I am not fond of attending events where the venue is quite far from my home in Alabang, especially if the call time is really, really early. When my friend Rod Magaru asked me to attend iBlog8 in UP Diliman  last week because he's one of the hosts, I hesitated because we have to be there by 8am and that means I'd need to leave home around 6am to avoid the traffic all the way to Quezon City.

Inside Room 301, messed up one bed before remembering to take pics LOL
Another friend found a good solution. He got us discounted rooms at Fersal Hotel's Malakas Branch. It's just behind the Philippine Heart Center and a few minutes' walk from the corner of East Ave. Q.C. I no longer have a reason to say no. I'm sure I'll get to have a good night's rest the night before the event like I did when my friends and I went up to Baguio to catch the Panagbenga Festival a few months ago and stayed in Hotel Elizabeth.

And so I arrived in QC around 3PM on Wednesday afternoon to check in. My friends came one after the other later. I had a whole room to myself and loved lying down on the cool, crisp sheets. Since there are two beds, my laptop and other stuff "slept" on one :p The room is spacious; it has a personal ref, safe, roomy desk, extra chairs, clean bathroom, and an electric kettle where you can boil water for coffee or tea.

Although I missed hubby and the kids, I used my alone time to catch up on lots of writing deadlines and got to finish several. Thankfully, Fersal provides free WiFi access to guests. 

Early the next morning, we availed of the free and tummy-filling breakfast at Inn Cafe. Since I was given two stubs, the guys took care of the extra food :p

After eating, we took a quick taxi ride to Malcolm Hall in UP Diliman and arrived there before 8AM, well-rested and ready to face the day's activities. Mission accomplished! :)

*For more info and to be updated on their latest promos, please Like Fersal Hotel Philippines on Facebook

I first encountered Saeco coffee machines back in 2009. You can read my blog post about it here. Recently, I found out that the name has evolved into Philips Saeco, a brand which known for its premium range of espresso machines. 

It was nice to be part of Philips Saeco's Coffee Appreciation Day held at Sweet Bella in Burgos Circle, BGC last week. The venue was very cozy and the food served perfectly complemented the beverages we got to try. 

Precious Hernandez, Business Development Manager for Philips Consumer Lifestyle, said they know how much Filipinos love coffee and that there are those who go for only the first, most flavorful, and aromatic espressos. "With this line of automatic espresso machines from world-renowned Philips Saeco, consumers can now prepare a wide variety of coffee specialties from bean to cup, with just the touch of a button."

She adds that the espresso machines follow a rich Italian heritage from Saeco as the company that invented the automatic espresso machine. It is actually the first brand to be certified for its quality espresso and cappuccino by the prestigious Italian consumer group Centro Studi Assaggiatori - Italian Tasters. This group is the most advanced Italian consultancy company that deals with sensory analysis. Philips Saeco got the certification for adopting a careful and dedicated internal process focused on respecting the Espresso Perfetto's sensory parameters. How's that for high-tech cofee-making?!

For those who are wondering, one of Philips Saeco's most acclaimed products is the the Xelsis Automatic Espresso Machine which has a wide array of intelligent features. Among these is the patented Philips Saeco Brewing System that allows coffee lovers to adjust their espresso's intensity by altering the crema and body structure as the beverage is dispensed. 

In addition, there's the Bean-to-Cup Customization that allows six users to personalize up to nine different beverages per user profile! This means you can adjust coffee length, intensity, temperature, crema, and body structure according to your preferences. Once adjustments are made, you can have the same coffee blend automatically from then on with just a push of a button. Plus, you can adjust and select the level of froth you would like for your drink because the machine comes with an intelligent milk froth adjustment system. 

During the Coffee Appreciation Day, we got to hear from renowned coffee connoisseur Manny Torrejon of the non-stock, non-profit Philippine Coffee Board, Inc. on the art of preparing coffee, selecting the right beans, and more.

"We all know that great coffee can only come from brewing it with freshly ground beans," he affirmed. "And from my own experience, Philips Saeco Espresso Machines offer excellent tasting espresso from bean to cup. [The] line makes preparing different coffee specialties very easy as well."

I was also impressed to see for myself how easy it is to clean the Xelsis. It has automatic cleaning and de-scaling cycles and refilling beans and water or emptying the coffee-dump box and drip tray won't be a problem because all compartments are easily detachable. The brewing group, which is the heart of every automatic espresso machine, can also be easily removed, rinsed, and re-inserted with ease.

Hernandez added that consumers are always assured of getting the best tasting coffee in the comfort of their homes as if a barista prepared it for them. 

Aside from the Xelsis, Philips Saeco has other models including the Intelia and Royal which are part of its wide range of machines that likewise feature bean-to-cup preparation and cater to different needs and lifestyles.

Women who become new moms starting the year 2000 are very lucky because they have so many resources at their fingertips. Back in the early '90s when I got pregnant with my firstborn, it was so difficult to find reading materials on pregnancy, maternal health, and parenting. I remember being frustrated at the lack of baby magazines and books to get information from. All I had to guide me were well-meaning (but not always right) relatives and a Dr. Spock book that my mom had when she was pregnant with me and my siblings!

I discovered the first local magazine on parenting when I already had my third child while the internet, when I was already a mom of four and my youngest was around three years old. 

Nowadays, it's so easy to just Google stuff on the net and you get the instructions, tips, or tricks you need in an instant. Still, not all information online are reliable so moms really have to make sure they're getting good advice from real experts. 

Coach Pia interviews pregnant and lactating mothers
Enter an online community for expectant moms that was launched by FrieslandCampina, a global leader in nutritionally safe dairy products. In a recent event held at SLICE in Bonifacio High Street BGC, Taguig, representatives of the company expressed belief that there is probably no other defining moment for a woman than motherhood. After all, for nine months, she carries with her a new life that signifies a new beginning. And throughout this journey, she needs all the support and information she could possibly get to make the experience worthwhile. The event was hosted by Lexi Schulze with Coach Pia Nazareno as speaker and forum moderator.

Coach Pia and Lexi discussing NBC and Frisomilk with FrieslandCampina executives
With this in mind, New Beginnings Community (NBC) was formed to provide Filipino mothers an unforgettable and meaningful journey towards motherhood. It is a community where “progressive” mothers can view pregnancy in a whole new light. NBC advocates that the journey through motherhood can be more fruitful and worry-free when shared with other women who are going through the same things or have already "been there". 

The community welcomes all moms and provides them with guidance and support throughout their pregnancy as they grow with fellow mothers and gain confidence and peace of mind. Members can expect to discover unlimited ways on how they can maximize their maternal experiences and have access to practical information and the latest trends on pregnancy and motherhood . 

NBC further aims to enlighten pregnant women on proper prenatal nutrition as it is very important that moms know what vital nutrients they need to keep themselves healthy all throughout the pregnancy period as well as knowing the dos and don’ts when expecting a baby.

Mothers will be given guidance in understanding and becoming more aware of the changes in their body and how to address them. For instance, those who experience indigestion and constipation due to hormonal changes and the weight of the baby are advised to  have a healthy digestive system while pregnant to ensure her comfort and to guarantee the baby’s proper development as the said conditions can affect it one way or another.

With this, FrieslandCampina supports the need to alleviate pregnancy discomforts like constipation and indigestion in women through its high quality products such as FrisoMum, the first maternal milk with the breakthrough PrePro System. This is an advanced formula with Prebiotics and Probiotics which supports a healthy digestive system. Prebiotics (food for the good bacteria) and Probiotics (good bacteria that help fight against harmful bacteria) are food ingredients that help with digestion and alleviate pregnancy discomforts. Together, they help maintain good intestinal flora and a healthy digestive system.

The FrieslandCampina team
FrieslandCampina recognizes the growing needs of progressive mums which is why, as an added convenience, FrisoMum is currently available for online purchase through the New Beginnings website at http://newbeginnings.com.ph/products. This is the first time ever in the country that milk is made available on the internet, accompanied by a simple and easy direct delivery service. Each 900g can costs P900 and courier fees are fixed at P90 to anywhere in the Philippines.

If you are an expecting mom, join this progressive maternity environment that provides vast information on safety and nutrition with the right prenatal milk, as well as valuable emotional support for mothers who are eagerly anticipating the day they will lay eyes on their little bundles of joy.

When it comes to physical appearance, I'd guess body shape is on top of every woman's mind. We all have days when we feel bloated and fat such that we can't seem to find the right thing to wear. Jockey has come up with an instant solution to those slimming concerns. We are promised to look and feel more slender in a matter of seconds with the Jockey Women's Shapewear Collection.

The Shapewear styles are made with a soft and breathable fabric that is said to ensure a comfortably slim fit. It has smooth, laser-cut edges that help eliminate panty lines while fused panels provide maximum support and unbeatable shaping power.

Find the Jockey Women's Shapewear piece that's right for you. Check out these five essential styles:

- The Reversible V-Neck Shaper is a beautifully sleek, versatile, comfortably slimming tank top which helps smooth natural curves from bust to waist. This reversible style offers two V-neck looks in one garment.

- The High Waist Brief features a non-rolling waistband for a smooth look. It boasts of a fused panel that provides mid-section control and flatters natural curves.

- The High Waist to Mid-Thigh Slimmer supports and shapes from just below the bust to mid-thigh. Featuring the feel of hosiery and the slimming result of shapewear, this style provides targeted control to help firm and shape your problem area.

- The Slip Shaper features a scoop neck at the front and back with slim, adjustable straps for a perfect fit. This style helps smooth natural curves from bust to knee and is perfect under dresses or skirts.

- The Plunging Moulded Cami flatters your natural curves from bust to waist while the built in bra defines and provides comfortable support.

With the Jockey® Women’s Shapewear Collection, ladies are encouraged to create flawless curves underneath any look with this affordable line of quick-fix miracle workers. Let your confidence shine through!

Please also read my post about Jockey's No Panty Line Promise Next Generation Underwear here for the list of Jockey boutiques and department stores where the items are sold.

Have you ever looked at a woman's backside and think to yourself how nicer she'd look from behind if her underwear is not so prominently displayed under her skirt or pants? I have, and I know I am also guilty of committing the same fashion faux pas once in a while. 

So it's quite enviable to see women who always seem to look amazing in whatever clothes they wear. Their most important secret actually consists of the basics: good underwear. I'm sure a lot of ladies would agree that nothing ruins a great outfit faster than ill-fitting undies that either ride up or show off visible panty lines.

The other day, I was glad to discover Jockey's No Panty Line Promise Next Generation* underwear in an event hosted by Issa Litton at Aria Cucina Italiana in Bonifacio High Street. This new range was described to us by Claudine del Rosario of Jockey's Marketing Department as designed to hug a woman's curves and stay in place while leaving no trace of a panty line, no matter what you wear. 

The revolutionary design is based on years of research and extensive fit trials on real women. They are made from cool microfiber fabric (89% Nylon, 11% Spandex) that glides over the skin and provide all-day comfort without riding up. 

Jockey's No Panty Line Promise Next Generation underwear can be worn under all types of clothes. We were shown samples and I was amazed that they don't have any seams or bumpy elastics on them. Instead, there are thin strips of silicon found on the leg edge that will stick to the wearer's skin for that invisible fit and zero chance of ride-ups.

The collection has a variety of modern silhouettes to fit various body shapes. You get to choose between Bikini and Boyshort cuts that work well with most wardrobe items and are great for everyday wear while the Brazilian Short's V-shaped back portion is the perfect match for low-rise pants. On the other hand, the Brazilian Bikini would be the best option for those who prefer to wear daring night-out outfits.

Face the day with ultimate confidence. Choose the Jockey No Panty Line Promise Next Generation Underwear that's right for you. Prices range from P359.75 to P399.75 each and come in black, beige, and nude colors.

There are also Jockey sports microfiber underwear for men, by the way. Check out my husband's blog post about them here :)

* Available in all Jockey boutiques located at Market! Market!, Eton Centris, Gateway Mall, Festival Supermall, Marquee Pampanga, SM Valenzuela, Ma-a Davao and Pavillon Laguna, as well as in the following department stores: SM (Bacoor, Cebu, Cubao, Fairview, Las Pinas, MOA, Makati, Manila, Marikina, Megamall, North Edsa, San Lazaro, Sta. Mesa, Taytay), Landmark (Trinoma and Makati), and Robinsons (Ermita, Galleria, Festival Supermall).

Heads up cooking enthusiasts! Electrolux is giving 12 participants the chance to be part of a culinary boot camp and compete for the title of Wok-A-Holic Kitchen Star

Last March, I posted about Electrolux Firande and, as part of its exciting list of activities lined-up in celebration of its 10th Anniversary, the appliance company is once again calling on all culinary enthusiasts to join its 3rd Wok-A-Holic cooking competition.

This year’s theme, dubbed Wok-A-Holic Kitchen Star, would involve 12 participants who will cook their way to the top. The grand prize winner will get a culinary scholarship from CCA Manila, an Electrolux kitchen showcase, and gifts from this year’s Wok-A-Holic partners.

The contest is open to all amateur cooks who will undergo a two-day Kitchen Star Boot Camp. The top 12 participants will be joined by Wok-A-Holic judge and celebrity chef, Chef Bruce Lim as headmaster  along with Chef Jonathan Bautista and Chef Rosebud Benitez who will teach the 12 contenders kitchen tips and tricks as well as test their skills through various cooking challenges, to prepare them for the Grand Wok-A-Holic Cook Off.

If you think you could be the next Electrolux Wok-A-Holic Kitchen Star, here's what you should do: 
1) Like The Little White Book Facebook page 
2) Upload a photo of yourself cooking your favorite wok dish 
3) Attach your recipe, and 
4) Share why you think you deserve to be one of the 12 contenders for the competition. 

You have to hurry though as submission of entries is only until May 31, now extended until June 15, 2012! For more info, visit electrolux.com.ph and follow them through twitter.com/ElectroluxPH.

I haven’t been able to religiously watch this year’s American Idol season due to my hectic work schedule but I’m kept updated through Facebook and Twitter thanks to friends who are avid fans of the show.

When I got an invite to watch the finale episode in one of Greenbelt 3’s cinemas, I thought it would be a one-of-a-kind experience to be with more than a hundred people when the winner is announced so I joined early risers and went to Makati at 7AM early this morning.

I got there while the replay of the previous night’s show was being flashed on the big screen courtesy of GreenwichStar World, and Dream Satellite TV. My friends and I lined up first to get a hearty breakfast of pizza, pasta, and fries from the Greenwich booth outside. At around 8AM, the finale show started airing. I was entertained by most of the musical numbers although it was painful to watch (and hear) the duet between Joshua Ledet and Fantasia Barrino  (what the heck was she wearing?!) . As my seatmate said, “I didn’t understand a word! All I heard was huwarrgh, huwarrgh, huwarrgh!” LOL

Like most of those who watched, I'm sure you also went "Awww!" when Ace Young proposed marriage to Diana DiGarmo in front of the whole world. For those who don't know, the two were former contestants of the competition and it's lovely to see their engagement happen on the AI stage.  

It was nice to see JLo and Aerosmith perform but, aside from the announcement of winner per se, I guess everyone would agree that the highlight of the show would be the duet between Jennifer Holliday and Jessica Sanchez. When Jennifer started making all those faces, I instantly recalled seeing her on several episodes of Ally McBeal years ago because her character there was a choir soloist with unforgettable facial expressions whenever she sings.

I didn’t expect that Jennifer’s style got worse. Her facial contortions were scarier this time around. At one point, I felt sorry for Jessica for being forced to look at someone who seemed about to eat her alive and who appeared to be threatening her to make a mistake and let the other singer remain the star of the moment. Jessica held her own beautifully and once again proved how exceptionally gifted she is.

A few hours later, I found myself laughing at the creative captions Filipinos posted on screen caps/photos of the two while singing. We have such a great sense of humor!

Deep inside, I knew Jessica would not win not because she lacks talent, but because she doesn’t have American blood. The show is called American Idol after all. When Philip Philips was finally announced as the winner, a hush fell on the crowd inside the whole cinema. It took a several seconds before conversations started again. I realized that, collectively, we all felt that acute sense of disappointment after hoping that, maybe this time around, one of our own would win such a prestigious title.

Philip is also talented, no doubt about that. I wish him well and I’m sure he’ll have a lot going for him in the future. Still, we all know that Jessica will definitely be going places. As proven in past AI seasons, many members of the Top 12 also made it big in the music scene and Jessica has a better than average chance of shining more in the days to come.

Since this morning, fans around the world have been saying, Philip is the American, Jessica is the Idol. I couldn’t agree more.

I am a fan of pizza and pasta. In fact, my whole family loves eating those specific Italian foods and I am often asked to buy pizza or cook pasta for lunch or dinner any time of the week. Plus, my kids and I even create homemade pizza whenever we happen to have ingredients in the ref.

When I got an invite to Aria Cucina Italiana's pizza-making event, I readily said yes. I thought it would be great to discover a new dining place that serves great food. I was so glad I came because I really had a great time. For one, I got to put all the toppings I want on top of my pizza! 

According to Chef Marino of the Aria Manila branch, making a good pizza is all about care. "You have to care when you choose the ingredients, care as you make the dough, and care when you create each pizza." That was evident in the way Chef Marino demoed how to make the perfect pizza. 

From the moment the flour and yeast are mixed to make a pizza, to when it is kneaded, rolled out, and lovingly massaged before being layered with delicious toppings then placed in the oven, it should be with a purpose. That purpose is to be the best pizza it can be whether it has two or ten toppings. At Aria, pizza is baked in a wood fire brick oven that took two months to create. Click here to watch Aria's "The Making of a Perfect Pizza" video. 

The restaurant has a section of the kitchen called a laboratorio. Aside from the pizza section, a cold section, a pasta section, and a main course section, the laboratorio is where the work, and the magic begins. There, production for the mise-en-place, or the setup of ingredients, is done on a daily basis to ensure the freshness of all the ingredients.

And fresh ingredients were what we got to put on our pizza! After spreading some tomato sauce on my dough, I placed bits and pieces of seafood (shrimp, squid, and smoked salmon) and mozzarella cheese on one side then divided the other half into two more sections where I placed ham, mushrooms, and Gorgonzola cheese on one then pepperoni, grilled zucchini, and brie cheese on the opposite side. I added the basil leaves after my pizza came out of the oven.

The result? One of the most mouth-watering and heavenly delicious pizza that I've ever tasted! (Love your own, of course! LOL) Seriously though, my pizza tasted really good especially the side with the mushrooms and the Gorgonzola cheese on it. Many of us excitedly (and proudly) shared slices of our creations with our seatmates. Everything was delicious!

Families who love to dine on Italian food would love Aria Cucina Italiana not only for the good food but also for its cozy ambiance. It's located in Bonifacio High Street Central and only opened early this year. For those who are wondering if this is related to the Aria found in Boracay, it is! The Manila branch just takes the same loved menu of "pizza by the beach" to a more urbane setting with additions created by Chef Marino like the Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli, the Three-Cheese Gnocchi, and a variety of Risottos (Di Mare, Saffron, Porcini and Mascarpone). Aria also serves new desserts such as chocolate mousse and the Zuppa Inglese.

Customers can order any one, or more, of the 24 different kinds of pizza that the Aria team has come up with in the laboratorio. The people who work in this special kitchen are a group of talented individuals who are dedicated to give customers the best authentic Italian cuisine. Chefs are rotated on the various sections so they get to be familiar with the Aria system and become experts in all fields and in making each and every dish on the menu. At Aria, you won't get a "bad pizza day" just because one pizza chef didn't make it to work that day.

"We try to select the best ingredients, especially for the salads. We get the freshest, organic leafy vegetables, herbs, and eggs when available," said Chef Marino who hails from the Ligurian region of Chiavari in Italy, the place where pesto was born and which also happens to be his favorite Italian dish. He makes it the traditional way using a mortar and pestle. "Did you know there are 3,000 kinds of Italian cheeses?" he asked citing Strachhino as the most popular. 

Chef Marino affirmed that they try to keep all the dishes at Aria as authentically Italian as possible. Thus, the fettuccine, ravioli, and pansoti are handmade from scratch, giving visitors a chance to try real, handmade pasta. Try ordering some to see the difference.

With 14 years of experience in the food industry, there are more things Chef Marino would love to share about his home cuisine with Filipinos. Aria is one of the best venues to begin with :)

* Aria Cucina Italiana is located at the Upper Ground Floor of East Superblock, Bonifacio High Street Central, 30th St. corner 7th Ave., Bonifacio Global City Taguig. Please like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter.

* To see more photos of the pizza-making event, please visit this blog's Facebook page

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