Sunday, March 26, 2017

Travel Diary: Tbilisi, Georgia

2014 was the year of the horse, and I claimed it as my year as soon as it started.  I knew in my heart many wonderful things were in store for me, and it didn’t disappoint.  I have received so many blessing last year that I could only but dream of.  God has been so very generous to me and my family, and I cannot be happier.

After waiting for many years of getting back on the road again, finally, I was able to make good trips in 2014.  The first one was a trip with my BFF to Tbilisi in Georgia which kick-started my travels for the year.  And you might say “Tbilisi what?!?!!”  I know, I know, it sounds like a place in the middle of nowhere but believe me, it is a lovely capital of a country that sits nicely in the Caucasus region of Eurasia.  Georgia used to be part of Russia until they decided to break away (several times!) and gained independence in 1991.  Their history is colorful you should hear it from the words of their locals.

This trip was actually a super belated birthday present from my bestie for my 35th birthday last year.  We just never got around to planning it because of work schedule but finally, we were able to push through with the plans last summer.  My ultimatum was we had to make the trip before I turn 36, and so we set the dates in stone – first week of June.  Yes, the nerve of me to make demands, haha!!  Dear husband was okay for me to travel without him because really, who says no to a free trip?!?!!  Bestie booked the air tickets and hotel while I chose which tours to take.  Our stay was for 4 days, and it was really glorious!

We flew via Fly Dubai, the budget sister airline of Emirates and checked in at Terminal 2.  Our flight was after midnight and was just about 3.5 hours long.  The plane wasn’t full so we were able to sleep and stretch our legs with the free rows towards the back part of the plane. We landed at about 5:00 am, and bought our visas upon arrival.  Passing through the immigration was a breeze and only took us less than 10 minutes.  Although the airport transfer we booked didn’t arrive, we managed to get to our hotel by hailing a cab.  We had to bargain with the cab driver though because the initial price they quoted us was ridiculously expensive.  Good thing we knew about the tariff so we avoided getting ripped off.

We got to Hotel Elesa just before 6:00 am but since our room wasn’t available yet, we decided to leave our luggage first and get ourselves some breakfast to kill time.  Luckily, our hotel is right smack in the middle of the old town so everything was reachable by foot.  We took advantage of the quiet roads to take photos and explore the nearby orthodox churches that presented a lot of Byzantine and neo-classical influences.

Our hotel is a small, bed and breakfast type of family-owned accommodation.  Apart from location, the service is just impeccable.  We booked the standard room with balcony that has a view of the Kura River and Cathedral of Saint George.  Every night, Beth and I would sit in the balcony and drink Georgian wine to wind down.  Breakfast was served in the attic which has a homey kitchen. The old lady of the house made sure we were full before we leave for our day's adventure.

our quaint hotel is right behind a monastery

Day 1 was spent checking out the Old Town and the Rustaveli Boulevard.  It is amazing how Tbilisi is accepting of religious diversity.  Proof of that is the existence of a mosque, a synagogue, an Armenian Orthodox and Georgian Orthodox Churches within 500 meters from each other.

beautiful morning in Tbilisi's Old Town

the 4th century fortress, Narikala just behind our hotel
lovely view of the Old Town
Sameba Cathedral (Holy Trinity Cathedral) on a peaceful Sunday morning
BFF with the cable car station in the background
Bridge of Peace, a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Kura River
Norashen Holy Mother of God Church built in the 15th century
The Great Synagogue
we had our late lunch at Entree, just a few meters from our temporary home
Meanwhile, Day 2 was the most exciting part of the trip where we explored the Eastern side of Georgia and tried their local wine.  We also met a couple of locals who made their traditional bread.

Day 3 was a trip up the Northern Region.  The mountains were beautiful and serene.  I had a moment with nature and felt God talk to me.  Really, the place is that peaceful.

Day 4 was spent exploring more of the Old Town surrounding our hotel.  We also took the funicular to go up the Mtatsminda Park which overlooked the capital. We also went to see Kartvlis Deda up close and took the cable car.

So grateful for the chance to travel again, and hopefully, this is not the last for me and bestie.  

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Defying Gravity - Fail!

June 24 is a day I will always remember for it is when the most embarrassing moment of my life happened.  And probably one of the scariest, too.  You see, just days after I turned a year older, I got into an accident at one of my clients' office.  You could probably guess that the scene of the crime is my biggest client's office, hence the extreme embarrassment.  

Anyway, nothing to worry about since I am all good.  I guess it really pays to take calcium supplements because my bones were rather strong to take the fall.  But I'm not writing to tell you about my attempt to defy gravity.  I am writing to share the 5 things I learned when I fell down 10 marble steps.

1. ALWAYS, always hold on to railings especially if you are going down. Yes, these railings can be very dirty with germs & all but they can save your life. If I wasn't holding on to the railing, I would have fallen at a different angle and could've been badly injured. Or I could've died. Me holding on to the railing helped break my fall. I was wearing 4" heels & my right heel caught the grout of the marble steps that were there to prevent it from being slippery. I have been wearing heels since I started working, and this is the first time I have ever had an accident. I even run with heels at the office or when on business trips but I don't think I will ever do that again after this.

2. Presence of mind is important. I knew was gonna fall to the ground so I braced myself & lifted my head as high as I could so my head wouldn't bump the steps and the landing. I bumped my head still but not as hard as I could've and my x-ray showed no cranial fracture (thank God!). Speaking of x-rays, I had four -- head, left hand (which was holding on to the rail & supported my full body weight to break my fall), lower back & left leg. Praise God, no broken bones. Only bruises, particularly on my pride. Miracle!

3. I was conscious the whole time so I was able to call my husband and a friend at work to let them know what happened to me. Make sure your phone has enough battery all the time. You will never know when you need to make emergency calls. Invest in power banks. And carry an ID with you wherever you go.

4. Wear decent UNDERWEAR because you'll never know when you'll find yourself exposed. When I reached the landing, I was in a compromising position. It wasn't a pretty sight. I was wearing a mini shift dress (slightly above the knee) so when I was lying down, the dress had gone up to my thighs. I couldn't imagine myself lying down there in the cold marble worrying about getting exposed after putting on a thong in the morning.  Ack!  Thankfully, I was wearing a proper pair of M&S knickers so when I was asked to put on the x-ray gown at the hospital, nothing was "exposed" (you know how these gowns are open at the back part).

5.  No matter what happens to a Mom, she will instinctively think of her kids despite the circumstance. After getting discharged from the ER (yes, I got 999'd!), I went back to the office limping because the breastmilk I pumped during the day was in the office fridge. I was due to express milk at 3:30 pm but I was at the hospital then so before heading home, I pumped one round more despite my sore left hand (thankfully, I have a hands-free bra). I fed Avery as soon as I got home & rested for a bit. By 11:00 pm, I went back to my normal routine despite the beaten up feeling: washed & sterilized the bottles and prepped Dade's baon for school. A Mom's gotta do what a Mom's gotta do.

So to everyone, be careful when taking the stairs and escalators. Railings are there for a reason. You can wash your hands or sanitize your hands afterwards. Better to deal with germs through hand wash than broken bones or fractures through cast.  

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Valentine's Day 2015

Husband & I aren't really big on Valentine's Day.  Well, we used to until we had kids.  Not that we are no longer romantic individuals because we still very much are.  It's just that we have become more closer and more loving to one another after we traveled together last year, and we do not need Valentine's day to re-validate our relationship's status.  I must say that the trip did us a lot of good and helped us re-explore our relationship.

Anyhoo, so even though we didn't do the usual stuff most couples do on V-Day, we did make an effort to celebrate in our own little way.  Last year, we did a cheesy, quiet dinner at home after the kids were tucked in bed.  This time, we went malling to find presents for our little ones from Baby A and had dinner Bollywood style at Gazebo.  

We ordered our usual fare, and of course, the Garlic Nan and the Buttered Chicken hit the spot! Super yummy!


dating, hehe!
I also had cream-based Caramel Frappucino from Starbucks while we were moving from one shop to another.  I wish I stuck with my favorite coffee-based favorite because it tasted really blah and I hated it.  Eeeww.

at 31 weeks :)

I managed to convince my hubby that I needed a present this year because I was feeling low lately with all the stress at work and at home.  He obliged and got me this:

sweet medium Robin egg blue :)

I don't normally ask for presents because I'm the one who's used to giving surprises to my family.  But I do welcome small treats from time to time, and this bracelet is surely one of those I particularly appreciated receiving from dear husband.

lovely piece

Capped the day by getting two dozens of doughnuts for the kids.  Here's my firstborn with his heart-shaped Boston Creme.

cutie boy

How was your V-Day celebration?  Hope it was fun and memorable, too.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

BFF’s Surprise Bridal Shower

Last weekend, my cousin and I hosted my bestie Beth’s surprise intimate bridal shower at NStyle DIFC.  We thought it would be nice to do a nail spa-themed shower since the bride-to-be is fond of having her nails done on a regular basis.  Yes, she is more kikay than I am!

We had two weeks to prepare for the shower.  I booked the nail spa for 8 girls for a mani/pedi session.  The preparation for the simple decors was done in less than a day (banner & cupcake toppers).  Sugar cookies were made by dear husband, and balloons and bride-to-be fancy props including helium balloons were sourced from Party Centre.  Cupcakes decided the last minute so I rang Sweet Indulgence who I know can pull it off.  Sarj also got Beth an ube cake which is her ultimate favorite.  Everything was matchy-matchy to the nail spa, thankfully!

props & decors

sweets corner

It was a fun surprise but before we could all start the celebration, Beth was literally 50 minutes late, lol!  We were supposed to meet her at 4:00 pm but she had a not-so-nice day dealing with errands and client meet ups that she totally lost her cool around 3:45 pm and almost turned around to go home.  Thankfully, she had come to her senses and decided to still come despite her annoyance & frustration over her very tiring day.  When she arrived, we were already being pampered while two were actually done and just waiting for her to arrive. The nail spa treat was just perfect to end a very stressful day!

the Queen's majestic seat

fancy schmancy bling

We ordered a Shellac French Mani/Pedi for Beth plus a voucher for an aromatherapy massage for when she returns from their Scandinavian Trip for the wedding & honeymoon. 

We did two games during the shower.  First off was the “Advice Game” where guests had to write down their advice for the bride-to-be, and the other is “Down The Memory Lane Game” where the bride-to-be had to explain the relevance of certain phrases, names or words that remind her of her colorful love life.  Some friends had chipped in because I forgot 3 important names that were part of her love life story, haha!

She blew the candle on her birthday cake and then started opening her presents.  That was the most fun part of the evening, hahaha!!

the birthday girl

ultra fun day for our dear friend

We capped the day off by having dinner at Dome CafĂ© where we were treated to a 50% discount, too.  How awesome is that!

happy, pampered girls

When we were bidding Beth goodbye by her car with all her goodies and balloons, she started crying and I guess that’s when everything had finally sunk in.  I’m glad she was happy with her surprise, and that she was touched by our little treat :)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Perfect Lunchbox

Since my son started schooling, I have been on the look-out for the perfect lunchbox for him to use.  I want a straightforward container that has partitions for his food but sadly, the search has been very difficult.

As much as possible, I would like my son to eat a balanced meal even in school.  Fortunately for us, our son is not a picky eater.  He eats everything we serve on the table.  He sometimes asks for sausages or fried egg but would ALWAYS eat the available viand with his cupful of rice.  I guess we have trained him rather well because he is the kind of kid who eats any vegetable and is a fruit monster in the making.  This works to our advantage because his little sister looks up to him as a role model, and that means that whatever Dade eats, Lexie eats, too! :)

During Dade's FS1 year, we would frequently get notes from his teacher advising us to pack healthy snacks for him. We were told that he would often ask for snacks from his classmates and teacher, especially when they are eating apples or other food that he fancies.  At that time, we were only packing biscuits or crackers which he probably never really enjoyed.  It was rather embarrassing getting these notes from the teacher so we decided to send him proper, nutritional snacks to school for recess thereafter.

Now that he is in first grade and his day is longer compared to his pre-school years, I've decided to send him rice in school for him to eat during his 40-minute break.  The rice meal would also be accompanied by crackers, veggie slices or fruit.  I had him use a Lock and Lock lunch kit meant for adults but I didn't like it that much because he had to open two containers and the plastic on the partition was flimsy looking.  With the limited choices we have here, I made do with what was available.

Until a few weeks ago, I saw my friend, Shelly post in IG her son's new lunchbox that he is using in the States (they have moved there just last year).  I was quickly drawn to the lunchbox's design -- it is exactly what I needed for Dade!  And cutely enough, it is appropriately called Yumbox.

It is sadly not available in Dubai so I had to order one from Amazon.  I had asked my son's godfather who was at that time on a holiday in the US to bring it home, and after a few weeks since I placed my order, I got my hands on this super cute bento lunchbox in Myrtille Blue.  

so excited to use it! 

It is a 6-compartment leakproof lunchbox that I have tried and tested myself.  It includes a tray insert with Pirate and Mermaid themed illustrations.  The 6 compartments are equivalent to 1/2 cup portions each of the following food groups: dairy, protein, fruit, veggies, grains and a small dip well.  This made things very easy for me to plan my son's baon for school because I now have a guide on what I should throw in his lunchbox.  It guarantees a balanced meal with healthy portions which makes it quite attractive for an OC Mom like me, hee hee!

uber cute illustrations

One of the major selling points of this lunchbox is that it is made with food-safe materials.  It is bpa-free and phthalates-free.  Bpa and Phthalates are two things I watch out for in every container that touches my kids' food.  

first Yumbox bento for Dade
wiped out! hooray!! 
the next day's meal.  yep, my boy eats ampalaya!

This lunchbox is designed by Moms and its patent is currently pending.  Yumbox is recommended for picky eater kids because it gives variety and a parent can be creative in terms of putting things together to make the meal more attractive and fun.  Whereas I don't think it is lightweight enough, it is handy to bring to picnics, travel or camping.  I have ordered for the original Yumbox but there is a version called Panino which has 4 compartments and is more apt for kids 8 and above.  It has a bigger section which can take on a full sandwich, salad or pasta serving meant for older kids.  

I plan on ordering another Yumbox for Lexie when she is ready to go to school.  This Spring, Yumbox will release their pastel line with slightly bigger compartments.  I will definitely get one for our princess, and I am already eyeing the pink one!