Movie: Mirror Mirror

Snow White was never my favourite Disney princess (or fairy tale, for that matter) – even as a small girl, I preferred my heroines to be self-sufficient and not the stereotypical damsels-in-distress. Plus, I think Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) and Belle (Cinderella) were much prettier. But with two Hollywood movies about the “fairest of them all” to be shown almost back to back, how can I resist? 
Mirror Mirror, starring Lily Collins as Snow White and Julia Roberts as Queen Clementianna (or the Evil Queen), was quite smart in being shown first. After all, it already lost the battle for the title when Universal registered their movie first (apparently, only one movie can have “Snow White” in their title). Plus, given that the plot of the other movie, Snow White and the Huntsman, seems darker and much more intriguing, well, people are bound to flock to that and disregard this one if Huntsman came out first. 
So, what’s up with Mirror? Well, consider this one the musical/comedy version of the fairy tale. While I would have liked a true-to-the-fairytale version, of course, Hollywood had to switch it up a little, to justify the remake:
  • The King was merely trapped in a spell which transformed him into a beast terrorizing the forests near his kingdom 
  • Snow White was a feisty, young heiress. But at least, they got the physical description down pat. Collins could not have been prettier and more perfect as the dainty Snow White.

  • The Queen was a manipulative be-yotch who was more into facials and corsets than magic potions 
  •  The seven dwarves were actually seven high way robbers who used to be residents of the kingdom (one, a pub owner, another, a professor) until the evil queen had them banished due to their, uh, unsightly appearance 
  • The Prince was more of the prince-in-distress who needed rescuing more often than the princess which I actually found quite funny. And I have to agree with Julia Roberts: I couldn’t focus on the scene when Armie Hammer is standing there in nothing but his undergarments.

That part about Snow White being a feisty girl capable of wielding a sword and fighting her way to get her kingdom back makes me wonder though, if it was an afterthought, after its producers heard that the other Snow White movie will have a kick-ass warrior-like princess. 
The movie got many laughs from the audience, myself included, such as when the dwarves were robbing the prince and his assistant, the dwarves looking googly-eyed at Snow White, the corset-fitting with the Queen… And that scene when the Queen mistakenly uses the puppy love potion on the prince ? Hilarious. 
Visually, the movie is picture perfect, something that I’ve expected knowing the director Tarsem Singh, was the same one who directed Immortals (one of the last year’s most underrated movies and one of the most visually arresting movies I have seen). Everything was just so vivid and alive. 
Still, there were moments when I get that feeling of why am I even watching this movie? After the end credits rolled and a surprise Bollywood-inspired dance sequence from the cast, I almost couldn’t quite make up my mind if I was cheated of my Php220 ticket price. 
Almost. But in the end, I decided it was still a fun movie to watch, something that doesn’t make you think or feel too much. And I can’t wait to watch the other Snow White movie.

Food Trip: Ying Ying

Two weeks ago, hubby and friends convinced me to go on a food trip somewhere in Binondo to what they dubbed one of the best Chinese fast food in town, so good they said “makakalimutan mo pangalan mo.” 
I am honestly not a big fan of Chinese food and am wary when I get dragged to these restos but I was game enough to give this one a go, especially after their pronouncements. 
And that’s how I discovered Ying-ying.
The place wasn’t fancy or anything, just your typical Chinese eatery (you know, where you wonder if what you’re eating is clean enough and you just conclude that whatever dirt and germs are in that place are probably what make the food so damn good). 
But true enough, the food was great. We had several kinds of dumplings and pork chops, hot shrimp salad, garlic spinach and a pork dish so oily it would have made adobo run on its hind legs.

What I do love about Chinese places is the free hot tea. 😛
Forgot what soup we got but I think it was bird’s nest?
Yup. Spring rolls! A must when you’re eating at any Asian resto/fast food!
Good ole porkchop
I can’t remember what this was called but it reminded me of adobo. Tasted a bit like it too although once it cooled down, I was to afraid of the oily film that coverted the entire thing to take another bite.
I think the winner(s) of the night were the dumplings, the spinach and the salad. So good. Their dumplings were the best I ever tasted. It’s crunchy on the outside but oh-so-soft on the inside. Plus, even the outer coating is so good – the right mixture of sweet, dough-y taste complementing the salty/spicy meat inside.

The best dumplings. Ever.

I am not a vegetable lover but I would turn all Popeye and gorge on spinach if it tasted like this. It reminded me of my teenage years when my parents would buy fresh spinach from our neighbor’s vegetable patch and boil them in garlic, much like this dish at Ying-ying’s. I think I ate nearly a cup of rice with just this.
Sorry for the crappy shot. I was in such a hurry to eat I wasn’t able to focus the cam properly.
The ubiquitous yang chao
Kind of anti-climactic but I had the hot shrimp salad last, as kind of a dessert. As most of you know, I’m actually allergic to seafood (alcoholic beverages, perfume, laundry detergents, dishwashing liquids, most bath soaps, lotions, dust, etc – the list goes on and on) so I try to save them for last so I can still enjoy the rest of my meal before my allergies kick in (I usually take Claritin after I eat, hehehe). 
It was just okay. Good, but I think I like the shrimp salad over at Lutong Macao better.
Chased down all that food with fresh mango shake served in a big beer mug. Cute.
Mango shake. It wasn’t anything special though. Not sure about the watermelon though, since all our friends were raving about it. I’ll make a point to order it next time.
My verdict? Noticed how I overused the word good in this post? Great Chinese food at very pocket-friendly prices. Will definitely be back.

Movie: Hunger Games

In one sentence: Good, but fell short of my expectations.

Probably one of the most awaited and hyped films this year, The Hunger Games had all the elements needed for a blockbuster down pat: a gorgeous set of lead characters, led by Oscar-nominated Jennifer Lawrence (I still can’t separate her from her role as Mystique in last summer’s Xmen: First Class), Liam Hemsworth (or more famous as Miley Cyrus’ boyfriend) and Josh Hutcherson (Zathura, Journey to the Center of the Earth, among other films), an equally gorgeous set of supporting characters led by Lenny Kravitz (seriously, they should have put him in more scenes), a good story (based on the bestselling Hunger Games trilogy), and a capable team of writers which includes the author herself, Suzanne Collins, which practically guaranteed that the movie will be as faithful to the book as possible.
Katniss and Gale

Katniss and Peeta
 
Initially, Lawrence got flak for being too fat to play the role of Katniss. I tend to agree. But then, she also has that quiet charm about her. She’s not exceptionally pretty but there is something intriguing about her beauty that makes you want to keep looking at her. And I think she pulled off the role quite well, although her acting did not really stand out. Honestly though, I felt that this wasn’t really due to Lawrence’s acting chops, but that she wasn’t given much opportunity to shine. True, the books were a rich source but what could have been emotionally charged scenes were too abrupt to make any impact.  
As for Hutcherson, he churned out quite an honest portrayal but comparing the Peeta I know from the books to the Peeta on-screen, I just wish they’d given him more compelling dialogue. I was expecting to be moved by the Katniss/Peeta affair but I was not.
I really can’t put my finger to it why the movie seems off somehow. The director smartly opted not to use too much special effects and it helped to emphasize the stark atmosphere in Panem and allowed the audience to focus more on the emotional struggles of each character, and the political undertones the story so smoothly inserted there. But what probably contributed to the detachment I felt watching the film was the combination of the dizzying use of handheld cameras zooming in and panning out practically on anything and everywhere and the almost hour-long prelude before the actual hunger games. I appreciate that the director, Gary Ross, used handheld cameras to give the viewers a sense of unity with Katniss, as if you’re seeing it through her point of view. However, as part of the audience, I found this rather dizzying and not exactly friendly to people suffering from motion sickness. Plus, there were too many abrupt scenes, like the director didn’t know when to yell cut and the actors and cameramen just got bored and moved on to the next one.
Another gripe I have is that there were some scenes or circumstances which were not explored more, or depicted better in the film, such as giving more background and emotion into the friendship between Katniss (Lawrence) and Gale (Hemsworth), and the dynamics between Haymitch and his two mentees. However, I appreciated this approach when the time for the bloodbath came – in the hopes of getting a PG-13 rating, the director opted to do away with the gory and bloody details of teenagers brutally killing each other. I don’t have a queasy stomach but there is always something unsettling seeing young people, practically kids, being violent.
And even without a musical score playing in every crucial scene, the movie was not without its tearjerker moments: I cried buckets as Prim walked slowly to the podium after her name was drawn, while Katniss stood transfixed, amazed at the incredible bad luck of Prim having been selected even though her name was entered only once, and when she finally woke up and volunteered to take her sister’s place. I cried even harder as Katniss held and sang for the dying Rue in her arms.
I did notice that they changed the story of how Katniss got the mockingjay pin which she wore in the arena, although I feel quite certain that an alternative but equally powerful history will be provided in later instalments of the franchise.
Overall, what had always kept me riveted to the Hunger Games were its political underpinnings, causing the successive tragedies that happened to the characters. These were all subtly intertwined with the romantic story of the star-crossed lovers from District 12 although if you analyze it long enough, the romantic aspect is actually just a by-product. This truth was not lost in the screen adaptation. And while the setting of Hunger Games is far into the future, the situation could very well be found today. The slums in the districts, the inequitable distribution of wealth between the citizens of the ruling Capitol and the dirt poor and deplorable conditions of the districts… these are all things we know and see daily. The Hunger Games is, ultimately, not a love story, or an action/adventure one, but a sort of social criticism. 
* Photos from google images

Food Trip: Krazy Garlik

As much as I love vampires (way, way before Twilight made them cool; don’t believe me? Check out my high school yearbook – where my dream was to become one!), I love my garlic even more. Never mind garlic breath. I firmly believe the improved taste of food laced with garlic and the health benefits far outweigh the whiff of garlic on your breath.
Given this, consider me one of the biggest fans of Krazy Garlik. Mind you, it wasn’t just the garlic ingredient that keeps me fascinated by this resto – it’s the fact that I have yet to eat anything there that falls below my standard. I am not a picky eater as I can eat just about anything but I do know when something tastes good or not.
Anyway, last Sunday, we ended up at Greenbelt to watch a movie, hear mass and have dinner with friends (yes, hitting three birds with one stone – wouldn’t want to waste precious hours!) and ended up at Krazy Garlik.

We were all famished by then so we decided to get some appetizers – the Baba Ghanoush and Garlic and Anchovy Confection. I loved them both. So much I think I ate more than half the baba ghanoush and a third of the anchovy one. It hurt my tongue – I was nursing a severe allergic reaction to alcohol (which I stupidly gorged on the night before) and my tongue was swollen and probably blistering like my hands, so it hurt like hell whenever the garlic would touch it. But it was worth it.
Baba Ghanoush – a sesame pate with of course, garlic and served with bread

Garlic and Anchovy Confection – roasted garlic topped with anchovies on garlic bread

Hubby was so predictable in ordering the Garlicky Crispy Pata. But then, I couldn’t really blame him – this is seriously one of the best crispy pata’s. EVER. If you must order just one dish at this place, order this. You’ll love how crispy it is on the outside but oh so tender on the inside. And it is very pleasing to the eyes as well.

Garlicky Crispy Pata served with kimchi and soy sauce with vinegar

We didn’t end our ordering spree there – we also got the Grilled Squid and Krazy Garlic Veggies. Another confession: I love squid. But more often than not, I end up disappointed because too many restos botch up squid, you know, how it’s sometimes overcooked that it ends up a rubbery mess, or when it’s not clean enough and it smells and taste fishy and makes you want to gag. But at Krazy Garlik, I didn’t have to worry about it. It was perfectly cooked and tasted great. As for the veggies, well, I’m not a veggie person (but I do love tortang talong and okra), but I liked the taste enough to scoop a few spoonfuls onto my plate.

Grilled Squid

Krazy Garlik Veggies

Of course, it wouldn’t be right to order all those dishes without any rice to chow them down with, right? And since we couldn’t decide what to order, we decided to get both their specialty rice – Hara Kiri and Chinese Style Fried Rice (yeah, one Japanese and the other Chinese). According to our server, each is good for 2-3 but I guess he underestimated the eating capacity of two hungry girls and two boys. Hahaha. 
Hara Kiri – fried rice with chili, shrimp, squid, bacon and of course, how can you have fried rice without garlic?

Chinese Style Fried Rice – with sausage and Shiitake mushrooms, scrambled egg and garlic

And just to seal the deal, we got grape shakes to wash down all that garlic. Hubby got coke zero which was just too cute with its “100 years” logo at the back. 
Yummy grape shake – I edited this photo using my latest baby, an iPhone (yes, after four years, I succumbed to the biggest proponent of commercialism: Apple. But only coz it’s more convenient to tote around than have a phone, camera, laptop, notebook, ipod all at the same time. More on that in another post.)
I just had to use the 19th century effect on one of the photo editing apps I bought at the App Store. I seriously love vintage.

 

Prices at Krazy Garlik are quite high (our tab probably ran at Php750 each, without the discount) but luckily, I invested in a discount card which entitles me to a 20% discount at any partner establishment. Cool, I know. The card costs Php1,000 which you can easily earn back – it comes with vouchers for free appetizer at each of the seven partner restaurants (Stock Market, Flapjacks, PIgout, Itallianni’s, Fish&Co, TGI Friday’s). At around Php250 for each appetizer, you already save Php1,750! Plus, you get 25% off on your birth month. 
Anyway, I’m sure you can see for yourselves the benefits of getting the card – but only if you’ll be frequenting their restaurants. 

Forgetful me only realized when we got home that I have a free voucher for Baba Ghanoush. So expect to see me again at Krazy Garlik before my voucher expires on the 7th of April. 
*Krazy Garlik restos are at Greenbelt 5 and Resorts World. Okay, I think I’m sounding like a paid blogger. But I am not, you see. I just love this place and it shows. Haha.

The World According to Joey: Graduation

I was torn between dreading and anticipating Joey’s graduation. Mind you, he’s only in nursery (or was, since it’s already vacation) so it shouldn’t have been a big deal (especially for me, since I dropped out of prep school). I’m not really competitive – I believe in competing with yourself but of course, if I have to choose, then I would naturally choose to land on top, right? I wanted the same for Joey.
So imagine our happiness when hubby and I got home and saw his graduation program waiting for us on our dining table and right there in the academic excellence awards portion was our kiddo’s name (and my dismay that the graduation was at 2PM – which meant it would start at 3 and I had already planned on joining our teambuilding)! I was half-expecting it, since I think I only saw ONE test paper returned with a less than 100 mark the entire year. Imagine?!? I suppose he could have been first if not for his absences; if my count is right, he’d been absent for more than a month. Yeah, allow me to gloat – I’m a proud mom after all.

Me: Joey, you’re second!
Joey: Mom, second is better than first because two is greater than one. (never mind that there’s a third honor, haha)

 

Joey also had a dance presentation for the program and since hubby and I suddenly found our Saturday morning free, we decided to take his costume up a notch by buying a fresh garland. Which ended up costing more than his actual Hawaiian costume. On a side note, I love flowers – in fact, my uber-hyper (emphasis mine) sensitive olfactory senses can only tolerate light floral scents (fruity ones make me sneeze BIG TIME). I was almost giddy just looking at the shops at Market Market. 
Anyway, the boybie put up a big fight regarding the garland. In fact, when he learned hubby and I were going to Market to buy flowers, he was adamant that he won’t be wearing them. Good thing some of his male classmates had garlands too (the plastic one, so Joey’s still the best in costume for me, ha!) and he wanted to wear them after all. Talk about peer pressure. Hahaha.

The program was quite long – I think the school gave out special awards to practically everyone so as not to offend them (I would have preferred that they didn’t – it just gave the kids a sense of entitlement that they will always be rewarded no matter what, and real life isn’t like that). Plus, there were too many intermission numbers for my taste. In short, it took longer than necessary and I was developing a migraine sitting there in 35º C heat. 
And Joey was beginning to throw a tantrum since they called out all the special awards first before the academic ones. In an anti-climactic move, they called out the awards in descending order, rather than the opposite. Hahaha. 

I still haven’t figured out what to give the brat. He’s asking me for a cellphone (oh, how times have changed! Imagine a five year old asking for a cellphone! Thank God he didn’t specify iPhone – I think he’s okay with just an ordinary one). What do you think?

Mommy, I’m Five!

The little boybie brat turned five a couple of days ago and since I liked the cake we gave my friend Leah for her 30th birthday, I decided to have a personalized cake made for Joey as well. We had two celebrations for the kid, one for each side of the family, since our house is kind of small and because of well, scheduling conflicts. The cake arrived just in time for the 2nd one, which was also a sort of joint one with my mama, who celebrated her birthday a day after Joey.

Had to move it to the sofa so it can be beside it’s inspiration (yes folks, the inspiration for the topper is Joey’s McQueen car and favorite stuffed toys, sans Panda). Cake by Bake Happy.
Look at the details! Everything is edible kids!

I must tell you, this cake might look dainty but it was darn heavy! Like five kilos heavy. Hahaha. My arms ached just carrying it from my desk down to our office building’s driveway last Friday. But it was all worth it, seeing the look on Joey’s face. Priceless. I told him he couldn’t eat it yet since his lolo and mamu aren’t due to arrive til Sunday and he spent almost every minute guarding the cake.

Even the colors are spot on

The “models” with the cake topper (which Joey had to “protect” from his guests – the kids in our building, who began to apportion the topper amongst themselves to Joey’s dismay)
The “miniature” with the inspiration

The lunch gathering was supposed to be just us famly but Joey broadcasted to all his friends that he was “throwing a party at 2PM” so we got surprised when a bunch of kids started knocking on our door. Imagine Joey’s face when they each wanted to get Angry, Cow and Mcqueen to themselves. Another priceless look. Joey immediately uninvited them, saying, “I was just joking when I invited you guys.” Hahaha. Good thing they were game enough to just settle for the trees and mountains on the side of the cake.

Joey holding up Angry

Oh, and this was Joey’s 2nd cake. As I said, he had two celebrations. His first cake was a simple one from the neighborhood Goldilocks. 😛

Birthday cake # 1

Joey making a secret wish

And since we barely get together anymore, had to take this opportunity to snap some photos with the lolo and mamu.

And as a birthday gift, I decided to add to Joey’s growing Lego collection (technically, we bought him his birthday gift weeks back, but he forgot that already, so I had to buy another one). Good thing my sisters in law were thinking along the same vein and got him some Lego too. And some new cars. Spoiled brat alert. Haha.

*You can have your specially designed cake too – check out Bake Happy’s Facebook page at or blog

Food Trip: Latitude

Thought I’d give you guys a breather by not posting anything for a week – honestly, I’m trying to redeem my reputation: you guys probably think all I do is eat. Well, kind of true anyway. Haha.
So, one lazy Saturday night, I chanced upon this discounted buffet meal at one of the group buying sites. I couldn’t resist – Traders Hotel is quite special for me and hubby and yet, we’ve never been back to this place since we got married. 
I wasn’t really expecting anything grand from the buffet. After all, it only cost me around Php1,200 for the two of us, and that already included bottomless drinks! A steal, right?

Salad and mussels

I started off with some fresh greens. What do you know? It tasted good, the leaves didn’t taste bitter or vegetable-y (is there such a word?), but you know what I mean. And they had plenty of dressings to choose from. Oh, and I had some huge fresh mussels topped with pineapples. VERRRYYY yummy.

My favorite plate – smoked salmon (heavenly!), big shrimp, squid, lots of cheese and crackers and potato salad

Oh, and one tip – do make sure to look at the other tables, especially those hidden behind columns. I almost missed the table with smoked salmon and different kinds of cheese. Good thing the hubby pointed it out to me, knowing how much I love salmon and cheese. The smoked salmon was very good. And I loved the cheese. I didn’t see a big crowd around this table – they probably missed it as well.

After that. the main dishes – I am not really good at experimenting with viands, I tend to choose those I am used to, except if they look very interesting or had ingredients that I am curious about. In this case, I didn’t find any that piqued my interest so I just got me some shrimp, roasted lamb, shiomai, and some beef with broccoli. The spread might not be much but they tasted alright.

I was too full for dessert by then (blame that pesky bottomless iced tea and the soup) that I just opted for fresh 
fruits. Besides, who could resist fresh mangoes? Hubby said there’s another table full of cakes and pastries but I didn’t venture there.

Verdict? I loved it. The ambience is great and the place is cozy; the spread wasn’t much, but for the price, it surpassed my expectations. I am definitely coming back.