I’m Skewed!

The other side of summer is white hot, oppressive heat.  Lethargic, too, because who would want to move a muscle when the sun is high and blazing like mad. In my part of the world summer is unlike continental summers where the temp is on defrost and still nippy.  Unless there’s a heat wave (then you can relate).

Here, summer heat could melt the rubber off your flip-flops and you’ll wish you could wear as little as decently possible. Tank top, shorts and jelly slip ons are just the thing.  Or long dresses and flow-y skirts, tube tops and long sleeved shirts in sheer, color splashed fabric, white cotton frocks and kimonos.  Kim of Gakuya made these fashionably summer ensembles and designed the matchy clutches and T-straps, too.  Waaay fun and flirty.  Now that’s the other side of summer –bold splashes, lots of color!
I’m fortunate that I don’t have to dress corporate five days a week in this heat and as someone with a rep for being free spirited and boho chic (so I’m told hehe), it’s not like people in my circle would bat an eye when I do step out in these. Of course realistically, unless you are at a yacht party, beach or poolside shindig or posh resort, you’d just be donning swimsuit, tank tops, capris, leggings, roomy shirt, cover-ups (shawls, capelets etc.) and a pile of neon or pastel Forever 21 swim-proof jewelry.
This summer I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will finally find the time to go to a beach or a friend’s place in the province.  I don’t have any, btw, Manila born and bred that I am.
I'm not really aiming for a beach bod, too taxing!
Plus, there’s a Robinson’s Town Mall now that’s manna for home bakers and cooks in my area, just a taxicle away. A taxicle is really a tricycle or motorcycle with a passenger cab attached.  We call it a taxicle because if you don’t have a car for loads of groceries, a taxi cab is the next best thing.  Having a taxicle drop us off at our gate is cheaper and convenient.

Which brings me to my point:  all these access to food and cooking stuff is not helping when I am trying to lose a few inches so I don’t look dumpy and boohoo in boho mode.  
Exercise is out for now, because I’ve developed asthmatic bronchitis.  Basically my allergic reaction of sniffles and colds to pollutants, scent and changes in temperature escalated to a distinct wheeze and rattle in my chest and coughing most nights. Exercise will trigger it too.  My UP Sundays is shot until I recover a bit.  I have to go around the city wearing a mask over my nose and mouth.
The only recourse is to lighten my courses hehe. Bread and soup; baked mac or club sandwiches (at Cafe Cyrilla, the one run by St. Scholastica's culinary college). 
A bit of meat - sausages, hotdogs. Heavy on the breakfast but light stuff onwards.  Since getting sick meant being home a lot, I cooked "light" (or so I hoped).  I was into dishing out one dish meals.

I’ve made Kung Pao pasta three times with instant Clara Ole mix, tweaked with button or shiitake mushrooms, chili oil or spicy peanuts, barbecue marinated chicken strips or teriyaki sauce marinated sukiyaki cut pork.  The family eats it all up.
I’ve made pomelo salad with ready to eat (peeled) fresh pomelo slices from the fruit counter with nuts and lots of coriander (yum) with this dressing.  Sorry, my pomelo salad looks anything but!
We’re enjoying loads of summer fruit from our and a neighboring uncle’s trees.  Guavas, Indian mangoes, papaya, makopa (bell fruit), avocado and balimbing (star fruit). The avocado we mash with condensed milk and a bit of sugar and keep chilled.  Refreshing! I haven't been baking for the family so desserts were pretty healthy.
Except when mom brings home nilupak and tibok tibok.  Double drats!
Nilupak is basically sweet potato, cassava and banana mash  with condensed milk, butter, sugar, grated coconut and margarine.  This one is extra special with loads of cheese!!! Delicacy upgrade! I had to take pictures fast because nilupak is so delicate the heat will make it spoil quickly.  You’ll know it’s so when it tastes sour.
Tibok tibok on the other hand, is sticky rice flour cake made with carabao's milk. This one has a mung bean filling and caramel syrup -definitely a nice tweak on the malagkit and latik original .  This is one of my favorites.  I’m planning to make some one day. Or mom might hehe.

And then there is the Mang Inasal across the supermarket!  Mom and I have taken to dropping by there when the heat gets unbearable…for halo-halo!  I love chunky halo-halo and this one is bliss.  I’ve had it twice this week and here it’s only Wednesday!
How can I not cheat? I let my mom thwart my diet plans.  Like all moms, she thinks I don’t eat enough plus I’m her eating buddy – I get half of her "senior discounted" meal, so she tends to order a lot of different stuff to try.
It’s when I eat out alone (eating with a group make you eat more) that I opt for light: no rice and no soda pop (another thing my family loves in the summer –ice cold soda, there’s no getting away from it).  I’d order pasta or soup or skewered meat. 
One time I had beef kofta, another time I had ginger chicken.  With mashed potato or rice and a side of greens.  The kofta came with yogurt sauce and the ginger chicken had a ginger, garlic in sesame oil dip (like a deconstructed Hainanese chicken or a soup-less Filipino Tinola.   Healthy, light but very tasty eating! Thankfully a chef friend serves 'em up at Old Bonifacio Grille (nothing old about the food, nicely tweaked; the resto/bar is named after the condominium it was in which was named after the avenue it was on. Hmmm?!?).  It's the same chef friend who created the menu for my Rizal book launch event with the special Pinakbet Pansit! I posted all about it last time but wasn't happy with the pictures I took.  But I give in, just so you get a better idea what the pansit looked like: delish! Pinakbet pansit is the bestest! All those healthy nutrient rich veggies like ampalaya (bittergourd), squash, okra, sitaw (string bean) with Bagnet (crisp fried fatty pork... whew!) as topping on noodles. That's a fine art right there: balancing guilty pleasure with some healthy bits thrown in.
So I’m skewed basically, dieting-wise, and loving it! 

Happy Summer-ing! 


Puppy Fever!

I'm a sheep (cake pop pic borrowed from Bakerella - waay cute!  That's my Chinese Zodiac sign, I mean.  I'm supposed to have a better year this 2014, if not the best ever.  Let's see now.  Start of the year I haven't been exactly hale and hearty.  My allergic rhinitis has brought on chesty cough, clogged nose, fever too.  Coughing so hard and wheezing made my throat sore, raw and bleed a bit. There's a chill in the air and our drafty house lets in the cold.  I'm not very good with cold.  I love icy drinks and halo-halo in any weather but chill in my bones? Not good. To all my friends in wintry countries, I commiserate.  We don't have winter but even the low 20s is enough to make me take out silk and down comforters and heavy quilts from storage. Yep, we have strange bed linens, in a country where summer is a misnomer.  No sir, we haven't got any wool though. 
Tropical weather only has two seasons - wet and dry or rainy and sizzling! But what do you do with bed things relatives and friends abroad send over? Exactly!
My nose dislikes waking up at dawn; heavily scented perfumes and lotion; walking in from the heat into airconditioned rooms; dust kicked off from cleaning; the smell of bagoong (anchovy paste) cooking; smoke in any form - from pollutants, fireworks, cigarettes or burning katol (mosquito coil), my dad cooking rice (the dogs' portion) over the wood burning stove out back or making siga (burning leaves and garbage, to smoke out insects and pests in the garden, coax fruit trees to bear and generally for disposal.  So third world of us, I know. No fear, making siga is now banned in Malabon, garbage pick up now more regularly done - hallelujah!
As for pollen, well that's really why my UP Sundays are nixed in the meantime. Which is my excuse for getting a bit tubby hehe.  I have even developed a mild asthmatic reaction to my wards.  I'm used to having hairy dogs around but there's more of them now.  
The Otterhound is the hairiest but I would insist on hugging the big mutt. The Boston terrier is short haired but I don't pick him up as much.  
We've got two new puppies, our home close to becoming a doggie day care or shelter.
The half German Shepherd and half Japanese Spitz (so we were told) was originally given to a relative but they couldn't take care of her, what with their older poodle needing more care now(cataracts and skin issues). So Aslan came to us (rechristened, because the former owners named her, inexplicably, Obama). Two days later my brother brought home a rust red haired, yellow eyed (green in some lights) puppygirl with acute ADHD (I think). That one came to us festooned with leaping ticks and fleas. Hershey cleaned up good, care of us -so named so there is no mistaking the gender haha - her na, she pa.  Or for the chocolate kiss.
Plus, my boarder (comes in mornings and leaves at night when her humans get home from work or school) George (puppygirl, short for Georgina Rose - go figure) is back. She shuttled back and forth when she was younger but when she got big enough to be left at home, there's one less doggie for us to look after. She's back because she got sick. She pooped something fluid orange and fishy-smelly and threw up something greenish. One minute she was playing with the puppies, wrestling, and the next she was just lying there.  I took her to Doc Lani at Friendly Paws and George tested positive for canine parvovirus.  There's a pregnancy test kit like thingy - two lines meant parvo for sure. Bad! 

George had to be confined for three days at the vet's, dextrose on the foreleg and caged! All our dogs are on a leash, not caged. .  The first time, she wouldn't go in.  
She was only reassured when the vet clinic mascot Prix the husky (himself a rescue dog) slept near her cage.
George cried at night and whenever visiting hours is over. She got so stressed out that Doc Lani cut the confinement short, just as soon as George started eating on her own and meds can be given orally.  We brought home dextrose powder, appetite builders, immunol, vitamins, anti amoebiasis meds.
Some dogs don't get over parvo and dies or takes as long as a month or more to recover.  George's case was chancy but more hopeful since she hasn't gotten to the point where there's blood in her poop. Her humans are away at work and it was left to me to nurse her back to health.  Tiring! Stressed me out.  
My cough got worse because George has thick set longish hair (half Russian something and half Shih Tzu, we were told) and she insisted on being carried with her head on my neck.  I had to hold up the Ivy bag too.  Strain on the arms I tell you.  
George recovered quicker than most, said the vet.  She was fighting the parvo.  Three days confinement is all (but the meds are expensive - ouch for my brother).  To fully recover, George wasn't allowed to play with the other dogs or have a bath for six days.  Doc Lani figured there's no incidence of parvo (highly contagious) among our dogs or at George's house where there's a poodle (my first boarder) and two mid sized AsPin (asong pinoy - coined for indeterminate mixed breed house pets as opposed to asong kalye or stray dogs) so George must have picked it up at a pet grooming salon, ten to fourteen days before - typically how long it takes for parvo to set in.  Doc Lani offers grooming too but says she refuses dogs (like George) which hasn't had all the vaccine shots done. No matter how sterile you keep grooming stuff and clinics you can't say for sure any dog won't get anything from other dogs coming and going.
And then it was the new puppies' turn to get sick, one after the other. Stress! Particularly since they're little more than a month old and vaccines are given at three months. Good thing it wasn't parvo - just the cold weather affecting them as much as it did me.  Or maybe I gave them my cold. For good measure, as soon as George was diagnosed, a friend suggested we feed the puppies raw egg. Mom prayed over all the dogs!
So now you know why posting has been hard for me - between the holidays and my and the puppies getting sick, there wasn't time.  I didn't even get to do any of the Chinese New Year luck rituals. 

 The most I was able to do was hang a bundle of palay (rice grain) tied with a red ribbon at the door, place eight coins in a gold box and eat a mochi roll.  I figured the CNY going on till February, there's still time to do some of the rituals a day at a time.  I'd still be the one doing the cleaning and neatening and ensuring Chi to flow throughout the year anyways.  It just helps to have the green wooden horse kick it in for me a bit, is all : )

P.s. We're in a bit of a tiff with China over territory but I have naturalized Chinoy friends and eat their food and drink their tea and have some of  their lucky charms.  The best China import, in my humble opinion, is the electrically charged mosquito zapper! Like a badminton racket, it at least freed me from inhaling mosquito coil smoke - my dad and my brothers used to light two of those at night.  They only stopped when we got the badminton thingies and I started coughing so hard there was a speck of blood.  There's lots of the pesky parasites, the almost dry open canals and humidity making mosquitoes breed like crazy and fly in small clouds here and there, dive biting at people. I bat at the mosquitoes as soon as recharging is done hehe.   I hope things work out.  My country really can't afford fighting with anybody, there's been suffering enough. Generous hearts and calm, sane communicating should help.  And lots of luck! 


By all accounts, 2013 was a trying year for most everyone. Including me.  Really overwhelming.
I live far enough away from Yolanda's grip but my family have dealt with (smaller scale, comparatively) loss wrought by nature on the warpath and knows firsthand how ineffectual government can be in addressing whatever needs to be done - before or after.  Yes, they will do the best they can but has so little to work with.  Ours is a country with a toehold on first world ideals and capabilities but still frustratingly mired in third world realities.  No one is rich enough. Or as knowing (or as accepting?!?).  It doesn't help that most of us rely so much on faith, disaster preparedness is a disaster in itself. Most would say they can't believe such things could happen. "Ipagpapasadiyos na lang" (leave it to God) is a much abused phrase.  Anyways, the good thing - and the best, too - from all that has passed was the surge of international help we've been getting. Please keep it coming.
My year had its up and downs, but I'd rather tell you about the ups!

I had a birthday last year and I expect I will have another haha! I was royally treated to cupcakes at Carolyn Robb's Royal Touch. Three, in fact. A guy friend asked if I ate all.  Now why would that be so incredible? And of course I did, half of everything anyways. The Empress Red Velvet is sooo red and velvety and the giant chocolate dipped strawberry on top is extra ..well.. tops!. The cherry studded white chocolate cheesecake is rich but not cloying.  The salted caramel I chose for the adorable little reindeer and the silver glitter sugar sprinkles is so drool worthy I tucked in right after the reindeer was safely stashed in my paper napkin. I took it home to nibble on at leisure.  The little dear tasted of almonds, melts in the mouth (you can see how some of the frosting it was set on already melted part of its legs) and reminded me of French macarons .  The cupcakes and coffee were served on porcelain cups and saucers that my inner "dainty" came out and made me sip tiny sips and lift cup and fork with extended pinky. No clinking dessert spoon against porcelain! I'd be channeling Princess Diana next.

Or Kate, whom Carolyn Robb actually baked for, along with the rest of the Royal Family.  I'm in good company then : )
Plus, anyplace that has the 4Cs - chandeliers, high backed chairs, cake and coffee calls to me.

Of course that was dessert!
Maris and I had lunch at Tamarind first: pad thai  noodles, catfish and mango salad and chicken satay washed down with Thai iced tea. Tamarind and The Royal Touch are at SM Aura btw.

I also had Korean birthday soup- seaweed soup actually (similar to miso soup),which I've only heard mentioned or seen in Koreanovelas on TV. We were minding our tiangge tables - Szhy and Che and the condo neighbors - selling and buying each other's stuff (white elephant doodads and pre-loved things), and Szhy mentioned my birthday.  Che made egg rolls and cucumber kimchi to go with the soup and longanisa hamonado and dessert was store bought brownies arranged on a plate with votive candles hehe.  What a feast! I had pictures but they're too grainy.

I slept over and the next day had  fried liempo (pork belly with salty sweet oyster sauce) at Sonsi's.
A week later, it was Joy's turn to treat me (I love my friends). We went to Wok Inn (my old Chinese food haunt in Malate that I haven't been tooin years) after tiring ourselves out walking up and down aisles at the World Trade Center World Bazaar. I ordered scallops and Joy shared with me her spicy squid and crunchy sipa (dumplings shaped like the washer and plastic string "ball" used for the Filipino game of- yep, you guessed it "sipa". At Wok Inn you "walk in" (or up) to the fresh veggies and seafood display and you point at what you want and they toss the stuff around real quick in a wok. Never disappoints when the salt craving (oops!) hits.
In between I was busy with a project series that culminated in the launch of a monograph on the national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. There were a few hiccups but the event turned out great! I had a chef friend do the menu based on the doc's Pinoy favorites, served at a merienda cena.  Tuyo (dried fish) turned upscale as creamy tuyo pasta on a slab of fried tofu with a wedge of lemon to cut through the cream and saltiness of tuyo.  There was shrimp and veggie okoy (battered, fried and dipped in vinegar) and veggie spring rolls. The crowd favorite (and mine) is the Crispy Bagnet sa Pinakbet Pansit - three Pinoy favorites in one delectable dish.  Bagnet is the Ilocano crispy pork belly.  Pinakbet is an Ilocano veggie stew of string beans, bittergourd (ampalaya), eggplant, okra and squash with salty bagoong (shrimp paste). Noodles is an all time, long-life favorite! I'm smacking my lips at the memory of that specially concocted pansit. The doc's heirs and national artist guests are very impressed with the modest to-do and I am waay proud (gloat, gloat - modesty aside hehe).  The new Old Bonifacio Grill bar and resto helped me pull everything off and you can check out their Facebook page and ask if they could serve you the pinakbet pansit. I nixed the bad pictures so just imagine how delish everything was, including "cocktail" bibingka and fried turon (roll) of ripe mango and kesong puti (white cheese made from carabao's milk) dipped in caramel sauce for dessert : ).
More eats in December of course, us Filipinos still intent on maintaining our longest Christmas celebration record despite money being tight for most and companies donating party money to Yolanda victims. At home, there was traditional (ours, each house has its own set) beef stew, garlic chicken and pork belly. Our New Year's table included ham, fruits, cake, chocolates and cookies - decidedly much simpler fare since the cook (me) was sick most of the holidays and everything is auspiciously "round". Me, too! Hehehe.
I didn't get to sell cookies and cakes.  I was too busy with work and errands plus the oven was at my friend's condo (where I stayed a few days too, to be near work).  She attended pastry school, a few sessions, and wanted to practice on my oven. She was leaving on Christmas day, of all days, to work abroad and baking is a new, hopefully second skill she could use. I did manage to squeeze in some bakes: my brownie cake with the pinwheel mint marshmallows for my client's potluck party and some crinkles my friend ordered as gifts for her friends.  It was only on the 23rd that I managed to bake lemon coconut snowballs (last post) for my mom, her gift to a friend celebrating their golden wedding anniversary.  I made extra so I can give some to my friend Joy's family as well.

I did lug kilos of spicy and garlic peanuts up and down jeeps, buses and trains (braving crowds and suffering through horrendous traffic) to deliver to practical minded gift giving folks. Mom makes them (peanuts) and I pack 'em up in nifty canisters with Christmas tags and ribbons. I had pain in my shoulders from carrying those darn nuts.
Mom made  money, I didn't.
Oh, well!

It was a hectic two months for the most part with quiet time amounting to breakfasts at Pancake House before work or eggnog frappe at Seattle's Best Coffee some mornings.

My ups mostly had to do with food, innit? Figures!
Simple joys, people. Simple joys. The year that was made clear what counts and what (or who) you can count on.