Red-Letter Day

Don't you hate it when how you feel doesn't match what is actually incontrovertible fact? Like your actual age. It could be plain denial, or worse, some sort of delusion.

My question is, when will both actually match-up? If ever. Does it happen naturally (didn't happen when I started medicating for blood pressure, cholesterol), or do we make that effort to somehow make peace with things we can't change? But in my defence, I'm not changing anything that I know I can't alter. 

I am simply living my best life, which sadly, does not merely involve affirmations of positivity, faith and a leave-it-to-God-kind of mentality. You need to exercise. You need to eat good, nourishing (and consequently expensive) food. You need to protect your skin, to dress comfortably so as not to be judged by an always judging world (and I do care about being judged).

You need to work at life, to develop and take advantage of the gifts and passions and flaws that were given to you. 

You need to ALWAYS give your best

If You Can’t Love Yourself How In The Hell Are You Gonna Love Somebody Else
— RuPaul

I did (inadvertently) gift myself last year with Apple products that totalled a low five figures so I don't think I can afford the same this year- there's always that year for more 'meaningful' gifts...

(after the holidays, what?) life just went on..

I need to get this post out...

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Days feel like a time-lapse of sorts

New year happened

Everyone was a year older...

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Summer was a record-scorcher

?

When I was a younger, I took New Year resolutions very seriously. One year it was, 'learn French' (never happened) and another year it was, 'change your body'- something which at my age, I am still learning how to do. I never look back which explains why there are literally years in which I have little memory of anything (like between 21 and 30?).

But really, all you need to remember about the past are the things you shouldn't be doing ever again. Always look ahead because that's the only direction you're headed.

Best Meals I had in 2017

If food was the enemy (health wise), it was also the saviour; a good, satisfying meal is confirmation that life is far too short to be spent being always cautious (photos taken using the iPhone 7plus). 

Christmas 2017

A bunch of firsts; first time to work until our office closed on the 22nd. First time to NOT stress on what to eat. First time to have a decent gift budget which I had half-saved for. And first time to be less nostalgic about the whole thing- and everything was just perfectly fine.

The year of the Apple

If there's one thing I've learned to be true is that you should take care of yourself first because if you don't, you won't be any good helping others. I think though that when this is extended to the issue of gifts-to-oneself, I have to admit that 2017 was pretty extravagant. So take me off your Christmas lists because I have that covered! 

I hate summer. Used to.

Maybe it's a change of perspective, maybe it's age. Maybe winter has become a bit too evocative of what old age would be like- when your spirit is willing, but your body feels half-frozen, fraught with all the signs of physical unravelling. When I was younger, with no friends and no confidence, summer was spent indoors reading book after book. To this day, it's hard to connect with people whose experiences and memories of summer are of easy, physical fun. 

I am still resentful of the heat (even if it's nothing compared to the Philippines); the yellowing of the armpits of my white shirts; the constant application of sunscreen; slight twinges of envy when I see fit people. But I smile a bit now when the sun is on my face- acceptance is such a life-altering thing..

Anxious. Must relax

1. Another year has past and your mind convinces you that last year was just last week. It never feels anymore that you have 365 days in one year, more like half that.
2. I tried to change out the template of this blog and couldn't make sense of the infrastructure. On one hand, what's the point- no one reads me.
3. I do have great ideas to better my diet, restructure my wardrobe, start a writing regimen, and I get a good head-start, but as with anything, sustaining it is the challenge.
4. Why do spend so much for the holidays? How can we get out of the spending cycle?
5. How do I NOT spend so much?
6. Met with my insurance broker/agent who also happens to be a financial adviser and again I have to remind myself- I'll never be rich, but I can enjoy a worry-free retirement (!!) at least from a financial perspective.
7. Speaking of finances, I spent over 10% of my income in 2017 on new Apple products
8. And these Apple products are my gifts to myself this Christmas
9. Looking forward to a quieter Christmas in New Zealand
10. Missing the hectic, surreal holiday festivities of home

 

Sisig

We went to the Auckland Night Markets over the weekend and a Filipino food stand was back selling beef kaldereta, laing/Bicol Express and pork sisig. I got the sisig ($7) and didn't really care about the kaldereta or the laing. I don't want to brag, but our family does better Filipino food than most; the kaldereta didn't even have olives.

But it's not easy making sisig so I grab any chance I get to buy it ready-made. It's not always guaranteed that it's made according to how I normally like my sisig. As it turned out, the sisig I bought could have done with a few other additions, but the familiar chewy, sticky texture was there along with that porky-sour-creamy taste, and that's just what you need really when you don't have the time to make it yourself. Heck, I get so desperate sometimes I even buy the canned sisig from the Asian store.

The great thing about sisig is that it comes with so many tweaks and I actually like them all- toasted, so that you get the crispy bits that stick to the pan; slightly moist and gelatinous punctuated with the nutty creaminess of the pork brain (gross to some, but the taste is sublime); intensely sour from a dousing of vinegar; or even westernised with slashings of mayonnaise.

I remember $2 pig-heads at the butcher in my first two years in New Zealand- you bought one, seasoned it, roasted it in the oven, chopped it all up as fine as you can, added onions (I would use both red and white) and seasoning, and grilled it just before serving. Obviously it's great with rice, but I can honestly eat it in spoonfuls just by itself, hot or cold.

I ate mine mixed with a kale and savoy cabbage salad.

Art in your life

My father was an artist in another life. The life that I knew with him as his son didn't have art. It would be years before I would even make the connection that the paintings in his childhood home were made by him.

And I only ever witnessed him putting pen to paper to draw something just once. It was one of his election campaigns and he asked me to design his poster. There were no Macs then, or tablets. It wasn't really easy to open the computer as it was back then and create a mock design of what you wanted. So he sketched the layout with pen on paper and the ease by which he defined his own face on it or the economy of line to bring out an expression that could only be captured with a camera made me realise that I didn't know the person that he was as an artist.

But it never occured to me to be resentful that he didn't encourage us to take up art or to even have it in our home. He gave us everything we needed including things we didn't even think we needed. And at some point, we realised that he had to give something up in order to accomplish this. He taught us by example, that life is about trade-offs and that when you make them, it has to be for a good reason; a reason you will never regret. And I don't think he ever did. 

That art thing seems to be in our family DNA and nearly everyone in our family have dabbled in it at some point with some actually having it as a career. I keep telling myself I'll give it another try only to realise lately that I actually have, that my work as a content creator involves crafting images and design albeit done digitally. To have spun that as a career without any formal training is something I can credit my father for because it's true- you can't teach true talent, it's either you have it or you don't.

In short, I'm actually 'ma-arte' (which come to think of it, is a word that probably comes from 'art' and that if you have 'too much' of it to the point of being annoying, you're therefore, 'ma-arte')
1. I rarely eat lunch straight out of a plastic lunch container. It has to be put on a proper plate and I have even brought personal plates to the office when I think that the provided office plates are not 'proper' enough.
2. I wear my best clothes everywhere just as I present my 'best self' at all times. Why in the world would you dress down, or bring your problems to work?
3. There is no art in chaos as far as housekeeping is concerned. A dirty, ugly house is a dirty, ugly house. I clean up nearly every day otherwise I can't function.
4. Spend some time immersing yourself simply appreciating the beauty of things- like browsing in an LV store! 
5. If you find the balance between the simplicity of art and the outrageous commercialisation of it, you're good. 

(the following are images taken at this unique museum hotel in Wellington called the QT Museum Hotel where I stayed at recently for a conference). 

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The Carnival

Today we went to Chini's school for their annual fund-raising carnival and it was bigger and better than I expected. Everything was there, albeit on a smaller scale- food, rides, entertainment, a pit full of donated toys for sale that Chini was crazily digging through for that perfect toy (each one being perfect until you find another one and then another..) and kids. Chini has an easy, confident friendliness that is so grown-up, calling out school-mates not for attention but because she was simply glad to see them.

I don't have fond memories of childhood school carnivals. The one memory I have was being held in the carnival jail and because I didn't really have any friends who could come forward to bail me, the jailers grudgingly let me out. Funny thing is that those childhood experiences of loneliness and of being bullied didn't really affect me at all. I knew innately that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me, that the world was composed of friendly people and assholes and that at some point, you had to choose which of the two was most likely you. 

I looked around at all the kids having fun, enjoying the uncomplicated, carefree concerns of childhood and thought, it was really good while it lasted.

Eye test

Beginning in the early to mid-40s, many adults may start to have problems seeing clearly at close distances, especially when reading and working on the computer. This is among the most common problems adults develop between ages 41 to 60. This normal change in the eye's focusing ability, called presbyopia, will continue to progress over time.

My first memory of my mother reading anything other than her teaching stuff was in elementary school when she came home one day with a whole stack of paperbacks from the book-bargain bin Book Sale. By the time I was in high school and she was in her early 40s, she had started wearing glasses. She blamed her deteriorating eye-sight on those paperback books and cautioned us to never read in dim light; to never go to bed with wet hair (not sure if she really said this lol) and sealed the argument with the claim that blindness ran in the family (I actually only know of one, my grandmother's younger brother Ely who had been blind for as long as I can remember growing up).

Initially, you may need to hold reading materials farther away to see them clearly. Or you may need to remove your glasses to see better up close. Print in the newspaper or on a restaurant menu may appear blurred, especially under dim lighting.

Over three years ago, I started having problems focusing on my computer screen. I even blamed it on the fact that it was a PC and even requested for a new one, a bigger and brighter 27-inch iMac. But the problems persisted. There were times later in the day when I would feel slightly faint, my vision blurring. One day my colleague asked me why I was adjusting the distance between myself and the computer screen and I told her that the screen didn't seem to be that clear as I thought it would be. Really she said surprised. Could it just be the fact that maybe you might need glasses? The thought that it was probably my eye-sight all along didn't occur to me at all. You watch out for wrinkles (a good 10 years away I think) or that tell-tale shot of pain in your joints, but you never quite realize that your eye-sight is getting bad, dismissing it as simply part of your exhausting day's side-effects. So off I went and had my first eye-test with local optometry chain OPSM. I remember the day I got my first 'proper' glasses. We went to a cafe for brunch after picking the glasses up and there was that startling moment of realization staring at the food in front of me looking as clear as an HD image, that you hadn't been really looking at the world the way you used to. Something had irrevocably changed and it didn't need your permission or approval. I felt a bit sad but comforted myself with the thought that at least, I got a really great-looking pair of Rayban frames.

During these years, schedule a comprehensive eye examination with your optometrist at least every two years to check for developing eye and vision problems. Don't rely on the limited driver's license vision test or other insufficient vision screenings to determine if you have an eye or vision problem.

Adults over 40 who have the following health or work issues may be particularly at risk for developing eye and vision problems:

  • Chronic, systemic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
  • A family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration.
  • A highly visually demanding job or work in an eye-hazardous occupation.
  • Health conditions related to high cholesterol, thyroid, anxiety or depression, and arthritis for which you take medications. Many medications, even antihistamines, have vision side effects.

So I'm like over a year overdue for the required two-year re-test and at the back of my mind, it's the same strange consistent denial of those little signs- the eye fatigue, shot proof-reading levels as you miss out on words, little twinges in your head at 4pm. So after two cancellations, I finally made it back to the OPSM branch in Papakura which is easier commuting to than the other branch where I had my first test. I've only learned recently that when you go for an eye-test, your results- or your script- is yours; you're not obliged to order your glasses from the tester. OPSM has always been the most expensive one of the chains because they carry high-end labels. Woe to you if you're a label whore. Woe to you if you couldn't afford it. But I can- and would I wear anything else but Raybans??? I must admit though that after two glasses with them, I could feel a slight burn in my pocket (each pair with the lens cost well over $500). 

I've discovered that there a million cheaper but stylish frames out there. There is a site called clearly where you simply send in your script and they make your glasses for you with nice frames starting at under $65. I got a pair from them once, but either I got bits of my script entered incorrectly (I'll make sure I get the script typed as opposed to written down by hand and then photographed with a phone camera!), or the quality was simply not there because the lens view was all wrong. Plus, I chose a frame shape that I later realised didn't really fit my face shape. 

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I've been asking around and I think you get what you pay for. The very thorough 45 minutes I spent at OPSM was apparently vastly different (according to co-workers) from the hurried, somewhat fast-food orientated operation of the other competitor chain (Tommy Hilfiger, honestly?). There were a lot of steps- photographing, examination of the inside, heaps of quick-flashing lights; the eye-ball pressure test involved a slightly stinging application of a desensitising liquid followed by yellow dye which I feared, dyed my eyeballs an alarming shade of hepatitis-yellow. 

And when it was all done, my eyes rested on a pair of frames I was actually praying not to see in the shop- Rayban Wayfarer frames; a perfect match to my Rayban Wayfarer sunglasses. 

Now that's a sight for sore eyes...

Source: https://www.behance.net/gallery/8843453/Eyeglass-Frames-(GIF)

X and the 6th

Some people are one or the other and in my choice of phones, I have always been the Apple other. I started with the 3Gs, then the 4s, the 5, the 6 Plus, the 7 Plus and now my 6th one, the X (ten).

I had a brief fling with Android for a bit (for research purposes only lol) but it was more for nostalgia (remember Sony-Ericsson? They had the dopest phones back in the day when the word dope meant something else) and the camera (which was 50-50 for me).

But I'm a creature of habit so I've gone back to Apple, will stay committed to it and will continue to buy every worthy new iteration that comes out because that's just the way it is. 

My thoughts on the new iPhone:

1. Just when you thought they couldn't make it any more beautiful, they do. The trade-off with its looks is that it's fragile. It has never been a phone you can use sans case without risking scratches and dents. I ordered a case and a screen-protector prior to pre-ordering and put them on the phone the moment I took it out of the box.

2. I hate dimmed devices and I sometimes become a source of distraction when riding with friends in darkened cars as I would have my phone at full brightness. But maybe its the OLED screen? Or the so-called True-Tone display? But at something like 40% brightness, text has never been truly crisper, more well-defined which makes me think, Retina display was never really what it claimed it to be; that this is the true superior display.

3. People complain about the lack of this, or what Apple has taken away and I think, they've probably haven't used Apple devices enough. I've had Apple devices for over a decade and the evolution of their ecosystem has been so consistent and controlled that changes improve your experience and use of them. Sure, there will be the odd annoying feature, but overall, the change is tremendous but never announces itself in an unnecessary aggressive fashion. Just barely half a day since I started using the iPhone x, handling my iPhone 7 Plus seems like several steps backward. The home button proved itself to be a significantly unnecessary tedious step. To be able to simply swipe away app windows within the screen area itself makes for a faster, smoother control of the phone.

4. Even before I realised it, my main phone usage is photography. I have taken to picture taking as my de facto note taking, my daily journal. I had high hopes for the camera, especially for the front-facing ones. But the promotional photos aside, photos taken from the rear of the camera are better. I have this beef with iPhone cameras, perhaps my only beef with it- I don't think I ever looked good in photos taken by them, hence the lack of selfies even if I am apparently, super vain.  But I'm not vain enough to ditch it for Android just because I'm not happy with how I look.

5. I love the animojis!

Ghost/s

When I was at the UP, I was friends with this girl who one day, stopped being friends with me for reasons she didn't really say. Just simply stopped talking to me or even acknowledging my presence even if I was literally in front of her face.

I was literally, dead to her- a ghost. I would Google her years afterward; sneered at her face (she was never the sort you would describe as pretty even if you forced yourself to be nice); judged her job, her hair and her life in general (that's why I left Facebook because I felt that all the incessant judging I was doing was internally toxic). Yup- I literally haunted her with some sort of half-expectation that the answer as to why she stopped being friends with me would reveal itself.

Having been someone who came to friendships late in life, I've developed an independence that I think, sometimes borders on the extreme-I really wouldn't give two shits if I lived alone, or died alone. I find some sort of satisfying fulfillment and peace with my routine, my self-involved interests and my lack of social obligation save for family which to me, are not obligations at all, but commitments. That's why living in New Zealand is perfect- I hardly know anyone and that suits me just fine.

But this is not to say that I've had a lack of opportunities to form strong friendships which in this day and age of numerous digital interconnections, would have been an easy thing to do. 

But not for me; I think I've grown too fond of being invisible, of being rooted to one spot, unable to leave it, to move on. 

Night Out: Hola

Where: Little Mexico Cantina & Tequila Bar

What: 3-litre jugs of Pina Colada or sugary Margaritas for $60 and cheap, unpretentious platters of the usual suspects (nachos, tortilla chips and saucers of chili paste, guacamole, pico de gallo..). 

People think it's more of a restaurant than a bar which suits us just fine in all the times we tried to get into another Mexican themed restaurant/bar, only to be turned off by the crowds so we end up here, our annoyance eased by the easy smiles of their Spanish-speaking wait-staff. We promise that next time, it won't be our back-up choice.

By 10pm, the dinner crowd disappears and if you've commandeered the side-walk tables, forgiving the fact that it's on a sloped surface, you would have called it a night too even if the streets are telling you it's just starting- a pitcher of Margarita is very deceptive.

 

How do you start...

..the day when this study says skipping it could be good for you (okay, fine; Huffington Post is not exactly a credible source) and some would say that the effects are exactly what I'm looking for- lowered blood pressure and cholesterol.

Filipino breakfasts I miss