Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Best of 2012

2012 was the year we got to travel to two continents outside of Asia, I endured two major storms in the office (thanks to old allies and new friends), and Ches got a well-deserved promotion. It was the year I saw Kaye again (I love you, Kaye!), of regular brunches with Babette, movie and cake nights with Randy, chats with Jon and Nico. Ate turned 40 (and life begins!). Thom and Joy got married. Boots danced the gangnam at his United Nations program (and has not stopped since), and Yoshi obsessed over cooking and Minecraft. Serena scored major wins versus Sharapova and Azarenka. Aung San Suu Kyi was elected to the Parliament, and Obama got another four years.

1. The Year of The Young Adult Books - My favorite books this year are easily the John Green novels. I got hooked since summer when I started on Looking For Alaska. I've read all of his six novels and am impatiently waiting for his next one. My other favorites are also of the young adult genre - Thirteen Reasons Why and Why We Broke Up. 2012 was clearly the year I regressed in my literary picks and went back to the kind of books I used to read in high school. Oh well - whatever makes you happy, right?

2. The Year of The Indies - I'm so happy to have seen so many indies this year, local and otherwise. Bwakaw is at the top of the list, Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me is also there, together with Ang Nawawala. For foreign indies, We Need To Talk About Kevin is too perfect for words (and which I wanted to see all over again after the CT shooting). I also liked Everything Must Go, People Like Us, and Seeking A Friend For The End of The World. On the mainstream side, I enjoyed My Week With Marilyn, Bridesmaids, The Descendants, The Big Day, and Carnage.

3. The Year of Damian Lewis - I've loved Damian Lewis since Band of Brothers, and I'm glad I reunited with him this year thru Homeland and Life. Homeland is the more substantial series, but I like Life more bcoz it's quirky and unpretentious. Charlie Crews is definitely my favorite Damian Lewis character yet - a fruit-guzzling multi-millionaire, brilliant but technologically inept, ruthless yet oh so Zen. Love it.

4. The Year of The Yummies - Pork belly in Lolo Dad's, kare-kare in Bistro Filipino, grilled cheese sandwich in Antonio's, binagoongan in Casa Roces. Xin Tian Di was my favorite buffet, and I'm taking the boys there soon bcoz the food is exactly what they go crazy over. Of course, there were also all the clam chowders, lobsters, quahog, fried clams and scallops, and all the other delicious Cape Cod seafoods. The ice cream in Sundae School and Sam Diego's also stand out in my memory, and the Via Mare lugaw toppings deserves a special mention bcoz it was my favorite lunch every time I went out with my favorite doctor in the office. I craved for it way into the night. Hahaha.

5. The Year of The Grand Travels - Cape Cod, DC, New York, Boston, Martha's Vineyard. Baguio, Pearl Farm, KL, Sydney. Who would have thought we'd be able to see all these great places in one year?

6. The Year of Heritage Love - From the lighthouses in Cape Cod to the Mayflower in Plymouth, the ancient churches in Rizal and Makati to the ancestral homes in Taal - 2012 was rich in heritage and abundant in beauty. (Thank you, Ate and Ches, for gratifying my love for all things old.)

7. The Year of The Amazing Concerts - I missed several great ones mostly bcoz of conflicts in schedules (or I was plain broke haha) - The Cranberries, Tears For Fears with Fra Lippo Lippi, The Fray, Snow Patrol, Wilson Phillips. But I got to watch Evanescence and Bush with my brother, and Ely Buendia not once but twice with Ches - first in Trinoma and again with the orchestra in Music Museum. So who's to say 2012 wasn't a great year for concerts?

8. And the best part of 2012 is - drum roll, please - Ate coming home in time for the New Year.

(How to tell from a group picture who the balikbayan is: look for the one person wearing Uggs in hot old Manila. Hahaha.)

Saturday, December 29, 2012


So Ches still owed me a date bcoz of another bet he lost. (Thank you, Serena Williams!) I chose the lunch buffet in Midas Hotel bcoz we've always wanted to try it. It's new and five-star and also very near Ches' office.

Ann had done the buffet before and was not impressed. She didn't like the cooking, and she also said the choices were not that extensive. So I kept my expectations low, and was pleasantly surprised that the buffet didn't turn out too bad. I told Ches, maybe I have low food standards bcoz I don't cook, not like Ann who counts among her specialties complicated dishes like kare-kare. Haha.

Well, there was a sushi bar, and in it salmon sashimi. You know me - I can live and die on salmon sashimi alone. Haha. They also had all kinds of seafood and meat that you could ask to be cooked whichever way you wanted. My favorites were the mussels that we asked to be baked with cheese (a la oysters Rockefeller), buttered prawns with lots of garlic, and my favorite fish (samaral) that I asked to be grilled. We also loved the chili crabs, and the dessert bar bcoz it offered out-of-the-ordinary treats like churros con chocolate and yummy macaroons. The buffet came with free-flowing coffee, tea, and fresh dalandan juice. (The other option, orange juice, did not taste as fresh.)

We also enjoyed the salad and noodle bars. Too bad I ran out of room for the Mongolian, pasta, and halo-halo bars. (Yes, my tummy runs out of room, too. It's not bottomless as people have been suspecting. Haha.) So, it was hardly Spiral, or Circles, or Escolta, but all in all the Midas buffet was not bad.

The design was disappointing, tho, for a five-star. I expected grand staircases, high ceilings, fabulous chandeliers, the works. There was nothing of the sort. All I liked was the gingerbread display in the lobby.

I also liked the orange and glass boxes on the walls. It took us a while to figure out the glasses contained gold-like lights inside, in keeping with the Midas theme. Haha.

The hotel's Christmas motif was blue, and I so belonged in my blue outfit. Hahaha.

Thank you, Chestnuts, for another year of fantastic dates. Looking forward to 60 million more.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Can't Stop Christmas

I got sick right before Christmas, and Ate and I also got consumed about this issue (one of our usual dramas), but we managed to go to Tarlac, anyway, for our annual Christmas celebration with my in-laws.

Since we've been married, we've always spent Christmas with Ches' side, and New Year with mine. I remember our first year as a couple, it was just the two of us, no kids in tow, and from Tarlac we drove up to Baguio day after Christmas. Coming back, it was the first time I ever slept on Ches in the car (I always force myself to stay awake to chat him up while he drives) - and a few weeks after, we found out I was already pregnant then with Yoshi. Owww. Senti mode. Haha.

Of course, when we had the boys, our annual trips got a lot rowdier. The boys love going to the province bcoz there's just so much more space for them to run around in, and all the relatives fuss over them with bibingka and balut and other good stuff. Boots also enjoys visiting the pigs and chickens. Haha.

We usually go to Mass on Christmas Eve, and then sleep over at Tita Jaja's house for noche buena. Tito Justin is a great cook, and this year Yoshi had a grand time assisting him with the carbonara and grilled sandwiches. Boots and I helped Ches with the barbecue ... and promptly dropped a stick on the fire. Ooops. Haha.

Christmas Day is when all the relatives from all over come in time for lunch. This is followed by a program where the kids (as well as not-so-young but as yet unsalaried relatives haha) line up for cash gifts, and all sorts of crazy things happen, like impromptu dance numbers from fully grown men. Usually courtesy of everyone's favorite host, Tito Aaron, who has moved to Singapore with Tita Jill but joined us - and still managed to make everyone laugh - thru Skype. Haha.

My very own Ches got this brilliant idea to have a pinata for the kids. Yoshi was the runaway winner with several glasses of candy loot.

Most of the families with kids could not make it, so our main sources of entertainment were Yoshi and Boots. They played Pinoy Henyo, and the cousins were teasing Yoshi bcoz most of the items he asked others to guess were all his favorite food like crispy pata, lechon kawali, fried chicken. HAHAHA. He's a foodie thru and thru. Boots, for his part, had everyone groaning bcoz no one managed to guess what he thought of: shelf. Whaddawhack. He's another strange one, I'm telling you.

Sickness and drama notwithstanding, Christmas goes on, merry as ever. Happy birthday, Jesus!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Kitty Loot

This Christmas, I got all sorts of unique and fabulous gifts from family and friends. For unique, there was the feng shui lucky charm cat (a.k.a. Lola Kitty) from Thina, tuna belly straight from GenSan from Rein, longaniza straight from Vigan from Joanne, and Our Lady of Manaoag statue from Ate Marlene. (Beat those, huh!) For fabulous, there was the blue Van Heusen top with the feathery neckline from Thina, Cath Kidston toiletries from Ardo, Cotton On solid metal necklace from the Calimons (so fierce!), garnet pendant from Randy, and tangerine Le Pliage from someone I wasn't even expecting any gift from. (That is always the best: being surprised with a gift that also just happens to be totally fantastic.)

Of course, this Christmas has also been abundantly happy, Hello Kitty-wise.

Babette and Randy each gave me Kitty pillows to go with their other gifts. Just two more reasons to curl up in bed all day. Haha. Robert and Eycee also gave me an oh so fluffy and girly Kitty seat. It perfectly matches the red polka dot pillow from Babette, too. Winner.

Regina got me Kitty biscuits in a huge Kitty container. Each little biscuit has a Kitty face on it! Now that's what I call death by cuteness. Hahaha. When the boys and I are all done with the biscuits, I will use the container as a coin bank for My Travel Fund. Brilliant.

Anji got me this Kitty straw bag that is too cute for words. It’s like carrying summer on your shoulder any day of the year. That's exactly what Ate said when I got her the same design: it's perfect for Cape Cod summers.

I also got this quilted bag for myself. It’s huge, oh so white, and fragile-looking. It has the delicate aura of a geisha. (I’m crazy, I know.) I used it when we went to Corregidor, and I told Ches, I can never truly hate the Japanese despite what they did in the war – bcoz they brought Hello Kitty to the world. HAHAHA.

My favorite is this Forever 21 tote from Ches. I love the Kitty Nerd line. (I love that nerds are now considered cool. Haha.) This tote is so big and sturdy-looking. Ideal for shopping and travels. Not to mention, it comes in neon green, black, and white, instead of the usual pink or red Kitty colors. It makes me happy when people do something out of the ordinary.

The tote also came with a matching umbrella and luggage tag. Perfect. Just like Chestnuts. Hahaha.

It has definitely been a merry Kitty Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

It's A Swell Time

This year’s Christmas season started early – a late November brunch with two of my favorite Ateneans, Babette and Regie, in Wooden Spoon, then milk teas at Saint’s Alp. It was more my birthday event, actually, but since we were all going to be busy already, and not to mention Babette is all done with her Christmas gifts by October (hahaha), it also doubled as our Christmas lunch.

I had the cake night with Randy and Escolta lunch with Legal that I’ve already blogged about. Then there was the party with my good governance group at Centerstage in MoA, and the party at our company’s farm in Nueva Ecija. Didn’t take pictures tho bcoz the former was too rowdy, the latter too hot. Haha.

I also got to see Beavis, one of my old favorite friends from Manila Water. (At Dolcelatte, whose valrhona cake Sandy Daza often cites as the best chocolate cake in town.) It was just the two of us this year bcoz Dex is apparently toxic at work. It so happened that the waiter who served us was named ‘Jang’, which is how these two boys call me, after Jang Geum in Jewel In The Palace. Hahaha.

And then there was the rockeoke office party. That’s just a fancy name for videoke with a live rock band. Haha. It was all downhill from the time Ann won Starbucks GCs and I won friggin SM cinema tickets – but then within a few minutes after I left the girls told me I won Best Dressed! Craziness! I was happy, tho, bcoz the prize was a huge basket of chocolate goodies (perfect pasalubong for my Lola when we visit her in Pangasinan for Christmas), and it also meant I defeated this woman whom we don’t particularly like and who majorly dressed up and was actively campaigning for the award. HAHAHA.

(Ches took one look at me and couldn’t figure out how I won when I didn’t even dress up. I was wearing a Rajo Laurel top, an old pair of jeans, and an old pair of animal print wedges with a red bow. I told him I was going for the effortless, understated look (hahaha), but he’s actually right – this is my usual Friday attire. The mystery of it all was solved when I went back to work Monday after the party: all three judges were my friends. HAHAHA. The same friends who call me stuff like 'petallic' and 'Imeldific' bcoz of my grand office outfits. Sheesh, and I thought I was finally getting some appreciation in this company for my fashion sense. Ding it.)

Kirsten also had her seventh birthday party, and it was the perfect chance to catch up with UP Law and QT friends. The boys had fun as usual with all the food, games, and prizes, not to mention Mickey and Minnie doing the gangnam. Hahaha.

(The boys and I are crazy over Kirsten. I couldn't get over how she wore a tiara in our flight from KL to Sydney. And when Donemark had to go back to our hotel to recharge their camera while we were at Powerhouse Museum, her request to him was: 'Daddy, please bring me my tiara.' Such a princess thru and thru. She's a Hello Kitty fan, too. She kept quizzing me about all my Kitty stuff while we were in Sydney. Haha.)

And since it was a Disney-themed party, Boots wore his Woody costume (and Tita Dendee promptly gave him one of the best in costume prizes), Yoshi his Mickey plaid polo, and me my favorite Ariel shirt from Ate. I was going to wear either my Ursula or Maleficent Mango shirts, but then Yoshi said, 'Mommmy's a villain again. So predictable.' He's truly annoying but also so right, so Ariel it was. Groan.)

We went out with family, too, of course. We had dinner at Jay-j’s with my in-laws on Ryan’s second night from the UK for his holiday break. I love my in-laws. I can't say that often enough.

We also had Mama’s birthday dinner at Causeway. The boys loved the dimsum here. Yoshi wants us to go back to avail of the dimsum off-peak promo. Haha.

I also had a Christmas lunch at Bagoong Club with my office friends. (This resto is also the home of the award-winning calamansi torte and queso de bola cheesecake. Sooo good.) We call each other 'classmates' bcoz somehow we always get thrown into the same projects and there are weeks when we have meetings every day on all these different issues. We were the Los Banos Mafia (LBM) after we had the overnight planning in Laguna, but we changed that to Crispy Pata Club at this lunch bcoz we realized we always have crispy pata when we eat out. Hahaha. I love this gang. They’re my favorite people in the office outside Legal.

We also had our annual Christmas brunch with ex-PMS friends at Chocolate Kiss. We started this tradition last year, and when Sec. Jesse Robredo died, we all remembered that he was just on the next table with one of his daughters while we had our little party last Christmas. Sad. We missed Robby this year, but at least Regina and Aizza were around.

This is our last party before the annual big reunion on Christmas Day with my in-laws in Tarlac.

There's nothing like a Christmas to celebrate with family and friends.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Seeking A Guide For the End of The World

One scene struck me in the movie Seeking A Friend For the End of the World. At a party, this woman came in wearing a tiara, among other chunky jewelry, as well as several layers of fur coats. She explained that these were all her best stuff that she was always saving for a special occasion. That occasion will never come since, in the movie, the world was ending in a matter of days.

It was hilarious but also so true. My mom, for one, is a staunch believer in the saving-the-best-for-last principle. She keeps all of her finest silverware and linen under lock and key and never ever uses them, and just makes do with the same old ratty stuff she has been using since forever. Not that I ever complained, since I’m hoping to inherit her finery someday. Haha.

The movie, and this whole talk about the end of the world, made me decide a few things:

1. I will start wearing my favorite jewelry set on a regular basis, and not just on weddings or graduations or similar grand events. It’s an earring and pendant set made of precious stones of various colors, dangling and flower-shaped and perfectly fabulous. I bought it with my entire 13th month pay when I was in MWC (yes, I was young and stupid and pretending to be rich). It definitely deserves greater air time and should not be stuck in my jewelry case collecting dust.

2. I will grab every chance to spread the love to my family and friends. It’s like that scene in My Best Friend’s Wedding when they were on the boat that passed under a bridge, and the line was something like: ‘If you love someone, say it and say it out loud, otherwise the moment just passes you by’. Cheesy, but if the world ends tomorrow, at least you die knowing you loved well, and made sure the people who matter to you have no doubts about it.

(To this end: Ely Buendia, I love you!!! HAHAHA.)

3. I will buy only clothes, shoes, books, and other stuff that I consider showstoppers. Meaning, I must REALLY WANT them, and I’m not buying them simply bcoz they’re on sale or a good bargain, or bcoz they would expand my wardrobe or book shelf. Apart from bigger savings, an added upside to this is: I can be sure that everything I wear or use or read from now in is something that truly makes me happy. Yipee!

4. I will stop going to events I don’t really feel like going to just bcoz I’m expected or obliged to be there. Life is too short to waste on stiff small talk with people who are practically strangers, when I could be out somewhere rolling on the floor laughing with family and friends I truly love. So what if I get criticized or ostracized or worse, fired? Oooh, I’m so scared. Hahaha.

5. I will learn to let go. When I was a young wife and mommy, I wanted to do everything, including crazy chores like planning our menu for the entire week. I have learned to delegate those stuff to Ann (who, after all, is more competent than I can ever hope to be in this area). But I can still be pretty anal about some things, like cleaning every last drawer at home, covering my beloved books, or organizing our 60 million pictures. In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter that our pix are all chronologically arranged in neat little labeled folders in my netbook?

6. I will travel more. Travelmore is actually the name of the travel agency of Lorie, my beloved travel agent from way back. (I first met her when I cancelled our Club Paradise booking bcoz I got pregnant with Boots, and since then she has arranged most of our travel needs – everything from Ate’s Disneyland trip with Mom, Rino, and the kiddies, our Singapore trip, and this year’s junkets to the US and Pearl Farm). Travel more, see the world, invest in memories. Perfect.

7. And if the world should end tomorrow and all else fails, as my pink shirt says: keep calm and buy new shoes. New shoes = works all the time. Yes, even at the end of the world.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Confessions of a Milkteaholic

I still remember the first milk tea I had. This was last year after Ches and I picked the boys up from school, on the day we went to the US Embassy for our visa interview. It was not after Thom and Joy introduced me to Moonleaf, tho, that I got seriously hooked. My favorites are the hakka, oolong, and fruit punch. I also try the new flavors sometimes, but I always go back to those three.

And then came Gong Cha, Chatime, and Happy Lemon. All three are in Trinoma, too, so I could always have my pick whenever I’m there . (And I’m always there. Haha.) Gong Cha’s wintermelon with the rocksalt on top is sooo good. My best bet in Chatime is the strawberry milk tea. It’s too sweet, actually, but then you can always adjust the sugar level. (I don’t. Haha.) For Happy Lemon, I’m happiest with the roasted milk tea. I love the pearls here; they’re small and squishy. (Haha. I made them sound just like worms.)

Karen says she gained five pounds after Moonleaf opened behind our office and we would go everyday. So she stopped. She’s so disciplined like that, even if she’s model thin. Or maybe that’s why. Hahaha. Me, I never stopped. I just need to have my daily milk tea fix, whether from Moonleaf or my other favorites. Poundage schmoundage. Hahaha.

Nico was asking me about my Air Asia experience, and I told him I had to pay An Obscene Amount for our baggage on our flight back, bcoz I didn’t know what I paid for when I booked online was only for one way. But I told him it’s ok, I still like Air Asia, bcoz they gave me a VIP Pass on my birthday. Plus: they serve Chatime in flight. How cool is that? (Nico says: Chatime lang pala ang katapat. Hahaha.)

Our hotel in KL had small rooms, but the fact that there was a Chatime right across it more than made up for that. Hahaha.

In Sydney, I saw Gong Cha, Happy Lemon, and Chatime all around. EVERYTHING is expensive in Sydney, tho, and so I would just sigh when we pass by the milk tea shops. I couldn’t take it any more, tho, by our fifth day there. I saw a Chatime while we were having lunch at the Sydney Tower food court, and begged Ches to get me one, even if it cost him something like P300, triple its price here. I told him I was having withdrawal symptoms already. Hahaha.

Recently, Serenitea had an anniv promo where for a large drink, you get a free upgrade to a jumbo size, which is one whole liter of milk tea. The boys and I went to get it, and Ches even got the two of us seconds for the next day. Hahaha.

One liter is too much even for a milkteaholic like me. I could almost feel my tummy inflating as I sipped from the huge cup! It was definitely a winner, tho. Perfect end to a year filled with milk tea lovin’.