Sundays be like

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AWeekends have not changed much when you think about spending it at home. It’s when you think about how much has changed about how you spent your weekends before the lockdown and after everything changed that it catches up with you. Life in New York has somewhat returned to something close to normal, but we are watching the numbers closely and hoping the uptick in new cases will be confined to certain areas and eventually stemmed.

I like spending my Sundays quietly and lazily. Unless something was planned beforehand, I don’t even go by the clock… I do things when I want to do it. I set up a breakfast treat and brewed some coffee, sat and ate leisurely while thinking about the things I want to accomplish today. No chores. Just things that need to get done but I won’t kill myself over not doing them. The week, even if working from home, is busy and hectic enough, framed by work schedules and task that need to be done.
Sunday Breakfast

I had things to do Saturday that ended up with me too exhausted to do anything much. I had taken the beads out of my supplies stash to make a few necklaces and bracelets for my sister. I didn’t get anywhere last night so I’m hoping to create a few pieces today. The request was for labradorites and jaspers, and some dyed jade had arrived over the weekend.

Sometimes I need to handle the beads a while before inspiration hits. It will come if it comes.

The weekend this weekend

It’s almost 2am and I’m just getting ready for bed, and for some reason, i decided I would write a post before I tried to bring myself to lala land. So if this turns out to be an incoherent attempt, blame it on the late hour.

It’s been a busy week. I’ve tried to start sewing again several times with no success. I am hoping I get to do some tomorrow. The art journal has been receiving lots of attention these days and I’m actually very happy at how that’s turning out because I am already thinking of next year’s journal.

I decided to take my daily walk later today, with the goal in mind of grabbing dinner along the way. It was chilly but not freezing cold. I walked with the determination of a woman craving a treat, and while I did get my grilled octopus and managed a bed of homemade Caesar salad to put it on when I got home, I think I overdid the dessert. Buyer’s remorse. Too late, I know, but I felt I deserved it. My diet app would tell me I’m being so emotional (with a “baby” at the end, to boot!) but I will live. I will try to be good for the rest of the weekend. Indulging myself last weekend resulted in gaining back some of the weight I had shed, but I’ve lost enough not to panic over it. Besides, I’ve started shedding it again.

Grilled Octopus over Caesar Salad at home

I’ve managed to walk 10,000 steps minimum everyday for the last couple of weeks– seeming out inclines and making sure I walk to a fast beat. (Donna Summer’s “Heaven knows” being the current favorite. ) I’ve counted the steps between two points in various configurations that I can easily plot which direction I should go to make my daily goal. I have been surprised at how close distances actually are between home and places I used to ride a cab to– not realizing they were actually walkable.

I like weekend walks because I’m not pressed for time like I am during the week. Whether I walk before officially starting my work day, or sneaking in a stretch during my lunch break, I don’t quite have the same freedom to walk as much as I want without worrying about the time. So tomorrow and Sunday are what I would call “adventure walks”.

But for now, it’s time to lay my head down on my pillow and drift off to dreamland. I am just so glad the weekend is finally here.

We remember, once again

Every year, when this day comes around, I remember where I was and all that happened 19 years ago.

Last Friday, I wrote on Instagram across my accounts:

“One week after, we returned. I was there when it happened, on the other side of Wall Street, closer to the water. I saw paper flying everywhere when I got out of the subway not knowing the first plane had hit. I went to work and started getting the calls from other states and even from Manila, asking if I was okay. Then I heard the explosion of the second tower getting hit. I saw the rolling plumes of dust and smoke when the first tower collapsed. And then the second. We couldn’t see across the street as the building disappeared in the thick dust. I waited for hours before deciding to walk home with some coworkers. Dead pigeons littered the streets, overwhelmed by the soot. I finally came upon a working subway station around 14th street and I took the subway back to Queens. So many lives lost in what was a senseless attack. #gothamchickwasthere #weremember911 #gothamchicksays

Downtown one week after

Finding time

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AI have been busy doing other things in the real world and I haven’t really had the energy to write. That is not for lack of anything to write about , but I guess you can say I just had to pause and take a breath. I started drafting this post midweek and it has stayed in my drafts folder for days.

I was looking forward to a quiet weekend writing letters and hopefully sending them off by Monday or Tuesday next week. A bit of non a delivery glitch on something else I was expecting, sort of, delayed me. I have been seeing a bit here and there, and more projects await.

A friend actually asked me where I find the time. As these tasks or projects are a source of de-stressing and finding time to relax, I find myself stealing pockets of time here and there. Sometimes, it’s the midday lunch break. Or between logging off of work and cooking dinner. Or that window when the whole day has come to an end and I’m just about ready to turn in for the night.

No pressure. I do them when I can, which means it might take me a while.

I remember around three months ago, I said I was preparing for returning to work. Back then, even with the prevailing panic as numbers of deaths recorded and hospitalizations rose to staggering heights, there was a sense that this would abate and end. I felt encouraged as the numbers trickled down, and the panic finally subsided. For the first two months or so, I ventured out only every 3 weeks.. 2 weeks if there was a sense of urgency.

Then New York started a phased reopening. The numbers started raging upwards everywhere else and that dashed all optimism about anything going back to how things used to be.

So I adjusted my own projections and hopes. Still preparing for a return to work that can happen anytime in the next four weeks. Frankly, I am not looking forward to it even if I know it is an eventuality. Even the prospect of any return to work become voluntary does not assuage my anxiety, even partially. It is a situation that continues to evolve, but all we can do is cope.

I’m still trying to get my arms wrapped around the idea of returning to work. For the last month and a half, I’ve been bravely walking outside.. more to take care of myself really. I’ve been on Noom for as many days, and besides eating healthier, I’ve tried to move more. It takes some planning and getting used to wearing a mask while out and about, but I’ve managed. In more ways than one, these daily walking trips around have helped me get more comfortable with the new normal we all find ourselves in. I always carry a few pieces of disposable gloves, a small container of hand sanitizer, and a folded paper towel or napkin (to open doors with.

I find time every morning, or later in the day when I cannot to get my steps in.

One thing I’m grateful for during the challenge of the “sheltering in place” and “working from home” debacle is that there is now time to actually walk and do some physical exertion, no matter how minor a task it may seem to be. For someone who has always been averse to exercise of any sort, this is a positive change I’m quite happy about. When I see the clouds threatening with rain in the morning, I adjust for a later time in the day. Thank God, for the weather app on my phone!

Just another one of the many adjustments to this new normal we have all been plunged into.

Morning walk in my neighborhood

Winding down

I’m hoping that the road to La-la land will be a smooth and short one tonight. Just knowing that it’s Friday brings me a sense of calm — looking forward to sleeping in, even if I already know I’ll probably wake up way earlier than I had hoped.

It’s summer here in our part of the world, and that means longer days. Earlier sunrises and later sunsets. Even as I sleep, my “eye” sees the daylight outside even with blackout curtains, and extra layer of paper on the window pane to boot. I somehow know the day has started, even when I wish it wasn’t beginning quite that early. Maybe I’m just getting old. No matter how I try, I cannot muster the kind of sleep that my teen is able to do with such ease.

I’m hunkering in this weekend. I don’t know what I will bake but I do know I have the bananas and the other recipes. I am down to three of my oatmeal raisin cookies. I might attempt a simple roll.. or if the inspiration hits me tomorrow, i might try to bake some bread. Maybe.

I’m sorting the craft supplies again, and I’ve had some measure of success. I’m still hoping this weekend sees me picking up my tools. My free time has been focused on figuring out which ties to use for my masks, and how long the elastic should be. My cord stopper has arrived, but I’m torn between using them and not using them. I lay the last prototype down tonight and decided it can wait another day. After all, I’m staying home. I need not worry about returning to work anytime soon.

I was going to do a Friday Five but decided I just wanted a quick post — something to tie up the loose ends at the end of another workweek.

Happy Friday.. I wish you a good weekend wherever you are, and whichever way you choose to spend it.

Me, I’ll be in my happy place — even if only in my mind, thinking about my favorite desserts, walking my favorite parts of the city.. and maybe I’ll reminisce about that while sipping a glass of wine.

Celebrating the ones we love

I’m getting ready to turn in as I write this. It’s actually Friday evening, but technically Saturday. I’ve been writing in my head since I put the last of the dishes away to dry and I lugged my phone and iPad to my room. Refreshed and changed, I’m ready to go to sleep, but I’m afraid the words running through my head will make it difficult. So I write.

My now 16 year old had a birthday dinner for two with his favorite gal. While my ex and I had agreed to celebrate his birthday together, there was no neutral ground to celebrate in with the restaurants closed, and what’s worse, he had been battling the flu. He thankfully tested negative for corona which was a relief, because he and the son have been hanging out while he started becoming symptomatic. I couldn’t deny him that as a parent, so when I got news he was running a temperature, I was worried. A doctor visit and a subsequent ER trip after, I had to,put my foot down lest the boy catch what the father had. I was relieved when the Dad relented. They will celebrate after he recovers.

I’ve always been big on birthdays. Last year, we went to a fancy steakhouse in Manhattan. The boy knows and loves his steaks. I picked one close to the ex knowing his usual longer hours at work would mean it would be easier for us to get there from where I work, and that was convenient because he told us as we sat to dinner that there was an emergency at work and so he could only spare an hour. When we were married, that would have been cause for a discussion, but things like that remind me why we are now uncoupled.

We ordered, had our meal, was served the birthday dessert, then I told him he could go ahead. The boy wanted to stay. So my son and I stayed and enjoyed the dessert and the ambience. Even if we had already taken pictures with us three in the shot, we asked the waiter to take more of just the two of us,

In the basement where the restrooms were, there was a sitting room which lent itself to quite the backdrop for more pictures. Then we walked out together and took more pictures before we picked up our ride home.

This year, I didn’t insist on pictures. He hadn’t shaved and the hair has grown out of bounds. And he didn’t want to. I didn’t let the lockdown stop us from celebrating with a tomahawk steak dinner. The boy loves it with rice and corn on the side. I whipped up some roasted potatoes, sautéed some mushrooms in garlic and I boiled two ears of corn for me. The Pinot noir was a perfect pairing.

Before we sat down to dinner, the ex dropped off a cake. He asked that I take a video of the blowing of the candle. I told the boy to call his father so they could do the cake virtually — better than a video! I was surprised that he texted me to give his son a hug for him.

That gave me pause. It dawned on me that he was feeling the separation deeply, from my son — not from me. I found that strange. Even when we were married, he would miss the birthday celebrations in school and I would take time off to serve cake and goodie bags even if the celebrant didn’t like cake. Where I felt strongly about celebrating birthdays on the day of, he always considered celebrations fluid and not pegged on dates. So if he missed the birthday cake in school, there was the weekend to make up for it.

And remembering last year and the emergency at work that made him rush off after an hour to celebrate his son brought me back to my senses. They can celebrate when he is better. That’s how celebrations worked for him all this time.. why should this one be different.

As for me and my son, we had quite the steak treat. The tomahawk required searing, broiling in the oven and basting on the stove again — and it was worth all that and more.. the steak lover gave it his seal of approval. I will write about that more tomorrow.. my bed beckons.. and it’s Saturday..

Tomahawk steak dinner

I am tired and a bit buzzed and smiling for the memories of tonight’s birthday celebration. Despite the limitations of staying home because of he Corona virus, we managed to pull off a memorable birthday dinner to celebrate. I am grateful.

Happy birthday, dearest Angelo. I love you to the moon and back.. always, in all ways.

Pantry Planning

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4A

I used to plan our meals on a week to week basis, and the weekends every other. As it dawned on me that going out would be more and more difficult, and how my grocery delivery service started falling short on the items I wanted to get but ended up not getting, I took stock of my pantry and made a plan.

It helps that I live in a two person household. It’s really just me and my almost 16-year-old son. He is a very picky eater, but though his repertoire is not that diverse, he does eat a man size portion of most things. (Like a 10-12oz steak)

Here are some learnings from the almost 5 weeks we have been staying home here in New York. It’s made me more conscious of the food I prepare and shop for, and at the same time, made me more particular about my food choices. I think I’ve learned to look at food shopping in a different way since the prospect of having difficulty getting what I need became a persistent thought.

These are really very simple, common sense steps I’ve kept in mind to keep myself well-stocked — but not to the point of hoarding — and more importantly, calm and sane through the seemingly crazy time most others are going through.

(1) Take stock of what you currently have, then make a list of perishable and non-perishable items you usually use to help you plan. After one month of staying home and going through the stress of shopping locally at my usual grocery outlets and online sources, I think things have somehow settled down a bit from the initial panic. I have notice, though, that there is still quite a list of items that are no longer available for online delivery. We cannot think in terms of regular shopping cycles. I have found myself shopping with a timeline of shopping again in three weeks.

Staples like cereal and milk should be top of mind. Keep in mind how much your household consumes in three weeks. Be it in terms of staples or food in general — rice, bread, snacks — make that three week grocery list. Separate the perishable and the non-perishable.

(2) Explore substitutes and alternatives to fresh/perishable items such as milk. My son usually does 2% milk — I do non-fat. He doesn’t like the ultra high pasteurized milk that doesn’t need refrigeration until opened, so that limits my options for him greatly. For myself, though, I’ve bought a small can of powdered milk (nothing like the original but we make do!), and have switched to my favorite non-dairy creamer. Pasta is always a reliable go-to. If your family is heavy on spaghetti sauce, then make sure you have the ingredients as well.

My son normally consumes a 25 lb bag of rice in around two months. While I would normally wait until I am down to around a quarter of a sack, I now have an extra bag. This proved wise because my normal source, Walmart online, now runs out of the rice — something that had never happened before. It was reassuring that the item became available again after the panic buying ensued, but I’ve noticed that of late, it has not been available.

If you are heavy on bread, keeping an extra box of pancake mix wouldn’t hurt, and you might want to learn how to bake some yourself. Angelo and I are still all agog over some cheese bread we discovered during one of our dinners out, and I am going to try baking some in the next day or two. And this one required a special kind of flour!

(3) Identify your family’s preferred canned goods and stockable staples. Mac & Cheese is always a winner, and I think I kind of overdid the stocking up on that one, but at least I know that I have leeway in consuming it, even if things begin to go back to some semblance of normalcy. It’s shelf life makes it a good choice for kids meals.

I think I got my little guy worried when I asked him to choose his preferred canned good item. He used to love this Campbell Spaghetti O’s, and when I had him try that with and without meatballs, we settled on it although it was no longer as good as he used to remember. Still, it’s a back up.

(4) Choose the produce you need to refrigerate based on the real estate it will occupy in your fridge. My fresh produce now runs two weeks and even more when it came to items that could be kept in the freezer for extended periods of time. I have a regular refrigerator so I can’t really stock up for any longer than that. I tried to be more mindful of the fruits and vegetables I bought so that I didn’t waste space. I also tried to make the dairy products I bought more efficient by trying to use them in more than one way.

If you are used to buying in bulk, separate the servings into freezer storage bags that you can freeze on top of each other. The original packaging might end up too bulky, taking up more space than necessary, if you store it as is.

(5) Make a meal plan. I’m really a very spontaneous cook. In fact, I leave it up to my son to decide what he wants for dinner – as long as I have what I need to make that specific dish in my fridge. With the work from home situation, I’ve thought of easy to prepare lunches like this to-die-for Vegetarian Chili recipe that sustained me for more than a week of this hearty Three bean Treat. (Something I will write about later.). The meal planning also helped me to make sure that my pantry has the ingredients I need, and at the same time, made me use my ingredients efficiently.

Vegetarian chili

For example, I have sour cream and shredded cheese for the chili, but also bought flour tortillas so I can use the same two ingredients for quesadillas.

Now is the time to be creative, more so when you don’t have the luxury of hopping in your car when you realize there’s something you need that you don’t have in your pantry.

There’s a lot that we cannot control given all that’s happening around us. If we can sit back and know that our family will not want for food and we are able to sustain the supply to make this happen, that’s one big load off our shoulders.

I’m saddened to think of those who are experiencing hardship right now and who are struggling economically. I’ve always said I can always subsist on rationed meals, but I don’t think and cannot imagine that for my son. I imagine what a big worry that is for those who have two or more children, and those feeling the economic crunch of being displaced in the workforce. I am blessed.

There are so many things that lay heavily on me no matter how much busier things have gotten since the corona virus took over our lives. But that’s another post. Let’s start with the pantry, and hopefully, we’ll all be better New Yorkers and people in general, after all this is over.

Home for a month now

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AWeek 4, a birthday via video chat, and working from home like it was just any other day. But it isn’t any other day.

It’s been a month since I last sat at my desk in the office. I’ve managed to make working from home “work”. I’ve secured enough food for my son and I even if we didn’t go out for three to four weeks. And I am almost relieved that the daily briefings have become briefer and less dire sounding. There is hope.

Working from home

The work from home situation: Week 4. I’d be lying if I say that I am all settled with working from home. I still wake up on a set schedule, just an hour or so later. I get ready and log on to the network with coffee mug in hand between 8:30-9am, which is right about the same time that I actually walk into my building back when I was at the office. I try to stop around noon to grab a bite. And at around 5pm, I start getting ready with my daily wrap up — something necessitated by the fact that I can no longer hand the boss her next day packet with her prereads and briefing materials. I usually hit “send” on that by, or just after, 6pm. So in essence, my daily schedule hasn’t changed. It’s still a long day, but I do it in the comfort of my home, and I am no longer dressing up and commuting to Manhattan.

The meetings have not really abated, so I still spend a huge chunk of my day trying to set her calendar straight, or organizing meetings for and on the boss’s behalf. With such an intense atmosphere at the moment, I have tried not to overload the calendar and give her and me time to pause and breathe. There is, after all, only so much that the body and soul can take.

And we are besieged from various fronts, both professional and personal. I am personally just grateful that I have a lot on my plate, instead of nothing. Many people, like the cafeteria and catering staff who were employees of our contractor, must be falling in line in the job centers and unemployment lines to get assistance. I am blessed to still have a paycheck coming in.

Hunkering down with a plan. I don’t like to liken the current situation to the apocalyptic scenarios that many of our movies have brought to the screen, but it does make me worry. Enough that I haven’t really been sleeping well. I try not to worry about my son and I, or the family back in Manila.

But I do.

I used to plan our meals on a week to week basis, and the weekends every other. As it dawned on me that going out would be more and more difficult, and how my grocery delivery service started falling short on the items I wanted to get but ended up not getting, I took stock of my pantry and made a plan.

Hoard, I do not. I am truly baffled why there was such a mad dash for toilet paper, and why every other aisle gets restocked and stays stocked, except the toilet paper aisle. Well, at the start, the bread aisle was a sorry sight. But the bakeries churn out enough to make sure that everyone gets their bread. But really now — toilet paper? Even before the mad dash, I have always had a healthy supply of paper goods, but only because I have found it more economical to buy in bulk, since I have them delivered to my home. Other than a huge pack of paper towels and toilet paper say, every 2 months or even longer, I don’t really consume that much. Again, there’s only my son and I. So you can get my allocation. The local grocery is now implementing a two-pack maximum for purchases.

I have been thinking of purchasing some the next go around, because I saw a feature story about someone providing it as “gratuity” for service providers like delivery people. But for my own personal use, we are covered at home. Literally and figuratively.

I have taken to putting in a small container of hand sanitizer with my tip. I also try to put in a note of thanks. These days, the customary tip of 10-15% just doesn’t feel like it’s enough, but I can only do so much.

I don’t want to get used to this because it is anything BUT normal. I try to look forward and get ready for the day when we will be slowly getting back to what we were before this invisible enemy crept up from behind us and took us over. There is hope. There is ALWAYS hope.

So in the meantime, I’m gearing up for week 5. Stay home, everyone.

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.

2020-04-03 12:08:55

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.