Monday, December 8, 2014

Nagpapaka-Martha

This morning felt like one massive Pinterest fail.

I had my day all planned out. I was going to wake up early, get a workout in, bake cookie cups (to be used for ice cream), decorate the tree with A (quality time!), then leave for lunch at a friend's house by 11:30 a.m. Take that, Martha Stewart!

By 12:15 p.m., my experimental cookie cups looked like hardened golden-brown blobs that I couldn't manage to remove from the muffin pan (I ran out of butter for greasing), and I feared that the regular cookies I popped into the oven were burnt because I was so distracted by my extra-clingy son. A, being very good at being nearly two, decided to throw a fit, and I was left to decorate the tree on my own, while simultaneously trying to calm him down. The classic Christmas carols I was playing over Spotify ("for ambience") seemed like a discordant soundtrack to his sobs. A little later, I gave him a bath, and not for the first time did I wonder if I was bathing him or if it was the other way around, because I came out of the bathroom drenched.

I felt frazzled as I arrived at my friend's place, and was apologetic as I presented my container of freshly baked, nearly burnt cookies, which I deposited beside fantastic-looking store-bought desserts. But the delicious food and great conversation with the girls I've known for over two decades allowed me to let go of my disastrous morning. Plus, they devoured my cookies, so I suppose I did something right?

I had to go home earlier than everyone else as I had work to do. (Still do.) As my son napped, I decided to quietly finish trimming the tree, before buckling down to transcribe (my most detested work chore) and write. When A woke up and cried the cry of just-woken-up toddlers everywhere, I turned on the Christmas lights on the tree. He was mesmerized. I think he even said, "Wooow!"

I had a crate made using wood scraps, and went with a Filipinana theme for the tree: capiz stars from Dapitan, raffia angels and twigs from Kultura, and sinamay from Carolina's.

I wasn't able to pull off the whole baking-decorating-looking fantastic thing the way Nigella would have done it, but in the end my cookies turned out OK, and my son seemed in awe of our tree. My domestic diva dreams weren't quite so perfect in reality, but eh. Whatever gets the job done! 

P.S. I have two containers of crumbled chocolate chip cookie cups in case anyone's interested.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Infatuated

I hadn't even left Ho Chi Minh yet, and already I was daydreaming about my return.


I didn’t expect to fall in love with this city, but I guess love has a way of sneaking up on you like that. (May ganon?) Ho Chi Minh, a.k.a. Saigon, wasn’t even on my list of places to visit—I just booked a flight on a whim, while my brother was still working there (free accommodations + foodie tour guide = why not?). We landed at past midnight, so I didn’t get a good view of the city as we headed to District 2 (very Hunger Games), where my brother is currently staying.

A few hours later, as the sun came up and I still lay in bed, my brother walked in and asked, "Have you looked outside?" I stood up, pulled back the blackout drapes, and looked out of the 13th-floor window: On the highway were hundreds and hundreds of people on motorcycles. "Parang mga langgam!" remarked my tita. Being from Manila, I thought about how hellish it would be to drive amid all those motorbikes, but I've discovered that people here are much more disciplined riders, and I'm told that there's hardly ever an accident. There's a rhythm to the way the motorbikes move here (in fact, when you're crossing the street, you're not supposed to stop, and it's second nature to them to avoid you), and entire families of four pile onto one motorbike, so you have to trust that safety is foremost in their minds.  

We flagged down a cab—something that's remarkably easy to do in Ho Chi Minh—which took us to District 1. We stopped at what looked like an alley lined with knock-off Van Goghs and other paintings, and came upon a decrepit (but clean) building bearing a sign: “L’Usine.”


We made our way upstairs, and found ourselves outside the most charming-cool cafĂ©—black and white tiles, slate gray walls, sunlight streaming through picture windows. I was smitten; if HCM had little gems like this hidden all around the city, then I was in for a treat.


As the day progressed, I found many other things to delight in: My mom and my tita said that the tree-lined streets and quaint shops reminded them of old Manila. (Never mind that one of these “quaint shops” was actually a Louboutin store.) I didn’t tire of seeing the French colonial architecture, and I appreciated how the chipping paint and worn facades gave buildings so much character. 


And the food! A few days before my trip, a nutritionist told me that carnivore me had to watch my red meat intake as my uric acid was higher than average. Vietnamese food was just what the doctor ordered—fresh spring rolls, steaming bowls of pho, and lots and lots of vegetables.


Even with all these things, I still had a hard time determining why the city seemed to have such a strong pull. After some reflection, I realized it was because it offered the less frenetic pace that I’ve been looking for. Even while in Ho Chi Minh, I was perpetually answering text messages and email from work, and sitting in front of a laptop every chance I got. I’ve been working so much—leaving early, going home just to have dinner with my son and give him a bath, then going back to the office to work til 11 or 1 or 2; working on weekends—that my psychosomatic stress symptoms (hives, for one) have again begun to manifest. My life was (is) just all kinds of crazy, and Manila reflected that—the never-ending to-do list, the demands, the traffic. Being in Saigon reminded me of the kind of life that I crave.

I want a life where I get to eat at cute little restaurants tucked away in old buildings...


...where I get to have an amaretto sour and oysters at sunset, while laughing with family...

  
...where I get to meet interesting new people, and hang out at a bar and just have good conversations...


And I have to stop myself from getting carried away and plotting a move to Saigon, and just appreciate the lesson it’s taught me: I can find these things back home. I just need to make time to do so and bring some balance back into my life. It’s not the city that needs to change—it’s me.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Time and Space

I'm alive!

One of my favorite features in our October issue is "The Road to Wellness," wherein the members of Team GH tried different ways to help us hit the reset button. We all had such interesting experiences—so much so that we wrote well over our word count. As a result, our text had to be cut (A LOT). Below is mine in its entirety. I was lucky enough to be able to go on a wellness holiday at The Farm at San Benito. The others tried acupunture, pranic healing, even a high-tech oxygen machine.

Time and Space
Perpetually on hyper-drive and severely lacking in me-time, editor in chief Tisha Alvarez Angluben goes on a wellness holiday and rediscovers the joys of doing something just for herself

Chilling by my private pool

“Do you get enough sleep? Do you have a lot on your mind? Do you worry a lot?”
Do you have ESP? I thought.
I was sitting in Dr. Ferdinand Browner’s office at The Farm at San Benito, and he was giving me a live blood analysis—he had taken a drop of my blood, and we were now staring at my red blood cells, magnified on the screen in front of us. I expected mine to look very similar to the perfectly round, evenly spaced normal cells on the chart. Instead, I saw flower-shaped blobs (some stuck together) and little crystal particles floating about. The good doctor rattled off everything else that was wrong with me: I always have my phone and sit in front of a computer for extended periods, and am thus exposed to electromagnetic radiation (true), I love sugar (true, though in the last month, I had cut back. But it takes four months for RBCs to regenerate, so…), and I eat a lot of meat and junk (busted—I actually had a double cheeseburger on my way there). It felt like I was at confession, where all my deep, dark health sins were being revealed. He did say he thought I was in my 20s, so I must still be doing something right!
This was my first stop after checking into my luxurious Narra Villa at The Farm. On my four-day/three-night wellness holiday, I was to start things off with a consultation with one of The Farm’s licensed M.D.s, who would gauge where I was, health-wise, and suggest the treatments I needed to help me get back on track. During my consultation, Dr. Browner talked about how the body has been scientifically proven to regenerate—but, I suppose, with all the stress of everyday life, it’s harder to do these days. “Here at The Farm,” he said,  “we give the time and space for the body to heal itself.”
Time and space—these were things that seemed to be sorely lacking in my life. Even this trip, designed to help me relax, had gotten me anxious. I was worried about the work I had left behind. I was stressing over the work I had to do while I was there (the friendly front desk staff playfully tsk-tsked as I lugged my laptop, stack of magazines, and files). And most of all, I felt intensely guilty about leaving my son. As dusk set in, I got a wake-up call from GH art director, Kara: “Kung ako yan, i-e-enjoy ko ang me-time. Kailan pa ako makakahanap ng opportunity na mag-isa lang talaga ako?” she texted. She was right. I resolved to make the most of the experience. After all, the guilt was useless—I was already there.
Instead of focusing on my worries, I decided to be thankful for the experience instead. I had a fantastic villa with my own private pool, a tub, a huge bed, a forest for a backyard, and—much to my surprise—cable TV! (I hardly ever get to watch TV in Manila since my son is generally not allowed to.) I wanted to get my schedule to see what treatments Doc had prescribed, and what the healing sanctuary (aka their spa) thought I needed; I could then pencil in all the other activities I wanted to do (PX90! Yoga! Aqua aerobics!).
I had gotten really excited—until I found out that Doc had scheduled me for two colon irrigation treatments. “It’s all fun and games til they clean your colon,” I Vibered Team GH. This was what I was most nervous about—having someone stick a tube up my rear. (Assistant art director Theo’s Viber message: “Just no.”) Dr. Browner encouraged me to try it, saying that a lot of people get immense relief, sometimes finding that the physical process opened up emotional floodgates. “They end up talking to the therapist about what’s going on in their lives,” he said. We talked about how physical ailments are often rooted in something deeper. I decided to just be upfront about all the emotional turmoil I had been through in the past year (silently hoping he would give me a get-out-of-colon-cleanse-free card), to which he replied, “I think you should do it, because you have a lot of shit to let out.”
So, in the name of journalism, I underwent a colema and colonics on two consecutive days.
The first requires you to lie on a bed over a toilet. A pencil-thin tube is then inserted into your bum; through this tube, 20 liters of a coffee solution are quickly pumped into you, and you just push when you feel discomfort. This was, by far, the unsexiest thing I have ever had to do in my life—and I’ve given birth, so that’s really saying something. The second treatment requires a fatter tube and about 35 liters of water slowly pumped into you. This was much less icky, and I was also much less apprehensive, since I’d had my baptism by fire (or, more accurately, coffee) the previous day. I was obsessively weighing myself while I was there, and after two and a half days and two colon hydrotherapy sessions, I had amazingly lost two kilos.
And it wasn’t even because I was starving. Though friends joked that I would have to pick my own food, I thoroughly enjoyed what The Farm’s award-winning restaurant, Alive!, had to offer. Since I wasn’t on a detox cleanse, I had free rein over my meals, and could select anything from their menu. (I went nuts the first night and ordered their five-course special.) I thought I would be subsisting on salads and carrot sticks throughout my stay, but I was happy to be introduced to vegan cuisine done right: Paper-thin beets masqueraded as cannelloni, coconut meat had the texture of squid, and fresh, wholesome flavors exploded in my mouth. After my first two days, I thought, If this is what it’s like to be vegan, I could totally do this for life. And then I woke up on my third day with a raging craving for tocino. Still, the food far exceeded my expectations, and introduced me to a whole new way of eating.
After four days, I felt like I was cleansed, kneaded, and scrubbed into a rejuvenated Zen state. I had two massages (both of which lulled me into a nap), a skin kayud treatment (scraping using mother-of-pearl shells, followed by a coffee scrub, wrap, and soak in a tub of more java), and another scrub using coconut oil. I felt so polished and supple after all my spa treatments; a few people remarked that I looked so fresh, and even that my aura was different. 

  
Morning yoga 

Thinking back, this glow had less to do with all the treatments and more to do with actually just being at The Farm. Though there were other guests during my stay, it often felt like I had the sprawling, 10-hectare place to myself (well, shared with some peacocks freely roaming about). In between treatments, I was able to attend an intense fitness class at their gym and a morning yoga session outdoors. For the most part, I decided to just take it easy: lounge in a bed I didn’t have to share with anyone, read, watch TV, or take a dip in my own pool. I would float on my back and look up at the clouds (or stars), or swim to the edge and just stare off into the trees, my head going completely blank. For once, my mind was surprisingly, blissfully quiet.
Four days seemed like a long time to be away, but by the end of it, I didn’t want to go home. On day one, I dreaded being alone, but I soon learned to relish the solitude. It reminded me that no matter how hectic my life got, I also needed to pay attention to me—it’s not selfish; it’s only sane. Dr. Browner was right: The Farm really did give me the time and space I didn’t even know I needed. I thought about the changes I wanted to make in my diet, my schedule, my life. I thought—or didn’t think, if I didn’t want to—about all the things I had been through in the past year, and where I would go from there. I thought about how getting back on track didn’t happen overnight, how it was a process that required patience, a virtue that life tries to teach me again and again. My body—and my spirit—had begun to heal.

The Farm at San Benito is located at 119 Barangay Tipakan, 4217 Lipa City, Batangas; seasonal offers available. Call (632) 884-8074, (63918) 884-8080, email info@thefarm.com.ph, or visit thefarmatsanbenito.com for more details.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

I know it's taboo to discuss sex, politics, and religion, but today I'm writing about religion.

I am a Catholic, and I will be until I die. But to be honest, I've been struggling a lot lately--going to mass has become more of an obligation (which is probably true for many others), mostly because I still haven't found a church where I feel at home, that gives me the feeling that I truly am spending time with God, and that gives me serenity, the way the best masses do. I used to go to mass every weekday at Tektite, mostly because I really like the priest there--it's like I really feel like God is talking to me. But he says Sunday mass at some far-flung place. I decided to stop going to the church near our house because of the parish woman who rudely and loudly told me in front of other churchgoers that my son was distracting (to her I say: 1) you could have said it nicely--we ended up slinking away in shame, not even finishing the mass; 2) I only took my son to church because my favorite priest suggested that I do; 3) we were actually outside the church because I am aware how distracting a toddler could be; 4) "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these'"; 5) sigh, maybe you were having a bad day so I really should just let it go). I'm not comfortable going to mass at malls, particularly one mall where the priest once said, "If you're sick, it means that you're sinful." (I kid you not.) I like going to mass at Gesu (I tend to like Jesuit homilies) but I never know when there's a mass there.

Today, I went to mass at a cathedral, which I thought was The One. But in the middle of talking about the Gospel, the priest started yelling--YELLING INTO THE MICROPHONE--at the congregation. For being late, for being so easily distracted, for coming only because we felt like we had to, for not taking advantage of the opportunity "to feel the presence of God." To be honest, I wasn't really feeling the presence of God as he lambasted us all. I felt like I was in the principal's office, getting berated for doing something bad. I felt like I was seated before vengeful Old-Testament God, who was about to unleash a plague because we were all so disobedient. I felt like leaving.

I understand he must have been frustrated, but is shaming churchgoers really the best way to encourage them to find meaning? I struggle to understand the words spoken, the rituals we sit/stand/kneel through every week. And as a good Catholic, I suppose it's up to me to really find answers to my questions. I guess today all I'm asking is: Is there a Catholic church out there that makes going to mass something I would joyfully do, rather than something that makes me tell myself, "It's just one hour for God, suck it up"?   

Monday, February 10, 2014

Why I Love Downton Even More





Click here to find out more about the promo. Even if you don't win, you still get a little something, ranging from a digital thank you card from select cast (1 entry+) to Mrs. Patmore coming to cook for you and 10 of your friends (5,000 entries+)! My favorite is "You'll receive a personalized video of Mrs. Patmore yelling at whomever you choose as if they are Daisy" (100 entries+)! I'm so tempted to pool together all my Downton fan-friends so we could get one of the bigger "prizes," then we'll just raffle it off amongst ourselves. Hmmm.

Thank you, Downton--and to all the others who've helped/are helping/will help!



Random Outfits

I keep forgetting to take photos of my clothes. In two weeks, I was only able to manage to get photos of three outfits. I missed an LBD, a kaftan, a cocktail dress...Oh well!

Outfit 1: White romper with embellished neckline from Topshop. White is my color. It's not the most forgiving of colors, but I love how it looks so fresh, clean, and elegant. At work, I wore this with nude pumps and had a tan bag. For family dinner at Circles, I switched to silver heels from Primadonna, and a purple and silver bag from Aranaz.

Just when I think my chest is back to normal, I see photos like this.:p Biceps c/o my son.

Outfit 2: I call this my "mommy porma"! Regular day at work. Striped top from Bayo, Levi's Revel jeans, white tennis sneakers from Market! Market!, red bag from Yosi Samra, shades from Forever 21.


Outfit 3: Friday! Not that I went out or anything. Har. H got me that black v-neck top from H&M maybe two years ago but this was the first time I wore it. I used to think it was too tight, so it's kind of funny that I decided to wear it when I wasn't even in the shape I was in when I first got it. I guess the older you get, the less self-conscious you are? Leopard-print skirt from Cotton On was a gift from H's sister. Black pumps from Parisian.


Here's hoping I remember to take more photos this week!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Little Man's Mustache Bash

I totally understand why parents spend loads of money on a big first birthday party--your kid only reaches this milestone once. But I guess I'm just...cheap practical? I figured A's not going to remember the party anyway, so I just wanted a small family-only thing at home. (On a side note, there's a funny piece called "Down with Big Birthday" about how ridiculous the "Birthday-Industrial Complex" has gotten.) 

I decided on a little man/mustache theme because 1) A really did seem like a little man, and 2) he has three mustache sandos that he regularly wears, so it's kind of his thing. Pretty much everything in this party (if you could call it that) was DIY. Because the holidays weren't hectic enough.@_@ Some photos (some were taken by my SIL): 

My Photoshop/InDesign skills were tested when I made the invitations (our assistant art director Theo made the background). I know everyone does Facebook invites nowadays, but I printed them out anyway. 


I made bunting to hang all around...


...and mixed some with Japanese lanterns that I bought from Divisoria a couple of months before. They're still hanging in our garage (thanks for helping, Ninong Rene!)--A seemed to like them so I decided to keep them.


I hung a big sign at the gate so guests would know where the party was at.


As much as I wanted to cook, I just didn't have room for that kind of stress in my life. On the menu: chicken lollipop and spaghetti made by my mom's helper, and hickory smoked barbecue ribs (my favorite) as well as baked fish with potato gratinee (H's favorite) from Banapple. 


And it might seem silly considering it was such a small event, but I printed out signs for those too...


We had some really yummy red velvet cupcakes baked by GH food editor Roselle. (She baked A's baptismal cupcakes too!)


Some extras: I made A a birthday board with some fun facts. By hand. And considering I have terrible handwriting and have no calligraphy skills, this was a true labor of love! I used chalk on illustration board--I think I'm going to go over it a second time with chalk marker. It's a little souvenir that I'd like to keep in A's room. 


With the board, I put some disposable cameras (courtesy of H's sis) and a bunch of different mustaches, so people could snap away. Our nephews and nieces had a lot of fun with those--but they had to ask us how to work the cameras!




With my BFF (A's ninang)--because she's family

We didn't really have anything planned in terms of entertainment, except for an old-school game with a twist: Pin the 'stache on A!


For the cake, I didn't wanna spend a bundle on something fancy, so I just got a big version of the mini devil's food cake (from Chocolate Kiss) we had for his first-month birthday and decorated it with mini-bunting. (I LOVE this cake. I think I had three slices that day. We ordered two so guess where most of my holiday weight came from?)


For A's outfit, I wanted something that would go with the color scheme and theme. His red button-down shirt had a tiny mustache detail, and he wore it with comfy blue pants. I wore a stache necklace.



In the realm of first birthdays, little man's was small and simple and super casual. But hey, he seemed to enjoy it!



P.S. Need help styling an event? Email me at heretishietishie@gmail.com. :)