Marky's Chicken Won!!!

Three months ago, we entered in the Next Big Food Entrepreneur contest sponsored by Entrepreneur Philippines magazine and Solane. It was a gamble for us since it was our first time to join any kind of contest.

After three rounds, we won an award! First round was the food tasting contest wherein more than 60 participants joined in the first leg. From that round, only 20 moved on to the next one. Second round was the selling round. The top 20 finalists got to sell their food innovations at any of the Mercato Group's markets. Third round was presentation of business plan.

We were declared the most comprehensive business plan among the top 20 finalists! We are so happy!

We never would have done any of this without God's guidance. Thank you Lord for being the best business partner!

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." Proverbs 16:3 NIV

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Remembering our dear Elyssa

Someone shared a video on my Facebook wall about Ward Miles' journey in his first year of life. He was born 15 weeks premature, and this video was made by his dad Benjamin Scot.

When I saw this video, I cried and cried because it reminded me of our dear Elyssa whom we lost last year. She was born at 33 weeks, and she stayed with us for 6 days. Her entire life was spent in NICU. Up to now, I can vividly remember that experience and it always brings tears to my eyes.

Elyssa's name means "God's promise" or "God is my oath". She was born last May 9, 2012. I remember we were so excited for her as she was going to be our first baby together. Four more weeks to go, she would have been full term already. However, for reasons we do not know, God has other plans for her.

On my 33rd week, we went to get Elyssa a 4D ultrasound. We went to get it a week earlier, but the doctor couldn't get a clear picture as our dear Elyssa was covering her face. She advised us to go back a week after. At the second 4D visit, she noticed that my amniotic fluid dropped (a condition called oligohydramnios). It was below normal levels, and she immediately called my OB. The next events were a blur to me. I was immediately checked in at the hospital to get re-hydration via IV. I was monitored constantly. I remember that apart from the IV fluids, I had to drink at least 4-6 liters of water per day. I did that religiously. However after 24 hours, my fluid still remained low.

It was on the second day after I was checked in at the hospital that my OB decided to deliver my baby via CS. When she went out, I remember hearing her first, loud cry and I felt happy. I was so excited to see her! My husband eagerly took pictures of her inside the delivery room. After she was delivered, she was cleaned and then held in front of me while the doctors were busy sewing me up. She was adorable and I couldn't wait to hold her! The emotions that I felt during that time were all positive. We excitedly shared the news with our family and friends.
Elyssa was born! May 9, 2012
The next day, they informed me that Elyssa was in the NICU for monitoring as she was born premature. Aside from our pediatrician, she was assigned to a neonatologist (a specialist pediatrician handling newborn infants). The list of doctors grew as the days passed. We had to get a cardiologist and surgeon to monitor her heart and lungs.

When I first saw Elyssa in the NICU, she was connected to a lot of tubes and it hurt so much to see her cry. She cried and cried, yet I was not allowed to hold her. She cried yet I cannot hear her voice because there was a tube lodged inside her throat. At that time, all I could ever do was pray, pray and PRAY. I prayed so hard for her to be safe. We just wanted to save her. She was our precious little first.

The next few days were all spent in the NICU. Even if I was still recovering from my CS, I go down from my 5th floor room to constantly check on her. I touch her through the arm holes of the incubator glass, and I softly whisper to her ear that her Mom and Dad were around her and we love her very much. I would talk to her and tell her to be strong.

There were times when I would touch her and she would stop being fussy. Whenever I talk to her, it seems as if she's patiently listening to Mommy. I long for the times that I can hold her hand, touch her head.

I remember the day when she almost passed. I was discharged that day, and we were told to visit daily to monitor her progress. I was at home diligently pumping my breast milk for her, then we got a call from the NICU. They told us that it was urgent, and that Elyssa needed blood transfusion and surgery. It was just a few hours after we got home that we were told to go back.

When we got there, they had my husband sign forms to authorize the specialist doctors for the blood transfusion and surgery. Elyssa had holes in her lungs. She wasn't doing very well. At that time, we knew it was serious because all of her doctors were there. They were gathered around her and they all looked so sad. We were told not to go near Elyssa as they diagnosed her status. We were made to wait in the NICU pantry. My husband and I didn't know what to do anymore. We just prayed and started to sing worship songs. Then an hour or so later, they called us in and they said Elyssa was still fighting. They thought that we would lose her that night because she was turning blue but then Elyssa fought. In my head while singing worship songs, I was imagining her with Jesus. I kept on praying and praying and then they told us she was going to be okay and that we could go home.

On the way home that night, I felt so happy. I felt that our prayers were answered and I thought that the battle was over for Elyssa. I thought that she was able to get through her battle and everything will be better from then on. To be close to Elyssa, her pediatrician advised that I should just stay in the hospital so we can easily go to her. Early morning of May 15, 2012, we got another scare and we rushed to the hospital. That was the time that the surgeon did her operation. After the surgery, Elyssa got out still fighting and alive. After being told that we can rest, I went up to my hospital room to get a few hours of sleep.

After that long night and early wake up call, I was finally able to rest. By 3pm though, my husband was calling me to go down. I remember I was on my pumping schedule at that time, and he was telling me to hurry up. I had no inkling that Elyssa was going to say goodbye. For the entire time since Elyssa was born, I didn't even want to entertain that thought. I just kept on believing that she was going to be okay, and that God is taking care of her. I always said to myself God's power is infinitely greater than what Elyssa was going through. He was going to heal her. I never, ever thought that she would leave us.

When we got to the NICU, the doctors and nurses were crowding around Elyssa. My husband and I moved forward and there she was, lifeless. Elyssa had finally left us. Our family and relatives were anxiously waiting outside for news. The nurses took out all her tubes, dressed her up and gave her to me. It was the first time that I held her close to me since she was born. I cried and cried so hard while holding her.

That day, I felt like the world crashed down on me. I looked at Elyssa and her face seemed to be at peace. Her battle was finally over. As they took away Elyssa's body and our relatives came to the NICU to see her for the first time, I went to my room and cried. I just cried and cried. I didn't talk to anyone. I don't have the strength to talk to anyone. I laid down on the bed and cried my heart out.

It was the saddest moment of my life, and even as I am writing this I am tearing up again.

Elyssa will always be close to my heart. Every day, our family keeps her memory alive by talking to her. We say hi to her in our morning prayers. We visit her crypt from time to time. We ask her to say hi to Jesus for us in heaven.

Elyssa's life, though short, had a purpose in our lives. We believe that God designed her life perfectly. We will never know the reason why Elyssa's life just lasted six days here on Earth, yet our belief that Elyssa is in God's perfect hands now gives us strength.

We love you so much Elyssa. We will always miss you.

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Gourmet's Palate Charbroiled Burgers

One Sunday after church, the family decided to look for a BF place for lunch. We decided to eat at Gourmet's Palate, best known for their charbroiled burgers. Ever since we moved to the South, my husband has shared that this place is a staple in BF and I wanted to try it out with the kids.

They have a lot of selections for their burgers. They have even given them cool names like Blue Thunder (Blue cheese Burger P110), Aussie Burger (Burger on the Barbie P105), Islander (Coleslaw Burger P95), Red Alert (Spicy Burger P95), and many more.

I got the Islander because I wanted to try out their coleslaw. The burger came and sadly, I wasn't really impressed. The Islander was dry. I expected a mayo-based sauce to go with it, but it seems like it didn't have any or it was too little for me to notice. Good thing I liked their garlic sauce. I kept on putting the garlic sauce to make the burger taste better.

Islander Burger P95

We also ordered the Nachos Loaded (P120). The toppings were okay, but the nachos seemed a bit old. We weren't able to finish it.

Nachos Loaded P120
I'm sad that I didn't have a good experience for my first time at Gourmet's Palate. Maybe I had high expectations given rave reviews from everyone, or maybe it was just a bad day for them. When we arrived for lunch, the place had a couple of tables filled. Some of the customers ordered rice dishes. Maybe I'll try those next time.
The family eating al fresco

Gourmet's Palate
51 Aguirre Avenue & 317 Aguirre Avenue, BF Homes Paranaque
Telephone Nos. (02) 8094273, (02) 8204904

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Local Couriers Review - Xend, Metrowide & Philfox

Since I've started selling online again, I have been reading up on good local couriers who can deliver my package conveniently and reliably. I have also researched on the couriers that other online sellers are using. Before this, the only couriers I am familiar with are LBC, JRS and Xend. Now, there are so many new players that offer delivery service to online sellers. It's great for us because we have so many options to choose from.

I had 4 different packages to deliver yesterday, so I decided to book Xend, Philfox and Metrowide to try their services out. I booked Xend and Philfox last November 21 (Thursday). I booked my pickup with Metrowide on November 22 (Friday) for same day pickup. Philfox and Metrowide pickups were scheduled for Nov 22, while Xend pickup was scheduled for Nov 23.

I waited for the couriers the whole day and not one of them showed up before 3pm. Since it was my first time to book their services, it really was an anxious wait for me as I didn't know if they were going to show up. I didn't want to disappoint my buyers so I thought of option B -- go to the nearby JRS or LBC and pay for higher shipping fees. I was prepared to go out by 4pm for my option B.

By 3:40pm, the first courier came. Lo and behold, it was Philfox!

Philfox messenger wrapping up my packages
Here's a review of Philfox:
  • Customer Hotlines - It was hard to call the Globe number during the time that I booked. On the morning of the pickup, I texted the Philfox Globe number and they replied to confirm my pickup.
  • Pickup Time - Considering that I booked the pickup a day before, it took Philfox quite a while to pick up my package. Please note that this review comes from a first time customer. I didn't like it that they picked up my package late afternoon because it made me worry that they will not come at all.
  • Customer Service - The messenger was polite and went about his work calmly when he arrived. He first gave me extra bags and waybills to use for the future. After he took my packages and gave me copies of the waybill, he also gave me their rates.
The next courier that came was Metrowide.

Nagpose pa si Manong messenger! :)
Here is my review for Metrowide:
  • Customer Hotlines - I called the Globe number and NO ONE picks up. What's good about Metrowide is that they confirm online once your pickup is booked.
  • Pickup Time - Metrowide's pickup time is at par with Philfox. One difference though is that Metrowide was booked on the same day.
  • Customer Service - The Metrowide messenger was warm and friendly. He gave me a complete pack of extra bags and waybills eagerly.
Lastly, here's a review of Xend:

  • Customer Hotlines - I never had to call their hotline. I find their website easy to use. Their print waybill option doesn't work though.
  • Pickup Time - I really like it that the messenger picks up the package before lunch. It saves me the hassle of checking up if messenger will actually arrive.
  • Customer Service - The Xend messenger in our area is very accommodating. The first time I shipped with them, I didn't know how to wrap the package properly. I shipped a gas fryer and I didn't have a box for it. The messenger willingly wrapped the package for me.
For those who are searching for courier services in Metro Manila, I made a summary of the couriers (based on their smallest pouch size) and their rates. I hope this helps! 

Update: I've written a Part 2 of this courier review detailing my experience with their tracking & delivery services. Click for the link here.

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Kali at 3 Months

Happy 3 months my beautiful Kali! You've brought joy & happiness to our family. We love you!
Kali is 3 months already. Time flies by so fast! I can still remember when we were eagerly waiting for her to her to be born, and now she's already 3 months!

What can little Kali do in 3 months? These days, she can:
  • Coo and smile back. I love her smiles when I talk to her! It seems as if she wants to talk to me.
  • Focus on an object or person and follow it with her eyes. When she was still pretty small, she can only see objects and persons near her. Now she can follow my voice even when I'm in another part of the room. When I walk around, she turns her head to follow me too. Amazing!
  • Communicate that she wants MILK. When I get hold Kali, she will look at me and seem to ask for her milk (she's 100% breastfed). If I don't seem to respond, she will chew on her right hand. And if I still don't do anything, she will cry! It's as if she wants to say, "You don't get it Mom. I want my milk!"
  • Hold her head. She doesn't sit upright yet but she can hold her head just fine. In our 3rd monthly picture taking, she just sat on the chair while I was taking her pictures for a good 10-15 minutes. Last month, she falls to the right (observe that she knocked off her small teddy bear to her right).
What other things mark Kali's progress this month?
  • She spits up less often. When she was younger (around 1-2 months), she will spit up her milk after feeding. If you're a new mom and you're reading this, don't worry! This is completely normal. This is because babies at this age still have immature digestive systems. More information about this in Babycenter and Kellymom.
  • She loves babywearing! I started wearing Kali when she was around 5 weeks old with a ring sling. Now at 3 months and 11 lbs, she fits well in her Ergo! She sleeps so soundly when she's worn. 
  • She can cry for her mommy and daddy.Sometimes when yaya is the one holding her, she will cry and cry. When mom or dad will hold her, she will stop crying and smile. :)
Now that I'm working from home, it's great to be part of each little adventure that my little one makes. Happy happy happy! :)

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Thoughts about Breastfeeding

Since giving birth to Kali last August 2013, I really made a decision to exclusively breastfeed her. It's a common fact that breast milk is best for babies, yet not all moms out there are able to give this to their babies. Some moms may be misinformed. Some moms are challenged with the commitment required to exclusively breastfeed. Others may just find it easy to turn to formula milk. There are countless reasons on why moms out there have given up breastfeeding, yet there are many more reasons to work hard at it.

My Breastfeeding Experience
When I first gave birth to my eldest Annika, I also wanted to breastfeed. However, lack of information and lack of support from my loved ones hindered me from doing so. First off, formula was already given at the hospital while I was recovering from my C-section. Second, I found it hard to establish my milk supply when my mom would always be around to give formula whenever she feels I lacked milk.

This time around, I am grateful that more information is available on breastfeeding and hospitals are also encouraged to promote it. I am proud to say that I have been exclusively breastfeeding Kali for the past 3 months, and I am committed to continue doing so for at least 2 years of her life.

For all mommies out there who plan to breastfeed, here are very informative sites and groups that you can join to assist you in your breastfeeding journey:
  1. Dr. Jack Newman - He's a Canadian physician specializing in breastfeeding support and advocacy. You'll find numerous articles here that will answer most of your breastfeeding questions.
  2. Kellymom - Kellymom is a site owned by Kelly Bonyata, an International board-certified lactation consultant. More than breastfeeding, she also tackles topics about pregnancy, parenting and health. For working moms, you will find her milk calculator useful in knowing how much milk to pump and leave for your baby.
  3. Breastfeeding Pinays - This is a Facebook group/online community composed of moms, dads, breastfeeding counselors and experts who give advise on breastfeeding to anyone who is part of the group. It's a closed group that has more than 9,000 members to date. To join, you have to apply and wait for approval. Once you're part of the group, make sure to read the group rules and regulations. Before you ask anything, try to search topics within the group to find answers to lessen the redundant discussions within the group.
Breastfeeding is a truly rewarding experience. Mommies shouldn't miss it for the world.

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Yolanda: Helping Out

I am happy and thankful that my family in Cebu is safe from the damages of typhoon Yolanda. However, I can't help but feel for those whose families were affected and those whose homes and loved ones were lost. Yolanda may have already left the country, but the people are still reeling from its damages.

For the past few days, our helpers have anxiously waited for news from their loved ones in Leyte and Samar. It was agonizing to not know whether their family members survived the tragedy or not. As communication lines were down, they were unable to contact their families directly. They had to rely on social media to reach out to people who were going to their barangays to get updates on their loved ones.

We thank God that all their family members are safe and alive. However, they are still facing the challenge of sustaining themselves the next few weeks as they struggle to get supplies of basic necessities. We want to send food over to them through people who are planning to go to the sites themselves, but these people are also wary of bringing a lot for fear that they might get looted along the way.

We are still searching for proper channels to ensure that the goods arrive safely to them. Meanwhile, we are also donating food via our church New Life who has a satellite church in Catbalogan, Samar. Here's a firsthand account of their relief operations there:

For those who want to donate to Yolanda via New Life, here's how:

For other relief operations, please refer to Rappler list here.

Here's a link to all relevant hashtags:

Let's be a blessing to others and do our part to help those in need.

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Blog Revival

Since becoming mom to my dear Kali, I've wanted to write about my experiences in my second "first-time motherhood" since the last time I took care of a baby was when I had Annika 8 years ago. This time is a fresh and exciting new time for me. With all the information available online on baby care, I feel that I am armed with good insights and knowledge to give Kali the best care I could ever possibly give.

I initially wanted to make a new blog focusing on motherhood, raising kids and managing a home as a stay-at-home mom. But then again, I thought that being the traveler that I was and now being a wife and mom are all part of being ME. It would be good to show how my life evolved since my last post, even if I have to backtrack on some of my experiences in my 3-year absence from blogging.

I'm excited to write again, and I can't wait to share my experiences and memories in this little corner of the online world. It feels great to be back!

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