Sunday, August 26, 2012

Staycation at the Marina Mandarin

If you are a follower in Instagram or a friend in Facebook, you probably know by now that we have celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary at Marina Mandarin Singapore. It’s “we”, meaning Me&MyGirls so it’s more of a family outing rather than a romantic couple event. Nevertheless, a short staycation gave us a well-deserved vacation feel during the long weekend.

Ashrie's ready to go!
Waiting for Transport
Jane and Ashrie for a swim
Buffet breakfast at the Aquamarine

Living permanently in Singapore, this is just our second time to stay in a Singapore hotel. We stayed in hotels whenever we visit another country or sometimes when we go back to the Philippines. And I would say, their hospitality (although a 5-star hotel) is somewhat different from what we are used to receive, so we are somewhat disappointed or surprised on how they handled us as guests. To rate, I will give our stay 3 stars. Why? Read on.

Jane made a reservation four days in advance only to hear when we arrived at the reception that there is no room available and we need to wait for at least 30 minutes more and come back again to check if there is an available room for us. When we finally got the card keys and went up to our rooms (with Ashrie’s luggage and our bags because they did not offer to bring it up for us), our room door was open and an attendant was still there talking on his phone! How welcoming, right? Inside, there were two “bruised” green apples that looked like it had been there for generations! I hope they replaced it by now.

The hotel in general, especially the interiors are well-kept. The lobby is a feast to the senses, from the imposing atrium which soars through the hotel’s 21 floors, to the rustling fountains, to the chirping of the nightingales and shamas (in cages) and the artworks along the corridor. The room’s bathroom fixtures and fittings are in very good condition. There are more than enough towels for a night stay although toiletries should be doubled for a couple. There is even an ironing board! The buffet breakfast was fine but don’t expect bacon and sausages because they serve Halal breakfasts. Also, the hotel is very accessible to Marina Square, Millenia Walk and Suntec City. However, they need to renovate their swimming pool. And definitely must do a major staff training on excellent customer service. Lastly, being one of the giants in the hotel business, I think Meritus wasn’t able to bring personal touches right down to the guests.

Marina Mandarin Singapore's Atrium
Ashrie at the Reception Lobby
View from the hotel
Happy Ashrie!
We're happy when she's happy!

We enjoyed our relaxing stay. It’s a good getaway from the mundane work for me, the unglamorous motherly duties for Jane, and the monotony of everyday routine for Ashrie. We will do a staycation again soon. Let’s see what other hotels have to offer.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mo Willems

We love the Elephant and Piggie series. Note that I wrote "we" and not only Ashrie. The adventures of these two adorable characters with opposite personalities never fail to amuse us. They are hilarious, cute, crazy and sometimes heartwarming and sweet.

The man behind this series is none other than Mo Willems. He is the talented author-illustrator of these books along with his equally, critically-acclaimed children book series like the Knuffle Bunny, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct and many more. He was a writer and animator of Sesame Street where he garnered six Emmy Awards! Here he is in a special book reading I found in YouTube.

One thing he said in an interview is his philosophy, and I want to share it with all parents, teachers and guardians who read books to children. He said, "Books should not just be read, they should be played."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pinoys Give Back

There is a great need for help in the Philippines especially now that another disaster hit a huge part of Metro Manila and nearby provinces in Luzon. The floods have claimed lives, brought an immense damage to properties and crops, and affected not only their classes or their work but their entire living conditions for weeks.

Needless to say more, the Pinoy Connection with the support of Evangel Family Church organized the project entitled Pinoys Connect Home. It's a "giving back" initiative wherein members were encouraged to bring clothes, shoes, canned goods and even toys to be distributed to the affected families in the Philippines.

We brought whatever we can share and helped in the sorting and boxing of the goods. We had fun along with our fellow church members.

If you wish to donate to the Philippines, our team will still be accepting donations until 26 August, 2012. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Who would want a plant as a present for his birthday? Well, that would be me. And who would know me best to surprise me with one? That's Jane, my wife.

Back in June, (a late post, I know) I came home sighting a new object on the dining table. It was the Tropical Green Forest terrarium from The Plant Story. And I, as she expected was very pleased with it. She bought it online and had it delivered exactly on my birthday.

Unlike in the Philippines where I had a garden, complete with a cast iron welcome bell on an arch, a koi pond, a succulents and cacti collection, well-maintained topiaries, bonsais, antique jars, and a lawn spacious enough to hold a small party, living here in Singapore I could only afford to be an urban gardener. And I think my "pets" here have eased the longing to tend for a “real one” a bit.

My terrarium has been with me for almost two months now and I have already pruned it a couple of times. I think it has adapted to its new location quite well. Moreover, it has called for some company as you can see.

So how do you make a terrarium? It's actually simple. Here’s how.

You will need:
A jar with lid (an apothecary jar works and looks best, but any jar would do. There is even a growing trend on light bulb terrarium these days)
Dried Sphagnum Moss
Potting soil
Small plants and ferns
Fresh Moss

1. Make sure that your glass container is clean and dry.
2. Gently pour in the gravel. This serves two purposes, as drainage for the excess water and as a weight stabilizer for your terrarium.
3. Cover the gravel with dried sphagnum moss. This will act as a filter and prevent the soil from seeping into the gravel layer. It absorbs excess water too.
4. Add a few small pieces of charcoal. This will absorb all the fumes from the decaying matter making the terrarium air sweet-smelling for you and your plants.
5. Add the potting soil. Cactus mix is best because it has good drainage.
6. Plant your chosen ferns or small indoor plants.
7. Use fresh moss as top dressing and add small stones or driftwood for decorative accents.
8. Water your plants. (IMPORTANT: Do not overwater.)

I think it’s just a cool idea to have a small garden encased in glass. It’s like a miniature earth wherein there is a water cycle going on. In this capsule, humidity is controlled, your plants are pest-free, and no drips from drain holes when watering. Just place it in a well-lit area (no direct sunlight or it will cook your plants) and you’re good to go. They say terrariums thrive in neglect, but check from time to time if needs misting or pruning. It is best that the leaves are not touching the glass walls. Lastly, removed the lid if the glass is clouded because of condensation, or at least once a month just to give it a breath of fresh air.

Happy Gardening!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Young Parents Preschool Seminar 2012

We have registered, paid the fees, hence we are officially attending Young Parents Magazine's Preschool Seminar 2012.

I remember we have already attended a similar seminar by YP back in 2010 but Ashrie was still too young back then. So this seminar will be a refresher course for us, and a timely one since our daughter will already be in preschool next year.

It will be held in Marriot Hotel on September 15, 2012 at 2:00 to 5:00 P.M. Click on the photo to enlarge and view the topics for the seminar and for more details. So, see you there!

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