Art Journal Every Day: I will overcome

Art journal Every day: I will overcome

I finally found an app that will help me blur the journaling around the actual layout after searching high and low in the app store. Thank you, Photo Blur!

Can you believe the layout above began with the pages below?
Art Journal Every Day: original layout before journaling

I’ve been trying to spend a little time each day working on multi-date layouts (where I put a sentence or two about a given topic featured on the page) or in completing actual journal entries.  I just finished working on a multi-page layout and will begin another one, and I can’t wait to see how that progresses and turns out after I am done.  It’s very refreshing to see something which I thought was already “done” get totally transformed into something different once I finish working on it.

I like the way I have made it a routine to pray, journal, pray, journal, pray, draw.  And then when I can, I try to get some reading done.  The downside is I haven’t had much time to write the cards and letters I have been making a mental list of, and neither have I been good with the e-mails.  I am trying to structure my time in such a way that I make a habit of beginning my day with my usual prayer/s and then I try to get some reading done if I wake up early enough.  (Today was a struggle, though, because I didn’t get up until almost 7am!  I know I should’ve straddled out of bed at 5:10am when I woke up..but I was summoned back to bed, and it was too tempting not to catch some more sleep before the day began.)

At lunch time, I try to catch up on my daily readings from KerygmaFamily if I haven’t already done it by then.  And if I still have time, I write on one of two journals that preoccupy me in real time writing.

It takes me time to finish a layout but I try to be good about it.  There are times when the journaling is done for the day but it takes me a day or two more to finish the actual page.  I like seeing the book taking shape… I find it so inspiring to even just glance at it on my desk without opening it, seeing its many colored pages.  I like that someone who can’t even draw a face without the help of tracing an outline can come up with this.  It’s something very personal that shows me what I am becoming and where I’ve been. 

My first layouts in 2012 were mostly symbolic without much journaling, but these days I find a greater need to write.  Sometimes in ways only I can understand.  I layer writing over writing and then just trust that I will understand it if I ever go back to it.  Otherwise, I am happy with the way it has come together.  It doesn’t need to be read, it only needs to be seen as a whole.
Instagram Buzz
I posted this on my Instagram with this caption:

Art journal every day: I will move on – I started doing #artjournaleveryday in 2012 when I first bumped into @balzerdesigns, Julie Fei-fan Balzer’s website . To this day, she is an inspiration to me as a non-artist trying to come up with personal art. She has generously shared her comments and techniques. I recently returned to #artjournaling using my #alteredbook which had lain dormant for most of 2013. This year, I promise to take better care of me and focus on myself while taking care of others.

I got the biggest surprise of my life when Julie left a comment and made my day. She truly inspires and makes a difference in so many people’s lives.

Yet a little colder

Snow today againYesterday, we woke up to around an inch of snow which only meant continuing cold temperatures in an already very cold New York.  I snapped this picture up on the way out to the bus stop.  The sun was already peeking out but it was cold..

No snow this morning but still below freezing temperatures so I’m all layered and bundled up. It doesn’t help that I seem to be coming down with something although I’m self-medicating as always.  (Not quite there yet — but so far my meds are holding up.)  “Meds + tea” seem to be working.

Meanwhile, I’ve been journaling on my Altered book. Showing the actual spreads as done here is a bit of a challenge because I’m trying to keep the journal entries private. Much of what I had written there were very personal. So instead I’ve been posting additions and add-ons I’ve been working on over at Gothamchick. One of my more recent posts is about some Filofax pages and Rolodex blanks I spray painted which you can read about here.

These days I’ve been thinking a lot about polymer clay, my Etsy store and getting that store going again. And yet jump starting things has taken a backseat to life in general. Thinking about it, I guess, is a start

I try to condition the clay when I can but actually setting aside time to work on them has been difficult. I keep going to Polymer Clay Daily for inspiration and ideas. Getting there.

Five things to be thankful for

1.  A warm and cozy home to go into when the temps outside dip down to 27 degrees.  (Thankfully, we didn’t get a ton load of snow again.  Just another regular winter snowfall sometime this afternoon.)

2.  Instagram.  18 followers.. my most popular posts are a series of photos I’m tagging #jeepneystories.  Come and take a look and let me know what you think of my photos.

3.  A nice dinner of tuna sashimi and shrimp tempura with rose wine.  I’m trying to be good with the diet… tuna shashimi at 1 pt each and 2 shrimp tempura.. plus a glass of wine.  Life is good..

4.  Getting on with my altered book and Art Journal Every Day project.  Finally drawing and writing again.  (Writing more about it at Gotham Chick.)

5.  Watching “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” with my boys.  Makes me miss Tom Clancy.  I’m sure he left a ton of story ideas that will see more of his genuis on the big screen.  I love Chris Pine as Jack Ryan and I’m keeping my fingers crossed he will come back for the next installment.  I would love to see him do the succeeding ones eventually.  But the even more intriguing thought for me is if they will ever do John Clark who is my favorite Tom Clancy character of all.  I totally enjoyed  seeing Kenneth Branagh who, it turns out, was also the director of the movie.  I have long been in love with this Knighted Englishman from the moment I first saw him in one of my forever favorites, “Much Ado About Nothing” some twenty years ago.  (Which he, again, directed and starred in.)

I have around two hours more to go before I hit the sack and I have a corner I want to attack and weed out stuff that needs to be disposed of.  I’m on my second cup of tea and hoping to write another post before I hit the sack in a bit.  I hope everyone is having a good weekend, too… despite the cold for us here on the east coast…

We should all count our blessings.

Snowy NYC

I’ve been around.. just didn’t quite find a post worth sitting to write about, and have instead been “Instagram” busy.  (Find me there as GothamChick)  I have 15 followers, and I’ve been trying to post daily.

I love the app — but I still can’t do my posts without Flickr. (Where I have a healthy portfolio as Pinay New Yorker)

We got some serious snow during the week and I’ve been told we’re getting a little more tomorrow.  Just a little.  (Well, I sure hope so.) 

Winter Storm January 2014

So we got a lot of snow and it’s still lying around slowly “disappearing” if only because the temperatures are at record lows. We’re lucky to start the day with double digits. 9 degrees! That’s the norm these days.
Winter Storm January 2014You can hardly see the Empire State Building peeking from behind the thick blanket of snow falling on Manhattan.
Winter Storm January 2014

The buses were hardly running and I wanted to make it to the other side to go home, so I walked. I had my umbrella but the snow was blowing from all sides. The good thing is I was properly attired with my snow boots and long coat, so save for a constant spray hitting my face, I was good. (My greatest fear wasn’t slipping but having raccoon eyes by the time I got to my destination! Vanity!!! HAHA!)

The kids, however, were sorely disappointed because the following day wasn’t declared a snow day.  So my little guy trekked to school, but I spared him the walk home and had our friend pick him up instead of having extended day. 

Like most things that come our way here in the big apple, we went through the storm and then moved on.  That is so New York – moving on – and it keeps us going through the best and the worst of times.
Winter Storm January 2014

By the time we got to this part of the city on Fifth Avenue and our bus crawled in front of the New York Public Library, we had been in the bus over an hour.  And we did make it home at just under three.  Three hours on the bus — yes..but we made it home.

14 for 2014

14 in 2014Everyone is into making lists with the start of a new year upon us.  So here is mine.  I had written this down in one sitting in as spontaneous a way as possible in the order it occurred to me.

I like the way the list shaped up because it started with me, and ended with who should be the most important one to all of us.  Read on..

IN 2014…

1.  I will be kinder to myself.  Charity, as they say, begins at home — but we always tend to forget ourselves.  After two years of self-flaggelation and of thinking the worst of me, I think I’m ready to move forward knowing I have learned my lesson from my failings and am a better person for it. 

Kindness begets kindness and I hope to be able to give more of that after I give myself the same.

2.  I will get rid of 5 items everyday to unclutter my life.  I tend to hold on to things longer than I should — and although I don’t consider myself to have had a deprived childhood, I am always thinking something worth throwing can become something or be used for another purpose later.  I’m always afraid that I might regret throwing something away.  End result: Clutter galore.  I have so far succeeded in starting one step at a time — trying to find things to put away or throw away when I sit at my desk at the start of a work day, and at home as I end it. 

3.  I will be more organized and be less of a pack rat. Although related to the previous one, being organized is different from uncluttering.  I’d like to be more efficient at work by going back to practices I had gotten used to before and by trying to keep things in order. 

First is the need for just one calendar to keep all relevant dates (like the school calendar, birthdays, etc.).  In the past, I had kept separate calendars and ended up getting confused and not being able to see everything together.  Thanks to the iPhone I now carry, I’m hoping to keep that all under control.  Same with notes and addresses.  I also want to create a hardcopy address book — another project in the making.

I want to see my journals all lined up and ready to pick up when I have an entry to write.  I want to have my art supplies — particularly the ones I use for jewelry making — more organized.  Putting them in individual organizers by plating (gold plated, antique brass, sterling silver, polymer clay) is a start, but because of the size of my stash needs a better approach.

4.  I will try and learn to let go and forgive.  I am human, but I tell myself I was created to be better than just being one.  The past two years have been challenging and painful, and while I keep hearing that letting go and forgiveness will help me move forward, it hasn’t been quite easy.

Forgiveness is another journey that I must make, and while I can see my destination, I am trying to figure out how best to get there. 

I want to be able to let go so that if something ends up hurting me, I wouldn’t be hurt as badly because I am holding on to that loosely.  I don’t want to hold it too loosely to let it go, though — just not too tightly that it would end up feeling like losing such a big part of me if it ends up not being meant for me.

5.  I will save more. My best motivation is to think more of myself.  With what I make, I should be comfortable and I’m getting there.  I want to be financially independent and to get back into sound economic shape.  I want to be ready for any eventuality and to be able to fend for myself money-wise. 

6.  I will reopen and pursue my entrepreneurship with passion again. My life seems to have been in suspended animation for the last two years, leaving one of my personal accomplishments on the sidelines, withering away.  This year I promise to work more earnestly on my crafting and in selling my work through my Etsy Shop

For starters, I’m reopening the store this week, even with just ten pieces for sale.  I am reworking my packaging and marketing, and will be gearing towards improving my craft by taking classes along the way.  I will try to do at least two fairs to be able to sell to the public directly, but not after feeling more confident about my work.

I also need to figure out if jewelry making is really the niche I want to attack or should it be papercrafting?  Should it be something else like repurposing or upcycling?  My heart and resources are really into jewelry making but I need to focus and begin again, and I hope that I can get this off the ground in the first 100 days of 2014.

7.  I will try to read more. I am reading more right now and have committed to read the entire Bible in one year.  I also hope to finish the books that are just floating around my Kindle app from Steve Jobs’ biography to the latest from Grisham.  I am saddened that Tom Clancy is now on the other side, but I managed to enjoy Robert Ludlum despite his being gone, too.

I want to diversify my reading list and hopefully get at least 14 books down for 2014. (Wish me luck!)

8.  I will do more personal art. My projects had lain dormant and unattended and are now being resurrected with a newfound zest to express myself.  I have words, phrases, sayings I want to see executed in mini-canvasses.  I was inspired by the works for sale in the previous iteration of the Shops in Bryant Park this Christmas 2013. 

One of my more ambitious ideas is to be able to produce a set of postcards I can sell to benefit my chosen causes.  I am seriously considering studying producing limited edition postcard sets from amateur photographers, particularly young Filipino camera enthusiasts whose talent need showcasing.

Another is to go to more art classes and maybe be able to draw a face by end of the year.  (My hand tends to go the way Picasso’s went — and I’m no Picasso.)

9.  I will be more thankful and celebrate life again. I am not quite there yet, but throughout the time I was being harshest on myself, I found hope in counting my blessings.  I learned to appreciate what I had in the face of what I thought I didn’t.  I guess it is what has helped me to be strong in the face of what seems like a huge chunk of my life being taken away from me, because I still felt there was something I had been given.

I have mourned, I have cried, I have wallowed in sadness and heartbreak.  I have to force myself out into the sunlight because I cannot let life’s disappointments get the better of me.  I will try and write my Five Things to be Happy about/Thankful for list more often as a constant reminder of my blessings.

I will celebrate life myself without waiting for others to celebrate it with me.  It is an acknowledgment of the blessings I have received, and the blessings others have given me.

10.  I will strive to stay healthy and become more fit. I managed to lose 20 lbs in the latter half of 2013 and I hope to lose even more in the next 6 months and get healthy.  As I grow older, I’ve realized that taking care of my body is becoming more of a necessity rather than an option.  Otherwise, my body parts might just start conking out on me.

11.  I will share more of my time and resources. I really prefer to give than raise funds but when the need is great, I don’t hesitate to put my name out there and ask for donations.  I have come to discover that although my own financial resources may be limited, I have a way of asking people that makes them want to give.  I did that for a friend who was trying to raise money for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda, being a native from Tacloban herself, and with one appeal and less than 38 hours, we raised $500, my measly donation included.

Coming from a third world country that is always in need even during its best days, I have realized my blessings are abundant enough for me to give more — not necessarily moneywise, but there are other ways to make a difference, and I’d like to make a difference in 2014.

12.  I will put my “teacher” hat on. When I was in law school back in another lifetime, my classmates liked getting what we called case digests because they were good summations of otherwise long and complicated cases.  When a plot was too complicated, I’d take to the board and explain in simpler terms.  I also had a gift for giving textbook like definitions I pulled from context and stock knowledge.  It wasn’t that I was a genius, I just had this knack for explaining things without thinking you knew what I already knew. 

My class is all but one person whose little brain I am trying to mold like my own, knowing he has the smarts and the aptitude and even more than I possessed.  My first debacle is learning American History in earnest, and the fact that it’s his favorite subject doubles the pressure on his poor mom. (Me!)  I also want to teach him cursive writing which is not offered here.  I have started already, trying to prepare my little guy for the Statewide tests happening in April.  I know I can do this, and I WILL do this.

13.  I will enjoy New York City and do something “New York” at least once a month. I have been a New Yorker for almost 14 years now, and I’ve been thankful that whole time to live in one of the greatest cities in the world.  It is not lost upon me that both for Americans and the world outside our borders, New York City is THE destination to see.

Unfortunately, living here has made it ordinary despite its being extraordinary.  I wish I could do more to explore this wonderful city and I intend to do that from hereon.  Visit new places — like trying new things and new restaurants, even on my own.  Enjoying a play or two.. watching a concert once a year.. and maybe one day making it to the Opera or to Lincoln Center to watch the world renowned New York City Ballet.

14.  I will be more fervent in my pursuit of a closer relationship with God.  It’s not just because I believe that we are never truly down and out — that when things seem to be at its worst, we receive or are blessed with something good or even greater.  Through the worst of times, I am forever grateful that I have never felt closer to God, and I have never felt his presence stronger in my life.  When I asked a question, he answered clear as day.

My journey in this respect is far from easy.  And I take that as His way of showing me that this is the most important relationship in my life because it is what takes the greatest amount of work.  While it may be the hardest to be good at, it is the most rewarding in the end. 

Countless times, I found myself crying and lost in anger and pain — and the only thing that gave me comfort was the thought that He was holding my hand through it all.  I want to keep working at being a better person, and a more deserving daughter to Him.  It is such a struggle given all that I am going through, but I know I will make it because He is there with me.

Fast forward to “peaceful” and “happy”

DAILY PROMPT: If you could fast forward to a specific date in the future, when would it be?

Fast forwardI don’t have a specific date in the future because I don’t know just “when” I will get to where I want to get to.  I do know I want to get there.

My world is nowhere near the kind of calm that would enable me to open my eyes each morning with a peaceful thought.  I wake up in the oddest of hours in the morning, and I think of the reason why I am waking up when I should be lost in slumber.

The ceiling over my bed is becoming my focus spot even in the darkness.  I don’t see anything.  No color, no darkness.  I see white.  And it stays white.  I used to drag myself out of bed half-awake still intoxicated with that bliss that takes you over after a restful sleep.  I miss that.  I wake up — wide awake, eyes open and I am “up” even before I pull myself out of the bed.

I grab my phone and blackberry and saunter out of the room.  I start making breakfast.  Because it’s winter, it is still dark outside.  I find the darkness to be my friend at this time when the silence helps me to get my bearings so early in the day.  I move slowly.

I try not to open the TV until I’ve gotten my groove after preparing Angelo’s water jug which I fill with ice and then water to the brim to “semi-freeze” it.  That’s the way he likes it.  I grab the snack of choice (fave of the moment) and put it in the ziploc bag.  For now, that’s pretzel.

My mornings are full of sighs and empty thoughts.  I pray.  I start with the Serenity Prayer.

I’ve subscribed to Kerygma’s Daily Readings.  I try to do this early in the morning or when I find a moment of “peace” at work.  It helps that I don’t have to lug my Didache anymore.  All the scripture and reflections are literally at the palm of my hand.

Then my day begins.  And then it ends.  And it goes this way over and over again, punctuated by moments of anger, pain and just numbness.  I want to get to that point when the anger will just be a momentary flash.  When the pain will just be a memory.  When the numbness disappears.

I don’t know how far ahead in the future I must look to to find that point where I would fast foward my life to.  I cannot even think of April right now which is just weeks away.  I just want to sleep through it and have it be  over and done with.  I’m thinking maybe I’ll take a trip alone someplace.  Then I think not.  Again, the numbness takes me over.

I’d like to get to that place again when opening my eyes in the morning means looking forward to another day.  When it ceases to be another day I must pull myself through.

I’d like to get to that place when I feel good about life again.  When the uncertainty has lessened for I know it will never be truly gone.  When I can walk with a steady gait instead of faltering through the hills and valleys I pass or know I will pass.  When I am not overwhelmed by the sense of loss I feel now for things, time and opportunities that have been taken away from me by someone’s evil designs.

I want to get to that point when I cease to be evil myself.  When I get to that sense of being okay with the world as it is, whatever the state of my world may be.  When the thought of ruining someone no longer appeals to me or appeases my anger.  When forgiveness finally settles in my heart and soul.

Daily Prompt: My Hero then

DAILY PROMPT :  When you were five years old, who was your hero? What do you think of that person today?

Funny how, at 47, I still have memories of when I was 5 and even 4. So even if this is a lifetime away, I still remember.

My hero… it’s not all that difficult to think about. When I was 5 my life revolved around the grown ups around me and what characters I came across on our black and white TV set. I had Popeye the Sailor man who tried to make eating spinach appeal to me — but we don’t really do spinach in the Philippines. Yet he always saved his precious Olive who was a girlfriend and had a baby. Was that the first iteration of media talking about single parenthood?

I watched Popeye over and over again, memorizing the theme and waiting for that moment when Brutus the villain gets his due and Popeye knocks the day lights out of him. That’s when Popeye gets his can of spinach which, mind you, he pops out of a can and then devours with gusto. And he suddenly grows muscles and saves the day.

He was two-dimensional compared to the superheroes of today and his story lines were silly by today’s complicated plots. He was a kid’s hero– the one you outgrow. It was back in the day when cartoon characters did not have to be deep. It was a time when they were easier to understand from beginning to end.

They were silly but easy enough to understand. When my now 9-year-old used to watch episode after episode of Spongebob, my son delighted in my befuddled expression as I tried to figure out the show.

Popeye was simpler and easier to understand. He’s still my hero.

Humbled in 2013 – The things I have learned in the year just passed

Blog graphics I have been trying to think of how to summarize 2013 for the last couple of days and based on the many things that took place in the previous year, I find that one word that best describes what I have gone through in both the good and the bad sense is I have been “humbled“.

Through most of last year, I went about my business with my head bowed, carrying a guilt and shame I thought I had to bear because of my mistakes in the year before that.  While I have “risen” from the burden I had carried as I realized I had long ago paid my dues and had been forgiven by my God, I did not take that realization as a reason to gloat.  Much too much has happened that has prevented me from doing that.  And I am trying to learn from the lessons life had taught me and made me go through, difficult though some may have been.

In the beginning of the year, I had thought that 2012 was my most difficult year, my lowest of lows.  I started 2013 with the thought that nothing could be worse than what I had gone through personally in 2012.  I realize now I was wrong.

One of the most important lessons I learned in 2013 is not to expect that the worst has passed until it has indeed passed.  If I thought I was in a bad dream in 2012, I was in a nightmare in 2013.  But I suppose you can say that I had been prepared in many ways by my journey in 2012 for the more difficult sojourn of 2013.  I had good practice.  My resilience had once been tested, and it came in handy when I needed it most.  It helped me to put one foot infront of the other to take even just tiny steps when I thought I could no longer bear the weight of the world.  When the worst of the worst came, I looked back and told myself that was nothing compared to what is happening now.

Despite the challenges I faced, I never felt bitter.  I just told myself I shouldn’t have been so quick to think that 2012 was my lowest point.  I didn’t know I had the capacity to handle even so much more.  I didn’t know that I would survive something worse or more difficult to go through.  I didn’t realize I was stronger than the person I thought I was.

I learned, too, that I was never alone even when everyone else seemed to have left my side.  In 2012, the circle of people around me grew even smaller.  By 2013, it was just my immediate family and a select few friends who heard every beat of my heart, every whimper, every cry.  And yet when the storm came, I couldn’t call out to them.  I had to bear it all alone.

But I was not alone.

Through all the struggles I faced, I knew He was holding my hand and I never felt more protected nor sheltered by God.  I felt Him in the gentle wind, in the sunshine, and even in a short message sent from across the globe from someone I had not heard from in ages and ages.  When I asked Him to tell me what to do, someone reached out to me and gave me His message as if He had left a note on her desk to pass on to me.  He said it so plainly, “I heard you, my child…”

I couldn’t even be angry at Him for one second.  I didn’t have any reason to ask “Why me?” or “When is this going to end?”  Everything that was happening one after the other seemed to be a never-ending conversation where I heard Him speaking to my heart.  There were times when I would pause in the midst of the anger and the pain and just listen to the silence, and I found such great comfort in the stillness.  Even when nothing was being said — when I was not asking any questions and I was not trying to discern what His response was, I heard Him loud and clear in my heart.

He told me to hold fast and not to go anywhere.  So I relented, despite my doubts about having the strength to do that which He asked.

He taught me that my greatest strength was my faith.  When all else failed, it kept me standing.  When the tears wouldn’t stop coming, it gave me the air I needed to keep going to the next minute.. and the next.  I learned to pray like I never prayed before.  I started reading the Bible again.  I finally relented and stopped resisting going to Church again.  When I was stumped, I asked for His help and the answers came.

It is that faith which keeps me believing I can make it now, no matter where life leads me.  I know that whichever way the wind blows, I will be able to bend and take it and not let it break me.

I used to be afraid that I would break.  But even breaking now is no longer daunting.  I know I will heal and stand back up again.

I learned that you can find happiness and draw it out even in the worst of situations if you will yourself to.  My efforts at channelling happiness in 2012 proved helpful in keeping me focused on staying positive even when everything was going wrong.  There is wisdom in knowing happiness can be created or be a choice — that no matter how crippling life’s blows, you can find a reason to smile about, or look up to the skies hoping to find a rainbow again.

While I have failed miserably at completing my happiness journal, the effort to actively seek out quotes and other happiness – related prose or text put me in a better frame of mind than I normally would.  Those “words of inspiration” can, indeed, inspire.

I saw how others persevered and smiled despite the ravages of calamities and other sources of hopelessness.  I have no right to begrudge the world for what I see as my misfortune in the face of their heartbreak.  I have been so blessed, no matter how empty I may have felt.  My cup was always full.

I learned to accept that the way some people may treat or regard you is not the sum total of who you are. On the contrary, it shows the kind of person they are.  I am holding my tongue on this one, so further discussion needed.

I learned that I have such a capacity for forgiveness as I have such a capacity for hate.  Again, both the good and the bad.  I never realized I could foster so much hate in my heart like I did, and that I could espouse such evil designs in my head.  We think that we are better than the evil we read about but when pushed to a corner, I have discovered that I am not totally above all that.  That I am human and can succumb to the temptation to hurt another as I have been hurt, or as someone I love has been hurt.

At the same time, I have learned that I can swallow such pain and anger and accept an apology or the illusion of one if none is forthcoming for the sake of myself and those who matter most to me like my son.  Where I thought I would have turned my back on someone who has hurt me like no other, I have succeeded in finding the compassion to give that person another chance.

Yet I am human, and there is hatred in my heart that might forever simmer and not find forgiveness.

I learned that forgiveness begins with forgiving yourself. 

And forgive me, I have.

For the longest time I punished myself for my failings.  I thought I had committed the gravest of sins, only to realize much later on that I had stumbled, but I had gotten up on my feet again.  I had paid my dues and then some.  In fact, I had overpaid what I thought I had owed many times over.

When I forgave myself, I found strength in knowing that the courage I needed to own up to my failings was the same courage that would help me move forward. It was wrong that I had been so harsh on myself because it allowed others to take advantage of me, but it was a lesson I had to learn from the mistakes I had made.

I learned that I should not be afraid of beginnings or endings as they are but time stamps on our life events.

It is never too late to begin again, no matter how far you’ve gone or how much time has passed.  There is no such thing as having invested so much time into something that you cannot turn around and say “I’ve done enough of this, time to move on.”

Yes, you can move on to other things.

Yes, it is okay to give up and turn your sights elsewhere.

I used to be so afraid of the time and effort that would have all gone to waste if I had a change of heart.  But the lessons of 2013 have taught me that there will be times when one must just accept the stopwatch has ceased ticking.  The clock will start with some new endeavor, new place, or new pursuit.

And while we all hate endings, I look to them as the sign of new beginnings, of new things to come.  It is all part of the so-called circle of life that we must go with if we are to survive and move on instead of getting stuck where we are.

We shouldn’t be afraid of either one.  When things end, you know other things will begin.  Life WILL go on.  And in 2014, it will.

Food trip: Elias

Elias for dinner x2One of the things I really look forward to during my trips to Manila is the culinary experience that it entails, given the gastronomic offerings available. I had the good fortune of visiting Elias twice this trip, and here are a few of the yummy delights we got to sample.

First of all, thanks to my good friend Ces who brought me here during our first night together.

The restaurant describes itself as “Turn of the century Filipino dining – a trademark that is only Chef Florabel Co Yatco’s.

Elias is a mélange of an elegant Filipino home during the Spanish colonial period, and a modern, classy Filipino restaurant of the 21st century.”

The restaurant decor is reminiscent of a rustic ancestral home bordering on “almost modern” but not quite.  It is dated but not “great grandmother old”.   The dishes are a creative play on characters and elements related to the period of Elias of Noli Me Tangere, Jose Rizal’s famous novel.

For my first dinner, Ces implored me to try the Munggo de Mariano which is lentil soup with chicharon (pork rinds) and tuyo fillet (smoked herring flakes).  I am not really a fan of lentil soup but I loved this one — probably because of all the crunch and flavor brought in by the chicharon.  For our main course, we had the Leandro which is Laing with Lechon Kawali (pictured below) and Joaquin or Tender Bulalo with Mushroom Gravy.  (Much like the Bulalo Steak made famous by another local chain of restaurants.)  We were too full to have dessert.Elias for dinner x2For Chrismas day, Mom, my sister, Offie, my brother Nikki, Angelo and I went out for dinner after a long day of cooking and serving lunch to our guests and I brought them to Elias for a different set of dishes. 

Elias for dinner x2

My sister picked this Oyster appetizer, Elias’ Choice,  pictured above, which is baked oyster with garlic and cheese.  (Oyster Rockefeller Elias Style?)  I would have gladly sampled it but I had just undergone some dermatologic procedures which required me to stay away from seafood at least until the “wounds” on my face healed.)

Nikki chose the Emilio which was actually Beef Morcon cooked in Classic Tomato Sauce.  I didn’t get to try this dish but it got Nikki’s seal of approval and that’s good enough for me.
Elias for dinner x2
Now, when I see that a restaurant offers special rice dishes, I try to sample it as a way of testing the mettle of the chef as far as coming up with simple yet complimentary flavors to the dishes his or her restaurant offers. We picked the Adobo Rice   which was hands down a great pairing to any of the dishes next to plain white rice and the old reliable garlic rice.  It had very subtle flavors which was the way it should be as it was not being offered as a rice viand, but rather as some form of “flavored” or “seasoned rice”.

Elias for dinner x2One rule of thumb I’ve followed through the years is to try a common dish associated with the cuisine a new restaurant I’m trying is known for to use it as a point of reference in comparison to something I’m familiar with.  How can you go wrong with Sinigang Gomez  which is good old Sinigang na Baboy sa Sampalok or Pork Sinigang with Tamarind Soup.  Authentic and soured appropriately — although Mom found it too maasim or tart.  I was quite happy with it.

Elias for dinner x2
My personal choice for an entree was the Lengua Laruja which I was hoping to sample from the classic Casa Marcos, but their only remaining branch was at the Fort which was much too far to go to on a holiday evening like Christmas. I had no complaints for the Elias version because it was soft and tender and the sauce was perfect to a T.

Elias for dinner x2
It was a busy night for the restaurant and as luck would have it, we were seated next to the dessert display, and one particular dessert was calling out to me.  Narcissa, Crisostomo’s Favorite which is Quezo de Bola Cheesecake was a perfect way to cap our sumptuous dinner.  This, alone, is worth going to Elias for.

Elias for dinner x2

Kudos, Chef Florabel!  Thanks for a memorable trip home.

Happy new year!

I arrived last night from a two and a half week vacation in Manila which, as always, was far too short but quite the celebration of family and friends. It was toned down for the most part as I chose to stay home and spend more time with my Mom. Angelo got to spend a lot of time with his cousins, as I allowed him to sleep over at my brothers so he could enjoy his Ate Julia, his cousin and best bud Art and new cousin, Adrianna. He kept crying as we walked out to the plane taking us to Hong Kong from Manila and again as we boarded the flight from Hong Kong to New York.

My shoulders are killing me, probably from the exhaustion of the whole trip plus having to lug my hand carry luggage. (Trying to resist grabbing pain killers as it’s tolerable for now.)

We arrived last night in time to make the 9pm reservation for a New Year’s Eve dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant, Erawan.  I spent the rest of the night unpacking, and I managed to empty three of the four huge suitcases we carried.  (Quite  a feat considering the trip.)

I tried not to give in to the urge to sleep through the morning as we go back to work tomorrow, and the little boy has school.  (Bummer!)  If it weren’t for the pain on my shoulders, I would have stayed on my feet all morning unpacking the last two pieces of luggage I still have to sort through.

How was your New Year’s eve?

I’ll save the wishes and reflections for a later post.  I just want to start the year right with a New Year’s greeting from the Pinay New Yorker as we welcome 2014.