Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Dog Days Are Over

I really, badly want this to be my go-to karaoke song. It's gonna take a lot of vocalization and practice. And even then, I would probably still suck. But it is so bloody awesome.
Try singing along with it! Such a blast ...

Dog Days Are Over
by Florence + The Machine

Happiness hit her like a train on a track
Coming towards her, stuck still, no turning back
She hid around corners and she hid under beds
She killed it with kisses and from it she fled
With every bubble she sank with a drink
And washed it away down the kitchen sink

The dog days are over
The dog days are done
The horses are comin' so you better run

Run fast for your mother; run fast for your father
Run for your children all your sisters and brothers
Leave all your love and your longing behind.
You can't carry it with you if you want to survive

The dog days are over
The dog days are done
Can you hear the horses
'Cos here they come

And I never wanted
anything from you
everything you had
And what was left after that too ... Oh!

Happiness hit her like a bullet in the back
Struck from a great height
By someone who should have known better than that

The dog days are over
The dog days are done
Can you hear the horses
'Cos here they come

Run fast for your mother run fast for your father
Run for your children all your sisters and brothers
Leave all your love and your longing behind
You can't carry it with you if you want to survive

The dog days are over
The dog days are done
Can you hear the horses
'Cos here they come

The dog days are over
The dog days are done
The horses are comin'
So you'd better run

The dog days and over
The dog days are done
The horses are comin'
So you'd better run


Thursday, January 27, 2011

I'm going to do the thing you're not supposed to do ...

... I'm going to change something on my 30 Before 30 List.
Before you shout, "Cop Out!" let me explain. I'm not changing this one thing because it's impossible to do. I know how to make it happen but I haven't been too excited by the thought of it lately ... and the truth is, something else came to mind and I want it on my list quite badly. It's a pretty trivial thing but it is so in tune with my personality, relevant to my Filipino culture ... and well, it would just be so much fun trying to check it off my list with all my friends! So here goes, I'm making it official:

21. Record a song.
21. Find my go-to karaoke song.
This is me at a bar in Charlottesville belting out Borderline—my go-to song when I was 3. 
Help me find a new one before I turn 30!

If you're Filipino or good friends with someone who is, you would know that we LOVE us some karaoke. The Philippines is a country that takes karaoke so damn seriously that men have been shot over terrible renditions of Frank Sinatra's My Way (see this New York Times article on the infamous "My Way Killings" if you find that hard to believe). In the last decade, at least 6 deaths have been attributed to fights that broke out due to someone butchering My Way. Filipinos do not mess around when it comes to karaoke.

I've loved karaoke since I was a 3-year-old not much taller than our "minus one" machine, torturing family members with repeated renditions of Somewhere Out There and Borderline. But somehow, I never found a go-to song between then and now.

The thing is, finding a go-to karaoke song is not as easy as it sounds.
  1. You have to find something that's within your voice range. That cancels out a lot right there because I am neither Beyonce nor Mariah Carey. This is the main reason why Somewhere Out There and Borderline don't cut it anymore.
  2. The song has to go with your look and vibe. It's easy enough for me to sing, say, You Know I'm No Good by Amy Winehouse. But it doesn't feel right; it's like putting on ill-fitting leather pants or a temporary tattoo. I think a certain bad-ass quality is necessary to belt out some Amy Winehouse, and I just don't have it. Feigned innocence is more my style ...
  3. If you want to get the crowd behind you, it's gotta be FUN. It has to be a crowd-pleaser, something everyone wants to sing along with! 
So here goes, I'm adding the karaoke song quest to my list and will be hitting up the karaoke bars in NYC and in Manila on a mission to cross this off my list. It's gonna be fun!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Guest Post: Saturn Return by Katrina Holigores

I distinctly recall the first time  I heard the words "Saturn Return."  I was a bright-eyed 24-year-old living in Manila, slaving away in  the publishing industry.  My dearest friend Katrina Holigores and I were driving back to our neighborhood when she described this astrological phenomenon that hits people when they're between the ages of 27 and 30. I listened with fascination but took it with a grain of salt. I mean, sheesh, 30 sounds AGES away when you're 24 and when have I ever paid attention to astrology anyway? Fast forward to 2009 when my world suddenly unraveled and big lessons were hurled at me with the delicacy of a quarterback throwing a Hail Mary pass. I thought back on that afternoon when Katrina gave me my first lesson in Saturn Return, shook my head and muttered, "Damn, she was right."

So I've asked Katrina to write a guest post on Saturn Return. This post may give you a lightbulb moment—or at the very least, assure you that the madness of Saturn Return is a normal occurrence and you do not need to get committed to an asylum just yet. Katrina is a wonderful writer with serious publishing credentials, and she writes a regular column in The Philippine Star and a gem of a blog called Soul Train. I hope you will take a look at her blog and articles and learn from her as I have throughout the years.

Saturn Return is, indeed, a difficult and confusing time. But as someone who can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel, I assure you that this too will pass, and if you learn your lessons well, you will come out of it far stronger, better and, dare I say, happier than when you started.  So buckle up and enjoy the ride!


Saturn Return
By Katrina Holigores

THIRTY. The number seems to strike fear, dread and anxiety in most people. Male or female, one should have, must have, done this, bought that, had this, reached here, gone there etc. When the late 20's hit, there is a maniacal assessment of one's social, financial, physical, economic and even spiritual station in life. Being past 30, I look bemusedly and with much sympathy at those who are going through what I once was. Unlike many of my peers, I was actually looking forward to hitting the Big 3-0. Not because I was right on track with everything I wanted to achieve, but because of a little known planetary pattern that astrologers have come to call "The Saturn Return."

The what? The Saturn Return, and yes I am referring to the original Lord of the Rings (sorry Tolkien) and it's "return." To be more specific, the first time Saturn completes its cycle through your birth chart and returns to the spot it occupied when you were born. Without getting too technical, Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest in diameter in astronomical terms, but it is known as "The Great Teacher" in astrological ones. It completes a cycle approximately once every 29 years, and its energies are believed to be the cause of why those years approaching 30 seem so messed up!!

If you are 30 and over, look back at your life between the ages of 27 1/2 to 29 1/2, if you are between 27-30 or are close to someone who is, stop and read this, please. I can assure you that it's not going to be a sermon, and you can of course come to your own conclusions and use this to train your dog. But, if it does spark an "Oh man, so THAT'S why....?!!" reaction, then do more research on The Saturn Return because it doesn't just come once, but even thrice in a lifetime. The last cycle may catch you at 87, and honey, you had better have learned the lessons by then, or you are going to be one cantankerous old goat! Although a surly 28-year-old or 58-year-old is still pretty unpleasant.

What exactly happens during the ages of 27-30? Hmmm, why don't you tell me? Perhaps you're in a relationship now. Everything is blissful, perfect ... and yet ... you just want to be left ALONE, your partner doesn't UNDERSTAND you, you feel like you don't know whether to STAY or LEAVE. How about work? Normally you're content but all of a sudden there are other offers or major changes abound. You feel you're being pulled in all directions, the career path you've chosen is unfulfilling, your colleagues or your business partner PISS YOU OFF, or worse, you have just decided that life behind a desk is hell compared to making beaded underwear for a living. But so what? Life is nothing if one is not happy right?

Basically, as a whole, you're going nuts. The normal you is almost unrecognizable. Your family, colleagues, romantic partner and friends see you turning into something different—and they're right. Saturn asks you to "break" old patterns in your life, in order to sit your ass down, look you in the eye and say "Grow up, or get out."

True adulthood and wisdom are obligatory, because Saturn strips away illusions and points out limitations, allowing you to view yourself in a harsh, often unflattering light. At the same time, it endows you with prudence, practicality, and the perseverance to work hard toward achieving your purposes. When friends who are 27-30 or are dating someone of that age ask me advice about their current relationship (especially when it involves marriage) I shake my head and tell them to WAIT the period out.

But why, why, why? You moan. Because what is normally begun during this period is not long lasting. Relationships that have withstood distances, parental disapproval, racial and religious differences can fall flat when one goes through this period. The people and situations that enter your life in this season are literally being "used" by the Universe to teach YOU a lesson. You may even befriend someone suddenly who has recently passed a Saturn Return, because they know "exactly how you feel" even on a subconscious level.

If you, on the other hand have a friend who is going through his or her return, then you have to be the patient and understanding one. It is not an easy time. They'll be a little psycho—and trust me, so were you (ask your older friends or relatives). Sadly, 28-29 is the age when most suicides occur, because instead of growing up, the individual gives up.

Ok, wait, wait, wait, before you decide that this article stinks and you had been better off reading about the latest vote off on American Idol hear me out. There is good news ... this phase is temporary, and it's always for the best, because that is what change is for: the chance to renew, to rediscover and to recreate the path. This is meant for your absolute peace of mind and peace of heart.

Saturn brings to your attention what is important to you, to fill a void. Think of Saturn as that teacher you had in school, the one who was super strict but knew his stuff so even if the lessons were hard, you learned from him the most. That's what this planet is attempting to do with you, and it is a worthwhile education.

So what now? Should you dump the person, friend or career if it is indeed occurring during your Saturn Return? That is up to you. Let me clarify that the life lessons you have to endure are directly correlated to the quality of life you have lived during your 29 years. If you learn the lessons quickly and take them to heart then the dramas won't be as dramatic. Know this: If you truly, truly love who you are with and what you are doing, then this is just a bump on the road. And when you hit your 30s you can, like me, look back with a smile and say "Phew! Thanks for the lesson!" See you again in 29 years.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Coachella 2011 lineup's gone public!

New York is in the throes of a thoroughly depressing winter. Work is kicking my ass. And life is being generally frustrating.

So I needed this. I really freaking needed this. Thank you, Coachella, for coming through. Check out the truly beautiful lineup for Coachella 2011 that brought a crack of sunshine into my otherwise gloomy day:
I won't pretend that I have über cool taste in music. My taste is best described as mainstream with occasional blips of cool absorbed by osmosis from way more music-savvy friends. But even I'm pretty stoked with the lineup. When I added "Rock out at a music festival" to my list, Kings of Leon provided the soundtrack to my daydreams. So it is literally my dream come true to have this band top bill Coachella. In addition to Kings of Leon, there's Robyn, Empire of the Sun, KANYE WEST (sorry, I couldn't resist hitting the all caps key), Duran freakin' Duran, The Strokes, Lauryn Hill,  Paul Van Dyk and Afrojack providing scrumptious icing on top of this cake of pure awesomeness.

I am soooo excited! If you're planning on getting in on the action, tickets are already available on layaway at the Coachella website. Get it!!!

Meanwhile, I'm gonna get started on a Coachella playlist to get through the winter doldrums and get a nice build-up to the festival going. Would you be the cool blips on my music radar and give me a heads up on your favorite songs by the performers in the lineup? Have you been to Coachella before and are just brimming with tips? Leave me a comment—I would love to hear from you!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Scallop-Searing 101

Last Friday, I got one step closer to crossing off #6 on my list: Master cooking up a five-course gourmet meal. It was the ideal scenario: my surrogate New York parents, Bads and Bong, invited a few friends over for a potluck dinner during what we thought would be a mini snowstorm. I took the opportunity to learn one course while holed up in an apartment with some chefs and captive diners.

Friends had a lot of different suggestions on where to go for good scallops in New York. In the end, I went with the wise words of my foodie friend Buddha who said, "If you can't tell if the scallops are fresh, just do Whole Foods." So off to Whole Foods Tribeca I went for a dozen of these beauties:
After shopping, I ran over to the Perezes where my teachers were waiting. You may recognize Mitch, the sexy pastry chef who guided me through the Molten Chocolate Magic-making session last June. Anton, who has worked in the kitchens of Buddakan and Tabla, got the doubtful privilege of being my scallop-searing guru.
He declared my store-bought scallops very fresh, and said all they needed was salt, pepper, butter, lemon and good loving (I may have made up the last bit). "When you have really good ingredients, you don't need to mess with them," he said. Fair enough. The less I do, the lower my chances of totally screwing up! 

Since no tip is ever too basic for a clueless pseudo-cook like me, Anton generously dispensed them. Always salt with your hands. Only cook a few scallops at a time because you lower the heat in the pan every time you add something in. No, you don't need to buy a cast iron pan to do this. And my favorite: Put seafood into the pan in a forward motion so that the oil doesn't splatter towards you.  Why yes, I do prefer the skin on my forearms blister-free, thank you for noticing, Chef Anton. He did one round of searing and basting for me to observe ...
... and then it was my turn. I managed to put the scallops in the pan without searing an arm. And I actually quite enjoyed basting scallops, though I'm not sure  I still remember what perfectly scallops are supposed to feel like to the touch. What I do remember is that it's okay to cook scallops a little bit under. I can work with that. With Anton's guidance (and my constant, neurotic stream of questions), I somehow got through the entire process without hurting anyone or having to throw scallops into the trash. Based on that criteria, I deem our scallop-searing session a great success.
Et voilà! The finished product:
Pretty exciting to try out one more course for my soon-to-be-epic five-course meal! The true test, of course, comes when I attempt to pull this off on my own. God-willing, there'll be a few more snowstorms in the next couple of months so I can corner some people into being my guinea pigs!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Hello 2011

It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me
... and I'm feeling good."

I started 2011 with a beautiful sunrise.

My plane landed in John F. Kennedy Airport at the ungodly hour of 6AM and I hadn't had a wink of sleep. I should not have been feeling good at all. But seeing such a beautiful sunrise at the start of a new year seemed to me like an omen of really good things to come.

There's something about the start of a new year that gives everyone a feeling that anything is possible. We all get a clean slate, a fresh set of 365 days to seize!

I think a little bit of inspiration would go really well with that carpe diem mindset.

Now, I don't know about you guys but after two full weeks of having all the time in the world to blog and work on writing projects, I'm kind of sick of my story. So on this beautiful new day, how about I point you towards a few of my favorite bloggers to read when I need a kick in the butt? A cool thing I discovered in the process of writing this blog is that there is a community of people out there who've made it their life's mission to squeeze the pulp out of life—and do it on their own terms.

In this day and age when people are so desperate for motivation that sex scandal-mired celebrities and all-around hot messes have become role models, it's more important than ever to find real people with a great outlook on life and good old gumption to provide us with real inspiration. They're real people, not much different from us, who've decided to demand something out of the ordinary from life. If, like me, you're looking for that type of inspiration, here are three awesome blogs that I turn to for a good inspiration on a regular basis:

If You Never Did, You Should
Jodi Sagurin was the first blogger I discovered among this league of extraordinary people, and to this day I get constant inspiration from her. When I first started reading her blog, I got hooked with her regular suggestions of things that you should try if you haven't already. I'm not talking "If you've never had a McRib, you should." While it's not out of the realm of possibility that she'll point you towards a McDonald's, you're more likely to find Jodi suggesting you bungee-jump or leave a comfy California life to volunteer for a month in India. These days, her blog has expanded to include interviews with other adventurers and motivational posts encouraging you to follow your passion.

The Art of Audacity
I found this blog through Jodi, and after reading one post I immediately knew that Lach and I are from similar schools of thought (our propensity to jump off airplanes might have something to do with that belief). The message of this blog: "Smash fear. Think big. Live remarkably." It is one of the most well-written blogs I've seen, with great prose combined with really helpful content. One of my favorite posts of his is called How to Avoid Death Bed Regrets—and I swear on my New York walk-in closet (gasp!) that it's not because he mentions me in it. I am just very appreciative of people who are willing to share large chunks of their life, even things that may be utterly personal and possibly unpleasant, in order to lead others to a profound truth. If you've liked what you've read on my blog so far, this particular post that Lach wrote will surely resonate with you.

The Art of Non-Conformity
It would be easy to hate Chris Guillebeau. He makes a living blogging while traveling the world to reach his goal of going to every single country in the world before he turns 35. Say it with me ... I want that gig! But how can you hate a guy who is more than willing to share how he did it for a grand total of $0? His beautifully designed and well-written guides 279 Days to Overnight Success and A Brief Guide to World Domination now reside permanently on my desktop, and are must-reads for bloggers who would like to get heard. But you need not be a blogger to benefit from his ballsy, non-conformist approach to life.

There are many more inspirational blogs out there that I will share with you in due time—but let's keep it at my three favorites for today, shall we? It's the first day of the year after all, so read and get inspired, but most importantly LIVE!

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