At last, we meet!

Since I started blogging here in August 2004, I’ve gotten to know other bloggers or just plain strangers who have strayed into this space of mine.   There was Jeannie in Paris (!), Elaine here in NY, and now Lou from Chicago.  (Lou was actually the reason I signed up for Multiply ages ago.)  These blogfriends have gotten to be more than just readers and bloggers I read after the years that have passed.

I regret that I have yet to meet some of the more remarkable ones like my favorite couple, the Two Jeromes, Jerome and Jher.  Despite the many times I’ve gone home since we met online, sometimes it’s not that easy to pop in and sometimes things get too hectic.  I remain hopeful that we will meet one day.  Many of those who have interacted with me in this blog have come and gone.  There are those who keep tabs on me, though, popping up here and sometimes at my Etsy shop’s website.

We’ve “known” each other through life changes and the shared grief of lost parents.  I’ve discovered new hobbies like lomography which I’ve always been interested in but I just don’t have the energy or time to get into.  Lou is a fantastic photographer as well.  We’ve shared with each other our ups and downs and hobbies through our own spaces on the web.  In words and in pictures, we took a peek into each other’s lives.

When Lou left me a comment here that she was headed for New York after Christmas, I thought I’d just ask and see if she might have the time to meet up.  I know how vacations can get hectic.  I am the last person to take it personally when I cannot be scheduled or when people schedule and don’t end up confirming so we don’t get to meet up at all.  If it happens, it happens — and happen it did!

We scheduled lunch for Friday in the city.  I wanted to pick some place closer to where she was staying by the Upper East Side, but I ended up staying close to familiar ground.  Celsius at Bryant Park or Bryant Park Grill.  I’m glad Lou picked the former because it’s a seasonal restaurant that “pops up” in Bryant Park when the rink is on the great lawn.  While I have seen it the last couple of years, I’ve never been in it, and this luncheon was as good an occasion as any can be to explore this restaurant.

Lunch at Celsius NYC in Bryant Park

The food was great from the calamari to the braised short rib I had and the caramel pecan chocolate fudge cake we shared for dessert.  Unfortunately, we were both so engrossed in catching up that I failed to take pictures.  (Lou managed to take a picture of the dessert before we dug in, though.)

It was as if we had known each other all these years in the “real” sense.  I have always been struck by Lou’s no-nonsense straightforward comments and friendly advice.  One thing that struck me in our personal exchange last Friday, though, was this simple line from her:  “Some people come into our lives to stay, and some people are just passing by.”  How true.

I know I have this running joke that I have 8 readers keeping track of the things I write here, all of whom are not related to me nor known to me personally.  =)  I’m happy with the 8.   It is always a blessing to actually talk to them in person when fate brings us together somehow.  And when that happens, it feels like we’ve known each other forever.  Indeed.

Enjoy the rest of your stay in New York, Lou.. until you come back to view its beauty when the trees are green and the flowers are abloom.

Citipond in Bryant Park

In search of a new art journal for 2013

I’ve already “trimmed” my old art journal.  Luckily, the bulging pages had created a more or less “even” book that allowed me to cut the left-over pages easily without causing an imbalance in the book.  I’ve been studying how I can put a cover on it, and hope to get that done tonight if not over the weekend.

I’m leaning towards a spiral sketchbook, but I’ve been thinking about sewing up my own art journal, too.  (Fickle, fickle-minded me.)  I already knew that Barnes and Noble had sketchbooks on sale, but the format was still something I hadn’t quite made up my mind about.  Format as in size — has always been a major point of consideration for me.  I didn’t want it to be too small, and I didn’t want it to be too big.  I started my art journal entries as postcard sized entries, then I went for an 8 x 8 square layout, after which I eventually floated towards a double page layout of a composition notebook.  I ended up creating layouts on poster paper and then pasted them onto the notebook.

In search of a new art journal
My first art journal has been a learning experience on many fronts for me.  I tried gesso and realized it did NOT work for me.  I dabbled in watercolor which was fine done on pre-pasted blank pages, but then worked best with separate pieces I worked on apart from the book.  By the time I had gotten adept with acrylic paint, I had stopped art journaling so I want to do more of that in the next.

I took a trip to the city today and saw the many choices for a sketchbook.
In search of a new art journal

I drifted towards this eco-friendly bound journal made from recycled paper.

In search of a new art journal
It was gorgeous but the pages were sewn together (eliminating it as a candidate for collages and the like), and the pages were paperback novel size which was just too small.  I might end up finishing up one journal in a matter of weeks which would necessitate getting more blanks.

In search of a new art journal

I guess that was that.  Then I stumbled into a shelf full of sketchbooks which were on sale.  I picked two up from Piccadilly, but I zeroed in on a Sketchbook – Black – Large..( Top wire-o – Unlined – Black wire-o ) plain black, spiral bound on top, with paper measuring 8 1/2 x 11.

Ambitious, I know.  Now that I’m cradling the book on my lap as I’m typing here, I’m wondering if I’m not getting in over my head with this choice of a formal for my next art journal.  The biggest positive about this choice is it is commercially available, so I can actually stock up on it.  I got it in a smaller format, too, the size of a steno notebook but unlined and with decent quality paper. (Although I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with the smaller format.)

Happiness…

I am going to finish up the first art journal by creating a cover first then I have decided to work on layouts to get me going.  (Much like I’ve done with the altered book.)

I think it’s a good way to begin the new year — literally, a new beginning.

I am looking forward to another year of art journaling — and hope that it does the same if not more good than the first attempt did for me.

I journal because it helps me find a means to express what I feel and what I am going through in more concrete terms without reducing everything to words.  I also like going through the pages and I find myself marveling at the finished layout.  (“Did I actually do that?,” I ask.)  Sometimes a word or a simple scribble can actually capture a whole chapter in my life.

Perhaps when my memory starts fading, these pages will help me remember.  Or when the heart forgets, seeing the pages and reading the words there will help me remember the good and the bad and the lessons learned in between.  My art journal has no rhyme or reason.  Unlike the altered book which is supposed to be a happiness journal, this one is just a plain art journal.  It exists as a compendium of my attempts at art.

Freebie Alert from The Shabby Princess

One of my favorite digital scrapbooking resources is The Shabby Princess and The Shabby Shoppe.  Not only is The Shabby Princess’ blog oozing with inspiration but free kits (as in practically complete kits) are made available for free from her website subject to their terms and conditions.  (Strictly for personal use only.)  I just happened to stop by today and found this gorgeous new kit sampler: MEMORY LANE.   The full version is available for purchase at their Shop here.

Please note that I am in no way connected with the two sites mentioned above, but I am a fan and a customer.  I have always believed in sharing resources with fellow crafters out there.  There were at least three other samplers and even a free 2013 calendar or two so go and visit while it’s still available.

Enjoy!

My Christmas Eve

It’s not even 10pm but I feel exhausted as if I had stayed up the whole night.  I have put away most of the Christmas fare we had for dinner, (early noche buena) but I’m too tired to start putting away the leftovers.  So I’m here at the dining table blogging in the dark while listening to Jed Madela’s “Perfect Christmas”.  I had a little wine but not enough to get me tipsy.  I’m just plain tired from two days of cooking and wrapping gifts and putting up cards on the wall.

The boy has opened all his presents, and he’s enjoying his DVD of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Complete Season Three while clutching his Star Wars Ultimate Anakin FX Lightsaber.  There are at least half a dozen other toys but they are too many to mention.  He tries to feature them online via his Youtube channel, The Angelo Report.  (We still can’t quite figure out how he can have one video with 135,000+ views and another with over 50,000!)  The important thing is that he is happy, and happier still that his handmade Christmas frame from school with a picture of him in it is my favorite present this year. =)

Please excuse the grainy pic but I have no energy to grab the camera beyond the blackberry.  Isn’t he just handsome?  He tries to have me rock him like a baby but I keep telling him he’s now too big to be carried that way.  He still insists.  And I still try.  But he’s growing up soooo fast.

It’s these precious occasions when we connect in a different way as only a mother and her son could that makes all the hard work worth it.  He loved the roast chicken when it was cooling but gave it a thumbs down at the dinner table.  Sigh.. picky eater that he is, I am still trying to get him to eat more.  Fortunately, he is a carnivore and took to the chateaubriand instead.  (I veered away from the prime rib roast this time around and stuck to the smaller serving of beef, wrapped in bacon.)

I might opt for take out for New Year’s eve.  Right now I’m just thinking of the champagne, crackers, cheese, pate — and I’d be happy.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Getting the Noche Buena going

ATC: Christmas Ornament no. 6 - Red and GreenThe leche flan is done, the bolognese is simmering on the stove.  It’s an almost tomato-less recipe except for the two tablespoons of tomato paste, and no garlic.  It does use a cup and a half of whole milk and around 2 hours of simmering.  I wanted to get this done for tomorrow’s lasagna.  The chateaubriand should be a breeze (I hope..) and there’s a roast chicken to complete the meal.  I think I’ve got a good headstart.

Angelo and I wrapped the gifts just before dinner and we’re all set.  Tomorrow, I’ll help him tape the holiday cards we got along with the Artist Trading Cards I received in the swaps (around 30 more or less) on the upstairs landing like we always do.  It’s so heartening to see my 8-year-old all excited about the holidays.  He had made a gift for me which he has been prodding me to open since yesterday, but which I told him I’d like to save for when we actually open the gifts.  I told him that is my favorite gift of all.

It’s been a busy, busy day for me.  I have an inch-long burn on the backside of my right hand as it hit the “roof” of the oven when I took the llaneras of leche flan out.   It still stings a bit but I simply put some toothpaste to help “cool” the surface immediately after, and now I’m good even if I feel a tenderness and sensitivity around the area.  Hazards of cooking.

One more hour of simmering and a quarter of a cup of milk more to go, and I can start cooling the bolognese.  It’s a little bland for even my bland preference, but I’d rather wait until the end to adjust the taste with seasoning because I’m skimming the fat off of the top before I add the milk two to three tablespoons at a time.

It’s noon in Manila right now, Christmas eve.  I miss Mom and the siblings who must all be busy getting the noche buena ready.  We’ll probably talk later, closer to their midnight.  It would’ve been nice to spend Christmas in Manila — but I’m not complaining.  It’s nice to be spending Christmas in New York again, more so since Angelo has grown so much and is now actually participating in preparing for the holiday.

He’s promised to get me a sketch book for my next Art Journal. =)  That’ll be a trip to Barnes and Noble sometime during the holiday.  My boy is telling me to pick something I want and he’ll pay for it.   So I turned to him and asked if he would still do that — take me shopping and pay for it when I’m older.  Yes, he said he would — as long as I show him what I’m getting before he pays.  (Makes sense if he’s picking the tab..)

I have my tiny queso de bola (but the original “Pato” brand) and some sliced ham.  We’re not really big on that, but I will cook up some tsokolate tomorrow for breakfast on Christmas day itself.  I’m tired but very happy I accomplished what I have on the day I planned it.  It lessens the stress of tomorrow considerably.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Feeling All Christmassy

So I changed my theme yet again. =)

Makes up for not posting, even if I have a ton of things to post.  I had a good pre-holiday Friday yesterday, cleaning up at work as I got ready for the week and a half break.  (Don’t you hate how your last day at work before a long holiday always turns out to be a never-ending clean up?)  Mine was relatively lighter than usual with the boss away a day ahead of our mutual break.  Still, I found myself wishing I didn’t have a hair appointment at 4.  I managed to pry myself away from the office in time to catch the subway (1 to Houston) to get to Arrojo Studio.  With time to kill, I was pleasantly surprised to find the Wafel & Dinges truck parked right outside my subway exit across the street from the salon, and it was simply irresistible.  I had a mini wafelini dipped in chocolate (or was it topped with chocolate?) which, thanks to the almost freezing and windy temps, I think, was one crispy chocolaty taste of heaven.

Alas, my hair appointment was fast approaching and we couldn’t afford to miss Michelle.  This is just my second appointment with her but she does such a lovely job of it that I don’t mind the commute down to Varick and back to Midtown.  I actually enjoy exploring new or unfamiliar routes on the Subway.  This was an uneventful trip on the 1 train which gave me the idea of trying to do an end-to-end subway ride one of these days on an unfamiliar route (so no 7-line for me).

I had planned to do an errand or two before meeting up with Alan for the ride home, and I finally got to do something I had planned to do Christmases ago: photograph the store displays of Bergdorf-Goodman, Tiffany’s and a few other interesting storefronts along Fifth Avenue.  Here’s a teaser:

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Display 2012

Gorgeous, gorgeous layouts!  The theme this year is BG Folies of 2012.  The photo above is just one of a set I had taken showcasing such glamour and painstaking detail

Tiffany’s was equally impressive with miniature showcases like this:

Tiffany's Holiday Display 2012

Here’s a close up shot of the chair to the right of the door:

Tiffany's Holiday DIsplay 2012

Bravo!

Closing out the year that's ending

So 2012 is practically over with the countdown to Christmas and then the New Year.

If you’re one of my 8 readers, you know that this blog has been undergoing format changes rather often the last couple of days.  Blame it on my fickle-mindedness about how I want the whole thing to look.  It’s like redecorating, although the constraint of design and templates from my server has served to limit my options greatly.  With 2013 just around the corner, I’m not going to list down a set of resolutions, but I will write a ‘to-do’ list.

1.  Close out my Art Journal Every Day 2011-2012 and begin a new one.  I have a “bare” and half-consumed composition notebook that I will need to fashion into a decent sized book with a cover.  (That will be a project in itself.)  For 2013, I am going to go with a spiral sketch book instead.

2.  Create a cover for my altered book, A HAPPY LIFE.  The book is currently protected by masking tape and I am more than halfway through creating layouts with happiness quotes.  I am trying to find a decent sized thick brown paper bag to use as the cover until I finish the book.

3.  Gather all my jewelry making supplies in one large bin and store them in the attic.  I have been keeping them within arm’s reach hoping to be able to create a few pieces and get the store going.  It is apparent to me now that that is NOT happening until after the holidays.  So to simplify things, I will get a huge bin and just dump everything in and sort later.  (Or try and sort as simply as I can and then just restock later.)

4.  Reformat GOTHAMCHICK.COM.  So many crafts to share!

5.  Weed through my closets and bins and rid myself of things I haven’t used or will no longer use.  (Self-explanatory)

6.  Finish the books I have left unattended and read more in 2013!  (Have to beat the return of Game of Thrones come April!)

7.  Do more RAKs.  (I.e., Random Acts of Kindness — like giving away and destashing craft supplies.  What I don’t need, someone else can use.)  I have succeeded marginally in doing this with my postcards.  A lot of the postcards I don’t collect are finding “other homes”.

8.  Get my shop up and running again.  I do have inventory but I need to sort them out and just “reactivate” the listing in the Etsy Shop, GothamChick.

I don’t like making long lists because I get a sense of foreboding that they will remain just lists.  So let’s keep it at 8 and see where that one goes.

A bit of inspiration: pistachio caramels or yema?

I really don’t normally count down to Christmas but I find myself doing just that today.  I stayed home to burn more days (almost down to the wire) given the end of the year.  A week to go before Christmas, and between tomorrow’s half day and the three days between Christmas and New Year next week, I should be good.

I’m not really rushing for anything except that I have to get the gifts for the teachers and the usual people we rely on for services all year.  (My mailman reportedly left an envelope with the neighbor across the courtyard but I have scoured my mail and have not found any amongst my envelopes..)  I’ve spent the morning getting a cup of pistachios ready (all shelled and skinned), but I realize now I’m short on caramel.  (Might be because I’ve dipped into the bag for a piece here and there for dessert.)

It’s a cold and rainy afternoon and I’m trying to decide if it’s worth suiting up to grab more caramel, perhaps some some cellophane to wrap the caramel with (although I have enough parchment paper) and coffee filters.  (Which is actually enough reason to head out but I remember I have one more for tomorrow, so that can technically wait.)  Caramels… hmmmm…

I’ve always loved caramels… makes me miss PomPoms which is no longer being produced but which used to top my list of favorite chocolate treats.  Anyone old enough to remember what they were?  They were caramel rounds wrapped in a thin layer of chocolate that would melt in your mouth as the caramel surfaced.  The latter was just chewy enough to make you enjoy every bit of it.  The thought is making me think about dipping into that half a bag of caramels again.. =(

I haven’t quite gotten to that point where I am raring to make my own caramel (have to get a candy thermometer) so I’m cheating by melting some bagged caramel (of the Kraft variety)  and altering the composition a bit by adding some heavy cream and a touch more butter.  Store bought caramel tends to be very sweet for my taste, but with the saltiness of the nuts I’m adding, I’m thinking that would be a good trade.  (Still thinking.)

I’m also trying to decide if I will make a 3-egg or 5-egg yema recipe.  Between the two, I’m thinking the 5 egg would be less sweeter and thicker.  Decisions, decisions.. whatever comes of it, I know my friend Millie would love to get my end product.  Pistachio yema?  LOL… doesn’t sound quite right.  But I just might.

The tyke is coming home in a few minutes.  He might yet end up making the decision for me depending on what he requests for dinner.  He still asks to sit on my lap but he’s gotten so much heavier the last couple of weeks, and he has also obviously grown taller because it’s no longer that easy seeing beyond his shoulders when we sit in front of the TV.  At 8 1/2, he is already as tall as my stepson was when he was 10.

Well, the yema won out, and the 5-egg yolk recipe seems to be a clear winner.  Just a few tweaks — but consistency and taste were as good as the yema from my favorite Chocfull o’nuts.  More later…

And life goes on.. on a rainy Sunday in NY

It’s almost half past 1pm and I’m finally sitting down to “write”. Not that I’ve been crazy busy this muggy Sunday but I’ve been taking things easy and trying to enjoy Sunday indoors.

My Christmas tree lights are up and half my Christmas ornaments are hanging on one side of the tree. I let Angelo take a stab at hanging them, so they sort of got all bunched up on one side of the tree most accessible to an almost 4-ft tall eight-year-old. The Dad noticed, and I immediately said I will “fix it” when I get the chance to bring the rest of the ornaments down later.

ATC: Mega Christmas ATC Swap - Ang Parol (The Lantern)I have my Christmas card to assemble which was inspired by a Mega Christmas Artist Trading Card swap I did a parol-inspired ATC for (shown on the left). I know most people would ask why I even bother, but the truth is it’s been part of a holiday routine for me for years and years now and I like being able to put out something unique that truly comes from us. We’ve started receiving Christmas cards from the usual friends and I will fix them up on the upper staircase landing in the shape of a Christmas tree as I have done in previous years.

The eggs for my leche flan have arrived, and I’m mulling about doing a sans rival cake to put the egg whites to good use. I had attempted this once before and while baking sans rival can really be quite tedious, the results are well worth the effort. (Plus it saves me from wasting half the egg whites because we can only eat so much “diluted” scrambled eggs at a ratio of one egg to three egg whites.) That would be the easier alternative to macarrons which I can do if I could fetch some almond flour from Whole Foods, perhaps.

One week to Christmas and while I’m keeping things simple, I want to make it no less special since this is the first Christmas we’re spending here in the last three years, having spent Christmas 2010 and 2011 in Manila.  I miss Manila, of course — but it’s time for another New York Christmas.

Angelo is more “aware” of the holidays and is all excited about wrapping the gifts (and I did promise I’d let him help over the weekend), and he’s been bugging me about what I want.  Make up.

We’re thinking of doing new things this Christmas from previous years like maybe doing a Christmas dinner in the city as a family.  Perhaps the start of a new tradition  between the three of us.

My asthma is finally subsiding… and just in the nick of time before I get into the thick of the preparations for Christmas day itself.

The Bryant Park Christmas tree -- the view from 41 storeys up high