Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chelsea with My Girls!

One day, I would like to pull a Carrie Bradshaw (minus the sleeping around and frustrating love life part) and write for a living in fabulous New York City. I already have the fantastic friends element covered, so all I really need to work on at this point is the writing career.

Last Friday, we all got together at Chelsea to celebrate Kath's birthday. Celebrations with my girlfriends are all about only two things - good food and a whole lot of talking! Our topic for the night was travel, something I can talk, talk and talk endlessly about!

Meet my Sex and the City girls, minus Ja, who is currently living in OZ.
Chelsea is chic and comfortable, definitely a perfect place for gabbing girls! I wish I can say perfect for the food too, but to be quite a honest, the food wasn't anything remarkable. Homey and familiar, yes, but not really delicious or mind-blowing.

Complimentary focccia bread with olive oil and roasted garlic for dipping.
Nothing like warm, soft bread to start the meal right! 
Classic Beer-Battered Fish and Chips
Just your average fish and chips served with coleslaw, malt vinegar 
and tartar aioli. I've had better versions at more affordable prices.
Rosemary Grilled Chicken and Kalamata Confit Pizza.
It sounds really gourmet, but believe me when I say that it doesn't taste gourmet.  The 
crust wasn't as crispy and chewy as it ought to be and the chicken strips were just too
bland. The pizza also had this bitter aftertaste, which I hope, isn't because of the kalamata.
Kalamata is supposed to be delicious, like olives but with a meaty texture.
Roasted Clam and Sundried Tomato Vongole.  
As described on the menu, this was basically just pasta tossed with roasted garlic, anchovies, fresh tomatoes,basil and parsley in a light and "creamy" clam broth.  The pasta was cooked al dente and the
seafood and cheese portions were really generous. The sauce, although with the perfect
consistency,  lacked creaminess and was a bit too bland for my taste. 

A few cups of healthy desserts at Yogut Froz and some more animated conversations later , we were ready to say goodbye to Har, who was to go on a graveyard shift that evening (boo!).

Tart yogurt with fresh mangoes and cheesecake - the only success of the night! 

We didnt want to go home yet, so we had a photo opportunity with them Halloween creepies instead!

Happy Halloween!
Thank you, girls! I had so much fun as always! I wouldn't be including "Chelsea" in our circle of friends anytime soon, though. Haha.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Betcha by Gong Cha, Wow!

When the boyfriend and I went to Hong Kong a couple of years ago, we had milk tea everyday for five consecutive days. Instead of going straight to bed after a tiring day, we would stop by for some street food and a glass of milk tea every night. It was a little routine we had during our short vacation there.

That was, of course, way before the milk tea craze hit Manila! As you can imagine, I was craving  for milk tea like a lunatic when we came back. There was a Bubble Tea branch in Megamall, but it just wasn't the same. I missed milk tea so much that I just had to shout it out in Facebook! 

I guess the Facebook gods heard me because these days, milk tea shops are everyfreakingwhere in my beloved city! There's Teaology, Serenitea, Moonleaf, Cha Time, Sip and my super favorite so far, Gong Cha!

Have you ever tried the Wintermelon Milk Tea of Gong-Cha? It's one of their house specials and it's superb! Have them add some pudding instead of pearls, and it becomes a whole new level of awesome! I think the special milk cream on top does the trick. My mouth waters just thinking about it. Yum!

Source because I forget to take pictures when I'm too excited to eat or drink. Haha.

Oh, I just remembered that I also had this awesome Taro Milk Tea from a store near the Ruins of St Paul in Macau. I have no idea what the store's name was because everything was written in Chinese, but I hope it lands on Philippine shores soon! I think it was what got me hooked to milk teas in the first place! 

This was where we bought the best taro milk tea (ever!).
 Care to identify the name of the store for me?
As for Happy Lemon, no, I haven't forgotten all about it. The store has quite a following! Sadly though, I haven't tried any of their drinks. I hope they put up a branch near where I live because I am itching to try the Green Tea with Rock Salt and Cheese that everyone is raving about! 

So, what is your favorite milk tea store? Please do share so I can try as well!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cyma is Sweeter the Second Time Around

In our family, we all have specific roles in the food department. My dad cooks, my mom manages the kitchen budget, my brother makes sure that no food goes to waste by eating everything at breakneck speed,  my sister complicates the menu by being the picky eater that she is, and I introduce new food discoveries to my family's very conservative palate.

So last Saturday, I took out my dilapidated but trusty credit card and decided to treat my family to a lovely dinner at the newly opened branch of Cyma in Robinson's Place Midtown. I admit, it was kind of out of the budget, but I just couldn't resist taking my family to a place where I have such fond food memories of. You can read about my first dining experience at Cyma here.

For starters, we had Spinach Artichoke Fondue, a mouthwatering combination of melted cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, spinach and artichoke. Served with grilled garlic bread and warm pita triangles, this delightfully cheesy and gooey dish was an instant hit at the table.

Spinach Artichoke Fondue 
Because my family is big on burgers, we couldn't resist trying out their take on Bifteka or Greek Wagyu Burger. The handmade Brahman beef patty was tender, juicy, beefy and oh so divine! It was served on a toasted bun and topped with peppered feta cheese, arugula leaves, lettuce, tomato slices and tzatziki sauce.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Our House in Canada

... is not really ours yet, but we are hoping and keeping our fingers crossed that it soon will be! The boyfriend and I were chatting a while ago, and he showed me a photo of the house that he is planning to buy for us once he saves up enough money.

Gorgeous, isn't it? It has a spacious front room punctuated with a cathedral ceiling, three bedrooms, walk-in closets and a basement, which we can use as a library. A library!

Soooooo excited! I wish I can get to Canada sooner so that I can help save up for our lovely home!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I'm Off to Seek a Great Perhaps

I need some advice, people! Please be kind. Commenting is free and fairly easy.

First, a short background on my dilemma. 

I am a Registered Nurse (Surprise, surprise! Who isn't these days?) and I am looking at my career options abroad because, well, I'm tired of working my ass off only to be one paycheck away from homelessness! It's not a fair game, going to the university and going through all the thingamajigs of getting licensed then living in poverty thereafter, I tell ya. (I know, I bring shame to my beloved UP!) So anyway, before I bore you to death with the drama, here are my options:

1. Australia. I am eligible to apply for registration, but I have to take the bridging course first to become a licensed nurse. The cost? A whopping Php 500,000 (around 12,000 USD)! Add the costs of transportation, food and accommodations to the mix and that's Php 700,000 I don't have! ) I can loan some money (with compounded interest, of course, as finance people are way too smart), but after computing everything in my head (I kid, lol), I figured I would have to pay the loaning company double the amount I borrowed from them in 18 months. That's roughly 1.4 million pesos if I did the math right.  After getting registered, I would have to begin searching for a job and a hospital that's willing to sponsor me. (Ah, screw whoever invented VISAS, the bane of my existence!) Therefore, the Php 700,000 is like a business investment. If I don't find a job that pays well fast enough, I would be six feet under the ground in debt before I turn 25. Had I only known that Nursing involved such risks, I would have taken Business Ad or Actuarial Science instead!

2. UK. I am currently in the manpower pool of Drake International/ASC along with many others who aspire to work in the land of the Balding Prince. Well, there really is  not much to the tale, except that I have to wait for the NHS to actually employ me and sponsor my visa and bridging course fee (Oh, screw the person who thought of expensive bridging courses, too! I'd rather take a bloody exam if that's gonna cost me less!). I don't know yet how long I have to wait, but last I heard, immigration policies in the UK have changed yet again, so the wait is probably gonna be a long one. 

3. Canada. I want to go to Canada for obvious reasons, such as the boyfriend being there and... the boyfriend being there. Kidding! I want to go to Canada because I can see myself settling there. The Healthcare System is amazing, at least, that's what I heard from a doctor friend who had her internship there last summer. Now, the only option I have to get there is to become an immigrant. Nursing is among the priority occupations listed by the Canadian Immigration so I am qualified to apply. The problem is, I don't have a million pesos in my account for the required settlement fund. (If you're a 24 year old working in the PH and you have a million pesos in your account, hands in the air, please! Really? Well, you must have robbed a bank or won the lottery or have really rich parents!)  Also, the average processing time is about 18 months. (I cry and moan and wail when I think about 18 more months of being a paycheck away from homelessness!) To my friends, please don't ask me to get married for sponsorship! The boyfriend is a student there. He cannot sponsor me or anything. Besides, who wants to get married for papers? I'm a hopeless romantic, though I don't look the part. (Again, I kid!)

4. Qatar. Well,  I already have an offer of employment. The salary is not that high, but way bigger compared to what I earn here. All I have to do is process the necessary documents and in a couple of months, I'll be off facing sandstorms and riding camels, extremely fascinating creatures they are. The thing is, Qatar doesn't feel right. The opportunity is within my grasp, yes, but my heart is elsewhere. When I think of Australia and the UK, I feel like I'm going off on an adventure. When I think of Canada, I think of home and family. Qatar doesn't make me feel any of those things. I know, screw these complicated feelings! Sometimes, I feel really guilty. A lot people at work wanted this post so much but didn't get it, and yet, here I am, very close to letting the opportunity slip from my fingers. Even I don't understand the inner workings of my brain. Should  I do something that doesn't feel right for whatever reason? 

Gosh, that was one long post! Soooo many things are going inside my head. It's one big mess, really, and I just can't decide. Should I grab what's right in front of me even if it doesn't feel right?

Help? Anyone?

Cash, pretty stuff and advice are most welcome! And oh, if you are willing to lend me money without much interest, that would be great, too.

DISCLAIMER: Please don't take me seriously. I was merely writing down my options because I want to see them on paper, or on screen, rather. Writing stuff down clears my head. That's just the way I roll.

Monday, July 25, 2011

My 24th Birthday Part 2

The day after my birthday, I met with some of my closest friends from college and heard the most fantabulous news ever! My friend, Rex is planning to propose to his girlfriend, Jacqui on their 4th anniversary! (Of course I had to wait for the proposal to happen before I post this, so they are already engaged as I write!)

The lovely couple. Jacqui is glowing! 
Rex found the perfect opportunity to tell us all about his plan when Jacqui left for the loo. When she came back to join us, she asked me why I had a weird smile on my face. Well, I was just so giddy and happy! Sorry if I scared you, Rex! I really suck at hiding my feelings!

Now, these two are like brother and sister to me. And yes, they are the first to get engaged among my set of friends. So please pardon the exclamation points! I'm quite understandably excited!

The ring!
My, my, I feel kinda old! A year from now, I will be in my mid-twenties. A couple of years from now, well, I might be even sporting a ring myself! Considering how time flies, that isn't really too far off. That is another story for another day, though.

Now, back to my birthday! Here are some photos of my birthday food from Recipes Modern Asian Bistro (Sorry for the low quality photos. In exciting times like this, even food has to take a backseat!):

Spicy Squid
For starters, we had Spicy Squid, which was basically just fried squid drizzled with a mildy spicy and sweet sauce. The batter was moderately crispy, while the squid meat was delightfully tender.

General's Tofu
One of my favorites at Recipes is the General's Tofu, which is tofu drenched in sweet-tasting sauce. The tofu was melt-in-your-mouth tender and the sauce had a very characteristic Chinese flavor to it. Growing up in  a household where Chinese food is served on a regular basis, my taste buds felt at home with this dish. 

I'm mostly a carnivore, so vegetables do not really appeal to me unless we are talking about a crisp salad with some very fattening dressing. This dish, however, proved to be surprisingly good! Bathed in coconut milk, the chopped beans were a bit crispy and moderately spicy. With hints of meat here and there, you really can't go wrong with this dish.

Crispy Tilapia
The Crispy Tilapia, as the name implies, is basically just fried fish served with some dipping sauce made of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, pepper and onions. This was really nothing special, something that you can easily prepare at home.

Well, I got the food and the planned propsal covered. Now, let's move on to presents! Jacqui was also sweet enough to gift me books. I love books! I believe that I have spent quite a fortune on them already. So if ever anyone of you decides to give me a present, please do get me some good books (or plane tickets because I love traveling too!).

So, that was how PART II of my birthday went! 

Good news, good friends and good food! I had a blast turning 24!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My 24th Birthday Part 1

To everyone who kept their fingers crossed for my Boracay birthday bash, thank you. Unfortunately, my requested leave was not approved, so that trip didn't happen. That's okay, though, because I got to spend my birthday with my family and the boyfriend instead.

Meet my quirky family!

My vain brother just had to have his hair cut and styled at Bench Fix before we had our family picture taken at a studio. While waiting for him, we snacked on fries, donuts and coke float.

Cheese and Sour Cream for the win!

Krispy Kreme donuts

McDo Management, bring back the Sarsi Float!

My family has this weird reflex: an overwhelming desire to eat whenever we step inside any mall. Seriously, all we do as a family is eat, eat and eat! We rarely shop unless we need to buy groceries, and even then, we still buy food!

The truth is,  around 75% of my paycheck goes to food.  I eat out at least once a week on the average and that's a bad habit I really am working hard to break. Birthdays are exceptions though, so I treated my family and the boyfriend to a simple dinner at Friday's.

Thank God it's my Birthday!
I know Friday's is so mainstream, but I can't try anything adventurous when my little sister is in tow. She is such a picky eater!

Who hasn't eaten at Friday's these days?
Now, some pictures of the food we ordered!

Jack Daniel's Ribs

I always order this whenever I'm at Friday's. I just love how fall-off-the-bone tender and juicy the meat is.

Chicken Fingers
I've tasted better versions, but because my sister is such a picky eater, I had to make sure she has something to eat should she dislike the other entrees we ordered. This dish was a sad choice though, because the chicken was so bland! I've ordered this many times before, and it used to be juicier and tastier if I remember correctly.

Chicken, Mushroom and Chicken
This looked so good on the menu, so I was quite disappointed after the first bite. Again, the chicken was quite bland and I couldn't taste the gooey goodness of mozzarella cheese that I have come to expect upon reading the description on the menu. The portioning was also quite surprising. This was more or less only 100 bucks cheaper than the ribs, but less filling and less sumptuous by miles!

Bacon Cheeseburger
This was a sure hit with my sibs who both love anything beefy and juicy that can be found between a bun. My brother loved the burger so much that he now claims McDonald's Quarter Pounder tastes like Burger McDo in comparison. Well, I kinda agree, because even a Johnny Rockets burger or a Charlie's Angus Beef burger isn't as juicy or tasty! 

Brownie Obsession

True to it's name, this dessert is truly obsession-inducing! The brownie was warm,  kind of tough on the outside, but chewy and fudgy inside. It somehow reminded me of the lava cake from Cyma, which I got addicted to for a time. I wish I can eat more, but alas, I'm sort of on a calorie watch! (Or so I would like to believe. Haha.)

Now, a picture of my vain brother who was also celebrating his birthday that day!

That's the hairstyle we waited around so patiently for!

And a picture of the silliest couple on the planet!

We met in High School, then grew up together thereafter.
I know my birthday did not turn out as I planned, but looking back, I realized that it was just how I really wanted it to be: a table filled with sincere laughter, good food and people I love! 

The stuff that perfect birthdays are made of! <3

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fun at Terazzas de Punta Fuego!

I've never been a fan of summer, but having just one summer getaway is quite inexcusable even for me! I know I went to Singapore last March, but with no sand and no beach, that was hardly a summer excursion.

This year, the only beach I've been to was the one at Terazzas de Punta Fuego in Nasugbu, Batangas. Since Club Punta Fuego is an exclusive resort and we went on a Monday, we almost had the entire place all to ourselves!
Karlo, our designated photographer
Clear, blue waters
It was so much fun spending time with my colleagues without all the hassles of the job. We frolicked at the beach, took the obligatory jump shots, played games in the pool, stuffed ourselves with more food than our stomachs can handle and lounged in the cabanas with a magazine on one hand and a glass of fresh fruit shake on the other. I absolutely love lazy days like that - lying on my back with the wind blowing on my face as I listen to the sound of raging waves. 

The obligatory beach jump shot!
This is how the pool looks like from a distance.
Goofing around in the pool.
We are such a crazy bunch!
The beach at Laiya is better, but Nasugbu's isn't too far behind. As a matter of fact, I would gladly choose the latter to avoid the summer crowd. 
We had the beach all to ourselves! Well, not really, but almost!

Come late afternoon, we took a boat to go island hopping. It was mighty fun jumping into the water, but I didn't dare take off my life vest because I'm not that good a swimmer. 

Frolicking in saltwater.
That day at Punta Fuego was such a welcome break from the monotony of work-home-mall days. I would have loved to stay there for the night, but I was on morning shift the next day. Don't ask me how I did it, but I got back to Manila at around 11PM and by 4AM, I was up on my toes, preparing to go to work! To be honest, that was bloody tiring, but I would gladly do it again just to get away from work-related stress!

This July, I have plane tickets for Boracay. I know it's not the best month for sun and sand, but please keep your fingers crossed for me and my friends. I'm really hoping and praying that our requested VLs will be granted because I badly need the time off. I've been venting in twitter a lot these days. Super negative vibes, I know, but I just can't help it. I'm exhausted!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ten Things I Love

One of my favorite bloggers, Tisha Angluben tagged all of her followers to write about the 10 things they love. I have been meaning to write about a crapload of things, but I figured that I want to do this post more than all the others because writing about the things I love is a foolproof way to make me happy! Without further ado, here goes my love list for good vibes:

1. Traveling. Traveling will always be my one true love. Nothing excites me more than the prospect of visiting another place,  getting lost in a foreign city, immersing myself in a different culture and trying out all sorts of specialties from different countries and localities.

I guess my favorite memory would be the time I visited the Grand Canyon in Arizona way back in 2004. I remember standing before what seemed to be a huge canvas and staring in awe at the interplay of colors come sunset. Oh, I will never forget that glorious moment! 

2. Good Food. Now, this is the reason why I am super overweight (well, aside from my hormonal problems and my sedentary lifestyle)! I don't really spend much on clothes or shoes or bags or whatever people from my generation spend on these days. I deprive myself of a long list of things, but I don't think twice about spending a lot of money on food. I guess that's something I learned from my good old dad who once said that he works very hard not to buy us new things, but to put good food on the table. He used to say that he can buy us all the food we want, but not all the toys we want! 

3. Books. My love affair with books started way back in second grade, when I learned about the wonderful world of Sweet Valley  tucked in the shelves of our modest library in Colegio San Agustin - Makati (yup, this girl isn't ashamed to admit that she once read Sweet Valley in all it's cheesy glory). From then on, my relationship with books blossomed and waned depending on the amount of free time I have. I remember when I was in 5th or 6th grade, I read about 4-5 paperbacks a week and my mom would constantly complain about my reading habits. She said that if I continue to devour books at such an alarming rate, I would send my family to the desolate lands of poverty in no time. Ha!

4. Writing. I must admit, my relationship with writing is way, way different from that of my relationship with books. There are times when I am absolutely smitten with writing and the giddy feeling I get after finishing a piece, but there also times when I feel like it's a long lost love I'm hesitant to meet again. Given the chance though, I would leave my current profession to pursue a career in writing. 

5. Patronuses. For all non-Potter fans out there, Patronuses are animal protectors that drive dementors away. These dementors are absolutely horrible creatures that suck hope, peace, happiness and good memories out of people. I have a long list of dementors in my life (financial issues, horrible people, violence, cancer, etc.), so I am very grateful to God that I have not only one, but three Patronuses that give me strength, hope and love all the time. As Frances Sales said, our Patronuses are the magic in our lives!

6. Lazy days. I absolutely adore lazy days at home spent with my family in my parents' bedroom watching movies, exchanging stories, reminiscing memories and having room service (yep, we have meals in our parents' bedroom sometimes!). Although my family is quirky beyond description, time with them is always something I truly treasure. 

7. Theatre. I was never a graceful performer, but I am very appreciative of musicals and plays. When I go to New York, the first thing I'm going to do is to watch a Broadway Production!

8. Cold weather. I was never a fan of the beach because I hate extreme heat. Uncomfortably warm weather makes me ridiculously and unreasonably cranky. I love cloudy days and drizzles because they allow me to curl up comfortably in bed with a good book and a cup of hot choco. I'd like to live a particular scene in the movies - snuggling in front of a fireplace. How romantic! 

9. Spas. Nothing relaxes me more than a day at the spa. Pampering myself with a massage or a body scrub every now and then keeps me sane. 

10. Photography. I cannot paint to save my life, but with one click of a finger, I can capture scenes and moments through photography. When I grow up (not bigger horizontally, but well, older and richer!), I'm gonna buy a good camera and do travel photography. You'll see!

Wow, writing about the things you love sure is fun! I'm tagging everyone!:)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Tocarre Spa Experience

Last February, I bought a voucher for Tocarre Spa at CashCashPinoy. For 1,650 Php (approximately $38), I got a Valentine's Day couples package for two valid until April 30, 2011. The package consists of a welcome foot ritual, massage and dinner for two.

Since my schedule is bat-shit crazy most of the time, the supposedly Valentine's Day spa date was moved and moved and moved until.... April! We waited so long to use the voucher and after two months, we finally have!

Our appointment was at 3:00 PM, but we were there as early as 2:20 PM. The receptionist greeted us with a smile and proceeded to confirm our appointment. She asked us to select our preferred scent for the treatment room and massage oil. We opted for lavender and green tea.

After confirming our appointment, the receptionist gave us our own locker keys and had someone usher us to the wet area, where the showers, steam bath, sauna and jacuzzi are situated. We were also given complimentary refreshments, bath towels, robes and the works as we waited for our foot therapy to commence. 

The Welcome Foot Ritual was a relaxing way to start the experience and I thoroughly enjoyed having my abused feet massaged and soaked in warm water. I liked my therapist, but I wish she didn't talk to other therapists as she worked.  It was mildly distracting and a bit unprofessional, but since it only lasted for a very short while, it's something I'm willing to forget about.

When I bought the voucher, I assumed that we will be massaged in a couple's room because it was supposed to be a Valentine's Day promo of some sort, but as it turned out, that wasn't the case.We had to pay an additional Php 500 (a little over $10) to have our room upgraded to a couple's room. The room was well worth my money, though, as I felt instantly relaxed the minute I stepped into it. Add my very attentive masseuse and an invigorating massage to the mix and boy, I was so sold! I'm definitely coming back!

After that rejuvenating session, we were quite reluctant to leave the spa just yet, so we hung out in their cozy lounge for some time before getting dressed and having dinner. 

Dinner was grilled pork belly with java rice for me and parmesan crusted fish with penne in marinara sauce for the boyfriend. The food was surprisingly good and it came with soup and a glass of iced tea. The boyfriend said he didn't want to eat Filipino food because he felt so sosyal after an afternoon at Tocarre Spa.

Hours after the experience, I am already longing to go back. Don't you just love group buying sites? Good deals, good times!

Tocarre Spa is located at the 4th level of Antel Spa Suites, 7829 Makati Avenue, Makati City.
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