Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas time

Let me see, Christmas is the time for giving, loving, sharing, forgiving and best of all, food!
It’s a friend’s birthday a day before Christmas so I was invited to their place and join the celebration. Since it’s also Christmas Eve, we planned to stay up celebrating all night. There were a lot of dishes prepared for that day. The main dish for the day was a roasted turkey, courtesy of the celebrant and her uncle who combined their grocery bill 2 days before so they can avail of a promo where if you spend $75 on groceries, you get to pick one whole turkey for free. And since its Christmas and her birthday, they were able to buy more than $75 worth.
Aside from the turkey, there were other good dishes served. There was Menudo, spaghetti, lumpia sahnghai, rice cakes, pizza and of course a birthday cake for the celebrant courtesy of her dad. I contributed a vegetable salad for that day. Hmm…which one to start with? Hmmm..everything looked so good and tasty.
Let me start with the turkey. The turkey was tender and juicy and very tasty, not dry and bland tasting. According to my friend they started marinating the turkey the night before in some herbs and salt rock. Then earlier that day wrapped it in foil then placed over charcoal for 4 – 5 hours then placed in the oven to brown it. They also prepared mashed potatoes with the roasted turkey. And what is a roasted turkey and mashed potatoes without gravy? Sure enough they were able to have someone prepare good gravy to match the two dishes.
Then there is the spaghetti which was prepared by the celebrant herself. The sauce was made of meat, plenty of herbs and some spices and lots of cheese. The aroma of the sauce itself would make your mouth water. When she told me she would be the one preparing the spaghetti dish, I said I would come early and see how she does in cooking the sauce. But when I came she it was almost done, with the help of her aunt.
Also prepared as a request of the birthday celebrant, was a thin crust pizza. They prepared the dough ahead so by this time it was just a matter of putting in the ingredients on top. There was a 3 cheese mix and a pure mozzarella cheese available, olives, ground beef and green bell pepper as toppings. I was hoping to see how they mixed the dough but then I would ask them later on.
I prepared a vegetable salad that day. Lucky me huh! Anyway, its lettuce, tomatoes, dried cranberries, dried apricots, ham and roasted almonds all tossed together. For the dressing it was Vinaigrette or otherwise known as Italian sauce or whatever; it’s just a mixture of vinegar, sesame oil, salt, sugar and mince garlic, onions, ground pepper and bell peppers mixed in proportion to suit the taste of whoever prepares it, in this case me!
Tere were Leche flan and some guest brought a very sweet and tasty rice cakes. And again of course, the birthday cake. The host put out some red wine and soft music to set the mood. Everything was set in the garden and good it did not rain, or should I say, it just drizzled for a few minutes during the party and eventually poured after the party.
So we started eating after singing to the celebrant a happy birthday song and the traditional blowing of the candles. Food was a plenty that night and everyone ate at their own satisfaction. For me no diet for this evening and really enjoyed the turkey.
At midnight we all greeted everyone a merry Christmas and the host started his gift giving. I was surprised to receive a gift for myself. Merry Christmas. But the best part of the night was when a friend’s daughter got her gift.
You see, she is the Goddaughter of the host. Every time she would visit the place she has her interest with the hammock that the host owns. That night upon after arriving, she requested to be placed of the hammock. They were teasing her that if she can remove it, it hers. But she would just look at her mom and contend herself using the hammock. Then at the strike of midnight, Christmas day, the godfather gave her her gift and insists on her to open it up. And when she did, wow, the priceless smile, the jump of joy and the excitement on her face, says it all. And yes, it was a hammock, just like the one she really likes. That was a picture of a very pure happiness and innocence of a young girl.
Well, everybody gets to go home happy. My birthday celebrant friend was also happy with what she got that night for her birthday; I get to go home with an unexpected gift and bag of left-over for the following day. Well, the following day was another birthday celebration, and this one I will attend the party in church. Merry Christmas everybody……….


I got to do 3 things at the same time this morning: cook my seafood spaghetti for my potluck this lunch time; eat my breakfast/lunch (brunch); and do this blog.
I wonder which would go awry first, burn my spaghetti, pour coffee on my net book or misspell all my words in this blog. Hmmm, the last would be the most welcome if ever.
It’s a friend’
s birthday today and my other friends planned a surprise (surprise in Pohnpei?) party for her this lunch time. It will be a seaside luncheon cum birthday party. They called me up last night and informed me of the plan. I was thinking of bringing a vegetable salad (again) but since it’s a seaside party why not a seafood spaghetti instead? Logical isn’t it? So I went to the nearby grocery and purchase seafood mix and the pasta. I have tried this experiment of mine so many times and no untoward complaints or problem happened so why not try again.
I was looking through my personal cooler (I don’t call it refrigerator for it cannot even freeze a hotdog) and remembered somebody gave me some beef. It thawed alright and started to have a bit of change in color. So I decided to tapa some of it and cook nilaga for the rest. So I got some cabbage and potatoes and boiled the beef. Looking at the clock, it’s almost 10:00 am. Deciding whether to have early lunch or late breakfast, well there is this thing that they called Brunch. So brunch it is. Coffee anyone?
Now this blog. I tried to make one last night about another birthday party I attended last December 24 and straight to the Christmas noche buena I shared with friends, but I was not in a mood and no thoughts were flowing. I think I had 3 to 5 sentences and it was for about an hour already. So I just gave it up.
Well, my spaghetti is done, almost finished my food and so I also have to end this blog. So if anybody out there is interested in ordering my seafood spaghetti you know my e-mail……

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Honolulu here I come...again

Last November, I was informed by my boss that I will be attending a training seminar on Uniform Data System, a system of reporting we use at our center, on December 8 and 9. This seminar is an annual seminar/training/updating on the use of the UDS. If there is an immediate change that is needed to be done they would hold another training update usually in June. The venue of this seminar is Honolulu, Hawaii so when he said I will be going and heading the delegate; the next thing I did was search my Google Earth to look at the Honolulu map and started plotting my adventure.
Hmmmm, Honolulu in December plus pocket money equals shopping! Let me see, sale in this store and that, discounts on this day at that mall, wow, so many places to go with so little time. We were scheduled to leave on 5 December at 1 pm Pohnpei time and will be in Honolulu 5 December at 2 am Honolulu time. So I have Friday, Saturday and Sunday as free day then half day of Tuesday before returning Wednesday morning. Wow, 3 days of going around Honolulu.
I preparation, I called my friend whose son and daughter are in Honolulu. I have stayed with them last June and planning to again stay with them this month. Their apartment is located at Lusitania Street in downtown Honolulu so it is very convenient to go around. Though staying in Pagoda Hotel would be much better, being near Wal-mart store which is open 24 hours and Don Quijote also an all-nighter store, but it would save me money for shopping staying with these guys. And I really enjoyed my last stay in Honolulu when I stayed with them. Then next was to buy some fishes, Lapu-lapu, tuna and if available mahi-mahi, and some crabs for my auntie and cousin living in Honolulu. No available tuna that time so I settled for crabs and lapu-lapu. Next task was to talk to another friend who would take cAdd Imageare of my puppy and to check on the house every now and then. All done and I was ready to go. Ooops, wrong. I was scheduled to go on duty on December 6, I have to talk to the Medical Services Chief about it and when I did, he changed my schedule with another doctor who was supposed to be working 12mn to 8 am Friday. I agreed and later on realized it was a wrong move somehow.
Thursday I reported for work 8am to 5 pm then cleaned the house 6pm to about 10 pm then started preparing for my duty at 12mn. I finished my duty at 8:00 am and was home at 8:30 am then started packing and calling people who asked me to buy something for them. I finished at 10 am and went to the airport to check in and was done at 11:30 am. I had no sleep for more than 24 hours.
I slept. From the time I was seated, seatbelt in place, I slept and woke about a few minutes prior to landing in Kosrae State. The weather was bad and the landing was worse. I really hate landing and this one made me hate it more. It was raining heavily and according to the pilot visibility was not that good that we have to go around the island again and try landing the second time, so I already have an idea of the outcome. And sure enough we landed after bouncing twice before the plane got its grip. Whew.
After 45 minutes we took off for Kwajerlein State of the Marshall Islands. We had an uneventful flight and landing, but I still hate it. The landing I mean. Then off again for Majuro State of Marshall Islands and here, we made touchdown after bouncing 3 times again due to bad weather. After this a 5 hour travel till we reach Honolulu. This is the part when it gets kind of boring but that time they featured 2 good movies which I haven’t seen so more or less it was okay.
We arrived at Aloha International Airport Honolulu delayed for 45 minutes. My friend's son-in-law was there waiting for me without his kids. He informed me that he is free that Friday morning so he can drive me around. I infromed him that the seminar is not until Monday so I plan to walk around town that day, I just told him to go straight to Walmart store for me to pick up some toiletries since there is no hurry for us to go home. And at 4 am we were window shopping at Walmart.
I woke up at 7:30 am and as soon as I was able to change I left the apartment with the guys still sleeping. Once I got my bearing straight, I walked to my favorite breakfast area: Chinatown. I discovered this eatery in the middle of Chinatown market. They serve Filipino, Thai, Vietnamese and local food turo-turo style. Usually I start the morning eating Vietnamese style noodles then come back lunch for a variety of Filipino foods from toge, labong, pakbet to goat meat cooked in different ways, adobo, kilawen , sea foods, and a whole lot more. Boy, I really forgot about diet. So breakfast was noodles then at lunch I had Labong, papaitan and kilawen kambing. These for only $7, whew.

I did some strolling in downtown Honolulu, enjoying the sites in town and taking advantage of its emptyness being early in the morning. I went and visited the Iolani Palace, The Honolulu Arts Building and the Legislature building. I then walked all the way to Best Buy Store at Dilingham to check some laptops and netbooks. They informed me that most of the best laptops were out of stock after they had the Black Friday sale a week before. A lot on display was the Xbox 360 and the Guitar hero set. I almost got myself one that day. Most of the things I was looking for were also out of stock anyway, but was able to stop myself and look for the ones I really needed to buy, not by impulse. From there I took a bus, which I now am pretty good at, and went to Ala Moana Mall. I went around the mall window shopping. Nothing new to see, most of the stores were on sale but low on stock I got some of the things I needed to buy.
From there it was a short walk to another favorite hang out of mine, Starbucks Coffee Shop. They were serving a good brew that day and there was a seasonal mix they have, peppermint mocha, and it instantly became my favorite. So I vie my time at the stall, checking out the people going through and fro, smiling, big shopping bags at hand and the unusual heavy traffic. I guess traffic during the holidays is common all over.
After an hour, I walked to the Walmart store and got myself a walking shoe, a Dr. Scholl brand and it felt really good on the feet. I then went to the electronic center where I was hoping they would still have the netbook I was looking for. I got a little bit frustrated when they informed me they don’t have the blue Acer One netbook but when I saw the white one, boy, it looks better. Without any hesitation, I got myself one. I did a few more rounds checking the list of bilins from time to time. After which I went back to Starbucks, ordered another peppermint mocha this time warm, then tried out my net book, and was easily on the net. After another hour, I took the cab home and called my Auntie.
She was really glad to hear from me and she told me she would pick me up early the following day to have breakfast. My Auntie is my mom’s 1st cousin. They are almost of the same age so they were close and practically grew up together then. Until she moved to Honolulu way back in 1965 and has stayed. The last time she saw my mom was in 2002. So at around 8:30 am Saturday, we met and went to Zippy’s. According to her she is a regular customer and you can tell; for the people working there already know her name and she knows theirs'. My other auntie, her sister, was with her. She told me we never met before because she left Manila in 1967 to go to London, England and later in 1977 transferred to Honolulu. She went back to the Philippines only once so I never got to meet her before. We exchanged interesting stories, happy and sad events in our lives. We had a long talk about my mom the three of us trying very hard to hold back our tears. So we end our brunch at about 10:30 am and they told me they’ll pick me up Sunday afternoon to have dinner with my cousin and my nephews and nieces. I went home and changed then walk again around town. There was an unusual light traffic at Punchbowl Street that afternoon and I noticed that the roads were blocked in some portions in preparation for a parade. On reaching King Street, people were already anticipating the parade; children were running around, parents are sitting on their mats with picnic baskets on the side. It was a fiesta atmosphere. I hang around the area and waited for the parade, but later learned it is not due until 5 pm. So I took the bus and went to Ross Store and looked for some clothes. I needed to buy some new ones for me. The last time I had shop for clothes was 3 years ago. I went to 3 Ross Store, in the Downtown area, the one near Walmart and the other at Ward center. I got new sets of working clothes. Then I went back to Honolulu City Hall and listened to the live Orchestra playing Christmas tunes in front of a big Christmas tree.
Sunday, I took another long walk to China town then back to city hall to look at the display they have. There were a lot of people the night before so I just stayed outside and listened. They have plenty of Christmas trees on display. One tree for every department of the City. They also have small bread houses on display. Again, one for each department. After going through it, I took a bus and went to Wards Center Mall. I have been in Honolulu for several times but this would be the first time I would really explore Wards Center. Again plenty of people were out shopping. I went around the mall grounds and found some interesting stores. I also saw a Sports Authority store where there were lots of nice stuffs really making me wish I could take them back home. I found a Starbucks outlet and stayed there for some Peppermint mocha until about 5:00 pm and went back home just in time for my Auntie to pick me up.
I had dinner at my Auntie’s house. I met with my cousin and her kids. They served plenty of good dishes that I again forgot about diet. Then after dinner, my cousin baked some cookies and boy, they were really good. I was asking her for her recipe but she just gave me more of the cookies instead. I stayed until about 9:00 pm and my auntie took me back home. Monday was the start of the seminar. My friend took me down to the Ohana Airport Hotel that morning very early. They already placed the breakfast buffet at the seminar area so I help myself to some. They have cakes, muffins and fresh fruits. The seminar went well, and they introduced the new points in the system. Lunch was served buffet style and we we introduced to a Hawaiian lunch feast.We finished at around 3:30 pm and my auntie was there to take me to Costco.
I told her I have no plans of buying that much but she insist for me to buy what I needed. So I got my coffee, creamer and juice but she insisted to get some nuts and dried fruits for me as my snack and told me it would be good for my diet. We passed by some ham on display and she took a big one and told me to cook it for Christmas to share with my friends. I did not complain. She placed so many food and stuffs in our cart adding more to what I got and was surprised to learned that it was all for me. Thank you and merry Christmas auntie. She then suggested we have dinner but I feel so full that time. She said she knows a place where they serve vegetable salad that would be light and healthy for me, and so we did. We ate at Kenny’s Barbeque and she suggested the salad. I was reading to the ingredients, lettuce, carrots, special dressing, chicken pieces, a few meats, and nuts. But what puzzles me was the price. It was $10. How come it is so expensive for a vegetable salad? When it arrived that’s when I realize that 3 or four people can eat from one serving. It was a gigantic serving of a salad. And my Aunt ordered grilled fish for me because I might not be satisfied with just a salad, so she thought. I ended up eating half of the things she got for me.
Tuesday morning, I was back at Ohana Hotel to continue with the seminar. It went on until about 3 in the afternoon again after which I did my laundry at Don Quijote and got the rest of the bilins in my list. I spend some more time walking downton Honolulu again to the City Hall and listen to the orchestra. It was really a very good sound and the Honolulu City Lights Display made the atmosphere really good. At about 10:00 pm I went back to the apartment, packed up and went to bed.
I had no trouble checking-in in the morning and I had a very good seat. The flight back was uneventful, landing was smooth all the way, thank God, and I arrived in Pohnpei 20 minutes earlier than schedule. My friend picked me –up at the airport and brought me home.
Settling down and sorting out my luggage, one thought keeps coming back to my mind: when will I be going back to Honolulu.

Friday, December 12, 2008

This is the season.........

Christmas is just around the corner. People are now busy shopping and preparing to celebrate this season of love and giving. I remember in the Philippines, the season starts as early as September. People start spending and preparing for Christmas Day and when it comes, pooof, the day is done.
I don't want to be negative today but a situation that happened a few hours ago makes me really look at the negative side of how we people came about and celebrate this season. I am actually doing a draft of my recent trip to Hawaii but then again, I would like to vent my present mood. And so it goes.....
I recall in my grade school years at Immaculate Heart of Mary College in Quezon City, which were run by Nuns, that Christ who was born on this day, teaches us living in the simpliest way. He was a Gift from God and a symbol of God's love for us. Thus, Christmas which is the birth of Christ, becomes a symbol of giving and loving and live his life in the simpliest way.
Through the years, it has become a tradition to give gifts and show love for our friends. People buy gifts for their friends and acquaintances and even their "enemies" at work. No matter what the Economist tell us on how the economy is bad and going down, people still queue it up at the cashiers of stores, malls and the like. Lucky are those who can really afford. I admit I was one of them who equate Christmas with money in order to have a happy holiday. I became one of those people who go to malls and shops and compete with other people buying so many things that makes me think do they really want these? And do I really need these things that I am buying right now. Christmas then has become a season of shopping sale; buying things we really don't need, getting hold or whatever fad that is there that season.
I remember trying so hard to grab every duty in the hospital just to have more than enough pay for Christmas day. I forgot what my mom and dad taught me in previous Christmases when we celebrate the season in the most simple way, no lavish gift, few here and there, no buffet at the table, just a pot of may dad's very delicious arroz caldo, but what is more important for that day was we were all together, go to mass and talk. That was the perfect Christmas. A simple reminder and a day of thanks for what this day really means.
After shopping and on your way home, reality sets in. You would notice street people, asking for alms, old ones looking worried and probably thinking where I would get my money to buy my family something for Christmas, kids in their shabby clothes, their eyes on other kids holding nice toys, a very sad scene, really. Peoples life plan changes in this season, their priority changes to things they don't need and only thinks they need it because its the fad or what is "in" during this time. I know its their right to celebrate Christmas, but again, one can celebrate it without all these shopping. Gone were the days when a simple Christmas card would be enough to brighten the season.
Anyway, because of this mentality that we equate Christmas with lavish living, people would also start doing stupid things just to be " in". Robbery, hold up,, snatching etc, becomes rampant and this year I became one of the victims. And this is why I have this blog.
Earlier this morning, at around 3:30, I was roused from my sleep by a thumping sound coming from my window. I thought it was Kikoy, my cat who was doing the sound trying to catch his favorite toy, live lizards. I did not try to shoo him away that time. Probably 3 or 4 thumps that I heard. Then later, I was roused again by the sound of my cell phone. Every time you would remove the phone from its charger it would make a sound. So again I thought it was Kikoy chasing his latest victim and got tangled up with the cellphone charger wire. Then the cellphone lit up and when I look, the light was moving. I thought it fell down but instinct told me that something was wrong.
I stood up and there, a man who is in my house!. I shouted at him and gave chase but he ran and I even think jumped from my veranda to the ground floor. I turned on the lights and was trying to check what was taken. On my work table, was my digital camera, electronic book and wallet were still there. My entertainment center was in order, my back pack where my laptop is was still in the same place it was, my sunglasses are still in my divider so it was just my cell phone he took interest in. The front door was open and that was his escape route. It made me think how did he got in? Was it through the door that I forgot to lock? Then I remember the thumping sound when I saw Kikoy coming if the house. I check my window and there you have it folks, the entry point. Lucky for him I was charging my cell phone that time so he was able to get the charger with it. My Land Lady and her son came up a few minutes after and apparently heard me shout. I told them my suspicion that that person knows and has been in this place because he knows which window can be easily pried opened and where I usually put my things in. Beside the window was my entertainment center where I keep my DVDs and DVD player. He could just easily go through it and not even enter the house. I thought of calling the police but what will they do? It also made me think that if he would have done it 2 days earlier, it would have been a jackpot for him, because I was off-island for a week. Well again, since this is the season of giving, then let him have it, he probably needs it more than I do. And since this is a day of thanksgiving, I am also thankful that that was all that happened this morning.