choice to be embrace wholeness and wellness!

*The contest ends on November 22, 2015. 
Winners will be announced on the Blog on November 27.
Open for Philippine residents who can travel to BGC 
on December 6, 2015 for the pamper session.*

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

My Kitchen Adventures!

I have a newfound joy these days and I discovered it in the most unlikely place of all: our kitchen!

I used to frown out of envy and self-disappointment when I would hear of wives serving their husbands by preparing the family meal. Then I would cringe inwardly when others remind me that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

I honestly believed--and still do, actually--that whipping up a good meal is not my forte. I didn't grow up in a house where cooking was a family affair. Sure, we'd all sit down for nice dinner, but it was always generously and lovingly prepared by my lola, mostly by herself.

In short, before marriage, I don't recall chopping, sautéing, baking, etc. Eating lang talaga. Hehehe.

When I married Julz, medyo naiba. Occasionally, I would cook something for him--usually it was cream of squash, pasta, and salpicao. Yan lang kasi alam ko. Hahaha. Thank God, naging "favorite" nya naman. (As if he had a choice haha).

In fairness, iba-iba naman ang presentation ng pumpkin soup ko. Haha!
Later on, I ventured into making juices and smoothies, which proved to be a hit in the family. We were gifted with a nice juicer and blender, so these made the job very easy. I loved the stuff I was able to make!  

I don't know what happened in between, but nowadays, I find myself in the kitchen more often. And I am absolutely enjoying it! So much so that I've been brave enough to try making different dishes (hindi soup at pasta lang! LOL) aaaand I've started baking! Hooray!

C is for Cookie, that's good enough for me! :)
Admittedly, I am only at the rookie level of the rookies league. So my husband's favorite kare-kare will have to wait longer before I will even attempt to cook it. Hehe. But at least, I get to feed my family a proper meal using my own hands! HAPPINESS!

Tom Yum. If you don't have pre-packaged tom yum mixes, preparing this can be so difficult. On my first attempt, I discovered that the reason why Thai food is not just delicious but also aromatic, is that they put so many leaves and spices and whatnots! They actually have ingredients for aroma alone. Wow. Talk about effort!  
Champignon Al Ajillo. This is one of my all-time favorite appetizers. To do this, I suggest getting fresh (not canned) mushrooms. Brown buttons and portobellos work best, IMO. Slice and dice them, then sauté in lots of garlic, salt and pepper. For added goodness, drizzle a bit of truffle oil!
Raclette Night. By far, our family's current favorite is grill night! We grill all sorts of meat and veggies. I also get mozzarella cheese to melt. The steak, of course, is the runaway winner in this batch. I love that this kind of dinner is SUPER easy (you let the people cook!) and so fun!
If you ask me what tip I can give for others, I'd say just go for it! Start with small steps (like the juices and smoothies for me). Also, it's okay to get store-bought mixes! Trust me, this will jumpstart your cooking instincts. Eventually, we can do everything from scratch, everything organic. But if you're just starting, I'd say there's nothing wrong with getting these packs to make cooking a breeze :)

And for the men, I feel this is crucial: My husband never made me feel inferior for not knowing how to cook well. I will always be grateful for that. So, luckily for me, learning how to cook became a natural progression as wife/mom. I got to experiment without the pressure, and Julz always ate whatever I prepared. As in whatever! And he was always appreciative.

That really encouraged me to improve my kitchen skills. Like I said, I'm just starting out, but already I find so much joy serving my family this way!

How about you? Tell me your kitchen adventures! :)

You can also follow my stories at the kitchen of #CasaEsquivias on Instagram & Twitter! Follow me @stellapastores and/or search the hashtag #CasaEsquivias.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Leap Back Home

Four years ago, I shunned the idea of homeschooling. I didn't even weigh the pros and cons, I just rejected it.

When we started scouting for Jaden's preschool, the thought came up again. Still, I thought it was too overwhelming for me. Where will I begin? How will I find time? What if I get tired and be inconsistent? What if the kids don't learn? The idea was shelved again.

Over the past year, the thought would tug at my mind and heart too often. It was like a seed planted in me that refused to die, and instead grew and grew! Then I found myself meeting and interacting with homeschooling families (they were all wonderful). Little by little, questions were answered.

Yet, I was still too scared to commit! I then realized my reluctance wasn't about my ability to teach, or my kids' capacity to learn. Rather, it was a heart issue. Is this something I truly believe the Lord is asking me to do? Am I willing to sacrifice a huge part of my life to obey Him?

As these questions surfaced, I began to seriously pray about it. At first, I was intentionally vague and general to God about it--I only prayed along the lines of "wisdom to raise and educate the children" He blessed me and Julz with. I was afraid to actually say the "H" word even in prayer!

But God allowed the "seed" to flourish even in a heart that was resistant to it. I literally saw how the Lord was opening my eyes and changing my heart through people, books, prayer, and His Word. Finally, I told God: "Sige Lord, pag pumayag si Julz."

I thought this would break the deal. My husband is very traditional in his ways of educating the kids, so I expected him to react this way: "Huh?? Homeschool? BAKEEEET???" 

Well, he didn't say this. Much to my surprise. While he didn't agree the first time, he also did not reject it. But unlike me, it didn't take him years to make a decision: he has now agreed to homeschool our daughter Sophia.

My husband's approval felt like an answer to a fervent prayer. It was then that I became certain that indeed the Lord is making this easy for us! I was reminded of Proverbs 10:22, "The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it." Yes, homeschooling will be a blessing to my family!

Yesterday, I attended the Philippine Homeschooling Conference 2105 at SM Aura Samsung Hall. I listened to speakers from across the globe make their case for homeschooling. They were inspiring!

But what encouraged me more was that the values they espoused, the values underlying homeschooling, are the very values we have as a family. At the heart of it all was the foundational belief that every child is fearfully and wonderfully made, unique in his or her personality, traits, strengths, learning styles, interests, etc. And no one else can appreciate this truth better than us mothers and fathers!

I have always known that parents are the first teachers of children. But now I also see--and get to prove--that we are also their BEST teachers!

Friday, October 09, 2015

Always Respond With Grace

I had quite a lesson on grace the other day.

It was a usual afternoon for me. I came from work and had just picked up Jaden from school. When we arrived home, I passed by the bathroom on the first floor and I saw that the faucet was leaking. Tired, hungry, and with a heavy 5-year-old sleeping in my arms, I angrily spewed out, "Ano yan? Bakit ang lakas ng tagas ng tubig! Sayang lang! Ang mahal mahal! Sira ba yang gripo? Bakit di sinasabi saamin agad kung sira? Ang mahal ng bayad natin sa tubig!" 

As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I immediately felt a stab of guilt. I got even more convicted when my preschooler woke up and asked me, "Why are you so angry, Mom?"

I plopped myself on our sofa and thought about what I had just done. I don't like it when my kids see me angry, but it's worse when they see me acting out and making mistakes because of my anger. That's just not right. It was then that I prayed to the Lord, confessing my sins and asking for grace to deal with what just happened.

I apologized to Jaden, telling him Mommy was wrong and explained to him that I should have been kinder with my words. Being tired and hungry is no excuse. I promised him I was going to say sorry to our help too.

Little did I know, my meltdown had effects on other people too. While Jaden and I were having lunch, my two househelpers were raising voices at each other in the garage over what I had said earlier. Anger begot anger.

Within minutes, one of my helpers approached me. In tears, she told me she wants to leave because she couldn't stand the other helper (our houseboy) anymore.

Needless to say, I was shocked. It was obvious that it was an impulsive, emotional decision, but that didn't erase the gravity of the situation for her.

I talked to her calmly, trying to get to the bottom of it all. I also called our houseboy and talked to him too. It appears they too had a misunderstanding because of how words were said.

As it turns out, the faucet I raised hell about wasn't broken after all. It was simply left loose because our houseboy, who was using it when Jaden and I arrived, rushed to open our gate the second he heard my car beep. In his haste, he was unable to tighten the faucet handles.

To me, this was an understandable scenario. Had I asked them first about this, then there was no need for my angry words! Then there wouldn't be any further confrontation between them either. No hurt would have been inflicted on anybody.

After my helpers aired their grievances, I owned up to my mistake. It was not easy. It took literally every ounce of my courage and humility to say to my employees, "Actually, saakin nagsimula ito. Mali ako nung nagalit agad ako. Mali rin ako nung ang dami ko agad nasabi kahit hindi ko pa naman alam kung ano talaga ang nangyari."

This admission, difficult as it was, opened the door for forgiveness not just between me and my helpers, but also between the two of them.

While the Bible does not coddle anger, it also does not treat it as sin. Such is God's justice, fairness, and reasonableness. He knows and understands that it is human nature to be prone to anger as an emotion.

Ephesians 4:26-27 says, "Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry--but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry. Don't give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life." (The Message) Other translations say, "In your anger, do not sin." Indeed, it is when we act on our anger that causes us to sin.

For many of us, we act on our anger with our words. Words are very powerful--both the choice of words and the manner by which they are conveyed. "Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit--you choose." (Proverbs 18:21). That afternoon, I regrettably made the wrong decision. My words were poison that killed the harmony in our home.

How I wish I had instead responded with grace! The day could have gone a completely different route if I had been gracious even in anger.

Thankfully, we can move on--as we have done. It was a rather bitter pill to swallow, but I accept the Lord's discipline. I know it is yet another evidence of His love. "It's the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects." (Hebrews 12:6)

It is another day today, another chance to right the wrong. With my prayer for restoration of harmony and grace in our home comes my prayer for yours too :)

Let's always respond with grace.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Counterflow 2015: The Return of the Superdad, the Rise of the Supermom, and Raising Superkids

Here it is! The biggest annual parenting conference brought to us by Christ's Commission Fellowship is coming on October 24!

I have been to many parenting talks, but this one is by far the best I've attended. Counterflow 2015 brings together excellent speakers on the topics of family and parenthood. Spearheading the group is international speaker Cassie Carstens, President of International Sport Leadership School and founder of The World Needs Fathers movement. Other plenary speakers are Ptr. Peter and Deonna Tan-Chi, and Edric and Joy Mendoza.

Image from

The workshops promise to be enriching as well. Topics range from work-family balance, discipline, and even restoration from (gaming) addiction.

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I went to Counterflow 2014, and a year later, my conviction is still that it greatly impacted my walk as a Christian parent. It inspired me to become the mother that God designed me to be, and it brought me empowerment and restoration as a woman blessed with the gift of marriage and family. It was life-changing.

This is why I am taking time to invite you, my fellow parents, to the conference this year. I do not know for sure how this year's gathering will influence you, but I stand in faith that the Lord will do something incredible yet again!

Join me? Counterflow 2015 will happen on October 24, 2015 (Saturday), 8am-5pm, at the CCF Center in Frontera Verde, Pasig (just beside Tiendesitas). Tickets are available at the CCF Center and through the conference website,
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