Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Summer means halo-halo, beaches, sunblock, and making sure the airconditioner is cleaned and ready for the next few months of suffocating heat. It also means being ready to pull out a fan, a hand held one for any daily commutes, or sitting in a public place waiting for life to happen. I didn't realize how many kinds of fans are out there till I looked around and did some online research. According to the website www.handfanpro.com, there are at least 9 basic styles of hand fans: folding, handheld, comfyhold, a brise, "jenny lind", and cockade to name a few. I find that most people, women mostly, will have at least one folding fan, a fixed or handscreen fan (our paypays made of woven grass), or if all is lost, grab the nearest piece of paper that is sturdy enough to keep a breeze going.

In days gone by, fans were an extension of a lady's unspoken language, usually to men. I suspect however, that many a lady and beau got their signals confused. How can snapping open a fan mean "I like you", while closing it would mean the opposite? And exactly how fast is fluttering the fan against your face to mean "hey cutie, i think you've got spinach caught in your teeth"? Of course I'm making that last part up, but if the man and woman involved in all this fan talk didn't get their messages right, could you sue for breach of contract based on what the fan did or didn't say?

These days, it's a lot simpler. A fan is a fan is a fan. It cools you down. And last Sunday over dinner, I had to show the proper way to open a folding fan to a friend. She had borrowed my folding fan and wanted to try opening it in that elegant snappy form, like a Spanish lady wearing a mantilla and ruffly dress. However, she was using a rather rigorous arm action, nearly throwing the fan across the floor. I suggested that she let gravity do most of the work, and showed her how to position her forefinger and thumb near the hinge to push a few of the leaves out and then in millisecond, the rest follows, an elegant display without much energy involved. This may be followed by gentle fluttering or vigorous fanning, depending on how much air you want circulated.

I remember buying large paper folding fans in China once, they were so inexpensive I bought at least ten. Some of them were plain, others had a poem or an inscription in Chinese written on them. On a trip to Indonesia, I had one of the latter fans with me, and nearly choked when I read on the arrival card at immigration that carrying any item with chinese characters could be a criminal offense. No one noticed the fan or opened it to check the design, so I didn't have to worry about being hauled off to some Balinese jail to waste away. Whew.

Monday, February 26, 2007


I needed to open some canned goods last week but found my can opener to be in horrible shape so I chose to find a new one. Yesterday I was in Greenbelt and went to several possible stores thinking they'd have a simple can opener: Rustan's, Ace hardware, even Abensons. Nada. The nearest place I could have gone (but chose not to because I was annoyed by my failed quest) was Landmark.

Why can't we have a nice, not necessarily fancy, kitchen ware store in Greenbelt? Gourdo's and the other cooking store is in Glorietta 4. But Greenbelt is becoming a residential draw (Residences is opening up, not to mention all those new condos in Legaspi village). They need more than a row of high end boutiques and restaurants in there.

Over the christmas holidays I visited a friend in Hong Kong and found so many new gourmet delis and kitchen ware stores in the former colony. They have european and american brands of cookware; there's a focus on design and functionality, and the occasional kitsch. But here, we are still making do with taiwanese and chinese aluminum pots for the most part, or Tefal, lots and lots of Tefal.

A can opener! My kingdom for a can opener!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

"Mobile gossip" according to the Social Issues Research Center

Texting is a good thing!

HA! Men, you're the gossip kings!

Mobile library

There's a lovely article online about reading and travelling. It seems so natural to read while on a journey, and I know I'm not alone in that respect. Go to any airport or dock and you'll see people reading while waiting for their departure. People will usually use books to avoid talking to pesky seatmates on flights as well (done that). And not even an ipod or a laptop takes the place of the quiet regard of a printed page during a trip.

But as the author of the article mentioned, sometimes you have to find the right book. I usually grab whatever is on the top of my to-read pile, and hope they get me through the trip. On long trips to the US, I always end up buying more books during the trip, lugging them home for the pleasure of going through them in my own bed. I've had great reading trips, punctuated by what I was reading, and horrible ones where I tried to bring homework with me and never got to read them (even if they took up too much luggage space and weight).

1. On a ten day trip through southwest China during Chinese New Year (February), I took my copy of A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. Had never read his work before (not that he had a lot of books to his name at the time), but was beginning to dip into the slew of Indian writers making a name for themselves in the early 90's. Travelling solo, with a bulky backpack that occasionally made me feel like a over-laden camel, my book kept me company and saved me from boredom, not to mention very useful when killing insects (ew, yes, but truly a useful tool). I figured that I would read 100 pages per day. In the end, I finished the book earlier than expected because of the pace of the story, and how involved I got with the characters and historical interest (it was the first time I'd read of the instability that took place during the creation of Pakistan and India; plus I began to see how the Hindu and Muslim divisions caused so much chaos at the time, and continues till today). I ended up sharing that book with another friend, who, as luck would have it took it on his trip to Tibet. That book got a lot of mileage.

2. A few years back, my cousin encouraged me to join her on a two week trip to Bukidnon over the Christmas holidays. We would live simply in the village that her foundation helped develop and we'd live off the land. For the first three days we lived in a "dorm" of a house used by the NGO community workers, then moved to the farmhouse of one of the board of trustees. It stood in the middle of a vast field of cockfighting roosters (they would crow at 3 a.m., everyday. Took me three days to sleep properly and not wish murder on every scrawny rooster neck of theirs.). I took 10 mysteries with me, by various authors (I recall that a few of them were by Nancy Atherton); most of them were relatively short (300 pages), and borrowed from another avid reader friend. Biggest mistake was not realizing how quickly I'd go through them. By day 5 I had gone through the lot and was like a drug addict, withdrawal symptoms set in and I spent a lot of times walking through the rooster coops, counting how many had brown feathers, red feathers, black. Good thing we had two trips to Cagayan de Oro, where I bought cookbooks for our xmas and new year dinners; the distraction of figuring out what was viable for the holiday meals took at least 2 days off my boredom. I learned how to make pretty good leche flan, apple sauce, and the secrets to cooking tough chicken (post-cockfight).

3. Once I get into a book, I sometimes figure its not worth sleeping till I finish, like the time I was visiting friends in New Haven. S and G are always good people to visit since I can raid their book piles without impunity. Not having anything decent to read for a couple of days, I was a tad grumpy by the time I flew into the airport, so S gave me Anita Diamant's Red Tent. A good read, with less stereotypical characters than I had expected, and a historical, not to mention Biblical, perspective of women's life in that era. Stayed up all night to read it burning the midnight oil so to speak. At breakfast the next morning S just thrust the rest of her to be read pile in my arms so I could tell her what was worth reading (or tossing against the wall).

I agree with the author that beachside books, thrillers and the bestsellers can be a bit boring and hard to stomach on a trip. I try different genres on trips. My recent interest in scientific non-fiction writing means I have read books about neuropsychology and physics during long haul flights (not as boring as you'd imagine), and I don't always recommend bringing travellogues, as they sometimes make me wish I was flying somewhere else. I sometimes think that a good book that you've enjoyed once before might make for the best travel book; you know the story, but the writing was good before and it probably will keep your fancy for another go. I've re-read many a PGWodehouse on flights. I know I'll arrive in a sunnier mood.

As for my list of desert island books: definitely old War & Peace, Persuasion by Jane Austin (or Pride and Prejudice, but Persuasion is one of my all time faves), one of the Blandings books by PGW, and a book about surviving on a desert island!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Farewell Fire Dog

In hindsight there was a lot of foreshadowing: hot air balloons lit up by their internal fires, a parent saying we'll go out with a bang, the fact that the year ending and the year beginning are both fire elements, fire season beginning according to a daily report. But who ever expects a calamity to take place?

I was on my way out of town, when the call came in. Friday afternoon, after a long day at a school event, most of the employees had gone home. One of the trustees calls me with the news that a fire broke out within the grounds. After getting in touch with several co-employees and a couple of managers, I find out that the fire had started in a side office of the left wing, and the fire trucks were containing the blaze. I return to Manila and head back, tired, but driven by a rush of adrenaline. Two rooms are gutted, and our main auditorium is under water, but luckily most of the school is untouched. Structurally, the building seems to be sound, although we won't know the full extent until after the engineers come in next week.

No one was hurt, the guards who managed to save a good deal of our equipment were checked for smoke inhalation and released from the hospital the same night. They are to be commended for their quick thinking.

This is the second capital damage to the school in the last 8 months: Milenyo damaged the playground, now this. My superstitious side tells me we need to appease the angry spirits.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Beyond a rose

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
by E. E. Cummings

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond

any experience,your eyes have their silence:

in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,

or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look will easily unclose me

though i have closed myself as fingers,

you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens

(touching skilfully, mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and

my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,

as when the heart of this flower imagines

the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals

the power of your intense fragility: whose texture

compels me with the color of its countries,

rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes

and opens;only something in me understands

the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)

nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sunday, sunday

To celebrate her 31st birthday, we had lunch with Anne at M Cafe. Instead of the ala carte brunch menu, they now offer a brunch buffet for P750++ per person including a choice of coffee, orange juice, champagne, or a mimosa. We all opted for the latter, downing that back before picking our way through the different stations. Oysters and japanese sushi at the table nearest us, followed by cheese and grilled vegetables, soft boiled eggs and asparagus, a slice of prime rib or lamb, plus a peking duck area near the eggs station (omelettes, eggs benedict or scrambled), the pancakes/waffle grill, hot foods like bacon and ham or longganisa, bangus, fried rice, risotto and pasta plates, paella. Wait, don't forget the desserts and fruit display! An overall good value in pleasant settings. I prefer it to the noise of Circles.

M Cafe
G/F, Ayala Museum
Greenbelt 4


I hope The History Boys gets extended for another week, it should be required viewing by educators around the country. What is the proper way to teach children how to learn? how to investigate? how to enjoy our past within the context of our future? How do our moral structures serve us vis a vis our humanity? What is history if not random acts, noticed, acted on, blown out of proportion, and usually ruled by one gender over the other? Snobbery, class structure, innocence lost, angelic voices, religion, immorality, politics, and of course learning, are all discussed or handled throughout the film.


I watched the teams fill up the balloons with air, and then heat it up with the hot flames. They filled up, took shape, and flew away. Human weight, however, is the anti-thesis of what the balloon teams seem to do. We eat, put food into our mouths, chew, swallow, it is digested and liquefied, nutrients are absorbed, then passed through our colons and eventually the waste is released. No air is pumped into our stomachs, no matches lit down our throats. Our corporeal masses grow when we put in food, especially when we don’t use up any of the energy. I think the balloons have a better deal.

Last Saturday, we didn’t live on aerial acrobatics alone. Other than our craving for coffee after the first lift off at 8 a.m., we also wanted something substantial. Blogger Anton of Our Awesome Planet had the group scheduled for breakfast at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post (VFW) Canteen, where we dined on SUBSTANTIAL American “diner” food: pancakes, eggs benedict, ham, biscuits and gravy. I think a few folks wanted to try their famous “shit on a shingle”, a piece of bread smothered in sausage and gravy. I prefer the biscuits and gravy over SOAS, or the meatloaf (all meat! With homemade mashed potatoes!). But I went ahead with my full order of eggs benedict, yolk perfectly runny, the sauce oozing with butter. Our group paid an average of P200 for our meals with coffee. Service was spotty, but the place was busy with our group of 20 to 30 pax.

After the balloon popping and paragliders, we went on a separate excursion from the main group and headed to Bohemia, a new restaurant on MacArthur Highway, corner of Fields Avenue. A had suggested trying it out on the recommendation of a Czech friend of his. Plus we knew that A has this long standing interest in Eastern European culture/history/beer. We’re easy, just feed us.

Bohemia is run by Frank Krejci, an American/Czech chef with an interesting past. There’s a write-up about him on the wall of the outer garden area, where you can read about his long and winding career path, from musician to nurse to opening up several European style bistros around Florida, and now, the Philippines. Frank was kind enough to chat with our group, especially when A tested his rusty Polish/Czech on Frank to order a beer or two and other drinks. We learned how he set up his own smoke room for kielbasas and sausages, bakes the bread (try out the rye! It’s close to divine, spread with the cheese reminiscent of the Bavarian obatza I had in Munich last year); I was expecting him to say he makes his own cheese and grows all the vegetables, but that was not to be. But there’s a wonderful artisinal nature of his food that is perfect for those who want to eat homemade cooking infused with love. In our group, we all wanted to try the pirogis, the potato pancakes, the kielbasa, and potato dumplings. We also got to taste the hearty potato soup (notice a theme?), the weiner schnitzels, pork loin, sauerkraut, and the beer (of course!). Heavy, carby, and definitely made us sit a bit lower in our chairs, like slugs. Sleepy slugs, happy from all the good food. To perk us up, Frank gave us a shot glass of the Czech liquer: Bekeróvka, a clove infused drink that made us all sit up straighter. It was a highlight of the day. Warm, a shot of sunset.

Directions: from the Main gate of Clark Airbase, take a left on Friendship Avenue, drive under 1 km down the road till you pass Oasis Hotel, and look out for an abandoned 3 story building. You should see the sign for Blue Boar Inn, turn right on that street and you'll see VFW in front of you. Parking is behind the abandoned building.

Mabanta Arcade, Balibago, Angeles City

Monday, February 12, 2007

Prank minds

My sister and I were standing by the main lobby door of a Manila hotel and we noticed that there was a table with three lists and gift-wrapped presents. We assumed that each list referred to the three weddings going on inside, and that the gifts were stacked by the guests of the appropriate wedding.

My sister and I feed on each other’s naughty side. We started talking about how odd that the lists and presents were on display at the front of the hotel. Not much privacy for the recipients, what? I contemplated (out loud with her urging of course) what would happen if a rather brisk wind (Typhoon Tan) blew the lists astray, and upon recovery, were misplaced. Would the bride feel the misfortune of getting Landmark bought plastic cutlery versus the Oneida silver tongs she had registered for at Rustans? How would the security explain it? Let me point out that while my sister and I were plotting, there was no one watching over the table. We could easily have messed around with those lists.

My brother-in-law joined the fray and suggested that we could also mosey up to the tables, and add certain names to the list of gift givers; oh, say Henry Sy, Lance Gokongwei, and Lucio Tan. That would definitely raise a tizzy, wondering where the missing gift had gone to.

Thank goodness our parents had gone home, they'd have been very disapproving of our grown up misbehaviour.

Night glow

Part 4

After a short post-lunch nap, we returned to the airfield for the final hurrah, the Night Glow. Again, as newbies, we were not sure what to expect. We had this impression that the balloons would do a return flight at night, landing like opera divas back on the field, fighting for prime space, then turn on some go-go lights in a trance like display. A far more prosaic ending awaited us.

We got back to find the audience area packed with revelers, smart enough to bring portable chairs or blankets to relax on. We stood with others not as organized, shifting from foot to foot, looking around, people watching, wondering why we had not brought insect repellent (really good idea to bring sunblock during the day, wet wipes, and insect repellent if you plan to do this show next year. Bring a portable chair if you don’t want to stand all day long.) – thank goodness for bats, who flew out from their batcaves to nibble on the tasty bugs annoying us. They probably gorged themselves silly, tasting human blood via the mozzies who had sucked on our arms, necks and faces when they got a chance. The food cycle in motion.

The field was relatively empty, the sky was spotted with a number of kites flown by young and old. We looked up waiting for the balloons to show. The announcer then boomed out that we were going to have a last minute display from the parachuters of the navy (I think it was the navy!), 11 of them jumped from a plane at around 6000 feet, gliding in, solo and in pairs. That kept our mind and eyes off the field and when we started paying attention, the balloons were there, deflated and unrolled. What were they doing, we wondered. It all became clear when they started inflating them again and we realized they were not going to fly off but remain tethered to the field, during the Night Glow show. After another half hour of waiting, the balloons stood stark on display, the announcer called out the start of the show, and disco music started playing. They turned on the braziers to light up the balloons, synchronized to the beat of the music. The show got better as the night grew darker. For 15 minutes, it was a lightly pleasant way of being a child again.

Surprisingly, the drive home was not as congested as we had expected and we returned to Manila very sleepy, but very content. I may not go back to the festival next year, but it’s a perfectly good experience, especially for kids and flying enthusiasts. One aspect that the organizers and the local tourism bureau should work out is encouraging the Angeles City retail stores and restaurants to take part in the program. We found that several of the stores and restaurants didn’t have a clue about the festival, and the restaurants were finding themselves packed without preparation for a larger crowd. There are so many ways to make it work, and give the city a boost. Angeles is a city of diversity and varying reputations, this should be one reason to go and experience its hospitality.

Balloon popping contests and death spirals, oh my!

Part 3

During the day, I took my gringo friends around the base. One fellow, A, had been an airforce intelligence officer, while C’s grandfather had been a pilot stationed at Clark in the 60’s. We did a bit of duty free shopping, which was bittersweet as the large Nutella bottles we had planned to buy by the crate load were not available at Puregold. Durn it.

As we went around the Clark Expo, A pointed out that the conical antennae like structures encircling the exhibit center were just that, antennaes. He asked if the Expo had been built on the “old antennae farm”, which made C, T, and I wonder if he meant ant farm or was it an air force term. Anyway, we learned a bit of military/engineering trivia about such things as we drove around the perimeter while A taught us arcane stuff about antennae’s. Good thing we all had a couple of cups of coffee by then!

Between show and meals, and the bit of shopping and ogling antennaes, we came up with grand scenarios of what we would do with all this space at Clark if we were masters of the universe. T suggested turning it into a major university, A and I suggested holding an annual marathon; T wanted to create a recreational park with pools and a spa; I suggested an East German-style athletic camp (A added that they’d have to include the steroids). We thought that the Expo would be the perfect place for evangelicals to hold their loud, noisy, congress-esssessss, since they need the space, and we’d prefer not to hear them. That was right before we found out there were these antennae there and, hey, maybe if those things still work, we can send out sonic beams to trap them all in there…

We also caught a few more shows at the airfield. We went back for the balloon popping contest and a couple of the paraglider exhibits. The former was interesting to watch, pilots from the airforce/navy, and exhibition pilots from the US and Korea (I think he said Korea) would fly their Cessnas or Piper Cub planes across the field to try and pop one yellow balloon. They’d radio in “now! Now!” and the balloon would be released at the far side of the field, they’d maneuver around trying to pop it with their propellers, but other than one pilot who popped 3 of the 5 balloons, the others were lucky if they got one. One poor fellow never quite got the hang of it and went home with his tail between his legs. Nary a balloon for him. Hopefully this was just a bad day. The announcer kept mentioning the tricky wind conditions that made it harder for the pilots to catch up with the balloons, but it’s pretty tough to see the balloon (yellow) in the air, and catch it just right in the center of their propellers. We all imagined the kind of training you have to do just to get one; we suspect the winner has his son running around with a balloon while he tries to burst it with propellers.

The other aerial show we caught was the paraglider exhibits, two to three paragliders strapped to large electric fan like motors glided around on parachutes (the technical terms so elude me, you just have to imagine it), turning tricks like death spirals (sideway turns), and generally catching the thermal waves. Would have been more fun to watch if they could use trapezes and have a companion attempt a death defying leap, I think!

Up, up and away, in my beautiful, my beautiful ballooon

Part 2

“Where do they pee?”

A common question that we all had while watching the teams set up the balloons and gondolas, thinking that if you had to go while flying around in that thing, there wasn’t much room for privacy, nor for squatting (at least for the female flyers). We began imagining scenarios, team mates giving each other support, helping out with the gymnastics of purging the system. Jelly bags? What about those on the ground?

Eventually, we were informed that the teams only fly for an hour or two at most, set the balloons down on a field somewhere far, far away, far enough that our illusions about flying across the world on one of those balloons would not be shattered by seeing them crash down across the way, spending the rest of the day eating, dilly dallying and waiting for the evening show.

Most of the balloons were inflating rather quickly, but a few notable ones had problems lifting off the ground. The square shaped Whiskas (cat food) balloon took at least 30 minutes to get into its box form, then another 15 minutes of watching two men come close to being incinerated by the flames of the hot air blower to finally gain lift. Perhaps it was also the shape that made it the “bully” on the field, it would lean sideways bopping its neighbors on the side. Another wisecrack among my groupmates was first started after we translated the German blurb on the Whiskas balloon that said "Cats would buy it."; with what we wondered? Cat coins? Cats dressing up to go to the grocers to get their box of cat food, then dragging it home, only to find the box had torn along the way, leaving a trail of cat kibble all down the sidewalk.

Another problem balloon was the “lead” balloon, a rather sad spectacle, noticeably older, ragged around the edges. This was sponsored by UPS (one of the major sponsors, who according to our more expert advisers courier the balloons and equipment for free), which had its canvas logo taped on to the main balloon. The announcer on the loudspeaker said that this balloon should lead the pack on a “hare and hound” chase through the fields. What kind of hare was this? It could barely get itself off the ground! It listed so often, and eventually, collapsed (not enough air? Bad pun, sorry), then was dragged away.

There were a few funky balloons, other than the square shaped cat box (which we named the litter box), there was a balloon with shades, a lovely pucci colored balloon (no amoeba swirls, just a 60’s inspired rout of purple, green, and pink), and the Festo blimp that had a motorized control gondola, so they could swish in and out of the other balloons, wave at spectators below, glide up and down through the field. One of the Japanese balloons had an odd amoeba/ghost cartoon logo on it, sort of like two happy cells about to break apart, holding flowers. So Japanese.

On the ground, inflated but not quite ready to lift, the row of 20+ balloons reminded many of us of a beach spectacle, soft, pillowy mammaries on display. We were all female who mentioned this. Did I mention that we had not had any coffee or breakfast at this point?

Eventually, one balloon was off the ground then another, and by 8 a.m., the whole scene (minus the forementioned UPS straggler) was dotted by balloons in the sky, reminiscent of a film scene, or a magical wallpaper where the balloons float in the blue sky like lanterns in a fairy tale. It was a lovely, spiritual moment.

A weekend in parts

Heading into my birthday week, I didn’t suspect that I’d be having a full-on, busy weekend. Plans included going to the balloon festival, brunch and a movie. None of it took much time to prepare, nor did I have to spend a lot of money on any of it. Perhaps that is what made the whole experience more pleasurable, just relaxing and being in the moment per event.

Part One: God-awful wakeup calls

Friday afternoon, I knew I was going to wake up at a really early hour on Saturday, with that in mind, I wanted to go home early, sleep, then wake up at 2 am to prepare. Fate had a different plan for me. Traffic was bad, and had to detour back to Makati to wait it out. Feeling pissy from this change of plans, I went to the spa and just plonked down money for a 2 hour massage, but no matter how good it felt to just relax and have someone work out all the kinks in my back, by the time I got home late in the evening, I felt like I would never get my energy levels back. My alarm rang at 2 and I groaned, who was the genius who thought of doing this?? Ok, no blame, I agreed to this adventure. But my body wasn’t in the mood. It wanted sleep.

We headed out into the dark, cold (yes, it does get nippy in Manila) night. The convoy to Clark Airbase for the 11th Hot Air Balloon Festival first came together at the Shell station along the North Luzon Expressway. The air there didn’t smell of diesel or petroleum goods. It smelled of porcine manure. Or manure period. For all I know it was a chicken farm nearby. Stinky, and made me want to gag.

The trail finally took off and we arrived at the airfield, to face emptiness on the designated hot air field. Some of those who had gone to previous festivals years past said that was odd. By 4 am, several of the teams are usually on the field, setting up for an early departure. We were setting up tripods and our sleepy butts on the monobloc chairs we swiped from the stands nearby at 5:30 and there was nary a balloon in sight. One balloon basket/gondola was on the ground, so we figured we were at the right place. Tick tock, watching the sun rise from behind Mr. Arayat was pleasant, and the cool breeze made us want really strong coffee.

Then one, two, 4 at a time, the suv’s came out of the hangers and the balloons were unrolled on the field. Teams walked out, looking a bit bleary, hair’s messed up, and probably less excited about doing another flight after two other days of the same thing. The festival is a four day event, and these teams do at least two flights a day.

The anticipation on the audience side is building up, and our fantasies take flight as the balloons expand and fill up with air.

(end of Part 1)

Thursday, February 08, 2007


For dinner one night, I had a hankering for Ineng's bbq. I went to Market!Market for a supermarket shopping trip, ostensibly to buy cat litter and trash bags, but also got some prepared salads and a few other items, ok a whole cart load! But I digress. I picked up a couple of the bbq sticks and suffered through the hour long ride home. I'd have devoured them right there in the car, the smell was intoxicating! Even now, as I write this, my salivary glands are going into overdrive just thinking of that combination of salty sweetness it gives off fresh from the grill.

I made it home, bbq intact. I pulled out two fronds of fresh rosemary from my Lipa loot, and chopped some fresh parsley to top the rice. I removed the grilled pork from its skewer, and poured some apple cider vinegar, chopped rosemary, and garlic together. Plopped it into the turbo broiler for 12 minutes and served it with parsley infused rice and steamed vegetables. Delicious.

On another recent evening, a couple of leftover sourcream donuts had a facelift with a scoop of Haagen Dazs coffee ice cream and a light drizzle of mangosteen preserves. The tastes and textures were perfect, the toasted, crumbly cake with the cold, sweetness of the ice cream, topped with a slightly tart highlight. Guests enjoyed the dessert, I enjoyed pulling it together from what I had in store.

Au pif

Every week I learn a couple of new french words, c/o the website "French Word-A-Day"; the writer shares new words in the context of her life as well as what's happening with her family. For today's post, the word of the day was "chandelle" or candle, as she talked about the Day of the Crepe, a festival that marks the removal of the christmas nativity scenes ("santons"). The writer's husband set up a crepe party/buffet, pre-cooking crepes while she prepared the fillings like nutella, cinnamon, butter and sugar, and savouries like ham and cheese. What caught my attention the most of that article was the term "au pif" in reference to how her husband works the recipe for the crepes, through guesswork or "by the nose". That's how I cook and bake. I know my sister and other baking friends would disagree that baking should be done by the nose, and I have had past disasters from winging a recipe.

One memorable mess was a batch of lemon cupcakes that I made from scratch. My sister and I had made several batches, and I knew the measurements pretty well. So I had no qualms about doing the recipe solo, and the first batch came out just fine. The second batch, however, was a different case altogether. They came out flat and hard! How? Why? I was flummoxed (and tired from the heat of a hot stove/oven). When my sister came home I blubbered "there's something wrong with the cupcakes!" She broke it down into each part, much like a CSI agent would, tracking back the cause of the crime through the recipe and what I had done. We soon realized that I had used melted butter, not softened butter, plus I had overbeaten the batter. Bummer. It was sometime before I got back on the baking track again!

These days, I try to follow the recipes as laid out in the books or however they are shared. And I'm aware that some recipes are easier to tweak than others. For example, I was encouraged by the simple banana bread recipe on Gypsysoul's site last December to try a few loaves (it got out of hand over the holidays and I made enough to feed a barrio). Seeing that it used margarine, I decided to try using butter instead, and after a couple of tests, I have felt comfortable about reducing the sugar content, or not sticking to exact measurements when it comes to the nuts, flour. I'm also aware that the eggs may be US sized grade AA, so adjust accordingly.

Cooking seems less stressful in that sense. More au pif for sure. I always feel like taking out a witch's hat when I brew something new. I'll toss in a broth, some meat, vegetables, try out a new seasoning, or see how two leftovers would taste if cooked together. Very food science lab, minus Alton Brown and his quirky side kicks.

As a few other friends also know, I don't have a working kitchen; no oven, not a lot of pans, pots, a few knives, and some bare essentials. So a lot of what I tinker with has to work within the restrictions of my paraphernelia. And whether I want to try it at all, ultimately. Because the biggest excuse I have to overcome is "who is going to clean it all up afterwards?"

Friday, February 02, 2007


After more than 10 years of marriage, one my best friends is getting her second divorce. What happened to her and W? So far, all I know is that she's going through the divorce proceedings, and I only found out because of one of those emails where you fill out survey like questions ("Coke or Pepsi?"). Her answer to "Any news to share?" was I'm getting a divorce again.

Her first wedding was the first marriage in our immediate batch of HS friends. Two of us attended the frosty winter affair, and we wished the happy couple well after a lovely ceremony in an Italian style villa and a boat trip around Lake Michigan. 4 years later, while she was doing her MBA in Boston, I received word that she was divorcing hubby #1. Shocked and dismayed. Saddened. I liked him, thought he'd be good for her. Yin to her yang.

A couple of years later, she was remarried, to a tall strapping mid-westerner, who also seemed like a good match. They had great chemistry and strong communication skills. Through the years, the news from them was mostly good, new jobs, dealing with family concerns. No kids, which was something they both wanted.

Now, this. Another dissolution. I don't know the basis yet, but it seems tragic that someone who I've known since I was 9 has had to deal with two failed marriages. I know she'll be fine, she's got a great support system. I just believe in happily ever after, and this doesn't help maintain that fairy tale!

Weight no more

3 lbs lost in 2 weeks. Yay me. No exercise though, all portion control related.

Joined 5 other colleagues here at work for a local version of Biggest Loser. So far, one of our teachers lost 14 lbs thanks to SBD. The rest of us are trucking along on a mixture of "healthy eating" and irregular exercise. Final weigh-in is at the end of April.

Food society dinner last Monday held at 9501, the executive dining lounge of ABS-CBN, under the helm of Myrna Segismundo. A 7 course vegetarian meal, accompanied by a rosé, coffee and liquers. My favorites were the fennel and apple salad with a vanilla bean infused vinaigrette, the spinach and cress cannolis (spelling?) with a dollop of truffle oil, and the gorgonzola and grape tarte. Desserts included shoofly pie made of spiced nuts and molasses. Surprisingly filling, even with the smaller portions, but a true range of complex flavors. Hats off to the marvelous team at 9501.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies