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.  


Mountain High!

I'm playing catch up! Last post I stayed on a hillside home then prayed to high heaven on another (hill). Coming down from Regina RICA our party ate lunch in one more. Someone got on Google to search for a nice place to eat at, one that allows in "baon" (packed food) as long as you order from the menu too.
Sierra Madre Resort came up and it was quaint in a way, a little kitschy with the gilded Greek statues, recycled art pieces (white painted metal "armalite" and guns on a tripod, an incongruous mix), climbable fallen log "bridges" and plastic bottle lamps hung on pine trees.
From the road it didn't look like much, just a low bungalow with a sign for the restaurant.
The guard tells you to drive around to the back and the place turned out to be this hilly (yes, again), rolling expanse of green grass, stands of pine and cypress with a wooden deck precariously set on metal pipe frames on one side, above villas and rooms hugging the "terraces" leading down to a swimming pool and an organic salad greens garden.  

A couple of dogs are there too, keeping a respectful distance until you throw them scraps. 
It was almost rustic and reminiscent of Baguio's log cabins but then you look around some more and there's no denying the urge for taking selfies in the gazebo with the tongue in cheek version of  The Creation of Adam painted on the ceiling, an archway of flowering vine (yellow bells and droopy white flowers) running up to it, flanked by two golden Cupid and and a Venus de Milo/Aphrodite tucked in the shrubbery. I loved the "re-Creation" though, that I went ahead and made my own Photogrid "comic" art. I've been having fun Photogrid-ing. The gazebo is no Sistine Chapel but to stumble into art that makes you remember to look up the lofty original on the net is a good thing. There's a whole load of re-Creations!

There's a golden girl on a very mossy pond that could be Lorelei - a siren on a rock described in a German legend.  This Lorelei is accompanied by golden egrets.  I'd have thought they're swans in really shallow water so their stick legs look longer.  Or flamingos, except they're not pink.
Did I mention a nice view of the Sierra Madre Mountains? That is, if you overlook some bald mountaintops.
You go down a hanging wooden bridge (some slats are out of alignment) to find a small garden with more statuary and stone (marble?) benches. 
A little ways off is another bridge made of stout nylon ropes - a web for Spiderman wannabes to practice on.  I'd have tried it but I was exploring on my own and there's no one to leave my stuff with.  After a lunch of baon corned beef and tuna omelette, ube puto, Tinapayan breads, grilled chicken and the restaurant's bulalo (bone marrow soup) and liempo (fried pork belly), my companions are either busy reading the paper, taking a nap or chatting at the picnic area. I was the only one walking about.  
Besides, I already crossed the hanging bridge with one hand in a death grip with my clutch bag (bad idea to be carrying one but then I didn't know I was going on that kind of a trip). The bridge was swinging in the wind so much I swear I felt vertigo set in when I got to the other side. 
If I weren't alone I'd have followed the path to the jungle and natural falls way beyond. 
Though I am comforted that a huge Virgin Mary seems to say you can safely pass I find I cannot fully trust myself not to remember scenes from The Hills Have Eyes and Turista.  I will explore next time, when I am among more adventurous people capable of saving me haha. Or Sam Claflin. Double haha! I did meet the ice cream man walking up the path. Hmmm.
Oh, and there was a zip line hooked up from one of the terraces, disappearing through the trees and emerging high above the salad garden and ends at a ramp placed just before the Virgin Mary.  Hmmm, hmmm,hmmm. 
The day we were there, there was mass at the chapel up front.  There were plenty of kids and the choir is mostly kids too.  The altar is filled with different statuettes of the Sto. Nino or baby Jesus in all manner of dress -capes, hats and all.
There was a veddy veddy nice gentleman too, who stopped his chariot for me so I can snap a picture.
So you see, Sierra Madre is a whimsical place which the owner built with a huge childlike heart and just let loose on the fantasy bit.  Works for me! 
Sigh...I live for the days when I get lucky.