Monday, December 27, 2010

What Yen Did

one of the things i do extremely well is make mountains out of molehills. take the unfortunate situation of a noche buena without my mother or my kitchen diva sister for example. i could have gone the buy-this ulam, buy-that dessert route (a patented technique of one smart cousin), sat back and enjoyed the holidays. but no. that would be so un-me. so this is what i did starting at 2pm, christmas eve:

this was the plan. wait. aside from a penchant for the complicated, i am terribly, clinically optimistic. i made the ham myself. from scratch. i bought the meat fresh (slightly less than a kilo, sayang ang pera if i botch the experiment), prepared the brine, cured it, boiled it, baked it encrusted with sugar. this is how it came out:

it was tougher and stringier than hoped but i was gunning for jamon iberico. not that i have ever tasted spanish ham. but you know what i mean.

compared to the hams in the grocery freezer, it did quite well, thank you very much. not one member of the family had a stomach ace. and the total cost? 250 pesos, tops. take that, CDO.

then i had fried garlic rice, a favorite. no brainer. i have been doing this since grade school. only at that time, i didn't bother frying it. or even adding garlic. it was old and cold rice + used oil + salt and/or toyo. this is the foundation of my elevated gastronomic standards.
and while all of this was cooking, jana was busy with the drinks.

she wanted to make umbrellas but even i shot that idea down.

these were what she made, frilled up glasses, all in a row. waiting for its occupants.

after baking the ham, i left the gas on in preparation for the lasagna. while that was going on, i did the sweets. two days ago i made fruit salad, upon the request of diego and gabriel. the leftover cherries (29 pesos for 100 grams at mindpro grocery) went on top of it.

got this assortment of fudge from a cousin. the plate is from big v's -- 29 pesoses only!

and this is the biggest hit of the season in my family and with a lot of my friends. faye lorenzo go's double chocolate cookies. they are the very best i have ever tasted. and not too expensive. they are 150 for a dozen but the cookies are large (and the packaging is simple but pretty) so they are really super worth it. i ordered several one dozen packs to give to friends and i got great reviews. i wish i can say YES to everyone who said "did you bake it? it was sooooo goood!". but alas, i was thinking of santa checking me out and all that.

at this point in time, the gasul went kaput. what a time to run out of gasul. and i am NOT doing uling. i am optimistic, not suicidal.

husband, who schedules these things, could not believe it either: he bought it november 7, so it should have lasted us until january 5 at the earliest. yes. my husband tracks things this closely. i let him deal with it and whiled away the time i didn't have to take a picture of our PATHETIC christmas tree.

i pity my kids for having this as part of their hallmark memories.

but i am happier with our wreath. we made it with the christmas wrapping papers i went on and on about in an earlier blog post.

while still waiting for the gasul, i made myself the guinea pig for the castrated shirley temple: a lot of sprite, a very little grenadine, a lot of ice, and the fruity swizzle stick. husband gagged at the taste. but i did it for the kids, not for him. hmmp. my target audience loved it. so, mission accomplished.

when the gasul was back, we did the white sauce (bechamel, naks!) for the lasagna. the red sauce i already did two days before so it was more of an assembly work.

and while this was baking, i made the stir fry, our token vegetable in the menu.

i just took a picture of it in the carajay. do you know how tiring it is to cook the food, deal with christmas-crazed kids, and take pictures of the food at the same time?

but the OC in me reared its ugly head....and insisted on a picture of the gulay in its presentation plate, just like all the others.

and finally, the prawns. another no brainer.

just steam the prawns.

and dump this in. works 100% of the time.

and our centerpiece was this, courtesy of jana, our very own documentor.

merry christmas, everyone!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

it's a wrap!

gift wrapper buying, a fast and painless procedure for most people, is a highly hazardous operation for me. i have never gone christmas wrapper shopping and not spend more money than i should have, or more time than i have. never.

this christmas i spent an hour scouting the stores (shop o rama, shopper's central, shopper's plaza). when i finally found the one with the best looking ones (bloomingdale's at mindpro -- many years has passed since it opened and i am still uncomfortable with its name) i spent an hour and a half there. thankfully, the woman in charge of the gift wrapping section was indulgent.

this is my harvest:

they are all by hallmark. if i remember right, they are php 13 each. except for the glittery green one. that one is expensive. well, expensive considering it's just paper. which you will use to wrap boxes. which other people will tear apart to get to what is in the box. i have three more expensive ones (50, 55 pesos, hehe) but i will not post them here because they don't look like much. in photos they look like cartolinas. but in real life they are so pretty i can go around just hugging them.

what i look for in my wrappers? that the paper is good, the printing is good, and the design is great. and as ever, i am hopeful that i will be able to find designs which are, if not Filipino, then at least nothing too european nor too american.

my favorite. i know it doesn't look christmas-y. but that just might be why i love it. i think i am going back to the store and get ten more of this.

i like the color of this too. acid pink, purple, and lime green. yummy!

of course, being a mother to four kids and godmomma to about a half-dozen inaanaks, i have to have wrappers for children. i bought three designs, and this is the one i like best. which doesn't mean the kid who will get a gift wrapped in this is my favorite. kids, in my experience, don't really care about the wrapper. they're only interested in abusing the wrapper.

i love this design. but of course, i am already violating my "nothing too european" "rule". :((

sorry for the bad picture but this is really a cute print. the reindeers are adorable. no reindeers in our part of the world but i couldn't resist.

and i give up. wala ba talagang pinoy themed, or at least "world" themed wrappers for kids? but still, isn't this sooooooooooo cute. santa was here! santa was here!

i had to have some traditional wrappers too. for the old fashioned people on my list. my mom for example. i will save myself the grief of having to explain to her my gift wrap choice by just giving her something expected.

this one falls under the last category also.

and this is my favorite in the traditional theme category.

i look forward to next year's pickings.

a champ takes over a clam's place in my heart

i have a feeling what i am about to announce will trigger a collective sigh of relief among my family and friends.

today is the day i say goodbye to my five (six? seven?) year old nokia cell phone. good bye friend. you served me well. this is such an old model that when i searched for "old nokia flip top models", this didn't show up at all. i know of only one other person who still has this phone but i bet he's going to abandon it soon as well, seeing as he might do a paris junket next year. and we can't have parisians thinking filipinos still use phones like these, can we?

hello samsung champ. bear with me as i struggle with learning how to abuse you.

thanks to the giver. you know i only lost the last phone you gave me because of typhoon ondoy, right?

so there. friends, family, you can again invite me out to dinner with peace in your hearts, knowing you have no more need to duck your head in shame as i take out my cellphone to take calls or to send messages, etc., etc..

Friday, November 19, 2010

We love you Bruno!

the silence that greeted the family this morning was sad. the member of the family that croaks "kumain ka na ba?" to whoever is the first to wake up was eerily silent.

here lies bruno, a beloved member of the family. he who generously provided entertainment to the neighborhood kids and teens just by being himself, always obliging their clamor for his one-liners. bruno could have won barangay sta. maria kagawad, he was so popular.

this is the same creature who loves letting rip a lunatic cackle at the slightest or even no provocation. his high pitched "HAHAHAHAHAHAHA" and sex maniac wolf whistle could be heard by our neighbors four, five houses away.

we came home yesterday to see you dead in your cage. the kids had called us at the office in panic but we wanted to see for ourselves.

we buried your body last night in the backyard, under the clothesline. your adoptive father needed a soft place to dig. do not begrudge him his choice of location, he was practically inconsolable last night (aside from slightly annoyed that yaya mila misplaced the shovel). the flowers are from jana, the lego cross is from both gabriel and diego. the candle is from me. jana led the prayers. may you now be in myna bird heaven.

this is our last picture of you, taken just one week ago.

now that you are gone, what will your adoptive father do when he wakes up? whose cage will he clean? who will he prepare pellets and fruits for? whose bath water will replace? who will he have a one-sided conversation with?

he could not stop talking about why you died and if it was his fault. he blames himself for giving you saging saba instead of table bananas. he thinks that is what killed you, indigestion.

good bye, bruno. we sorely miss you.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


i am reading this book called 100 ways to motivate other people. i borrowed this gleefully from the library, thinking YES! i will now have the secret formula to make others do this, do that. haha.

but not even halfway through it, i already feel massively cheated. teaching you to motivate others is only a consequence of the primary purpose of the authors. all they really want to do is to motivate YOU to motivate others!

and so because of this book, i have been a good girl the whole morning. like doing "the worst first". that means choosing the task you don't want to do the most, and doing that first.

where is the fun in that?

in any case, to reward myself for the productivity, albeit unwillingly done, i gave myself a GLAM manicure over the lunch break.

it does not go at all with the rest of the day's outfit but it was the only color i had (maybelline express finish GLITTER (the all caps this time is maybelline's, not mine). i could have gone to the salon two doors away but that would have set me back 120 pesos and i don't think i was THAT productive.

i look at it squinting because it is really, really badly done. there's more glitter on the pads of my fingers than on my nails. but hurray for productivity!

now lunch break's over. back to work!

have to return that book back to the library before it does any more damage.

Monday, November 8, 2010

When I grow up I am going to marry...

two hours ago, i didn't even know who or what cobus potgieter is.

now i want two things from him:

1. i want him to marry me.

2. i want him to become me.

shet. he is living out my rock star dream.

and he then he goes:
"I am not even closely interested in Rock vs Pop politics, debating the difference between "good" and "bad" quality music is irrelevant to how much fun it might be to jam along to. LOVED jamming along to this song, when groove meets power, you have one very satisfied Cobus."

and then he goes on to play this

Lucky Children

the orphanage in talon-talon is officially called the Reception and Study Center for Children. i know. the name gives you absolutely no clue on what they're all about. reception makes you think of a convention hall. "study center" makes you think of either a library or a research institute. must be social welfare jargon.

the date to visit the orphanage was made by may maravilles, kiko miranda, and me on friday but by sunday, the party of three has happily grown to eight: may's val, my ariel, kenny (ownerless), ruselle (ditto), and ruth (ditto). mister donut made a killing from the delegation that morning. we all got our pasalubongs from them. may went the extra mile and threaded crystal bracelets for little girls.

although i had no expectations, i was taken aback by what i experienced. i did not expect the place to be so clean, the staff to be so down-to-earth, the babies to smell and feel so good.

this is the toddler's room. there were around six babies in here when we came in. some sleeping, some playing, some just fooling around. there were six cribs in the other side of the room, each housing one child. the room was very bright and clean. it had an aircon but it was blackout so the windows were open. the toddlers were all dry, clean, fresh-smelling. only one child, a boy in a crib, was crying. we were told he has palsy. the spastic kind. his back was stiffly arched the whole time we were there, and he was crying. maybe from pain? exhaustion? i don't know. i took him up -- he was perspiring heavily, maybe from exertion -- and imagine this, he stopped crying. instantaneously! i have never felt so angelic in all my life!

this is that boy. it is him who got carried but it is ruth that has the bright smile on her face.

the thing about the kids in the place was that, once you carry them, no matter if the child is the 5 month old girl in the nursery, this boy with cerebral palsy in the toddler room, or an older child in the older children's room, once you carry them, they will cling to you for dear life. they are all so hungry to be touched. at that moment, all i wanted to do was grab all of them and do as buddha does.

this is kenny, kiko, and russelle with their respective toddlers. when it was time for us to leave and kenny put his child back in the pen, this little boy bawled his insides out and when that didn't work, he ran after kenny and when that didn't work either, he slammed his entire boy into the mattress. i swear, any WWF wrestler would envy his technique. in the end though, we had to leave.

that's the other thing. you go there, you hug them, but you know you will have to leave. leave with an aching heart, yes. but still you have to go. back to work, back to your "real" kids. the orphans on the other hand don't know that. each time someone comes and carries them, they will give you their heart. what to do with the heart that they entrust to us?

this is mariel from the nursery. she smelled of baby shampoo and powder. (i need to talk to them about the bad effects of baby powder hehe). when she felt me disentangling her and starting the back-to-the-crib-you-go maneuver, she stiffened her body to make things hard for me and gave a little whimper. i finally managed to distract her by filling her crib with toys.

i think my husband fell in love with this baby. "parang si gabriel", he said. when i told him the child's background, all he could do was shake his head.

each child has a story, all tragic. the most tragic of all are the blank stories. these belong to children with no provenance.

parents: UNKNOWN
hometown: UNKNOWN
birthdate: UNKNOWN
any known relatives: NONE

to me that is just a shitty thing to give to a child.

this is margot. may fell in love with her before they met. margot has pretty eyes and a sad history.

after the nursery and the toddler room, we went to the regular children's room. like in the other rooms, the kids were clean, had shiny hair and shiny skin. mukhang alagang-alaga. there were a group of orphans who spoke American accented English. apparently, they grew up in an orphanage run by americans or something like that. asked where he is from, one boy replied "sahn howsey, takhlohbahn".

like any regular kids, they wanted a second and a third donut. but i noticed that if they wanted some more, they asked nicely and not just grabbed. one of the big kids caught me by surprise though. He reached into the box with both hands, groped the sweet stuff and helped himself to three! when i looked up, i realized he was blind on both eyes. he didn't even know what it was we were giving him. he just queued for it because that was what everybody else was doing it. he brought his loot to a corner, smelled it, then put one inside his mouth, then the two others.

this is a photo of some of the girls, eating their donut. i am between kenny and tita cory motomal, one of the administrators or directors of the place. what an interesting woman. when we got to the place, she was inside her car. she came out when she saw us, saying: i was here kanina pa, but i did not want to get out of the car because the music playing was beautiful."

enjoying their munchkin.

then we went to the isolation room. this is where they put children who have special needs. the eldest child in the place, Nur, is their de facto ate. she carried the donuts with her and doled it out like santa. nur has a best friend who stays at the isolation room, marvin. nur favors marvin. she would give marvin first and the most and more frequently.

this is Nur making like Santa in the isolation room. the boy in orange is funny. he was not interested in the donut AT ALL. he is interested in everything else, it seems. for example, when we came in, he stood next to me and studied the buckle of my bag intently, fiddling with it a little. then he moved on to the camera case hanging off ruth's (i think) bag. then at someone else's belt.

this is how his face looks like when he is obsessing on something. look at that brow scrunch in concentration. i think this was the time he was studying the construction of the camera case. in his hand is his uneaten munchkin.

p.s. salamat kay kiko for these pictures. they're all from his facebook album. i bought my cam but i got so taken up with the kids i forgot to take it out of the bag. alibis, alibis.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Diego!

this is our son diego, he turned six yesterday. here he is at the carnival on tetuan highway. he basically decided on his birthday night's itinerary: dinner at jollibee then the carnival.

diego is cool. cool in a fonzie! kind of way. in that sense, he is so much like his father. when his father was 21.

this is diego, sharing a peek into the viewfinder with gabriel's mr. bear. notice that the camera has no lens. diego and the bear don't care.

diego likes to take pictures as much as he likes to pose for pictures.

i asked him what he likes doing most, taking pictures of posing for pictures, he said: the same!