It’s Christmas morning and the house is quiet and still. Zoe and her dad are still in dreamland, exhausted from last night’s revelry. I’m making the most of what precious time I have. And now she’s awake…that’s 10 minutes of peace and quiet for me. Merry Christmas to all!
A friend gave me a dough that was believed to have come from the Vatican and is said to be the Holy Bread of Padre Pio. Of course, I was skeptic from day one but agreed to “take care” of the dough for 10 days before actually baking it because I was curious on how it tastes and I’ve been wanting to learn how to bake a bread. According to the instructions that came with the dough, “the bread is called Hemin. On the 10th day you must give it to other good people. You cannot refuse the bread once it is given to you, and you can only use a wooden spoon.” At the end of the instructions was a reminder that I am only allowed to make this Hemin bread once in my lifetime. The first two days were easy because I wasn’t supposed to do anything with it, just leave it in a glass bowl in room temperature covered with Glad wrap. On the third and fourth days, I had to mix the dough once with a wooden spoon. Mind you, I even rushed to buy a wooden spoon because I intended to follow everything and do everything right. I knew that baking was all math and everything just had to be exact, which is why I shun baking. I prefer cooking because I can cook with reckless abandon and if the dish fails, there is almost always a way to remedy it. With baking, you have no choice but to follow the recipe to the last teaspoon of flour, and I hate that. But here I am, trying my very best to make bread out of a dough. On the fifth day, I added a cup of milk, 2 cups of flour, and a cup of sugar to the mixture. Again, I let the dough sit on the sixth to ninth days by just mixing the dough once with a wooden spoon each day. On the 10th day, I had to add flour, sugar, and milk again, and divide the dough into four equal portions. Three of the portions are to be given away to other people. The fourth portion is to be baked and shared by the family. In the middle of my 10 days as dough-sitter, I found out that this “holy bread” was a fake and there was no bread at all that came from The Vatican or from Padre Pio. Of course! How silly of me to believe that The Vatican would circulate such a thing! It was just like a chain letter, but this time the propagators ran out of paper and decided to use dough instead! I also found out that this is called the Friendship Amish Bread because it has Amish starter yeast in it or something like that. I really wish they just called this bread by what it really is instead of fooling people to believe that it is some sort of “holy” bread. I still went on with caring for the dough despite being fooled because, well, I love bread and I wanted to know how the bread would turn out. Two of my friends, who I informed in advance to be the lucky recipients of my dough, already knew it wasn’t a holy bread but they still want their share because, like me, they wanna try it out, not for the sake of good luck but for the sake of good food. My husband gets in a laughing fit everytime he remembers the many people, me included, who have been had by this bread many have claimed to be holy. Others might have prayed over it, or worse, thought it was a cure to all their misery and ailments. On the 10th and last day, I added eggs, milk, sugar, and baking powder to the mixture. I didn’t have a loaf pan so I baked the dough in a round cake pan instead. I sprinkled ground cinnamon on top for added flavor. The bread looked enticing and it tasted more of a cake than a bread, though not the moist type. It actually felt like butter or rhum cake without the butter or the rhum. Had I known it was gonna turn out this way, I would have added vanilla, rhum flavoring, or even instant coffee! This bread is the crumby-type that would taste really good with ice cream on top of it or when eaten with a cup of good coffee. My husband found the bread’s yeasty taste confusing, but Zoe loved it. She wanted more of “mommy’s bread.” Even Bailey, our pet, asked for more. Bailey would follow Zoe around the house, smelling the bread Zoe was holding. Zoe, ever the naughty one, would walk away from Bailey, aware that Bailey would follow her wherever she went. In the end, Zoe was kind enough to give Bailey her bread, although her only intention was to let Bailey smell her bread. My husband took a picture of “Mommy’s Bread” after Zoe and Bailey already got their slice and I’m sharing it with you in case you’re curious.
I’m done with baking breads for now. My love for bread is not enough for me to do the baking. I’m not patient enough to do the measuring and mixing and waiting. Perhaps when I get the calling, I will change my mind and learn how to bake. There’s still a few of Mommy’s Bread at home and I’m cherishing the moment that Zoe is asking for more. After the bread has been eaten and all that’s left are crumbs, Zoe has to be content with getting her bread from the good ol’ panaderia or the neighborhood bakeshop, but I do hope that she’ll remember that her mommy baked bread for her once in her lifetime.
It’s exactly a week to go till Christmas. Are you done with your shopping? A friend of mine asked me this question a few nights ago and my husband replied for me, “What done with her shopping? She’s never done with her shopping, she shops the whole-year round!” I have to admit that he knows me sooo well. But before you think I’m a shopaholic who wipes off my man’s credit card in the blink of an eye, I’m sure you’ll all agree that we women just love bargains…and we know a good sale when we see one. I have so many lines ready to reason with my rational mind: it might be the last time they would put this on sale; heaven forbid, I might not sleep if I deprive myself of these shoes, worst, I might dream about it; I deserve it; I will not find this item anywhere else; and lastly, this top looks good on me. My husband has gone shopping with me many times and, I believe, has psyched himself over and over again that he will survive another day in the “wild.” I remember our first trip to the Bulacan Garments Sale. It was a warehouse full of clothes at affordable prices all screaming “buy me, buy me!” My husband was amused at seeing the women, soul sisters all, with a twinkle in their eyes, shopping like there’s no tomorrow. I bought enough stuff which I said and promised to last me a year, but I’ve eaten my words already because in a few months, another sale came up, and again, I bought enough clothes to last me another year. And now the Christmas season is up and running AND there are bazaars everywhere which happen only ONCE A YEAR! So I’m at it again, going to one bazaar after the other. I passed up on the Karl Edward Bazaar at The Fort because this bazaar I can visit even after the holidays are over. But I enjoy going here and I’ve also met some sukis through the years. I was just disappointed the last time I went (mid-September) because there were lots of stalls selling fake LeSportSac bags. Fine, they may even pass for the real thing but the fact is, they aren’t, and they should be better off sold somewhere else, not in this bazaar that has already built a good reputation.
The bazaar I have been waiting for for the longest time was the St. James the Great Bazaar in Alabang. For the past years, it has gathered a following because of its many great finds you cannot see anywhere else. Sadly, this year was a disappointment. The aisles were just too narrow, the organizers should have posted one-way signs for them, and what’s with all the accessories? I have never been an accessory/jewellery person, but I’ve always admired them on display. In fact, I have even bought myself some chunky beaded necklace, trying to convince myself that it looks smart on me even if its weight bothers me, only to store it in a box I hardly open. But the accessories being sold that day on the bazaar were overwhelming! There were stalls and more stalls selling almost the same thing. Even the clothes being sold all looked alike. I think the screening committee was just too lax this year. Now I’m having second thoughs of going to next year’s bazaar.
The bazaar I’ve enjoyed going to this December was the Bantay Bata World Trade Bazaar. We brought Zoe along with us and she enjoyed it as much as we did. There was a “real” Santa Claus on duty, eager to pose for the camera and greet the kids. Zoe was speechless, she couldn’t believe that she was seeing Santa in person. There were also lots of Santa and Christmas decors for sale. The mood was festive. There were enough stalls with different goods to sell and there were great bargains. The food, though, was a tad bit pricey. Imagine, Purefoods hotdog-on-stick being sold for Php45! Overall, I had a great time but we were kinda in a hurry so I vowed to return some other day. I went back to the bazaar yesterday, their last day. I decided to go by myself this time and leave Zoe at home, which was a wise decision when I saw the crowd. The place was pretty crowded but you could still easily maneuver yourself through the aisles. Because there was airconditioning, it was still quite comfortable. A lot of stalls were selling everything for Php100. I had a great time just being there where the action was and went home giddy and satisfied.
Divisoria, of course, is still the best bargain center of all. Where else can you find everything but here? However, Divisoria is not for the faint-hearted, and getting there is, in itself, a challenge because of the traffic you have to endure, not to mention the stress you get in finding a parking space. But the thrill you get in finding the cheapest items and in haggling for the best price makes the trip to Divi so worth it.
Shopping IS fun, especially come Christmas time when you get to shop for others aside from yourself and your family. It becomes special when you spend time thinking of the person you’ll be giving the gift to and wondering what would bring a smile on his or her face. I don’t consider myself a Christmas person in the commercial sense of the word. In fact, I’m one of those people who cringe at all the gifts that need to be given and received for the sake of the Christmas spirit. I feel that we’re missing the point. We’re so caught up in the flurry of activities (gifts to wrap, what to cook, what to wear) that we kinda forget to prepare ourselves for His coming. How many of us can just be happy in celebrating Christ’s birthday and in welcoming Him into our hearts? How many of us say a silent prayer of thanksgiving for the abundance we’ve received this year? They say Christmas is for kids, and I agree. I just hope that our kids know why there is a Christmas. My daughter Zoe believes it’s Santa’s birthday on Christmas. I can’t blame her though because Santa is everywhere. Frosty the Snowman comes close. We’re trying to open her eyes to the truth and, slowly, she has come to notice Baby Jesus in the belen that we have at home. The belen, for me, symbolizes Christmas more than the Christmas tree, and I wish every home could have one. I have seen The Nativity Story and I recommend it to everyone. There’s nothing new, really. No controversies a la The Da Vinci Code, just the story of Jesus born in the manger, and we know this story already, but it is a story that we can relive over and over again because it is real and true. This is one movie where I wished there were long lines and the theater was full. Sadly, the scene wasn’t like that at all. The people were all lining up to see Happy Feet instead (I know this is a great movie, too).
In our last year’s trip to Baguio, we noticed a sign hanging on the Baguio Cathedral’s doorway. It read, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” I felt a tug in my heart when I read it. After all the shopping frenzy brought about by the holidays and the frantic preparation for the family gatherings we have to go to, I hope we can all have a meaningful Christmas by welcoming Christ into our homes and remembering the reason we celebrate Christmas.
Let me tell you a secret—I sleep like a log. Yup, I guess I’ve been sleeping alone for the longest time, so when my husband came along, I just wasn’t used to having someone in bed beside me, skin to skin, limb over limb. Sure, I can snuggle, but only when I’m wide awake or, perhaps, half-asleep. When it’s serious sleeping we’re talking about, I’d rather hug my pillow or turn the other way. My husband would always tease me about this. The teasing got stronger now that Zoe co-sleeps with us because Zoe has inherited her father’s knack for snuggling. She sleeps with one leg over her dad’s, an arm over my body, or whatever suits her fancy. Sometimes she would even sleep on top of me! She doesn’t mind if her dad would wrap his heavy leg around her tiny body. It is only me who objects to this act of endearment for fear that my husband, all 160 pounds of him (Hunny, if you’re reading this you better thank me for keeping your old weight even if the scale says otherwise!), would squish her bones in the wrong places. I would let out a holler whenever the two would gang up on me and snuggle me to death. My husband would ask me if I belong to their tribe, treating me like some alien from outer space. Each time this happens I try to come up with some sort of rational explanation even to a point that I would demonstrate how I would want to be snuggled. But my husband would just let out a sarcastic laugh and blatantly tell me that what I want is not snuggling at all. “You don’t know, eh,” he would say humorously and I would feel so left out all over again. Some nights I would give in to the twisting limbs but wake up the following morning complaining of a backache. It’s just not me. Or is it?
My husband is out tonight on a drinking binge with some old friends and I am wide awake at 3 a.m. As much as I hate to admit it, I miss him and his snuggling dearly, even if I know he’ll be home before the sun rises. He doesn’t go out that often and I’ve gotten used to having him around and seeing him before I go to sleep. So on the few occasions that he’s out, I end up staying awake, awaiting his return. I sent him a text message letting him know that I’m still wide awake and that I’m just too used to having him asleep beside me. And he texted back with a smiley, “Now you know.” Yeah, I think I do : )
The homemaker in me was dying to try something new in the kitchen. There was leftover Vigan longganisa that’s too few to fry so I thought of whipping up an easy pasta dish. All you have to do is to saute lots of minced garlic in olive oil and a little butter. Add a few tomatoes (for me this is optional). Add the longganisa with the casing/skin removed; it’s supposed to look a lot like ground pork. Add red bell pepper sliced in strips. The more the merrier. Lastly, add the cooked pasta linguine. Season with salt, pepper, dried basil, and parmesan cheese. Garnish with parsley or kinchay.
Zoe turned 2 years old yesterday. We started her special day by waking her up to hear the 6 am mass. I tell you, Zoe is not and has never been a morning person, so waking her up that early was a much-dreaded task. We didn’t want to spoil her day but we had to disturb her at such an ungodly hour. Surprisingly, Zoe was as gracious as can be. There were a few grunts and leg kicking, but overall, she was cooperative, as if she knew it was her special day and she has to be in her best behavior, even if that means waking up before sunrise. She was quiet at church, just sitting with us on the pew most of the time, although she did ask her dad to roam around with her during the homily part, not that she was listening to the homily, haha. After mass we headed home and I cooked egg noodles (aka misua) with ground pork and patola for breakfast. Zoe ate her birthday noodles and after a few minutes more of pretending to be a morning person, she demanded to be put back to sleep by saying in her i-need-you-here-right-now voice, “Mommmy dede!” I, of course, happily obliged the birthday girl to her favorite milk and went back to sleep with her. As you may now know, I also am not a morning person…after all, I am my daughter’s mother (haha). I woke up with my husband taking a picture of me and Zoe, the Sleeping Duo as he fondly calls us. My husband just loves taking pictures of me at my horrid best—asleep with my mouth open, saliva drooling from my mouth, with Zoe positioned horizontally over my breast and suckling the way puppies and piglets do. It’s really horrifying but he sees otherwise…as some sort of tender Kodak moment between mother and child. I have, many times, secretly considered wearing make-up to bed because I never know when this cameraman will strike. Sorry, I will not post the picture here! It was almost time for lunch when I woke up. The birthday girl was still snoozing away in dreamland. Because of the shift in the day’s pattern (waking up at 6 am disrupted Zoe’s sleep schedule for the day. Her normal wake time is 10 am), again, it took us forever to wake her up for lunch. My husband had sung all the Barney and Elmo songs he knows to get her up and about, to no avail. Funny how Zoe seems so deep in sleep when you want her awake, but so easy to wake (at the drop of a feather!) when you want her sleeping soundly because mommy and daddy would like to have some, ahem, private moment together. Why is that so? I guess it’s one of those universal why’s, huh?
Lunch was eaten at Toho Restaurant along President’s Avenue in BF. I have eaten here ages ago but hubby has never tried it, and a feature on QTV as one of the oldest restos in the metro got us curious. We ordered tofu w/ lechon, lumpia letsugas, and yang chow fried rice. Zoe ate a lot of the rice, by herself, and the free soup. The food was okay, nothing spectacular. The price was very reasonable. Perhaps we’d go back to try their other dishes. We capped our lunch by buying ice cream at the nearby Ice Cream Store. It had all sorts of ice cream with various flavors from the ice pops to pinipig to ice cream in cups, and even an ice cream sandwich. We are not familiar with the brand of ice cream they had but their ice cream passed our tastebuds. A cup of ice cream for less than 10 pesos, not bad at all. We’re thinking of stocking up on their ice cream for our personal consumption, hehe.
After lunch we headed to Merville to get Zoe’s cake, which I pre-ordered from Ms. Polly’s. Although you could order your cake in Jollibee (costs Php800 to Ms. Polly’s Php475) and get to serve it to the guests during the party, I opted to buy the cake myself and decorate it. The only hitch is we wouldn’t be able to serve it at the party, which is fine by me because that only means I get to enjoy the cake the day after, when it’s cold and moist. It was my first time to do the lettering on the cake. The night before, I practiced icing on a plate and it turned out a disaster. There was something wrong with my icing because after spelling out Zoe’s name, the icing would blur and melt before my eyes. I ended up licking the icing and praying for a miracle that my icing for Zoe’s birthday cake would hold up. It did hold up but there was another problem…I got the margins all wrong and ended up with the last “m” dangling from the word “Mom”! I could have opted for a “Love, Dad & Ma” but I wasn’t Zoe’s Ma, so I stubbornly insisted on the “mom” even if it looked like it was squeezed in at the last minute. The birthday girl didn’t notice my blunder anyway and marveled at her birthday cake with all her zoo animals on it. I hurriedly sprinkled Nips all over the cake before Zoe finished them off.
This year, we decided to celebrate Zoe’s birthday differently. If last year’s was a Care Bears party extravaganza with everyone invited and a houpla of clowns, bubble machines, and happy hop inflatable were what made the party fun, not to mention renting out a gym for the party venue and hiring a caterer for the adults, this year’s party was a no-frills one. We had it at Jollibee and invited less-fortunate kids as guests. Because Zoe’s party fell on a weekday, most of our close relatives couldn’t make it, but the party was, nevertheless, well-attended because the kids came in droves! A few days before the party, Suerte and I were wondering how and where to gather these kids. We prayed that somehow we be led to them, and led to them He did. While I was in charge of icing/lettering the cake, Suerte handled the harder part. A few hours before the party, he walked outside our village and on to the main road of Sucat, talked to street vendors (vendors selling isaw, bbq, candy, and the like) and asked them if they have kids who would like to attend Zoe’s birthday party. He brought Jollibee invitations with him. One vendor was too shy to even look at Suerte in the eye, much less talk to him, but when another joyfully accepted our invitation, she joined in too and presented her kids. One man, upon eavesdropping of a party at Jollibee, approached my husband and asked if he be so kind as to invite his kids also to the party. A kid gathering empty bottles and trash was nearby and Suerte also asked her to join. Before he knew it, all the invitations were handed out and it was time to head home and prepare ourselves for the unexpected. We had two fears. One was no one would show up for Zoe’s party, and the other was a lot would show up way, way beyond what we expected, causing some sort of stampede or making us have to turn down so many due to lack of space, lack of budget, or both. When we got to Jollibee, there were a lot of kids already waiting outside. They were with their parents and some of their parents joined the party, too. It was touching to see that they tried to be at their most party-best, dressing up for the occasion and looking neat and tidy. They were a rowdy bunch, but in a fun sort of way. Zoe was, as usual, wary of strangers and hardly smiled during her party. Her guests were shy at first, not knowing whether to approach me or greet Zoe, but when the party started, they warmed up and joined in the fun. The kids were so game! They didn’t need any coaxing when it was time for the party games. Everyone wanted to join! Even the mommies participated when asked by the host to dance. We only made a reservation for 30 kids, but the kids numbered to 45 that we had to make additional orders both for the kids and the adults (there were, I think, 18 of them, I lost count). From the looks on their faces, you could tell they were having fun. Zoe also enjoyed her party especially when Jollibee the mascot appeared. The kids crowded over Jollibee, wanting to touch him, hug him, and kiss him. Zoe adores Jollibee so much that she rushed to welcome him to her party. Zoe followed Jollibee around, not wanting to lose sight of him, so much so that Jollibee accidentally bumped Zoe when he did an abrupt about-face. The birthday girl landed butt-first but was quick enough to prevent her head from hitting the floor. Zoe was almost in tears, more out of embarrassment than getting hurt, but Jollibee was quick to apologize and console her. He carried her right away and gave her a hug. After a dance number with the serice crew, Jollibee joined us as the kids gathered around the birthday cake. All the kids sang the Happy Birthday song with gusto and Zoe blew the candles, with a little help from her dad.
Much as I am fond of Jollibee for making all the kids smile and for lighting up the party, I couldn’t help but smell him! Nope, he didn’t smell good at all. The mascot smelled of sweat and dust combined, it was as if the costume hasn’t been given a decent wash in ages! I’m just thankful Zoe isn’t asthmatic or allergic to sweat and dust or else she might have had an attack right there. My husband smelled Jollibee’s odor, too, and couldn’t help but say it out loud to Jollibee during our family pictorial with him, “Jollibee hindi ka naligo noh?”
After the candle blowing, Zoe handed out the lootbags. Instead of purchasing the lootbags from Jollibee, I opted to go to Divisoria and fill the lootbags myself. It turned out cheaper plus I had fun preparing them and curling the ribbons on the bags. I was worried the lootbags wouldn’t be enough. Luckily, I had extras with me so everyone went home with a lootbag.
After the candle blowing and giving out of lootbags, it was time to say goodbye. The kids gathered around Zoe, greeting her happy birthday and thanking me and my husband. The parents were very thankful for the invitation, wishing that we be blessed more. We have so much to be so thankful for and this is just our way of giving back or paying it forward. They were so sincere in showing how much they appreciated our gesture of goodwill that I couldn’t help but get emotional and shed a few tears, but it was Zoe who cried the hardest because she couldn’t bear seeing Jollibee go. She wanted to take Jollibee home with her! She pointed at the door where Jollibee entered (the employees’ room) and cried. No amount of soothing and distraction can comfort her. She went home sobbing and fell asleep exhausted.
We hope Zoe was able to make a lot of kids and parents happy that day, and somehow, Zoe’s party will bring a smile on their faces for a long, long time. The joy we felt seeing everyone having fun will be forever etched in our memory and in our hearts.
I realized I was still half-asleep when I brewed hot water, sans the coffee. I stared down at the clear liquid in my cup and, for a second, wondered what became of my coffee. I literally had to slap myself and shake a nodding head of disapproval for not being in the present. How many times do we catch ourselves in this predicament? A friend of mine has gone to work wearing different shoes on; I mistakenly put the jug of water in the medicine cabinet and the medicine bottle in the fridge; a conversation with a friend gets interrupted for half a second and then both of you forget what on earth you’ve been talking about…moments where you have to do a double-take, memory slips that make you worry if you’re headed for dementia or amnesia. I worry about it A LOT. Most women can blame the doses of anesthesia that came as they gave birth. I, on the other hand, opted to go natural, hence, I have no anesthesia to comfort me when my memory fails. Slowly I have come to accept that the memory lapses are but natural for everyone, and that everyone, including myself, is growing old and aging. Or, I can just blame it on the fact that I was physically present but mentally absent. In the case of the coffee without the coffee, I was still in bed asleep and snoring. I’m blaming the alarm clock for waking me up that early.