Wednesday, 29 February 2012

A wee bit close to home

The parents & the sibs at Dad's class homecoming
Baguio, Philippines (Feb 2012)

Last week, in between thoughts of comfort food, work I've been missing, and books I should download for Mr. Wendal (spot the '90s hiphop referrence), pictures of my family flooded my mind. My mom was texting me updates about their Baguio trip as my dad's class hosted this year's PMA homecoming. On my sickbed feeling weak/limp/almost lifeless, I was overwhelmed with jealousy and wished I could've been there to join the festivities and be in the fam bam photos. But then I felt this achingly strong sense of love, and sadness in the reality that if I felt worse than I already did, I could without seeing them again (ridiculously morbid thought, but hey I was fragile).

There was a time when I was cynical about familial unconditional love. Unlike friends and partners, you can't choose your family so how is that fair to just love them in such intensity? Sure, you become comfortable and used to them but that doesn't necessarily mean you like them let alone love them right? Parents do stuff for their kids as they're seemingly obliged to, kids do stuff for their parents so they can get allowance and stuff. It is what it is, and it's just how it is.

What a stupid, jaded, cynical, ungrateful ignoramus. Yes, friends. I was in a dark place then. Not proud at all, and quite frankly I'd love to give my old self a massive slap in the head. Eveything's better and peanut-butter happy now and, ironically, it's all because of my family. No words could explain how much I love them. I would bend over backwards and do anything for them and I know they'd do the same.

I understand unconditional love more now. It's the kind of love that makes you want to be a better person for your sake and theirs. It's thoughtful and selfless that when people do something so wrong or disappointing every cell in your body will feel every bit of pain, yet you would support them and help them become better people. And you do this not because you are obliged to but because you can't see it nor have it any other way. It makes you feel complete despite distance and time, safe in your lonesome, and inspired on your not-so-glory days. I could say more about my thoughts on this, but it's always better to discover without bias.

If you've been reading my stuff from the very beginning (It's been over a decade! I'm surprised you're not bored yet, but thank you!) then you know that my most heartfelt entries were drawn from family anecdotes. You probably have a slight idea about how our relationships have changed through the years. We're so much better now; we communicate and express ourselves more than we used to. I think that was one of the things that helped improve our relationship. And we're not shy to tell the world. I'm proud to be my parents' child - my dad is a hero and my mother is my source of strength. I'm proud to have a brother who is maturing to be a better man. I'm proud to have a sister who is special in more ways than one. =) 

Friday, 24 February 2012

Pho: where remedy is served in a giant bowl

I've been poorly over the past few days and whilst I was trying to win the battle between fatigue and stomach bugs on my sickbed, I was failing terribly at battling this humongous craving for the ultimate remedy: a good bowl of steaming hot, spicy pho (and yes, it's better than chocolate, peanut butter and ice cream).

There are some places in town that serve good Vietnamese food (my favourite is Mien Tay) but I keep coming back to Pho for, well, pho. The branch in Soho is comforting (more spacious than the one near Oxford Circus) and is reminiscent of the food you get when you visit streets of Ho Chi Minh. Service is unpretentious and straightforward, food is well prepared but quick, and your bowls/plates come in giant servings but cheap and delicious.

My favourite thing to order is the pho tai bo vien (£7.95) or pho with steak and meatballs. I'd top the steamy soup with all the veggies and all the chili and eat it without stirring. I don't really put any other sauce because the broth is bang on with beefy, healthy, aromatic flavours. Sometimes I'd take the meatballs out and eat them with hoi sin sauce and a dollop of sriracha. Yum. 

I like their bun noodles too. They're pretty good for lunch as they're very filling but definitely not stodgy. My favourite is the bun cha gio nem nuong (pork & lemongrass meatballs, £7.95). The veggies are fresh and crunchy and I love the crushed nuts on top. They come with a spring roll too. YUM!

The pho xao is pretty decent too. I like the pho xao tit bo (£8.75) best. It's nice and spicy and the beef is always tender. I can't imagine stir-fried noodles with any other meat. I know most people like theirs with chicken but I love my red meat.


I'm feeling relatively better now and I think 90% of my energy has been restored. I've managed to fight the bugs with a whole lot of antibiotics, sleep and praline ice cream. I may have won that battle easily... but I'm still weak at the thought of a big bowl of pho.

Pho Soho
163-165 Wardour Street, London, W1F 8WN | Tel: 02074 343 938
Average spend: £12 for noodles and a drink, £20 for the whole shebang

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Thinking of Bacon, Ham & Sausage (this isn't about food)

I didn't really see myself as a mom growing up. As a kid I hated playing with baby dolls and always opted out when friends played bahay-bahayan. As a teen, I saw documentaries on women in labour and a screaming Lynnette from Ohio scarred me for life. Eventually I realised that actually, I was scared to be one because my mother and my grandmother were so awesome, I felt I might never step up to the plate.

That said, I've always been good with children - I'm patient enough to play with them for a long time and hush out their tantrums. When I became a sister (the second time around) and an auntie, my maternal skills seemed to come naturally. It made me think that whilst I'm not ready to have kids yet perhaps one day when the time is right, when I've met my match and when I'm 100% sure, I could possibly be a decent mom to little girls and boys next shore.

And yes, I've daydreamed about the spawns. And yes, I know I'd need a partner for that but before you rush me into anything.... have you heard of surrogacy? =D

1. They'll be called Bacon, Ham & Egg Sausage. Nicknames, of course. If I'm lucky to be able to adopt a fourth one, I'll call it Bagel.

2. They'll be exposed to music. I'll get them to listen to awesome tunes as early as their first glimpse of light. In my womb. But they will still know all the words to classic nursery rhymes.

3. I shall not expose them to butterflies, clowns, Pepto Bismol pink and public toilets - anything that can potentially creep them out for the rest of their lives. And I will get someone to teach them how to ride a bike so they won't creep other people out for the rest of their lives.

4. They will have comfy rooms but I'll make sure they'll have a home and not just a house.

Playroom/nursery board
5. They will be encouraged to do some sort of sport so they could learn the principles of discipline, confidence, teamwork. Most importantly so that they could learn that winning isn't everything - it may be the cherry on top but everyone else - including those who lose - gets a piece of cake.

6. They will be encouraged to speak up, but they will be taught to listen first.

7. I shall encourage them to read and write. They will understand a thing or two about stock prices, financial markets, the constitution and the FTSE 100 index by the age of 3. But they will still gush about the Velveteen Rabbit, Dr Seuss and Archie comic books. One will be a lawyer, one will be a doctor, one will be creative. One could be gay.

8. They will be exposed to travel, so they may be aware of all cultures. They will see the world in vivid colours, have respect for different beliefs/religion, develop a palate for all cuisines and hopefully feel a strong sense of compassion for humanity. But they will always embrace their heritage and roots.

9. They will be allowed to play in the mud, dance in the rain, eat stuff from the floor (3-5 second rule), consume too much sugar and make silly faces towards their classmates. I will laugh at them when they realise their mistakes, but I will teach them right from wrong.

10. They will not be perfect kids. Far from it. But they will be God-fearing and faithful in all sense of the word. They will be ridiculously adorable and sweet and will value the importance of family. They will always be respectful of their grandparents and they will always be open to their parents. Because I will allow them ice cream after dinner. But only if they've finished their homework.


Good grief. I've been feeling a tad too broody for my liking lately and this time I'm not blaming any lady relatives *coughmommytitagrandmomcough* for constantly nagging me about, er, my eggs.

It's nice to think about Bacon, Ham & Sausage (and Bagel) but I am no way near motherhood, no way near being ready at all. But when that day comes I know I will love them with all my heart. No matter what shape/size/gender/colour they come in.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

People Who Inspire: Whitney Houston

I was an 80's child and just like everything else then, my optimism screamed loudly and brightly. Back in the days of synthpop and neon glory, I was as bold and as gung ho as your mother's make up. And I, dear friends, wanted to become a pop star. You can blame it on all the variety shows around (and maybe a little bit of Sesame Street) but I had a dream to be a bright red diva. All because I was profoundly touched by this song my parents taught me and made me sing over and over again.

I loved Queen Whitney because this tune was really epic.  Forget that this was the first and only song I could really sing well. Heck, I couldn't even hit any of the notes now. But I loved it. I graduated with honours in 6th grade and had to address my class with some sort of inspirational speech. Whilst the high school valedictorian quoted Mandela and some story she read on Chicken Soup For The Soul, I quoted Houston (yes it's a Benson cover but hers is the popular one!). Despite the cheesiness of the lyrics, I was totally convinced that we were going to be the future as long as we loved ourselves. My peers and my teachers gave me a standing ovation and I felt a bit vindicated and absolutely grateful.

In those years where everybody was searching for a hero, I knew I had three: the parentals (collective!), my Uncle Romy and Whitney Houston. I wanted to be like them and I really believed I will be as great as them. All I needed was one shining moment. Maybe. In time.

Eventually I realised that I never really wanted to (and can never) be a pop star (thank heavens) and we all found out about Whitney's lousy decisions and addiction. But as any fangirl would, I still loved her more than I admitted. Well, I loved her until this.

Oh Whitney. This felt like a betrayal.

But then she came out with another duet with the George and a Greatest Hits album which was stuck on repeat for eons in our household. We all have our favourite tracks (even my ever so cool brother has one but he'd never admit that), and it's amazing because you realise that her voice has been consistently amazing. Some people loved Celine, Mariah, Cher or Tina and yes we loved them too. But Whitney was the greatest love of all. Oh yes. She was seriously something else. Oh Whit. we will always love you.

I hope she's found somebody to dance with.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Zizzi: where I was pleasantly surprised.

Went out for a catch up with a mate after work. She asked me what I was in the mood for and as I rarely like eating out at Italian restaurants, I said anywhere but. After scouring all four corners of Fitzrovia for a place that wasn't fully booked, we ended up in front an Italian called Zizzi. I was about to protest but friend said she was tired of walking and was in dire need of California-New York-London gossip. Okay, then. I was quite famished myself. 

They had arancini (£5.15) on the menu and I started getting really excited because I have not had it for a while. Zizzi's risotto balls came in three bite-size pieces, served with a tomato chilli dipping sauce and some rocket. I was pleasantly surprised with this starter. My balls were crunchy, peasy, cheesy, punched with a tomato tang and had a bit of a chili kick. And yes, I can say that with conviction.

I had the trofie (£8.95) for mains. The serving was massive and I felt a bit overwhelmed - I don't even like pasta that much! I was so sure I wouldn't be able to finish my plate until I had my first forkful. The trofie, which can be a tricky pasta to cook, was flawless. The sauce was spot on and there was enough of it to pack the dish with good flavour (and yes, I've declined the requisite 'Would you like some parmesan'). The dance between cream and pesto was a smooth, buttery work of art. The beans were crunchy and added great texture. I was so delighted with this dish I felt it deserved a standing ovation when it came down to my last few bites. There's serious joy in the simplest of things and that's what this dish was all about - a really simple plate of pasta with cooked to perfection.

My friend had bruschetta (£4.95) for starters and the Sofia pizza (£9.15) for mains. She said the bruschetta was yummy and that the pizza was okay. I wasn't able to take photos as we were both engulfed in our convo and our food.

Overall, it was quite a decent meal and I have to say, possibly one of the most decent chain restaurants I've been to. The staff at the Charlotte Street branch were very nice and attentive to what we wanted, too (quiet table, this on the side, extra of that, etc.) I'd defo go back again.

Click here for locations. =)
Average spend £30pp for a three course meal and wine  

Friday, 3 February 2012

Start a 'Happiness' playlist!

Why are there a lot of grumpy people in the world?!?!?! On the bus, a man constantly muttered about traffic. On the tube, a couple had a nasty row and despite rush hour buzz you could really hear them being spiteful towards each other. On the way to work, I accidentally bumped into a lady, dropped my just-bought porridge and she actually snarled at me as if I snatched her purse. SUNGIT! Perhaps they all woke up on the wrong side of the bed? 

I get it. We can't be happy-sunshiney people all the time. But then starting the day right makes a massive difference. What are you waking up to? A hangover? Eyebags? A broken heart? IT'S GOING TO BE OKAY! There's a cure to bad morning blues and I've been using it for a while now. The moment I wake up, before I put on my make up, I say a little prayer. And play some decent tunes for an extra kick and push =)

On your 'happiness' playlist, you've got to have the following categories (songs may vary depending on your taste, of course):

WAKE UP: The Drums - Let's Go Surfing
Hands down my favourite song to wake up to. No Beef is my current alarm song because it's effective but I've always listened to this tune to convince myself that it's going to be a beautiful morning and an awesome day, whatever the weather is like. Life's like the surf and all that, anyway. =)

GET-READY: Miami Horror - Make You Mine
Listen to this when you're getting ready for work. A groovy tune can really boost your confidence when you're dressing up - even when you're feeling rough or when you've woken up on the wrong side of the bed! I mean, look at Austin Powers - he's not exactly muy gwapito but he's such a stud cos he always gets his groove on! =)

BRING IT ON: Starkillers & Nadia Ali - Keep It Coming
Another awesome Starkillers + Nadia collab. Listen to this on the way to work, it'll defo keep your energy levels up. Feel like a busy week ahead? Make this song your 'warrior tune' and tell yourself you're up for the challenge. You can go through anything potentially stressful if you just put your mind and back into it. =)

PICK ME UPPER: Two Door Cinema Club - Something Good Can Work(RAC remix)
The original version of this song's very catchy and pick-me-uppy but I like the RAC remix too. I love songs with good lyrics that really motivate you and really make you think that anything can be possible. =)

GUILTY PLEASURE: Maroon 5 - Moves Like Jagger
Nothing makes me smile more than a cheesy guilty pleasure. I've constantly hated this song until last week; after a few bad days it blared off my earphones randomly. I don't know why but started jolly strutting along Dean Street and I imagined myself as Anne Vyalitsyna strutting down the VS runway with Adam Levine. Give me a break, dudes. Guilty pleasure nga e. =P

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH: Kate Nash - Pumpkin Soup
When you feel like you need a bit of a break but can't, have a chocolate bar. If resources are running on low to zilch, think of someone who's inspired you lately. And feel all giggly and giddy all over. =)

So there, you go folks. Go creat your own happy playlists and don't be too masungit to other people! And if all else fails, think of a really happy thought and SMILE. You have no idea how infectious a smile can be ;)