Craving a taste of home

My long weekend is coming to an end and I’m trying to cram a blog post here between Facebook messages, uploading pictures to Flickr and writing some snail mail — and cleaning up to make room for my Christmas tree.  (Yes, we’re going to try and put it up this weekend..)

The previous week was chaotic enough that I am looking towards the coming week with some anxiety.  I’m wondering if there’s a switch I can flip to skip through it and jump to the next.  Or can we just put everything on hold with a pause button?  Wishful thinking, I know.

I’m trying to distract myself with some positive thinking and happy thoughts.

We didn’t really plan on a tight weekend because we just wanted to chill this Thanksgiving weekend.  In fact, we started it by spending our first Thanksgiving ever here at home with just the four of us: Alan, myself, my mother-in-law and Angelo.  It was quite a busy day for me as I cooked away beginning first thing in the morning with my leche flan, until just before dinner when I finished up with the garlic spinach side I was serving with the eggplant parmesan, potato salad and the prime rib. 

We were hoping to resist the urge to hit the Black Friday shopping spree but we gave in anyway and drove to our favor outlet mall, Tanger, up in Riverhead.  It was difficult trying to decide which bargains to snap up and which to forego.  (Talk about practicing self control!)

Yesterday was a quiet day and we decided to drive to New Jersey to have lunch at the only Red Ribbon branch here on the East Coast.  Alan wanted to have some kaldereta which apparently is now off the menu.  We ended up having their sotanghon and arroz caldo with their asado siopao.  The siopao was so good we decided to take some home.  The pandan maja blanca slice that came with Alan’s combo was a big disappointment, though, having grown up on Red Ribbon goodies from their first store waaaaay back in Greenhills. 

We got some ensaymada which I will try in a bit, but I’m wondering what happened to the Red Ribbon that greeted us when we visited it the first few months they were in operation here in New York.  I have kept my expectations low when it comes to franchises from back home that I see operating on this side of the world (you can’t quite beat the original ones considering they make ingredient substitutions here), so I’m not going to bash Red Ribbon like some of the negative reviews I’ve seen online.

We go to places like this to satisfy a craving for a familiar taste.  It does not guarantee us the same experience, but it brings us close enough to it and face it, we have to make do.

Rumors are flying that Jollibee is finally opening a branch somewhere in Woodside — and if it’s where we were told by a cousin it would be, good luck in getting there with your family in tow unless you’re commuting.  But we’ll go all the same.  Jollibee IS Jollibee..anything for a taste of home.

Window Shopping at The Pond in Bryant Park

One thing I love about the holidays is the holding of simultaneous markets in different open spaces in Manhattan.  I have always loved going around them and checking out the wares which are mostly sold by artisans and small businesses who specialize in unique, one-of-a-kind items.  From soaps, organic skin care products, toys and other apparel, you will see artistry and ingenuity displayed in these markets.

Since I now work in the area, I’ve watchedBryant Parkturn into the holiday spectacle that it is now, with the skating rink referred to as THE POND being surrounded by all these shops that make up the holiday fair running until December 28.

I finally got my chance to look at the set up upclose the day before Thanksgiving.  I stopped by before going up to the office while the shops were still closed (they open at 11am on weekdays and 10am on weekends) and the skating rink wasn’t all that crowded yet.  (The rinl opens at 8am)  It gave me a chance to take some quick shots before my batteries ran out of juice.  (Don’t you hate it when you think you had charged the batteries full, only to discover when you start snapping away that you didn’t?)

Bryant Park  26Nov08 (14)  The SHOPS in Bryant Park

I returned at around 4pm in the afternoon before I hopped on the bus home and saw most of the stores all lit up.  I didn’t have enough time to take a photo of each one but caught most on the front portion closest to the Avenue of the Americas.  I had some wasted shots that I chose not to publish which came out blurry and not usable. 

The place was busy but not overly crowded, and fortunately, I had enough light to work with without using my flash.  I covered barely half of the total stores as majority were housed in the back portion closer to the New York Public Library.  As I didn’t have time, I walked through the rows of stores closer to the corner of 42nd and Avenue of the Americas. 

It can be quite an entertaining walk even if you don’t mean to browse.  But with the diverse offerings and the surprisingly reasonable prices, there’s quite a lot to keep you entertained even if only visually.  There’s quite a number of art and jewelry stores.  The apparel stores are an interesting mix as well, with many handcrafted items on sale.  There are a lot of novelty items to catch anyone’s fancy, and speaking of fancy, there are stores offering a variety of artwork pieces ranging from art totes to glass art and even spinners.

I went from stall to stall and clicked away without much trouble except for one jewelry store whose owner politely declined to be photographed.  Although I cannot understand how that can be controlled given that they are in an open space in a tourist spot where many photographs are being taken, I took heed and moved on.  (By the way, the Holiday Fair in the Vanderbilt Hall of Grand Central Terminal is supposed to be a “no photographs” fair.. That one, I can understand — but here in Bryant Park?  It’s like telling people walking through Central Park that you cannot take photographs..)

It is more visually appealing to browse when the dark starts to set in because then each stall is gaily lit and you tend to appreciate the products inside better with the lighting.  I did miss the Christmas tree all lit up as I photographed it earlier during the day.  I can always go back when I finally return to shoot the other stores.

Click here to view the photostream featuring the stores.

The Shops at Bryant Park: Eek Oh Productions The Shops at Bryant Park: Le Primitive by Roberta & Simonetta 
The Shops at Bryant Park: Fusing Colors The Shops at Bryant Park: Pink Cloud Gallery

A visual delight:The Aquos Experience

The tree before it became operational The Sharp Aquos Christmas Tree is a true visual wonder The Sharp Aquos Christmas Tree: Breathtaking

It was just a few days ago on November 17 when I checked Vanderbilt Hall to see if the Holiday Fair at the Grand Central Terminal was already on (and it was), and I noticed this TV Christmas tree standing tall on one side of the walkway.  Dubbed “The Aquos Experience,” it’s a 26-foot tower of Aquos Flat Screen TVs which are meant to play snippets of the Kaleidoscope Lightshow Presented by Sharp running the whole month of December.

I had caught last year’s display (link will open to the post of Dec 2007 which shows a clip of the show in its entirety) and was wondering what they would come up with this year.

The tree is visible from the main level on the Vanderbilt side, but the pedestrian traffic coming in and out of the terminal and 42nd street can make photographing it a challenge.  There is also a sign asking people not to take pictures from this vantage point to keep the hall open.  My suggestion is for you to stand by the wall on the opposite side of the I LOVE NEW YORK Tourist Information center on the Main concourse and you will be able to capture the full length of the tree, but it will be a challenge taking a picture without any human form in front of it.

After taking care of official business, though, I discovered an even better vantage point one floor down as I walked towards the Subway entrance on the Papyrus side.  You will have to walk down the steep incline leading to the restaurants and the foodcourt on the Dining Concourse, and you can take pictures of the tree with the majestic chandeliers in the background. 

This is the same walkway that leads to the so-called WHISPERING GALLERY.  As noted in the online guide of the Walking Tour of Grand Central Terminal, “located at the end of both Oyster Bar Ramps when heading down to the Lower Level, is one of the bigger attractions in the Terminal and offers a phonic treat. Get two volunteers and put them in opposite corners facing the walls. A person can whisper into one of its corners and be distinctly heard diagonally across the gallery on the other side. Fun for all ages!”

I would’ve stayed to take more pictures but I had to go back to work.  I might take a film clip next time just to capture the magic of this visual show.  Even for us New Yorkers, this is a holiday treat that makes the ordinary truly special in a New York kind of way.

The Walkway to the Dining Concourse leading to the Aquos Experience 
This is the way towards the best spot to photograph the tree from a level below.

Clicking on any of the pictures above will open Pinay New Yorker’s Flickr page featuring this set in a new window.

Blogging over my morning cup of coffee

I set the alarm just a few minutes earlier than normal because I have to be out of here way before my usual time.  I’m working very hard again and trying to make it to an early morning meeting where the boss needs some printouts that didn’t make it to her in time yesterday.  I’m just being the good assistant here, so yes, I literally woke up at the crack of dawn.  The sun isn’t supposed to shine for at least another half hour or so, by which time I will be walking down to the bus stop heading into the city.

I’m just trying to enjoy my morning cup of coffee and some ube otap that I still had in the pantry from the box full of goodies my good friend Elvie had sent home to New York with me from the last homecoming to Manila in May.

I thought I’d start the day with a blogpost like I used to do many mornings ago, and see where that leads me.  Blogging has always been a form of therapy for me, enabling me to sort my thoughts out by putting words down on paper, or in this case, typing them away to publish a post. 

Many mornings are now spent busily getting my boys ready, saving my own rituals for last.  I paint my face on the way to work most mornings, and this one will be one of them.  (Thank God for shades!)  I pick my quiet corner on the bus and finish my prayers, then fish out my tools one by one until I get off the bus with a finished canvas.  I’m not the only one who does it, and while I find people stealing a glance when they see me start doing what I”m doing, I can completely relate to the fascination as I find myself watching others when they get on with their make up routines.  How can you not watch in quiet awe as a plain canvas is transformed into a totally different face after the application of color?  I think I still make some of my busmates wonder how I can paint my liquid eyeliner without missing.  Practice.

My first cup of coffee is finished.  Time for me to hit the showers before the boys wake up.  I have to get the boy ready before I walk out the door.  Clothes will have to be laid out, and I have to get his lunch box ready with the day’s snack.  I’ve checked the weather and although it’s a wet morning, the rains will let down by Noon.  (Big sigh of relief on that one.)  Alan will have to make do with cereal.  (No fancy sandwiches today for him..)

Good morning, New York!

My Little Pilgrim

I spent the earlier part of my day in Angelo’s class attending their Thanksgiving Party.  The boys were “pilgrims” and the girls were the native Americans.  It was priceless seeing him light up when he saw me enter the room.  The performed a few Thanksgiving songs and then ate a feast of popcorn, cranberry sauce, cranberry bread, corn muffins and sliced turkey.  (And the boy actually took a liking to it!)  There I was, the proud mom, taking pictures and helping him open his juice box, looking at the different pieces he had done the past few days, watching my boy with such joy.

Then the teacher had us sit down and string together colored macaroni into a bracelet which was traded with a friend, and a necklace that they wore.  Angelo and I worked at the projects like a team, and he was visibly happy threading the macaroni together, working on something with Mommy. I felt rather sad for one or two other kids who didn’t have a parent present.  Alan couldn’t make it but I made sure I was there.  I had always had the benefit of having my parents supporting me during those school activities, even if they were just one among hundreds of others watching us during field day.

I had to give up a whole morning but it was well worth it, seeing him get accustomed to the many practices of his “home”.  It was most touching to see a list of things the children were thankful for, more so when I saw listed next to his name: “Angelo: Mommy and Daddy.”

Five things to be happy about

1. A clean bill of health after being asked to go back for a second mammogram

2. Alan taking me out to celebrate the fact that we got good news and I am fine after all.. it tells me he felt as much if not more relief after I was told I’m okay.

3. Seeing Angelo being able to write an “A” and “n” on his own — four letters to go!

4. Finally watching TWILIGHT on the big screen 

5. Finding long-lost friends like Lulai on Facebook.

Winter Wonderland at THE POND in Bryant Park

The Pond at Bryant Park I had made a mental plan to keep a dozen or so books on my desk to remind me to “Read, read, read!,” and the plan was for me to start having lunch away from my work station.  I thought having the books handy would give me the incentive to actually walk down and grab a seat at Bryant Park below for a few minutes at a time in the middle of the day.

I have to confess that I have been in a reading rut for over two weeks now.  I haven’t picked up any new book although I have more than enough to choose from at work and here at home.  I am hoping the coming weeks will be a whole lot better, and will afford me the luxury of being able to pick up a book and read on again.

I have to start reading that book in the park.  I feel like I’m missing out on so much with all the action happening below — as I haven’t even checked out the holiday shops which are now open.  To the right of the park looks like a covered a food court which again, I have yet to visit.  Not good.  I have been meaning to stop and look around, but I usually find myself in the area just to get off the express bus or to get on the one that’s taking me home.

It’s a short week for me this week with the Thanksgiving holiday, and I’m actually lucky to be working for someone who lets us out by noon the day before a major holiday.  So I’m working 2 1/2 days this week in reality — or a few hours shorter even.  It’s Angelo’s Thanksgiving celebration in Pre-K tomorrow, and while Alan cannot make it, I’ve made a date with my little tyke to be there at 9:45am when the party begins.  I’ll probably be in the office by noon..

I will yet get to explore THE POND again soon — hopefully.

A week away from blogging

I can’t believe that my prior post is a week old. 

It wasn’t for lack of trying, but I never got beyond beginning a post.  I suppose that goes to show how busy the previous week was.  I hardly ever got enough time even during breaks to log on.  Worse, I was too exhausted at the end of the day that I often found myself dozing off in the couch when I only meant to take a quick nap.  The coming week will hopefully be better.

It’s going to be a short week thanks to the Thanksgiving weekend which begins Wednesday afternoon for me.  I am fortunate to be able to take the afternoon before major holidays off before the rest of the workforce begins theirs.

Meanwhile, the sun is out in full force this Saturday.  The landscape has changed dramatically since the previous weekend, and many trees are now bare and all set for the winter chill.  We’ve actually dipped to freezing a little earlier than usual, and we’re all set withe coats, scarves and gloves.  Gone are the autumn hues.

I still lug my camera with me wherever I go.  The new header below being one of the products of my spontaneous snapshots.  No, I don’t have a panoramic lens — it’s the magic of stitching two photographs together courtesy of photo editor.

Blog Header in Black and White

I want to start reading again but there is so much more to planning what I do with my “spare time” beyond what I want to do.  I’ll get there in time.