Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Bloggers' Random Facts Tag

Last week had been tough work wise, and the trend seems to have been carried over this week. I'm taking it easy by posting 11 Random Facts about me as I was tagged by lovely Ruth of Clothing Fixations. Many thanks Ruth! I promised to return the gesture, so here it goes.

My first name means pearl.

I feel the sensation of being sick when I catch a whiff of Chanel No. 5. I just find it pungent. Apologies to all its fans.

I wanted to be a majorette when I was a girl because I was fascinated by the baton-twirling, the white knee-high boots, short pleated skirt, and military style jacket. Now that I'm older, the thought of wearing white knee-high boots sends shivers down my spine.

I've taken only two selfies so far: one reluctantly made it to a blog post, and the other was a profile picture in one social media account, taken due to my youngest sister's diligent prodding because she knows I hate selfies.

I used to sing for a living while in between jobs and my next move in life. I covered tunes by the likes of Des'ree, Sade, Basia, Beverly Craven, Oleta Adams, among others. I'm never one to crave and enjoy the limelight as a stage performer, so there were times when singing felt almost like a day job. I probably would have made a career in music as a vocal coach, but then again wouldn't have made the most patient teacher that I would eventually crush so many singing dreams. 

With my all-around acoustic guitarist, drummer, pianist, backing vocalist, bass guitarist, lead guitarist, and most importantly, bodyguard. Though I was no Whitney and he was no Kevin, I will always love him as he's such a talented musician and a dear friend.

I joined Miss Philippines-Earth more than a decade ago not because it was a  childhood dream to be a beauty queen but just because I wanted to be rich. I've seen the career opportunities that a beauty pageant title has afforded some women; I thought it was the easier route to be a TV presenter. I knew I wouldn't end up with  a banker or a politician; I find struggling artists more interesting. I had to strike it on  my own. I didn't win, I didn't become a TV presenter, but I can still work on being rich. Plus, I've gained and remained friends with 5 of the girls.  Joining a national beauty pageant gave me a first-hand insight on how it feels to be at the receiving end of criticisms and insults hurled at the contestants by the public and pageant snobs, oftentimes within an earshot. If you've not been in the shoes of  those pageant candidates, you seriously don't know what you're talking about, so please go easy on the comments.

A very grainy newspaper clipping of my failed attempt to bring home the crown. Brought home and devoured the bacon instead.

I studied basic French a couple of years ago. It's proven: it's more difficult to learn another language when you're older, and when you don't necessarily have to use it on a daily  basis or with a partner. But at least now, the Gallic language is no longer totally gobbledygook to me. Having said that, I think I'll do better in German.
I have a tiny birthmark on the inner side of my left foot which looks like a wound on its final stage of healing. My mum says when she was pregnant with me, she was badly craving some pork barbeque, but because my dad was Muslim (my mum's Catholic), she wasn't even allowed near it. The unsated craving is now permanently tattoed on my left foot. No, we're seriously not superstitious. It scares me though to try fish pedicure as the fish doctor might mistake my birthmark for food.

I have a nightshirt which I've had since I was 10. It used to fall just slightly above my knees. It now skims my hips. I've kept it and occasionally use it for going out, with a jacket thrown over it. 

The vintage shirt that's never been owned by anyone else but me

 I don't like black umbrellas, wet bathroom floor, and hair strands all over it, plus on the carpet, on my bed, on the sofa, and on my chair. 

I have a very sensitive nose that I can give very descriptive names for a range of olfactory assaults (let's not get down the route of mentioning the descriptions). My sense of smell is so acute that I can even smell insincerity.

Over to you, Useful Things Beautiful Things; Luxessed (I'm sure you've been tagged ages ago); Forcailini (to get you to do some teeny bit of writing); miss b of Bobochic; and Fashion Tales. Only when you have the time ladies :)

Thank you for reading!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Bubble Tea and Merienda in Notting Hill

I was thinking I'm probably the only Filipino in the whole of the UK who hasn't been to LAKWATSA (pronounced Lach-wa-cha), a Filipino-owned bubble tea lounge that opened in December 2012. So, Mr Tittle-Tattles and I finally drove to Notting Hill to sample some home away from home.

In a feature for Marie Claire UK, lakwatsa was translated to English as 'to chill.' The word though literally means truancy if we are to refer to its original use as a term for skipping school (I've done a fair bit of that). I'd say, to go for a lakwatsa is to gallivant, after which you end up somewhere to chill or hang out. We don't have a drinking culture, so chilling out means having a merienda or a light meal taken between lunch and dinner (sometimes even between breakfast and lunch), accompanied by refreshing non-alcoholic drinks. Think afternoon tea sans the builder's tea and digestives.

Philippine cuisine is a fusion of Malay, Spanish, Chinese, Taiwanese, other Asian influences, and American, so the menu will come across as a confused Southeast Asian who couldn't make up their mind, which is not unusual as we love to eat.

 As Lakwatsa is a lounge that serves merienda, the food menu is as small as the portions. 

 Lakwatsa is marketed as a bubble tea lounge and they do serve up a wide selection.

 Old crates as seats, made comfy with cushions accentuated with leather

 The owner loves hammocks, but they won't work in a small space for dining, so swings are the next best thing.

 Lumpiang Shanghai (spring rolls stuffed with pork and prawns served with sweet chilli sauce) on the left; and Tiger Prawn Tempura on the right

I originally wanted Mr Tittle-Tattles to try siopao (steamed bun with pork barbeque or chicken filling) but it was out of stock. I've read about punters complaining about this issue on Trip Advisor, but I didn't feel the need to give grief about it. I might though, on my third visit.

 Taro (with its signature purple colour) milk assam black tea with tapioca pearls, served in a jar

 Bubble tea is of Taiwanese provenance but a staple refreshment in the Philippines where sago (a starch extracted from the spongy centre of various tropical palm stems) pearls have always been used in desserts. Here, tapioca pearls which come from cassava, are used instead.

Zagu, on the left, is a brand of pearl shake we've been enjoying in the Philippines since 1999. On the right is a traditional Philippine street food called tahô which consists of silken tofu, caramelized brown sugar made viscous with water, and sago pearls.

Adobo sticky rice balls topped with crunchy garlic and chicken strips with a side dip made of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and pepper. Adobo is a signature Philippine dish that consists of pork or chicken or both, marinated and stewed in soy sauce, sugar cane vinegar, garlic, peppercorn, and bay leaf. Yum!

Vegetable spring rolls served with a vinegar and crushed pepper dip

We chose turon or banana fritters for dessert. Turon is made up of a thinly sliced cooking banana or Cardaba banana, a slice of jackfruit, dusted with brown sugar, rolled in a spring roll wrapper, then fried. Ice cream on the side is an optional modern twist.

If it was any warmer, halo-halo (a hodgepodge of shaved ice, evaporated milk, sweet beans, coconut jelly, jackfruit, leche flan, and vanilla ice cream) would have been the choice hands down. I highly recommend this cold dessert described as most bizarre by Victoria Stewart on her write-up for London Evening Standard (click HERE to read the article), or even 'oddly beautiful' on the Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown food and travel show

LAKWATSA's menu is perfect as an introductory fare to foodies who haven't tried Philippine cuisine before. We have a taste for big portions of a bold combination of salty, sweet, and sour for our mains that it would be a shock to palates accustomed to more bland served-by-course varieties. 

Lovely owner Claire talks through Lakwatsa's bubble tea varieties with some customers who just walked in when we were about to leave. On the wall are the menu clipboards and framed articles about her and the lounge as published in Vogue, Marie Claire, and London Evening Standard.

The lounge is exactly in the same street where the travel book shop in the famous movie was based.

I'll surely be back in summer to have more of the cold drinks and bring along some friends. Come and visit next time you're in town :)

7 Blenheim Crescent
Notting Hill
W11 2EE

Monday, 14 April 2014

One Fine Spring Day

Never mind that the changing weather is firing up my hay fever (aka allergic rhinitis) symptoms. The rare appearance of the sun dragged me to our local park which is just 5 minutes down the road. It was a glorious Sunday though a bit nippy. I took my HTC One and Cybershot to compare colours when shots are taken in bright sunlight. This is why you'll see that some photos are doubled in different frame sizes. I just have to take both with me all the time for the varying effects they offer. I'll buy a camera one day that does the job of both. In the meantime, come and take a walk with me in the park.

The ornamental pond with the fountain. Great for sitting down to listen to the sound of water, feeding the ducks, reading a book, getting some sun while having an ice cream or a glass of wine (I know, nowhere close to each other), or picnics with friends and loved ones.

The duck pond

My favourite seat in the park just right opposite the duck pond. The epitaph says 'Sit comfortably and remember those who died for you to sit in peace.'

The view from the opposite end of the ornamental pond.

Yes, you can feed them :)

In English folklore, a willow tree is believed to be capable of uprooting itself and stalking travellers. It makes me calm, peaceful, and rejuvenated instead.

Thus, the cafe in the vicinity is called Daisy's in the Park.

Shared ice cream with Mr Tittle-Tattles who finished off the bottom of the cone before I could even manage to take a photo.

On our walk back home, we passed by our village police station that's never really ever in use as we have the lowest crime rate in the whole of London. Have you seen one prettier than this?

What are you all up to this coming Easter weekend? Have a great one!

Monday, 7 April 2014

How Do I Love Me? (Let Me Post The Ways)

I love me for colour-coordinating my leggings, one-shoulder sports bra, and leg warmers that put Jane Fonda to shame, and ensuring that the whole look isn't exclusive to the eyes of other gym members, but is preserved for posterity.

I love me for being a great friend who's happy to share the gym mirror and fashion taste for shorts more appropriate for bedtime.

I love me, well, for simply being me. What's not to love about me, me, me, especially when I'm at the gym?

I love me for having the most toned abs, this shot can't wait for the gym locker mirror.

I love me for being able to participate in a hurdle run while on the treadmill while smiling while twisting my torso while taking a photo of myself. Phew.

I love me for having a little big boy's body set on an infant's face that can pass for a boy but looks more like a girl.

I love me for following my personal trainer's tips on resistance training. But the only thing I can't resist is taking photos of myself! I look good though, noh?

I love me for not taking life too seriously as my little friendly fuchsia phone cover shows, and for giving my posterior a well-deserved honour with its own gymfie (oh yeah, I love me for giving gym selfies a nickname!).

I (still) love me even though I'm not making any progress because I've been concentrating more on balancing a dumbbell and a mobile phone while looking at the mirror.

I love me for being so ambidextrous, I didn't spill any chocolate syrup on the floor at all! And me on the right? Ahhh, I so love me for getting my child to behave while I'm having some me time.

I love me until my old days.

Disclaimer: The identities of all but four gymfie takers have been concealed to protect their anonymity, which defies the logic and purpose of selfies, but you will see their photos floating online anyway, so go ahead and look them up.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Managing Gwyneth Paltrow's Office Job Expectations


Dear Gwynie,

I'm sorry to hear that you're thinking of taking a break from the rigours of show business. But I'm even more sorry to hear that you're thinking of swapping it for a routinary office job because ' can do all the stuff in the morning and then you come home in the evening." 

It sounds like an advert for a slow cooker.

You, while at work for Hugo Boss

I'm sure that most working mothers are still cursing you absolutely not under their breath. I'm not a mother (yet) but I do an office job, and believe me, I'm not able to do all the stuff in the morning and just come home to relax in the evening. Imagine if I have kids and no help? One thing's for sure, I will not have the time to sit down and type this. The only working mother I know of who managed to write her reaction to your interview on E! was Mackenzie Dawson because she writes for an office job, and as someone who used to write for a living myself, I'm sure her hours extend beyond office working hours for which she doesn't command millions. 

Had you mentioned that you've decided to stop working indefinitely, I figure you won't receive the same backlash. The public, and those working mothers, and us office workers, will find it more realistic as what you're worth can allow you to step back from the limelight--something that we can only ever dream of. It's a slight to burnt-out workers who would kill to escape the routine to also be there for school runs or to simply do what makes us truly happy and content, which, by the way, is not having to go through the repetitive daily routine of a 9 to 5 which still doesn't afford us a major get-away in the Bahamas with the entire clan.

We aren't privy to your professional and personal struggles behind the camera, so it's unfair for us to say that you have it easy as we only see you on the red carpet or dressed down whipping up recipes or hanging around your old Belsize Park neighbourhood. But, it's equally unfair for you to underestimate our own challenges, for most likely you've not held an office job before as a source of livelihood.

I don't know what sort of office job you had in mind, but I'm sure it's not something you'll find via Gumtree or Craigslist. I found two jobs there though, so you might care to have a look. As with interns and fresh grads I've worked with in the past, I thought I should also let you in on office job top secrets.

  • As job applicants, we go interviews--not auditions and screen tests. Our acting skills are measured by how well we can convince the interviewer that we're really enthusiastic about the job when thoughts are more about when to leave even before getting hired. We're also represented by agents--that is, recruitment agents, who send us to jobs we're not really qualified for, but they send us anyway.

  • You mentioned that you have a rule about making just one movie per year. I'm afraid it doesn't apply to office jobs. HR will probably not be able to draw out a contract where you only work two weeks ( as you do in Wisconsin) per year while you spend the remaining 50 weeks working from home. Or taking a break.

  • Upon receiving your payslip, the first figures your eyes zero in aren't your net pay; it's the deductions, taxes, and national insurance. I'm sure you're used to paying millions in taxes (I've not heard of the IRS or maybe HMRC run after you so I assume you've been religiously paying your dues), but if you're paid a montly salary that you won't even notice stolen from your showbiz millions, all those mandatory deductions will make you sympathise with tax evaders that much, you'd want to be one.

  • You will have to choose between doing all the stuff in the morning and missing your train or bus. Unfortunately, unlike in your movie 'Sliding Doors' where the story revolved around you missing your train, there's only one possibility in this case: you'll be late. Prepare to charm the boss during your appraisal.
  •  If your office has provisions, you'll be treated to free coffee, tea, and biscuits. But I guess, your antibiotic, I mean, macrobiotic diet, doesn't allow you to gorge on those unenlightened workers' snacks, so I encourage you to bring your own.

  • Should you decide to have a baby again and go on maternity leave, it's not guaranteed that your job will be waiting for you. Unlike in showbiz where you can make a comeback after having two children (provided you're bankable and well-connected, which I believe you are)--still with breasts as pert as when you hit puberty and a shape much more attractive than when you landed your first major role--your worth in the corporate world is devalued when you take time off to have children. Of course there are some women who successfully resumed where they left off. But generally, women struggle to have both. You might want to know that there are women whose earnings are spent on childcare alone, for them to ensure that they don't leave too long a gap away from work. The children will grow up one day, but those career women's  office skills may not grow alongside them, that when they decide to go back to work, it's a whole process of starting again.

  • Yes, we also get awards. Either we get promoted to a new title with not much difference in pay but entails more responsibility, or our efforts are renumerated with gift vouchers. Oh yes, we also get bonuses and commission based on performance and days worked. I'm sure it's a pittance compared to bonuses received from blockbusters though. Have you ever experienced not receiving an accolade because someone else got the credit? Maybe not, with all your acting awards and an Oscar for 'Shakespeare in Love.' In an office job, be prepared to watch an incompetent buffoon of a colleague walk away with the promotion you deserve.

  • Perhaps you're no stranger to working with fellow actors whom you find difficult. I bet it's worse when you have to be in scenes together where you have to pretend you care for and love each other. But that's what's called acting. In an office setting, that's called insincerity. Or you're a two-faced b***h. But, you're forced into it rather than be aloof with everyone you deal with on a daily basis. You're lucky if you end up working with likeable and easy-going colleagues. Otherwise, it's mental and emotional torture day in, day out. Sometimes, it's not the routine that makes workers leave an office job. It's the people.

  •  The only paparazzi activity involved in an office job is your boss, colleagues, clients (if you're office job is in customer service), and suppliers hounding you to the ends of your lunch break for your input on the most stupid questions they can answer themselves. If they're rude enough, the hounding goes on until the weekend just when you least expect it. That spoils anyone's routine.

  •  I've not met anyone who would happily stick to a full-time office job when there's an opportunity to do it part-time for the same pay. If there's an application for paid freedom from what lots consider a soul-destroying routine, the queue will be long. 

So you see Gwynie, these are just a few of office workers' sentiments. We empathise with your gruelling long hours in a movie set, but it still doesn't make our desk jobs any easier. If we could, we'd also be singing duets with Huey Lewis, Babyface, and Adele, or launching our own lifestyle website. Or be Iron Man's PA. But if you think that an office job is the next step moving forward, go on then, suit yourself.

Good luck!

Consciously Yours,

Ms. Chinwags and Tittle-Tattles

P.S. You get a one-hour lunch plus tea break if it's not very busy. Here's a tip: you can use it to do some online shopping so your groceries can be delivered at night. Saves you time :)

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