Mecha Uma

The first time I tried Chef Bruce Ricketts’ food was at a food fair at Podium. I managed to have the last portion of whatever he was dishing up that day. He was a little apologetic as he had run out of some ingredients but he said he could whip something up with whatever he had left – shrimps, scallop, kimchi and apples. I admit I was more than a little skeptical but what he came up with just blew me away. The second time I tried his food was at an event of the International Wine and Food Society where he received a standing ovation – a tribute that even long-time members of the Society say had never been done before. We did try to go to his first restaurant, Sensei Sushi in BF Homes Paranaque but the drive was so long there was hardly any food left when we got there.

Just this month, Ricketts opened a new restaurant at Fort Bonifacio called Mecha Uma – Japanese for “Absurdly Delicious.” The International Wine and Food Society booked the restaurant for another dose of Ricketts’ creative genius.

Tasting Menu for the International Wine and Food Society

Tasting Menu for the International Wine and Food Society

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Urban Farmer: Indoor Farming Made Easy

Plants and I have a lopsided relationship. I love them, but they don’t seem to feel the same way about me.  When we renovated our home a few years ago, we had a deck built right outside our bedroom for the specific purpose of housing my dream botanical haven: a collection of greenery so diverse and bountiful that Thumper and Bambi and all of Cinderella’s avian friends would choose to take residence.  Now, three years later, the greenest part of the deck is the faux grass carpet, purchased during an S&R sale.  I do have a few specimens that have managed to stay alive — several pots of Boston Ferns and a few aerial plants, which require almost no care and are virtually indestructible.  The edible plants, however, I have almost given up on because #1: the weather conditions are too variable for the finicky herbs , and #2: when I do manage success, the birds and rodents (and, more recently, the cat) enjoy the spoils of my labor before I do.

Here's our cat. Nelson, protecting the oregano and pandan from avian poachers... so that he can eat them himself :P

Here’s our cat, Nelson, protecting the oregano and pandan from avian poachers… so that he can eat them himself :P

Recently, I’d been thinking of hydroponics as an alternative system for gardening.  I did a bit of research on the subject, where I came across tons of DIY instructions detailing the hows and whys of indoor hydroponics, most of them involving a hodgepodge of plastic tubs, repurposed soda bottles, pvc pipes, water pumps, and a considerable amount of drilling.  Which isn’t really a bad way to go, if you like the challenge and don’t mind the unsightly mess.  I was planning to go in that direction myself, when, by pure serendipity, our friends from Urban Farmer offered us Happy Labs the opportunity to experience indoor farming their way. Read more »

Calderon – Paella and More

It’s been open a couple of months now but honestly, it’s been a bit of a struggle for us to get to Calderon in Pasig because of the very limited parking in front of the restaurant – all of 2 slots. I have heard some good things about Calderon, especially the paella, so we finally made the effort to get to the restaurant early to try to secure parking. Even if we were there before the dinner rush, I still had to park about 200 meters down the street. A minor inconvenience and it gives you a chance to get some exercise before and after the meal.

Calderon has got all the trappings of a typical Spanish restaurant with a selection of tapas and popular dishes. For drinks, they have a good selection of craft and imported beers but the only San Mig product is Light. The wine selection is just one red and one white although they do have sangria. Although the food would have been good with some fino sherry or cava, I didn’t bring a bottle and so we decided on a carafe of the quite decent sangria.

For starters, we ordered a couple of things from the tapas menu – salpicao, Bandeja de Jamon, Chorizo y Quezo and calamares. Pretty standard stuff. Nothing exceptional but nothing to complain about either. There’s a good deal on the Bandeja. You can get that and a carafe of sangria for P 999.00. Considering that ordered separately, they would cost over P 1300.00, that’s not bad.

Bandeja de Jamon, Chorizo Y Quezo (P 620.00)

Bandeja de Jamon, Chorizo Y Quezo (P 620.00)

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Heirloom Pieces by Tambourine Jewelry

Vintage pieces have always held a certain allure, and lately, there’s been a renewed interest in traditional Filipino tamborin necklaces—the kind usually reserved for Filipiniana costumes, but which are now making their way into our everyday style. (True enough, it wasn’t until recently when I realized the appeal–and the value!–of my mom’s vintage tambourin necklace, which I had ignored for years while raiding her jewelry case.)

On the hunt for genuine heirloom tamborins? Through her online shop Tambourine Jewelry, Mireille de Guia-Jison seeks to revive this lost art by offering pieces from the 1800s to the 1980s in their original condition, along with gently up-cycled jewelry featuring preserved vintage components.

Tambourine Jewelry

Tamborin necklaces with relikaryo pendants by Tambourine Jewelry


Made of gold or silver tamborin beads (referring to the filigree technique), tambourin necklaces were patterned after the rosary and often carry a relicario—the reliquary that serves as the pendant of the tamborin. During Spanish-colonial times, the reliquary contained actual relics or religious symbols, but later on started to feature nature-inspired theme like flowers or leaves. Unfortunately, only a small number of authentic tamborins remain today, as most have been melted and turned into modern jewelry, or the beads were divided among family members.


The relikaryo features a nifty little compartment that can be opened up to put something inside

The relikaryo features a nifty little compartment that can be opened up to put something inside


Storied Pieces

Shares Mireille, “I’ve always loved different kinds of jewelry—modern, costume and even kids’ jewelry—but I developed an appreciation for vintage and antique jewelry just a few years ago. It wasn’t just an accessory anymore, it was about craftmanship, learning the story behind it and how it ties to our culture and I guess, a little bit of sentimentality when I find pieces I remember seeing as a child.”

tambourin necklace

Antique tamborin made in silver and plated in gold from Tambourine Jewelry


In 2011, after giving birth to her second child, Mireille wanted to something to keep herself busy, yet allow her to spend time with her kids. “I used to make costume jewelry, but having two young kids didn’t allow me a lot of time to create new stuff, so I thought of selling vintage jewelry instead. I kept seeing tamborins and other old Filipino jewelry, so I added them to the mix, and eventually, focused on vintage local jewelry.” Mireille initially sourced her pieces from traders, but soon started getting calls from people wanting to sell their mother’s or grandmother’s jewelry. “One guy emailed me from the province asking if I wanted to buy his lola’s tamborin which was kept in the aparador for the longest time. He sent me blurred pictures.  I said I can’t buy them based on those pictures and he offered to ship it to me and said that if I don’t like it then I can just ship it back to him!  I said, ‘Are you sure?  But you don’t know me,’ and he said it’s okay because he read my seller reviews online. It turned out to be a beautiful piece made in the 1960′s or 70′s.”


Tambourin necklace

Big relikaryo on alfajor chain


The Real Deal 

Though Mireille also carries lovely reproduction and “gently up cycled” pieces, she specializes in authentic heirloom pieces. How does she assure her clients her pieces are genuine? “Seasoned antique experts were very helpful to me. It’s difficult to assure buyers that it’s an authentic piece because they don’t come with certificates and have no hallmarks. If I meet up with a buyer, I show them how an antique (more than a hundred years old) looks like, versus a vintage (less than a hundred years old) and a repro. Some repros are made well though, so it’s a little tricky.  If bought online, I show buyers a lot of pictures to compare. I also have a good return policy. I think it’s very important to earn the trust of my buyers and if I make a mistake, I would gladly accept a return or exchange.”

Tambourine Jewelry

Vintage lockets


When determining if a piece is genuine, touch and see if it’s smooth—worn areas show that the piece has been pre-loved for a long time. “Seasoned sellers would say that the antique tamborin beads are very smooth when you run your fingers over them. Same goes for the reliquary or relicario penant,” shares Mireille. Size-wise, tamborin necklaces and vintage Philippine earrings are much smaller than you probably expect—in fact, antique creolla earrings should only be as big as a penny. “Safe to say that the Filipinas from the olden days were a little more conservative and kept their bling to a small size.” Check the craftsmanship—antique jewelry has fine details that are obviously handcrafted because of subtle imperfections. And beware of too-shiny, garishly gold pieces. “Antique pieces have this soft gold wash but with some gold darkening on them,” tips Mireille.


Small antique creolla earrings

Small antique creolla earrings


To preserve the authenticity of the pieces, Mireille usually sells the jewelry as is. “I look at them as pieces of history so I’d rather not change them, but sometimes they come in broken pieces so I try to gently upcycle them, like adding new beads to necklaces to lengthen them or adding a missing stone on a ring.” But this doesn’t mean she’s closed the door to designing pieces herself. “It’s something that I am looking into in the future, when the time comes when I can’t get old jewelry anymore.”

vintage coral ring

Vintage coral ring with leaves and cubic zirconia


Apart from antique tamborins, Tambourine Jewelry also offers other heirloom pieces, and the lovely selection of rings, earrings, bracelets, and other vintage baubles can be viewed and purchased online at the handmade/vintage site Etsy.

vintage diamante ring

Vintage old rose cut diamante ring 14K gold


Vintage diamante earrings

Gold 8K diamante earrings in white gold top and yellow gold back


Visit Tambourine Jewelry at For inquiries, email or visit Mireille’s blog at


L’Indochine now at SM Mega Fashion Hall

It was love at first sight for thehappylab when L’Indochine opened at SM Aura Premier in 2013. With their mantra #handpickedforinspiredliving, dynamic sister-in-law tandem Charlene Panutat-Carlos and Leona Lavina-Panutat (C+L) filled the store with lovely finds by local artisans from their Asian adventures. The store quickly became a hit, a favorite place to source interesting home accents, exquisite yet affordable gift items, or even bohemian fashion. Fans of L’Indochine will be thrilled to know that they’ve just opened their flagship (AKA bigger, more fab) branch at SM Mega Fashion Hall last week! “Here you’ll find bigger furniture pieces, plus more fashion and accessories from India, Myanmar, Thailand, and Indonesia. We’ve also restocked some of the popular pieces that were sold out from our very first collection,” shares Leona. We’re told that the store will also carry furniture, bedding, and rugs in the future, as well as furniture pieces from up-and-coming Thai designers. We dropped by the store opening last August 27, and here’s a peek at what’s in store for you at L’Indochine:


ceramic knobs

Ceramic drawerpulls/knobs from India


Boho mannequins welcome you to L’Indochine’s flagship store

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Tagaytay Trip

Last long weekend, Jocel and I took off for an overnight trip to Tagaytay. The timing was great as there happened to be a Deal Grocer coupon for an overnight stay at Taal Vista Hotel. Being unable to pass up a good deal, we took advantage of it. Although there are a lot of charming boutique hotels in Tagaytay, it’s still a treat to stay at Taal Vista as it is undoubtedly the top hotel along the ridge with a fine view of Taal Lake and Volcano.

Taal Vista Hotel View

Taal Vista Hotel View

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Summer Truffles at Brasserie Ciçou

Just back from France, Chef Cyrille Soenen brought back with him a supply of black summer truffles for some special dishes at his Brasserie Ciçou at Annapolis St. in Greenhills. After seeing a couple of friends post pictures of the dishes on Facebook, we decided we had to have some of those rare fungi and so had dinner Sunday night at Brasserie Ciçou.

The menu has over a dozen dishes divided into starters, eggs, and main courses. You can also get a few extra grams of truffles if you feel you need more.




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Practical Magic

I’ve always been a little loopy—I feel like if I were transported to Hogwarts, I’d probably be friends with Luna Lovegood and would be a regular in Professor Trelawney’s Divination class. Back in college, my friends and I would go to fortunetellers for fun. I got myself a deck and an Everything-Tarot Book just to see if I could read on my own, but that fell away pretty fast because there were just too many cards to memorize (and my deck’s illustrations were creeping me out).

Luna Lovegood, Professor Trelawney

Luna Lovegood, Professor Trelawney

My good friend Eunice and I would continue exploring all sorts of readings through the years, getting into everything from crystals to numerology to astrology. (Needless to say, we were both 90s kids and fans of “The Craft” and “Practical Magic.”)

The Craft, Practical Magic

The Craft, Practical Magic

Two Christmases ago, I was killing time at the bookstore when I saw a Fairy Tale Fortune Cards deck. It wasn’t a regular tarot set because there were only 36 cards, and each card had a matching children’s story. The set was too pretty not to buy!

Since then, I’ve been having a better time with my cards (number one rule: the creepy ones are not for me) and have been learning to tap into my intuition and people-reading skills more. To me, the cards really aren’t a method to predict the future, but a fun and engaging way to help someone figure out their situation or themselves.

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Ramen Nagi and Magnolia Flavor House

Ramen Nagi has been around for a couple of months but the long lines have discouraged us from going. When it finally opened at Robinsons Magnolia, we figured it wouldn’t be as crowded and so we finally got to try it for lunch last Eid’l Fitr holiday. We arrived a bit before noon and, although there was a crowd, we only had to wait 10 minutes before we were seated. We did have to share a table with a another group, though, but that was fine with us.

I decided to go with the standard Black King, Jocel went for the spicy Red King and Mikey, the special limited Curry Ramen.

Black King Ramen - Squid Ink and Garlic

Black King Ramen – Squid Ink and Garlic

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Thread 365: Pop of Color

Have I mentioned how much I love Thread 365? Their casual chic tees are absolute essentials in my wardrobe. Lightweight, soft, and shaped for a flattering fit without clinging, they’re just the perfect everyday tee to pair with skinnies, boyfriend jeans, or my walang kamatayang printed skirts, and they’re so easy to dress up with a fab neckpiece or blazer. A current favorite is their navy and white striped bateau top, which looks great with capris and ballet flats, mixed with florals, or to put a contemporary spin to traditional embroidery (see how I styled it here).


Thread 365

The super versatile Thread 365 white scoop neck tee


Now that I have practically all the basics (black, navy, gray, and TWO white crewnecks—because one is always in the wash), it’s time to explore Thread 365’s new COLORPOP Collection! Their popular V-necks, tanks, and bateaus now come in rainbow bright colors (Coral Reef! Capri Blue! Orange Zest! Island Green!). They’re just the thing to brighten up my wardrobe this rainy season (and throughout the year)!


Thread 365

Thread 365 Raspberry tank


Thread 365

Thread 365 V-neck tee in island green


bateau top

Thread 365 Bateau top in coastal green


V-neck tee

Thread 365 V-neck tee in lilac



Special delivery! Floombert the customs inspector cat checks out the newest addition to my growing Thread 365 collection


Need these basics in your wardrobe, too? Order online at Thread 365 is also available at Aura Athletica (Bonifacio High Street and Power Plant Mall), CommonThread (Greenbelt 5 and Power Plant Mall), Swim (Power Plant Mall), Nothing But H2O (Robinson’s Galleria and Power Plant Mall), Aloha Boardsports (Alabang Town Center, SM Megamall, SM Mall of Asia, and Trinoma), Plana Forma (Centris Walk and The Fort), Beyond Yoga (Bonifacio High Street and Tomas Morato), Ocean Front (Festival Mall),, and

Photos (except Floombert the cat) courtesy of Thread 365.