Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bruiser.

It's Halloween and officially Fall. Time doesn't shift until next week but you can already feel the change. It's dark when I get up and dark by the time I'm leaving work. I'm putting on more layers and my scarves are a permanent accessory around my neck. While I don't mind the cozyness of fall clothing, there is one consequence of Fall I did not anticipate -- toting a heavier shopping bag back from the farmer's market.

Why? You don't understand the connection? Short and simple explanation: root vegetables. One of the many reasons food pundits extol the virtues of farmers market's is buying from local producers and buying seasonal food. Well, in the fall that means filling your bag with beets, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, squash of all varieties and brussel sprouts. The fruit? Same story, apples and pears galore, but they too are quite solid.

In the summer I overload my bag with berries but they don't pack quite the same punch in terms of heft. In the summer, I'm worried about the berries being bruised by the time I get home. In the Fall, I'm worried that my legs or hips are the ones bruised.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This blog has 7 lives.

And here begins life #4.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Featured for my colour sense.

About a month and a half ago, I think, my family was invited to the grand opening of the Hermes store in Manila. It was quite the soiree with all the glitterati of Manila's society and lifestyle pages in attendance. Photogs were everywhere taking pictures of all the ladies in their dresses. My and my sister included. Turns out, I was featured in one such newspaper for my combination of a fuchia dress and turquoise bag.

The picture sucks (the quality, not me), but here it is:


and you MUST read the accompanying article. I chuckled in sheer amusement. I guess I can call myself an A-list lady now who is "beautiful, glamorous and amorous." I don't think I've ever used those adjectives in that combination to describe myself, but sure, I'll go with it.

Oh, while on the subject of the Hermes launch party. I would like to introduce you to the Filipino Jonas Brothers:

I don't know who they actually are but I think I can safely assume they're models. As my sister says, "they're good looking all together, but separately they're only meh." I didn't assign Jonas Brothers names to them, but it still works.

Filipino Jonas Brothers, champagne, fabulous people watching and now being featured in a newspaper. That night just keeps on giving.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Switch off. Reboot.


 It would seem that my first foray into blogging didn't go very well.  I'm really sorry friends, I had every intention of blogging about my extended vacation time in Manila but I just never got into it. Writing about my everyday life in Manila just didn't get me excited to blog. I realize now that what I considered to be mundane and un-significant, you would probably have found very entertaining. For example, I'm sure you would have loved to hear about things like maids, drivers and my endless consumption of buko juice at the Polo Club (or not).

So I'm going to try again. This time about my move and adjusting to Toronto; Canada's most hated city. Maybe this time it will be the reverse problem. I'll find things hilarious and fascinating, but you will find it utterly boring. I guess we shall see.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Oh Cathay Pacific.

In 48 hours, I will be on a plane to Toronto, Canada. I'm super excited, but also have that nervousness (butterflies in the tummy) that accompany something big and new. So, in honour of my 24 hour transit including 14+ hours on a plane, here is my ode to my favourite airline.

I think Cathy Pacific is the best airline in the world (well, maybe 2nd after Singapore Airlines but I don't fly them so it doesn't count). Every year I make the 24 journey from eastern Canada to Manila and spend a considerable amount of time in the air. Yes, I've become really picky about the airline I fly. For that particular flight, I really am picky. I don't pick the cheapest airline I can find. I seek out Cathay and go with them even if the ticket is a bit pricier. You really do get what you pay for. The staff is always courteous and helpful. The cabins are clean (and the bathrooms get cleaned mid flight), the food is decent, there is plenty of food to eat in-between meals, every seat has its own tv and the movies are on demand! There really isn't much not to love.

In the past week, I've noticed that Cathay has launched a new ad campaign with tv ad and a supporting microsite. Their current message "Great service. Great people. Great fares." To quote the Cathay site, the campaign focuses on the staff who went the extra mile to make you feel like you are somebody.

I love the tv ads, I find them simple, humorous and completely effective.

I Hate Birthday Parties



Why I love it: I don't looove this one, but it plays a part in my overall love of the campaign.

Weekend Rocker



Why I love it: You can just hear the daughter thinking, "ugh, why is my Dad sooo uncool?!"


Midnight Snacker



Why do I love it? I can sympathize. I totally avail of the cup noodles in the middle of the flight; it's a perfect mid-fight snack.

Overall, the tv spots do more than just tell you about the great people and the great airline. They feature the different classes (with people in seats!) of Cathay Pacific and show you, not tell you, that regardless of the class you decide to fly, you will always receive the same level of quality service.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Words a guy never wants to hear...

"I thought it would be bigger"

I think that I'm pretty lucky and have seen some amazing sights during my extended vacation. I might not be doing a hardcore backpacker-style trip, but I've still been taking in new sights and sounds. One thing though that strangely keeps happening to me is that I get to a certain well-known spot and think to myself "huh, I thought that would be bigger".

This is not to say that these attractions aren't stunning, breathtaking and everything you wanted it to be, but still... just not as big as I thought. Here are the three that elicited that response.


The Taj Mahal


Oh the Taj Mahal, the ultimate monument to undying love. When I made the exclamation of "I thought it would be bigger" my travel companion looked at me, laughed and asked "well, how much bigger could it be?" Good point. This was when I realized that the mythology of the Taj Mahal is what made it so huge in my head. You always hear so much about the Taj Mahal; the architecture, the history, the Diana-visitng-alone story and most recently the scene from Slumdog Millionaire.

Naturally, it's the destination for all who visit India. So despite the crowds, the touts and the long lines, being able to sit in the gardens and admire the extravagant tomb is worth all the effort. Everything was beautifully proportional and it really is a sight that you shouldn't miss. Do I now think it should have been bigger? Not really. It's quite perfect the way it is.


The Sydney Habour Bridge


I grew up spending many a summer in San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. The iconic red suspension bridge was unforgettable and I recently realized that it had become my basis for all bridges.

One summer my Mum decided that she needed to get the kids out of the house and so we ended up walking the Golden Gate Bridge. It took us about two hours, and so from that experience I thought that the Sydney Harbour Bridge would be the same.

Although it wasn't nearly as high or span the same expanse, it still pretty damn cool. For me, it will always be associated with the 2010 new years eve celebrations. Without a doubt, the fireworks that are shot off the bridge and off barges in the harbor are the best new year's fireworks I've ever seen. You can't look away because you're afraid you'll miss out on the next spectacular display. I'll also never forget sitting on a curb at 1am waiting for the bridge to open so that we can walk home to North Sydney and upon reaching the first tower Risa exclaiming "P*ta! We're only at the first pile-on?!?!" Hmm...not so small at 2am.


The Sydney Opera House


Similar to the Taj Mahal, I think I had just built up the Sydney Opera House to be gigantic in my head. It has iconic status in the pantheon of architecture and the story behind its build is equally impressive. Soo many years, an overinflated budget. Those project managers must have been pulling their hair out!

The Sydney Opera House is massive and I bet it feels even bigger when you go inside. Unfortunately, I didn't get to catch a performance of some sort while there so I had to admire from the outside. The sails are indeed spectacular regardless of which side you're looking at it. It's also amazing looking at the details of the opera house. Back in Manila, Risa and I watched a documentary on the opera house and we were even more amazed with the structure. If only we had known about the details before.


As a final note, although I found these structures smaller than expected, the details that were present in all the structures more than made up for that. So there you go, the very big also has the very small.

Nothing but amazingness.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Boracay Baby!!

The beautiful Boracay white sand beach. Left to right: Chino, Risa and Migs.

A bit of background: Boracay is known in the Philippines as an idyllic paradise island with a beautiful long stretch of powdery white sand and calm, turquoise sea. Legend has it that if it wasn't for  tiny sand fleas that reside on Boracay, Imelda Marcos would have claimed the tropical paradise in her infamous "Mine-ing" period. In the last 5 or so years, Boracay has become THE destination spot for city folk looking to escape the blazing summer heat of the city but still party it up in style.

Personal background: Last time I was in Boracay was in 1999 on my senior beach trip. For my friends with whom our shared history starts in 1999 or later, that beach trip has now joined the ranks of legend at our high school, ISM. Our graduating class is known as the class that wrecked it for all the subsequent years. What did we do? We acted like typical 17 years and had some fun on the longest party strip in the country; we partied like it was 1999.  Oh, did I mention we weren't supposed to do that and that our chaperon decided to be an asshole and rat us out when he looked the other way with other years? Details.

Scene of the 1999 crime. Well, we stayed here, the drinking was elsewhere.


Anyway.... moving on....

Current day: The balikbayans (me and Migs) needed to go to Boracay. You can't not see it. Plus, it had been almost 11 years for me and Migs had never been. Risa and her bf, Chino, had been lots of time but were always up for a beach trip. Seriously, how do you turn down a beach trip? You don't. So we picked a weekend, looked into and booked our flights, found a place to stay and got excited. We planned where we wanted to eat (good eats down on the island) and what we want to do. We wanted to go Zorbing (get in a human hamster ball thingy and go down a hill) but it didn't quite make it.

 Requisite cold San Migs.

So what did we get up to? A lot of sunning ourselves on the beach, swimming, drinking fruit shakes, boat rides and general beach bummyness. The sand is everything it's cracked up to be, soft, powdery and luscious underfoot. There were times that we were walking up the beach that I would drag my feet as I walked just to fully engage in the tactile sensation of the sand.

Prior to going to Boracay, my sister had warned me about all the development that had taken place on the island. What used to be a chill, beach resort of an island is now an hip and happening party destination. I didn't quite understand what she meant because I feel as though for as long as I can remember, people have been saying how developed Boracay has become. This time it's different. Boracay has a STARBUCKS right on the beach. It looks exactly as it would in the city, except that you can sit on the sand with your double shot mocha latte no foam. Yeah. I know. Also, you have your choice of Pinoy pizza chains: Yellow Cab or Shakeys. A shocker but kinda amusing at the same time.

Even with all the crazyness, Boracay is still awesome and we were lucky enough that we didn't stay in the main thoroughfare. We stayed in the area known as "Station 3" at the southern tip of the island. No one from Manila stays in that area it seems. Pinoys prefer to stay around Station 1 and 2 in the top half of the island. Our area was mostly Europeans and backpackers. It was definitely nice being able to partake in the island crazyness when we wanted and then retreat to our little nook of the beach.

 
Aaaahhh.

Tough life. Napping in a hammock at the resort.

 
Sunset paraw ride. We brough a bottle of wine and passed it back and forth as we sailed along.


Look at those posers! This is us looking happy on the "big boat" before our "Ikot Boracay" adventure. That story will have to be it's own post.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A little bit of history, Celdran style

(Carlos Celdran starting the tour)

I first heard about Carlos Celdran about 6 years ago when I was home for what I like to call my "quarter life crisis break." All I knew about him was that he was some guy that lead entertaining, animated tours of Intramuros, the old walled city of Manila. I thought to myself "Awesome! That's something the city sorely needs" but stopped short of hunting him down and going on a tour myself. Over the years, he's become quite the local celebrity. Everyone knows about Carlos Celdran tours; my sister's friend had it as a pre-wedding event for her out of town guests. Now that I'm home again, I was determined to finally go on one of his tours and experience it for myself.

Because Carlos' tours are about two hours long and he does two in a day, I had to get up pretty early on the Sunday to make it out to Intramuros. My touring buddy? Migs Roxas, childhood friend that is now living in Sydney, Australia. He was in Manila from Sydney for an internship and he too figured that some culture would do him some good. So off we went, the transplated Pinoys to revisit our history. Joining us on the tour was a delighful mix of locals, foreigners (white people) and balikbayans (people like me and Migs). Risa has told that he is now featured in the latest edition of Lonely Planet Philippines which has for sure added to his popularity.

 (The Balikbayans)

At this point I should note that I did take a Philippine history class in high school. However, it is more from my own love of the subject matter rather than an inspiring teacher and stimulating class that I remember a lot of what he told us. So I am not completely ignorant, but I'm also a geek, love history and love seeing how people tell stories.

Back to the tour. We stated off in Fort Santiago with Carlos telling us that the tour is what you would call "a history lesson for people with ADD". He started using our language as a metaphor to show how mixy-matchy our actual culture is. Some of our words are indigenous Filipino, more Malay than anything else and only refer to certain aspects of life. Mostly, the non material things like the sky, spirit, heaven, stars.... Any Spanish words are related to things, pencils, chairs, clothes. American words? They're all brands. Filipinos call toothpaste colgate and film (when we used to use film) Kodak. His fave example is that when Pinoys want to take a picture, we can "kodakan". It's the same principle as when we now say "I'm googling him." The brand name has become a verb.

I loved that he started off the tour with an examination of language. Perhaps it's because I've always living in multilingual environments, with multilingual friends, or perhaps it's because I've spent the last 10 years of my life in Quebec where language is a polarized and highly politicized topic, but I completely, 100% believe that language is a repository for culture. Understanding how a language works, give you a lot of insight into a culture that are otherwise difficult to pinpoint.

 
Entrance to Fort Santiago. If I remember correctly, the Spanish Conquistador is on his horse ready to kill the Muslims.

From that point, Carlos took us on a tour of the history of Manila starting with the Spaniard finding the little nipa huts and the small Muslim village ruled by Rajah Sulayman and how the islands became Hispanized, or more like, Catholicized. Through to the end of WWII when everything changed. The most intriguing stories were probably the years after the turn of the century until WWII. The "golden years" of Manila, the years when she really was the Pearl of the Orient.  The images and stories he told are all ones that I've heard, but can't really imagine anymore. It just seems so far from the world we know today.

The standout part of the tour was when we were switching over from the Spanish period to the American period. Carlos follows what is known as a Revisionist telling of Philippine history. He does not follow the standard Agoncillio telling (a standard textbook that every Pinoy kid has probably read) but rather take the more Western approach to Philippine history and doesn't consider June 12, 1898 as independence day, but rather looks at July 4, 1948 ('46?) as our independence day.

Why is this shocking to me? Well, because I'm not sure how many of the Filipinos know that our date of independence varies depending on this historian you read. As Filipinos, we are told that we won our independence from the Spanish through the Revolution in 1898. This is the date that is widely celebrated and this is the date that you are supposed to know. The rest of world's historians see it as a Revolution, but also considers that the Philippines was sold to the Americans as part of war payments for the Spanish loss in the Spanish-American war. All that to say, I wonder what the locals were thinking when he said that. He didn't make it a big deal of it and no one asked any questions afterwards.

All in all, the tour was awesome. He was entertaining and I'd tell anyone visiting Manila to go on his tour. Definitely entertaining and a great "Cliff Notes/ADD Kid friendly" history lesson. Next up for me? His Imelda tour!! Bell bottoms here we come!!

 
Group shot!!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Overdue Hong Kong Post



Here it finally is! After not visiting my former hometown at all, well, except for the airport, in the last 8 years, I was understandably very excited to visit Hong Kong. What did I want to do? I just wanted to walk around, absorb the sights and take a couple strolls down memory lane. That's exactly what my Mom and I did.

I have often chatted with friends about the phenomena of "Looking Up" in your own city. That's all I did in Hong Kong. For the first day, all we did was walk around and looked up at the buildings and marvel and what has changed and what is new. To put it mildly, a lot.

The other half of the visit? Eating. The breakfast buffet at the hotel was a delightful mix of Western and Asian food and made for some very difficult decisions so early in the morning. Lunch followed a little later on in the day and then everything was wrapped up with delicious dinners. Oh, did I mention we had to stop by the roasted chestnut and sweet potato hawkers as well? The scent of roasting chestnuts and sweet potatoes permeated the winters of my youth. There were always a treat when my parents would bring them home after their day at work.

I've been getting a bit of flack from family at my lack of pictures. I say that is a result of all my "Looking Up"; I didn't take a lot of pictures. Plus, a lot of them have been posted to FB so this entry is more of a cursory and commentary on what it felt like to be back after so long.


I love this train. Love, love, love it. It's so convenient and fast. I think that all cities need one of these from their airport to the city centre. To add to it, there are three stops and there is a progress bar at the top there. The only weird thing about it is that there are speakers in your headrest. You can turn the volume up or down but really, you can hear your neighbours' sound.

 

Ah the red cabs and their little "For Hire" signs. It makes life a lot easier.
 
 
Me and my Mom. She was dressed as though it was uber cold when it wasn't.  She was definitely tripping down memory lane more than I was. The hotel we stayed at was right around the corner from where her my Dad's first apartment was in Causeway Bay. Well, maybe it wasn't their first apartment but it was my first home. She did the whole "this is where you lived when you were a baby," and "This is the park where we would take you as a baby," and "There used to be a noodle shop over here." 

 

Ahh... the requisite shot from The Peak. There were two very touristy things I wanted to do while in Hong Kong. 1. Take the Peak Tram to The Peak and walk around and, 2. Take the escalators in the Mid-Levels. I know that it isn't really a tourist attraction but whatevs I wanted to see them. Well, I accomplished one out of the two and surprisingly, it was the one that looked least likely.
So here is a little story about the day that let me take the lovely picture that appears above. The previous two days in Hong Kong were overcast and rather foggy. A trip to the peak was absolutely out of the question. However, on Sunday, the day dawned nice and clear. Mom decides that we need to go to church coz that's what we do. I didn't really want to go becauase I distinctly remember the masses at that church from my childhood as being looong and boring. Luckily, when we get there there is a MOB of people. All domestic helpers trying to get into the mass. It was like people trying to see U2 or the Rolling Stones. Mom agrees that it's madness and instead of putting ourselves into the middle of the melee, off we go to the peak!! Woo hoo!!

I will say, it was a bit like Disneyland waiting for the tram and hussling with the mainland Chinese tourists for seats, but we made it on and up. I can only imagine what it might have been in the olden days in a rickety wooden trams with open sides. There were definitely times when you're at a 45 degree incline. Maybe it would have been more exciting standing? 

At the end of the day, I didn't make it to the escalators and feel like there is still so much more of Hong Kong I still need to see and experience. While I still have that sense of familiarity with Hong Kong, it is without a doubt a totally new city to me. Not just because of all the new building developments, but also because I'm older, my viewpoint has changed. Perhaps one day I'll end up back in Hong Kong doing who knows what and find myself spending my weekends jumping off the top of junks (it's ok if you have no idea what I'm referring to).



Thursday, January 21, 2010

As if guys need more reason to get competitive.




My current Facebook status of January 21, 4:53pm (GMT +8) currently references my mixed feelings towards the article "Cooking Made Manly" on Slate's site doubleX. I'm not appalled that the site is featuring this article, I'm appalled that this magazine exists. I understand that food politics is gendered in its discourse but to have a whole magazine dedicated to the need for "men to beat women at their own game" in cooking? It's ridiculous.

Look at the title. Beef. Beef has always been gendered as a masculine food. It seems that in popular culture, men are maligned a lot more than women are if they declare themselves vegetarian. In the same vein, it would seem that men are always the one taking over the BBQ while the kitchen tends to remain a woman's domain. Look at the Food Network for crying out loud! From my own knowledge of the network, pretty much all of the shows dedicated to grilling meat are helmed by men. Women still have the usual baking and entertaining shows.

Who also says that women always want their recipes "easy" and that they don't care about pressure in espresso makers or how the bison was fed or the sharpness of Japanese knives. If any of these "men" had watched an episode of Martha Stewart they would realize how wrong they are.

Finally, on the point of being able to get a girl into bed by cook? Ha. I fully expect any guy I date to be able to cook. A guy making me a gourmet meal will not get me into a his bed, but not being able to cook will definitely decrease his chances of a second date.

There is so much more to say but I'm done ranting.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Fabulous Christmas Dress

I should have posted this about, oh I don't know... a month ago but I was preoccupied. Here is my delightful Christmas dress.




It's purple and has rosettes around the bust and the skirt is tulip style (not captured in this pic). What's not to love?! I might be a bit fuzzy in this pic, but really, it's all about the dress.

Lemon Meringue Sky



One of the first things I did when I arrived in Manila to begin my extended vacation was to go and buy my favorite Filipino style brioche buns. While at their cafe/bakery, I noticed that they had increased their offering to other goodies such as brownies, cookies and lastly, lemon squares. Being a fan of lemony desserts I bought a small box of them and couldn't wait for the tangy lemon burst. Alas, it was not to be. The square was fluffy instead of a curd on top of a cookie base, and was too sweet for my taste buds. Most disappointingly of all,  it was lacking that distinct bright lemon flavor I was looking forward to.

Fast forward a month and I'm still thinking about lemony desserts. As far as I was concerned, there were three possibilities to satisfy my lemon craving: lemon bars, tart au citron or lemon meringue pie. I hadn't made any of them but I'm a good baker, how hard could it be?

Thanks to the a dinner at home, I was tasked to make a Lemon Meringue pie for dessert. It would be a nice ending to a 'fusion' dinner of roast beef and paella; surf and turf Pinoy style I'm told. I really think it's just my family's style.

So off I went. The curd was incredibly easy to make. Everything got stirred together off the heat and then was placed on the heat to cook up and become shiny and gelatinous. It's actually quite amazing watching it come together. The recipe I used said to whisk the mixture over heat until it was thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon; pretty standard. However, standing over a hot stove in the late afternoon was not fun. Waiting for the curd to thicken up felt like forever. I felt as though I just kept whisking and checking, whisking and checking. No thickening to be seen. Then all of a sudden, everything came together. The curd was thick, it was bubbling around the edges and I could see the streaks of where my whisk had just gone through the mixture. Beautiful. All done.

The crust on the other hand was a different story. I had made a pie crust for our Xmas dinner Pecan Pie so all I had to do was thaw it. As usual, I stuck it in the fridge to thaw. That was a mistake. It didn't thaw as quickly as I had hoped. So, I stick it in our fancy oven for some convection style thawing. This time is came out too soft and I had to semi-roll it and then stick it back in the freezer to firm up. The key to a good and flaky crust is to make sure your ingredients are as cold as possible. So if you are rolling out a room temp crust, the butter will already be too soft and won't melt properly during baking, thus giving you the requisite flakiness.  My pie dough went in and out of the freezer too many times to count. I was so paranoid that I would end up with a tough crust. You can imagine my relief when I finally put the crust in the oven. Unfortunately, our ovens at home don't seem to like browning crusts too much so I ended up with a somewhat pale crust. Oh well.

Finally! Curd was poured into the crust and popped into the fridge to set, and I get to forget about it for a couple of hours. The last step was the meringue which was super easy with my Mom's high powered Kitchen Aid mixer. I swear, that thing is older than I am and I have made many many cakes with that workhorse.

Meringue piled high (maybe too high) on the pie, back in the oven for some browning and we're good to go! Yes, it was bright, tart, sweet and lemony all at the same time with the light sweetness of the meringue for balance. Mission accomplished.







Monday, January 11, 2010

Is there anything Up there?



I finally watched "Up" before Xmas and it was everything I hoped it would be. Funny, heartwarming and a bit farcical. Fave bit? The talking dog of course! I could quote Dug all day. Actually, I have already quoted him on multiple occasions just because I can.

The biggest 'shocker' of the movie for me is that Russel is supposed to be Asian and I seem to be the only person on this planet that did not realize this. I had a discussion with my Mom and sister about this, me insisting that he isn't and they insisting that he is and that it is oh-so-obvious. To me, Russel was just a kid. His ethnicity didn't even cross my mind. Upon a second watching it became a lot clearer. The more yellowy skin tone when compared to Mr. Fredricksen and his eyes are more slanty than the people around him.

I now know that Pixar based the image of Russell on one of their illustrators that is of Vietnamese origin and that the kid that voices Russel is Japanese. I've also read that Pixar has been given mad props for their non-stereotypical depiction of an Asian character and that their use of an Asian actor to voice him too.

So with all of this said, how could I have missed it?!?! I'm just going to say that I was so involved in the story and that the ethnicity of the characters is really of no concern to me. Oh how post-modern of me.