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.

Read more »

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

Read more »

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

 

Floombert

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 www.thread365.com. 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), www.pormada.com, and www.AVA.ph.

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

Flow Bali & Lombok (Part 2)

I was looking forward to the Ubud part of our retreat, since I’d read about the place and had known it to be a place full of yoga, healthy food (despite my still-bum stomach), and pretty shops with really cheap finds.

The drive there from Canggu was pretty long and the whole day was dedicated to exploring the town proper.

Ubud Market

The local market at Ubud is chockfull of souvenirs, clothes, accessories, food and just about anything you can think of. Many of the wares are sold in specialty shops in Manila so snap them up while you’re abroad to get the best bargains. If you’re not used to haggling, the rule of thumb is to immediately ask for half price. If the vendor says no, walk away and chances are, you’ll be called back with the price you asked for.

Hinduism is a central part of Balinese life and temples are everywhere. These architectural wonders contribute to the charm of the place—not only are the intricate carvings and stone a sight to see, their prevalence also shows how integral they are to the locals, even in the 21st century.

Make sure you’re covered up in a sarong because bare legs and midriffs are not allowed. Also watch out for scooters everywhere—the roads of Ubud are very narrow and while the Balinese (at least in my experience) are very gracious on the road (especially compared to Metro Manila drivers!), you don’t want to get in anyone’s way.

Because surfing was out of the question with the tremendous waves in Canggu, the FLOW girls were generous enough to give us a free massage in Ubud instead. A traditional one-hour Balinese massage cost about 80,000 Rupia (PhP 300++) and was a relaxing relief for those of us who wanted some TLC. If you’re not too finicky about your spa surroundings, walking into one of the many small shops offering massages in Ubud will give you a pretty decent experience sans the fancy treatment.

Seeds of Life

Part of our agenda was a raw food workshop at The Seeds of Life Raw Food Café and Tonic Bar . Now take note, my stomach was still pretty bad during this leg of the trip and I wasn’t sure that diving into uncooked food was exactly the best idea for me (up until then, I’d only had a steady intake of coconut-flavored biscuits and bottled water).

Ben, the owner of Seeds of Life, gave us a short history on his journey into raw food and his four-month old café / yoga shala. The ashtangi from Australia also brought in Brazilian chef Joao to help come up with dishes that combine flavors from global cuisine with the healthy benefits that superfoods and raw food can bring.

They taught us how to make everything from healthy sesame dressing to spirulina-date-nut-honey based Bliss Balls, to crunchy toppers for salads. There was no way I could have gone through the demo without a (tiny) taste of the food… and when it was time to order lunch and dishes like Mexican lasagna, miso soup, sushi (without rice or fish!), and Tuscany pizza were on the menu, I had to risk tummy trouble to satisfy my taste buds.

The verdict? EXCELLENT! If raw food could taste as rich, flavorful, and as delicious as what we experienced at Seeds of Life, I would, without a moment’s notice jump right into the raw movement!

Ombak

We headed over to Kuta beach post-dinner for the annual Ombak Bali film fest. Resembling Boracay’s packed and busy white beach, Kuta is known for it’s wide expanse of bars and parties that drift over onto the shore. The international surf filmfest which showcased shorts and full features over three days was free (you just had to order a drink to get a bean bag to sit on) and was perfectly matched to the surf culture of Bali.

It was a fun last night, especially for the participants who were heading back to Manila post-Bali and a great way to say goodbye to such a diverse, magical, unique place.

Kuta Baru

A quick, 30-minute flight from Bali’s Denpasar airport will take you to nearby Lombok. There are several airlines that offer flights—I took Garuda Indonesia which is typically the most reliable as far as being on time is concerned.

Lombok is a big departure from the sights of Bali in that it is mostly virgin territory—untouched, pristine, and very low key. Adi, who is now based there and is one of the island’s three yoga teachers, says that while most tourists travel to Bali, it is the serious surfers and backpackers who make their way to Lombok and stay for weeks and months on end.

We were billeted at Kuta Baru, about a 30-minute drive from the airport. Taxi drivers will try to overcharge, but the drive should only cost about 70,000 Rupia (don’t settle for anything more expensive!).

The hotel is spacious and wide, with villas fronting a central swimming pool with a common lounge area and an open restaurant offering free-flowing coffee and tea all day, and a selection of a continental or chocolate/banana pancake breakfast each day. A beautiful trellised area is surrounded by huts and Adi’s anti-gravity yoga hammock hangs on a bamboo lintel—a fun addition to the hotel grounds.

Just in front of Kuta Baru is “Galang Information Center”—Galang was actually our trusty, bubbly, driver who runs a business shuttling people around to beaches and other hotspots.

Lombok beaches

The beaches of Lombok are almost countless—many spots are still unnamed and undiscovered by tourists. Discovering where the waves are, where the secret coves are is part of what gives this beautiful place its draw. One thing is for sure, every hill, every beach, and every point offers a special vantage point that offers a one of a kind look at this spectacular place.

Its skies are so clear that every night, you’re able to spot more constellations than you’ve ever seen anywhere else. Our last night had us counting up to six shooting stars so big they look like rocket ships!

Surf and Yoga

Of course, a FLOW retreat wouldn’t be complete without surf and yoga. Lombok offered us baby waves to learn on (I didn’t catch any on the reef break, unfortunately!); and beautiful hills to practice yoga on.

Riding on the whitewash while the sun set was calming and serene, while moving along to Adi’s vinyasa flow sequence was relaxing and peaceful. There is nothing more satisfying than taking your savasana on top of a hill, breathing in the fresh air as the sun sets.

Night Life

While Bali was rife with temples, Lombok is Muslim country, so instead of temples scattered all around the roads, you’ll find mosques here and there. The people—from the bracelet vendors that run from one warung to the next, to the locals hanging out at dive bars are friendly. Lombok, however, isn’t as tourist-trained as nearby Bali and its unfettered beaches, raw cliffs and rough roads constitute its one-of-a-kind charm.

That said, parties do abound in this quiet part of the country. Wherever you go, chances are you’ll come across fellow travelers who are always up for a spontaneous party, a bonfire at the beach, grabbing some fresh (and delicious!) pizza or going for a vegetarian buffet.

What made Lombok most memorable to me, aside from the picture-perfect scenery, was the people we came across. An amateur French band from Bordeaux, Basque and Spanish travelers, an Irish rock climber / engineer, a Spaniard from Ireland, a German girl chasing waves, and an English woman traveling from Thailand toting whiskey in her bags. All interesting characters, they help make up the diverse and unparalleled wonders that Lombok holds.

I learned that while the friendships that form among travelers may be fleeting, those few hours you all share and are able to connect are as magical as the million and one sunsets that the island holds secret.

FLOW girls

More than all the sunsets we watched, the secret beaches we did crazy antics in, the surf, the yoga and the samba, and seeing brand new places for the first time, what makes FLOW such a great experience for me are the friendships that are formed. I couldn’t choose a better group to spend 9 days exploring a new corner of the world with!

It’s amazing to see people from different parts of the world come together and share in such a special experience. Some of us have stayed on to do more yoga in Bali, find more waves in Lombok, and even explore the famous Gili islands for reefs, one of us is off to party in Tomorrowland(!), while the rest of us have traveled back home to Manila.

As for me, I’m grateful to be back in the comfort of my own bed and shower (!), and happy to look back on our fun adventure as I enjoy all that city life has to offer. On to the next trip!

Looking for Part 1? Click here!

Interested in joining a FLOW retreat?

Check out their calendar at www.flowsurfyogasamba.com and follow them on Instagram at http://instagram.com/flowsurfyogasamba and on Twitter @SurfYogaSamba.

Special thanks to FLOW and @annaalfonso for the Instagram grabs!

The Grand Crus of Germany

There are a lot of good German wines imported into the country. Most, however, are classified according to grape ripeness. It’s understandable to have this classification in a cold climate country like Germany, which is just about the northern limit for grape cultivation. More recently though, the move in Germany was for a classification system more in line with the rest of Europe; that is a system where location is paramount. The Grand Crus of Germany are just like the Grand Crus of Burgundy. These are wines from sites that are recognized as giving exceptional wines year after year. Brumms Quality Wines, perhaps the country’s pioneer importer of fine German wine leads the way with these wines are they are the only ones importing German Grand Crus at the moment.

A dinner was held at CAV last July 23 to highlight these wines. Our first course was a Wild Shrimp Carpaccio paired with the Domdechant Werner’sches Domdechaney Riesling Erstes Gewächs (First Growth) 2009. This was a rather full-bodied wine. Very fragrant with a pronounced floral bouquet. On the palate, it was slightly honeyed with a touch of sweet spice. The dish was quite surprising as it had a savory avocado ice cream topping it. It was quite bold but I enjoyed it as the spice in the ice cream gave depth to it.

Wild Shrimp Carpaccio - Crustacean Glaze, Aromatic Leaves, Spice, Avocado Ice Cream

Wild Shrimp Carpaccio – Crustacean Glaze, Aromatic Leaves, Spice, Avocado Ice Cream

 

Read more »

FLOW Bali and Lombok (Part 1)

I ended 2013 with the FLOW  team in a fun, boho, surf and yoga retreat in La Union and one of the big questions posed to us during the opening circle was: What do you want to do in 2014?

I knew my answer right off the bat—go to Bali!

Eat Pray Love

Since getting serious about yoga, I’d heard a lot about the island—most especially about Ubud and the tens of hundreds of yoga classes you could take there, bike tours you could do amidst the rice paddies, and cheap, pretty finds you could get at the local market. Bali was also the setting for the last chapters of Eat, Pray, Love, where writer Elizabeth Gilbert finally comes into her own (and meets Brazilian Felipe!).

As soon as I talked about my 2014 goal, the FLOW girls told me they were already planning to do their first international retreat in Bali and neighboring province Lombok. Serendipity was at work! I was immediately on it and had about six months to save up for the trip.

03

One of the big draws for me, aside from the traveling was that Monica, Noelle and Denise of FLOW had everything arranged. My yoga teacher training friend Adi had moved to Indonesia a year ago and would be our resident tour guide.

It was a definite pull for me—being able to rest easy, knowing that we’d be scoring the best deals, having just the right mix of culture + food + partying, and getting the most out of the Bali and Lombok experience. It’s always fun to create your own off-the-beaten-track agenda, but I wanted to enjoy the sights without having to worry about searching for a good hotel or a restaurant that wouldn’t rip me off. Because I was on my third retreat with the FLOW girls, I knew I was in good hands!

Flying PAL had us leaving in the evening (Manila to Denpasar), reaching Bali just in time to get a good night’s rest to prep us for four days’ worth of sun salutes, surf and samba.

Echoland Bed and Breakfast

We were booked at Echoland Bed & Breakfast in Canggu—far away from the droves of tourists but just a 20-minute leisurely walk to Echo Beach and other charming restaurants that range from French Patisseries to Italian gelaterias, to inexpensive, local warungs (restaurants). The rooms were spacious, bathrooms were clean and had an outdoor rainshower feel (with pretty bamboo fixtures!), and came with free Indonesian, French or Continental breakfast every morning at the rooftop.

Echo Beach

Our first day had us taking a quick look at the waves at Echo Beach—they were HUGE! Because we were beginning surfers, we were too chicken to get on our boards and into the water and decided to watch seasoned surfers from all over the globe tackle the water instead.

Old Man's

We had a delicious lunch (duck salad was great!) at Old Man’s, fronting the beach. The colorful restaurant offers hefty servings that are perfect to replenish you post-surf. I loved the quirky interiors—not exactly a traditional Balinese spot, but perfectly foreigner-friendly and enough to keep you wanting to immerse yourself in the surf culture so prevalent in the area.

Uluwatu

After lunch, we did some exploration in popular surf spot, Uluwatu. I’d gotten a lot of comments from people who’d visited Bali before that their beaches don’t compare to ours. I did miss the wide expanse of empty shore and clear blue waters that I experienced last summer in El Nido, but if you’re out to surf, then Bali’s beaches are just the thing for you. The tremendous waves and the people brave enough to get on them were awe-inspiring! Single Fin, a cute shop, is also situated right by the parking lot and offers your requisite surf threads.

Just a word of warning: exploring Uluwatu’s coves and secret nooks takes a bit of balance. You need to head down some pretty steep steps just to get to the sand, which was a little terrifying for me because I’ve got a bad knee. If you’re scared of heights or have issues with your legs, make sure to take a breather or just go down a few flights and park yourself at one of the cafes overlooking the cliffs.

Kecak Dance

We trooped on over to the temple at Uluwatu—famous, not only for its cultural significance but also for the many monkeys traipsing around, sitting on the pillars and scampering all over the stone paths (best to be on guard because they can pickpocket!). Walking past the temple takes you to an amphitheater, which surrounds the stage for the traditional Kecak Dance.

A group of men chant for an hour while dancers perform the story of Hanuman (The Monkey King), Rama and Sita. Oddly hypnotic and kind of mesmerizing, we watched them sing and dance for an hour while the sun began to set over Bali’s waters. Even if you aren’t familiar with the Ramayana, watching the Kecak Dance at sunset is mystical and breathtakingly magical.

Jimbaran

We had a lovely seafood dinner on the beach at Jimbaran after. Pretty expensive (expect tourist prices!) at 250,000++ Rupiah (PhP 930) each for a big platter along with what seemed like a bottomless supply of rice (take note that a meal at a local warung can be ¼ the cost of this meal!).

Yoga

We kicked off Day 2 with a much-needed vinyasa yoga session led by Monica, the resident yogi. Moving through sun salutations at Echoland’s rooftop, watching the rice paddies while we flowed through our warriors was so wonderful! A long-time yoga practitioner, teacher, and new mom, Monica told us about how her first-ever teacher, Dada Surya, now lived in Bali and worked as a tour guide—I loved how she incorporated her personal experiences into our sequence, and how the postures we moved through were the perfect antidote to the fatigue from our traveling. Post-class, we had a delicious breakfast to prep us for the day.

Dreamland

Our first beach visit was Dreamland, a huge complex owned by the son of Indonesia’s ex-president. Driving through the expansive estate reminded me of going through a private development like an unfinished Anvaya Cove—roads are empty, huge lots are sectioned off for future residences, hotels or clubs, and again, a beach ready for surfing was a quick shuttle away.

Dreamland’s waters during high tide were a little scary—they had us scuttling to any high points we could find so we wouldn’t be washed away by the pull. They made for postcard-ready photos though and were perfect for some quiet time just looking out at the horizon.

Warung

Now here’s where things get a little sticky for me. I’ve always had a pretty tough tummy, but lately (starting with a summer trip to Sagada) my stomach has become a tad more sensitive to unfamiliar food.

Despite us all sharing in the Jimbaran feast from the night before, I suffered from an extreme bout of upset-tummy Day 2, which meant I needed to stay away from any spicy or oily local cuisine, plus be extra careful about the ice cubes in any drink I ordered.

I had some plain chicken satay with plain rice and a hard-boiled egg (boo) while the others raved about the rice cooked in coconut milk, and vegetable curry.

My situation was also a true test of Bali’s restrooms—which I’m happy to report scores 8/10. Every stall had an accompanying bidet and a roll of toilet paper (even at the beaches!). Those who are fussy about bathroom breaks won’t really have much to complain about—they’re all pretty clean and get the job done!

Padang Padang

There was a surf comp going on in Padang-Padang beach, which we decided to check out. A pretty touristy area, expect to bump elbows with people when looking for a spot to lay your beach blanket on the sand. There were people from all over—Australian surfers, Italian beach babes, and even a Korean crew doing a guerilla photo shoot plus a couple doing pre-wedding photos (complete in wedding gown).

Be prepared to walk down (and up) about 180++ steps (yes, I counted) to get from street level down to the actual shore.

Balangan

Our last beach stop for the day was Balangan, which had (again!) majestic sunset views and enough space for us to take a crash course in dance courtesy of Denise, FLOW’s resident samba guru. It was fun to see little pockets of people all over the beach—there were a few people just lying out on the sand, another group doing a sunset yoga class, and there was us, trying not to disturb the yogis while practicing our samba no pé and our cuadros.

Stay tuned for the next instalment of my FLOW Bali and Lombok travel diary!

Interested in joining a FLOW retreat?

Check out their calendar at www.flowsurfyogasamba.com and follow them on Instagram at http://instagram.com/flowsurfyogasamba and on Twitter @SurfYogaSamba.

Special thanks to FLOW for some of the photos :)

Grande Torino

 

Continuing our exploration of the restaurants around Kapitolyo, we came across Grande Torino, an Italian place located on West Capitol Drive; away from most of the other Kapitolyo restaurants (which are mostly on East Capitol Drive) but still in the general area.

The Italian flag outside proudly announces what the restaurant is all about. Inside, the generous use of wood is reminiscent of a mountain lodge or maybe a cabin in the woods. A grill in the middle of the restaurant, prominently set close to the entrance, shows that aside from the usual Italian fare, they are serious about their meat. Outside, there are a few tables and chairs for those who prefer to dine al fresco.

A perusal of the menu showed all the dishes you would expect in an Italian restaurant. Pizza, pasta, antipasti, gelato, tiramisu etc. Being our first time here, we decided to order a variety of dishes to share and see what Grande Torino could offer us.

As the grill was hard to ignore, we ordered an angus ribeye which was prepared at the grill by one of the owners. Cooked perfectly medium rare and properly seasoned.

 

Grilled Angus Ribeye

Grilled Angus Ribeye

Read more »

Anthill Pop-Up and 10a Alabama Fair

August is off to a fab start with two exciting events!

If you’ve been lusting after Cebuano brand Anthill’s fab fashion pieces, they’ll be in Manila this weekend! Drop by their pop-up shop at Zenutrients, 52 East Capitol Drive, Kapitolyo, Pasig, today through Sunday from 10 AM-8 PM. (Pick up some Zenutrients wonder products while you’re there!).  We just love the way Anthill Fabric Gallery mixes beautiful traditional hand loomed weaves with modern designs–we always wear our Anthill pieces with Pinoy pride! (For more info on Anthill Fabric Gallery, click here.) 

Anthill Pop-Up

 

Anthill Fabric Gallery

Found the perfect Anthill skirt or top, but they don’t have your size? Have your measurements taken at the pop-up shop, place your order, and in a few weeks, your perfectly-fitting Anthill statement piece will arrive at your doorstep!

(Photos courtesy of Anthill Fabric Gallery’s Facebook page.)

 

Also happening this weekend: it’s that time of the year again for the handmade Arts & Crafts Fair at 10a Alabama! No matter how many times we’ve been there, there is always something new to see–and buy! Everything is handmade with love, unique, and best of all, affordable! Perhaps we should get started on Christmas shopping already, yes?

Arts & Crafts Fair

 

For an idea of the handmade goodness on offer, check out the participants of last summer’s fair here.

Visit the 10a Alabama Handmade Arts & Crafts Fair on August 2-3, from 12nn-7pm, located at 10a Alabama Street along E. Rodriquez Avenue (near Tomas Morato), Quezon City. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/10aAlabama.

See you there!

Alvaro Palacios Dinner at Terry’s

Alvaro Palacios is regularly described as one of Spain’s most highly regarded wine makers. With estates in Rioja, Priorat and Bierzo, he certainly has a wide variety of terroirs and grapes to work with. As the exclusive importer of Alvaro Palacios wines in the Philippines, Juan Carlos de Terry of Terry Selections hosted a dinner showcasing the various regions and wines worked on by Palacios.

As is typical for dinners hosted by JC, meticulous preparation and first class ingredients permeate all the dishes. the cocktail fare while waiting for all the guests to arrive gave us a glimpse of what was to come. JC sometimes incorporates the wines featured in the dishes. In the case of the scallop starter, the white Placet Viura from Rioja is in the cream.

Scallops in Shallot Confit and Placet Cream

Scallops in Shallot Confit and Placet Cream

Read more »

Belle & Cat Sunday Fair

Attention shopaholics and fellow treasure seekers! Check out this little pop-up of beauty and crafts at Belle & Cat Nail and Wax Studio this Sunday! Just the thing to brighten up this dreary week :)

Sunday Fair

 

 

Cat Cantada-Dizon of Belle & Cat shares, “We’ll have a mix of handcrafted products like Rubbertree’s hand stitched leather bags, Studio Bohemia’s handmade resin rings, Bonne’s turbans, Lost and Found’s dress bags, Crow’s Nest’s dolls, hand-mixed beauty products like Sparrow and Heart Shrine Oils, plus a lot of makeup! Do drop by!”

Fragrances, room sprays, and body scrubs by Sparrow

Hand-mixed fragrances, room sprays, and body scrubs by delightful local brand Sparrow (we’re loving their new perfume bottles!)

 

resin rings

Cheery resin rings by Studio Bohemia

 

Hand-stitched leather goods by Bags by Rubber Tree

Hand-stitched leather goodness by Bags by Rubber Tree

 

Istorya's personalized handmade jewelry

Istorya’s personalized handmade jewelry

 

Lost and Found

Dress bags by Lost and Found

 

Bonne's rétro-glam turbans

Bonne’s rétro-glam turbans and headwraps

All photos courtesy of Belle&Cat.

See you there! For more information, visit @belleandcat on Instagram!