Those Mysterious Chubby Pets

Family and friends, I would like to introduce you to our new mysterious pest pets
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Isn’t it cute?
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I discovered three of them inside a garbage bag. Being nosy does have its advantages.

Aki and I immediately fell in love with them. They are much cuter than the usual caterpillars that we have in the garden.

We did not want them to get bored so Aki made an obstacle course.

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Later, he also made a “farm” but I was not able to take a picture of it.

Aki probably sensed that the chubby cuties were getting tired. We transferred them to the calamansi plant, home of the original caterpillar pets. We made sure that those evil birds don’t get to eat our babies so we covered the plant. OA?? I know! That’s me!

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A Birthday Cake for the Man of the House

A couple of Fridays ago, we celebrated  Franco’s birthday. We were all at home. I took a leave from work. Franco came from a double shift so he rested on that day. Ate Dorina, to my surprise, decided without consulting me, that Aki will not go to school that day because of his cough. I already set my mind that I will bake a birthday cake. I have always wanted to make Aki’s birthday cakes from scratch but because I tend to overplan, I always end up ordering. Franco, the underplanner that he is,  had other plans. He requested that we all stay in the house and spend a lazy day in bed. No cooking, no baking, no going to the grocery. The only agenda is be lazy.

The next day, while our daddy was out for his weekly jujitsu training, Aki and I baked a chocolate cake for the first time. Special thanks to my UP Comm III classmate, Aikko of Bake Happy for the recipe.

First, we mixed the sugar and mayonnaise. Yup, this recipe calls for mayonnaise instead of eggs and butter. The brand that we used is Best Foods.

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On a separate bowl, we mixed cocoa, flour, baking powder and baking soda. Slowly, we added the dry ingredients to our mayo-sugar mixture. What I like about this recipe is that it does not require a mixer. Anything that will make the clean up easier, even if it means that some gadgets will be collecting  dust in the shelf, is welcome in my kitchen.

The most crucial step, especially in Aki’s opinion, is the taste test. Because the batter did not have uncooked eggs, I let Aki taste and lick longer than usual.

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After he gave his sign of approval, we transferred the batter in a lined cake pan and baked it until the toothpick came out clean.
While that was cooking, Ate Dorina and I made Franco’s favorite spaghetti with meatballs.

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After 45 minutes inside the oven, our chocolate cake was ready. Aikko is right. This cake does not need frosting. It was very moist and chocolate-y.

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It was also around this time when I discovered that my cake stand was missing. I had to improvise.

Here, Aki is frosting our cake.

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We used ready-made ganache from Let’s Bake It, a newly opened baking supplies store here in Bicutan. I was dead set on making my own frosting but really really nice, friendly and customer-oriented salesladies and salesmen are my weakness. I have been to other baking supplies stores and I must say, the lady and her husband (I think they are also the owners) behind the counter of Let’s Bake It, are just too nice to say no to. When I said that I am baking a cake for the first time and it’s for the hubby, she got really excited and told me that if it is for Franco, I must use her recommended brands. She has point. My hardworking husband deserves the best. She was not pushy though. I asked her if she has tips on how to make the frosting look billowy. She recommended a special spatula. She probably noticed the change in my facial expression after she said the price. She then told me that if I am not ready or if I won’t be using it often, I can try using the back of a spoon for the meantime.

Presenting…. our first chocolate cake with the yummy ganache that refused to look billowy…. and my DIY cake stand. Continue reading

S-teda, Sparkly Spit and Aki’s Other Inventions

This was taken this morning. Isn’t Aki the cutest inventor?

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Speaking of his inventions, here are some of his latest creations

The Spy Goggles

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Submarine
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The Amazing Gun. Not to be confused with the Powerful Gun.
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Who wants a ride on the Disappear Horse?
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Another gun whose official name I have forgotten. I don’t feel guilty because he comes up with a new gun invention every 6 hours. How the heck can I track all the names?!

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This is S-teda, the talking paper face. Continue reading

Wealth Management Series: Mutual Funds

Good morning!

I think my blogging mojo is back. For the past days, I have been regularly waking up at 4:30AM feeling refreshed. The downside is by 8:30PM, even before I finish reading a book to Aki, I am already half asleep. Good luck to me later because I have meetings until 11PM.

Anyhoo, today  I will tackle the backlog that has been sitting on my head since May last year. We started our Wealth Management Project January 2013. Read more about it here. We prioritized sealing the deals for our insurance and emergency funds. One of the cardinal rules of investing is making sure you are secured before you make investments. And by saying secured, I mean you should have enough money in the bank for emergencies and that you have insurance for your family in case something happens to you. Knock on wood.

First let me make it clear that I am no expert. I am just sharing what I know which might be wrong, incomplete or not applicable. Remember, this post was supposed to be published 15 months ago. I would be happy to answer any questions but please take everything with a grain of salt. Read personal finance books and talk to the experts before signing up for a product.

One of the many questions that I asked Efren Cruz, our financial advisor, is what is the best investment tool for us. I was really hoping that he’d suggest mutual funds because that is one product that I am already familiar with. To my relief, we both agree that mutual funds is the way to go.

So what are mutual funds? The idea is that you give your hard earned money to the experts, the fund managers and let them do what they do best, invest. Mutual fund companies decide where it would be best to invest, when to pull out, when to buy etc. My mutual fund agent released an advisory a couple of months ago after the sudden dip in PSEX. They said they had been getting inquiries and complaints as to why our fund was not performing as well as the competition. She advised that they were expecting the pull out of American investors. They waited for the stock market prices to go down so that they can buy stocks at a cheaper price. Information on foreign investor behaviour and trends is something I and probably a lot of other people, don’t have access too. And to be honest, I’d rather pay experts to take on the headaches and the heartaches. I’d rather spend my free time licking mixing bowls with Aki or giving my husband a scalp massage than research about money.

There are other ways to invest in the stock market. The old school way is if you have a lot of money, you can get a broker who will trade for you. Nowadays, you don’t need be filthy rich to invest directly. Some people I know invest thru COL Financial. They are subscribed in Bo Sanchez’ Truly Rich club. They pay a small fee, 500 bucks I think, monthly for expert advice on what to buy and when to buy. Lynn of SmockExchange blogged about it here.

You can also invest in by getting a VUL insurances. These are insurance products that comes with investment components. According to Efren, this is the most expensive option because of the admin fees. He is probably right. I asked one of our MF agents for a comparison of the performance of their VUL and their stand alone mutual fund. At that time, the VUL was at 12% while the mutual fund was performing much better at 19% year to date. VUL’s I think would be an ideal product for those who are not used to regularly saving a portion of their income. With VUL’s, because you don’t want to forfeit the earlier investments made, you will be encouraged to pay the monthly/quarterly/annual fee on time.
There are also UITF’s which is similar to mutual funds but instead of dealing with mutual fund companies, you coordinate with banks. What I like about UITF’s is the convenience. Just go to your preferred bank, tell them that you want to invest in UITF, fill out the form and then come back after several days for the UITF certificate. What I don’t like about it is that there is no agent who gives updates, provides after-sale service and sends greetings on Mother’s day. Ok, the last one is not important but my point is since the money I invested is not picked from a tree, it was something I really worked hard for, I want to be regularly updated on its performance. Funny, when I was filling out the form, the customer service rep of the bank leaned forward and in a semi whispery voice, as if she’s telling me a secret,”Mam I will teach you a trick. …………Buy low and sell high”. I just smiled and thanked her but in mind I was saying, “Naman!!! Hija, my high school economics teacher taught me that back in 1998!.”

Some info that you might be interested to know about mutual funds
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10 Pigs, 7 Wolves and 4 Dragons

I bought this book
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after I realized  that we have been reading spin-off books of the Three Little Pigs story yet Aki did not know the original plot. Normally, I like anything oldschool and original but for this case, I must say the spin offs are much more interesting than the story we all know.
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The bottom books are part of my top 100 list. The Three Little Pigs is not part but is a Caldecott Awardee. I can’t decide which one I like best. In the  first one, the piggies decided to change the story. Aki likes this book because it involves dragons. The True Story is also interesting because it narrates the story from the point of view of the  big bad wolf who claims that he had colds that fateful day. In the other story, the book ends with the pig and wolves being friends. Here the roles were interchanged. The wolves were the ones afraid of the pig. After several attempts of fortifying their house, they decided to make a house made of fragrant flowers. When  the pig huffed, he smelled the flowers and suddenly had a change of heart. Nice, noh?

Here is Aki’s own version of the story

THREE LITTLE DRAGONS

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Rainy Day Reflections

WARNING: THIS IS A LONG, TEXT-HEAVY POST.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. DON’T BLAME ME IF YOU GET BORED.

It is raining again!  Just when I thought the skies are looking better, heavy downpour comes. On the bright side, I am really thankful that all three of us, Franco, Aki and I are in one place. The boys are snoozing while I am laptop-ing.  I guess this is one of those rare times that I will be able to tackle my blog backlogs..

hmmm. I have a lot. Let’s see. Mutual Funds 101. Mid-year new year’s resolution review.  Our Elbi Summer Vacay. Aki’s Dragon Tale. My Father’s Day Philly Cheesesteak Recipe. Mini mini mynimo. Alin dito ang ipo-post ko. Eto oh Eto. Eeeto! The chant has spoken. I will write about my new year’s resolution and some reflections.

Where do I start?  What were the things that I want to accomplish this year… Continue reading

Books! Books! Books! and Some Book-hunting tips

In just a matter of 6 days, I managed to amass these many books! Please don’t judge me. hahahaha.

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How?

Three. Booksale. Trips.  Bow.

Hehehe. I went to BS SM Bicutan on Sunday, Starmall on Wednesday and Makati  Cinema Square on Saturday. Booksale branches are blackholes to my wallet. Good thing I don’t carry much cash most of the time. And thank God, they don’t accept credit cards.

I’ve actually been to Booksale at least 5 times since I took these pictures. If I blog about my newest new books, I will probably need 2 days.

Let’s start with the reading materials that I got for myself.

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I am addicted to Cook’s Country and Test Kitchen magazines.  I probably have at least 20 already.
This book on recommended read aloud books could not have arrived in the shelves at a better time. I actually was browsing online minutesbefore that fateful Starmall visit because I want to collect other highly recommended books outside the list that I always refer to.

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I love these workbooks from FlashKids. There are a lot of printable worksheets online. However since I don’t have a printer, what will I do with them?  Besides, why settle with black and white worksheets if colorful and engaging sheets are available in Booksale? Aki abhors writing so anything that will make the activity more interesting is very much welcome.

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If you guys come across the Maze Workbook, let me know, okay? Aki loves mazes nowadays.

Here is another workbook that I recommend.

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These are the latest additions to our Top 100 Children’s Book collection.

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Rain Rain Go Away

Halu halu halu!

 
It is 4AM and I can’t sleep. Aside from the fact that the frogs are singing in chorus and sound like cows, I can’t sleep because I am worried. I turned on the TV and there is no news yet. It has been raining hard non-stop since 8PM. Lord, please make it stop. In case you do not know, state of calamity has been declared in Laguna. I am from Laguna!  I am not there now but my family and friends are there. That is why I am so worried. My mom assured me that they are okay. My sister, when I called her yesterday, was too busy watching a movie. I guess that means she is okay. My cousins in Calamba said they are also okay but they are  monitoring the levels of Laguna lake.  Flood water went inside our family house in Cabuyao but according to my aunt, nothing to worry about. My friend Po-an just gave birth.  I hope Alaminos is okay.

Stay safe! Stay dry! My prayers are for anyone who needs them.

Bestfriend and Firstborn

Happy happy 33rd birthday to my bestfriend and eldest child. Thank you for encouraging Aki to play in the rain and for letting me buy all the books that I want in Booksale. Thank you for never failing to tell me when I am overreacting and for teaching our son how to dance. Maybe soon, I will also learn the art of sleeping all day. Enjoy your special day! Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be served in bed. Love you!

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Go-Ahead-And-Lick-The-Mixing-Bowl Carrot Cupcake Recipe

Here is the recipe that got Aki licking the mixing bowl. Remember this pic?

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Click here for the full story.

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1 stick butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 medium carrots, grated using the smallest holes Continue reading