Monday, July 13, 2015

Hello, Monday!

Hi everyone! How was your weekend?

I found it difficult to get up this morning. After the (unexpected) long weekend, I felt like I didn't have the energy to go back to work yet.

But I dragged myself out of bed nonetheless, prayed, and brewed coffee. Then rushed through the rest of my morning routine.

Image grabbed from Pinterest

I'm already at my office as I type this. Before plunging into my paperwork, I just wanted to take some time to look back at my weekend.

As I said, it was long and rainy, but as I reflect now, I see that it was pretty special.

Because we were stuck at home, my kids and I had lots of opportunities to play. I am reorganizing Jaden's room (again) so that it'll be more conducive to his kind of play (and learning) these days. He's a real preschooler (and Grade 1-wannabe) now, so I wanna make sure his room has enough toys, books, and activities appropriate for his age. He's also been asking for a bunk bed (he thinks it's cool) and I think I'm gonna give in if that's the way he'll enjoy sleeping in his room.

My time with Sophia was equally precious! I wish I could say we did something fantastic, just the two of us, but we really didn't. I feel, however, that this weekend was extraordinary for us as mommy and daughter.

I blinked, and suddenly she's no longer a baby...

In a rare moment, I felt so strongly connected to her and I finally saw clarity in what I can do for her as her mother. I've always wondered--no, second-guessed myself--if I was doing the right thing for Sophia. You might think I've figured it out long ago because she's already my second child, but hey, she's a different person altogether. You know that Letter to my Second Child, which went viral among moms? Well, hagulgol ako dun because it resonated in me so much. For two years, I struggled with doubt and even guilt for not being the kind of mother that I was to my firstborn--the OC type who memorized by heart all the firsts, posted every picture of my child on Facebook, went on and on about milestones, and gave only organic/natural superfood.

I think it's time to admit I am a different mom with Sophia.

And that I'm finally okay with it.

My daughter is, as I said, a person all her own, and I now understand that she deserves a mom all her own too :)

So there you go. My musings for this Monday morning. Wrote them down for posterity... and inspiration. :)

Have a blessed week!!!

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Visiting the Vikings

Oslo, Norway is easily my husband's and son's most anticipated city (after London) on this trip. My two boys have developed an obsession to dragons thanks to the hit movie How To Train Your Dragon, which introduced the Vikings to my 4-year-old son.

Naturally, the Viking Ship Museum, which houses actual ships, maritime crafts, and other remnants of the Viking age, was a must-visit for us.

Behind us, a thousand year old Viking ship.
Sophia had a lot of photos in the museum because, to my surprise (and delight), she enjoyed the museum so much! She ran around, paused to look at the displays, posed for the camera. She was in high spirits that day!

According to Wikipedia, the Vikings "were Germanic Norse seafarers who raided and traded from their Scandinavian homelands across Northern and Central Europe." There was a Viking Age in history and this was when the mighty Vikings conquered territories and established many colonies. Many believed all this was out of revenge, after King Charlemagne ordered the conversion of peoples to Christianity. The vikings, who are pagans, wanted vengeance.

Ironically, I had very few photos of Jaden marvelling at the Viking ships. Why? Because he and my husband literally went off to explore Viking world, leaving me with just-as-clueless Sophia!

But contrary to their reputation as a barbaric people, historians now believe that this concept of Vikings may have come from greatly biased and distorted sources. The accounts that tell of the Vikings' barbarism are almost exclusively from non-Scandinavian Christians--the Viking's most bitter enemies. (A case of "History is the story of the victors" I suppose?).

Outside the museum. Must be nice to stay here for an hour or two with a cuppa!
Sophia and her #titasofmanila :P

What I personally find interesting about the Vikings is that while they are believed to be a non-literate and barbaric people, they actually had their own alphabet and wrote inscriptions on runestones.

Julz purchased a book called The Sayings of the Vikings and I was pleasantly surprised and amused to find some good tips on life that were a thousand years old--and they were written oh-so-poetically!

Dedicated to my besties Patty & Sherie whose farms lie far away. Haha :))

Earlier that day, we also visited Vigeland Park, famous for its sculptures made of bronze, granite, and wrought iron--the lifework of artist Gustav Vigeland. In 1921, the city of Oslo agreed to build a museum for Vigeland's sculptures, and in return, he was to donate all his work, past and future, to the city. Thanks to this contract, today, we get to enjoy this pretty amazing park-museum!

To be candid, though, as a family with two small kids, we just really loved the greens and open space! Hehe.

It was cold and drizzling when we went around Oslo. But that didn't dampen our spirits as we trooped on and explored the city. I find it most wonderful that we were able to teach Jaden a bit of world history the fun way, while learning more ourselves. Sophia is far too young for info like that, so I was happy just showing her new textures, new weather, new food, etc.

Next to family bonding, this is why we bring our kids to our travels. There is no better classroom than the world out there!

Friday, July 03, 2015

Tea Time Loves

Don't look now but I think I may just have started a love affair with dainty, lovely tea cups! *insert girly giggles here*

To be honest, this comes as no surprise to me because I have been a tea lover for more than a decade now. I discovered the tradition of having tea in the UK--specifically, in my "foster" mother's home in Oxford. Mrs. Webb, or Hazel as she prefers to be called, would serve us tea in the morning and in the afternoon, accompanied with breakfast or sweets. I thought, and still think, it is a lovely habit.

I brought home boxes of the tea she served. When that ran out, I settled for tea that was available locally. And in 2000, there weren't much. Boohoo!

Luckily, the market has grown and Manila now has a variety of green tea, black tea, and everything-in-between! I've also fallen in love with the way the Chinese and Japanese have their tea, so that gave me more tea leaves to explore!

I would drink tea from the usual cups. Nothing fancy. But last year, I was invited to afternoon tea and was served black tea from beautiful English teacups. After that, I wanted one for myself! Hehe! But I held off for a long, long time, convincing myself that tea is tea, whatever the cup is! Harhar.

On a particularly rough day this week, I gave in and purchased my very first Royal Albert teacup and saucer. When I got home, I stared at it and marvelled at the artwork I was holding. It was so pretty!!!

You are so beautiful to meeeeeee... My first Royal Albert is from its Miranda Kerr collaboration. Perfect.

Now I get why my mother has a cabinet full of these babies! What I don't get, though, is why she never uses them!

I don't know if I can build a collection like hers, but if I do start getting more teacups, I'd definitely enjoy them by actually sipping tea from them! Ang saya kaya!

Speaking of tea time, I also recently found one of the best things that can accompany afternoon tea: Baked Bites by ABC. The mommy baker behind this is Bettinna Carlos, who happens to be as sweet as her cookies!

She makes several kinds of these treats. My favorites are the Nutella Rocks, Oreo Bites, and her version of lactation goodies--the Milking Bombs! Oh my. The Milking Bombs are amazing. Healthy and amazing!!! They have rolled oats, flax seed meal, brewers yeast, and fenugreek seeds that help us moms produce more of our precious milk! (Can I hear an Alleluia?) The best thing about Milking Bombs? They have very little-to-none of the bitter aftertaste that is common among lactation treats. Puro sarap lang!

Nutella Rocks and Oreo Bites were big hits in our home!

I highly recommend these! Have tea and have Baked Bites! I think they go very well together! Super yum mum time!

To order or inquire from Bettinna, just text 0917-861BITE (0917-8612483). She is also on Instagram as @abettinnacarlos--you can see her Baked Bites menu from her feed!

Happy weekend!!!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

100% Whole Mom

In my 5 years as a mother, I have learned, un-learned, and re-learned many life lessons.

In the beginning, I gave everything to my firstborn Jaden. I put my career on hold, zapped my social life, and just allowed my world to revolve around his. Very uliran na ina.

Or so I thought.

I woke up one day, exhausted and... empty.

I didn't realize that in giving so much of myself, I was losing myself in the process too.

And so I began my journey of rediscovering the joy in motherhood. I prayed (oh how I prayed!), studied the Bible, dated my husband again, re-connected with a Victory group, hung out with old and new friends, eased back to work, picked up a sport, and... well, got a new hair color and re-stocked my kikay kit.

In short, I took care of myself. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I filled up my love tank again, and then--wonder of wonders--I found more love to give my family, too! I was a happier mom, more cheerful, more fun!

Sure, I still had to do the same things like pick up toys, wash dirty (and smelly) bums, bathe sweaty little kids, etc. But then they ceased to be chores now. God opened my eyes and let them see that these "chores" are my acts of service to my family; they are very personal ways of communicating my love and affection.

I know that I'm not the only mother who has been through this. And I know too that many more moms are still wondering where the magic of motherhood has gone, waiting to be "filled up" again. 

This is why I appreciate passion projects like Whole Mom, a series of workshops that aim to inspire moms make happy homes, embrace their beauty, and nurture their hearts. These workshops promise to be enjoyable me-times for mothers where they can learn more about creating their own space at home, skincare basics, discovering healthy diets and workouts, reflective writing exercises, and much more.

Whole Mom is spearheaded by accomplished women and--more importantly--beautiful and joyful mothers, Marilen Montenegro, Chesca Garcia-Kramer, and Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio.

Cheka, Marilen, and Rica: Advocating a kind of motherhood that takes care of the heart of the mother. (OOTD by F&F and accessories by Rich Earth Jewelry)
Whole Moms launched last June 11 with an intimate and well-styled get-together at Earth Kitchen in White Plains, Quezon City. It was a beautiful afternoon of mommy bonding. I saw new and familiar faces, and once again affirmed to myself that motherhood can bring different people talk about the same joys and challenges, and eventually make friends of these erstwhile strangers! What a gift indeed!

Event styling by Oomph Styling

Aside from charming all of us with  rustic chic styling and wowing us with awesome food, Marilen, Chesca, and Rica regaled all of us with short mommy anecdotes and drawing us to the importance of self-care and, ultimately, an identity in the love of Jesus: "We can't give what we don't have, and we can't love if we're not loved." How true.

That afternoon, the beautiful mommy trio raffled off amazing prizes from Uratex, Melissa, Rabeanco, Estee Lauder, Paez Shoes (which I won--hooray!!!), Agoda, Sofitel, Seda Hotels, Electrolux, and Jamie & Baby.

And as if to drive home the point that we moms deserve to be pampered oh-so-generously, Whole Mom also sent us off with dozens of gifts from Pottery Barn, Muji, Tesoro's, Happy Skin, Messy Bessy, Rich Earth Jewelry, OMF Literature, Got Heart, Pickings, C & C, Moringa, Lysol, Strip, Browhaus, and Ponds. Why, pangkabuhayan showcase talaga!!!

Already, I cannot wait for the first workshop of Whole Mom! Please do stay tuned for their updates via their Facebook page and Instagram!

All photos by Jamie Espadilla
Instagram: @jamieandbaby

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Castle-Hopping in Copenhagen

As some of you know, I am a big royal fan. I love everything about palaces and regal life. I like the pomp and splendor, but I am also enamored by how many royals actually live just like us behind palace doors (except that their household staff probably curtsy. Hehe).

In Copenhagen, Denmark, we had another awesome opportunity to come close to royals by visiting three of their homes, the Frederiksborg Palace, the Kronborg Castle, and the Fredensborg Castle.

Frederiksborg is a beautiful castle made in Dutch Renaissance style. It was built in the 1600s by King Christian IV. While I am drawn to the simpler lines of the modern, I must say that the architecture of Frederiksborg is truly breathtaking. Pwedeng setting ng nobela.

At Frederiksborg. My sister Kai who we didn't know was actually carrying a baby in her tummy already! Wee! Congrats to the "royal" baby!
With two kids, I could hardly pay attention to our tour guide. But I did enjoy exploring the castle, which has been converted into a museum. Featured here are several notable paintings and intricate tapestries depicting the history of Denmark and Norway, when they were ruled under one king. We also walked through the castle's opulent staterooms, banquet rooms, and hallways--all styled to reflect an elaborate, regal lifestyle.

Inside the Castle Chapel where Danish kings used to be crowned. On the walls of the church are dozens of coats-of-arms.

The banquet hall; this one has on display some of the gorgeous gowns of the royal ladies. Nganga moment.

Look how intricate the ceilings are!
From the windows of the castle, we were able to see the vast and magnificent palace garden outside. What I'd give to spend a day in that garden! Too bad I don't have a half-decent photo, but click here to see how amazing it is! :)

I also enjoyed the fascinating stories about the Danish royal family, both of the past and the present. The (scandalous) anecdotes about King Christian VII and Queen Caroline Matilda were especially interesting! ;)

Next on our itinerary is the UNESCO World Heritage site, Kronborg Castle. Its status as a protected symbol of heritage is largely because of its role in the history of Europe, particularly Denmark and Sweden. The Renaissance castle sits on the coast of the Baltic Sea, and is therefore the main guard of this entranceway. At some point, the Swedish army attacked and conquered the castle, taking with the precious paintings and other valuable goods.

Jaden playing in the Kronborg's banquet hall
In literary culture, Kronborg is best known as "Elsinore", the setting of Shakespeare's Hamlet. (Hindi ko nabasa yun so let's move on...) Haha.

Visiting the royal Danish family's summer home was also a treat for us, especially since we got a glimpse of their version of the traditional guard change (or changing of the guards).

In contrast to the massive royal houses, Copenhagen's top tourist attraction isn't so big in size--the statue of the Little Mermaid. Of course, we just had to see it too :)

The Little Mermaid sits on a rock by the waterside in Copenhagen. The city intentionally put her in water to prevent people from defacing or vandalising the statue. 

To be perfectly candid, I was quite underwhelmed when I saw her. She was tiny! And her story, not as legendary as I expected: A man named Carl Jacobson (founder of Carlsberg Beer), was so inspired by The Little Mermaid ballet that he commissioned artist Erik Eriksen to make a sculpture like her. She was unveiled on August 23, 1913 and was then given as a gift to Copenhagen. The end.

But as I said in the past, art is art, and a simple act of generosity of a citizen to his city can go a long, long way! The Little Mermaid is no less than an authentic city icon, alongside New York's Lady Liberty and Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer.

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