About Me

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An occasionally belligerent mother of five and an autism parent / advocate who believes that traveling, good food and good company are vital to keep one sane. I've worked as a news writer/newscaster, a quality systems auditor, a ISO9001 consultant, an FM radio DJ, a Filipino tutor, TOEFL reviewer and have gone into the food industry both as an entrepreneur and as a mommy chef, giving a sponsored demo on healthy cooking in a mall and on local TV. My favorite job however, is being a mom and a wife.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

JOHNSON’s My Kid’s Growing Up So Fast Comment Winner

It was tough but we have a winner! Congratulations to Ronald Delima of http://no-fera.blogspot.com for winning a gift pack courtesy of Johnson's and Johnson's for his winning entry below:

"MAX-sarap ang cooking ko!"
Ronald Delima
We'd like to give a shout out to all those who have shared their comments and ideas to The Mediocre Wanderer. Most especially to Johnson's and Johnson's for their fab, mommy and baby tested products! You folks are THE BEST!

Much love and thanks everyone, and may all your wanderings be better than ours!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bright Lights, Big City (of Manila): The Manila Bay Dinner Cruise

Here we go again!
We've all heard Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu's old adage that "A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step". Throughout the year, The Mediocre Wanderer has pretty much been going around in search of the best that the Philippines has to offer (albeit a mediocre experience, as far as what we're willing to do), and we have come to a conclusion that travelling a thousand miles isn't as necessary as opening one's eyes and viewing things from a different perspective.

"the journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step"
That being said, we headed out to the famous Manila Bay. 
basking int he golden light of sunset at Manila Bay
Manila Bay, a natural harbor famous for its beautiful sunsets, has been the gateway to commerce and trade between the Philippines and other countries for hundreds of years. To our delight, we have discovered another form of commerce in the vicinity in the shape of The Manila Bay Cruise.
the waiting area by the jetty
For 500 php (or less, depending on the availability of group buying promos), one can go on a dinner cruise around the bay. There are a couple of companies offering this activity, but we opted to go with Prestige Cruises (manilabaycruise@gmail.com for queries). 
we got on the bigger one
Two cruises are scheduled daily; one at 6 pm (5:30 pm boarding) and the last one at 8 pm (7:30 pm boarding).
Manila, Manila...I keep coming back to Manila (musical notes in between words)

What does one gain from this experience, you ask? For one, you get to dine on a yacht and subject yourself to the surprisingly charming and romantic view of Manila. It's not everyday that you get to see this side of Manila: The beautiful lights from the not so distant shore, the cool night breeze keeping the humidity and warmth at bay, and the sound of the gentle waves as the yacht moves gently across the water. It's got all the elements of a  great  date.
All Aboard!! Says Capt. MAX

Here's the nitty gritty of our cruise:
On joining the cruise:
Based on what we saw, walk ins are acceptable but may not be accommodated if the sea vessel is full. Call the numbers below to make reservations. Kudos to Prestige Cruises for their great customer service and efficient scheduling:
Prestige Cruises Inc.
(632) 832 8967
(63) 917 525 5455
(63) 927 555 5502

Regular Rates:
Cruise Only            PHP 250
Cruise w/ Buffet     PHP 545

**children 3 and below are free, but you'll have to check with the company as to how many kids could come with you
the view as we set sail
The Dress Code:
There is NO dress code. You may want to bring a light jacket though as the sea breeze can get a bit cooler that the usual Manila night air.
You can dress how you want to dress on this cruise.
Here we are just being ourselves :)
Boarding Time:
Making a reservation allows you to be on the passenger list and assures you of being prioritize upon boarding time (they will call for you). We got there an hour early as we weren't sure of the traffic situation from our house (when we're in Metro Manila), to that area. The jetty is located behind the CCP Complex. You'll know you're there as there are little expo type tents in the area for the awaiting passengers. 

waiting isn't so bad...if you're not a little boy!
other cruise yachts nearby. One can even hire one for a private party!
The first two levels of the yacht are for the those who paid the standard rates (it was quite full). An additional  PHP 100, allows you access to the roof deck (just the 3 of us and 2 other couples). This is also the floor where the captain mans the ship. A spotlight shines on the middle part of the deck (where our table was), enabling a candlelit dinner the right amount of illumination. The buffet table is at the first level, but worry not. The yacht's crew will bring up your food BEFORE the peeps below are called to line up for the buffet line. Unbottled mineral water is free, but you may buy canned juices and soda for PHP 75 a can.

the roof deck of the yacht
The Food:
Given that we were the first cruise for the day, I was quite disappointed by the food that was seemingly reheated once (or twice) too often. For dinner, we were given a little bit of everything from the buffet menu. We were served a bowl of cream of mushroom (we did ask for seconds), and was soon followed by the night's entrees consisting of fish fillet in white sauce (fish was dry and had the texture of pork), some form of beef stroganoff (sauce was good, beef was a tad tough, probably because it was dry), carbonara, and maybe some rice, carrot sticks and cucumber slices...all a blur now, we didn't even take pictures. The highlight of the meal was perhaps the fudge brownies they served after the meal. One may come back for seconds, but this time around, you'll have to line up and join everybody else. 
I honestly believe that #2 was for the benefit of the entertainers
The Entertainment:
I can now relate to XFactor's Simon Cowell when he says that word "Ghastly". The band's vocals were not so tolerable. It was also the combination of the Visayan accent (my mom's from Cebu...I can get away with this statement), wrong or invented lyrics, and horrendous, pointless and disconnected ad libs by the male lead vocals/host. I can now understand why firearms (if any) are supposed to be surrendered to the yacht's steward upon boarding. I also now understand the true meaning of a "captive audience". 
The Mall of Asia at night
Overall, Phil, MAX and I had a blast.Seeing the Manila lights brought to mind the view of Hongkong's harbor from the Avenue of Stars. Having a fireworks or light display in the vicinity would probably be awesome. 

Manila could be quite pretty from the yacht. The pollution, the hustle and bustle, the traffic and all the city's other negative aspects, temporarily forgotten in the two-hour cruise. The lull of the water and the sea breeze evokes images of a past era, of days gone by, about how beautiful Manila was when the first settlers set up shop here and why invaders felt the need to make it their own.

dslrs will never replace point and shoots in this aspect :p
It was quite a night.
happy to be here

From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than ours.

Memoirs of a Foodie: The Makan Makan Asian Food Village Experience

Exploring the many interesting sights and features of the Manila Ocean Park (see link here), has no doubt left us entertained yet quite famished.
tarnation! this ole map here doesn't
show them restaurants!
Taking a break at around 2 pm for lunch, Phil and MAX were willing to settle for the snacks sold near the fish spa area. I on the other hand remembered reading online about the hawker-style restaurant somewhere in the area. Happily, we were easily able to find the Makan Makan Asian Food Village.

Located at the 2nd floor of the Manila Ocean Park, Makan Makan Asian Food Village serves a variety of Western and Asian dishes like Thai, Malaysian, Chinese, Filipino and Singaporean cuisine. Suffice it to say, the menu is quite extensive.

Reading online mixed reviews (either extremely good or quite the opposite) I decided that experience ought to be the best teacher. We were not disappointed.

the menu
 The Price: 
The cost of the food was, surprisingly reasonable. Given the well lit, tastefully furnished room, great ambiance and fantastic view of the Manila Bay, added to the fact that it's in a tourist" spot, I was expecting a much pricier menu. The items that were slightly pricey than the average food court viand was justified by the possible cost of it's ingredients (this I ought to know). A decent meal could set you back by 200 php. Drinks are around 40php - 100php. Not bad for restaurant food.
after the lunch hour
should've taken a picture of the view from the restaurant
before we asked them to bring down the blinds on our side

a minute into the restaurant, a waiter attended us
 and brought us to our table
The Service:
The staff that attended to us were both efficient, courteous and quite knowledgeable about the menu.
food is prepared right at the center of the restaurant
The Food:
As hungry as we were, we exerted restraint and did not order everything on the 16 paged menu that covered everything from soup, appetizers, the main dish, desserts, drinks and those that do not fall into any category, but exist just for good eats.

As much as I wanted to try a lot of things, we narrowed it down to the following:

Bagoong Rice (160 php):
How does one consume bagoong (either fermented anchovies or baby shrimps) in the Philippines? One can make it as a condiment to the famous oxtail and tripe in peanut sauce dish known as Karekare, use it to season an assortment of meat and veggies or top it on some unripe mangoes, tomatoes and onions for a refreshing ensalada (salad) and you're all set. The bagoong rice at Makan Makan managed to combine the two latter choices.

Think one cup of garlic/bagoong seasoned rice in the middle of your plate, topped with siling labuyo. Surround it with chopped binagoongan (cooked in bagoong) pork, julienned unripe carabao  mangoes, onion leeks, sliced red onions, blanched unpeeled shrimps, cucumber slices, more chopped tomatoes and I think sliced scrambled eggs, and you've got a fully loaded cup of rice. Mix it all up any way you want, and enjoy. I kinda prefer this type of bagoong rice over the ones with just baby shrimps sauteed into the fried rice. The textures and flavors were quite enjoyable.

Stuffed Crabs (300 php):
Seasoned crab meat and minced pork stuffed into crab shells and fried with sweet and sour chili dipping sauce on the side. I love crab meat. I can eat it all day with or without my anti allergy pills (as long as it's fresh) so this dish was an obvious choice. MAX ate it with gusto, I, however felt it was meh. Not bad, just meh.

For starters, I wanted more of the crab meat flavor but got more pork instead. The pork is often a good way to enhance the flavor of a dish and retain moisture due to it's fat content, but somehow the dish was slightly dry. Too much extenders in the mix perhaps? The crabs were small too, probably to ensure that the cost be kept to a minimum. (I remember my 1300php single crab meal at The Red Crab Resorts World...good, but sooo not practical).

Hakaw (105php for 4 pieces):
As long as the shrimps are fresh, this dim sum variety is our fave. Whole shrimps and chopped mushrooms, wrapped in a light rice dim sum wrappers and steamed, it's a staple dish whenever we go out to eat Chinese food.

Drinks: Tehtarik (50 php) and Bandung with Chin Chow (90 php):
I'm normally such a miser when it comes to ordering drinks in a restaurant. Aside from the fact that water is perfectly OK (mineral water in dispensers being the normal source in the Philippines AND NOT tap water), sometimes the cost of drinks for a group is the price of 2 or more dishes off the menu. But being in the foodie mode, we went ahead and got some.
Tehtarik served cold is Makan Makan's version of the Singaporean milk tea (big fan of this). It had the authentic frothiness and bittersweet taste of black tea and sweetened milk. 
MAX gulping a lot before we took pictures of his
Bandung with Chin Chow
Bandung with Chin Chow is like our very sago't gulaman (caramel syrup soaked crushed ice with tapioca pearls and black jello (normally tea or grass flavored), the difference being that instead of caramel, it was flavored with rosewater and milk. MAX is our sagot gulaman connoisseur and despite it's pink colouring, he had no qualms in sipping his drink. 
our gulaman connoisseur
The Verdict:
Overall, the dining experience was pleasant. The restaurant could've been a bit cooler though as the kitchen in the middle of restaurant did tend to warm the place up. Maybe the items in the menu are a "hit and miss" thing as far as taste goes, but overall, I couldn't hate on the place. Given the chance, I probably will be back. It wasn't like we were a captive audience as the Manila Ocean Park has several food establishments on its premises. As far as Makan Makan Asian Food Village, we give it a 4 out 5 stars :)

happy bellies despite the  heat in the restaurant
From TMW, may your wanderings be better than ours!

Great Ideas for The Greatest Parent Ever...YOU!

fun filled educational event for the family
Last October 29, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Lactacyd Baby Bath Baby Care Village.

Brought to us by Maam Janice and the folks of Mommy Mundo, the whole day event at The Atrium of SM Baguio showcased an interactive village filled with parenting information, games and prizes.

A magic show and a ventriloquist act was there to provide added entertainment as well as dance numbers and even a mini fashion show.

MAX enjoying the play place of the
 Lactacyd Baby Bath Baby Care Village
Also featured were talks on child care, as discussed by the experts, as well as a cooking demo on nutritious snacks for the kiddies. This is where I come in as I was the mommy chef featured for that segment.
the village
Being a mommy, serving healthy, affordable and easy to prepare meals are simply a must. With the challenge of having to make it tasty and enjoyable for the kids on top of the previous requirements mentioned earlier, a mom has got to be imaginative.
one of the many hats that this mama wears
For this post of The Mediocre Wanderer, I would like to share the snacks we featured at the event:

Yummy Sea Cups:
Have kids who hate fish? This one's for you:
1/2 c Tuna chunks in vegetable oil (or any flaked fish/shrimp)
1/4 c canned button mushrooms, chopped
1 c    spaghetti sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp onions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

6 pieces sliced bread (cut crust off)
melted margarine / butter for greasing
Velveeta / Quickmelt / mozarella cheese, grated
The bread cup: grease a muffin pan with the margarine/butter as well as the front and back of the bread. If you have mini muffin pans, you could cut the sliced bread into 4 instead.
Mold the bread individually into the muffin pan and pop it into a preheated oven for 10 - 15 minutes at 375 F or until the bread has lightly browned.
Set aside

the seafood filling: saute the tuna chunks (or leftover fish, deboned and flaked/boiled shrimps, shelled and chopped) with the garlic and onions.
Add the mushrooms. Saute a for about 3 minutes, then add the spaghetti sauce.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Remove from heat after it starts to simmer.

how to assemble:
Put your desired amount of seafood filling while the bread cups are still in the muffin pan.
Top with cheese and put back in oven until the cheese melts.
When done and slightly cooled, take out cups from the muffin pan and serve.

Tip: top on your fave pasta and sprinkle with cheese as another creative way of serving seafood

kids sampling our meat and veggie burgers..
and enjoying them!

Vegetable and Meat Burger Patties:
Have kids who don't like veggies? Try this one:
1/4 c ground beef
1/8 c ground pork
1/4 c broccoli, finely chopped
1/4 c carrots, finely chopped or grated
1/4 c uncooked oats / bread crumbs
1/8 c onions, chopped
1       egg
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp table mustard
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
cooking oil for frying

Mix all the ingredients above except for the cooking oil. Form about 2 tablespoons of the mixture into patties. Lightly dust with bread crumbs and fry in hot oil. Serve.

Tip: You could prepare this ahead of time and store in the freezer in separate small containers so you only unfreeze the portions that you'll need. Use it as meatballs on your spaghetti, throw it in some vermicelli or misua in soup stock (after frying them as meatballs) or put them in your fave sauce (kung pao or sweet and sour) for another healthy viand option. You could also try a variety of veggies that don't have a strong aromatic flavor.

Last but not least, how bout a healthy dessert? Here's:
Pineapple - Carrot Gelatin:
1 envelope Strawberry gelatin (not the ones that won't settle if you put fruits in it while cooking)
2 tbsp finely chopped or grated carrots
2 tbsp crushed pineapple

Cook gelatin according to package instructions, but this time around, stir in the carrots to soften them up a bit.
Pour into molds and add the pineapple(or any fruit) according to package instructions. The strawberry flavor, for my kids, work best in masking the veggies I throw into the gelatin.
best part of the demo? we've got samples! yum!!
Hope you get to enjoy these recipes. Remember, just use your imagination and good cooking sense and you'll never go wrong.
Mom Venus telling us she's a ok with
healthy dishes for her Princess
For more baby care tips check out the official Lactacyd Baby Wash website Mums and Tubs Club and for updates on the latest events, "mommy" resources, products and tips as well for all you moms out there, sign up to Mommy Mundo.

looking forward to the next one :)
From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than ours :)

**photos courtesy of Phil Bautista and Russ de Guzman