Friday, February 23, 2007

Mom and me

My mom has retired recently, and right now she’s building her ‘retirement’ house in her hometown. I have been quite anxious the whole time prior to her retirement since I don’t know how she would cope with idle life, and to add that I’m no longer with her and she doesn’t have any grandchildren yet to preoccupy her retirement years. My mom, ever the workaholic all her life, might find retirement utterly dull and dismal.

Since I am so far away from her, I try to communicate with her everyday, and I’m doing the best I could to entertain her. My mom and I have always been close, we’re great friends and she’s incredibly supportive of me. And she’s even more supportive of me and my hubby now. When I got married and left home, it bothered me a bit when people’s reaction was that of disbelief and disappointment because I was going to live at my in-laws home and leave her behind. There was an increased bafflement in other folk’s reaction when I left to join my hubby in a more distant place- in another country. I know that in true Pinoy culture- an only child like me must never abandon a single mom like her.

But my mom is far too independent and able to yield to being an emotional sandbag. She knows it would be difficult- but it’s all for the best. My mom is doing fine right now, she has a lot more time to take it easy. No more early morning rituals to work, no more tiresome commute, no more deadlines for her, no more meetings to attend to, no more paperworks, no more boorish subordinates to tell off. Best thing is- she has more time to attend to the two attention-seeking dogs. But I guess, this time mom also has more time to miss me.

I am writing this as a reflection to a feature series “Trading Places” in NBC nightly news, running two weeks now, about taking care of aging parents. My mom, at 63, is still active and healthy and doesn’t need that much help at home except, maybe, for major and heavy housework. What I am a little worried about is that unlike before when we lived in the same city, I could call her anytime and see her frequently. Just the sense of being close by, I know, can make a significant difference for mom. And since I am continents away, I could not be there for her the way I want to be.

This is the bane of being an only child. I think being an only child is best only when you’re young. But when it’s time for parents to be taken care of, you have all the responsibilities all to yourself. You have no support, the kind which only siblings can possibly put forth. And I feel so alone. I have no brother or sister whom I can depend to take turn of taking care of mom when I couldn’t be there. For years, I basked and gloated in the glory of being an only child. But it hit me- hard, that the payoff of being an only child is NOT an extended revelry and self-centeredness.

I can’t help but get a little envious of others who have more than two siblings. They have more fun and more support when they’re older. This is not to say I spurn the reality of who I am. But I guess, now I can say that I wish I had more siblings. It would have been different. But I guess mom and I are destined to be just the two of us. I wish I had more, but I cannot complain. I wish I can make mom happy, even when I am far away.

I’m proud of my mom. Three months since retirement, she recently told me that she has gotten the tempo of doing nothing. But she’s not entirely doing nothing- now that she has plenty of time, the two dogs get baths first thing everyday now. That will keep mom preoccupied for a while. I wish I could give her a dozen grandchildren. I am working hard so that when the time comes, I could easily give her the care that she deserves.

To Mummy, this is an early Mother’s Day ode for you…..

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Cold Day Out

Yesterday, we braved the mid-30s temperature, leaving the comfort of our warm home to watch the President’s Day Parade in Old Town Alexandria. David had a grand time taking pictures, and me- I was too cold and my gloved hand could barely snap pictures. But it was still a great day for a parade- old guys in Revolutionary and Civil War costumes, several George Washingtons, lots and lots of scouts, cadets, the hugest horse I’ve seen so far, and a strikingly authentic-looking Abe Lincoln.

The parade started at around 1 o’clock and lasted for two hours. So all those time, I was shivering and yet having a good time still. My all-time favorite sight in any crowd or gatherings are the dogs- all kinds of friendly and attention-seeking dogs. There were plenty yesterday, and some were even decked out in their cute snow outfits (boots and hoodies galore). The hubby thinks it’s ridiculous, but I insist it’s fabulous. It’s heaven of heavens to be a dog in America.

After the parade, the hubby and I strolled for a while on the icy streets of Old Town. We passed by the Carlyle House, a historic 18th century mansion. We went inside the grounds, however, the mansion was closed for visitors. Come spring, the Carlyle House gardens will be lush and lovely once again. It looked so sedate in winter.

The hubby and I hung out for a while in the frozen Founders Park. We were a couple of nuts having a lark in the park, slipping in the ice and sitting on frigid benches that froze our bottoms. Even the Potomac was frozen, too, with patches of thin ice. It was really a cold, cold day out. We couldn’t find a better day to get our noses iced up.

To cap a shivery day out, I made some chicken macaroni salad. Here’s my recipe:
2 cups cooked elbow macaroni
1 cup cooked chicken, cubed
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 hardboiled eggs, chopped
¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
2-3 tbsp. pickled relish
2 cups mayonnaise
dash of ground black pepper and nutmeg

Mix. Chill. Eat up!!! (Good for a couple of shivery souls… best for warm hearts, too!)

Monday, February 19, 2007

something exotic

For a long time, the hubby and I have been planning to try some Ethiopian food. We have an Ethiopian friend from work whom we asked to take us and be our “guide” in an exotic quest. However, for whatever reasons, we never got to sample any morsel of Ethiopian fare until last Saturday.

Paulos, our Ethiopian tipster, finally took us to an Ethiopian restaurant in Arlington. We asked him what to order and how much should we order. Ethiopian food, traditionally, is served on a round wicker basket (or platter, maybe) and is shared by everyone. And it is eaten with your hands. Paulos said we should have a vegetable order, and then some meat. So we ordered mixed vegetables and chicken curry.

A few minutes later, we were served a huge platter with a variety of sweet-spicy smelling veggies and chicken curry with a wonderfully tasting sauce. And of course, the main attraction was the injera- the Ethiopian bread. We had always been fascinated by this pancake-like bread. Some Ethiopian people from work sometimes bring it at work for lunch, and one officemate even called it a “blanket” since it’s soft and cushiony. I, being too chicken, didn’t try it because I was afraid I might not like it and might embarrass myself in front of a lot of people (in case I make a funny face). But injera is far from being gross and unappetizing. It’s actually bland, because you have to eat with the rich, flavorful food.

So the food sat on a "mat" of injera. But a plate of it is served to each diner. The food was so interesting-looking I had to ask our friend if it was okay if I took a picture of it (we were the only non-Ethiopian diners there at the time). He said it’s okay. We took a piece of injera, sort of ‘picked’ the variety of food on the platter, and ate it. I liked the vegetables a lot- chickpeas, cabbage, pepper, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes cooked in tasty, spice-rich sauces. I liked their tomato salad- simply made with vinegar and olive oil with hot green pepper. The injera "mat" tasted so wonderful afterwards because it absorbed all the juices and flavors of the food.

The lunch was definitely exotic, perfectly delicious and we would totally try it again. Ethiopian cuisine is interesting, and we’re excited to try the beef ‘tibs’ next time. Tibs, according to Paulos, is what all Ethiopians talk about. One thing I learned about the experience? Never shy away from a chance to taste exotic food. Life’s buzz doesn’t happen if you stick to just rice, pasta and fried chicken.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Love tales

Oh, please.
Oh, please.
Don't give me the deep freeze...
my heart's about to seize,
Oh, please.
Oh, please.
Oh, please!

Last Saturday night while we were at our friends house, they related to us how their cute nephew Stefan, while visiting their home minutes before we arrived and upon learning we are coming over, blurted out to them- “Jasmine loves me! Jasmine loves me!” Isn’t that sweet? A 3-year old boy loves me! Well, another 3-year old boy loved me before. His name was Jack, and he was Nursery student in the preschool where I taught before. I believe he’s about 11 now, and I wonder if he still remembers me, his beloved Teacher whom he wanted to marry. He wasn’t actually my pupil, he was nursery kid from the adjacent classroom (I taught Kinder 1) and he would frequent my class to the irk of my other pupils. One day, his teacher told me that Jack told her he wanted to marry me. To that, his teacher said, “well, you should practice writing your name so that at least you can sign your name on the marriage certificate!”

I wonder if memorable little tales are still remembered at this day and age. With so many things going on in the world, too many distractions and too many preoccupations, I wonder if friends still gather and talk about love. You know, just babbling away and giggling recollecting tales of love. I believe love is still the number topic to engross anybody. Love stories are always pleasant and exciting to hear, especially when it’s filled with challenges and twists and turns. And most especially if the stories are about the one you know and care about. I remember a lot of love stories of my friends.

And of course, I have a treasure chest of love tales also to tell my children and grandchildren. I try to look back at all beautiful memories and if I could bottle them up to preserve them for the future, I would. I anticipate a lot of cringing (and possibly barfing, I hope not!) from the young ones when I tell them those tales, but that doesn’t worry me. Because I know, at the back of their minds, in the deep recesses of their hearts, I know these pleasant memories will be embedded there, too. And it will grow, and inspire them to maintain their love tales, too.

No matter what you do, no matter how hard it gets, dwell in the bright side of love. Love always wins.

Happy Valentines Day, everyone!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Can't stop thinkin' about food

Last weekend was all about food, food, food. I got a pint of my super loved Häagen-Dazs Rum Raisin last Friday. It’s one of my favorite flavors, the hubby would tease me it’s because of the rum. Hehe. Our freezer is full of half-consumed tubs of ice cream. When I last looked at the freezer, pints of cherry-vanilla, chocolate-chip cookie dough and some strawberry from a long time ago are lodged there. I guess we’re flavor-hopping. Our trips to the supermarket always have a stopover by the frozen aisle, with us scratching our chins deciding which flavors should we pick. Sometimes it takes us a minute to decide, but most of the time we resort to “whose turn is it this time to pick out a flavor?” fix. The hubby picked his own strawberry-banana smoothie fruit bars. Hmm, I’m not so keen about banana as a frozen concoction, hehe.

We spent the Saturday night at our friends’ house. He prepared three home-made pizza, and it was actually really good. Three varieties pa ha - meatlovers, vegetarian, and pepperoni-mushroom. He was excited to show us how he made the pizza. Well, he had some ready-made dough he got from Trader Joe’s and then he threw in all toppings imaginable. My favorite topping was the Bosnian-style bacon. Bacon and I are not all too chummy, but I like the Bosnian variety. Our friend showed us this huge slab of meat, bacon, that is. He said his mom got it from the farm where another Bosnian was making them. It’s pretty interesting, not the usual bacon in strips we’re all familiar with.

I also made sticky rice, which they like. It’s my own recipe- product of scouring the internet for a recipe which is doable and quick to make. So it’s not quite the "biko" from back home. But biko is essentially easy to make. The one that I made doesn’t look exactly like the stuff I know, but it sure smelled and tasted like one. I, unfortunately, wasn’t a biko-maker in the past. I’ve only learned and was bent upon making these dishes recently. I remember our friends liked the sticky rice dessert we had in the Thai restaurant we went to before, and they liked it so much. I thought it was pretty much like biko, so I told them I’ll try to make one for them. But it took me a long time to find sticky rice in Asian stores. So there, I was able to make some biko with coconut cream topping.

And then, there’s sushi.... (again!). Yesterday, after going to the mall to pick up more beads at Beadazzled (heaven, heaven, heaven!), the hubby suddenly had a craving for sushi. He said I got him into the sushi habit. So we wasted no time in satiating the sushi hunger, off we went to get it! And happier were we after gorging on those bitsy seaweed-wrapped, spicy goodness. We had ten pieces each, and pining for more! I would officially list sushi as one of my could-eat-it-everyday-my-whole-life food. The other one is pizza.

Ah, food. Next stop would be Brazilian food. A lady from work who’s from Brazil is taking us to a Brazilian restaurant soon. That is one yummy thing to look forward to. I can’t wait.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Winter distractionS

It snowed again last night. And this morning, the ground was blanketed with bright sheet of wonderful snow. It was sunny, and pretty much a pleasant day. However, it is still cold. And for these past few days, I’ve been feeling kinda low because of the rotten bitter cold days. How many days left ‘til Spring? I can’t wait.

I’ve caught a fever. A fever making bead necklaces, that is. Somehow I need to distract myself against this tenebrous mood that winter brings. I’ve caught a fever making bead necklaces- and selling them. I’ve made six pieces initially, and was able to sell them all! Now I am making more. I sold another one yesterday. I am so excited, and it got the hubby all excited about it, too. He took wonderful pictures of it.

Making necklaces can be quite complicated. I never attended a class on jewelry/necklace making, so I just sort of taught myself how to do it. I’ve looked into a basic how-to online, and that’s about it. I guess I’m still on the discovery stage and so far, I’ve gotten positive feedbacks about my pieces. And that’s super great and it makes me happy!

I’ve discovered a couple of s that somehow makes this winter bearable, exciting and yummy- salsa and sushi. I’ve gotten the kick out of salsa and chips lately. Can’t get enough of Tostitos and medium Tostitos salsa! I’m quite strange because sometimes I like food as if I’ve discovered them for the very first time.

And I had sushi for lunch today. Isn’t that great?! Sushi never fails to lift up any crumbling mood. My friend gave me a box of California rolls sushi from Trader Joe’s and I just love it! Sushi makes anybody happy. Like a favorite song heard in the middle of a crazy day, like a surprise call from the one you love and miss, like love, love, love. Now that doesn’t make me sound like cuckoo, I hope. Hehe.

Winter is long, and I still have weeks and weeks to go. But I have things to keep me engrossed, unmindful of the single digit temperature and wind chills enough to make anyone insane. I just have to grin and bear it.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Thursday mania

At lunch today, the ladies at work got into some frenzied discussion about Grey’s Anatomy. They’re totally flipped out over the romance, the intrigues and all that fire about the show. And we’re not talking about college girls here going bananas over it. I’m talking about mature, PhD-ed women who eat clinical terms for breakfast and spew out therapeutic this and therapeutic that throughout the day. And they gush about how on Thursday night at 9:00 pm, nobody can pull them out of the couch in front of the TV. Now that’s what I call a happy mania.

I haven’t watched a single episode of Grey’s Anatomy, however. The ladies at work have this “how could you?” look with a mouth agape in protest shot at me. But I heard so much about the show. And of course, the latest furor involving fag name-calling by Isaiah Washington. I heard so much about Dr. McDreamy, and I’m sure it’s a good show. But our eyes are settled on a different Thursday night show- The Office.

How do I describe the show? It’s funny, but not the outrageous scream-in-your-face, silly, gag-ridden funny kind of way. I think it has something to do with Steve Carrell. He’s perfect for his role as Michael Scott- a complete buffoon who thinks he is the life of the office, but his employees think otherwise. He behaves foolishly and inappropriately, misinterprets the context of nearly every situation, is unwittingly mean! But he’s actually quite a lonely guy. If Mr. Burns is a devil of a boss in the Simpsons, Michael is the daft, galling and totally inept boss. And the funniest thing is he thinks he’s got it all- looks, brains, charm, wit, sex appeal! How many times do we encounter people (bosses) like that?! How many clueless nitwits walk on this earth not having the slightest idea how boring and stupid they are?

And Dwight! He’s the poster boy for a bizarre and neurotic, yes-boy, overly ambitious, perennially-abused assistant. He makes me laugh all the time. And Jim and Pam, who like each other but can’t quite get it to the next stage. Don’t you like that kind of love angle?

The office is kind of small and crowded, and the air reeks of boredom and dissatisfaction. It felt like being stuck in a cage, and you’re being sucked-dry of your enthusiasm and joy in life, but can’t do something about it, anyway. In real life scenario, I know it happens a lot. And the biggest clowning glory of it all is having an obnoxious boss, who can keep a straight-face in the midst of his own stupidity. We’ve all experienced this kind of insanity, no?

One of the recent funniest scenes was when Michael decided to have an impromptu Mexican-themed party, and they made do with whatever they have. And so they put the “~” over the n in lemonade bottle making it lemoñade. A kooky way of Mexicanizing the lemonade, huh? Hehe Those guys are so clueless they’re so funny. They recently won the SAG Awards for Best Comedy Ensemble!

And I’m excited for tonight’s show- Michael hires strippers for Phyllis’ wedding shower. It will be a stupidity circus! Get a taste of The Office, at 8:30 tonight on NBC.