Monday, June 24, 2013


For my first birthday, my Mom chose a Raggedy Ann theme.  She asked my godmother in New York to send party décor to match the theme. From the photos, I saw a pretty tablecloth, matching napkins, and a couple of hanging paper lanterns with Raggedy Ann and Andy on them.  A few close friends and family were our guests and the cake was topped with colorful candy and an icing illustration of Raggedy Ann. So I guess the love for party themes and styling details began very early for me, thanks to the creative influence of my parents!

Recently, my friend, Maru and I were talking about how we much we enjoy preparing for our kids’ birthday parties.  While not every celebration was done in a grand fashion, we always managed to give each year a special theme. We were so pleased to find out that our efforts didn’t go unnoticed.  Every now and then, our kids ask us to go through each year with them to recall what we did to mark their birthdays.  Then, they proceed to plan for the years to come!

Party planning (for birthdays and other milestones such as bridal and baby showers for our immediate family) has become another fun exercise in imagination and creativity. It also is a great way to bond with your kids. And if you do most of the work yourself, you can teach them to stick to a budget, work with what you have, and pass on some arts and craft skills in the process.

Here are a few of our favorite parties through the years…and the talented family and friends who helped out with the special details, too!

A Birthday Breakfast Party with yummy Pancake House breakfast food.  The kids came in their pajamas and went home with teddy bears that matched the party's color scheme. Party decor by Paperminties and cake by Sweet Ideas.

He learned to read before his 4th birthday and the book that made it happen was "Hop on Pop" by Dr. Seuss. So it was easy to select the Dr. Seuss theme for his party.  It was a simple, handmade affair of  hand-painted brown paper bags to look like the Cat in the Hat's hat filled with "One Fish Two Fish...Goldfish crackers" and "Hop on Pop...Popcorn". Even more paper hats by Paperminties for the kids to wear, as well as "Daisy Head Mayzie" clips.  A book cake designed by my brother and executed on a photocake. 
Plants vs. Zombies. Need we say more? Cake by Shortcrust by Peachy Juban

His love for Disney villains made this party such fun to prepare.  The amazing cake and cupcake artwork by Peachy Juban (Shortcrust by Peachy Juban) depicting Prince Phillip battling the Dragon through a field of thorns and villain cupcakes that included his unique favorites like Kaa from The Jungle Book,  blew all our family's Disney fans away. His godmother and her friends from the theater dressed as Ursula, Maleficent, and Cruella De Vil made it even more memorable.

A Pinocchio theme was easy to plan for a two year old who loved wooden blocks, toys and crayons. The reliable brown paper bag personalized with stickers and a Pinocchio print-out glued onto a wooden clothespin was filled with crayons, CD of the movie's soundtrack and a "color-me" CD jacket cover. Family pitched in for the entertainment which involved quiet arts and crafts activities like painting wooden toys (a la 
Geppetto's workshop).  Cupcakes by Shortcrust by Peachy Juban

The year of the snake and a fascination for creepy crawly creatures was the basis of this 5th birthday party. Snake cake and grass cupcakes by Sweet Ideas. Decor by Paperminties. And a lucky find at the grocery store: Sour Gecko and Sidewinder gummy candies for party guests to take home.

"And now, The Octopus!" A shower curtain embellished with cut-paper art by Paperminties, marshmallow lollipops with pipe cleaner tentacles, illustrations by the birthday boy, and Rina Design mugs, totes, and bag tags completed the look of this wet 'n wild party! Octopus cake by Cake Avenue Bakeshop

A tiny party for four little girls. This theme idea from was just too adorable to resist.  Tiny invitations in multiple envelopes that kept getting smaller and smaller, tiny milkshake shots, a tiny party banner, and favor bag with pocket size craft and school supplies. Tiny cake and muffins by Sweet Ideas.

And finally, for the newest member in our family, a kitchen shower for Mara. Kitchen tool cupcakes by Sweet Ideas and wonderful centerpiece creations by 
Tina Ansaldo-Cruz 0917-8287077.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Master Cleanse Challenge

My lifeline for the next 10 days! (And the only photo
I think you will want to see.)

I actually had to debate on whether I should start blogging about doing the Master Cleanse. I mean, wouldn’t that be too personal, too gross, and just way too much information? On the other hand, if I couldn’t spill all the gory details, what would be the point? Eventually I came to a happy middle ground. So here we go…

I first heard of the cleanse several years ago when I still worked as a magazine editor. I remember how Lara, the ed-in-chief of Women’s Health was up in arms, riled up about how it was the worst “diet” ever; a quick fix that would shock the body and do more harm than good. But other editors like Agoo and Rorie praised its merits—including of course, the dropping of 10 to 15 pounds.

Now I’ve always been of the “just eat everything in moderation” mentality so something as extreme as the cleanse made zero sense to me. But last May, my Theta Healing teacher, Sanaiyah, brought it up during our Intuitive Anatomy course.

Aside from learning how to scan the different systems of the body, I.A. helped me realize just how many toxins and parasites have been partying inside of me. Parasites in particular, can crave meat, sugar, and all this other stuff they urge us to feast on to keep them alive. Not to mention all that guck that’s piled up in my systems over the years! Flushing everything out was the motivation I needed. My body is supposed to be my temple. I think it’s time I showed it some respect.

The Plan: To do the 10 Day Master Cleanse.
Six to 12 servings of a spicy lemonade per day for 10 days, lots of water, a detox tea at night, and a slat water flush in the morning. Nothing else.

The Recipe:
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp grade B maple syrup
1/10 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup water
*The formula actually contains the right amount of calories, vitamins, and minerals to sustain you throughout the day. Thus there’s no need to hole up in a cave while you’re on it.

The Bonus:
Sanaiyah also taught us that ridding the body of all its parasites leads to incredible mental, emotional, and spiritual clarity. She urged us to set an intention at the start, then assured us that our answers would come to us by the end of the cleanse.

So I bought my ingredients, set my intention, and weighed myself for good measure. Hey, weight loss might not be my goal, but I wouldn’t mind shedding a few pounds!

DAY 1:

Okay, I CAN DO THIS!!!

I lovingly squeezed some lemons in an old school juicer (the one that’s basically a bowl with a mound on it), measured out the liquids, added a dash of cayenne pepper, and downed my first serving.

My friend Kat M. mentioned that staying home in the mornings is imperative. And boy, was she right. As cleanse recommends, I took the detox tea the night before. Within 30 minutes of my first glass, the purging began. And it didn’t stop!

Did that really all come out of me?!

Luckily this was a work from home day.

What else I noticed:

1) The material I read was right! I didn’t really feel hungry. And if ever I did, I just drank more of the juice.

      2) My tongue was suddenly extra fuzzy, which I hate—so every so often I’d brush my teeth. Although I think I’m also just starting to really look forward to the taste of toothpaste! Maybe I should buy the kiddie kind that comes in strawberry and bubblegum flavors. (Note: I checked the manual and the fuzzy tongue phenomenon really does occur. In fact a clear tongue actually indicates that you’ve completed the detox process.)

 3) I think of food all day long. Seriously, I realized that I spend so much time wondering about what I’d like to eat, figuring out what I can feasibly eat, eating, feeling full, then wondering about what I’d like to eat next. It’s a proper pastime! With the pastime on hold, I found myself feeling rather bored. Ho hum… Then this hit me: Gosh, I should really be making better use of my time and energy even when food is back in my life! 

By the early afternoon the storm seemed to pass (bathroom-wise) so I decided to venture out for a bit. I ran errands, made sure I kept a good pace, and sipped from my juice bottle every so often. I actually felt pretty good. I also realized that I had to stock up on more bags of lemons at the supermarket (I calculated for about 6 to 8 fruits a day), and that I’d forgotten to buy the salt for the flush from Healthy Options. The sales ladies (or do we say shopgirls now?) there are all very knowledgeable when it comes to the Master Cleanse. They immediately knew what kind of salt I needed—just as they‘d known what type of syrup and tea I wanted the day before. When I told them how daunting the task seemed they were super supportive. One of them even said, “Ma’am just think about it: one pound a day!” To which I calmly responded, “Oh, I’m not doing it for weight loss—but of course I don’t mind losing a few pounds. It’s really for the detox.” And away I floated feeling very evolved. Haha… What a clown.

So to my semi-surprise, I made it through Day 1 without any real hitches. Good job, Tata! Only nine more days to go!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Bali-wood Moment

The book that started it all

Just before we left for Bali, Lia stumbled upon an article that, in a nutshell, lamented the fact that Eat, Pray, Love had turned Ubud into a hotbed of middle-aged, kaftan-wearing, single women who were all out to write a novel and snag a Javier Bardam. While the article did have some truth to it (even if it was a little too snarky), my fellow travelers and I bore no shame in seeking out the now famous Ketut.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Ketut is a very common Ubud name. And asking someone for the whereabouts of a Ketut is akin to asking a Filipino if they know where Jun-Jun, Bhoy, or Kuya lives. So if you’re looking for a specific Ketut, you need to be well, specific. In this case, we asked about Ketut Liyer.

Ketut, and nothing but Ketut!

Our driver knew exactly where to take us and pretty soon we drove up to the family compound Elizabeth Gilbert so aptly described in her book, which was later depicted  in the Julia Roberts film. We hopped out of our van, casually wandered in, and just like that, there he was: the Ketut, sitting on the little balcony of one of the compound’s homes, gazing about. It was felt, quite literally, as though we had stepped into a made-for-movie moment.

Nyoman and his grandson
Ketut’s son, Noyman, greeted us, and we asked if we could have a photo taken with his father. Nyoman agreed, but informed us that a reading would cost US$20. We immediately flocked over to Ketut, jockeyed for our positions, and snapped away—slightly star struck, rather demanding, and in a rush. I think we were all secretly worried they would shoo us away before we could get our facebook-worthy shots!

And just like in the movie Ketut said, “Wait moment, wait moment, Ketut drink coffee.” Apparently, we had walked in just in time for his afternoon snack. 

Lia decided to sign up for a reading. I was also open to going for my own session, and in the meantime, stayed by Lia to get some blow-by-blow documentation. Once seated, Ketut proceeded to give Lia her reading.

Eat your heart out, Julia Roberts!

“You very pretty. You make me happy. Your eyebrows, very pretty they make me happy. Your cheeks, very pretty…” You guessed it! They made Ketut very happy.

The rest of the reading went something like this…

K: You have boyfriend?

L: No.
K: You have husband?
L: No.
K: Why not?
L: I don’t know Ketut, you tell me—that’s why I’m here! 

When he read her palm he said…

K: You will have a success. Because you very pretty. Not like Ketut. You very pretty, you make Ketut very happy.

K: You be a writer. (Which Lia already is.)
K: You work with beauty. (Which Lia already does.)
L: Can you tell me something I don’t know?

At this point we were all dying of laughter. It really was turning out to be something of a joke. 

L: You know Ketut, I’m psychic.

K: I’m sick?! What am I sick of?

The conversation went around in circles for a little longer. And as it turns out, a life-altering reading wasn’t in the cards for Lia. But the hilarious experience was totally worth every penny she spent.

It was also quite sweet to see Ketut proudly show off his dedicated copy of Eat, Pray, Love. He even asked Lia to read aloud the passage where he first appears in the book.

I didn't see the point in sitting though a repeat performance of what I had already read in the novel, watched in the movie, and had just seen happen right before my very eyes a few moments earlier, so I opted out of my own session. But Nyoman was kind enough to snap a solo shot for me. For one last parting shot, I joked Ketut saying, “You know, I can give you a reading.” But the wise man just looked at me quizzically, and I figured we had come upon yet another lost in translation moment. So I thanked him, and left.



Later that evening I told Andre, our resort’s German owner, about our afternoon with Ketut. He stifled a laugh and told me he could have saved us some money. “Let me guess, did he tell you that you’ll have success? He tells everyone the same thing!”

Andre did add that it isn’t really Ketut’s fault since he doesn’t know a lot of English. “If someone who understands Balinese goes for a reading,” he explained, “Ketut can tell you a lot of things. Like if you need to do some work to help the tress, or how many children you’re going to have. But in English, you all get the same thing.”

Now I’m glad I struck up that conversation because it helped me realize that I should actually go easy on Ketut. After all, it isn’t his fault he’s famous. Besides, it isn’t every day that one gets to encounter an Ubud institution with a bit of Hollywood on the side.

Hmm... Maybe next time!

Here's a link to the snarky article:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Silver Linings Playbook

The gateway to our first home in Bali.

Last Christmas, some friends and I took advantage of an airline promo, booked our tickets to Bali, Indonesia, and looked forward to our weeklong Eat, Pray, Love-inspired adventure. As soon as April rolled around, we started counting down the days to our April 23rd lift off.

We arrived in Denpasar bright and early in the morning and immediately headed inland towards Ubud, the home of rice paddies, arts, culture, and a pretty swinging hippie scene. As this would be my first time in the Island of the Gods, I was all set to make the most of my experience. At the top of my list: a silver crafting class at Chez Monique (

When my friend Lia inquired online, she was told that classes are held every day at 9 am. Since we spotted the Chez Monique shop on our way to our first Bali meal at Bebek Bengil (for crispy duck!), we figured we were good to go, and booked our car for an 8:45 pickup the next morning. Of course it would have been a good idea to sign up for our slots, but well, we didn’t.

Despite leaving our resort, Indigo Tree, a little late, Lia, our other friend Marcie, and I made it to Chez Monique in record time—only to be greeted by a padlocked door. We waited a few minutes, then realized we couldn't huff and puff the door down. So we
walked across the street to Confiture Michéle to say hi to Wayan who ran the crepe and jam shop, and had been super friendly when we popped in the day before. Wayan actually means firstborn, and Ubud is filled with Wayans, Mades (second born), Nyomans (third) and Ketuts (fourth).  We ordered soursop and kombucha shakes which Wayan gladly whipped up. 

At this point the Chez Monique shop was still closed, which was cause for growing concern even if we were on Bali time—so Wayan went over to the store next to Chez Monique, yelled until they opened up, and asked them to call the owner. Within 15 minutes a tall man with a wide smile drove up in a mini van and Wayan excitedly pointed to him crying, “Monique! Chez Monique! He’s the owner!” In our excitement Lia, Marcie, and I promptly cheered saying, “Yay! Hello, Monique!”

At first we thought we were on Bali time!

Turns out a) we were supposed to reserve our slots the day before, b) we should have proceeded to his family compound where the classes are actually held, and c) his class was filled up for the morning. Upon seeing our unmistakable disappointment (not to mention our friendly harassment), he agreed to take us to the workshop, explaining that we would first spend time working on our designs then could start crafting when the others were done. We piled into his car and began peppering him with questions: So, Monique, how many students do you have? Oh, so the class is in your compound? Who else lives there? Monique, if we would like to live in Bali, where can we stay? Monique’s responses were informative, animated, and most of all sincere. It seemed as though we were becoming fast friends—or as good as friends we could become in the span of a ten-minute car ride.

At the compound, we walked past a maze of homes until we got to his where the workshop was in full swing. Our “classmates” were working on the rings, peace signs, and pendants. Across the board, everyone was having fun, and everyone was working on a design that was deeply personal.

One couple was celebrating their wedding anniversary with matching rings (he made hers, she made his). Another lady inscribed “this too shall pass” on her pendant. A newly-engaged couple walked in and asked if the man could make a wedding ring for his bride-to-be. Unfortunately there was really no more room so they ended up making an appointment for the next day. They may have had a better story, but looks like we had better negotiation skills!

Monique handed us several folders with possible designs, served us some cold water, and introduced us to his wife… Monique. At that point we finally realized that one should never presume a man bears the same name as his shop. And that is how we met Wayan #2.

Wayan #2 a.k.a. "Monique" 
working on our classmate's "this too shall pass" pendant.

Step #1: Choosing Your Design
Lia already knew she wanted to make a ring with an ohm symbol on it and came prepared with an image on her phone. Marcie flipped though the folders and after some time, decided on a
necklace with a double infinity sign. I was taking longer than expected and even if my friends were encouraging, I started to feel secretly stressed inside. I knew I wanted to create something that symbolized the idea of love, but my sheet filled with sketches of heart rings and double heart pendants just seemed too literal. The more I drew, the more panicked and pressured I felt. Sort of like when you’re the last person in your group to leave a hotel room and everyone is waiting in the lobby with their suitcases. Ugh!

That was when I decided to just close my eyes, center myself, and draw what love seemed like. I squiggled away, losing myself in the process. And when I opened my eyes, I knew I had my design.

I then had to render a smaller, simpler version to base my pendant on, and waited for Wayan to show me what to do next. But now I was thrilled with the prospect and glad I didn’t succumb to doing an eenie-meanie-minie-mo, or making something for the sake of it.

Love = two souls joined as one.
From inspired design (left) to practical interpretation (right).
I asked Wayan to sign my sketch as well.

Step #2: Making the Frame.
Wayan pulled out some thick silver wire, measured and cut it, and showed me how to bend it into shape. When I had gotten that just right, it was time to have my silver soldered. It was pretty fascinating to watch but I stayed a safe distance away from the sparks, as well as the acid the silver is dipped in afterwards—especially when I’d hear that sizzling hissing sound!

Lending moral support from a safe distance!

Step #3: Filing the Bumps Down 
From there Wyan showed me how to file the rough edges that formed where the silver was melded together. “It’s very easy,” he said, “just like filing your nails!” He was nearly accurate—only this type of filing took a little longer and required a lot more effort. I had also decided that I wanted the frame of my pendant to be flat so I had to pound away at the silver with a hammer. Wayan complimented me by saying, “Wow, you do most of the work! Hardly any for us to do.” I think he was surprised with how focused I was considering I could have stopped after a few photo ops!

Step #4: Finishing the Design
Next I had to complete the pendant. This part was a little tricky as it meant twisting a rather fine silver wire into swirls. I did my best but also realized it would be wise to have the experts refine my work. I had gotten so invested in the process by this point though, so I let my back seat silver crafter lose and made sure the angles of the swirls were just so. Haha!

My pendant went for one last round of soldering and was passed on for buffing. Then, ta-dah! I was done :)

Despite all the setbacks I must say that I had a wonderful morning. I came away with a special piece of jewelry, participated in a fun, new skill, made some new friends, but more importantly, I allowed myself to relax into the moment. And as my short time in Bali was already teaching me, I realized that sometimes, it is best to just let go. Doing so opened me up to a host of pleasant surprises—turning my experience into something funnier, more memorable, and simply better than expected.

My precious!