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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

First Wedding Anniversary

Last Sunday (the 18th) my hubby and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. I must admit that I am still amazed that a whole year has already passed. It has been an incredible year so far. I think we both managed to adjust to married life surprisingly well. Yes, there have been ups and downs. Of course, we have had our good days and our bad. But in all honesty, Jojo is and will always be my best friend, my partner, my inspiration, and the person I would choose to marry all over again.

Jojo gave me a beautiful pair of earrings – tri-band style - with a row each of deep red garnets (my birthstone), light green peridots (birthstone for August – the month we met), and white sapphires (just because of the color, I guess). The earrings were a perfect match for a ring he had gotten me several Christmases ago. So now I have a set. It was really a very lovely gift and a really thoughtful gesture. (A special shout out to my mom too who helped my hubby with the earring design and had her jeweler custom-make the pair).

I have a gift for him too but he still has not had time to pick it out. Of course it is computer/technology-related so I dared not pick it out myself! :)

We celebrated the day with a brunch at home with family. Incidentally my SIL and BIL – Tracy and Jojo (yes, her hubby’s name is Jojo too!) were celebrating their second wedding anniversary on the same day. So it was really a double celebration. After brunch, which pretty much lasted all morning till mid-afternoon, my hubby and I went to mass and then did some Christmas shopping.

OMG, let me tell you, Christmas shopping on the last weekend before Xmas is a crazy, crazy experience! But that’s a whole other story …

Friday, December 16, 2005

My week in review

This last week has been very busy. One of my main responsibilities at the company where I work is to provide compliance training for our client companies. Inevitably the end of the year is a hotbed of activity here, since most companies are rushing to get their training done before yearend. So this week, I have been doing workshops daily for different companies.

Monday and Tuesday of this week I was up in Redding doing back-to-back workshops for a casino/hotel there. It was my first time in Redding and I was very impressed with the pristine surroundings, the natural beauty of the place, the charm of its small town, and the wonderful views of Mt. Lassen, Mt. Shasta, the Sacramento River and Shasta Lake. The highlight of my trip was crossing the Sundial Bridge, a walking bridge with a frosted glass bottom that allowed me to look down the Sacramento River and see salmon swimming upstream! That view made up for the fact that I had to be up at 4 am and take two plane rides to get there (side note: the second plane was a 20-seater plane that had propellers). The weather was very cold but the warmth of the people in that town certainly made up for the drop in temperature.

On Wednesday I did a workshop for an international fishing company, which was just as interesting. After facilitating the seminar, they took me on a tour of their facility and I got to see their fishing vessels up close, their warehouse where the live fish are sorted and processed, up to their freezing facility where the seafood are blast frozen for export. It was interesting to learn that modern day fishing (at least for some) has evolved from using fishing nets out in the open sea – this company had large pipes that pumped in the fish straight to the company warehouse. Apparently catching fish using a net agitates the fish, and added to the travel time to and from the boat, loading and unloading the fish, all that results in a high mortality rate for the catch. So for smaller seafood (found close to shore) like sardines, mackerel, squid and shrimp – the seafood are pumped in thru these pipes. I forgot to ask whether getting sucked into a pipe is less agitating for the fish!

Thursday I did two workshops, my morning workshop was for the executives of an aerospace company. This was held in our office so nothing interesting to report here. My afternoon workshop was for a company that manufactured crates, panels, and transport materials for airports. While I did get to visit their office, there was hardly anything interesting about seeing all the plastic and metal bins in their warehouse.

Today, Friday, I have a workshop this afternoon for a Japanese food manufacturing company. I checked out their website and they import a few of the Japanese brands that I absolutely love (among them instant ramen noodles!). The company also runs several local Japanese fast food places. Here’s hoping this is one workshop where I get to go on tour afterwards. Of course, I wouldn’t mind getting some samples too! :)

So that’s been my week so far … it’s been interesting but tiring too. Thank God it’s Friday! :)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Bits and Pieces

So many things have been going on lately that it’s been a struggle to post anything on my blog. It’s too bad though cause there are so many things I would like to write about. To start off, my parents left for Manila exactly one week ago. And I think it’s taken me roughly this long to get over their leaving :(

On our last night in Torrance, my mom outdid herself and created a special dinner (lamb chops with a rosemary-garlic-breadcrumb crust, grilled salmon with melted butter, and her special Caesar salad). But what was extra special that night was the bonding my dad and I had over … furniture assembly. Yes, you read that right. Furniture assembly!

My dad who is a brilliant financial guru, an exceptional business master, a self-made man is a lot of things – but mechanically inclined I’m afraid he is not. And of course, me, being his daughter, well, I’m pretty mechanically-challenged as well. But earlier that day we purchased a coffeetable and a half-moon console table. Both tables are made with a combination of mahogany wood, wrought iron, and a stone/slate tabletop. Very beautiful in the showroom, quite heavy in the box, and a little bit daunting when we emptied the contents in our garage.

But let me brag about this for a moment, after about an hour’s work, with only our positive attitude, sheer determination and an electric screwdriver, we put together both tables – best of all – they were standing and we didn’t have any screws left over! My mom, brother and hubby were suitably impressed.

Right now, with my parents back home, I still feel like they are with us in Torrance – there’s a freezer full of prepared food care of my mom, and of course, both tables my dad and I put together in our living room :)

In other news, may I also brag about my hubby landing a job with a new company? He has not wanted me to post about it sooner since he wanted to make sure he was all settled in before I made any major announcements. It’s been two weeks – I think that’s way enough time.

As I’ve posted a number of times, my hubby is an IT genius (and it’s not just my wifely pride talking here). Anyway, he is now working as an IT Specialist (a.k.a. the main “go-to” guy for anything computer related!) for a company that produces Japanese manga and anime. Talk about a match made in heaven! Jojo is so passionate about IT and his number one interest would have to be anime comics, cartoons and video games. It’s perfect for him. Imagine doing what you like to do and what you are good at for a company that produces products you really enjoy. It would be like my getting a job as a personal shopper at Macy’s or becoming a food critic for major restaurants or doing corporate training at Disney. I just keep hoping that everything continues to work out for him.

In still other news, my auntie Julie and uncle Raniel are visiting us right now and will be staying till Monday. So we’re playing host and hostess once again. That’s always fun.

The one sad note is my brother (who lives with us) is on Xmas break and is heading home to Manila for the holidays. It’ll be a great vacation for him especially since he’s really been burning the midnight oil with all his studying lately. Of course, we will definitely miss him! The house will definitely be a little quieter and a lot emptier, there won’t be any delicious home-baked brownies for a while, but it’ll also mean no old newspapers lying around for the next three weeks. Bon voyage Jules!

Today is also my BIL’s birthday. Best birthday wishes to you too. We’ll see you tomorrow and really do some celebrating! :)

And on Monday and Tuesday, I will be flying off to Redding (north of Sacramento) to do two days of training for a casino/hotel up there. Looking forward to it and hoping that maybe I'll get to see some snow. Does it snow over in Redding???

Happy weekend everyone!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Bay Area Trip (Day 5)

Sunday, Day 5, was actually the last day in the Bay Area for some of us (my hubby, brother and I). We all started off with a quick breakfast at the hotel and drove about an hour and a half to Modesto. Now, in all honesty, there is not much to see when visiting Modesto (a quiet, residential town east of San Francisco). This I found out when I googled “Things To Do In Modesto”. I think the town is best known as the hometown of Laci Peterson and Chandra Levy (both highly sensationalized missing person cases that turned out to be murder cases). But the main purpose of our visit was to see my Uncle Junior and Auntie Lillian (my dad’s first cousins and our wedding godparents), who are two of the nicest people I know. Definitely on our "favorite-relatives-list".

When we arrived at Uncle Junior and Auntie Lillian’s place, we were impressed with the beautiful grounds where they lived. Their home was in the midst of a fairly new, gated subdivision that was quite charming in itself. Of course, the man-made lake that flowed between the homes (and right in their backyard) was pretty cool too! But what we all liked best was their very charming and very warm home that truly spoke of the kind of hospitable and gracious people that they are. Auntie Lillian has an amazing Santa Clause collection that would give The Christmas Store in Sausalito a run for its money!

We had lunch at a Chinese New-York style buffet place that served everything from sushi, to oysters on the half shell, to Dungeness crabs, to pizza and to soft-serve yogurt. There must have been 5 long tables with every kind of American-Chinese dish imaginable, not to mention different kinds of salads and desserts. It’s hard not to like places like these because there is literally something for everyone.

After lunch we browsed a local 99-cent store before we (my hubby, brother and I) had to head back to the Oakland Airport to return our rental car and catch our evening flight to LA. My parents were staying for two more days with my aunt and uncle. Lucky them!

Bay Area Trip (Day 4)

SATURDAY, Day 4, started off with a drive to Sausalito (minus my brother who stayed behind to do some studying). The drive was about an hour long and was pretty uneventful if not for the beautiful view of the bay and our momentous crossing of the Golden Gate bridge.

Sausalito is one of my favorite cities in the world. It is truly a beautiful place, wonderful views, perfect weather, and filled with small art galleries, craft stores, boutiques and souvenir shops. There are a number of fine dining restaurants and small cafes. The paths are lined with cottage-style homes (with a very New England fishing village feel). I used to daydream about getting married in Sausalito. I pictured a small intimate wedding in a little chapel overlooking the water, surrounded by tall Redwood trees and sloping hillsides. The reception would start with cocktails by the Sausalito marina overlooking a magnificent sunset, followed by a lovely candlelight dinner at “The Inn Above Tide”, a nearby four-star hotel that despite being quite modern I have always found quite charming.

Of course, when I moved to LA in 2002 and was in the midst of planning my wedding in 2004, I had so many things to take care of and so many people to accommodate that my dream wedding in Sausalito was next to impossible. I did have a lovely wedding in Long Beach though – but that’s another story.

Anyway, when we arrived in Sausalito, we strolled around the marina and visited The Inn Above Tide. It was a very cold day despite the bright sunshine. We had brunch at The Winship Restaurant. After chowder, salad and sandwiches, we explored the little city and visited a number of boutiques. We visited art galleries and antique stores. We browsed thru tourist shops selling local items perfect for souvenirs. Mom stopped by a glass store and bought glass garlands. And my hubby and I bought a bag of saltwater taffy for friends. We looked inside crafts stores and marveled at the artistry of local craftsmen and artists. Of all the shops, our favorite was this delightful little store called The Christmas Shop. True to its name it sold all things Christmas from exquisite ornaments to elaborate wreaths and Christmas trees. It was really filled with such beautiful pieces. I ended up buying a little gold stand and several crystal ornaments (santas and snowmen) to adorn my living room table. Of course, my mom selected several ornaments as well.

Our last stop before leaving was Lappert’s Ice Cream Shop. If you have never tried Lappert’s Ice Cream, you are truly missing a wonderful gastronomical experience. Lappert’s is Hawaiian ice cream, truly rich and decadent that comes in delicious tropical flavors – like mango, guava, Kona coffee, macadamia nut and more. Of course they have the standard favorites like chocolate, strawberry, and others as well. My hubby and I shared three scoops of Kona coffee, Hawaiian dark chocolate and peanut butter. My folks shared three scoops of blueberry, strawberry and banana. As I mentioned earlier, it was a cold day and the wind from the bay really kept us all bundled up, but we still managed to finish our ice cream to the last bite.

We then took the scenic route (a.k.a. “got lost”) to Berkeley where I gave my dad the grand tour starting with my very first apartment – my first home away from home, it was as old and grungy as when I first lived there – but I loved it. My mom, who had been there before, said it best when she jokingly called it “as ugi as ever”. We drove by some of the places where I used to hang out, cruised by the buildings where I had my classes, walked thru the park (farmer’s market) where I bought my produce every Saturday morning, and visited some notable Berkeley landmarks. My brother met us shortly before we went to mass at St. Joseph the Worker – same place I went to mass every week I lived in Berkeley.

After mass, the weather had turned very cold and my dad wanted a place that served hot noodle soup. I thought of this small noodle house called Long Life Noodle on Shattuck Street where my friends and I had very good Asian noodle bowls on strictly student budgets. But turns out the place didn’t have a very long life of its own as we found it had already closed down. We then decided to drive to the nearby Ranch 99 complex in the outskirts of Berkeley where we had a really good hotpot (do it yourself place where you either grill your own food or cook it in hot soup)) dinner at Coriya HotPot Restaurant.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bay Area Trip (Day 3)

FRIDAY, Day 3, we woke up to a dark and rainy day in the Bay Area. After picking up our rental from Hertz (we got a Nissan Extera), we debated about what to do that day. Our original plan was to head for the Sonoma and Napa region but with the pouring rain, we did the next best thing. We went to the Napa Valley Factory Stores. I mean what is better than spending a rainy day, shopping in an outlet, on the day after Thanksgiving (biggest sale of the year!).

It was about an hours drive to Napa and when we got to the outlets we started with brunch at the only place to eat – the Food Court. It was not exactly the brunch dreams are made of – but after quick slices of pizza and calzones, we were off to do some shopping!

We went our separate ways and agreed to meet at 2:30 pm by the Food Court. That meant we had about 3 hours. My outlet shopping strategy is usually to just go to the stores I know I like (even if they are located in different areas) and if there is any time left over to backtrack and walk through other stores. I know I waste a lot of time zigzagging across the parking lot to go to different shops, but really this strategy has always worked for me. This time I visit Ann Taylor, Nine West, Liz Claiborne, Coach, and DKNY. (FYI, Napa does not have a huge outlet so it is manageable in 3 hours). I ended up buying a few things for myself and a few things for my sisters back home. But it wasn’t a total shopping spree since the things I really liked were not on sale, the stores that had bigger sales were horribly full, and I kept thinking about the one lowly suitcase I had back in the hotel and how I would have to make everything fit.

At around a quarter to 2, I walk by the Food Court meeting place and of course my dad and hubby are sitting there waiting for us. Very typical of them to be all done with shopping way before our time is up. By around 2:30 we regroup, load up all our packages in the car, and find that the weather has surprisingly cleared, so we head over to the vineyards for wine-tasting.

After driving through the Oakville Grocery, the St. Helena Olive Oil Company and rows and rows of vineyards, we stop at the V. Sattui vineyards in St. Helena. This has always been my favorite vineyard along Highway 29 (Napa’s main road). V. Sattui has picnic grounds, vineyards and wine cellar tours, a deli and cheese shop, and wine tasting rooms. It’s literally a one-stop place for all things Napa. Once inside, my dad and brother head over to the wine tasting room, while mom and I browse the deli and cheese shop. My hubby went walking around the grounds. After about an hour of browsing and sampling, we had a picnic basket filled with goodies and we all headed outdoors towards the picnic grounds.

It turned out to be a beautiful day. Bright (but not too sunny), cool, crisp air, and everything smelling like nature. We sat at a picnic table that overlooked miles and miles of vineyards and all around us were fallen leaves that crunched when you walked on them. There were farmhouses in the horizon and you could see children playing in the gardens beside us. It was truly picturesque. For our picnic we had a loaf of French bread, a really good goat cream cheese with artichokes, a block of Dubliner cheese, duck-liver pate (yum!), and a bottle of white wine. We also had cartons of very garlicky garlic mushrooms, marinated artichoke hearts, huge prawns with a mustard-based dressing, and sausage lasagna from the deli.

It was really a beautiful setting and I could have stayed there all day. But pretty soon, the sun was setting and the cool and crisp air started turning cold. That was our cue to head inside to the shops and of course load up on pasalubong (marinated olives, chocolate caramel apple sauce, lemon aioli vinaigrette, and biscotti) for back home.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bay Area Trip (Day 2)

THURSDAY, DAY 2, was spent with our family friends: Auntie Carrie (who is one of my mom’s best friends and almost like a second mom to us), Uncle Bobby and their daughter Margriet. Also in from LA, were Auntie Carrie’s sister, Auntie Gloria and her family (Uncle Adolfo, Sam and Nico). We all met at Margriet’s lovely apartment on Nob Hill. It was a very beautifully furnished 2-bedroom apartment that became a bit crowded with 12 people in the living room. But it was a comfortable space and of course, nice being with family and friends on Thanksgiving so we didn’t really mind.

Lunch was Spiral Ham and Roasted Turkey with all the trimmings (corn relish, dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry jelly) and then for dessert we had champagne, amazingly good lemon squares, three kinds of liquored bundt cake, petit fours and coffee. The food was really good and our hosts were delightfully gracious.

After lunch, Uncle Adolfo and Uncle Bobby took us on parts of the 49-mile scenic drive around the city. It was a great way for my dad to see the sights that make SF distinct -- the Coit Tower, Union Square, Transamerican Building, Golden Gate park, North Beach, Chinatown, The Cliff House, Palace of Fine Arts, SF City Hall, Lombard Street, and rows and rows of lovely Victorian style homes.

Back at Margriet’s place, we took a walk to a nearby park (across Grace Cathedral) which was really nice. Uncle Bobby told us this was where he walked every morning amidst old men and women doing tai chi. After our walk, we rested for a while back in the apartment.

Later on we went to dinner at the House of Prime Rib on Van Ness. It is a place well known for, well, prime rib. In fact, it is so well known, half of San Francisco was there that night. In spite of Margriet’s making reservations months ago, we had a long wait for our tables. But it turned out to be just as well, since we were slowly building up an appetite. House of Prime Rib is almost a replica of Lawry’s Prime Rib (ambience and food wise). And since we all thoroughly enjoy Lawry’s, things were looking up. Dinner started with the house salad – again chilled and served the same way, we had our prime rib dinners (cut and cooked to our specifications), Yorkshire pudding, creamed spinach, mashed potatoes, au jus gravy, and of course, whipped horseradish! For dessert, there was raspberry sorbet, crème brulee or fresh strawberries. And for entertainment, we had a very vivacious server that provided us with quite a show. The evening was every bit as good as expected and my only complaint is I couldn’t take my leftovers back to the hotel!

Bay Area Trip (Day 1)

WEDNESDAY, DAY 1 of our Bay Area Thanksgiving adventure started with a 5:30 am trip to LAX. Anticipating huge crowds because of the holidays, we (my mom, dad, hubby, brother and I) were extra early for our 8:30 flight. Security at the airport, although heightened, was not irritatingly horrid, and we were in the boarding area with almost 2 hours to spare. This is very typical of me – being extra early and waiting a long time in the airport. I have a friend (you know who you are) who insists on getting to the airport 15 minutes before his flight. Not me - I would find that way too stressful.

We arrived at the Oakland Airport and checked into our rooms at the Park Plaza Hotel. After settling in, we took the BART to San Francisco and hopped on the Powell-Mason line cable car and headed for Fisherman’s Wharf. Since this was my dad’s first trip to the Bay Area – we wanted to do all the touristy stuff. We were off to a good start – I seriously think only actual tourists would pay $5.00 per person for the one-way cable car ride!

Fisherman’s Wharf was exactly the same as the last time I’ve been there almost 4 years ago. We walked along the Fisherman’s Grotto with their steaming pots of Dungeness crab and strolled along Pier 39’s array of restaurants. For lunch, we decided on a little diner-like place called Chowders where we had clam chowder in sourdough breadbowls, fried calamari, clam strips and zucchini. After lunch, we did a little shopping along the small shops on the Pier that sell those kitschy and silly souvenirs that I absolutely love to browse through. My hubby bought me a baby pink windbreaker (which came in handy during the Bay Cruise we took later on), my mom and I found some adorable crystal Xmas ornaments, and we bought Ghirardelli sugar-free (you can’t tell they are) chocolate turtles.

Then came our hour-long Bay Cruise on the Blue and Gold Fleet. We sat at the very top of the ship – three stories high. It proved to be a VERY COLD AND WINDY cruise (this is the part where the windbreaker came in very handy). Throughout the hour there were several seagulls that kept flying almost on top of us – the rest of the passengers found this really amazing and kept oohing and aahing. I was too worried they would poop on our heads so I kept my jacket hood on. The cruise took us around Alcatraz, Sausalito, Tiburon, the shoreline of SF, the Golden Gate bridge and the Bay bridge. Perfect way to see the Bay.

When we got back to dry land, we leisurely walked towards Ghirardelli Square, stopping by several sidewalk stores along the way. There were places selling really inexpensive faux leather and suede jackets ($29.99 for a suede jacket!). Of course, quite frustratingly - there is no way to convince my hubby to wear something “fake” and “off the street”. I was trying to look for a place that sold bags (which is the one thing I can not have enough of!) but I couldn’t find anything interesting. We finally reached the Square and had dinner at The Mandarin (which serves North Hunan style food). Actually I was planning on having pommes frites for dinner and had looked up a place called Fritz’s Fries. But it turns out half the dining places at the Square have closed (since as I learned later on, the city is planning on tearing the Square down and constructing condominiums in its place). I found that sad since I really like the ambience of Ghirardelli Square.

Back to dinner, after being in the cold for so long, we ordered bowls of hot and sour soup, chow mein style noodles, shrimp mu shu and yin-yang lobster. The restaurant had really small portions which was good since we were really there to have ice cream at the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain. Between the 5 of us, we had the banana split, the very berry sundae, and the brownie sundae. Super duper good! Definitely the highlight of the day. Our last stop before heading back to the hotel was the chocolate shop where I bought pasalubong for people at work and back home.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Second Weekend (w/ the parentals) Part 3

I’m seriously falling behind on updating this blog. I have yet to post last Sunday’s recap and already have tons to post about our Thanksgiving trip to the Bay Area. So, to catch up, I’m posting a mini recap of last Sunday (Nov. 20). Bay Area trip recap to follow.

I have to give credit to my mom again for last Sunday’s brunch. She woke up bright and early to prepare my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE FOOD OF ALL TIME. Sinangag (garlic fried rice); tuyo (dried herring) marinated in olive oil, garlic and vinegar; fresh chopped tomatoes; and scrambled eggs. YUM! Just writing about it is actually making my mouth water. Ever since I was a kid, this has been my favorite meal. Every time we play the “what if” game and I’m asked “what if you were stranded on a deserted island and could only have three kinds of food to live on for a year, what would you bring?”, my answer would always be “sinangag, tuyo, and eggs”.

After breakfast we went to mass, ran errands, and went shopping most of the afternoon. Came home to pick up my hubby and brother and had an early dinner at Manna (a Korean BBQ place right in the middle of Koreatown). It is one of those places where you cook your meat on a tabletop grill in the center of the table. The slices of chicken, pork, beef and marinated short ribs were served with a light salad of fresh greens and a host of Korean side dishes (kimchee, pickled cucumber, rice paper wrappers, glass noodles, jicama, and others). Really good food but not such a great idea when you are off to the theater after the meal. We seriously all smelled like Korean BBQ on our way to the Ahmanson Theater in downtown LA.

My generous boss got us tickets to see “The Drowsy Chaperone”. The incredibly funny play starts with a homely character simply known as “Man in Chair” who walks the audience thru his favorite 1920’s musical entitled “The Drowsy Chaperone”. “Man in Chair” interjects throughout the musical his funny comments and hilarious side notes. The fictional musical is made up of a host of quirky and entertaining characters: a glamorous actress about to get married and give up her career, her dashing and vain husband to be who does a great tap dance sequence to calm his cold feet. In addition there’s her manager/producer; his bimbo starlet, Kitty; a duo of gangsters posing as bakers; Adolfo, the Latin lothario – who are all trying to stop the wedding from happening. Then there's the eager best man, the drowsy chaperone (who is actually more drunk than drowsy), the stiff English butler, and the ditzy wedding hostess – who are all doing their best to see the wedding go as planned. The show ends with a triple wedding and Trix the Aviatrix flying everyone off to Jamaica.

It is a very high-spirited, hilarious and light-hearted musical comedy. We found ourselves laughing in our seats throughout the almost 2-hour long show. I was impressed with the whole cast’s performance and truly thrilled to have seen the show (previewing here in LA), before it makes its way to Broadway where many predict it will run for many, many seasons. Two thumbs up and a great way to end the weekend.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Second Weekend (w/ the parentals) Part 2

Saturday started with brunch at home. My mom laid out quite a spread: brewed coffee, juice, toasted baguettes, beef Kielbasa, and different kinds of cheese (Stilton, Asiago, Manchego, and a kind of goat cheese). Now I am by no means a cheese connoisseur (am perfectly happy with cheddar cheese on crackers, parmesan on spaghetti, and mozarella on my pizza - that's about it), I nevertheless tried a piece of each one. Did not really enjoy them the way my mom and brother did. Am still a long way to go before I can be called a cheese aficionado - didn't even appreciate the Stilton which my mom claims is known as the "Queen of All Cheese".

After brunch we whiled away the time trying to decide what to do. Some of our options included shopping at the Charles Wilson Park Farmers Market or spending the day at the Roadium Flea Market in Redondo Beach. I am quite sure my parents would enjoy both activities. However, Saturday turned out to be very sunny and quite warm (unusual for this time of year here in LA). For most folks around here that would mean basking under the sun in beaches, parks, or outdoor amusement parks. Not my family. We are a very heat-wary and sun-averse bunch of people. So we did the next best thing that still involved shopping, we headed over to Circuit City to buy electronic stuff.

Over at Circuit City, we certainly made our salesperson’s day by purchasing 2 sets of dual-line cordless phones (for back home), a digital camera (for my mom), a video camera (for my brother), and a CD player (for my dad). If that weren’t enough, Steve (our salesperson) sold us a bunch of other stuff like memory cards, batteries, camera and video cases, etc, etc. I wandered around after about an hour of listening to his sales pitch since I was definitely getting an information overload! In my opinion, there are two sides to the salespeople over at Circuit City. On one hand, the good thing about them is “they are very aggressive, quite knowledgeable, and will really pull out all the bells and whistles to convince you to buy every add-on known to man for your purchase”. On the other hand, the bad thing about them is “they are very aggressive, quite knowledgeable, and will really pull out all the bells and whistles to convince you to buy every add-on known to man for your purchase”. Enough said.

After stopping by the house and watching my brother, dad, and hubby test the electronic gadgets, our next stop was the Redondo Beach Pier where we had a great time walking along the Boardwalk and enjoying the weather (which had thankfully cooled down). We got the chance to see a really magnificent sunset and then again acted all “touristy” by posing for as many pictures (of the same view) as we could. Our next dilemma was where to have dinner. After a long, careful deliberation and a lot of debating, my mom made the executive decision and we ended up at the Pacific Fish Company. The restaurant is pretty non-descript, just rows of wooden tables and chairs, with no art or paintings on the walls. Instead there are mirror panels and windows that look out to the sea. The staff is mostly Asian and quite curt and abrupt. Like many Asian eateries, the noise level was quite high and the lighting was fluorescent bright. Ambience-wise this place was nothing to brag about. But the food, well, that is another story.

We placed our orders at the counter and waited a few minutes for our table to be prepared. We were then showed to the back of the room, next to an open window. The first to arrive were our drink orders: Cokes, TsingTao beer and hot tea. A few minutes later our appetizers arrived. We ordered fried scallops (still juicy and tender on the inside) and calamari rings (also tender and lightly seasoned). My hubby had a seafood combo plate with battered fish, fried shrimp and oysters (the oysters were a bit fishy tasting though). Next we had a steaming pot of fish head stew with shrimps, tofu and mushrooms, flavored with Korean red-bean paste. It was really good especially since the weather had gotten quite cool. The soup was spicy with a kick but it balanced out well with the fish and vegetables. Last to arrive (but certainly worth the wait) was a platter of steamed Dungeness crabs. Our server brought over our crabs, removed the main shell and quartered them before placing the platter in the center of the table. Armed with plastic bibs around our necks, paper strewn across the table, and wooden mallets in our hands, we (except my hubby who is allergic to crabs) had a delectable crab feast. The crab was so full of meat, very fresh, and really, really good. You could choose to dip your crab in melted butter, vinegar, or chili sauce. Although I found it better to just enjoy the crab without any dipping sauce at all. Twenty minutes later, all we had in front of us were crab shells, empty plates, and full tummies. Aaaahhh.

We walked off our seafood dinner by the beach. The nice thing about Redondo Beach is that it is well-lighted and there are a number of joggers, bikers and families enjoying the place even at night. It was great walking along the water, feeling the cool sand against my feet and hearing the waves coming ashore. Of course, half an hour later my dad had a hankering for dessert, and so we all walked back to the ice cream stands by the Pier and shared a dish of strawberry shortcake and a couple of frozen bananas dipped in chocolate and nuts. The perfect way to end the day.

Sunday is coming up ...

Monday, November 21, 2005

Second Weekend (w/ the parentals) Part 1

I would have posted pictures of last weekend’s activities but my parents brought the camera to Las Vegas where they spent 4 wonderful days sampling different restaurants, watching shows (Mamma Mia, Lance Burton's, and Cirque du Soleil's "O"), walking the strip, and gambling the night away (well not really, for those who know my parents it's more like a few dollars at the slots every night).

I’ll try to post a few pictures from last weekend and from our activities this weekend when I get home. Incidentally, this post is brought to you straight from my lunch break at work.

Our second weekend together started with my hubby and brother bringing my folks over to my office on Friday. They came bearing gifts (pili nut pies) for everyone at the office. That meant everyone naturally had to stop working and start socializing with my folks and of course sampling the really “hard-to-eat-just-one-piece” pies. Incidentally we did not know what the English translation of the Philippine pili nut is and none of my American co-workers had ever tasted anything like this (please e-mail me if you have any idea so we can get to the bottom of this mind boggler.)

After about an hour of chit-chat, my folks, brother and I left to have lunch at Pinks (my hubby had to work). Pinks Hotdogs on La Brea is a Los Angeles city institution and so I thought it would be great to spend our day in LA with lunch at the famous restaurant (well not so much a “restaurant” as it is really just a “stand” with a sitting area in the parking lot behind it). My dad had the Chicago spicy polish dog (which was really spicy!), my mom had the pastrami reuben dog (Side note: my mom is the only person I know who can eat a hotdog balanced on a tiny bun, loaded with a gazillion toppings, and not spill anything or get anything on her face!), my brother had the chili cheese dog (a classic), while I had the Rosie O’Donnell dog (chopped tomatoes, sweet onions, sauerkraut, and chili). The hotdogs were good but what I really liked was the creamy coleslaw and the crispy, flavored fries.

Our next stop was to visit some family friends to pick up some things and to drop off pasalubong (gifts from back home), which as it turns out we left in my hubby’s car (we had taken my car for lunch). So after exchanging small talk I had to promise that I would be back next week to bring their pasalubong. We then stopped by The Grove on Third. Did a little clothes shopping, home accessories shopping (for my mom), stopped by Banana Rep and Bath & Body Works, and then headed for the Farmer’s Market next door where we loaded up on andouille sausages, French-style baguettes, and different kinds of fresh cheese.

We then met with my hubby and arrived half an hour early for our dinner reservation at Lawry’s Prime Rib on La Cienega. While waiting for our table we got into a conversation with a fellow Filipina who was both irritatingly talkative (she kept butting in on our conversation) and yet strangely funny at the same time (her comments were outrageous!). And even if we were waiting to have dinner, we just had to sample the complimentary appetizers: thick-cut, home-style potato chips (yum!) and meatballs in tomato sauce (good but on the salty side). Finally we sat down to a super scrumptious and mouthwatering dinner of prime rib. I really like Lawry’s not just for the food but the whole ambience of the place. I find it to be filled with such an old-world charm. I also like their servers and staff who are all extremely gracious. Our server that night was a beautiful lady named Ms. Gosk. We ordered glasses of Merlot and Riesling (which is my new favorite dinner wine – served chilled, it is slightly sweet, fruity, and very refreshing). After a while, the prime rib cart came around and we ordered different cuts of prime rib. Mom and I had the Lawry’s cut, dad had the Diamond Jim Brady cut, while my brother and hubby (who were either very, very hungry or feeling quite macho) ordered the Beef Bowl cut (also known as the “half-a-cow” cut!!!).

The Prime Rib dinners (as if they were not large enough) come with Yorkshire pudding (sounds better than it tastes, if you ask me), mashed potatoes with au jus gravy, and whipped horseradish (which I love). You also get your choice of creamed corn, creamed spinach, a baked potato or steamed asparagus. I have to say, Lawry's does not have a huge menu but the few things they do serve, they really do exceptionally well. The prime rib literally melts in your mouth and each bite is tender and flavorful (with or without gravy). Dinner was very, very good but was really too much for us. We had to box up most of our steaks. We did leave room for the Dessert Sampler though - and am I glad that we did! The sampler included a tart lemon-like pudding on a butter-cookie cup, a miniature ramekin of crème brulee, a mini sundae with nuts and hot fudge, a tiny raspberry truffle with whipped cream, and a small slice of flourless chocolate cake. Again, all I can say is “Yum!”.

This is only Friday and I still have Saturday and Sunday to go. Unfortunately I have a meeting in half an hour that I need to prepare for. So the rest of the weekend's activities will follow soon …

Monday, November 14, 2005

First Weekend (w/ the parentals)

Our first weekend with the parentals was awesome. We kicked it off with a shopping spree at Kohl’s on Friday afternoon (believe me when I say, shopping with my parents = A SUPER GOOD TIME) and an outdoor dinner of burritos and margaritas at Chipotle Grill. Chipotle has got to be my favorite Mexican fastfood place. Their carnitas (shredded pork) and barbacoa (shredded beef) are both extremely tender and flavorful as a result of being braised for hours with a variety of Mexican spices. My only gripe is the place does not come with a salsa bar. I love freshly made salsa and the tiny cup-sized servings they provide are never enough.

We spent the rest of the evening sitting outdoors and talking about everything and nothing. It was probably in the low 50’s but we didn’t mind the cold air. In fact, my parents relish the cold weather (we are folks that come from the Philippine tropics after all!). Actually we chose to eat in Chipotle because there was outdoor seating. My poor hubby on the other hand (who hates the cold) was bundled up in his corduroy pants, bulky jacket, and bonnet the whole time.

On Saturday we headed for brunch at a West Hollywood place called The Griddle Café (right next door to the Director’s Guild of America building). The café itself was basically a hole-in-the-wall joint, which we would have driven right by, if not for the long line of people crowding its front door. We waited about 20 minutes before we got in and another twenty minutes before our food came. But it was worth it. The Griddle Café is known for its breakfast selection and we were not disappointed. We ordered coffee and mimosas and a selection of pancakes and omelets. Mom had the blueberry pancakes, my brother tried the Sow Your Oats pancakes (cinnamon and oats), my hubby went with the banana-rama pancakes, dad had the Hoagie omelet with hash browns, while I tried the Chicago omelet with turkey sausage.

I have to point out two things here. First, we were not disappointed, the food was GREAT. Second, the food portions were GINORMOUS! The pancakes were about the size of dinner plates and thicker than most pancakes I’ve had before. There were three huge pancakes per order (so our table of 5 people had 9 GINORMOUS pancakes) - all served with butter and a side of maple syrup. Not to mention two HUGE omelets and a side order of turkey sausages. We were sitting there surrounded by plates of food and refillable coffee. Finishing that meal was a lost cause. My mom, brother and hubby gamely tried to eat their pancakes using different techniques (mom - one layer at a time starting at the top, my brother – doing triple layers all at once, and my hubby – just hacking away at the center) but even after 20 minutes of eating, those pancake stacks did not seem to be shrinking. We had to call it a meal and carted off the leftovers in 4 Styrofoam boxes.

Our next stop was The Getty Center off the 405 freeway. Now I am by no means an art connoisseur and don’t do very well in museums and art galleries, so the first few pavilions we went to were for the most part quite boring for me. There were a few Greek/Roman bronze sculptures that caught my eye and I did like the European glass art display. Although I walked very quickly through the paintings by Titian and the Painted Prayers display. However there were two things that I really appreciated at The Getty. The first was the European paintings by the masters (Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Degas, etc). It was a bit awe-inspiring to sit back in one of the settees and be in the same room as these timeless and priceless works of art. The second thing I enjoyed was the architecture and the gardens of the center. The simplicity of the building design truly added to the grandeur of the place. Also, the gardens and water maze was really serenely picturesque. Being the “touristy bunch” that we are, we could not resist doing the prerequisite photo shoots by the trams, gardens and fountains. (Pics to be posted soon, I hope!). I also particularly loved learning Getty Center and J. Paul Getty trivia from the brochures and the audio-visual presentation in computer kiosks around the center. For example, did you know there are 3,200 doors at The Getty Center?

After The Getty, we took a long and scenic drive to Naples Island in Long Beach. (The operative words are “long and scenic”, which can be loosely translated as “we got lost”). It was dark when we finally arrived and so we cruised by the Belmont Shore shops and boutiques but missed on seeing the gondolas and gondoliers. Our point of destination was the Naples Rib Company, which is in fact the premier place for barbecued ribs! We had a super wonderful dinner of sparkling white wine, ribs (baby back ribs, beef ribs, St. Louis style ribs), corn bread and Caesar salad – we also tried the roasted artichokes with three dipping sauces (hollandaise was my favorite). This time we did things right and ordered three dinner combos and shared the food. There was plenty to go around but we didn’t feel like complete gluttons from overeating afterwards. A quick trip to the supermarket rounded out our day.

Sunday was more relaxing, we woke up late and had a wonderful breakfast my mom made. Freshly brewed coffee, Bruschetta (fresh tomatoes and basil, slightly sweet balsamic vinegar, and fresh mozzarella cheese on toasted French bread), mushrooms sautéed in garlic and light cream, and smoked salmon with a mayo/mustard/dill/caper dressing. Yes, believe it or not, that was our “home-made” breakfast that my mom just managed to whip up, spur of the moment. (Is she a culinary goddess or what!!!).

After breakfast we got ready to go to mass and then over to my BIL/SIL’s place to meet the rest of my in-laws for a late lunch. This time we had Chinese take out food (roast chicken, stir-fried beef and vegetables, sweet and sour pork, and birthday style noodles). We spent a good part of the afternoon there just talking and enjoying the company. We left since my brother had to hit the books (for an exam on Tuesday) and my folks wanted to take a walk around our neighborhood. My hubby and I took that as a sign to do laundry and catch up on our reading. About 2 hours later, my dad calls and asks me to pick them up. Not surprisingly, they ended up shopping and had too many bags to carry home.

Dinner was just another of my mom’s random creations. How she managed to make this dinner after being out all day I still can’t figure out! We had a tender and juicy roast porkloin (marinated with garlic, olive oil, and lots of thyme), a cheesy baked cauliflower casserole, and my mom’s Caesar salad made with her secret (to die for!) dressing. And for dessert, we had some of the leftover pancakes from The Griddle Café (something tells me we will be having those pancakes for a very long time!).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Parentals are Coming!

Finally … my parents are arriving tomorrow. I am so excited. I’ve had this date circled in red since June! They are arriving via Philippine Airlines tomorrow night. My hubby, brother and I are going to pick them up at the airport.

It’s been almost a year since I’ve last seen my folks (the last time they were here was for our wedding / honeymoon last December). That's almost 12 months ago, so you can just imagine why I am all worked up about their visit and have been planning stuff to do so that they’ll enjoy their 3-week stay.

Lucky for me my parents are very easy going and not high maintenance at all. My dad is a classic foodie and enjoys a good meal so I’ve been on the lookout for new and interesting places to eat. My mom, on the other hand, is a bonafide shopping queen so I’ve scouted flea markets, farmers’ markets and kitschy shops galore (and let’s not forget the malls, Costco, and factory outlets near and far). Look out for all the balikbayan boxes she’ll be shipping home!

My brother and I have also put together lists of interesting local activities that we both think my parents would enjoy. Live symphony music at the Hollywood Bowl, a day trip to The Getty Center, King Tut exhibit at LACMA, an evening at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, watching CATS at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, and more. I’ve also planned a 4-day trip to Las Vegas for them (my dad’s first time in Sin City!) and a Thanksgiving trip (for all of us) to the Bay Area with family and friends. It'll be great!

And not to mention the best part about the next three weeks. Home cooked meals ... Clean clothes ... Shopping trips ... my dad working with us on our finances ... my dad's jokes ... my mom's TLC ... parental advice on just about everything I can think of to ask ... bonding ... having more family and friends over ... and just coming home to mom and dad! :)

It’s too bad my two sisters and my other brother (who are back in Manila) won’t be with us this time. It’s always fun when the 7 J’s get together. Back home, my friends have christened my family as the “Philippine version of the Brady Bunch” and I guess I would have to agree with that. I mean, sure, we've had our off days and naturally there have been disagreements and fighting and bickering. But for the most part, we manage to have a good time together and enjoy each other's company even if all of us have quite different interests and tastes.

Anyway, stay tuned for more updates on my parents’ visit.


P.S. The weekend was pretty much spent cleaning the house and getting things ready for their arrival. I am sure those of you who live away from your parents know what I am talking about when I say we had to make sure the house “parent-ready and parent-worthy”! :)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Happy Birthday Atsi!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my Atsi Jen!

I hope you have a wonderful birthday and a fabulous year ahead. A year that is filled with love, blessings, success, good health and happiness. Everything that you truly deserve. Even if I’m way over here and you are way over there, I am sending you happy thoughts and a great big hug.

To my “big” sister who was my very first friend and the reason why I learned sign language even before I could speak. (People actually thought I was deaf too!). We shared a room when we were young (although your side was always so much neater!), and clothes (when I could still fit into yours) and Barbie dolls (mine always seemed to get lost) and ballet lessons (remember Mrs. Bichara?) and funny little pet names for each other (there are too many to mention).

But more than that we shared secrets and dreams and a very special bond that only sisters can have. Thank you for believing in me, for forgiving me for my faults, for soothing away my hurts, and for being a wonderful sister and friend.

I rarely say this but I admire you for your courage and perseverance in achieving all that you have attained. I admire you for your patience in dealing with everything that comes your way. I admire you for being beautiful both inside and out. But most of all I admire you for your kindness and selflessness, always looking out for us instead of yourself.

I wish you knew how much you mean to me and that I am here for you always.
Love you!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Me? Adventurous? Risk-taker? - NOT.

Last Saturday was my SIL’s baby shower and it was a really nice time to get together and celebrate the upcoming birth of a baby girl. There was good food, great company, fun games and a host of adorable baby gifts. While I don’t have kids myself, I can already see myself shopping for baby girl outfits. They are just too cute for words!

After all the merriment and festivities, the family (minus the guests who had left by that time) sat down to cap off the evening with a DVD showing of “Land of the Dead”. Totally inappropriate for the mood of the day, but I guess, highly appropriate for the upcoming Halloween celebration. So there we were, gathered in my SIL’s living room watching super enhanced zombies walking thru land and water on a rampage to hack, devour and mutilate as many humans as they possibly can in two hours.

I can’t get over how gory and violent this movie was – or most movies are for that matter. Of course based on the title of this film, one does not expect great dialogue and cinematographic genius. But the film was just too graphically disgusting for words. I sat thru the first half of the movie with my hands over my eyes for the most part. After about forty-five minutes of blood, mutilation, gore, and zombies eating human guts, I finally found myself too disgusted to even finish the rest of the film. It was that bad. I walked over to the next room and watched “The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” with my nieces. Much better.

I know a lot of people enjoy horror movies. Something about the thrill of watching in suspense, or the realm of fantasy that it touches on, or maybe just the idea that one can walk away unscathed by such violence. Whatever. But for the life of me, I cannot in good faith pay good money to have myself scared silly.

Safe to say, I abhor horror movies. Violent movies I can tolerate IF and ONLY IF the plot absolutely calls for it (which in most cases it does not). I do not enjoy thrill rides in amusement parks (again the concept of my not wanting to pay good money to have my insides turned upside down applies). I do not enjoy extreme sports (skydiving, bungee jumping, paragliding, not my idea of having a good time). I cannot imagine getting tattoos or body piercings (mainly because they involve needles). I also do not like rap and heavy metal music (they literally hurt my ears). I don’t like the odds of gambling (and really enjoy weekend trips to Las Vegas for the food and the shows). And despite my love for reality television, I will never be a contestant on Fear Factor.

I have no qualms admitting all that. Nor do I discriminate against people who enjoy the things that I don’t. It’s just that my idea of fun is more laid-back and certainly more conservative that most. "Adventurous", "daring" and "wild" are very rarely words used to describe me. I guess I have been known to lean more towards the traditional side. I take calculated risks and will follow my intuition only after making sure I’ve got my bases covered. I think that for the most part it has worked out well for me when I’m not so impulsive, but there are times I know that I’ve got to cut lose and learn to throw caution to the wind, and be less … well … prudent. I’ve been working on that and sometimes I find myself getting pretty good at it … especially when it involves shopping and ordering food! :)

Monday, October 24, 2005

I Can't Think of a Title for This Post ...

It has been exactly a week and a day since my last post. Things have been unbelievably crazy the last few days. There have been (and still are) so many things going on. But since I don’t want to disappoint my ever growing number of blog readers, let me give you a brief rundown of some of the things that have been taking up my time.

First of all there was the BIG office move. That finally happened last Sunday (Oct. 16th). We are still located in the Mid-Wilshire District (just 5 blocks east of our old office). The move was very tiring for all of us. And even if we’ve been in our new office for over a week, we are still living amidst moving boxes that have yet to be unpacked. I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it is to search for a client’s file amidst boxes and boxes of old files - some dating back to 1988! I’m finding out the hard way that my boss is a big believer of NOT throwing anything out. The plus side is I now get my own office (all 72 square feet of it – with a view – you can actually see the Hollywood sign on a clear day). This is certainly a pleasant change from my former 36 square foot workstation facing a wall, next to our ancient photocopier.

Then there is helping my hubby with his job search. My hubby has been handling it well but in all honesty it’s been tough. I guess the IT market is not as robust as we thought it would be. My hubby has been on several interviews in the last few weeks. But there always seems to be a hitch one way or the other. Either it’s a pay issue, a schedule conflict, being overqualified, etc, etc. We are waiting to hear back from one company though (fingers are crossed) … I’d say more but I don’t want to jinx it.

Then there’s a host of several other little things. My job, my clients, running a household, being an adult, getting our property tax appealed, managing bills, having people over, getting my car serviced, adjusting to married life, planning vacations, having some semblance of a social life, finding time to relax - all the things that make up life. No complaints, just stating facts.

I’ve also been trying to keep up my “learning-for-reading” promise (I posted a blog about this a while back). It’s been a struggle. I started a book called “The Rise and Fall of Organizational Democracy” a few weeks ago. And it has literally taken me a week to get past and really understand the first 3 chapters. So despite my pact with myself to get through a “For learning book” before reading a “For fun” one, I thought I’d cut myself some slack and indulge myself. I started reading “Little Altars Everywhere” by Rebecca Wells. I loved it so much and got so hooked on it, I couldn’t help myself and just had to read the second book in the series (“The Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood”). It was just as good – if not better. I can not get enough of these women – and am now in the middle of the third (and last of the series),“Ya-yas in Bloom”. So in one week, I have exceeded my self-imposed limit for “For fun” books. I am trying to justify this by the fact that I have been under a lot of stress and need some type of diversion. And the fact that the books are a series and actually came as a boxed set – so if one really wants to get technical, this is just one very thick book with three extremely long chapters. :) That works for me!

One more interesting thing that happened lately. Last night, thanks to my SIL having an extra ticket for a benefit concert at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, I (together with 2 of my SILs and my BIL) got to watch, Tony Award winner and Broadway singer/actress, Lea Salonga perform. The concert was sponsored, among others, by A3M (Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches), an organization that does great work increasing awareness for and working with donors and recipients needing bone marrow transplants. I enjoy shows at the Cerritos Center because of the level of intimacy the theater creates. It was a perfect setting for last night's show. Ms. Salonga gave a performance that was beyond words. But I'm not surprised, I’ve loved her ever since I first saw her play Annie at the Repertory Philippines’ old Insular Building theater. I’ve followed her career from doing local movies and variety tv shows back home, to her Broadway debut as Kim in Ms. Saigon, all the way to her doing the singing voice for Disney’s Jasmine and Mulan. I’ve seen her as Les Miz’s Eponine, as Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady and even as “Hopelessly Devoted” Sandy in Grease. Last night, seeing her in concert and hearing her sing “On My Own” from Les Miz, and “Love, Look Away” from Flower Drum Song was an awesome experience. She also sang her version of a local Filipino song ("Anak" by Freddy Aguilar), which she did so poignantly that it gave me goosebumps, and strangely it made me quite proud to be Filipino myself.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Happy Birthday to two very special people.

First, to one of my bestest friends, Jeff, who is turning 30 today! Finally. Now you can't make a big deal about how much "older" I am. We've been thru a lot - from Theology immersion adventures, surviving fire hazards, countless all night phone conversations, getting thru countles bad movies (we did have an awful lot of bad luck when it came to picking movies), to getting lost in Long Beach (with Les) the night before my wedding! I am very grateful for your patience in putting up with me and for the friendship we've shared over the last 16 years. You are one of the few who truly know me and who I know I can count on till the end. I hope you know I am here for you too.

Second, to my ninang (godmother) Julie. I'm not sure how old you are turning today. But age is irrelevant - to me you will always be my cool aunt who wins all the ICA/Xavier fun runs :) I am grateful you have been here to visit every year (in the last 4 years) that I have lived away from home. By the way, 2005 (my 5th year here!) is coming to an end -- any plans of coming over this year???

I hope today is special for the both of you and that you get to celebrate it with family & friends, doing things you absolutely love to do.

Best wishes always.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

My baby sister

My blog entries have been mainly about myself and my daily ups and downs. I do have a couple of entries about my folks, my hubby and my job. Still, there are so many other people or parts of my life that I have yet to write about. Much as I would want to - there is just never enough time! But I will ... eventually.

Anyway, last night, my baby sister called me and asked me to draft a write-up for her yearbook entry. I was happy to oblige. After coming up with a rough draft, I thought that what I came up with would be a great post on my blog too. That way my avid readers (yes, all 3 of you!) would get to know one more member of my lovely family and it would be a wonderful testament to my baby sister, who incidentally is one of my best friends as well.

This write up is how I see her, although believe me, she is so much, much more.

College is a meeting ground for multiple personalities. Some we forget after a year or two, others create a more lasting impression. And then there are people like Joy, simply unforgettable. Joy is the epitome of confidence, class and charisma. Definitely a lady in the truest sense of the word. You can count on her to brighten up a room with her disarming smile, turn heads with her classic sense of style, win over a group of friends with her charming personality, and impress professors with her intelligence and wit. And who can forget her exceptional presentation skills? Never one to settle for mediocrity, Joy strives to be good at everything she does – and that includes being a friend, a student, a team member, a leader and an overall class act.

Always remember, Cubs, I'm proud of you, I miss you and I love you.

Now, since I know my sister, I know I've embarassed the hell out of her :) Sorry. At least I didn't mention any of the really embarassing things we've gotten ourselves into! (that's for a whole different blog). But really, with a sister as great as her -- how could I not post this entry? And by the way, I'm doubly lucky cause I have one more equally awesome sister (and two brothers too!) - more on them next time.

Yes, I believe in equal opportunity embarassment - you'll all get your turn :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Pusoy

These days my life is one big pusoy (Pinoy version of Poker) game. There are days when I’m handed winning cards – royal flushes all the way! Can’t go wrong, everything is easy and success comes naturally. Then there are days when my cards are tougher to put together and a straight (if I’m lucky) is the best I can come up with. So, I put that down on the table and hope for the best. These are times I have to think hard, be smart, and sweat it out a bit. It’s never certain - and the thrill of winning (if it happens at all) is much more hard earned. And still there are the days when I have a set of cards that does not present any possible combination whatsoever. Singles and a couple of low pairs – extremely slim to no chance of winning the game. Times like these call for giving it your best shot, but at the same time graciously accepting reality, learning from the outcome of the game, and moving on without remorse.

Yes, life is like a game of cards. It’s all chance – you never know which cards you’ll be handed and it’s up to you to play them to the best of your ability. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and other times it ends in a draw -- it’s all part of the game. After all, life wouldn’t be as interesting if you won all the time. It would be great in the beginning – but I am sure it would be less and less thrilling if it came too easy. Of course I don’t have to expound on why it wouldn’t be great if you lost all the time. We all know that sucks.

These days I’ve had to really play my cards well. Think hard, be smart and sweat it out a bit. There’s just a lot going on. Things are very, very hectic at work and to top it off we’re moving to a new office by the end of the week. So on top of the usual load, there’s a lot of packing and last minute things that need to be done. And as if I weren’t busy enough, guess who’s been delegated to coordinate between our old and new vendors, as well as, our old and new building contractors? Then there’s my hubby (currently down with a very bad cold - that I am trying very hard not to catch!) who is going thru a major career transition and is seriously looking for a better professional opportunity. I’ve been helping him out with his resume and networking and all the little details that one goes thru with job searching. That in addition to trying to run a home and get a good dinner on the table at a reasonable hour – guess you can’t count instant ramen noodles and Spam as a good dinner.

And then there’s the morning I’ve been having, I’ve tied up a good number of hours trying to get a hold of the LA county assessor, recorder, a host of other government agencies, my realtor, and my escrow officer trying to contest part of our Property Tax Bill (we were penalized for paperwork that my escrow agent should have apparently done). I have a to-do list that does not seem to be getting shorter and a sales call in two hours that I am not yet ready for. I have to take pictures of the furniture that we’re not taking with us to the new office (about 20 pieces or so). The pictures have to be emailed today to this Used Furniture Store. I’ve set up my hubby’s digital camera and after taking the first picture, the camera battery goes dead (now of all times!). Just great. My lunch break will now consist of eating a sandwich while in line at Sav-On getting new batteries. I can’t believe it’s only 11:30. I’m just about ready to call it a day! And how can it be only Tuesday? I am so ready for the weekend!

I don’t want to sound like such a whiny complainer. I’m honestly not. I have so much to be thankful for and I’m not about to forget that. I guess I’m just griping about the cards I’ve been handed today. Really a quite challenging set to say the least. And so here I am doing my best. Dealing with it the best way I know how. Thinking hard, being smart and sweating it out. Hoping that tomorrow will be a royal flush kind of day!

Monday, October 03, 2005

You know what’s funny …

... Every weekday morning I have the hardest time waking up. Hearing our alarm go off at 6:30 is pure torture for me and I always bargain with my hubby for an extra 5 or 10 minutes of sleep. But on weekends, I’m up by 7 and no matter how hard I try to go back to sleep my mind is racing and I’m wide awake.

... Every night while I’m on our exercise machine, I find myself watching Food Network shows on television. Seems like the culinary masterpieces whipped up by the likes of Emeril Lagasse and the Iron Chef America cast are motivators for my workout.

... Every time I ask my hubby what he wants for dinner, he’ll say “kahit ano” (whatever is there) or "ikaw bahala" (it's up to you), and then when I tell him what I plan to make, it never seems to be what he wants.
Side note: the great thing about him is he’ll eat whatever I end up making and tell me it’s the best thing ever any way.

... Yesterday was the first time I ever played BINGO and one of my cards (although my hubby was playing it) won the grand prize.

... I started this list with a number of things to write and I'm now drawing a blank. Well, maybe this last one's not really that funny. Just one of the reasons why I LOVE MONDAYS. Sigh.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Manila, Berkeley, L.A.

I’ve lived in 3 places all my life: Manila, Berkeley and Los Angeles/Torrance. Here’s a little bit of what I love most about them.

10 Things I love most about living in Manila:
1. Of course, my family – home-cooked dinners with everyone around the table, sleeping in my parents’ room, the whole family watching DVDs, and trying new restaurants every weekend.
2. Sunday lunches at my grandparents place with the whole "extended" family – I can still taste my guama’s homemade meatloaf and carne frita (beefsteak).
3. Having several groups of wonderful friends to hang out with after work and on the weekends – friends from work, college and high school.
4. Sleepovers where hardly any sleep happens.
5. Actual weekends where I can just bum around, read books, and watch movies.
6. Bargain hunting with my sisters at tiangges (Greenhills and Tutuban in particular).
7. Going to mass at Mary the Queen where you always run into people you know.
8. Working at Jewelmer (interesting clients, wearing great jewelry, 2-hour lunches, putting together fashion shows and bridal fairs, employee discounts, traveling, working with friends).
9. Weekend out-of-town trips.
10. Bacolod Chicken’s chicken inasal; Via Mare’s gourmet tuyo; Dencio’s sisig; Dulcinea’s churros con chocolate; Tapa King’s tapa queen, Le Ching’s spareribs rice, Di’Marks (did I spell this right?) pizza with everything on it; oysters at Mario’s; prime rib at Conway; Digman's halo-halo; shabu-shabu at Tong Yang; the Mongolian barbecue at Little Joey’s; iced coffee at Dean Street Cafe; lauriats at East Ocean; La Gondola’s pasta negra; drinks at Bistro 110 and Il Ponticello; ice cream parfaits at Magnolia and the Peninsula; etc., etc.

10 Things I love most about living in Berkeley:
1. My roommates and people living in my building – never a boring moment!
2. Beers and live music at Jupiter every Friday night.
3. Saturday night parties on Milvia St. and Sunday afternoon backyard barbecues.
4. Long drives to Napa, Sausalito, Tiburon, and Monterey Bay.
5. Half-priced movies for students every Tuesday night.
6. Farmer’s Market every Saturday a block from where I lived.
7. Taking the Bart to San Francisco to watch flamenco dancing and to have dim sum in Chinatown.
8. All night study sessions.
9. My internship at Shaklee with an awesome group of people.
10. Sushi at Manga Manga; authentic French breakfasts at La Note; drinks at Café Strada and Raleigh’s; pizza and dark beer at Jupiter; vegetarian curries at Chaat Café; smoothies at Planet Juice, corned beef and cabbage at Beckett’s; coffee and dessert at Peet’s and Au Coquelet; “imitation chicken” dishes (I swear it could pass for the real thing!) from this hole in the wall vegetarian place on Shattuck; Frausto's for Mexican food; Mel's for burgers and buffalo wings; warm spinach salad with goat cheese at Chez Panisse; panfried noodles from Long Life Noodlehouse; etc, etc.

10 Things I Love most about living in Los Angeles/Torrance:
1. Being newly married and owning our own home here!!!
2. Living in a city that allows one to drive an hour and get to the beach, the mountains, the desert, parks, malls/outlets, museums, Hollywood, Downtown, and every major theme park in America.
3. Playing tour guide to all our balikbayan guests. We’re the number one stopover destination for family and friends (Philippine Airlines flies direct to Los Angeles!).
4. Discovering discount stores that sell brand names at half price: Marshals, TJ Maxx, Tuesday Morning, Ross, Loehmans, Kohls, and, of course browsing neighborhood yard sales!
5. Shopping in bulk at Costco and Sam’s Club.
6. Perfect weather that allows backyard barbecues almost all year long.
7. Learning to drive and getting on the freeway (minus rush hour traffic).
8. Taking turns hosting weekend get-togethers with friends, my in-laws, and family.
9. Watching my nieces and nephew grow up and getting to babysit them along the way.
10. Grilled short ribs and stone pot soup at the BCD Tofu House; soft tacos at Chipotle; dim sum at the Empress Pavilion or Harbor Village; prime rib at Lawry’s; the champagne brunch at Louise’s Trattoria; dessert from The Cheesecake Factory; udon bowls at Mitsui; anniversary dinners at Maggianos; margaritas and appetizers at Border Grill; Café La Strada’s salmon sorrentina; the lamb curry at Punjab; fresh Vietnamese rolls at Noodle Time; bibimbap at Tahoe Galbi; chocolate pudding cake at King's Hawaiian, having Pinoy favorites like Jollibee, Red Ribbon and Chowking close by, etc., etc.

Doing these lists has been somewhat therapeutic. On one hand it has made me truly appreciate what I have. On the other hand, I’m also feeling pretty nostalgic about the things I used to take for granted. And on a lighter note, going thru the lists have also made me quite hungry.

Interesting how people and food play such integral parts of what I love most about places.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Talking

Yesterday was a milestone in my budding career as an HR/OD consultant. After several months of being part of a team or being a co-facilitator at a number of compliance training seminars, yesterday was my first shot at doing a whole day workshop on my own.

WARNING: I’m going to do some bragging now so read at your own risk. The workshops went very well and I received plenty of congratulatory comments from the participants (a total of about 60 people). But the best comment was from Doug, a guy in his late fifties who remained very quiet (almost half asleep) throughout my presentation. He came up to me as I was leaving and said, “ I’ll admit I was not looking forward to this session but you made it worthwhile. That was a great workshop and you did a great job as a presenter”. What a compliment – especially after speaking about and facilitating group discussion on the edge-of-you-seat topic of “Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention”!

I think one of the best things I like about my job is the fact that I get to do a lot of talking. And I mean a lot. As my dad and hubby lovingly point out, I’ve got “the gift of gab”, which is a nice way of saying “sobrang daldal niya” (“She’s very talkative”).

Of course, with my job I literally talk all the time. To begin with there’s the hundred and one phone calls I make a week and the presentations I give trying to market our consulting services; then there’s the one-on-one coaching sessions I have with clients both in-person, on the phone, or over the internet; and finally there’s facilitating group workshops where I’ve had my fair share of airtime.

But obviously this love for the spoken word is not just on a professional level – the fact is I like to talk (yes - I like to listen too. I guess with some people it does NOT always go without saying).

I inherited my love for having conversations, that are for the most part intelligent (!), sometimes trivial, and in some instances downright silly, from my dad. A brilliant man who was known as “the bubbling brook” (aka the "clucking chicken") back in his younger years. Although in hindsight, most of my family (the females especially) are great talkers – family gatherings are never ever silent affairs.

And, of course, there are my friends. Especially my really good friends (you guys know who you are). Phone lines have been burned, teachers have been angered, restaurants have closed for the night, cellphone bills have doubled, and yet our conversations go on. Just imagine us getting together after not seeing each other for months – it's every man/woman for him/herself – definitely not for amateurs :) Classic example of “birds of the same feather …”.

And yet with my hubby, we're really more a case of “opposites attracting”. Great how that worked out though.

But I digress, back to my point, I do enjoy having conversations with people – most people. In fact, if I had to list my favorite things to do, most of them would probably involve talking - that and eating. In my opinion, the two main elements of a perfect evening include: good conversation and good food.

So, to summarize the last 9 paragraphs, I facilitated a great workshop yesterday and I like to talk. I could have stopped there - but have I mentioned I like to talk?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Mooncake Festival

I hosted my very first Mooncake Festival party last Saturday night – Mooncake Festival was on Sept. 18th this year. We had a potluck dinner where I made hotpot satay soup with beef and shrimp balls, pork and vegetable dumplings, straw mushrooms, baby corn and bok choy. The rest of the dishes were pork curry with potatoes and carrots, crispy noodles with seafood (lauriat style), and stir-fried beef with broccoli and snap peas. Of course, for dessert we had traditional mooncake each filled with lotus seeds and 2 egg yolks.

We had about 20 people over – including my in-laws as well as my SIL’s in-laws. Next to the dinner, the highlight of the evening was the long anticipated Dice Game. The game involves rolling 6 dice in a deep bowl and winning prizes based on the dice combinations. I was slightly rusty on the rules and scoring – but my mom was kind enough to email me the instructions for the game.

Now, I don’t know if the Dice Game is actually a tradition in all parts of China. I spoke to my Vietnamese-Chinese and a Taiwanese friend and both of them were not familiar with the game. But back home, every Filipino-Chinese household I knew played the game, which we called Pua Tiong Chiu. So maybe it’s a Filipino-Chinese tradition or maybe it was only played in the Fuchien provinces of China (where most Chinese in the Philippines emigrated from).

Either way, these annual Dice Games were certainly a large part of my growing up years. We had two sets of games – one where we played with my Father’s side of the family (this was where you could earn serious money – since my angkong was extremely generous and the cash prizes along with ho-pia (mooncakes) were very much in demand). Then there were the games with my mother’s side of the family – where instead of money we had gift prizes like chocolates, canned goods, chips, etc – where surprisingly, the friendly competition would be just as fierce!

These games were really great times for both sides of the family. It was when everyone from the eldest member (from my angkong to my guakong) all the way down to my youngest cousin would eagerly wait their turn to roll the dice and hopefully win the grand prize. There would be a lot of good-natured teasing (especially from my uncles!), mock competition between families, friendly banter between cousins, and a host of different techniques on the luckiest way to roll the dice to come up with the elusive winning combinations. I remember most fondly my dad’s affable antics, like dancing on the sidelines, or blowing on the dice before rolling them, or getting a good luck kiss from my mom - he would have everyone laughing or good-naturedly rolling their eyes. At the end of the game, there was never an empty-handed player – everyone always won something and traditionally grand prize winners were gracious and always gave out balato (or token prizes) to the ones who didn’t do so well. It was always a happy occasion.

It is this sentiment that made me want to start the tradition with my new family. Although my hubby’s family never played the game before, everyone was incredibly receptive to the idea and gamely chipped in money to buy our prizes. And believe me everyone got into the game! Last Saturday night, the competition was just as spirited and as aggressive as the ones I’ve been a part of back home. There was the usual teasing and bantering, and then naturally my BILs came up with their own techniques for winning - some of which worked while others were at least good for a laugh. It was a lot of fun - even if my hubby and I didn’t win any of the major prizes.

On Sunday, in keeping with the "Chinese theme" of the weekend, my BILs came over and helped my hubby move our bedroom furniture around. This was our big feng shui makeover. So now, with all the mooncake we had and our new feng-shui-approved room – it’s time to bring on the good fortune!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Weekend Highlights:Little Women

With all the feng shui planning going on I completely forgot to mention the real weekend highlights. We started the weekend early on Friday. My hubby and I took our nieces and nephew to the Universal City Walk for the afternoon. Oh to be that young and carefree again – you can not imagine the thrill these kids had over playing with miniature toy dogs, splashing in the water fountain, running in open spaces, and eating pretzels dusted with cinnamon sugar. Spending time with these kids is just as thrilling for us, not to mention great practice for when we have our own! Later on, we met with my BIL and SIL for dinner at Buca di Beppo and afterwards caught part of a concert benefiting Hurricane Katrina victims.

On Saturday we went to see the new home of two of our very good friends in Arcadia. It was really nice catching up with them and playing with their adorable baby boy. They in turn invited us to a great, authentic Thai lunch at this place called President’s Thai. The company was, as always, awesome and the food was so incredibly good. (Not like a lot of the hole-in-the-wall Thai places we've been to in L.A. and the South Bay). I can’t say enough about the spicy green chicken curry with lots of fresh basil, the tender beef satay with just-the-right-sweetness peanut sauce, the tasty ho-fan-like noodle dish, and the shrimp tom yang soup with a kick! Not to mention the flourless chocolate cake for dessert - yum! Later that afternoon, we stopped by the place of another family friend (whose daughter was celebrating her birthday that day) – we could only stay a while since we had just enough time to get to Orange County.

The real weekend highlight was of course the long-awaited Little Women musical at the O.C. Performing Arts Center. It was AWESOME. Watching the play made me fall in love with the story all over again. The musical chronicled the adventures of Jo March as a writer in New York, but seamlessly interspersed that with flashbacks of her life in Boston during the Civil War, growing up with her sisters Meg, Beth and Amy as well as their loving Marmee. It is such a timeless story – both poignantly funny and sad at times – but so full of life and incredible spirit.

The musical is fairly new and so I didn’t recognize any of the songs but in some way everything seemed so familiar. Since I am no theater expert, I am not going to write a lengthy review of the musical. Suffice it to say the play was well written, the actors were superb (especially Kate Fisher who really showed off the spirit of Jo March and Maureen McGovern who was every bit the way I imagined Marmee would be), the songs were entertaining, and the stage backdrop was top class.

The only thing I noticed was that some parts of the original story were edited (as I guess is the norm in most theater or film adaptations). Some of these were my favorite parts though – like Amy’s writing her will patterning it after Aunt March’s, Marmee giving each of the girls a little Pilgrim’s Progress guidebook on Xmas morning, the March sisters giving up their Xmas breakfast for the Hummel family, and the part where the girls first meet Laurie from next door. Also the musical made no mention at all of gentle and loyal Hannah (their housekeeper) who I’ve always considered as part of their family. But despite that, I truly had a fabulous time and found myself both laughing and crying as I got caught up in the lives of the March sisters.

P.S. My hubby seemed to enjoy it too – for the most part.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

To feng shui or not to feng shui?

In the case of my cultural identity I would say I'm made up of three cultures. Although my family’s ancestry is Chinese (my paternal grandparents and maternal grandfather were from mainland China) and I grew up in a family that maintained a number of Chinese traditions and values, we were never raised as strictly 100% Chinese. For one thing, my grandparents settled in Manila and all of us (starting from my parents’ generation) were born and raised there. This exposed us largely to the Filipino culture and way of life. We went to school, worked alongside, and made friends with Filipinos. In my case, I also married into a traditional Filipino family. Another piece of my cultural identity was a large exposure to the Western world – American in particular. My parents both received an American education and were quite open to Western thinking. Added to that is the fact that I grew up with so much American influence - television, movies, books, music, and to top it all off - getting an American education.

So technically, I am Chinese by ancestral origin, Filipino by nationality, (Malay by ethnicity- as most Filipinos are) and grew up largely influenced with an American way of thinking. How’s that for globalization?

Which brings me (finally) to the point of this post. A couple of days ago I was talking to my mom who casually brought up the fact that she had a friend who was apparently some sort of feng shui expert. (FYI: Feng shui is an Asian philosophy that creates an environment which is ergonomic; it allows one to work and live efficiently, comfortably and successfully by following the patterns of nature).

While talking to her friend, my mom found out that our bedroom was apparently a feng shui no-no and that several changes were suggested to correct that. I must point out that while my mom herself is not a feng shui devotee – she did mention that sometimes feng shui does bring about good fortune, as well as balance and harmony in life. Hmmm ...

This is the part where my explanation of growing up with three cultures comes to play. Right away, my “westerner” thinking argued that this was a complete waste of time. I mentally started going through a list of practical reasons why this was not a good idea. Then my “Filipino” mentality kicked in and recognized the fatalistic nature of feng shui – which led me to think about the possibility of this being a way to help out the fates. Interestingly enough I’m Catholic too and this makes me largely against any type of superstition. But then again my Chinese side saw the value of this suggestion – in addition to some type of ingrained filial piety – where I still feel guilty about not listening to what my mom says. So literally I was going back and forth with this idea.

To feng shui or not to feng shui???

I guess the argument that tipped the decision was my hubby’s – he claimed that we had nothing to lose and a change of scenery may be fun. Good point. Hence a good chunk of our weekend was spent going through feng shui articles on-line and scouting for the necessary supplies for our big bedroom makeover.

Some interesting facts that my mom’s feng shui expert friend shared with us: since I was born in the year of the Tiger and my hubby was born in the year of the Monkey – the best day for our makeover is Sept. 18th. All changes need to be done on that day. We don’t have to do all the work ourselves as long as the people helping us are not born during the year of the Pig. (Don’t ask me why).

Here is a list of the suggested changes for our bedroom:

1. Cover all mirrors that show our reflection while sleeping - this is tough since our closet doors are mirrored and take up an entire wall of the room. (Options are to cover the mirror using curtains, sheet paneling, or wallpaper).

2. Re-position the bed so that the foot of the bed does not face the bathroom door.

3. Move the bed away from the window.

4. Cover the window with some sort of shade.

5. Change the color of the walls from (the current) deep burgundy to an earth color (we are debating between celadon green and a deep tan).

6. Have a living plant inside the room.

7. Remove all electronic equipment from the room (or at least cover them up when not in use).

So far, we have several possibilities for each one of these changes. It will be interesting to see how much actually gets done on the 18th. Beyond that, I'll let you know if we become any more fortunate, harmonious or balanced!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Labor Day Weekend

Three day weekends are awesome. Of course the regular two-day weekends are great too. But having that one extra day certainly makes a huge difference. My hubby and I have been anticipating this weekend and we were both really excited knowing we had 72 hours of “freedom” in store. We had made plans well in advance and had several “projects” in mind. So what did we end up doing you might ask. Was our three-day weekend spent …

A. Relaxing

B. Shopping

C. Sightseeing

D. Food tripping

E. All of the above

Well, here’s a clue – it was the "LABOR DAY" weekend.

So, the answer is “E. All of the above” and “F” - we did what every new homeowner and time-deprived couple does. In between relaxing, shopping, sightseeing, and food tripping, we also worked on our home.

The last three days have made me feel as if I were part of an edition of Weekend Warriors or Curb Appeal – or one of those TLC / HGTV home makeover shows.

Let me share some of the highlights:

Saturday – shopping for shelving and storage supplies at IKEA, cleaned out our garage, joined by my BIL who helped my hubby build shelves and shoe racks, celebrated with a leisurely sunset walk around PortsO’Call Village in San Pedro, had a late Chinese dinner, and stopped by our all-time favorite store, Barnes and Noble, for more books.

Sunday – lunch at a Mexican restaurant, then off shopping for indoor plants, outdoor flowers for our garden, and a “park” style bench at Home Depot, spent the afternoon working in the garden, went to mass, and had hubby’s family over for a barbecue.

Monday – went to Walmart to buy decorative flowerpots for the porch and a new sprinkler system for the garden, bought outdoor candles and wrought iron sconces at Big Lots for the patio, spent the afternoon attaching the sconces, reading, napping, working on the computer and catching up on email.

Alright, nothing really earth shattering and mind blowing about the last 3 days, But I have to say, it was extremely productive, quite relaxing, and definitely time well spent bonding with my hubby. Also, our garage, front porch, flowerbeds, and back patio look terrific (if I do say so myself). I’ll try posting pictures if I can. (I should have taken “BEFORE” pictures though – that would make the “AFTER” pictures stand out more). Oh well.

Guess, I’m ready to go back to work now …

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Top 10 By 40 List

For lack of better things to do while waiting for my lunch to be delivered, I thought I would start a “Top 10 Things To Do By The Time I Reach 40” list.

FYI: This list has in no way encompassed everything I plan to do in the next 9 years, 4 months and 21 days. (It was tough narrowing it to 10 items!) Although it is a good indication of where I would like to be by the time I turn 40.

1. Definitely have kid(s) and enjoy them – my husband and I are still debating the merits of having either 1 or 2. (Almost impossible for me to have twins since I have twin siblings - they say that although having twins runs in the family, they skip a generation. Having twins would certainly be great compromise to our debate though!)
2. Be an established, recognized and (hopefully) published Training and Organizational Development Consultant.
3. Go back to school and take courses to improve my professional skills (Birkman Certification, Certificate in Executive Coaching/Leadership Development, become a Certified Trainer, etc, etc.). A Ph.D. is out of the question for now.
4. See as much of the US as I can with my hubby. Top things I'd like to do include: Ski in Aspen, Colorado; Celebrate Mardi Gras in New Orleans; Drive thru Fall Foliage in New England; See the Grand Canyon in Arizona; Visit Case Western Reserve in Ohio (where my mom got her grad degree) and Ann Arbor, Michigan (where my parents got married).
5. Travel to Europe, China, Australia, and/or South Africa for our “second honeymoon” (I don’t mind a repeat of our first honeymoon where my whole family and best friends came along!).
6. Take courses just for fun (culinary courses, crafts courses like jewelry making/beading, wine appreciation, interior decorating, post-college literary courses, golf lessons, and ski lessons - for that trip to Aspen).
7. Re-do our garage and make it into an entertainment center / game room.
8. Actively volunteer at my local parish, civic or community center and be a part of a group that does something good for others.
9. Join a Book Club that meets regularly to discuss interesting and insightful books.
10. Go home to Manila for a grand reunion with family and friends (especially for my dad’s 60th birthday!!!).

Interestingly enough, some of the items here I’d like to happen sooner than later – while the others, I can wait till I’m oh about 39 years and 11 months old!

Check back with me on January 21, 2015 and I’ll let you know how many of these I’ll be able to check off. (Yup, the pressure is on!).

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Housework

Sunday mornings (the last one was no exception) are reserved for sleeping in and having a leisurely breakfast. But once the coffee kicks in, my hubby and I usually get started on our household chores. It’s our designated “time-to-do-our- week’s-worth-of-household-chores-in-three-hours”. Between the two of us, we typically do our laundry, clean the rooms, change the sheets and towels, get some gardening done, vacuum the rugs, and store the dishes, cups, pots, utensils - everything used during the week that’s still loaded in the dishwasher. It’s a time to clean the bathrooms, mop the kitchen floors, sweep the front porch and backyard patio, take out the newspapers and the trash, and dust the living room and family room shelves. All the fun stuff.

My first year in the States was actually quite a learning experience when it came to housework. I had to learn how to do most of the things that I now take for granted. Back then, I honestly did not know how to do laundry. My first few weeks at Berkeley had me using pants that had shrunk in the wash, white shirts streaked with shades of pink (as a result of mixed color laundry loads), and colored shirts with streaks of white (as a result of using bleach). My culinary skills were also quite lacking and I survived on the essential 5 "C's" of nutrition (cold cuts, cereals, canned goods, coffee, and Cheetos). I sprayed Lysol in the bathroom, kitchen, and every nook and cranny of our apartment and considered myself done with cleaning. I tried to do my share of vacuuming but it really never occurred to me to empty the vacuum cleaner bag and so I guess for a while I was just dragging dust bunnies around the room. I had to buy hangers for EVERY piece of clothing I owned (sweat pants and pajamas included) since hanging them up while they were still warm from the dryer saved me from having to learn how to iron clothes or fold them properly. The list of my pitiful housekeeping attempts was endless.

Luckily I had a wonderful roommate who didn’t mind showing me the ropes and picking up where I sadly left off. And then when I moved to Los Angeles and had to live alone, my hubby (then my fiancé) and (my future) SILs would stop by and help me through some of the basics and it was awesome that they lived close enough for me to stop by once in a while for home-cooked meals. Of course, countless long distance phone calls to my mom, (who would walk me through how to marinate porkchops or teach me the best way to remove food stains from a shirt), helped get me through my latest crisis until she and my older sister could come for a visit (a.k.a. general cleaning).

In all honesty, my lack of domestic ability was not a case of my being too lazy to do housework – (and least not in most cases!). It’s just that I didn’t know any better, since I pretty much grew up without really having to bother with that back home. First of all, I had a mom who was an incredible homemaker and second, we were very fortunate to always have maids, drivers, gardeners and yayas (nannies) to do things for us. I would be picked up from work, taken home where I’d have my dinner ready, my room and bathroom would be pristine, clean sheets and towels in place, my laundry would be done and folded neatly in my closet, my shoes would be shined, my lunch for the next day would be prepared for me to bring to work. I know in many ways I’ve taken all that for granted. So sad but so true.

These days, I know I’m still not the world’s greatest housekeeper and my home (as charming as it is!) may qualify but probably not win any cleanliness awards, I can now cook a decent meal but still have a pretty long shot at winning any cooking contests, and while I pride myself on being an accommodating host, it is unlikely that I will be featured in Good Housekeeping as the next Martha Stewart any time soon. But I can honestly (and proudly) claim that I’m much, much better with housework and that I’ve come to really appreciate the time I spend doing things for myself. And, while I cannot deny that I am grateful and occasionally miss our helpers (Manong Danilo, Manong Reto, Jun, Manang Mercy, Mary Jane, Dora and Rosita), I do cherish my newfound independence and the sense of accomplishment I feel when praised for my domesticated endeavors.

My parents sent me to the States with the hope that I would receive a better academic education. And while that did happen, my 5-year stay here has taught me so much more than what I gained in school. I’ve learned more about myself and more importantly what I can do for myself. In retrospect, I’ve certainly learned more in the last 5 years here compared to my first 25 in Manila.

And as I said earlier, I am in no position to brag about my being a homemaker extraordinaire. But I will brag about what my mom said during her last visit. She praised me on my well-kept home, my good cooking, my entertaining skills, and my ability to manage and organize a household – and coming from her, THE ultimate homemaker extraordinaire herself, it is more than enough praise and assurance for me to know that I have indeed come a long way – and am on the right track.