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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wedding Supplier Review: Our Cake by Joy San Gabriel

Our cake supplier is one of the best decisions I made for our wedding.

Wedding reviews usually come with a rating and I forewent that in my previous entries, but for Ms. Joy, I will tell you that my rating is 5+++.

You know that supplier you can't stop raving about each and every time their product comes up in a conversation? This is that kind of supplier. If I can get married all over again just so I can have a three-tiered, all-edible, whipped cream cake with four different flavors, I would. Her cakes are THAT good.



To be honest, she wasn't my first choice. I didn't even know about her until I went to a bridal fair.

I already had a cake design and a cake designer in mind months before the wedding, and Jay and I even went to a bridal fair so we can avail of a discounted rate just in case we decided to get the said vendor.

But when we were there, the quote given to me was still way over our budget even with the discount, and for a design much simpler than I wanted. I could've worked on it if I wanted, but what made me decide to skip the said vendor was the taste of the cake. Let's just say I was expecting more.

I wanted our wedding cake to not just be beautiful on the outside, but decadent on the inside too. Our wedding cake wouldn't just be decoration. It will be eaten, and it will be eaten heartily. Mainly by me!


Haha. I love cake. Cake is one of my comfort food. I can finish a whole cake by myself , but I'm an adult now so I have to act like one.

So fast forward to another bridal fair my bridesmaid Kat and I visited. There we were, getting overwhelmed with the maze of wedding supplier booths all around us.

We got to the wedding cake vendor aisle and we sampled their products. One stall didn't have a lot of giant cake displays like the others, but they did have a lot of bite-sized samples laid out at their booth.

Different variants of cheesecakes, a carrot cake, a chocolate one, and some other flavors.

I was in cake heaven. First taste of the mango cheesecake and I knew, we found our supplier. But just to make sure, Kat and I went back another round so we can eat the samples again.

That vendor was Joy San Gabriel Young. Ms. Joy wasn't there during the fair, but her husband Martin explained their rates and cake details very well. I wanted to book them already, but of course Jay and I had to decide together.


I sent an email to Ms. Joy for the specific design I wanted. What I love about her is she takes into account her client's budget so she can work around it and still give the client the best product she can produce.

She explained to me the kind of cake we can avail within my budget, the flavors available within that range, and also the extent of the design we can achieve.

There's a fast turnaround for email inquiries, and her replies are clear and thorough.

To avail of the discount, I went to another bridal fair and paid our down payment. Mr. Martin filled out a form and gave it to me, and that's what I brought to Ms. Joy's studio for our cake tasting.


Cake sampling is scheduled on Mondays and Tuesdays only since they have a busy week for events. The studio is located in Galas, Quezon City. I posted the map to her studio at the end of my review.

Our meeting was very productive. Ms. Joy was attentive to all the little details and emailed me her notes the day after. And of course, the samples she served were all delicious. I didn't finish everything so Jay and his family could taste them too.

I also met up with a friend and we were in agreement that everything was good.



Ms. Joy also gave me a sample of her cheese roll. Back then, they were still finalizing the details of a stand-alone kiosk for their baked goods to be sold in malls. And now, it's a reality! You can find their soft and yummy cheese rolls and ensaymada at Marketplace by Rustan's inside Powerplant Mall.



Our final design was a three-tier, all-edible whipped cream cake with four different flavors. Yes, four, because the bottom layer could be divided into two flavors. Isn't that awesome? My main design element was a cascade of light peach peonies with green leaves made of sugar icing.

But in the end we just chose three flavors because the strawberry shortcake was out of this world. That was our bottom layer. Our other two flavors were mango cheesecake (top) and moist chocolate (mid).

The three tiers were sized as follows: 6x5, 9x5, and 12x5 round cakes.

The best part is, we ended up with a cake that cost less than our budget! It's because of the 5% discount we availed at the bridal fair. And of course, Ms. Joy's generosity.

The other flavors you can choose from include coffee caramel, tarta San Marco, apple, or carrot.

For other weddings, after the couple slice their cake, it just sits there like a sad kid forgotten by the others. But not me. I had plans for our cake. Since we already had several dessert options for our guests (including a white chocolate cake, I planned on reserving the wedding cake for us and our families.



What's great is Ms. Joy offered to convert out top two tiers into styrofoam for the wedding day, and give us FOUR boxed cakes (two 6-inch mango cheesecakes and two 9-inch moist chocolate cakes).

It was perfect because we were able to give them to our families. As for the bottom layer, our lucky guests who stayed until the end of the wedding got to take home our cake too.



They have other options like converting one or two layers to cupcakes of mini-cakes. Just talk to Ms. Joy about your options.

Friends, don't overlook your wedding cake. It will be the first thing you taste during your reception proper (your coordinator is supposed to feed you before the program, but that doesn't count), and you want to make that memory great.

Choose wisely. Choose Joy.

Hehe sorry got a little carried away there with my copywriting brain. But, trust me. Go ahead and sample her cakes at bridal fairs. Drop by her stall for cheese rolls and ensaymada. You will not regret it.



Joy San Gabriel
Address: 3F PNB Galas Branch Building, 20 Bayani Street, Galas, Quezon City
Email: sangabriel.joy @gmail.com
Contact Numbers: +63917-5278837 / +632-7439306 / +632-2114820




Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I Worked Out for 30 Days and This is What I Learned

Last month, I started working out again. I had gained back some of the weight I lost before the wedding and I felt lethargic from being in the house all the time. I also knew I had to start taking care of myself to prepare my body once Jay and I decide on having kids. But I'll be honest with you. My reason for wanting to work out and lose weight was this:

I wanted my thighs to stop chafing. 

It may sound simple to many of you. I know I can just wear cycling shorts or half slips underneath my skirts/dresses. I know I can put baby powder and/or lotion to reduce friction between my thighs, even put deodorant. I tried these, but thigh chafing has been bugging me for a long time. I would see other ladies who are the same size (sometimes even bigger) as I am, and watch in awe as they walk in shorts and skirts and dresses seemingly without a care in the world or the chafing between their thighs. I would wonder whether they're wearing something underneath that allows them to walk comfortably. And I would scratch my head when I prove they aren't. Hoooow?!

So instead of suffering and wondering all the time, I decided to hit two birds with one stone and just start working out. I would lose weight, and I would get rid of thigh chafing in the process. Easy peasy!


One Day or Day One. Choose wisely!


Not. I knew the challenge was to KEEP WORKING OUT. Like many good habits I tried to form in the past (applying body lotion every night before sleeping, dry body brushing, eating healthy), I would end up pumped with adrenaline in the beginning, usually the first three days, then fizzle out by the fourth day. So this was my short-term goal: to keep going beyond day 4. I didn't know if I could do it, in fact I highly doubted it, but here I am 30 days later and I'm still at it!

I only exercised during the weekdays, so that's 5 times a week. There were a couple of days I missed so I made up for them by either doubling my workout the next day, or working out even on a Saturday. I also started slow. I searched for beginner workouts on YouTube, and did those that were 10 minutes or less. Gradually, I increased my time and the intensity of my workouts. Sometimes I would do a 10-min HIIT workout with 20 minutes of yoga. Or sometimes I would do a 5-min standing arm workout coupled with a 30-min Zumba session. When I couldn't do some of the movements, I would modify them, but I kept moving. 

I love High Intensity Interval Workouts (HIIT). According to Shape Magazine, HIIT refers to any "workout that alternates between intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of less-intense activity or even complete rest." Most of these workouts involve cardio exercises, so it will get you sweating in no time. These workouts are best for people who love to say they don't have time to exercise. HIIT workouts are fast, convenient, and there are no equipment necessary. Best of all, they work. Researches have shown that short HIIT workouts are better than spending an hour at the treadmill. If you're really pressed for time, you can even work out for 4 minutes using the Tabata protocol!

Now I will start to introduce weight training to my routine as well. This is to tone my muscle and also help in burning fat. 

There's a saying that motivation is what gets you started and habit is what keeps you going. That proved true for me. I had my why, and I kept going because eventually my body became used to working out, and my mind became conditioned to include a workout for a complete weekday. But I also learned the importance of having rest days and listening to your body. I skipped a workout once because I lacked sleep and knew not to push myself. 

I weighed myself when I started and also measured my waist, hips, and thighs. I was told sometimes you'd see no weight loss but find it on the tape measure. Thirty days in, my progress is slow but sure. I lost four pounds, one inch each on my waist and hips, and half an inch on my right thigh. I am satisfied with my progress but also know I can do more. 

How? By eating better. I admit I had a hard time saying no to carbs and fast food and my kind of sweets (a.k.a. cakes and pastries). I saw the difference when I substituted rice with kamote for dinner for a week. I lost two pounds. Then I gained them back the following week. I also plateaued by week 4. Are you working out and not losing weight too? This article provides possible reasons why.

What was my biggest surprise during the last 30 days? I discovered I could hold a plank longer than I thought! One day I took a video of myself planking and was ready to stop at 20 seconds. I always found it hard to hold a plank, my body shakes and my body just gives up. But that day, I was shocked I held it for 45 seconds! I know, it's still under a minute, but if you knew how physically weak I am, that's a big achievement. So I slowly kept increasing my time after that and I am now up to the minute mark. One day I will do two minutes, just watch me!



I don't know why my site cut the video to under 45 seconds. 

Here are three workouts that I find most effective. I am so happy for discovering free workouts, because paying for a gym membership is way low on my priorities. I also love that these workouts involve the barest of equipment (just a mat!), and can be done anywhere. 



This video is from the Emi Wong's StayFitandTravel Youtube Channel. This is what I did on my first day of working out and it was perfect. I ended up subscribing to her channel. I love her workouts because I feel the burn and sweat starts dripping on my mat a few minutes in. Most of her workouts also require no equipment and she modifies them for beginners. It helps whenever she says "I know it's hard but remember, I am doing it with you. No pain no gain!" Haha. It's true though. Pain means it's working!




I discovered Tracy Campoli's workouts when I searched "standing arm workout no equipment" on YouTube. That's really my main criteria, so I'll have no excuse not to do them. You can do this while watching your favorite KDrama, while waiting for your dinner to cook, even at the office when you're itching to get out of your cubicle. Work those arms instead of stressing out on your deadline!



And finally, this one's for my thighs! Ooh when I did this workout I was so sore the next day. But I loved it. It's from the POPSUGAR Fitness YouTube channel. They have short-but-effective sets. One of my favorites also is this 5-Minute Standing Flat Belly Workout. 

I made my Instagram stories the daily repository of my fitness journey. That way there's some sort of accountability to stay focused and not get lazy. Follow me for video recs and hopefully meal planning in the future too!

Do you have fitness and workout tips for me? Leave them in the comments and let's work out together!




Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wedding Supplier Review: Preps at Oakwood Premier Joy~Nostalg Center Manila

This is a long read, but hopefully it will help you in your search for a good hotel for your wedding (or other event) preparations.

When I was researching for a good hotel to hold our preparations for the wedding day, I was looking for one with big rooms, affordable rates, good natural lighting, and one that was not strict with the number of people and outside food coming in. My search led me to Oakwood Premier Joy~Nostalg Center Manila in Ortigas. It received a lot of good reviews with former brides. Later on, another plus point was that they didn't have extra charges for shooting within their hotel premises. I remember during my brother's wedding, we had to do a guerrilla shoot on our way to church because the hotel only permitted shoots when the reception would be done there. Others charge exorbitant fees and don't even allow aerial drones.



The one concern with Oakwood was it was far from our church, the INC locale of San Francisco in Del Monte Avenue, Quezon City. But when I learned that my on-the-day coordinator handled a wedding with hotel preps in Oakwood and an even further church in the INC locale of Capitol (Commonwealth Avenue), I became confident that we could do it. This was more because I trusted my OTD.

We initially booked two rooms in November, two one-bedroom suites for me and for Jay who will stay with his family. Later on, I thought Jay needed his own room so he can relax during his last night as a single man (hehe) and in the morning the room needed to be clean for the photo and video shoot. He was going to stay with three women in the other one-bedroom suite and I knew there'd be a lot of things there. So in January we booked another studio for Jay. We got this at a higher rate so my first tip is to book as early as possible, because the nearer you are to your wedding date, chances are the rates will be higher.



We booked my room for three nights, my in-laws' room for two nights, and Jay's room for one night. The day before the wedding was our check-in. We arrived late and since I had my wedding gown delivered to the hotel, the wedding gown arrived before us. I just called the concierge and asked them to receive it for me. When we arrived, it was at the lobby but it was arranged in an orderly manner, the gown in the mannequin was on a hotel trolley and the skirt part was covered with a black trash bin bag.

During the booking I indicated that the rooms will be used for a wedding so when we arrived at my room, there was a cake with "Congratulations!" written on top. That was a sweet gesture. I also said if it was possible for them to give us a room at the side facing Podium so we can have as much natural light as possible. It wasn't followed, but my room had big windows on two sides so we were still able to maximize the natural light.



We got married on April 7, and that was the time Oakwood introduced the one-time cleaning charge when a room will be used for weddings, functions, and other events. These were the rates:

Studio - Php2,000
1 Bedroom - Php2,500
2 Bedroom - Php4,000
3 Bedroom - 5,000

They were also charging Php200 per extra person, and Php50 per piece of extra luggage per guest (only 2pcs per guest allowed).

I was surprised. At the time of our booking these charges weren't implemented yet, and though I know it's the hotel's prerogative to change their rules, I thought it would have been proper to inform their clients especially since we indicated we were going to use our rooms for wedding preps. The receptionist I spoke to these charges were open to negotation, so I said we were only going to use one room for the preps, my room. So they had me sign the waiver (photo below) and charged us for one room only. As for the Php200 per extra person, we weren't charged for any extra persons during the wedding day. I'll discuss the extra luggage charge in the latter part of my review.



The night before our wedding, our florist delivered our entourage flowers. This was a surprise to me as this was not what we agreed upon. She just told me they were at the hotel lobby already after the fact. We were at the church for our wedding rehearsal so I wasn't able to do anything about it anymore. When we arrived, I was informed that they brought the flowers up to my room already. I appreciated that effort from them.

Our rooms were indeed spacious, Oakwood is a serviced-apartment more than a hotel, so we had a working kitchen complete with stove, ref, microwave, cutlery, plates, even a dishwasher. We also had a washing machine in our rooms.




Come wedding day, all of my suppliers, entourage, and other family members were able to move freely in my room. Since it's a one-bedroom suite, the living area is separated from the bedroom. My entourage HMUA set-up in the living room, while my own HMUA set up at the bedroom. Oakwood gave us keys that had access to the floors of the three rooms so our suppliers (coordinator, photo, and video) were able to transfer conveniently. Food deliveries were also allowed, provided we will meet them at the lobby and bring the food up ourselves. This was taken care of by our coordinator.

This photo was taken by my cousin. Oakwood really has spacious rooms.

During the preps my rooms had a ceiling leak. The area near the closets and bathroom was leaking. It was tolerable at first, until it became big and the carpet was soaking wet. My bridesmaids were having a hard time moving from the living area to the bathroom to fix themselves. I heard my bridal assistant (I was being made up then) calling housekeeping (or whatever department handles this) about it. She called several times, up until we were about to leave the hotel, but I didn't see any officer from the hotel check the room. I have a vague memory of a maintenance personnel checking it, but what my bridal assistant told me was that they wouldn't be able to fix the leak at that time. So before we left, my coordinator told me the arrangement was that we'll just transfer to another room when we get back from the wedding (because we still had a lot of stuff in the room).


After everybody finished their lunch (we ordered from Amber), my coordinators did a good job of cleaning everything up. Even the bed was fixed, so I thought there was really no need for the one-time cleaning fee. I understand there might have been former clients who trashed their rooms (probably had poppers/confetti or spilled champagne and what not during their video shoots), but they should check for damage AFTER the event and then assess whether to charge the fee.



After our wedding, we returned to Oakwood and that was when we transferred to another room. The leak still hadn't been fixed. There was just a bucket under the ceiling where it was leaking. My coordinator also informed me that they were being charged the Php50 per luggage fee, and they weren't allowed to use the trolley to bring the things from the wedding back to our room.

Since my coord didn't want us to incur any more charges, they brought the things up on their own. This didn't sit well with me because I was a paying customer, I was checked in for three nights, and technically, those were still my things. The luggage fee were only applicable to the wedding suppliers who would bring stuff up during the shoot.

But at that time I was so tired from everything that I just made a note to discuss it upon checkout.




When we were about to check out, I discussed with the receptionist all of my concerns. I told her the one-time cleaning fee should be a case-to-case basis. I also asked her why no one was able to fix the leak in our room. It caused so much hassle to everyone. We discussed all of this in a hurry because Jay and I still needed to buy something at SM. So I settled our bill and we left our stuff at the concierge first.

But everything was still bothering me, and I also asked my friend who's a manager at Manila Pen if they were charging a fee for rooms booked for wedding preps. She said no. So after we returned from SM I asked if I could speak to the manager on duty at Oakwood. It took a while, but I waited. When I spoke to the manager, I expressed my disappointment in a very cordial way. I did it out of concern, really, because Oakwood has a good reputation and good standing as a venue for wedding preps. I told him how no one even apologized for the leak, how no one assisted my coords for our stuff when I was still checked in (for two more nights). I said, "What if I was a guest and I shopped really hard and came home with dozens of bags, would you charge me for them?" He apologized for this and said it shouldn't have happened.



The ending was, our one-time cleaning charge was waived. But I think this was more because my room had a leak. If it didn't have a leak, I don't think they would have waived it. Still, I'm thankful that the manager was very receptive to my feedback and he handled my concerns well (which is more than I can say for the receptionist).

This happened in April, and in the wedding group I joined, someone took the initiative to contact Oakwood. It was resolved that everyone who made a booking before April 1 would have their cleaning charges waived. But after that, the charges would apply.



TIPS:

1. Check the rates at booking sites like Agoda or Booking.com. We booked through Agoda and their rates were much lower than what Oakwood gave us. Book as early as possible.

2. If you want to further save on cost, book rooms without breakfast included. Since Oakwood is not strict with outside food, you can order fast food delivery, or you can also cook in the functional kitchen.

3. Look for a hotel that has a lot of areas you can use for your photo and video shoot. Oakwood didn't have a lot of these. You can only shoot in the rooms, hallways, lobby and outside the hotel. But what I love about Oakwood's rooms are the huge windows and abundance of natural light.

4. Clarify with your hotel first about extra charges, and read your booking contract until the fine print. So you'll have something to back you up in case you will contest charges that come up during check in or check out.

5. If you'll still go for Oakwood, ask your suppliers to bring their own trolleys, or ask your coordinator to help them.

6. Talk to hotel management cordially. Let them know about your side, and if it's possible to have a workaround with your concerns. I believe everything can be fixed when we don't let out heightened emotions get in the way. At the same time, be firm with your stand.


Supplier Contact Details:

Oakwood Premier Joy~Nostalg Center Manila
17 ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig City 1600
Telephone numbers: (632) 637-7786 / (632) 910-8888
Email: premiermanila@oakwoodasia.com
Website: www.oakwoodpremiermanila.com