Disney Day

Amelia's trip to Disneyland turned out to be a fun day. The crowd was the lightest I've ever in my life seen it and we got on the most rides I've ever in my life been on. We got on Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Casey Jr. Circus Train, the carousel (twice),  It's a Small World, Space Mountain, Star Tours, Innoventions, Matterhorn, the Haunted House, Jungle Cruise, Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones, Winnie the Pooh, the Tiki Room, and the Monorail. We weren't even planning on going. We originally wanted to go to Legoland until I mapped out how long the drive is from Burbank. Two hours. One way. With a toddler, who doesn't like sitting in a car seat and is vocal about it.

Up until this time, I haven't taken Amelia to Disneyland for a couple of reasons. First, I don't believe she'd understand what's going on or where we are. It's like, "what's the point?" Secondly, I didn't want her to be exposed to its hyper commercialism and learn its cartoon characters before she learns the alphabet. I certainly don't want her to have any princess dolls, princess makeup, or princess high heels. There's only 1 princess around here. Joking! She remembers a lot of things even after only 1 mention. She's memorized a few of her books already, so I know how impressionable she is. Finally I got over myself and just decided to have a fun day, which exactly what happened. It didn't corrupt her. She still doesn't know any of the characters. She refered to Mickey as "a mouse!" No princess paraphernalia came home. But she did get more sugar than she's ever had in her life, and that was my bad.

Too early in the morning. She's not into it.
Have you ever seen no line in Disneyland?

Pointing to the flying elephants
Her favorite ride

Her 2nd favorite ride

Just conked out

And then she used it as a weapon on innocent bystanders

Out again

My favorite picture

One last sugar rush before we left. She gnawed through the plastic inside the store.
I had to pay for this.

Friday 5: Summer Movies

It's been a long time since I've been to the movies, approximately 20 months actually. So when I went, I wanted a sure thing. I don't want to take chances with my sweet, precious 2 hours off. The movie has to be good. It has to be worth my time. I'm glad to report they were.

4 of the 5 movies I saw were here at the Aquarius.

20 Feet from Stardom features "unsung heroes behind the greatest music of our time," backup singers whose voices you know but whose names you don't. It shows a history of backup singing, the obstacles the featured artists faced, the choices they made, what separates the divas from the backup. It displays their talents beautifully and I couldn't help fall in love. There were many performances in the film that were so good they gave me goosebumps, but when I heard Lisa Fisher's studio solo I was blown away. It's true, what our grandparents said, "they don't make music like they used to." The movie ticket was a small price to pay to journey back in time.

Now on to the teen portion. It's like when I read the Hunger Games trilogy and then The Night Circus, The Fault in Our Stars, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Paper Towns and even Ender's Game. All of a sudden all my kindle recommendations were teen lit! Ah, well, at least they were good.

I loved The Way Way Back. I love the cast, the acting, the writing, the story. It started as the summer that would never end, and it became the summer you didn't want to end. Even the trailer is irresistible. Go see it already.

The Spectacular Now was the more serious teen movie. It felt so real, at times uncomfortably so, but that's how it is, isn't it? Shailene Woodley is a star, and she'll be starring in the aforementioned The Fault in Our Stars movie.

The World's End movie got stellar reviews from rottentomatoes.com, Jimmy Fallon, and Kevin & Bean. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost were hilarious in their KROQ interview with Kevin & Bean :) I've never seen Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz. It was just ok for me. It felt too long, but I suppose it's pretty good for its genre.

Just as I started my summer movie spree with a musical documentary that took me back in time, I ended with another one.

Harana documents the vanishing Filipino tradition of the serenade, which was last practiced 30 years ago. The music here is beautiful and it shows that great artists are found not only on main stages. Sometimes they are found on a fishing boat, a rice field, or behind the wheels of a tricycle.

I found out about this film when I went to see Spectacular Now. There were promo postcards just sitting on a ledge inside the Aquarius theater's miniscule lobby. I noticed the title Harana right away. I thought, "Hmm, I wonder what this movie is about because harana means serenade in Tagalog." It didn't occur to me that the movie title and the word I know would refer to the same thing. They did! And there were only 4 showings at the Aquarius: 7pm on September 4, 5, 11, and 12. You can still see it next week.

I bought tickets in advance because we had only 1 chance to see this. My sister Ricci was free from work only on the 4th, and my mother-in-law was available to babysit Amelia only on the 4th before going back to Hawaii. I didn't think the theater would sell out, because how many people could possibly want to see a Filipino documentary about serenading on a Wednesday night? Nevertheless, I wasn't going to take that chance. I bought the tickets over the weekend and went with Ricci and Tom to the first showing at the Aquarius.

Florante Aguilar, the man behind the movie, and Executive Producer Fides Enriquez held a Q&A session after the screening. Florante even signed Ricci's CD. I hope they succeed in getting it into wider distribution. Like Ricci said, it makes me proud to come from such a romantic and musical culture.

Left: This was the postcard I found last week.  Right: Florantes signing Ricci's Harana Kings CD.

Mama Doll, Dada Doll

I got my inspiration for this project when we were visiting various daycares. One of the daycare providers said that she asks all parents to provide pictures of themselves, so that the kids can look at their parents' pictures if they miss them. At that point, I knew I would include our pictures in Amelia's daycare bag, whether the daycare we chose asked for them or not. However, I wanted to give her something more durable than a printed photo (Amelia is notorious for tearing paper), so I decided to make a mama doll/dada doll.

I got printer fabric from the fabric store.

I printed out a photo of Marc on one sheet and myself on another sheet.

I ironed the prints to set the ink

I sewed the prints on duck cloth and then
sewed the prints together facing each other.
The bottom was left open so it could be stuffed.
This is what it looks like turned inside out.
It was stuffed with batting and the bottom was sewn close.

The finished product.

It's like I'm an action figure. Haha. Happy back-to-school!

Swim School

We spent a lot of time at beaches and pools this spring from Manila to Cebu, Boracay to Palawan, and Burbank to Bali. Seeing my 5-year old nephews Kai and Hoops swimming on their own was such a joy. I marveled at how quickly they learned and how much fun they had in the water. I figured it's time for Amelia to learn how to swim too.

We've been attending a toddler class once a week since June at La Petite Baleen in Atherton, where babies as young as a month old learn to swim. The first couple of session were very light. We were basically just in the pool to get the kids comfortable in the water and get acquainted with the swim instructor. We learned songs and rhymes that we've repeated every week since, in order for the kids to learn the routine and know what to expect. Kids and routines!

"Hold your ribbon, Amelia."
At the end of her first lesson, she got a ribbon officially declaring
her a whale and a "Save the Humans, Learn to Swim" tee.
Ready for swim class

Learning about propulsion with the "Kids in the Pool" song

Next we learned submersions, where kids learn to hold their breath and close their eyes and mouth when the go under water. Amelia was a natural at that. She mastered "textbook la Petite Baleen submersion" the first time we tried it, according to Teacher Kevin. She is a survivor. Haha.

Then the kids started to wear goggles and fins, which are part of lessons going forward. The theory behind the goggles is, if they can see underwater then they can orient themselves and learn faster. And the fins help their little feet propel. We skipped a couple of lessons because of a cold one week and then we were in LA the following week, and she regressed a little bit. She wasn't jumping in the water or swimming to the instructor as readily as before.

Going through the tunnel

Kids have to get comfortable being on their backs, which is their
most vulnerable position. If they know how to float on their backs,
they can keep themselves from drowning.

Sit jump

Swimming to the steps

All done

This week, I've started to let her go in the water and have her swim to the stairs. I think she was mad at me for letting her go. Haha. After 2 months of lessons at 20 months old, she is starting to swim. We're both looking forward to ongoing lessons as our endless summer continues.

La Petite Baleen
60 5th Ave.
Redwood City, CA 94063

Photo credit: Ricci Sylla

Red Medicine

Red Medicine is a Vietnamese restaurant that isn't a Vietnamese restaurant. It's not even Asian. The flavors are not what they look like on the plate. It's different. It's exciting. It's so good.

#87 crushed ice, mint, spice, chai.

PORK PATE, clove, rambutan

SANTA BARBARA UNI, cauliflower, chinese sausage

BRUSSEL SPROUTS, shallots, fish sauce

BIODYNAMIC LEEKS, yuzu, buttermilk. My favorite dish of this meal.

SWEET POTATOES, smoked tofu, tamarind

YOUNG TURNIPS, banana vinegar, creme fraiche

WILD ALASKAN HALIBUT, burnt onion, black roots

SWEETBREADS, spice bread, smoked bone marrow

SHAVED ICE OF REDWOOD STEMS, sour red currant berries and jelly, creme chiboust
(no idea what that is) flavoured with jasmine flowers, crispy rice crackers, orange blossom
bubbles, covered with roasted almond praline disk spray painted with white chocolate

Red Medicine
8400 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

The Little Farm

My friend Han invited me to check out The Little Farm in her Berkeley neighborhood. In spite of the rain, we forged ahead with kids in tow and were rewarded with having the place to ourselves. We saw cows, goats, sheep, chickens, roosters, ducks, turkeys, rabbits and pigs. It was fun seeing the kids see animals outside of their books.

Hey, you. Yeah, I’m talking to you.

The red barn is where the baby goats, chickens, roosters, rabbits,
ducks, chickens and pigs live. This is Hilda Mae Heifer.

Baby goats playing. Big pigs sleeping and little Amelia peeking.

Old MacDonald had a farm and we went to visit it.

Superba Snack Bar

Located on Venice's hottest block, Superba Snack Bar offers up Southern California cuisine with focus on house made pastas, small plates, and vegetables.

There's a small patio outside for al fresco dining.

Blankets are provided for patio diners in case it gets chilly.

This cold cut plate was too good!
L to R: porchetta di testa pastrami on rye with dill pickles; pâté de champagne, pickled mustard seed; smoked bacon & apricot mustardo; Julia’s chicken liver mousse pave, black pepper strawberry gelée

Vegetarian truffle special, spring greens and flowers, truffle oil, crostini 

Black kale, jalapeño pickled raisins, pine nuts, pecorino & crouton

Roasted white peaches, coconut "burrata", black radishes, radicchio, basil

Cauliflower T-bone, avocado puree, pickled beets & castelvetranos

My favorite dish was the wakame spaghettini made with uni, Dungeness crab, miso butter & pickled jalapeños. Sublime.

Smoked bucatini carbonara, poached egg, pancetta, black pepper & parmesan

Sweet corn agnolotti, jalapeño butter, ancho, lime & sheep’s milk cheese

Half and Half
The savory peach dessert on the left was not a favorite on our table. There was a lot left over, and leftover dessert is unheard of. On the other hand, the smore's like concoction on the right, well, let's just say nothing was left over.

Superba Snack Bar
533 Rose Ave.
Venice, CA 90291

Pescadero Town

Pescadero makes me feel like I'm on a movie set. So quaint and full of small town charm.

The 115-foot Pigeon Point Lighthouse, one of the tallest lighthouses in America, has been guiding mariners since 1872. Its five-wick lard oil lamp, and first-order Fresnel lens, comprised of 1,008 prisms, was first lit at sunset, November 15, 1872. The lens stands 16 feet tall, 6 feet in diameter, and weighs 8,000 pounds. It sits in a lantern room that had been constructed at the Lighthouse Service's general depot in New York before being shipped around the Horn. Although the original Fresnel lens is no longer in use, the lighthouse is still an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation using a 24 inch Aero Beacon.

Camping Capers

Camping should be a fun summertime activity. I don't want to pack up everything in my kitchen, freeze overnight in a tent, or go in the bushes. When my niece Jaya came to visit us from Seattle, my sister Ricci and I thought Costanoa Lodge would be perfect. This is how we camp.

Happy Campers

our douglas fir cabin

it's precipitously close to hoteling :)

thinking about her next move

making s'mores on a fire we (Tom) lit ourselves (himself)


dinner time

missed out on those happy hour $1 oysters

clam chowder, seafood risotto, calamari fritti and a lavander cocktail

Horseback riding the next day 
matching long sleeve tees, vests and jeans with sissy lol

Happy trails!

Costanoa Lodge
2001 Rossi Rd. at Hwy. 1
Pescadero, CA 94060

Harley Farms Goat Dairy

It was a fun morning at the Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero, CA. I wanted to bring home half the stuff in their Farm Shop. They offer gorgeous handmade plates, bowls, cups, pitchers, lotions and soaps made with goat milk, hand-carved wooden goat toys, and even goat milk paint. The Goat Shop has the most tempting selection of marmalade, honey, oils, and of course cheeses, including chevre, fromage blanc, ricotta, and feta.

baby goat

Various chevre buttons include monet, cranberry walnut, apricot pistachio, sundried tomato basil, and Monet.
The flower-topped Monet chevre is their signature cheese.

free samples
The farm house. Duck, duck,...

The dining room in the farm house can be rented for private events.

Harley Farms
205 North St.
Pescadero, CA 04060

Photo credit: Ricci Sylla

Sugarcane Toddler Dress

The colorful, indigenous textiles in the Philippines inspire me. I love that the fabrics support an ancestries old tradition; that they are made by artisans on antique wooden looms, not machines; and that those artisans are mothers supporting their families.

I bought several designs of fabric from Anthill Fabric Gallery in Cebu and a couple more from Silahis in Old Manila. I thought the bright, bold patterns would be perfect for Amelia. I couldn't wait to get home and start sewing!

This is me afraid to make the first cut

the first dress

the bib is reminiscent of tribal necklaces and pompoms add whimsy

I love how the 3-button closure on the back mimics the pompoms

To learn more about the weaving process, see Anthill's Weaver's Story.

A big thank you to Tita Annie Lim, co-founder of the Anthill Fabric Gallery social enterprise, for hosting and to my cousin Alessa Libongco, founder of Life After Breakfast and co-owner of Pipino Vegetarian, for taking me along!

Stern Grove Festival

When I learned that the San Francisco Symphony was opening the 76th season of the Stern Grove Festival, I immediately made plans for family Sunday at the park. Hooray for free concerts!

We arrived 45 minutes prior to the concert and could find a spot only at top of the eucalyptus grove. It was a steep hike to get to and on a steep slope. That the climb down was going to be problematic briefly occurred to me. That we might slide off our perch before the concert ended continuously occurred to me. We had to keep pulling our blankets and bums up the hill every 20 minutes. Nevertheless, we enjoyed music, the fragrant eucalyptus, and my awesome sandwiches on a beautiful San Francisco day. Hehe.

Our picnic of homemade sandwiches, assorted cookies,
watermelon, Pirate's Booty, and coconut water

Your view if you came 4 hours early
 and got a spot on level ground.

Amelia looking doubtful about our nosebleed seats.

Girls Day in Napa, part 2

Girls day continues at Spa Terra, where everyone gets a massage. Ahhh.

Four hours and an outfit change later we are at Oxbow Public Market shopping for pasalubongs for the boys. Ya, we are so thoughtful.

On to my favorite place to stay in wine country, The Carneros Inn, where we had dinner at the FARM.

Roasted bone marrow with scallop crudo, vadovaun, carrot, acme levain and micro cilantro.
Market oysters. Carnaroli risotto with Maine lobster, preserved meyer lemon and parmigiano-reggiano.
Prime filet with potato rosti, morel mushrooms, braised greens, duck pate and pinot noir sauce. Liberty Farms duck breast with roasted strawberries and rhubarb, crushed favas, hearts of palm, coconut and sesame puffed rice.
Alaskan halibut with miso baby shitake, tapioca, sugar snap peas, dashi, shishito peppers and togarashi. Lemon & rhubarb dessert with white cake, honey buttermilk ice cream, rhubarb variations, lemon curd and honey foam.
What a fun day. Let's do this again!

Girls Day in Napa, part 1

Sometimes moms need a day off, a chance to eat a meal without feeding someone else, without restraining a child, without keeping an eye on every plate and glass on the table, without scarfing down food in order to restrain said child from jumping off the high chair/throwing food/grabbing sharp utensils/spilling drinks/general mischief. 

Amelia and I just came back from a 7-week trip to the Philippines, where we had lots of willing babysitters between grandmas, aunts, and yayas. In short, we were spoiled and are grateful for it. My brilliant friend Han provided the brilliant idea of a mom's day off. After 3 weeks of being back home, I declared a day off for myself and I was going to take hostages with me!

My sister Ricci has been living in the SF Bay Area for 3 years and has never been to Napa (oh, except for that time when she ate at French Laundry and had every course topped with white truffles). As a 4th year medical resident, she has few days off so we decided to go on her very next day off.

One of Ricci's best friends Rosie is a new mom of 2. Enough said. When Ricci texted her, Rosie readily agreed (after checking with her baby daddy).

Here we go!

First stop, Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc for temporary relief from hunger.
Wine and hogs. A preview of things to come.
Prixe fixe family style 4-course menu. First course is mixed green salad with cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, pickled red onions, toasted pecans, shaved fennel, palladia croutons and sherry vinaigrette and a side of Bloody Mary.
Second course of beef braised short ribs with cornmeal pancakes, poached eggs, apple relish, broccoli di ciccio and stewed peppers. Because the pancakes weren't bad enough, we also got the optional third course of blueberry french toast.

Finally, toasted oat panna cotta with brown sugar streusel and strawberries.

 On to Cakebread for wine tasting!
I'm flanked by 2 young, accomplished doctors.
Open Sesame
Ready to Drink
They bought all that.

5 Things: Places

5 places that are new and/or new to us

1) I was so excited to find The Plant Organic Cafe has opened in Burlingame! It's only 10 minutes from my house and I'm so happy about that. No more having to drive and park! in the Marina to enjoy their delicious vegetarian fare. For lunch Amelia and I shared The Plant Burger, house made from lentils, mushrooms, beets, cashews, bulgar wheat and served with avocado, white cheddar, roasted onion, leaf lettuce, tomato chutney, and aioli.

2) I also discovered that a brand new Paper Source has set up shop in Burlingame. It's on the same block as The Plant and so conveniently close to home. Yay! I picked up wrapping paper, ribbons, and tags for a Christmas photo shoot next month.

3) Amelia and I spent a day in Berkeley with my good friend Han and her almost-2-year-old son Otto. We popped in La Farine Boulangerie and Patisserie to pick up a few treats. This place has been around a long time but it was new to us. I think Amelia had her eye on something.

4) Again this restaurant is not new but it was new to us. We finally tried Asian fusion hot spot The House in North Beach and really enjoyed it. Our favorites were the hamachi special, scallops with lemon ponzu sauce, truffle mushroom rice, and coconut creme brulee.

5) Our first time at a new bar in TenderNob with my husband Marcus, daughter Amelia, cousin Jenessa visiting from Manila, brother Roy and his girlfriend Wendy. Basil gimlets all around and a Boylan's rootbeer for our DD. Yes, that's a baby in a bar. They allow that in San Francisco.