Happy Holidays!

While some of you are experiencing a magical White Christmas, we are enjoying a decidedly tropical one. And although I'm sure I would love to be walking in a winter wonderland, all furry collars and earmuffs, I am quite content with these sunny skies, strappy tops, and a particular pair of bronze-y Brazilian flip-flops that made their way to my Christmas loot.

In keeping with the season (climate-wise), here in my corner of the world, I decided to forgo tradition and nix the pine tree this year. Instead, I bought a fabulous palm at our local market, draped it with these cool weaved-twine-ball lights I found in Bangkok, and decorated it with shells I found on an island in Bicol that we visited last month. It looks like a Christmas tree from some shipwrecked island and I love it. I scattered shells and Christmas balls around the house and used halved coconut husks for candle holders.

Most of my free time saw me stirring a big pot of bubbling Spiced Apple Chutney -- my Christmas gift this year. Though the flat smelled of it for days, it was well worth it to be able to hand over something homemade this year. And the hours it took to peel kilos of apples and coax them into chutney made for a lot of reflection time.

Though this season had its share of tough times, it was also all the more special for it. Moments with family seemed more precious, rituals more meaningful, and old squabbles put aside.

Now to make up for the absence of a white Christmas, we will be off to the beach to celebrate the New Year. I'll be back in January of a shiny new 2008 to open the next round of Hay Hay it's Donna Day! Until then, from my tropical islands to your home, wherever you hail, I hope you are having a memorable and meaningful holiday season full of love and hope!

To market, to market...and a big Thank You

First of all, I would like to thank every one of you who has left such warm and kind comments on my last post, and who sent me emails full of virtual hugs and comforting words. Every comment and every email was greatly appreciated…and helped tremendously. I am stunned and amazed and touched and grateful that I have connected with such and incredible bunch of people…all because of this little blog. This cyber world we inhabit is truly a miracle.

Here is another thing that brings me comfort…

Going to the market is something I find therapeutic and soothing. Walking among cheery looking fruits and vegetables, peaceably lying together and patiently waiting for some shrewd marketer to snatch them up, is my idea (well, one of them at least) of perfect, cathartic, "me-time" (well, when I’m alone at least). Which is probably why I find myself, many a Saturday, crawling out of bed while C is still fast asleep, tossing on something decent (perhaps a big pair of sunglasses if Friday night was extra brisk), and making my way to our neighboring village market.

I have a whole routine which I take simple, almost childlike, pleasure in. I take my ratty pink market bag, which is really just a freebie I got from a bookstore. It’s the perfect size and water-proof and I love it (more so since it was freefreefree). I also take a small cooler which I leave in the car, just in case some interesting crustacean catches my eye. Or I am moved to buy some Wagyu beef. Or I need to replenish our longanisa stash – this market has a great variety of local sausages and I love trying them all. Or I get tempted by the fresh local cheeses. When I arrive, I stop by the stall selling freshly made piyaya first to get my breakfast. This flat, tart-like snack has a sticky-sweet filling of muscovado sugar inside a thin flaky crust. Hot of the griddle it is amazing, and a great way to start the day.

My own neighborhood’s market, albeit smaller, has just moved even closer to my flat. So that was a whole other excursion and another reason to put a smile on my face. They seem to have more purveyors now too.

As you can imagine, this season is beyond busy and these little escapes are very much welcome…and needed. No cooking to share, but here are some small bits of happiness that I picked up at my neighborhood markets.

I spotted the little carrots still with their stalks from a mile away. The photo doesn’t really capture it, but their stalks were lush beyond belief. Like the veggie version of those old-time shampoo commercials where the models swing impossibly luxuriant manes like matadors. I couldn’t take my eyes off them. I snagged them without a second thought. I roasted them with onions and garlic and some Zamboanga sausage that we got on our trip there. I just tossed them with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, added a bunch of parsley, and that was that.

My favorite herb/veg farmer pressed a bunch of greens in my hand while I was poking around his stall…"Wild arugula", he said. Oh yes. I am a huge arugula/rocket fan, and the arrival of wild arugula is always greeted with delight. He tore of a piece for me to taste (as he always does) and I was sold…it was everything I loved about arugula, but brighter and more pronounced, with more of a kick, “wilder” I suppose you could say, to make a bad pun of it what the hey. Unfortunately, although the leaves were bright green and sprightly, they had those holes in them veggies sometimes get (when attacked by little critters?). They tasted fantastic though so I threw caution to the wind and got myself a bunch. Aside from salads, this was surprisingly good in a chili con carne wrap that I had for days on end.

The peppers are from the same stall and something I have grown to love since being introduced to them. Of the capsicum family, they are smaller and have thinner skin then the regular red and green variety you see around. They also have a pleasant sweetness. The purveyor said they were "lipstick peppers", although I'm certain the cute name had anything to do with my attraction to them...oh no, not me. I’m sure they would be fabulous stuffed and baked, but I have yet to move on from having them in my scrambled eggs…which I am unabashedly loving. Another thing I am unabashedly loving are these plastic bowls and utensils (I’ve got plates and glasses too!) that I got from IKEA during a recent trip to Hong Kong. A good excuse to have a picnic I say.

I guess I am lucky that such simple things, like finding a nice bunch of carrots, make me happy…because it’s that much easier to get my thrills :) Alone time at the market has definitely been a solace over the past month. As has spending time with my family. As has all of your beautiful messages. As has the gentle, steady rhythm of stirring away at batch after batch of this year’s Christmas presents…but that’s for another post.

To everything and everyone who has made me smile…Thank you!


Hi. I know I have been silent for a while. I wish I could tell you that it’s because of a mountain of work that I have to get through (although that is true – this is always a busy time for me because of year-end reviews). I wish I could tell you that the holidays are filling all my free time with errands (although, this too, is true…especially since I decided to make my gifts this year). I even wish I could tell you that I have blogging burn-out (this friends, is absolutely not true – my blog in my happy place, and it is here that I escape when I’m burnt out).

But I have some sad news. My cousin passed away. I guess, there is no graceful, lyrical way to say that…and if there is, I don’t feel like searching for it just now. I debated even posting about it. But to come back here with just another post, gabbing about this or that going into my market basket or coming out of my oven…it just didn’t sit right with me.

As this left its mark on me, it will also leave its mark on this blog. Fancy words escape me now. It was a car accident. He had just turned 18. He was an artist. He liked to wear black. He had a sunny smile and the cheeriest voice. He saw the extraordinary in the ordinary…in things, and as I am only starting to realize in retrospect, in people too. He had curly hair…the blessing/curse of many in my family. He had a twinkle in his eye. He marched to the beat of his own drummer. He had more talent then I ever knew.

He is in a better place now…hopefully with lots of spray paint and unlimited canvases. We, meanwhile, remain, to hold each other tight this Christmas. This Christmas, my longing to be close to family is stronger then ever. They are my comfort. We are our comfort.

I find comfort too in doing what I like doing…cooking and going to the market. So that has not stopped. And I hope to tell you all about that soon enough.

Until then…

Please give someone in your family a hug today. They may need it. And it is the holidays after all…

And M, if this post finds its way through to the divine radar…your manang joey sends you a big hug and wishes you a Merry Christmas!