Lucas Turns 2: 5 Baby Things I Miss (and 5 Things I Don’t)

Lucas turned two last March. It was also his second birthday in quarantine (let me rephrase that he has never had a “normal” birthday!). Again, it was just us, his ate, and some of our guys who were bubbled in our compound. We had a simple Pinoy celebration, complete with a sorbetes cart, pancit, lumpia, and Goldilocks cake. The little fella ran around while eating ice cream. He was so happy.

For dinner, we dressed up the house a bit for a Cars-themed meal. The boy loves Disney’s Cars now and adores Lightning McQueen. He also likes seeing fireworks (he calls “toktok” for paputok) so I bought mini sparklers for his cake and Dragon fireworks which we lit up after dinner. He was so happy.

This birthday is different. I’m sure Lucas still doesn’t understand the concept of birthdays, but I think he knew we were celebrating something that day. Only means that we don’t have a baby anymore. You know when moms say, “please don’t grow up too fast?” I don’t say that. I want Lucas to grow up at the right pace. Sometimes, I’m even guilty of wishing him to grow up faster, to hit milestones sooner. I check myself, but it’s really because I’m excited to see all the amazing things I know he’ll do one day. Mama’s here, I always tell him. I’ll always be here to watch and silently applaud and encourage him.

But today, I choose to reminisce the moments I’ve had with him as a baby. Before I officially close that chapter of my life, I want to put into words those precious memories I’ll never get back. Because the boy is growing up too fast, and it’s alright.

Here are 5 things I miss about having baby:

  1. Baby Smell. Ahh. This. Babies smell like a warm glass of vanilla-flavored milk on a cold, rainy afternoon. I wish I could bottle his baby scent to remind me of new mommy bliss. Now, my toddler smells like a real boy!
  2. Breastfeeding. I’ve missed this since he was 5 months old, when he just stopped and refused my milk. We tried re-lactating, but we weren’t successful. While having him weaned early does have its perks, I sometimes yearn for that special bonding only I can have with my son. SOMETIMES. ;-)
  3. Bath Time. Bath time used to be a relaxing routine. I put him on the tub’s net, we’d with bubbles, and then I’d dry him off with his towel. And then I’d massage him with honey-scented baby oil. Sometimes I’d sing him a tune. Now, bath time is a constant tug of war. Lucas hates bath time. He hates water. I think he takes after a cat! So now that he’s mobile, he’d refuse bath times until I get frustrated, and when he finally concedes, he’d be so scared of the water that he would thrash around and get me wet!
  4. Being able to hold him all the time. Sure, I’m happy Lucas is now walking and slowly becoming his own person. But sometimes, I miss that first few months when I was all he ever needed, for everything. I often marvel at how much he’s grown, and distinctly remember that I used to be able to carry him in one arm. Now I think he’s grown four times his newborn size!
  5. Waiting for the first words. And all the small firsts. The first time he said “Mama,” the first time he sat up, the first roll over, the first crawl, the first step. All these firsts are so precious. I hope I won’t ever forget them.

I’ve already packed and given away Lucas’ baby clothes. I may have kept a few for the sake of nostalgia, but I’m also really glad that the infant part is over. Maybe I’d be more sentimental if I’m younger, but I’m a middle-aged first-time mom. I’m so glad to call it a wrap!

Here are 5 things I definitely DON’T miss about having a baby:

  1. All that puke. The only time a baby doesn’t smell like an angel is when he’s covered in puke. And boy, Lucas was a puker. At one point, he vomited with so much projectile that I panicked and took him to the ER!
  2. All that heavy carrying. Going back to what I said about missing the feeling of holding him all the time–OKAY, maybe not all the time. He’s gotten so huge and heavy that I’m so relieved he’s now walking on his own!
  3. Waking up every 2 hours at night to feed. This may be the most challenging struggle I ever faced as a first-time mother. Late-night feedings, waking up every two hours in the middle of the night. I seriously thought it would go on forever. For moms still in this stage, hang in there. It will be over. Not before you know it, but soon.
  4. Wet poop and excessive diaper changes. We’re still not fully potty trained, but we’re getting there. We’ve definitely lessened our baby wipes consumption, and I can’t wait for the time when I don’t have to spend for diapers anymore!
  5. Baffling cries. I’m glad Lucas is also more expressive and communicative now. He says dede when he wants milk, poo-poo when he needs a diaper change, and he identifies what he wants. He can also effectively say if something’s ouchie, and WHY it’s ouchie. Bump head, bump knee, bump toe…Things are no longer a guessing game for us and we are less frustrated. I think he was most frustrated around 16 months, when he was already starting to want things but couldn’t say them. As a result, he would have tantrum bouts and I was always at my wit’s end. I am so relieved we passed this stage!

Hug them extra tight tonight, Mamas. They really do grow up too fast. As they should. But we could always have the memories. <3

My 2020: Losing Our Jobs, Starting a New Business, and Getting COVID-19

Hey. I’m still here.

I’m still here. How powerful it is to see that line these days. 2020 has been a year of losses for many of us, a year of empty chairs and empty tables. Surviving that hellish year, being alive, breathing well, standing still, being here–what a miracle.

I write my end-of-the-year review today, March 15–exactly one year since our government announced that it was imposing a strict ECQ. I remember that day so vividly. We’d been wary of this new “Wuhan Virus” for a while, and my husband has warned me many times to stock up on essentials. I was in denial and thought it wasn’t going to be a serious threat here. By March 15, 2020, it was apparent that COVID-19 was a serious global threat. I queued in the grocery for three hours. I thought it was so surreal to be living through a real pandemic, experiencing a lockdown I’d only seen on games and movies. Still, I was hopeful that this community quarantine would only last for a couple of weeks to a few months at most.

There were many things going on in our lives, so many things to be excited about. The husband’s work in the live events industry was picking up, and he had big projects lined up. We also planned to start the construction of our home and even paid in full for the digging to begin. What I thought would be a short pause would turn out to be one whole, grueling year.

mom blog ph
Strong Start: Celebrating my birthday at Sofitel, Lucas’ first haircut, construction of our future home, and traveling to La Union.

Losing our Livelihood & Starting a New Business

When the ECQ was announced, it was clear to us that we would lose our main livelihood. Concerts, exhibits, and events were the first to go and we knew that they’d be the last to resume. What little savings we had would slowly, but surely, be spent up. My gigs as a freelance writer could keep us afloat, but we also had to think of Enzo’s crew who were quarantining with us.

By May, as we entered the third month of the lockdown, Enzo, who is an avid leathercrafter, decided to train his men on the craft. These were painters, carpenters, and artists to begin with and they picked up the skill pretty well. As soon as our suppliers resumed business, we decided to launch a small online brand.

Attique ph

Attique, our passion project, was born on May 27, 2020. We started selling leather masks and other handcrafted leather accessories. Starting a business with actual employees is not an easy feat, especially during a pandemic. We definitely had a few hiccups along the way and learned a trove of lessons. It’s been almost 10 months and we’re still here, trudging along. We’ve gone beyond selling on Facebook and Instagram and invested on an actual website, started catering to international clients, and even got featured on Philippine Tatler! What I am most proud about, however, is the fact that we are able to give jobs to our crew as their livelihood is put on hold. This purpose keeps me going, even during points of low sales.

Testing Positive for COVID-19

As if the year hasn’t been harsh enough, we received another shock just as 2020 was about to end. Yes, I tested positive for COVID-19. On December 10, I was exposed to someone who I didn’t know had the virus. By Dec. 14, I had a sudden 38C fever and got tested on the 15th. Sure enough, I had it.

It was a shock, yes, and reading the word “positive” gave me cold, nervous shivers for a few minutes. But really, it’s a miracle how our family has managed to avoid the virus this long. While I initially thought the coronavirus wasn’t going to be a serious threat, I now believe that it’s here to stay and we’re all gonna get it at some point. It still sucked, especially because my 14-day isolation meant that I’d be spending Christmas away from my husband and 20-month-old son.

COVID-19 positive
Our 2020 Christmas Card. Celebrating Christmas Eve via Facetime.

Because I got sick, my husband lost a couple of projects just as his job was slowly reviving. By extension, he was a person of interest so he had to quarantine as well. Christmas was a truly depressing time. We had lost so much throughout the year. It felt like we drowning and couldn’t rise to take even just one gulp of air.

Ironically, when 2020 began, I chose the word HEAL to be my inspiration for the year. To heal from past hurts and mistakes, to heal from physical and emotional pain. I never thought I’d be claiming this word literally.

Despite all that I’ve lost last year, my gains by far outweighed them all. I shall remember 2020 as the year when we lost all our savings, our house, our job, and stability. It was also the year when the Lord has come through for us. He has healed my mom of cancer, protected me from COVID-19’s severe symptoms, and held our families closer despite the physical distance. 2020 was the year when my perspective on life has shifted on what’s truly meaningful, lasting, and essential.

All in a year: Lucas turned one, my mom got cured of Stage 3 cancer, we launched a brand (!), my family is well and complete, and I’m raising a son in the new normal.

I’m tempted to say that it was a good year for the sake of optimism. But I won’t, because I don’t want to negate the bad and all the hardships people had to face. Because if there’s one more thing 2020 has taught me, it was to be sensitive to other people’s plight, feelings, and coping mechanisms. So I’ll just say thank you, 2020. Next.

 

Quarantine Recipe: Pasta De Lata

I’m sharing this very old recipe I learned from my mom when I was a little child. Curious about cooking, I would annoy my mother in the kitchen. I’d beg her to let me hold a pan, a spatula, or anything that would merit “being a chef,” I’d say. At first, she would let me peel stuff, wash pots, and slice vegetables. While I begrudgingly obeyed, I would insist on cooking a real dish. This was probably the first recipe she let me try to make on my own. It’s very easy for a 10-year-old novice. You literally just open up canned goods, put everything together, and pop it in the oven!

I haven’t made this dish in ages! Because of the enhanced community quarantine in our area, our grocery trips are limited and my pantry is stocked with canned goods. What can I make using just de latas in my pantry, I asked myself one night. And then I remembered this recipe. My mom didn’t have a name for it, but I’m calling it now as “Pasta de Lata!”

We use corned beef, cream of mushroom soup, corn kernels, spaghetti, and quick melt cheese. You can use mozzarella, of course, if you happen to have some in your kitchen. For this batch, I used just one can of mushroom soup because I didn’t have more. Preferably, I’d use two cans for a creamier yield. Also, I would have liked to use cream corn kernels, but I also didn’t have a can in stock.

Recipe’s below, and also a video of me making this dish. I hope you try to make it! It’s a dish from my kitchen to yours—creamy, salty, with a hint of sweetness from the corn. Since it’s very easy and simple to make, you can have the kids help out in the kitchen. It’s a great activity for this quarantine season!

Pasta de Lata

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A very easy dish you can make using only canned goods--for when you want something delicious but you can't go out to buy stuff!


Ingredients

  • 2 small cans of corned beef
  • 2 cans of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 can of Cream-style Corn Kernels
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • 250g spaghetti

Directions

  1. Cook pasta until al dente
  2. Sautee corned beef in olive oil or butter, with onions and garlic.
  3. In a deep baking dish, layer all ingredients: pasta, cream of mushroom, corned beef, corn, pasta, and repeat.
  4. Top with the cheese.
  5. Bake in 200C oven for 30 minutes.

Recreating Starbucks’ Cold Foam Iced Espresso at Home

This quarantine life makes me miss a lot of things, like our usual coffee runs at Starbucks. In hindsight, craving for commercial, overpriced coffee seems so trivial now with all the world’s problems. If anything, this ECQ serves a reset button for many of us, myself included–a reminder that often, the most meaningful things in life are also the simplest.

I find myself making a lot of things in the house, using simple and affordable ingredients. You wouldn’t believe how easy and cheap it is to enjoy a venti cold foam iced espresso at home! All you need are some coffee, ice, sugar, and skim milk.

Here’s a video I made while I tried to recreate my all-time favorite drink from Starbucks: (shameless plug: please like the video and subscribe to the channel! :))

This drink is a great way to relax and refresh during a hot afternoon. Try it yourself and let me know how it goes!

~Ingredients (for a venti-sized drink)~

2 tbsp instant coffee powder mixed with 1/2 cup of water (or 2 shots of espresso)

Ice to fill the glass

1 cup skim milk

2 tbsp white sugar

~Directions~

Blend the milk + sugar using a high-speed blender for about 3 to 5 minutes.

Make your coffee while the blender is running.

Put ice into the glass, then pour your coffee.

Top with the milk and scoop out as much foam as you can.

Enjoy!

Baguio Trip 2020: Where to Stay and Eat With a Baby

We decided to go up to Baguio after our week-long stay in La Union. Baguio is one of our favorite and memorable places and we wanted Lucas to experience it, too. This would be Lucas’ last travel, last car rides, last dine outs before this lockdown. We were in Baguio from March 2 to 5, and when we got back in Manila, the COVID-19 threat was getting more serious so we decided to stay home even before the community quarantine was announced.

Where We Stayed

Enzo and I have always stayed at budget hotels in Baguio’s city proper before. The last time we were there was in December of 2016, and the traffic was hell. I vowed that the next time we went, we would stay inside Camp John Hay and never go to the city. I booked a room at Le Monet Hotel, which is just a stone’s throw away from The Manor. Le Monet has the same gorgeous views, at a lower cost. Tip: It pays to book through Agoda, or other travel apps because they give out discounted rates. I got our standard room for around P4,500 per night (with breakfast for two). The published rate at the hotel’s website was at P8,000.

If you’re traveling with kids, it’s really a wise decision to just stay inside CJH. There’s no traffic, so you can take advantage of the peace and quiet the place offers. You’ll be surrounded by pine trees everywhere and have a really relaxing time. Camp John Hay also has several picnic areas where you can rent a table and let the kids explore and gather pine cones. We skipped the other kid-friendly activities (zipline, mini-golf, horseback riding) because Lucas can’t do all of those yet. Instead, we simply strolled around and had lunch in the forest.

There are diners and restaurants just outside Le Monet Hotel. We bought hotdogs, sandwiches, and hot chocolate to bring for our picnic. They also have a separate bakery where you can buy super good Ube and Cheese Pandesal–perfect for pasalubong!

Where We Ate – 5 Restaurants in Baguio to Try

  1. Cafe by the Ruins – 25 Shuntug Rd, Baguio, Benguet

We always start our Baguio food trip at Cafe by the Ruins. We would eat brunch here even before checking in at the hotel. This iconic local restaurant was destroyed by fire a few years back, but I’m happy that the owners decided to renovate and re-open. The newer structure has more modern interiors, but it still exudes the same nostalgia.

2. Foggy Mountain Cookhouse – San Carlos Heights, Baguio, Benguet

On our second day, we had dinner at Foggy Mountain Cookhouse. It’s a private, by-reservation-only dining place by Chef Babes, a Baguio resident who I believe also worked as a meat exporter in Manila. You message him on Facebook, book a table, and order a day before so he can prepare the ingredients. There aren’t many options on his menu, but every dish seemed sumptuous and carefully thought of.

We ordered Split Pea Soup, Porchetta, Angus Rib Eye, Bottarga Pasta, and Pumpkin Puree for dessert. It came with free salad and humus. Everything was great, but the star of the night was the Bottarga Pasta. Ask if it’s available and grab the chance to try it. It’s actually dried fish roe that’s crunchy and full of wonderful flavors. Chef Babes told us that he tried once in Italy and decided to recreate the dish here in the Philippines. It’s beyond amazing.

Tip: Foggy Mountain Cookhouse is inside a private village. It’s Wazeable, but the roads are super narrow and it’s easy to miss. There’s a sharp right turn that’s pretty dangerous so drive carefully and slowly!

Tip 2: Go before 6pm to catch the sunset. Foggy Mountain has an impressive viewpoint!

3. The Farmer’s Daughter Restaurant – Tam-awan Village, Long Long Benguet Rd, Baguio, 2600 Benguet

Tam-Awan Village isn’t the best place to go when you have a baby. Or if you’re traveling with a senior (Enzo’s mom was with us). I wish I knew before I planned our itinerary. But nobody mentioned this tiny tidbit in all the blogs and reviews I read. While it’s certainly nice to marvel at local and native artworks, you’ll have to go through more than a hundred steps to get to different areas. Many of these steps were steep, some without handrails. I had to carry the heavy boy on a hip-seat carrier, kangaroo-style. Gasp.

Outside Tam-Awan Village, though, is a lovely nice little restaurant called The Farmer’s Daughter. It serves authentic Ilokano dishes with super fresh vegetables. Just look at those greens! Props to them for their cute native high-chair. Thank you for thinking of babies and toddlers!

4. Cafe Sabel – Ground Level, BenCab Museum, Km 6. Asin Road, Baguio, 2603 Benguet

After Tam-Awan, we proceeded to BenCab Museum. Another place with STAIRS! :) We ended our day with a sweet merienda of coffee, turon and suman. 

5. Chocolate de Batirol – Igorot Park, Camp John Hay, Baguio, 2600 Benguet

Here’s another local mainstay in the Baguio food scene. Chocolate de Batirol, located within Camp John Hay, is always packed with tourists. We were lucky that we were there on a weekday and so we were able to choose seats. Our full breakfast consisted of arroz caldochamporado, longganisa, and tocino. Burp!

Ahh, Baguio, when will we see you again? We are grateful for the chance to travel. Now, as I share these photos, I reminisce and pray for better days ahead. Stay strong, mamas!

La Union Trip 2020: Where to Stay, Eat, and Go With a Baby!

Last February, the husband had work in La Union and needed to stay there for a week. Because we had no yaya, I couldn’t imagine being left alone with a giddy baby for seven days. So off we all went to LU! I’m glad we were able to travel and sort of go on a vacation before our country enforced strict quarantine. It will be a while before any of us will be able to do this again–but I’m posting photos and short stories here because they’re happy memories and for future reference!

Where We Stayed

While most tourists would prefer to stay in San Juan, La Union–the country’s surfing capital–we had to book a hotel in San Fernando since Enzo’s job was there. We stayed at Sunset Bay Hotel, a beachside resort near the Airport Road. It’s a three-star “budget” resort so we didn’t expect anything fancy. The hotel surprised us, however, with its friendly service, clean facilities, and breathtaking views!

The standard rooms are privately tucked behind lush bushes and have their own patios.

 

The resort’s pathways are neatly landscaped and decorated.

 

Their beachfront al fresco restaurant serves a wide array of dishes (from pasta to burgers and Filipino meals), with huge servings. They were surprisingly delicious too! We enjoyed our daily breakfasts here with the boy, who learned to eat pancakes and french toasts.

They also have a small infinity pool, which Lucas loved. It was his first swimming pool experience!

We had previously stayed at Aureo Resort, which is just a couple of meters away. While Aureo has more modern amenities, I truly recommend Sunset Bay if you’re on a strict budget or traveling with a large group. We stayed at their standard room, which comes with its own patio. Just a tip: bring an insect repellant lotion or spray to ward off pesky mosquitoes!

Where to Go/Eat in La Union

For a yaya-less mom like me, surfing was out of the equation. I conceded that I won’t be able to do that, at least until Lucas learns how to confidently walk and entertain himself. For now, all we could do was explore new restaurants and sight-see. We also didn’t have much time, because Enzo was mostly at his job site. During his breaks, we were able to go to San Juan, which is about 10 minutes away.

If you only had a day to explore San Juan, I recommend you go to The Great Northwest Philippine Travel Stop and Viewing Deck. It’s right smack in the middle of resorts, right in front of the great LU beach. There’s ample parking and hip restos. We had merienda at El Union Coffee and had the most amazing cheese sandwich and ricotta toast.

We wanted to try other food stalls, but we were so full and we can’t stay long. If you’re coming here, please don’t for the love of you miss trying Coco Mama. It’s a small shack that sells coconut ice cream. You can have it with other fruits, but the coconut base is the star. It was soooooo good I’m actually craving for it now!

A few meters away, we discovered Coast Call Kitchen and Bar. It’s a restaurant within the famous San Juan Surf Resort. It serves fusion cuisine that’s really, really tasty! We had their ginormous burger, milkshake, and longganisa pasta. That one’s a winner!

Ah ELYU, it’s been a while, old friend! The first time I came here was when I was a new college grad, to learn how to surf with my friends. La Union was so different then. There were no resorts, no restaurants, and no crowds. While I certainly miss my youth, I’m happy to see a different LU today. I can’t wait for Lucas to grow a bit older so he can appreciate the surf!

P.S.: How are you holding up, mamas? Stay safe and healthy!