Sunday, November 30, 2008


Yesterday was my dear mother-in-law's birthday. (Now I know that many people may read the phrase "dear mother-in-law" sarcastically, but believe me when I say that I am completely sincere.) The whole family went out for wonderful dinner and bowling afterward. We were all surprised that MIL turned out to be very good at it, despite having not bowled for something like 20 years! As a matter of fact, for at least one of the three games we all played, she scored higher that both me and my husband.

So to my mother-in-law, happy birthday. I wish you all the best, good health and happiness. Thank you for all your love and support. Matt and I can't wait to spend time with you in Florida over the holidays.

Happy Birthday Deb!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Giving Double

Today is the day that America celebrates Thanksgiving. Tonight, I am thankful for having two wonderful families with whom to celebrate this special occasion. And lucky for me, I don't need to worry which family I go to when.

Because my own family works in the medical field, they're schedule to work every other holiday (for example, they will work on Thanksgiving day and they will be off on Christmas day). As a result, my mom celebrated Thanksgiving with her family on Wednesday. Instead of a traditional turkey for dinner, she served a delicious Cornish game hen, with stuffing, potatoes, and asparagus. (I'll leave it to the reader to ponder the irony of serving a traditionally English game bird for Thanksgiving, but no matter what, it was delicious)

For dessert, she served a mixture of Filipino desserts such as Macapuno pie, Puto, Gelatin, together with some traditional Thanksgiving desserts such as Pecan and Pumpkin pie, paired with fresh fruits mixed.

Today, my husband and I went to his parents' house (my second family) to celebrate a more traditional Thanksgiving. My father-in-law made a delicious (and spicy) black bean soup. My mother-in-law served a traditional turkey for dinner (unfortunately, we arrived late so the turkey was already carved), with stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, corn bread and cranberry sauce. I brought Brussels sprouts sauteed with garlic and pancetta, and my sister-in-law brought pumpkin bread and biscuits. (I'm already getting full again just thinking about it).

As usual, the whole family was there. I was thrilled to see my 3 nephews and their cousins who were growing very fast. The dinner didn't start before the tradition of everyone at the table explaining what they are thankful for this year. Even my 2 1/2 year old nephews had to say something. We all find this somewhat entertaining, especially because my mother-in-law took this "tradition" from her favorite daytime soup opera. But she treats this very seriously and becomes emotional every time it's her turn to say what she is thankful for.

The T family Thanksgiving celebration continues with an array of wonderful desserts and variety of individual flavored coffees. It's like having your own barista.

Having two families to celebrate Thanksgiving means having twice the feast, twice the drama, twice the fun and twice the love. And that is something that I am thankful everyday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Masungit at Mataray

Two weeks ago a long lost friend of a long somewhat lost cousin (let's call him B) added me in Friendster. Now, I wasn't really that friends with B, but since it's been so long, why the heck not? And besides, I was hoping to find my cousin from B's friends list. B send me an email requesting to view my private wedding photos. Since I wasn't so sure about him, I replied to him to confirm if he really was my cousin'e friends. B responded: "Yup! masungit ka nga at mataray (yup you are that mean person)"

What? I thought he was joking so I let it go, but the next day when I chatted with one of B's friends, the friend confirmed that B said the same thing about me to him. What's this? Why is B complaining to everyone about me? Seriously dude....are you holding on to some long, clearly lost whatsoever grudge about me? I just don't get it/

As I started to think about it, I began to wonder, if B really thinks so poorly of me, then why did he even want to view my private photo when he clearly doesn't like me to begin with? Was this all just to get some gossip about me, so he could talk about me with everyone else in his pathetic little circle of friends?

Seriously, B what is the point of this? I'm 17 years and half a world away from you. Just get over it dude.

I'll admit that I am not always the sweetest person you'll ever meet, I am blunt and have never had a problem telling it like it is. Diplomacy isn't exactly my strong suit; but I like to think that honesty is. And truthfully, you either you like me or you don't. Whatever.

But since I haven't spoken to B in who knows how long, how does he have any idea if I am mataray? And if 3 out of 4 of B's friends don't have a problem with me (as far as I know), then maybe the problem isn't with me, huh?

So, B, if you're reading this, I hope you enjoy reading my profile, viewing my photos and have a good life living in the desert!! Oh, and seriously dude.....get over it!


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

April In Paris??

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos

It's not yet Thanksgiving, but last week it was already feeling as cold as Christmas-time. And in the cold I started to get a craving for one of my favorite holiday snacks -- chestnuts.

We didn't have chestnuts growing up in the tropics. I actually didn't discover them until just a few years ago, when a co-worker introduced me to them. Oddly enough, she, too, was from the tropics...the Caribbean.

Ever since then, I crave Chestnuts when the cold weather comes. However, for some reason, I can only ever find good ones being sold on 5th Avenue between 44th and 54th Streets.

This weekend, when it was surprisingly cold for mid-November, I certainly wasn't going to hop a subway into Manhattan just to get some chestnuts.

So imaging my pleasure when I found a grocery selling raw chestnuts. How hard can it be to roast chestnuts? I was about to find out...

As it turned out, not hard at all. I just scored the chestnut and popped them into 400 degree oven. After 20 minutes....


Just sprinkle some salt and there you have it. Nice hot, home-roasted chestnuts, no metrocard needed...yum!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Underground Etiquette

I've been living in NYC for a very long time now and I have learned to adopt the New York culture of "mind your own business". Everyday, I go to work via public transportation and I always try to mind my own business. I try to have something with me on hand such as a book or news paper to entertain myself. Every day, I encounter different types of people in the subway - from regular working stiff like me to homeless people begging for quarters to tourist trying to experience the crazy subway life. Sometimes, I see the same people I rode the subway with a day before - my silent subway buddies. But sometimes, even in New York, you have to make a little noise....

One Thursday afternoon I was on my way to work. As usual the train was crowded and I didn't have a seat. I was standing in the middle of the train reading my book when all of sudden a family obviously from out of town rushed through the door and pushed themselves in. They pushed into me so hard that I almost fell, causing me to drop my book. I was irritated (how unusual for me) and was expecting them to apologize. I got nothing. Quite the opposite, they started giggling. While picking up my book, I gave them a look (which is a perfectly acceptable response under the mind your own business code) and told them that "it would be polite to say excuse me" (this may have been a breach of protocol, but given the circumstances, justifiable). They responded snidely saying "excuse you". Angry now, I replied "what an asshole" and moved on. A few seconds later these interlopers shouted "go back to your country freak". (It's aw-uhn now...)

What? What the fuck! I looked back at them and started the best argument I ever had in my life (having a lawyer husband - I can never win an argument):

"What the fuck did you say? You want me to go back to my own country? Fuck you! Who the hell are you to ask me to go back to my country? As far as I know you are not native Americans to ask someone like me to go back to my country. And beside, at least I have my own you know where the hell you came from? Not because you're white you are entitled to be a fucking racist. Before you ask someone to go back to their own country - think and use your peanut side brain and perhaps learn history and find out where the hell you came from!"

I turned around, a little shaky and, to be honest, a little scared that the alpha male (who based his accent came from somewhere deep south) would punch me and knock me down. Clearly the hometown crowd appreciated my breach as a bunch of people started clapping and nodding at me. This sign solidarity scared the tourist and drove them off at the next stop.

Ahh, that made me feel better and thanks the people who supported me.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against tourist in NYC. As a matter of fact I welcome them. I think they help the economy of the city that I love and I call home. But sometimes, just use your head! And if not, well watch out....because, if not, you will learn that the "mind your own business" ethos can quickly give way to that classic Noo Yawk attitude. And, to paraphrase Naughty By Nature: "If you ain't never been in the subway, don't ever come to the subway, 'cause you wouldn't understand the subway, so stay the fuck out of the subway!" (Yeah, you know me.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Utang Na Loob Huramentado

In my native language, we have a phrase "Utang Na Loob." This is similar to the concept in English of a "debt of gratitude" (as opposed to a "Quantum of Solace") - where an act of voluntary assistance. Often, Utang Na Loob is used in reference to the parent/child relationship - a child, when fully grown, is often expected to take care of her elderly parents, just as the parent (hopefully) did when the child was growing up.

Now I understand the concept of "respect your elderly," and I appreciate all of the love and assistance my mother gave me when I was growing up, but at some point, "Utang na Loob" becomes ridiculous. At some point it simple becomes unfair to spout out "Utang Na Loob" and expect to get whatever you want. It's like our fine feathered and soon to be departing leader spouting out, "How can my rich buddies expect to pay any taxes after 9/11?"

I recently encountered a dose of Utang Na Loob run amok:

Having so much time off from work, I mentioned to my husband that I would like to go back to Philippines for few weeks. It's been a long time since I've been home and seem by family (we're talking pre 9/11) and I miss them very much. My husband said that he thought it was a great idea, but he can't go with me because he is busy at work (apparently litigators are doing well despite of shitty economy) and he can't take any time off. Truth to be told, it's been a long time since I've been home that I am a little scared to go alone. I wouldn't really know how to get from Manila to the province where I grew up, and it is not always the safest for a woman (especially one from America who is presumed to have money) to travel alone. So I decided to ask my mom if she wanted to go home with me (she goes home every year).

When I asked my mom she quickly responded. "sure, why not?" Then she added, "Would you pay for my fare?" Ummm, no! What are you thinking? The economy sucks and we need to tighten our belts a bit. But to be polite, I smiled at her and said no.

The next day I got a disturbing call from a family member; apparently the conversation with my mom was brought to his attention. After some stilted small talk, he get to the crux of why he called - why won't I pay for my mom's airfare to go back home. He explained to me that, without my mother I wouldn't be - either in America or this world at home. Utang Na Loob! I ended the phone all without saying anything.

Now, this is hardly the first time that he or my family had used this on me. Every time they need something and I say no, the first thing they do is make us feel guilty and reminding us of Utang Na Loob. Its as if, because I am marriend to an attorney who makes a pretty comfortable living (we're not wealthy by any stretch), that I should be expected to pay for everything.

I know this concept is not unique to my country, but it is especially strong in Asian countries. After children reach a certain age, parents always makes demands on their children for the same of Utang Na Loob. I understand children should to be appreciative for all the things that their parent have done for them. But are we really expected to subsidize our parents? Why is it MY obligation for my parents' expenses now that I'm grown up and successful. I understand that, but why isn't it the parents' responsibility for ensuring that their children become successful and productive members of society.

Shouldn't the parent WANT the child to be successful, so the child will not be relying on them for the rest of their lives? Or shouldn't you want your children to be successful because that reflects on the way you raised them? Or because you don't want your children to have to suffer? Isn't the unconditional love a parent feels for his child ingrained because of the basic life need to continuing the species?

It can't really be that my parents had me to secure a stream of income for when they were older? Surely the cost of raising children far outweighs the expected return, and it's not like the tax benefits are not THAT favorable. As an accountant, I would have to strongly advise anyone out there against investing in children.

Yet, that's what Utang Na Loob would have you believe.

Now, don't get me wrong, I try helping my family as much as I can but I refuse to make it my responsibility. It's not like I grew up in the lap of luxury. When I came to America, I learned how to work for everything I need and want. When we first came here, my mother wanted me to become a nurse. She said she would pay for my schooling if I did, so I went to nursing school (talk about the living stereotype!) I took 2 years of nursing classes at Iona College but when it came time to get to actual work (training) I hated it. I couldn't make it more than half a day at the hospital when I was training.....I knew I would be miserable if I continued in nursing. I told my mom that I had decided to switch to accounting. She wasn't happy that I had strayed from the path that she took, and she told me that if I wanted to go to school for accounting, I would have to pay for it myself. FINE... Determined to be successful, I went to school at night and worked three jobs. I was a clerk, a cashier and babysitter. It was a hard work, especially fitting in with all my schoolwork, but I did it. I graduated from Fordham University, and I can now proudly admit that I'm successful.

I don't rely on my folks for any financial assistance (although my computer obsessed older brother is pretty generous when it come to giving me his cast-off computers and other hi-tech stuff). All I want is for them to be supportive of me. But sometimes even that is too much to ask. Last year, when I got married, we and my husband's family footed the bill. I had asked my mom to chip in a nominal amount of money. It wasn't the financial support that I wanted, but rather, the symbolic gesture that my mom was invested in my relationships with my husband that the money represented. Getting that was worse than pulling teeth out of a newborn's mouth (that's a whole other story.) Then, without chipping in a penny, my mom had the audacity to invite 40 of her close friends and family. A $75k wedding is pretty expensive in my world, and if were going to pay for 40 of my mom's guest (you never make up the cost of wedding through gifts, not that you should expect to), then I would expect my mom to chip even a little.

Fine...that's the past. But for mom to now condition taking trip home together upon paying for her...well that is simply too much. I still love my mom, and I appreciate her bringing me to this country, but at some point the statue of limitations on Utang Na Loob runs out.

So, it looks like it will be some time longer before I get to go back home. That is a bummer.... when is the next time I will have length of time off from work. But that's just the way it is sometimes, I suppose.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Don't Make My Brownies Blue

Fall season is here and cold weather is back again. The leaves on the trees are starting to turn its color and eventually fall on the ground. The sun now set very early at 4:00PM -that if its not cloudy outside; otherwise you will never see a sun at all...ugh. This kind of day makes me sad.

I was happy to be back home after a very long boring day. I sort my mails (its amazing how many catalogs I get each day - I guess Christmas shopping is coming soon, if its not already here), checked my emails, chatted with friends on YM, watered my plant and watched TV. As I sat down and snuggle on our brand spanking new couch, I heard my stomach rumbling. Clearly its a sign that I need some snack. I got up and went to the kitchen. I open every single cabinet and am shocked to find that we have no snack, goodies or muchies! What the hell did I do with it? Or better question is, did my husband eat all my snacks..ggrrr

Irritated, I slammed each cabinet door. I slammed it so hard that the salad mixing bowl fell on my head, followed by a box. In a bit of pain, I bent down to pick up the items that landed on the floor. Suddenly an electric mixer fell out of the cabinet...(getting angry now!)

Still in pain, I put the items back in the cabinet when I noticed, tucked away in a corner, a box of double chocolate fudge brownie mix. What a better way to chase away the cold weather blues than some delicious, moist and hot out of the oven chocolate fudge brownies. I followed the instructions and popped them in the oven. They smelled so good baking up, I could hardly stand the wait

Unfortunately, husband was working late, so I would have to wait to try the tasty treats. Eventually, he got home, we had dinner and cleaned up. Finally, it was time to bite into the chocolatey, fudgey goodness. I popped a piece in my mouth and....what is this? Well this tastes a bit odd.... I look at the box...Organic? Whole wheat flour?...No wonder something didn't seem right...these brownies were trying to be...gulp....HEALTHY! Oh well, hubby seems to like them just fine (not surprising if you knew him). Next time I'll have to read the label before baking!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another Hobby

I love having hobbies. I love having then so much that I have tons of them. Painting, reading, knitting, crocheting, tennis, cooking, scrap-booking...the list goes on. Of course, having so many hobbies is not the same as actually actively pursuing those hobbies. But in the fast-paced modern world of New York City, who really has time to do much of anything, much less a laundry list of hobbies. (Though you've got to have the equipment available in case the mood strikes, no?)

Recently, another very surprising hobby has shot up to the top of the list (propelled mostly by my husband, if I were pressed to admit.) Bowling....That's right....bowling

Me at Maple Lane

Now I didn't grow up in America, and bowling isn't exactly an integral part of my country. In fact, the second time I'd ever set foot in a bowling alley was during the hurricane that struck at the end of the summer. It was too rainy to do much of anything, so we took the trusty Civic (great acquisition by my husband) with some friends over to a nearby alley. We played a couple of games to see if we all actually liked it. And we did! (in spite of my score.) However, as the hygiene freak that I am, I really couldn't stomach using the house shoes (god knows what kind of bacteria and fungus is growing in those shoes) and bowling balls (some people don't wash their hands after bathroom).... so I insisted to my husband that I get my own bowling ball and shoes....and I got it!! (along with the rest of the blowing crews)

New smiling bowling ball and below is an engraved of my name nick name

On Friday, we headed over to our regular alley (yes, we now have a regular alley) and George, the pro-shop owner from whom we got our gear, came by to teach us some techniques. Unfortunately, our scores all went down after implementing his advice, but we are all pretty certain that is a temporary hiccup. Even the owner Johnny (hubby and friends thinks his name is Donny) invited us to join in a league after he saw how much fun we were having - I'm pretty certain he sees us as the new face of bowling for the 21th Century!

Given our track record, who knows how long I'll keep this up (although hubby and his brother from another mother are already ready to quit it all and go on tour!) But for the time being, I'm having fun with it - enough to get up at 8:30 AM on (some) Sundays to get the 3 hour price deal. And if we grow tired of it, well we still have a little bit of closet space left in the house.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Mom & Lucky

My mom has been living alone for a few years now.... I was the first to fly the coop and moved out; a little bit later my two brothers moved out to the suburbs of Northern Jersey (talk about sitcom....two Filipinos in a house in the Jersey suburbs, and we're not talking Jersey City here!) So imagine my surprised when I visited my mom yesterday and I discovered a new man living with her. He happily greeted me at the door even before my mom came. Curious, I wondered who this could be. But if my mom loves him, then I was excited to get to know him as well.

However, as soon as I sat down, I noticed he was acting a bit wary.... he started staring at me intently. Suddenly, he jumped at me, bit my arms and gave me a big scratch!

Yep that's Lucky - he is now my mom's new son, room mate and companion. He looks adorable and cuddly but watch out when you first meet him.....its better to let him come to you or just stay away from him!