Party DIY: Bloom, baby, bloom

We may not have the four seasons in our country but for me, Spring came in the form of a baby shower in honor of such gracious parents-to-be, Colleen and Gary Viray.


Catalina Gabrielle, the precious baby that the couple is expecting in a month, deserves only the prettiest details for her first-ever social celebration. Coordinating with Mommy Colleen was very easy. She was clear on wanting pink but was open to ideas on the execution of a dainty and feminine party theme.


What can be more girly than flowers? Flowers in various shades of soft pink! For this party, I made door monograms with faux flowers (that can easily be removed so the letters can be re-used and styled according to need), custom stationery with water-colored flowers for the tables, and water-colored sign-up canvasses for guests.


My good friend Carlo Valderrama helped me mount the photo lounge with a floral frame and birdcages, a medley of flower garlands and paper lanterns for ceiling décor, and the simplest but most chic flower fringe backdrop shared for use of With A Flourish’s dessert buffet. Carlo is my angel. He has assisted me in most of my styling gigs and because he gets my design aesthetic, work is faster and more fun!




Putting together party accessories and landscapes for family and dear friends’ special moments gives me so much joy. Thinking about the smallest details and making sure that the hosts get to take home party memorabilias to remind them of the special day is one that I do not mind poring over. It is such a blessing, too, that the families I have styled parties for are very considerate and extended helping hands. Their commendations and words of praise are truly encouraging. Who knows, I might just really consider this as an income generating endeavor.



Baby Catalina Gabrielle, may you grow up to be exactly as your name suggests and more. I pray that your life will be an expression of God’s messages for all those who surround you. We’re very excited to meet you, Tali!

Photos by Carlo Valderrama, Colleen Carlos-Viray, and Gary Viray

Dessert buffet table set-up by With a flourish by Sarah Bautista-Abano


Mateo’s Restaurant Cafe – Finding a New Home

Perhaps each one of us has experienced moving houses at least once in this lifetime.  To put all memories in boxes, which will later on be re-opened in a new home, is easier said than done.  The apprehensions, the thoughts of what-was-left-behind, along with the exciting dreams of what-lies-ahead, are all there in the air surrounding the personal items and physical objects we have packed in boxes.

It was just a month ago that I started this blog with Issa, pushing ourselves to put to life the ideas we have talked about, when I suddenly had to move homes.  Well, it’s not me moving houses personally, but the resto cafe my business partners and I conceptualized for almost as long as its soft opening.

We closed Mateo’s Restaurant Cafe at Malakas Street and is in the process of relocation.


If anything, Mateo’s had a pretty good run. From Spanish lessons, Crochet  and Inking workshops,  Engagement Proposals to an actual intimate wedding reception, baby showers, bridal shower, baptisms, birthdays, and Halloween parties, we are thankful for all those who celebrated milestones and special events with us. To all our dear families, friends, and guests who have at one point dined and celebrated a special occasion at Mateo’s, here is a BIG and heartfelt THANK YOU.


If you missed to try Mateo’s before, do check out the features it had from various online sources the past months:

Mateo’s Restaurant Cafe on SPOT PH

Mateo’s Restaurant Cafe – Featured by FoodBitesPH

Mateo’s Restaurant Cafe – Featured by Wander Twins – traveling all the way from the South

As they said, the food is great, and the story behind Mateo’s lives on.   At the moment, Mateo’s Resto Cafe is hidden like a treasure chest, boxed and tucked away, and waiting, no, clamoring, to be re-opened. It is in the process of finalizing a new home, which will take a few more months perhaps.  Announcements will be made online through Instagram (IG: @mateosph) and Facebook (

Please do watch out for updates and announcements on our re-opening!:)

Reconfiguring Dance

2015 is all about making things happen. For me it also means dancing again.

Prior to getting married in 2013, I was dancing professionally. I was then teaching dance, teaching Sociology and Anthropology, doing admin work for Ateneo, and dancing on top of planning my own wedding. The difficulties of flitting from one role to another eventually caught up with me and I got burnt out. I chose to let go of dance because it required so much time for training and rehearsals. I used this time instead to make a home— I tried cooking, learned home cleaning hacks, and DIY-ed home decor.

I turned to Zumba, barre classes, and yoga to keep fit. I take dance classes every now and then but have not fully committed to dancing again apart from my ballet teaching engagements. Noticing that I was no longer asking him to bring me to the dance studio, KC suggested that I go back to dancing. Today, I am doing just that.

DIY Wall Decor for the bedroom by Issa M. Ramos

DIY Wall Decor for the bedroom by Issa M. Ramos

I am doing a full dance class today (and am mighty scared for tomorrow’s body pains). I am excited, too, because I will be dancing with very good friends Ea Torrado and PJ Rebullida of Daloy Dance Company.

Daloy Dance Company is the newest dance commune in the metro composed of artists from various practices of music, theatre, and dance. They offer a fresh take on dance and theatre through performances that “re-shape contemporary dance by debunking existing stigma and offering new perspectives and possibilities”.


Ea Torrado, Artistic Director of Daloy Dance Company Photo by Tuchi Imperial


With the guidance and leadership of Artistic Director Ea Torrado, Daloy Dance Company has been enjoying performance and collaborative opportunities locally and abroad. They are putting together RECONFIGURE this February in partnership with FRINGE Manila and De La Salle- College of St. Benilde.


Reconfigure by Daloy Dance Company Feb 19 3PM and 8PM and Feb 22 3PM and 8PM College of Saint Benilde – SDA Theatre


According to Daloy Dance Company“Reconfigure is a twinbill production featuring Ea Torrado’s Dysmorphilia, which premiered at Imaginarium: A Multi-arts festival of the Absurd, and PJ Rebullida’s The Sky Changed, showcased at the WIFI Body Contemporary Dance Festival. Compounded to evoke transformation, manipulation and conscious change, Both works continue to unravel the forces at work on how the body is presented and consumed in relation to ideas of self-perception and symbolic rebirth.

Dysmorphilia Costumes by award-winning Multimedia artist-designer, Leeroy New”

Where: College of Saint Benilde – SDA Theatre
When: Feb 19 3PM and 8PM and Feb 22 3PM and 8PM Php 300 -ticket price

daloy dance

Jomelle Era, company member of Daloy Dance Photo by Tuchi Imperial


If you’re like me looking to rekindle an old flame with dance or if it is part of your new year’s resolution to try something new, please consider Daloy Dance School. Daloy Dance School offers an array of movement-oriented classes. Most classes do not require previous dance experience so adult beginners need not worry. Check out Daloy Dance Company’s website for information on class schedules.

I am blessed to have this opportunity to re-visit a previous purpose and passion. I will write about my first day back on the dance floor next time. For now, wish me, my lola bones and sleeping muscles, luck to get through class! Toi, toi, toi!


Photos by Tuchi Imperial for Daloy Dance Company

Our Very Hungry Caterpillar

With all the existing beliefs about how first birthdays should be and my easily-swayed personality, I had a hard time finalizing Elijah’s first birthday.  At the end of it all (or at the start, rather), I set my foot down and decided based on three important points (which I did not necessarily think about then, but only on hindsight).

These three points were 1) what Elijah loved, 2) the resources we had, and 3) the call of the time.

First: What Elijah Loved

Ultimately, my husband and I believed that it was a celebration of Elijah being ONE. With the birth scare that he gave us, and the problem in weight loss that we encountered at the start of his infancy, he was pretty much literally A Very Hungry Caterpillar in his own way. And we wanted to celebrate his little transition with a theme most appropriate — his favorite storybook at that point in time written by Eric Carle.


With all the many venue choices, we chose The Cocoon Boutique Hotel. Aside from its name being Cocoon, (which was perfect with the theme), I was rooting for it mainly because it was considered a Green Hotel.  What is a Green Hotel? All the wood they used to build the hotel, were old and recycled, taking an extra five years to collect before actual building time. The function rooms’ chandeliers were rehashed from the Old Peninsula Hotel, and the bulbs changed to LED. Cost-wise, we adjusted the kids’ and adults’ menu very well to accommodate our guests’ needs and our budget. We were very warmly assisted by one of their personnel, Camela Valencia, all throughout the process from planning, ingress, and egress.


And what is The Very Hungry Caterpillar without the desserts, which he gobbled up on a Saturday? So yes, we had a dessert table (co-conceptualized with and completely designed by Issa).  I literally drew my idea of Elijah’s cake and Karla Ilacad of Gypsy Girl Dessert turned it into life. I added mini cupcakes in line with the theme (colorful circles found on the book) which came from my talented Tita, Tina Diaz of Taza Platito/Food Magazine.  My sister, Nikki and her husband, Franco, gave us mint M&Ms, which were all green and matched the caterpillar theme. The rest was from local grocery in low prices 😉 Issa’s magical hands put all of these together and voila! We had our dessert table for Elijah.


Second: What our Resources Allowed

Styling with friends.  With the venue and food booked, we cut down on everything else, which was whipped up my superwoman friend, Issa, who was the queen of incredible tipid tactics and who possessed magical hands.  Elijah’s first birthday party would not have been what it was without Issa and her husband, KC, and their good friend, Carlo.  They were the brains, hands, and driving forces behind the idea. (Please refer to Issa’s post.)


Making own movie. I made Elijah’s video using iMovie, which did not cost a thing except for electricity and time.

Teachers are the best hosts. The host was a good friend from graduate school, Rain De Leon, who did an amazing job not just in keeping the children’s attention, but also the adults’. She was after all, a teacher and radio jock rolled into one. My other good friends, Rinna Puno and Cara Tizon, who were also my co-teachers hosted the most highlighted game of the day — families in a relay race to wrap gifts/loot bags of art/school materials for survivors of Yolanda (which brings us to the third point: the call of the time).

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Third: The Call of the Time

Elijah turned one in January 2014. It was also a month and a half after Yolanda’s wrath left many Filipinos struggling emotionally and financially. I was close to deciding not to have a grand celebration, until I thought of turning the grandness of it into a Giving Opportunity.  This was done with the great help of kind-hearted individuals — my sister-in-law, Anna Veloso Tuazon, whose hometown was Tacloban, and my friend Lia Manalac-Del Castillo, founder of Diksyonaryo Atbp, as well as some of our thoughtful family and friends who opted to donate. We asked our guests to donate in lieu of gifts and to join a packing relief bags/writing messages for those affected by Yolanda as a family relay game.  Lastly, Elijah donated storybooks in behalf of the guests (which served as their souvenir) through the help of Diksyonaryo Atbp.


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Looking back, what made Elijah’s first birthday special was the meaning behind everything.  It was a lot of hard work and support. (Thank you to my husband, Franco, for supporting my ideas, and thank you to Issa for choreographing them into what they became.)

I also believe that when Elijah grows up, he will look back at this, and realize how special his birthday was — filled with family and friends who celebrated him and with him, and how beautiful the butterfly effect was, of his turning one, to other Filipino folks as well.


Photos by Deneb Villanueva

Author’s Note:

I am a fan of late posts, and Elijah has already turned two the other day.  His second birthday was much simpler than the first, but that belongs to another post in the future. 🙂

Yes to Books and Real Life, Not Yet to Gadgets

I am a proponent of reading early to babies, and even as early as reading to them inside our wombs.

Believing that my son, Elijah, has listened to me tell the entire story of James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, while he was in utero, I partially attribute his current passion for books to his advantageous exposure to them, while I worked as a very pregnant teacher.

Before the age of eight months, he would sit still and listen to five storybooks in a row. (Okay perhaps my first job as a preschool teacher was another advantage, but still he listened very well.)  Now that he is almost two years old and has been unavoidably semi-exposed to television, iPhones, and iPads, he still remains very much interested in books, often asking to be read to, in the morning when he wakes up or at night before going to sleep, or anytime in between.  He would recite words or sentences from his books, and would sometimes speak in complete sentences entirely his own, “Mama, I want a banana.” He usually forgets the “please” and I would remind him to say it, and he would repeat the request — “Mama, I want a banana please”. (Okay sometimes I push it, “May I have a banana please, Mama?” He would attempt to say it, twisting his tongue at “may I have”, but he does it. On a daily basis though, his sentence is usually “Mama, I want ___ insert bread, guyabano, etc.) He would usually say the very easy, complete sentences.  They are complete sentences, nonetheless. (“Where’s Papa?” or “I don’t know” and “It’s traffic. I don’t like traffic.”).


I reviewed my books in Developmental Psychology (the famous Life-Span Development by Santrock) and found that children would usually string two words together at 18- 24 months, say full sentences at three.  But, I’ve met some children, not just Elijah, who could say more words or say complete sentences before the age of two, and also some who would say less words at the same age (someone like me!!!). Before we start judging and comparing our children, please take note of my next paragraph.

All children are different.  Verbal skills, motor skills, spatial skills — they all develop differently for each child, but can we all help our children enhance their verbal skills as much as their motor skills? I believe that as parents we can. Hopefully we push them to develop these skills to their best potential, and not for any other reason.

Experience-wise, I cannot speak as confidently for motor and spatial skills as I can for verbal skills, so that’s what I will share about.

Here’s my answer to parents who would ask me what I did:  Early on, Elijah was not allowed to watch television, touch iPhones or iPads, a decision fully supported by my husband, which made the task a little bit easier despite the over-accessibility of such. He had books, books, and more books.  We spoke a lot with him, in both English and Filipino.  He knows that Nanay is Mama/Mommy and Tatay is Papa/Daddy. He sings “Moon River” as much as “Bahay Kubo”.  And aside from books, we engaged him in play and conversations.  He had very high stranger anxiety before and after the age of one (and even sometimes up to this day), but he recognized relationships of people, and he recognized and labeled people’s faces including the Pope!  It was a chicken and egg issue here for us  — whether he remembered more people because we explained their relationships, or we explained more about the people because he was good at remembering and connecting them.  Without knowing where it started, a fact was that he had a knack for identifying relationships, and so the more we introduced people to him through their relationships. He was able to connect that even Lolos have brothers and sisters, and even Mama has a Mama who is his Lola (grandma), and even Lola has a mama who is another Lola (great grandma), and there are many friends, aunts, uncles, Titos, Titas, and cousins out there in the world.  Looking back at all these, his own relationships grew, because everyone enjoyed having their names called out by this little boy who was less than two.

For new parents or grandparents, who want to give this a shot, here are some verbal language development tips:

1. Expose your child to verbal language, both through reading books and actual conversations. (everyday from prenatal to post-natal)

2. Connect real life items and people with those seen in books. (as much as possible and as early as you can after giving birth)

3. Cite relationships of real people with other people and places. (as much as you can, especially as your child grows older, meets more people, and sees new places)

4. Avoid television and gadgets before the age of two. If television and gadgets cannot be avoided, speak and explain as much as you can to your child.

5.  As Pope Francis said, “Be quiet”. In this context, allow your child to explore and play on his/her own at certain times of the day. Listen.


* * *

Here are some links that can help parents decide to promote reading books, instead of using videos and television.  In a gist, the world moves differently, and comparably-slow-paced, than the things we see on screen. Let’s allow our children to see, smell, taste, hear, and feel the world as it truly is, especially in the first two years of their lives.

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Party DIY: The Promise of Metamorphosis

What excites me most about crafting for parties and events is the challenge of coming up with something fresh —something that’s not completely ripped off from Pinterest and Tumblr but come up with end products that are totally social-media-post-worthy. I think about themes and motifs for days and choreograph the dance of found objects and art materials in my head and later on with my hands.

For Elijah’s first birthday, Lala had the brilliant idea of having “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” as the party theme. I was familiar with the story and had done movement exercises for it for my beginners’ ballet classes. Transposing the famous story into visual and tactile magic was something I could not pass up.

Lala and I met several times to discuss the most feasible and economical way of DIY-ing the décor for Elijah’s party. Hiring a party stylist can cost an arm and a leg these days. Using good old art materials and basic skills can save you a LOT of money.


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We used materials that are readily available in the market such as Japanese paper, crepe paper, straw string, barbecue sticks, Styrofoam, and yarn. We made tissue paper pompoms, crepe paper table skirts, and yarn pompom caterpillars. The caterpillars were such a hit that guests took home all those that were on display.

We livened up the desserts station with balloons, colored art paper, fuzzy wire, real plants and fake foliage that I had lying around the house. It’s also wise to buy sweet snacks from the grocery and set them up instead of hiring a supplier for desserts buffet. This way you’re sure of what you’re serving your guests and also have better control of your budget.

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Thank you, Lala, for allowing me to do happy craft projects for Elijah’s first birthday party. To see/make things shift in shape and in purpose and become another kind of beautiful gives me an ultimate high. I am excited for you and your own very hungry caterpillar ELIJAH and am observing in joy as you both morph into your best selves yet.

Photos by Deneb Villanueva

Behind the scene photos by Issa and Lala

Fairies and Folks

This is the haven of two women who both decided that it is time to share their passions to the world — may it be dance, theater, crafts, workshops, wife-hood, motherhood, books, travel, or documenting everyday stories of Filipino folks.

Authored by Issa Mijares – Ramos and Lala Jara – Tuazon, who bonded over their passion for performing arts and their love for breathing life into ideas.