Monday, December 22, 2008

Joel Tesoro

During our last few years in San Juan, we became very close to Tito and Patis Tesoro. Week-ends found us traipsing around many provinces, most specially Quezon where we were frequent guests at Villa Escudero. Week-days were either work or dinners out. There were 4 Tesoro kids and 4 of the Anamas. Each within age range. One stood out amongst the group, a brilliant lad, Joel. Always with nose in books, thinking deep thoughts even at that young age when the other kids were busy getting into each others' nerves, or rough housing or just plain goofing around. For everytime Raffy had a tutor for whatever he was struggling with, Joel came home with more and more accolades.

Years later, Joel made it to Regis in New York, a very exclusive school that only the best of the best got in, and he did. He spent a summer with us in our cramped little apartment, but enjoyed downtime with us. We took a road trip to join Tito and Patis for his high school graduation. And then again, to New Haven where he prepared an itinerary so meticulous that the only set backs were our Filipino timing (you know what that means). It was my first time to have Ethiopian food. What was interesting was his cryptic hint about which top award he was going to get. He was the flag bearer during Yale's commencement exercise where Sargent Shriver gave the speech in a hurried tone as Jackie K. had just passed away and he had to leave. So all of us were poring through the program which had no names but a list of awards. We waited and heard each announcement of the top awards, crossing off each one. And then became antsy as there were only 3 awards left, and then the 2nd to the last award was read and it wasn't Joel, because the last award, Citizen of the World, the highest honor bestowed upon a graduate, was his. With tears and cheers and screaming from all of us (when he said don't embarass me!) it was an event I have never forgotten. Through the years, intermitently getting newsbits about his comings and goings, marriage invitation done so beautifully, and then the shock of knowing he, of Catholic training and upbringing, fully embraced Islam to marry the girl of his dreams. But Joel being Joel, he definitely knew.
Today, I am speechless as once again, I am faced with not knowing how to comfort grief of losing a child. Joel's freak accident leading to his death a few weeks after turning 36, is mind boggling. A very close friend of mine lost his son in a freak accident last June. The pain is unimaginable. Is ruthless, is just on going and there are no words that can assuage this loss. I cannot even fathom to think or understand or say the right words to Patis and Tito . And my fears for my own has reared its ugly head.
And the why's will endlessly go on and on until the numbing starts.
Joel, know our family loves you. We are privileged to have been a part of your life.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Kylie is 21!

Weather is cold, business has not improved but had a bit of a spike Sunday the 14th.
Kylie turned 21 and that's a milestone! Me? Had a baby at 21, would I do it over? hmmm, as long as it is Noel Angelo, ok, I really wouldn't trade time warps for my 5 great kids. Kylie was a bit down knowing none of her siblings save Migz was going to be there for her 21st. It didn't matter that her BF and folks were also with her, her family orientation deep inside her wanted her brothers too, but they had other plans. So, after a lazy day at home, a first real day off for her, we headed off to famous Dave's, she had a yen for it but didn't want to go if she didn't have everyone. Lo and behold, they came through, including an extra brother, that made her day. Who would think this little brat was sentimental about family ties when her everyday life is spent arguing with her siblings and griping about them, yet, on her milestone day, she wanted Anamite and Jb there. And, Bambi couldn't make it, but sent her emissary, to Kylie's delight, Daniel. And the 4 other kids did their gig when it came to singing happy birthday and eating a cake made with love, artistically decorated by sister Migz, the cat to her dog. Thanks to sis in law Dawn who guilted the brothers out of their guys' night out.
Amidst the noise, the eating, lip smacking and kids oreo high, the gossip and the voice overs, it was a fun night, that's what family is all about, and Kylie is really into family (Todd, you understanding this?[sic]).

Born during Chicago's first big snow storm and a Bears traumatic loss 41 to 0 vs 49ers, Kathleen Beatrice (ok so I was zonked and couldn't remember it should've been z)
was born natural normal, my first since each kids came with either a demerol high or epidural numbness, doc, hindi ko kaya, o, kaya mo yan!) and big baby too, 9.3 oz!
Her first birthday had Anamite in deep depression, remembering his birthday parties of 100 or more people and huge buffets of barbecue, mini finger sandwiches, spaghetti, calesa rides around the block, themed cakes like Chips and Power Rangers, games galore, and here, the little one had only them and a somewhat bare Xmas tree (hey, 5 kids with a joint income of under 30K). But she had the traditional Merry Go Round sent by Lola from Rolling Pin and a Let Them Eat Cake dessert.

Naughty or nice, and through Kylie's challenging moments in life, here's to life, adventure and lots of laughter and love (and fights and whatnots) to Kylie!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

bits of here and there

nothing much is going on, not at the shop where no one walks the mall during 30 degree slushy weather save a few brave shoppers, will Christmas be good this year? November sucked.
kids are fine, that's the bright spot. Kylie turns 21, OMG. And Migay? 25!!! And Hunter has a birthday coming, 9??? That fast?
There is so much I want to do and am only stymied slowed down by my own wandering mind, visions of what I would like to bake, cook and market out there. But the slowness of it all makes me hesitate to do more.
caught Dan Rad in the Actor's Studio, really, truly meets all expectations, amazing!
Saw Twilight twice, the second time, really much better without the giggling and laughing at the wrong times, cheez, but oh, it's really for tweens, so deal with it. Maybe once more and then I'll wait for the DVD.Don't really know why I keep looking at the websites, sure Rob looks great but, hmmm, talagang walang ibang magawa, so diyan na lang muna hanggang lumabas ang Half Blood Prince.
Thanksgiving has come and gone, ate early for once and didn't know what to do with ourselves after, movie time for the kids but none interested me enough so I opted to watch the little one, Dandan Bell.
Todd bought the biggest baddest microwave floor model, should've been $300 but got it for $99+tax. Thanks ToddyBoy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Barefoot Contessa & Book Signings

Ina Garten had a book signing at the Barnes & Noble bookstore two doors from Mrs. A's Cupcakes&Cookies. I have always admired her and have watched many segments of her TV show on FoodNetwork. Very gracious and always cheerful, her new kitchen/entertainment barn is drool-worthy. I got to the bookstore early but couldn't make up my mind whether to do this or not. Buy a book, get a number and then wait. So I went back to the bakery but Kylie said, GO MOM!!! So I went and OMG, lines all over the place, my number was 321! I calculated that would mean 50 numbers etc, roughly around 1:30. I took a peek and there she was signing. So I went back to work and then at 12:30ish, I told Kylie I was going to check, and voila, they let me through to almost near the stairs, It went so fast and I realized I wouldn't have any photos so I tapped the shoulders of the two guys ahead of me and bribed them with a cupcake or cookie if they would take my picture and email it to me. Thanks Eric Jahn, (he did come across and after meeting),after greeting and getting the book signed(while wearing my icing stained apron), he and his friend got their cookies.
I remember Nancy Silverton of La Brea being a bit snooty and impatient. I remember Debbi Fields in her 4 inch heels, left handed that she is, standing for 4 hours straight without let up, signing her cook books at the downtown Mrs. Field's stores with lines waiting, but each book signed with a name, a little note and the flourish of Debbi with hearts. The book store signing of Ina Garten was strictly just her name, no personalizing and if it wasn't the current book, a book plate was given in lieu of the autograph. I wonder now, if I had only known then, I could've met JK Rowling at the Bookstall in Winnetka during her book signing stint when she was just getting known. (I still kick myself when I remembered seeing the news vans and wondering who she was!!!aurghhhh) For sure I passed up Rick Tramonto signing his Osteria book because I have actually met him at Panera in Deerfield where I had a stint as assistant manager and found him buying his sandwich for lunch and seeing him there with his kid on week-ends. So much for having foie gras daily, sometimes you need to eat tuyo (ok, I mean regular people food). I remember getting Martin Yan's autograph during a book signing at Cook's Catalog's warehouse sale where I bought my first mixer years and years ago. I am waiting for Anthony Bourdain and line up once more for that quick signature amidst a sea of faces and be proud of the squiggle that makes the book more important to me. ha!

Friday, November 7, 2008

bits and pieces

escape from realities serves a purpose, that of relaxing one's mind during what could be stressful depressing times. I have chosen a few bits of happiness.
Cooking, mentioned this time and time and again. so, on to the next.
DandanBell: watching him grow smarter each day curls and all. Times with Maddie strolling to the bookstore and just wandering through magazines and books while she takes quick reads in the kiddie section until I shout it's time to go. Ooops, I forgot all about her today as I was too busy gabbing on the phone with my VBF Beng. Suddenly, I realized she wasn't around when I got to the store and voila, there she was puffing and panting saying " Lola, you left me!!!" OMG. Freaked out a bit and then made sure she was with me the whole time afterwards. With a snide aside from Sam, you aren't going to forget Daniel while I go check out some coats, right? Smirk.

Hunter and his anghit hair, Lynne with her wistful Hi Lola and my little whisper, do good in school so your dad doesn't freak out (but seeing so much of me in her at that age, huh? what's that on the board? Where did those numbers come from????) Taylor and his always perky self until he gets tired and cranky.

And then there's Twilight. With a drought of Harry Potter and the movie not till next year, Cedric Diggory died to become Edward Cullen, the vampire. The posters are all over the place, got some magazines and surf the net (after reading about HP stuff). Robert Pattinson will be at Hot Topic in La Grange sometime next week or this week, or today, whatever. Told Migay I wasn't going to line up like a teeny bopper for that. But, I did cajole another VBF to take me to Equus and I did wrangle a trip to New York just to see Dan Rad play Alan Strang. So there, that tells you that the wizard beats phantom and vampire any time. LOL. If it were DanRad, I definitely would camp out and be in line to say hi. But I can wait even if I am mesmerized by the Cullens and the entire Twilight phenomena. No midnight showing for me, but definitely yes for HP.

So am relaxed now as I just finished some fried rice for Les as a pale exchange for a sumptuous dinner with my sister tonight. Cooking again, Leveriza (leftover rice and whatever can be chopped and tossed into it for fried rice). Back to where I started.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

turkey time again

As I face a bit of depressing downturn at Mrs. A's along with every other business in the US, getting a lift from the election results, and counting my blessings even as the coins are not dropping in fast enough, I realize that cooking is the way to cope.
As always. And tonight is the first turkey night. Got a turkey breast 7 pounder for Thursday night dinner. Threw in a spaghetti squash now that I know how to work on it (butter and paprika), some great longganiza from a private sausage maker, rice and hmm, what to do with the potatoes? Turkey is not the Thanksgiving type of flavoring. I opted for the PuertoRican Goya adobo salt mix taught to me by the wife of an aunt's brother. Made life easier feeding the five kids when they accepted the non-thanksgiving flavor of turkey. Phewwww.

So it takes me away from the realities of business being so slow, it's scary. I just finished making my first (canned) pink salmon patties, checking out the ingredient list from the can's label and then tweaking it to my own liking, as in using mustard panko instead of bread crumbs, adding more lemon and fresh parsley, onion and a hint of garlic. Last night was beef stew night but it came out like a non spicy caldereta. What's next? Maybe mechado or morcon, and a run at the chicken breast stuffed with spinach, greek style.

Hoping of course that we could all be here for dinner. It really is a bit of stretch to cook meals daily to fit everyone's schedules, so I decided to cook when I know I have time and can plan rather than cook uu-rada each time and not have enough.

Come to think of it, I have to force myself to bake once more if I can get over my mental OCD about getting my ingredients into the mise en place I am used to, as I want to make sans rival, chocolate crinkles, food for the gods and some other cookies to add to the store's repertoire.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Letter to Father Ken

Hi Father Ken:

We are honored to have you as the mass officiant for First Friday mass and that our mom, Gloria Y.Nichols will be remembered in that mass.
The novena prayers are actually prayers for the dead.

We would appreciate an after mass set of prayers for the dead and blessing of the cremains and hopefully have time for a set of eulogies from members of the family.

You may remember her as the little old lady who sat on the 2nd pew Sunday 7pm mass while her boisterous family sat beside her . She enjoyed sewing lace tablecloths that she gave Father Jim Keena for the altar tables.

She gave up a high profile life in the Philippines to come live here sans househelp and the amenities in life that she was used to, to be with her 2 daughters and five grandkids. She was the pioneer of the Philippine baking Industry and set trends in both baking, table settings, and restaurant service. Move over Martha Stewart. She touched many people's lives with her wit, wisdom and courage. She always had time to sit with friends and family to listen to their problems and help them find solutions. She was pro-life and has saved many children whose mother's almost did not have them, she being a prime example of a brave woman who kept me and my sister Patricia in a time when children out of wedlock were a no-no. She was an independent, hard working,creative individual who became, inspite of her dimunitive size and high school education, president of various organizations, such as The Alll Nations Women's Group, The Zonta, International Food Service Executives Association, Hotel & Restaurant Association of the Philippines, to name a few, that helped send many young Filipinos to school through innovative fund raising activities. At the HRAP, she was credited as moving spirit behind the Chefs On Parade, which had an Iron Chef competition, table settings, food competitions way before these became popular here in the US, again, ahead of her time. She also baked and decorated the wedding cakes of many high profile society couples including the sitting president of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the Mayor of Manila Ramon Bagatsing's entire family, and it was said that President Marcos, her neighbor for so many years till he moved to Malacanan Palace, always made sure that the cakes from her Rolling Pin Bake Shop , was brought to the inner family rooms for him to eat, all the other grand cakes were sent to charities or staff.

Grumbling like most old people do, she out lived most if not all her closest friends and colleagues, very healthy for a 91 year old until pneumonia hit and she was gone in 2 1/2 days. She lived a full life, went through World War 2 where she lost her husband Clinton Homer Nichols from Binghampton, New York and where she met her long time companion Ruben S.Menguito. Had 2 daughters Maria Delia and Patricia Menguito and was blessed with 5 grandchildren Noel Angelo, James Bernard, Patricia Nicole, Maria Ligaya and Kathleen Beatrice. She enjoyed her great grandchildren Hunter Noel, Lynn Faye, Taylor Ryne, Maddelyne Grace and Daniel Thomas all of whom will always remember their LolaLola with the myriad pictures taken of her with each of them. This is a microcosm of her life, not even touching her colorful youth growing up in the mountains of Baguio where her family migrated being the caterers of Americans who built the winding roads up the mountain, her escape from death during the bombing of Manila during the liberation and so much more. But hopefully, this will give you an insight of this woman we call mom.

Not too many people who have met her here know that she had this alter-ego. They saw her as grandma, mother of Patty or Delia, etc. But back home, her former staff are waiting to give her a proper burial at her memorial plot, rouding up all those who knew her for the caring employer and one who made sure that when we left Manila for good, that they all had jobs that would see them through.

Hope this long spiel will help you know her a bit more.
Thank again Father Ken, she would probably like the Ashes to ashes, dust to dust prayer that they say over the deads during All Saint's Day. I remember our yearly sojourns to the cemetery and wait for the Priest to say blessings over the graves of my grandparents. But whatever blessing and prayers you have for the dead will be appreciated as her gold coin from Charon to heaven.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Daniel in Equus

And here's my little wizard hero, all grown and the star of a play whose so many themes are just too frenzied to focus on one particular aspect. Each facet of the play needs to be dissected and debated. But then, it's not daniel but Alan Strang that we would be discussing. When it comes to Daniel, the first most stark image is that of an actor, not Harry Potter. The strength of his portrayal erases every pre-conceived notion of the heroic wizard. Sure, slyly, I would admit to being interested in that part of the play where he is touted to be totally naked. And yes, i did glimpse what i was there for, but if you asked me if that's all i saw or remember, i cannot even remember THAT. The play was too all consuming, his acting too amazing that the nudity is forgotten. The frenzied imagery in those last 7 minutes was too breathtaking and stunning that I got caught up in the hysteria of it all.
Kudos to Daniel Radcliffe, my baby's grown up. And Kate Mulgrew was amazing, Richard Griffith totally believable in his angst, and Daniel, the consumate performer.

40th Day Memorial for GYNichols

Time flies and the heart starts to heal. The mornings are still a bit iffy for me as I drive to work, sometimes with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach knowing that on the parallel raod not taken, mom used to wait for me as I would pass by each morning to look in on her and know she's okay.
But it's now 40 days, a busy first Friday, and a long drive through traffic for most of us, even i didn't make it on time for the mass. But Father Ken Sedlak finished the mass, went out to greet his parishioners and came back in for the final service for Gloria Y. Nichols. We weren't complete as some of the kids were stuck in the Firday traffic.

Friends, acquaintances and family were all there as Patty and i talked about mom. I regret not having seen my cousin Bing earlier because I would have wanted him to share his thoughts on mom who cared for him like a son, nor did I think of calling Leslie but I gave as much as I could , stories of the life of Gloria Y.Nichols, and Patricia said her piece, confirming my earlier tales of mom's creativity, wanderlust and life.
At the Social Hall, we shared pictures and albums of mom as we moved the Angel Urn with her cremains from chapel to the party.

We thank everyone who came to share and celebrate the life of GY Nichols and for those who helped us make this happen. Mom, here's your going away party, all in shades of lavender and violets, kids, grandkids and great grandkids around you once more.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Of floods and men

The rains poured and as I was driving to work that Saturday, I thought I was back home driving through tire high waters after missing out on a right turn through the mall's first entrance. It was a non stop rain which flooded many main streets and of course, Des Plaines where son JB kept watch as flood waters rose with the river.

He sent pictures of his street and back yard. Flooding in the basement was nil from floor upwards but the insidious water came through the basement windows causing a waterfall down his walls. Lynn and JB had fun sand bagging the windows . A few years back, when faced with the first flood threat where all his in-laws were calling him asking if they were OK or if they needed help, he asked me why he wasn't panicking like everyone else, just like this time. That's because back home at 527 mariano marcos in San Juan (once 159 Ortega St,) floods came and went at least 3 times a year in our one story house. As far back as I can remember, floods were common place. We were lucky if it was a Yoling type typhoon where strong winds gusted ( I remember the eerie yellow light during a calm moment when we were in the eye of the typhoon and the following blast as it moved away) rather than the Sening typhoon where mom woke up to go bathroom and stepped into knee deep waters. Sometimes, we were able to put our beds on wooden horses, but most of the time, we had to dry out moldy mildewed beds the next sunny day. Patty and I would swim to the gate and watch bancas and motor boats ply the streets. When the kids were born, the riverside became a bit murkier and darker so we had to palm them off to friends up the street. In our unassuming quiet neighborhood street,big name people lived like the Robert Ocas, Ibazetas, and finally up the street, the official residence of Ferdinand Marcos before he moved to malacanang palace where the joke was that when the Marcos pool overflowed, we'd get flooded.
A few weeks before JB, Bambi and Migay flew over to join us, the house flooded and a picture was taken of that particular time. Which is why JB, used to all the flooding, never panicked or felt any fear or concern. Was proud of Lynn enjoying wading through the cleaner flood waters of their street. People were invited into their little house to wait for tow trucks as they floundered in the unsuspecting depths of the street rivers.
I told JB that I couldn't understand why people were so upset that first big Des Plaines flood in the late 80s, when I had just come from a land of floods oh oops, heaters, washers, dryers, fully loaded basements, duh... So a bit more sympathy there, maridel.
Anyway, until the next Chicago monsoon, here's to floods and men.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Grace under Fire, with apologies to Liz.

In the haze of grief, where surreality overlaps reality, losing mom, Gloria Y.Nichols, to a short bout of pneumonia, and figuring out where to come up with an up front fee of 8 grand for one night of wake, daughter in law Dawn came up with a few names for crematory services.
So we sat down with Liz, a smartly dressed, soft spoken woman who runs a cremation service. As she explained what the $650 fee entailed, (as in pick up the body, bring to crematorium, return the ashes with 2 death certificates), my sister Patricia and I asked a few more questions and then decided to look no further.

With her patience and ability to be emphatetic, Liz gave us a bright spot in an otherwise really depressing duty. At the back of our minds, mom had a first class, top of the line funeral plan with all the trimmings from a premier funeral home in the Philippines. And here, we end up with a bare bones package, pardon the pun.

But here are snippets of why we were comfortable with Liz.

Can we dress her up in her favorite color (lavender/purple) dress? Sure, and she agreed to pick the dress up from us. No make up, no embalming. After all, it's cremation, right?

A day later, oh, by the way, my cousin cannot make it to the cremation service, can we come over so he can see mom? And Liz patiently waited for us (3 hours late) as we comfortably lost our way and drove further west than east. Typical of GYN, in her heyday. We used to go to wakes and funerals, as far away as Ilocos Sur at night where a giant bat like figure followed us during our midnight drive to a place I am sure only had a few homes with electricity, and others around towns where we had no names of either deceased, family or place but still found it. So here's to mom again, even in death are we following the principles of her adventures in attending wakes and funerals. It actually made us laugh.

And, Liz did a great job with mom's remains. She looked even better than when we last saw her at the hospital. Like she was sleeping, no artifice, and beautiful in her lavender outfit, made for her by a society dressmaker Inang Paras, one of the women she played mah-jong with and who'd gone ahead of her. See mom? You outlived them all.

Oh by the way, can we have her cremated next week instead? After Labor Day? So our kids can come and say their good byes and we can get a priest to do the final blessings? Again, she said sure. Are we staying the entire time? It may cost a bit. Nope, just us traipsing to a place 2 hours away from our regular route and seeing GYN one last time.

It was almost a party being in a huge warehouse where two ovens (one fired up for GYN) and they brought mom out, a bit sunken in the eyes but otherwise, still as beautiful that not one of the kids, or Mercy or her kids blanched. I think the visiting Pinoy priest was a bit weirded out. We listened to the prayers, talked around mom as if she were only sleeping, I put sugar flowers on her hands instead of getting fresh, after all, she started the hand made sugar flower industry years ago where it is now a common place home industry. Again, a pioneer.

So Liz patiently waited for us. Being there was the formal acknowledgement of the body and the go signal for cremation.

Oh, and can you wait till Saturday? Patty wasn't ready to bring mom home. As usual. And so GYN , like in life, also in death, went around town and travelled to places here and there on the back of Liz' van, so typical of her itchy wandering feet, which is what we all have, thanks to her. Poor Liz, even if she were the msot professional of professionals, I am sure we really took the cake in some of the things she did for us, as we thanked her profusely for taking mom for a ride.

This piece, as garbled as it is, is to thank Liz and acknowledge her patience and service for GYNichols and her dysfunctional family. Thanks Liz for being the way you are. (How did you get into this business? My mom was a funeral director. Bingo!)

On a quieter note, thank goodness for dedicated people Like Liz and her Cremations by Grace Company. A life saver for those who cannot afford the wakes and funeral services. And a bonus to have someone like her, patient, understanding, and thorough.
Patient above all. Thanks again Liz for taking care of mom.

Birthday Blues

It's raining. Store's really slow, scares me.
I should be hyped turning the big 55, but, two weeks ago, I lost my mom.
Mornings are the hardest, when I realize I don't need to rush to work because I don't have to run to the nursing home and say I love you to mom. Sigh.

I'll wait for Thursday night dinner to get the kids and grandkids over, have a paella and hopefully, either crispy pata and lechon kawali cholesterol high dinner.
Throw in some binagoongan pork or veggies to the mix and maybe a pancit or noodles the grandkids will eat.

Still there's a lot to be thankful for, being alive at 55 because a woman, ahead of her time, chose to have me, braving scandalous stares, outrage and keeping the courage to have what she wanted, children! Even if it meant being the scarlet woman of a dashing handsome young and ambitious teacher turned politician.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Gloria Y.Nichols (2)

These next few days will be trying times for my family as we are set to work on mom's physical remains.
But life goes on and I have a wedding cake to make for the granddaughter or a friend of hers. Interestingly, GYN made the wedding cake of her daughter while I am making the wedding cake of her grand-daughter.
Way back when wedding cakes were mom's choice of canvas, creating cakes with themes, following bridal gown patterns and re-creating them in cake, the traditional way of sharing the cake was putting them in a mini cake box. GYN did not leave this plain.Pieces of freshly baked Rolling Pin famous pound cake were carefully sliced, and double wrapped in glassine and parchment. The box was further personalized with tiny hand-made royal icing flowers with tulle & ribbons of the box matching the bridal party theme. These were then layered in outer rings surrounding the main cake. The image one sees is a frothy gossamer image of confection.
But GYN started getting ideas as usual. She then tapped her friend in our little town of San Juan who had a ceramic factory and ordered ceramic swans for another society wedding. Again with the Pound cake, tulle, ribbons and tiny flowers, this made waves. Clayburn Ceramics owner Mrs. Aranaz and GYn then moved on to making a ceramic dish with hand painted flowers and names of the bride and groom. Thus boomed the new trend in wedding give-aways.Pirate Chests, typewriter typeset balls, candy dishes, their ideas were endless.
GYN went on to add capiz jewelry boxes, tampipis, wicker baskets. Each time one new item debuted, other bakeries followed and copied.
Today, the list is endless as to the choices of wedding give-aways. Brides and planners come out with seemingly unique ideas of quaintness. Bakeries have found alternative sources for the ceramics.
But who started it? Where did this boldness come from? Gloria Y.Nichols, of course.
And the once simple pull-away ribbons with the wedding version of a chinese fortune cookie saying also went haute when GYN slipped a one carat diamond solitaire from the groom's mother's jewelry store into one of the pull-out ribbons. The next wedding had one each solitaire of the year's birthstones plus a bigger carat diamond. I heard even the men folk lined up to pull the ribbons. Our Rolling Pin staff were sweating bullets delivering the cake because the jewelry cost more than the cake. I do have pictures and names of the society weddings from newspaper clippings of Manila's Society pages where the news columnists waxed poetic about each of mom's creations. As these are getting brittle and yellowed with page, it is now my goal to scan and save these and hopefully share them with all. Maybe some of the couples will remember GYN this way.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Gloria Y. Nichols part 1

How does one start when writing about a woman who's life was filled with many interesting chapters through the years, facets so varied that so many lives have been touched in some way or another, enriching them with gems of wisdom GYN loved to share?

We start by working backwards. I would like to chronicle and share her life one decade at a time. If you have met GYN anytime this past decade, you would have met a small, frail looking, white haired (sometimes hennaed brown) woman with wide eyes, almost unwrinkled skin.

Yesterday,Monday, August 25th, 2008 at 5:05pm CST, she passed away peacefully after a short struggle with pneumonia. Patricia and I, along with number one grandson Anamite (Noel Angelo), Kylie (her granddaughter she left Manila for) Mite's wife Dawn, grandneice Lita Rebodos, watched as she fought the ventilator mask which at her frailness seemed to be a fear instead of an aid to keep her breathing. The decision to change to care, comfort and dignity came when no improvement showed with the treatments made as the pneumonia was far too rabid and invaded her whole lung system. She would not have wanted to be intubated and be a "living vegetable".

In the surreality of it all, it has been her teachings and being exposed to her quirky thoughts as we were growing up that helped me and Patty deal with her final moments. All the afterlife, near death and death bed lore and readings and paranormal genre that she shared with us, helped us deal with this particular moment.
That she was hanging on, I was driving back from work with Kylie, and was thinking"who is holding on to her?" and at that moment, Patty called me frantically asking to give the go signal to change from ventilator to the oxygen thingy and that mom was having an episode struggling and asking "Help me, I don;t know what to do!" and then said Kylie's name. KYLIE! I turned to my daughter and realized that it was baby Kylie who did not want to let go, more strongly than me, as I just wanted some more time to think. But Kylie was adamant and she was holding on to her Lola in her heart and mind. Through tears and chiding, I kept telling her, say good bye Kylie, look at her, she wants to go! I also wanted to wait for the evening when the other "apos" Bambi, JB and Migay got there to make this change but mom's struggles with the mask were too painful to watch. Within 10 minutes of the change from mask to regular oxygen, after readings of Psalm 23 both by Dawn and Lita, and with Kylie reluctantly letting go, mom sneezed twice and we all chorused "Bless You!" each time, she looked around and then was gone, asleep, smooth faced, at peace. Anamite was choking as he read Be Not Afraid.

Gone was this frail looking but actually, strong woman with a mighty interesting and colorful life.
A woman who raised two kids in an unorthodox way, raised 5 grandkids as if they were hers, and "lambinged" and held 5 great-grandkids with pride and love.
A woman who was ahead of her time when she was trend setting cakes, food and lifestyle in the Philippines.
She came with nothing and left with nothing but touched many lives with a richness of gems of wisdom, lifestyle, thought forms and philosophies.
Gloria Yandoc Galang Nichols, February 25, 1917 to August 25, 2008.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sauces, Mixes, Marinades

I am a fan of sauces, mixes, marinades, packaged rice. OK, lets qualify, the ones you have to cook like Vigo, Near East, Louisiana Purchase and some others. Not the rice a roni or uncle ben although they should be good but too american for my taste.
But I tweak the instructions by adding regular jasmine rice and cooking these in the rice cooker, oh, and no butter, shudder and cringe especially when grand daughter Lynn uses "I can't believe its not butter" stuff with dried dill, yeccch.

Barbecue sauces, marinades you name it and I may have it in my pantry. Right now, I just raided a food show and have Iron Chef, Jack Daniels, Sweet baby Ray, Open Pit, Kraft and whatever is on sale, preferably under a dollar. And again, tweak with soy sauce, banana ketchup lea and perrins or whatever I can grab, garlic, paprika, turmeric, lemon to name a few.
Of the Philippine mixes, I think Mama Sita rules. Not because I knew her personally, and have known her daughter when they first started Marigold in a small facility In San Juan, but because through the years, they have really come up with an awesome product line that I am never without. There are other companies but sooo pale in comparison. The only one I have along with mama Sita is the Knorr tamarind sinigang mix. I tried others, but really, quality and taste wise, Mama Sita and Knorr rule.
I recently started with Lee Kum Kee's new line of sauces and I still have to get it right but they really are good. I try odd companies for the Bulgogi marinades. Can't think of one that jumps out.
I must be a snob too for there are so much more out there but I don;t use them because they sniff too commercially for me, but I will use Goya's sofrito and adobo seasonings over Preferida et al.
No matter what it is, by the time I use these, they would have undergone a lot of tweaking as I never follow the recipes, which makes them mine!
Do you want recipes? Coming soon!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

wizard or vampire?

I am a Harry Potter maniac, admitting to reading and re-reading, watching and re-watching the movies. But I also enjoy vampire lore and have just picked up Twilight. Stephenie Meyer created her own vampire mythology so different from the known vamp rotes. It doesn't matter that I think she's a bit naive in creating a different lore but she writes really well. Albeit I wasn't too keen on reading teen-age romance which pervades the book, (duh, it's for tweens and teens) but her vamp lore kept me reading. Then there's the movie coming out and a JK Rolwingesque launch for her final book, where the heroine decides which way she is going after having a glimpse of having kids and a normal life with werewolf Jacob. So naturally the shippers. Will she or will she not end up with Edward? And if she does, oh well, for me, she better choose the vampire over the werewolf.(note: as in most of the lore, take Underworld 1 & 2, rather a vampire than werewolf for me)
Still the writing is intriguing although the teen-age angst that permeates does keep me skipping pages only to have to re-read because I missed a part.
But as a successor to HP? These are two diverse areas .Twilight will always have its following, and I browsed other vampire books only to shrug them off as none of them jumped at me the way Anne Rice's books called me, or even St. Germain, cheez I cannot remember the author's name right now. I even got the so many pages long the Historian, enjoyed it and even got chilled by the chapters.

Harry Potter is a universe unto its own. I can say accio and those around know I want something, or dementor, wingardium leviosa, reparo etc. and there are sniggers. Gone are historical and mythological allusions in my life, now there are Potter allusions and to the chagrin of even my children, they understand what I mean when I Potterspeak. Something Twilight will not be able to do as there are no new words like muggles or disapparate to use.

But my movie dates are filled. Half Blood Prince is almost here and Twilight follows soon. i am glad they got Robert Pattinson (AKA Cedric Diggory) to play Edward, he fits the bill and those die-hards who don;t think he's Edward are like those who didn't think Daniel Radcliffe was Harry. Oh well.
Me? The inner teeny bopper is alive and kicking.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Cakes That I Have Known part 1

Cakes that I have known. I have more when I randomly remember but this is part 1.
I think back of all the wedding cakes that I have designed back when I worked for Gloria Y. Nichols of the Rolling Pin, aka mom . She was cake maker to the presidents and Manila's then elite 500, and cake maker to the cake bakers. So I treaded carefully and followed her path.
The last two big cakes I made before leaving home for good were those of Irene Marcos married to Greggy Araneta and Martin Nievera to Pops.
I remember asking Patty Araneta to allow me to re-design the family cake stand which was a two tiered masterpiece of hand carved antique gold leaf church pillar used in all the weddings. I added a third tier chosen from their vast collection of antique pieces. The cake had more than 10,000 tiny flowers, tulle, ribbon and leaves in ecru. It flew in its own airplane to Sarrat and we set it up at 4 in the morning. I remember riding the shuttle to the reception site watching so many women and children tying white crepe paper flowers on bouganvilla plants which had pink flowers instead of the white ones promised by Gen Ver to the bride.
Martin's cake was simple but full of orchids . Traditional white boxes with pound cake tied with ribbon and tiny flowers were the giveaways. If I remember rightly, the theme was pink and lavender. I could be wrong because it's been too long ago.
I did a lot of designing personalized cakes then. Now? I have to be careful because I no longer have a staff of 30 to make the tiny flowers, to plaster cast and paint specialized cupids, brides and grooms to make an entourage on sprawling cakes. I now have to do everything on my own which is why I now do stacked cakes. I still have to work on the new styles like fondant cakes, but I still believe a good meringue butter cream and a great combination of cakes and fillings make for a beautiful centerpiece and practical dessert cake.
Mom made the personal birthday cakes of Ferdinand Marcos, he would thank everyone for the many cakes he got on his birthdays but had the pound cake birthday cakes designed by mom and sent by Mayor Bagatsing (whose entire family's cakes were made by Rolling Pin) brought to the private quarters for him and the family to eat.
She also did the cakes of Presidents Garcia, Magsaysay and Macapagal. In fact, she made the wedding cake of Gloria Macapagal to Mike Arroyo. Come to think of it, she also made the cake of Susan Roces to Fernando Poe. Can't forget it cuz I thought it was crazy to have Xmas day as a wedding date. Oh well.
My only claim to fame to date is making the wedding cake of Congressman Mark Kirk. Oh, and a Tiffany colored wedding cake made to look like stacks of beribboned tiffany gift boxes with that particular robin's egg colored hues.

Oldie Blog Post

Food is the fabric of our lives part 1

Have you ever wondered what happens when you sit at the table with a new group of people? date? first meal at your potential girl or guy friends home?

Sweat it out because where we are concerned, how you eat the food, join the conversation and hold yourself up to burns and what not will be the measure of how long you'll last with the person you're with.

Like an initiation of sorts.
Can you take me eating with my bare hands? Uncle Bing too.
Can you stomach foods you probably have never eaten much less heard about till now?
oh my goodness, all that yelling, screaming and please pass the this and that.

hey you, give me that.
aughhh eating pasta with rice. scuse me, that's pancit and rice, needs be.
was that spaghetti with adobo beside it?
what it that thing? cow tongue, cow or pig feet, tail????
hey osso bucco is what??? so kari kare should be a cinch to eat. what? peanut in it? hey, what about mole? so don't say you can't handle it.

Chances are that you won't last if you are a picky non adventurous eater. we gauge friendships and how they last at the dinner table.
I already ate....LAME!!!!
I am allergic to......hmmmm, good excuse, but....NOT.
Try it at least once is what I say.
really Mrs. A, that chocolate soup tastes funny....hahahahah food fit for the cannibal in me.
You are what you eat...hey baboy the pig. what? pork chops and ribs again?
you're lucky you aren't in the I want to marry your daughter phase....balut for sure, hey sam, you still have to eat that balut.
crabs? barbaric. yes, you only know crabs legs. dainty pincers and all. we eat the whole thing. watch kylie anamite and bambi dissect the poor thing inch by inch. makes me so proud. butter????euuuaw. gimme vinegar, garlic and lotsa rice. and please, use your hands only... more later.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wish I could really cook

I am a cook wannabe. My biggest regret was not surreptitiously watching Mang Lucio and Mang Emo when they were cooking what would be Rolling Pin's signature dishes at the old MH Del Pilar restaurant of GY Nichols. I did catch one for the asado. Let's see, lea and perrins, soy sauce, onions and a bit of brown sugar. But the others were secretly made so that remembered memories of caldereta, beef with green peppers, adobo, bistek pilipino, binagoongan are frustrations to me.
I ordered my paella and lengua from Libby for all my parties, and suddenly, here in the US of A, I had to learn how to do this for our family gatherings. Of course, I did seem to ace the paella and lengua. I even managed to make a better chicken tinga than my Mexican staff who introduced me to this wonderful dish that I submitted it to so it is part of their recipe file. Just a few days ago, I finally managed to make adobo of one of my remembered memories. The type you get at the cafeteria or in some one's house during fiesta time. I actually enjoyed it and was thrilled I remembered the taste. So I've added another to my list of adobo recipes. And pancit is another of my downfalls. I still cannot make the pancit they serve at the food stores although the family says each pancit I make is pretty good. I love palabok/luglog/malabon and heck, without Mama Sita, for sure, I cannot make this the way I like it to pig out with. Shoulda coulda learned our cooks' secrets if I weren't so intent of being the hostess that can roast a turkey with all the sides, make imported style spaghetti, roast beef, etc. Aughhh. So ordinary here, seemed great there. And all the while regretting being unable to really hold my Head high when it comes to Filipino cooking. Sure, I can make bistek pilipino, but morcon? Relleno from Nora Daza, and with the help of Pat Dayrit and Enriqueta David Perez, I can actually cook some without being apologetic. Still, being the lazy apology laden cook, I thank Mama Sita for helping me bluff the rest.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

About Mrs. A's

A gentleman walked in and bought a cookie. As usual the "you're no longer Mrs. fields?" query came out and we immediately went into our spiel. He was thrilled about knowing we were just us and told us we should write a story About Mrs. A’s. So here it is and it's in our website as well as our summer flyer.

Mrs. A’s Cupcakes & Cookies is a small independent, mom and pop, micro-bakery. Operated by Mrs. A and her two daughters but with 3 other older kids pitching in along with Mr. A, in-laws and grandkids getting into the picture either doing cookie runs, providing cookies, grandkids opening doors for guests and helping stock and eat cookies from 8 year olds to a year old toddler, all welcoming and inviting passersby to take a peek into the busy bustling bakery.
Cookies are baked throughout the day, chocolate chips, chocolate chippies , oatmeal raisin walnut, triple fudge, peanut butter, white chip macadamia, snickerdoodles, Sugar butter M&Ms, and decorated (like the Smileys, butterflies, flower powers, fishies) in front of everyone. Cupcakes are iced to order, and those in the case are replaced each time a cupcake is sold.
After a ten year run in a North Shore bakery, we opted for the baker and recipes of the Bakery from Elm. Many North Shore kids jump up and down when they see their favorite SMILEY and Winnetka’s Frosted Ginger staring at them from the windows of Mrs. A’s.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cakes are decorated within minutes of ordering, Mrs. A’s expertise after attending Mrs. Field’s Cookie boot camp in Salt Lake City during Debbi’s heyday of wanting to sell the perfect cookie. Migz went the bakery cafĂ© path, Kylie, the chocolate candy store. So each of us has that food sense of wanting to provide the best cupcakes and cookies, with some family drama for a bit of comedy club flair.

Asked if we want to open up other stores, can you clone us? So enjoy our cupcakes, cookies, birthday cakes, cookie cakes, wedding cakes, bubble shakes and camaraderie at our little store which includes service with a smile!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

cussing here

Mr. A is sooo against swearing in English. Kids take note , no -effing in front of him. But this peculiarity is negated by the fact that he does not mind my cussing in Filipino. tang ina, hindot, anak ng ____, ay, puki... oh well. But if I just said FiretrUCK the right way, does he get miffed.

Years ago, on our first trip to the US, jet lagged from the long flight and dozing off, we ended up in Chicago's red line and after a harrowing first time El ride, (waking up in the south side) we got back on the right track and ended up on Madison and Wells. By the garage were two African American guys (later we learned these were homeless men) fighting and in my sleepy hazy sleep deprived scared mind, I thought I heard them yell at each other MADAPAKA!!!! I told Mr. A, ay naku sabi niya madapaka, madapaka rin!!!(Good grief, he said madapaka (you fall down, you there, fall down, fall down, you!) . Years later, I would be in that same area, unafraid at 5 in the morning and used to the whole scenario. but MADAPAKA (m-effing is taboo)stayed. And now I am free to say MADAPAKA! Manigas ka is not as emphatic.

I am writing this because I read another blog that had WATDAPAK. So I remembered this little tidbit. Also the running joke of Mr. A, titi-lik mo ba? i-fak mo na lang.
Okay, so much is lost in translation but i like the new WATDAPAK.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Meeting a real live HERO

Last night was the gala of Ateneo Alumni's convention aimed at helping those Arrneeow
grads to deal with life in the US and of course many more tidbits of net working.

But the guest speaker , Antonio Meloto, was the draw for me. Tall, silver haired, and mild mannered but with the power to change the world. Three years ago, Gawad Kalinga was brought to Chicago through an informational meet. My ignorance labeled it like Habitat for Humanity. But boy, was I wrong. It goes way beyond building a house for those in need, it goes way beyond wild expectations. And it is working.

So I gushed and told Tony Meloto that he was my hero, that I believe inhis life's work and project even if I am one short of the three T's needed. (treasure, cheez, I probably would be one of those building and then hoping to live in one of those houses built).

Following Tony Meloto's work, listening to the critics jealous of his success, wondering why, if they claim to be Catholic, they persecute him the way Jesus was persecuted, hey, I am not likening him to Jesus, but he is following the foot path of Jesus in serving the people. His method of reachin out to people is not threatening but rather, makes one wistful in wanting to be a part of this building futures and giving hope for many destitute Filipinos. Give them an out from the depths of their poverty, house them and then give them the tools to educate themselves, find a livelihood they can master and have them police themsleves to lower the crime rate, keep them from going back to the drudgery of petty thievery, drunkenness and hopelessness. And for this Tony is being branded as not being a good Catholic.

Now, there are groups from all over the world studying Gawad Kalinga and working to bring it to their countries. It would be disappointing to find out later on that they ran with the ball and would surpass the Philippines in this just because the stumbling blocks that Catholic Filipinos and clergy are wont to create.

But for whatever it is, Tony Meloto is my hero. He believes we are all heroes in our own way when we help GK. May the Lord always be with him and guide him, and protect him from the crabs in the basket.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Harry Potter

Why do i enjoy reading and re-reading Harry Potter endlessly? Don't I have better reads to do? But JK Rowling's magical wizard has captured my inner child.

Many years ago, as a day dreaming teenager (14 to my 55) I used to write poetry and stories, mini novelas of Odine Odette Odelle, Melalee and other heroines. But one thought form found its way into my writing, a magical black haired green eyed boy of about 8 or 10 who showed up in a magic garden, often as a friend of one of my heroines. I named him James Bernard which became my pen name and then named son #2 and I guiltily admit it came from Paul McCartney's name (James Paul and Bernard Webb).
But I was too young to create a better venue for him, too many distractions and I let him go. And here we are years later. This thought form found its way into the fertile mind of JK Rowling who ran with the ball with her creative, focused and wildly imaginative mind. I thank her for giving life to this thought form. Many of us know the mythology of how Harry came about during JK's sojourn. But I do believe he existed in the other world just waiting for the right person and the right time. I am sure there are many more out there who saw this black haired green eyed magical kid but didn't do anything to bring him to life.

it also helps to have Daniel Radcliffe bringing Harry to life on the big screen giving a face to this wizard. And each book delivers an escape to every day life, adds on to my vocabulary driving my kids crazy when I always allude and refer to passages, incidents, characters and what nots to drive a point, and hey, they understand me when I use Potterisms,tsk tsk.

I speed read and have read the books when they first come out within 4 to 6 hours tops. That's because I hunger to know the entire story. Then I start rereading at a leisurely pace enjoying each chapter and picking out tidmits in hopes of foretelling the next book. JK Rowling ended the series wonderfully, critics notwithstanding. Tied up loose ends, had me shed a tear or two for the sacrificed characters. In hopes that she will be forgiving of the universe she created and tell more stories of those around Harry. Hope springs eternal, right?
Until she does, I will continue reading and re-reading Harry Potter, watch all the movies, (once twice , thrice and more times) listen to John Williams' HP music and those who did the following soundtracks. And drive my kids crazy when I use Harry Potter allusions.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ruben S. Menguito

Remembering daddy. Handsome, suave, ladies' man and how. Man for everyone, great friend to many (but as a father, hmmm, let's sit on this)
He would always say he'd die happy if his dream of" I want to be mayor of Pasig", the town he loved, his birthplace, his hood, would come to be after being a councilor there and many failed sojourns into bokal and con-con elections. He also wanted to make a million bucks in commissions for the kitchen equipment he brokered for Allied International. One day, he got both and the next day, he died.
He was appointed interim Mayor of Pasig, the town he loved, now a city. He used to argue with his eldest son, my half brother Cesar, "Would you rather be the son of the mayor? Or the Nephew of the mayor?" At the same time, he landed one of the biggest (and last) accounts ever, that of providing the new Asian Development Bank that just moved to Ortigas (thereabouts, how should I know, places have changed so much) and actually would have made a million in commissions outfitting the kitchen and the tableware for this project.

Father of 21 (at last count) from myriad women who fell prey to his suave good looks (and he actually wanted to re-incarnate as a doberman pinscher because "they get paid to mate"). He genuinely loved GY, not as beautiful as probably the others he had, but one who brought him into the world of glitz from his meek and mild teacher's life, to wine and dine in the restaurant and hotel industry. Most romantic moment: he came home and shut the lights and GY thought he was coming home drunk again, as she started to rant and rail, he opened a jar and released hundreds of fireflies he took the time to catch and save for that moment.

Never mind the other times I would rather not remember, but that I was the first daughter to walk down the aisle and he actually haad tears in his eyes, so there!

I could go on and on about daddy, all the ups and downs, the fights and the good timesand finally the acceptance that he was who he was and just have fun with it.

After he died, I had one dream , in a light blue striped shirt, youngish probably
30ish, at his handsomest, he did say, "I have always loved you, even if you didn't believe it".

The summer I was 8

I can remember being in the kitchen of Tia Fe Palma every afternoon for 2 weeks, being taught how to bake brownies and make cookies. I didn't know why until I was brought to the studio where Nora Daza's Cooking Show was shot. This was live TV, no cuts nor takes. I was being touted as the baking daughter of Gloria Y.Nichols of the Rolling Pin Bake Shop. At 8 years old at that! And during the show, I must have impressed Nora Daza as I did everything I could remember, but twas really hazy as I remember resenting time in the kitchen when I could have been out playing with cousins.Impressed that she told everyone I was going to enrol at the Manila Gas Cooking School for the summer. And before you know it, the next youngest one to me was a 16 year old. Everyone else was way older. In what I still believe was the best type of layout for a cooking school. But what does an 8 year old know?

Again, I did so well that they created a children's cooking class for the next year. Of course, I couldn't join my peers as I was put into an advanced class.
All I can remember was putting sardines on a pizza, the flavors I still cannot re-make, boiling salt instead of sugar to sweeten kaong, and , the most traumatic that made me unable to decorate cakes for many years, her assistant said in a loud aside when we were decorating cakes, I was trying to do a butterfly shaped cake "ganyan ba ang gawa ng anak ng may ari ng Rolliing Pin?"(Is that the work of the owner of Rolling Pin?)
Scarred me almost for life. I didn't decorate cakes until I got here. Even now, I never think I make great looking cakes even if I get compliments. Lesson to all, don't ever denigrate a child's efforts. It can damage them for life. It's a good thing I overcame this trauma and can actually really decorate a cake. (Although I am one of those free flow persons, always out of the box, out of the line, nothing perfect, nothing the same...AHA, one of a kind, masterpieces each one!)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Gloria Y. Nichols at 90 MS

Food is still the fabric of our lives.
Gloria Y. Nichols, a legend in her time, is turning 90.
We will take her to brunch at La Mirage, a Russian banquet hall that serves awesome food.
It is sad to see her mind deteriorate due to wrong medication. What was good for her one way, totally destroyed her in another.
Once upon a time, she was one of Manila's trendsetters. She fought her way to the top and everyone bowed to her prowess as a baking queen. She brought new ideas into the wedding cake industry with touches of flair. She made wedding give aways the crazy variety they are today. From a simple box of cake tied with ribbon and hand made sugar flowers, she evolved these into capiz jewelry cases, then hand sewn native mat boxes. She ventured into ceramic containers of various shapes and sizes all with her signature pound cake and sugar flowers.
Her cakes were works of art culled from looking at any edifice, fountain or sihlouette to come up with cherub ringed cakes. It was outre to have a pink wedding cake or to have a driftwood washed and painted in icing as the cake centerpiece. But that she did. She also was the first to have the bride's parents put a diamond solitaire in the ribbon pull, inches of satin ribbon with a cutesy saying and the accompanying charm. Even men lined up to pull a ribbon which is traditionally for single girls. Getting the ring means you're the next one in line to get married.
Mom's life is colorful. Wait for the next few chapters.


Mom is now 91 and in the Arlington Rehab a few minutes from our home.

All My Kids Cook MS

When the kids were growing up, each had a rite of passage, learning how to cook rice in the rice cooker was a chore for those who turned 12 or was it ten? Everyone had to work on the dishwasher, clearing the rack and all.
Cooking became the next thing. Corned Beef rice was a staple, Spaghetti sauce, nilaga, sinigang. etc. Two boys and 2 girls because baby Kylie was not interested.
I worried about Kylie not ever learning to cook. She could do the rice but that was it.
Today, Friday night dinner features her lasagna, she made the meat sauce from scratch by herself and she painstakingly layered the noodles, riccotta , mozarella and parmesan. She actually cooked caldereta a few weeks ago and brought home a quiche that she made herself. She can also cook salmon.
Kylie can prep but didn't really cook. When Migay decides to cook, she makes Kylie prep all the veggies and whatever else that goes in the menu she prepares. It is a skill to prep. Kylie knows how to make the best Filipino Fruit salad, carefuly draining the mixtures of kaong, nata, fruit cocktail and whatever catches her fancy, and just like Sarah Michelle Gellar's character in Simply Irresistible(sic), stirs her creams and milks in a dreamy manner. She's the fruit salad maker for all family gatherings. Just like Migay does the meanest mashed potatoes. Migay, lazy as she is, every now and then gets the inspiration to cook and when she does, it is marvelous, flavors and textures all come together.

Bambi cooks up a storm, following in my footsteps in entertaining friends and family at the drop of a hat. She has mastered Filipino dishes (her adobo getting better each and every time) and Rachel Ray type dishes but allows Sam to cook and experiment.
Anamite is a grill master and Jaybee, what else, a pasta king although he makes the best crockpot roast pork dinner. Even my daughters in law Dawn and Zebeda can hold themselves proud in the kitchen. Dawn has mastered some Filipino dishes and is the Thanksgiving Queen while Zebeda makes the best spinach dip.
With Kylie now unafriad to work the kitchen, I feel satisfied that I have been able to impart to my children the fact that food is the fabric of our lives.
Now, I look at the grandkids in hopes that one day I can work with them in the kitchen and share with them the love of cooking (and eating, a baking etc)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

My Apos (grandkids)

Funny how my life includes five little ones with different personas, but each have a bit of me in them.
Hunter at certain angles looks like Leslie when he was that age, glimpses. But looking at him, he is all American boy, no hint of the Filipino genes. Lola, why do you talk to me in Filipino when you're angry with me? Did you understand me? I ask. No, he says, so why do you know I'm scoldiing you? Why do you respond and obey? Oh!
And did you want me to scold you in English? Nope, he shakes his head.

Lynn is my China Doll. very thin, pretty, almond eyes, pert. Takes after Migay, slow molasses. But when she smiles, that one dimple only found in Leslie's face shows up.

Taylor and his ruddy Chinese face, we got him one of those winter hats and I thought I was looking at a picture of Chinese kids in winter, thoser red cheeks are real! And he is smart. When it comes to money. At mass, I handed out singles for the kids and 5's to my kids. He looked and said, hey this one is different!

Maddie the pretty princess that we want to bring home and hawk for per lola Portia. I remember when she was born, eyes wide open and almost knowing and I realise now that the soul who came back was there at that moment. And true to form, as the new persona takes over, that one moment is over, lost in the life and living of this incarnation.

But here comes Daniel Bell. Long awaited, saw him in my dreams. Curly haired, bright eyes knowing, curious and all over the place. Am I putting wonders in place or is he really a wonder? He is a wonder. I choose to speak to him in Pilipino whenever I can. And at this point, he understands the language. In fact, there are some words he won't immediately respond to in English but will immediately follow in Pilipino. Sayaw! Palakpak! Saan ang ilaw? Bababa ba? Gusto mo pa? karga. kain na. Naspu na.
I love all my apos and I want to make sure each of them have some great memories of me and my loving them. And the kitchen will be the main point of remembering. Teaching them how to cook and bake and sell cookies at Mrs. A's Cupcakes and Cookies, stealing cookies from lolo's former bakery on elm. These kids are comfortable in a bakery, just like mine.

More later on my apos

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Xmas eve and Xmas Night dinners Standing Rib Roast MS

So here's another round of eating for the holidays.
Dawn picked up Xmas eve as always because we are all too tired to cook, just want to eat and crash being up all night working the ovens and cakes, cookies and coffeecakes for the past ten years. Turkey and ham with mashed potatoes were just right.
Xmas day started out with longaniza and sinangag, garlic fried rice with fried eggs, totally filipino.
A quick trip to the movies for a breather.
Then dinner at the Bells. An 8 rib standing rib roast which was cooked really right, kudos to Bambi who always faces these challeneges to add to her repertoire. A caper and anchovy pasta, twice baked potatoes, the green bean casserole and Sam's made from scratch Caesar salad.
Something the two brothers weren't about to miss.
It makes me thankful to the Lord for times like these, seeing kids, grandkids and immediate family gathered round a table eating, jokes, food and would you believe, not that much drink save a few bottles of red wine?

By the way, prime rib is a standing rib roast but from PRIME USDA beef, eveyrthing else is a standing rib roast. An olive oil based tapenade smeared all over the roast and set to age overnight in the cooler, and a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes to sear the meat and 325 till it is done does the trick. Congratulations to Bambi for pulling it off.

New Year's Day 2008 MS

It didn't help that we were all sick over the few days before (and after) Jan 1st.
Hope it doesn't mean anything for the year, but then again, what's cough colds and flu compared to Kylie's in 2006 and mine in 2007? This is a cake walk.

Having had to work a few hours at Mrs. A's also cut back my cooking time.
Exhange gifts and eats were at the Bell's, just a week after the scrumptious Roast beef dinner for Xmas.

This time, the ubiquitous paella and lengua plus Kylie's Filipino fruit salad joined Bambi's turkey(courtesy of JB) and mashed potatoes, and a really tasty cocido, pork, beef, chicken and chorizo with garbanzos, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes with the eggplant salad side dish. The spaghetti was a great dish to add for kids and folks alike.
Bambi made a birthday cake for Migay whose 24th birthday fizzled as she was down with the flu with a bad dose of coughing and hacking.
It was a banana cake with fresh bana filling and our winnetka buttercream.
Poor Miggie, we always forget her brithday cake, and we own what? a bakery??? oh oops.
I vow next year I won't forget.

Hope everyone had a fun day on January 1st, I know I did, seeing and being with all the people, (kids, grandkids, sis, mom, les, close friends allowed into our intimate circle) I love in the same room, laughing talking and being there just fills my heart with so much love. This is what I am thankful to the Lord for. And this is what makes me look forward to each and every New Year.

thirty minute mealsMS

I realized today that having such a hectic life, working 7 days a week almost always 10 hour days, with 5 kids and 5 grandkids to feed every Thursday, a daughter with boyfriend on Wednesdays plus grandson and son-in law, it takes a real super human effort to ge that meal done. Sometimes, I have time to prep the night before, more often than not, I am ambitious enough to think I can go to the store, get the fresh veggies and meats and get a meal done, that’s if I don’t hit traffic on the way home.
So I find the challenge of having a good meal done within 30 minutes a challenge. I sometimes pull it off. Tonight, I ambitioned buying the ingredients before coming home and to my shock it was seven . Kylie and Todd pulled in as I got home. Aurghhh. Usually, they come home at 8. And as I hurriedly got the rice pot going and the pork marinated in the char siu mix, the door bell rang and Bambi with Sam walked in. Horrors. But, hey, slice the meat, etc nuke the chinese broc, get the fishballs and tofu sliced, and there I was, stir frying my first chow mein dish ever and the charsiu merrily roasted in the oven and got a good last minute broil. Oh well, another day in the life.
I truthfully admitted to Anamite that having a lack of friends around, and the serious work schedule, even if I am strapped for time, I find comfort in cooking that meal, whether it’s a lazy corned beef rice (that’s the canned corned beef for those who don’t know that this is a staple in a Filipino cupboard) or something chicken with cream of mushroom kicked up a notch by turmeric and either spinach or artichokes or asparagus, even after baking 100 cookies, cooking a meal at home is strangely relaxing .

Paella MS

i only learned to cook paella here in the USA challenged because no one made the paella i was accustomed to,because at home, i ordered it from libby. through the years i have refined the paella and found a comfort zone of what i put in my paella. i used reciped combined from pat dayrit, nora daza and enruiqueta david perez and have come up with one uniquely my own. i wish i could afford the seafood so easily available back home but are ridiculously expensive here. so i settled for a mix of boneless skinless chicken breast with boneless pork cubes, the ubiquitous chorizo de bilbao, thankfully available here, casubha (our saffron wannabee) red peppers, a choice of tomatoes (whole, crushed, puree, sauce) i just use whatever I have on hand, bouillon cubes for added flavor, shrimps, seafood mix and when i remember, mussels on the half shell, boiled eggs, and petite pois (peas). have come to the point that i can whip this up in minutes (kidding, hour and a half minimum)

so coming home after a hectic grab and go from the supermarket, freaking out that there was no chorizo de bilbao (thank goodness my hoarding nature left me with one pack in the freezer, have to get more) got me to prepare everything for Roel who asked for the paella. why should i take the time? Roel is younger than us but had a total body failure and from a once hale and hearty fellow, is now bed ridden with dialysis every other day, waiting for a triple bypass, and trying to get better. but he sorta kinda cajoled us to bring him some, so we did. but he couldn't even eat the portions given, his diet has been restricted, thoughts of lechon are wishful thinking for him and from a once gourmand, he is now given a painfully spare and sparse diet.

i am humbled by the fact that he asked for my paella, if I didn't do this for him and he suddenly disappeared, i would be forever feeling guilty, but i delivered and i hope roel enjoyed even the visuals of the paella.

life is short and the festive paella is a small offering to a friend who is facing his life's mortality.

Need to cook cook cook MS

need to cook cook cook

cooking relaxes me. this week has flown so fast that i don't remember when i last cooked in the kitchen other than thursday night dinner.

went crazy at the supermarket, onions, shallots, asparagus, spinach, green onions, tomatoes, garlic, mushrooms etc. then i saw a big slab of brisket for 1.99 a pound..hmmm that will be thursday night dinner. i already put the chicken out for tonight's dinner. i also cooked bear creek soup but boiled broccoli with the water before the mix, then sauteed garlic onions to go with the handful of asparagus and mushrooms for our side. the chicken i just marinated in salt, pepper, soy sauce, garlic powder and lemon. into my trusty favorite cast iron pan, i stuck the pork chops for tomorrow night's dinner in the remaining marinade and added a bit more stuff in it.

i've been going to the chinese supermarket and the carniceria guzman almost daily to get fresh meats and veggie, haven't been in caputo's for a bit so i went with cherries on my mind. ended up with stuff, well, i've been forgetting the grand kids so i got cheese and bread for their favorite american cheese sandwich, grilled of course, and i have browned gorund beef in the fridge i can convert into spaghetti sauce or picadillo at a drop of a hat. so that's that.

Beef Brisket my space blog

Haven't really found a brisket recipe I truly like. Cousins Mabel and Sofie have given me theirs but the only thing I remember is to roast this overnight. I have been using all kinds of recipes but haven't gotten one I really like. so this time, onions, garlic, soysauce, bbq sauce and caldereta mix. Not bad but still....

Sauteed asparagus in garlic and butter, decent. Another lazy pasta, sauteed ground beef with garlic and onions poured bottled marinara with can of tomato sauce, threw in bay leaf and cooked this with egg noodles instead of penne.

I cannot remember what I did with the spaetzle, I did the preliminary saute with garlic onions and beef but threw in parsley flakes, bay leaf and fresh basil (from my poor dying plant) and cream of mushroom soup and out of code sour cream (we're still alive) then the spaetlze, really came out good, cannot remember if i threw in thyme or what. hmmmph.

moody blues

With my many years of attending funerals, close friends, relatives, acquaintances, it never fails to cross my mind that I should plan my own. Lord, that my family bury me and not me bury them, please.
But should I go, then I do want the following:
Simple pine (go green) because I want to be cremated after whatever bit of me can be used to save another life. Cremains to be in a JADE urn, and some peices into lockets for each of my kids and grandkids, whether they want to wear me or not is up to them, but hopefully they will want me around. I got this idea from Patis and sisters when their dad died.
Music and food during the wake. Of course, mass and eulogies. And pics of me and all that I enjoyed. I also want to be made up the way I look and not some unknown entity posing as me. Hopefully that would be the case.
Music: Harry Potter John Williams , On Eagle's Wings, Till the Angels close my eyes. etc. Definitely a number of Beatles tunes. I have other songs in mind, so I'll leave this open.
And I want Chinese Lauriat after the interment or something, I forgot, I get to burn.
And lots of love and kitchen tales.
I think about this as I have just been to a young man's wake. And I see my mom slowly fading and I know I have to be ready for the when.
Okay already, morbid enough but at least I got this off my chest, since I talk about it every now and then along with ghost tales and me asking for signs.
When they talk about living wills, let this be a part of it.

Sometimes I wonder

I have been thoroughly gutsy opening a new store with the girls to take the place of the closed and failed bakery. I know that I have been making goals and sales for the other companies I have worked for through the years and it's now time to See if I can pull off the same success on my own. Truth to tell, without working capital, with no equity and a bankruptcy on my records, it really is a struggle.
and to position myself in a high rent area in hopes that even with this oncoming recession (hoping we can ride it out) I can still pull it off.

But when the bills pile up and there are no other sources of income other than what comes in daily, sometimes, the fear sets in and I just have to draw on my strength of faith and leave it to the Lord.

What stops me from really going for it and pushing? Some inner fear of failing? Or making excuses that I have no time to knock on doors because I am stuck in a position, baking and making sure we don't run out of product, not being able to afford other help, and relying on daughters who run late for me to do anything productive by the time they come in. Am I making all these excuses?

But I am committed to see this through and I will make sure to succeed as our future depends on this.
Go go go Mrs. A, you can do it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

DPI food show

Yes, so I now am baking cupcakes and cookies, but that inner caterer and foodie in me always appreciates going to DPI Midwest's one day food show featuring their many vendors and new accounts. Some old some new, and the one I use wasn't there. Still, so many dessert and cookie shops, all upscale, all wanting a piece of that elusive (to me) market.

Ham off the bone from a new company, loads of cheese from all over the world, from Irish to Italian to goat cheese, and Danish butters.
Didn't see my duck friends either, nor the pate group, or did I miss them?
Didn't meat up either (known as scoping out and stalking meat booths and grabbing as much as I can when all is said and done).

But my weakness has always been sauces and marinades, Asian and what nots.
More for personal use, of course but who knows? One day I will cater again, or create a menu for orders only catering using these. Or one day, do Kylie's wedding like I did Bambi's and maybe Migz will also want one for her own. And grandkids will definitely benefit from me should I still be up and running when they get married. Or graduate.

The meal after was excellent but after grazing like a cow in almost every booth, aughhh, couldn't eat as well as I wanted to. Thanks DPI Midwest, this makes up for not going to the National Restaurant Show this year.


I've joined the vast millions of bloggers who take time to write their thoughts in an open diary. Seems like only yesterday I used to scribble and write my diary but with the fast paced world spent on the computer instead of those Leeds hard bound $60 tomes, I am now typing away my thoughts and daily events for someone out there to actually read and almost know me through my writings. Wow, blows me away.

About Me

My photo
wife, mother of 5, lola(grandma)of 5,joined facebook and still wonder why friend, cook, baker, decorator,daughter,sister, Mrs.A'sCupcakes&Cookies Virgo Year of the Snake St. John's Academy 1970 University of the Philippines BSHRA I'm afraid to admit this, but oh well, Jack of all Trades, master of some. Football fan. Totally. Mrs. A's Cupcakes & Cookies, my latest venture.

another year and patty

another year and patty

Trendsetter at 8

Trendsetter at 8
Cooking on live TV with Nora Daza, the Philippines' Julia Child


All Mine!!!

All Mine!!!
Taylor, Maddie, Daniel, Hunter & Lynn

GY Nichols and Grandkids

GY Nichols and Grandkids
looks like lola's birthday

simple elegance

simple elegance

wedding cakes and me

wedding cakes and me
finishing touches


pure joy, returnable at the end of the day

Summa Cum Laude Bambi Bell

Summa Cum Laude Bambi Bell

patty and me

patty and me
another holiday has come and gone

Daniel's 1st Birthday Cake

Daniel's 1st Birthday Cake
labor of love following tradition, merry-go-round