The Countdown to MY NEW BLOG begins!

Photos by Katrina San Juan of Mayad Photography

It's time to PARTYYYYYY!!! My new name should be Party Laurel-Filart! It's what commonly appears on autocorrect anyway so I might as well own it, right?  Hahahaha!:) :) I just got a text from Martine De Luna, she just told me that the blog development team will start to work their magic on my site in a few hours. I don't exactly understand all the techie shizzzz..but whatever it is, I bet it will be awesome and I am so excited!!! This is it guys, my new blog is actually taking shape. It's legit!!! The site will be under construction, so I hope you'll bear with the little glitches and delays. I promise I'll have new posts up again in a few days and the grand reveal of my brand spanking NEW BLOG will be on NOVEMBER 5!!! Thank you so much for your patience and for sharing my excitement. YOU guys are my inspiration and I really am so blessed to have such an amazing set of blog readers! Let's do this!!!

Blissful Blogging with Martine De Luna

Last Saturday, I was incredibly fortunate to attend Martine De Luna's Blissful Blogging Workshop along with my closest friends (who are bloggers and soon-to-be bloggers). I've been blogging since the dinosaurs were still roaming Planet Earth freely (Wala pa akong MacBook Pro nun! I blogged on the walls of my cave, hihihi) and yet believe it or not, I've NEVER attended a blogging workshop. It's actually such a shame that I've never gone through any formal and proper training for a craft that I've invested in for years now. How I wish I signed up for this workshop years ago! It was so insightful, inspiring, and best of all--PRACTICAL! It felt like a retreat for my blog! Kulang nalang susulat ako ng "palanca letter" for myself while listening to Gary V's "Take me out of the dark my Lord...". Dear Blog, I just want you to know that you're special and.......Okay, before you think it was a mushy and teary workshop---joke lang yun ha!! I was just pertaining to the feeling I got coming out from this very light and energetic workshop. It was so refreshing! I learned so much about myself as a blogger, what I can do to improve further and how I can continue to give back to YOU--my loyal readers. I cannot even begin to express my gratitude to Martine. Martine, the Lord has blessed you with such a specific and incredible gift. :)

If you want to start blogging, are already blogging, or have been blogging in the past but stopped--whatever season you may find yourself in, I would like to encourage you to sign up for one of Martine's workshops. Simply visit to check the schedules or send an inquiry for private blog coaching. I won't go into detail regarding the topics we discussed at the workshop because I wouldn't want to spoil it for you. It's something Martine has to teach you personally for you to fully appreciate :) I had so many "Ah, kaya pala!" and "Oh so that's how it's done" and "Hey, I can do that!" moments throughout the workshop. May halong kilig at kaba, knowing that there's so much to do and new places to go with your blog. 

I had a major epiphany when I left the workshop. (Side note: don't you just love the word EPIPHANY?! It sounds like a popular girl's name. Like Tiffany, Hilary, Britney, and Epiphany. Hehehehe) I realized that even if I'm a teacher by profession, as a person, I find that I'm more of a learner. I think my whole way of life is grounded on being an active learner. It never stops for me. I love learning new things and applying them. I like connecting with people, collaborating, bouncing off other people's energies. And so that's what I want to claim for my blog, that's what I seriously need to pray for and work towards. I would like this blog to be an outlet for me to "LIVE A LIFE OF CONSTANT LEARNING". And as a learner, I'm bound to make mistakes which is all part of the whole process. On November 5, I will be unveiling my newly made over blog home. I can't promise that I'll be wiser, more learned, or more knowledgeable about things---but what I can promise is that I'll be more intentional about the entries I will post on this site because I owe it to you, my dear readers, to make it worth your while. :) It's so timely that this popped up on my IG feed from @clementinedaily, it basically sums up everything I learned this weekend! Oh and please visit Joaquin's site and Stella's site :) And watch out for the blogs of Sheila, Marge and Kaki! Naaaakkksss..supporting my "classmates"!

Happy Birthday Throwback

Today is Alessa's birthday so I dug up some old kalokohan photos and found these---our "Weekend in Aspen" A.K.A. Baguio Country Club from eons ago! Just a disclaimer, the theme of this getaway was OA Acting-Habulan sa Forest-1980s Tito,Vic and Joey! So forgive the corny-ness :) :) Walang basagan ng trip, please. HAHAHAHA! Happy Birthday again to Alessa, 14 years of friendship and still counting. I love you, ZEXY! :)

Scandal of Grace

Missing the Gold Coast

How To Build Your Travel Itinerary

In a week, I probably receive 2-3 emails asking me for a travel itinerary for a certain destination. I always try to be very generous with my tips and recommendations---that's why I always make it a point to blog about the hotels we stayed in, restaurants we dined at, museums, historic sites, beaches, etc. I just want you, my darling readers, to come to this blog and travel along with me. I'd love for you to also pick up a thing or two from my trips and experience them on your own someday too! 

But when it comes to an actual itinerary, like a Microsoft Word document with a timeline, directions, maps, etc.---this is something I can't easily share to random strangers. Why? Because a travel itinerary is a very personal one. Itineraries are not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing that can be easily passed around. There are personality traits, interests and budgets to consider---so what works for one group may not exactly work for another. And that's why travel agencies charge you accordingly. It takes creativity, research, and lots of hours of scouring the net for reviews and suggestions. If you're a first time traveler and are not so confident yet, going with a reputable travel agency might be helpful--check out Our Restless Feet by Paula Peralejo-Fernandez :)

I personally am more of a DIY traveler (at least for now), I like planning trips on my own: building a timeline based on our preferences as a couple, recommendations from people I trust, and of course working with a realistic budget too. Patrick and I are not big shopping travelers so that would instantly make my no-shopping itinerary a bore for someone who loves to do serious retail therapy while abroad. I love taking naps and having lots of snack stops in between touring, so this could be considered "a waste of time" for a traveler who likes to go-go-go. There are so many quirks about me as a traveler that I wouldn't want to burden someone else with and that's why simply sharing my exact itinerary might not be such a good idea---even if I had the best intention at heart :) So instead, I pour out my recommendations freely for you to either pick up or reject. I hope that you get inspired to travel to the places we've visited but I do encourage you to make your own adventures, to go to the places I've recommended but to explore it at your own pace and at your own style. I also invite you to do your own research on each place, to actually immerse yourself beforehand so you're able to really soak it all in before your visit.

With that said, since I can't walk you through each and every detail of your itinerary-- I'd still like to help you the basics of building an itinerary instead. The more seasoned travelers might find these tips elementary but for the newbie jet setters out there, I do hope you find this helpful :) :)

1. Ask for recommendations from trusted sources

Aside from doing extensive research online, it's important to ask for tips from people you can actually trust. You have to remember that you'll be traveling to a foreign country so you'll have to make sure you are armed with information from a credible source. 

For our Sydney trip, I contacted a good friend and blogger, Cat Juan-Ledesma, for some recommendations.  She didn't give me a detailed day-to-day itinerary to follow but she was generous enough to share a list of places to visit, restaurants, museums, cafes and other suggestions. It was just a free flowing "Pick Your Own Adventure" kind of email which I thoroughly appreciated. She didn't dictate what to do on Day 1, what to do on Day 2, etc. but instead she just poured out all the information I would need and just gave me the liberty to create my own itinerary--to edit out the ones that didn't tickle my fancy and to keep those that intrigued me and Patrick. That to me is a generous pay-it-forward kind of traveler, one that I really appreciate a lot. 

2. Establish what type of traveler you are

Are you a shopper or a foodie? Are you an outdoor sports kind of person or do you just enjoy lounging in bed all morning? Do you love museums or consider this a snooze fest? Are you a morning person or a night owl? With all these considerations in mind, it'll be easier for you to plot out your timeline.

Just to give you an idea, Patrick and I are morning people so our IT usually starts as early as 8-9am with a nice breakfast and then sightseeing immediately after. As I've mentioned above, I like taking breaks whether it's to nap, shower or snack, so I always include a 2 hour break in between my morning and afternoon activities. We're more of a mix of action and R&R. 

Some people like cramming 10 things in a day just to get more bang for their buck. I totally get this, especially since it cost you so much to get there, sulitin na diba?! So if you're more of a pure action kind of traveler, then your itinerary will look completely different from someone who just likes to spend the whole day at the spa. So be honest with yourself and create an itinerary that suits your personality and don't make the mistake of copying someone else's without really considering what those activities would require. 

3. Always give a grace period when scheduling

Chances are you might get lost or you'll have trouble finding the bus stop or hailing a cab at rush hour---these little inconveniences add up and might set you back time wise. So make a flexible program that gives you a bit of wiggle room so you don't end up fighting with your spouse if things are not on the dot. 

4. Tardiness is the enemy when traveling 

Don't add to the stress by being late. Especially if you're traveling in a group. If you agree to meet at the lobby by 9am, be ready by 8:50 not 9:30. If you're not a morning person and already anticipate the agony of waking up too early, be honest and tell your travel buddies about your concerns. It's better to tell them ahead so they can either make adjustments in the itinerary for you or you could just choose to beg off from the morning schedule. This would be so much better than them losing their cool because you were 30 minutes late. Be the considerate kind of traveler, always mindful of your time and the time of your companions. When everyone's on time, it instantly sets the tone--lahat kayo good mood and happy vibes! 

More importantly, whenever you travel you are carrying the reputation of your country along with you. I always make it a point to come early for tours, restaurant reservations, and other appointments abroad just so they remember Pinoys are people who are punctual and considerate---and fun too! Hehehe!

5. Research the directions in advance

Pat and I already have our google maps on default mode when we arrive at our hotel. We have the hotel address as Location A and just key in the place of interest for Location B. We plot out different options for public transportation and synch it along with our schedule for the day. Most countries even are blessed with efficient public transport websites with ETDs and ETAs clearly listed. I suggest doing this in advance and not on the day itself, this way you're not panicking while on the train or spending so much on Data Roaming just trying to figure things out on the fly. It'll save you a lot of stress if you just have all the directions and instructions with you when you head out. Naturally, you'll get lost once or twice even with a map at hand but that's part of the fun of traveling!

6. Plan based on the location

Now that you've researched the directions of each place, you can plot out your day based on places that are within a certain radius. This saves you a lot of time and costs if you lump them all together. Just as a reference for you to understand what I'm trying to suggest here, let's use Metro Manila as an example. If I were to plan a trip, I would schedule a visit to SM Aura, Mind Museum, and Bonifacio High street in the morning and then a show in CCP and dinner at Sofitel after. It would be a waste of travel time and transport costs to do CCP and then SM Aura and then Sofitel and then back to Bonifacio High Street. Gets? So it would really help if you can google the locations of the spots you'd like to visit and group them accordingly. You'll be able to cover more ground this way. 

7. Make it flexible 

The OC travelers will freak out with this one. Hahaha. But flexibility is key to a good holiday. I remember getting sick in Barcelona. Patrick had a fever and I was down with a nasty cough. We wanted desperately to head out and explore all the main sites, but we were just too sick to function. So we scrapped all our plans for the day and just stayed in the apartment and watched a slew of TV shows in our PJs. It helped that our itinerary was flexible so we simply moved things around for the next 2 days and still managed to visit the places we wanted to visit even if we had one whole day of doing nothing. 

8. Work with your budget

So your friend recommended a nice romantic restaurant in the city? It won't hurt to research on how much each dish would cost you, the amount you'll have to set aside for cab fare, and everything else in between. I love to eat and maybe 50% of our travel budget goes to food (much to the dismay of my husband!) so I always have to research in advance just so Patrick doesn't die of a heart attack when he receives the bill. Kung mahal na at over budget, we just delete it from our list. Same goes for tours, entrance fees, airport shuttle, cab fares, train tickets, etc. Be realistic with your budget and make the most of what you can afford. You don't have to spend all your savings on one trip, as long as you're creative, you can make a trip very memorable even with a tight budget. Believe me, I know!!! Hehehe!

9. Talk to the locals 

Nothing beats a genuine recommendation from a local. If you do encounter a few friendly locals on your trip, you can take that opportunity to do some small talk and get a proper gauge of the place. By getting some feedback from the locals regarding tourist spots, restaurants, alternate routes, etc. you can make some last minute adjustments to your itinerary and maximize your visit. Sometimes you'll discover more interesting places this way, scrapping out the more popular tourist traps :)

10.  Plan to HAVE FUN

Sometimes people are just too focused on being the perfect tourist/backpacker/jetsetter that they forget that traveling is supposed to be fun. You have to create a balanced itinerary--with adventure, nature, history, shopping, food, culture, and rest time all jumbled up into one happy plan. Don't pressure yourself too much to come up with the most awesome itinerary because you need to show everyone how cool you are. Hehehe! Itineraries are there to just give you some sort of structure and to help you with your budgeting and planning, but it simply serves as your backbone for the day. The FUN part is all up to you! 

So there, I do hope you have found these little tips useful in plotting out your personal travel itinerary :) Wishing you and your loved ones more happy adventures!!!

Happy Skin Turns One

I can't believe it's been ONE YEAR already!!! Rissa and Jacq, the super tandem behind the brand, invited us to celebrate their first birthday at the "too pretty for words" Vanilla Cupcake Bakery in BGC last Monday. I have been a big HAPPY SKIN supporter since Day One because 1)I'm a Rissa fangirl, hehehe! And now a Jacq fangirl too. These ladies are incredible, they're working moms who always manage to look so good! 2) Because the products really speak for themselves. They're made of high quality ingredients but at accessible price points, perfect for working girls like me :) AND---I'm sure we all can agree that this brand wins best in PACKAGING and BRANDING! How could you not fall in love with their playful packaging? Like I've said before, it's flirty, frilly and fun!:) They introduced a whole range of products for the holidays such as the Lip&Cheek Mousse (my new favorite, it's a double action product that is perfect for on-the-go touch ups), All Eyes on Hue Eyeshadow Palette for the perfect everyday look, and their Lippies sets which are perfect as Christmas gifts. You can purchase HAPPY SKIN products in Rustans, Beauty Bar, and Plains&Prints stores. Again, a BIG congratulations to Rissa and Jacq! May you continue to inspire women all over the Philippines (and the world, next!) through your products! 
I'm wearing a Top/Shorts from Suiteblanco, Blazer from Mango, Watch from Technomarine, Arm Candy from Hey Jow. 

Thank you Ryan Ong for some of the photos in this post :)

10,000 Reasons

How I wish I was born with a beautiful singing voice. Nung panahon, usong-uso pa ang singing lessons. My mom even bought a mini karaoke for me and my sister and enlisted the help of a voice coach to come on weekends to teach us how to sing. I think it only lasted for a few sessions because the teacher gracefully bowed out and well...I think our neighbors were starting to complain. I could imagine para kaming kinakatay na baboy while singing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" duet pa and with feelings. Yikes!!! This was such a teeny-tiny part of my life that it's almost like a blip in my imagination. I don't even know if it really happened, it was that forgettable! Hahaha! My sister luckily picked up the piano quickly so at least she has a bit of musicality in her---while I am musically hopeless! Dead on arrival sa pagkanta! And that's why I love singing in church. Aside from the fact that the lyrics always pinch me, it's just nice to sing your lungs out and not receive any judgment. Because it's in church, people are expected to be nice so it's the perfect place to go all out! Hehehe. I remember sitting next to a lola who was so off key, but maaaaaan, she sang like she was the head of the choir of angels in heaven, belting out like it was a her solo concert and I realized that I too should have the same attitude towards singing praises. Kahit sintunado, kahit paos, as long as you want to sing to the Lord---Let it GO! Let it GO!!!:) :)

I grew up in a Christian home like most of you so church songs have sort of dwindled in the background because I've heard these songs over and over and over again. I remember being so on fire--singing so excitedly as a bibo grade schooler then all of a sudden high school and college came and I just convinced myself that I was too cool for all that. It was only in my late twenties, maybe because of Patrick's influence, that I discovered a new found love for songs of praise and worship. And even songs that are not necessarily meant to be sung in church, but just written so well, just songs that talk about daily life and our personal journeys with the Lord.

These past few months have been really stressful for me and Patrick, work-wise. We've been swamped with so many projects and we're utterly grateful for the trust we've received from all our clients. It's always, always, always a blessing to have the opportunity to work, to be productive, to contribute and elicit change. We feel so fortunate to be in an industry that we love and to be given this platform for creativity. But it has been taking a toll on our minds and bodies, especially on Patrick who runs two companies simultaneously. My husband is very hands-on and without an inch of senorito complex so he really works alongside his employees and willing to do all the tedious work as well. Bumigay na nga yung cellphone niya, it just conked out on him last week because of all the calls he's been receiving. I don't know if Patrick will ever have a chance to slow down soon. Coupled with the workload is also the stress of having to deal with people who don't share the same values as we do, the daily struggle of trying to do things clean and honorable but at the same time going head to head against people who don't practice the same principles. But as Patrick and I always say, we'd rather just earn little but honestly than to live in excess but riddled with anxiety and shame. It's amazing though that the clients still come, provisions keep pouring, and we are able to live simply but comfortably and also help others in the process too. 

So whenever I hear a song that has been written by someone who has also experienced trials and turmoil, it sort of allows me to let out a little of sigh of relief. It's good to know that there are others like us. Others who don't live perfect lives. Others who are also struggling. Others who are also going through hardships. But it's so wonderful to see that one thing unites us all---GOD's Love :) It's new, it's fresh, it's current, it's real. And this song really hits the spot. There are just 10,000 reasons for my heart to find :)

The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
Worship His Holy Name
Sing like never before, O my soul

Worship Your Holy Name

You're rich in love, and You're slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

Oster Kitchen Conversations with Sinfully Sabrina

After a very stressful week (I find that I've been having more and more of this type of weeks lately--note to self: MUST SLOW DOWN!), I was so excited for my Saturday session with my girlfriends. We've been planning this special cooking party for weeks now to officially kick off Sab's blog: SINFULLY SABRINA. Because I knew we were going to spend the whole day with food, I decided to just skip breakfast to make room for the whole day chibugan. So yesterday morning, I was busy getting dressed and super excited to leave the condo---I saw Patrick munching on chocolates at 9am. I  teased him "Ewwww..junk food in the morning?!!" and he answered back "Ehhhhh...kasi..wala naming ulam!" HAHAHA! Kawawa asawa ko! I completely forgot to prepare breakfast because I was just so excited to leave already. hahaha :) Anyway, I promise that'll all change soon because I'm now so inspired to prepare more mean meals thanks to Sab's teachings. 

Sabrina Cristobal-Go is a working mom and home cook. Her blog is basically a collection of her tried and tested home cooked meals with easy to follow recipes. Whenever I'm trying to experiment in the kitchen (or if I'm just feeling hungry and want to drool over food pictures), I always drop by her blog for inspiration. I love that her blog is very genuine and honest, nothing too frilly or pretentious that would put off a newbie cook like me. It's actually just how Sab is in real life. So girls, if you're looking for a recipe blog to inject some creativity into your home cooking, you now know what to type in your cache. :) And please check out THIS recipe, I have been seriously dreaming about Sab's Bacon Chocolate Chip cookies since last night. Gaaaaaah.

On a more personal note, I'm actually so happy to support Sab's blog because we go waaaaay back! She was a classmate of mine in high school and we have a lot of fond memories together. She's always been a sweetheart and hasn't changed one bit. I remember back in high school all the guys were totally crushing on her, but she always remained very sweet and unfazed by all the attention. It was also one of our batchmates from DLSZ, Sieg, who was lucky enough to win her over and they've been together ever since! Sab shares that preparing meals for her husband and their son Sancho makes cooking even more fun and enjoyable. Sige na nga, gagalingan ko na rin magluto for Patrick!!! Bibili na nga ako ng red, green, and yellow bell peppers mamaya para sosyal din dishes ko! Hehehehe :) :)

To celebrate the rebirth of SINFULLY SABRINA, we collaborated with OSTER PHILIPPINES for a fun Saturday cooking session with our girlfriends Aby, Kathleen, Monica, Kat, and Joei. We spent the whole day cooking, eating, laughing, eating, and eating and eating! We made so much noise yesterday!Sorrrryyyyy...Hahahaha! Thank you again to Joanne and the OSTER team for allowing us to raid your kitchen yet again and for letting us use all your OSTER products! I've been a fan of the OSTER line for quite some time now (almost all my major kitchen appliances are from them!) but I still have a few on my wish list---like that super blender we used for the Basil Calamansi Slush and their Panini Grill.  Their products are perfect for home cooks because it's very user-friendly and well priced too. Thank you also to my dear little sister, Kathleen Penaranda, for the beautiful table setting for our ladies brunch! She can work on birthday parties and intimate gatherings, so just email me if you'd like me to hook you up with Kathleen. I have a ton of photos to share with you, so feel free to scroll down :) 

And thank you OSTER PHILIPPINES for another fun KITCHEN CONVERSATIONS session and for our surprise gifts too!!! Weeeee!!! | All Rights Reserved. 2011.