Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lime and Basil

It was hard to believe we have not been to Tagaytay all year.  Tagaytay is always the logical choice whenever we want a quick and easy weekend getaway.

Lime and Basil was as good a reason as any to head on up.  I've wanted to check the place out after seeing it online and being enamored by the whole fabulous look of it.

We got there early and pretty much had the whole place to ourselves.  It quickly filled up within the hour, tho.  It was even bigger than I thought.  Boots had a grand time running around in the front yard and baking under the sun.  It must be nice to have your dinner under the stars out in that wide yard.    

I love the aesthetics of the place.  All those vibrant, contrasting colors - it was all so alive and yet understated.  As someone who also likes to decorate our home with my own personal touches, I know it takes discipline and restraint to not overdo it on the decor, to not cover every inch of space on the wall with everything you've got.  

I also like that the chairs are mismatched and not entirely identical.  I don't know if this was deliberate or they just ran out of the same chairs, but I think it's happy when people live a little and not try to do everything all too perfectly.  Perfection is overrated.

Of course, I'm also partial to weathered furniture, and there were a lot of those in the resto. Weathered and distressed just nails the whole warm, homey, country ambience I'm always aiming for.  If they achieved that look thru time and are real antiques, all the better.  But if they happen to be new and I have to beat them up myself to get that ancient look, that works for me as well.  Giggles.    

My Cath Kidston strawberry bag is right at home among the colorful and similarly embroidered bags. 

One area of the resto has been converted into a store with all kinds of quaint objects for sale.  They're not all from Thailand, too.  Some are made right in the Philippines, and a blue, gray, and green plate set is actually from Japan.  I promptly snatched that up for my friend who collects decorative plates.

There was a lady tinkering with the display and I chatted her up and she turns out to be one of the co-owners of the resto.  Cool.  She was young and quite humble, with no indication that she was the boss all around.  If I could just own and manage a place like this and not have to do any more of my endless, insufferable lawyering.  Sigh.   

The food was yummy, too.  It came fast, altho the servings were smaller than we expected. Our favorite was the crispy pata curry (with the curry on the side).

Boots' did not get a birthday cake this year and instead shared with mine from Thom.  (It was the gigantic black sambo cake from Florabel's that Thom himself delivered to my office as soon as I got back from Dubai.  It was large enough for maybe 17 birthday celebrants.  Giggles.)  So we were teasing Boots at Lime and Basil that, since he didn't get a birthday cake, he should blow out the crispy pata.

Crispy pata beats cake any day, right?  This is how I know the boys and I cannot live in Dubai for longer than a week:  there is no crispy pata there.    

We marveled at the lotus-like flowers that they used as centerpieces on the tables.  They looked more like sea creatures than flowers.  I've never seen them anywhere else, but in Lime and Basil they were in abundant bloom.

The best seat in the house is under the mango tree.  It's so province.  I could have harassed the waiters into serving our food all the way here if only the sun wasn't shining so seriously.  So yeah, probably better to eat here for breakfast and dinner.  Unless you prefer your curries sun-dried.

I've always thought that you can tell if a place is well-loved by the decoration in the toilet.  It's the one room that's easy enough to overlook.  After all, all you really need to do the deed is a toilet bowl that flushes and a sink with running water, right?

But if on top of being functional your toilet also has other touches like an intricately carved mirror, some flowers and books and wall fixtures, then we know this is a place that is well looked after and lovingly maintained.  (I'm so rushing to our toilets right after posting this to put up all sorts of decor in there.  Giggles.)    

The backyard contains the edible garden from which the resto sources the veggies they use in the dishes. Yoshi chewed on some leaves to check whether they are in fact edible.  Crazy.  

For his part, Boots was more interested in the funky car parked on the garage.  Hahaha.  

Sunday, November 09, 2014

All Decked Out

One of my favorite Mommy activities is decorating our home for Christmas.  I went at it the first weekend we got back from Dubai.  

The most major change I did this year was to put Frostys (Frosties?), Santas, and bears on our stair steps where I've been putting our Christmas socks all these years.  It's brilliant, don't you think?  My all-American bear from Bryan is there (his welcome gift for me as soon as we stepped into Logan Airport), as well as the Paddington Bear that Randy gave me for my birthday.  Our Christmas socks went into the boys' massive toy cabinet this time.  

I LOVE it.  Love your own.  Hahaha. 

Chestnuts also got me a potted poinsettia in Tagaytay, and I placed that in the middle of our dining table, which I also adorned with a lovely table runner from Megamall.  Nice, huh.  Now if only I knew how to cook so I could make some noche buena for my family - I'd be all set.  Hahaha.  

Well, I could always get hamon and quezo de bola from the grocery.

Some new additions to our Christmas Cast 2014:

A tabletop Christmas tree with hanging Santas, Frostys, and angels.  One of my happy finds from Dapitan when I did my early Christmas decor shopping in September.  It went on our little table by the door, with my Nutcracker guards and several other bears.

As Boots noticed:  Mommy, hindi ka naman masyadong mahilig sa teddy bears, no???  Hahaha.

A red lantern for candles or tea lights from Ikea.  It's not strictly a Christmas decor, but it's red.  As far as I'm concerned, all you need to be is red and you're in for Christmas.

I got this from Galleria when I was looking for a birthday gift for Randy in April.  I heard the identical lantern that I got for him has since been appropriated by his mother.  Hahaha.  Malen said Robinson's has been carrying Ikea products even before this year.  Cool. 

Look, we have a lighthouse right at home!  Chestnuts got this for me from Dapitan.  Again, it's not your conventional Christmas decor, but 'conventional' is probably not an adjective you will use to describe the queen of our household, either, right? 

Even Burj Al Arab has a spot in our credenza.  This was a souvenir handed to us by our Indian driver when he brought us to the airport for our flight back home.  It's not red, but it lights up, so it qualified for the Christmas cast. 

Other gems from Dapitan include two Frostys climbing a small flight of stairs, a belen made of driftwood, and a sleep-deprived Santa.

Me:  Baket ang laki ng eyes ni Santa?
Vendor:  Napuyat po kagabi kaka-distribute ng gifts.


Another vendor was trying to sell me two kings at a bargain price.

Me:  Baket two kings lang, nasaan yung third?
Vendor:  Nauna na hong lumakad, malayo pa raw ang Bethlehem!

Hahaha.  You gotta love Pinoy humor.

The red/green/yellow lantern is another gift from Randy.  It's supposedly made out of some special wood whose name I forget now.  Randy knows exactly what my little heart desires.  I posted that up with the driftwood belen against our brick wall. 

This one's not entirely new but it's the first time I've ever brought it out to join our Christmas crew at the credenza.  It's my Precious Moments snow globe from my beloved Lola who passed away while I was in high school.  So now you know why I usually keep it under lock and key with my other valuables.  I asked our helpers to take extra care with this one, coz if they break it ... I'm going to cry.  Sob.

I hung the boys' dream catchers from Ate on our little chandelier.  Ches dared to comment that dream catchers have nothing to do with Christmas.  As if I've spent my entire life conforming to rules and standards. You'd think this guy would know better after having been married to me for 12 everlasting years, right?

But he did get me the poinsettia and lighthouse, and it's his job to put up all the lights, so maybe I'll allow him to stay till Christmas.  Giggles. 

This tray of 60 million wooden Christmas characters is special bcoz it was Randy's gift for me last year.  His mom chose it for me (among other gifts he had given me thru the years).  His mom loves me like that.

Yoshi's Boy Scout troop came caroling close to midnight last year.  We prepared snacks and treats for them, but then on top of those they were also pocketing the little toys in this cart, as tho they were party give-aways.  I told Yosh, if they come over again this year, I'm going to put up a sign that says: "Please don't pick our Christmas decor".  Hahaha.  

The rest of our decor are our usual cast of Christmas characters.  What I do is buy some new additions every year, dispose of others I have outgrown, and try to move everything around so that our home does not look exactly the same year after year.  

I know people who change all their decor every Christmas.  That's just wasteful, and I'm also the kind of person who forms emotional bonds with objects, so it's not easy for me to simply throw them away.


Our Christmas tree is 10 years old.  Gasp.  I already wanted to discard it, but Ches said it's still good, it's not worn or anything.  I had no brilliant idea what to replace it with - other than a taller, thicker tree - so it's still there for now.   

Objects take on so much more character after they have been with you for years and years.  Our Christmas tree, for example, has several years' worth of the boys' Happy Meal toys, plus a Shrek face from a cereal box that was Yoshi's favorite when he was a toddler. Owww.  Country-style angels and bears from the annual bazaar in Claret as well as Disney collectibles from Greenhills form part of the motley crew up on this tree. Where else can you find The Gingerbread Man, The Little Mermaid, and Darth Vader all in one group?

I'd like to believe we all behave a little better when our home is fully decorated for Christmas.  We can't go whining or swearing as much as we normally would, what with all the belen and Santas surrounding us, right? I've also always thought decking our humble little halls was our own small way of welcoming Jesus for Christmas.      

All that tinsel and dazzle certainly make us all merrier.  The boys happily help me out when I put up the decor, and they clown around when I take pictures.  If nothing else, I hope when they're older they will look back on these times as another joyful thing they did with family.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

You Say Dubai and I Say Hello

Dubai is one of those places that are hard to forget.  We were there for five days, and the city certainly left indelible images that we would carry around for a long time.

The skyscrapers top the list.  They are not only sky-high, they also have all these unique shapes and distinctive features.  They are such a joy to behold, whether during the day or night, and their beauty is so worth cramping your neck for to catch a good, long look.  

Maybe the builders are like me - they can't draw a straight line, hence they have to create buildings in all kinds of fascinating designs.  Hahaha.  True to the Dubai way, they have to be super tall, too.  In fact, Dubai Marina, one of the prominent sights from the Burj Khalifa viewing deck, is supposedly called the tallest block in the world, bcoz of the sheer number of high-rise residential buildings within the same compound.  These buildings are among the tallest in the world.

Look, Dubai even has its own version of New York's Chrysler Building.  It doesn't look as bad at night, actually, when its spire is all lit up in strategic angles.  In the daytime, tho, the top of it looks ... skeletal.  

I'm sorry, but I LOVE the Chrysler Building, and to me Al Kazim Towers in Dubai just seems like nothing but a second-rate, trying-hard copy paste.    

Even their buses have got to be some of the longest in the world.  They're roughly the equivalent of four of our rolling-coffin buses in EDSA.  We called these Dubai buses 'long vincil' bcoz when Boots was younger he read 'vehicle' as 'vincil'.  Hahaha. 

And the cars!  Omg, the cars!  Boots, of course, has been obsessed with them for a couple of years now, and Ches is only too happy to indulge his passion by bringing home car magazines and showing him websites to surf thru.  Even geeky, no-nonsense Yoshi, tho, was pretending to spot Ferraris by the end of our trip.  Hahaha.  Always a riot, is our firstborn.

In Manila, limousines are as rare as honest politicians.  In New York, we saw them frequently enough.  But in Dubai, they were everywhere, all the time.  Like maybe the oil-rich Arabs use them when they need to go to the grocery, you know. 

Bentleys, Porsches, and Ferraris are a dime a dozen in parking lots and stoplights - and those are just the names of the luxury cars I know.  Boots would rattle off all these other brands and models that I've never even heard of when he catches sight of them while we were out on the road.

The valet parking area by the entrance of Dubai Mall alone is a veritable show room of what has got to be some of the fanciest cars in the world.

Me:  Mukhang required yata na may certain price range ang kotse para payagan magpa-valet sa harap ng Dubai Mall!
Ches:  Yes, mukhang may unwritten rule nga.   Baka pag pina-valet natin dito mga kotse natin, batuhin ng kamatis!


This is the bus stop in front of our hotel.  It is not only all steel and futuristic-looking - it is also air-conditioned.  Kayo na, kayo na talaga ang mayaman!  Hahaha.

Yoshi:  You know, Mom, UAE has the lowest mortality rate in the world.  The Philippines is in the top 20s.
Me:  You know, Yosh, when I visit a foreign county, the mortality rate is not one of the things I Google up.

Hahaha.  I always tease Yosh:  Hindi ba nakakapagod maging isang Yoshi?  Alam mo lahat!

No boring, plain garbage bags for Dubai, either.  Instead these huge, floral-inspired beauties adorn most street corners.  I thought initially they had some corporate sponsors advertising some feminine product or the other.  That's usually the case in the Philippines if you see anything new and colorful out in public - it's bound to be privately-funded rather than provided by the government.  But no, these trash cans in Dubai clearly state that they are the property of the Dubai government. 

We took the metro to the beach.  Luckily, Al Ghubaiba Station was an easy five-minute walk away from our hotel.  Omg, it was amazing.  It followed the Arabic theme from the inside and out.  We'd also seen the stations going to Jumeirah Beach as well as that connecting to Dubai Mall, and while they were clean and modern, they did not look as grand as Al Ghubaiba Station.

Maybe it's bcoz our hotel was around the heritage area in Dubai, so they gave the metro station the same traditional design.  It was vast, high-ceilinged, liberally decorated with art pieces, and spotlighted in all sorts of dramatic angles.  How sad that Dubai's train station is way nicer than our airports can ever hope to be.  Well, maybe in Boots' lifetime, our airports can have a fighting chance. Sigh.       

If our MRT is unreliable, and Singapore's is efficient - Dubai's is opulent.    

Pinoys are another familiar fixture in Dubai.  They're simply everywhere.  They were working in the Dubai airport and greeting us 'kabayan' as soon as we got off the plane.  They made up a majority of the staff in our hotel.  They were the official photographers At The Top in Burj Khalifa.  They served us camel millk ice cream in The Majlis.  They served behind the counters at Sanrio, M&S, Debenhams, KFC, and most other shops in Dubai Mall.

We even found one of them dressed as an Arab and escorting tourists to the camp in the desert safari.  Apparently he's from Batangas and works as one of those cool, fierce, dune-bashing 4x4 drivers.  Winner.  Mabuhay ang Pinoy!

I wondered about these Christmas lights strung on some of the terraces in the condos across Dubai. Ches and I thought maybe Pinoys lived on those units, and their hanging Christmas lights is their one way to connect back home, while they're in this far-away foreign land, where Christmas is not even recognized at all.  Sigh.