Monday, 26 March 2012

Songs from my sickbed

Greetings from my sickbed. In between Skype and sleep and ten million coughing fits, I've tried to relax my brain and cool my temperature by tunesing and daydreaming about coconuts, hammocks and the emerald ocean.

The Alabama Shakes - Hold On
If you've never heard of The Alabama Shakes and heard their tunes, you'd probably think the vocalist is some Otis Redding-slash-Led Zep inspired country/classic rock dude. But  Brittany Howard is an irony of all sorts: a dorky unpretentious alpha rock goddess. And I freakin' love her voice.

Outkast - Liberation
You'd think a collab with Cee-Lo and Erykah Badu would be something flamboyantly extravagant, but this is actually a more subdued yet absolutely relevant piece. Hats off to Big Rube's verse. If you're a fan of spoken word you should know this guy. Old school, but still stands as my favourite Outkast song ever.

The Drums - Instruct Me
(Couldn't find a proper video so this is some random person's holiday vid.)
Such an 'I-want-my-mommy-I-feel-so-helpless' tune. I hate being ill far away from people I love, especially my fam bam. Times like these, I could do with a big cup of soup and a lot of people to tuck me in.

Tennis - Origins
First single off the Young & Old album, but not my favourite to be honest. I like how the tracks seem slightly more progressive than Cape Dory without losing the classic dreamy, 60's diner pop feel. Alaina Moore's voice is innocently mint. I seriously love it when she sings those 'woh-oh-oh-oh's'.

The Shins - Point of Morrow
So the new album's out and you'd be glad to find out that it doesn't stay clear much of the band's formula. Save for the title track; it's still a lazy, dreamy song and almost ethereal in some parts but not exactly as quirky as I thought it could've been. Really good still ;)

Tycho - A Walk
A little soundscape bliss. Makes you realise that when words are not enough, you can still say a lot without.

Here's to a speedy recovery. Fingers and everything crossed. =( 

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Dear little sister

You were seven months old when we 'officially' found out. We took you to hospital to see a neurologist, a nephrologist, a kinesiologist, an EENT specialist. After six slow hours your pediatrician finally saw us and said 'we have a problem'. Mom broke down and admitted she knew this from the get go. Everyone else didn't suspect anything; we've all been too engrossed in your presence to notice - constantly biting your chubby cheeks and burying our faces in the sweet, powdery smell of your limbs.

Everyone seemed numb on the sombre drive home. I looked at you and saw it all at once. Your eyes slanting upwards. Your tongue protruding even as you sleep. Your broad hands, your tiny fingers, the single crease on your palm. Why yes, Dr T, I thought. The problem is that my sister's exceptionally beautiful. How's my dad going to get boys off our yard?

You had to attend school at eight months and I remember bribing the driver to take me to your classes instead of school (don't ever do that!). Watching you was a thrill. You were one of the tiniest kids but your teachers said you had so much potential. You picked up things easily and improved quickly. Perhaps because yours was a mild case? I don't know. Perhaps you're just really special.

You're seven now. And you're still the prettiest thing I've ever seen.

I left when you were two, and I wrote you a letter hoping you'd become a brave, loving, amazing little girl when I'm gone. Five years down the line, you are hands down the best child any parent could have.

Everyone just falls in love with you. You've evolved into this delightful burst of sunshine, bringing joy wherever you go. I'd like to think you have a little bit of us in you - you've got Dad's charm and Mom's wit, our brother's musicality and perhaps a bit of my cheekiness. Really and truly though, you're the golden thread that weaves into the fabric of our being. I don't think anyone of us knew exactly who we were as a family before you came along. I will always be grateful for that.

You've taught us more than what I've hoped you'd learn at this point. Your enthusiasm and zest for life is contagious and inspiring. Your ability to create bonds fearlessly is fantastic and I am proudest of you for showing and teaching us how everything and everyone has a purpose. I wish we can all be the same. But then it goes to show that you, my pumpkin, are special in more ways than one.

There's so much more I'd like to say, but we've got forever to explore. So, as always, let's end this with some sisterly advice.

It's okay to not have peanut butter & jelly sandwiches on Thursdays. Don't ever hit a girl again - if the sandwich came from her bag, it's hers. Stay smart. Speak clearly. Take a break from you PSP and play with your your DVD player. There are other songs you can sing to me other than Bon Jovi's Bed of Roses. Always respect the oldies and never call them out for having grey hair (you make them feel young). Never stop being sweet to mom, dad & Uncle R. Stay close to our brother, to Kuya J and family. Don't forget the 'thank you', 'sorry', and 'please'. Don't forget me. Don't forget to say your prayers.

I love you, beautiful darling. See you soon.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Incognico: where the best things aren't free

Incognico Toptable rewards set menu
Eating out in London can get pricey so most restaurants come up with special offers. They often team up with moneysaving companies or deal-of-the-day/booking websites to encourage punters. Toptable is a popular booking website which offers freebies, discounts and rewards points. It’s quite good for team lunches or group dinners especially when you choose a quality joint that would give you excellent value for money.

I've booked enough tête-à-têtes online to score a free meal for two, so I've invited A to join me for a two-course feed from a French restaurant called Incognico. After looking at reviews of the redemption restaurants we chose this because the 'rewards points' set menu seemed to offer better options than others.

Incognico's been around for years. It's apparently a go-to restaurant for pre/post theatre dinners as it's located along theatreville (Shaftesbury Avenue), beside renowned and flamboyant fancy-dress shop Angels. Which begs the question... why does it seem so subdued inside? The decor reminded me of an old university library, with the dark walls, floors & chairs. The tables were mostly covered yet people spoke in hushed tones and it just sounded dead. Have they just been to see a somber play/musical? *shrug*


A&I thought we'd just try and be as behaved as the others. Tipple of choice was dry, peachy rosé (her choice, not mine). The bread basket had a generous amount of sourdough, granary and baguette but was served with butter discs that could've passed off as hockey pucks. We told our server about this and asked for softer ones. He came back with even more frozen ones. Boo.


A had the spring minestrone with pesto to start and the colours looked so vibrant. She said it tasted good, except it was a tad too hot to enjoy. I had the smoked salmon which was a pleasant first course. I'm not usually keen on keta caviar, which came with, but it was bearable with the big blob of cream cheese. I could never complain about having too much cheese on my plate but I can imagine how others may think the extra dollop is unnecessary.

As I've had fish for starters, the suckling pig was a no-brainer for mains but I had a change of heart and went for my reliable fail safe (and fishy again): roast sea basssauce vierge + new pots. Fish was nice, flaky and seasoned well. The skin was deliciously crispy and the fillet proportion was just right. The dish called just a tad bit more of the sauce vierge and less of the baby spuds. It was an just an okay dish - not entirely groundbreaking but not the best I've had either. But safe.

A's roast chicken with wild mushroom sauce was tender but I don't think it would've stood out sans the sauce. The earthy flavours of wild mushroom made the dish better but there was still something missing. Perhaps a bit of nutmeg? Or a bit more stock? I wasn't exactly moved by it. A seemed to enjoy it though, and that's what mattered.

Overall it was just an okay meal. Despite its fancy, Frenchly played facade, Incognico felt like a glorified gastropub... in Eastbourne or Hastings!  I felt that the ambience (or lack thereof) played a part as well because A&I were heaps more subdued than our usual selves and felt like schoolgirls who are dying to play hooky. Throughout the meal, all I could think about was the closest place to get some martinis and a bit of a crowd. 

But well we didn't have to pay for anything else other than the wine and tips so we can't really complain much, aye? Perhaps we just didn't choose the best plates? I mean the dishes on the ala carte menu sounded heaps more exciting. Yes, you may have to pay extra but this really shouldn't be an issue if the food is good, right? The complimentary bread basket at Maze made me feel satisfied than the free two-course meal here.

Shame our first time was a bit of a letdown. I'll have to convince a good crowd of rowdy fun people to come along first before I head back.

117 Shaftesbury Avenue, Covent Garden WC2 | Tel: 020 7836 8866
Ave spend pp: £35-50 ala carte menu (no wine); set menus start at £20 (no wine)

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Things I miss about dancing

1. Dancing with a club/crew/group. When you're around people who share and understand the passion you have for the craft, you end up enjoying and loving it more. You bounce off their energy and learn how their movements can sync with yours. Like a family, you become more alike than you are unalike.

2. Getting lost in training. When your brain is almost out of fuel after a long day of exams/projects, dancing can be the best way to de-stress. Sure, when you're learning a routine you need some sort of focus but as you go along it becomes intuitive/instinctive. Usually this happens when you're dancing from the heart.

3. The feeling/attitude. Doesn't really matter which genre you're best at, because most of the time dancing makes you feel awesome. Doesn't matter whether you've got two left feet or two right feet - heck it doesn't matter if you've got an extra leg. Your confidence gets a boost and your mood is generally more positive.

4. Performing. There's a magical moment when dancers get onstage before a show. The last minute before lights on, nerves and emotions go on overdrive. The brain tries to remember routines, conscious and hopeful that nothing is skipped. The heart is excited and anxious to get on with the show. The last few seconds drop and the audience is hushed. The moment the first note hits, we give in to the beat and the music takes control.

Speaking of performing... three days to go before Street Fuzion 12: WOЯD! Can't believe it's the 12th already (I think I was active during the 2nd? 3rd?) For more info, go visit UP Street's Facebook page and the club's Twitter account. And if you want a sneak peek of awesomeness, catch some of the club's performances here.

Go watch, guys! It's going to be awesome. Woooord. =)

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Be a hero, Be One!

DISCLAIMER: I am not a member of the UP Sigma Delta Phi myself, although I do have friends in the sorority. =)
The UP Sigma Delta Phi Sorority launched Project Bata, Mag-aral Ka in 2010 with the vision of getting destitute children motivated to go to school. The project aims to inculcate a hunger for learning, and to instill the importance of education as a platform for success. So far, the project has reached out to almost 100 indigent children in Quezon City, Philippines and they are aiming to expand some more.

Now, how can you help?

1. Volunteer. You can contact a lady named Yanna on +63915 367 2532 to know more about the project and to help out.

2. If you're a UP student/alumni, get a UP Power Card III (they're only running about 2,500)! Avail of freebies and discounts in over 150 shops/bars/restaurants whilst supporting the cause! The card sponsors the project and part of its profits go to the literacy campaign and its beneficiaries.

3. Go join the Be One Photo Competition. Mechanics here.

4. If you want to help some more, go be a part of the movement! Visit the Be One Movement website, their Facebook community page and follow their Twitter account! You can learn more about their NGO affiliations and projects there.

Be a hero, Be one ;)

Friday, 2 March 2012

Currently stuck on repeat =)

Treating yous to two tracks each just because I woke up on the right side of the bed =)

The Roots - Make My / Other Side
I forgot I bought Undun last year and only realised I had it whilst sorting through my tunes. I love The Roots and how their albums coherently tell stories and how their songs are so lyrically beautiful. If you're a fan of hiphop tunes pf actual significance with modern beats and old school vibes then this is a treat. Here are my favourites from the album.

SBTRKT - Look At Stars / Trials of the Past
One of my favourite discoveries of 2011 and I can't believe I've not written about SBTRKT yet! His four-track EP Step In Shadows has been stuck on repeat for the longest time and his self-titled debut album is a definite pleaser. These tunes are so chilled out - much thanks to Sampha's ever so cool voice. Reminds me of lazy late night drives that result into mad raves til the morning. Awesome.'

Common - Celebrate / Gold
Speaking of old school hiphop, Common's new album The Dreamer, The Believer is an awesome comeback drop from his last album (which wasn't so great, to be honest). You're taken back to his old roots of inspirational word play and sample-heavy tracks. His collabs with Maya Angelou and John Legend hold the title tracks and are pretty uplifting, but it's the collab with Nas that excites me most.

Tori Kelly feat. Angie Girl / Gabriel Ramirez - Thinking About You (Frank Ocean cover)
One of Frank's better tunes is LSS and shower song of the month. It's been covered by heaps of aspiring musicians on YouTube (including Willow Smith, and Jaden Smith as a duet with the Bieb) but these are my favourites. Does anyone remember Tori from American Idol? (I don't, but the video's here.) I agree with Simon, her voice can be pretty annoying but she does have a following and this cover's super. Gabi's version is a bit more mellow but pretty good too.

School of Seven Bells - LaFaye / The Night
In the words of Timon, 'Our trio's down' to two'. One of the twins left the group, but their new album Ghostory is as ethereal as their previous ones. The tracks still have their signature breathy, dreamy sound and is a story of a girl named LaFaye. The punchy beats definitely make you want to go barefoot dancing.

Protect and preserve your colour!

Call your local Azta on the following numbers to book! This is such an awesome deal!

Katipunan Avenue : +632 434 6733
Robinsons Metroeast: +632 682 2107
Eastwood City: +632 687 6572
Alabang Town Centre: +632 659 2249
Robinsons Pioneer: +632 6873289
SM San Lazaro +632 353 1344

For more information, please visit Azta's Facebook page.