Liam’s Blue World

My nephew Liam celebrated his 4th birthday 2 weeks ago and of course, his Ninang Tita (that’s me!) took a leave from her work and flew to Cebu to be with him on his special day.  Like last year, we celebrated it at an out-of-town resort.

I can’t believe that this boy who, as an infant, always cried his lungs out during bath time is now learning how to make sisid and do a lot of guided swimming!  I don’t remember anymore if it was his dad or mom who introduced him to Jonathan Bird’s Blue World series but it has a very positive effect on Liam.  He became very interested with stories about animals, marine life and underwater explorations, and can identify more sea creatures than the rest of us adults combined!

But before I proceed, you must be wondering who is Jonathan Bird and what is this Blue World series?

Jonathan fell in love with the ocean in the 1980s when he learned to dive in college. Already an avid photographer, he combined scuba diving and photography to create what would eventually become not only his passion, but his profession. Although Jonathan has had a few close calls with dangerous animals like sharks, his worst underwater injuries have come from pointy sea urchins and crown-of-thorn sea stars. He was once head-butted by an angry dolphin. None of these things have dampened his enthusiasm for the excitement of underwater exploration.

Jonathan is an Emmy Award-winning underwater cinematographer and producer, president of the non-profit organization Oceanic Research Group as well as a widely published author, award-winning assignment cinematographer, photographer and speaker. He is the author of 7 books, director of over 20 films and a member of the Wyland Ocean Artist Society. (source)

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Jonathan Bird’s Blue World is an educational family-oriented underwater adventure series hosted by dynamic naturalist and underwater photographer Jonathan Bird.   It is co-produced by Jonathan Bird Productions and the non-profit organization Oceanic Research Group. Each half-hour television episode consists of three separate segments running 5-11 minutes in length. Segments encompass a variety of subjects, including stories about animals, marine research and researchers, underwater exploration and recent discoveries. The stories always have an underwater theme and feature stunning underwater photography.  (source)

For his birthday, his parents booked an overnight stay at Shangri-La Mactan Resort so Liam could enjoy lots of swimming time with his Daddy, Mommy, Lolo, Lola, Ate Donna and Ninang Tita.  It was a “Diver Liam” day!

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Shangri-La Mactan Resort’s super wide kiddie pools became Liam’s own blue world for 2 days.

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Diver Liam ready for his underwater explorations!

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Doing the ‘Okay’ sign before “diving”. (That’s Mommy Juvs and Daddy Dino in the background)

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Learning how to make sisid to get the treasure coins…

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… and rescue his pet turtle and stingray!

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I took charge of Liam’s birthday cake which I ordered from Maricel of A Sweet Cottage.  A week before the birthday, I changed it to fondant cupcakes because I got concerned about traveling with a fondant cake and bags in my arms.

Maricel did a very good job with these diver-inspired fondant cupcakes!

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Maricel executed my ideas and inspirations flawlessly.  My sis-in-law’s special request – a cupcake with a diver doing the “thumb up” sign and with a starfish on his head – was so cute!

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Liam gave it his thumb up too!

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And since it’s his birthday, no one can stop him from eating his cupcake kahit wala pang dinner!

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It was a super fun celebration, with the birthday boy already hinting that he wanted to be a maritime explorer when he grows up, hehe!

Proof: He told his lola that he will save up the birthday money she gave him because he will buy an ‘expensive camera’.

A 4-year old saving up for this ‘expensive camera’?

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Liam, you never fail to amaze me!  Belated Happy Birthday, my dearest pamangkin and kalaro!

(P.S. I do hope this blog post gets to Mr. Jonathan Bird to let him know that he has a 4-year old fan here in the Philippines, who watches his videos everyday and has memorized his opening line – “Hi, I am Jonathan Bird and this is my world!”.  It would be a thrill if Liam gets to meet his idol someday and to show him around the real blue world!)

 

Discovering the Rich Indonesian Cuisine

Sometime last month, I received a basket full of food stuff from Indonesia (thanks so much, Mba Dyah!):

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It was my brother who hand carried them all to Manila (thanks Dino!) and I got really excited after seeing all those boxes of Munik seasonings.  AJ and I are already fans of Indomie instant noodles (they have really interesting flavors!) so being introduced to Munik seasonings is like being a step closer to having authentic Indonesian cuisine at home.

Munik  is a premier food seasonings company in Indonesia, created with a mission to produce the tastiest cuisine within minutes.  Munik originates from two Indonesian words: “Mudah” and “Nikmat“, which literally means “Easy” and “Delicious” respectively. It reflects their vision of creating food seasonings products that are convenient to prepare and delicious in taste. (source)

I was surprised to learn that the popular dishes in Indonesia such as the Chicken Curry,  Braised Chicken in Coconut Milk and Beef Rendang, among others, actually use very few ingredients and are easy to prepare.  Thanks to Munik seasonings, I no longer have to worry about mixing different spices to get the signature hot and spicy taste of Indonesian dishes (which feels like gumuguhit sa lalamunan).

What’s more, these packed seasonings have been pre-cooked already, so you basically just mix it in with the major ingredients.

For my first Indonesian dish, I did the easiest one: Bumbu Gulai Ayam or simply Chicken Curry.  It requires only 3 ingredients: fresh chicken, coconut milk and Munik’s Chicken Curry seasoning.  You can also add potatoes (like what I did) and carrots if you want some veggies in this dish as well.

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Cooking directions (lifted from the seasoning pack):

1.  Pour coconut milk and Munik instant seasoning into a wide-base medium saucepan.  Once boiling, stir occassionally.

2.  Add in chickn pieces and cook for 25 minutes.  Lower the flame to medium and stir occasionally.

3.  Drain chicken and set aside.  Filter the curry gravy to remove unwanted residue.

4.  Once the curry gravy has been filtered, simmer the chicken with the curry gravy until thickened.

So easy to do, right?  And I was done in less than 40 minutes.

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I just have to add in water because na-short ako dun sa coconut milk that I bought.  But this did not affect the taste of our Chicken Curry at all.  The rich, savory taste of coconut milk is there.

I had to adjust my palate, though, to the hot and spicy taste of the chicken curry.  Once I had gotten used to it, the taste became rich and very interesting.

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This dish is best eaten with steaming hot white rice.  If you prefer it a bit salty, use patis (fish sauce) as condiment.

More Indonesian dishes coming up!

 

Bag Crush: Sakroots Crossbody Satchel

My newest bag crush is Mommy JuvsSakroots Crossbody Satchel in a flower power print.  So pretty!

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When I saw her bag, which is made of uncoated canvas, I immediately thought of my Tulisan Hobo Tote Bag. How I wished I brought it with me to Cebu last weekend.  Sister bags sana ang peg namin, hihi!

I love, love the fabric print of her bag. It’s like a happy mural painting printed directly into the bag. The colorful summer blossoms inspire creativity and positive energy.  Ang sarap sarap nya tignan.

What is Sakroots?

Sakroots is a gallery of colorful & original art featured on bags, shoes, tech, wristlets & wallets, travel, stationery, home and jewelry appealing to the artist, musician and nature lover in all of us.  Each collection features original artwork from Sakroots’ artist circle gallery of prints and textured embellishments such as crochet accents, giving the collections a relaxed vibe and tying back to the brand’s heritage rich in texture.

Aside from the cheerful art print, this Sakroots bag is filled with whimsical details:

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At dahil hindi ko bag ito, I wasn’t able to take pictures of its interior anymore.  But here’s how it looks like (picture grabbed from Sakroots’ official website):

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The bag’s lining is made of polyester material.  There are 2 mini-pockets and 1 zippered pocket inside.  The compartment’s deep and has a rectangular base, making it easy to organize your stuff inside.

Love this bag?  Look for this and other cute and colorful Sakroots bags and accessories at selected The Travel Club stores.

 

The Good Stuff #6

It’s been a while since I last wrote about food, and it’s not because I have ran out of food discoveries to share.  I guess I got too comfortable instagramming my food and sharing it real time, instead of making an effort to write about it in the blog.

And because I’m not creative at all when it comes to captioning my Instagram photos, I would leave out a lot of details that I’d like to remember later about the food I had.  So when I start to back-read on the pictures I’ve shared or someone would ask me about the food I posted in IG, I would rack my brain for details!

So I promised myself that I will now regularly update the “good stuff” feature in the blog, and starting with this list #6, will feature more food stuff in collage form to make it look like a feast always!

Here are among those that I’ve raved about the past months, which deserves special mention:

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Clockwise from top left:

1.  Stuffed Squid at Mesa.  We keep going back to Mesa for this seafood + pork dish that’s a lot of ulam in itself already.  It’s like having fried squid with crispy flour coating + stir-fry ground pork with sweet tamarind sauce in one dish.  Ito lang at tig-isang plain rice, solve na k’me ni AJ!  It’s very inexpensive too, costing less than P300.00 and is good for sharing.

2.  3N Bakery’s Toasted Siopao.  Our office colleagues in Bicol would always bring us 3N Bakery’s famous toasted siopao every time they are here in Manila.  Lagi namin pinagkakaguluhan ito.   So when a 3N Bakery opened a few blocks away from our home, super saya ko lang.  The toasted siopao may look like a regular pork bun outside but once you’ve taken a bite you’ll know that it’s more than that. They have put a nice twist to the classic monay bread roll by toasting it a bit to give it a crunchy outer shell.  There’s also a surprise inside this bread roll – ground pork cooked asado way and mixed with sliced boiled eggs.  Perfect as merienda, yum!

3.  Mango Bene cake from Mary Grace Cafe.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had this mango-based dessert at Mary Grace Cafe and I love the consistency of its home-baked goodness.  The sweet taste of this dessert mainly came from the ripe mangoes used and not from the sugar. So well done. So bene!

4.  Dried Guyabano (Happy Brand).  Every time I go to Cebu, I take home dried guyabano (sour-sop) as pasalubong instead of mangoes. Not only do they taste better; they are also priced way, way cheaper than dried mangoes. Also, I don’t get to hurt my teeth from biting into rubbery and hard dried mangoes (which comes even with the most expensive brand).

5.  Early Bird Breakfast Club’s Full English Breakfast.  What’s not to love about this breakfast meal that is not only beautiful to look at, but is really big in serving.  If you’re sharing this with somebody (and would not like to share on that bacon, haha!), you can request that it be served in individual plates like in the picture above.

6.  Uncle Cheffy’s Salad.  Breaded pork strips and potato wedges in a bed of vegetable.  I’ve never had a salad this good!

7.  Chitato!  It was my brother Dino who introduced me to Chitato – the popular potato chips brand in Indonesia.  He’s a frequent visitor there (because of work) and he never goes home without bags of Chitato chips.  I am also fortunate to have met Mba Dyah through AJ, who showered us one time with a box of Chitato chips in different, amazing flavors!  Believe me, once you’ve tried this you’ll forget how good our local potato chips are hehe!

8.  Heaven and Egg’s Angus Beef Tapa.  Their tapa is so good – rich in flavor and very tender.  Although I did find the price of this tapsilog meal a bit steep (P300.00++), sulit na rin because they didn’t scrimp on the tapa (which is what essentially made it expensive).  Try it!

9.  Food stuff from Indonesia.  I received a bag full of Indonesian goodies from Mba Dyah last month, mostly ready mix sauces that are very easy to use.  Perfect for a novice cook like me!   She also sent over packs of my favorite Indomie instant noodles, beef floss, beef jerky and Java Coffee!  What a haul!  Oh, watch out for some Indo recipes to be featured here in the blog – using Munik’s seasonings.

Before I end, here’s a interesting trivia about Indomie: it was ranked #1 in the “Twelve Gifts of Christmas” list made by Roger Ebert, a known film critic in the U.S, in 2009. Ain’t that cool?  Find out for yourself why Indomie is all the rage in Indonesia and other parts of Asia.  They are available in select Mercury Drugstore branches (food stuff section).

I hope you are all having a great mid-week!

 

The Foreveryday Ring

I’m very happy to introduce to you The Bright Spot’s first Holiday Jewelry Offering, which took some months of planning with my jeweler because I wanted to make sure that it’s gonna be within everyone’s budget:

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Yes, it’s an eternity ring but is MORE than that!

An eternity ring is perhaps the most romantic ring that a guy can give you.  It symbolizes never-ending love, as shown by the continuous line of gemstones lining up the (white or yellow) gold band.  It is also the most delicate due to the presence of gemstones all the way round the ring, which can fall off if one is not too careful with her ring.

Although by tradition, eternity ring is given by a husband to his wife during a milestone wedding anniversary, the appeal and symbolism behind a diamond-surrounded ring band is so amorous that the gents have started giving their ladies this ring as “promise” of forever or never-ending love, and as a prelude to a marriage proposal.  So officially, this ring is different from an engagement ring which represents a “formal agreement to future marriage” (source).  Nowadays, brides-to-be prefer to have an eternity ring as her wedding band as well.

Very recently, two (2) of our biggest celebrities got engaged and both of them were gifted (by their future and moneyed spouses) with prong-set eternity rings:

Marian Rivera

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Hearth Evangelista

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Aren’t they eye-popping?  The diamonds are sure BIG, judging at how thinner the ring fingers of Marian and Heart have become with the rings on!

I’m pretty sure a lot of you became very interested with their eternity rings, and who wouldn’t want to wear something that’s not only beautiful to look at but also has a very meaningful symbol behind it?

And so, I came up with an eternity ring design that is still based on traditional setting – angular instead of rounded prongs – for that ‘bespoke look’ (more on this later) but using an inexpensive substitute to diamonds.

I am talking about Signity stones, of course, which are extremely high quality CZs that look closest to a diamond.

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Created in 1999 by the company that gave us Swarovski crystals, there is now a growing market in the U.S. for Signity stones which have become the bride’s next best friend (to diamonds).

I am calling this ring the Foreveryday Ring; joining together the words “forever” and “everyday” because this eternity or forever ring is made to be worn everyday!

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Features of the Foreveryday Ring:

1.  It is set in 14k white gold, therefore has a high resale value as compared to gold-coated rings.

2.  It is surrounded by 0.10 pt. high-quality and imported Signity stones. The number of gemstones will vary according to your ring size.  To give you an idea, my size 4 ring has 18 pieces of 0.10 pt. Signity stones around it.

3.  It adopted the angular, instead of round, prong setting which I believe is a more secure form because it conforms to the shape of the stone.  Also, perfectly rounded prongs are harder to perfect by hand.  Yes, this is a bespoke ring indeed, molded according to your finger size and the number of Signity stones to fill up the ring.

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And now, here’s an irresistible holiday offer that you shouldn’t miss:

From now until December 31, 2014, the Foreveryday Ring can be yours for just Php19,000.00!

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Yes, you read it right: an eye-popping eternity ring that costs less than Php20,000.00!

The price is really budget-friendly, considering that our own wedding bands costs AJ and me Php20,000.00 or Php10,000.00 for each ring (at 2011 prices).

Here’s a side-by-side picture of the eternity ring and my own wedding band.  My wedding ring’s simple in setting, is unpolished and definitely lighter in weight as compared to the eternity ring.

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Imagine if I’ve thought of this ring design way back in 2011 and made it my wedding band!  For an added premium of Php9,000, I’ll already have a thicker band surrounded by brilliant stones!

I made sure that the surface of each prong is smooth, so there’ll be no discomfort at all when you wear the ring  =)   I’ve been wearing mine for weeks now and it doesn’t leave scratches even when I wash my hands with it on.

Get your own Foreveryday ring now!  Let’s sparkle and shine this holiday season and in the years beyond!

To order, please email me at dbrightspot@gmail.com.