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Thursday, February 25, 2010

What a Day!

The last few days have been B-U-S-Y! Last Tuesday, my parents-in-law arrived from Manila and we spent most of the day over at my sister-in-law's catching up with them. That night, my father-in-law wasn't feeling well so they rushed him to the hospital. It turns out he had a minor stroke. His blood pressure and sugar level were also very high so they decided he needed to be confined. The next day, all of my in-laws had to go to work or had their kids to bring to school and pick up, so I volunteered to stay with my father-in-law. My mother-in-law was with us but since she was suffering from jet-lag, she herself wasn't feeling too well. Luckily I have a lot of in-laws (Jojo has 3 sisters and two brothers who live here - and they are all married). So between the 12 of us, they were constantly dropping by and checking up on us throughout the day. Later that evening, it was almost like a party in my father-in-law's room with everyone there!

Today, I went back to stay with my father-in-law. I actually don't mind doing this. After so many months of taking care of my own dad, I feel pretty at ease with taking care of someone in the hospital. Of course, hospitals here and those back home are very different! And when I say "different" ... I mean "different"! But pretty much the procedures and terminology are the same. It was all too familiar to me somehow. After several tests, doctor visits, and therapy sessions, my father in-law was given the go ahead to check out. Luckily it was a very mild stroke and he can continue his recuperation at home. We are all very relieved that he is alright and there are no major side effects. Although of course he now has to completely change his lifestyle and start taking better care of himself. But that's another story!

As we were driving home from the hospital, my sister-in-law (Marik) calls me and tells me that my niece (MJ) is suffering from severe stomach pains. Her pre-school teacher called MJ's mom (Edel, another sister-in-law) and told her that they wanted to call 911 and have MJ sent to the hospital because she was in so much pain. MJ had curled up and was crying so hard. Since Edel does not drive, Marik and I went to pick up MJ from school. Afterwards Marik had to go back to work so I took MJ to their home. She was still in pain so Edel and I took her to the doctor. While at the doctor's, Marik calls me and asks if I can pick up my other niece and nephew from school. Marik can no longer leave from work because she left earlier to get MJ. So I leave Edel and MJ at the doctor's and pick up Meredith and Jeremy and drop them at my in-laws. Then I go back for Edel and MJ. I bring them back to their place then I go back to my in-laws since I couldn't leave them with 4 rowdy kids (my father-in-law just suffered from a stroke and my mother-in-law has jet-lag, was with my father-in-law all night at the hospital and has not slept in almost 48 hours). I make the kids some snacks and help them with homework before leaving for my own doctor's appointment. After that I have to go back to my in-laws since I forgot that my father-in-law's medication was still in my purse! Luckily he doesn't have to take them till before his bedtime.

Long story short, my father-in-law is much better. He just needs some physical therapy. My mother-in-law was able to get some sleep. MJ is okay (turns out she has stomach flu). All my in-laws are now home and their kids are now all safe and sound. I just got home and am T-I-R-E-D but luckily Jojo has called and said I don't need to make dinner since he's taking care of that for me. It's been a long day ... I am just glad that everyone is now okay =) Whew!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fabulous Facials!

Today I had an appointment to get a facial. It was my first visit to the Natural Skin Care clinic in Torrance and my first time to meet Sunny. I was referred to her by my friend, Zuly. Anyway, I was early for my 12:30 appointment but Sunny graciously led me into a cozy waiting room. She told me to change into a robe and slippers. I found this strange since I was only there for a facial. After changing, she led me into a wide room with a very comfy looking bed (not the usual narrow cot in a dermatologist's office). This bed had fluffy pillows, crisp sheets and a down comforter. I got into bed and Sunny turned down the lights, closed the shades, played soft background music and lit scented candles. Then for the next hour she lathered a series of creams, oils and lotions on my face, neck, arms, back and legs. It was a pleasant surprise to get a massage along with my facial. She assured me that the oils and lotions were all natural and I would not have any allergic reactions. She described each one in her soothing voice. Things like aloe, seaweed, chamomile, etc. Each one had a different sensation. Some were cool and stimulating, others were warm and soothing, some were gritty (for exfoliating) and others were just mellow (to aid circulation). All of them smelled very clean and fresh.

After the massage, she turned on a machine that emits steam and directed it at my face. This was to soften my skin and open my pores. After about 5 minutes, she started the cleaning. She was extremely thorough. Like she had all the time in the world. She was very gentle though and I found myself to be thoroughly relaxed. After the cleaning, she brought a huge pot of boiling water with several herbs in it. The pot was placed infront of me and I was covered with a huge blanket. My body then started to absorb the vapors. It was kind of strange but I went along with it because I was feeling so relaxed and calm. After this she brought out super hot towels to wipe away the excess oils and sweat. Then super cold towels to close my pores. It was an extremely pleasurable experience.

After all this, she asked me if I wanted to take a nap. As much as I wanted to, I didn't feel that comfortable so I told her I would be going already. The whole thing took a little over 2 hours. After I got changed, she met me in the waiting area and told me she recommends I use more sunblock and moisturizers as my skin showed some sun damage and was also quite dry. She also recommends more regular facials since my pores are extremely clogged. Her bill was $90.00. I thought it was worth every penny. I totally felt relaxed and rejuvenated. It was a great experience. What was even better was she told me I could sign up for her "promo". If I paid for 10 sessions, she would only charge me $70.00 for each one. I thought that was a great deal. But I hesitated because I am in the process of looking for a job and have been "unemployed" and dependent on my husband for more than 18 months already! Haha. I don't want Jojo to think I am spending too much on "luxuries" when I am suppose to be job hunting! But I did tell him about my super good experience over dinner. And guess what? He was the one who suggested I should get the 10-session package. Am I married to the best guy in the world or what? =)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lenten Sacrifice

Yesterday was the official start of the Lenten season. As Catholics, we are asked to observe some sacrifices during this season. I've been doing this for years. Typically it means abstaining from eating meat on all Fridays of lent, fasting on holy days (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Black Saturday), Bisita Iglesia (visiting 7 churches during the holy week), and praying the stations of the cross during these visits. But this year, I want to do something more. Something a little bit more personal.

My mom always told us that a sacrifice means giving up something you really like. Otherwise, it wouldn't be much of a sacrifice to abstain from doing that something. But more than just giving up something for the sake of giving it up, it is also doing it with the intention of understanding what Christ has done for us as well as being aware of our limitations as humans. It's a tall order.

My sacrifice this year is to give up eating two things I really like. Rice and Pasta - in all shapes and forms. For those that know me well, you know how hard this is for me! Although it may be a little self-serving since I could stand to lose some weight and giving up carbs would really help. It does not take away from the fact that giving up my favorite things to eat for 40 days will be tough! Of course it's not a sacrifice that can change the world. But it is my little way of sharing in the spirit of Lent.

I've publicly committed to this sacrifice by posting it on my Facebook page and now on my blog. Making such an announcement is by no means a cry for attention but more an attempt to make my resolve just a little bit stronger =)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sigh

Finally my patience is paying off ... after days and weeks of applying for jobs and not hearing back, I was starting to doubt my self. But these last couple of days, there has been a lot of feedback. Of course, no real job offer yet, but there has been a pretty positive response. I have a couple of second interviews and a number of first interviews. Am even hearing back from companies that have been silent for so long, I've practically crossed them off my list. Finally, the job-front horizon is starting to look more promising. I am still keeping my fingers crossed but am staring to breathe a little bit easier now. Of course that means I have start weighing my options and consider what my next steps will be.

I guess what makes me sad these days is not having my dad around. When I used to have concerns about work and needed to bounce my thoughts off someone, he was the one I would call. Whenever I was faced with a professional dilemma and needed an objective ear to help me weight the pros and cons, he would be the one I would turn to. And whenever I needed help making tough decisions, well, it was his guidance that saw me through. Despite my dad's super busy schedule, he would always make time to talk to me, whether it was our scheduled weekly chats or even when I made surprise calls to his office. I have never called my dad and have him say "not now" or "call back later". He always had time (even if it was 5-10 minutes) to listen to me. I really miss that. I really miss him. Some days it's not so bad but today, I really, really wish he were here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

All We Did was Eat!

This weekend ... all we did was eat! On Saturday, we celebrated Chinese New Year's Eve at our friend, Zuly's, place. She lives in a really nice gated complex and her home was so bright and spacious. Also, she was a wonderful host, making us feel at home right away.

For dinner, Zuly made a steamed fish with ginger and scallions. It's been a while since I've had this dish and it reminds me of the steamed fish we usually have at lauriats back home. I liked the home-cooked taste of the dish and could tell the fish was very fresh. Zuly also made a stir-fried bok-choy dish that went very well with the fish.

The crispy duck was delicious. I liked how it was still juicy inside but very crispy on the outside.

We also had a kung-pao chicken dish. It was also really good.

Here I am posing with Zuly our wonderful host and a marvelous cook!

Jojo is getting ready to dig in!

It was a great evening. We had good food and lots of good stories to tell. Thanks again to our super wonderful host! Next time dinner will be at our place and hopefully I can impress Zuly with some of my cooking too =)


Then on Sunday we celebrated Chinese New Year and Valentines Day with a potluck lunch, that turned into merienda, that turned into an early dinner at home.

Let me start with pictures of the food. We had sotanghon (glass noodles.

We also had another noodle dish (chow mein). I suppose having a lot of noodles is not a bad thing since it's suppose to bring you long life!

We also had a lot of "round" food which is supposed to be good luck. We had buchi filled with sweet red bean paste.

Siomai (pork dumplings) which is always a crowd favorite!

And hakaw (shrimp dumplings). We also had another shrimp dish this one with caramelized walnuts (but I didn't get to take a picture of it).

We had two kinds of siopao (meat buns). Some were filled with asado (barbecued pork) while others were filled with bola-bola (meatballs).

It was a surprisingly sunny day today and we got the chance to eat outside. This is one of the reasons why people love living in Southern California, while so many states are experiencing record snowfall, we are having outdoor parties in the middle of winter! Of course as the weather got cooler, we had to move back inside.

My nieces did several song and dance numbers. They are super duper entertaining to watch. All of them are extremely talented and none of them are shy!

Then more dancing in the garage where there is more space - this time with the adults too.

We ended the day by getting the whole group to pose for pictures by our front porch. This is no easy feat because we are a big group and there are a lot of kids running around. It's kind of like herding cats =) We did manage to take some good pictures ... but unfortunately not with my camera cause all I have are shots like this one.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Writer's Block

It's been a few days since my last post. I can only blame it on what I call "writer's block". On several occasions, I have found myself sitting in font of my Mac and ready to write but for some reason no words come to mind. I am finding myself so easily distracted these days (there is always something more interesting to do!). My lack of entries, is not because I don't have time (because I certainly can squeeze writing into my schedule) and it's not because there hasn't been anything to write about (because there have been some interesting developments ... plus I usually can find something to write about, even mundane every day stuff!). It's just been this stupid "writer's block".

The first few days after my last post, I did not feel like I had to write (after all a day or two in between posts is ok). But after the 3rd day and the 4th and so on, it got harder to find something to write about and easier to do other things. There were many times when something interesting would happen (like going on a couple of job interviews, watching an interesting film, getting my Shape-ups for Valentines Day, etc). Things I would normally blog about ... I just didn't. No don't get me wrong, I did want to blog about them, I just didn't actually do it. It's strange. It sorta-kinda felt like I had a deadline looming over me and that I had to write something. But once I forced myself to actually post something, I'd have nothing to say.

Anyway, I decided this is silly. I've always loved my blog and the opportunity to write what I think, believe and feel has been awesome. It's my journal of some sorts, my way to rant and rave, and my way to keep track of what's been going on with my life. Having my family and good friends read what I write is a wonderful added bonus. It's my link to people that matter. And because of all those reasons, I should not feel pressured to write nor should I feel any remorse when I don't. To prove this, I sat down in front of my Mac this morning, ready to do other things and not worry about blogging ... and then I find myself writing ... and posting a blog about the very thing I said I wouldn't worry about. Who knew I only had to stop "pressuring" myself and things would just happen? Go figure!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Where Will I Find the Time?

I’ve gotten into a comfortable workweek routine the last couple of days. We wake up around 8:00 and while Jojo takes a shower, I make breakfast. We have either toast and eggs or oatmeal and cereal (depending on how late we wake up). While Jojo gets dressed for work, I make his lunch (usually a sandwich and a cup of soup). He leaves at 9:30. I do the dishes then I have the rest of the day to myself.

Mornings are spent checking my email, going on Facebook, surfing the net and job searching. I usually send out applications, if anything interesting pops up. I research companies on the web and I make phone calls. By lunchtime, I either meet up with a friend or a former co-worker, otherwise I eat at home. If it’s with a friend, it usually means meeting some place quick because they are on their lunch break. If I’m on my own, it’s usually a sandwich or leftovers while reading a book.

After lunch, I go to the gym (four times a week) for about 45 minutes. Then, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I volunteer at a homeless shelter. On the other days, I run errands. Either I go to the bank, the post office, the doctors, the pharmacy, the dry cleaners. Or depending on what we need at home I go to: Food for Less or Albertsons for fruits and veggies, Ranch 99 for meat and seafood, Trader Joe’s for prepared food, Walmart for household stuff, Seafood City for Pinoy stuff (like sardines, sinigang powder, etc.), and Costco for bulk items (like paper towels and detergent). I also have my occasional "me" time which means getting a mani-pedi, going to the hairdresser for a hot-oil or a trim, or going shopping (of course!).

I am at home usually by 5. I do one major “household” chore a day. It’s either laundry and folding clothes, or general cleaning, or changing towels and sheets, or taking out the trash, or re-arranging cluttered cabinets, etc. Then by around 6:30, I make dinner. Lately we have been eating at home more, mainly because I have more time to make a real meal. I sort the mail while waiting for Jojo to arrive. He is home by 7:30 and we have dinner together.

After dinner, Jojo does the dishes then relaxes by playing computer games or the Wii which leaves me time to blog or work on my recipe scrapbook. Sometimes I’m on the phone with my mom, my sister or a friend. Then around 9, Jojo and I watch tv together. We have a host of favorite shows lined up each night of the week. By 11:00, we are in bed, usually winding down the day by talking or watching the news. Jojo usually nods off first while I spend a few more minutes reading. After my evening prayers, it’s off to lala land.

Despite not having a job yet, my days are busy and quite fulfilled. And while I am excited to start working again and ready to start putting in 40-60 hours a week at a new job, I also wonder, where will I find the time to do everything I’ve gotten used to doing?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

My Best Friend's Wedding

Speaking of weddings .....

Les, called last night and I missed the call, which can be blamed on my ever-early sleeping habit. Not that 11:30 pm is early … but then again I was in bed way before then =) Anyway, when I woke up this morning, I saw her missed call and a text she sent saying “she needed to talk to me … asap”. I turned to Jojo and said, “I think Jogs proposed already”. In that instant, my phone began to ring, I ran to answer it, and it was Les confirming the news I had happily suspected. YES, it’s true, my best friend is getting married!

I am so thrilled for them. I was literally screaming on the phone. This prompted Jojo to get out of bed and ask me “what’s wrong?”, I had to tell him that Jogs had proposed and Les had said yes! Finally! This is a wedding that’s been years and years in the making. Believe it or not, these two good friends of mine have been dating on and off for the last 17 years! Seriously. They are truly a match made in heaven (as everyone will undoubtably agree) but they certainly took their time in deciding when to walk down the aisle.

Les, I am so happy for you. I truly wish you all the best and I know that Jogo will do his bestest to make you happy (he better!!!). You’ve been my best friend ever since we were 5, more than that, you have been like a sister to me. We’ve seen each other through some pretty good and some not-so-good times. We’ve been there for each other at our best and at our worst. I owe you so much and words can not begin to describe how much I value your friendship. I am so happy for you and promise to be there for the big day. If there is anything I can do to help you prepare, please, please, please let me know.

Jogs, I am so happy for you too. There is a huge sigh of relief going on around the world and hundreds of people saying “it’s about time”. You sure took your time and you sure made us all wait … but then again, the best things in life are worth waiting for. You and I have been friends for a long time too and we’ve had way too many happy memories to recall. I am so glad that there’s another happy memory coming up to add to all that. Congratulations and may you and Les enjoy the next 10 months of planning for this wedding and the many years of happiness you will surely have afterwards.

January 15, 2011. Good luck and best wishes to you both! Now can we plan your honeymoon food trip? Sama kami, ha? =)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Reminiscing Weddings

I came across pictures of the recent wedding of Rica Peralejo (a local actress in Manila). You can see the pictures on this website, http://hitchedweddings.multiply.com/photos/album/85/Joe_-_Rica_Wedding. I think you will agree with me that it was a beautiful event. Even if I am not a "beach" person and have never been a fan of destination weddings, I found this to be an exception. I loved everything about her wedding. The look and feel of the ceremony, the bridal gown and the attire of the entire entourage, the colors used in the ceremony and reception, and all the little touches like her flowers, give-aways and decor. Everything was gorgeous, appropriate and carefully planned.

I absolutely love weddings. I love how two people love each other so much that they choose to share it with everyone they hold dear. Weddings bring together not only two hearts, but two sets of families and friends as well. It is such a momentous celebration that symbolizes things like commitment, trust and devotion. I love that weddings also reflect the lives and tastes of the couple. While some weddings are grand and lavish, others are simple and intimate. The celebration is but a reflection of the couple's personalities and what they find significant.

Looking back, my own wedding was a small and intimate affair. We had only 80 or so guests but they were the people that really mattered. We celebrated it with a winter theme because that is my absolute favorite season. Our colors were red and gold (colors I absolutely love because of the warmth and the happiness they exude). Our menu was carefully chosen and reflected our favorite and most memorable meals. Our flower arrangements were done so wonderfully and were patterned after floral arrangements I had worked hard to select. Our invitations, misalettes and wedding give-aways were so elegant and carefully prepared down to the last detail. The video montage my siblings prepared was extra touching. My dad's toast brought tears to our eyes. The deejay played music that both Jojo and I had selected. My gown was simple yet made me feel every bit like a bride. And my husband never looked better, in his dashing black suit.

Yes, of course, it was a lot of hard work and there were little things that didn't go quite as planned. My flower girl, Meredith, was barely two years and refused to pose for pictures. My hairstyle (I experimented with bangs that day!) started to "fall apart" by the time the ceremony ended and before the reception began. Our photographer insisted on taking certain shots that made us look stiff and robot-like. The extra food was not brought out in time. And the video of wedding messages from family and friends from Manila would not play. But those little quirks did not deter from making the event a day truly worth remembering.

Posing with our parents - December 18, 2004, Long Beach, CA

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Italian Meatloaf

One of my favorite childhood dishes is my guama's meatloaf. She makes a delicious meatloaf that is super good either hot or cold. It is good with rice, with bread, with pasta, or even by itself. It is a bit different from the usual "American style" meatloaf, since her version is super tasty and moist and does not need any gravy or tomato-based sauce. When I was in Manila last December, my mom made meatloaf (using guama's recipe) for one of my last dinners at home and the thought of that meal still makes my mouth water.

Today, I was feeling a tad homesick and decided to make meatloaf. Because of the time difference, I could not wake my mom or guama up to ask for the recipe ... so I sorta improvised with the help of a recipe I found online (Chef Michael Chiarello's recipe). This is his version, along with some of my substitutions (I didn't have everything his recipe called for and also I added a few more things I like).

ITALIAN MEATLOAF
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 onion, diced
2 tsps. chopped garlic
1/2 pound ground beef (I used turkey)
1/2 pound sweet or hot italian sausage (I used turkey), removed from casing
*the recipe called for 1 pound ground beef but I decided to use half ground meat and half sausage meat instead.
salt and pepper
2 eggs
3/4 cups bread crumbs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire
1 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. basil, finely chopped (I used dried)
1 Tbsp. Italian parsley, finely chopped (I didn't have fresh or dried so I just skipped this)
1 cup marinara sauce (I used Sloppy Joe sauce)

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.) Heat olive oil and saute onions, peppers and garlic till soft. Remove and cool.
3.) Mix all ingredients (except marinara sauce).
4.) Pack meat mixture into oiled loaf pan (I also lined the pan with wax paper so I could remove the meatloaf and still have it intact).
5.) Top with marinara sauce and then bake for 50-60 minutes.
6.) Let the meatloaf rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Here it is fresh out of the oven. Now I know it does not look too appetizing (it sort of fell apart as I was cutting it), but it was REALLY SUPER-DUPER DELICIOUS. If you don't believe me, ask Jojo! Even before dinner was over he was already asking me to make him a meatloaf sandwich for his lunch tomorrow! I am telling you, it was that good =)

Coolpix s220

Because of a shipping delay, my final birthday present from Jojo just arrived yesterday. We were expecting it to arrive on the 5th so it was a wonderful surprise to receive a package from FedEx, 4 days early.

Aside from flowers, dinner and a party with the family, Jojo got me a new digital camera. I am so excited since it is exactly what I want (I think posting a wish list was a big enough hint!). Here is my new Coolpix s220.

It has a lot of nice features ... which of course I am still trying to figure out =)

Look how slim and small it is ... I love it cause now it fits in any purse I decide to bring!

Looking forward to taking many fantastic pictures! Thanks again, Ni! =)