A Girl’s Next Best Friend

Diamonds, as they say, are a girl’s best friend. But who says you can only have one best friend?  In my case, I have a lot of best friends so let’s talk about the one that I’ve been obsessing about lately: Pearls.

I’ve always been fascinated with pearls and I keep hoarding them whenever we go to the beach and the locals would sell ready made sets. I never wore them, however, and would almost always end up giving them out as gifts. I never felt like the pearl spoke to me, you know? With diamonds, I wear them small, big, or whatever but I never found the pearl I wanted to wear day in and day out.

The oldest pearl set in my jewelry box is this peach-y freshwater pearl set that I got five or so years ago in Boracay. They’re really small (tiny even!) and lackluster which is why I don’t wear them but I kept the set all this time because I loved the color. Plus, it was a steal at Php500!

IMG_4463I realized that I prefer big pearls so when I saw a manong at the beach during our Bohol trip two years ago, I immediately got the hubby to buy me a freshwater pearl bracelet set in sterling silver. It was quite pricey for me, at Php 400 since prior to that, all my pearl purchases were always Php500/set (earrings, necklace and bracelet). Sadly, I promptly lost that bracelet even before we left the island so I looked for an almost exact replica at the Market Market Pearl Market. This one was even more expensive than the one I lost but it looked so pretty (not in picture below are the earrings which came with the lot) and had a nice sheen to it.

IMG_4464I stopped buying pearls since I don’t really wear them… But a few months earlier, I got this voucher from Jewelmer and I saw the most exquisite golden pearls ever. I immediately googled the price but soon found out just how expensive they were. But still, golden pearls? I never even thought such a thing existed! Pardon my ignorance but I always thought pearls were white or off-white.

Those golden pearls started haunting me. I literally couldn’t sleep without googling and browsing photos of pearls. And I knew I had to have south sea pearls for myself.

But first… I had to test the waters. I figured, if I would buy such expensive jewelry, I should have something I can wear daily. This need is where the freshwater pearl comes in. They’re cheaper and easier to acquire so even if I lose/ruin them, or decide that I don’t want pearls after all, it won’t be the end of the world. So I got myself these baroque freshwater pearl earrings set in silver with cubic zirconia for that extra shimmer. Not exactly cheap (and I didn’t haggle – I’m not good with haggling) but very pretty.

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I tried wearing them daily for a week to see if my mind will change. But nope, seeing them dangling from my ear only made me want the south sea pearls even more.

After that, it was time to go after the big ones – and for this, I googled several weekends away researching the most reputable/safest place to buy south sea pearls (SSP) without breaking the bank. This search led me to Berdori Jewels.

Berdori has a stall at the Greenhills shopping center pearl market. The stalls move around every week so just look for their signage. Anyway, I was just supposed to look but then I saw this gorgeous pair of milky white south sea pearls in white gold with diamonds! I normally take forever when buying big ticket items because contrary to popular belief, I am actually kuripot. Case in point: I had psyched myself for months that I would buy a Tod’s bag and a pair of Valentino rockstud heels but when I got to the store, I couldn’t stomach the thought of spending that much on a bag and shoes. Things that, you know, depreciate. But jewelry… They only increase in value as time goes by. Plus, my heart was aflutter looking at those earring and I knew I had to have them.

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Beautiful, right? It actually comes in a set, with a pendant and a ring, but I couldn’t decide whether I want the set… maybe as a Christmas gift for myself? Teehee. In any case, I decided to get a strand of pearls to match the earrings. The SSP strand was too much for my budget so I had to make do with freshwater. We had a hard time looking for a strand that would match my earrings though; see, SSPs and freshwater pearls have different characteristics, be it their luster, size, or shape. Freshwater pearls tend to be smaller, less shiny, and the shape are more baroque/off circle than south sea pearls. As you can see in the photo below, the individual pearls in my necklace are almost all off-circle. But still, it was barely noticeable because the shade and the size were almost identical. I had to pay a premium for it, however, because freshwater pearls as good as this are quite rare, and therefore, more expensive.

In any case, I am quite happy with my purchase and I keep getting compliments whenever I wear them.

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Now, as I mentioned, what triggered my newfound obsession with pearls were those golden SSPs from Jewelmer. They’re rather too expensive for me and while Berdori has some nice golden pearls, none of them had me reaching for my wallet. So I extended my search to the jewelry section of the major department stores in the city. And I found a pair that made my heart skip a beat.

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The pearls aren’t really gold but champagne-colored and is set in 18k yellow gold with diamonds. See, I am quite predictable in my jewelry choices! Anyway, just see how clearly I am reflected on the pearls! You can almost see me holding my camera. One of the earrings has a small fish bite but it’s off to the side so it’s barely noticeable but overall, I love this pair so much.

I still haven’t given up on those Jewelmer studs – they still haunt my dreams. Hahaha! Maybe that will be my jewelry goal next year. See, I have this personal goal of buying a piece of jewelry and/or watch for myself every year. One time, I got a citrine earrings and ring set, another time I got a diamond ring. I made a notable exception this year since I bought several pieces of jewelry and watches but I chalk that up to all the stress – I cope with it through shopping. Hahaha!

I hope you enjoyed my little pearl reveal!

Sapori Solari

If there is one place you simply must visit in Milan, this would be it. Heck, I would go to Milan just to eat here.

But we almost never made it to this place.

The first problem we had was logistics: the deli (it is, strictly, NOT a restaurant, nor even a cafe – think Santi’s except that they let you eat your cured meats and cheese right there at the store) was very small so reservations are a must. But, the owner/proprietor/all around staff Giuseppe, doesn’t speak English – so we had to ask our landlady to make the reservations; except that our landlady also couldn’t speak English. Yeah, imagine the sign language we had to employ for her to understand us and communicate it to Giuseppe. I never thought that knowing the Italian words for dinner/reservations and the hour of day and number of people can be very useful. My friends were actually very proud of me. Hahaha!

Finding this place was even trickier that we almost gave up were it not for the fact that it was highly recommended and we were so hungry and there were barely any other restaurants along the way. The deli was located in a not so touristy part of Milan, and while riding the tram was confusing, the taxi fare was discouraging. We walked 30 minutes from the train stop before we finally caught sight of its signage (and the anxious Giuseppe almost thought we’d ditched him).

Pardon the blurry image - I was so hungry (it was past 8PM), and tired (we walked more than three kilometers in 30 minutes), and a bit scared that we'd gotten lost in Milan.

Pardon the blurry image – I was so hungry (it was past 8PM), and tired (we walked more than three kilometers in 30 minutes), and a bit scared that we’d gotten lost in Milan.

Giuseppe was the only one manning the deli so we had a bit of time to just take photos and enjoy the rustic appeal of Sapori Solari. It’s exactly how I would have imagined my neighborhood hangout: small and intimate. Not intimidating at all. The best part? Everyone seemed to know each other. That, or they were just plain nice. We even met a very lovely couple – the girl looked like Teresa Loyzaga and the guy looked like Andrew Garfield, except that he’s hotter than the actor. They were so gorgeous and so kind to act as our interpreter that night that we wanted to have our photos taken with them!

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My travel buddies.

We drank some red wine while waiting for the surprise feast Giuseppe was whipping up for us in the kitchen. Now, I am no expert in wine but I do know when I like it or not, and this one? Definitely like.

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The Milan Crew!

Sorry, no close up photos of moi, because by this time, my face had swollen as if bees had stung me and my eyes were almost shut tight – my allergies were acting up because of all the wine and the weather, plus, I haven’t been sleeping very well during the trip so that contributed to my skin problems.

There were only about five tables in the 30 or so square meter place and while it was empty when we got there, pretty soon, it was full of people – Giuseppe had to prepare a makeshift table to accommodate another group!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven though he couldn’t speak English, Giuseppe had animal figurines on hand to show us where the meat was coming from, and a booklet (below) to show us what parts we were eating that night. There’s no menu, by the way; he whips up the menu on the spot, based on the meat and cheese available that day. If you’re a picky eater, then this place isn’t for you. But, if you are okay with meat and cheese – this place is perfect. Everything was superb!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were first given different kinds of bread, which tasted so fresh (and we were so hungry) we finished the entire basket in a few minutes.

Different kinds of bread. From what I understand, everything in Sapori Solari is made by Giuseppe.

Different kinds of bread. From what I understand, everything in Sapori Solari is made by Giuseppe.

After a few minutes, Giuseppe served our first tray of thinly sliced prime beef with chunks of ricotta cheese drizzled with olive oil. The beef was perfectly smoked and tasted oh so delicious – not too salty and not pungent at all which is what I hate sometimes when eating cured meat. I am salivating just writing that down and recalling the taste from memory.

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This plate tasted almost too good to be true. It was so good we finished it off before Giuseppe even managed to prepare the 2nd plate.

Our second plate (it’s kind of incorrect to actually say plate, because it was more of a tray – think of a family sized pizza pan), was all about pork. The outer rink in the picture below came from a regular pig (you know, the cute pink ones, like Babe?) while the inner rink came from a local pig (I forgot the exact type which I’m pretty sure I studied back in grade school, but it was a black type of pig). This one was like eating fresh ham and salami, except that it’s fresher, saltier and yet sweeter at the same time. The meat also had a little slimy texture to it that made it feel slippery on my tongue.

By this time, we realized that the bread and cheese (which came with the first plate) Giuseppe served us earlier was meant to be eaten with the meat. Too bad, we already ate them! Probably why Giuseppe almost raised his arms in alarm when he saw us stuffing our mouths with all that bread and cheese. Hahaha!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next plate had this fatty part of the pig which reminded me of glazed Christmas ham, except it was a hundred times better. The dark red meat with white fatty edges was goose breast. Everything was bathed in honey and olive oil and I just died and went to gastronomic heaven.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA As I mentioned, there’s no fixed menu. Giuseppe will keep serving plate after plate after plate as long as you want. I’ve read of some tourists lasting up to the fifth plate but my friends and I were too full by the 3rd plate we actually had to beg Giuseppe to stop. Hahaha!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter that, he served us biscuits with nuts (reminded me of Starbuck’s biscotti) and some very sweet, nectarine juice. The biscuits were a bit on the hard side and took some getting used to but it had an aftertaste that I kept chasing after – like when you eat something good but the flavor is too fleeting that you want to just eat more so you can figure out what that flavor is? I had several moments of those.

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The Milan Crew with our host, Giuseppe.

What I loved most about Sapori Solari was that it not only served good food but Giuseppe was just about the most unassuming and most accommodating host. It actually felt like visiting your grandparents’ house and being treated to all those family recipe specialties.

If only it wasn’t so late and we didn’t have a long day the next day, we would have stayed and ordered another round. I would gladly have gone back but this was our last meal together in Milan (I went to Switzerland the next day while my friends went to Verona to pay their respects to Romeo and Juliet).

I would give this place five stars out of four. And I will definitely include a stopover in Milan in my next trip just to eat it. Yes, I loved it that much!

Book: 13 Reasons Why

Suicide has been getting a lot of focus lately, what with reports of famous people, who at first glance, seem to live perfect lives, deciding to kill themselves. Robin Williams comes to mind; and you also have Tony Scott (director of Top Gun and brother of RIdley Scott) and L’Wren Scott (I will forever associate her with Nicole Kidman’s ethereal dresses at red carpet events) all dying by their own hands in the last couple of months. Suicide is now the third leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24 years old according to a 2014 study by
the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), and second among people aged 15 to 29 years old, per the World Health Organization (WHO).

So when I saw this book by Jay Asher and read the synopsis at the back, I was immediately intrigued. It was unique in that the novel told its story through the taped recordings made by high school junior Hannah Baker and the thoughts of and goings on while her classmate Clay Jensen listened to the tapes. Hannah had consumed sleeping pills a couple of weeks prior to the start of the novel while Clay was one of the recipients of the tapes. Before killing herself, she made audio tapes detailing the 13 reasons (by twelve people) why she was going to commit suicide. She then mailed the tapes to the first person in the list to be passed on to the next, prior to her death. A second set of tapes was sent out to their classmate Tony, to be released to the public if any of the 12 people on the list fail to pass it on to the next person.

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Book cover.

I won’t go into much detail about the 13 reasons why (the WIki entry for it nicely listed them all down and you can also go to the official website), but what struck me was that Hannah killed herself because of bullying. Not the outright, name-calling type, but one wherein a guy she dated when she first arrived in their town, perhaps to make himself appear manly and more popular, spread rumors that they did more than just kiss on their first date. This rumor “snowballed” and got Hannah a reputation of being “easy” and unpopular (or popular, for the wrong reasons). Being a newcomer, she didn’t have many friends to defend her and the degrading treatment from her peers made Hannah desperate and alone. Her last resort was to approach their English teacher/guidance counselor and talk to him about suicide. However, after a short session wherein Hannah ended up feeling even more helpless, the teacher just let her walk out of the room without stopping her, knowing full well that Hannah was exhibiting suicidal tendencies.

Her last line in the book was “thank you” which to me was the saddest line in the book, signifying that she’d given up and the thank you was for her classmates, her teachers and everyone around her, for not showing any concern for her. A sort of thanks, but no thanks.

According to a study by Yale University, bullied people are two to nine times more likely to kill themselves, and another study revealed that more than half of suicides among young people are due to bullying.Among the red flags of suicide, taken from the website http://www.bullyingstatistics.org, are:

  • Showing signs of depression, like ongoing sadness, withdrawal from others, losing interest in favorite activities, or trouble sleeping or eating
  • Talking about or showing an interest in death or dying
  • Engaging in dangerous or harmful activities, including reckless behavior, substance abuse, or self injury
  • Giving away favorite possessions and saying goodbye to people
  • Saying or expressing that they can’t handle things anymore
  • Making comments that things would be better without them

While I have never had thoughts of suicide (thank God that I love life too much and have too many plans to consider that), I myself have been a victim of bullying all throughout my school life.

When I was in fourth grade, an older schoolmate once attacked me and a group of friends with a small knife; it became clear that the attack was centered on me and one other friend of mine. When we reported it to the school officials, our then Asst. Principal was so worried as she knew the attacker and that I was easy prey, she actually asked my parents to move me to another school as soon as possible. Transferring wasn’t quickly achieved in those days so I waited out the entire school year, and had to be taken to and from the school by my nanny (who was built like an Amazonian queen and who would have punched the guy asleep if given the chance) and watched by our teachers while at school.

Going to a new school gave me no respite however, as I experienced a different kind of bullying: name calling. I was born with wavy hair – neither slick straight but not curly enough to be cute. Needless to say, my wavy hair earned me the name “poodle”. I tried taming it with gels or putting water to keep my hair down until I eventually gave up and just wore headbands and tied my hair. Thankfully, my hair is better behaved now (and yes, I do get rebonds and digital perms alternately). The most amusing thing happened to me a few years back when during a reunion with my grade school classmates, a couple of my male classmates could not remember me until I told them, “ako yung tinatawag n’yo na poodle dati” (I was the one you called “Poodle” before) and it was like a lightbulb flashed above their heads. It was almost cartoonish.

Looking back, hIgh school was probably even worse – a lot of people will probably agree with me when I say high school is the toughest place to survive in. And it’s even tougher when you’re an average looking girl studying in an exclusive all-girls school where beauty, more than brains, is the currency. On a side noted, this is probably why I can relate very well to the song At Seventeen. A lot of organizations I wanted to join didn’t get me because I was up against prettier, more popular, or richer girls. I was even handed a note from a higher-batch schoolmate bearing the words “The Simpsons” during a snack break. This same schoolmate (who was also my neighbor a couple of houses over), would sing or hum at the top of her voice the theme song of the said program whenever  I would pass by her along the street.

(On hind sight, the grown up life isn’t too different from high school).

Thankfully, I wasn’t raised by my parents to be a pushover and I was too much of a loner (in a good way) to be bothered with such trivialities. My stubborn streak and my pride wouldn’t allow me to suffer in silence either – I reported both incidents to school authorities. I knocked over one of the guys who were bullying me straight into the ground (I was one of the taller girls in grade school). He never called me Poodle again. And I got a public apology over the Simpsons incident.

And I got the sweetest victory when I saw the look on their faces when they realized during our mini reunion that I don’t look too bad now (yes, losing all that acne, buck tooth, and big glasses helped a lot). Yes, the ugly duckling has somehow turned into a swan (come on, this is my blog, so better agree with me on this one!)

So you see, I had my feet firmly planted on the ground and was too level-headed; and I had a lot of friends and family to support me. But I know there are a lot of young people who are not as fortunate as I was.

Bullying, affects not just the victim, but the perpetrator itself. It’s a sort of self-defense mechanism on the part of the bully, to cover up some deep-seated insecurities. It has to stop and the only way I know how is to not be a bully myself.

Food Trip: Le Florimond

Whenever my friends and I travel, we make it a point to try at least one nice local restaurant. All the restaurants we’ve been to so far have been really good so the bars were quite high when someone recommended  Le Florimond, a quaint little restaurant tucked in the 7th arrondissement.

This place almost feels like a secret among locals; it’s small – perhaps seating only 20 people or so at a time, and a reservation is a must. The reviews were very good so we dressed up for the occasion in our dainty dresses and heels, hired a van, and starved ourselves a bit to fully enjoy the meal.

You can order ala carte, but it is a better deal to order the set menu – it’s cheaper, plus you don’t have to think so hard. They have options for your entree, main dish, and dessert, and the manager himself will gladly explain each item on the menu, which is written on a pop-up blackboard, to help you make up your mind. Their offerings are limited and the set-menu is just a combination of the ala carte items.

Our cute menu on a blackboard.

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I forgot what my soup was – some sort of shrimp bisque if I remember correctly. What I do know is that it was very creamy and tasty. I wanted to ask for fresh bread to dip!

The manager ended up calling us the duck family that night because out of all the options for the main dish, we all opted for the duck, which was fried to perfection: not dry, no raw portions, soft, and savory. And it wasn’t gummy and didn’t have any pungent smell or weird aftertaste. It’s so easy to mess with duck meat but this was perhaps the best duck dish I’ve had.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA If I have one complaint, it would be that the dessert serving was too small. I mean, just two muffins hardly bigger than my thumb and a spoonful of ice cream? It was barely enough to satisfy my taste buds. Hahaha!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf there’s one constant in our meals during this European vacation, it would be wine. How can we not? It was practically cheaper than water and definitely goes better with our meals! I normally don’t drink wine (it’s one of those habits my parents have that I never quite inherited) but I couldn’t say no to French wine.

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Mini Me

This should put to rest all doubts on whether Georgie looks like me or not.

That's me during my baptism (left), and my first birthday (right).

That’s me during my baptism (left), and my first birthday (right).

Plus, I am happy to report Georgie got my long, tapered fingers and not dear hubby’s pudgy ones.

At one month.

At one month.

At seven months. How can anyone resist those big puppy eyes?

At seven months. How can anyone resist those big puppy eyes?

The Jardin Nelson Mandela and Saint Eustache

I’ve always wanted to go on a picnic but there are very few nice places here in Manila to do it – Luneta is too crowded, too hot and while the long stretch of beaches in our country can be very tempting, I can’t very well just hop on a plane every time I wanted to go on a picnic.

Lo and behold, the perfect opportunity presented itself while we are out and about in Paris. I mean, what with all the really good cheese and the even better and cheaper wine, how could we not give in? We even had a nice wicker basket all ready at the apartment and a couple of plastic, stackable wine glasses so really, there was no other choice.

Thankfully, our apartment was situated just ten minutes from one of the modern parks in Paris: the Jardin Nelson Mandela.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPreviously named Jardin des Halles after it location (and indeed, you can’t miss it as the metro/RER stations for Chatelet and Les Halles is right underneath, perhaps the busiest metro station in all of Paris), it was renamed a few days after Mandela died. The small bit of green serves as a sort of oasis amidst bustling construction in the area and the looming church of Saint Eustace a few steps away from it is the perfect backdrop.

The weather seemed to cooperate with us too as it was neither hot nor cold – it was downcast enough for us not to sweat buckets yet sunny enough that we didn’t feel threatened by rain. We took some time figuring out how to set our stuff on the comforter we’d brought (we didn’t have any of those red gingham patterned cloths, but you have to admit, our comforter looked perfect!), and going about cutting the cheese and ham, and taking photos (of course!) that by the time we’ve settled, a policeman had come to order us politely out of the park.

Baguettes, cheese, ham, and a bottle or two of red wine.

Baguettes, cheese, ham, and a bottle or two of red wine. That’s the Saint Eustache in the background.

Apparently, drinking wine was not allowed in the park. Boo! It’s not like we were gonna get drunk or anything but whatever; the good thing we were almost done with our little picnic and had finished off an entire bottle already. Plus, it was starting to rain anyway. 😀

Another good thing was that I had visited the church earlier in the day – all my companions were pretty much drained from all the walking but we had yet to visit any of the old structures in Paris so I woke up early and armed with the knowledge that the church was just a block away, I trudged happily in its direction. Two of my friends decided to join me since it was their first time in Paris so I happily played the pied piper. 😀

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe church, built sometime in the late 16th century, is considered a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and it’s easy to see why. Whenever I think of Gothic architecture, I always end up thinking of halls of Moria (Lord of the Rings). This is a perfect example.

I’m such a nerd, I know.

The church is pretty accessible too, and is located near Les Halles, once Paris’ fresh produce market. This perhaps explains a cute little display at the back of the church that shows how its market must have looked like hundreds of years ago.

A diorama of farmers peddling their goods in the market.

A diorama of farmers peddling their goods in the market.

The stained glass windows are also a sight to behold. They’re so vivid, almost like paintings. You know how it feels like a miracle is about to happen when you sit in one of the pews, and the sun’s rays slowly penetrate through the stained glass windows and you see dust particles floating around? I had many of those moments while touring the church that my skin was crawling with goosebumps.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEurope is full of beautiful churches and since my first visit, I promised myself I would lit candles in all the churches I can visit and pray for my loved ones. And of course, world peace.

I always light a candle when I visit a church, especially when it's new. And I always wish for the same thing: happiness and health not just for me, but for all my loved ones, especially my two little boys.

I always light a candle when I visit a church, especially when it’s new. And I always wish for the same thing: happiness and health not just for me, but for all my loved ones, especially my two little boys.

I used to think we have the most beautiful churches in the Philippines; while I still think they’re beautiful, nothing prepared me for the grandeur of Europe’s churches. I can’t get enough of them!