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Thursday, October 02, 2014

A Universe to Discover with Explore Sandbox

Call it a stroke of luck for my kids, but I am just so lucky that they have access to Manila's best subscription boxes because the founders happen to be my friends, heehee.

Another case in point, Explore Sandbox - a themed subscription box packed w/crafts and activities that kids 3 to 7 years old, can look forward to and enjoy each month.

Explore Sandbox started as a personal project between my friend Leslie Tan and her partner Candice, who were then joined by another friend of mine, Ivi Leung.

They wanted our young ones "to go beyond traditional modes of learning, using hands-on activities as well as sensory ones".

With Explore SandBox, they give the kids the tools "to discover, hone and extend their sense of curiosity and wonder."

And what a wonder it truly is! 

I was amazed with the Explore Sandbox they sent us back in August, with the theme Night Sky. It was fun for the kids, and a great refresher course on astronomy for me as well!

Ok, quick background. Each ExploreSandbox contains 4 to 5 activities that revolve around the chosen theme for each month. 

Activities vary from sensory play, to arts & crafts, to simple experiments and more. 

All toys, materials, and guidelines are included in the box, so you don't need to scrounge around the house for supplies, or step out to buy whatever it is you might need. 

all materials for our crafts, sensory and science projects are all packed inside the Explore Sandbox

I love how the materials may be re-used for other/future crafts projects. Ivi shares that they even buy some of the materials packed in the boxes, abroad.

For this Night Sky themed box, we learned about the night sky via 5 activities included in the box:

Craft #1 -- Build and decorate our own telescope.
Craft #2 -- Make a paper moon night lamp.
Sensory -- Play with non-toxic galaxy dough and star beads to recreate constellations (patterns provided) or make our own! 
Science #1 -- Discover the moon's different phases and how they are formed.
Science #2 -- Make their own Moon Observation Chart (and learn that a cycle of the moon takes 27 days). 

Interesting facts about the Moon and the Stars, are also included in this kit.

Science Project - discovering the moon's phases

Because Berry and Xavi love Play Doh, the first thing we decided to go for was the "Constellation Project".

Berry happily flattened the dough with the rolling pin found in the box...

And we decided to recreate the constellations using plastic star beads and toothpicks.

We started with the easiest one to make, the Eagle.

Xavi decided he would make his own.

I made Berry do the Ursa Major by herself. Pretty close I would say! She then added glitters to truly make the evening sky shining, shimmering and splendid.

I have to say, we had a lot of fun with this box, we spent almost the entire afternoon putting together and bonding over two activities (this and the DIY telescope), with the promise of doing the other activities another day.

It was a great way to keep them occupied and busy. So much better that they are learning through play, rather than watching some mindless show on TV too.

For this October, the Explore Sandbox theme is aptly called, Trick or Treat! Perfect for the Halloween season!

If you'd like to get a hold of this box or succeeding boxes as well, check out the subscription details, HERE.

You may select from among three subscription plans,  1 month (Php 999), 3 months (Php 2849), or 6 months (Php 5399) subscription. 

Upon receipt of your order, you will be contacted on how to settle payment. Orders are accepted until the 20th of each month, or until supplies last. Shipping is done on the first week of the succeeding month. Shipping is free within Metro Manila, but orders outside of Metro Manila will have to add PHP 100/box. 

For more about Explore Sandbox, read their FAQ page, Like them on Facebook  and follow  @exploresandbox on Instagram. 

For inquiries, you may also email ​ExploreSandbox@gmail.com or message them via mobile at +63 917 534 6955.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Blue Leaf Filipinas: A Venue Like No Other + The Big Banquet 2

A few weeks back, I had a fun lunch with my friend Karrots, her friends from way back, Trisha, Michelle and Eugene Sandejas of The Blue Leaf, and the New Media Factory ladies Kaye and Miko Olfindo at The Wholesome Table in Fort. 

 Our wholesome group at The Wholesome Table

Apart from the bulgaran of high school/college, and fairly recent escapades of Tita K care of Tricia (heeheehee), we also ended up taking about The Blue Leaf Events Pavilion in Fort, because it's a popular venue for my friends' kids' birthday parties. When you meet the owners of a party venue, you just can't help but inquire na din diba, for future reference! Heehee.

Anyway, they told us about their new events place in Manila, Blue Leaf Filipinas in Aseana City and my oh my, it's worth considering if you are looking for a place to hold a big event at - be it a wedding, a corporate function, a debut, a kiddie party, or kahit prom!

Outdoor or indoor, the place is picture pretty.

The ballrooms are huge, and needs minimal events stylist intervention.

Even the powder rooms are pretty enough to take pictures at, or escape to when the party gets too loud for your liking.

To see more photos of Blue Leaf Filipinas, click HERE.

And FYI, since we're at it, the rates and packages are reasonable, for a place this nice:

Of course, to see is the believe, and in fact, you can get a taste of The Blue Leaf Filipinas partner caterers/food service providers at their upcoming event, The Big Banquet 2, happening this October 12 at The Blue Leaf Filipinas!

If you are shopping around for a venue, or you just want to be able to do a taste test of Manila's best caterers, who also happen to be The Blue Leaf's partner caterers, this is your chance to get a taste of everything in one roof!

Albergus, Bizu, Hizon's, Josiah's Catering, Juan Carlo, K by Cunanan, Mesclun, The Red Chef, and TJIOE will each be serving four-course meals highlighting their best appetizers, main courses, desserts, and signature drinks. As a special treat, each caterer will also present one surprise dish which guests can rate, commend or critique!

For more about The Big Banquet 2, and how you can attend this event, click HERE.

For more about The Blue Leaf events venues, visit their website, www.theblueleaf.com.ph and Like their Facebook Page, The Blue Leaf. 

To contact The Blue Leaf Events Pavilion in Fort, click HERE. To contact The Blue Leaf Filipinas, click HERE.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Free in My Skin with Physiogel

It sounds superficial, but skin issues really are more than skin deep. It takes a dig at your self-esteem, and makes you want to disappear and not show your face to the world.

I should know. I had a bout of stress-induced acne in my early 20s. 

Just recently, my pregnancy hormones took a toll on my skin, and my face became so dry, with itchy bumps that I had to stop my skincare regimen because it seemed that whatever I put on my face just aggravated the condition.

So on a routine check-up with my OB-GYN I told her about my concern. It's funny how our conversation went:

Me: Dr. Jayjay, what's happening to my face? It's so dry and itchy. I never had this with Xavi! I had dry skin with Berry, but this time, it's so bad, I have bumps all over my face!

Dr. Jayjay: Pregnancy hormones! Every pregnancy is different. Remember you had spotting with Xavi and had to go on bed rest.

Me: Harvs says I look like I have leprosy. I get so conscious tuloy.

Dr. Jayjay: Would you rather have that, or spotting and bed rest?

Me: Sige, dry, bumpy skin na lang. Haha. What can I put on my face that's safe for pregnancy though?

Dr. Jayjay: Physiogel!

Then Dr. Jayjay writes me a prescription:

Ayan ha, true story! Actually, I wasn't surprised that she recommended Physiogel

I know Physiogel is safe, because my friend Patty of nonstopbabble.com and her fellow breast cancer warriors are advocates of Physiogel.

But I only fully understood why it's the number 1 most prescribed moisturizer by dermatologists (and doctors, like my own OB-GYN!) when Dr. Bernadette Arcilla, GSK Medical Director, explained how similar the ingredients of Physiogel are to our natural epidermal lipids - from the ceramides, to trigylcerides, phospholipids and squalene. 

The only difference that being epidermal lipids have cholesterol whereas Physiogel cream & body lotion has phytosterol.

This means Physiogel replicates the structure and ingredients of our natural lipid barriers, so it repairs dry skin naturally, allowing us to be truly free in our skin.

Which yes, leads me to Physiogel's Free in My Skin Movement.

According to Mr. Jeoffrey Yulo, General Manager of GSK Consumer Healthcare, “The Free in My Skin movement is not just about creating a nurturing community of smart, strong and sensitive women, but is also as a way of honoring these women who didn’t let their dry-skin insecurities prevent them from being the best versions of themselves,”

Leading the movement is model, TV host and entrepreneur Patti Grandidge, who for a time was super conscious about her sensitive, itchy, red and dry skin. 

"This made me quite insecure, and in the business I am in, it is always about first impressions,” she said. 

That, is until she discovered Physiogel. “Unlike ordinary moisturizers I used before, Physiogel made my skin less sensitive and dry. My skin became so much softer, smoother and definitely healthier.”

“It’s amazing how one simple change in my skincare has renewed my confidence,” she enthused.

“One of the best feelings is when you feel confident, and have control of your life, like I can do anything! And with Physiogel, I am Free In My skin to do just about anything.” 

The highlight of the afternoon for me was when all of us guests were asked to write down the names of the the smart, strong and sensitive women our lives who have all been a source of inspiration. 

It made me stop and really think of the girls who inspire me, and while we were asked to choose three, I had to put down four names.

Which is just a drop in the bucket really, because I can think of so many more women who I feel embody empowerment, and who have gone on to great success in spite of their limitations.

I hope this also inspires you to stop and think of the women who motivate you, and thank them for being them. Because part of being free in our skin is letting go of inhibitions, and confidently embracing life and the people who have helped us achieve our dreams and aspirations.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Style Inspiration: Diane Gotua, New York

I am so excited to share that I am starting a new section here in the blog, called Style Inspiration.

I often talk about my personal style philosophies here at MFO, but I figured, it would be infinitely more interesting to feature stylish girls and how they found their personal style. Finding our own style is a process, and I hope that this series will not only teach us a thing or ten about how to put together an outfit and where to shop, but also to discover how to dress according to our taste, budget and lifestyle.

I am starting off the series with my friend Diane Gotua, who I met in New York many years ago. I've always loved Diane's classic, effortless style, both for work and on weekends. With more casual dress codes for work, many have forgotten what corporate dressing should be like, and I find that there's plenty of inspiration to learn from Diane, who expertly balances feminine & chic with sharp and work-appropriate when it comes to business dressing. For more on how to dress for work, read this Business Insider article too!

What do you do?

I do strategy for the National Basketball Association, primarily focused on growing our business in international markets. 

What is a day in your life like? How so you spend your weekends?

On most weekdays, I wake up at 6 am. Hit the gym to do a spinning or cardio class. I go back home and get ready while Adrian follows me around.

I'm very focused when I'm at work and typically get home in time for dinner. I feed Adrian, bathe him, play a little, read to him and put him to sleep.

Dwayne and I have Friday every week set for our "date night", simple dinner, happy hour with friends.
Diane and her husband Dwayne

On most weekends, we are completely yaya-free. During the spring and summer, if we are not out of town, we typically spend our weekends in Central Park.

a shot of Poet's Walk at Central Park, from Diane's Instagram account

We go to brunch, have playdates, and invite friends and family over on occasion. We try to make the most out of our weekends and do a lot of day trips.

How would you best describe your style? Why does it work for you? 

Very simple and classic I guess. I usually don't like to spend too much time thinking about what I'm going to wear so I keep my wardrobe very simple.

I know the cuts and silhouettes that suit me and I am most comfortable in dark, neutral shades. I definitely accessorize to make an outfit look and feel a little different, whether with a statement necklace, a pretty belt, dramatic earrings (but still work appropriate) or a great pair of shoes.

It works for me because I am comfortable and confident in whatever I'm wearing and I minimize the risk of putting on an outfit that I don't love because I just keep the ones that I know works and makes me look and feel good about myself.

I really believe that what you wear is a way of expressing yourself so you need to make sure that you are projecting the image you want to project. Since I work in a male-dominated industry, I am always conscious about dressing appropriately and making sure I look sharp and ready to get down to business but I still love to dress up and I refuse to wear a suit everyday so i find ways to play around with my little black dress and still show my style and personality.

I do some travel for work and I do I need outfits that work from day-to-night. Keeping a simple wardrobe with outfits that I can wear in meetings and still wear out to an event or dinner work best for me.

How has your style evolved and how did you know you've finally found your trademark style? 

I used to like being adventurous with colors and prints. I still have a few pieces in my wardrobe that are probably a little more "out there" for me but through the years I've built a wardrobe with key pieces I wear year in and year out.

Sometimes if I find a really good piece, I buy it in various colors, which ends up being just dark, black, or nudes. Not really sure when I found my trademark style but I've noticed that I don't make purchases I regret as often as I used to before.

These days I just get items that I know for sure I will put to good use and don't end up just using once and storing.

What are your wardrobe essentials?

Little black dress (I have too many), a nice fitting white T-shirt and polo shirt, black, navy, khaki, gray blazer, and pencil skirts in the same colors.

Diane in a work appropriate jacket that also "works" on weekend trips

I love my chambrays and also can't live without my jeans, flats for the weekends, and trusty pumps for work.

Where do you shop? 

Anthropologie, American Apparel, Pookie and Sebastian, Zara, Urban Outfitters, Uniqlo, H&M, J.Crew, Banana Republic.

Best style advice you've ever received and what advice would you give to those who want to nail her own personal style? 

Trends fade. Wear what you personally feel most comfortable and confident in.

What would your advice be to someone who wants to build her closet but is on a budget?

Start with a few essential pieces (essential would depend on what you do, what industry you're in) and make sure to invest in good quality pieces that you can wear for while.

Incidentally, Diane's love for out of town trips on weekends has prompted her and her husband Dwayne to put up the weekend travel site, Discoverue.com, which equips users with information, tips and tools tailored for weekend travel by helping them explore activities, places, and events within their local area.

For you dear readers based in New York or the East Coast, Discoverue is something you'd want to learn more about!

Where did the inspiration for Discoverue come from?

The idea of Discoverue came about when I was still working in finance.

I was really devoted to my job and my schedule was impossible to plan around. Dwayne and I would book trips ahead of time but end up canceling them since something always came up at work. It was so frustrating that we gave up planning trips.

Then unexpectedly, a weekend would come and I find myself free. Dwayne and I would want to go somewhere but found it difficult to find options.

We were certain there were a number of interesting things to do and places to explore close by but had little clue where to look. That's why we started Discoverue.

What makes Discoverue special?

Discoverue presents users with options based on real time prices and availability from our partners Expedia, Booking.com, and Hotels.com.

We only show trip options that are rated 3.5 stars or higher by Trip Advisor, further saving users time spent on research and the trip planning processs. Users can filter by distance, budget, what they're in the mood for.

We also curate and feature original content on weekend trip ideas.

Is it NY-centric?

We are launching the NYC edition first and have plans to expand to other Northeast U.S. cities.

For more on Discoverue, visit www.discoverue.com

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

OREO Bento Together

My good friend Naomi is the poster mom for bento baons in my book. She makes the most amaaaaahzing bento baons for her twins. Check out her IG account, @ma2xbento to see what I mean.

While I enjoy looking through her bento baons, I have never even dared try to do one for my kids. I fear that I do not have enough time, and well uhm, I am not super creative when it comes to making characters out of food.

Plus, Naomi has invested a small fortune on her bento making supplies and seeing what choices are out there, as collated by the Bento Mommas (who facilitated our workshop), I am not yet prepared to make the jump into bento baon territory.

That is until I took baby bento steps, thanks to the OREO Bento Together Workshop that I attended with my mommy friends, thanks of course, to OREO!!!

I realized, I can actually make do with the supplies I have at home. All that we basically need is a container, some cupcake liners, scissors, knives, surgical tongs and such.

Of course, I would suggest that we have dedicated tools for food, and we don't use the same scissors and punchers for our kids' craft projects ahihi.

That said, it turns out it's easy to do bento baons as long as you've got everything laid out for you. 

Naomi usually gets her helper to prepare everything so that all she has to do is layout and make something out of the food. The Bento Mommas did the same for us, so that all we have to do is focus on the bento part.

I was surprised at how easy it was, Berry actually took the lead in shaping and putting everything together, that I just helped her refine her work. For the session, we made a bento rice bear and it really was just like that "big circle, small circle, big circle" song we would sing on how to draw a bear.

Big, siopao sized circle for the face, molded into shape using a sandwich sized ziploc bag...

2 small circles for the ears...

Another big circle for the nose...

Et Voila! A rice bear! Eyes and nose were made out of nori.

We then just added fried chicken, corn, and broccoli to complete the lunch set, plus a slice of apple and OREO cookies for dessert.

The Bento Mommas then proceeded to teach us how to make animal theme bento sandwiches, made more special because they're put together using OREO cookies! After their demo, we were then tasked to make our own.

Berry and I were challenged to make a bento bear sandwich! This was made out of a chocolate chip loaf bread from Gardenia, chocolate cream filled OREOs, milky Chiz Whiz, white chocolate chips for the eyes, and good 'ol nori to fashion into the eyes and nose.

Making four of these OREO Bear sandwiches took Berry and I an hour to make though. I realized, it took longer to make the baon than have it eaten for recess!

I laughingly told the Bento Mommas how labor intensive bento-ing is, but they assured me it just takes some practice and getting used to. 

That said, Berry enjoyed making the bento baons and eating them too, I really ought to just train her to make bento baons for herself and Xavi.

Berry, practice makes perfect!!! Lolz!!!

PS - Check out The Phenomenal Mama's OREO Bento Together post for more bento making tips, plus a how to on how her kids made their winning bento cat sandwich made with OREOs!

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