A simple treat

Okay, I’m no longer in denial.  The Christmas pictures do not lie.  I need to deal with my weight.  My girlfriend in the office and I have made a pact that we are dieting and working out right after the New Year weekend.  That means I go back to no rice, something I had gotten used to for years before I got pregnant, and I must swear off my chocolates until I achieve weight loss within sight of my actual goal.

So last night I decided I owed myself a Christmas treat as I took a detour through Grand Central Station in Manhattan.  Instead of heading straight home, I went to the city and doubled back via the Express Bus. 

I walked through the Grand Central Market as I have always done whenever I went home through that route, and I noticed a couple of new stalls in the ever busy ultra-sosi indoor bazaar of seafood, vegetables, fruit, gourmet food (from cheeses to sausages, pasta, sauces and foie gras).. I stopped by my favorite chocolatier Li Lac Chocolates to grab just one (yes, just one) caramel bar for $1.75 — the size of half a regular candy bar.  Pricey but well worth every bite, and definitely creamy and just the right sweetness we look for in delectable caramel.  Li Lac offers it in dark and milk (I prefer the latter), and another variation is having both with walnuts.  I figure I might as well indulge before turning my back on this seriously being the chocoholic that I am!

I had an ulterior motive in going into the city actually besides the rain — I wanted to grab a few hand sanitizers at Bath & Body Works which was having a good sale selling it at 3 for $9 instead of the usual 3 for $10 or $4 a piece.  (Very popular pasalubong item for the girls and for my siblings back home!)  Alas everybody was at Bath & Body Works and falling in line at the cash register would’ve taken me an hour by itself.  Time is not a commodity I have a lot of more so when I’m hurrying home to my baby, so I dumped my shopping bag and went for the Express Bus.  (I can always drag Alan to any of the numerous Bath & Body works branches around us over the long weekend.

The rains had stopped and it was a moderately cool night.  I was all bundled up but it was warm in the bus.  So after taking my cap off and untying my scarf, I opened my diet soda, took out my single chocolate bar and took a bite.  I can still feel my teeth sinking into the soft caramel as I took small bites savoring every bit.  Such a sinful treat indeed.  I’d take a box of 4 or 6 of these caramel bars anyday in exchange for the fancier Godiva chocolates sold here.  (Note to self: try Dalyanov and Fauchon’s caramel chocolate concoctions next time you’re in Paris.) 

It reminds me of those boxed chocolate covered caramel balls called POMPOMS that they used to sell in Greenhills and other PX Stores.  (I haven’t seen them in ages!  I wonder if they still make them.. to be googled later.)  Like Mom, I love caramel.  Every time I go to a deli or our favorite gourmet store, I check out any fancy caramel bottles that might be on the counter.  And yes, one of the bottles I brought home from Paris was a container of banana caramel spread.

I’m trying to lose at least 15 lbs in the next 4 months and the minute I hit my 10 lb milestone, my first indulgence will not be cheesecake, not a cream puff, not ice cream — but one of these Caramel bars.. that’s a good incentive!

So if you’re a  New Yorker like me or visiting New York anytime soon, try and take the Grand Central Market exit or entrance and take the time to stop by and at least look at the chocolate display of Li Lac.


Down Time

I guess it’s pretty obvious that spending time at home doesn’t necessarily mean having a lot of time on my hands.  Between taking care of Angel and trying to make sure I get the meals cooked, I often find myself resting doing little things instead of accomplishing the usual things I used to do back when I still knew what leisure time was.  Hence, no post yesterday.

Don’t get me wrong — we still have time for ourselves, but now it’s me and Angel or me and Alan or all of us, leaving little precious time for just “me”.

Alan and I watched MUNICH yesterday which was a good movie — then again, it wasn’t surprising considering it was by Steven Spielberg.  The fact that both Alan and I also count THE SWORD OF GIDEON as one of our all time favorites made it a movie of interest to both of us.  There are similarities but this is a Spielberg movie that stands on its own.

I’m hoping to get some major organizing done in the house this next couple of days — part of the plan being that I will fix my side of the attic to enable me to do some work up there.  I need to clean the space I intend to use and “seal off” some of the exposed portions of the beams and the ceiling, and then I have to vacuum the carpet that covers that area.  Hopefully I will be able to bring up more of my things once I get that part of the organizing done.  It’s like “moving” in a sense, and hopefully making the living space more liveable with less clutter.

So many projects in my head again, and I cannot even take the time to post here.  Ambitious, I know.  But at least I’m thinking about it and I will hopefully get things done once I flesh out how to go about squeezing it into my ultra hectic life.

Hectic is good.  And I enjoy every bit of it, specially that part that includes Angel.  He can now hug me with both arms and has started taking delight in literally pinching my face red.  Hearing his laughter or feeling his lips touch mine in a gentle kiss takes all my cares away.  (Me and motherhood.. ladidah..)

We have another long weekend ahead so I hope I can get on with the organizing.  I don’t have a major feast to plan (I guess spending New Year’s Eve at home is out of the question), but I would still like to prepare a good New Year’s breakfast for us as a family.

Manigong Bagong Taon asa inyong lahat!  (Happy New Year to you all!)


Back to work

I was supposed to take a day off today, but Alan and I decided it was better to go to work instead of just wasting a day not doing anything at home since we didn’t really plan anything.  I am just switching my day off to tomorrow, then off again on Thursday, and back here just to get ready for the following week on Friday (when we have early close anyway..)

Here’s a picture of my Angel last Christmas eve.. more about my baby in my PinoyMommy blog..


My Mom's Leche Flan and Noche Buenas of Old

My mom tells me she learned how to make leche flan the way she does through her mother-in-law, my Dad’s mom — a typical Bulakeña who knew how to make a lot of kakanins and all that other good stuff.  She only puts in the yolks, adds condensed milk to the usual evaporated milk, and I believe what sets it apart is that they put lemon zest (or dayap as it is known in Manila) and then strain the liquid in cheesecloth before it is double baked or steamed in one of those huge kalans or cauldrons.

I have tasted many variations of the flan, even the Frencha nd Italian kind — and never have I tasted anything close to what Mom and my aunts make.  It’s like yema in its sweetness, but firmer in consistency.  Dad likes one side crusty and toasted, but I prefer mine smooth and silky as it should be.  This Christmas, I requested Mom to make some for me and I’m savoring every bit of it.  It’s just like our usual fare back home.  Too bad I didn’t have a cauldron big enough to cook the ube in  or else we would’ve tried — and we don’t have the macapuno which is nothing like the bottled ones available commercially. 

Sometimes I find myself craving for matamis and I pick up a bottle or two from the Filipino store — but it’s never the same.  The consistency is not quite right and the sweetness is usually over the top which makes it less delectable.  These are the things I truly miss — the things that made our noche buena (Christmas Feast) truly memorable.

I also miss the Majestic ham which we used to reserve, fall in line for, and then grab on Christmas and New Year’s everight where they make it in Mandaluyong.  Mom would sear the caramelized sugar on ths skin to help it melt and meld into the fat again, and I would watch her slice it diagonally from the narrow portion up for our family dinner.  We always got special raisin bread from Hizon’s in Jorge Bocobo — and although I didn’t get to grab some raisin bread during my last visit home in 2002, I managed to have merienda there with Alan.

Spanish chocolate and Quezo De Bola were also staples — both of which are available from the Filipino stores but we got our supply this year via special delivery.  Mom brought a few rolls of Alfredo Pueo (bought straight from Unimart) and a friend of Alan’s gave us Marca Piña Quezo de Bola (Edam cheese) from San Francisco. 

Although we spent Christmas eve with my in-laws, I am trying to plan a simple family feast for the New Year — but that’s if I can convince Alan to celebrate it simply in the house by ourselves instead of seeking out a New Year’s Eve party either with the in-laws again or with friends.

I remember we spent our first New Year’s eve together (2000) alone in our tiny one-bedroom apartment because he was down with the flu.. In 2001 we spent it with friends in New Jersey, in 2002, we spent it by ourselves at our own place (our first new year there.)  2003 saw us going on a New Year’s Eve early dinner, we stopped by my in-laws just to say hello and then we went home and met the New Year at our own place.  (No champagne toast for me because I was pregnant with Angel then.  In 2004, we hosted the family in our cramped co-op, but we managed to do a fairly sumptous spread.

This year, I’d ideally like to celebrate it just with Alan and Mom and Angel.  I might even try to pull off a standing roast if I can get it in time (and if I can borrow my mother-in-law’s convection oven).  Or I might even just buy ham from the Filipino store in Woodside.  (Something akin to our Purefoods ham back home..)  There’s a big party at the in-laws but I’m not too sure I’m going to enjoy my New Year’s even smoozing and wining with people I just met.  So I’m playing it by ear.

I already have my quezo de bola, Mom’s leche flan, and the spanish chocolate ready.  Maybe Alan and I can have dinner at some nice restaurant in the city, then have noche buena at home with Mom.  That would be nice.. I’m still thinking, though.. and yes, I know it’s just days away but that’s just me — Ms. Last Minute everytime.

Please don't put ginger in your Nilagang Baka

Angel’s still busy watching his DVD of The Wiggles so I figured I could take a moment to answer this question from Aurora Miyata (no e-mail or URL provided) about whether or not she should put ginger in her Nilagang Baka.  No, no, no… no ginger in the Nilagang Baka please.  Maghunos-dili ka, Aurora, hindi nilalagyan ng luya ang Nilagang Baka.  (I’m not being presumptive, I know, thinking Aurora is Pinay..)

Nilagang Baka is very basic and it’s something I whip up just for the bone marrow treat.  My favorite part is Beef Shin which has marbling that is perfect for long term boiling.  I boil the beef and skim the fat off when it boils, and when I feel I’ve gotten rid of sufficient scum, I add at least a half teaspoon of WHOLE peppercorn and then I quarter a whole onion.  I let it simmer until the meat is tender enough, and then thirty minutes before serving, I add any bone marrow I have.  You adjust and season with fish sauce of patis.  It’s in the last half hour that you can also add the vegetables, although there are times when I cook this just to have a good helping of bone marrow or litid which are tendons, so yummy when tenderized correctly.

The chinese grocery sometimes sells the bone marrow with other suitable beef stock ingredients for $1 a bag, and I try to grab it even if I don’t have the beef shin, and just boil it for the stock and for the marrow which I love to eat with some patis and calamansi.

Good luck, Aurora!

The Day after Christmas

I was going to try and sneak in a post during this Christmas weekend but as you can see, no luck.  So today is a holiday in most of New York, and Alan and I are just taking it easy this morning before hitting the malls this afternoon for some post holiday sale hopping.  Plus, we have a couple of gift cards to splurge with, so even my Mom is braving the crowds.

It’s been raining in New York (so I pity those who decided to spend their holidays here in the big apple from some other part of the country or the world) and it sure puts a dampener on the mega walking that exploring New York city entails.  Even in this cold weather, we see a multitude of tourists invading our streets to sample one of the greatest cities in the world.

Me, I’m just chilling.  I’m trying to decide which part of my list of chores I’m going to attack.  Maybe I’ll just sit back and relax.  Angel is having fun watching his DVDs and trying to pinch my face crazy. (I’m giving him a bath after this post..)

We were going to take Tuesday off but have decided against it because it would be a waste of a vacation day, and we’re trying to be selective about taking time off because of future plans.  (It’s a secret.. LOL)

This is what days off are all about — no rush.. just taking it easy.. going with the flow.  Merry Christmas everybody!

Feedback: on being a StepMom

Lilyrain visited me earlier today and wrote:

I am from China. I like your blog very much. You must be a patient and responsible stepmother. Show your love to him. I am from a broken family too. And I have a stepfather–who is a little stubborn sometimes. Quarrel and fussy matters disturbed my childhood and youth a lot. Yet I and my siblings know that he loves us to some extent. As you put it” No matter what our circumstances are, we have a choice, and our misfortunes can become our strength or our burden — how we move forward is up to us.” I am not a so strong girl yet unwilling to yeild to the fate. Now I am a university teacher and he is old. I will take care of him when he becomes older. Tell him: A man has to be responsible to himself!

Lily, it is always nice to hear differing viewpoints, and I must say I appreciate hearing from a “stepchild” like you.  I can only hope that my stepson realizes his folly before it is too late.

I have my faults as a stepmom, too, and I must admit that although in the beginning, I was patient to the point of being a martyr, I often have to remind myself to bite my tongue or just let things pass when he challenges his father and me.  I am only human and I have my own threshhold for irritability.  I try — that’s all I can say.

Your stepfather is lucky to have you as a daughter.  Notice how I refer to you as a daughter and not a stepdaughter.  I can see from your tone that the love you feel is real — and it is something we can only hope for in my case.  It’s a case to case basis I suppose — I am never one to say anything is final.  Things can change.  And as you reminded me, I did say, it’s all a matter of choice.

I wish you a happy holidays, Lily, and do visit again. 

My favorite part of Gift-giving: Wrapping the presents

Last year, I made a plan to try and make either the varnished paper baskets I had so patiently crafted years ago in Manila, or sew together felt gift bags for this holiday season.  Of course that turned out to be all but wishful thinking, because my daily routine has not eased up any even if Angel’s now a little bigger than last year — so none of that actually got accomplished.

It’s a good thing that I have a good stash of holiday gift wrappers and ribbons in the attic which I will put to good use this year.  I probably won’t even have to buy any additional gift wrappers — my only expense to this end has been to get additional gift boxes and tissue paper so far.

Two years ago, I purchased practically a dozen rolls of silver and gold motif wrappers from IKEA after the holidays at a steal.  I think I bought them for $1.50 a roll, and I have at least 4 or 5 rolls still in its plastic casing, left unused.  Around January of this year, I purchased left over christmas ribbon stocks and I think I still have enough even if we used almost a dozen of them for Alan’s little chocolate gifts to his officemates, so I’m still pretty good.

I am running low on gift boxes because we had used them up during the year, but that should be easily remedied through the dollar stores.  I did have Alan get some classy ones from Nordstrom Rack for his boss’s shirt, but otherwise, I’m good.

I’ve made it a habit to save gift boxes throughout the year, requesting for additional gift boxes which are usually given free by the stores when you purchase items from them, so I have a couple stashed away in the coat closet throughout the year.

Who knows?  I might yet get those baskets together for next year. 

When things go wrong as they sometimes will…

Sometimes you just keep running after something and it keeps slipping through your fingers.  You just have to say you tried.

One thing I have learned in the almost 40 years I’ve been around is that sometimes, you just have to take things as they come and accept that there is only so much you can do.

It’s days to Christmas and I haven’t quite finished shopping for gifts yet.  The extended family party thing adds to the burden but it’s actually something I’m really looking forward to.  For Christmas, I have to say the more the merrier indeed!