Thursday, June 29, 2006

Out of breathe

Sky outside: gunmetal grey

Inside, I'm trying to catch my breathe. Feeling like I have to suck it in, all the way down to my belly to get a real breathe. Stress points on my neck and shoulders are bad signs of things to come.

New YM version 8, downloaded it and set it up. Lost some people on my friends list, so I re-added them, but now am not sure the others are able to reach me. Feels like the new version won't let the older versions "talk" to it. Annoying. May downgrade tomorrow.

Coffee with J. Cocktails with the Canucks. Post-cocktail drinks with D. Sleep... ? Just breathe.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Futbol part 2

Solar Sports has some kind of monopoly on the World Cup here, or perhaps there are other avenues for watching the games, but for the regular schmoes like me, I'm forced to either do one of the ff:
1. Watch delayed telecast (as in two days delayed telecast)
2. Go to some bar/hotel bar
3. Spend a lot of money to get the all access pass
4. Change cable access to Dream cable
5. Learn Japanese as one of the Japanese cable channels play the games live (if you have the right cable connections...)

I've been checking the FIFA website regularly. At least three times in the morning for updates on the games that take place at 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. Manila time. Then another couple of times just to look at pictures of cute players, hahaha. No, to read the stories/article of course. FIFA, the girls version of Playboy!

Last Friday, however, I gave up. After looking at all the possible options above and letting stress make my life decisions, I talked to a friend about how we'd watch the upcoming Round 16 games, especially the back to back Germany vs Sweden and Argentina vs Mexico games. This was especially important as the winners of both games would face each other on June 30 for the quarterfinals. My friend, Melissa, is a Germany fan, and I'm for Argentina. We discussed options galore, before I threw in the towel and called up the Mandarin to ask about room rates.

Saturday afternoon, fast forward just a bit. I've checked in, and have a lovely room with a firm king size bed and cushy pillows plus fruit welcome basket. I don't spend much time in the afternoon there, but I get back around 11 p.m. in time to prepare for the first game. A friend joins me, not Melissa, but we enjoy the remainder of the game between the outplayed Swedes and the properly supported Germans. I know my friends in Munich are going crazy, kudos to Steffi and Jan. But after I'm on my own, I settle in for my 3 a.m. vigil. There they are, my boys in blue and white, going against Mexico in green. The first ten minutes see me in throes of agony, when Mexico attacks first and get a goal within 6 minutes! Horrors! Finally, Argentina pulls together and manages to equalize. Big relief and I can feel my pulse settle down a bit. My stomach remains in knots and the rest of the game is no relief either. Argentina seems to play like they're in a quidditch game, the ball is zinging here and there without any sense of direction. While they maintain possession of the ball more so than Mexico, they can't seem to get their act together till the end of the 2nd half.

Extra Time: after watching the players getting stretched before they start up for the next 30 minutes of extra time, I'm not sure whether I can take anymore of the heartpounding stressful game. I need to sleep. But I can't. If I turn off the tv, I know I wouldn't be able to stay awake not knowing whether either team had taken the lead or it had gone to penalty shootouts (please, holy of holies, not that!). So I kept vigil and sure enough, Senor Rodriguez put in a BEAUUUUTIFUL goal off his left foot in the middle of the first 15 minutes. Pure elegance, pure beauty, pure football. The next 20 minutes didn't give either team much of a chance to score, but I was happy. Until I realize, next Friday I'll be all up in knots watching my boys up against those Germans. The last time they faced each other Argentina lost, in the semifinals of France 1998. And Germany has all those supporters, I can't watch, it's like a horror film. But I will be there, snuggled against the king size bedspread and comforted by lots of pillows. Mandarin here I come.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A sheltie gives birth to a miniature bull

Mr. Sandman gave me a real weird one this morning. I have weird dreams, in full color, with smells, tastes, the works. I sometimes think my mind must be exhausted coming up with the scenarios after a full nights sleep. While I haven't had any of the dreams analyzed, I've never written any of them down for one thing, I figured that today's blog and perhaps future ones, will be dedicated to this early morning, pre-alarm wake up call dream.
People in the dream: my friend Alen and a stewardess on a plane. I think we were on one of our road trips around the country, where he gets lost and doesn't ask questions where we're going and I get exasperated. But this time, he also had a dog, or a farm for dogs (which, being Alen, is unlikely in any form of reality). They were called shelties, those cute mini-collies, but they didn't look anything like shelties. More siberian husky meets golden retriever. One dog in particular was a sweetheart and spent most of the dream staying by my side. But she wasn't feeling well, and we were worried about her.
Then the dream shifted and I had to say goodbye to the "sheltie" eventually finding myself in a pier or an airport. I was loaded with luggage and about to board a flight. Alen then joins me (so we must be heading somewhere) saying in one of his "I have a secret" coy moods that he has something to give me. Then he hands over a small toy like creature. It's a miniature bull. About the size of one's palm and full formed. It's more like a stuffed toy, but it's breathing, and feels very much alive. Alen says that the dog wasn't sick, it just gave birth. And I don't blink an eye thinking it's so strange that a dog would give birth to a live mini-bull (horns and all). I cuddle it against my neck, and it's like holding a new puppy. Sweet and helpless. The plane begins to board and I'm handicapped by all the bags and the puppy/bull. So I put him/it into one of my duffel bags with enough airspace so I don't suffocate him. I suspect the airline won't want an animal on board, small as he is.
As I walk into the plane, I'm searching for the ticket/boarding passes. All I find are older tickets and boarding passes from other airlines, but they all connect to this flight. I see a ticket for Nagoya to Manila. I give the stewardess a flight that says Star Connector, a red eye that would have taken me from Anchorage to Narita. She tells me it's the wrong flight (in a chinese accented voice), but after going through all the other tickets, I tell her it must be the flight as the other flights are too old or not going in the direction I want. I can sense she's about to give in when...
I wake up.

PS: should I tell Alen that it's not right to give a new born bull puppy to someone? The poor thing probably needed to suckle at his momma's breast for a bit before being given away.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Lady plantkiller

I moved into my new townhouse last October and spent the first few months settling in. Bought some furniture, houseware, garbage cans, water, and other necessary accoutrements. As I was sharing the house with a friend, I left it to him to decorate, as it's his forte. However, we did have a minor disagreement over plants. I was for it, he wasn't. Partly due to his strange belief that plants equate to dirt, and he's anti-dirt, he didn't want a real, living, carbon dioxide reducing, oxygen emitting plant inside the house. Well, I've lived in enough places to know I needed some greenstuff, and so I plunked down a tidy sum to have a jeepney load of plants brought over one Saturday. I probably spent too much, and yes, I chose a vendor who is all the way in Makati, adding to the delivery charge. But the advantage there was seeing the plants before I got them, and having a nice relationship with the vendor before I had them brought over.

My first plant purchases included bamboos, herbs, spider plants, a nice feathery plant called rattlesnake (something about the leaves), a couple of large palms/palmeras, and some medium sized houseplants good for indoor spaces. Placing them inside the house, as well as in my pocket garden for the larger bamboos, I felt immediate relief. The house was starting to look like a real place, a living space. Yes, there was dirt, and of course watering, but the impact made a difference. Even my anti-dirt housemate changed his mind about what a plant can do to a space.

However, I am not one of the greener thumbed citizens of the world. Probably the biggest surprise of my life is how long I've managed to keep my plant in the office alive, given how little I give it in terms of water and other nutritional benefits. Among the plants I bought for the house, within the first month, the two basil plants were dead, and I was a bit concerned about the spider plants and a couple of the houseplants. I suspected it had to do with the humidity inside, but I also knew I needed to bring them outdoors to get some air. So I've spent a bit of time learning more about the plants, and moving them about the house. I also made the biggest mistake, overwatering them. My large palmera in the dining room is now officially kaput, and the diagnosis was overwatering. The leaves started turning brown in April and no matter how much pruning I did, it would continue along this route. The once proud fronds were limp, lifeless. And wilted.

Yesterday, I got some replacements. I've given up on my palmera, but bought a new ficus like plant, which I'm keeping outside for now to acclimatize. Eventually I'll bring it inside, although what I may need to invest in is some form of wheeled platform to avoid backpain when loading the pots up and down the stairs. I can mourn the 5 plants that have died since January, but at least the majority have survived my care so far. A relative success given my black thumbs. And my virtual thanks to my plant lady doctor, Delia, for making housecalls. I don't know what I'd do without people like her.

Monday, June 19, 2006


I had it all planned out, a weekend of things to do, with enough downtime to get myself through the days. Saturday was market day and class, then Sunday I had time with friends and a party. However, best laid plans etc etc. What ended up happening was totally uneven, with all my social activities dumped on Saturday. From buying food at the market, seeing acquaintances there, having class in the afternoon, then going out for coffee with E, with the last minute realization that the party I had assumed to be on Sunday was really on Saturday night, I got home way after 2 in the morning and buzzed. Sunday was the perfect rest day, and I took advantage of getting up late and doing very little.

Finally had a taste of the chocolate mochi that Lori wrote about. My favorite is the dark chocolate, the slight bitterness melting into the sticky rice flour jacket dusted with dark chocolate powder. A definite tasty morsel.

I made guacomole over the weekend, and while the batch was a bit salty, it went well with the blue corn tortillas bought in a health food store. One after effect was the tingly sensation on my left hand from touching the green peppers I used in the guacamole. Got to use gloves when playing with spice.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Moleskines, printer blues, and public reading

18, count em, 18 journals, most of them unused, as in empty, or if they are scribbled in, maybe no more than a page or two have been used. If there's a vice related to this, call it journalama. But mayhaps I've found a cure, for one notebook has been easy to tote, easy to use, and has had over half of its pages filled, and that's my handy moleskine. After perusing the web, I find that a number of folks here in Manila are also mole lovers, and yet, we can't find them here. None of the bookstores sell them. Fully Booked, here's a niche market for you guys to consider! Or Different Bookstore! Yoohoo!

The lemon of a printer has conked out again. I need to print 1000 copies of a flyer asap and the day I am ready, the printer won't print. The Fuji tech guy sent over by Fuji Xerox doesn't know what to do, and he's annoying me with his inadequacies. Call me the client from hell, but the last thing I want is to be asked by the tech guy whether I have some cable or driver of which I know nothing about. They send over different people all the time, and just when we think they've figured it out, it goes conkers again and some other tech guy gets to annoy us once more. So not worth the money we've spent on it.

I'm heading to Instituto Cervantes tomorrow for the reading of Noli in Spanish. Have an early slot so I will have time on my hands to do ... nothing. What a wonderful way to begin a weekend.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


One of my deepest, darkest desires is to eat lots of dark chocolate, swim in vats of it a la Willy Wonka's factory....

Sorry, actually, the deepest desire is really to go to the finals of the World Cup. Any, I don't care where it is going to be, but if I win the lotto, then I'm going to spend a gazillion dollars to get me a nice shady seat in the next one.

I've been a World Cup fan since 1982, and I've been a loyal fan of one team, Argentina, since 1982. They had won the 1978 games, but in 82 lost, only to get back on top in 86, when Diego Maradona was at the peak of his form. Since then, I've been a lurking fan, hidden in the outskirts of Asia, then the US, then back to Asia. And it's a beauty sleep killer, I tell you, trying to catch games being shown at 3 a.m. or whatever horrible time they do the broadcast.

But as it's only once in a four year cycle, and there's the advantage of seeing 32 of the best teams in the world, competing mano a mano or pied a pied to make it to the final game, I willingly give up my time, my sleep, my sanity to break out into my WC fan zone. There aren't many of us in the Philippines, and here's another thing I dislike about the situation I find myself in, trying to find a decent bar that shows the games, where I'm not jostled by rowdy, drinking DOMs. Give me my games in peace I say, but the cost is a tad too much. I asked, I did, but I blanched when I heard how much. So I'll suffer a beer, some ciggie smoke to watch my boys in blue stripes.

After Argentina, as chances are they may not get to the finals, I root for the ff in order: Italy, Brazil, France and Spain. The latter have yet to show what their cojones are made of, and I sometimes think I should switch allegiance to Portugal. Maybe this year I will toss Spain out for the Czech republic, who trounced the US today in decisive fashion, and who played good futbol. But still they'd have to get past my first three teams. Brazil's in good form this year, so they've got a chance to repeat, but I sure hope they don't. It'll turn into a monopoly if Brazil keeps winning.

I'm not a Germany and England fan. Beckham's cute and Ballack's a good captain, but neither of the teams makes me want to break out in shivers. They always seem like dogmatic, didactic, dull teams that manage to get through to the next round, but without any magic.

Given my support for any underdogs, I'd love to see a David-Goliath finals, take Trinidad and Tobago (who kept Poland at bay) and pit them against Italy (who have in the past f--ked up easy games), and see the world go crazy. That would be a game to see in person. Lotto, win a gazillion bucks, go to World Cup!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Tastes of Montreal

I’m slowly coming back to life, jetlag is not as overbearing, and I am sleeping through the night now. At work I’ve managed to get a grip on the emails waiting for an answer, and have completed some tasks that were waiting for me to get back.

Rifling through the papers I brought back, I realize I can’t find the menu from the last group dinner we had in Montreal. It was a lovely tasting menu from Europea, recommended by our hotel’s concierge. While the conversation tended to lean heavily on work matters, and some of our dinner companions were not welcome, the food was lovely and how I wish I could find the menu to rekindle some of the taste memories.

One aspect of fine dining that I never fail to appreciate is how much more you receive in terms of service and food than you initially need. You order a steak, but you also receive the amuse-bouche, and the palate cleanser and the petit-fours before you’re ready to return to the cold, harsh world. The service is attentive, and, within reason, accommodating. There is that sense of being coddled and protected, no matter how cold and wet it is outside.

Although the menu may be lost, I can pull out of my mental magic hat some of the more impressive moments of the meal: the foie gras that was pure velvet and cream on my tongue, not to mention warming to the blood; the goat cheese crumble, tart and nubbly, accompanied by that earthy walnut bread; the filet mignon of J’s, which was perfectly rare, and as tender to the cut of her fork as it was to the knife; the deer steak of T, an amazing learning experience of what game can be to someone who loves Bambi. And what is a tasting menu without the array of desserts: a cheesecake that wasn’t a cheesecake, the hint of lemon cutting the cloying richness, and an interesting sorbet full of layers and textures of fruit and ice.

On the more casual side, I did get to try three Montreal food groups: smoked meat, poutine, and bagels. I originally didn't appreciate the artisinal texture of the latter, as it is not the same as a New York bagel. But once I got to Sacramento and started sharing them, then a new way of looking at them emerged. The bagels remind me of the german pretzels I had in Munich last year, with a homey texture, a chewiness, and one friend commented that they taste different. So I'm not joining the New York vs Montreal bagel debate, if there is any, but I will enjoy them both.

Poutine was as I expected, gloppy. Fries smothered in gravy (listed as barbecue sauce) and cheese curds. Can there be anything less appetizing to hear than the word "curd"? Fresh cheese bits would be preferable. Poutine won't be on my must-try-again food groups, but it was a definite must-try at least once while in Montreal.

And finally, smoked meat. The phrase first made me think of a tough, slice of jerky, smoked over hickory chips and dried to a dark mass, good for long rides on a horse, following cattle. Don't know why that was what it evoked, but that's what I thought I'd be eating. Then I saw the real thing, and tasted it. It's pastrami! I thought, but softer, and definitely flavorful. The meat is marinated in herbs and spices, then cooked, either steamed or perhaps parboiled, before smoking it. It's tender, and lean cuts taste quite healthy (unless you're eating it with poutine). Good with a spicy mustard and dill pickles.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Katie's last day

Roseville, California. 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Sun blinding. Pool glittering.

I prefer an early morning swim in this weather. Nothing beyond 9 a.m., otherwise I'd need a sunblock of 100 spf.

This morning was reserved to watch Katie Couric's last day on the Today show. After over a month of tributes, the show took us through one more run through of KC's 15 years as the co-anchor of the premier morning show. My favorite moment was watching Tony Bennett sing The Way You Look Tonight and The Best is Yet to Come. I wonder if KC's cheeks hurt after having to smile the whole time, 3 hours of keeping a grin on your face must be painful. And can someone tell me what is eating Willard Scott? No wonder they pulled the plug on him. He was close to rude, especially to Al Roker.

The health issue is over, the sunlight is giving me back my strength, and not having to stress over anything is an added bonus. I was quite worried on Monday, not knowing if it was a simple illness or something worse. A test helped relieve me from one concern, but others must be pursued when I get home. A full health check.

There will be some weeks before I reconnect with someone at home. Time to see if new developments take us on a different path.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies