Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Making Money Work For You: BDO's Easy Investment Plan

Everyday is a blessing and doubly so when we learn something essential and life changing. That is why I was determined to attend this financial seminar conducted by BDO last Saturday. Good thing the rain of the previous day shied away, travel was more convenient.

Easy Investment Plan

The seminar was only 2 hours so I arrived a few minutes before the start, don't wanna be late. I was pleasantly surprised to see a full house, a good indicator that more Filipinos are now interested in going farther than regular savings. The talk focused on the Easy Investment Plan that BDO offers to its account holders. 

It started off with a short intro from our bubbly speaker (forgetful me, what's her name again?) and a video presentation on different types of spending habits of Pinoys. Afterwhich, the speaker presented us with a virtual computation of how long a middle-aged mom who saves P2000 monthly on time deposit can reach P2M for, say, retirement or kid’s college fees. Oh my, she’ll be 141 yrs. old by the time she gets her 2M from time deposit. It was both alarming and sad. 

For those of us who have kids and/or financial goals in our minds know that if only life is easy peasy and if we have enough financial education we could’ve started on achieving this goal ASAP. But life has emergencies, daily spendings and temptations (the nice to haves) so savings becomes last priority. Yeah, most of us are in that kind of predicament. 

So what does BDO Easy Investment Plan offers? Here are what my limited memory gathered from the talk:
  • You can start investing with a very minimum amount, for as little as P1000 monthly. Unlike other investment plans that require a lump sum before they start investing your money, EIP allows you to invest in staggered basis. That’s why this is on top of mind for me :)
  • Have an existing BDO account to become an investor – savings, current and even payroll account will do. They can just auto debit your agreed amount from your account on schedules that you choose. Auto debit is the way to go for me because I really find it a hassle to visit the bank everyday. I'm a perennial online banker. 
  • On just the first month of debit from your account, they will start to invest your money so it’s already working for you. You can choose the investment you want – low, medium or high. As with the rule on investment: low risk, low returns; high rish, high returns. BDO can also help you map out the best investment for you as it’s always different strokes for different folks. Just visit any branch and talk to their product manager.
  • You can enroll for EIP in any branch, not necessary the branch where you opened your account.
  • The maximum amount per investment is P10,000 but you can invest as many 10K as you can afford. They will issue a COP (certificate of participation) once you reach the maximum value. Here’s a nice tip I got from the talk, once you get your COP/s, fold it neatly and put it inside a coin bank so you won’t forget where you placed it. Some investors were able to fill their coin banks with COPs. Lucky early starters.
  • You can redeem your investment if you need to, just go to the any bank branch and present your COP and they will encash the COP value. Be mindful, though, that there is a cutoff time and period to give the bank time to process. So investment is quite liquid but they’re very strict with redemption process to protect the investor. One OFW attendee asked if he can authorize his wife  to enroll and redeem in his behalf but the speaker greatly encouraged him to do it personally. 
 Know more about their EIP here or visit any branch.

The only hitch for me is that it's not covered by PDIC as with any other investment options. Other than that, I think this is a good investment. It's literally making money work for you, no sweat. 

The seminar was only half day and I was able to spend ME time in the mall after. However, after attending that seminar it was so hard to buy something because I know they’re just nice to haves. In all fairness, the seminar worked on me, except for that super cute sweater and necklace from Forever 21 hehe. Hey, I needed those :)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Recipe Share: Burger with Mushroom Sauce + A Party

Sick and tired of the old burger patties? Or, as in our case, we bought too much for Sophie's birthday and didn't know what to make with the rest of the packs. We're not really fond of burgers on a regular basis.

To remedy, I made mushroom a sauce so these patties become consumable for lunch. I decided on a mushroom sauce because we received a big pack of dried mushroom last Christmas. So you see, this recipe is a collaboration of ingredients that's been sitting around far too long in our pantry and freezer.

Here goes the recipe, hope you can try it out. Hubby and I really enjoyed it (the kids aren't burger eaters but they like the sauce).

What you need:
6 burger patties (meat or veggie burger, your choice)
8 dried mushrooms, soaked in water and sliced thinly
1 tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, julienne
1/2 cup evaporated milk
salt and pepper to taste

What To Do:
1. In a pan, melt butter in medium heat. Saute garlic and onions.
2. Saute mushrooms (when it starts to get done, you can smell that oh so familiar nutty mushroom smell)
3. Put the fire to low and pour in milk, stirring constantly until it thickens. The amount of milk depends on how much sauce you want and ratio of mushroom to sauce. I put in about half a cup of evaporated milk. Add salt and pepper to taste.

You're ready to eat!:)

While on the topic of cooking, we got invited to a birthday celebration at Max's Restaurant. They served the usual menu - resto's signature fried chicken, pancit, etc. What's interestingly new is that the theme of the party was Junior Masterchef. Kids who participated were given a set of gear and utensils for baking: toque, apron, gloves, pot holders and mixing spoons, all with the famous show's logo. Cool right? Sophie, being keen in the kitchen, really enjoyed making choco crinkles, the ingredients were of course provided by Max's. Another activity to make kids really feel kitchen masters for a day was the shake making contest. I say, this is a unique way to celebrate kids' birthday now.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Off To The Park

I was made a model for a photography class in college (too long ago). This B&W photo was taken in Lights and Sound aprk in Luneta park.

I've always wanted to go back to this place. I just adore this place with all those steel giants depicting the martyrdom of Rizal.
Last weekend, I got a chance to do so with hubby, sister and kids in tow. The place is practically the same as I remember it but with some upgrades. They now have this train ride designed as, from the looks of it, a replica of Thomas and Friends and my little boy can't be more ecstatic. The ride is P50 per pax and will take you around the park.

We hopped off the train when we reached the Chinese garden. The entrance fee to the garden is P10/pax. Um, yeah, almost every attraction has a minimal entrance fee. 

A quiet garden in the middle of a bustling city

A place where lovers saunter and the homeless nap.
An intricate ceiling design.

Next stop was the Light and Sound garden. P20/pax to enter if you're just touring around and P50/pax if you want to see the scheduled show. I have seen the light and sound show in college and it's really a must see.
My sister eavesdropping on a very important meeting

Such nostalgia to visit this place again

 Isa pang tsimoso

 Now I have a plus one in this photo :)

amazing sculpture noh?

 my wacky family

We were lucky to see the fountain show by dusk. Honestly it was a first for me.

Did you know that Kilometer Zero is in Rizal Park? I learned that just recently (need to brush up on more useful history facts). It's a point where distances in Manila are measured and its landmark is the big black clock in Roxas Blvd. 

Now that was one inexpensive and exhilirating lakwatsa. I always thought that Luneta was a forgotten place by the Filipinos, but I was wrong. There were throng of families on picnic, local and foreign tourists, artists, students. I witnessed as well that the park is still a numero uno date spot.
More lakwatsa post to come :)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

3 Things I Miss

During my father's stay in the hospital, I went back and forth the hospital to help mom watch over him during daytime. On some days, I needed to take the public transport to either get there faster or because the car was not available.

While on commute, here are some of the things I realized I missed:

  1. Commuting perse. Taking the 45minutes or so LRT train ride (no matter how over crowded it may be) from Roosevelt to Pedro Gil gave me a magnificent view of the city. I adore passing by Luneta Park as the sun sets, the park explodes with hues of orange, read, pink and blue. Remind self to bring the kids to a train ride, they will surely love it.
Once I missed my train stop (Pedro Gil and Gil Puyat always confuses me) and got off at Libertad station instead. I took the opportunity to buy some fruits and flowers for Papa at the local market. All the possibilities of finding something to do or to buy when you commute. Commuting comes hand in hand with walking which is not just a great excercise but a way to discover nooks and crannies of a place and find a hidden jewel. I found a bakeshop near Pedro Gil station that makes great chicken teriyaki and pork asado buns. Just be careful and alert on the road when you commute.

  1. I missed college. I was on a same jeepney with a group of students from my former school (UST), I can’t help but hear their casual conversations. It sounded trivial now for me but back in the days, those were serious stuff for any college student - group work and if everyone is doing his/her part, chika about professors, class schedules, etc. How easy life was way back then as compared to now, all you have to do was study (and party in between!). 
File:UST Main Building.jpg

  1. I miss my family. The days in the hospital had me realize how much I miss chatting nonstop with my mom, teasing and bickering with my dad, younger brother and nieces (a trait I got from Papa).                                                                                                                             My kids are especially fond of their lolo and lola but since we moved to the north and schedules got busy even on weekend, visits to my parents' house in the south have been less. The kids know when it's been a while since they last saw their grandparents because they start asking why we haven't gone to lolo's place. Now I know that we need to spend more time with them, on a travel, a simple visit to the mall or a dinner out of town. We haven't traveled with them for a long, long time. I remember the last we had was a trip to Boracay and I was still single then. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Gift of Blood: Our Red Cross Experience

I shared my experience here on being a donor during a blood letting activity of Red Cross.

Recently, my family and I experienced being on the other side of the fence.

My dad got hospitalized last Friday from a recurring illness. I won't dwell on his sickness, maybe some other time when I'm ready. For now I will share our experience of being a Red Cross recipient.

Saturday morning, while we were preparing to go to the hospital, I received a call from my sister that Papa needed 5 bags of type O(+) blood to be transfused and that 1 bag was needed asap. The hospital can only provide us with 1 bag and time was of the essense.

Naturally, we were in panic. Of some sort, that is. We are the type of family that's likely last to panic in a war. So when we're frantic, it's not too obvious. I'm glad I belong to that family, no wasted energy and time on senseless hysteria especially during these time.

Immediately, I texted family and friends who offered to be blood donors and requested them to come to the hospital. A couple of them who we think will pass the first level of screening came. Nevertheless, we were thankful for everyone who espressed concern and extreme generosity. My heart swells with gratitude and you should see my Papa's face when they visited him in his hospital room. He was beaming.

That same morning too, Stephen and I decided to just go straight to Red Cross and prayed to the heavens that we can bring home good news. We practically gate crashed because we can't talk to anyone from their office over the phone. That was the day of Red Cross fun run (which I was supposed to join) so they may be busy.

The Red Cross Port Area facade. This chapter has the blood bank. 

Once we got there, we registered by the guard who gave us instructions on how to reach the Blood Center. It's on the same floor and won't be hard to miss. The blood center, a typical cashier setup with windows for blood request, donation and priority window for dengue patients. Across it is a waiting area surrounded by countless trophies and plaques of the institution secured in glass cases.

Blood Center area. All blood request/donation transactions are done here. 

We went straight to the window for blood request and quickly read the instructions pasted on the window.  We did the first step which was to leave our request form on a plastic tray and said a silent prayer while waiting to be called . The request form came from the hospital with the doctor's orders. No request form, no transaction. I also left my Red Cross donor's card which they to every successful donor during bloodletting activities.

As written at the back of the donor's card, the holder of the card is given priority when in need of blood but it does not excempt him from paying the fees to cover the request. Good enough for me. That card gave me the nerves too to just go straight to their chapter without a prior call.

When they called my father's name, I walked toward the cashier's window. The attendant asked my relation to the patient and said that they have O (+) rbc (red blood cells) but it's leuko reduced and asked if that's okay. *Geez, beats me.* He advised me to call the hospital's blood center and ask, which I dutifully did. The hospital gave it a go. Thank heavens.

I confirmed with the attendant that we will get the 2 bags available and prepared to pay. We actually needed 5 bags but the 2 bags got us through that day. One day at a time, our very apt motto in the coming days.

Each bag costs P1500 so we paid P3000 for the two bags. The blood is actually free but they charge for processing, storing, etc. I also found out that there are other crucial info that we need to know about the blood we need from any blood bank:
- blood type (A, B, AB, O, etc,) and if it's negative or positive
- RBC, WBC (white blood cells)
- for RBC, should it be leuko reduced or plasma.
- no. of bags needed.

I found this site with very helpful information:

Once transaction was settled, the attendant crossed off my blood donation entry from my donor's card which means we're quits. Note to self: need to donate more blood for future use.

Because we were in a rush to get to Red Cross we forgot to bring a cooler for storage during transit from the Port area to the hospital but the attendants gave us a box with a pack of ice. I can't explain how thankful I am for such institution. I hope they get more donors and financial support.

We left the center with so much gratitude in our hearts. As I take a photo of the box, I was thinking: hold on Papa, help is here. God is good.

We went straight for the hospital and submitted the bags of blood to their blood center. Then, we accommodated family member and friends who volunteered to donate blood.

This was our activity for the whole weekend but gladly we got 6 bags by Sunday :) One as back up in case needed before his endoscopy procedure.

As I write this, Papa already underwent endoscopy and he is homeward bound today :)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Week That Was

After the little girl’s birthday, I decided to make the following week a laid-back week, day off muna sa pagiging tarantuling (aka, busy-busyhan school of acting). I even let the new helpers do all the cooking on weekends.

Then last week, we’re off again to busy parenting. To-do list just never runs out of uncheck buttons. 

Here are snippets of the week that was:

  1. Malikhaing Kamay activity – a school activity of the kids with recycling and creativity as main thrusts. Of course, mom and dad were there to support our kids during the culmination activity. Our little girl Sophie was one of the winners of the 3D house-making which they did in school as an individual activity. Yay! The little boy also made a flower art out of magazines, seeds and paint. I love how he was able to paint within the lines of the leaves. His fine motor skills definitely improved. They're both winners in my heart. Honestly I always get mushy during these activities :)

  1. School hunt – we already have a shortlist of the schools for the little girl's move to first grade. Last Saturday, she took an exam in one of those schools and passed J but we still have a few more schools to tackle because we want to keep our options open. One thing about applying to different schools is accomplishing different requirements for each school. The ID pictures of different sizes, documents, credentials, etc. Some schools require them even during application process and while others during enrollment already. I ordered copies of NSO BC from here: I just called their hotline, placed my order, paid through credit card and after 2 days the docus arrived. They charge P350 per copy, more expensve than getting it directly from NSO office but hey, I got the docus without having to take a leave from work or getting up from my chair even. Working moms need this kind of convenience. 
  1. An afternoon in the playground. Priceless moment with the kids. 

  1. Our next party plans – now it’s time to prep for Sam’s 4th birthday naman. When asked what he wants for his birthday, he answered matter-o'-factly ‘I want Jollibee birthday.’ So now, I'm busy getting a booking from Jollibee. 
  1. My new find – usapang healthy healthy-an, finally found almond milk here in Manila. Almond milk is mainly used by vegetarians and best for lactose intolerants. And just look at the label: 1% fat, no cholesterrol, no trans fat. You can even make this at home. Know more about almond milk from here: For those who are not familiar with Kimberly Snyder, she is Drew Barrymore's and other Hollywood stars' nutritionist. I’ve been reading her site for almost 2 years, very informative and insightful. Cash & Carry in Makati City carries different brands and flavors of almond milk. Natura brand is P114.00 per box. 

How was your last week? 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Recipe Share: Vanilla Cupcakes Two Ways

For Sophie’s birthday, I baked vanilla cupcakes. Originally, it was intended for the cupcake making contest but I somehow ran out of time and wasn’t able to make the frosting. I decide to just serve the cupcakes as dessert and sans the frosting, they got wiped out..

Since it was my first time to make vanilla cupcakes, I couldn’t figure out which recipe would be better so I tried two versions: one from Eat, Bake, Sell cookbook and the other from Glorious Treats.

Here are the the two recipes: 

Vanilla Cupcake:
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsps. vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk

1. Preheat the oven to 375degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper cups. Set aside.
2. In a bowl, combine the all purpose flour and cake flours with baking powder and salt. Blend together.
3. In a mixer bowl, cream butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time. Stir in vanilla.
4. At low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with milk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold into the creamed mixture. 
6. Scoop batter into the muffin pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until done. 

 I got a little carried away and made rainbow cupcakes out of these, inspired by her Icings cake. I divided the mixture into three bowls and dropped a little of different colors on each bowl.Just a little because I wanted pastel colors. Placed a little of each colored batter in each cupcake liner and swirled with the other end of a clean teaspoon. I found the teaspoon more effective in swirling than the toothpick since I wanted to make big swirls.

This recipe gave me a denser cupcake than the recipe below. I was able to make 21 mini cupcakes with this recipe that taste really good.

The other version from Glorious treats, fluffier and more moist but not too greasy that my cupcake liners’ design was still visible after baking. This recipe yielded 16 cupcakes.

Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes
Recipe by Glorious Treats
Yields- 15-16 cupcakes
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup oil (vegetable, canola or extra light olive oil)
1/2 cup buttermilk
(or 1/2 cup milk plus 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice- add acid to the milk then set aside for 5 minutes before using)

* Preheat oven to 350*F.
* In a medium bowl, add cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir together with whisk, and set aside.
* In the bowl of an electric mixer, add eggs and beat 10-20 seconds.  Add sugar and continue to beat on medium speed about 30 seconds.  Add vanilla and oil, beat.
* Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add about half of the flour mixture.  Add half of the milk, then the rest of the flour and the rest of the milk.  Beat until just combined.  Scrap down the side of the bowl.
* The batter will be thin.   Pour batter into a muffin pan prepared with paper liners.  Fill liners about 2/3 full.
* Bake cupcakes in pre-heated oven for 12-14 minutes.
* Cool in pan 1-2 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pan (carefully) and finish cooling on a wire rack.

Happy Saturday everyone! Happy baking :)
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