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Friday, July 31, 2009

What To Do with Myself?

The past two months I have enjoyed being a full-time housewife and have kept busy with my role as an unofficial Los Angeles tour guide and hostess for out-of-town visitors. On the side, I’ve helped Jules relocate back to Manila, resurrected my blog, hosted a garage sale, took a weekend vacation with my hubby, caught up on my reading, gone shopping, and more. I’ve also spent quiet time reflecting and learning to be comfortable being on my own. It’s been a good two months, but these days, I am finding that I am bored. I was telling Jojo the other night that I need to have something to do, some reason to get out of bed every morning. I need to be active and busy. Two months is more than enough time for me to “rest and recover”.

I guess the most obvious solution would be to find a job. I wish it were that simple. Unfortunately there are two reasons why it is not. First, we are in a recession and jobs are so hard to find. Although I have not been actively searching, I have sent out my resume here and there. In the past, I always got several responses. These days, not so much. I went on two interviews. The first company turned me down. While the second, I turned down. Which brings me to my second reason. As I’ve written in my blog, I want a job that means something other than slaving away for a paycheck. I want to do something that has significance not only to the company but to myself as well. I want to be a part of something that helps me grow professionally and on a personal level. I know it’s a tall order – but I truly believe that job is out there. The only catch is I don’t really know how long it is till I find it.

Which brought me back to the dilemma of wanting to do something more productive with my life - now. Here’s what I came up with:

I signed up for yoga classes. I think this will be good for me mentally and physically. My best friend, Les, has been extolling the benefits of yoga to me. She also told me that she has a couple of friends that got pregnant after starting yoga. I am intrigued and am hoping that these classes will hit two birds with one stone.

I volunteered to work at a non-profit organization that serves as a homeless shelter / food bank / daycare center. I can’t reveal too much information about this organization yet since I don’t know if they allow that sort of thing. I will blog about them when I get permission to do so. Anyway, I start working next week – I’ll be there Tuesday and Thursday afternoons as a guest services associate and Friday mornings as part of the Food Pantry team that prepares food baskets. I am volunteering 15 hours a week.

I am taking Microsoft Office Suite online courses through our local community college. Classes on Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook. I’ve used all these programs before but have never really taken formal classes. So while I am comfortable using them, I am sure there are a lot of fancier things I could do with them. I am certain being more proficient with these systems will help me down the line.

All these begin next week and I have to say I am super excited to get started!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Special Delivery

Such a pleasant surprise greeted me as I drove up our driveway today. It was a special delivery ... a beautiful, bright, summer surprise.

This is from Tracy and Jojo (my sister and brother-in-law) and my nieces Sydney and Dani.

Here's the arrangement brightening up my desk and inspiring me to post another blog entry.

Their card reads "hope this cheers you up" ... I have to say these flowers did more than just cheer me up, they've really made my day =)

Thank you so much for being so sweet and so thoughtful!

Reasons to Celebrate

Today is National Cheesecake Day! (I knew something good was in the air).

Dine-in July 30th at The Cheesecake Factory and enjoy any of their 30 delicious cheesecakes for half price. They also have a new flavor ... Stefanie’s Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake™. How good does that sound?

And also, It's not National Smoothies Day but a Pomegranate-Pick-Me-Up at Jamba Juice would hit the spot right about now ...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bazaar Shout-out!



For those based in Manila: If you don't have plans for this coming weekend, check out this bazaar! My sister, Joy, is one of the exhibitors. She will be selling clothes, knick-knacks such as bag holders, and other cool stuff. I'm sure it will be worth your while =)

Good luck, Joybee!!! Wish I were there to help ...

Number 11 ...

I found one more thing to add to yesterday's 10-item wish list. I was on Amazon this morning (trying to sell some of my old books), when I found this: 1,000-thread count, 100% Egyptian cotton, Damask sheets. They come in all sorts of colors and sizes. I love Damask sheets (with their elegant satin stripes). This Queen-sized sheet set (1 flat sheet, 1 fitted sheet and two pillowcases) retails for $49.99 (plus tax and shipping). Good deal, right?

I am such a sucker for beautiful bedding. I absolutely think having luxurious cotton sheets and snuggling under a fluffy down comforter is as close as you can get to having a vacation in your own bedroom. And what a vacation it would be with 1,000-thread count sheets! Since we've switched from 250 to 450 thread count, I can already feel the difference. I can only imagine what a thousand thread count must feel like. Pure luxury, I'll bet! Although I would probably be so uptight about not spilling anything on the sheets. Haha.

These are amazing sheets but we were at Kohls recently and we just got a couple of sheet sets that we have not yet used. They were a great deal too! So anyway, it seems a shame to get this when we don't really need any new ones yet. But I wouldn't mind it one bit if you guys were interested. Let me know if any of you want more info =)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Just Another Wish List

Whenever I'm bored or feeling down in the dumps, creating a wish list never fails to make me happy. Today I'm just plain old bored so I thought I'd put together another one of my lists. These are things I'd get for myself if money, storage space, and time to use them were not in the way =)

Bric’s Xbag (large) shopper. Similar to Longchamp Le Pliage bags, this is an excellent travel bag. I love how you can fold this into a small pouch for easy packing. The straps can be adjusted so it can be used as a shoulder bag, hand bag, or worn across your body like a messenger bag. It also comes in a water-proof fabric and in several colors.

Jojo got me a Mac, and ever since then I have become an avid user. Now I really want a 15-inch MacBook Pro!(the 13 or 17 inch ones would work just as well).

Eversince our dinner at Lugano Swiss Bistro in Carmel, I’ve been dying to learn how to prepare fondue. Jojo and I both enjoyed the dinner so much, we have been taliking about throwing a fondue party soon. I would love to have several Le Creuset Fondue pots for every course. I love the vibrant color and how sleek this looks.

Have you ever been in a cocktail party (whether business or social) where you find you find yourself standing (cause there are never enough seats)? You usually end up with a glass of wine in one hand and a plate of hors d'oeuvres in the other, your dilemma is how do you get the food to your mouth? Or better yet, how do you shake the hand of the person you have just been introduced to? Now unless you magically grow a third hand, these mingle plates would definitely come in “hand-y” (no pun intended!).

Muri got me this Ginger Essence Intensified Fragrance Rollerball from Origins. (She also got me the body soap which I have not yet used). Anyway, the rollerball smells great – a mix of warm ginger, and the fresh citrus aroma of lemon, lime and bergamot. I absolutely love the clean scent and the way it gives me that much needed zip whenever I use it. I was on the Origins website and am tempted to get all the other ginger-based products like the Ginger Souffle (whipped body cream), Ginger Burst (body wash), and Ginger Cloud (body balm).

Cricut machines are personal electronic cutters that allow you to create amazing craft projects with the touch of a button.. These machines allow you to cut beautiful stencil designs and alphabets for card making, home decor, scrapbooking, paper crafting, and more. You can create posters, giftwrappers, and even food stencils for baking, Basically, you feed in the paper (almost any kind will work), select the design from hundreds of options, program, and it will cut out the designs for you. I’ve never been much of an arts and crafts person but after seeing the Cricut in action, I am convinced even I have some Katie Brown in me!

How cool would it be to have an Instant Marinater? Instead of having to marinate dishes overnight or for several hours, this device allows you to do it in minutes. You could have an impromptu barbecue or decide on a whim to have a roast for dinner. Basically, you put in your meat, fish, poultry or veggies, then pour the marinade over it. Attach the lid and pump out the air to create a vacuum. This opens the pores of the food allowing the marinade to penetrate the food more quickly.

Necklaces designed by Daphne Osena. The necklaces are available in Accessories Lab at Rockwell (in Manila). I was hoping to check them out before leaving last May but didn’t have the time. If I could design mine it would have to be a 24-inch long necklace with at least three charms: Immaculate Conception medallion, a garnet (colored) stone, and a locket engraved with mine and Jojo’s initials.

The Ex-Boyfriend Voodoo Knife Holder! It’s made of chrome and is very durable. Don’t you think it is a lot more interesting than a regular old wooden knife block? I can think of several of my girlfriends who would appreciate this very much! I am guessing an Ex-Girlfriend design is in the works too!

Mario Batali risotto pot. I love the deep color of this pot. The color is called Espresso (which sounds so much better than brown!). It also comes in other gorgeous colors: chianti (deep red), pesto (light green), and persimmon (dark orange). Aside from the colors, there are also several types of pots Рsaut̩ pans, stock pots, dutch ovens, etc. I would love to start a collection, if only I had the space in my kitchen. Sigh.

Go ahead and make your own wish lists. It's fun and it's free! =)

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Anti-Shoe

It’s a known fact: I LOVE SHOES. It’s the one thing I can’t have enough of and the one thing I absolutely love to shop for! I cannot resist a good pair. So when Jojo told me we should consider getting a product called the “anti-shoe” – I was skeptical … and curious … but mostly skeptical.

MBT is a revolutionary footwear that is called the anti-shoe. Mainly because unlike standard shoes that stabilize and cushion the foot in an unnatural way, MBT actually makes the user feel a natural imbalance and innately cushions one’s feet. This natural imbalance forces the body to react with increased muscle activity, which leads to activating muscles and improving posture and balance. Aside from this, MBT has been designed to improve circulation and reduce pressure on your back and joints. It also prevents injuries plus shortens the time one heals from injuries. MBTs also tightens and tones the feet and ankles, legs and thighs, buttocks, stomach, and back. In other words, it can help you lose weight and have a more defined body.

MBT stands for Masai Barefoot Technology. Since the product was inspired by the Masai tribe of Africa. These tribesmen had elegant straight postures and no joint and back problems because they walk barefoot on natural surfaces - such as sand, which is uneven and yet cushions one's foot. This is the basis of MBT’s design.

The shoes are a bit chunky and at first glance look a bit odd with its curved sole. When worn they make you feel like you are walking in a rocking motion and you need a few minutes to get used to the feeling and to find your balance. Plus, they are quite expensive (retailing at $250 a pair). But Jojo is convinced they are worth it especially since he likes the fact that they are designed to help people with back problems – like he does. In my case, I was sold as soon as I heard it could help users lose weight! Shoes that help you shape up … how great is that?!

This is the one I want ...

This is Jojo's choice ...

Check out more styles and where to get them at their website. You can click HERE.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today, we celebrated my dad's 62nd birthday with a backyard barbecue.

Here are Ches, Mark, Marc and Jojo manning the grill. These guys did a great job because the food was excellent.

Atsi and I stayed inside where it was nice and cool.

Dad would have loved what we had for dinner tonight. I am sure of it! We had barbecued chicken and beef short ribs, sweet corn on the cob, and grilled garlic bread. We also had a salad of mixed greens with lemon-poppy dressing. This was my plate ... YUM!

Every year, on his birthday, dad would have multiple parties to celebrate his special day. This year was no different. He had a big party in our home in Manila last night and a smaller one with us here tonight. Over dinner, we reminisced about dad and we all agreed that he was definitely celebrating with us. After all, dad loved a good meal and was always the life of any party. I am sure he could not resist stopping by a party that was thrown especially for him!

Happy birthday, Father-bear! I know you are having a really big celebration up there. I am sure you are having a blast. You go ahead and enjoy yourself.

Love and miss you so much =)

Muri's Visit

My good friend Muri came to visit this weekend. With her were Carl, Iris and Muri's adorable nephew and nieces. They drove in from Las Vegas. They were spending the night with us and heading out to Disneyland the next day. Even if their stay was too short for my liking, it was really nice seeing them and catching up.

This is Muri and me. We took a picture of ourselves - that's why this is such a close-up. I just realized we have been friends for over 12 years now. Amazing how time flies and how true friends remain the same.

Jojo, me, Muri and Carl. (I'd like to apologize to Carl for posting this picture of him in his "pantulog". That's what you are wearing in all the pictures we took!). Don't worry, my blog only has a fan-base of about 4 loyal readers so the exposure won't be too damaging to your image! =)

Here are the kids - ready for their day in Disneyland. Aren't they cute? Especially Isa, the little one on the right. They are also amazingly sweet and very polite. They are probably the most polite kids I have ever met - not counting our friends, Gail and Clay's kids.

See you in October, Muri!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Being a Fulltime Housewife

Today I am a full-fledged, certified, tried and tested, true housewife! Today was devoted entirely to housework. Yes, seriously!

I spent the entire morning changing sheets and making the bed in all 4 rooms. I did three loads of laundry (whites, coloreds and linens). Took a break for lunch. Then it was back to work. I made a quick trip to Fresh and Easy to pick up some groceries, came home, and put them away. I prepared the ingredients for spaghetti sauce (lots of chopping, slicing and dicing). While the sauce was simmering on the stove, I folded the laundry. Then I did the dishes, scrubbed the kitchen counters, mopped the floor and made fresh mint lemonade. I set the table (we are having some friends over tonight) and took out the trash. Whew!

It's almost 5 PM and am marveling at how the day has just gone by. I have not even started on the bathrooms nor have I swept any of the rooms. And I was even planning to vacuum the area rugs and launder the bathroom rugs. Oh well. I am going to have to pace myself and save these for tomorrow (or whenever the mood to do housework strikes again). It’s not easy doing housework but it is very rewarding to know I can take care of our home. Of course, to be perfectly honest, I don’t do this much this often. But once in a while (like today), I find myself in “the mood”. And I really need to take advantage of “the mood”, since it comes so rarely and so fleetingly!

In the past, I had Luisa, a lovely woman who came in once a week to help me do housework. She barely spoke English and it was always a challenge for us to communicate. I took 4 semesters of Spanish in college but aside from saying “Hola” and “Gracias”, am unable to have a conversation with her! We always have a lovely game of charades when she comes. But despite the language barrier, she was pleasant and gracious. She also always did a great job and was such a hard worker. It often made me feel guilty having her do our housework, so the night before Luisa would come, I would force Jojo and myself to pre-clean the house. I was embarrassed to have her working while we lounged around watching tv so when she was working, Jojo and I would be working alongside her. Jojo found it hilarious that we would “stage” our home for her. And he would tease me that we both worked harder whenever Luisa was here.

Anyway, I really appreciated her help especially since I was working full-time then and didn’t have much time to keep house. But now that I’m not yet working, I figured I should probably do the housework myself. And that’s pretty much how I've spent my day so far. =)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

One of those days ...

Today is not a good day for me. It’s a long story that I don’t have the energy or interest to get into at this time. Suffice it to say, I am tired of making myself be understood and tired of trying to understand.

Throughout my dad’s illness, I learned that people surprise you. On the one hand there are people who during your time of need, stand by you and offer you comfort and support. I was touched by the outpouring of well wishes and encouragement from some of our family and friends. Their genuine concern really and truly humbled me. There were even times when complete strangers or people we barely knew went out of their way to help us. That was a true testament to the kindness of people and restored my faith in the goodness of mankind.

But on the flipside there are also instances where the people you thought would be there for you, were not. You learn the hard way that the people you thought you could count on turn out to be false hopes. Trust me when I say finding this out is not a good feeling and it really hurts to know that these things can happen over and over again.

I guess what keeps me going is knowing that the people that matter are out there and that I am not alone even if it sometimes feels that way. I know all this adversity will result in making me stronger. It has to otherwise what would be the point of all this, right? I think life is meant to be lived that way. We have to go through the bad so we can appreciate the good. That there are days like today when everything seems to suck so we become wiser and learn to value the days when things are better.

P.S. Sorry that this email sounds so disparaging and reproachful. I’m in one of those funks, which I plan to snap out of after I wallow in it long enough.

I’ll be back to more cheery posts in the next 24 hours, I promise.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monterey Bay Trip - day 3

Our third day began with a leisurely drive towards San Simeon to visit the famous Hearst castle. We took the Pacific Coast Highway (which is really scenic). This is just a sample of the gorgeous views almost the entire drive till the end of Monterey County.

More beautiful views while driving. Interesting side note: since we take turns driving, the person sitting in the passenger seat controls the Ipod and the choice of music. On our return trip we no longer had an audio-book so we listened to downloaded music. Jojo was driving this stretch and my music choices included the soundtrack of The Phantom of the Opera. It was just so dramatic to listen to that while driving past these fabulous views. When it's my turn to drive, Jojo plays music by Coldplay, Linkin Park and Maroon 5 - which, in my opinion, does not quite do the scenery justice!

We drove through the Los Padres National Forest. I like the shadows the trees cast.

After a while, we were no longer impressed with the view. The drive was becoming tricky with so many sharp turns and the fog coming in. I drove first then got a bit scared with the steep inclines so Jojo took over. After 30 minutes, I had to drive again since I was getting carsick on the passenger side.

This is how bad the fog was. It was hard to see more than 20 feet ahead so we were driving with fog lights and really, really slowly. Good thing the fog cleared up once we got out of Monterey County and into the flat plains of San Luis Obispo county.

Two hours later, we arrived at Hearst Castle. This is the impressive home of William Randolph Hearst who owned newspapers, magazines, movie studios and more. He was one of the wealthiest men in the US during the early part of the 20th century. We pulled up to the visitor center where you join the tour to see the actual castle.

Before joining the tour we got some lunch the the cafeteria. The meal was nothing great so I won't post about it anymore.

From the visitor's center, you have to take a bus to get to the castle. You can see it here (on top of the hill). Mr. Hearst owned all this land and beyond. He owned 39,000 acres. I can't even begin to imagine how big that it - but our guide said it's as far as the eye can see in any direction from the castle.

This is bus we took to get to the castle. It is a 10 minute ride up winding roads that pass the poultry, grazing lands, farmlands, private airstrip, private zoo, and the bunkhouses where the castle's workers and servants lived.

Here we are at Hearst Castle. It is inspired by the European architecture that Mr. Hearst loved.

The very beautiful Neptune pool. Doesn't this pool just make you want to dive right in?

This is the main courtyard. To the right are three guest houses (each one more than 3,000 square feet - almost double our house!). Behind me is the main house or better known as "casa grande". Mr. Hearst had such a beautiful home and impressive grounds. He definitely was a wealthy man and knew how to live large.

Here is Jojo posing in the main hall. It is a super imposing space that has seating for almost a hundred people. There were works of art everywhere and all the walls were covered with beautiful floor to ceiling tapestries. It was quite dark though and we were not allowed to use flashes when we take pictures so as not to damage the art work.

This is the castle's main dining hall. Our tour guide was regaling us with fascinating stories of some of the famous dinner guests Mr. Hearst had over. It is a virtual who's who of politicians, movie stars, athletes and authors. We visited the bedrooms, movie theater, game rooms, etc. My favorite was the indoor pool area which was inlaid with gold. (Yup, real gold!). Most places were dark though and the pictures did not come out very clearly.

After our the Hearst Castle tour we watched the 40-minute movie on William Randolph Hearst's life and how the castle came to be built. It was getting pretty late (almost 4:00 pm) and we still had a 4-hour drive back to LA. So after hitting the gift shop to get my refrigerator magnet, we headed home.

This is the end of day three of our three day vacation.

Monterey Bay Trip - day 2

On day two, we first went to mass at the San Carlos Cathedral in Monterey. This is a historical monument (over 200 years old) that is being restored by the state of California. The church is not very large but was considered a cathedral since the Bishop of the Monterey Archdiocese celebrates mass here. The structure is filled with artifacts and stained glass inside.

After mass, we drove to Monterey's famous Cannery Row. This used to be a street filled with sardine canneries but has since been converted to a whole block of shops and restaurants. There is a very carnival-like vibe since there are street performers, face painters and live music all around. At the end of the block is the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. We decided not to go For starters there was a huge line in front. And since I've been there before with friends from Berkeley, and Jojo wasn't too keen on standing in line all morning, we decided to pass.

We picked a place called Louie Linguini's for lunch. It's a nice family place that serves Italian-inspired seafood. We were lucky to be seated on the patio that overlooked this view of the bay.

For lunch, we decided we would order a soup and a main course then share both dishes. I got to pick the soup and chose the clam chowder on a sourdough breadbowl. It was a good choice since the soup was creamy and savory. It had lots of clams (others that I've tried skimp on the clams and load up on potatoes instead). This is one of the better ones we've tried.

For our main course, Jojo picked the seafood sampler. This had crispy calamari rings, fried clams and popcorn shrimp. The seafood was fresh (not fishy tasting) and the breading was light. Really good ... but then again meals are always heightened when you eat by the water.

After lunch Jojo went to get a Harley Davidson shirt. I collect refrigerator magnets from our travels while he collects Harley shirts from places we visit.

Our next stop was the famed 17-mile drive in Pebble Beach. We were told this is one of the most scenic drives in the U.S. We wanted to see for ourselves. Basically this is a self-guided tour. You pay $9.25 per car to enter and are given a tour map that highlights 21 scenic spots. You follow a broken red line painted on the road and drive. Once you get to each of the stops, there are signs that tell you about each one. You can choose to get out of your car at each of the stops or just drive on.

If I included all the stops, this would be a very long post so I'm just showing my favorites. First, the Poppy Hills Golf Course. I don't play golf but would love to if all courses had ocean views and scenery like this. I don't know if you can see the gorgeous houses beyond the course. They were equally as beautiful as the views.

Bird Rock where hundreds of birds flock. It's also a home to sea lions, otters and harbor seals. When we first got out of the car, there is a very strong stench that hit us. I am guessing it is the bird poop.

Here is my husband doing his imitation of a seagull nesting.

The Lone Cypress. This is the most popular stop in the entire tour. It is one of California's most enduring landmark and the eternal symbol of Pebble Beach. I found it fascinating (to be growing on its own, on a rock, for over 250 years). You can not see much of the ocean beyond it because by this time the fog was rolling in.

Eerie looking ghost trees. I am a little creeped out by how "ghostly" these trees look. Of course, this is just me, a lot of people (Jojo included) find them interesting. The trunks are actually bleached white because of the wind and the sea spray.

The end of the 17-mile drive.

Later in the afternoon, we drove to the Old Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey. It is very similar to the wharves in Santa Barbara and San Francisco. Or the piers in Seattle and Redondo Beach.

Strolling along the wharf, there are lots of things to see. Of course it had its share of kitschy shops and food booths. I saw a frozen-banana-dipped-in-chocolate stall and thought of my sister, Joy, who is opening up a store like that in Manila!

While walking along the wharf, we noticed that each restaurant had a table set up for sampling. They showed their dinner specials and served little plastic cups of soup for passers-by to try. We had about 6 different "samples" - we could not pass them up! I loved sipping hot soup while walking in the cold weather. This was our last stop and this guy was telling us they had the best clam chowder in the wharf - we tried it and I don't know if it was the best but it was pretty good!

Our restaurant choice was a place called Cafe Fina. I had seen an episode of Racheal Ray's show on Food Network that featured this place as having the best seafood and as a romantic place perfect for couples. We were seated in a nice candle-lit table overlooking the bay. I could not take pictures because the glass kept reflecting my flash. So let me describe the "show" that came with our dinner. Right outside, the sun was setting, and we could see waves crashing the beach. We were also entertained by a couple of playful sea otters that were splashing the surf, a sea lion catching the last rays of sun on a buoy, and a pair of pelicans trying to catch their dinner.

We started our meal with oysters on a half shell. Jojo has never had them raw and was brave enough to eat two. He actually liked it. I think oysters are the kind of food that you either really love or really hate. It's hard to be on the fence with this one. As for me, I love oysters and could have finished the whole plate plus a lot more. The oysters were so fresh (our server said they are harvested and served on the same day). They are basically shucked, served raw on a bed of ice with your choice of rice wine vinegar and/or cocktail sauce with fresh horseradish on the side. You just squeeze some lemon, put a dab of sauce, pour some vinegar, close your eyes, and slurp! It is, hands down, one of the best things I have ever eaten.

For our second course, Jojo and I shared a crab and lobster bisque. We both loved it. It was very creamy and had lots of seafood.

We also shared a smoked salmon and goat cheese pizza. I really liked the pizza crust. It's similar to the crust at Mozza (Mario Batali's restaurant in LA) where the thin crust is chewy and crispy at the same time. The toppings were good too - but as we ate more of it the smoked salmon (which is salty) and the goat cheese (which is salty too) started to become too salty. We started getting "umay" (what's the English translation for that?). We had to take the last two slices to go.

This concludes day two of our three day vacation.