Thursday, February 23, 2012

weird ideas welcome

Still harvesting lessons from the leadership course I took. My teachers did say that the topics covered during the course are very applicable in our personal lives...


Have you ever experienced having people tell you that your weird idea is so out-of-this-world that isn't feasible?

In class, we were given an issue that we needed to find solutions for. All ideas, ranging from bright to stupid, were welcomed. The issue, during the exercise, wasn't something Earth-shattering; we were told to design a table. During the first part of the exercise, we weren't allowed to call the more outrageous ideas impossible, not feasible, difficult, weird, or stupid.

Still wondering at how to use this lesson in everyday life, I started noticing the unique.

While window-shopping, I got intrigued by the bladeless fan on display; intrigued enough to buy one just to see how it works. Now, cleaning my electric fan is a breeze!

Then, while ordering at Burger King, I noticed a reminder to staff at the counter and in the kitchen: "No mocking odd orders. EVER." That made me happy, because now I know that I can have burgers with extra pickles, jalapeno, and mustard whenever I feel like it. Think of all the possible hamburger combinations!

Then there's Meg Ryan's character in the movie"When Harry Met Sally": she was very specific with what she wanted in terms of food. Harry (Billy Crystal) impersonates Sally like so:
"Waiter, I'll begin with a house salad but I don't want the regular dressing. I'll have the balsamic vinegar. and oil, but on the side. And then the salmon and the mustard sauce, but I want the mustard sauce on the side."  
Keeping our minds open to ideas, even those that are too weird for our tastes, helps us become more creative. So from now on, I will avoid discouraging myself and others from pursuing paths that seem too different from what is considered typical. I guess that's the long version of "thinking outside the box".

another long drive home

I only realize how far I've gone based on how long I have to drive to go back home. In the case of my second trip to the hot air balloon festival, I thought I would have a homeward drive that's as easy as the one I had last year. But this year's trip was more trying.

My patience was tested beginning at the parking lot. Because a lot of people went out at around the same time as I did, I had to wait for an hour and a half to get out of the parking lot.

stop-and-go traffic in Clark Field, Pampanga
Thankfully, I was driving home with high school buddies Mafel and Karen, and Karen's daughter, Kat. They all helped keep my mood in check as I drove at a snail's pace in the parking lot.

After escaping the parking lot, the first real challenge set in: driving via the SCTEX and then the NLEX. Being on the freeway was a lot better than being stuck at the parking lot, but my main concern was fighting off the fatigue and drowsiness on the long trip home. Kat, who had the gift of the gab, could only talk so much (she's just five) so it was up to me and my friends to keep the conversation going... until we reached the Shell station at the NLEX... Finally, some dinner!

An hour after, we had to get a move on again because at the rate we're going, I'd be home way past midnight and they still had to commute to their homes. 

I was wishing that I'd be zipping through the 20-km stretch of EDSA as fast as I'd done before sun up. But no, I had to be stuck again in traffic from Araneta Center to Buendia! Just look at the picture above again for a reference... this time, though, I was plying the road along with a lot of trucks and buses, instead of just smaller vehicles. It was relief to get onto the SLEX for the final stretch home.

The best wake-me-upper for me this trip: the screech of brakes as the bus in front my car almost hit the jeepney in front of it at the last tollgate!

Cutting the long trip's story short, we got to our meeting point in about six hours and 30 minutes. Compare that to the early morning drive, using almost the same route (we didn't go through SCTEX), of about four hours (it took about an hour to reach the Clark Field from the gate).

An afternoon of kite-flying was worth that very long trip though. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

at the hot air balloon festival (again)

After having so much fun at the 16th Philippine Hot Air Balloon Festival last year, I decided that I'd drive all the way north again this year. My sister didn't go with me to this year's festival, so I rounded up a few friends to join me on the long drive.

Since this was my second round at it and because my friends were with me, I wasn't able to concentrate on the exhibits and on the demonstrations. But, I did notice the kites, particularly all those kites that were soaring. Inspired by my friend's daughter's attempts at flying a kite, I got myself my own kite (a small, rainbow-colored delta kite) so I could play too. \ (^_^) /

Time flies fast when you're having fun. In my case, I only realized that I had been under the sun for HOURS when the sky started to turn orange! Challenged to get my kite higher in the sky, I had kept trying to catch the perfect wind; when I did, I was so happy... until the kite's string got away too! Embarrassing as it sounds, I chased after my kite across the grass field and the hangar, not minding the other kite flyers and the people going to the different exhibits. With my kite retrieved and its string safely tied up, I made several attempts at kite flying, only to concede that the perfect wind for my kite was already gone.

Suffice it to say, my trip to the hot air balloon festival did not end up as a photo trip, despite my bringing of my camera gear (sans the tripod). Thanks to the hours under the sun, I'm now darker, as if I've been to the beach. And it's not even summer yet!

I'm thinking of going there again next year. Kite flying again? Or back to the exhibition and the air shows? We'll see.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"hold the whip"

Frequent customers and baristas at Starbucks have a way of communicating the type of drink the customers want. For the occasional consumer (like me), the lingo is a bit intimidating because of the endless possibilities of combinations to be put in that cup (the size, the consumer still has to decide on).

For years, I've kept ordering the Chocolate Frappuccino. Simple and straight off the menu card. One day, I thought that since I wasn't in such a hurry, I could try vamping my favorite drink up a bit. Just a bit. I didn't realize that I was opening myself up for a lot of questions. And another blooper moment.

So, I plunged in, "One chocolate chip frappuccino blended creme, but please use soy milk."

"What's the size of your drink?", the barista asked.

"Venti, please," I replied. My customized drink was well on its way.

I prefer soy milk and it's only recently that I learned that the soy milk option is available at the Starbucks branch I normally pass by. Long time ago, I used to buy my chocolate milkshake at a different coffee shop because it was the one I knew that had the soy milk option.

"Hold the whip?", the barista asked again.

That stopped me in my tracks. The whip?!? Whenever I order what's on the menu card, the barista only asks for the drink size. So I started looking around for a whip, certain that I wasn't holding one.

"Excuse me. What whip?", I asked, puzzled.

The barista kindly replied, "Whipped cream. Do you want it in your drink?"

"Oh, yes. Please include that! And please add peppermint syrup too", I finally understood what the barista was talking about and successfully requested for some holiday spirit into my drink.

While waiting for name to be called, the barista started calling out my drink's specifications. It sounded very complicated, what with all the Starbucks-speak going on. After a few minutes, the other barista (the one who's announcing the drinks already prepared) was smiling when he called me. He commented, after reciting the drink combination,

"Here's your super-customized drink."

My personalized drink was yummy! It was the perfect companion for my homeward bound 170-km drive that night. I think this combination will be my signature drink for the next few years whenever I end up at Starbucks. But no, I cannot say the name of my drink in Starbucks-speak. The barista will still have to help me out.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Valentine's Day

Fe: Mang Johnny, Happy Valentine's Day!
Mang Johnny: Likewise... Is it likewise or counter-clockwise?
A lot of flower vendors appeared along the UPLB Gate on Valentine's Day. Seeing them there, with lots of bouquets and individual flowers, reminded me of the famous flower market in Manila, Dangwa. However, my favorite flower was markedly absent on Valentine's Day (at least along Lopez Avenue): the blue-violet tulip. I guess it's because the color of the day is red and the flower of the day is the rose.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

music affects the eating experience?!

Ever wonder why coffee shops tend to play jazzy piano tunes while fast food restaurants play pop songs? Or why restaurants that serve turn-of-the-century recipes play vintage music? Or how about the tribal beats being heard all over an island-paradise-inspired restaurant?

Sure, the musical backgrounds are supposed to give the restaurant its ambiance, its atmosphere. The music puts people in the mood to eat. In fact, restaurant operators have gone to get disc jockeys to customize their restaurants' playlists to match with the menus. There's even a pan-Asian television series called "The Kitchen Musical" where music takes center stage. Just like Glee.

Do you know, though, that the music being played while you're eating affects the way you taste your food? Researchers from Oxford University, Condiment Junkie, and The Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen in the United Kingdom have found out that by changing the pitch of the music playing while participants were eating cinder toffee, they were able to change the way the toffee-tasters perceived the confection. In a way, the scientists labeled music as either 'bitter' or 'sweet'. Music associated with the sweetness of table sugar tended to be high-pitched (like piano music in a hotel lobby) while music associated with the bitterness of caffeine were lower in pitch (imagine the low notes of the trombone in Inception).

Apparently, music is no longer just for the ears. It's for the tongue as well.

The next time you order that Choco Cream Chip (soy-whipped cream-add peppermint syrup) Frappuccino, listen closer to the music and think if you'd enjoy that venti cup as much as when hard-core rock anthems are playing in the background.

For those interested in reading the article, here are the details:

Crisinel, A.S., S. Cosser, S. King, R. Jones, J. Petrie, C. Spence. 2012. A bittersweet symphony: Systematically modulating the taste of food by changing the sonic properties of the soundtrack playing in the background. Food Quality and Preference 24(1): 201-204.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mamma Mia! (the musical) in Manila

Tickets to Mamma Mia! (the musical) are perfect gifts on Mothers' Day! If you're going to watch it, I suggest that you bring your Mom with you, especially if your Mom is a baby boomer. In my case, the international tour stopped over in Manila in February, so I didn't see it with my Mom. I did see it with my aunt, though. The full-house during the afternoon show just proved that not only my Mom's generation loved ABBA's songs; the yuppies found them (and the story) appealing too.

It's a nice show to watch when bonding with Mom because at its core, the story of Mamma Mia! is about the relationship between a mother and a daughter and the daughter's search for her father. When my aunt was explaining the gist to me before we watched the show, I thought that the spotlight was on the daughter. However, as I was watching the play, I noticed that the daughter drives the story forward but the story really centers around her Mom and the three potential dads.

What sold me to the idea of watching the musical was the soundtrack. The play features some of ABBA's well-known songs that I actually grew up listening to! And here we go...

I remember how irritated my sister felt when my parents refer to her as their "Chiquitita" (we didn't know then that it's a rough Spanish translation for "little girl").

I used to learn ballroom dancing steps for Phys. Ed. class to the tune of "Dancing Queen". I just can't remember if I was learning the swing or the cha-cha. More recently, that's the song that my supervisor sang in IRRI Duets!

"Take a Chance on Me" is the most memorable song in an old ABBA cassette tape I have at home just because I like the rhythm. I used to play that cassette tape lots of times. When the Philippines had a lot of electricity interruptions, I played the tape in a Sony Walkman that my parents gave me on my eighth birthday. My brother and my sister also took turns listening.

Mamma Mia! is performed at the CCP until February 19. If you've got the chance, watch it and take a trip down memory lane through the songs. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Intramuros tour


Intramuros tour, a set on Flickr.

In all her 95 years, this was Lola Bats' first time in Intramuros... and she used to live close by! Looks like she enjoyed the tour.

La Cocina de Tita Moning (part 2)

waiting for the food!!DSC_8730DSC_8731DSC_8732DSC_8735DSC_8736
DSC_8737DSC_8738DSC_8739SarimanokSalsa monjaLa Cartuja de Sevilla 202 Rosa plate
CallosLengua cooked in white wineOsso buco gremolataWhite and red rice, ubod in the background

This time, I went to La Cocina de Tita Moning with my aunts, my uncle, and Lola Bats. As during my first time in the restaurant, the food was delicious!

New Year 2012 fireworks in the neighborhood



This was my first New Year's Eve alone. I just stepped out of the house and took photos while the neighbors had all the fun with the firecrackers, the fountains, and the rockets.

By the end of the revelry, the street resembled a scene straight out of a movie because there's a lot of smoke... one neighbor had let loose the big daddy of allowed firecrackers: an extra-long Judas belt. The explosions were strong enough to send people running away from it.