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.


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