Toast to Happiness

I love nutella. I like dipping the spoon in and enjoying that lovely jar of happiness while watching a movie, reading a book, editing photos, and the list goes on. It’s the ultimate comfort food and it adds a sweet kick to almost anything! You can spread it on top of a cookie, waffles, toast… Speaking of toast, have you been to Cafe Shibuya?

A very good friend of mine and I met up for lunch yesterday. We passed by Cafe Shibuya, looked at the menu, drooled because of the photos of the food that looked really yummy, and went to a different restaurant after mustering up the courage to walk away because I was craving for soup. After lunch, we were in the mood for dessert and my friend suggested that we go to Cafe Shibuya.

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It is a quaint cafe with a very laidback atmosphere. You can go there and hang out with your friends or if you’re more into spending time alone, you can just sit in one of the chairs and enjoy reading a book. The place is very cozy and the wooden tables and chairs remind you of home, it’s tempting to just stay there the whole day and chill.

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Indeed, there is!

Mason jar lamps. How creative!

Mason jar lamps. How creative!

Cafe Shibuya specializes in savory buttered toasts that are topped with probably a few of your favorite things. They also have Ghirardelli chocolate frappe which is both sinful and delicious. The Nutella toast was a no brainer for me. My eyes stopped scanning the page the moment I saw it on the menu. My friend, on the other  hand, ordered Mango Caramel and it was just as good. The toasts are served with vanilla ice cream which makes it all the more sinful, but who cares about gaining a few pounds (which you can shed anyway) when every bite takes you to heaven? My friend and I found ourselves smiling while munching on our toasts. The toasts are a little crunchy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside.

Nutella Toast

Nutella Toast

Mango Caramel Toast

Mango Caramel Toast

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Nutella toast = instant good vibes. :)

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You’ll find Cafe Shibuya at the ground floor of the UP Town Center, Katipunan Avenue. They’re open from 10 AM to 10 PM from Sunday to Thursday,  and 10 AM to 12 MN on Fridays and Saturdays. The meals and desserts are affordable, but if you’re on a budget you can always share the meal with a friend. To know more about Cafe Shibuya, like their Facebook page here.

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Photos by Marikit Mateo and Aliya Agbon

All Is Swell

 

Scarf, Saizen | 'All Is Swell' Shirt, Coast Thru Life | Lace skirt, Jatujak | Leggings, Watsons | Sneakers, Converse

Glasses, SM Department Store | Scarf, Saizen | ‘All Is Swell’ Shirt, Coast Thru Life | Lace skirt, Jatujak | Leggings, Watsons | Sneakers, Converse

We rise up when we fall and when we do, we become better versions of ourselves. I believe that at some point in our lives, we hit rock bottom and when that happens, the temptation to just stay there and dwell in the negativity of the situation is hard to resist. To hate the world and blame everyone for living lives better than ours is always our go to option as humans compared to acknowledging the situation and eventually accepting it as a part of our life’s story. I used to take the easy route and just allow my emotions to get the best of  me. The younger version of me enjoyed having people care for me and look after me. It felt good for some time until I realized how weak and dependent I’ve become. I failed to live up to the meaning of my second name, ‘Aliya’.

 

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Ballers, Billabong San Juan Surf School (White) and Roxy (Pink) | Bracelets, Amihan sa Dahican | Bag, Thailand | Anklets, Amihan sa Dahican (red, green, yellow) and Jenny Tañedo

To acknowledge that you’ve hit rock bottom is one thing, and to make the decision to make your way out of the hell hole you’re in and rise up is another. I can’t remember how many times I hit a slump in my life, but I do remember receiving the biggest blow and making the decision to deal with the situation head on. People usually think that facing challenges is a piece of cake but I tell you, it’s hard work. The monster that whispers words that feed negative thoughts which eventually spiral into some twisted form of reality when you wake up at say, 3 in the morning does not help either. Most of the time, you find yourself playing a tennis match in your head where one side says all systems go, and the other makes you doubt every step you take towards picking yourself up and moving forward. It’s a feat, it’s exhausting, but trust me when I say that though the battle may be long, you’ll definitely come out strong.

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Every challenge comes with lessons that need to be learned. Yes they’re difficult, and we all have our fair share of trials that we wouldn’t wish on anyone but in retrospect, I believe these trials are life’s way of molding us into the people that we’re destined to be. You can’t go to chapter three without reading chapter one. Sure you can skip, but then the story won’t be complete. I’m not trying to sound like some hyper optimistic know-it-all. What I’m trying to say is maybe, just maybe, with a slight change of perspective it’ll be easier for us to prepare and deal with the roadblocks ahead.

***

Photography by: Wu Vila

Location: Botanic Garden, Melbourne, Australia

“All Is Swell” shirts

were designed by Carla Sebastian

as part of Coast Thru Life’s efforts to raise funds for

the survivors Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). 

Women’s Saturdate

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What happens when you gather women entrepreneurs for an exhibit, zumba session, open forum, and tutorial on makeup and hijab? Women’s Saturdate. This was held last March 15, 2014 at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex as part of the celebration for Women’s Month. Women’s Saturdate is a joint initiative of  Muslim Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Kutawato City Inc. and Regional Commission on Bangsamoro Women. Women entrepreneurs were invited to showcase their items in booths around the area. Some of the participants and exhibitors started the day with two hours Zumba lead by Irene Tan, a licensed Zumba instructor from General Santos City.

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Our dreamcatcher display during the event.

After the zumba session, there was an open forum where the rights of women and children were discussed.  Shari’ah Counsellor Maceda Lidasan Abo, Police Senior Inspector Jaybee Bayani, Shari’ah COunsellor Narumbai Dilangalen-Datukon, Shari’ah COunsellor Edz Pandi, Shari’ah Counsellor Indira Sinsuat, Atty. AlphaCarole Pontanal, And Ustadza Anisa Taha were there to empower the women present during the event. The discussions revolved around what women should do in different situations and who to ask help from. It was good that these things were discussed during the event because most times, women who are put in very difficult situations choose silence over standing up and asserting their rights because they feel like no one will hear their voice and no one will be there to help them. It was good to see women feeling empowered when the forum ended.

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Makeup tutorial by HERs Ikhwaat

Hijab tutorial by HERs Ikhwaat

Hijab tutorial by HERs Ikhwaat

The open forum was followed by tutorials on makeup and hijab by HERs Ikhwaat. These tutorials sparked my interest because I’ve always wanted to learn how to do makeup, and I’ve always been curious about the hijab. I see women wearing the hijab in our city but I’ve always been clueless about the different styles of wearing it. The tutorial helped me appreciate women who wear the hijab more.

Women’s Saturdate was a good venue to empower women and to encourage them to become entrepreneurs. It was also a good venue to let the younger generation appreciate the hijab. I’m really thankful that Eco Choices was invited to participate in this event :)

 

Touchdown : 14th Year Homecoming Dance Concert

When you miss dancing and you can’t squeeze in dance sessions into your busy schedule because a) you’re super busy and b) there are no studios that offer dance classes  (or the genre that you want at least) in your city, you become very thankful for opportunities that allow you to strut your stuff on the dance floor. That probably sums up why I made sure that I’ll be able to dance in Shadows Manila’s segment for Touchdown : [Shadows] 14th Year Homecoming Dance Concert held last February 28, 2014 at the University of the Philippines Baguio Auditorium. :)

We (the alumni) were very ecstatic to be in Baguio again. The place holds a lot of good memories for all of us; we even took turns in sharing stories about experiences (both happy and scary). When we arrived in Baguio, we were too excited we totally forgot about sleep. Come sunrise, we started to practice and polish our steps. Before we knew it, it was time to prepare for brunch and then rehearsals at the venue. We struggled a bit because it was hard to dance and breathe in cold air. We weren’t used to the cold Baguio air anymore. After a few repeats, however, we nailed the dances and we were good to go.

We sat in the front row because we wanted to see everything. When the concert began, we squirmed in excitement. It was like we were back to our college selves again. We cheered with every dance, and when it was our turn, we made sure that we gave our all in the performance. It was so nice to be back on the dance floor… where it all began.

It was not just a celebration of Shadows’ 14th anniversary; it was also a reunion for members who’ve been spread across the globe because of work, school, and other reasons. It was nice to see faces both old and new. Indeed, Shadows has become one big family with batch 26 as the youngest.

We left Baguio feeling energized and ready to face the tasks and responsibilities that were waiting for us in our respective cities (and countries). I guess that’s the thing about dance – it bridges gaps and brings people closer together. No matter how far we are from each other, our hearts will always beat as one. Once Shadows, always Shadows. We are more than just a dance group. We’re a family. :)

One dance. Once chance. One family. Shadows.

Dreamcatchers

I had my first dreamcatcher in 2004. I bought it as a souvenir from a thrift shop in Boracay. I was intrigued when the shop owner said that if I hang it near my bed, I won’t have bad dreams. True enough, all my dreams since then were happy and peaceful. I then started collecting. When I started studying in the University of the Philippines, Baguio, I was given access to even more dreamcatchers since these were sold along Session Road. I had dreamcatchers of different colors, shapes, and sizes and I brought them with me everywhere I went. I made sure all of them hung near my bed. As my collection grew, I had to put some of them in other locations like the door, the window, my cabinet, etc. It was always easy to identify where my room was – just follow the dreamcatchers.

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Heirs Inspired Dreamcatcher

As years went on, I noticed that I’ve been spending most of my money on dreamcatchers. This isn’t really a problem but when you’re trying to save for something more expensive like strobe lights, flash, or  a new macbook, you begin to think about the money you splurged on something else. It was then that  I decided to start making dreamcatchers. I researched and looked for tutorials online but to no avail. Turns out my mom knew how to make them and she taught me.

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Personalized Dreamcatcher

Personalized metal accent. :)

Personalized metal accent. :)

I didn’t stop making dreamcatchers ever since. I explored designs, concepts, techniques, and incorporated them with some of the dreamcatchers I made. I also did some research and the more I read, the more appreciation I had for the dreamcatchers. According to an article, these dreamcatchers originated from the Ojibwe people who used to call it a “dream snare”. The Ojibwe people used willow hoops, sinew thread, and decorated the dream snare with sacred items like beads and feathers.

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Aliya Collection

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Aliya Collection

For the Ojibwe people, the legend of the dreamcatcher comes from Asibikaashi (Spider Woman). She took good care of the children and people on the land. When the Ojibwe Nation spread all over the world, it became very difficult for Asibikaashi to reach all of the children. Because of this, the mothers and the grandmothers weaved dreamcatchers- webs of magic using  willow hoops and sinew, or cordage made from plants for the children. It was believed that the dreamcatchers filtered out all of the bad dreams and allowed only the good dreams. These dreamcatchers served as protective charms and were hung on the hoop of a cradle board and it was said that “they caught any harm that might be in the air as a spider’s web catches and holds whatever comes in contact with it” (Frances Densmore, Chippewa Customs).

The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones

The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones

The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones

The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones

According to another article, the Ojibwe people believe that dreamcatchers can change a person’s dream. Good dreams pass through the hole and slide down the feathers to the sleeping person underneath. The bad dreams, on the other hand, get caught in the net and disappear with the light of day.

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The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones

The Lakota people from the Great Plains of North America have a different story about the dreamcatcher. When the world was still very peaceful, an old Lakota spiritual leader had a vision while staying on a high mountain. In that vision the great searcher of wisdom, Iktomi, appeared in the form of a spider. Iktomi spoke to him about the cycle of life – how we begin our lives as infants and then move on through childhood and adulthood. Then we move further into old age where we must be taken care of as infants, completing the cycle. All these Iktomi said while spinning a web on a willow hoop which had feathers, horsehair, beads, and offerings on it. However, according to Iktomi, life has many forces both good and bad. The good forces, if you listen to them, will steer you in the right direction while the bad forces will steer you in the wrong direction. Whatever decision is made through these forces can either help or interfere with the harmony of Nature. When Iktomi was finished, he gave the web to the spiritual leader. It was a perfect circle with a hole in the center. The web can be used to help people reach their goals, while making use of their dreams, ideas, and visions. The spiritual leader passed on this vision to the people. The good dreams pass through the hole while the evil in their dreams are captured in the web. The Lakota people believe that the dreamcatcher holds their destiny.

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The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones

The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones

The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones

The dreamcatcher has been a part of Native American culture for centuries. One element of Native American dreamcatcher relates to the tradition of the hoop. The Native Americans of North America held the hoop in the highest esteem because for them, it symbolizes strength and unity. The hoop also represents the sun, moon, and month that travel each day across the sky. These are known as the giizis. The number of points on the dreamcatcher also differ in meaning: 13 points mean the phases of the moon, 8 points represent the legs on the spider woman of the dreamcatcher legend, 7 points represent the seven prophecies of the grandfathers, 6 points mean courage, and 5 points represent the star. The feathers mean breath or air which is essential for life. An owl feather, which was a woman’s feather, means wisdom.

The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones

The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones

The dreamcatcher legend has many variations. Although the Ojibwe people are acknowledged as the first people to use dreamcatchers, many other tribes and native people have also adopted dreamcatchers into their culture. Despite differences in stories and legends, the symbols and meanings are universal and are carried all over the world.

The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones

The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones

It’s always good to read and know more about the products that we make in order to help other people understand and appreciate these items. The dreamcatchers in this post are available at Eco Choices.

Balance

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Top, Jockey | Skirt/pants, Thailand | (c) Aliya Agbon

Last year, I took on a very important role. To those who don’t know, my family runs  Eco Choices – a social enterprise based in Cotabato City. Eco Choices aims to promote healthy living (we sell organic products like brown rice and herbal tea) and create opportunities for the communities living beside the river by making handmade products made from water hyacinth. It all sounds easy, but it’s not. Especially when you’re a librarian/freelance photographer who ditched jobs that had anything to do with business. When I assumed the managerial position, I literally didn’t know what to do. My goals were clear. I just didn’t know what steps to take, who to talk to, etc.

Now the question is, do you stop just because you’re clueless? Or, do you turn things around by accepting the fact that you don’t know anything and then do something about the situation? It was very humbling for me to go back to reading books and looking up articles on the internet that showed tips on how to run a social enterprise. I didn’t even know what “social enterprise” meant. I attended seminars, asked questions, and consulted mentors because I really wanted things to work. Fast forward to seven months later, I can honestly say that  I am seeing improvements. It was quite a ride and we still have a long way to go. We’ve only just begun after all.

My days are spent making products, coming up with new design concepts for Eco Choices, running Eco Choices, social media marketing, and handling finance. Some days I cross over to being the founder of Kids for Peace Foundation and attend meetings that are related to our projects. Some days, I’m just by myself, playing the guitar and singing like there’s no tomorrow. I do admit that there are days when I feel like I’m going insane and I think that’s a good thing. That right there is signal that I need to rest.

I’ve been asked about my theme for this year and all I can say is “balance”. I’m trying to create a balance between my personal life and my professional life. There’s a hairline that separates the two and that’s perfectly normal but I still want to give equal attention to both.

You’re probably asking, “okay what about surfing?” and I’ll ask you the same thing. The last time my skin tasted salt water was in October and if you compare that to 2012-2013′s surf statistics, that’s pretty sad. I was surfing almost every weekend last year. I was at my darkest, too. Is it difficult not being able to surf when I want to? Yes. See, Mindanao is a lot different from Luzon in the sense that I can’t just board a bus at 12 MN and expect to arrive safely the next day. Surf spots take at least 8 hours from where I live too, so I can’t just go on a weekend trip because when the waves are pumping, there’s no way that I’ll be okay with just surfing for two days. When I miss the feeling, I skate. I’ve kissed the concrete pavement for a couple of times now, I’m just lucky I haven’t landed on dog poop yet. When I feel like I’m going crazy because I can no longer deal with being away from the ocean, I make arrangements with my mom. I try to make things work as much as possible.

So… there. Here’s to creating a balance between work, family, and self.

Dot Com

aliyagbon2

 

Dear friends, I moved to a different address on the world wide web. You can now find me at http://aliyagbon.com :) I will not write a long post because I cannot stop smiling and the only words my brain can process right now are “oh my goodness! aliyagbon.com! achievement unlocked!” Little things make me happy. :) So… there. I promise I’ll write a longer post (with more pictures) in the days to come, and trust that I’ll be updating this blog more often.

Special shoutout to Mr. Raymond del Rosario for helping me out! You’re the best!

What’s New?

Happy 2014, dear readers! May this year bring you happiness, love, light, beautiful sunsets, and epic wave rides!

2014 is a very exciting year for us at Eco Choices because we have new products in store for you! If you’re a GIGA user but you’re having a hard time because the products are not available in Cotabato, fear no more because they’re now available at the store! GIGA Products are made from local plant-derived ingredients. Ninety-eight percent (98%) of ingredients found in GIGA products are plant based (Natural) and ninety per cent (90%) are locally-sourced in the Philippines. In fact, they pioneered the use of virgin coconut oil in our country.

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The GIGA baby cold rub is a gentle and safe rub intended relieve babies from discomfort caused by colds and cough. The GIGA baby balm is perfect for relieving baby’s skin from breakouts and diaper rashes while the baby cologne is specially formulated to leave baby’s skin feeling and smelling fresh all day.

Trying to get rid of the holiday weight? Then this product is perfect for you! This easy to use oil has seaweed extract for metabolic stimulation and nutrient rich algae to hydrate and detoxify. No shower needed!

Trying to get rid of the holiday weight? Then this product is perfect for you! This easy to use oil has seaweed extract for metabolic stimulation and nutrient rich algae to hydrate and detoxify. No shower needed!

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Nothing beats taking a long bath after a stressful day. These aromatherapy soaps will not only moisturize your skin; they will also put you in the right mood after your bath.

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Virgin Coconut Oil increases metabolism, helps lose weight, boosts energy levels, reduces risk of heart disease, has antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. When applied topically, rejuvenates skin and contains natural UV protection and prevents wrinkles.

These are just some of the many GIGA products that are available at the store. If you want to know what the other products are, or if you already saw something that you want to purchase, come and visit us at the address I’ll be posting at the end of this blog. :)

When I assumed the managerial position last year, I took it upon myself to do research and read up on designs and ideas that we can use for the store. Early this year, was able to produce water hyacinth covered notebooks with a stamped metal accent.

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It has 50 ruled pages ready to be written on! It’s available in violet, pink, blue, and brown ( the natural color of water hyacinth). Here’s a tight shot of the notebook with the metal accent:

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Cool, right? Another item I designed is the sinag notepad. Sinag started two years ago when the Kids for Peace Foundation, Inc. organized the Sinag Creative Expressions Camp with the young Sendong survivors in Cagayan De Oro City. During the first anniversary of Sendong, we went back to Cagayan to install the sun mosaic in Balulang Elementary School. The sun mosaic has been the symbol of Sinag since then. I like how it reminds all of us to always be happy and positive despite the bad things that are happening around us.

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The sinag notepad has blank unruled pages so if you want to doodle or write random things (something I do often), then this is for you. It also fits in your pocket, so yey!

This last product is for those who are missing their weekly dose of Kim Tan (Lee Min Ho) and Cha Eun Sang (Park Shin Hye). We’ve been making dreamcatchers since 2010 and I was really surprised when the demand for dreamcatchers increased all of a sudden late last year. Everything made sense when I started watching  the Heirs, a romantic comedy series that aired in Korea last October 2013. Guilty of missing the show (I had to watch it several times before finally watching the last episode), I made this Heirs inspired dreamcatcher. I did my best to make it look exactly like the one on the show. It has suede leather, crochet thread, capiz shells, feathers, and Swarovski crystals.

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“It’s a dreamcatcher. It’s supposed to catch bad dreams. Only pretty dreams come through the hole” – Cha Eun Sang, Heirs

To order, call/text 09983755888 or visit us at 18 Javier St. cor. Rosal, Rosary Heights, Cotabato City. Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/EcoChoicesPh.

Sugar Pappi

To make my mom’s birthday extra special, I ordered cupcakes from Sugar Pappi – a pâtissiere based in Cotabato City. My good friend Steph runs the business with her brother, Fore, and I’ve always been a fan of their pastries. I’ve known Steph since socks with laces and ribbons were in vogue. We used to spend weekends at their house and since she’s into baking and cooking, she’d ask us to sample her dishes –  all of which we indulged, of course.

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I ordered nine boxes of chocolate, choco vanilla, and strawberry cupcakes for my mom’s birthday. The presentation was really impressive. It’s noticeable that the siblings paid attention to the details which shows how passionate they are with the work that they do and that they value their clients.

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Chocolate cupcake

People started getting their share of cupcakes once I finished working on the cupcake tower. Most of the guests liked the chocolate flavored cupcakes while the rest were torn between choco vanilla and strawberry.

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Strawberry cupcake

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Choco vanilla cupcake

The cupcakes were so pretty I didn’t want to eat them. I made sure that each cupcake was photographed before giving the guests permission to eat them. I’m glad that the cupcakes tasted just right; not too sweet and not too bland. The height of the icing was okay as well, it wasn’t messy to eat. I’m glad that the guests liked the cupcakes. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on my mom’s face when she saw the cupcake tower. My personal mission was to make my mom very happy on her birthday and Sugar Pappi helped me achieve my goal.

Dear reader, if you’re based in Cotabato City and you want to make someone feel special or if you just want to give in to your pastry cravings (which will be very hard to resist trust me), order from Sugar Pappi. To order, you can call/text 09427799509 or email sugarpappi@yahoo.com. You can also follow them on Instagram : @thesugarpappi.