Happy tummy, happy memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And January and February ran past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20 for 2020

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I’ve had this post drafted since the beginning of the year but I have been holding off looking for graphics.  (Note to self: Don’t wait next time.)  Halfway through the first month of the year, I’m hitting “publish”.  This is a list that hasn’t changed much but which I like to keep to sort of give me some guideposts for the coming year. I don’t like making resolutions — I prefer to be specific and set goals. There’s a few staples and an addition or two- just tweaking the list a bit to adjust to the times. And one new addition is a cadence or schedule to just keep me on the ball.

1.  Read six books. – I will keep the books nearer to me to make it easier. Sometimes, I find that I’m too tired and I end up getting sleepier when I open a book. But the goal remains. I am also reading on my devices. As of this writing, I have at least 3 unfinished reads, and I am determined to close one out before January ends.

2. Travel to one destination outside the tri-state area. – I have a few destinations in mind for 2020, and this is one of the items I find easiest to accomplish, even if it takes some planning. I almost got to do this this first half of January with a planned trip with the family back in Manila to Seoul, but their visas didn’t get released on time. If we do get to go in March, then I will be able to chalk this off my list. Otherwise, my favorite niece is arriving for a long vacation here in the summer, and she and I can do a weekend trip or two together.

The Blue Mountains and the Three Sisters
The Three Sisters and The Blue Mountains of New South Wales, 2019

3. Learn something new via an actual class.  It’s one of a few things, but I just need to plan more specifically. I might start with learning to knit properly, for starters. I actually learned how to using plastic chopsticks and my encyclopedia which had step by step instructions. While there are a ton of YouTube videos that give step by step instructions, I find that learning from a master is invaluable in getting things right.

4.  Take better care of myself by exercising, losing more weight.  It’s not just looking and feeling good, but the truth of the matter is this is now a necessity given that I’m getting older. 2019 saw me dieting but not making progress with the exercise. Not good, I know. I need to get started before the month is over.

5.  Visit Central Park all four seasons.  We’ve had a very mild winter and one of my dreams is to visit Central Park during or after a snowfall. I did that last in 2015 where I grabbed some gorgeous shots of freshly fallen and still falling snow. Hopefully, I will be able to do this again this year and visit during the rest of the year with more determination in 2020.

6. Crafting reboot.  I had hoped to do more sewing, but I did a lot of jewelry and crochet in 2019, even if it wasn’t for the shop. I’d like to focus more on the sewing to put my fabric stash to good use. Already excited!

Crochet triangle scarf
7. Destash more systematically. I’ve already started identifying the books. My closet is a continuing project. But I think I’m making progress because I’ve started parting with the shoes!

8. Work on the Gift of 54. This tends to creep up on me and I really need to get ahead of it, so I will start working on this the first month of the year, leaving me 4 months to the big 5-4 in April.

9.  Write more.  I started drafting three posts on New Year’s Day so I think I’m inspired. I believe it’s really about keeping it going for the rest of the year. I’m pretty happy where I landed in 2019 although my writing was in stops and starts. This time around, a post a week should be manageable, aiming for 4 a month, and hoping to do even better. I start the year with 10 possible topics with IG title graphics ready. Three of the 10 are scheduled for posting. I’m on track for a good start of the year! (Yay!)

10. Keep snail mail alive by writing a letter or sending out a card at least once a month.  It was very gratifying and rewarding for me in 2019. I am going to keep this going in 2020. I already have three letters I’m trying to write after writing twice that number in the last part of 2019. (Yay!)

11. Rebind my art journal, begin a new one.  Currently working on this. It’s right there.. and I am vowing to do a reveal video. I will rebind it myself if I have to. As for the new one in the works, I have two projects in mind, going the junk journal route. Excited about this.

12. Sample something new or visit a new restaurant or place (i.e., museum, intallation, etc.) and write about it.  Visiting the newly renovated Museum of Modern Art is on my list.. sitting in a cafe is another.. I have actually managed to do this in my social media accounts but I need to do this here as well and write about the experience with more purpose and depth. One a month.

13.  Publish a postcard set.  I think I need help with this and will seek the advice and services of a friend who is in the business of publishing and hopefully get a set done. I have the photographs!

14.  Visit at least one lighthouse.  I know which one I want to visit and had made plans in late 2019 but it didn’t quite work out.. I will rework the plans and make it happen soon.

15.  Encode my poetry.  Maybe.

16.  Visit more blogs / IG accounts. I joined “Medium” a few months back, and although I haven’t written anything in that forum, I have enjoyed reading others who REALLY write with purpose, and who intimidate me into my corner by their writing.  It’s always a good read — and I’m just afraid that if I start writing there, I might actually lose focus here.  So, yes, reading other people more — and it’s been a fun journey.

17.  Do a fundraiser for Barangay San Vicente.  My mother hails from a very poor community in Sorsogon in the province of Bicol.  x x x I want to be able to do a fundraiser for the young children there in time for the school opening. If not, for the Christmas season when my mom used to do a gift giving celebration for the young kids.”  Again, this just needs a project plan to make execution a snap. I actually got to visit Barangay San Vicente in July 2019 after my mother fearlessly declared she wasn’t coming to Manila even if my son and I were arriving.  (And of course, in the end she did.)  It was quite the trip to get there and back — and a lot has changed in the 20 plus years since I was last there. I’d still like to do the fundraiser — and maybe return.  For 2020 then, and into 2021.

18. Watch a live show or concert once a quarter. Another miss.  I actually enjoyed hitting rush tickets and just need to plan more. Just leaving this to-do here is obviously not working. budget and time-wise.

19. Undertake some home improvement projects. Christmas saw me getting rid of small appliances I had absolutely no use for.  Sometimes I can’t believe why I left them lying around gathering dust when I had absolutely no use for them.  I am going to devote one hour a week to do serious redecorating, whether it’s just clearing stuff out or rearranging things. I was hoping to redecorate in 2019 but I worked on more pressing matters and postponed. Organizing my clutter is priority and I think I’m making progress in that regard.

20. Rework the Etsy shop. Upon Etsy’s prodding, I’ve now switched to free shipping to anywhere in the US, and I’m going through my inventory and taking out the pieces that are just way too cheap to be profitable to be on the shop. One hour every week on this.  I’ve made a definite effort to start organizing for starters, labeling and putting like materials together.  The goal is to devote one weekend to creating pieces and updating the site.

So there goes my list for 2020, and here I am, hopes high.  I am grateful for another year with the sun shining in my corner of the world.  I have a lot to be thankful for in 2019, but then again, that’s another post altogether.  Wishing everyone an even better 2020 — like I said in my holiday card.

As in the previous years, this list has a special spot up in the navigation bar where you will find updates as the year unfolds. I am optimistic this will be a good year for me and this list. Cheers to 2020!

19 for 2019: The Final Score

It’s officially 2020, and before I write my 20 for 2020 post, I wanted to close out on the previous year. No excuses, and I’d like to keep it brief. I last gave an update here on October 9, 2019, and while I didn’t exactly complete the list, I am quite happy with where I landed.
New York Palace
1.  Read six books. – The books are here, and I know I just need to keep reading. I am really, really trying,

2. Travel to one destination outside the tri-state area. – Done. Visited the land down under a second time and visited BFF Donna.

3. Learn something new via an actual class.  Planning this now. I tried enrolling in an EdX class but didn’t get anywhere. Fingers crossed 2020 will be more productive.

4.  Take better care of myself by exercising, losing more weight.  I end the year a little heavier but I am where I want to be, but I am aware there is work to be done and working on it.

5.  Visit Central Park all four seasons.  I have failed to visit at all this year. Not good. It’s a very mild winter and I’m hoping to visit before the season is out.

6. Crafting reboot.  Done! Much progress in this regard.. here, I can say, I did get things done. More sewing in 2020 and I am hoping I can focus on the jewelry business more.

7. Destash more systematically. The dinnerware will go soon. There are a box or two of clothes heading home for those who might need it more.

8. Work on the Gift of 53. Epic fail.  I am going to work on the gift of 54 this next two weeks and get a headstart on this..

9.  Write more.  For starters, I want to set a goal of posting once a week in the blogs.   (Which is principally this one and my craft blog.) – trying to be more consistent with this goal and now have scheduled posts, and writing them to start the year off right!

Work on my other social networking accounts by doing scheduled posts at least once a week.   This needs a more scheduled approach but I’ve managed to get things going, principally because I lost track of one, and someone who tried to reconnect with me followed me on that one. Of course, I didn’t see it. I had even forgotten I had that account! Lesson learned.

Resume my handwritten projects.  Working on this before the week is out, and beginning with a summary of 2019.

10. Keep snail mail alive by writing a letter or sending out a card at least once a month.  Done. I haven’t quite written all the letters I had hoped to write, but I did manage to write quite a bunch of them. Happy with how this one went.

11. Rebind my art journal, begin a new one.  I must do this before it falls apart on me, along with a reveal video clip because I’m really proud of my first art journal.

12. Sample something new or visit a new restaurant or place (i.e., museum, intallation, etc.) and write about it.  I’ve done a few posts on IG of things and places but not here. I need an editorial calendar for my own guidance to get this going.

13.  Publish a postcard set.  Coming soon. I think I will ask the help of a friend who has a printing press.

14.  Visit at least one lighthouse.  I tried to plan a trip before it got too cold but life got ahead of me. Soon. For starters, I already know which one I will work to get to.

15.  Encode my poetry.  Writing more.

16.  Visit more blogs / IG accounts. I joined “Medium” a few months back– yes, reading other people more — and it’s been a fun journey.

17.  Do a fundraiser for Barangay San Vicente.  Major project for 2020. I WROTE, ‘My mother hails from a very poor community in Sorsogon in the province of Bicol.  x x x I want to be able to do a fundraiser for the young children there in time for the school opening. If not, for the Christmas season when my mom used to do a gift giving celebration for the young kids.”  I actually got to visit Barangay San Vicente this July after my mother fearlessly declared she wasn’t coming to Manila even if my son and I were arriving.  (And of course, in the end she did.)  It was quite the trip to get there and back — and I did take pictures, just not as much as I wanted.  And yes, I’d still like to do the fundraiser — just not hitting 2019. 

18. Watch a live show or concert once a quarter. Another miss.  Planning better things in 2020, maybe with my not so little guy even.

19. Undertake some home improvement projects. There is hope.

Not too bad, if you ask me.

I am about to write this year’s list and I am starting the year with high hopes for an even better year ahead. For starters, here’s hoping I get even a third done by the first half of the year at least.. and keep things going from there.

2019 wasn’t so bad after all — in many respects, I think it was even better than 2018 was for me. All in all, I am grateful.

Greeting cards have all been sent

Holiday cards and breakfastI have not really sent Christmas cards the last couple of years. Not for lack of trying, but it used to be such a big production, more so those years when I attempted to create my own cards and envelopes. (THAT big of a production!). I even succumbed to doing one of those photo cards way back when. Of course, there were years I opted for the store bought cards which I did this year– but I was never one to just address and sign the cards. I usually took this opportunity to actually write something.

My address list has grown relatively shorter because of life events. Divorce meant trimming off the ex’s friends from my address book. What is heartening is when I go over the list and see those friends who are still sending me their cards, even after all these years that I have not. I actually look forward to receiving these cards which remind me that I am still near and dean even if I’m on the other side of the world literally. They keep me updated with what’s happening in their side of the world. So this time around, I wrote more than just a message but an update as well.

This year, I gathered the left over cards from previous years which left me doing a guessing game on which ones got a card last year and which card they got. To make it simpler, I bought a new box and sent those to the ones I wasn’t sure of. I have practically sent all and I’m down to one last box.

It is never simply Merry Christmas. With Hanukkah and Kwanza, we usually go for “Happy Holidays”. Happy new year is a safer bet. The thing is to celebrate the celebration – whatever shape or form it takes – and to reach out to the people who matter to you, be it personally or professionally.

I actually enjoy the whole tradition from choosing the cards, writing on them, stamping the envelopes and sending them on their way. It’s just so much a part of the holiday spirit for me. I only wish I could do it way ahead next time and avoid the apologies for the late send. I have also taken to organizing my address list, using an old beat up address book given to me a while back by a favorite ex cousin-in-law. I usually cut out the return address label and put them in my little book. In this day and age of everything being electronic and virtual, I think I will keep my address book and keep updating it.

The Christmas cards are on sale now and I’m picking next year’s card. I have tried to keep away from glitter in the designs because even I don’t like getting glitter all over me which can’t be helped with those pretty cards. I like festive designs with a lot of color and shades of happy. I like to give something I would be happy to receive. I’m starting clean and sending the same card to everyone with no second guessing who got what the previous year. I hope to send them off much earlier next year, and I’m going to start by updating addresses by the end of January.

Sending those cards out this holiday season was a meaningful way to end 2019 and begin 2020. I have reconnected — this time, with a promise to stay connected. I am trying to be more consistent with that. Here’s hoping I get to do this better from here on.

Holiday thoughts

So much for my Friday Five attempts that saw me falling silent again here for a couple of days.  But I am back and hoping to start my holiday blabbing.

Rockefeller christmas tree 2019

It’s already the 10th day of December and we’re not just counting to Christmas, but we’re also counting to the end of the year.

Like the journeys we take, the travel going to is always longer, and the return, a quick glimpse back.  I know a lot happened in 2019, and most of it, I am grateful for.  I try to dwell more on the positive and still try to dig the positive out of the not so happy thoughts.  But that’s another post.

New York is all festive and I got the chance to walk by Rockefeller Center before the weekend and saw how everyone was feeling christmassy with the holiday décor and the giant Christmas tree all lit up.  That, to me, has always been the symbol of the Christmas spirit here in the big apple.  With mixed holiday celebrations, Christmas is present but not everywhere and it makes me miss Christmas in Manila where it starts in September.  Maybe next year..

The lights and my parol is up — but I am still thinking about whether or not I will decorate my Christmas tree. I can totally skip it, but the boy is requesting we do it again this year.  I haven’t totally nixed the idea. It’s just that I have yet to find the right artificial tree that doesn’t shed as much as the one I have and the one before it. I am already dreading the clean up after even before I’ve taken the tree out of the box. Hmmmmmm…  Still, what is Christmas without a Christmas tree?  I remember during those years when we were suffering business losses, we still managed to celebrate and put up a gaily decorated tree to keep the holiday spirit alive.  And that saw us through the  holidays and made for good memories even when we weren’t having a particularly prosperous holiday.

Like recent holidays, this one is being split between the boy’s two parents.  It is just simply a fact of life for us now.  And I’m good with that.  He and I have our routine and are pretty adjusted.  We have always had smaller celebrations even when we were still complete.  Thinking about it now, we still are complete with just the two of us — and I like it that way.

And of course, I haven’t written my Christmas cards — but I have them.  A hodge podge of boxes from the last year or so.

 

 

 

 

This letter I wish I didn’t have to write

Earlier in the year, one of the things I had put in a list of things I called 19 for 2019 that I had hoped/wanted to accomplish in 2019 was to write some letters — the old fashioned way.  I finally had a list of people to write, and the stationery is ready — but life has been a tad hectic.  I am hoping that one or two of those letters head out to the post office before the year is over.

On a professional level, I like being able to express my thoughts in writing, be it to compliment someone or to lodge a protest or complaint, like the letter below.  There are times when verbal communication fails us, more so when we are trying to clarify or explain something.  More so when we are upset.  We end up saying things we don’t mean, or things we end up regretting later on.  I find that writing my sentiments help me to more carefully flesh the facts out and be clearer in relaying my thoughts and feelings.

I have a friend who is my “Goodness meter,” because she is that one soul who gives everyone the benefit of the doubt and has an immeasurable stock of kindness.  I always said that anyone who lands on her bad side would have to be really nasty — because she almost always never thinks ill of others.  Ms. Goodness meter has time and again told me that it’s all in the delivery.  Some people don’t realize that there are many ways to relay a certain message, and sometimes it comes with negativity when none was needed.  Today, I was unfortunately on the receiving end of bad delivery.

I tried to reach Ms. X below but the clinic wouldn’t give an email out.  So I backtracked a bit and went the old fashioned way — I asked if they had a fax number I could send my letter to, and I wrote this and hit send.  It should be self explanatory.

I can write all the names and identify the establishment, but that is not my point in posting this missive here.  I felt writing the letter was like writing a blog post.  You expect your doctors to treat you with a little compassion because one’s health is always a personal issue — and we look for that kind of care, more so since it’s not free.  So here it is.

———————————–

Good afternoon, Ms. X —

First of all, I hope this message finds you well, and let me say on the outset that I am writing and have tried to reach you only to clarify what I believe was a mistranslation of my request to you. I just want to clarify the question/request, and wanted to relay to you what I was told in a rather disturbing call this afternoon.

I have seen you only once before which was repeated to me by a lady who called me with your response. I am seeking to see you this time around in relation to a previous visit with the Dermatology department where they had done my bloodwork.  My iron levels were apparently too high, and my Vitamin D terribly deficient at a level of “#” when normal was “##”. I was put on a Vitamin D regimen – ##k units for 8 weeks, and now #k per day. Dr. Y  advised me to see my GP about these levels, which is why I’m trying to see you. I am going to see my regular dermatologist later in the month for my dermatological issue.

When I requested for the appointment with you yesterday, I had the lady put a question through if you could look at my bloodwork from 90 days ago and I told her the Vitamin D regimen I’ve been on (which I trust would’ve been in my records), and I was volunteering to come in for bloodwork if needed, so you can see the difference in levels if any. It was not a demand to have my bloodwork done ahead, I just wanted to save us both time given the tightness of schedules, and I don’t want to keep drinking my Vitamin D if I didn’t have to. So what I specifically stated was, “Can you please ask the GP if she wanted me to come in for the bloodwork before the appointment and I will make time.”

I received a call today from someone calling on your behalf saying that you said that per policy, I had to see you before I could have bloodwork done – I understand that part. I asked if you were told about the matter regarding my previous bloodwork, and I was told you had seen me only once for sore throat. That is a fact. However, that seemed like someone telling me off that I don’t know you – but I was told you had access to my reports as this was all done in the same (Name of an uber famous doctor’s facility) location. Then I was told YOU SAID THAT IF I WAS HAVING A DERMATOLOGICAL ISSUE, I SHOULD SEE A DERMATOLOGIST. And that is what gave me pause.

So I realize that that might not have been you talking, and I certainly hope not. I also don’t want to come across as being a difficult patient, because it was a question, but I believe half of the question was inaccurately relayed or not relayed to you at all. Just to set the record straight, I am trying to see you regarding my iron levels, and my Vitamin D deficiency. Both, I believe, are within your expertise and practice, and not dermatology.

Again, I am just trying to set the record straight. I don’t want you thinking I am trying to insist on what I was asking. While I have seen you only once, I was struck by your being personable and a caring medical practitioner. That is one reason I’m coming back to the practice for this other inquiry. And I understand if they relayed the initial message sans some important details, leading you to misunderstand what I was asking. It was a clarification / suggestion / question. I wanted you to be able to appreciate that with the correct facts stated. Thank you and I wish you a happy thanksgiving.

Sincerely,

(One disappointed patient — of course I signed my name..)