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Busy mom reads again

In the many years I was at school, I was an avid reader of fiction. I enjoyed classic novels and detective stories. Rest, for me, meant curling up with a good book. Even when I go out, I’d always have a book in my bag so that I could read during any lull time in the day.

But after graduating, adult responsibilities came, so I had to make adjustments—as would any! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do enough leisure reading in the process. I knew I needed to read but I had to get into the groove with the rest of life first.

Years passed, I started a business, married a literature teacher and creative writer, and we had two kids. I’m busier than ever. But I want to pass on my love for reading to my kids. How will I be able to do that if I didn’t read myself? I had to get back to reading for leisure. But how? I can’t handle paper books much because my babies are at the age where they still seek a lot of sensory input, i.e. THEY LOVE TEARING PAPER. Besides, my bag’s already too bulky with diapering items to still hold a paperback. And to top that, I don’t even have time to sip my coffee in a leisurely way, so how am I supposed to even read for a good amount of time?

My solution: have ebooks in all my devices and read whenever I have even a few minutes. My husband writes fiction on his phone in five minute bursts, so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to advance on reading with the same tools and time period.

I’ve installed the Kindle app on my phone, iPod Touch, and Windows tablet. Amazon has a lot of free classic works on the Kindle store and I could get more from Project Gutenberg. Amazon also holds my ebooks in the cloud and allow me to sync my reading across devices. If I have my own ebook files or documents, I just upload them to my account and then download it to every device. When I have the opportunity to read, like when I’m breastfeeding my kids, I grab the nearest device and read.

But a paper book is still different, you say? Of course. I also find it hard to read for leisure using a phone or tablet, and even more so from a laptop or monitor. These devices can distract me as well because there are other things on them that vie for my attention. So, I went on a hunt for a second-hand Kindle reader. I later found a neighbor selling a first generation Paperwhite.

Our first generation Kindle Paperwhite as I was reading the Alex Rider books

Kindle readers are great for reading because of their e-ink screens. Reading from one feels like reading from paper. Another great thing about them is that they last long, and are still quite useful even if many newer versions have come out. Hubby and I have been reading from this for nearly a year now. It’s still working well! I use it when I could afford to read for longer periods, like before sleeping, or when I accompany my husband to a meeting and our baby’s napping.

When my baby’s asleep in the carrier, I prop up the Kindle like this so I could read easily.

Using this new setup, I’ve been able to read about six entire novels and a few nonfiction titles in a year. Not bad for a busy mom. It will still be years until I could curl up for hours just reading a book, but in the meantime, I hope to pass on my love for literature to our kids by reading from books they can’t tear.

Looking for a Kindle reader? I recommend getting them from either NelsonKRX or Lazada. But if you’d like to buy a pre-loved unit, like I did, I suggest checking OLX or the many buy and sell groups on FB. I’m lucky there’s one for my neighborhood and that spared me from the cost of shipping or meeting up.


My go-to “mom shoes”

For most of my life as a single person, I’d have at least six pairs of footwear in use: three dress shoes or sandals, a pair of Outland sandals for long walks, a pair of rubber shoes for sports, and my slippers. I know most women would already call that minimalist. But recently, as a busy mom, I’ve come to rely primarily on only one pair. Yup, one.

Let me explain how that happened. First, we’ve gone barefoot at home, so I only use my slippers in our tiny laundry area. Second, I made the mistake of buying Outland sandals that have heels. I found my feet getting tired easily when walking with them, so I hardly ever use them these days. Lastly, I found a pair of shoes that look dressy, can be used with all my outfits, and that I could walk with, even on rainy days. They’re the Crocs Women’s Cap Top Flats.


I’d never owned a pair of Crocs before, but my mom was out shopping with me one day and she got me these (probably in response to my obvious poverty, haha). What a blessing that was! The shoes are so comfy, making them great for the typical mom activities: carrying and chasing the toddler, running errands, buying groceries, etc. They look good with business clothes and with jeans. They go great with skirts or with pants. I can walk good distances with them, even in bad weather. They’re super easy to clean, too. A friend even said she cleans her Crocs using the washing machine, so I tried it too—and it works!

I only had one problem: the outer side of the shoes would sometimes cut the skin under my outer ankle bone. I deal with this by putting a small strip of electrical tape (which is unnoticeable on those black shoes) on that edge. I hope to replace that with black duct tape one of these days because the adhesive on the electrical tape wears out easily.

Of course, another “issue” with Crocs in general is that they tend to make your feet sweaty. But my feet already do tend to be, so I’m just glad to be able to clean these shoes far more easily than the usual fabric or leather shoes. Using foot socks might help, but I’m not really the foot socks type of gal.

How about you, what are your go-to shoes? Do you also own a pair of Crocs?

Balm to my soul (err, I mean lip)

IMG_0232-e1361524466113-600x372From left to right: MAC Tinted Lip Conditioner in Fuchsia Fix; Maybelline Baby Lips in Anti-Oxidant Berry; Vaseline Lip Therapy in Cherry; Forever Living Aloe Lips

I can still recall the time my mom let me buy my first ever cosmetic item: a tube of lip balm. I was in sixth grade, and I was at the mall with my mom and my two sisters. I don’t recall what I said to finally convince my mom, I don’t even remember what brand lip balm I bought: all I remember is my excitement at finally being allowed to buy a not-really-essential item with which to appease my make-up craving pre-teen self (although I’m pretty sure I told my mom I needed it, or she wouldn’t have bought it for me…shhh, don’t tell her I’m admitting this after all these years).

Many years later, I finally have the means to buy make-up for myself, but lip balm is still one of the standbys in my kit. I usually have one or two tubes of it with me wherever I go, and I reapply frequently; without it, my lips would crack and my lipstick/gloss would not go on smoothly. I’ve even used a bit of clear balm to combat dry spots on my face or as a quick hand/elbow moisturizer.

Here are a few of my favorite brands:

1) Vaseline Lip Therapy in Cherry. I’ve gone through who-knows-how-many tubes of this clear balm. It manages to really moisturize my lips and it doesn’t sit like goop on the surface. Totally love the cherry flavor (though it comes in an unflavored variant as well) and the fact that it’s super cheap (less than Php 80, last time I checked).

2) Alba Un-Petroleum Lip Balm SPF 18. Again, I am partial to the cherry-flavored variant; other flavors are tangerine and vanilla. Available at Healthy Options, this balm is “100% Vegetarian. No: Animal Testing, Artificial Colors, Parabens, Phthalates, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Myreth Sulfate” (according to the brand’s website) and is perfect for girls who want to go all-natural with their products. At Php 129, it’s a bit pricey but still affordable, I think.

3) Forever Living Aloe Lips. This one I pilfered from my mom, so I don’t really know how much a tube costs. This balm features a really moisturizing formula as well. I think it’s unflavored, but it does have a bit of a waxy scent to it (which doesn’t bother me).

4) Badger Highland Mint Lip and Body Balm. I bought my tin from Rustan’s, but I finished it two years ago and have not managed to replenish my supply. I like its gentle mint flavor and its formula. If you can manage to procure a tin for yourself, I highly recommend this.

Brands on which I’m undecided: MAC Tinted Lip Conditioner in Fuchsia Fix SPF 15 (love that it provides a bit of color on days when I can’t be bothered to apply both balm and color; hate that it’s super expensive and not  so moisturizing on the lips, considering how much I had to shell out for it)…Maybelline Baby Lips  SPF 20 (I’ve tried the mint and berry flavors; nothing to say against it; it is moisturizing but not enough for when the temperature drops and I need something in a richer formulation)…Chapstick

Brands which I won’t be buying again anytime soon: Any of the lip balms/butters by The Body Shop (they don’t get absorbed into the skin; they just sit on the surface, soooo aggravating)…Nivea Sun Lip Care (again, the formula does not get absorbed into the skin).

Let me know in the comments what brand lip balm you recommend 🙂

This post was written by Anj de la Cruz.

How to clean fish: fish fabrication for beginners

I can’t forget the day our school taught us how to fabricate fish. I already knew the basics of fish fabrication—the culinary term for butchering or cutting the fish into the desired parts you want—because at home, if the househelp’s not there and my mom forgot to have the fish fabricated before bringing it home, I have the duty to remove its gills, scales, and insides.

At first, the smell was unbearable.  I had to wash my hands multiple times, even to the point of taking a bath just to remove the fishy smell.  If you have a weak stomach, then this job isn’t really for you.  Good thing I was used to these kinds of things.

raw fish fabrication
Whoa smelly

That day in school, when all of my classmates had to fabricate a single fish, I ended up doing two.  I was so confident in doing the first one that I really took my time, from scaling it to removing the bones.  My instructor happened to be very strict.  He even counted the bones, because some fish have specific number of bones in them.  I actually took the wrong fish! What I fabricated was the fish that we’ll use for our dishes and not the fish that’s supposed to be our test.  I only had a few more minutes left, and had to redo the whole thing :O

On to today’s lesson: for the beginner, my first advice is to get yourself a sharp knife.  Actually, if you’re really interested in cooking, good knives are worth the investment.  I collect some myself because they make my life a lot easier at the kitchen.  There are other tools that you can use when scaling a fish, but I still do the old method, which is to use the back of the knife and rub it on the opposite direction of the scales.

Try practicing too on fish like tilapia and milkfish.  They’re easy to fabricate and you don’t really need to remove a lot of things, unless you’re filleting them.

When you start fabricating a fish, try doing it in running water.  Make sure the water’s not too powerful, just strong enough so that while gutting the fish, all the blood and other remnants will easily come out.

Removing the gills takes some force.  It’s a little bit tricky because you might pull the whole head of the fish in the process.  Feel it first.  If the fish is fresh, you’d still see the gills and its whole diaphragm.  After feeling it, give it a one pull.  If not, then you can put it in running water and just remove whatever’s left inside the head.

Cutting the insides of a fish is easier than you think.  Just make sure you have a sharp knife and cut a few centimeters away from the stomach itself.  With milkfish, avoid cutting too near the stomach because there’s fat around it, which is a favorite among Filipinos. Again, you’ll need to feel the insides of a fish.  Insert your hand into the tiny, slanted cut you made and locate the intestines, liver and stomach content of the fish.  If you’re able to do so, make sure that in one pull you’ll be able to take out everything.  But in case something bursts inside, like maybe the liver, don’t worry, because you can always clean it with running water.

After removing the insides, and scaling the fish, the last thing you’ll have to do is cut the fins (wings).  I like to cut them because when you fry a fish, they spread and I don’t like the look of it.  There are some people, though, who like to eat them,  so it’s really up to you.  But seriously, just cut a few centimeters off and it’ll make the fish look prettier.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

Bohol: where to go

My husband and I dream of travelling the world. But since we need to dedicate more time to raising our kids for now, we’ll start by exploring our beautiful country.

My favorite local destination by far is Bohol. The people are warm and friendly, the province hasn’t (yet?) been commercialized. We love the shores of Panglao because unlike Boracay, it’s not crowded. It’s just pure waves and peace.

To make sure we go to the best places, we hired a tourist guide/driver named Mang Henry who was highly recommended by a friend. We went to a lot of beautiful places which we all loved. But there were five exceptional ones that I would like to share:

1. Bee Farm

Yes, you got that right. It’s a farm full of bees! But don’t worry, the bees are housed in boxes. During the tour though, the lady took out a wooden sheet full of bees. I learned that there’s always only one queen bee per box. The rest are what they call “workers”, i.e. the ones responsible for making honey. If you’re not scared of bees, they will allow you take photos with them for free. However, if a bee stings you, you have to pay a particular fee because bee stings, apparently, relieve various ailments.

This “farm” does not only house honey bees. They also have a variety of plants and flowers, a restaurant and an ice cream shop! More than seeing the bees, eating their Malunggay flavored ice cream is the better part of the trip. It’s delicious and not to mention very healthy.

2. Dolphin Watching

We rented a boat (with a boatman of course!) who picked us up very early in the morning to spot some Dolphins in the middle of Panglao’s sea. We met up with a other boats in the middle of the sea to wait for dolphins. After a short wait, there were dolphins everywhere! They jumped so quickly so it’s hard to get a good picture if your camera is low-tech like mine. However, I was lucky enough to take one good photo (below). I was so happy because it was my first time to see dolphins in their natural habitat, and here in the Philippines! 🙂

3. Snorkeling in Balicasag Island

My husband and I were thinking twice about going snorkeling, which is part of the “sea tour”, together with the Dolphin-sight seeing. We were hesitant because we had to pay extra for the use of snorkeling gear. However, the boatman encouraged us to try it out so we gave in, thinking that this may be a once in a lifetime experience. And boy were we MESMERIZED! The view of the corals and fishes from the boat did not compare when we actually dove in the shallow part of the ocean. We had a very good view of the beautiful sea creatures (some fishes were already touching my skin)! I wish I had an underwater camera to capture the colorful world underwater! Like what the boatman said to us, “highly ricomended po talaga!”.

4. Tarsiers

We wouldn’t miss seeing Tarsiers in their home land. I saw a Tarsier once in a zoo but it was in a cage and I didn’t see much movement. In the tarsier spot that we visited, we were allowed go near them. I thought they were like babies: quiet, mild and gentle. But I was shocked when I was about to take a picture with one. It suddenly jumped and skipped around like a hyper toddler! Despite my fear, I still find them cute. 🙂

Just a note, please be careful when taking photos. Tarsiers are very sensitive that camera flashes can scare, or worse, kill them.

5. Chocolate Hills

I remember my SIBIKA book dubbed this place, together with Mayon Volcano and Rice Terraces, as one of the magagandang tanawin sa Pilipinas. And, seeing it for the first time, I could say that it’s a beautiful place indeed! It’s so amazing how the hills are formed and how they cover a vast area of Bohol. The only thing I did not like about seeing the place is the many steps we had to climb to get a good view of the hills.

with Mang Henry (middle)

If you need a Bohol tourist guide, feel free to call Mang Henry at 0921 476 9771. 🙂

This post was written by Maan Bello-de los Reyes.

Rainy days and the Pinoy dishes that match

Last week was hell week for me. I got stuck in the office for four days straight and I had to shop for extra essentials because I couldn’t work while smelling like yesterday’s news.  My body was practically running on coffee—news was everywhere so work at the media firm I work in just kept on piling up.  Add that to the fact that there was really no room to sleep in, so I just ended up taking multiple naps.

But if there’s one thing that I was overwhelmed with during the calamity, aside from flood water, it was food.  Inasmuch as I feel for the victims who were stuck in their rooftops, my officemates and I were constantly hungry and had to refuel as needed.

Do you notice that whenever it’s raining you feel like you’re always craving for something? Some people crave for food, while others have this feeling of snuggling on a sofa with just a hot coffee or cocoa.  If I could indulge on a rainy day, I would cook something, anything! I don’t usually eat after, but the smell of food in the room calms me. I guess food really has that effect on me.  I don’t really have to eat it, i just have to see it.

As a proud “promdi,” there are certain foods that we like to cook when it’s raining, or what I like to call “bed weather”.

  1. Suam na mais – For some people, the sabaw of choice is sinigang because it’s hot and sour, good for rainy days.  But I love the stickiness of the corn, sautéed in shrimps, garlic and onions. Then top it off with chicharon.  Any fried food will go well with it, but I prefer fried fish like tilapia or galunggong.  If they’re fried super crispy, you can actually eat even the bones.
  2. Champorado – Need I say more? Chocolate rice pudding: you can eat it either hot or cold.  I like it hot, then pour some milk over it.  Good to eat when cuddled up in the sofa with a big blanket while watching TV.  My mom and my grandmother like to pair it with tuyo, but I don’t eat tuyo so I always skip that part.
  3. Turon – I know turon with ice cream is a summer thing, but when it’s raining, my family usually has nothing better to do so we end up in the kitchen, cooking whatever is available in the pantry. This is one of the things we often whip up for ourselves.
  4. Hot chocolate with marshmallows and suman – This I can eat over and over again.  I wait for at least a day after buying the suman before frying them and then submerging them in hot chocolate.  Yummy!
  5. Chicken sopas – I have to be honest, I don’t normally cook this because I’m the only one who’s fond of it at home.  But whenever I’m out and it’s raining, if a restaurant we’re in serves it, I’ll definitely order it from their menu.  I just like the comfort it brings when you drink in the milky soup.

I hope you guys stay safe and dry.  I heard there’s more rains coming.  Stock up on food, batteries and don’t forget to just enjoy life.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.