Tuesday, August 31, 2010

toy wish list

My creativity is being stretched to its limits trying to keep a toddler entertained with a limited amount of books and toys. Being stuck in a hotel room is not the most ideal situation for a curious toddler. I've resorted to using cereal boxes as stacking toys, bowls and small packets of creamers for sorting, and the hotel's telephone as...well, a telephone. Occasionally I would bring him to the hotel gym to play with the exercise balls. My backpack's zippers and velcros have also come in handy.

So here I am, (window) shopping around for toys that we can bring along with us on our succeeding trips back to Dallas. I'm very discerning when it comes to picking out toys for Bud. For now, I'm on the look out for toys that meet the following criteria: 1) something educational, 2) should encourage development of hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, 3) must be convenient to tow around, 4) must be something Bud can manipulate with ease or at least motivate him to learn

Bud has been showing interest in puzzles lately. I like this set of basic peg puzzles from Melissa and Doug. The pegs make the puzzle pieces easy to grasp. Very ideal for teaching numbers, letter and colors. This Melissa and Doug Joey Magnetic Dress Up also caught my attention. Who says playing dress up is exclusive only to girls? I think this is a great toy for pretend play and will definitely enrich Bud's imagination.

They have this Melissa and Doug Deluxe Latches Board at our local library and Bud just could not get enough of it. He's very passionate about opening and closing doors and is attracted to just about anything mechanical. I'm positive this would keep him entertained for a significant amount of time.

Here's another one Bud would definitely be interested in, the Melissa and Doug Magnetic Hide and Seek Board. It's a fantastic toy for teaching associations. The pieces inside are also magnetic so they don't fall all over the place.
Now it's time to pitch these toys to P.

photos courtesy of amazon.com

simple joys

With my simple life come simple joys. Here’s a peak at the cheap thrills that made me smile the past couple of days.

Bud has been slowly recovering from his ear infection and is steadily eating his way back to health.

little boy can't get enough of Pretzel Crisps

Finally saw the movie version of one of my favorite love stories, The Time Traveler’s Wife, on HBO. The movie version was not as good as the book though. The tonality of the movie was very melancholic and by my standards it fell short in capturing the essence of their enduring love. Nonetheless, I was extremely pleased to see it dramatized on screen.

After consecutive days of buffet breakfasts and dining out, I was ready to throw in the towel. I felt like I was on the verge of having a coronary what with the (Texas-style) gargantuan portions of food we’ve been eating! I craved for light and healthy alternatives so I tried the route of frozen dinners. The microwavable meals from Marie Callendar’s were a revelation! The Chicken and Mushroom Risotto was exceptionally yummy. I probably couldn’t cook risotto that good even if I tried. I’m thinking of stocking up on those microwavable meals when we get back home. At 300 calories a box, you can’t go wrong.

Fried Okra from Dickie's BBQ Pit

Tempura and Katsu platter from Toshio's

Aside from the meal allowances, another perk of out-of-state assignments is the chance to earn rewards points. I’m so excited at the prospects of free vacations with the amount of hotel rewards and airline miles we’re racking up! It pays to be points-savvy.

Speaking of hotels, the managers and staff here at the Hilton Garden Inn have been tremendously helpful and friendly. Maybe because Bud has charmed them all? Everyday at breakfast, we are greeted and served by an unbelievably chirpy lady. She’s too perky to a point that P gets annoyed with her cheerfulness early in the morning, haha! I love her positive energy though. And I love that she’s so smitten with Bud. Since we’ve become good friends with her, we set a playdate with her and her little one when we come back to Dallas in two weeks.

Janika aka breakfast lady with Bud

What's made you smile lately?

Friday, August 27, 2010

proper perspective

Our 2-week holiday in Dallas officially came to an unexpected halt last night. The most surreal and unimaginable episode happened. Suddenly, things fell into proper perspective. None of the material things matter in life as long as my family is safe and in good health. I am grateful that God has blessed me with a steadfast and loving husband and an amazing son.

I don't know if I could ever write about what happened last night. I did find another mom who went through the same ordeal and she put into words exactly how I felt. I'm sure she wouldn't mind that I'm sharing her story here.

To my mom friends, please do take time to read her story. I don't wish this on anyone but it is best to be well-informed and prepared.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

colors and prints

Lately I've been receiving a lot of emails on the trends and new collections for fall. Even the blogs I read have been talking about fall fashion. I just can't bring myself to think that far ahead as it has been so hot and humid before we left Minnesota. And so I thought until we got to Dallas. Man, it is scorching hot! Imagine a dryer blowing hot air to your face.

Instead of dreaming up my fall ensembles, I have been playing dress-up in my head with these summer dresses from Tibi.

Low maintenance is how I would describe my style and these dresses are just perfect. They seem very wearable with their simple yet flattering silhouettes. I also love the flora and fauna- inspired prints punctuated with vibrant colors.

Hoping for cooler days ahead.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

laidback saturday at Harriet Lake

After a whole day of lazing around the house, we decided to head out to Harriet Lake. We spent the lovely Saturday evening eating ice cream and listening to live jazz music being played at the bandshell.

looking for fish

queue at ice cream concession was unusually short

eating our ice cream by the boat dock

lots of people enjoying the live outdoor concert at the bandshell

Free concerts are held at the Harriet Lake Bandshell daily (Mon-Sat at 7:30pm and Sun at 5:30pm) until the end of September.

hello and goodnight from Dallas

I am typing away from my office desk here in our hotel room in Dallas, our home away from home for the next 9 days. I’m glad we have enough time to recover from (and forget about) our very exhausting flight. Traveling with a toddler is really a test of patience and endurance. It’s a good thing Bud is making up for it with all his new tricks and funny antics. Can you believe we will be flying back and forth every 2 weeks? Calling out to all the mommies out there who always travel with your little ones, I would really appreciate if you could share travel tips with me.

Mommy's little helper

I’m still very lucky though as I couldn’t ask for a better travel companion/partner than P. I’m so thankful I married a man who takes charge and still manages to be very thoughtful. P is such a boy scout! Geez, I can’t believe I’m blushing like a schoolgirl while writing this!

Better end this post now. Will be writing more tomorrow. Good night!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

random midweek musings

Can't believe the week is almost over!

Bud has been out of sorts the past couple of days. He's been having trouble sleeping through the night due to a nasty cold. And you know what lack of sleep does to a baby. He's terribly whiny and cranky during the day. To add to that, he's also gone on a food strike. He wouldn't eat any of his meals except for some saltine crackers and fruits. Hopefully he will feel 100% better tomorrow and be back to his usual cheerful, happy self.

I gave the little guy license to watch TV since he was feeling under the weather

On top of my mommy duties, I've also been busy with the preparations for our business trip to Dallas, Texas. Dear hubby's new project is based in Dallas which means he will have to be there 4 days of the week, every week until the end of the year. No way we're going to stay behind here in Minnesota so we're tagging along. I'm actually looking forward to the change in scenery and I'm pretty excited about the prospects of new adventures in Dallas.

In between juggling my many hats this week, I've been diligently sending out birthday greetings to family and friends who are celebrating their birthdays this month.

Speaking of birthdays, my friend, Faye, who is also an August celebrant, is having a blog blowout. She's giving away a Fossil watch and some Kate Spade purses. Visit her site to find out more.

Last but not least, P introduced me to www.stuffwhitepeoplelike.com 2 years ago but I was too busy with being a new mommy back then that I totally forgot about it. Good thing I stumbled across it again today. It's really hilarious. Gave me an idea about making a list of Stuff Pinoys in America like. Haha. #1 cooking Pinoy dishes #2 having potlucks #3 shopping at the outlet mall #4 buying Coach bags #5 wearing Ralph Lauren. Feel free to add to this list if you have any more ideas.

Broccoli Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta ala CPK

One of the many qualities a domestic goddess must posses is the ability to (efficiently) manage the household food stock. There's been a little voice inside my head that's been nagging me about the leftover linguini and the head of broccoli that's been sitting in the refrigerator for a couple of days. So today I finally decided it was time to acknowledge the little voice. Pasta and broccoli ... first thing that came to my mind was Broccoli Sun-Dried Tomato Fusilli from California Pizza Kitchen. I would usually order it with goat cheese but unfortunately goat cheese is not something I stock up on so instead I prepared it with bacon for additional flavor and texture.


2 garlic cloves
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 slice bacon
a handful of broccoli florets
2-3 pcs of sundried tomatoes (chopped to smaller pieces)
parmesan cheese
bowl of cooked pasta

Please note that I just eyeballed the measurements for the ingredients.

Cook pasta. Blanch the broccoli. You can blanch the broccoli in the same water you used for cooking the pasta.

Cook the bacon in low fire to render all the unwanted fat. You'll be surprised at how much fat you'll get from 1 strip of bacon. Chop bacon into smaller pieces when cooked.

In a separate pan (you can also use the same pan that you cooked in bacon in just make sure you take out all the bacon grease), cook garlic in olive oil over low heat. Better to take it slow than to burn the garlic. Once the garlic starts to change color, add the broccoli, sundried tomato, bacon and pasta. Saute until all the ingredients are coated with the garlic oil. Add as much parmesan cheese as you want. Season with salt and pepper if you wish.

Not to brag or anything, but this dish could definitely win me a quickfire challenge. It was quick, easy and definitely very tasty.

Monday, August 16, 2010

obsessing over black flats

The chilly evenings we've been having for the past couple of nights has been a welcome change. Summer is almost coming to an end. Which got me thinking the other day, I need a pair of black ballet flats for fall. Serendipitously, my friend, Ila, emailed me a link that morning to a pair of black Prada Bow Ballet Flat. I was instantly smitten. But being the cheapskate that I am, I'm not going buy a pair of flats for more than $100! So now, I'm obsessed with finding the pair of black flats that is 1) chic, 2) comfortable 3) reasonably priced.

I like the the sparkly jewel embellishments on these snakeskin flats from Steve Madden and Sam Edelman...

I'm also considering this cap-toe flats from Penny Loves Kenny because of its uncanny resemblance to the bejeweled cap-toe Miu Miu flats.
What do you think?

If there's anyone out there who can suggest other fabulous (and affordable) pairs I would really appreciate your help.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

toddler mealtime tricks

I believe all moms will agree that feeding a toddler could be quite challenging (even more so for moms like me who don't have a nanny). It's a tedious task of preparing a balanced meal, enticing them to eat it, teaching them how to feed themselves, keeping them in their chairs and most of all making sure they finish the food that you served them. Then repeat three times a day! Oh, and did I mention we have to clean up after their mess?

Bud is not a picky eater and has a very healthy appetite. However, he's at a stage where his curiosity and his eagerness to practice his newly discovered skills take precedence over food. These days it's hard to keep him in his chair during mealtimes without being distracted. So instead of stressing over it, I decided to just embrace the situation and make mealtimes an opportunity for learning and playing.

One thing he likes to do these days is to point and ask "ah dat?" (translated: what's that). When it's my turn to ask him to point to parts of his body, objects, animals and food he eagerly obliges. And so every mealtime we play "show mama". I would ask him to show me where his spoon is or where the banana is (or whatever food is on the table). Once he points to it I would then ask him to show me how he puts it in his mouth. yes, score!

Another thing that keeps him interested and entertained is having Mr. Bear (aka honey bottle from target) as a meal buddy. He shares his food and his drink with Mr. Bear. When I sense that he's getting distracted, I would say "Mr. bear is still hungry. Can you give him more food, please". After he gestures to give Mr. Bear food, he would put the food in his mouth. mommy wins this round again!

And because mealtimes are so much fun, here's how my little guy looks like when we're done....

Just seeing him this happy makes everything worthwhile.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Conti's inspired baked salmon

Do you ever randomly come up with an inspired idea while going about your daily routine? Today, in the shower, I suddenly thought of making my home-cooked version of Conti's famed Baked Salmon. I really didn't have any idea what could be in that cream sauce but I was confident there was someone out there in the virtual world who's had the same idea in the past and have probably tried recreating the same dish at home. True enough, there were a couple of helpful blogs, like this,this and this, that got me started.

I got excited when I found out that the base for the cream sauce was just mayonnaise. One recipe used a mayo and cream cheese combo while the other used mayo and parmesan cheese. The one with the cream cheese seemed very promising but unfortunately I didn't have any cream cheese so I opted to do my version of the mayo and parmesan combo. The recipe was surprisingly simple and easy to do for such a decadent dish.


2 salmon fillets
1 lemon wedge
salt and pepper

for the creamy topping:
4 (heaping) tbsp mayonnaise
1 lemon wedge
2 cloves of garlic
parmesan cheese

for the vegetable siding:
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables (thawed)

Season the salmon fillets with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Pan fry the salmon with some olive oil and butter until it is half cooked. We don't want to overcook the fish when we bake it with the cream sauce so take it out of the pan when the bottom half of the fish starts to change color then move it to a baking dish.

In the same pan where you cooked the fish, add more butter and saute the mixed vegetables. Once cooked, transfer vegetables to the baking dish with the fish.

Prepare the cream sauce by mixing together the mayo, garlic and lemon.

Smother the salmon fillets with the cream sauce. Be as generous with the cream as you wish. Then sprinkle as much parmesan cheese as you want on top of the cream.

Bake uncovered for 10-15 mins or until topping is sizzling and golden brown. That should be enough time to cook the fish through without drying it out. As for the oven temperature, I suggest 400f. I actually baked my dish in our oven toaster in toast setting for 20 mins just because I had prepared it in advance and put it in the refrigerator. Otherwise, 15mins would have been fine.

Verdict: This version of Baked Salmon is delectable on it's own but not as rich and bold if you compare it to Conti's Baked Salmon. Will probably try to add some garlic powder to the topping mixture next time. Or better yet, try it with cream cheese. Nevertheless, I was pleased that P found it palatable, in fact he said it was good, despite his seeming distaste for salmon.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Uptown Art Fair

One of my favorite places to visit here in the Twin Cities is Uptown Minneapolis. I just love the eclectic vibe it exudes. It's a community that celebrates life, culture and arts. Young denizens of the Twin Cities (and the occasional tourists, like me) come here for the multi-ethnic restaurants and specialty boutiques.

It was a good thing I heard about the Annual Uptown Art Fair in the evening news last week and so we went last Saturday. Apparently it's held every first weekend of August (better keep that in mind for next year). There were over 200 photographers, painters, mixed media artists and other artisans who participated. And even more urbanites who came to appreciate the exhibit despite the scorching heat.

My favorite pieces from the exhibit were from John Booth and Dolan Geiman. John Booth's paintings are like bubble gum art with attitude. I can imagine his paintings as wall art for Bud's room. On the other hand, Dolan Geiman's mixed media artworks remind me of pages from Nick Bantoc's Griffin and Sabine series. I love his use of birds and prints in his pieces.
fall foliage by Dolan Geiman

synonyms by Dolan Geiman

seven seasons by Dolan Geiman

Too bad I couldn't showcase John Booth's prints here in my blog. I do hope you check out his website to see his quirky artworks.

Here's another one of my favorite budding artists at work...

Posted by Picasa

finger paint by Bud
medium: homemade paint

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Harriet Lake playdate

The weather was great today! The sun was out but the air was cool. It was perfectly timed for our playdate at Harriet Lake with my friend Susan and her one year old son, Cale.

I was so excited to catch up with Susan again after a long time and left the house in such a hurry that I forgot to bring my camera (as usual, right?). Good thing she's such a girl scout and had one in her bag. Here are some snapshots from this morning taken from Sue's camera:

sun and sand

let's play ball

"more sand time, please, mom"

happy baby = happy mommy
Sue was actually Bud's teacher. We saw her every week since the year started and that made our transition here so much manageable . She was my first (and so far still the only) American friend since we moved to the US. Too bad she's not Bud's teacher anymore and we don't get to see her on a regular basis but in a way it's also a good thing because now we can just be good friends. We get to spend time with her on her days off instead.

Happy weekend!

Friday, August 6, 2010

DIY inspirations

I've been very busy ... reading blogs and getting ideas for craft activities Bud and I could do together, haha!

Last week was paper plate art week. We made a fish bowl (with cutout fish, of course), an elephant and a lion. They were very crude (so I didn't bother to take photos) but Bud enjoyed playing with them nonetheless. And mind you, he could identify the animals even if they were not professionally done.

This morning I stumbled across this blog where I got my inspiration to make home-made finger paints for Buddy. The recipe I used was:

2 cups white flour
2 cups cold water
food coloring

Put water into a large bowl. Slowly add the flour, while the children are stirring. Once it's all mixed together, divide into smaller bowls and add food coloring.

The finger paint idea was amazing! It was so fun yet very easy to do. I wasn't able to take photos with my hands all messy from the paint mixture. Will try to take some shots when we do our painting session again tomorrow.

It was funny how Bud was more curious with the new sensation and texture in his hands. He was dipping his hands in the paint then he would open and close them. Maybe tomorrow he will be more comfortable with the idea of painting with his fingers.

Finger Paints from Homemade Mamas

Here are more great ideas that we will be trying out very soon....

Oatmeal Playdough from The Life of Jennifer Dawn

Felt Car Mat from Serving Pink Lemonade

I can't believe the week is almost over! How fast time flies when you're with people you love.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

feeling girly

I recently purchased a a cotton top with floral embellishment from Charlotte Russe. Here's how I envision to wear it for the weekend. This is just a fantasy ensemble though, since I don't have the skirt to match yet. I know it seems over the top with the flowers and bows but i don't mind looking fru fru.

top: Valentino
skirt: Forever 21
sandals: Forever 21
bracelet: Dorothy Perkins

Sunday, August 1, 2010

highlights of the weekend

I always look forward to the weekends. It's the two days in the week we spend sampling the different restaurants and exploring the numerous recreational parks around the twin cities. And if I'm lucky, we squeeze in some time for shopping.

Last Saturday, we started our little city adventure with lunch at Champps Americana. It's a sports bar chain that looked more like a restaurant you would find in Napa Valley if not for the large tv screens scattered around the dining area. The interior looked very bright and relaxed with its high ceiling, glass walls, brick panels and natural wood finish. Food portions were very generous. The Pulled Pork Sandwich exceeded expectations, yum! Definitely a place where we could bring guests to enjoy American food.

After the hearty lunch, we hit the mall for some shopping. I wasn't really looking for anything to buy for myself. My only agenda was to get new toys for Bud. But then I found these ballet flats in Gap for $5 a pair! What a steal, right? They were so darned cheap that I got 2 pairs, one in silver and another in blue denim. Bargain price aside, they were great shoes. Chic and comfortable. The leather was really soft plus it came with rubber soles which is a preference for me these days. I was giddy with delight when I walked out of the store.

To cap off the day, we went to Lyndale Park Rose Garden. It's the second oldest rose garden in the country with more than 250 varieties of roses and other flowers. The garden was so vibrant and lush yet serene. The atmosphere was so relaxed and unpretentious. It's like stepping into a secret garden in the middle of the city.

Phelps (turtle) Fountain.
Photo courtesy of wikepedia.

More than my shoe(s) purchase, the highlight of the day for me was watching Bud play in the Turtle fountain in the garden. He was cruising around the rim of the fountain and trying is very best to climb into the cool water (good thing he was still too short to get in by himself). Then he made some new friends and they threw pennies in the fountain. It was too bad we didn't bring a camera to capture that lovely evening.

And because Bud loved the water so much, the next day we took him swimming in the sand-bottomed lake in in Bryant Park. It's the next best thing we have to a beach. Again, we forgot to bring our camera.

The days just go by so fast. Before I know it, it will be the end of the week and the start of another adventure.


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