Happy tummy, happy memories

What is it about food and the memories they evoke? I don’t know about you, but my elephant of a memory tends to connect occasions I celebrate with food or the places where I went to remember them by.

I remember “firsts” and count their “anniversaries” with the restaurants I went to and the food I ordered. Happy tummy, happy memories, indeed.

I happily remember the last meal I enjoyed with my family when I left Manila last July. A hearty meal at Corazon over at the East Wing of Shangrila Plaza mall. It was a family luncheon of gourmet Filipino food before I hopped on the plane taking me back home to New York.

Family meal last year at Corazon Restaurant in Shangrila Plaza
CIUDED REAL: Lechon Kawali with Laing by Corazon

I can cook but can’t really indulge in Filipino food here in the big apple, primarily because most Filipino dishes are best enjoyed with rice, a staple I gave up more than 2 decades ago. Then there’s the fact that it’s just myself and my not so little guy anymore — so that’s two people eating viands for a family of 4, and that’s if my super picky dining partner here will even dig into the likes of “Laing” (pictured above) or “sisig” (below). But when I’m in Manila, there’s no dieting for me!

Family meal last year at Corazon Restaurant in Shangrila Plaza
PACO: Pork Sisig, sautéed with onions, chili’s and secret spices

I look back to first meetings or being reunited with friends over brunch.. and while I remember the place we had originally wanted to visit then turned out to have closed already, we landed somewhere else where I had one of the best ever French toasts I’ve had.

My memories of that place and the food and that occasion so many years ago, bring me back to happy thoughts and feelings. The type that having a French toast breakfast brings me back to.

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So to celebrate one of those happy memories this week, I did one of my favorite versions of a crispy French toast I picked up many years ago at one of the hotels I had visited with family. Not exactly the same version I was remembering, but it brought me back to the happy place I am grateful for.

Simple enough.. dip the bread in beaten egg slightly thinned with milk, then coat the slice in Frosted Flakes that have been crushed to smaller pieces. (I like crushing the cereal by hand while in their original plastic container, when the cereal bag has probably a cup or so left.). Toast on a nonstick skillet in butter. No healthy detours — butter or it won’t be French toast!

I like my French toast with some sliced strawberry or banana, slathered with syrup, then bathed with heavy cream. Even just writing that makes me smile — more so when I go back to the memories they bring me.

I am grateful. Those memories come with wave after wave of happy thoughts. And I find myself comforted knowing that I have made some good choices that have brought me to this happy place I am in today. I haven’t always agreed with the choices the universe made for me, but this one steadied me and made me a wiser and better person. French toast at this time of the year will always be a reminder to me of how I have been lucky in many respects. There were a lot of things that worked out and which proved me right, time and again. I am a stronger, better and happier person now, thanks to a bit of French toast one chilly morning years ago.

Waking up to a new normal

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It’s been almost two weeks since I started working from home and waking up to the new reality of living the corona virus pandemic. It’s been an experience I’ve wanted to write about since day 1, but first, real work interfered. Thanks to technology, the company I work for was well positioned to operate remotely. My position, assisting one of the chief somethings of a Fortune 500 company, has always been set up to be able to work from home. It wasn’t so much preparedness for a situation like the one we are in right now, but more for those instances when working beyond the regular office hours became necessary.

I’ve been meaning to write, but I know that the stress of the current situation has made it more difficult in terms of getting the words out. But after going full steam into adjusting to the situation, I think I’ve gotten a better grip and have somehow steadied my gait.

I log on to the company system and begin work — dealing with the stream of emails absent the usual calls. Because of the prevailing situation worldwide, work has been busy and my first week was exhausting. You’d think working from home was such a perk, but it takes real effort when you’re trying to do your normal office routine.

I’ve been working off of a smaller laptop screen, and trying to resist working via a regular keyboard. I’ve been vacillating between hooking up an old monitor here at home or ordering a new one. Both options seem to be surrendering to the fact that this is not going to be a situation for the short term, which is probably why I have been resisting it. However, I might soon have to succumb to the reality that my eyes are not taking too kindly to the smaller screen. Just part of the adjustment to the new home office situation.

I’ve been to the grocery three times since — and I’ve had several deliveries from online shopping. Although we keep getting reassured that there is no shortage of basic necessities, there have been empty shelves and less options — but it is heartening to see that the local grocery has been restocking.

Corona Diaries

Still, there are many items which have remained out of stock. I fell in line for hand sanitizers in Bath & Body works days before New York Governor Cuomo urged offices in NYC to reduce their office workforce. Their bins were empty when I visited, but I got the tip from the store clerks that a delivery was coming in the following morning. So I went in before heading to the office and I saw the line snaking several times within the store. It took more than half an hour for me to reach the counter. The hand sanitizers retailed for $1.95 but was available for a promo sale of 5 for $8 but only for the first 10 pieces. After that, you had to buy the 11th piece on for regular retail.

I have my own opinion about that whole set up, but I’d rather save it for another post. Like most everyone else, I got more than the 10 pieces — I’m guilty of having bought maybe around 30. I had promised a friend at work I’d grab her 5 if I ever got the chance to.

Corona Diaries

I have a small Keyfood nearby and a Walgreens. Like I said, I’ve gone there probably three times — going there once a week like I would on any normal weekend. I went with disposable gloves, making sure not to touch my face. The toilet paper shelves were empty — but I am pretty good with that for a bit. The fresh produce was well-stocked. It was the meat and poultry section, as well as the bread which was nearing empty. They did restock, but selectively. The grocery shelves, for the most part, didn’t exactly scream normal. It was a stark reminder that things were disappearing from the shelves even if they were being restocked.

My grocery delivery, Freshdirect, has not delivered any meat or poultry that I have ordered the last two times. That’s basically the reason I’ve stepped out to get other things from the local grocery. Despite being a delivery pass member which is supposed to mean I get priority in reserving a delivery slot, the delivery slots have been pushed further and there aren’t really that many choices available. Items that are “available” to put in my “shopping cart” also disappear by the time I check out. I’d like to think that it’s the sheer volume of orders they are receiving that’s caused this, and not exactly because their stocks are running low.

While online retailers continue to be open, most basic stocks have been reduced to being available in store only because of high demand. So cereal is a hit or miss, and even your regular Mac n’ cheese. Forget about bottled water. I am trying not to get too stressed about it but it’s taking a bit of an adjustment. People seem to walk around normally — but there’s a bigger group of people wearing masks now. I didn’t wear any last week, but the numbers have jumped high enough to even make me sew my own masks in that same vein of getting ready, “just in case’.

A friend had procured two n-95 masks for my son and I before we stopped working at the office. I somehow managed to misplace mine but my son’s is here. He hasn’t really been going out except to be with his Dad. I have tried to minimize his being outdoors to the point that I haven’t asked him to do chores — I prefer that I be the one going out, receiving the deliveries and throwing the trash.

Fortunately, there’s only my 15 year old son and I. I am well stocked for his staples, but there’s this nagging feeling that makes me want to keep the stocks I have at this level. So as we consume the food, I feel like I want to keep the pantry stocked as they are. I really have no reason to worry for myself — I have always eaten light, and I have always been dieting one way or the other. I can adjust to what I have on hand. It’s a different thing for my Uber picky teen. So I made sure my rice is stocked, even requesting his father to get us an extra bag of rice when he got one for himself. My son really has a very limited repertoire so I just need to make sure I’m covered for more than two weeks.

So our tiny apartment has been our literal refuge the last two weeks, and from the looks of it, will be our literal four corners for more weeks to come. I am grateful that the New York School systems and his high school in particular, has successfully rolled out online learning. Not quite your usual classes, but there have been videos to watch, school work to read and download and submit. It hasn’t been a total standstill on that front.

When the offices and shops decided to shutter their operations, leaving only essential services open, I couldn’t help but think of the families who depended on the breakfast and lunch offered for free in New York City schools. Governor Cuomo made it known that was one huge consideration in not suspending classes. Fortunately, that has been solved and children are now able to pick up bags with their meals from the schools. I thought of the workers who relied on hourly wages which meant no work, no pay.

I have had difficulty getting to sleep even when the workday saw me drained and exhausted when I finally logged off. I would sometimes end up napping in front of the TV at the end of the day, but when I lay my head to sleep, I would find myself awake well past midnight.

Staying connected with friends and family overseas has been a blessing. I FaceTime with my 80 year old mother more now. We say I love you. I tell her she needs to stay indoors. My son and I were actually planning a weeklong trip home to celebrate her 80th birthday on March 9. We were planning to fly out on March 5 and return on March 15. I kept postponing booking the flight home despite the bargains because the Philippine president was threatening to cut off every avenue I was planning to take to get to and from Manila, and self quarantining was becoming a thing on this side of the world. The biggest threat was being cut off if travel was somehow curtailed between Manila and New York. It turned out to be a good decision to hold off. We will just celebrate whenever we can make it to Manila again, even if it means celebrating in December.

Governor Cuomo’s daily press conferences have been a staple in my calendar. I watch the White House press conferences only because I wait for the reassuring presence of Dr. Fauci. The numbers can be alarming but the truth of it is, other than hunkering down, I really can’t do anything. I am hoping that the other families around me are doing the same, staying home. I’ve seen countless video online of physicians and artists banding together commending the great humanitarian effort from all sides of the world to save as many people as possible. And they fight on, with a simple request from those of us who don’t as yet, need their care — that we stay home.

So I’m trying to do my part. I’m staying home. I’m hoping to ride out this crisis with my fingers crossed and all the prayers sent to heaven, that if we do get affected by it, that it be in a way where we will not need any medical care. That we will be able to ride it out as if it were just a regular cold or bout of flu. I wish.

I’ve rambled on long enough. There are more stories to tell. I am hoping I can keep writing. For now, I have to do my Sunday chores, get ready for the week ahead, and maybe sew another mask or two. I think I’ll have a glass of wine, and maybe have a salad for dinner.

I was thinking of going to the grocery. But I don’t really need to. Not until I see what Freshdirect delivers tomorrow evening. Fingers crossed.. yet again.

Friday Five: Take 2

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Five goals. Five tasks. Five things I hope to do over a cold, cold weekend up ahead.

So two Fridays ago, I wrote my first Friday Five post for the year.  I wasn’t too keen about a follow up the following week because the truth of the matter was, I was distracted over the weekend and didn’t get much done.  But before I write the next, I thought I owed myself a quick rundown as a reminder to work harder on this.

1. Work on the destash. Identify 5 items to give away and clear out some of the junk in my room. – The closet is an ongoing project so this did get done.

2. Go through my shoe rack. This is a rather emotional issue for me which I will work harder on.  Maybe this week?

3. Write a letter. I actually started writing one but didn’t quite get anywhere.  Definitely this weekend!

4. Finish three pieces for the shop. Blame it on the art journaling.  This was totally an epic fail.

5. Pack away.  Off the list!  I actually got to a good start.. and then…

So that was the recap.  What’s for the next weekend?

1.  Continue with the destash.  (Yay!)

2.  Go through the shoe rack and throw at least 3 pairs that need to go to the shoe grave.

3.  Letters and cards that need to be written and sent.

4.  One piece for the shop.  I thought I’d keep the goal modest to actually make it a reality.

5. Sort and store the cards I got from the Papyrus closing out sale.  Sad.  Those who know me well know that I have a thing for paper.. and make up.. but Papyrus is all about paper.  As they cleaned out their shelves on their last day yesterday, the branch here in Grand Central sold the cards for 10 cents each.  I looked at Father’s Day cards not to give or sell but for the components on the card I could maybe use in crafting.  It was scrapbooking and mixed media heaven for me.  And now I have to sort and put them away so that my holiday cardsy can be ready for Christmas.  (Yes, and I regretted having bought my boxed cards for next Christmas when they went on sale.. )

Fridays nowadays always make me think of sleep.. and more sleep.  And yet I cannot even get myself to nap anymore.  I have been throwing away a lot of stuff so I know I am making progress in getting my topsy-turvy world in a bit of order.  I am hopeful it will be a productive weekend for me.

Happy Friday, everyone!

And January and February ran past

Can you believe that we are now almost done with the first quarter of the year? I can and cannot. Can because it has been a busy first two months of the year. Cannot because how could it have gone by soooo fast?!

And I was on a roll here — then I wasn’t. But I am not going to punish myself with that thought. I am proud of what I have done with my first two months of the year in most respects.

I am trying to be more forgiving of myself in both big and small things. I’m letting most things go— taking a deep breath or a few, then moving on. It’s taken some practice and I don’t always succeed, but for the most part, I feel lighter. And I’m hoping it holds.

Most nights I find myself tinkering with my art journal. So happy with where that’s going and the amount of work I’m actually seeing on paper. I know I should also be working on the shop, but I need to push myself just a little harder.

I’m planning a big trip in a week and a half and I’m excited yet a tad ambivalent about it all. Family can be complicated —- let me leave it at that. Yet I know deep in my heart, that is where my home is.

I have been drafting several posts in my head , but my hands have been busy with the pens and the paintbrushes and the watercolor palette. I have resisted the urge to buy new supplies— largely because I know I have some stashed away from last year’s handful of trips to Michael’s. And even with that, I continue to create. You can see I am in craft heaven.

But I am back.. again. Probably starting off a travel series beginning when I hop on that plane or before. Meanwhile, let me leave you with positive vibes and wishes for a productive week head. It’s Ash Wednesday for us Catholics, and the end of a leap year February for all of us.

My Art Journal: First Update

I’ve stolen bits and pieces of my day the last week or two to come up with the first section of my art journal. It’s been slow but I am happy to be working at this pace. The point of art journaling, after all, is to be able to do a bit of art here and there to find some personal relaxation.

Again, let me stress, I am a non artist doing my own brand of art. I’m not good at drawing things, but that hasn’t stopped me from putting things together in my own artistic way. And I think art journaling does not have to conform to what others would find awesome– what’s important is that it’s your own personal kind of awesome. And journaling — in any form– should be a conversation with yourself. At least, that is what it is for me.

Why do I journal? I write my thoughts in words and in symbols or entries through pictures and phrases that are meaningful to me. No matter how painful or angry my words or entries may be in a journal written ages ago, I find lessons and reminders in those words when I go back to them. I relish the moments of happiness and triumph or joy when I relive them in those pages. There is a reward to being able to go back to a moment, be it good or bad, to get back in touch with that part of you.

I recently found one of my “What do I really, really, really want?” notebooks which I did at a very confused and bitter time. Things have settled since then. I got to a better place of “happy”. I am wont to dispose of the journal, though, because it’s purpose has been served. The point was to answer the question in as honest a way as possible. And through time, to go through the answers and hopefully find clarity with what you really want to do.

I’ve long since gotten past that tumultuous time of my life. And yes, I got clarity with what I really wanted,  and in the end, that stumped everything else. I might yet end up using those pages as part of a collage in one of the layouts in my current project.

Like I posted previously, because I didn’t get to do a journal in 2019 despite my best efforts, I want to begin this one with a recap of 2019. Those pages lead to my first cut out and multi page section which has the numbers 2020.

These layouts are on upcycled Manila folders so the paper takes watercolor, ink, and glue very well. I don’t use liquid glue but prefer the regular glue stick because it doesn’t saturate the paper with more liquid. The page bindings are reinforced with double sided tape and elements that help hold the pages together like the 2020 spread.

As you will see, it’s not strictly a 5.5 x 7.5 inch page layout. A lot of my layouts have at least one flap folding out. The page sizes are not standard because I worked with what I had at the moment. I even kept the tabs in some cases.

A question was asked in one of the Facebook groups I’m a part of regarding using manila folders for making junk journals. I had just done a quick reveal of the first signature of my book (or set of pages) and shared it.

You’ll find the youtube clip below for reference, and I’m going to work on doing a tutorial or two on the craft blog on how I pulled these pages together. Sooooo happy with the way it’s coming along.. Yes, I do have a channel and I just don’t have the inclination to work on developing it, but it’s one way I’ve learned a lot from fellow crafters from all over. There are just some tutorials best done on video rather than in pictures, don’t you think?

I’ve done much since I shot this video over the weekend.  I’ve been going through my stash of art materials both bought and created through the years, and I am so thrilled with the treasures I’ve found.

I found DIY Washi tape that looks as gorgeous as when I first created it and still sticks as well as it should.  That was one craft experiment that turned out great!  Various printed elements and of course, my paper flower garden.

I’ve looked at homemade washi tape tutorials, and I’m just surprised that there is none using the method that I used.  I am hoping I can do a video on that one of these days and show fellow crafters how I created what you see below.
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Friday Five: First for 2020

Friday5

Five goals. Five tasks. Five things I hope to do over a weekend when all I’m thinking about is sleeping in.

I’m not a thrill seeker or a restless soul and most weekends find me just chilling at home. Still, I find it nice to set simple goals to make sure I at least work on accomplishing something instead of just vegetating. So here goes..

1. Work on the destash. Identify 5 items to give away and clear out some of the junk in my room. Last week I threw away one bag more than I usually toss into the garbage bin. It get good to see so much being disposed of. For someone who has a tendency to hold on to things, I feel some measure of accomplishment when I am able to dispose of otherwise useless stuff. So more of that this weekend.

2. Go through my shoe rack. I know I’m making progress when I see shoes in the trash bin. There are more that should literally walk out the door, but I seem to have a special attachment to the shoes I have, no matter how they have been neglected or forgotten. Time to say goodbye.

3. Write a letter. I don’t know why it takes so much effort when it’s really something I’m very good at. Plus, I actually have people on a list. One to the post office by Monday.

4. Finish three pieces for the shop. I have actually gathered several unfinished pieces, but I haven’t really posted anything. Time to focus on this.

5. Pack away. I have things that need to be stored in the attic, and while they are boxed, they need to be brought up. I also need to stash things I might be taking in my next trip until I am sure I am taking that trip.

And my Friday is almost done. My bed beckons. Let’s see how this goes when I give my Monday update. Happy Friday!

My art journal

Creating a journal has always been more than picking one out and writing in it for me. Since I finished my first journal spanning 2012-2015, deciding on my next format made for a lot of stops and starts. But after so many failed attempts, I think I’ve finally found something I am happy with.

From the beginning, I knew I was going to use upcycled paper. Sheets from file dividers, used Manila folders, and I zeroed in on a size. 5.5 x 7×5. I toyed with the idea of sewing signatures together, but then decided on working on sections I could compile together instead.

I had started in a totally different direction before the last year ended, but I had a new idea which saw me totally focused on a different design direction. I am quite excited with the thicker and bigger layouts I’ve come up with. And I know that I can still add the rose petal collage embellishments to the existing pages.

I’ve gathered some old art work and materials I’ve incorporated into the layouts. I have even fished out an older basic watercolor cake palette (which is what you see in my section avatar in this post) and began creating basic page backgrounds. Just like my first art journal, I am trying to add fold outs and cut outs to make the book visually unique, starting with a 4-page spread of “2020”.

I found some magazine cut outs I had originally intended for a totally different kind of journal project and this time, I used them in some spreads for embellishing later on. I’ve even pulled out my stash of handmade paper I’ve acquired through the years to use as part of the layouts.

It’s coming out pretty nicely and I haven’t even started journaling.

I’d still like to begin the book by retracing the last 12 months as mini entries. 2019 was a positive year mostly because my world stayed in a good place. You know how people say things can only get better? They did and they stayed good. Nothing remarkable or ground breaking– but sometimes, “good” is okay. And that’s 12 months worth journaling.

I’m giddy happy thinking about how this project, which I’ve tried to get going so many times before and had fallen flat and hanging, is finally taking off. I can’t wait to paint and spray and paste and write.

Journaling has always been about capturing my thoughts and feelings in words and pictures for me to go back to in some future time. When I am in the process of writing down my entry or creating the layout, that is me lost in myself, trying to express what’s in me or memorializing the feeling or thought of the moment. It’s a way of speaking in my own inner voice. It’s something I didn’t get to do last year, but 2020 will be different.  Having gotten this far in just the first four weeks of the year, I know I will be able to tick this off my list this time around.