Sunday, December 29, 2013

Choosing Sara

The last quarter of my 2013 is filled with music from The Blessed Unrest. It's Sara Bareilles' fourth album and I think, by far, her best. I love certain songs from her previous ones like "Gravity", "Bottle It Up", and "King of Anything" but the entire The Blessed Unrest is just exceptional.

It all began when my girl friend Mia made me listen to "I Choose You", a song about love found. It became my absolute favorite, I couldn't stop singing it everywhere in the house for a period of time that my sister sort of hates it now. Haha!

Anyway from then on, I've downloaded and found love myself, with the rest of the album. "Brave" and "I Wanna Be Like Me" both speak of self-empowerment and have perky beats that can pull you out of a funk. Same goes with "Little Black Dress" which is the perfect moving on song. "Chasing the Sun" and "Satellite Call" are poignantly haunting. "Cassiopeia" is as dreamy as the constellation itself. "Hercules" is a plea to strength and "1000 Times" is about unfaltering, resilient love.

Reviews on the record are mostly positive including one from the Rolling Stone, wherein an article mentioned that her songs "feel groomed for rom-com soundtracks". I agree. I can envision countless scenes with her singles setting the mood and highlighting emotions.

Bareilles is so talented. Apart from being a great singer with her smoky, captivating voice, she also plays the guitar and piano really well, and writes all of her songs. Her songwriting is exquisite, I want to post all her finest lyrics but I'm afraid this blog would be horribly long. So let me cut it short and let this video from YouTube do all the talking and the making-you-fall-in-love-you-can't-stop-singing thing. Enjoy! :)

-Martha



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fangirl

2013 is coming to an end. One of the best young adult books I've read this year is Fangirl. Penned by Rainbow Rowell, author of Eleanor and Park (which is also a must-read, by the way), this novel strikes close to the heart.

Cath Avery is a socially passive girl who writes Simon Snow (think Harry Potter) fan fiction with a massive following over the net. But when she reluctantly leaves the comfort of her home and enter college with her more adventurous, outgoing twin, things start to change. Suddenly she's being forced outside her fantasy world of dragons, vampires, and witchcraft and face, well...real life. This time, it's up to Cath whether she wants to see and create some magic of her own. With or without laptop in hand.

This is a really nice, cozy read. I've read it twice (No other book in between) because that's how much I love it. It's about family and sticking to them no matter what. It's about opening one's self and falling in love. It's about pursuits of passion and finding one's voice. Rowell's writing is easy, steady yet thoughtful, nostalgic, and just overall beautiful. 

Consider me a huge fan. :)


-Martha

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Opposite of Holding On

I seldom like books that are adapted into film. This time however I love the movie more than the novel it was adapted from. Never Let Me Go is a 2010 film based on Kazuo Ishiguro's novel starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield.

The story revolved around friends Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy who grew up in Hailsham. At first it seemed the children at this school were normal. They were encouraged to study art, play sports, and be well-rounded students. Before long, it's revealed that each and every one of them were being prepared to be organ donors, multiple times, until they 'complete'.

The shock of finding out the future of these children was somehow 'softened' by the pacing of the story. Like the characters accepting their fate without question, the viewers eventually watch with consent as the narrator Kathy (Mulligan) described how they went about their short-lived lives and fulfilled their destiny.

I love that even though it's a love story, it doesn't feel like it. I was more drawn to and outraged by the dystopian world they live in. I love the contrast between the breathtaking sceneries and the harshness of their reality. The acting of the three main characters were also terrific. Mulligan's was subtle but very affecting. I cried buckets while watching it for the first time (and a few more on repeat viewings). Heck, I was dehydrated at curtain calls. But every time, like Kathy at the end of the movie, I learn to let go as she says:

"What I'm not sure about, is if our lives have been so different from the lives of the people we save. We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we've lived through, or feel we've had enough time."

-Faye

Friday, November 15, 2013

Chatting at Jatujak

My Ate and I make it a point to try different cuisines. One afternoon, we chanced upon Jatujak (pronounced as "cha-tu-chak") and got to tick one item off our long list. It's a quiet, modern-meets-oriental place that serves Thai food.

We had the Pork Sate (₱180), an easy favorite. It's basically barbecue with this amazing sauce which was sweet and sour, with a kick of ginger, curry, and nuts. Next was the Shrimp Pad Thai (₱185). Flat, chewy noodles with stir-fried veggies, egg, shrimp, and ground peanuts. I was delightfully surprised by the fusion of flavors and was somehow reminded of our Pinoy lumpiang sariwa. Though we wish there were more shrimps in it.

Their Chicken Pandan (₱240), looks good but tastes like your average seasoned fried chicken. We weren't able to savor the pandan. For dessert, we got even more adventurous and ordered Iced Waterchestnuts with Coconut Milk (₱90). Ate Faye loves waterchestnuts but never had it as dessert. The nuts were covered in red sticky rice coating and the coconut milk was refreshing. You may ask for additional syrup to adjust the sweetness.

We got to catch up with our stories since we haven't seen each other in awhile. I must say, it's really nice trying new food with old company. So what's next on our list, sister dear?

Rating: 3.75/5

-Martha


Location:
Jatujak - 4F The Block, SM North EDSA, Quezon City

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Brother Dear

My brother recently got married. Although I would have preferred to play organizer (Martha says it's because I love bossing people around) during the event, Martin insisted I become part of the entourage instead. I can't believe my little brother's actually married! I mean, I still remember our childhood days when we would fight over a toy (his teeth marks are still visible on my arm) or when we used to go to the beach during summer vacations then head to Baguio for a couple of nights or when us siblings would watch movies and pig out on junk foods, you know, just hang out and have a great time.

Well, I guess we can still have fun and make new memories together. And now we have an additional family member to boot. Still, Martha said it best when she made her maid-of-honor toast: I'm sad because I'll miss him but happy, too because he found the love of his life.

Congratulations and Best Wishes, Tin & Pam! :)

-Faye

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Graveyard Book

I can't believe I did it again. I've fallen in love with yet another children's book. This time with The Graveyard Book. What is it with these children's fantasy novels that get me? Ok, don't answer that.

Anyway, it was published in 2008 and was written by the English author Neil Gaiman. This award winning book tells the story of a young boy, Bod, who became orphaned when 'the man Jack' murdered his whole family. He was 'adopted' by a ghost couple who lived in an old graveyard and raised by its 'residents'. He was given the Freedom of the Graveyard (an ability to pass through solid objects within the graveyard) but was forbidden to venture beyond it. He also had a supernatural guardian called Silas. Every chapter is spaced a few years in between following Bod's discoveries and adventures. Featured in the story are ghosts, vampire, werewolves, goblins, and other fantastic creatures and unique characters. What child wouldn't love that?

'Mrs. Owens and her husband have taken the child under their protection. It will take more than just a couple of good hearted souls to raise this child. It will,' said Silas, 'take a graveyard.' 

It was, in all honesty, Gaiman's ode to The Jungle Book. Similarities are abound but were given a fresh take and a very different spin. I first thought that because of the title it would be just morbid and creepy. But I was pretty impressed by how Gaiman kept the story interesting, funny, and heartwarming at the same time. Readers will cheer and fear for whatever may happen to the young protagonist.

I can't wait for its screen adaptation, I heard it's in the works. Something to look forward to, eh?

-Faye

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Love, Zombie

I told you, I love zombies (unlike my sister who begs me to flick to a different channel every time she sees one). From cinemas (Dawn of the Dead, Zombieland) to TV (The Walking Dead), I won't say no to a good zombie story.

In Warm Bodies (2013), I like that instead of screaming at them, I get to view things from their angle. This movie, based on Isaac Marion's novel of the same title, follows the mind of an undead named "R". One day, as he shuffles around to find "food", he meets Julie, a human girl who got separated from her group while scavenging for medical supplies. He becomes drawn to her, hides her in an abandoned airplane, and takes duty on keeping her safe.

Their against-all-odds love story is perfect for Halloween, Valentine's Day, or any day, really. For those who are squeamish like my Ate, I assure you it's not very gory. It's funny, youthful, and exciting. Nicholas Hoult plays a swoon-worthy R, becoming my first ever zombie crush. Haha! I must admit Hoult's gone a long way from his About a Boy days. 

It's that good a film, even cold-blooded creatures will warm up to it. :)

-Martha

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Freshly Squeezed Pulp Fiction

Let's take a break from the rom-coms. :)

Pulp Fiction is one of the urban classics and probably the coolest movie Quentin Tarantino's ever made. It's dark, gory, and scary. The suspense could have killed me. It's the kind that makes you grip tightly on your seat and peek in between your fingers. And it's not even a horror film!

It's actually a funny, twisted story about a couple robbing a diner, a boxing fighter, and a bunch of talkative mobsters. The characters are unique and memorable played by an equally cool cast comprising John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, and Samuel L. Jackson.

At first the movie seem scattered but in the end everything makes sense. It touches certain social topics - some controversial especially when it was first shown in the '90s. The lesson in the movie isn't very obvious but I like to think there's something there. You have to see for yourself what it is.

Whether you find it or not, I guarantee you'll enjoy every epic minute because Pulp Fiction is as pulpy as it gets.

-Martha

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Shopaholic Series

Books are like people. 

They make good companions and have personalities, too. There are those that inspire, teach, or entertain. Sometimes after I read intense ones, may it be a "heartbreaker" (like The Fault in Our Stars) or a "teacher" (like Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist), I seek the comfort of a fun-loving "girlfriend" which I found mostly in the form of Sophie Kinsella's works.

Kinsella's heroines are charming and, truth be told, crazy. Her writing is witty, romantic, and downright funny. Her biggest success, The Shopaholic Series, stars Becky Bloomwood, a smart and hip financial journalist who has a secret addiction...Shopping!

Her impulse to swipe her credit card plus an overactive imagination stirs trouble. Good thing she has a quirky set of family and friends (perhaps a man, too?) to help her.

Mind you, following Becky's life is quite addictive as well. So far, there are six books in the series...and still counting. I'm glad her adventures are not yet over.

Like a true girlfriend, trust The Shopaholic to brighten up your day and give you a tip or two about fashion, love, and life.

-Martha

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Rise and Shine!

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I can't agree more. And who says it's only good in the morning?

After a spur-of-the-moment zumba session (whew!) with friends at work, we went for lunch at this little heaven that serves breakfast all day long. Breakfast in Bed has the cutest interior with fancy headboards and plush chairs to give the diners literally the 'breakfast in bed' vibe. 

Longanisa rice meal. 108Php.
Each of us ordered a silog meal served with garlic rice, 2 eggs cooked however we wanted, atchara, and our chosen meat of tapa, tocinolonganisa, and chicken adobo. The overall taste of it was fine. We wished they gave a more generous serving of the yummy atchara though. We also tried their strawberry pancake with scrambled eggs for ₱108. It's a bit on the dry side and could've used more syrup and perhaps some real berries.

L-R: Me, AJ, Arianne, & Shiela
We all thought the place could improve their food further but ambience-wise, it's superb. It's dreamy, conversation-friendly, and relaxing. My friends and I had a great time dancing a few calories off that morning then re-gaining some a short while later. Haha!

I wouldn't mind waking up, leaving my real bed, and going back there.

Rating: 3.5/5

-Martha


Location:
Breakfast in Bed - California Garden Square, Mandaluyong City

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Keeping in Touch


T: Lunch at Luz Kitchenette in Gapan
B: With cousins Ochie and Akie
Anytime we visit our relatives in the province is a happy occassion indeed. Martha and I, my mom, and a few aunts went to Nueva Ecija last week. We were there for only two days so I savored every minute catching up with my cousins, nieces, and aunts. We also enjoyed food we don't usually eat in the city like talangkang bukid, longganisa Cabanatuan, and the local delicacies: puto and suman.

They say that the Filipinos are known for their hospitality and I couldn't agree more. Who else but us would be delighted if a van full of people showed up at their doorstep and declared 'We'll stay here for the night'? Of course, our relatives were informed of our visit but you get my drift. Can't wait to see them again soon. :)


-Faye

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Music of the Night

My friend's invitation for a 'night out with the girls' couldn't have come more timely. I've been working non-stop and needed a breather. We met last Friday at the Lobby Lounge of Makati Shangri-La to catch a performance of Alona, a high school classmate and member of a singing group called the Music@ts*.

Standing: Kat, Jo
Seated: Weng, Alona, Che
Dinner was composed of Caesar Salad, Roasted Mediterreanean Vegetable Panini (Yum!), Shangri-La's Triple Decker, and Pancit Guisado (a bit salty). Oddly, no one opted for cocktails. I guess we wanted our wits about for our impending gabfest.

The show started at 9pm, opening with a medley of classics including my all-time favorites Nearness of You and Moon River. Followed by songs from Broadway musicals: All I Ask of You (Phantom of the Opera), Memory (Cats), and I Don't Know How to Love Him (Jesus Christ Superstar). I was pleasantly surprised when they closed the 1st set with some animated movies' soundtracks. They made Circle of Life (The Lion King), Go the Distance (Hercules), and When You Believe (Prince of Egypt) sound, well, classy.

The highlight of the 2nd set for me was the group's rendition of Tonight from West Side Story and Pink's Just Give Me a Reason. Didn't know it could sound even better. I also liked their Ikaw Lang ang Mamahalin.

For the 3rd set, they sang more OPMs like Ikaw, Bakit Ba Ganyan, and Kahit Isang Saglit. I thoroughly enjoyed their Sun and Moon (Miss Saigon) and I Dreamed a Dream (Les Miserables) numbers. I wish they sang A Little Fall of Rain. Maybe next time.

There is no doubt that this act is brilliant. They perform harmoniously, blending well when doing a group number or duets and shining on their own when perfoming solos. Needless to say, I had a memorable night chatting with the girls and enjoying the talented Music@ts. Another reason to say: TGIF! :)

-Faye

*Music@ts members:
Lawrence - piano, vocals; Alona - vocals; Kim - vocals; Jerry - bass

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Snack Attack (Part 2)

After the items we've mentioned last year, here's our new-found favorite munches:

1. Not the Philosopher
     Plato Wraps (pronounced as 'pla-to' like the Tagalog term for plate) originated from Dagupan City. Good thing their stalls are all over the country. Once we've taken a bite of their bestseller, Chunky Chicken, there's no turning back. Generous chicken spread and cucumber slices wrapped in grilled pita. Yummy, healthy, and affordable. They also offer a variety of palaman and pita breads.

*Price: ₱46.00 (big size)



 2. This Shake is Bananas
     Get a sweet dose of potassium at Saba Republic. Their shakes are made out of plaintains. You can have it paired with another fruit. Combinations I like are Banana Buko and Banana Mango. You can also have it plain. Either way, it's refreshing up to the last slurp!
*Price range: ₱39 to ₱55





3. Mochi Mochi
     Gavino's Japanese donuts are mm-mm good! Their dough made out of glutinous rice is chewier than your average donut. Their mochi balls (which are rice cakes with yummy filling inside) and mochi donuts have various flavors to choose from. Our faves are: Cream ball, Red velvet ball, Glazed donut, and Green-tea glazed donut.
*Price range: ₱15 to ₱25 for pon-de-balls
                        ₱29 to ₱39 for pon-de-rings

Will keep you posted for more snacks to attack!

-Martha

Location:
Plato Wraps - 2F Main Bldg., SM North Edsa, Quezon City
Saba Republic - Lower Ground Floor, Food Court, Bldg. A, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City
Gavino's - Lower Ground Floor, Landmark, TriNoma, Quezon City

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Back with The Calling

Ever listen to songs and be reminded of a certain time in your life? 

I get that a lot particularly with those of the late '90s and the early 2k. One band that takes me straight back to puberty is The Calling.

I was such a fan (still am, actually) of them, I'm outright devastated when they disbanded. It was so early on their career and after making only two albums, namely: Camino Palmero and well, ironically, Two. The beauty of music though is that it never dies. More than ten years later, I can still plug in my earbuds to enjoy the melodies of my past.

Some genius in 2011 compiled The Very Best of The Calling and spared me the trouble to pick between their two albums. Alex Band's husky, grungy voice is perfect for their alternative rock instrumentation. Plus it doesn't hurt that he looks so cute (Teen and adult me nods simultaneously). Band co-wrote all their songs with Aaron Kamin who co-founded the band.

All time favorites are "Wherever You Will Go" (which sadly has been defiled many a time in videoke sessions), the angst-filled "Adrienne", and the emo anthems "Could It Be Any Harder" & "Stigmatized". Less popular but great tracks no less are "Nothing's Changed", "One by One", "Anything", and "Dreaming in Red". I also like "Things Will Go My Way" and "Our Lives" because of their inspiring messages.

Here's the best part: I heard that The Calling will be reforming. I'm pretty excited for their big comeback.

How about you, what music makes you nostalgic? :)

-Martha

Saturday, July 27, 2013

...and Many More to Come!

I can't believe two years has passed since my sister Martha and I started writing or should I say, blogging. We have covered quite a lot of topics ranging from books, movies, sisterly bonding, to food. Most definitely, food. :P

I can't say that it was always easy coming up with an entry. I've had my bouts of tamad-itis (I've insisted it's writer's block). Besides, I work better under pressure (cramming maybe the more accurate term) writing two to three blogs in one sitting.

But it is always the same feeling after publishing a post. I'd feel elated, liberated, and proud that I was able to finish an 'article' (this is what Martha and I really call our blogs).

I would like to think (wish) that I'm getting better at this (because Martha is already great, I'm miles behind her). I also wish that we don't get tired of writing more blogs in the future. Happy Anniversary! :)


-Faye

Good News

Today, fayeandmartha reached a milestone by reaching a hundred blogs! :)

We've been putting thoughts to webpage (I would've said 'pen to paper') for two years now and although we're not widely viewed, I am very thankful. I feel a surge of special pride and joy for this but I feel more so for my beloved sister. 

Ate Faye often say that I'm a better writer than her but I beg to differ. I admire her courage to express her opinions, even if not everyone will agree. She doesn't just do reviews, she creates originals. She likes sharing her own ideas and adventures. Her entries give our site a more personal touch. I vow to follow her example more.

Writing keeps our minds healthy, I think, and we've grown since from our first ever blogs. Most of all, if I am to give our blog credit for anything, it brought the two of us closer. It gives me extreme comfort knowing we'll always have each other. Sharing this blog is one of the best decisions we've made. I hope our passion will last as long as our sisterhood. 

Raise your glass! :)

-Martha

Monday, July 22, 2013

Going Bananas @ Banapple

I've always wanted to eat at Banapple ever since I drooled over pictures of their decadent pies on the net. It took years to finally realize that dream (I dunno why). And when I did just a week ago, it was everything I expected.

The ambience is very inviting. It is quaint and cozy with mosaic tables and a heavenly cakes display. It set the mood for a perfect dinner with my friends and Ate as we shared childhood memories and laughters.

The food is great from Jen's Bacon Fried Chicken Steaks with Milk'shroom Gravy (190) to Erika's Terrific Tuna Sandwich (140) which they kindly let me taste. ;) Ate Faye's Hickory Smoked Country Barbecued Ribs (₱200) is tender and moist. Its sweet, smoky bbq sauce marries well with the meat.
Lasagna Roll-ups 

I had the Lasagna Roll-ups (₱195) which, frankly, is good enough for two (which goes for all their entrees, really) but I happen to finish it anyway since it's so darn delicious. The tang of its cream cheese filling fights with the meaty (I suspect a hint of anchovies) tomato sauce and subdued by the delicate pasta wrapping. A mouthful of this is like a happy explosion of flavors. This made my favorite list, a worthy contender to Tender Bob's Baked Ziti.

Team Bacon
For dessert, Erika and I had a slice each of the famous Banoffee Pie (₱105). The layers of cream, toffee-drizzled banana slices, and crust are perfect. I like that it is sweet but not overly. Jen had something quite similar, the Praline Banana Cream Pie (₱110) but the bananas on hers are sweeter ergo the praline. Ate Faye was enticed by the Maple Pecan and Candied Bacon Holiday Cheesecake (₱130). It's both festive to the eyes and the stomach. I was skeptical with the 'bacon' bit but it turns out to be yummy! The nuts and sugared bacon adds crunch to the smooth and yummy cheesecake. A must-try.

We stayed there for hours, savoring our meals and chatting happily. You could say we went bananas. But hey, who could blame us?

Rating: 4.25/5

-Martha

Location:
Banapple - 2F Il Terrazzo Mall, Tomas Morato, South Triangle, Quezon City

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Book Thief

TWO IMPORTANT FACTS:                                                                                               

1. This is a story narrated by Death.
2. It is set during World War 2.

By this, you can guess the intensity and impending tragedy of such plot. But it's not only that.

Although doing his best not to, Death gets distracted at times. One of such comes during his busiest, in the form of a German girl named Liesel Meminger aka The Book Thief. The two cross paths only three times but by saving a black book, Death is able to piece together the moments in between. The byproduct of which is this disturbing yet beautiful story. 

 "I'm always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty and I wonder how the same thing can be both..."

Markus Zusak spun a contemporary classic novel, worthy of all the awards it was bestowed. Its literary prowess is able to touch many human souls - The biggest award, I imagine, a writer can get in his lifetime. I can sense that Zusak wrote it in a way that he tried to balance the light and the dark, the sweet and the bitterness, the Himmel (Translation: Heaven) and hell.

KEYWORD: TRIED.

Of course, he was just being realistic. Living in those days with Hitler could not be anything but difficult. The innocence of childhood play aside bombings in the streets, an instinct of altruism and promise-keeping versus punishment and danger.

Once again, I fell in love with the characters. Liesel, Papa, Mama, The Jewish fist fighter, and The boy with the lemon-colored hair. Even Death I couldn't resist being fond of. I get a rare glimpse of his surprisingly almost humane persona as he struggles with the demands of his duty.

ANOTHER FACT:

The book thief has left a permanent imprint on my soul.

-Martha

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Brunch at Fleur de Lys

T-B: Sweet Chorizo Hamonado, Garlic Tapa, Crispy Bacon
Strictly speaking, Fleur de Lys is a patiserrie and we (Erika, Lei, & I) came here to sample their cakes and pastries. But since we haven't had breakfast or lunch yet, we opted to have their 'Rise & Shine' menu first. A choice of breakfast-styled meat served with egg, garlic rice, and tomatoes. I tried the Sweet Chorizo Hamonado (₱178), Erika and Lei, the Crispy Bacon (₱163) and Garlic Tapa (₱168), respectively. All of us agreed that the meals were deliciously prepared but the serving was small and not one would call extraordinary. We shared a bowl of their Clam and Potato Chowder (₱135) as we are trying to make room for dessert.

Frankly, I'm not sure how we end up choosing our sweets because all of them looked mouth-watering. I'll try to do this justice:


Dulce and Gabanana (₱130mini)
Fresh banana tart with chocolate dulce de leche filling on gingersnap crust topped with whipped cream, caramel, and chocolate. Now, that is a mouthful. We all liked this but Erika (this was hers) concluded that the filling was good but Banapple's Banoffee Pie has a better crust

The Next Best Thing (₱135)
Warm chocolate cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Lei finally settled for this one. I don't know what it's supposed to be next best to because it's a star on its own. The chocolate cake is this warm, melt in your mouth thing accentuated (if that's even possible) by a creamy French vanilla ice cream. 

Nuts About You (₱125/slice)
Macadamia nut tart topped with pistachio ice cream. I had an easier time deciding than my two companions. I just went with the dessert with the most nuts. Nut lover that I am. One word to describe this: YUMMY! or maybe NUTTY! For me, this dessert alone is worth the trip. Definitely, a must try.

So, if you find yourself on a lazy Saturday with nothing to do, why not drop by at Fleur de Lys and have your taste buds awakened by these heavenly desserts? Happy Eating! :P

Over-all rating: 3.75/5

-Faye

Location:
Fleur de Lys - FLP Bldg., 305 Tomas Morato, South Triangle, Quezon City

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Thing About Bridesmaids...

Weddings are supposed to be about the brides... But it can be about the bridesmaids, too.

Just like in this spectacularly hilarious 2011 film, the spotlight is on Annie (played by SNL's Kristen Wiig). When her best friend Lillian (also SNL alumni Maya Rudolph) got engaged, Annie suddenly has to keep up with her duties as maid of honor while her life practically spirals downhill.

She meets the other bridesmaids and winds up in a circus of events. She gains an archenemy, new friends, and a new shot on love and career. Oh it's a chick flick alright but don't let the pink and tulle fool you. This movie shows no limit on obscene, as-wild-as-the-boys comedy. I can't stop laughing at these ladies! 

Melissa McCarthy is definitely worth mentioning since she gives a great performance in her breakthrough role here. Wiig co-wrote the film, the superwoman that she is. It's also nice to see Rose Byrne's funny side. Apart from all these high notes, the story also has a speck of drama that teaches us a thing or two about life.

I think it's a good unconventional wedding movie. Kinda like the female-counterpart of The Hangover series but much better, if you ask me.

So why not include these Bridesmaids in your list (viewing list, that is) this June? :)

-Martha

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars

I am heartbroken. My sister insisted I write about it. Yes, writing helps. 

His name is Augustus Waters, 17. Hers is Hazel Grace Lancaster, 16. They met in a support group for kids with cancer. His is osteosarcoma in remission. Hers is thyroid cancer stage IV which metastasized to her lungs. Heads up. I saw it coming from the beginning but that didn't stop the heavy flood of tears, shoulders shaking and all.

Each page of The Fault in Our Stars is filled with beautiful, beautiful sentences. Like poetry, like a sweet lullaby. After reading, I seriously pondered over writing Mr. John Green himself just as Hazel writes to Peter Van Houten in the story. Unlike Hazel, I need not know the ending since the novel is quite finished, really. I just want to discuss his novel with him, you know? My admiration and frustrations equally strong.
"I fell in love the way you fall asleep. Slowly, and then all at once."
It's one heck of a love story to write I can imagine. It's a love story worth knowing. Meeting the characters is bliss. They are filled with humor and creativity, their observations of the universe unique but precise. It's inevitable not to love them. Like I have experienced with Jellicoe Road, it all seemed real to me. It left a scar in me. Damn you, John Green.

But the thing is... I really don't mind. I saw the world in a wider picture. I felt pain which, from what is apparently written there, demanded to be felt. More importantly, I felt the moving power of true love. Let me tell you this: It's a privilege to have my heart broken by this book.

-Martha

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kabab around the Korner

Last weekend a couple of our friends asked Martha and I to have dinner at a restaurant they frequent. Willing to try something new, we agreed. It's called Kabab Korner, a middle-eastern themed place that specializes in kebab dishes. The place was airy and spacious with Arabian styled motif. It can accommodate about sixty people or more. We were easily seated as the place is not too crowded for a Saturday night. Here are some of the dishes we tried:

Baba Ghanouj

Grilled eggplant pureed along with garlic and tahina (a thick paste made from ground sesame seeds) and served with hot pita bread. This appetizer is superb. I love the mild but flavorful dip. Goes well with the simply prepared bread. A must try.

Price: ₱70.00
Special Kabab Plate

Beef chelo, grilled tomato, veggie salad (cucumber, onion, and tomato), over buttered rice. You also get to choose from a selection of kebab (beef, chicken, squid, shrimp, lamb, or fish). I chose their chicken while my companions, their shrimp. The chicken was tasty and well-seasoned. The shrimp was a little bland according to Martha. Because of the salad it doesn't feel too rich even though the rice is buttered. Well balanced dish.

Price: ₱165.00

Yogurt Milk Shake

Plain sour yogurt blended with milk, sweetener (I'm guessing here), and ice. At first I was not so sure about this but as we eat and have the shake wash our meals down, it made sense to have this as the complimentary drink.

Price: ₱60.00



We didn't order much the first time but I look forward to sampling their other exotic sounding dishes next time. :-p


Over-all rating: 3.75/5


-Faye


Location:
Kabab Korner - 33 Matalino St., Brgy. Central, Quezon City

Thursday, June 13, 2013

On the Jellicoe Road

From this distance everything is so bloody perfect.

This is the view from the top of the treehouse a group of '80s kids built. The prettiest road Narnie's ever seen. And one of the most poignant, affecting novels I have ever read.

On the Jellicoe Road is about two tales intertwined crafted by Australian writer Melina Marchetta. 17-year-old Taylor Markham struggles as the new leader of her house and the sudden disappearance of her guardian, Hannah. Immersing herself on Hannah's manuscript and the territorial wars, not only does she learn her probable whereabouts but also unravels something significant and gaining much more along the way.

Although confusing at first, this beautiful story slowly unfolds as the chapters run. Some revelations are quite foreseen; however, Marchetta's writing is as lovely as the plot she created. I like how she describes, enough to set the tone but also leaves some to the imagination. The lines are filled with emotion, something to reflect on. It is frustrating though when she often ends a scene hanging, leaving one wanting for more. 
"It's funny how you can forget everything except people loving you. Maybe that's why humans find it so hard getting over love affairs. It's not the pain they're getting over. It's the love."
I fell in love with the characters from the past and present (very much so with Jonah Griggs), their happiness and hurt, and the Jellicoe Road itself. I've dreamt of going there and befriending the boarders, townies, and cadets. Everything is so engrossing it felt real even up to the last page. There is always some sadness involved in closing a book. But the memory and impact of a great story is priceless.

-Martha

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Taste of an Angel

I like cozy nooks and new food to try. Our friend Erika taught us just the place. Guess what? It's near where we live and yet we never heard of it before. Angel's Town Cafe has that shop around the corner feel. It is  a quaint cafe smack in the middle and quiet part of the city.

The shop is quite small, able to sit about thirty guests. But it adds to its hidden treasure appeal. They have a glass display in front where one can admire and choose his dessert. They have a good selection of entrees that are pocket-friendly. We've tried the following:

This fish got us hooked!
Ate Faye had their Baked Macaroni (₱73) which is moist and tasty. Daddy's Baby Back Ribs (₱139) is meaty but needed a little more bbq sauce. It can be served with either rice or mashed potato. Their Hamon Croquetas (₱58) are good for sharing. These items are satisfactory. 

Winner potato salad
The ones that got our top marks are their Potato Salad (Solo, ₱59) which has a fantastic twist since they use a mustard dressing, slices of hard boiled egg, and drumroll please...bacon bits! Delish! I had the Fish Fillet Burger (65) which comprises two slabs of cream dory fillet with lettuce and onion in a sesame bun. As for dessert, we liked their Strawberry Cheesecake (₱58). A tart and creamy cheesecake with strawberry glaze. 

They also serve an assortment of beverages. I went back there with my best friend Lou recently and we tried their best-seller Avocado Cream. It's a smooth, creamy blend of ripe avocado and milk with whipped cream and choco sprinkles on top. A taste of heaven in every sip! I'm thankful to have a cafe nearby to enjoy a tete a tete with my loved ones. Bon appetit!

Rating: 4/5

-Martha

Location:
Angel's Town Cafe - 164-B MH Del Pilar St., Between 8th and 9th Ave., Caloocan City

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Name Day

As I've said before, May is my favorite month of the year. Not just because it's the fiesta season or that the first rain of the year falls around this time but also because it's my name day month! Like everybody else, I look forward to having my own day. Which is to say, the day I was born.

Good haul this year! :)
Well, what's wrong with that really? Everyone greets me 'Happy Birthday!' as if I've done something really amazing, people around me makes me feel important so much so that they keep their criticisms and opinions (of moi) to themselves (for the day), they agree with everything I say, they praise me for no apparent reason, and the best bit is that I get presents!

Ah yes, the gifts. People I love honor my being alive and turning a year older by giving colorful, wrapped presents.  It may be big or small, expensive or cheap, useful or useless, may or may not be the thing I wanted but all the same I get to have something to appreciate. As they say: It's the thought that counts.

And isn't that great? When I think about it, it's okay if people don't pay attention to me 364days out of a year but that one day, that one special day, I want to feel as if that day belongs to me and nobody else's.

Well, of course this is untrue as there will be hundred million others celebrating their birthdays as well, but who cares? This is my day! :)

-Faye

Monday, May 20, 2013

Great Beauty Finds for Under ₱100 (2013)

Every girl appreciates beauty products from time to time... Even those like me who aren't very girly. Here are some goods my sister and I came across:

1. Sophie Magic Pink Cream


Sophie Paris is one of the top direct-selling brands in the country. I've joined the biz late last year and discovered items I cannot resist. One of which is this cream blusher that is very affordable and effective. The white cream turns pink once applied on the skin. Like magic! Just a pea-sized amount gives your cheeks that natural, 'in love' blush and lasts all day long. 


Price: ₱85
Order from: Any Sophie girl near you

2. Strawberry Face Mask


Our face is the most exposed part of our body. That's why it needs extra nurturing. One way to pamper it is by putting on a face mask once in awhile. This yogurt-based mask that smells oh-so-sweet like strawberries rejuvinates and hydrates the skin. It's not the peel-off kind. Just leave it on and rinse after a few minutes for a softer, fresher skin.

Price: ₱39.75 (Buy 2, Get 1 Free)
Shop at: Watson's Drug Store

3. Foot treats' Antibacterial Foot Scrub in Citrus


Two buddies we shouldn't take for granted are our feet. So why not purchase this foot scrub and get one for free? Our eyes sparkle the instant we see the 'buy one, take one' sign but this one's really a steal! With its tiny beads, it thoroughly scrubs off dead skin and dirt from our used-up feet. Like going to a really quick spa. It also comes in other scents like Primrose and Grapeseed.

Price: ₱99.00 (For 2 jars)
Shop at: Watson's Drug Store

Get beauty wisely! :)

-Martha

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Milk Tea Crazy

Tea is always a good idea. It has a distinct organic flavor plus it's healthy and soothing to the body. Having said these, however, tea is not everyone's cup of tea (Get it?). Some find it grassy or bitter and prefers sweeter drinks like frapuccinos. That's before milk tea emerged. Since this more playful, hipper beverage from Taiwan fashioned our country, Filipinos begin to drink tea more often, including me. Here's some shops I like:

1. Happy Lemon

Happy Lemon serves a lot of coffee and tea-based drinks. They have fruit teas, yogurts, and their famed rock salt and cheese items but their milk tea is also good! Their flavors are not varied enough compared to others though.

They have the basic brewed milk tea with different add-ons like beans, grass jelly, cookies, or pearls (which are delightfully small and travels smoothly through the straw). It tastes a bit bland once the ice melts but their menu is pretty affordable since your one hundred bucks can go a long way. :)

Rating: 3.25/5
*In the picture: Milk Tea with Oreo Cookies and Cream (Left), Milk Tea with Black Pearl Sago (Right).


2. Chatime 

If you're in for a good time, why not try Chatime?
Their place in Pioneer is roomy and perfect for chatting with friends. The one in SM Megamall is nice too with an iPad display so customers can browse pictures and descriptions of their wide selection of products.

Their milk teas are refreshing and creamy. I've tried some and liked their Taro and Matcha Red Bean in particular. Their prices are 100 more or less since the toppings have a separate price.

Rating: 3.75/5
*In the picture: Taro Milk Tea with Pearl and Jasmine Green Tea with Mousse (Okay so it's not milk tea but hey).

3. Gong Cha

Gong cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me? Gong cha! 

Enough with my pussycat doll commercial. Lol!

What can I say? I'm addicted to this baby. It's so silky, smooth, and flavorful! Even if you opt for their less sugar level, their milk teas taste great. They even have concoctions that are not available in other stores. So far, each time I try new flavors, Gong Cha doesn't disappoint. The price range is also within the 100 peso zone. 'Sinkers' entail additional bucks but the blends alone can satisfy. My current favorites are their GC Wintermelon, Honeydew, and Earl Grey Milk Teas. I hear their Ice Cream Milk Tea and Coconut Milk Tea are ah-mazing!

Rating: 4.25/5
*In the picture: Gong Cha Milk Wintermelon Tea

So tea is a good idea. But milk tea seems to be a better one. Slurp! :)

-Martha

Location:
Happy Lemon - 2F The Block, SM North EDSA, Quezon City
Chatime - Pioneer Center Supermart, 8006 Pioneer Street, Kapitolyo, Pasig City or UG Level SM Megamall A, Mandaluyong City
Gong Cha - 4F Trinoma, Quezon City

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Safe Haven

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks. Yes, another one of his melodramatic novels that would entail a lead character dying of some terrible illness, an overly romanticized plot, and oh, most definitely a tear jerker. These thoughts went through my mind as I was hurriedly browsing for ebooks to download and saw this title. Except for 'A Walk to Remember' (novel) and a couple of movies adapted from his books, I don't think I paid any attention to his works. But I was running out of things to read so I decided 'What the hey?' and touched the proverbial download button.

Katie, a mysterious twenty-something woman is desperate to start her life over. She thought she found solace after arriving in Southport, a little town in North Carolina. Although she struggled to open up to the people she met, she soon found herself befriending a local named Jo and falling in love with a shop owner called Alex. But just as she's starting to gain her sense of self, her alarmingly violent past catches up with her.

'I truly believe that while love can hurt, love can also heal...'

I was right, all of my expectations about this book were true. Surprisingly, I liked it! Sparks kept me turning the pages on my tablet. This wasn't just a sappy romantic novel. It also has suspense, action, and dare I say, fantasy. I liked that it was a little dark and a bit brutal in some parts. Not your typical Nicholas Sparks love story. The fear and self doubt in Katie's character is what glued this whole thing together. The emotions emanating from her drove the story.

I liked this novel enough to watch the movie version online. Sadly, I was disappointed by Julianne Hough's acting. It lacked depth and she was unconvincing as an abused woman running for her life. As I said, the story depended on Katie's emotional turmoil. She didn't give that. :(

Though the movie didn't fare as well as the novel, I still learned something from this experience... Don't judge a book by its cover. ;)

-Faye

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Let's Go To The Beach

Based on a review I read about Villa Navarro, I wasn't too thrilled when I learned our company summer outing will be there. But when we arrived there last week, we were greeted by a friendly staff and quickly checked-in our rooms. Since we were sixteen in the group (including children) we occupied three executive rooms and a family cottage. Though rooms were a bit small and sparse in decorations they were clean and basic amenities were provided.

Lunch was already waiting for us after depositing our bags. It was simple but delicious. We had inihaw na porkchop, pritong bangus, and monggo with bagnet. They served ripe mangoes for dessert that were very sweet. The servers were attentive to our needs.

Afterwards, we changed into our swimsuits and took a dip in their pool where a watchful lifeguard supervised us. This was comforting esp. with kids around. The drawback was that they only let us use the pool until 8pm. This I believe was because the lifeguard gets off at 8pm, too. We were a bit disappointed but took consolation on the fact that we can swim in the beach which is a few yards away from the resort. However, that afternoon, the waves were just too big for us to enjoy it much.

Enjoying the scenery and having a blast with friends

At dinner, they served us sweet and sour fish fillet, beef nilaga, and diningding. For dessert, juicy watermelon. They were tasty and plenty to go around. We ate at the nipa hut near the beach. It was so relaxing to hear the waves crashing on the shore and feel the wind on our skin. This was what I came here for. 

A videoke machine was also set up in our nipa hut and we sang 'til the wee hours of the night. I hope we didn't bother anyone. Their bar also served us drinks like beer, gin, and cola.

The next morning, we took a stroll on the beach and watched stray dogs play. At some point some of them approached us but I didn't mind because I'm a dog lover. I also think it added to the appeal of the resort. 'Probinsyang-probinsya' comes to mind. They served us fried egg, longganisa Vigan, and garlic rice for breakfast. Fresh pineapple as panghimagas (dessert).

All in all, it was a great stay at this resort. The furniture could be improved/updated, the place/look could use a bit of sprucing up, and maybe longer hours on use of pool. I liked that the place is kept clean, has lots of trees, good food, polite staff (very prompt and accommodating), and its quiet and simple ambience. I also like that they seem animal friendly (I saw a guest check in with his dog).

I was apprehensive at first but now I could see myself coming back there.

-Faye


Location:
Villa Navarro Resort - Caba, La Union, Philippines

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Mysterious Benedict Society

It was one of those day-offs when I had nothing to do at home so, dying to catch up on some reading, I borrowed one of my sister's books. I'll never regret that moment when I first opened The Mysterious Benedict Society. 

A curious newspaper ad brings together four special children named Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance. Each kid has a unique talent that comprises a great team to embark on a secret mission for the genius Mr. Benedict. Their exciting yet dangerous adventure will surely keep you flipping through the pages of this trilogy by Trenton Lee Stewart.

Having finished the series, I must say I'm very satisfied with the story. It's not only for children but also for adults with a passion for solving riddles and puzzles. Their journey pursue as they discover their strengths and weaknesses, unravel mysteries (sometimes involving their personal lives), and develop a strong friendship.

All the characters are engaging and the writing is intelligent yet light. I should have picked up this book from my sister's crate sooner. But I'm thrilled I finally gave it a shot. It's a fun read. Two thumbs up! I can't wait to read the fourth installment and prequel to the story, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict. 

The advantage of having nothing to do at home, eh? :)

-Martha

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Oh, Mann!

Nothing beats sharing good food with family. And we found just the right place to do so. Mann Hann serves Chinese-Filipino cuisine in a cool, minimalist ambience. Here are the scrumptious courses we tried:


Beef Brisket Hong Kong Noodles

It's a nice twist to the popular dish. Who would have thought beef brisket can be the main ingredient to a noodle soup?  A steaming bowl of beef and noodles swimming in savory broth topped with chives.

The beef brisket flavor is there but sadly a little bland. The idea is clever and sensible; however, the execution falls a bit short of our expectations.

Price: ₱195.00
Rating: 3.5/5




Sweet & Sour Pork

Crispy, juicy, and tender layers of pork sauteed in a sweet and sour sauce with pineapple chunks, green bell peppers, and red onions.

This colorful dish is very succulent and the burst of flavor goes well with plain white rice. The serving is generous, ready to be enjoyed by the whole family.


Price: ₱260.00
Rating: 4/5
Spicy Squid


Deep-fried squid paired with Chinese bagoong and calamansi. We were confused with the idea of squid being dipped in shrimp paste. It's wee bit overpowering for us so we skipped the dip.

The squid has a proper amount of chewiness (not tough) though we imagine it would have tasted way better with a sweet or sour or creamy sauce on the side (anything other than salt on salt).


Price: ₱270.00
Rating: 3/5


Mapo Tofu

Last but definitely not the least, the dish that's been a huge hit to us. Tofu, mushrooms, and ground pork set in a spicy chili and bean-based sauce.

The tofu is perfectly cooked and literally melts in your mouth. The simple components of this dish blend well and together make a high-quality meal. The price is a steal since it can feed at least 5 or more clamoring bellies.

Price: ₱190.00
Rating: 4.5/5


Speaking of clamoring bellies, ours were happy at the end of our lunch. Buuurp!

-Martha


Location:
Mann Hann - 2F Main Bldg., SM North EDSA, Quezon City

Saturday, April 6, 2013

On Being Holy

At Monasterio de Santa Clara in Quezon City
I am not a very religious person but I do observe some traditions associated with my family's faith. Last March marked this year's Lenten season. Annually, my family and I would go to churches and pray. Primarily to atone one's sins and ask for forgiveness.

Mom & cousin Balu at St. Francis of
Assissi in Mandaluyong City
We were able to visit quite a number of churches and parishes during the Holy Week. Frankly, it's not how many you get to visit but how you immerse yourself in the experience and have your spiritual self be 'cleansed' and 'fed'. Well, that's just my opinion.

I consider this time to reflect on the things that happened, so far, in my life. How I reacted to some of my past misgivings or errors made.


Basically, this is when I make a promise or resolution to try and better myself. I'm also with my family when I do this so that's a plus factor.

Maybe this quote can sum up my prayers: 'Whatever I have in mind Lord, I surrender them to You. I will do the best I can but in the end, let Your will be done. Amen.'


-Faye