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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

J'adore 'Je Suis Gourmand'

This is one of the restaurants that SHOULD open a branch in Quezon City!  Why only let the Makati people enjoy your food!  Anyhow, my friends and I decided to spend our intimate Christmas party at this restaurant tonight.  I don't care much for French food, but I really enjoyed what I ate tonight.  I don't have the complete names of what we ate but I had some lamb shank with lentils, very tender and meaty and yummy.  Hazel had the veal, which I also had a taste of - melikey too!  And Rica had the some kind of beef, well done, and cut into strips, which I also tasted - it was tender and yummy too!  A feast if there was one!  We had foie gras as appetizers - and it was yummy!  I'm not really into liver, I find it yucky to eat, but this one was rich and the sauce was great!  Well, the place was well-lighted and although we were on a center table, it didn't seem too noisy or bothersome with the other guests.  This is definitely one of the places I will go back too!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Craved for Paella at Casa Armas

My friends and I decided to satisfy our craving for paella tonight and had our dinner at Casa Armas in Greenbelt 3.  My brother and I are actually regulars in this restaurant, and I even had my birthday party in their Malate branch when I turned 30.  They have always maintained their distinctive way of cooking paella, and it's their paella valenciana which I really like.  We had that tonight too.  We also had gambas and salpicao.  Rica recommended the croquetas to me and it tastes great!  I think I ate most of it, including their share!  The bill was ok at US$56 for everything. 

Casa Armas may be easy to miss since its signage is hidden from the view of the pedestrians.  It's on the 3rd level of the Greenbelt 3 mall on the right side of the mall.

Rediscovering Cafe Bola

After the David Foster show, Vic and I were quite famished, and since Vic didn't want to eat in a fastfood, we decided to try Cafe Bola again.  We did eat there about 3 years ago, in their branch in Greenbelt, but the food was so bad!  Which was a surprise since this is a Margarita Fores-owned restaurant.  But at that time, we were really disappointed with the food, we never came back - till last night!  I guess, we didn't have a choice since the other restaurants there didn't quite appeal to us.

The place was full, I guess, because the concert patrons only had a few restaurant choices.  And the food - it was delicious, thank God!! I had a Salisbury steak and it was much better than Jollibee's!  It was really tasty and tender - and it was reasonably priced! Vic had two viands himself!  We really enjoyed the food and I think I'll go back here.  The food is delicious and the price is just reasonable!  The waiter service is fine too, no unecessary waiting.

Cost-Cutting Tips - How I was Able to Live with A Thousand Pesos a Week

Since I now appropriate almost 80% of my weekly allowance towards credit card payments, I try to budget a thousand pesos (US$23) for 7 days.  Of course, all my other bills are being taken cared of, that money is just for my personal expenses.  Is it possibe to live within that amount in a week, considering my previous lifestyle?  Well, the answer has been a resounding yes, and for a 3rd straight week, I have been trying to rid myself of all my desires and keep my life simple.  This is how I did it:

1.  Prioritize gas.  Since I go out everyday, my biggest weekly expense is gas.  My weekly budget is normally 1100 pesos (US$25), so I plan my car trips carefully and make sure I don't stray too far from my home so I can save on gas.

2.  Culling unnecessary texts.  I limit by 'load' per week to just about 300 pesos (US$7).  I limit these texts only to my Myx votes and a few texts to friends.

3.  Eating at home. I used to eat outside almost every day.  By eating at home, I have saved a big portion of my allowance, which now go to paying my credit cards.

4.  Read newspapers and magazines online.  I used to spend 10,000 pesos (US$227.8) per month on magazines and foreign newspapers.  That was last year.  This month, I curbed my urge to buy a magazine so my budget has been reduced to nil these past two months.  Instead, I do my reading through the internet.  All newspapers and magazines have websites anyway.

5.  No buying of sweets.  This actually works because Vic does all the buying for me.  From M&Ms to popcorn to Filipino delicacies - I munch them all - but I still wait for Vic to buy it!

6.  Appreciating cable TV more - I have stopped watching movies in the moviehouse and instead, I check the TV schedule in HBO or Star Movies.  Just tonight, I saw 'Gossip' and 'Mirrors' at HBO and Star Movies.  I only fully appreciate cable TV now, now that I'm in a state of budget!

Ten Things I Am Thankful For in 2010

Well, the year is about to end, and it's also Christmas day, so I'm thinking of ten things I am thankful for this year -

1.  Our quick thinking and decisive decision-making - 2010, business-wise was a disastrous year for us, but I think we were able to save ourselves by quick thinking and decisive decision-making.  It's not a very easy thing to do, but you'd have to do it when the situation arises.

2.  Our incredible resiliency - thank God for this!  I really thank God for making me fail in college.  So now, when I fail later in life, I just take it in stride and not be too hard on myself.  The truth is, like actors, some of our 'movies' will flop, but some will also do exceptionally well!  We should just learn to have the actors' attitude - and take the good things and the bad results - all in stride.

3.  Laura and Dylan's Sense of Wonder and Joy - Everyone should at least experience, having kids in their house.  They make you humble, and they make you see the world in a different way.  Their sense of wonder and joy is so infectious!

4.  All these beautiful friends - What to do without these people!  They just make my life more interesting and makes everything bearable!

5.  Beautiful music and interesting movies -  Like any other ordinary person, it's music and the movies that I run to when I want to find comfort or be entertained.  We're just so lucky we live in this age where there is so much content out there for the picking!  Enjoy!

6.  Critics - What would life be without them?  I think each of us become stronger because of them.  Some of the criticism may be too personal, but we should just take them in stride and focus on the more objective criticism.  Those whose work suck, don't get criticized!  That's how I see things.

7.  My Cooperative Knee - Well, it has let me down from time to time but I am still thankful it's still holding up, despite all the wear and tear I give to it.  I am more cautious now yet I listen to it closely since I don't want it to suffer like what happened two weeks ago.  Don't want to be walking around with a limp!

8.  The Internet - thanks to this human invention, this year, it gave me an audience - and a platform to spread my ideas to anyone who would care to listen.  And what's more - I earn from it!  Loveett!!

9.  Facebook - I became an FB member in 2007 yet it was only these past 2 years that I took it seriously.  I've had five lives so FB has been instrumental in connecting all those past five lives together by bringing in one platform - all (well, at least some) of my friends from all these past lives.

10.  Gorgeous men - my day would be as dry as a desert if there were no gorgeous men.  Thank God for all your handsome creations!  It does bring a smile to my face if I see a handsome guy who is not so self-conscious about his looks. 

Shopping Talk - Discovering Adora

One thing I liked about this Christmas is that it afforded me time to really go around and browse and look at stuff.  For the past few years, I have reserved my serious shopping during my trips abroad, but since we have limited our travel now for the past two years, I have decided to seriously look around again as to what's available here, just in case I need a certain fix. 

I have visited Adora before but I didn't browse seriously since most of the stuff there, I could easily get in a HK trip.  Anyhow, this Christmas, I really decided to browse properly and I discovered that their merchandising choices have improved over the last time I visited (in 2008 pa ata.)

Their Dior Homme range has increased, and should be at par with the Dior Homme store in Shanghai.  At 44 pesos to a US dollar though, I think the prices are a bit high, but since the collection was about 3 racks, I checked each item.  Problem with Dior is that they really don't cater to 'fat' men like me, so I really have to diet some more if I want to fit into those uber-slim designs.

Well, I now like Adora, for two reasons!  Their Missoni and Etro merchandise are sizeable!  Well, still not quite like what you see in HK, but at least, the merchandiser are picking colors and styles that not only rich Chinoys will buy.  Rich Chinoys often opt for very conservative shades - oh well, Etro and Missoni don't do conservative but still, there are shades which scream 'Grandpa' to me.  On this visit though, there were about 3-4 Missoni shirts worth fitting.  The Etro long sleeve line here though is not quite daring, but maybe that was really their latest collection - but not enough to rival the Etro store in HK, which also has beautiful leather wallets and bags!  Etro usually has those embroidered stuff too but I think if converted to peso, would be prohibitive. 

Oh well, I ended buying the 'cheapest' stuff I could from the store.  Jaspal is a Thai brand, very quirky, like Philosophy from Malaysia, or Mental, here.  I decided on a pair of shorts with bling bling!  It can look a bit girly but I am gay, so it doesn't matter!  Also, I chose a lavender long sleeve shirt from W, which would be perfect for those classical music concert gala nights.

Well, there were not many people inside since really, this store would be like Lane Crawford in HK.  What you have to do though is to really browse slowly and not be intimidated by the prices.  And browse first before buying. You wouldn't want to spend 20K on a shirt and then find out it was last season's!  That would suck big time!

The staff were very helpful and would really want to assist you.  Check out the D&G stuff if you're into that brand.  I just really wish they would fit me!

Finally, the Tyler brand is also here and I love their tailoring.  Exquisitely beautiful.  I will clean my closet this Christmas season and maybe buy me five pieces of Tyler soon as they go on sale this January!  I really have to get rid of my belly though.  The cut is really fit to the body!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas to All Do-Gooders Out There

It is important that those who give don't get fatigued since every year, the world needs more and more of everyone's help.  So this Christmas, I say and offer a prayer to all the do-gooders out there, that in 2011, they continue to do their charitable acts - whether it be big or small - that even if their hearts may be tired and frustrated from all the bureaucracy and the impossible obstacles placed by heartless men before them - that there would be other people who will help them reach those who are oppressed, helpless or marginalized in our world.  Sometimes it feels like there's so much to be done - and there is - but if Christ finds a way into our hearts - we could make this world a more humane place to live in - for all God's creatures!

Always Cyma

It's funny but Vic and I rarely deviate from our restaurant choices in Trinoma - Mann Hann, Cibo, David's Tea House, Abe, Peking Garden - and Cyma!  Everytime we want to eat interesting food, we go there, and as usual, we rarely deviate from our choices - moussaka, baby back ribs - except this time, Vic opted for salmon, since he really has to cut down on his meat intake. 

The baby back ribs topped with the sauce was really delicious, and then the moussaka's meat and eggplant did not disappoint too.  Vic ate most of the salmon although I got a morsel or two.  It was juicy!  We decided to do al fresco today since the weather was cool and the pedestrian crowd was pretty interesting, with people busy with their last minute shopping!

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Loving The Asian Salad of Five Cows

 Five Cows faces tough competition these days as Yakimix just opened beside it in its Trinoma branch. Vic and I have always enjoyed eating at this restaurant because of its affordable price and delicious food.  I know it's a bit laughable, but it's actually the Asian salad which I really like to eat in this place.  It has citrus and the taste of the dressing is just right.  I also like that they put some crabs in it and altogether, everything tastes good!  Vic always gets their chicken barbecue, which I also like.  Next time though, I plan to try one of their ice cream confections, for a change!

Book Review: Jane Hamilton's A Map of the World

I'm a fan of bargain bookstores now, and I got this one at one for just US$2.  The Oprah Book Club stamp does help a bit in my choice-making but I never realized how 'heavy' this book is.  It's about a woman wrongly accused of sexually abusing kids in school.  These false accusations against her turns her world upside down and to compound the problem, one of the kids of her best friend drowns during her watch, when they spend time swimming in her pond.  All these lead to her and her family's ostracism from their community and forces them to live back in the city.

I am not really a fan of how Jane Hamilton writes but she is a competent and very visual writer.  I think I found the subject matter of this book too much for me, yet I plodded on.  What I like though is the way she tells the story through different points of view.  I think here, she takes the point of view of the woman accused, her husband, and her best friend.  That way, you can take a peek into how the world turns in three points of view!
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reminiscing Old Pictures - Chinese New Year 2006

 Vic and I used to hie off to HK every Chinese New Year. It was a good excuse to go shopping since around that time, the winter collection goes on sale, and, also to dress up in winter clothes. I know, I know, winter in Canada does not compare to the winter in this part of the world, but who cares - it was our excuse wear those uber light jackets from Hugo Boss and Armani and wear cashmere scarfs! Bahala na sabihing OA ng mga puti. I don't really care. To each his own kaligayahan.

Anyway, we always loved watching the fireworks at the harbor! I know most local HK residents just snub the event so it's mostly the mainland Chinese crowd and a sprinkling of other foreigners who troop to the harbor to watch it. We also visit the flower festival at CWB and even though I don't understand what all these mean, nakikigulo na lang kami with the locals.

I Want To Visit Bicol!

Tonight's episode of the Amazing Race Asia brought the teams back to the Philippines, and this time, they went to Bicol, one of the few regions in the Philippines I've never been to!  Mayon Volcano became the backdrop of all their tasks and the place looked great!  I want to see Mayon Volcano first, and then probably visit Virac in Catanduanes too!  I've heard a lot about CamSur but I'm not really into water sports so maybe I have to find another thing to do there.  I've heard a lot about Donsol too so maybe I can try to visit that too!

Loving Bibingkinitan

Everytime I do my hip hop class on Thursdays, I go to this petit cafe at SM North The Block to have some bibingka (rice cake).  I've always been a fan of Pinoy delicacies like bucayo (coconut candy) and suman (sticky rice) so I'm pretty glad that someone has finally decided to make the bibingka a more mass-based product available in a cafe like setting - with reasonable prices to boot!  I was also a fan of Ferino's but I couldn't find them in the mall, and their prices were always above a hundred pesos. 

The picture above shows two bibingkas and calamansi juice.  That goes for the price of seventy-five pesos only (US$1.75).  And they taste good - with the cheese and the sugary butter on top!  My friend opts for the yoghurt, which she also likes so much. 

Now, I hope someone does bucayo or puto, in a cafe setting!  Always going to Starbucks and its clones can be very boring, and Gloria Maris is also quite expensive.  But I do love their kutsinta!

Miele Guide: One of the Top Five Restaurants in the Philippines - Aubergine

I read about the Miele Guide last Sunday, in an Inquirer magazine.  The Miele Guide is a restaurant guide for Asia that was launched in 2008.  It was created by a Singaporean husband and wife team, Aun Koh and Tan-Su Lyn.  The guide lists down the top five restaurants in Manila and one of them is the Aubergine, a French restaurant which I had the good fortune of dining in, due to the charity of two good friends, Barry and Michelle Marshall!  It was an interesting and delicious meal, as I tried the escargot - the first time I tried it - and the sumptuous fois gras!  It was a bit pricey though but at least, the experience allows you to eat French food in this side of Asia.  I'm not surprised the restaurant made it to the list. They had some interesting choices in the menu and the service was fine.  I'd go back here if I wanted to impress someone - but they should have an adventurous nature - French food is not for Filipinos really. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

One of the Things I Want to Do in 2011 - Learn Spanish

I've been planning to learn Spanish for a long time now, and since I think I'm ok with my French, I think it's time I move on and learn une autre langue.  So, I already checked the schedule at the Instituto Cervantes, and this January, I plan to enroll in a Tue-Thu afternoon class which would last for a month.  Well, no particular reason to learn Spanish except to be able to speak it if I do meet Spanish-speaking people when I travel.  Also, it would come in handy if we do decide to travel in South America in the future.  It would be a treat too if I could read Don Quixote - en espagnole!

Putting Swimming Back Into My Fitness Routine

Because of my nagging left knee problem, I have had to reassess my current fitness routine so I won't have to cause more undue stress on my knee.  I am already taking glucosamine chondroitin supplements to just aid my knee.  So, I thought of adding swimming to my current fitness routine, even for just once a week.  At least, with that, I won't have to cause so much stress on my knee anymore and still get the endorphin rush I long for!

My First New Year Resolution

These two weeks before the New Year will be times for me to find ways to make myself a better person by writing down some resolutions.  The first one I thought of was actually inspired by an article I read in the paper today. It just says that I should not box people according to their social status, school they went to, or their work.  Like most people, I have a tendency to do that and so, in a way, it deprives me from having new interesting friends, since if I feel that if he or she is not quite my social circle, I don't make the effort to get to know him or her. 

But next year, that is going to change as I want to know more about other people even if at first glance, they are not quite the type of friends I should be with. And anyhow, by experience, I have met many interesting people from around the world just by embracing the person's uniqueness and refusing to box them into a label, which would've been very convenient!

I Want To Visit Latvia!

 Yes, it was once again one of those nights I was curled up in bed, just channel surfing, and then landing on the National Geographic channel.  And voila, the travelogue show was featuring the Baltic country of Latvia!  And I was impressed by their architecture.  The truth is, the architecture in most European cities differ greatly from the steel and glass architecture commonly found in many Asian cities.  The places that were shown in that travelogue were pretty interesting and so are the pictures here!
 I think Latvia is already part of the Schengen visa so it's a country I'd like to visit if we do go to Europe this year.  I will use the ferry route starting all the way from Oslo.  I'm planning to take a Paris-Oslo flight, then take the train to Stockholm.  And then take the overnight ferry to Copenhagen.  From there, I'll check if there's a ferry that goes to Helsinki, and then finally to Riga!  Pretty exciting itinerary don't you think?

My Look: Bringing Out the Bling Bling

It was the birthday of Precious, one of my friends in Clark's Hip Hop class.  For her birthday, I decided to bring out most of my glittering bling-blings, since I knew most of the guests would be her friends in hip hop class.  Also, it was a chance for me to wear all these bling blings, since I rarely use them now, especially here in Manila, where no one ever wears them for accessory - at least, among the men.

Precious specified that we wear red, and so I decided to wear a Kylie Minogue shirt I got from one of her concerts and then just draped some of my favorite silver bling blings on it, including the huge Star of David.  However, it was the Phantom of the Opera Swarovski bling which most everyone noticed.  That was Vic's gift for me which we bought in KL years ago.  I rarely wear that too since I can easily lose it since you won't feel it fall of your shirt if someone does plan to steal it. 

Trying Out Red Box Karaoke in Trinoma

 My gym group in Fitness First ABS-CBN has been holding Christmas parties for several years now so this year, we changed it a bit by having it in a karaoke place, and we chose the Red Box in Trinoma.  The room assigned to us was a bit small and there was a huge tear on the seat!  Also, picking a song selection took some time to getting used to since we were more familiar with the booklet style.  However, soon as you get the hang of it, I think you'll be fine.

Good points though include the delicious fish and chips!  You should try this one!  Much much better than the ones I eat in HK or even London.  I guess it's a Filipinized version!  The second serving though was a bit less on the chips portion - but the fish - really tasty!  We opted for the 430 peso for each person deal which lasted from 8PM to 12 midnight and that included two free drinks.  We chose iced tea. 

Well, there's no point system to motivate you and you'd have to turn some knobs if you want just the right echo or the right volume for your microphone - or the background music.  As I said, you'll get the hang of it as you move a knob here and there.

The song selection is impressive though, which is good!  There should be a song for any type of song fanatic!  Even the ones who can sing Chinese or Korean songs!

I have been going to Trinoma for so long but I've never tried this place till this evening. I guess I'll try it again since some of my friends love to sing.  I prefer to sing in the bathroom or in my room.

I Want To Visit the Harbin Ice Festival!

 I was watching National Geographic one night and I chanced upon this travelogue of the Ice Festival held every January in Harbin, China.  It looked magnificent on TV and these pictures are impressive themselves!  It does look very very cold there though but I would try to stand the cold and just bring really good sweaters and coats!
I don't know if Vic would like flying China Southern Airlines though, because that's the only airline which flies to Harbin via Guangzhou.  We could get other airlines though but we'd have to pass other cities like Xiamen, Shanghai or Beijing.  And of course, the hassle of getting a China visa - which should not be difficult since I've been to China several times before.

Rediscovering TGIFriday's!

 I haven't eaten in Friday's for ages!  However, when I was in college, it was the restaurant du jour!  It was the place to go if we had to celebrate for something, and I remember people would line up outside while waiting for a table.  Anyhow, after fifteen years, the place still looks fine with all the memorabilia on its walls.  Their branch here in Morato has a big Spiderman on the ceiling, which Laura and Dylan loved to look at.

 As for the food, their popular mud pie is a bit smaller now in serving portion, and not too delicious.  Their brownie though is yum yum!  And the buffalo wings is still delish!!  We ordered the mushroom with chicken, or something like that, and the chicken fillet was really filling - and delicious too!  The fish fillet was just ok and the baby rack which I wanted was not available during the lunch hour.  They said it would be available by 2PM.  The adobo was also delicious although their version was a bit different since it looked like pot roast to me.

 Their Morato branch in Rembrandt Hotel is understandably not too full since it's not in the mall - which is perfect for me!  I hate being in a crowded place sometimes - so I loved the peace and quiet this time around.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Look: Revisiting the Slim Tie Look

I just bought this slim tie at Springfield's over the weekend since for one weird reason, it was on sale!  Well, that impulse buying fit perfectly with the yellow shirt I was planning to wear for the company luncheon today.  This yellow Ralph Lauren shirt was part of that edition where they had those dolphins in the lower part of the bum side and on the side of the hips too!  Very cute really!  I don't think those designs even reached Manila.  The tie really took away the eyes from my belly which I so wanted to hide.  Also, I realized later on that the bright yellow color had the tendency to make me look bigger!  Oh well, I'd love some dash of bright colors from time to time!

My BFF Wins Hip Hop Prize!

My best friend Mabel, win one of the three top prizes in the hip hop marathon today at Fitness First ABS-CBN.  We both love attending hip hop classes and we could consider ourselves veterans since we've been doing it since 2003 - the year that branch opened its doors!  We have been through many different teachers already and we could easily follow the steps as long as they don't affect too much our knees!

My Look: Wearing Mama's Fabe-lous Bib Necklace

Mama is the most creative person I know and this Christmas, she outdoes herself once again as she came out with these fabulous bib necklaces, one of which I am wearing here. My friends Honey and Vangie tried them on too and everyone in the barkada loved it! I loved it too! She made this bib necklace herself, with her own hands.  

This necklace is one off and Mama never does one design twice. Like a true artist, she gets bored easily and moves on with another gem of an idea. By the way, even if Mama looks so kikay, she is a Fine Arts graduate of UP Diliman, mind you. She really learned her arts from the best and many of her teachers are now National Artists. Kita naman sa gawa noh! Love you Mama and Merry Christmas and thank you for making me look fabe-lous! I got so many stares in Trinoma last night and loved it!
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