As 2010 draws to a close, we all find ourselves taking a look at the year that was. I thought I'd end 2010 by recording my top 10 moments in 2010 for posterity. What would be on your list? Here's mine:
1. Taking the mother of all leaps.
2. Having a rollicking good time in a sea of espuma.
3. Reaching the summit of Angel's Landing after a heart-stopping hike.
4. Regaining strength and balance.
5. Falling in love with surf culture at Ribeira d'Ilhas.
6. Traveling to Portugal solo.
7. Seeing those tassels turn, turn, turn in my first foray into burlesque!
8. Learning how to dance, climb and spin around a pole in crazy lucite heels.
9. Surviving 14 dates in one night.
10. Crossing the finish line.
Due to the now infamous New York blizzard of 2010 and the havoc it wreaked on holiday travel, I will be somewhere up in the air when 2011 begins. But there will be no mile-high pity party. At the end of the day, I have this: I can happily close the books on 2010 knowing that I lived it the best way possible. Nothing held back and no regrets.
As we enter a new year, I hope that you'll consider making another list: one that gives your resolutions, dreams and goals a firm deadline—whether it's 30 Before 30 or 12 Before 2012. It could give your life a whole new purpose like it did mine. At the very least, it'll make your year a hell of a lot of fun!
In the French Quarter, the soul of New Orleans, the smell of last night's whisky and jambalaya and blackened redfish lingers not far above the empty streets until the sun can be seen. An hour or two later, it is replaced with the aroma of French Market coffee and beignets, and around this time the sidewalks reluctantly show signs of life.
- The Pelican Brief by John Grisham
As a teen I would encounter passages like this in the John Grisham suspense novels I loved to read—which may explain my fascination with New Orleans. It is a place with all the ingredients of a city to love: a distinct flavor, scrumptious food, great music, a vibrant nightlife and a captivating history. I'm thrilled that my 30 Before 30 list is finally bringing me to this city in just a few months! Plane tickets are booked and the hotel room's reserved for the first weekend of Mardi Gras—#4 you're mine!
We'll be there just in time for the Krewe du Vieux parade on February 19. It is known for its politically satirical and explicit floats, and it is the only parade that still passes through the French Quarter. It is much smaller than all the other parades but it is beloved by locals. All of their music is live and performed by New Orleans' best marching bands.
Although the goal is to party it up during Mardi Gras, I also have a rapidly growing NOLA wish list—almost entirely food-related, of course.
A meal at Cochon, dubbed "Momofuku on the Mississippi" by The New York Times' Frank Bruni and listed as #3 of 10 restaurants that count from coast to coast (mind you, Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc did not make the cut). Wood-fired roasted oysters, Cajun-style suckling pig, deep fried headcheese, and fried alligator with chili garlic aioli? Hell's to the YES.
A po'boy—the soft shell crab version at Johnny's Po'Boys or the shrimp variety at Parkway Bakery & Tavern. If that shrimp was good enough for President Obama to eat during an oil spill, it's good enough for me!
Like many other holiday travelers, I found myself in a bind today. A fierce blizzard dumped a hefty amount of snow in the Northeast, turning highways into cross-country skiing paths and airports into makeshift hostels. My flight back to New York on JetBlue, which I already pre-emptively scheduled to arrive in JFK after the blizzard passed, was nonetheless cancelled—a result, I would guess, of airplanes and crews not being in the right place due to several days of continuous flight cancellations. I called the JetBlue hotline repeatedly for several hours to reschedule, to no avail. I knew that the hotline had been dropping calls for two days already (my brother started calling the day before to reschedule my niece's flight and never got through). I was desperate for an answer—any answer. So we decided to drive to Seattle-Tacoma airport to go to a counter and get a live human being to help us.
Before getting in the car, inspiration struck. I went to JetBlue's Twitter account and saw that they had actually offered to assist Twitter users who were voicing their frustration and begging for help via Tweets. I sent two desperate Tweets out, hoping but not believing that I would get an answer.
Ten minutes into the car ride, I received a direct message on Twitter from JetBlue:
By the time we pulled into the airport, I already had JetBlue's Twitter representative booking me on the earliest available flight and refunding my brother for his.
The resolutions to our problems were not ideal. I will be spending New Year's Eve up in the air and my brother will not be able to see his daughter at all for the holidays. But this is the combined result of an act of God that's out of everyone's hands and the risk that one takes by booking a budget airline. To be frank, I will probably not book any more flights with JetBlue during the holidays from now on because this is when a) flights are always fully booked; and b) the weather can be most unpredictable. As much as I love flying with JetBlue, it is a curse to be on one of their flights when disaster strikes because they don't have enough planes nor any partnerships with other airlines to cope with the resulting backlog. This is the second time I've had a JetBlue flight get cancelled on me during the holidays in a span of four years. The first time, JetBlue could only get me to Seattle after Christmas had already passed. This time, JetBlue can't get me to New York before New Year's, which means I miss an important occasion plus a full week of work.
But even though the solution was not ideal, I am still impressed by how we got it. I still cannot believe that my problem was solved so quickly and efficiently via Twitter! I applaud JetBlue for utilizing Twitter not just for marketing but to actually extend customer service. And I sincerely thank their Twitter representative for reaching out to me and to so many distressed passengers today when we couldn't get any help elsewhere. May awesome travel karma come your way!
I am sad to be missing out on some great parties in New York this New Year's Eve, but I am so grateful for the wonderful year I've had that I really don't have it in me to feel too sad. Life was very good to me in 2010 so no matter what, I choose happiness.
Wishing all other stranded passengers good luck in finding your way home (or wherever you need to go). I'll be watching you all party from the skies!
Since this blasted snowstorm is preventing me from traveling, I thought I'd cheer myself up with memories of one truly amazing trip that I took last summer. The story that I wrote on my epic road trip with Kate for my 30 Before 30 Column was published yesterday, December 26, 2010 in The Philippine Star. Our eye-opening journey through Utah, Arizona and Nevada made me realize just how much natural beauty the United States is blessed with. It definitely stoked my wanderlust and got me excited to explore this country even further. To get the quick recap, check out the article here. For a more in-depth look at the trip, do check out the blog posts below:
To all other travelers affected by the snowstorm, I feel for you, and I hope that we'll all get where we need to go sooner rather than later. To my dear New Yorkers, stay warm and I hope to see you before the year ends!
I was so thrilled to unwrap this beautiful box set of Thomas Keller cookbooks on Christmas Eve! I realized today that these are the first grown-up cookbooks I've ever owned, so it's extra special that my Secret Santa was my dearest Mama.
Cooking is among my mom's many talents. When I was a kid, I was overwhelmed with what it meant to be a mom from watching her. She can cook and bake anything, make any plant flourish, tutor us in Geometry, kick our asses at Nintendo games, fix the family PC (when I was the one studying computer architecture), and figure out why the car won't start in under five minutes. I didn't realize til much later that not all moms could do this—ours is just pretty special. I'm crossing my fingers that her cooking skills aren't a recessive gene and that it'll pop up in me at some point during my cooking experiment!
My shiny new set of Thomas Keller cookbooks includes Ad Hoc at Home and The French Laundry Cookbook. I joked that I should probably just leave the heavy The French Laundry Cookbook here in Seattle since there's zero chance of me ever being able to cook anything in it. But what the heck, I'll lug it back to New York and treat it like food porn—I can already picture myself leafing through the pages ... while eating a bowl of instant ramen.
Ad Hoc at Home will hopefully be put to good use. I'm pondering re-doing my five-course menu to do the entire meal based on the many amazing recipes in this book. It's chockfull of really good tips for home cooks and novices. In Chef Keller's own words, "No immersion circulator required. No complicated garnishes. I promise!" The book is so beautiful and the design so modern. I really love it.
Now that I have the book, I guess there's no turning back. Five-course meal, here I come!
For the longest time, the words "love" and "family" didn't go together in my mind.
Don't get me wrong. I absolutely love love LOVE my family (they seem quite fond of me too). But for far too long, "love" for me meant the romantic kind. My dad ruled with an iron fist when I was growing up and if I hadn't been such a rebellious little thing, I would not have had a boyfriend until I was 25. I don't resent this at all now that I'm older and a tad wiser. But growing up, "family" seemed to be the biggest barrier between myself and "true love." Oh the melodrama of youth.
It took going through heartbreak and being completely on my own for me to really appreciate the love that comes from family. They once jokingly called me "the loveless one" since I'm the only one here who's of age but not paired up. My little sister Katie, always wise beyond her years, said, "She isn't loveless. She has us." How true that is. They've loved me unconditionally through moments of brilliance and belligerence, whether I'm striving for great heights or just jumping off a plane like a crazy woman. I am truly blessed, and because I have them, I am happy and content this Christmas.
So to my beloved family who I know sneaks peeks in this blog every now and then to make sure I haven't done anything so crazy as to be illegal, I love you all very much. And to my dear friends and readers, I wish you all a Merry Christmas with lots and lots of that wonderful thing called love!
P.S. A little gift to give you the warm and fuzzies: the trailer of my favorite holiday movie, Love Actually. Enjoy!
I think the universe is plotting to get me back into the Bikram studio! I haven't been back in the heat since I completed the 30-day Bikram challenge last March. I literally have not done another pose since this standing bow-pulling pose on the right. A week after that picture was taken, I got the news that I'd gotten into the New York marathon and my active life was completely taken over by running since. But now that temperatures have dropped and I'm feeling tortured every time I have to get on the treadmill, going back into the hot room seems like a good idea. Today's Groupon makes it seem like an even better idea. Bikram Yoga Union Square's unlimited monthly $180 fee has been slashed to just $39! The only thing that's got me thinking is that it's only valid until June 27, 2011. With my crazy schedule, I'm not really sure when I can fit this month in. Sometimes I just wish I could clone myself!
If you've been looking to get into Bikram though, this is the perfect opportunity. Bikram Yoga Union Square is, bar none, the nicest Bikram studio in the city with a large hot room, great teachers, and the cleanest locker rooms and shower space. It can get a little crazy right after work but if you're a morning person or you don't mind taking the last class of the day, those classes are quite ideal. I personally love taking the first class of the day because there's never more than a dozen people in them and it's just an amazing way to start your day. Are you up for the challenge? Check out the deal here!
Silly, silly me ... I got so psyched up over the Coachella 2010 time-lapse video I saw yesterday that I failed to notice that tickets are, in fact, already available on layaway! It's a good thing my cousin Chik pointed that out because a) I wouldn't want to miss the festival because tickets sold out; and b) I can actually pay in installments with this option, which is awesome for my finances.
If you're looking to get a headstart on getting your Coachella tix, go to their website right now and get 'em while they're hot! You have the option of paying 10% or 50% now and the remainder in 3 installments. What I've gathered from research is that Coachella now only sells 3-day passes—no singles at all. That works for me since I want to get the full music fest experience!
Holy moly, I've got exactly five months left to cross off the rest of my list! I've got a lot of traveling to do! Here's what I have to look forward to in 2011:
The first destination on my calendar: Cancun for Chichen Itza-exploring, mezcal-chugging + worm-chowing, Español-unleashing and tan-retouching.
Then, New Orleans during Mardi Gras for bead-gathering, hurricane-guzzling and beignet-inhaling.
A long weekend in Cali to rock out at Coachella.
And the grand finale: a visit to the Motherland to swim in a volcano crater, spelunk into a cave and swim with whale sharks.
It's gonna be extremely tricky on the financial front but I'm hoping luck will throw me a few bones along the way. Failing that, I like ramen and Spam a lot, I've ceased to shop for myself, and I am ready to give up even more weekends and evenings to log in overtime work. The way I see it, money can always be earned but you can never get back time that's already passed you by. There aren't many times in one's life when it's okay to be a little irresponsible and follow your heart's desires. So I give myself five more months of living in the moment—after that, adulthood, take me away ...
For now though, I am a kid with eyes squeezed shut hoping I'm on Santa's nice list!
Avery: How is the cooking going? Posting the master menu yet?? I feel like a nervous mother hen. Munchie is all grown up.... Celine: Umm I just had Spam for dinner.
That was the last time I talked about "progress" on my mission to perfect a five-course gourmet meal. As much as I do love Spam (it's a Filipino thing, don't judge), I really shouldn't be saying such things anymore now that I'm practically 30. When I created this list, most of the things I set out to do were largely about making the most out of my fleeting youth. This is one is about growing up.
I'd like to perfect one great meal that I can serve in a grown-up dinner party without fearing my guests will end up starving or munching on pizza delivered at the last moment. So without further ado, here's the meal I've decided to master:
I welcome any constructive comments from people who actually know how to cook and construct menus since I pretty much just piled in dishes I love digging into during the winter. And of course, if any chefs would love to give me a lesson or two, I would be ecstatic for help. Do you have a trusty yet fabulous go-to meal when you need to impress? Tell us about it!
For now, I'm off to go be a good "customer". I am currently on Christmas vacation and my parents are on a mission to fatten me up. I can't complain.
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas surrounded by those you love!
I would guess that most people in my generation would answer yes to that question, recalling his moves in Fatboy Slim's music video for Weapon of Choice back in 2001.
As awesome as he was in that video, few probably know that Mr. Walken had some pretty sick moves back in the day. Last Sunday at the burlesque workshop, Jo Weldon called his performance in the movie Pennies from Heaven the best striptease ever done on film. I would have to agree.
Sheer genius! I have newfound respect for Mr. Walker after having seen this. Who knew?
Today Jo "Boobs" Weldon took my tassel-twirling virginity—and my life will never be the same again!
I entered the dance studio 10 minutes late and looking like a drowned rat after trekking through the pouring rain. But nothing shakes off the gloom and sprinkles on the glam like 6 full hours of burlesque with the fiery Jo Weldon. The Burlesque Movement Intensive workshop started with a brief background on how Jo got into the world of burlesque and the fascinating women she met along the way. It was amazing to hear her tell the stories firsthand after having read the book she penned, The Burlesque Handbook.
After the introduction, we got up on our feet and began learning the basics. Jo started us off with isolations and classic moves—the flick of a wrist, the thrust of a hip, the shimmy of a shoulder. Then came some sultry stage strutting, showgirl walking, and a lesson on the power of a deliberate pause.
Then came a section that elicited plenty of oohs and aahs: stripping out of street clothes. Jo asked us to pick a random thing that we wore that day, taught us some very saucy moves with them, and let each student do a mini performance stripping off her article of clothing. I thought I'd be shy about it but Jo is so funny and the other students so supportive that my hesitation just evaporated (plus, all I really had to "strip" off were a pair of gloves!). Jo had us in stitches when she said, matter-of-factly, "Don't play 'Stump the Stripper.' If something's difficult to take off, don't use it." She taught me a very interesting way of removing my leather driving gloves. I'm gonna have to restrain myself from doing it every time I walk into, say, a Starbucks from now on. My new favorite article of clothing, bar none, has become the humble hoodie after Miss Weldon blew us away with all the sexy things that can be done with it. After learning these moves, it might take me half an hour to remove all my winter layers when I get in the front door ...
The next part of the class was just as fun: the Chair Dance. Not to be confused with a lap dance, this was a demonstration on how to perform using the chair as a prop onstage. I've been fascinated with chair dances since my cheerleading and jazz dancing days, when I would spend hours studying Janet Jackson's music videos and gasp at the cool things she could do with a chair. Today we learned a softer, more seductive way of dancing on and around a chair, and it loads of fun.
Then came a part I'd been looking forward to: the glove peel. One of the things that captured my fascination the first time I watched a burlesque show was how scintillating the simple removal of an opera glove could be. So we all got to don classic satin gloves and learn how to take them off in ways I'd never thought of before. After that, we moved on to feather boas—how to drape them, caress them, pull them off, and fling them away. I think it's amazing that in this day and age, the simple reveal of an elbow or a collarbone can still cause a spark!
Afterwards, it was time to learn a full routine incorporating the moves we had learned. We got a hysterical mini burlesque history lesson when Jo taught us some bump and grinds that she learned from famous old school burlesque performers—with the dirtiest move coming from a particularly feisty 80-year-old! And then the class spiraled to its climax. We learned the bra straptease and minutes after, Jo brought out those fascinating things called pasties. I'm not talking about empanadas here. If you don't know what they are, think back on Janet Jackson's Superbowl costume "malfunction"—that star that conveniently covered her nip is what's called a pastie. In burlesque, many performers use them and do amazing things with the variety with tassels attached. There was a brief moment of hesitation all around once we each had a pair in our hands ... and then one girl said, "Well, I guess we're making new friends today." At that we all just laughed, shed our inhibitions (and then some), and slapped on those tasseled little things. I won't go into too much detail but suffice it to say that the moment when we all found ourselves twirling our tassels and gave out a collective shriek of glee will forever be etched as a beautiful memory in my mind.
I had the grandest time today and I am so glad to have finally taken a burlesque class. I can't really say if I'll ever go up on stage and perform, but I do know that today's class was a big step in owning my femininity and sensuality. Once you learn some burlesque, I think it stays with you, adding a swing to your step and leaving some grand music playing in your head. I had so much fun crossing this off my list—but I have a funny feeling that there is an ellipsis at the end of it. This may not be the last foray I'll have into the world of burlesque. I still have to learn how to fan dance after all ...
Thank you so much to Ms. Jo "Boobs" Weldon for an amazing workshop! You're a goddess!
A special shout out goes to Tamara of What Comes Before 32, a fellow bucket lister whom I've gotten to know through the blogosphere and Twitter. We ended up in the same class by sheer coincidence today. So great to finally meet you and good luck with the rest of your list!
Ever wonder what it would be like to hear a great song go on in a club, watch the crowd get pumped up to it, and then realize that it's your song everyone's dancing to? It's a pretty awesome dream and I've fantasized about it for a long time. This is pretty much what got #21 on my list: Record a song.
For my friend, pop singer Telihana, the dream has turned into reality. In the past year, Belgian urban music producers Bionix have taken her under their wing, leading to some exciting collaborations. Telihana recently recorded and shot a slick music video for her single "Party All Night", and her catchy dance tune is now available on iTunes.
So how about we let Teli talk about what it's really like to record a song and have life snowball from there?
So tell me ... what is it really like to record a song?
FUN! Everytime I'm in front of the mic, I can't stop smiling—though I have to say it makes me a little nervous. With your mouth in front of equipment used by the pros, in a studio where award winning songs were created ... takes a little bit to get used to! But it's amazing. Takes time though to get things perfect (we're often in the studio for full full days) but the results are incredibly satisfying.
How would you describe the sound of Telihana?
Fun, flirty beats and lyrics; music made to dance and move to!
I always aim for a positive vibe—think BEP mixed with Gwen Stefani ...
Lyrics are straightforward because of target of an international audience—I want everyone to be able to understand and relate as much as possible with the songs.
Well, it's only fitting since you're very international: part Belgian, part Chinese, and growing up in the US, Australia and Italy to boot. Speaking of which, what were you like growing up? Is this something you've always wanted to do?
I have always loved singing. We used to put on shows in the summertime when I was only 5 years old, and I was on a real stage for the first time in 1st grade with the lead in the school play. I had my first professional job when I was 14 singing in a musical in a nearby town and by 17 I was singing the national anthem in front of 5000 people at baseball games. I loved it. I took a musical hiatus during my University years but got back into it when I moved here to Belgium. I feel so fortunate to be able to do something I love again! Being a singer, an entertainer ... it has always been a childhood dream.
Apart from being Telihana, you're also a pretty serious businesswoman who's constantly jetting around the world. Most people would find it hard to break from something that's so lucrative to pursue something they love. So what made you decide to go after this? At what point did it go from singing for fun to singing for real?
The turning point was sharp. When I began working with talent whom I utterly respected and who believe in me, there was a decision to be made. I worked hard, but now they're going to work hard with me ... It was thrilling! So as a result, the bar was set higher, the goal made bigger and my dreams became clearer. All of a sudden I had to ask myself: 'If this takes off, am I ready to give up everything for it?' The answer was a definite 'yes'.
Telihana at a summer festival in Paris, in the Champs de Mars
Describe what it was like hearing one of your songs played in public for the first time.
It was at a summer festival in 2009 - Amazing! Watching the crowd groove to it and the DJ nodding his to the beat. It was surreal! The weather, the mood ... everything was just perfect. I'll never forget it. First time the tracks were on the radio I beamed too ... my friends were texting me 'I just heard you on the radio!' or calling me from the taxis to say 'I had the driver turn up the volume to 100%!' Haha! Unforgettable ...
Your friends will agree that you are a total type A personality. What can I say, birds of a feather and all that! When you're wearing your "business woman" hat, you're used to calling the shots and being in control. When you put on the "pop singer" hat, do you take the same approach?
I wouldn't say there's too much that changes—apart from higher heels and more bling! In the music industry I still have a lot to learn, as in the business world. Though once I feel confident with a concept, I'll make sure it's done the way it should be. Which is, again, the same in both worlds. Yes ... I think my approach stays relatively the same. I'm always very hands on and I'm always asking (sometimes too often), "Why?"
Haha and yes you know me, Celine! I like being in control, but if you're asking ... I'm no diva! Or at least not any more than I was before I started singing ... haha!
What's a day in Telihana's life like?
A typical day would be something like: morning gym; desk time—meaning anything and everything that needs to be done on the computer, then music/studio around 5/6 till late. Weekends saved for the social life! (Balance and 'Carpe Diem'—I use whichever one motivates me more at the moment)
Funny thing is that this routine could happen in several different cities in the world...
What has been the most exciting Telihana moment so far?
First thing that comes to mind I can't tell you about yet ... have to wait a little and you'll see/hear! Honestly, besides the shows, radio, etc ... one of my favorite moments is shaking Will.i.am's hand early in my career and saying 'Yes, I'm an artist.'
What inspires and motivates you to make music?
I believe that our lives have soundtracks. Days, seasons, years, parties—songs bring us back! I want to be a part of that. I want to make music that'll remind people of an amazing summer, an unforgettable guy, a wild trip they took, etc ... To be able to bring a smile to someone's face as soon as they hear the beginning of the beat. I want that. The soundtrack of your life ... once it's written you can't replace it.
What would people be surprised to find out about you?
I am an avid martial artist. Started when I was 12 and studied through different genres (karate, jujistu, MMA, kickboxing). In competition I have a few wins under my (black) belt including vice-champion of Belgium in kickboxing in 2008. In sports, nothing compares! I just love it.
What have you got in store for your listeners for 2011?
Lots! The official EP should be ready in beginning of summer 2011. Expect more upbeat, fun, dance tracks to fill up the summer playlists ... Can't wait to show everyone what we've been working on.
My own dreams of recording a song are far more humble than what Telihana has already achieved. But I think it's pretty inspiring to see this person with enough willpower to follow her dreams—and to see her at the brink of achieving them. She shows no signs of stopping next year, when she's got a mini Aussie tour through five cities scheduled, two more videos in the works, and representing the Asians for Chinese New Year at Noxx in Belgium! I'm looking forward to seeing where life takes Teli next.