Thursday, December 13, 2007

How to keep warm in Siberia

While Novosibirsk is not exactly the most ideal place for expats, living here is not as bad as I had expected. Before coming here i'd imagined that we would be riding dog-pulled sleds and eating whale blubber. For one, Siberia has always been depicted as a vast barren plane of ice in American movies. Secondly, there was very limited reference material about Siberia on the internet so i was left with only my imagination (which is very much influenced by American media).

Yes, locals have confirmed that it could get as cold as -50c here during winter but only for a maximum period of 1 week. The same way that in Manila we expect typhoons to come and go during the wet season. It's not constantly -50c as i first thought it would be. The average winter temp is around -15c to -20c, which is manageable if you have proper winter clothing.

Speaking of clothing, we really made a good call on the down jackets from Northface. It was a bit pricey but it does keep us warm and healthy. P and I both have a tri-climate jacket and a down jacket from Northface that we mix and match depending on the temperature. On cold days with snow or strong winds, i attach my down jacket to the waterproof shell. On very cold days, i wear the fleece lining from the tri-climate jacket with my down jacket and just a regular sweater as inner wear. I also wear leggings underneath my pants for extra warmth.

Morskoy Prospekt

Shoes with good insulation and proper traction are a must-have. I brought one very dependable all-terrain hiking shoes that is water repellant which i use most of the time because it's warm and keeps me from slipping on the icy sidewalks. On days when it's snowing and the sidewalks are covered with a layer of fresh snow, i can wear my leather boots with heels because it's not as slippery. Note to reader, boots must have lining to keep your feet warm.

Aside from a warm jacket and proper shoes, it is also important to have a thick warm bonnet and gloves for good insulation. I think the best place to buy warm bonnets and gloves would be here. I just purchased a new bonnet last weekend and it did feel a lot warmer than the one i used to wear. Siberians never go outside without a hat. You can leave home without your gloves but never leave home without your bonnet.

The best advice i got from locals is to stay indoors when it gets really cold. The heating in Novosibirsk is centralized and so all the buildings are well-heated.

Contrary to what i initially imagined, Novosibirsk is nothing at all like that scene from Tomb Raider. It is a proper city with well-developed infrastructure and highly-educated citizens.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Life in Russia

It's been 3 months since my last post. I would like to think that i've been busy but the truth of the matter is i was just too lazy to compose anything.

It's been more than a month since P and I moved to Novosibirsk, Russia. I'm sure you're wondering where the heck is Novo-what's-it's-name. Well, Novosibirsk is the 3rd largest city in Russia, next to St. Petersburg and Moscow. It is considered the business and cultural center of Siberia and is home to Akademgorodok - a unique university town founded during the cold war to become Russia's science mecca in the Sibierian region. Akademgorodok was designed to provide ideal living and working conditions for scientisits and so it was built in a forest area bordered by a botanical garden and the Ob Sea. While Akademgorodok is still the center of academic life in Novosibirsk, it is has also evolved to become the "Silicon Taiga" of Siberia what with the popularity of IT business in this area. With its ideal setup and beautiful surroundings, it has no doubt become the address of choice for the affluent Siberian. Fortunately for us, we live in this elite neighborhood.

Living here is not as difficult as i expected. Aside from the extremely cold weather, everything else is manageable. I spent the first week exploring the area and going through the isles in the grocery to see what was available. On our second week i had already familiarized myself with the place and the goods and was able to cook dinner every night since. I attend Russian language lessons 3 times a week and i also teach English in the same language school 4 times a week. Just this week i finally found the courage to ride the public bus and the marshrutka (shuttle) on my own...easy as pie :) I would still prefer to walk but since it's getting really cold riding public transport is the most practical choice.

Russian is one of the most difficult languages to learn (and understand). Adjectives change depending on the gender of the noun and the verbs change depending on the person/subject. The most useful phrases for me would be " Ya nye garvoryoo Pa-Ruski" (I can't speak Russian) and "Ya nye panyal" (I don't understand). I don't know if i will ever progress from simple tenses but knowing a little Russian is better than nothing.

Some notable observations about people and life in Russia:
a. They really drink a lot of alcohol.
b. When eating out, drinks would probably cost more that your food. One because beverages are expensive. Second because you will most likely be pressured to drink a lot of alcohol.
c. They dont salt the sidewalks here so it is more practical for moms to put their toddlers on sleds than on strollers.
d. Russian ladies snack on a lot of sweets and chocolates but they don't get fat.
e. Never go outside without your bonnet.
f. They still eat a lot of ice cream even in below zero temperature. You will find an ice cream kiosk in most major streets.
g. Tea is more popular than coffee.
h. It is common to see teens or adult men drinking beer while walking in the sidewalk.
i. I have never seen a policeman or any law enforcer since we came here.
j. Heating is centralized.
k. They don't bother to clean their cars anymore.
l. When it gets extremely cold, car engines are left running during the night so the gas won't freeze.

Will try to write more about life in Russia in my next entry. Pakka!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Rantings of a hormonal missus

I just need to vent....I hate Manila traffic! I also don't enjoy not being able to just walk around whenever i want because it's not always safe. I feel so constrained. There are so many things i want to do and so many people i want to meet but the there are so many considerations before i can leave the house. First i have to make sure that the car has the right plate number ending to drive around town then i have to give approx 1 hour travel time to go wherever.

I don't like sitting around all the time (which is what everyone does here in Manila). I haven't been exercising and I feel really fat and lousy. It's not that i'm complaining about all the good meals we've been sharing with family and friends. I'm just frustrated that i can't walk around or do any exercise.

Another thing i hate is waiting...why can't everything just be fast and efficient?? I'm running out of patience.....

Lastly, it's too hot and humid here in Manila. WAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Our Home

11 days in Manila and we've almost completed furnishing our condo unit in Greenbelt Parkplace. P and I have both been on interior design mode since we got back. I never leave home without the handy tape measure. Never mind if I leave my mobile at home as long as I have the tape measure in my purse. Our days have been filled with regular trips to Ortigas Home Depot, Our Home and Automatic Center scouting for the best lighting, furniture and appliances that our budget could afford. It's a good thing that we already set a ceiling for how much we were willing to spend per item before we went on the hunt otherwise we could easily get carried away with all the fabulous choices out there. Imagine, we spent a whole afternoon just deciding on the light fixtures then another whole afternoon just looking for a bed and sofa.

We're almost done. We just need to get mirrors and frames for the walls and curtains for our windows and bring in the appliances. Other than that, it's ready for occupancy. But since we will be leaving for another project very soon, we decided to just lease out the unit. So if there is anyone out there who is interested, the unit is available for rent.

Here's what the unit currently looks like...

The door on the left of the photo is the entrance to the unit. As soon as you enter, you will find the kitchen to your right and the dining area to your left.
A few steps beyond the 2-seater dining set is the living room....
The bedroom is to the right....We got a queen-sized bed and we still plan to put night tables and lamps on each side....

The L-shaped sofa is our favorite piece of furniture in the apartment. It's not only stylish, it's also very comfortable and easy to maintain.

All our furniture are from Our Home in SM Mega Mall. I swear, Our Home is the best place to get reasonably priced condo furniture. They have a wide variety of choices, they have well-trained staff who are really well-versed with the products they are selling, plus they have excellent delivery service. I would say Our Home is one of the best retail establishments here in Manila. ( I hope they read this and give us a big discount for the free endorsement).

Friday, August 17, 2007

Goodbye, Seoul!

It's our last night in Seoul, I can't believe it! I'm feeling a bit nostalgic leaving behind our very first home together as a married couple but at the same time I'm so excited and looking forward to be back in Manila.

I will miss Seoul! I will miss freely walking in the streets without having to look over my shoulder for a bag snatcher or kidnapper. I will miss the sense of security knowing people will not take advantage of you. I will miss the convenience and accessibility of public transportation. I will miss authentic Korean food. I will miss the free cappuccino with extra milk from the breakfast lounge. And of course, I will miss all the great friends i met here.

Tonight we end our Seoul-searching, tomorrow we will start a fresh chapter. Hopefully, it will be exciting enough to write about.

Anyong Hee Kaseyo!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Online Exhibit

Just wanted to showcase some of my paintings good enough to give to family and friends....

I would like to introduce you to my very encouraging and ever so patient teacher, Prof. Joo! He never fails to tell me every class that I have a gift and I am very skillful with the paintbrush (blush) ... but of course, all teachers say that to encourage their students.

In case you find yourself in Seoul and you want to learn oriental painting, you can get in touch with Prof. Joo at 010-5715-5535.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Now that I am married, I am slowly transitioning from being a Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City to a Desperate Housewife. If you think career-driven single women are interesting, oh boy, married women with children are even more fascinating. But at the moment, I’m neither one nor the other. I’m not single anymore but I’m not yet a mother and I still have a lot to experience being a wife.

I had lunch with the “expat wives club” recently and I really had a great time just listening to everyone. It’s amazing how a conversation can jump from one topic to the next in a single breath. Topics range from the most mundane to the most inspiring life stories. It’s tough being a wife and mother – putting others before yourself while still maintaining your own identity. Now that I can empathize with the wife bit, I feel greater admiration for women/mothers who have loved unconditionally. I see mothers in a new light. I look into their eyes and see a mixture of compassion, concern, care, resilience, grace and confidence.

I do hope to have the same maturity and depth in my soul someday. Right now I still feel like a rookie anxiously awaiting the trials and triumphs ahead of me. Do i have enough faith and resilience to overcome the adversities? Do i have enough humility and gratitude to appreciate the blessings?

Monday, August 6, 2007


We finally packed most of our things last night and it's amazing how we were able to fit most our belongings into one jumbo box! Of course it helped that we're living in a serviced apartment and most of the essentials were provided by the hotel. Nonetheless, it's still a big accomplishment not to have accumulated useless clutter in the last 10 months. Most of the things that went inside our box were books, shoes, winter clothes, and plastic containers. We only have our laptops, clothes and a couple more pairs of shoes to pack in our suitcases.

So it is possible to live simply and clutter-free. We have been for the last 10 months. The trick was to prioritize and invest in things that were important to us and think twice before purchasing items that gave only temporary pleasure. The same way that we can uncomplicate life by focusing on what is important and learning to filter out the noise and clutter around us.

What am I going to cook??

Being a creature of habit, I tend to fall into the routine trap for everything - food included. I can eat the same food every week if it were just up to me. But having a hubby who loves food and takes dining very seriously, not to mention he can cook better, it's a challenge to think of new dinner ideas. Honestly, most of the time he comes up with the ideas and I just execute.

Cooking is easy, it's thinking of what to serve that's the challenge. Uhg! The pressure of thinking of what to serve for dinner is just as much as developing marketing campaigns for new products and promos in my previous job. Actually, I could come up with a brilliant campaign with more ease and less time.

If I was able to manage a billion-peso business portfolio, I'm sure I can manage our weekly dinner menu. It might take a while though but I'm determined to be the master of our kitchen (eventually).

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Korean Food

15 more days to go before we leave Seoul... I thought i would post my favorite Korean dished so i could use this as reference in case i forget their names in the future. Please excuse some of the food shots. They might not look appetizing at all because most of the time i only remember to take photos halfway through the meal.

1. Bibimbap - Traditional Korean rice bowl with lots of veggies, seaweed, egg and your choice of meat or seafood topping seasoned with sesame oil and red pepper paste.

2. Pajeong - Savoury pancake with either seafood or kimchi filling. Served with sesame and soy dipping sauce.

3. Dakgalbi - "Dak" means chicken in Korean. It's a Sweet and Spicy chicken dish with red pepper sauce and lots of vegetables cooked in an iron grill right on your table.

4. Galbi - Beef shortrib barbecued on a charcoal grill at the center of the table. The way to eat the barbecued meat is to put in on the center of a lettuce or sesame leaf, smear some doenjang (fermented soybean paste) on the meat, top it with pickled radish and grilled garlic, fold the leaf over and take a bite. Yummmm....

5. Jjeyopukum - Sweet and spicy pork cooked with red pepper sauce very similar to Dakgalbi. Usually served with coleslaw or macaroni salad.

6. Gyeran Mali - literally translated means "rolled eggs". It's like a fried egg crepe with fried rice filling. Other variations include cheese, vegetable or kimchi fillings.

7. Mandu - Korean dumplings. Like the Chinese dumplings there are different types of Mandu - fried, steamed and boiled. The mandu i enjoy the most is the bun kind from Shinsegae food court. It looks like siopao but with spring roll filling.

I realized most of the popular Korean dishes in Manila have already been "filipinized" and adjusted to suit the Pinoy palette. The Korean food they serve in Kaya and Kimchi are mostly soy-based while authentic Korean food are mostly cooked with the red pepper paste. I guess the red pepper paste may be too spicy for most Pinoys. Another difference I noticed is that authentic Korean stews and barbecues are always served with some kind of vegetable which is not the case back home. It's not to say I have any complaints with the Filipino version. I'm just simply pointing out the differences so you won't get surprised if you don't find the same Kimchi beef stew here in Seoul.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ode to Women, Love and Frienships

If there was one show that I could watch over and over again it would be Sex And The City. I truly believe that it’s one of the best-written shows with the perfect blend of chic, depth and wit. I know most people will disagree with the depth part, P included. We got into the SATC discussion the other night and I had a lot of thoughts left unsaid. He was of the opinion that SATC single-handedly damaged women’s self-image and perspective. If I may quote him, “SATC just brought shallowness to all new heights.” I beg to disagree!

I guess if you happen to catch just one episode you would get the impression that the show is just all about sex, image and fashion. But you have to go beyond the show’s face value to appreciate the compelling insights about a woman’s life journey. The same way that you can’t judge women by their looks. Just because we put a lot of effort into looking fabulous doesn’t mean we’re shallow. We can be passionate about fashion and be fierce in the boardroom at the same time. While we search and wait for the perfect mate, we are also trying to make a positive impact in our community. We’re multi-faceted and multi-dimensional.

The SATC execution may be a bit exaggerated, specially the number of pairs of Manolo Blahniks they own and how frequently they have sex, but the insights in every episode are real and relevant to women. It deals about the complexities of relationships and how women grow and learn to accept ourselves more after every encounter whether it was meaningful, exhilarating, superficial, momentary or heartbreaking. Yes, we are all looking for love but at the same time there is a limit to how much we will compromise our personal values (whether good or bad).

Later that day I got to thinking about relationships. There are those that open you up to something new and exotic, those that are old and familiar, those that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected, those that bring you far from where you started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you you love, well, that's just fabulous.”
- Carrie Bradshaw

The show was also about great friendships. Girlfriends that are always there to help us bounce back after each fall. We may not always agree with our friends but there is a bond between women that just draws us together when it counts most. During our journey towards self-discovery and our constant search for Mr. Right, we will always have the security of knowing that we have girlfriends who will love us for who we are (or who we are not).

Maybe mistakes are what make our fate... without them what would shape our lives? Maybe if we had never veered off course we wouldn't fall in love, have babies, or be who we are. After all, things change, so do cities, people come into your life and they go. But it's comforting to know that the ones you love are always in your heart... and if you're very lucky, a plane ride away
- Carrie Bradshaw

I dedicate this entry to my great friends Jill, Marla, Barbie and Carly!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Beef with Broccoli

Just wanted to post another recipe that is easy to prepare. This is what we had for dinner last night :)

500 gms beef tips
1 head broccoli
1/2 stick carrot
4-5pcs (fresh) button mushrooms
2-3pcs garlic
Salt and pepper

½ cup water
¼ cube of beef or chicken bullion
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp soya sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp flour


Season the beef tips with salt and pepper and set aside. Wash the vegetables thoroughly. Remove the stalk of the broccoli and cut the flowerets into smaller pieces. Slice the mushrooms and carrots (into chips) and finely chop the garlic.

Boil some water in a sauce pan. Once water is boiling, add the carrots. After 1-2 minutes, add the broccoli. The water should stop bubbling at this point. When water resumes boiling, wait a few seconds then drain the veggies and set aside.

Prepare the sauce by adding the bullion cube to the half cup of hot water. Stir until bullion is dissolved. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and stir together until thoroughly dissolved. Taste and adjust accordingly.

On a wok or skillet, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil. When oil is hot, add the seasoned beef tips and cook until meat is brown. Once cooked, set the meat aside with its juices.

In the same pan, add another 1 tbsp of olive oil and sauté the garlic until almost brown. Add the beef tips with all its juices and sauté with the garlic. Push the beef to the sides of the pan and add the mushrooms in the middle. Cook mushrooms until soft. Add the broccoli and carrots in the pan. Mix well so that all the flavors infuse. At this point, add the sauce mixture and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Serve with white rice.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Musings about the internet

We’re going home to Manila very soon and we’re very excited to furnish our apartment! The top 3 things in our to-do list are to 1) get a comfortable bed, 2) install the AC and 3) secure a DSL connection. The internet has been such an integral part of our lives now that it would be difficult to move in without it.

My laptop has been my reliable and constant companion for the last 9 months (aside from my hubby, of course). It’s really ironic how I can sit in isolation in front of the computer the whole day yet I feel so much more connected to the world around me than ever before. Ah, the wonders of the world-wide web!

I practically live my life in front of the computer. For one, it’s the only way I can conveniently communicate with all my family and friends while away from home. Come to think of it, I’m more updated now with the goings on than when I was in Manila. I guess you value relationships even more when you’re outside your comfort zone.

The internet is also my ultimate reference for virtually anything and everything. I learn whatever I need to know with a few punches on the keyboard, from current events, recipes, celebrity gossip, lesson plans, bus routes, weather forecast and contact numbers to first aid care. Most of all, it’s the best source of free entertainment, from movies and TV shows to songs. Who needs cable TV when you can download?

If I am ever going to be stranded in an island and I could only wish for one tool, I would ask for a laptop with high-speed internet connection. If I had that, I might not even want to go back home anymore. It would be paradise.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Jailhouse Rock!

Have you seen the controversial dance videos of Filipino inmates in Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC)? These videos show more than 1,000 inmates practicing synchronized group dances to the tunes of "Thriller" by Micheal Jackson, "Radio Gaga" by Queen and "Jumbo Hotdog" by the Masculados. They are so amazingly entertaining that the videos have been viewed more than 1 million times in youtube over the last few weeks.

The videos were posted in youtube by the detention warden himself, Byron F. Garcia. He was recenlty quoted in ABC news saying "While the goal is to keep the body fit in order to keep the mind fit, such may not happen if it is done in a manner deemed unpleasurable. Music, being the language of the soul, is added to that regimen."

Even Patrick Rubio, chief admistrator of the Directorate of Operations within the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, agrees saying "There's a time to dance and a time to sing. If they say laughter is the best medicine, how much more for dancing?".

What did i tell you? Pinoys really love to sing and dance...even in prison! It's so unconvetional but it has been effective in keeping the peace and order situation in CPDRC so far. Imagine how dancing has united all the non-conformists? Hundreds of killers and rapists tapping their feet and swinging their hips in synchrony to the tune of "Jumbo Hotdog". Only in the Philippines!

To see the videos, click on the links below:

Radio Gaga
Jumbo Hotdog
Sister Act

If you want to read more about the featured news report on ABC news:

Saturday, July 21, 2007

I Want One Of Those

I just recently stumbled upon this ultra cool website which sells stuff that you don't really need but you really really want! The site offers a wide selection of uniquely-designed fabulous knick knacks for people with a great sense of style and humor. Unfortunately, they only deliver around Europe and US. So for those of us living in Asia, it's just a great reference for gift ideas (that we can copy and sell in bazaars..hehehehehe).

So far, here are some items that i don't really need but i really really want....

Sun Jar - a jam jar that stores sunlight! Just let it sit on your windowsill during the day, once it gets dark the jar automatically glows with the day's sunshine. What a bright idea!

Every girl deserves to have a diamond...key ring!

Pick your nose cups - the alternative to boring party cups. Each cup has one of 12 different shaped and sized noses printed on it. I want to throw a party just so i could use them. It's going to be hillarious!

Mukka express - plug-in cappuccino maker that let's you enjoy the perfect cappuccino whenever you want at the comforts of your own home (or office desk). Simply add water, your favorite (ground) coffee beans and milk and within minutes you can have you frothy cappuccino without breaking a sweat.
Foot in the Door - undeniably the most stylish door wedge in the known universe! These stilleto stoppers are made of soft rubber and come in two colors, red and black. Now we can add a touch of couture to our doors.
Cork Candles - these cork shaped candles are made to fit into any bottle so you don't have to go through the frustrating exercise of trying to ram cadle sticks into wine bottles.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Welcome to America, Victoria!

Despite the poor reviews I’ve read about the “Victoria Beckham: Coming to America” prime time special, I did managed to sit through the whole one hour program whilst devouring slice after slice of pizza. The show was exactly what I expected it to be – mindless entertainment. I actually appreciated Posh B’s sense of humor and I liked how she poked fun at herself - imagine dressing up a doll to look like her as a decoy from the paparazzi. I wasn’t really expecting Victoria to share some profound insights or say anything thought-provoking. I just wanted to watch it for the sake of being entertained. It was like reading the Shopaholic series or Bridget Jones’ Diary only this was real.

I think Americans were just expecting to see something different because she was British. They got disappointed when they found out she was just like any other dolled-up diva American celebrity. What I actually found even more shocking (and disturbing) were the Beverly Hills socialites who invited her for afternoon tea. Their Botox-injected faces and collagen-filled lips made Victoria look normal and ordinary.

If there’s one thing I learned from V Becks tonight it’s that celebrity reality shows are NOT meant to be taken seriously. There’s no need to over analyze. It is what it is – an hour long escape from our own reality of work and house chores.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The cost of happiness

I read an interesting article from about Discovering What’s Important and Discarding The Rest. In the article, the author suggested that each person should make a list of the things that make us happy and another list of things that make us feel low. We should prioritize the list of things that make us happy and try to center all our emotional and financial efforts on those things. This way we can spend our time and money wisely on things that will truly give us fulfillment, at the same time help us eliminate unnecessary spending and make us feel so much happier about the money we spend. More often that not, our lows would include being financially crippled and not having enough for what we need when we need it.

I couldn’t agree more with the author. I often catch myself asking the question “where did my money go?” And most of the time I realize that I had spent it on trivial things that don’t really make my life significantly better. Like buying a new color of lip gloss or a new bottle of lotion or a new scent of perfume which I then realize I already have too much of. I get easily tempted to buy every pretty pair of shoes that I see. Then I complain afterwards that they hurt my feet and they end up on display in my shoe rack (for my appreciation only).

I guess I should reconsider my priority list again and evaluate what really matters most in my life. I think at this point what would be on top of my list would be my emotional, physical and spiritual well-being and having a well-nourished mind (including that of my husband). I won’t shun away from shopping but I will definitely think twice before I purchase a new dress, a pair of shoes or a handbag. (I’m still a girl, I have needs.)

Recently, I was tempted to spend all my savings from tutoring on $40 designer dresses in the outlet store. Luckily, I didn't have much time to look around when we went to the shop. Now, i have to re-think what I'm going to do with my savings. Spend it here in Korea OR save it for Pilates classes and travels to the beach in the Phils OR simply save it for the rainy days?

Whether we admit it or not, money really does play an important role in our happiness rating. The happiest people don’t necessarily have to be millionaires but I would bet that they are financially independent – debt free and living well within their means.

I still believe in the saying that the best things in life are free but at the end of the day, the reality is we still have bills to pay. We need to save and spend wisely.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Guilty Pleasures

My friends always ask me what I do during the day to keep myself busy now that I’m not working. Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret… I admit to being a celebrity stalker! I can look at celebrity photos for hours. For some reason I can’t resist peeking at the private lives of the Brangelina bunch, Tomkat and Britney Spears. And I’m always curious to see what Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston, Eva Longoria and Nicole Richie are wearing. What can I say, it’s my guiltiest guilty pleasure.

But when I’m in the mood for real gossip I go to It’s tagged as Hollywood’s most-hated website because it’s the best source of the latest unadulterated celebrity juice. I get my weekly update on who’s gay, who’s pregnant and who’s dating whom from the Manhattan-based gossip columnist who delivers news with an irreverent, tongue-in-cheek and sometimes cruel slant (as Wikipedia had put it).

Warning: Celebrity gossip is addictive.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Art of Reproduction

I never considered myself creative but my Korean painting teacher is very encouraging. He told me that i have a gift for "copying" artworks and that i have very skillful hands. I don't know about skillful but i do know that i can copy. That's all i can do given my limited imagination!

Can you tell which ones are mine?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Getting hooked on Pilates

I have been doing Pilates exercises with a private instructor for over a month and now I know why so many people are raving about it! It’s the perfect exercise for somebody like me with bad posture and underdeveloped core muscles.

Pilates is a physical fitness program developed by Mr. Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. The fitness program is focused on strengthening the “powerhouse” region of the body, which includes muscles in the abdominals, lower back and glutes, to align the spine and keep the body balanced. In addition to building strength and flexibility, the exercises are also aimed at improving body posture and helping alleviate and prevent back pains.

For my first session, the instructor examined my spine, scapula (shoulder blades) and pelvis (hip bones) to check if my body was aligned properly. It turned out that my spine was tilted to the left, my left pelvis was higher than the right one and was slightly turned out, and my shoulder blades were rounded. No wonder I always complained about hip and back pains…

The next step after the assessment was to learn the proper breathing pattern which is very important for keeping your balance and preventing tension while you do the exercises. I was taught to expand my ribcage and back as I inhaled and contract my abdominal muscles as I exhaled, squeezing out all the oxygen from my lungs. It took me 4 sessions before I could breathe properly. Just learning the correct breathing pattern required a lot of mental concentration and control, which is what Pilates is all about.

The first few sessions of Pilates could be a bit discouraging if you’re looking for instant results. Until you get the breathing right, you won’t be able to feel the maximum impact of the exercises. Some exercises may seem simple if you don’t concentrate in isolating the correct muscles and controlling the movements. The key is to focus on your breathing and posture.

But contrary to what most people think, Pilates is not a weight-loss program. In fact, I hardly break a sweat when I do the exercises. Pilates is low impact and is focused on toning your small inner muscles rather than the big muscles. To help keep the fat away, my instructor suggested that I still do cardio or aerobic exercises 3 times a week for 30 minutes (since she knows I love to eat).

I still have a long way to go before I can move to an intermediate level but after a month of practicing Pilates, I feel like my core muscles are stronger and my posture is getting better. Best of all, I don’t feel as much tension in my back as I used to. If only for that I would continue to do Pilates.

If you are interested to try Pilates, I suggest that you start with a one-on-one session with a private instructor first to make sure that you have the proper posture and breathing pattern while doing the exercises. Starting with a group session might discourage you from continuing if you can’t perform certain exercises.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Why I don't wear my wedding ring

Whenever I’m in Manila people would often notice that I don’t wear my wedding ring and they would ask why. It bothers me sometimes that I have to explain why I don’t and why I only wear my engagement ring.

It’s a personal choice. For me, the engagement ring is more symbolic of P’s commitment to be my lifelong partner and wearing it is my way of showing him how much I appreciate his love and dedication. I know that he spent a great deal of time and effort in planning the most memorable proposal and to make sure that he slipped the best diamond ring (he could afford) on my finger when he asked me to marry him. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about the diamond. It’s about him deliberately thinking of my happiness and providing the best he could afford. Again, it’s not about the money but the gesture. It also signified that all the years of saving and long distance phone calls finally paid off. We were ready to have a family of our own.

Now, I don’t wear my wedding ring because P is not comfortable wearing his. If he doesn’t wear his band then there is no point in wearing mine. Back while we were shopping for our wedding bands, he already expressed apprehension about wearing a ring (or any piece of jewelry for that matter). He said would rather have a tattoo saying he is married than wear jewelry. As a final attempt, we bought a pair of very expensive platinum bands thinking that it would encourage him to wear his ring all the time. He did wear his ring for the first few weeks but eventually it found its permanent spot in our safe. At least he tried. I don’t mind that he doesn’t wear his ring. It’s perfectly fine with me. Not wearing our bands doesn’t mean we love each other less or that we are less committed to each other. In fact, i find it liberating that we don't wear our bands. Somehow, in my mind, it eliminates the expectations and pressures of being married. The same way some couples choose not to tie the knot and just live-in. Don't get me wrong, i have nothing against couples who wear their bands. It's just my personal choice not to.

On a lighter note, I heard these days a lot of single women are more attracted to men with wedding bands. They find married men to be more mature, experienced and financially stable. Plus it’s convenient because they can have a relationship with no strings attached. That said I’m glad P doesn’t wear his wedding band.

How much of the Philippines have you seen?

I recently took the http://forge. codedgraphic. com/lakbayan/ test to check how much of the Philippines I have already seen and visited. My score was a disappointing C! And i thought i was well-travelled! There are still so many provinces and islands that i haven't explored yet (sigh). I realized there is more to the Philippines than Manila, Cebu, Davao, Boracay, Tagaytay and Baguio. My only consolation is that at least i have visited most of the places promoted by the DOT (Dept of Tourism).

Despite my low score, I'm still very grateful to my parents for making a point to show us as much of the country as their time and money could afford. Thanks, mom and pop!

Hopefully, P and I would be able to see much more of the country in the coming years.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Accidental Pork Chops

Being the typical Pinoys that we are, P and I sometimes crave for the classic porkchop with toyo. We have attempted to make it several times but every time we end up with a bitter porkchop because the toyo burns before the meat is cooked inside. But last Wednesday night, just by accident, we were able to make the perfect toyo porkchop! Originally, i was cooking Pork Steak but since it was left too long in low fire, the sauce evaporated and the chops were fried in their own fat. It ended up tasting better than originally intended (at least P thought so).

Here's our recipe for the toyo porkchop...

4 pcs pork chops
juice from 1/4 lemon
soy sauce
1/4 onion cut into rings
water (optional)

Wash the pork chops then season with salt and pepper. In a bowl or deep dish, marinade the chops with lemon juice and soy sauce. Just put enough soy sauce so that the chops are submerged in the liquid (not swimming in it). Leave it in the ref for at least 1 hour before you cook.

In medium heat, saute the onion rings until soft and brown then set aside. In the same pan, put the chops and pour the rest of the lemon-toyo marinade. Let the meat braise in the sauce at low heat. If you find the sauce too salty, you can add water to dilute it. Cook until all the sauce evaporates and the meat sizzles in its own fat. Serve the chops with onion topping.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Simple Pleasures

In the 2006 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey conducted by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, Seoul ranked 2nd as the world’s most expensive city next to Moscow. It bumped off Japan to 3rd place followed by Hong Kong at 4th position and London at 5th. The survey covered 144 cities across 6 continents and measured the comparative costs of housing, transportation, food, household goods, clothing and entertainment.

It’s no wonder why more often than not, when I meet a fellow foreigner here in Seoul, our initial conversation would be about how expensive it is to live in Seoul (followed by “so do you like kimchi?” then we move on to complain about the lack of personal space in the subway). In my case, I do find everything very expensive compared to Manila standards. Here, I buy fruits and vegetables only by gram whereas in Manila it’s so cheap that you can buy everything by kilo! But comparison aside, even with a modest budget, one can still have an enjoyable time here in Seoul. With an open-mind and proper walking shoes, you can easily entertain yourself without burning a whole in your pocket.

Here are some of our favorite weekend activities that don’t cost much:

People watching at City Hall park – we just find our spot on the grass and bask in the afternoon sun. Since P is into photography, he takes photos of families and groups of friends who are hanging out and having their own little picnics in the park. It’s a welcome change to see the laid-back side of Koreans, not “pali pali”. Oh, but before you go to the park, make sure you stop by Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks for takeaway snacks and drinks.

Hiking –the most popular weekend activity in Korea. You will find hikers as young as 10 yrs to as old as 75 yrs trekking up the forest-covered mountains around Seoul. But just because you see grandmothers hiking up doesn’t mean it’s easy. Most of the trails are intermediate to advanced levels so you have to be relatively fit to climb. We also found that it's best to go after lunch to avoid the foot traffic going up since the trails can get quite crowded on weekends.

Kite flying in Hanggan Park – along the river park is the best area to fly a kite because you get a lot of wind action. You can buy a kite in any of the stalls along the park for only W5,000.00.

Visiting Palaces – there are 3 different palaces that are walking distance from where we live: Gyeongbokgung, Changgyeonggung and Deoksugung. Entrance fees to the palaces range from W1,000 to W5,000 only.

Browsing books in Kyobo Bookstore – I think only in Korea will you find a bookstore as crowded as SM on a weekend! And they actually go to the bookstore to buy books…not school and office supplies..haha

Walking along Cheonggyecheon stream – a 5.8km man-made stream that flows through downtown Seoul all the way to the Han river. It’s such a convenient respite from the hustle a bustle of the city. To take full advantage of this haven in the middle of the city, take off your shoes and wade your feet in the water just as the Seoulites do.

If there is one thing I've learned whilst living in Korea, it's learning to appreciate the simple pleasures in life. I realized there are a lot of other ways to enjoy the weekend apart from shopping and going to the spa.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Do we deserve to celebrate Philippine Independence?

I received an invitation this week for the Philippines’ Independence Day Ball on June 8 at the Hyatt Hotel. I was surprised that the Philippine Embassy would organize a hotel ball to celebrate Filipino independence when there are 40,000 Filipinos here in Korea. How do they expect to fit everyone in a hotel ballroom? I asked if everyone who goes to church in the Hyewha (where at least 1,000 Filipinos attend service every Sunday) are invited and I learned that the ball is only by invitation…simply translated means it’s only for the elite Pinoys.

How can we celebrate Filipino independence when we ourselves still discriminate our own people? I would think that since we are in foreign land that we would have more respect and appreciation for OFWs who work so hard for their families back home. How can we expect other people to respect Filipino domestic helpers and factory workers when we ourselves do not give them the respect that they deserve? If we can’t treat them as equals then how do we expect other people to treat them as equals?

A Singaporean lady once openly expressed her opinion to me that she feels sorry for Filipino women because they are being exported by the government to work as domestic helpers. While it is sad that we have to send our mothers, daughters, or sisters abroad to work, I believe being a domestic helper or caregiver is a very dignified job. Why do people hire domestic helpers if they were not needed? I don’t have a helper and I do house chores myself, does that make me less of a person?

I think if we want to achieve real independence, we should break away from the “I’m better than you” mentality. We should free ourselves from the bounds of social classes. If we want to progress, then we should be able to respect each and every Filipino, regardless of his net assets (or the lack of it).

If the Filipino ambassador sincerely wanted to celebrate Independence Day then i suggest we do a concert in a gymnasium to bring everyone together. Admittedly all pinoys love to sing and dance, regardless of social class.

5 things i'm grateful for today

I recently came across an interesting article entitled “Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude”. In the article, the writer suggested that we should write down or at least take a mental note of 5 things we are grateful for each day. This will help us appreciate what we have and put us in a positive frame of mind which will eventually lead the way to a life of success. On the same day that I read this article, I saw Oprah featuring the inspiring real life story of Cris Gardner, the character played by Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happiness.

It all made sense to me. Always keeping a positive disposition helps us achieve our goals and in order to maintain a positive mindset, we should be thankful for the blessings that we have at the moment. It’s very easy to take our blessings for granted, specially when we are so busy building our careers and taking care of the family. When we forget about how much we have, we fall into the trap of complaining and feeling sorry for ourselves. Who would want to be stuck in such a rut?

For today, I am grateful for…

1. The no-work holiday! P did not have work today so we spent the afternoon planning and preparing our dinner menu. Call us weird but cooking and preparing our meals is one of our favorite things to do together.
2. My part-time job as an English tutor. Aside from earning money, the tutorial job gives me a sense of purpose and fulfillment. It also gives an opportunity to experience local Korean culture and lifestyle through my students.
3. Free buffet breakfast. I enjoy my favorite meal of the day for free everyday! Who wouldn’t be grateful for that? It’s also my chance to load up on fresh fruits (for free) since fruits are very expensive here in Korea.
4. The new dinner recipe that we tried tonight which turned out to be very yummy!
5. Having my own laptop.

It really feels good to go through this exercise. I already feel like a success! :)

Friday, June 1, 2007

(Un)Fried Chicken

After 8 months of on-the-job training in the kitchen, i can now say with conviction that i can cook! With one exception though, i still can't fry chicken properly. Every time i attempt to fry chicken, it ends up either burnt (oil was too hot) or soggy (oil was not hot enough)...sigh. BUT the good news is, i have found a way to cook crispy chicken without having to fry it! Want to know how? Well, after several attempts at cooking chicken, i discovered that baking chicken in 230c for 35-40mins makes it golden brown and crispy just like fried chicken (only healthier). Here's how to make crispy chicken without frying:

4pcs chicken thigh fillets
1tsp lemon juice/calamansi
1tsp finely chopped garlic
1/4 large onion cut to rings
1tsp olive oil

Rub the chicken fillets with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Then squeeze lemon juice on the chicken pieces. Keep the marinated chicken in the ref for at least 30 minutes before baking.

Pre-heat the oven to 230c. Meanwhile, in medium heat, saute the the onions and garlic until slightly brown. Transfer the cooked onions and garlic to the baking dish and arrange the chicken pieces on top of the onion and garlic mixture. Bake the chicken uncovered for 30 mins (or more) until the skin turns crisp and golden brown.

For maximum gastronomic pleasure, prepare a garlic-soy sauce-vinegar dipping sauce for the crispy chicken. Enjoy!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Mission Impossible

Since i became an expat-wife, i've been in constant search for significance. Without my career, i needed to have a new mission, a new goal. Alas, i had an awakening last week! I realized it after an unpleasant encounter with a crass Korean lady in her 50s who had no sense of diplomacy.

It happened last Wednesday during my Korean painting class. My session was almost over when this Korean lady came. Apparently, she was also a student. She was talking with my teacher in korean but i knew she was asking him where i was from. I heard my teacher say that i was from the Philippines so i turned and gave her a smile. With every bit of english she could string together, she said very matter-of-factly "manila very poor". I was thrown aback by her comment and didn't know how to react!

My very first thought was, "how could this woman be so rude?" Yeah, there's no denying that the Philippines is not a first world country but anyone with good breeding would know you never point out the negative in the person you just met. Next thought was it's humiliating that "poor" is the general perception of the Philippines. I was so mad at the so-called leaders of our country for not doing anything to change this perception. In fact, they are the main contributors to poverty in our country! Then i tried to think of something good about our country that i could say in it's defense. Unfortunately, the only response i could think of at the time was "not all filipinos are poor".

I felt so disappointed at myself for not defending and upholding the Filipino pride. I should've told her that like in any other country, there are poor people in the Philippines but there are also a lot of highly educated and sophisticated people. I should have told her that the Manila is just as cosmopolitan as Seoul.

After that incident it became clear to me that my new mission is to "represent" the Filipinos. I need to make sure that with every new person i meet and every conversation i have, i will be able to make an impression that Filipinos are smart, articulate and sophisticated. I am now a self-appointed Filipino ambassador! I just wish i had more support from our government. Some positive news maybe or at the very least, i hope they won't do any further damage to the Filipino reputation.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Vintage or poor taste?

I’ve always wondered where I could find shoes that were within my humble Pinoy budget. Alas, a neighbor of mine told me that there is shoe arcade in Dongdaemun Market which she described is as an alley lined with (affordable) shoes as far as your eyes can see! My eyes brightened and I started to salivate at the thought of SHOES, SHOES, SHOES. I felt like Charlie about to enter Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory!

The next day I went on a little shoe hunting expedition in famous shoe arcade in Dongdaemun Market. Indeed, it was an alley filled with shoes! But to my dismay, the shoes were not exactly my style. They were a bit too Korean for my taste. Still, I walked to the end of the market. Then on my walk back, a pair of flats caught my eye. It was made of woven fabric with wooden accent rings in front. I asked for the price and what a delight, it was only W14,000 or roughly P750. What a bargain! I hesitated for a second and asked myself if I really needed a new pair of shoes. But what the heck, I bought it anyway. Shoes are like pieces of art, you need to appreciate them. This pair needed an owner who would appreciate it for its creative value.

Upon returning home from my bargain hunt, I tried on the pair to check if I could wear it with any of my clothes. I decided that it would go well with the plain shirts that I have. I was so pleased with my new art piece until P came home and teased if the housekeeper left her old shoes in our apartment! It made me wonder…did he not appreciate the vintage design of the shoes or did I just have poor taste? Hmph…

Friday, May 18, 2007

A twist to our favorite Nilaga

P and I have been trying out a healthier dinner diet since Monday. Instead of having the usual ulam with rice, we have been topping our ulam on a bed of greens and chopped veggies. Why? Well, partly because veggies feel so much lighter in the stomach, specially since we just sit around and watch tv after dinner. But for the most part, it's because we had too much to eat the previous week and we're still carrying the extra weight around.

Last night i felt ready for rice and ulam so i cooked Nilagang Baboy with loads of veggies. But P had a better idea... he went out and bought a fresh baguette. What a fab idea! With a dash of imagination, our humble nilaga was suddenly transformed into an English Pork Stew! If you think about it, the concept of nilaga is just the same as stewing which is cooking meat/poultry and vegetables in broth.

We enjoyed our stew with a side of baguette which we dipped in a lovely mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and parmesan cheese. Wicked!

Of course, i can't take credit for the idea but i do take credit for the delicious stew. Here's the recipe for the Pork Stew aka Nilagang Baboy:


3/4 kl pork ribs
1/2 (big) onion thinly slided
1pc potato cut into 1" cubes
1pc carrot cut into 1" cubes
1/4 squash cut into 1" cubes
1/4 cabbage (chopped)
1pc pork broth cube
fish sauce (optional)
1.5 liters water

Chop the pork into 1" pieces and wash thoroughly. Cook the pork in a stew pot with 1.5 liters of water until it boils. Once the water boils, set aside the pork and throw away the water with all the scum (this will give you a clearer broth). Fill the pot again with 1.5 liters of water then add the pork, salt, onions and broth cube.

Once the pork is fork-tender, add the carrots and potatoes. After 5 minutes, add the squash (this adds a bit of sweetness to the stew). When the veggies are tender, add the cabbage and cook for another 2 minutes. Add fish sauce for taste if you like.

Tip: if you want to make the broth thicker (and more stew like), just let it simmer in low fire until you are ready to eat. The starch from the potato and squash will thicken the broth and make it more tasty.

(recipe is good for 2 servings)

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Prelude to a never-ending story

For the last 8 months my husband had been encouraging me to create a blog to document my adventures and experiences being a new wife living in a foreign country. It took me sometime to embrace the idea. Why would anyone bother to read my thoughts? Then it occurred to me that i have favorite blogs which i read on a regular basis. Maybe those authors didn't think anyone would bother to read their entries either. So, here i am, composing my first ever blog entry.

I would say that the last 8 months have been a period of discovery for me and it still continues to be so. I got married to the love of my life last October 6, 2006 and soon after we moved to Seoul, Korea where my husband works as an expat IT consultant/designer. Being married to P and living abroad were the top two things i wanted to put a check mark on before turning 30 and i did! But with every change comes new challenges. And boy, was i challenged!

It was a major adjustment on my part. I had to give up my highly rewarding career and move out of my comfort zone. I had to learn to manage the household, do house chores and cook. On top of that i had to find my way around the new city, learn the language and make new friends. It may sound overwhelming (and it was) but it's all worth it.

The ongoing journey to discovery has made me realize my potential. Little by little i'm able to overcome my insecurities and know myself better. Everyday is a new opportunity for me to become a better wife, daughter, sister and friend.

I guess you can expect to read about my life as a closet woman of leisure, my misadventures and musings in my future entries.


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