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Hotel Kimberly, Tagaytay: A Great Choice for Quick Family Vacations

This is my long overdue review of one of my favorite hotels in Tagaytay, Hotel Kimberly! This was the venue of my officer training program culmination in China Bank. This was also the venue of the annual outing of the Manila String Machine (MSM), our awesome music family. We stayed there overnight last July 21 to 22.

Casey, Wolf, and I stayed in a Deluxe Room. The rooms of Hotel Kimberly are simple yet elegant, with comfortable beds and spacious bathrooms. Most importantly, they are quite consistently clean. This makes the hotel an excellent choice for families with small children.

Wolf was already a fast crawler when we had our outing last July, and so we brought his crib, which we were able to set up beside our bed (proof that their rooms have ample space). The bed mattresses are on the firm side, but we found them quite comfortable even if we are used to the softness of our memory foam mattress at home. One negative comment I have about the room is that the placement of the ledge in the bathroom for toiletries was not ideal, as it was too far from the sink and the tub.

It was Wolf’s first time to swim at the outing, and I did my best to make sure he enjoyed. We bought him full swimming attire, taking care to get a long-sleeved rash guard to help keep him warm. We also waited till the sun was not too harsh but still present to keep the water temperature tolerable. A heated pool would have been great, but unfortunately, the hotel’s pool did not have heating.

I think Wolf enjoyed his first pool dip. Although he didn’t smile much, he didn’t cry either. We took him out after ten minutes and brought him straight up to the room to bathe in the tub. However, to our dismay, we found out that the water heater in our room was not working! We immediately called room service to sort out the problem. They were able to get the heater to work in around 20 minutes from the time we called, but that is a long time for a baby who came from the pool. I just hugged him the whole time to make sure he stayed warm.

After swimming, we hung out in the hotel lobby, which was decorated nicely and had comfortable couches. Wolf’s first dip left him super tired, as children (and adults) often are after swimming. He was so tired that he fell asleep mid-picture. Awww.

For dinner, our table had yang chow fried rice, tinapa fried rice, tawilis, pakbet bagnet, and liempo. We were only four, but two among us were hungry daddies. Haha. The food was good but not remarkable. The tawilis, unfortunately, was not crispy. The hotel hosted a bonfire with marshmallows and movie night, but we missed it because we were too busy having dinner. Haha. After dinner, we went to the game room, which we found was too noisy for Wolf, and so we went up to our room instead and watched Transformers before settling down for the night. The swimming sufficiently tired out Wolfie to allow him (and his mom) to sleep for four hours. Hallelujah!

We got up bright and early the next day to avail of our buffet breakfast, which consisted of arroz caldo, chow mein, dilis, fried chicken, longganisa, tocino, rice, bread, fruit, eggs, and bacon. I wished they had corned beef though, which is my favorite breakfast food! Again, the food was passable but nothing to write home about. In particular, I enjoyed my omelette with everything in it — ham, cheese, onions, and bell peppers.

After breakfast, we traipsed over to the hotel’s mini farm. It was quite impressive, with a larger variety of animals than I had expected! One of the animal caretakers toured us through the farm. He was very friendly, and he knew so much about all the animals. My favorite parts were the rabbits and sheep, while Casey was most interested in the chickens and hydroponics. We were able to feed the sheep, because we made sure to visit during their feeding time. We noticed one sheep was separated from the rest. The caretaker said that the sheep’s mother died after his birth. He was bottle fed away from the flock, and when the caretakers brought him back, the other sheep began to bully him. So he became an outcast. Poor baby. We chose to feed him instead of the other mean sheep. Haha. The rabbits were very popular with all the kids, and we almost bought the grey one. They were really so cute! The farm also had three horses, and one was available for kids to ride. I would say that for families with small children, the mini farm is a must-see at Hotel Kimberly.

We checked out at 12 noon and visited their souvenir shop, which, frankly, had nothing interesting or of value to me. This is probably the area of the hotel that needs the most improvement. After checking out, we had lunch at Bulalo Point before heading home.

We had a great time relaxing and bonding with our MSM family at the hotel. With clean, well-appointed rooms, a big pool, and lots of fun activities, Hotel Kimberly is at the top of my list for a family vacation in Tagaytay.

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Parenting, pregnancy

The Quiet Joy of Having a Baby

There are many women who choose not to become mothers. For them, motherhood is just not among their life goals. I used to be one of those women. Back in high school, while my friends would fantasize about their ideal weddings and come up with names for their future children, I shuddered at the thought of getting pregnant, giving birth, and becoming dumpy for the rest of my life. Haha.

Then I got married to an amazing man who was a great cook and handy with tools — in other words, a very domesticated guy. Needless to say, he wanted kids. I entered into our marriage fully aware of this and willing to set aside my anxiety to grant his desires. As we grew more in love, I also grew more at ease with the idea of raising his babies. I realized that the reasons I had before for not wanting children — the fear of getting fat, the dreaded sleepless nights, the endless crying — were surmountable with a loving partner by my side.

More than two years into our marriage, we decided to do away with birth control. A month later, I got a positive pregnancy test. We didn’t expect it would happen so soon, but I was happy that we didn’t have to deal with the stress of trying several times to conceive.

While I was pregnant, many people asked me if I were scared of giving birth. I always replied that I was more scared of what would happen after the baby came out. Caring for a baby seemed like such a huge responsibility to me, with the disadvantages outweighing the benefits. I was imagining non-stop crying of the baby (and mommy), poop everywhere, utter chaos on bad days and mundane routines on good days. Suffice to say, I had a very bleak picture of what it meant to be a new parent.

Boy, was I wrong.

Perhaps I was too jaded. I often err on the side of pessimism, and it keeps my expectations in check. I dreaded too much and hoped for too little. Now, as I reflect on the past eight months caring for my baby, I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot. I didn’t expect being a mom to be this.. enjoyable! Yes, there are sleepless nights and round-the-clock diaper changes, but all those chores are rewarded with the most adorable coos and smiles that make the fatigue worth it. And the number one reason I had before for not wanting to conceive, which is that I didn’t want to gain weight that I wouldn’t be able to shed post-partum, is now no longer an issue, because in these eight months, I’ve successfully returned to my pre-pregnancy weight.

I am just in my twenties, and I have so much of life still ahead of me, but I can say that having a baby is the most incredible, humbling, rewarding experience thus far. My advice for women on the fence with having kids is to take that terrifying plunge. The experience is much more wonderful than it seems. The “bad” side often gets the limelight, and we tend to think of infants as how they are portrayed in movies — synonymous to wailing poop machines. But the good, no, the great side, is too often overlooked, perhaps because it is quiet and tender — the warmth of your baby falling asleep on your chest, the delight on his face as he learns to sit up, the wonder with which he becomes aware of his fingers and toes.

Babies find joy in the smallest things. They teach you, not only to love another human unconditionally, but also to rediscover and love the world. I do not regret and don’t think I will ever regret having a baby. Some days are exhausting. Some days are chaotic. But all days are amazing.

Parenting

5th Breastfeeding Congress

Last August 1 and 2, I had the honor of being one of the panelists at the 5th Breastfeeding Congress, held at the Manila Hotel.

I gave my testimonial as a breastfeeding mom who overcame initial challenges and continued to breastfeed successfully. My fellow breastfeeding advocate panelists were Dr. Marini Tabon-Esguerra, a pediatrician and lactation consultant, and Jolina Magdangal-Escueta, a television host and actress.

I shared our breastfeeding journey, from our initial setbacks, to the intervention we sought, and finally to our current success. I was proud to proclaim that from being underweight, Wolf became well within normal range, 8.3 kg at 7 months. It was so heartwarming to hear the attendees clap in appreciation of our accomplishment.

Aside from sharing my personal story, I shared why I think more women should nurse without a cover, as I am doing now. I also cited the benefits I myself got from being a breastfed baby–I have a strong immune system, an adventurous palate, and no weight problems. In Wolf’s case, the benefits I cited were the convenience when going out with him, the many chances for bonding, and his well-behaved nature grounded in how breastfeeding is a great source of comfort.

Casey and Wolf were also on the stage with me. Casey shared how proud he was of me, especially when he saw how difficult it was in the beginning. He also expressed his support of me nursing without a cover, saying that he realized how eating while covered by cloth must not be comfortable at all for babies. Wolf was very well behaved, even if he were sleepy. Toward the end of the session, he was fast asleep in Casey’s arms.

The other two panelists also shared their initial struggles breastfeeding. It was comforting to feel that I was not alone. Imagine, even a pediatrician mom encountered difficulties breastfeeding! That’s why I think it is so important to be more vocal about the topic, so that people become aware that with proper information and guidance, breastfeeding is absolutely worth it for both mom and baby. I am happy to have been able to share my experience with a room full of physicians and med students. Hopefully, the testimonials of me and my fellow panelists inspired these medical practitioners to offer more guidance to new mothers just beginning their breastfeeding journey.

Food

Quality over Quantity: Unlimited Steak, Lamb, and More at Impressions

Yesterday was my husband’s birthday, and so as usual, we celebrated with a feast. For the first time, Casey received a birthday dinner treat from my dad! As I mentioned in my post about my birthday last month, this special privilege was previously reserved just for us daughters three. Now that Casey has been accorded the same treatment, I can say with confidence that he is a member of the circle of trust. Haha.

The birthday boy loves his steak, and so we went for BBQ Madness from the Grill, an unlimited selection of grilled items offered by Impressions in Maxims Hotel, Resorts World Manila. For P888 per head, one can indulge in endless servings of ribeye steak, lamb chops, duck breast, salmon fillet, tuna steak, and tiger prawns. While Casey had eyes only for the ribeye (See what I did there? ๐Ÿ˜‚), I was looking forward to the lamb and prawns.

We were ready to feast as soon as the restaurant opened for dinner at 6 pm. We were given three kinds of bread on the house. While my sisters and niece eagerly partook of the loaves, my dad and I restrained ourselves. We shared a look, and he knew what I was thinking before I said it. Bread! Carbs! Part of the ploy to fill you up so you don’t eat too much of the good stuff! Haha. The bread was quite yummy, according to my sister, Jica. It was only later on in the meal that I confirmed this by pinching off tiny morsels of each type of bread, careful to save my precious stomach space for what really mattered!

While the bread made its rounds, the waitress took our first orders. You can choose to order each item one by one, or you can order several at once. Casey immediately ordered his steak, while I ordered a sampler plate of all the items, so that I could decide which ones I would get more of later on. My dad did the same. Casey requested a medium rare for his steak, even though he really prefers a medium. He told me it’s because he expects the steak to be overdone. I requested medium for my steak, lamb, and duck breast.

After all orders were taken, we were served pumpkin soup (all part of the ploy). The serving was just enough though to whet our appetites, and so I ate my share.

When our first orders arrived, I noticed that the steak cut was very thin. I also saw that Casey’s assumption was correct. His steak was cooked to a medium, while mine was terribly overcooked, with burnt edges. My lamb and duck breast were well done. I pointed this out to the waitress, yet still ordered a medium throughout the evening, hoping to get exactly what I requested. Alas, my steaks were always medium well to well done, and so was my duck breast. The lamb, however, came out perfectly medium from my second plate onwards, which was good enough for me since lamb is my favorite meat. Meanwhile, Casey kept requesting medium rare and kept getting the medium steaks he really wanted. He also requested for thicker cuts, as ribeye was the only thing he was ordering. Only on his last order was a medium rare given. It was unfortunate that Casey didn’t enjoy the last steak that much (because he really prefers medium), but it was not a big deal as he was already stuffed by then.

One major downside of our dinner was the tuna steak and salmon fillet. They were both not fresh at all, and they made my dad’s lips itch. I did not even taste these items, because I couldn’t risk getting sick, as I have to care for Wolf. We decided not to get more of these items.

However, the ribeye, lamb, and prawns really made up for the fish. The meat was seasoned very well, with the steak so tasty that we did not need to add the sauce that they provided. I did pair my lamb with the mint jelly, not for lack of taste, but simply as a matter of preference. The prawns were fresh and plump.

Each plate was served with mashed potatoes and ratatouille, which complemented the mains quite well and added balance to our dinner.

The service was good, with the waiters always ready to attend to our needs. The place was a bit warm, and when we mentioned this, they brought in an evaporative air cooler, which we highly appreciated. When there was a fly, they were quick to bring out candles.

We asked the waitress to sing Casey “Happy Birthday.” She came out with a cake on the house, and sang.. alone. How brave of her, yet how awkward! Haha. So we happily joined her in song, and Casey blew out one candle for his 29 years of life! The cake was chocolate mousse, and it was really good. Even my dad and my sister, Melay, who are normally not fond of cakes, enjoyed this cake. As the cake was being passed around, everyone wanted to get the strawberry but apparently whispered among themselves that it should go to Casey. When he gave me the slice with the strawberry, they all thought it was so sweet.. until I told them that he doesn’t eat strawberries. Haha.

After four servings of succulent ribeye steak and a delicious slice of chocolate mousse, our birthday celebrant declared it a happy birthday indeed. Our sponsor also enjoyed immensely, and the rest of us were only too happy to benefit from the birthday treat.

THE VERDICT

Peso Damage: P888 / head (unlimited grilled items)

Value for Peso: 4.5 / 5.0

The unlimited grill offer of Impressions is definitely worth it. Don’t go in expecting a huge variety. Although the dishes are limited, most of them are excellently seasoned and cooked well. Their chef is not an expert at meat doneness, but you can always send back your order until it is to your liking. The dishes are cooked as you order them and served to your table. The service is excellent. I’m not giving a perfect score because of the fish that was not fresh and because of the issues with meat doneness, but otherwise, it was a great dinner!

The saying “jack of all trades, master of none” can be applied to food. I’ve eaten at many buffets that offer an overwhelming variety, but with most of the food being mediocre, I end up stuffed but not satisfied. In the case of Impressions’ unlimited grill, they focused on just a few items, yet nailed most of them, particularly the ribeye steak, lamb chops, and prawns. It was a pleasurable dining experience that we would definitely want to repeat. We were, without a doubt, impressed!

Parenting, pregnancy

Elin: The Best Online Shop for Maternity Wear

Last week was World Breastfeeding Week! I joined a celebratory promo hosted by my favorite maternity clothing brand, Elin. I posted a photo of my favorite items from Elin and captioned it with a description of how Elin has made my motherhood journey easier.

Here’s the photo:

This was the caption:
Back when I was still pregnant, at first, shopping for new clothes was a nightmare. I scoured various maternity sections yet always left empty-handed. I wondered why maternity clothes were so expensive yet so horribly designed that they made you want, not to buy them, but to burn them. ๐Ÿ˜… Then I stumbled upon Elin, and the search was finally over for classic, flattering pieces that I could wear during and after pregnancy. My wardrobe is full of Elin clothes now, and pictured above are my two favorite items–my red New Sydney Tee for casual dates with my two boys, and my black Patrice Nursing Dress for elegant formal affairs. Breastfeeding in public is a breeze as long as I’m wearing Elin. Whether I’m running errands at the mall or attending a wedding, Elin has got me covered (pun intended). ๐Ÿ˜‰ Every day is an Elin day! Thanks, Elin, for making us mommies look and feel fabulous! โค๏ธ #elineveryday #elinph #worldbreastfeedingweek

I was delighted to find out a few days ago that my photo was chosen as one of the winners! The prize was P2000 credit to spend on more Elin clothes. Oh yeeeaah! As soon as I woke up this morning, I went shopping! Elin is an online store, so it’s super easy for moms to purchase clothes.

Wearing the Marta Maxi Nursing Dress while eight months pregnant
The Marta Maxi Nursing Dress featuring six-month old Wolf!

I have several tops and dresses from Elin, and on the whole I’m very satisfied. The styles are timeless and elegant. No garish prints or tacky designs here! The fabric is also very soft and cool on the skin, suitable for our humid climate. However, because for some items, the fabric is on the thin side, it is better to hand wash or use gentle washing machine cycles on the clothes, as they are quite delicate. I learned this the hard way, when two of my dresses got worn down in the wash. Another downside of the fabric’s thinness is that for some items, the hemmed openings for nursing access cause visible creases in the top layer that covers the openings. Although I think this is no longer an issue for their most recent arrivals.

Minor issues aside, Elin is the best option for moms who want to look good and feel good. Mommies, especially those who are pregnant and nursing, no longer have to make do with unflattering wardrobe choices.

Here I am in the Carmen Nursing Dress just a week before my due date (39 weeks)! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
Carmen Nursing Dress at four months post-partumย 

You know how people can throw offhand comments about how women during or after pregnancy “let themselves go?” Especially in our country, I hear a lot of comments like “Mommyng mommy na talaga siya” (She really looks like a mom already). When people say this, they are often implying that the woman wasn’t able to shed the baby weight or that the woman looks haggard or run-down compared to their former state of youthful bloom. People are so quick to make such insensitive comments. Now that I myself am a mom, I know that I would hate to be on the receiving end of such statements. So next time you think of hurling that veiled insult, I suggest that you compliment the mom for doing a great job raising her child. Baby pounds are really difficult to lose, and a mom has more important things to prioritize when caring for a newborn! Also, a mom who looks careworn is most probably a mom who was up in the wee hours soothing an upset baby. So share love, not scorn.

A mom who has put on pounds from pregnancy or who is exhausted from taking care of a baby does not choose to experience the negative effects of those circumstances. But she can look and feel better in clothes that help her focus on her baby without compromising aesthetic appeal. As much as I myself don’t usually enjoy buying clothes, pregnancy and breastfeeding forced me to update my wardrobe. With Elin, one of the biggest advantages is they can be worn even when no longer pregnant or nursing, unlike other maternity clothes that should carry this warning: “Caution: Highly Unflattering! For Pregnant and Nursing Moms Only, to Make Them Look Even Worse than They Feel.” Don’t know what I’m talking about? Visit any department store’s maternity section. ๐Ÿ˜‚ But if you’re a preggy mom in the Philippines, save yourself the wasted time and effort. Go straight to elin.ph. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m wearing the Patrice Maxi Nursing Dress here. I was nursing Wolf in this photo! When I’m wearing Elin clothes, people usually think he’s asleep, but he’s actually breastfeeding. ๐Ÿ˜„