Saturday, May 27, 2017

Mama's garden

I was featuring my mother's garden but have not shown it in perspective. Following is a photo of the 'larger' part of her humble garden, which basically goes around my parents' home. You can see the orchids here that are the main attractions. Most of the plants are relatively low maintenance and our kasambahay Ate Ellen helps her care for the plants. As the wet season has arrived, they won't really have to water the plants that much.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Orchids at Mama's Garden

I had written about my mother's fondness for plants, especially orchids. I recall that she was so delighted by the waling-waling I had brought from Davao from my first trip there. It took some time before that orchid flowered and when it did, it was so impressive. Unfortunately and mysteriously, the orchid died after flowering. Mama and Tatay believed that the waling-waling was indeed for Davao only. That was over 15 years ago and perhaps I need to go back and get some samples of the orchid again to prove that it will grow here. Anyhow, following are two falenopsis orchids currently in full bloom at my mother's garden in Cainta.

These falenopsis orchids are the latest in her collection
It seemed a coincidence that the orchids we gave her a few years ago are currently in full bloom

She also has dendrobiums and vandas but these have no flowers now. I noticed this afternoon though that one dendrobium just started to grow the stem from which flowers will come out of. Mama no longer uses fertilizers to induce the orchids and just let them be. I will take some more photos next time I visit my parents' home.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Moonrise in Antipolo

I have posted a lot about the sun (sunrises and sunsets) but seldom about the moon. Last weekend presented an opportunity to take a few photos of the moon as it rose from the mountains of Antipolo, Rizal. I thought the rise of the full moon was made more dramatic by the trees that almost obscured the view from our home.

Here are some photos of the moonrise I took with my iPhone 6. I initially tried to get a photo using my trusty Canon Ixus, a very good point and shoot. The requirements (read: adjustments to the camera settings) though to make a good photo didn't allow me time for something that was going to happen over a few seconds. It was a good decision to use the smartphone instead. There are no filters, modifications or enhancements to the following photos of the moonrise.

A friend commented on the same photos that I posted on social media and said that they seemed eerie because of the effect the dark tree branches had. I replied that I saw that immediately before I took the photos. This was deliberate on my part as it was part of the composition, this eerie sort of creepy subject of the full moon. Now I look forward to more moonrise photos.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Falenopsis Orchids for Mama

Last Sunday was Mothers' Day and as we were hosting lunch at our home, we decided to get something for our mothers and my sister whom we were expecting at noon. One of the first things that came to my mind was orchids. My mother has a nice garden where she has a lot of flowering plants. Among these were those that Tatay, my siblings and I had given her in the past that she nurtured and succeeded in propagating. My mother-in-law also has a garden in their home and there are many nice plants there under her care including fruit bearing ones.

Orchids I got from one of the shops at the Quezon Memorial Circle
Two things that go well together it seems are flowers and art. Here are two of the orchids and some of the paintings at our living room.
Here's another photo with the remaining orchid together with one of our favorite paintings.
My mother chose the lighter pink orchids while my mother-in-law chose the white with the pink interior. My sister opted not to get hers as she said it was going to be difficult for her to care for the orchids. I was going to give it to my mother but Tatay said we could keep it and then we could give it to Mama for her to nurture them until they flower again.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Chocolate review: Torino Noir Dark Chocolate with Hazelnut Filling

Here is another chocolate that we forgot about in storage (read: the back of our refrigerator). I found this bar with what was left of our most recent stash of dark chocolates and decided to eat it not because of curiosity but because its label indicated that it would be the first to expire among the chocolates we had in reserve. The date at the back of the label though did not indicate expiration but most likely was a "best before" information.

Dark chocolate with hazelnut filling
Details on the chocolate at the back
Nutrition information

I think I got this one from a trip to Santis to purchase some wine. I was curious about the hazelnut filling for this dark chocolate but I only got one bar because the Clairvoyant was not really a fan of this type of chocolates with fillings unless the chocolates happen to be the really good ones that we've tried before. If it were from Santis then its likely that this cost about 125 PHP, which is not so expensive for a 100g Swiss chocolate bar. We thought that the filling was just the right texture and flavor to mix with the minimum 47% cocoa. It was more on the sweet rather than the bitter side of dark chocolates. I will try to get a bar or two again soon just to get reacquainted with this chocolate.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Yellow Lantern Cafe, Antipolo

One afternoon after a trip to the Avilon Zoo in Rodriguez (formerly Montalban), Rizal. we decided to make a "merienda" stop along our way home. The Clairvoyant suggested the Yellow Lantern Cafe in Mambugan, Antipolo City. The cafe is located at the initial steep ascent from lower Antipolo to the upper part of the city where there are several establishments offering nice views of Metro Manila. She had eaten there before with an old friend from university and they had a good snack plus the benefit of good wifi.

Tables included those with all seats facing the balcony. Despite the afternoon sun, the cafe benefited from a cool breeze. There were TV screens strategically located around the cafe where they likely show popular programs including probably basketball games or boxing matches.
Staff congregated at the bar for what seemed to be a downtime for everyone. We were told they were busiest after 5PM when people start coming in for the sunsets and later for the cityscapes after dark.
The cafe has air-conditioned rooms for more private functions and I guess you can also have your own karaoke session in those rooms.
We came at a time when there was only us eating there (around 2:30 PM on a holiday). We practically had the entire cafe and staff to ourselves.
Chocnut cheesecake - a definitely "must try" for those eating at the cafe
The cafe offers this view of Metro Manila. It was mid-afternoon when I took this photo so the sun is basically setting towards the west and giving more emphasis on the smog smothering the metropolis. I can imagine this to be a more spectacular view at night when all the lights give a different feel to the cityscape.
Looking at their menu, Yellow Lantern Cafe has good variety and is not your typical "inuman" place. Prices are fair and the selection gives you choices for food whether its for full meals or light ones like the merienda we had. I would say that it is a good place to go to if you want a place to eat at Antipolo without having to go all the way up and to the restaurants further up Sumulong Highway. It affords a great view of Metro Manila, offers good food, and, based on our experience, good service from the staff.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Back at Vieux Chalet

We haven't eaten at Swiss Vieux Chalet for quite some time now. And so we decided to eat there again also partly to see if our Ally would like the food.

Vieux Chalet has remodeled their front
Inside, it was almost the same interiors as I remembered from the last time we were there.
Quaint tables, framed artwork and a piano
The patio had a major improvement - the windows
Raclette - this is our favorite appetizer here and we almost always order it to start our meals there
Our very refreshing basil lemon iced tea and calamansi honey cooler
Homemade smoked pork chop with mushroom sauce - this is actually my favorite item on the menu and I have not enjoyed pork chops anywhere as much as I enjoyed these, with or without rice. If you still opt for rice, their herb rice is the one you should order as it is perfect with the chops.
Five cheese grilled pizza
Chocolate cake a la mode - our daughter definitely enjoyed this treat with the homemade ice cream
Today's Mothers' Day so I thought it was a good time to post about our recent lunch there.  Our daughter enjoyed the food (she loved the pizza) but we thought she enjoyed the place more as she was amused by the interiors and the kind chow chow they have who just lay there in front, apparently for guests to pet. We'll be back again soon so we can try other items on the menu. That way, our Ally could also develop her taste for different dishes (and good food).


Monday, May 8, 2017

Hot chocolate: Godiva Hot Cocoa

I was browsing the material I had posted last month and realized it was the first time (month) I didn't have a single article on chocolate. I usually had at least one every month but for some reason I didn't get to write one. Perhaps its because we didn't get to try out a new chocolate so there was nothing new to write about. This time though, there's a few that I would likely write about this month of May. 

A good friend had a trip to the US earlier this year and I was assigned to be her OIC for a couple of weeks. Knowing how much I like my hot chocolate, she gave me a canister of powdered cocoa by Godiva.

Godiva hot cocoa in a canister
Information about the company and the chocolate
Nutrition facts
Among my mug collection is this one from Bag of Beans that I occasionally use for when I have good hot chocolate
I basically followed the instructions written on the canister but instead of using fresh milk, I opted to use condensed milk to mix with the hot cocoa. The end result was a perfect drink during one cool morning during the first quarter of the year. Actually, our daughter had been egging me to make some hot chocolate and pointed to the canister when asked how we will make some hot choco.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Excellent in-room dining at Shangri-la Mactan

Whenever we stay at hotels with our daughter these days, we try to simplify our choices for where to eat our meals. Often, we just opt to order room service considering the servings are often generous enough for the three of us. It helped that we also usually had some food leftover from a previous meal or that we bought something heavy enough as a meal or supplement.

Recently, we had a vacation in Cebu and stayed at the Shangrila Mactan. We again ended up ordering via room service and consulted the menu for what our daughter would likely enjoy eating. We also chose some items we thought were okay based on the marks indicating they were specialties of the chef. We were not disappointed with what arrived at our room and had really good meals in the comfort of our room. That way, we could also recover after a entire day's activities; mostly at the beach and the pools, which our daughter enjoyed thoroughly. Here are some photos of the food we ordered, which we took for posterity (read: so we know what to order next time).

Ham and cheese panini
Spaghetti bolognese
Pancit canton
Salt and pepper squid - the menu indicates it as a specialty of the chef
Their bolognese is the best if not one of the best we've tasted and the salt and pepper squid on top of salad of greens was definitely special. We definitely recommend them should one decide to go for room service.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Chi Spa at Shangri-la Mactan

It seemed appropriate to celebrate Labor Day by writing about something we like to have at the end of some busy days (even weeks or months sometimes). We love having massages and used to go regularly to a spa along Katipunan Avenue. That spa closed many years ago despite what seemed like good business they were getting. It was a legit one and not like others that provide "special" services that's associated with the more sleazy establishments.

I usually have massages when I travel and have them at the hotel where it is most convenient. Our favorites when the wife and I do have the chance when traveling or 'staycationing' together is at the better hotels that have fine spas as part of their facilities. Those include Sofitel and Marriott Hotels.

I first learned about the Chi Spa from the wife. Later, I learned more about it as I read reviews and so I looked forward to having a massage there. I did have one early this year, an early birthday present from the Clairvoyant when we stayed at the Shangrila Edsa Plaza. On vacation with our daughter last April, we decided to have our massages at the Chi Spa at Shangrila Mactan. We were not disappointed with the

Gateway along the path from the main wing of Shangrila Mactan
A view of the entrance leading to the Chi Spa's main lobby
The spa is practically a compound within the expansive Shangrila Mactan grounds. You get your treatments at one of the cottages in the compound. And there are a lot of facilities for one to use including the sauna and the jacuzzi. Of course, treatments at Chi Spa are on the more expensive side but I would say that it was well worth what we paid. The services and facilities are excellent, and the staff are very professional about their work. I am already looking forward to the next vacation at Shangrila Mactan.