Thursday, April 21, 2016

Sophia turns 3 in Club Paradise

Sophia turned three last month. It isn't exactly a "milestone year" the way the first, seventh, and eighteenth birthdays are, but it has been an extraordinary year for our daughter.

She blossomed this year in a most special way. Each day in the past 12 months became an opportunity for her to show us, her family, how good and faithful and perfect the Lord is. He really weaves the best life stories! It is amazing being witness to the one He is making for Sophia.

Because of all this, my husband and I decided to have a nice celebration for Sophia's birthday. It was a toss-up between a theme park adventure or an island getaway. We chose the second. We figured, we've just been to Legoland last December, but we haven't really taken the kids to the best beaches in our own country. Plus, we weren't bringing a nanny this time, so I honestly dreaded the day at the theme park. Hehehe.

We flew to the most beautiful place in our country--Palawan. This province will always be our family's happy place. This is where we had our honeymoon, our first trip as new parents, and most recently, our sixth wedding anniversary.

This time around, with kids, we chose Coron. We booked a few nights at Club Paradise Palawan. We never regretted a minute of it. The resort is set in a stunning, spectacular island--paradise as a name was just so apt. It was the perfect backdrop to make happy memories as a family.

Our birthday girl gets acquainted with sand. 

Whatever time of day, my kids were free to frolick in the sand because of the many big trees around the resort.
Kuya Jaden

They played in the sand together every chance they got. This was right after breakfast. They snuck out of the table while Julius and I finished our coffee. Then we saw them slumped here.

Sophia relaxing in the hammock of our cottage.

The island boasts of white sand beach that stretch for a couple of kilometers, and pristine waters that is home to a vibrant marine life.

So much peace greets us in the morning. We spend a few minutes here before getting ready for breakfast :)
We stayed in a beachfront cottage that has the most wonderful view of the sunset.

I love the resort! Club Paradise has been around for quite a while, so the facilities are understandably due for an upgrade (which its new owner, Discovery Leisure, is undertaking later this year). That said, I must commend the staff for keeping par with the best resorts in our country in terms of cleanliness, warmth, and quality of service. Awesome people this resort has. 

My nanay pose, complete with milk bottle and Yakult in one hand :D
The resort staff always prepared little surprises for us. This was their treat on our first night. Then we had cookies, fruits, Pinoy rice cakes. And yes, they even had those framed photos of our family. We felt so pampered!
The kids give their huge bed 2 thumbs up!
The kids love their pool with their inflatables (including a giant swan), the clubhouse (where they played foosball, pingpong, and made friends with other guests and hotel staff), and their restaurant (where we had such happy meal times). The resort had a Kids Center, but Jaden and Sophia seemed to  prefer playing in either sand or water.

Julius and I took delight in seeing our kids happily playing in the beach. Sophia reveled at her new surroundings and we took the opportunity to teach her about God and nature. Jaden was a pleasant surprise because he acted like a real kuya all throughout the trip. He was very helpful, picked up after himself, and was generous to his sister.

On our third day--Sophia's actual birthday--we took a boat to Calauit Island where we had a Safari Party! Just the 4 of us with our two guides :) We had sandwiches, soda, and water.  The animals had leaves. Hehehe :)

This was such a memorable experience for our family. The kids were so excited seeing the giraffes and zebras. They had the grandest time feeding them. Sophia was squealing in joy. Jaden was laughing in excitement. 

We went back to Club Paradise just in time for dinner. We were in for a surprise--the staff prepared a special moonlit dinner by the beach for our darling birthday girl! They sang her the birthday song and even had a cake and candle for her to blow! Kilig na kilig si Sophia :) 

Her reaction when she first heard the strums of guitar and voices singing "Happy Birthday". Feel na feel!!!
By the time our trip came to a close, my kids were so sad and kept asking us if we could stay for one more day. Of course we said we couldn't, so they just made us promise we'll go back. Hehehe. 

I can't recall one bad memory during our stay. Everything just panned out so well. I returned home to Manila with a grateful heart--for our daughter Sophia and for the celebration that God allowed for all of us to enjoy!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Guess Who's Back?

An unintended 6-month hiatus. Literally an eternity in the blog world.

First things first: an apology and a good reason for the absence.

Aside from my husband, I do not know anyone who actually missed my posts. But, for those of you who took time to check, I'm sorry for not updating! Huhuhu :( I honestly wish I could turn back time and pushed myself to sit down and write something before the brief absence snowballed into a hiatus.

That is where it all started anyway. One day, I just decided to put off writing a post. It stretched to two days, three days, four days. Before I knew it, I hadn't written in half a year. Ouch.

The truth is, I think it hurt me more than it hurt the blog. Writing has always been therapy for me. MisisTeapot was simply a happy byproduct of my love for writing. And, I believe anyone who loves something and doesn't do it for awhile not just misses it, but loses a part of herself too. Would you agree?

Thinking about my reason (aka my excuse) now, well, I can probably point to a billion things. But I venture they'd all boil down to this: uncertainty.

I wasn't sure where to take this blog anymore. In a way, I lost a sense of purpose for it, which inevitably led to a loss of direction.

Quite interestingly, it mirrors what I have been going through in my own life. The last quarter of 2015 saw me in earnest search of my purpose for this season. Allow me to be honest and tell you that the very need for a reflection came as a surprise to me--I've always thought I had my purpose down pat and that I was living it already.

Anyway, that is for another, longer entry. For now, it is enough to say, I've done a lot of praying and thinking. I made a lot of discoveries about myself and God's word. I learned the wisdom of seasons of our lives. The reflection is not yet over (I don't think it will ever be over--life is a constant search!), but by God's grace, I've made good strides.

I've also received many shoves to act on my revelations already.

So here I am, reviving my sleeping blog. Will you take this journey again with me? :)

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!

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