Saturday, August 29, 2015

Kid-themed birthday party

My friend Joyce turned a year older recently so we used this long weekend to meet up and celebrate together. To keep things interested, Mitch suggested that we have a kiddie party theme, where we would enjoy food that would normally be served during a children's birthday celebration. Everyone seemed to take to this idea so we ended up with legendary baked spaghetti prepared by Iona's mom, lumpiang shanghai prepared by Mitch, and fried chicken and mojos we ordered from Shakey's. I was supposed to bring a mocha (or mocha-inspired cake) but I wasn't able to get one so I instead brought a Red Velvet cake from Karen's Kitchen.

Since it was a kiddie party, we had to start mid-afternoon, which meant we started eating at around 4pm. Mitch's son even asked us why we were having dinner so early and we told him it was because it was a party. I brought my 7 Wonders tabletop game to the party and since Mitch told her kids that I would bring a game, everyone was eagerly anticipating getting to play it. I'm getting pretty good at explaining this game now (I mean, I did spend last long weekend teaching my friends how to play this so I should be good at this now). Once I started helping people figure out what they needed to do to earn as many points as possible, they all started getting the hang of it quite easily and the towards the end, everyone was starting to strategize even without my help. Mitch and Joyce actually wanted to play another round but the kids didn't want to anymore so we set it aside and then just ate again. :)

This is the first time in a long time that I actually got to hang out with my friends for most of the day without me being double-booked and having to rush to another activity. I'm really happy that I got to spend many quality hours with them today and hopefully, I get to hang out with them more (and maybe play more 7 Wonders).

Friday, August 28, 2015

Suits just got real

I just saw the midseason finale of Suits and wow, things have just gotten a whole lot more interesting. Which I guess shouldn't be a surprise given how the storyline has been progressing so far.

SPOILER ALERT: please stop reading if you don't want to know what happens in the midseason finale.

I actually lost a bit of interest in the more recent seasons of this show, mainly because I felt like the characters were devolving and behaving in ways that didn't seem in line with how they were portrayed early on. However, this season started tying things up more neatly and I started to understand people's motivations a lot more and their actions started making more sense. Also, the sword of Damocles hanging over Mike Ross' head - about him not really being a lawyer - felt like it was going to drop any time soon given how much more visible and influential he was becoming.

Everything came to a head in the last episode of Suits before it goes on its midseason break. It seemed everyone was in critical danger of losing something and in fact, a few of them did. That episode definitely left me hanging and I can't wait for the show to resume.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Way Back Wednesday: Paula Abdul choreographs Janet Jackson

I stumbled upon this video on youtube recently while looking for something else and it's really cool. Paula Abdul choreographed many of Janet Jackson's routines back in the 80s.


video uploaded in youtube by ILOVEJANET&MICHAELJACKSON ♡

Gotta say, you can tell how talented and professional those dancers by how easily and quickly they pick up the steps. :)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Board game weekend

The long weekend was a good excuse to gather my friends and play board games. I used to think that the complicated board games I have don't have wide appeal, due to their complicated nature. However, my recent trips to DyceNDyne and Ludo Cafe as well as my experiences playing Resistance made me realize that a lot of my friends have a good enough interest level in these complicated board games. I invited a couple of sets of friends for board game weekend - one set of friends on Friday and another on Saturday - and the result was hours and hours of fun and entertainment.

I decided to stick to just just two games. Ticket to Ride is always a good starting game because it's easy to explain. It's also ideal for 3-5 players so when a few people have arrived, game play can already start.

Ticket to Ride

Once people have gotten into the board game atmosphere, I bring out 7 Wonders. This is probably my favorite game (at least of the ones I've tried), not only because each round can be completed quite quickly (around 30 minutes) but also because up to seven players can play, which means it is ideal for big groups. The challenge with this game though is that it is very complicated to explain and both times I had to tell people we needed a trial run where I would help explain things to everyone as we played. Once we got through that very long and challenging first game, things started running more smoothly.

7 Wonders

I made sure that each set of friends played 7 Wonders multiple times so that people would sort of remember how to play it next time. (I mean, if we played this game only 1-3 times, it would be very easy for them to forget how to play it which means I would have to spend another hour or so explaining it to them.) I realized though that despite me playing this game so many times now, I have rarely won. I almost always end up in 2nd or 3rd place which I guess is a good thing. During the long weekend, I did end up winning once against each set of friends, but both times I only tied for first place (I was never a solo winner). I was almost always in the top 3 though, and often in the top 2. I guess my goal should be to win at this game more frequently. :)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Birthday at La Cocina De Tita Moning

La Cocina De Tita Moning is one of my family's favorite restaurants. The food is great and the ambience is luxurious yet informal and relaxed. The service is fantastic and the staff make you feel like you are part of their family. It is pretty expensive which is why we reserve this place for special occasions. My mom's birthday is of course a very special occasion so it was as good an excuse as any to take my family here to celebrate.


When we got there, one of their staff Malen told us that they were very relieved that we arrived because they forgot to ask for my contact number when I made the reservation. As such, they couldn't call me to confirm if we were pushing through. Nevertheless, they still went ahead and prepared the food for us. Cool! Since all of us had been here at least a couple of times, we told our guide Amver that we could skip the tour this time around. (Of course, while we were waiting for our food, we still looked around. :))


As expected, we all enjoyed our amazing meal and everyone was stuffed. And why wouldn't we? La Cocina De Tita Moning was awarded a certificate of excellence by tripadvisor in 2015.


I purchased three 10-ounce jars of Salsa Monja for my family (I would have gotten a bigger jar but they only had the 10-ounce jars when we were there) and I got a 7-ounce bottle of their Queso de Bola spread for my grandmother. I have now been to La Cocina De Tita Moning several times and each time has been a wonderful dining experience. I'm pretty sure I will visit this restaurant again in the future.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Restaurants I miss

As I was having enjoying a sticky bun from Cinnabon recently, I suddenly remembered Saint Cinnamon, a similar shop that I frequented many, many years ago. I don't think it's present in Manila anymore although a quick search online indicates that there is one in Glorietta 2, Megamall, and . I know there was a Saint Cinnamon in these places before but they all closed; I don't know if these online entries are outdated or if Saint Cinnamon has reopened so I think I will be checking out for myself some time soon as I do miss their cinnamon rolls.

Remembering Saint Cinnamon made me start thinking about all the other restaurants that aren't present in Manila anymore. Here's a quick list of some places I miss:

Sukho Thai
This was one of the first Thai restaurants in Manila. My family would sometimes go to Megamall just to have a meal here. This was where I first discovered and enjoyed Pad Thai, Chicken Pandan, and Bagoong Rice. The food was also relatively affordable and the portion sizes were good. There are a lot of Thai restaurants in Manila now but Sukho Thai still ranks as my favorite in terms of flavor and price range.

Full House
Back when I was in college, my friends and I would occasionally head to Full House along Katipunan to enjoy their Chicken Crepe. Obviously it was a bit more expensive than canteen food in school but compared to other restaurants, it was quite affordable, especially when you consider the quality of the food. I've had a lot of savory crepe dishes since, especially from Cafe Breton, but I haven't found a place that serves Chicken Crepe since.

Country Waffles
This was another family favorite. My family and I have always been fans of breakfast food and Country Waffles had a whole lot of dishes to offer. I always felt like a kid in a candy store when I would go here because there were so many options that appealed to me. We would usually visit the branch along Annapolis but there was another one in Glorietta. There are a lot of other similar restaurants scattered over Manila now so my cravings for breakfast food can easily be addressed but I do miss Country Waffles.

Dean St. Cafe
I visited that place a couple of times and I enjoyed what I had. I don't know if this place closed because it wasn't as lucrative or if the owners decided to close it for other reasons but this coffee place does predate Starbucks' presence in Manila. And back then, people still weren't that keen on spending a lot of money on expensive coffee.

Au Bon Pain
There was an Au Bon Pain near the place that I worked. I would sometimes get sandwiches there (not very frequently though) but what I did quite enjoy from this place was their Blueberry Danish.

Other restaurants that I miss: Adarna and Mr. Jones.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Dinner Reunions

I had an opportunity over the last couple of weeks to meet up with some friends who are now based abroad.

Dinner #1: Kapitolyo

I didn't realize how many restaurants there are now in the Kapitolyo area until I drover there several days ago to meet up with Pia and our other set of friends for dinner at Open Kitchen. I was actually extraordinarily late since I had a ton of work to do and I couldn't really leave until around 8:30 PM. I was worried it would take me forever to get to Kapitolyo but surprisingly, the traffic wasn't debilitating and I made it to the restaurant in about an hour. By then, my friends had all been together for about two and a half hours LOL. I arrived just in time too, because as I got comfortable in my seat, the waitress arrived to ask everyone for our last orders. I chose the Anise Pork Belly for my main and that was really good. For dessert, I got the Creme Brulee and had the Le Grande Reserve coffee. My food was served very quickly, probably because I was the only one ordering at the time. As it was near closing time, we stayed there for maybe about an hour more before bidding each other farewell. While I didn't get to hang out with everyone for very long, I was still happy I managed to spend some time with them and with Pia while she was still in town. I also think I want to try more restaurants in this area.

Dinner #2: BGC

So it seems BGC is really the popular venue now for many of my sets of friends for catching up. My friend Maileen and her husband Nick were in Manila for the first time in about four years. Their daughter just turned five and they had a party last weekend but since I was sick, I was unable to go. When dinner was organized with them while they were still here, I made sure to go. Dinner venue was in Mogu. I had the sukiyaki and while it was good, it wasn't significantly better than other sukiyaki dishes I've had (but this one is a lot more expensive LOL). Next time I'm here, I'll probably stick to the Harami or the Pork Kakuni. After dinner, a few of us wanted dessert and coffee while some wanted alcohol LOL (I was taking antibiotics so I had to stick to dessert and coffee) so we opted for Cav so that there would be something for everyone. I have to say that the dessert here is pretty expensive (everything we ordered was in the P350-395 range and the portion sizes are quite small). It was a shame that I was under medication since I haven't enjoyed wine in Cav in ages. Nevertheless, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, with great conversation and even greater company.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Inaanak #8

My cousin Rainier and his wife Doris asked me a few weeks ago if I could be one of the ninongs of their son, Joaquin. I was very honored that they would ask me so I immediately said yes. The Christening was held at the Serafic Hall of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes. My cousin Fr. John, who is Rainier's brother, was in Manila so he officiated the sacrament. This was the first time that I saw a total immersion baptism where the babies were fully submerged into the water three times. Most other baptisms I've been in the past involved only affusion.

Our lunch reception was held a short drive away from the church and the party was initially set-up to be outdoors, with a tent covering most of the tables. Unfortunately, it started raining that morning so all the tables were crammed into the dining area under the tent. Despite having less space than originally planned, there was enough room for us to enjoy the party.


Joaquin is now my 8th inaanak. Call my OC but I actually have a file that lists down all my godchildren and their birthdays. That way, I will always know how old they are during Christmas to make sure I get all of them gifts that are a good fit for their age. :) Welcome to the Christian world, Joaquin!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

An interesting birthday celebration

Well this was a first. My family had a celebration dinner for my brother's birthday without him. :)

We didn't really have specific plans to celebrate my brother's birthday but historically, we have always gone out for dinner. My brother works an odd shift so when I got home, I saw that he was still asleep so I couldn't ask him what he wanted to do. I decided to just pick my grandmother up and take her to the cemetery so we could visit my grandfather before heading back home. I had to run an urgent errand for my mom so I left my grandma at home first. When I returned, my brother was still asleep but it was quite late in the evening already. I figured, since my grandmother was already with us, we may as well go out.

We headed to Alex III. This place isn't as popular now as it was back in the day but the food here is still pretty topnotch. While the meal prices are a bit high, the serving sizes are pretty hefty. Some of our favorites dishes include the Pinakbet sa Bagnet, Bicol Laing, and the Premium Pork Barbecue. To make sure my brother could somehow be part of our dinner, I ordered take-out for him and I also over-ordered so that we could take home a lot of leftovers. That way, he would be able to enjoy some good food when he was finally up.


Friday, August 14, 2015

My Photobook Collection

I have always preferred looking at pictures in an album than in a laptop or some other electronic gadget. In fact, I have a few photo albums that display pictures from trips I took back in the late 90s to early 2000s. However, in 2007, a colleague of mine showed me a book that contained her family pictures. I thought this was a better alternative to photo albums mainly because a book is less bulky than a photo album. I did some research on these picture book options before finally settling with Photobook Philippines. I made my first photobook in early 2012 and I haven't stopped since.

some of my large landscape photobooks

Since then, I have created a total of 46 photobooks. 27 of those are mine (or my family's) and 19 of those were gifts for friends. That's more than 10 books a year! (I didn't realize until now how much time I have actually devoted to photobooking LOL.) I usually stick to two book sizes. I use large landscape (15" x 11") for trips where I have really good photos. That way, I end up with something like a cofee table book and I can appreciate the pictures even more. If I feel that my photos aren't that great, I will make medium landscape (11" x 8.5").

some of my medium landscape photobooks

I also tend to use just a bare white background for trips where I feel my photos are really beautiful so that the focus is on the pictures and not on the background.

sample spread of my Sagada/Banaue photobook

However, not all my travels have stunning pictures. In these cases, I will often opt to use a readybook template to make the pages slightly more interesting.


sample spread of my Copenhagen photobook

I also have a few books with different sizes, such as large portrait, medium portrait, and large square. I made these when I was just starting but I have since stopped using them. I figured I want most of my books to have the same size so it will be easier to store them. :)

some of my other photobooks of different sizes

Almost all my photobooks contain pictures of my travels (I do have one that is a compilation of the different corporate social responsibility activities I organized and participated in a few years ago). I have to say that I am tremendously fortunate and very grateful to have been able to travel - both locally and internationally - as much as I have. Over the years, I have gotten a lot better in laying out my photobooks and sometimes, when I look at some of my earlier works, I wish I could change how I put some of the pages together. However, a lot of my friends have told me that one of their favorites is the Iceland book, and that was one of the first few ones that I made (I guess it's because of the awesome pictures and the fact that not many people realize until they see these photos how beautiful Iceland is). Getting to look at my books every now and then always makes me smile and brings back a ton of memories so while it does take a lot of effort, I plan to continue making books in the future. My next project? My Russia trip. :)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Taking our dog to the vet

A couple of weeks ago, my mom texted me saying that we needed to take our dog to the vet. He had barely eaten in the previous two weeks and he looked very weary and lethargic. While there were some vet clinics near our house, I was more comfortable taking him to Animal House which is where we took our cat, Petal, many times before. I already know the people there and I feel like they are better equipped at providing the necessary pet care so I figured the longer drive would be worth it.

Since we didn't have a cage big enough to fit our dog, I asked my nephew to join me in the car so he could keep our dog calm during the ride. Indeed, as I was driving, my nephew told me that our dog was shaking (it was his first time in a car). I tried driving a bit more slowly so as not to rattle him any further so it took a bit longer to get to Animal House. Once we got there, the vet took his temperature and true enough, he had a fever. She then took some blood so she could run some tests and she told us to wait for the results.

After around 20 minutes, the vet tells us that our dog's platelet count is quite low, most likely due to a parasitic infection. She prescribes antibiotics and tells us to make sure our dog takes 2 tablets a day. She told us that if the medicine does work, our dog will start eating more and he will become more energetic in just 3-5 days. True enough, after five days, my mom tells me that our dog was eating more regularly and was looking a lot better. When I saw our dog last Sunday, he was healthier than he was a week before and he also gained back the weight he lost (or at least some of it). It was a bit of an effort to take our dog to the vet but I'm happy we did because his condition may have gotten worse if he remained untreated. Hopefully, he continues to get better.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Angel by Sarah MacLachlan

One of the most beautifully poignant songs, sung by one of the most hauntingly captivating voices.


video uploaded in youtube by sarahmclachlanVEVO

Friday, August 07, 2015

Prayers for Ángel Ariel Escalante Pérez

This is one of the saddest things I've come across recently. 12-year-old boy Ángel Ariel Escalante Pérez was thrown off a bridge in Guatemala by a gang. The gang wanted him to shoot a stranger but he refused. He was then given a choice of being thrown off a bridge or hacked to death by a machete. He chose the former.

As if that wasn't horrific enough, Ángel somehow survived the fall. Unfortunately, he was too injured to move so he lay hidden underneath thick foliage for three days before his father and their family and friends found him. He stayed alive for 15 more days before he finally succumbed to his injuries and passed away.

Read more about this heartbreaking story here.

I haven't been disturbed and saddened by a story about someone I don't personally know since maybe typhoon Yolanda hit Visayas a couple of years ago. Just the through of the terror that a young boy would go through when asked to kill someone, then to be given a choice of how to be killed, then to be thrown off a bridge, then to lie injured and alone for three days before being found. I think the only possibly good thing about this is that at least he got to see his father and family before he died.

I have been praying for Ángel and his family since I learned about this. I hope you can spare a thought or prayer for him too.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Way Back Wednesday: Final Scene from Friends

This final scene from Friends is one of my favorite endings of a TV series (at least among those I followed). It is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time and it was a perfect way to say goodbye to a group of characters I had grown up watching.


video uploaded in youtube by Dreamer1422

The beautiful music used in this scene is Embryonic Journey by Jefferson Airplane.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Two movies in a week

I finally got to see Minions last week while it was still on its theatrical run in Manila. Shortly after that, I got to watch Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

I really enjoyed this film. It has lots of great action, daring stunts and intense, heart-pounding sequences. There's even some political power-play and maneuvering to keep things interesting. The storytelling is brisk and the acting is solid. I love the relationship that the characters have with each other. This year has been about spy films as my favorite movies of the year have been Kingsman, Spy, and now this.

Minions


I heard from a couple of friends that Minions was just okay. I also saw on Rotten Tomatoes that it didn't have a very good score (it currently has a 54% rating only). Nevertheless, I decided to go see it for myself. The verdict? I tend to agree with my friends and rotten tomatoes. There are of course many really funny moments and it's still pretty good but I can't say I consider this to be a must-see movie. It would have been fine for me to just see it at home on TV.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Nadal wins, third time's the charm

Congratulations to Rafa Nadal for winning the Hamburg t. His win allowed him to exact revenge against his 2015 nemesis, Fabio Fognini, who beat him twice this year. His straight sets win over Fognini in the final was his first win over his Italian opponent in three attempts this year, thus taking home his third title of the year.

Nadal is still not quite there yet in terms of his fighting form, but a title is a title, and he is now trying to win enough points to rejoin the top 8 of the ATP tour and qualify for the year-end championships. He now has 47 clay court titles, just 2 behind the current record of 49 held by Guillermo Vilas. Hopefully, Nadal can tie or break this record.

While he is nowhere near his peak form (check out this video that shows just how phenomenal he was when he was playing well), I still believe he can still win at least one more Grand Slam title before he hangs up his racquet and calls it a career. I also think he's good enough to win 10 more titles. If that happens, he can tie John McEnroe in terms of number of career titles with 77.

*****

While we are on the topic, here's a funny moment during the trophy presentation ceremony. Rafa experiences leg cramps during his awarding speech. :)

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Look at the bright side

I got up relatively early today to go to the clinic to see my doctor for a follow-up check-up. I got there with about 45 minutes before the end of clinic hours but unfortunately, I was told when I arrived that my doctor left early for some personal errands. Argh! It was very frustrating because I wasted a lot of time on a weekend morning that I could have spent sleeping or doing something else.

It was close to lunch time as I was heading home, so to make the most the most of my available time, I decided to pass by Century City Mall, which wasn't too far from the clinic. I saw a TV show recently where the hosts were trying out some restaurants in Hole in the Wall and I thought I would like to try this place out myself.

Once I got to the mall, I passed by Cotton On which was apparently on sale. I decided to take a quick look and as luck would have it, the shirts that were on sale fit me quite decently. For me, that's a bit of a find because it's not that easy for me to find shirts that fit well given how everything is slim fit nowadays. A couple of items on sale had designs and colors that I don't have in my wardrobe yet. As such, I ended up getting those two shirts at P600 each. Cool!

After my quick shopping detour (it took maybe 10 to 15 minutes for me to select those 2 shirts, try them on, and buy them LOL), I headed up to the 4th floor to have lunch at Hole in the Wall. It was a bit daunting at first because there are so many different restaurants there. I ended up trying the Black Vinegar Pork Chop at Kwong's Provisions. It was pretty tasty and the portion size was quite big. I didn't have room for dessert after that so I instead got a couple of cookies from Scout's Honor.

So while the day started out pretty poorly, it all turned out pretty well. I would most likely not have gone to Century City Mall earlier today if my doctor was at her clinic because I had an appointment in the middle of the afternoon and if my follow-up check-up pushed through, there wouldn't have been enough time for me to visit the mall afterwards. If I didn't get to visit the mall, I would've missed the two shirts I saw that were on sale and I wouldn't have been able to try Hole in the Wall. Pretty cool!