Reflections – Love Thy Neighbour

Sunday Reflections
It’s been quite a heavy week this past week. Numerous trips to different hospitals visiting different loved ones has really got me thinking about life and what happens at the end of life. I was speaking to a friend who works as a doctor last night and she told me that one of the most rewarding years she’s had so far was the year she spent working in palliative care. Seeing people through the dying process brought to light a lot of change in them and family and people around them. The important things in life rise to the surface like a beautiful shell emerging from the shore as the waves pull away all the sand around it. Suddenly, the things that are around them everyday that they may take for granted or they are too busy to notice, become beautiful and important in their eyes. Attitudes change and there is longing to live a more meaningful and wholesome life.
What if this longing was in all of us, not just at the end but now? Imagine how different our communities would be? Living in harmony and love.
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 Sunday Reflections The Urban Ma blog
This pic was taken at UST in the Philippines – thinking & praying for all those in Manila and the surrounding areas affected by the recent quakes. And all those around the world who are suffering hardship and injustice. May we all continue to find light and love in our daily lives. 
Every day we are presented with opportunities to love our neighbor and
help him “carry his cross”. These opportunities aren’t usually big events, they are usually ordinary occurrences like helping someone carry
their groceries or holding the door open for them. The key is putting the other person’s needs before our own and not expecting anything in
return – An excerpt from our parish’s weekly bulletin publication.
Every year during Lent, our parish priest Noel, provides environmentally friendly shopping bags for all those who care to take one so that when we all complete our weekly grocery shopping, we are reminded to add a canned, non-perishable good for those in need. After the six weeks all the bags filled with food and grocery items are then donated to St Vinnie’s in order for them to hand out to members of our community that may need them more than us.
What are some other ways we can love our neighbour?… It’s the simple things.
Hope you have a great week.
-xx-

Travelling with Kids – Philippine Travel Blog

Pinterest Philippines Travel Blog with kids

A Destination of Smiles – The Philippines

It is definitely more fun in the Philippines. And even more fun travelling this country of a million smiles with the kids and our family. From volcanoes and white sandy beaches, to wild but friendly water giants, to towering shopping malls, the Philippines is a country that will seduce you into coming back over and over again. Except maybe to Manila but more about that later.

Having been to the Philippines numerous times in the past, this was our first time travelling there with the kids and also our first time venturing out from our relatives’ homes in Manila and the provinces to the magnificent islands and waters that have captured the hearts of travelers from around the world. With an initial feeling of uncertainty and worry about how the kids would handle the heat and difference in environment, and how us adults would handle the kids, I’m happy to say it was bloody amazing and we are already planning our next visit back to this tropical paradise! So read on if you too are thinking about going on a tropical adventure to this country of over 7,100 colorful islands.

Kawasan Falls Philippine Travel Blog with Kids

We visited the following areas on our three week escapade for my dad’s 60th birthday adventure:

– Cebu
– Bohol
– Bulacan
– Palawan
– Manila
– Tagaytay

What an amazing 60th birthday bash my dad had! – Island hopping, relaxing by the pool, touristy sightseeing, delicious meals, and most of all spending time with relatives. We were a traveling party of 12 – 8 adults, 2 kids and 2 infants and, extra family and friends joined us at some of the destinations so we almost always hired a van to get around.

Traveling the Philippines with kids travel blog

Getting around the Philippines

Hiring a van with a driver was so convenient for us because we didn’t have to worry about anything for the whole day! We hired a van for the full day when we went to Cebu and Bohol.

In Manila we used Grab and taxis and our cousins kindly drove us around. I downloaded the Grab app as instructed by my cousins and found it super convenient and safe to use.

In Bulacan we caught a lot of tricycles and were also driven around by family. We didn’t get to ride on a jeepney during this trip but hopefully we’ll get to hang off one next time!

 – 3500 – 3800php – daily driver and van
– Tricycle fares are per person and I’m not sure how they price it but we paid around 20php for a trip of around 1-1.5kms. Either way it’s a fast cheap way of getting around town if you don’t have too far to go but can’t be bothered walking in the heat of the sun.
– from 15php – bottle of water from Hypermarket supermarket
7php-60php for snacks like biscuits and chips

Tricycle PHilippines travel blog
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his is a tricycle in Coron – they feel so much bigger than the ones in Bulacan. It seems that each different area of the Philippines has a slight different type of tricycle in the way that they are made, however, almost all of them are able to fit around 8 people!

When going to Cebu from Manila we flew by plane which was only about an hour and twenty minutes long. There are quite a few flights per day that fly to Cebu by airlines such as Philippines Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Air Asia. Having flown from Melbourne on an 8 hour flight, the one hour flight was nothing for the kids! They happily looked out the window and had a short nap.

From Cebu to Bohol we took a ferry which was around 2 hours. I ended up chatting to a lovely lady from Anda the whole way learning all about their beautiful beaches there and mysterious caves! I’d love to visit there next time we’re in Bohol. From Bohol back to Manila we caught a plane which was faster and more efficient.

Philippines Travel Blog jeepney manila

From the gorgeous beaches and resorts of Bohol and whimsical waterfalls of Cebu, we traveled up to Bulacan which is a province north of Manila to visit relatives. There were ate freshly picked fruits and veggies and a roasted suckling pig was cooked for my dad’s birthday celebration.

Bulacan rooster farm to table
T
his is my uncle’s rooster farm. Straight organised rows of trees were planted along with the roosters’ houses. It was so eye opening seeing all the animals such as roosters, chickens, pigs, goats, fish etc being grown and eaten so fresh!

There are some awesome things to see around Bulacan however we chose to spend our time chilling out with our cousins and we got to watch a movie in the cinemas at SM Baliwag. We watched Beauty & the Beast as soon as it came out! It was everything I hoped it would be.

We didn’t just used transport with wheels to get around the Philippines – we rode on a lot of boats both big and little. The kids loved being so close to the water and we made sure they wore their life jackets at all times so they felt safe!

Swimming with the whale sharks Oslob Cebu
Here is our party of 13 riding a skinny little bangka in Oslob to see the whalesharks. Hannah wanted to just get into the water since she could see it right at her fingertips. We ended up dipping her in for a bit over the side!

 After swimming through the beautiful turquoise waters of Coron and lazing around on the powdery warm sandy beaches of Bohol, we found ourselves in busy, smokey, excruciating gridlocked traffic and inefficient ways that is Manila. Luckily our wonderfully amazing cousins had some fun things planned for us. I didn’t really know where to go out in Manila except for the shopping malls and gosh there are a lot of them! My cousins took us to some amazing places which I’ll share with you on a separate blog post on Manila. One of the places worth mentioning was Kidzania in Bonifacio Global City. It is a must-see place when visiting the Philippines with kids.Kids travel guide to the Philippines

Other things to note when traveling to the Philippines with kids

1. Shots. We had left it too late for the kids to get immunized

before heading to the Philippines but if I had booked in at the doctor earlier, we would’ve gotten a shot for Typhoid and I think Hep A? I can’t remember now but we came back home feeling well. Hannah had around four mosquito bites while the rest of us hardly had any. I even bought two cans of insect repellent with me and I hardly finished them.

2. Bottled water. Always drink bottled water and never drink out of the taps. Even the water we boiled in the kettle was from a bottle. We ended up buying huge containers of water every time we knew we were going to be at a certain place for more than two days. Thankfully none of us got sick. Mr 4yo got the runs on our second week there but after a day he was fine.

3. Spare clothes. Bring lots of spare clothing for the kids. You never know when a little accident may happen, and you’ll feel so good changing into a fresh set of clothes after a long day out sweating in the heat. You also never know when you’ll come across and cool swimming spot you’ll want to go for a dip in so always have some clothes and bathers with you!

4. Currency exchange. If you withdraw some money before heading to the Philippines, you can get a good rate of exchange at the currency exchange outlets. You can find them in most of the airports and shopping centres. We did that, and also withdraw money from an ATM, which charged us a fee each time. So if you find a RCBC atm or bank, you can withdraw a max of 20,000php from there instead of the standard 10,000php that the other ATMs like BDO allow.

5. Tips. Before arriving in the Philippines I would highly recommend that you have some Philippine pesos ready at hand, and have some smaller denominations like 10 and 20php notes. Tipping is common practice and with the hard working people helping you out, I’m sure you’ll be wanting to give them a little extra for their service and effort.

6. Attitude. Be open-minded, positive and adaptable. There are lots of different dishes to try in the Philippines that can’t be found elsewhere and having an open mind will allow you to enjoy each experience a lot more. The service there is also a lot slower than I’m used to – 45mins wait to get my take away dinner order and 15mins waiting in line at the supermarket. Not all places were like this but I noticed a lot of improvement opportunities in Manila in terms of customer service. It made me feel so happy to be home when I got back to Melbourne! – I was able to visit two banks, Vodafone and get lunch all in half an hour!

No matter how positive I was, I could handle everything except the traffic of Manila – when you’re sitting in traffic for an hour just to get somewhere less than 8kms away, it’s just simply ridiculous. I already don’t drive to work in Melbourne because I hate sitting in traffic – you should see the traffic in Manila. If I didn’t have luggage and kids to carry with me, I’m sure I would’ve just walked to most of the places. Does anyone have the answer to reducing traffic in Manila? It is simply a big waste of time. No wonder a lot of travellers are now bypassing Manila altogether and going straight to places like Cebu and Borocay. Hopefully those other cities can get their infrastructure right before it gets as busy as Manila.

Philippines family travel blog
There, there, it’s ok. You don’t have to put up with the traffic everyday!

7. A Globe mobile SIM – As soon as we arrived in Manila, we walked over to Mall of Asia (MOA) and stopped by a Globe outlet to get a Globe SIM and some credit. We paid 500php ( approximately $13AUD) for unlimited data, sms and calls to other Globe SIM holders for 15 days which is expensive by Philippine standards but it was convenient and easy so that’s what we went with. Since there were a lot of us traveling together, having our mobiles made it easier for us to get around together and apart. And if you want to stay in touch with others that aren’t with Globe, you can just use the data included to contact them via Facebook, Whatsapp or Viber etc! In my previous trips to Europe and Asia I didn’t even bring a mobile phone with me at all – how times have changed.

8. Nappies, wipes, baby food & formula. These 4 items can be easily found in all the SM stores and supermarkets so don’t fret if you haven’t pack enough or have forgotten something for the kids. They have everything from baby nappies and wipes to baby cologne in the toiletries section. I always like to peruse the toiletries and make up section whenever I’m overseas. They always have such different things. In the Philippines it’s all about the whitening of the skin. Whitening lotion, whitening soaps and whitening creams line the shelves. So different to the shops here in Australia where everything is all about getting a tan…getting darker and bronzed up!

9. The people. The people of the Philippines are super friendly and love kids. There is always someone happy to help out and unlike my experience in China, if they see you with a pram or a baby in the Philippines, they almost always let you board the elevators first instead of pushing in front of you! Most people speak English and even just by saying simple greetings and “thank you” in Tagalog (“Salamat po”), it will get you far. I didn’t experience as much beggars begging through the windows of our van as I did in previous visits and there were less people haggling with you on the street. I felt quite safe traveling with the kids despite my initial worrying!

Aguinid Falls Philippines family travel blog
Our friendly and knowledgeable guides at Aguinid Falls in Cebu. Mark and Meyer not only helped us navigate and climb the falls, they took pictures of us with our cameras while they were at it! 

We met some absolutely gorgeous people with big, welcoming hearts on this trip, and I always leave the Philippines so sad but excited to come back because of all our relatives and friends that live there.

If you’re thinking about adding a stamp from the Philippines to your passport, just do it! Snorkelling, shopping, swimming, eating and partying – don’t you know it’s more fun in the Philippines? You’ll be forever in awe at the sights, sounds and smells of this vibrant country and its people.

It is the perfect place to discover the truly amazing natural wonders of this world but also on the flip side, it is an essential trip to be made in order to come back home to a feeling of immense gratitude, and humbleness for all the blessings we have here. Clean water supply, working toilets, less polluted air and efficiency are just some of the simple luxuries  we take for granted on a daily basis.

 
Temple of Leah in Cebu – built by Mr. Teodorico Adarna to show his endless devotion and undying love for his wife, Leah.  Kawasan falls Cebu Philippines travel guide
W
alking along rickety wooden bridges and blue flowing rivers on the way to Kawasan Falls. Passing lots of locals, travelers and people coming back from Badian canyoneering!

Have you traveled to the Philippines with kids? What were your favourite and least favourite travel spots?

philippine trails travel guide map blog

For more info on Cebu, Bohol, Palawan and Manila be sure to subscribe to my blog to be the first to be notified when a new post is published!

Thank you so much for your continued support here and on Instagram and Facebook. It’s been so nice chatting with readers and answering questions about tours and things to do in the Philippines especially on Instgram. If there are any other topics or places you would like to read about please let me know. In the meantime hope you’re having a great week! x

Sunday Reflections – Self growth

Bulacan life

Tis the season of lent, the fifth Sunday of Lent to be exact. In today’s morning homily we were left with the following question to ponder, “What in us must die in order for new life to flourish?”

The above pic was taken on our recent family trip to the Philippines. Seeing the way of life in the provinces of my parent’s homeland has again got me thinking how much resources we waste here.

They are so careful with the water they use, they repair things when they are broken instead of just buying new items, they spend most of their day outside chatting to neighbors and playing games, and farm to table eating is not just a fad or trend – they’ve been doing this the whole time. Hence dishes like paksiw lechon which uses all the leftover parts of the roasted suckling pig, dinuguan which uses pigs blood, the ever popular sisig which uses pigs cheeks, and other snacks such as isaw, a popular street food find which sees chicken intestines twisted onto a skewer. The Filipinos are so ingenious when it comes to making the most of what they’ve got, that they even have a dish in which they use goat or cow bile as an ingredient. The dish is called papaitan and is definitely an acquired taste due to its bitterness and ingredients such as goat or cow innards.

While for some of you the mentioned dishes bring wonderful memories of Filipino parties and walks along streets of Manila, others may cringe at the not so appetizing sounding delicacies. Filipinos really try to have minimal waste and we have so much to learn from them.

There are quite a few things I’ll be working on this Lenten period . Old habits which I hope to replace with new, more sustainable and earth-friendly ones. Old behaviours that I hope to replace with peaceful, soft, focused ones. And I would absolutely love to do more volunteering. These are not new goals I have…they’ve just become more apparent after coming back from a place that holds to much meaning to me.

What self growth are you going through right now?

Themes: Self growth. Minimalism. Awakening.

 

Weekend Edit – Portarlington

 Weekend Edit – Portarlington

As a fresh sea breeze caresses your face and you wake up to uninterrupted views of beautiful blue water, you know you’re in the beautiful bayside town of Portarlington. Having never been here before I was immediately seduced by the sea as we drove into town and up the rolling hills to our Airbnb accommodation for the weekend. A family weekend getaway was underway with the inlaws, cousins, aunties, Snoopy and new addition to the family Biggie Smalls, the kitten.

Where is Portarlington?
Only 90 mins drive from Melbourne, or just 30mins drive from Geelong, Portarlington is situated on the north east point of the Bellarine Peninsula. We’ve been to Geelong so many times, I have no idea why we’ve never ventured out that extra bit to visit this place. Now that it’s on our radar we’ll definitely be back for more.

Things To Do in Port Arlington

1. Wander along the pier

Down the main area of town is a long wide pier where you could happily spend quite some time wandering up and down with kids. Our 4yo was enthralled by the stingray, starfish, and little fishies swimming in the water and he got super curious after seeing a puffer looking fish stranded on the rocks. There were people fishing and others simply enjoying the sun and sea breeze. A sense of calm and appreciation comes over you as you take in the views. The curvy shape of the You Yangs and Melbourne’s skyline are both visible from here.

2. Eat Mussels, plenty of them!
It was the call of the famous Australian Blue mussels that led us to Portarlington. My mother in law loves mussels and seafood and she picked Portarlington as the go to destination for our family getaway. Good call! We ate our way through bowlfuls of them for both lunch and dinner, at both cafes and at the holiday house where we cooked them simply with ginger, garlic and onion. There’s a mussel truck at the pier and another place along the main road that you drive past as you come into town where you can buy fresh mussels at $5kg but I recommend visiting and enjoying your mussels at The Little Mussel Café.

3. Enjoy lunch at the Little Mussel Café

There was a big sign on the main pier showing the address of this place so the hubby put it into his phone and off we went. We arrived at 11:30am and there was no one there but as soon as we had placed our orders, people started coming just in time for lunch. What a gem of a place! As you drive away from the sea and up into the hills, the open fields welcome you and only a few minutes up Queenscliff road on the right side of the road are some signs inviting you in. A big shed is accompanied by a little shop front selling glorious seafood both fresh and smoked, and scallop and mussel pies – I always look out for pies I can take home because my dad loves a good, well made pie! If this wasn’t enticing enough, as soon as we walked around to the outdoor dining area, we were greeted by a charming little set up. A huge communal table stood at the far end of the little courtyard, shaded by a sale and surrounded by big, sturdy benches. There was a little veggie patch (oh how I love veggie patches!) with bright red roma and cherry tomatoes looking so juicy on the vine. There were interesting  arty garden structures made from old farm tools and bits and bobs and underneath the main marquee area where more tables and chairs were waiting for their customers, long garlands of mussel shells decorated the roof line. To top it off the sun was shining, the kids were smiling and everyone was just happy to be together looking through a menu filled with sensational seafood options. Everything was a hit from the mussels to the super friendly and down to earth staff, to the oh so creamy homemade vanilla slice we had for dessert!

4. Go berry picking at Tuckerberry Hill Berry Farm and Café

After having a squiz at the tourist map, my father in law saw that just around the corner a few minutes away was a place called Tuckerberry Hill farm and cafe where we could pick some blueberries and strawberries. We decided after being so full from lunch, walking around and stretching our legs would be a good idea! Being the end of the berry season, the blueberry bushes weren’t overflowing with berries but we still managed to pick quite a few! – it just required a little bit more effort. It was my first time going blueberry picking – we normally go strawberry and apple picking down in Baccus Marsh. The kids loved it and Daniel and his cousins had plenty of space to run, explore and play. I like taking them to places like this because it’s good for him to know where food comes from and to just spend time running free in the great outdoors. There were a few handfuls of ripe red strawberries for the picking but most of the good ones had all been taken. A lot of half eaten strawberries we left. Those damn slugs! We had some milkshakes and coffee at the café and got straight into our berries – they were so juicy and sweet. Nothing like fresh fruit! They also sell fresh farm produce and we came home with some extra veggies in hand.

5. Sit back and enjoy the view from your cozy abode
My sis in law booked a comfortable place via Airbnb for all 14 of us to stay and with a huge verandah wrapped around the house, a table tennis and fusball table, fireplace (not that we used it), big backyard and a short walk to the main town area, we were in total holiday mode. It was nice to just sit back on the balcony looking out into the distance. So quiet and peaceful.
6. A visit to St Patrick’s church

Just a couple of blocks up from the main town area of Portarlington on Harding street is St Patrick’s Catholic church. Whilst everyone was slowly waking up on the Sunday morning, I couldn’t help but get out into the morning sun to take Hannah for a walk and check out the local parish. As soon as I walked up to the front door I was greeted with a smile and “Welcome!”. This beautiful hospitality continued as I walked inside and sat down on my own with little Hannah – a lady came up to us bearing gifts of a maraca and some books to keep Hannah occupied. She made us feel welcomed and at ease not having to worry if Hannah made too much noise – luckily Hannah sat down quietly for most of the mass and I was able to listen to this week’s readings and homily about money and anxiety – topics that I really think a lot of people today would relate to. A reminder to not worry about yesterday and not stress about tomorrow and just live in the moment. They had pancakes in the hall after mass which everyone was welcome to share but I headed back to the house just in case my 4yo had gotten up from his sleep in. Leaving the church I felt happy and grateful to have shared a beautiful morning with such a nice community.

7. Fun time, beach time

As you look at the shoreline from the pier, you can see a gorgeous stretch of sandy beach with clear blue green waters lapping its shores. Both our kids love the water and blessed with gorgeous sunny weather on the Sunday as well as on Saturday, they went for a quick dip in the ocean before we started heading back home. I could see further out from the town an area on the beach where caravans were stationed. Note to self, book a weekend away at that camp spot!

8. A big fat almond croissant from The Portarlington Bakehouse

Needing some sustenance before the drive home, we took a walk along the little shopping strip and headed to the Portarlington Bakehouse. Again this place was like the Little Mussel Café where there was an absolutely gorgeous outdoor courtyard round the back. A sloping landscape led to dining table areas spread about the place in between trees and plants and garden ornaments. Towards the back end of the courtyard stood some playground equipment complete with a slide, swings, rockclimbing wall and some chalk supplied for kids to draw on the fence walls! Rustic and cozy, we devoured our pastries while the kids played happily. My almond croissant was huge and so scrumptious! The hubby had a cream bun and strong cappuccino. What a gorgeous little spot!

We arrived in Portalington on the Friday night and drove back home on Sunday afternoon and I felt like there was still so much more to do and see!

Take a ride on the Portarlington miniature railway

Stroll through the weekend market along Newcombe street in WG Little Reserve

See, taste and discover the wine region and visit the Bellarine Estate, Jack Rabbit Estate or the Terindah Estate

Attend their annual festivals – the Portarlington Mussel Festival (January) or their National Celtic Festival (June)

Visit the fully restored original steam-powered flour mill which was built in 1857, includes displays of local history

Try taking the ferry from Docklands to Portarlington, it’s about an hour and a half trip! You could even make your way to Queenscliff and take a ferry to Sorrento

Sit back and enjoy the quiet surroundings

With its mouthwatering mussels, calm beaches and rolling hills with fresh local produce, Portarlington has that village charm that will make you feel at home and keep you coming back. Lots of family friendly activities at this destination that is an easy weekend roadtrip away. What do you love about Portarlington?

If you’re after a weekend roadtrip destination why not visit Warburton or some of Melbourne’s exciting parks.

 

Sunday Reflections – Romance and Mystery

The kids are sick. The weather has cooled down. Tomorrow it begins all over again. Packing lunches. School drop offs. Planning, or more like wondering what’s for dinner then remembering that you’re the one that has to cook it! Before the hustle and grind of another week begins I find that more than ever before, I can’t go without my insightful hour of mass in the morning (or Saturday evenings). There always seems to be a richness in life lessons and a sense of community in the parish that fills me with hope and a breath of fresh air. A new day and a new chance to love and forgive.

In the weekly Parish bulletin today I came across the article below. I can totally relate. Seeing young love so spritely flourishing in the new relationships of my friends and some family members, to the more enduring, long lasting love of my parents and grandparents, reading about romance and mystery made sense. So below is an excerpt from the bulletin which can be found in full on the Resurrection website, if you’re interested. Otherwise I have shared the article from Smart Loving below with you in case you’re needing a little reminder like me!

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One of the things that makes a new romance so exciting and attractive is the element of uncertainty: Is this person really interested in me? Will this person really be the one I’ve longed for?

We can all relate to the thrill of the start-up relationship where the other is essentially still a stranger and quite mysterious to us. Where is this all going to lead? The suspense is both thrilling and invigorating!

The initial thrill is the stuff of movies and music and is an intoxicating experience. Yet it is also very limited. It captures nothing of the magnificence of a couple’s devotion which has stayed strong over decades and matured into a love that can be truly relied upon.

Deep Christian love depends on more than the romantic feelings that come from ‘falling in love’; it requires a deliberate willful and intentional loving.

“Over the years I’ve noticed that when pragmatism dominates our relationship, we are less playful and more prone to criticism. Conversely, when we are more romantic with each we are also more gentle and forgiving.” – Bryon

St Valentine Valentine's Day

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p style=”text-align: center;”>Fact File
St Valentine was a Bishop in Rome who was imprisoned for performing marriages for Christian soldiers against the decree of the Roman Emperor, Claudius II. While in jail, Valentine healed the blind daughter of his jailor and they became friends. He was eventually beheaded in Rome on February 14, 269AD, signing a farewell notes to the young girl with “From Your Valentine”.
His feast day became a popular celebration among couples in the eighteenth century, who expressed their devotion with greeting cards which were known as ‘Valentines’.
St Valentine is the patron saint of engaged couples, happy marriages, epileptics, travellers and bee keepers.

Keeping Romance Alive

Romance carries with it a sense of playfulness and delight in one another, and is not only for the young. Mature couples need it too. In fact, couples often ask about how to keep the romance in their marriage, because it is associated with relationship health and good will.

One way is to remember that we can never know all there is to know about the person we love there is always something more to know and love about him or her.

Romance happens because we are mystery to each other, and so an attitude of curiosity and wonder about each other’s differences helps to sustain a couple’s romance over the years. Men and women are different. Our differences can divide us as the years go by, or we can choose to see them working as a complementary force, attracting us deeper into the mystery of the other.

Mystery is foundational in our most intimate relationship because it connects us profoundly to divine love, which will always be a mystery to us.

The mystery of being loved so intimately by our romantic lover is that it reveals to us the urgency and intimacy with which God loves us: Can it really be that I am loved so deeply?

In Good Times…and Bad

It’s easy to feel romantic in the good times when things are easy between us and life is fairly simple. The early years, especially the newlywed period, are often high points in a couple’s love history when maintaining a romantic connection is uncomplicated.

It’s important for couples to be proactive in fostering romance in these good times lest they fall into the trap of thinking that romance is spontaneous and effortless. Too many couples founder because they fail to make the most of the opportunity to set up romance habits that will see them through their life together.

As heart-warming as young romance is, there is something even more amazing about the romance witnessed in couples of advanced years. Like the tender attention given to a spouse who is seriously ill or the patient acceptance of a spouse with dementia.

It is in moments such as these, when one’s devotion to the other surpasses expectations, that the world witnesses the real power of romantic love.

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And on that note, what have you got planned for Valentine’s Day? Are you the mushy type who loves to plan and has everything booked and organized months in advanced? Or are you the type that just goes with the flow and thinks it’s all a load of commercialized blah blah blah? Perhaps this year are you like me where you’ll be spending a nice quiet evening in sharing Valentine’s day with the kids and hoping they’ll go to bed super early so you can get your romance on! However you choose to spend the day, the week, the year, it doesn’t have to cost anything to celebrate your loved one and show them you care. Below are a few free activities that to try out!  Because every marriage matters. Bring that curiosity and romance back into your relationship.

The hubby and I circa 2003!

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p style=”text-align: center;”>The Lover’s Gaze Challenge
Make time to watch each other at work or play. Look into each other’s eyes with love and acceptance. Try holding your gaze for five minutes, using only your eyes to communicate your openness.

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p style=”text-align: center;”>Kinky Twister
This is a twist on the good old Twister Game and can be played at home when you’ve got the kids staying over the grandparents’ house for the night! It might need a little preparation (and stretching!) but we played it on my hen’s night with my girlfriends and it was so much fun! It would be even more fun with your hubby! Print a variety of “positions” from the net (I don’t know where my friend got all of them from but she managed to find heaps!). Then shuffle them, pick a card each, and try to get in that position without telling your partner what the name of the position is. You each have to guess the name of the position that’s written on the card and if you don’t guess right, you need to take a shot or a sip of whatever you’re drinking!

20 Questions
Find out something you don’t know about your loved by playing 20 questions. This activity is a great way to deepen your relationship and can get a little sentimental or could make you pee your pants from laughter! Take the time and listen to each other.

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p style=”text-align: center;”>1. What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
2. What’s the best party you’ve ever been to?
3. Which part of your body do you like the most and why?
4. What’s your favourite movie?
5. Have you ever looked in the mirror and winked at yourself?
6. What do you think your best and worst qualities are?
7. What soothes you the most after you’ve had a bad day or bad news?
8. Describe to me what your perfect day would consist of?
9. If you could change anything about the way you were raised what would it be?
10. If you could wake up tomorrow and acquire one new ability or quality, what would you want it to be?
11. What is your greatest accomplishment so far?
12. Who do you look up to the most and why?
13. What is your favourite memory with your mum? And your dad?
14. If you weren’t in the job that you’re in now, what would you be doing?
15. What could I do for you that I don’t do now?
16. When do you feel the most protected and taken care of?
17. If you could go back in time to your teenage self, what would you tell yourself?
18. What would you do in life if money wasn’t an issue?
19. What do you like best about our relationship?
20. What is your favourite chick flick?

2009 The Yuan Wedding

Bellababy Box – Unboxing January 2017

Bellababy Box January unboxing

Bellabox Baby – January 2017 

When the door knocks and it’s not a salesperson but the delivery man with Bellabox Baby package, you know it’s going to be a good day! “You deserve to feel special every month” says Bellababy Box’s website, and with a delivery every month of wonderfully curated products, it sure does feel like that. A flush little box with contents packed neatly inside. One for mum, one for bub. Another one for mum, one for bub. These subscription boxes are such a great present idea because there’s nothing better than getting a little love in your mailbox with awesome little goodies to try out. A present for a friend or even just for yourself if you want a little monthly pamper session.

This month’s Bellababy Box was packed with goodies for both mums and their babies, and inside the box comes a little card explaining all the contents and where you can buy them if they end up being a favourite.

Bellabox Baby is one of those subscription boxes where once a month a box of goodies arrives. Some items are sample sized – handy enough to put in your handbag or babybag, and some items are full size beauties that really give you a taste of what the product is all about. I’ve been enjoying the subscription to this Bellabox as there is always something for both mama and baby. This month’s content are listed below.Munchkin Miracle 360 cup The Urban Ma blog review

Treats for Bub

Munchkin Miracle 360 cup
“Spill-proof and spoutless, now your toddler can drink from their own cup that looks just like yours! Sup naturally from anywere on the 360 rim which reseals automatically”. Our little Hannah already drinks from a cup – she found the sippy cups we originally gave her were too slow with the flow and she was able to drink from a cup early on except she also loved tipping the water out all over her highchair table. What is it with kids and splashing water around everywhere? I was excited to receive the Munchkin Miracle cup in the Bellababy box and Hannah took to it straight away! She drank her water easily from it and was fascinated by all the little holes that made up the surface. With the green lid on top we took it out with us without a spill in my bag. It would be cool if the top part was see-through so Hannah could see where the water level was when she would tip her head back for a drink. Apart from that, this BPA free and easy to hold cup has been a staple in Hannah’s backpack since we got it! I think I’ll need to buy another one for our trip next month.

Cetaphil Baby Daily Lotion
“Designed especially for newborns to provide healthy skin development. Containing the richness of shea butter, this daily use lotion helps nourish and protect fragile skin.” You can’t go past Cetaphil for gentle, hydrating products. I’m currently using a body moisturiser from the Cetaphil range as I’ve recently had a really bad break out of eczema and I find that Cetaphil works a treat. I’m sure their baby range is just as good as we recently got to try the Cetaphil Baby Wash & Shampoo and we loved it. The soft fragrance and fresh lather really got the kids squeaky clean especially after some time at the pools.

Dermaveen Extra Gentle Baby Eczema Cream
“Suitable for infants and toddlers, use on skin prone to dermatitis/eczema, nappy rash, rashes, cradle cap and environmental irritations. Suitable for both face and body.” A large 200g cream was in this month’s box and I haven’t used it yet but reading the description on the Dermaveen website, it sounds like this would really help soothe dry, itchy skin – free of lanolin, parabens, artificial dyes and fragrances, this cream is also combined with oatmeal to effectively calm, hydrate and protect the skin.

Nappy Goo Cream
“With packaging perfect for nappy bags and handbags, Nappy Goo is a soothing and gentle balm with mild antiseptic properties that forms a barrier to prevent and treat nappy rash.” I’ve used a couple of nappy rash creams for the kids, namely Sudocrem and La Clinica’s  Organic Baby Wipe Lotion (I love La Clinica’s organic baby range). Nappy Goo Cream is made by a Melbourne company  and the key ingredients in its nappy cream are zinc oxide (helps to protect the skin from irritants), hamamelis water(also known as witch hazel water which helps to reduce fluid loss from the skin) and melaleuca oil (also known as tea tree oil which has mild antiseptic properties). I received a handy 25g sized tube of the cream which I’ve placed in Hannah’s toiletry bag but you can also buy this cream in a 100g tube. The tea tree oil fragrance is soothing and I’ve used it a couple times with great results.

Baby Mum-Mum Rice Rusk
“Free from the top ten allergens, dissolvable and easily digestible, these organic rice rusks are babies’ ideal ‘first snack’. Suitable for little ones as soon as they develop skills to chew and swallow food.” I received the Bluberry and carrot flavoured organic rice rusks in January’s box and Hannah loved it. The hubby and I also loved it as it kept Hannah quiet for half of the mass tonight. The half she was asleep. I had it in my handbag ready to go for times when I needed her to be quiet but also to give her something to eat when she got a little peckish. The rice rusks were easy for her to hold and didn’t leave a crumby mess anywhere! I didn’t get to taste it because Hannah was very protective of her snack and wouldn’t give me a bite…so I’m guessing that she found it quite yummy 🙂

Luvme Bamboo Biodegradable Wet Wipes
“Gently cleanse your little ones’ stick hands, face and nappy area with these biodegradable wipes. Crafted from 100% bamboo, they are soft yet extremely durable.” This little pack of wipes is also in my handbag. Whenever I get something in the monthly subscription box that is a sample size, I either put it in my handbag, in Hannah’s nappy bag or in the bathroom ready to try out. It’s great because it keeps our toiletries stocked with quality items.

Munchkin Miracle cup Bellababy Box review The Urban Ma blog

Treats for Mum

Cattier Cleaning Water or Cleansing Foam
“This month, mums will receive either the Cleansing Water or Cleansing Foam from French skincare brand, Cattier. Combining quality and results, the range is crafted with organic and natural ingredients to care for your skin.”

The Australian Natural Soap Company Original Solid Shampoo Soap
“This refreshing shampoo bar only uses natural plant oils of coconut, olive, sweet almond, metitgrain and mandarin, to naturally give hair extra body. Wet hair and apply the bar directly to your scalp, massage the product through to the ends of your hair and rinse.”

Monomola Long Lasting Lip Colour
“A special treat from Bellabox just for you! This syper long lasting, peel off lip tint by Monomola works by applying a super think top layer onto exfoliated lips, which you leave on for 10 minutes then peel away for a long lasting lip tint.” I wasn’t going to try this lip product because there were no English instructions on the box that it came in. All the text was in Korean, except for the ingredients list. Luckily on the description card that comes with every Bellababy Box monthly delivery it says that this is a peel off lip tint. I squeezed a little bit of the tint out on my finger and it has a super sticky texture with a highly pigmented colour. Still unsure, I searched for some YouTube videos of girls trying the product out. You have to put a thick layer of the lip colour on your clean, exfoliated lips and leave it on for 10-15mins. Then you peel it off and it should leave you with colour tinted lips. It was a little messy taking it off – I mustn’t have left it on long enough because I couldn’t peel it off, I had to rub it off. To my surprise though, the colour tint worked and my lips ended up being a soft red colour like when you suck on a red icy pole. I felt like I had to apply lip balm after a few minutes just to put some moisture back into my lips. Interesting product.

Cetaphil Dermacontrol Oil Free Facial Moisturising Oil Free Facial Moisturising Lotion SPF30
“This daily moisturizer with broad spectrum UV protection has been developed with carefully selected ingredients to provide nourishment and replenish your skin’s barrier.”

So there you have it, January’s BellaBaby box goodies! With Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day coming up this first half of the year, this would make such a great present because your friend, wife, mother or partner would be getting a present every single month of the year! You can find all the info on their website.

Have you tried out any subscription boxes? What did you think of the products?

January favourites 2017

It’s been an interesting start to the new year. Lots of things have happened and rather than dwelling on the not-so-good, I thought I’d share my favorites for the month! The hubby and I started the year off spending less time holding onto our phones and more time holding onto each other and creating memories with the kids and it’s been amazing, so below are something of the things that have brightened up the first few weeks of 2017.

Hot air ballooning with Global Ballooning 

With January being my birthday month it’s always such a hectic end of the year/start of the year period. So this year I absolutely loved that the hubby planned something for just the two of us for breakfast and dinner. I  was surprised with a hot air balloon ride! It was like we were watching a live Google Earth flying high over the houses, golf courses, freeways and parks. It was so peaceful up there that I think it would be the perfect place to get away on your own. No noise and beautiful views of our world. We watched as the sun rose and the beautiful changes of colour in the morning sky. I would highly recommend trying out this experience if you haven’t been already! We flew with Global Ballooning Australia and they were brilliant. So friendly and knowledgeable.

Dinner dates – Nieuw Amsterdam & The Graham

We spent most of this month feeling like we were in holiday mode and the evenings were filled with either family movie nights and relaxing at the beach, or enjoying dining out with friends. The hubby booked birthday dinner for me at one of our faves – Nieuw Amsterdam. This place has amazing food with vibrant service and there’s just something comfortable about being there. This time round some of the dishes we enjoyed were the zucchini flower poppers, the pork and scallops and the fresh tasting salmon ceviche.

Sharing a meal is always such a great way to bring about conversation and get to know each other better and we did just that with some friends from the parish at a sophisticated yet casual place in Port Melbourne called The Graham. I had the pork belly for entree and it was so delicious and generous in serving, I wondered how I would finish the mushroom risotto I had ordered for mains. I needn’t worry as the risotto was so tasty, I easily cleaned up the plate. The wine and conversation was never-ending which made for another great night out. We didn’t have to worry about parking as there were plenty parking options around and the beach is just a walk away. Great for a no fuss weeknight dinner I say!

 How much clearer are these two pics above compared to the previous ones? These two were taken with the hubby’s Samsung S6 andriod phone. So much sharper than my iPhone 6S.

Kikki K – Wellbeing Diary

A new year means a shiny new diary. I love opening up books to fresh, clean, white pages. A blank canvas to write new stories and capture wandering thoughts. This year the hubby bought me the Wellbeing Diary from Kikki K. So apart from keeping up with appointments, to do’s and generally organising my life, this diary also has weekly prompts that encourage me to reflect and improve on things like health, nutrition, exercise and overall wellbeing. There’s a different focus theme for each month of the year and so far I’m hooked!

January – Dream Then Do (bucketlists, dreams and goals)
February – Exercise
March – Nutrition
April – Sleeping Habits
May – Mindfulness
June – Time for Me
July – Relationships
August – Attitude Audit (Self Esteem)
September – Surroundings (Enhance your sense of wellbeing by surrounding yourself with the things you love. Simplify. Declutter. Creativity)
October – Technology Detox (Technology has the power to improve lives in so many ways but it can also provide endless distraction which can negatively impact your productivity, relationships and sense of wellbeing)
November – De-stress
December – Gratitude

I also love how the diary has a yearly, monthly and weekly view set up. Easy to plan dates and have an overview of what’s coming up.

Skin Naturale’s Me. range – Pink Clay and Jojoba Exfoliant

Spending so much time outdoors in the sun, sand, park, garden etc means slathering on the sunscreen, moisturiser and make up. After a long day out, exfoliating with this pink clay and jojoba medley makes my skin feel oh so squeaky clean and smooth. Gentle enough to be used daily but thorough enough to stimulate blood circulation, even out complexion, reduce pre mature aging and tighten pores. I’m sure I’ve included this in a previous favorites post I’m so obsessed with it!

 

How was your start to 2017? What were some of your favorite places, products or moments that brightened up your January?