Ghost Month Story on this Catch Up Week!

Where do I begin, to tell the story of how crazy things have been?  Sigh.  

Let’s see: I got very busy on a project, quarreled with a friend, accepted a regular job (oh yes), wore blah clothes to work, moved out of the house to be near work, had a near death experience, got bitten by something, encountered a snake (the human kind), quit the job (weellll not quite totally), found out another friend has cancer, went to two other friends’ parent’s funerals in a day, attended two very good friends’ weddings, donated ten inches of hair and in between, ate too much, drank so much coffee and got fat.  Yep.
I was at Starbucks, UCC Cafes, McDonald's, Wendy's, J.Co, Pao Tsin, Lugaw Republic for breakfast and dinner invariably. 

Depending on the time I have (or dare to be late for work) to linger over big eats and coffee, I would choose to have them at the start or end of day.  At UCC Mentore, I have my favorites orange latte (I don't mix the orange syrup right away, I'd wait for the sweet hit at the bottom after the bitter, like sucking liquid leche flan haha), buttery french toast slabs with bacon and jam and the tinapa (smoked fish) flakes with rice, Japanese egg sunnyside up and a side of salted egg, fresh onions and tomatoes. Trudging home I pass it again so I drop in for cake and coffee.

At Starbucks I'll have paninis.

 At McDonald's all permutations of coffee withs.
At Wendy's their cheese melt makes me think of college days at the cafeteria - minus the sandwich maker press.  
At J.Co it's cheezy rich (last post).  
If I want some downhome flavor I would go have rice and dumplings with cilantro dip at Pao Tsin; goto with tokwa't baboy at Lugaw Republic;

or Mr. KimBob's Bibimbob - cheaper but hot eats - over at SM Makati.
Eating at my desk I get stuff from Family Mart, Mini Stop fried siomai and Kumori breads.

Everybody talked about the ghost month.  For a while there, I thought I was a “casualty”.  Then again, when you think about it, much of the bad luck I brought onto myself because I didn’t think, I just acted.  I didn’t trust my instincts.  Against my better judgment I accepted a position I didn’t apply for. I tried to let things go (sorry Elsa, that didn’t work for me).  There were people who were rude, thought they were perfection personified.  One was particularly disrespectful.   I thought a small company would be a nice change.  There were small minds as well.  I was not happy.  I quarreled with a friend because she said work isn’t supposed to be.  Do you agree?
I would put on ear buds, so I can tune out the litany of gossip and backbiting, with Britain’s Got Talent amazing cuts, Ailee, Callum Scot, Lindsey Stirling, The Piano Guys and Maroon 5 on Youtube playing as I worked.  As it turned out, I was allergic to earbuds (plastic or silicon or whatever) and developed otitis.  Never had earache as a kid so I was confounded getting it now.  For close to a month I had to endure near deafness in one ear (alternately) and a hypersensitivity to high decibels some days.  The good thing was, this happened close to my last regular workday.
I thought being at the city center and a relatively short commute to the rental, I will get to see friends, do lunch. I saw less of them because weekdays are busy and Saturdays are for family.  I had to go home, do laundry and chores.  Sunday night I have to go back to the rental so it won’t be as hard a commute Mondays (the worst traffic other than payday Friday).  There are express vans to take from my parents’ house, but do I really want to go through the workday like a zombie - 5 days a week?  I know, I know, lots of people do it.  
I am back home, taking care of my parents (my dad turned 80 in July and all the funerals I went to made me worry) and the dogs, working in between.  I feel more balanced.  I do not have to deal with long walks to bus stops and two hour traffic in a route that should take 35 minutes (bus ride, short stops, from EDSA Ayala to my rental in Mandaluyong- ideally).   I had walked miles.  Every day.  Since hordes of commuters gather at the few bus stops along Ayala, I had to go to the one farther down, where more buses mean more chances at a seat.  Imperative because traffic is hideous, standing for hours is murder. That’s not saying once you’ve walked all that way you get a ride pronto.
Forget the MRT.  Snaking lines to the counter right to the platform, jostled this way and that in the crush in and out of the train is enough to take years off your life.  So do traffic.  When the INC faithful decided hordes of people are mere collateral damage to their show of force, us unenlightened mortals – rights and all - took a long walk.  They did not issue real apologies either, they say they were just standing their ground – public ground at that.  It’s like my boss saying life is not fair – when she clearly leads a charmed life.  Hah!
My health problems continue, because I am busier and stressed than ever.  I still work and I still bake.

And if I'm going to be superstitious I'd say my Chinese Zodiac Sheep Year prediction was right - healthwise. I even have a boil - yuck!!! Stuff I never got as a kid I'm getting now.  My doctor said my immune system is way low.
So here I am  getting my life and my health back.   And posting again.  It wasn’t really the time factor that kept me from it.  It was the weariness of mind and body, petty inefficiencies and a degree of dumbing down that left me…well…incredulous! Good thing there’s instagram and coffee and eats!  I’m sorting all the pictures I’ve taken and the backstories to post soonest!  For now, I’ll say thank you to everyone who still checks in now and then.  Really appreciate it!
I'd also appreciate attributes and photo credits as these are all my pictures.

Simple Joys

Long time no post yet again.  Haha.  I got busy. And when I get busy I get sick.  Conceptualizing takes a lot out of me (I do marketing and events).  I have work induced OCD.  Working on a project basis do have its’ perks- like I can crash after.  The downside is when there's work, there's way too much to do and limited time to do it.  Everything was needed yesterday! Anyway, I can’t complain.  It's my body that does :p
My pick-upper were morning pancakes, weekend binges with my friend Joy and work weeknight dining  -technically a consultant brainstorms and presents alone so it’s not like bonding with clients beyond work is a given and married friends have dinners to fix for their significant others.
 My friend Joy is an exception.  She is newly married and work is based in Manila while her hubby manages businesses in Mindoro.  Her life pretty much goes on the way it did when her name didn't have a hyphen.  Occasionally we get to have dinner with the hubby when he flies over.  They are a very nice couple, adventurous and fun!  It is also fortunate for me that they like driving me home so I can stay all night with them cruising for food.  I do not feel like a third wheel and we have a lot of fun talking.  How cool is that?
I met Joy when I was still working a regular job at an airline.  She was born here but lived abroad.  We became fast friends because we both love to write. She doesn’t get to write as often as I so it’s the exchange of ideas – mine weird and fanciful; hers factual and practical – that made our talks funny and looonnnggg!  It was after I left the company that we got together more often. She was the one I took to Gab’s Tunahan and Bulalohan  in Quezon City a couple of years ago.  It wasn’t exactly a hole in the wall place, more like a roadside eatery that grew, nourished by a steady stream of cab drivers sneaking in a meal.  We had mussels and sigarilyas cooked in coconut milk and tuna with onions served in a teeny tiny saucer – the kind usually used to hold four calamansi fruit (which you squeeze for a sour kick to the condiment of choice –patis (fish sauce) or toyo (soy sauce) or straight into your pancit (noodle dish).  Or a doll's tea saucer haha. The flavors were so rich that the small serve turned out to be filling enough, taken with a cup of rice and free soup.  Our bill was a whopping one hundred pesos !  My treat hehehe.
We don’t get to go to Gab’s anymore because there are lots of places to go to these days and we have our favorites.  
Banapple has been much blogged about and no wonder.  The place is cutesy and craft-y (I have a thing for chandeliers and light fixtures) and the meals are reasonably priced, hefty and homey-delish! 

A personal favorite is the lasagna roll stuffed with plenty of creamy cheese to make me happy.  And barbecue ribs! Ok, chuck in the crowd favorite banana cream pie. Btw, Joy likes eating out with me because I have an instinct for ordering  the best dishes even when I’ve never been to or have read reviews of the place. 
Another haunt is Som’s at Rockwell, Makati.  Used to be a hole in the wall, now a proper, still unassuming restaurant.  We love Thai food and Som’s serves up real tasty ones.  Joy usually orders pad thai and is crazy over suman and mangga (rice cake with coconut milk sauce and a half cheek of mango) while I have a new favorite:  masaman beef curry! Very tomatoey, redolent with lemon grass, rich with coconut milk and studded with sweet onion pearls, baby potatoes and bits of beef.  More rice please!  Granted the beef bits are just that but it’s not so expensive a dish that you’d go amok demanding “where’s the beef?”.  The sauce is to die for – spicy, sour and sweet all at once! I can't find my picture file on these though so you will just have to imagine haha. No worries, it was simply good food plated just as simply.Which, except for the lemongrass addition and some recipe’s coconut milk omission, may have a kinship with our caldereta , my other  (okay, Spanish  influenced) favorite dish (after morcon).  No wonder I am also taken with  Chef Laudico’s Pugon Roasters (serves chicken inasal and pinoy fast food at the Ayala Triangle Gardens) Kaldereta Mac – basically beef caldereta  reincarnated as baked macaroni. 
And the eggsaimada!  The typical ensaymada (Spanish pastry origin) is made of dough, shaped (but rounder) as you would a cinnamon roll and then slathered with butter, dusted with sugar or lots of grated cheese.  The best ones would be crusty outside, golden and chewy inside, buttery, soft and the cheese over it is Queso de Bola.  Enjoyed with coffee or the more luxurious hot chocolate, the ensaymada is a Filipino favorite merienda (snack).  The eggsaimada has creamy egg and longanisang Lukban bits in it!  Scrumptuous!  I had to have two cups of coffee to finish it all.  It was just one piece, halved, but it was a lot for a solo and slow eater like me (good excuse to linger). Yes you need to eat it all.  Stuff you don't want to take home (when you're not going home right away) are eggsaimadas and burgers with everything on it (tomatoes, onion relish and lettuce makes the burger bun soggy - not good).  
Joy loves the nutty donut at J.Co's and never failed to order it.  My ensaymada love extends to their version of it known as the Cheezy Rich - aptly named - part of their J Club sandwich donuts.  I especially like that it's a combo, with coffee, deal haha.
Did I mention pancake mornings? McDonald’s is it when I am cash strapped and needs to eat fast; Pancake House when I am indulging.  They have salted caramel pancakes, which is a stack of banana walnut pancakes with salted caramel syrup and for crunch (contrast in texture) there’s a smattering of walnut and brown sugar crumble.  Sometimes the salted caramel drizzle is…well…just that.  They’d give you more of the regular syrup if you ask though.  I needed more contrast and crunch so I got a side of bacon. Oh, dear. I've had pancakes and waffles at the Wildflour
but they're not that different from the others and much pricier.
I make pancakes from scratch at home anyway, classic flapjacks and this chocolate flecked stack (sometimes I put butterscotch chips in).

Back to Joy:  We bonded more when I did some of the beadwork on her wedding gown.   My other friend Kim made the gown:  a beautiful A-line, semi fishtail Audrey Hepburn-ish  length of watered ivory silk with minimal beadwork (it was originally made for a fashion show).  Joy already had a gown of embroidered ivory pina blend  (pineapple fiber) made elsewhere. That one was relatively inexpensive and Joy had a specific design in mind.  She wanted simple.  She thought she wouldn’t care (being such a practical person and the wedding but a formality and logical end to a very long engagement).  She didn’t want to be a bridezilla, too mired in detail she couldn’t  lose herself  in the moment.  I told her I never met a bride who didn’t end up wanting or caring more on her day of days.   True enough she cried  when she saw her gown. It wasn’t made well, didn’t fit, the embroidery all scrunched up because it was sewn onto the pelon (that paper-ish material used to “hold up” filmy delicate fabric to give it form).  Joy was a very strong, no frills woman and it astounded me to
 see her uncharacteristically upset.  I set up an emergency run to Gakuya and picked up the gown I pushed Joy into trying on back when she didn’t have any wedding  plans.
You know how the cloud clears suddenly or something dawns? That’s what happened with Joy and her Gakuya gown.  She didn’t realize until then that she’d met her gown and hadn’t known it like I did.  Yeah, yeah I take credit for part of her happiness that day and on her day J

Kim was in Canada for fashion week so I took it upon myself to finish the beadwork, not sleeping all Saturday after the gown was altered  to fit Friday morning because Joy has to fly Sunday to Paoay, Leyte for her wedding on Monday! Whew!  Till the hour she came to pick up the gown I was sewing on crystals and pearls.  It was all worth it she says, everyone gushing over her gown and wishing they’d have such a wedding (horse drawn carriage, laing (taro leaves) pizza, bagnet (fried pork) and all.  She and her hubby have been thanking me ever since, hence the eating adventures whenever there is time.  I couldn’t be at her wedding but I am happy I got to be a lifesaver J Anything for a good and loyal friend!
p.s. this was written months ago!  And my picture files are all messed up haha.  I've been eating and compiling for future posts.  Joy and I are still at it, eating and coffeecupping being our shared joys, which I will be posting soonest!  What's yours?


Hello Again!

Yikes! My last post was of last summer and here it will be summer again soon! The rest of 2014 was a blur and my internet connection -not always good - finally put me to sleep. I mean,  I would nod off waiting in vain for pages to open.  This year of the sheep, maybe things will get jumping. High hopes, you know.
Btw, bltn (better late than never) on my greetings for you.  Here I've made you a postcard of sorts hehe.

The first pic was blue lemonade I had at Fancy Crepes and Cakes; the gorgoeus poinsettia decked steps was at Greenbelt Makati; I went trippy with the lights fantastic at the Ayala Triangle Gardens; made Valentine heart "art" out of Hershey's Kisses (ooohhhh yummm); and oggled the faux flower Chinese New Year symbol at SM Aura.  See? I get around :).  But I haven't downloaded emojis yet haha.
One other reason I haven't posted was that while there were positive, good things there were overwhelming bad times too.  Not as bad for me, personally, because I have simplified my life down to the basics.   No major losses or issues thank God...except for a tooth surgery that brought me down most of the Holidays and into January.  I am unable to chew, with half my face all swollen and a pinched nerve throbbing and making my head ache.  I could not do much.  No baking, since every move is jarring. I couldn't send out Holiday greetings because even texting -vis a vis bending my head to punch keys- gave me pain and dizziness.  I was on pain killers and antibiotics. I ate mostly soft white bread with lots of Nutella, crumble toast with peanut butter, cold soup and lots of cold water.
Whatever I post, I thought, would seem flighty or  inane, too perky when those around me were grieving. There were a lot of funerals in December.
I found posting on Instagram is waaayyy easier and faster. They were just pictures I took of my #dentalmental food and some nature stalking (in mom's garden).  I dogged the dogs too! Other than that I wasn't "connected".  I was communicating with family and dogs via sign language (frenzied gesturing) and mumbling.
When I finally could eat, I ate royally! Friends who missed my company during the Holidays couldn't wait to take me out and feed me lol! Actually a lot of new restaurants and international franchises seem to be opening every week.  Lots of great places for eats. Even our lowly neighborhood sprouted five turo-turo (point-point, meaning you point at the displayed food on the counter to order) in two months.
Milkyway/Cirkulo in Makati was  my go-to date place back in the day and I got to visit again when I attended my friend's surprise birthday party/bridal shower/Valentine's Day celebration dinner.  Yes, that same couple I helped style for a pre-nup shoot last summer!  Full circle eh?
There were croquettas (potato) and spinach and blue cheese phyllo triangles to start. I loved the cochinillo asado or roast suckling pig (lechon) the best, although poor piglet set just so in a food warmer made me sad. Delicious, though! I forgot about being squeamish and just prayed that I am not a slaughter animal in my next life.
The Angus beef roast is good too, but that lechon is tops - all melty fat and soft meat and crisp golden skin. Sigh.
Only thing that stopped me from eating more than two slices of it was my earlier gorging on salad greens! I love arugula and blue cheese together, and with that nicely flavored vinaigrette?!?!?  I topped up my plate thrice.
There were dessert dumplings, with sweet ripe bananas (like deconstructed turon) in the pouch. You dip the whole thing in caramel sauce. Yum. I didn't get to stuff myself silly like I planned. I got caught up making wedding gowns out of tissue rolls (games). The Diet Gods (if there were any) were holding me back from the buffet!

The couple had their tinghun (engagement rites) with a lauriat spread at Century Park Sheraton Hotel, which is the go-to lauriat place since forever, consistently good and authentic.  It's a quiet, simple celebration but non-Chinese guests like me are bowled over by the exchange of symbols and gifts between the couple's families, the bride-to-be's walk backwards, tea service and all the other rituals.
I am allergic to seafood - shrimp of all sizes (prawn, lobster and other relatives haha) present in most lauriat dishes - so I mostly ate fruit, meat dishes, abalone, mushrooms, fish, noodles and all the gold coins (chocolate) I can find.  
There was pigeon with the decapitated head on the plate, all cooked and scary looking, beak and all, which my tablemate said was delicious, like Peking Duck.  I took her word for it.  
My friend said you don't actually eat the head or suck the eyes out like you do with fish heads, you open it up and eat the tiny brain - to make you smarter!  Uh, I think I'm happy with my brains the way it is, for the most part.  But hey, all food in a lauriat is symbolic for luck,  abundance or a "wish'em well" treat so don't knock it. Just squirm quietly hehe.  
I had pictures but the camera phone I used then went on sleep mode and won't wake up.  It is still on the fixit list. The crab dish and fruit platter pictures are from my outing at another lauriat dinner at Chinatown's Best in Banawe.
They're tying the knot in March, next week, at an auspicious date according to feng shui. The families are very private so I may only just post on the food and some wedding details next!
So yes, I am still posting about food and random thoughts while I go off to new adventures and a new job.  I am a sheep and this is supposed to be a good year for me.  Hopefully for you too! Auspiciousness for all!

p.s.  I did line up to see Pope Francis, even clambering up a navy truck to get a good look but I missed him. He was on the passenger side of a van that went by so fast.
I bawled my eyes out (like everyone else) every time the SAF 44 was on the news but I can't post about that. I refuse to give their slayers the satisfaction of seeing this country bumble about and play the blame game and every other expert seemingly communicating that the heroes are automatons who did not know what they're doing, what they were getting into and their skills downplayed.  All I can say is there are things you cannot fully know or control, things you make the most of as best you can and they all did that.  The odds were stacked against them in the end but remember that they died for country, not for any one personality or anything else.


My Last Day of Summer

Summer flew by too fast for me. I had to work all summer long.  I was flitting from place to place doing this and that; meeting people; planning events and generally putting all my fingers in too many pies.  Or cookies. Yep, I was baking, too.  These days, more people are discovering my bakes and there is talk about getting into business with me.  I'm too exhausted to think straight!   

I felt unhinged. I so relate to the woman who wrote about numbing herself from heartbreak.  I was doing just that, with busywork.  I feel a bad day or a spell coming on and I get right down to pressing it down into a little ball and tucking it under so much garbage.  I manage, for a time, but then grow listless and slightly neurotic.  It doesn't help that the couple I was helping plan their wedding (next year) asked me to style them for their pre-nuptual photos (waaay big a deal hereabouts, to be shown at cocktail reception or even in a photo book type invitation) which meant an unplanned (for me) day trip to Subic Bay. Oh they got a professional photographer but didn't feel comfortable.  They were asked to bring clothes for this or that look -sporty casual, elegant dinner duds and some sunset beach promenading. Right! Much too vague for non fashionista couples or those who couldn't care less otherwise. This couple didn't want the pre-nup photos to come out too contrived. Or mushy.  Just think romantic movie moment that won't make you squirm, burst out laughing, grow beet red or worse...lost. Get inspired by these. Props and the right accessories are must haves. Awesome use of scenery is best! 

It turned out fun and there is no denying how therapeutic it is to watch other people stress over in-laws-to-be and wedding details (I can only agree to disagree hehe).  I am also too happy to find myself on a beach on the last day of summer. No, I didn't get to swim. 

We (photographers et al) had to go around Anvaya Cove Beach and Nature Club, a members only resort) setting up for the photo shoot and chasing the light.  
 My role is to make sure the couple was wearing the right outfit and the right color for the backdrop (beach, rocks, shore, swimming pool, bridges, trees and just about anywhere with a bit of romance and drama) and dispense some "posing" tips.

 After my part is done, I am free to walk about and take tons of pictures and marvel at how healing nature scenes (and being alone in the midst of it) can be.

Because right then, walking barefoot on cool water and warm sand, watching the sun turn the skies yellow, crimson, purple and gray and every color in between I finally let myself break.

I came home a little more sane than when I left. And free, finally.   

P.s.  The food at Anvaya is really good.  We would have eaten at the buffet lounge but there's a time limit and there's plenty more photo layouts to get through.  We opted for lunch on the beachfront. 
I had baked potatoes and fries; sizzling sisig (pork cheeks); barbecued liempo (pork belly); sinigang (sour soup) and pad thai (noodles). All my comfort food.
 The wi-fi connection extends way beyond the beach that I was IG-ing like mad while trying not to drop my cellphone into the water.  Neat!
On the way home we had dinner at Bulgogi Brothers at the Harbor Point Mall.  I didn't take pictures - low light won't do the food justice. Plus, we were so hungry and there's still a long (but not that long) ride ahead of us that we ate as soon as the meat started sizzling and browning on the table grill.  I'll take pictures next time! We got Starbucks coffee to go, to take away some of the heaviness from all the eating.