A Thousand Stars, A Thousand Lights

Christmas is just a month away! Indeed, time flies so fast. I am getting more and more excited although I have not yet started with gifts shopping (I still have time, right?). I look forward to the Noche Buena, the family reunions and friends get-together parties. I'm sure you are as thrilled as I am!

Speaking of that Christmas spirit, I have been hearing about this 'Christmas in Ayala' and so last night I got the chance to visit the newly-developed Ayala Triangle Gardens near Makati Stock Exchange. It is a popular "green spot" for joggers and for those who simply want to take some time off and have a great walk after an exhausting day at work. Ayala Land included restaurants which are a sure hit to professionals working around the vicinity and for residents of nearby condominiums. (I will make  a separate post about the Restaurants at The Ayala Triangle Gardens.)

If you are along Ayala Avenue this Nativity scene will greet you before you arrive at the Ayala Triangle. It is life-sized and really eye-catching. The Nativity is one of the most popular symbols and displays during the Holiday seasons. During the previous years, buildings along Ayala Avenue put up their respective versions of the Nativity. I remember walking my way home to Makati Avenue (then) just to see them and the sights would complete my day.

 This is the 'Symphony of Parols', a lights and sounds show every 30 minutes from November 17 to December 23 (6pm to 8pm). This spot is like an enchanted forest with glowing lights and stars. Very captivating! It can take away your stress even for a night only.

Lights director Voltaire de Jesus is behind this masterpiece. His inspirations are the movies 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Avatar'. He used 100-percent eco-friendly LED lights which consume 78 percent less energy than regular ones. From 58,000 watts used last year, power consumption now drops to 5,000 watts with the LED upgrade.

Sound director Jetro Joaquin created an instrumental medley of Christmas classics ('Sleigh Ride', 'Santa Claus Is Coming to Town') and contemporary hits (José Mari Chan’s 'Christmas in Our Hearts').  

Would you believe that the planning for this took six months? Yes, six months! Well, you can see the result of the creative ideas and dedicated efforts of the organizers in this very delightful and spectacular display. If you have time, visit Ayala Triangle Gardens and enjoy the sight!


For the Love of Thai Food

I love spicy food. That makes me love Thai food. The strong aroma of Thai food is what makes me love it more. 

One of the best Thai restaurants my J and I have tried is Som's Noodle House (I'll do a separate post about it next time). But since it's a little far from our place, we decided to check on Banana Leaf in Greenbelt.

The place was full when we got there but because we were really into Thai food that night, we waited for about 20 minutes to get a table.

At Banana Leaf, you don't eat on a plate. You eat on a banana leaf. Well, I like the idea because it is so Filipino and it adds a relaxed feel to the dining experience.

On our table:

Deep Fried Pandan Chicken (P168)

This is actually an appetizer but we prefer to eat it with rice. Haha! It is not spicy but I like how the pandan leaves keep the chicken soft and juicy. Also, pandan leaves have a sweet aroma which adds flavor to the dish. This should be an easy-to-prepare dish for us Filipinos since pandan leaves grow extremely well in our climate. By the way, this dish comes with a sweet-chili sauce but trust me, the chicken is flavorful enough on its own.


Pad Thai (Thai Style) (P188)

There are two kinds of Pad Thai on the menu. The other one is Pad Thai (Banana Leaf Style) which has wider noodles and cooked with mildly sweet sauce. Thai Style is spicy, with noodles similar to spaghetti noodles but flat. It is not as spicy as I expected it to be. I don't know if that's good or not but I am thankful it is not sour. The serving is generous and I especially like the juicy chicken chunks. I also give two thumbs-up for the flexible and solid noodles.

Thai Green Curry Chicken with Eggplant and Sweet Basil (P238)

Very flavorful but lacks that spicy kick. I know that green curry has a sweet taste but I am just expecting even a tiny hint of spice. Anyhow, the sauce is really savory and I love spreading it on steamed rice. I can eat that even without the chicken! It's that delicious. Oh, I ate the eggplants! Very succulent. I always love curry with eggplant. There's an added flavor and texture to the dish.

Sweet Sago Soup (P80)

We weren't supposed to have dessert anymore because we were super filled already but out of curiosity (or gluttony), we ordered one. I actually expected the big sago like the ones in the usual sago't gulaman. Instead, this halo-halo-like dessert was served. It is made of crushed ice, peaches and papaya (I think). You can barely see the sago because they are the small and white ones. The dessert is delightfully sweet. The kind of sweetness you get when preparing your own dessert at home. It is cold and refreshing and I finished it until the last drop. I enjoyed chewing on the crushed ice and the sago bits (even if it seems hard to do).

The food at Banana Leaf is really great as testified by the large number of customers. Half of the crowd are foreigners, in fact. The service is fast although our dessert came in late. We already paid for our bill when it was served to us. But I can forgive that since I really enjoyed the food. There are many dishes on the menu that I am excited to try next time. I'll go for the seafood specialties.

Do you like Thai food? What's your favorite Thai dish?

Banana Leaf
2/F Greenbelt 3, 
Ayala Center, Makati City
(02) 729.33.33


Happy Birthday, TL!

If you remember my previous post about Conti's pastries, here is the sequel to it.

We celebrated our TL (team leader) T's birthday with a dinner at Conti's in Greenbelt. We usually celebrate birthdays in our office pantry and then have spaghetti, pizza, cake and ice cream so we decided to make an extra effort for our hardworking team leader.

On the table:

Appetizer: Assorted Dips w/ Melba Toast (P120)
The spinach-artichoke spread is light and tasty. It complements the dry and crisp (and tasteless) Melba Toast. The other dip, by the way, is duck liver pate. I didn't try it since I am not really a fan but according to my officemates, it is rich and savory.
I recommended Mango Royale Salad  (To Share P160 / Solo P90) to T because I have tried it when my sister and I had dinner at Conti's in Serendra. I am glad T loves it too, especially the luscious mango bits.
Salmon Croquettes (P90)- tasteful salmon flakes mixed with mashed potatoes, breaded and fried to golden perfection. I find it too oily. You'll have to pat the oil off with a napkin.
This is what I ordered- Mango Salmon Panini (P195)- sliced smoked salmon and mangoes on ciabatta bread. I chose a lighter meal because I thought that I might have a second dinner once my J pick me up. It is light on the stomach yet I feel that I am already full when I finished it. The spread is very flavorful and the bread is toasted to perfection. 
Grilled Pork Chops (P215 / P270 w/ garlic rice)- two pieces herb-filled porkchop grilled to a gourmet's delight, served with saffron mushroom risotto
Roast Beef in Mushroom Sauce (P285)- slices of beef in mushroom sauce, served with buttered vegetables and mashed potato or garlic rice. This is one of the house specialties.
Chicken ala Kiev (P250)- breaded and deep fried chicken breast filled with cheese and herbs, topped with creamy sauce, served with buttered vegetables and garlic rice
Of course, a birthday celebration isn't complete without a birthday cake! We ordered a small Mango Bravo Cake (P495). I instructed the waiter to bring in the cake after our meal. We were already preparing to sing a Happy Birthday song when six waiters merged to our table and sang the song instead. We were all stunned! All of us were surprised because we didn't know the waiters also do the singing, just like how TGIF and Italianni's do it.
We asked for the cake to be sliced and each of us enjoyed a big serving. Mango Bravo is truly heavenly! I always make sure to have this for dessert when visiting Conti's. I miss it every time I crave for dessert.
Conti's is super generous because they gave all of the diners free slices of their fabulous desserts. Yummy! This is an Espresso Turtle pie. Aside from the fact that it is free, I like it because it is soft, rich and creamy. The coffee taste is subtle and it has the right sweetness.
Another free- Strawberry Cheesecake! I prefer blueberry cheesecake, although this one is also smooth and dense.
The servings at Conti's are really generous and filling that's why it is one of the best choice to dine and celebrate special occasions. Although service is a little bit slow because of the large number of customers, the crew are attentive and courteous. The meals are reasonably-priced, plus you might also get free desserts!

*** Conti's
Greenbelt II, Esperanza Street, Makati City
(o2) 756.00.47 and (02) 756.01.37


A Feel of Royal Javanese Lulur Ritual

I LOVE BODY SCRUBS. I love how my skin feels so soft, smooth and baby-like after every use. I normally schedule my body scrubs twice or thrice a week. My friends (and condo mates) and I call it “SCRUB DAY”. When it’s my scrub day they know that I will be staying a little longer in the shower. That means I have to be the last one to take a bath so that I can leisurely spend as many minutes as I want.

I have been using Abonne milk salt for quite some time and I decided to look for a new body scrub. I saw this body scrub which aroused my curiosity. 

I read the label that says..

Asian Secrets Lulur Whitening Body Scrub is a beauty treatment 
inspired by a most luxurious Javanese ritual called Lulur. 
The ritual was originally intended for the bride-to-be 
in order to beautify, smoothen and whiten her skin before her wedding day. 
Lulur originated from the royal palaces of Java, Indonesia 
and products inspired by this traditional treatment 
are still being used by Indonesian women today.”

“The benefits of Asian Secrets Lulur Whitening Body Scrub
·         It gently exfoliates the skin and removes dead skin cells to soften the skin and give it a radiant glow.
·         Frequent usage reduces skin pigmentation and evens out skin tone 
by getting rid of dark patches, 
especially in areas prone to darkening 
such as the elbows, knees, armpits and the area between the thighs.
·         It contains Vitamin E and Green Teas extract, powerful antioxidants 
that protect your skin from free radicals to keep it healthy and young-looking.
·         It also contains Squalene and Olive Oil that help maintain moisture in your skin.”

“Directions: Scrub all over your skin especially the dark areas 
while it is dry to remove impurities, dead skin and dirt. Rinse with water. Use daily.”

I bought the 250-gram tub for P130 instead of the 135-gram tub (P80). It’s cheap, right?

I used it during my bath before going to bed that same day. I was excited to try it! When I opened the tub, I was happy to see that it is full. Very generous. I took a scoop and was surprised that the body scrub is like icing. Yes, like icing on a cake. It’s soft and creamy. The grains are not very visible but once applied on the skin, are non-abrasive. The body scrub contains lots of these fine and gentle grains so you will really feel the exfoliation.

I preferred to use the scrub on my damp skin rather than on dry skin as the directions say. I feel that I can massage the scrub on my skin more thoroughly.

After my first use I am satisfied because my skin is refreshed, clean and soft. It’s not dry so I did not put on lotion anymore. The next morning I woke up to a smooth skin still. By the way, the scrub has a jasmine and/or green tea scent which is a slightly new to me since I am used to sweet-smelling bath staples such as Abonne and Grape Bella.

If you ask me if I will purchase again, my answer is yes. I didn’t have any blotches or redness on my skin after using it. I am happy with its moisturizing effects and I will be happier if I get whiter skin after continuous use.

Have you tried Asian Secrets Lulur Whitening Scrub? What are your favorite body scrub brands?


What's Inside the 2011 Starbucks Planner?

Yes, I got mine already! It was a hard work (or should I say an addiction) in nine days. Well technically, I completed the 17 stickers with the help of my siblings and friends. Ten of the stickers are from my own consumption; the rest theirs. My friends joke about caffeine flowing through my veins (more than blood). Haha!

"As in previous years, every redemption of a Limited Edition Starbucks 2011 Planner comes with a donation to SparkHope--Starbucks' flagship program for early childhood care and development in partnership with UNICEF."

I chose the planner in Metal (silver) because it looks more contemporary, young and clean. The Wood (brown) is nice too but I had a Starbucks planner with brown leather cover in 2008 so I opted for another look. It was just a choice between the Metal and Wood. I didn't go for the Velvet (Red) because I don't like the velvet feel.

I think that the 2011 cover is the best so far since it captures the essence of a rich and relaxing coffee moment. It is simple yet direct. And for OC persons like me, the neat surface finish definitely gets a thumbs-up.

"The 2011 Planner features 14 Starbucks stores, giving customers a feel of Starbucks as their "third place"--a spot they go to frequently next to their homes and workplace."

I am excited to start writing this December. Yes, the 2011 planner starts with December 2010 and ends with January 2012. That's the reason why I wanted the planner as soon as possible.

At the start of each month is a page for 'Things to Do'. This is particularly useful in managing monthly tasks such as paying bills. A 'Notes' section can be found at the end of each month. These are helpful tools to get myself organized (as always).

The planner comes with 8 discount and promo coupons which you can use on specific months only. Last year, I totally forgot about the coupons. They all just went to the garbage can. Too bad. This year I'll make sure I will use the coupons or if I can't, I'll give it out to my friends.

For those who are collecting stickers, how's your race so far? Hope you can get your planner soon. :) 


Boracay Nostalgia

It's a common feeling to miss something so wonderful and pleasurable.  How I wish I can go back there.  I MISS BORACAY.  It's a breath-taking paradise. The beach with its white sand is truly unforgettable.

Goodbye Manila!

I am always in awe whenever I see the sky. The clouds are so beautiful.

There it is! Boracay, my love!

We arrived at the Kalibo International Airport after a 45-minute plan ride.

Kalibo is known for the Ati-Atihan Festival which is held annually in January  in honor of the Santo Niño (Infant Jesus).  The festival consists of street and ritual dances, parades and processions.  People wear colorful face paints and outstanding costumes during the event.

After an almost two-hour road trip and a five-minute boat ride we set foot in the island itself.  That was really tiring but I totally forgot about my exhaustion when I saw these.

A friend and former officemates lives in one of the houses up there. Yes, it's UP there. We climbed hundred steps or so (I am not exaggerating.) to get to his house. But I tell you, once you're up there the view is awesome!  The place is in Station 1 but it's secluded. It's like having the beach front all to yourself. Imagine the feeling of waking up to a beautiful sunrise  and then having a hearty breakfast and sipping on fruit juice by the veranda. Aaahhhh, I want that life!

My J and I took a morning walk from Station 1 to Station 2 (where most of the decent restaurants and shops are).

There's a Starbucks store...

and of course, I had my favorite mocha frappuccino. It's 20-pesos more expensive here than in Manila, though.

I can stare at these FOREVER.

Low tide=quiet time.

More people go out and chill by the beach in the late afternoon.

What can be more relaxing than having a bottle of cold beer while watching the beach smile back?

Even dark clouds don't stop people from hanging out and enjoying the scenery.

Oh Boracay, I'm longing for you.