A Festival of Trees

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As far back as I can remember, it has been our family’s tradition to decorate our Christmas tree on the 8th of December — my sister Maissie’s birthday. Now that we live thousands of miles apart, she asked that we sort of keep the tradition alive together by posting photos of Christmas trees on her Facebook timeline along with our usual birthday greetings.

Of course, true to form, I am now a day late for the party. Good thing I have these in my photo files. I hope this more than makes up for it, sistah. :)

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Homeward Bound

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We’re leaving in four hours for our annual 12-hour drive to our hometown for Lent. I’ve been busy preparing for the trip because unlike in the past, this is going to be such a major production — the dogs are coming with us.

It’s both ‘Yey, we’re bringing them to the beach!’ and ‘There’s going to be chaos inside the car! For 12 hours!’. Because I can’t share in the driving duties, I’m in charge of the little savages and I probably won’t have time for much else, including snapping photos along the way.

These are pictures I took this time last year of the usual roadside scenery just before we reach Sorsogon. It’s harvest time so the rice fields are green and gold and calming and, though not as majestic as other landscapes, really beautiful. :)

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I hope you all have a calm and peaceful week ahead. :)

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Hot Air

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Last weekend, we drove to Clark Field in Pampanga (a province north of Manila) for the 18th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. We arrived early enough but there was already a huge crowd milling about. As I fiddled with the camera, I enviously eyed the ones who were able to secure a good spot for the expected photo ops and complained to the husband that everyone around me seemed too tall! :D

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To signal the start of the festival, skydivers jumped from a light plane, one of them with the Philippine flag. We then spent the rest of the morning  with our eyes glued to the sky, enjoying the sight of colorful balloons and paragliders and getting mightily impressed with the daring of aeronautical acrobats. Like everyone else who had a gadget (or two) in hand, I just clicked and clicked away.

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I’ll post pictures of the cute balloons next time. :)

Extra Shots: San Francisco

Here are some more photos from our trip to San Francisco, some of them taken while driving down those hilly streets, while waiting to cross the street, while crossing the street, or from the parking lot at Best Buy. :D

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And so we leave San Francisco, not exactly with our hearts left behind but with pleasant, sunny memories of finally seeing the most photographed bridge in the world, strolling in a not-so-tiny neighborhood park, relishing ‘exclusive’ nighttime photo ops, inhaling the sweet smell of chocolate and drooling over everything in a bakery that has all the goods.

We will surely be back. There’s still so much more to see, experience and eat (of course!) in this lovely and exciting city. Thanks, “SanFran”! :)

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P.S. This was our rental car. We called it Andy.

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Victim of Schmaltz

[Recycled from my old blog. :) ]

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It was a few days before Valentine’s Day and romance was in the air. But after a long day, all I wanted was a quiet ride home. I hailed a cab, got in and, BOOM, was immediately pinned to my seat by sentiment so heavy it reminded me of the 12-hour bus ride that got me acquainted with the entire Power Ballads of the 80s boxed set.

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At Boudin Bakery, San Francisco

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If there’s one kitchen skill I’d like to master, it’s breadbaking. I simply enjoy watching and learning the process and really, who doesn’t love the smell and taste of freshly-baked bread? I know how to make only the most basic of loaves and I am in awe of anyone who knows her sourdough and who is not confounded by starters, active yeasts and such. :)

In search of dinner on our second night in San Francisco, we were enticed by the wonderful smell coming from the famous Boudin Bakery. They have a shop and cafe area called Bakers Hall where one can stop for a quick meal and a cup of coffee and load up on kitchen supplies (or be sorely tempted to).

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Don’t you just love shop displays like these? Makes one want to be a gourmet cook, hehe.

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We brought our meal to the patio looking out into Fisherman’s Wharf and people-watched. (People-watching at Fisherman’s Wharf is a very interesting pastime indeed.) The soup in a bread bowl that I had was absolutely delicioso.

Later, we kibitzed with other tourists in front of a huge observation window along the street and watched some of Boudin’s bakers show off their skills (that’s my envy speaking, haha). Here’s a very short video I took, with some ambient sounds from the streets of San Francisco:

They make the shaping of loaves look so easy, argh!

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I wasn’t kidding when I said I am in awe of those who are good at bread baking. I’m learning (slowly) through cookbooks and once, out of exasperation, enrolled in a day-long training just to get a feel for the kneading part, hehe. Months later, I am still the sort of amateur who ‘over-flours’ the counter. :)

How about you, do you bake bread? How did you learn?