In my kitchen: Bread Pudding

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When I was a child, my mom used to dabble into baking and she made this delectable bread pudding. It was old bread and condensed milk and raisins — and I still remember how I enjoyed every slice whenever she got the chance to make it. That wasn’t often because she ran the family business. So those few items she did get the chance to spend time baking became happy memories of pudding and chocolate cake and upside down cake. Yum!

As I had shared here way back when, I never really knew I could cook until I landed here in New York. I would try baking occasionally, and while I had a lot of fun doing it and I was successful and quite happy with what came out of my oven most times, it took a lot of effort. Worse, the calories flashed like neon signs in front of my eyes.

Calories notwithstanding, this new staycation and work from home situation has given me a renewed vigor and interest in baking. I have always been a reluctant baker. I bought a mixer when my niece was here in 2018, and it remained in its box, unopened until March of this year. THAT reluctant.

On the whole, I had decided four to six weeks into this sheltering in place deal to make the most of the situation and be more forgiving of what I ate and how much of it I did. I even indulged in brewed coffee for the first few weeks until I gave it up, realizing it wasn’t helping with the difficulty drifting off to sleep at night. Even when we were in the office, I would grab a cup occasionally, but never after 12nn.

I still try to watch what I eat and know what triggers the uptick in my weighing scale, but I am trying to pace myself with the dieting. I know when it is futile to pretend when I am eating meals with my son, and trying out new dishes in the kitchen. Sometimes, I even end up eating a dish for days because they don’t pass the standards of the other person here at home. (I continue to try to offer new dishes to help provide variations to his meal repertoire.)

I’m a novice baker at best. That notwithstanding, I have always prided myself in being good with following instructions. These days, I try to minimize any adjustments in what is specified — and as much as possible, don’t substitute ingredients. Well, save for the bread. When I started eating bread again in March, I saved the ends of the loaf in the fridge, collecting them through the weeks with the very intention of making bread pudding. The first two recipes I tried used that old bread, and for the third, I followed the request to use challah bread. (Pronounced Ha-la).

Since these aren’t my recipes, I’m providing links here to the recipes I used, with a short review and a photo of my own pudding.

The first one I tried was this recipe for Simple Bread Pudding from the New York Times. I sliced my bread and came up with the six cups required. That really isn’t a lot of bread after cutting them into 1 inch cubes, and I was left with half my stash. Although most recipes discourage using whole wheat bread because of its lower absorption rate, half the bread in this pudding was whole wheat and I enjoyed it all the same.

Bread Pudding

Ingredients: Milk, bread, unsalted butter, salt, vanilla extract, sugar, eggs

Basic as can be, but as good a pudding as you can pull together. This is one recipe that you can alter to spice up with fruit later, sweeten it with sauce, or tweak the spices one way or the other. This is a good starter recipe if you’ve never made bread pudding, and it doesn’t require a whole lot of bread or ingredients.

For the second recipe, I decided to try allrecipe.com’s Bread Pudding II. (Yes, it had the “II’ and not just because it was my second recipe.). Still using my sliced bread, I altered the recipe a bit to use up all the bread I had. The recipe called for only 6 slices of day old bread, but that was clearly more than what the custard could soak. I adjusted the butter (recipe called for 2 and I used 3) and would’ve adjusted the raisins if I could for next time to just half. I used half a cup in was just a bit too much, even if I love raisins. I kept the ratio of the sugar to the eggs and milk as is, because I didn’t want to fiddle with the taste.

Bread Pudding

Ingredients: day old bread, butter, raisins, egg, milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract

This was a much sweeter custard which suits me just fine, because I have quite the sweet tooth. The assembly method also differed in that the butter was drizzled over the bread before the custard mix, and I could actually taste it in the portions it hit after the pudding was baked. The custard was poured into the pan instead of being mixed in, and you could just press the bread deep into the liquid with a fork. The raisin was drizzled on top, instead of mixed in, and the custard was sweet enough without it, but good with half the recommended portion.

I liked having this pudding with some heavy cream poured on top which might be too much for some, but it balanced out the sweetness beautifully.

For my third pan, I went to my fallback food recipe site these days, delish.com, and tried this Best-ever Bread Pudding recipe.

Bread puddiing

Ingredients: challah bread, egg, vanilla extract, nutmeg, kosher salt, whole milk, heavy cream, raisins

Yes, it was the best ever! I used challah bread as specified and did two separate mini ramekins just to test how it would crisp the edges that touched the dish. (I like parts of the pudding toasted, but not the entire top.). I tend to judge the pudding by the general taste instead of the texture and this was a good sweetness without overpowering your tastebuds. This recipe also, notably, did not use butter or cinnamon. It did use more milk and added cream which pumps it up with a lot of dairy. Of course, the challah bread which soaked in the custard mixture for 10 minutes did wonders for the entire pudding, and I loved the balance of bread, cream and sugar with every bite.

Of the three, this was the densest and came to a packed consistency. Easily my fave of all, inwould drift to this one– given that I would have the challah bread. It takes around 12 cups of sliced up bread to make up the challah loaf, so you will need more than the usual. Don’t be daunted by what seems to be a whole lot of bread, as the amount of liquid in the custard will give the bread a good soak reducing its bulk.

Having tried these 3 recipes, I will probably stick to one of the three if I make bread pudding a fourth time. I highly recommend hem all, with special mention going to the Best Ever Bread Pudding for those who want a really sweet version of the dish — this one hits the spot!

This is just one of the projects I have embarked on while sheltering in place. I’ve been more adventurous, striving to learn new things, even when confined to home. We have to learn to make the most of our situation and be grateful for what we can still do, despite all the restrictions and precaution against doing the things we were used to.

Three bread pudding recipes put to the test and counting.

100 Days

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AIt seems like it has been longer, but today, we marked 100 days sheltering in place as the Corona virus besieged us. And today, this 100th day, the same city that it brought to its knees reopened on its first phase to a slow return to work.

I look at those 100 days as a “gestation” or “incubation period where we New Yorkers were retrained and molded into a Corona virus weary city. I have never washed my hands so many times in a day — and I’ve sort of become an expert in sewing curves and top stitching after trying out several mask patterns. (Still a work in progress..)

I am less afraid to walk out the door now, but I’m not quite there yet where I can say I’ll go out tomorrow after doing errands today. I know that not everyone shares my sense of caution, which is why I remain vigilant.

Tomorrow, I’m backing my third bread pudding — trying out yet another recipe. When my bananas ripen, I will make my 4th loaf of banana bread. I’m trying to pull the brakes on the wanton disregard for calorie intake — and I admit I have quite a couple of pounds I can do without. But like our reopening, I’d like to take it one day at a time.

I’m trying not to get too stressed out by prospect of returning to work. I keep telling myself that while I welcome the chance to go back, I am not dying to do that — literally and figuratively. I still can’t sleep well. It takes a determined effort to drift off, even when my body is crying for sleep. But I have managed. I shouldn’t be complaining — my son and I have been luckier than most.

Sure, I have been cooking more, but I have always enjoyed watching my son enjoying a home cooked meal. It still warms my heart that even pre-Covid, he preferred my cooking to ordering out. He would normally relent only to give me a break from cooking during those days when I was too tired or running late to muster a decent meal in time. We have even taken to eating dinner together in the dining room, watching a favorite show together.

100 days and so many lives lost. I’m praying that the numbers don’t go up again.

I’ve gone back to art journaling — and today, for the first time, i wasn’t sewing masks. I was actually working on a pair of lounge shorts. They appear to be too big for me, but I’m happily finishing the project to send to my sister if it turns out too wonky to wear. And then I’ll make one in the right size.

I’m hoping to work on other sewing projects and finish my masks in the process. I think I’ve settled on a workable solution to the ties, and to date, I’ve tried a half dozen finished masks and have been tweaking them based on how they performed.

I’m still trying to figure out how I will make the labradorite cabochons I’ve been collecting into a statement necklace. I want to create some pieces soon — both for me and hopefully, the shop as well.

You’d think that life is just as it was. But it isn’t. I’ve done well staying home 2-3 weeks at a time. I’m trying to make that every 1-2 weeks now… baby steps.

I’m reading more on current events. I’ve even subscribed to the New York Times online.

Going out, though, has conjured a whole new set of routines. Where I used to be able to go out with just my wallet, the keys and my phone, these days I wear a crossbody bag with my money, disposable gloves, sanitizer and phone go. I don’t bring a purse, and I don’t bring my entire wallet. I no longer have to worry about make up — maybe save for a touch of eyeliner. I still put on the sunblock, of course.

I cross the street to walk away from people who I see have not heeded the call to wear face coverings outside. Where we used to give smokers the look, those mean looks are now reserved for those who refuse to listen and show their compliance.

It’s a new world out there. We

I am grateful to have survived the last 100 days. I hope that I will continue to be safe in the next 100 days, along with my son. I’m hopeful for a better 100 days, even if I know it’s a long and hard climb for all of us. We will adapt and we will cope and we will learn.

Life goes on.

In the midst of it all

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AThe past couple of days have been very emotional for everyone. Although our emotions may run in different directions and come from varied perspectives, it is undeniable that we have all been moved. We are in pain. We are angry. We are grieving.

As a person of color who migrated to the United States 20 years ago, the concept of discrimination is very real for me. I was not born here, and when you see me in the very diverse crowds of New York City, you know by sight that I am one of “the others”. I am one in a sea of immigrants that make up this great country. The color of my skin and my hair, and the shape of my eyes and my nose tell you that I’m not your typical American. I identify as Filipino. When people ask me where I’m from, I instinctively say the Philippines. Because that’s where I came from and that’s who I am.

No matter how progressive this part of the country is, you know that you continue to be viewed through a different lens. Sometimes favorably, sometimes not. But your color makes people see you a certain way — even among us who are of color.

New York City has been in the middle of some very violent expressions of anger and grief. What makes it worse is that there are many who have sought to take advantage of this collective grief and indignation, and used it as a smokescreen — literally — to commit acts of vandalism and criminality.

This is indeed, a sad time for my home city. As a New Yorker, it breaks my heart to see New Yorkers hurting fellow New Yorkers.

While you may think that the bigger brands and establishments can bear to suffer the loss of their wares and the destruction of their physical stores, we forget that there are New Yorkers who man those stores and actually look forward to returning to their regular jobs in the not so distant future. There were smaller establishments who were operating on a very thin lifeline and are now further burdened by the need to rebuild and restock. Deli stores, souvenir shops, name brand stores — beyond the shattered glass and the lost inventory, this whole period of violence has cast a pall on the job prospects of those who were hoping to cling to their employment there.

I watched some of the footage of these looting sprees and found myself suddenly gripped with fear as I saw throngs of people forcing doors open, breaking glass, peeling away the wooden barricades. Then there was anger as the frenzy began and they stormed the stores and came out with their own haul. One deli store owner stood by his door giving away water just so the looters would not ransack his store like they did the others who were open in the midst of the violence. One guy went into a computer and electronics store and came out with a MacBook in a box, and got chased by two others who grabbed it from him despite his efforts to protect his “haul”. One of the guys started attacking him while another ran off with his boxed Mac. I am sorry, but I can’t even be sad for the guy who lost his loot. I am, however, sad for the three of them who fought like barbarians over the stolen goods.

Friends and family have been asking how my son and I are doing. We are far from the fray, and this is another instance when I’m grateful that I’m working from home, and not forced to commute to the city to earn my paycheck. But even if I’m not in the heart of the violence, it is felt all around us with the constant reminders of a curfew in a city that used to be touted as the “City that never sleeps”.

I feel the outrage in the death of George Floyd and can understand the emotions that run deep. It was a senseless act showing a lack and even an absence of compassion. I grieve him, too. I understand the cause that the protesters are fighting for — but the message has been heard loud and clear all over the world. Even when we protest peacefully, if we defy orders to go home when the curfew has ensued, the civil disobedience we commit can detract from the message and the cause we are fighting for.

Other groups have been taking advantage of the anger and the grief. It is suspected that some of the violence instigated by supposed protestors are actually the doing of groups who want to sow further violence and discord. More people are getting hurt. Cooler heads need to intervene. The voices of reason need to make themselves heard.

And for the last few days, the issue that has beset us for the last almost 100 days of stay-at-home/sheltering-in-place has taken a backseat. I look at the sea of people in all the places where the protests have been taking place and I am afraid at the spike I anticipate we will see in infections in the next 10-12 days. All those lives lost to the disease, and here we are tempting fate again, brazenly daring the disease to come and overtake us anew.

Ten days ago, I was getting ready for the ultimate return to office — and it didn’t matter that I didn’t know when that would actually take place. With a Phase 1 reopening slated for this coming Monday, the delineated two week gap per phase, and knowing that I would likely be returning in Phase 3, I don’t think I will be called back earlier than mid-or late July. Possibly even later. Still, I feel a need to get ready for that day when I would have to wade through the commute and enter the building via a transportation hub were thousands of people walk through on any given day.

At the back of my head, I was also trying to prepare for a possible second wave. Disposable face masks are available again, and there are the very expensive bottles of hand sanitizer on some store shelves. Alcohol and disinfectant spray or wipes continue to be a prime commodity that continue to be unavailable, so I am trying to just have some in stock so that I am ready if they disappear from the shelves again.

I know that our battle with the disease is far from over. We have just managed to catch up with it with the social distancing and the sheltering in place. We managed to prevent people from congregating and giving the virus a Petrie dish to fester in.

Until the last couple of days.

I want to see people going back to work again, and the economy taking a deep breath that will somehow revive it even at the slowest of paces. I want to go back to something close to normal — because I know we will never go back to the way we used to do things before we were all sent home to slow the spread of disease. But I do not want to return to the daily report of hundreds of people dying and losing their battle with the on Covid. That is one place I don’t think any of us would want to go back to.

So I keep my fingers crossed that the protests happening in our midst will not be an ember that will light up a fire that we will battle to put out later on. We have barely recovered from the battle we are yet to wrap up. What happens if we get into that kind of a race against this disease again?

I don’t have a solution to the problems that face us regarding race. I think it has sparked a new stream of dialogue that will hopefully help us flesh out the pain and the struggle — and maybe bring us to a better place. Eventually. This is one problem that, like Covid, will take time to solve. One problem at a time, they say. No matter how unrelated these two issues may be, they beset us and besiege us. We need to fight each one as if there were two attackers threatening our lives on two sides. We cannot forget the one that took thousands of lives in the very recent past, while we fight for the lives that continue to be lost because of the color of their skin.

I’m afraid all I can do is keep my fingers crossed. That, in itself, is sad, and almost makes me feel helpless, because that only means there is really nothing I can do either way, except see how things play out in the weeks to come.

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.

Just another day

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AI attempted a blog post last night to no avail. After a third time where I hit the delete button for the entire post by mistake, I figured the post was just not meant to be. I’ve been trying the dictation feature in writing my past, and I’ve had mixed success. It takes some getting used to.

It’s not entirely all dictated, because the feature still requires actual editing. I’m trying to see if it can keep up with the speed at which I speak, but I am realizing that I am actually talking slower hoping that the phone keeps up with my accent and my words. Sometimes, I catch it thanking and probably wondering what it was that I said. Given that I speak with a slight accent but still with a twang, I figure I have to give allowances for the software or the technology to get used to me as well.

So it’s just another day.

7:30am. My alarm rings and I grab the phone to turn it off and I scan my inbox. Force of habit. On a regular day from not so long ago, my alarm is set almost 2 hours earlier at 5:45. I do my morning routines and get changed. I decide I will take a shower in the morning like I always did, instead of before bed which is now an option. I have a video call at 11:30am today with an external office as a test for a call with the boss. I actually need to put on a face.

8:45am I am ready to start my day and I log on. Soft token spews out the 8 digits that change on a cadence and I am in. This is my virtual office and my day begins.

10:15am. I am reminded I have a video fest call before noon. I put the lightest of make up to look presentable onscreen. I had to look for my lipstick and just put a hint on. Just a little eyeliner and then I dabbed some powder on. I am used to full make up at work — it has always been part of dressing up for me. Since the shelter in place order took effect, my skin and my hair have been given a major reprieve from the daily abuse I usually subject it to.

The call goes well but there might be issues. I need my IT tech.

12nn. I make a deliberate effort to “observe” my lunch hour, whether I actually grab a bite or not. It doesn’t matter that I stay in front of my laptop continuing to work, but I refrain from sending emails unless it’s the boss. I want to be respectful of other people’s lunch hour as well, and I postpone replying or writing until after 1pm. Even when I was in the office, I tried to keep that hour free of reaching out. I might be working at my desk or otherwise handling something, but I will not call or write anyone until after the hour is over.

I wake up the 16 year old and he grumbles a request to stay in bed a few minutes more. Yes, I know, they are on a modified schedule, and their online learning has been pretty much at their own pace, but I don’t want him to lose the structure of the day. He saunters into the living room half asleep. I have to remind him three times to eat breakfast, offering lunch. He grabs his bowl and milk and cereal. At this time I start asking him what he wants for dinner. (I like defrosting in the fridge and the sooner I bring whatever item I need from the freezer down, the less fuss it will be later). He wants a steak. Simple enough.

I’m making bread pudding today. I have researched several recipes and had hoped to do what my mom used to make based on Nora Daza’s recipe. I was ready to go until I saw that it meant double baking (baking in a pan of water). I wanted to make the simple version and landed on this recipe from the New York Times.

I’ve been setting aside the top and bottom slice of my bread loaves since I started eating bread again, and I’ve collected enough to make two batches. (I keep them refrigerated.). One batch down.. I must say I am happy with the way it came out and I will look to tweak the recipe later with raisins and flavoring.

Bread pudding

Mixed and baked within the lunch hour, I let it cool another half hour before I sliced a piece for lunch. Meanwhile..

1:00pm. I get back to work. Scheduling can be as easy as one email exchange or twenty. Sometimes technology doesn’t work like we expect it to and there are explanations and calls to be made.

I needed my white glove support for IT to report and hopefully resolve an issue. He is one of my closest friends at work and we say hi and catch up and have a few laughs. Even if (and all the more because) he is a friend, I requested for a call after 1pm. Matter settled, second test call scheduled.

The afternoon moves with more emails and scheduling maneuvers. When you manage a calendar as busy as the boss has, there’s a lot of wheeling and dealing to make it work. Sometimes it gets too tight and everyone is unhappy, but I think I do a pretty good job of managing her days well.

4:00pm. I have to remind myself the day is almost ended, and the emails that need sending must be sent within the next hour. I also start writing my daily wrap up to brief the boss on the following day’s schedule. If we were working like we used to, I would hand her the day’s calendar with all background information and prereads printed. Since this all started, the summary of the following day’s meetings and today’s meeting requests or scheduling progress have been an efficient alternative. I start my draft so I can hit “send” before 6pm.

5.49pm. Recap sent. Officially logging off and off to my second job: Morherhood.

6:45pm. Time to cook dinner. My son and I have taken to eating dinner together while watching one of our favorite comedies. These days, we’re going through the last few seasons of That 7″s Show. He wanted a steak tonight, and I had more of my callos, then pudding with white chocolate chips for dessert. (I microwaved if for two spurts of 30 seconds to soften the chips. Heavenly!)

9ish.. “Me” Time. I go and do the things that relax me. I press my masks and start top stitching a batch. I am still undecided about the ties, so none are technically ready to go. My cord locks finally arrived. I really shouldn’t complain because I got them cheapest at Walmart, even if it was sold by one of their consignees.

Midnight. I call my siblings who are with my mom and I say goodnight to all of them. It’s a quick call as they are having lunch and I want to go to bed. I like that info this daily now because they are all quarantined at home and can pick up on their smartphones. I drink my vitamin D, freshen up and sit on my bed in the dark finishing this post.

Soon, I will be choosing my sleepcast and drift away to lala land.

Another day ended.. another one beginning in a few. I bid you goodnight.

Friday Five for Memorial Day Weekend

Friday5

Five goals. Five tasks. Five things I hope to do over this long weekend up ahead.

I’m stoked. My day ended at just after lunch because despite the early close (2pm), the boss bid me to log off at noon as she was fine to go. I was grateful for that, even if I knew I would probably not really log off then. Just the thought was enough to help me start the weekend.

So I went to the post office and shipped out a sale, then did my usual stop at the community bake shop to get some treats, but more to help them out with a sale and a bit of extra tip. It’s a small operation but it’s been around for a long time, and the type that makes all the good stuff.

And suddenly the disposable masks are available aplenty! While I have been busy making my masks, I thought I’d buy just a box or two for the possibility of a second wave when sanitizers, masks, alcohol and toilet paper disappear from the shelves. Just enough to be ready– not hoarding. I could’ve bought from the chain pharmacy, but I figured again, I’d like to help the mom and pop stores around. So many businesses are hurting, and every little bit helps.

Here goes my Friday Five–

(1) Produce and post at least one item in the shop. Perhaps it’s because of the stress of working from home and the masks, but I haven’t really been paying attention to the shop. Lo and behold, I didn’t realize I was getting a lot of traffic and actually made some sales in the last week or so. I want to be able to take advantage of that spurt of activity and the best way is to keep posting. I’m being modest so I will aim for only one, but who knows?

(2) Work on my art journal. I actually started working on one spread already but want to get going with my journaling again. It’s a very therapeutic form of self expression for me and I have several ideas brewing in my head.

(3) I’m going to get busy in the kitchen. I plan to bake and cook and I’m particularly excited attempting a rather complicated Filipino / Spanish dish after I picked up one of the essential ingredients from the grocery earlier this afternoon. And there’s my oatmeal raisin cookie craving that needs attending to!

(4) Take the first step in replicating a favorite house dress. First thing’s first– have to create the pattern! I already made some measurements and just need to translate it into paper. I’m not going to attempt the actual sewing just yet. The pattern is one big project as it is.

(5) Start writing those letters I’ve been meaning to write. Talking about snail mail here. Earlier while I was looking for the padded envelopes I ship my jewelry in, I came across more stationery I had made a while back that I have yet to use. One letter at least.

There you go. I’m suddenly intimidated reading through that list, but I think I’ve got my work cut out for me. Like I said, I’m all excited by the weekend, even as I end Friday ready to start relaxing.

Here’s to a restful weekend for everyone.

Another shelter in place Sunday

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AI see the sun shining outside but I’m trying to make the most of my Sunday morning in bed. I slept at probably around 2am, yet I woke up at 6:30am. I got up and answered the call of nature and went back under the sheets. Sleepcast to try and help me get back to sleep from my meditation app didn’t help. I thought an Etsy webinar would, but even as I was proven correct it was not really free and just a pitch for another course, I managed to stay awake all throughout.

Now I have a headache.

I’m already planning my nap. I am still trying to make my mind up about breakfast. My tummy is arguing with my head because my headache is telling me to go for the banana bread I baked last week, and my tummy is reminding me I got some asparagus for my Sunday brunch omelette. Or I can even go for a ham omelette ..Hmmm..
My Sunday

Not exactly a picture perfect asparagus and cheese omelette, but my tummy was happy

Pending the decision about what sustenance I will take before drinking my headache drug of choice, I have at least made up my mind the laundry will have to wait. (Maybe tomorrow or Tuesday.). Or maybe not. I think the lack of sleep is making me jump from one idea to the next. No, the body wins. I’m taking it easy this Sunday.

I guess that’s one reason I decided to write here, just to help sort the fuzziness in my head. Writing has always been a source of clarity.

I’ve been working on several mask patterns from various sources. I’ve donated my sewingforlives masks and now I want to make masks for myself. I went out yesterday wearing one as I walked to the corner to do errands in 70 degree temps. It was a beautiful day but the mask was hot.

It took some adjusting like always, and I needed to vent the mask by giving it more space between the cloth and my face every once in a while, but I managed. For all the different patterns I’m trying, it all comes down to comfort. Breathability is important or your mask will do you more harm than good. It has to be something you can stand wearing for an extended period of time. I’n writing a separate series of posts on the masks and will share the resources I’ve found, along with tweaks to the pattens I have done.

One of those patterns actually kept me up last night, but I am happy I finished it. While one might think a mask is a mask, I’ve found that there are different nuances in each pattern that can be used together to tweak certain features of a face covering.  This particular pattern looked a little wonky to me when I saw it online, but working on the actual mask showed me a new way to sew the front and back pieces together.

Post coming soon on this mask

So I stitched and unstitched and stitched again, and came up with my first prototype of this pattern, and it might yet turn out to be one of my favorites.

I’m trying to steer clear of the sewing for portions of my day when there is some free time to do the things I want to do. “Me time” has been confined to mostly sewing the past couple of weeks. My art journal has been set aside for the whole month of April, and I will try to do an entry today before May totally slips by. My beads and tools are also waiting for me. I know I had promised to create some pieces in the last week or so, but there was work, and the masks.

So as you can see, I’ve been very focused on creating face coverings and finding one (or two or three) actual mask that I like, and producing enough for me to use when I get back to work. Whenever that may be. Still experimenting..

I realize now that I have to stop stressing about returning to work, and part of that is easing up on my focus on the face coverings. This whole business of sheltering in place and the presence of the threat of corona hanging over my head has been a heavy burden. We try to cope as best we can, and I think I have been doing well for the most part, but I am only human. There’s always that part of us that suffers through the stress no matter how good we get at coping from day to day.

This Sunday, I’m going to work on at least one jewelry piece, and maybe even come up with one item or two for the shop. I already know which section of my art journal I will work on. I don’t really want to plan beyond that, because all I can think of right now he’s wanting to go back to sleep. And after everything I have written here, I still haven’t made up my mind about breakfast.

My headache has also not abated. It seems to be intent on keeping me company today. I haven’t even gotten out of bed yet, and I’m already planning my nap.

Sundays should not be so complicated. So let’s begin with my asparagus Omelette. Progress. At least breakfast is taken care of, and that’s one less decision to make today.

Dinner saw me baking a small batch of Pao de Quiejo using a different recipe from my first attempt a couple of weeks back. Simple enough. Headache crept away midday but I just didn’t have the energy for much.

My Sunday

I hope your Sunday went as well as mine. I hope that like me, you will take time to do something that you like doing, and find the time to just pause and breathe.

Another weekend sheltering in place– grateful to be safe at home and getting ready for the week ahead.

Mother’s Day in the time of Corona in NYC

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I have one son. And he means the world to me. 17 years ago, he was born the Saturday before Mother’s Day, and I celebrated my first Mother’s Day all achy and tired but holding this precious little breathing human being in my arms. It was the best gift ever and continues to be the best gift ever every time this day comes along.

We usually celebrate with a fancy dinner, just the two of us — and I always look forward to the card he gives me, whether store bought or handmade. This year, I think I’ll give him a pass but I wouldn’t mind one even if delayed.

He has always had a gift for words. I loved the scribbling, and the attempts at art. I look at him and I am filled with a different kind of bliss beyond words.

These days he sleeps until noon, or a little later — when I let him. Online learning has been on a modular basis, so he can log on and watch videos and receive homework with a deadline for submission. He and his friends meet “online” playing video games after dinner, staying up until the wee hours. Iused to get concerned with the unhealthy sleeping hours, but I’ve learned to live with it and just define limits. He can stay up as late as he wants, as long as he wakes up by noon and eats breakfast or brunch, and does his daily attendance and any work required from school. I have learned to pick my battles and respect that he, too, is dealing with this whole new normal and I have to help him do it in a way that works for him, not just for me.

So we had dinner with just us again, but this time at home. No surprise flowers or cards. Or maybe I might get a surprise yet. Just being with him here is gift enough. Having him for a son makes it all worth it. Having him, period. That’s what makes this day special.

I already video chatted with my own mom as Mother’s Day hit Manila 12 hours earlier. In the midst of their own quarantine, only my sister is with my Mom, so we pulled in my brothers. The physical therapist is living in the hospital, social distancing to ensure the he doesn’t bring any possible infection home. The other brother is with his family in another part of town.

Like most families these days, we communicate via video chat, sometimes as a family or just separately. I try to check in with them daily, even if mom is hard of hearing. She sees me, I see her, and we say hello or goodnight — it reassures me as much as it must reassure her that we are okay on both sides of the world.

The cemeteries opened to allow those who want to visit their moms a chance to pay their respects. It’s a bittersweet day because there are many mothers, both young and old, who perished in the current pandemic. Some of them may not have even had the chance to have a proper funeral. These days, even the business of laying our dead to rest has become complicated by the fears of contamination.

And so we all celebrate a different way, but we celebrate all the same.

Happy Mother’s Day..

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.

Monday Musings: Another Stay at home week

Monday musings in paper and inkI’ve been writing posts and they are hanging out in my drafts folder. There are so many things I want to write about but writing has been mostly in my mind — but I’m determined to get this all out here. More than a month into the stay-at-home deal, I’m still anxious about many things and now have to think about preparing for the return to work. I thought it would be a good idea to go back to something I’ve usually turned to when I’m in a writing rut — my Monday Musings which spew out blurbs and shorts of anything that comes to mind the moment I’m writing here.

Yes, we will be returning soon. Probably not until the month is out at least — So I’m thinking June. While the work-from-home situation has been a challenge, I consider it a blessing. I appreciate the fact that I still have a job and have a paycheck coming regularly, which come with the benefits and all those blessings. It’s been difficult because I don’t have the resources I have when I’m physically in the office, and I’ve had to devise new ways and means to do my work. But I have managed, and I really have no complaints. Well, maybe save for the fact that we are busy as ever, and the work from home deal hasn’t really meant less work. I am also thankful that I don’t have to worry about the commute in this kind of a situation. And when life returns to a sense of normalcy, we will adjust — we will cope.

I am already working on my personal face covering but that has been sidelined by my efforts to contribute to this Herculean task of beating the virus. We all do what we can. Still, I need to start thinking of the commute, and how we will be operating with the new safety precautions which, I am sure, we will be told and be constantly reminded about in the weeks to come.

Art on pause. For a first quarter that saw my art journal zooming into life, I have actually put the project on hold for the month of April. Not that there wasn’t anything to draw or write — I just burned out, I guess. Or maybe things just caught up with me. Or maybe I found the balance I was looking for in feverishly working on it the months before. My pages are waiting. I have the signatures all set. I have the sections figured out. I just need to pick it up again. This week, I promise.

My Art Journal: Grateful

Jewelry projects revisited. I did pick up a cab that I wanted to attempt to encase in crocheted artistic wire. I’m not quite happy with how it turned out but the attempt was a start. I am going to try to create a few pieces one of these evenings. I have tried to get on with the organizing here and there — something you’d think I’d have so much time to do. Not quite true. But the thought is there.. and in fact, I just might attempt to string some beads I am fancying and within reach here. If only there were more hours to the day.

A week of celebrations, it will be. My big guy will be 16 this Friday. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the tomahawk steak I ordered will arrive on time. He’s not one for cake but I just might bake him one. And on Sunday, it’s Mother’s Day. A whole lot of celebrating up ahead!

Congratulations are in order for the successful examinees who passed the Philippine Bar Exams of 2019. A topic near and dear to me — the feelings never gets old.. and personally, the wave of gratitude that takes me over every time as I look back to my own legal journey decades ago. (Oops.. dating myself here. LOL). But we celebrate all those victories — one of the highest, if not the highest passing rate in many years. To all those who made it, congratulations.

Let’s be kind and practice social distancing and wearing a mask. It’s the new way of saying “please” and “thank you.” With all the deaths and hardship that the whole world has witnessed in the past few months, a little kindness can go a long way.