Beadwork and Girl talk

I haven’t been visiting here too often of late — mostly because beading has taken much of my time.  Yet here I am a second time today which seems to show I’ve picked up from where I left off.

Beading.. jewelry making.. call it what you will.  It’s a new hobby.  I’ve been surfing the net for price comparison, trying to find the best bargains but not buying anything.  (Did you know that party store Oriental Trading actually sells quite a selection and at very good prices?  They’re practically wholesale, though, and I don’t know how the shipping costs go, but on base price, they are pretty competitive.)  I’ve also looked around for ideas I can use to be able to produce something from what I already have.  After scouring the boxes and bags in the attic and around my bedroom, I now have a treasure trove of materials to work with without raiding a bead store.  I actually find it doubly fulfilling to be able to work with materials I already had and produce something even better.

It’s a rather interesting phase in my life — challenging, eventful, and just plain busy.  Work has been light, though.  (I’m contradicting myself, I know.. “Busy” after all, is relative.) 

The other day, I sat across the table from my boss at the Cosi branch on 42nd street by Bryant Park.  It was supposed to be for coffee, but we each had our diet coke.  Although most people would think that she has five million reasons not to be upset that she is out of work, I know the woman enough to see that it has been a painful past few weeks for her.  It’s a stark illustration of how money just isn’t everything.  But she’ll be fine.  She’s doing better than most everyone expected, and as I told her, it’s time she took a breather and just enjoyed her children, and just lay back and take it easy. 

One thing I love about my boss is that though everyone thinks she’s the grand diva and that she’s a tough cookie — and she’s both — there’s a side of her that I’ve been privileged to see, and which, during these times, I cherish the most.  She genuinely asks about how Angelo is, what’s happening in my life..  We laugh about things we never discussed but knew together — talk about the people we know are kontrabidas, and we go back to how we had it so good — she has always been generous with the praise, the raise, and acknowledgment.  I know it was through her personal negotiation that I still have a job. 

So we whom she left behind ride out the quiet storm as we hear the unspoken thoughts of those who wonder why we’re still where we are.  (Sorry to say we’re not getting the boot anytime soon.)  There are those who have stopped talking to us, treating us as if we were no longer there.  Yet I’d rather dwell on those generous souls who have reached out to us, concerned and wishing us well. 

In the meantime, I have my stash of beads.  I would sit surrounded by little containers and organizers.. clutching the two tools I work with.  I would try to figure out what to do with which bead or chain.  The other night, I was dismantling old or unused accessories that had been given to me but which I had not found any use for.  Soon they will be reborn as new pieces.  I found a broken cross pendant — the cross will have to go, but it’s bail can still be used.  (Love that old, worn weathered look!)

I had stared and held them in my hands trying to get the inspiration.  And inspiration aplenty came from two friends from elementary and high school who have been into it waaaay longer than I have.  I have to say, it was through their artistry that I got drawn into this.

First there was Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez’s ICE CRYSTALS and then there was Rina Calica-Ward’s NOSTALGEMS.  Both sites will inspire you and leave you in awe.  True works of art!  One modern, the other vintage. 

Ice Crystals by Tweetie De Leon-GonzalezICE CRYSTALS’s Facebook page says it’s “Fun, fashionable jewelry for the snazzy, fabulous lot with refined taste and sophistication. ICE CRYSTALS is a treasury of style pieces that work for every age, occasion, lifestyle and reason.”  Tweetie handmakes the pieces which are sold in select department stores in Manila, and with some even finding their way into Paul Smith’s stores.  (Wow!)

NostalgemsNOSTALGEM has it’s own Facebook page  and introduces itself as: “Heirloom-style jewellery reminiscent of little treasures unearthed from your grandmother’s jewellery box.  From simple dome pendants to intricate and eye-stopping chunky charm necklaces.  You can even create your own charm treasures with our jewellery kits.”  Treasures indeed.. (Rina, where do you find these gems?)  Charms galore.. they add a different style element to what would otherwise be ordinary pieces.

I have been very proud of these two ladies whose paths have crossed mine in my younger years.  Technology has enabled us to reconnect.  It is their work that has inspired me to tinker away here in my little corner in the big apple.  I cannot wait to browse some antique shops for Nostalgem-like findings.  Tweetie’s works continue to inspire me as I try to pull together my pieces.  These ladies deserve a pat on the back and a kiss on the cheek for making me a proud Filipina, a proud Paulinian (where I met them at two different points in time) and just a plain old proud girlfriend.

Check their sites out!

American Pie

We discovered the wonders of Old Sound Road in the North Fork of Long Island last summer as we went for a drive looking for the Orient Point Lighthouse.  We zeroed in on what is now a favorite lunch stop whenever we’re in the area,Lobster Roll Northside which I had mentioned previously here.  We went through a path behind the usual road we took and found ourselves driving through farmlands and quaint country houses and winery after winery.  We’ve gone back several times eversince and today, we went on a whim. 

Even before we hit Old Sound Road, I told Alan I wanted to stop at the Briermere Farms Store to pick up some goodies.  I have always found it quite an adventure visiting these farmstands where you will find fresh produce straight from the people who tilled the soil to grow them, and were home-made jams, spreads and fruit butter in traditional jars lining the shelves.  You will also find home-baked pies and other treats if the farm produces fruit.  During our last visit, we made a quick stop and I had to weave through the crowd to view the vegetable offerings and I eventually found myself in the “pie room” as I call it where freshly-baked pies, cookies and loaves of bread are on display, with a backdrop of jar after jar of jams and jellies.

The only problem is you have to be quick in making your selection because the people behind the counter attend to waiting customers with almost military precision.  If you dilly dally, the people behind you will probably want to shove you aside and get their orders in.

The apple pie is definitely worth a taste, but if you get intimidated by the puffy crust, they have apple tarts which have the same filling in a smaller shell.  What I like about their apple pie filling is that it is not irritatingly sweet — it’s flavorful without the sugar overkill.  We’ve also sampled their cookies, and don’t even think twice about grabbing some of the chocolate chip cookies — as is or with pecans.  I took the plain chocolate chip cookies today which I am trying very hard not to pounce on but I will definitely try the ones with pecans the next time I pay them a visit. 

Their banana loaf will not last long here in the house, for sure — moist and yummy, it should go well with a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

All this buzz about Macarrons

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No, that is not a typo up there — I meant to say “buzz” not “fuss”. 

People who are not familiar with the Pinay New Yorker’s being a Pinay Francophile as well will probably get lost in the thread of this conversation, but if you ever get the chance to sample Macarrons (NOT Coconut macaroons) — it is well worth the expense.  They are pricey not because they’re French but because making them takes some expertise and a whole lot of love.  (Believe me, I’ve tried, and they are not as easy as making your regular choco chip cookies.)

I got my Laduree fix when Alan brought home a box over the weekend (which are all gone by now of course) — the macarrons don’t keep long and are best eaten fresh for two reasons: the texture of the cookie is best when it is fresh and your teeth will literally sink into it when you take a bite.  Secondly, the filling is usually buttercream (unless it’s a fruit variation although that is rare.  I have seen this only with the Laduree varieties)  – in which case you have to take into consideration how long the egg component stays fresh, usually 3-4 days.

Heavenly!  Everytime I come across a French pattiserie, I watch out for this delicacy.  I am so sad that Fauchon closed their Park Avenue shop where they had quite a good selection of flavors.  There is still Payard which I had passed last Sunday on the way to Whitney with friends Gedd and Jelaine (and they actually ship!), and Bouchon Bakery over at the Time Warner Center over at Columbus Circle.  Recent discovery: Le Maison du Chocolat over at Rockefeller Center offers them as well albeit a little too pricey at 6 tiny ones for $30. (! — And I just discovered they have two other branches — on Madison Avenue and down at Wall Street). 

Even during the Christmas 2007 trip to Brussels, I had to stop by a branch of PAUL when I saw a branch in one of the streets around the Grand Place — they were the mini-sandwich size macarrons and available only in 2 varieties but hey, a macarron is a macarron is a macarron.

Each bite brings me back to Paris — and makes me want to go back again.  Hopefully soon. 

Lunch hour in Bryant Park

I worked in Manhattan today surveying my new place — and next week, I’ll be working here regularly. I walked down to Bryant Park and thought I’d check out this sandwich place I’ve been seeing for a while now, housed in three separate kiosks on the Avenue of the Americas side of the block. Aptly named ‘wichcraft, there is a kiosk for hot chocolate and ice cream, one for coffee, and another for the sandwich & soup. I picked tomato and parmesan soup with a grilled sandwich combo and added a bottle of diet coke for a total of $12.14 (with tax).. Pretty pricey for a sandwich and soup combo, but it was worth it.

Add to that the sound playing by the skating rink behind me, and it was a lovely way to spend my lunch hour despite the chilly weather.  Aptly named THE POND AT BRYANT PARK, ice skaters can now have their fill here from 8am to 10pm daily.  No entrance fee to the rink, but skates are available for rent.

I picked a table and ate my soup (served with breadsticks no less) and just “people watched.”  The hot soup and the  grilled cheese did it for me — I can’t get too used to it, though, considering I have a budget to stick to.  Check it out if you’re ever in these parts.  Even if you’re not there to skate, soon the holiday shops will be up, there are a few places to eat, or if you just want to spend some quiet time alone or chatting with friends — you would like it here.

Returning to Martha Clara Vineyards

Do you ever pay attention to those travel / destination magazines that are conveniently left in places for you to pick them up like restaurant waiting rooms, racks outside convenience stores or at those rest areas along the highways?  I picked up two that were at the waiting area of Boulder Creek in Riverhead where we often stop by for lunch whenever we are out shopping at Tanger Outlets, to grab a bite after or before a few hours of fun at Splish Splash or when we’re paying a visit to the North Fork wineries.

There is a concerted effort to promote the area, and although we have always enjoyed going there through the years, there are still many nooks and crannies that we haven’t visited.  This summer, we set out to explore those other areas and found ourselves driving through Sound Avenue, heading off to Orient Point.

We stopped for lunch along the way specifically to visit Lobster Roll NorthsideThe atmosphere was very relaxed and casual, and the restaurant itself is surrounded by a group of stores that make for good browsing on a nice weekend afternoon.  (There’s a fudge shop, an art store, and gingerbread house..)  Alan and I both sampled their New England Clam Chowder and chose their specialty Lobster roll.  (The little tyke had his macaroni and cheese.)  The service is friendly and prompt, and the food is as good as they tout it to be.  Now we know where to stop for good lobster roll this side of the coast when we start pining for the lobster rolls of Maine.

We drove onwards and saw several vineyards that were teeming with cars, but for some reason, we were drawn to Martha Clara Vineyards.  We saw a stable of farm animals from the highway and a huge tent over a picnic ground on the right.  The grounds were bustling with people and there seemed to be a picnic/party atmosphere all over the place.  Thankfully, there was ample parking and we didn’t have a problem getting a spot.

We walked into the main tasting room which had two bars and ample room to mill around and Alan took a spot.  There is a wine tasting menu that offers three different wine tasting flights at $5.00 each (and you get to keep your wine glass.)  After picking and tasting your flight, you can then purchase wines by the glass or the bottle, (and again you get to keep each glass you get), the latter for sharing perhaps in an afternoon picnic outside.

Angelo and I checked out the shop which was decked with verious wine and non-wine related gift ideas.  (They have some very cool greeting cards and trinkets which make for good gifts.. whether the recipient is a wine enthusiast or not.)  Chilled bottles of their wine offerings were available, along with crackers, cheese and meat cuts to go with your choice of wine, and they sell wines by the bottle or by the case for you to take home.  They also offered goat feed which you could purchase for $1 and have the kids have their time feeding some who are in a fenced in area at the back of the main building. 

When we first visited, there were a lot of huge pumpkins on their pumpkin patch, but this had thinned out considerably when we returned this weekend with our friend, Kristine, in tow.  They also have a sunflower and wild flower patch where you can fill a flower sleeve for a fee with the flowers you like.  (You have to pay at the gift shop and get your sleeve before you can start picking flowers.)

The vineyards are quite a ways off from the main building, and since this is already the third vineyard we’ve visited this summer, I have stayed away from shooting pictures of the grapes and the vines.

What we like about Martha Clara’s is that more than just wine tasting, the place has something to offer for the whole family.  Besides the exotic animals (they have llamas and alpacas to name a few..), the grounds are conducive to field games and just exploring.  One thing we want to try next time is the horse carraige ride around the grounds of the farm.  We’re thinking of organizing a wine tasting picnic two weekends from now before the sunflowers are totally gone.  When we do that, we also plan to visit a nearby winery which seems to have quite a following based on the always full parking lot that we see whenever we drive by.  (More on that next time.)  Perhaps we’ll do a second visit to the Lobster Roll Northside.. and one of these days, we might actually get on the Orient Point Ferry to visit the island just off of this side of Long Island.


The bookshelves beckon..

I don’t know what it is about bookstores that draws me to go in wherever I find one.  Pictured on the left is one of my favorite bookstores at Grand Central Terminal: POSMAN BOOKS

I’ve been stopping by Grand Central quite a bit the last couple of weeks and have always been drawn to this corner for one reason or other.  Just yesterday, I had a good reason to step in and spend some time browsing the books as I wanted to bring Angelo a treat.  (The little boy knows that while he can’t get away with asking that I bring him a toy on a weekday, he knows he’ll probably get one if he asked for a book.) 

Although it meant a subway ride, I decided it was well worth the trip.  I needed to pick up a few other things but made Posman my main destination.

My first stop was the postcard rack which always has a good offering of top quality postcards.  They’re not your run-of-the-mill dime postcards, and if you collect postcards like myself, you’ll definitely have a ball checking out their racks.  I try to pick up one or two of New York to add to my collection whenever I get the chance to browse in the bookstores. 

They have a good selection of children’s books and I picked out three — small treats, but I made sure to pick out the characters that Angelo loves.  I picked Happy Halloween, Curious George($7.99), Dora’s Chilly Day ($3.99) and Thomas-saurus Rex  ($3.99).  I’ve decided to have some extras on hand in case I have occasion to reward him for a job well done.

I walked around the store and checked out some of their shelves but quickly dragged myself to the cash register to pay for my purchases, lest I be tempted to grab a book for myself.  I have a few arriving in the mail anyday soon, and I want to be able to concentrate on those readings.  I am in a rut as far as moving along with the reading these days, something that I am not particularly happy about.  I am trying to speed things up and finish a book soon, but time is something I don’t have much of these days. 

I will try and finally finish The Witch of Portobello in the next day or two.  The past few days have been very busy at work and I need to take the time to really destress and relax.  I can’t wait until the weekend begins.

Wowwed by Arnel Pineda with Journey

They played to a packed Nikon Jones Beach Theatre here in New York last Thursday, August 14, 2008.  Alan and I had long planned to watch the show because we were both fans of Journey from the eighties, plus we have been keeping tabs on Arnel Pineda whose phenomenal rise to becoming the lead singer for the band cemented our loyalties to our old favorite group. 

I had ordered their latest CD, Revelation (exclusively distributed by Walmart) weeks ago and we both agree that it was a good marketing strategy to have released a CD of their old hits with new arrangements and Arnel singing in lieu of the original vocals by Steve Perry, alongside their new tracks and  DVD of one of their concerts in their ongoing world tour.

While Arnel’s vocal range equals Steve Perry’s and the timbre of his voice is similar to the latter, you will hear him singing as himself in both the old and the new tracks.  By this I mean that you know it’s not Steve Perry, but you know it’s Journey. 

At the concert, he was a firebrand moving all sides of the stage and really working the audience.  It was a tight repertoire and a good show on the whole.  Well worth having braved the thunderstorms for and sitting on seats that had just been rained on. As if on cue, the storm didn’t return until after the last song was sung.  Seeing Arnel perform among these rock giants makes me proud.  Arnel is not really an unknown singer in the music circles in Manila, Arnel was discovered by Journey from clips the band found on YouTube where he sang some covers with his band Zoo.

He’s living proof that Filipinos are truly world class performers.  I’m sure many of the more popular singers back home wish they had the same luck Arnel had, having been invited and eventually hired by a band as famous as Journey to be the new voice behind their music.  It’s a well deserved break for a great singer and performer — He was introduced as “Arnel Pineda from Manila,” and at the end of the show, he remembered his roots and shouted “Salamat, kababayan!”.

To which I say, “No, Arnel — THANK YOU!”

Revisiting Mystic

It was around 7 years ago that we first visited Mystic, Connecticut on the way to Rhode Island.  Alan had picked a restaurant where we were going to have lunch then we drove off to Providence, our ultimate destination.

He had chosen a romantic restaurant by the water, although we knew of Mystic Pizza then.  This time, we had made a pact to go and eat in this landmark made famous by that Julia Roberts movie of long ago.

Downtown Mystic was abuzz with activities as the Mystic Outdoor Art festival was on, seeing the streets overflowing with art exhibits.  We couldn’t get near enough but managed to find the St. Patrick’s Church parking lot (map) where we left the car.  The walk to Main Street was actually rather interesting because of all the exhibitor’s booths we passed.  Not exactly a good day to bring a kid on a stroller but we managed.

Mystic Pizza has two branches but we made our way to their branch on West Main Street.  While some people have said the pizza is just like any other pizza, we beg to disagree.  Perhaps it was the whole experience of going to a landmark restaurant that made it special, perhaps the sauce indeed gave you a “slice of heaven,” but we were quite satisfied with our calamari for starters and a House pizza for lunch.  Angelo had his customary spaghetti and even he was quite happy about it. =)

The 15-minute wait turned out to be only 5 minutes, and service was friendly.  Prices are definitely affordable, and it’s one Mystic experience worth chalking up as having been there, done that.


Bistro Milano for Restaurant Week

Restaurant Week just ended in New York this week although some restaurants are extending down to labor day.  It’s a special event where participating restaurants serve a three course lunch for $27.04 and/or dinner at $35.00 (exclusive of drinks, tax and gratuity).  This at places where the entrees cost the price of the special rate for the prix fixe meal.  It’s a good way to sample the many cuisines available for a song.

This time around, I had my sights on a few other restaurants which seemed to have filled their tables all too soon, so Alan picked Bistro Milano on 55th between Avenue of the Americas and Fifth Avenue.  He’d been there before but not on restaurant week.  (He recommends their pizzas which have a very tasty crust.)

The Bistro offers dining al fresco but we opted for the cool comfort of their dining area.  We were offered the regular menu and was hoping to see the Restaurant Week offering clipped inside, but instead we had to specifically request for it.

There was actually some variety in the choices but absolutely no substitutions were allowed.  I had the Insalata Di Barbabietole, Caprino E Pistacchi (roasted baby beets, spinach, goat cheese in a pistachio, dressing) while Alan took the house caesar.  For the first course, there was no other choice but the Mezze Lune Di Vitello Come Tradizione Vuole (half moon shape ravioli filled with veal in a truffle mushroom sauce pictured on the upper left) — it looked like a puny portion but ended up just right, given that we had an appetizer and the a main course coming.

For the main course, I chose the Trancio Di Branzino Con Carciofi E Pesto (chilean sea bass with artichokes, string beans and potatoes in a light pesto sauce, pictured on upper right).   The bass was crusty on the outside and the pesto sauce flavored it sufficiently without overpowering it.  I saw an online menu that placed this at usually $32, and although the Restaurant Week portion was probably much smaller than the regular serving, it was filling enough.

There were only two choices for dessert (remember, no substitutions.  I bet there were even more tempting choices in the a la carte menu.)  We got one each of the creme brulee and the tiramisu.  I liked the tiramisu because it was not too sweet, and the creme brulee was okay but I’ve had better.  Still, the whole meal taken as a whole was good enough for me to consider going back for the a la carte menu outside of Restaurant Week.  Pricey, yes — but the preview I got tells me it’ll be worth it.



Disney Online Sale

I’ve been meaning to share this but have been swamped. Hop on over (specially you moms out there) to Disney where an extra 40% off on their summer sale is being offered. I’m grabbing some beach towels! While the pickings are slim, you can’t beat the price for what’s available. The sale runs for as long as stockslast, but the extra 40% off is good only until tomorrow, July 10.