Dining Al Fresco – 12 Parking Lot Stops a la Picnic in the Car

It has been more than a year and bet every kid would love to freely dine out again as we keep the family bonding of eating outside together. Why not bring food-from-home, have a drive-thru or take-away then find a picnic place while in the car? We have been exploring parking lots with cozy and safe corners around South since the pandemic and discovered ways to enjoy al fresco dining.

Since then, Hubby and I have been randomly posting our picnic-in-the-car escapades on Facebook and we are starting to get messages from parents saying that they like to do the same since their children have not been out that much since COVID-19.

Here are some spots to consider when planning your dinner outside home with kids:

*WARNING: Pardon seeing much of us on this blog; not every month I put on our faces. 😊

SLEX Gas Stations

South bound (from Skyway Ramp)

1. Shell before Susana Heights Exit

2. Petron Before Carmona Exit

3. Caltex before Sta Rosa Exit

Northbound

4. Shell SLEX Mamplasan

Nuvali Parking

5. Eton City (beside McDonald’s)

6. Solenad Ayala Mall Parking (near Fiesta Market)

Alabang Parking

7. Molito

8. West Gate

Tagaytay

9. Robinson’s Supermarket (in front of Starbucks and beside Summit Ridge)

Makati

10. Paseo Center

Taguig

11. Crossroads BGC

12. When raining

Inside the car with a good + safe open space slot and just about anywhere.

We took this photo while parked in Ortigas Technopoint.

Tagaytay’s Sip n’ Brew

The moment travel restrictions around Metro Manila and nearby provinces ease up, going to Tagaytay became the urge of many (and that includes us!). It is a quick escape from quarantine routines we all deserve to have. The breeze, the view, the places to eat… the anticipation of being in a slightly cold, foggy, and sometimes windy late afternoon vibe. Other than the vista and the weather, we also look forward to eating al fresco and drinking coffee!

A new take of filling up over caffeine while loving the panoramic sight of Taal means coming to Sip n’ Brew – Miara Cafe Tagaytay. Imagine sipping a cup of americano with such breeze and scenery?! It is on the stretch of Mendez Crossing West and very accessible (and wazable). The Café also offers milk teas, snacks, and desserts. Proper health protocols are being observed in the vicinity. Fifteen years old and below are not yet allowed but they have a gorgeous venue place beside the shop where kids can roam, enjoy the fresh air, and simply love the amazing sight.

Driving to Tagaytay is consistently our go-to place when aiming to destress. The road going up is equally refreshing, our favorite routes are via Cavited-Laguna-Express Way aka CALAX (exit in Greenfield City, Mamplasan) and Casile Road (exit in Silangan). So many great reasons the trip is always worth it!

Summer Activities with Kids while still on Quarantine

It is finally the end of Online Distance Learning (ODL) class. May is the start of the new summer break and my pre-teen is too excited to play on his computer. We let him do that for about two hours a day and for the time being, it is his only means to play with friends virtually for now. Other than online games and gadgets, there are many activities to explore while our country is still on COVID-19 quarantine. It may vary depending on the interest of our children but the important thing is to have fun!

Sneak to walk

Quick walk around the neighborhood in the late afternoon and evening has been our activity since pandemic and I’m hoping to extend the minutes to an hour this summer. Parks around BGC offers a vibrant walking moment, too.

Learn to drive (and properly wash the car)

Learning around the secluded area of the village can be a good start. He basically knows the foot works, the steering wheel is something else while the skill in washing the car is becoming reliable.

Get back to board and card games

Other than Monopoly, Exploding Kittens is another game that we started to love.

Encourage to read

He has been drawn to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and I’m hoping he can jump to Harry Potter, Narnia, and Little Prince. All those books are on the shelf and waiting for him.

Start writing

Keep an updated journal or publish a blog… although he is more driven, like most kids, to create video contents for YouTube.

Explore Editing

Since creating video is his fascination, good if he can pursue in improving his editing skill.

More time with the pets

We have a dog and seven cats that are persistently demanding for attention!

Back to badminton

We used to play badminton in the afternoon but it stopped with his school works piling up. Now is the time to go back.

More back-of-the-car picnics

Dining in restaurants is still not ideal with kids and that means more dinner time at the car!

This long, overdue quarantine is taking a toll on the mind of many Filipinos but I always encourage family and friends to stay on the bright side. Let’s create a good memory to remember and share later on! If our grandchildren would ask, “how did you spend the pandemic?” I can’t wait to say, “It has ups and downs but more so, WE ROCK IT! Despite the restrictions, being together had been a blast.” What are your summer activities?

One Year with Pesto Made Fresh

Like in most jobs, online selling is equally fun and challenging. Last month, we celebrated the first-year anniversary of Pesto Made Fresh. It is a real blessing; a weekly escape from our main work and yet it has been equally fulfilling!

Pesto Made Fresh

We started the journey with the support of family and friends then orders came from people outside our circle. We continue to produce in small batches every week to keep the fresh and home-made guarantee; truly grateful to get a sold-out in every production. It is not always an easy path and we do have our own share of challenges but our family is glad to have taken our road to #PestoMadeFresh.

  • We aim to always deliver freshness so we’d rather not produce a Pesto if the basil supply is not of high quality. This is particularly tough when there is an ECQ or typhoon with transportation/delivery from Baguio to Manila becomes a major drawback. We tried planting our own and we were able to harvest and sell initially but typhoon Rolly last October 2020 brought down our small basil farm.
  • We have also encountered a few unfriendly groups who would demand a free shipping fee, would disappear after confirming an order, would not answer the phone when rider gets close to the address, would insist to get an unreasonable discount, and prefer to converse rudely.
  • There was an instance when our printing provider did not follow our instruction and sent our stickers without following our brand guideline.
  • There is this bottle supplier that delivered to us bottles that did not match the caps. What more, they refuse to replace the boxes!
  • We ordered and paid for a specific paper bag but a different size came.

The joy of preparing Pesto Made Fresh is much more important and gratifying than the issues encountered and we were able to manage in finding better partners as we continue to improve our  product. Seeing people love our Pesto and allowing us to be part of their meal/snack time makes us feel ecstatic. We aim to stick with our commitment to serve clean, delicious, home-made, fresh Pesto in every bottle for this is what our buyers truly deserve.

Pesto Made Fresh

Keeping the Optimism

Refusing to dwell on the bad vibes around us, how do you keep the optimism?

There are people who are just born negative; their presence seems to emit dreadful energy. There are also scenarios in our everyday lives that can poke grim feelings. Some random message and call can tweak a good mood. Sometimes even the sound of Outlook or Viber can become a drag. What are your hacks to stay uplifted? 12 months with the pandemic and I’ve learned 12 ways to stay afloat.

  1. Resist gossiping.
  2. Practice gratitude.
  3. Go away from a rude group.
  4. Spend time with those you love.
  5. Think of ways to help and act on it.
  6. Ask people how they are and listen.
  7. Be the kind of friend you wish to have.
  8. Prefer kindness and flash a genuine smile.
  9. Avoid those with the I-Me-and-Myself Syndrome.
  10. When sudden dark thoughts plague the mind, pray.
  11. Find an activity that you enjoy and make sure you allot fair time to do it.
  12. Be forgiving and nice to yourself. Laugh if you wish even if it distorts your face. Take a break if you are tired. Sleep if it calls you.

There are days way tougher that the other and it can become a real struggle to remain on the bright side of things. At times it may even feel like a battle—who do we wish to win? The buoyant or the melancholy version of ourselves? It is our choice and choosing who’s who may require daily work and validation. Aim to stick on the positive space no matter what and if it becomes a challenge (as it normally does for me), I randomly picked one from my 12 hacks; my favorite immediate action is always #10. While in the gloom, dive into that corner of our hearts and discern what makes us spark.

keeping the optimism and finding our spark

How to Set the Sanity Rules Without Being a Turn Off at Work?

Many Consultants and Freelancers have this small luxury to provide a service at their home office and I have been living with this set-up years before people are required to do it. I used to go out once in a while to meet a client or work in various cafés for long hours. It was fun. Given series of practice, I learned to separate time (and corners in the house) for family and work.

But the routine seemed to change when pandemic got in our way.

  • Clients started messaging during wee hours, on weekends, and even holidays.
  • Several meetings are conducted without prior schedule. It must happen NOW!
  • Deadlines are always in a rush. What used to be done in a day or two is suddenly required to be submitted NOW with the thought bubble: you are just at home anyway.

how to keep sanity at work

It is like WFH has permitted us to be available 24 hours and many of us are now functioning in this environment.  I understand that urgent tasks can occur once in a while for rush projects but it cannot be the next new normal at work. On rare occasions, there will be days that we probably need to send a report on Saturday night but it cannot be every weekend. You don’t have to always answer an inquiry sent at 2am. No need to spend a New Year’s Eve revising a content. If we go on with this, it can make many of us go crazy(!) It can also lose our drive to excel, to be creative, and to remain productive.

When writing this, let me make it clear: it is not for us to refuse a job or whine about it, no. But we can define the boundaries with our clients, boss, colleagues and they must respect it. We are not grabbing the role of  that difficult-to-work-with officemate. We are just protecting ourselves because burnout is firing near. How to set the sanity  rules without being a turn off?

  1. Acknowledge that we are very thankful to have the job despite the pandemic. We pursue quality output but the recent limitless orders are starting to take a toll.
  2. Give the assurance that you will continue to provide the expected result but it cannot be achieved on a basis of a daily rush.
  3. Gently reiterate the agreed hours. When starting a new work or onboarding a new client, stipulate the schedule in the contract as validation when they question your request later on.
  4. Work is valuable. So is our family and the other aspects of our lives. Make them appreciate that there are other to-do’s that aid in keeping our sanity—pursuing online food business on weekends, being a plantita/plantito, trailing our hobbies, bonding with the furbabies, or just having an uninterrupted afternoon on Netflix. Remind your fair time off so you can focus on other equally-necessary parts of life. You need this to refuel and get back the enthusiasm for the next work week.
  5. Keep the delight of spending the weekends and holidays away from work like having the excitement of seeing #WalangPasok trending on Twitter for the students.

Be honest. Stay patient. Show the right attitude. The situation we are in must not permit us to over work and become slaves. We all need to watch each other’s back while waiting for COVID-19 to disappear and attempt not to get lost in the process. Life after quarantine is going to happen and our whole happy self should be there when we return to the real normal.

For your peace of mind, go after what keeps you emotionally and mentally happy. You cannot maintain the fire at work if you are always exhausted. It is in our hand to stop the burnout.

stop burnout

Favorite Food from East of the Metro are Now at BF Homes

The stretch of President, Aguirre, and El Grande Avenues in BF Homes, Paranaque is still an ideal spot for people with hungry tummies. Some stores are still open but sad to know that there are a lot of restaurants now marked as “CLOSED” due to COVID-19. Many establishments included on my previous blogs are no longer in operation. When passing along, you get to see empty spaces, fewer people dining, and an oddly quiet Friday night vibe.

Yet eating remains an adventure when going around BF Homes. Some favorite restaurants originally from Quezon City, Pasig, San Juan, and elsewhere are now within reach! No need to battle the traffic to address the craving. Pandemic or not, good food is still a must to have and people are willing to buy as long as it is worth spending. Here’s what help ease up our quarantine life in the South.

Lola Nena's Pansit and cheese donuts

Address:  Unit 1B #287 Aguirre Avenue

Line is usually long but patrons stay patient on their queue just to get their tray of pansit palabok or canton bihon mix and a box of old-fashioned cheese donut.

Pomodoro Cremoso Pizza and Cheese Lasagne

Address: #106 Aguirre Avenue

It is a surprisingly affordable and no frills  pizza/pasta place. The formaggio cremoso (white sauce, four cheese and garlic) is the heart-throb. It can’t get too cheesy by having the formaggio lasagne, as well.

Grub in a Box Cheese burger and buen nachos

Address: #386 El Grande Avenue

One of my favorite food packaging with your order placed in elegant black boxes! A bite of  the cheeseburger deluxe with bacon and onion rings literally makes you drool for more while the nacho buen is real hearty snack.

Eat Fresh Laksa and sweet sour squid

Address: #69 President’s Avenue

We seldom get a nice service here (same with their Greenhills branch) and servers can sometimes appear disoriented but we just don’t let them get into our nerves! Because their menu especially the laksa really gives a good, hot slurp while the salt and pepper squid is the ideal side-kick making your forget everything else.

Writing this and seeing the photos makes me hungry! What’s your favorite?

Note: All collage images c/o the establishments’ Facebook page.

Strange Terms We Use while Living with a Pandemic

2020 has introduced us to new strange words and people have learned to use it as if it is the most common terms ever created.  The things is, we all need to adjust and get familiar with it as part of our ways to understand and win over COVID-19. At first, we probably heard of these key phrases from creepy Hollywood dystopian movies.

Some of these words appear scary, even apocalyptic, when you hear it prior to the pandemic. Who would have thought that these will become part of our daily household conversations and that saying it will just be a matter-of-fact—not a narration quoted from a sci-fi film?!

But really, if you hear these words a year before… what would be your top-of-mind impression?

  • When the streets are empty and all stores are closed… like there was an alien invasion or zombie attack!

lockdown during covid19

  • A reminiscent of entering a school premise: No ID, No Entry. Our survival seems so dependent on the mask and the shield.

wear face mask

  • This mandatory has been a struggle for most of us. Not everyone is keen to put on a distance.

social distancing

  • And this is what we do now, getting our temperature check and lining up on the establishment gate before entering. I miss those times that we just go in and out without worries.

completing the contact tracing form

  • When government is talking of the second wave when the first one is not yet settled.

second wave of the virus

  • To protect our children, we relied on ODL to continue their studies without going to their actual classrooms. There are days my son would randomly say, “I miss going to school. I miss seeing my teachers and classmates”.

online distance learning

  • The answer on how to completely stop COVID-19 is not yet presented even if vaccines are on the way… so how to flatten the curve especially now  with the reported mutation and that this new variant is considered to be more transmissible?

flatten the curve

  • The perfect time to wish that our house is really a home.

  • The way we live has changed.

new normal

  • It feels like a mortal sin to go out but if we think about it, we can really protect lives if we lessen the trip outside. This is our reality now.

stay home save lives

  • More of this flashing on the news screen as it constantly reminds us of the danger; these numbers are real people whose lives drastically changed.

covid-19 total confirmed cases go up everyday

  • Occasionally wearing face masks and face shields is an agony, what more to those who are wearing it every day for many hours while their lives are on the edge? Thank you is an understatement.

  • Hold on to the people we love as we celebrate the holidays with the virus still very present around us. Let’s mean it when we say this:

We Are All In This Together!

In time of COVID-19, Connect and Empathize

2020 has been a tough year with COVID-19 at the forefront of our struggles plus typhoons wrenching parts of the country. Now with just a month left, I wonder if the year will change its course and treat us with a brighter path somehow. Our “presence” and by just “being there” to someone may not be the solution to their problems but being “present” can come as a huge help somehow. When did you last say, kamusta? How are you? Then follow it through by listening wholeheartedly. We have to keep each other within sanity zone as we are press to live our lives with the pandemic. Where we are now is definitely not an easy scenario yet we have to push our unique ways to cope, respectively. Connect and empathize.

Talk to someone. LISTEN.

How are you doing?

I talk remotely to family and friends, chat daily with few girlfriends, walk around the neighborhood, and sneak for a quick night drive over coffee with the family.  There are days sadder than the other while there are happy moments too. The battle happens daily as we individually try to remain optimistic and COVID-free.

What do you miss?

There are things I sorely miss like having a cup of coffee and chatting with friends face-to-face. I miss embracing them tight. How I desire to walk freely without a face mask and face shield in malls and parks. I hate the feeling of being terrified seeing crowded people yet we have to avoid mass gatherings for now.

What else worries you?

And other than the gloom of COVID-19, this year I lost two special people… my cousin last September 11 and college friend last October 14. It was a sudden and painful event brought by their past ailment. Until now the idea that I will never see them again pinch so hard.

Then comes the typhoon, some friends who devoted their lives to build a nice home woke up and realized that they lost most of it because of Ulysses.

What do you plan to do?

Keep tune with what’s important, remain optimistic, and aim to still be productive regardless of what’s happening. The buzz about the possibility of having a vaccine is here but trials still need to take place. We might be seeing the end of the chaos in months (or maybe in years) so this will still be a while… a long while. Hold on to real good people who really mean when they say, “we are in this together”.  Call someone. Capture the moment. Connect and empathize… every day.

capture the moment

Spending Community Quarantine with Kids

We are still on Community Quarantine. Most parents are still working from home while the kids are studying online. No movies yet. No Timezone games. No out-of-the-country travel in the schedule. These have been the reality for seven months now, no freedom to go out.

How do you talk to your children about being stuck at home? They deserve to go in the playground, learn in school, be with their classmates, and spend a weekend with other family members and friends! But certainly, not yet. Not while COVID-19 is lurking everywhere.

My son randomly saw a photo of his last year’s intrams event and suddenly cried. “I miss school,” he said out-of-the-blue.

It was a surprise because I had never seen him so sad this whole time. He understood why we are on home quarantine and why we can’t leave a normal life yet. I let him cry a bit then listen to his stories—what he missed the most; what will he do when back in school; the schoolmates and teachers he would love to see.

I told him it is normal to feel down because of the pandemic. We all feel the same and we all aim to go out and live like before… but not yet. So while we are on this challenging setup, let us try to make happy memories together worthy to share to others when this global infection is over! I added telling him, “perhaps even something good to mention to your children and grandchildren when they ask, how was your life during COVID daddy?”. Then he grinned. He liked the idea of making something meaningful while at this difficult scenario. “You would not like to tell your kids that you cried for months and you were in mostly bed staring at the ceiling shivering in fear,” I added in hyperbole.

Our activities at home might not be grand but what matters are the small things we enjoy doing together.

  • Sudoku.
  • Badminton.
  • Baking cookies.

baking cookies and brewing coffee

Pesto Made Fresh

  • Exploring new recipes.
  • Attending online mass.
  • Adopting abandoned kittens.

Adopting abandoned kittens

  • More time for our dog, Waffles.

More time for Waffles

  • Unplanned stay-at-the-car city trip.
  • Walking around the neighborhood.
  • Trying community home-made food.
  • Since we all long to munch fresh cinema popcorn, hubby bought a popcorn maker and we sure to get individual snack bowl when glued on a Netflix weekend.
  • A lot of talking of just about anything. Acknowledge the story of each member of the family and listen sincerely. Some days when conversations are deep while others may come to be as simple as what food do you like to eat!

Family bonding

It is a hard time and nothing can ease up the burden that we are continuously experiencing due to the coronavirus but feeling down and pessimistic will not help our kids stand properly in life as they face this invisible enemy. Give them the assurance that we understand what they are going through. As parents, let’s just try to make the most of where we are and create special moments with our children.