Food Trip: Foo’d

My BFFs and I have this life-long commitment to food. Whenever we meet up, or travel, we make it a point to try out the local food scene and hit up a Michelin-starred restaurant or two. Sadly, while we do have a LOT of decent restos in the country, there’s an overwhelming absence of the latter in the metro.  So colour us so happy to learn that Davide Oldani, chef of Michelin-starred Cucina Pop in Italy, has brought his signature affordable sit-down meal to our side of the planet and opened up Foo’d.

Perhaps the usual misconception about Michelin-starred anything is that they are outrageously expensive – mostly true, in my experience, but this is where Oldani’s concept differs. He offers arguably one of the most affordable fine dining Michelin experience you can get.

How he does it is actually brilliant: by offering a fixed and limited menu, he manages to perfect each dish while banking on the economies of scale that such a setup naturally entails. It does come with a bit of flexibility: set menus start at Php800 and you can work your way up by adding other items. But if you want to get the full-on experience, you can always opt for Php2000 menu. 😀

Foo’d, which is located at the ground floor of the Shangri la Fort, has a very cozy ambience: plain white tables, dim lights, and soft, hushed sounds create that intimate dining feel of more pricey restaurants, minus the price tag. What I liked most is that the servers, who actually prepared each dish, take their time in going to your table to explain the different ingredients, and how it was prepared. Makes you appreciate the effort all the more.

For starters, we got the Cippola Caramellata, or simply put, caramelised onions. The caramelised onions are topped with homemade gelato and hot cream. I’m a bit fan of anything with onions (I can survive on French onion soup and onion rings) and I loved the softness and sweetness of the onions. I am just not too sure though if I want my onions with my gelato in the same meal, and as starters at that.  Next on the menu was Cacio e Pepe, which looked kind of deceiving as it was almost all white save for the tiny dots of freshly cracked pepper (the dim lightig didn’t help) – I almost thought it was just the pasta and pepper! Digging in, there’s Pecorino Romano cheese, horseradish, and hints of lemon.

 

For our third course, we ha Iberico pork ribs with porcini sauce and liquorice. This one, I absolutely loved – loved the meat and the just right richness and earthiness the porcini sauce.

 

Okay, I am a big dessert person and when they placed this plate of lemon curd in front of me, I went through different emotions: one was of the “OMG this is too pretty to eat” variant, courtesy of the perfectly sculpted meringue, second was more along the lines of “what the heck is that green tadpole-like thing.” After that, it was a dilemma of which one to dip my dessert spoon into first.

Turns out, the green “tadpole”was was a lettuce-flavoured gelato on a bed of crunchy cacao – yes, you read that right! Lettuce! The spiky cone is lemon curd topped with tiny meringues. I haven’t tasted meringues since I as in high school so I was very eager to have a go at this one. I loved the lemon curd. The sour curd and the sweetness of the meringue perfectly balanced each other, but when you eat it alternately with the veggie gelato, it becomes a dizzying volley of different flavours in your mouth. All sweet, sour, salty and bitter bits of it. For what it’s worth though, I don’t think I would eat the lettuce gelato on its own. I prefer my leafy greens as leafy greens and part of my entree, not my dessert. 😀

I enjoyed our Foo’d trip (see what I did there?) not singularly for the food, or the ambience, or the service, but the totality of the experience. And I am beyond happy that Pinoy foodies like me now have a growing option right in our backyard.

The Pokemon Go Update You Need Is Here

I’ll be the first to admit: I, along with a million other players, was actually getting bored with Pokemon Go. I mean, come on, just how many Rattatas (no matter how much the little brat at home loves it) and Pidgeys do you really want to catch? And no matter what I do, I just can’t find the missing pocket monsters I needed to finish my pokedex. I don’t even have a Dragonite!

But this latest update might just be the needed push to get me back in the game – and let me count the ways.

80+ new pokemons. Yup, 8-0! Now I have more monsters to get excited about. It’s quite amazing too that my eldest son actually knows which ones evolve into what, their powers and all that stuff. So far, I have caught 19 of these newly added monsters. And I wasn’t even trying too hard since I was caught up with deadlines and a presentation today that I could NOT mess up – I caught these monsters while going across floors at the office. Yes, I am that hooked – I even have the app open in my purse whenever I head off to meetings so that my steps count towards the mileage required to hatch eggs! 😂

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Umbreon and Espeon. News of the appearance of Eevee’s other evolutions started making the rounds last quarter, but not a single sign of these new pokemons in the last couple of updates. But, lo and behold! I used the tried and tested way to determine the evolution of your Eevee, and since I am partial to this flower, I renamed one of my monsters Sakura and evolved it. Voila! Out came Espeon, the sun pokemon/psyhic evolution of Eevee. I didn’t want to get my hopes up but there it was.

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Excited, I renamed my other Eevee into Tamao and got Umbreon, the moonlight/dark evolutioj of Eevee.

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New types of berries. While I appreciate the razz berry, sometimes I think it’s nothing but razz, you know, like the Razzies?

Fine, lame joke.

May I introduce then, the pinap and nanab berries:

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I didn’t get to research the berries prior to my first use of each, so I ended up wasting them. But since I am feeling generous today (yes, the presentation went well and I managed most of the deadlines), the pinap doubles the number of candies you can get from the pokemon SHOULD you manage to catch it. So yes, it’s a bit risky but then, double the candy? I’m in. The nanab, meanwhile, calms down the monster, making it less erratic and easier to catch. I managed to catch several thousand-CP pokemons using the standard ball coupled with this berry so it really is a big help.

The berries and poke balls are also now strategically located at the bottom left and right of the screen when you catch a pokemon – no need to access it by opening your items and selecting which to use. All you have to do now us swipe.

Additional evolutions and special items. Some of the pokemons we all thought we’ve evolved to their final form (well, at least those of us who never played the videogame nor watched the shpw), sneaked in a surprise as well. I already spied Blissey (Chancey’s evolution) at a nearby gym and saw Poliwhirl get another evolution form, albeit with a special item.

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I did notice though that the gps tracking seems to have been messed up – I could see my avatar going round and round hundreds of meters from where I actually was. Not that I’m complaining as that just counts towards my mileage.

And Niantic might need to do something with their server as it seems this update has got a lot of players excited: my app crashes every time I open it anew. I have to try at least three times every time before I could get it up and running.

The updates today made me excited to play Pokemon Go again, so much that hubby and I are contemplating going hunting again in poke-hubs like we used to months ago. And judging from the number of crashes I experienced with the app today, safe to assume a big number of players are too.

But is it enough to sustain the success of the game for many more months? Time will tell. All I know is, I’m gonna catch ’em all!

Amber

I am currently down with an infection and a severe bout of allergies (I’ve been having a lot of those lately) and thinking about all the food I am missing made me reminisce about one of the best Michelin experiences I’ve had so far: the two Michelin star Amber at the Mandarin Oriental Hongkong.

Now this is a long overdue post, one year in the making but the experience is just too good not to share.

My friends and I got a private room for our lunch and since we were in Hongkong to gorge on delicious food, we decided to go with their lunch wine menu – one glass each with starter, middle  course, and main course.

Who says we can’t have wine during lunch?!?

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When I first heard that we could potentially take four hours, I immediately thought, how can lunch take that much time? But when the first dish was served, I thought, oh now, I get it.

Duck colvert – A very rich foie gras, pâté en croûte, and sicilian pistacchio with spiced mango chutney.

I normally cannot tolerate too much pate, so having the starchiness of the crust  break that richness, and the sweetness of the mango to stave off the saltiness was a clever foil for it. It was an explosion of different flavors, all rich but perfectly complement each other. On a side note though, it was rather too heavy for me – I felt full midway through the pate en croute, but still finished it because it was too good to pass up. And the Chilean white wine was the perfect drink to wash it with.
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Oh, and let’s not forget the bread? I am a big bread person after all. 😂 I love that they offered different kinds of bread to satisfy just about every preference.

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For my middle course, I chose the cuttlefish – ala carbonara, served with quail egg yolk, charred pearl onions, and smoked alsatian bacon. And because we were feeling festive, it was Christmas season afterall, we got some table shaved alba white truffle to go with our meal. I love white fish, onions and bacon, and while the different textures and flavors worked well, after the richness of the pate, it was a tad too gentle on the taste buds for me, even with the truffle.

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I was literally bursting at the seams by the time our main course was served but who can say to to this:

Aveyron lamb – ribs braised in pinot noir, boulangere potatoes with taggiasche olives, tomato olives, and mizuna leaves. I have no words but I hope I did it a bit of justice with the photo below:

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The next plate was the chef’s selection of French unpasteurized cheeses. I love cheese but I often get disapponted with the spartan offering of most restos, so I had very little hope that this case would be different. Well, I was pleasantly surprised! The cheese plate was obviously carefully curated, with the varieties that go well with each other served in small portions – big enough to more than just whet your appetite, but small enough to not make you gag.

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And as if the cheese plate was not enough, we had a dessert of pineapple confit – with grilled millefeuille, grand cru madagascar vanilla cream, licorice, lime and yoghurt mousse, and exotic fruit sorbet. I’m not too fond of pineapple, licorice or lime (I don’t like sour/citrusy food in general, except as garnishing), but I enjoyed it enough to finish half and that is saying something.

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The last itme on the menu is dulcey chocolate – the caramelized macadamia and peanut butter sorbet was just heavenly! Now this is the dessert I love!

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We had tea and petit fours to round up our wonderful lunch!

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HK Foodtrip: Boqueria

I am not too fond of walking too much nowadays – I used to, when I was younger, but now I just get tired too easily. Chalk it up to aging and leading a sedentary lifestyle. So when my friends and I trooped to find this quaint little resto for Brunch  in Central, Hong Kong, I remember thinking: the food had better be very good. You see, Central is quite a big place and it took us a lot of walking up and down winding side streets before we found Hotel LKF, where Boqueria was neatly tucked away on its second floor.

When we first entered the place, I was quite charmed by the way it looked so cozy, like where you would hang out with your friends after a long day (or week). It wasn’t the place to be seen out and about; it wasn’t intimidating. Exactly my kind of place.

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To be honest though, we didn’t come for the food but for the unlimited do-it-yourself sangria, which you can easily do following three simple steps: get your ice and fruits, pick your juice (orange or grape) and wine (red or white), add sprite (if you want), and voila! Your very own sangria.

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We started off our meal with glasses of sangria – we were very strategic with it: we got the table nearest the sangria station and just across the kitchen door. Our sangrias were perfectly paired with appetizers from their carritos (mobile carts),which fortunately always starts with our table. Hahaha!

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I love their plate of Embutidos y Quesos (cold cuts and cheese) which we drizzled with olive oil (by request) and Ensaladas y Especialidades Espanolas (salads and specialties). I normally don’t like cherry tomatoes but that day, they were just oh so fresh and perfect with my meats and cheeses. I would of course, pick the cold cuts and cheese that are so abundant in France, but this would be a lovely substitute.

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It was the Christmas season when we visited Boqueria and pretty soon, a big group of expats entered the place. In fact, their group was so big it was just them and us! They all ordered oysters and since we were the only other table, we were given free oysters as well! I need not tell you how much I love my fresh oysters!

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The brunch package (which you can get with the unlimited DIY sangria) also includes their Paella del Dia (Paella of the Day) which was the perfect base for all the grilled goodness that was served shortly before it.

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I was seriously full before we even got to taste their Verduras del Dia a la Piancha and Churrascos de Carne (grilled veggies and meats) but I can’t say no to grilled salmon, beef and pork, can I? Especially when they’re all hot-off the grill. I never tried pairing my grilled meats with mustard and tartar sauce but I was pleasantly surprised with how good everything tasted.

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After serving us all those yummy grilled meat, guess what the finale was? We were so proud when we saw the Cochinillo Asado (suckling pig) being rolled out on the last cart – or none other than our very own lechon!

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I was seriously full to the brim by then; one more bite and I would have thrown up and made a mess right there. But then, the next cart rolled in and it was laden with plates of delectable Postres – freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, brownies, apple pie, and churros drizzled with chocolate syrup! So decacent and oh so tempting for a chocolate lover like me. They were not fancy concoctions but it was their simlpe familiarity that made this dessert plate a winner in my books.

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And to top off our Boqueria experience, we tried the Porron – similar to a beer bong, the bartender would pour an alcoholic beverage through a small tube straight to your mouth and would only stop when you give the word.

Two thumbs up!

Hamley’s at Central Square

Hubby and I are really just two kids at heart so we were giddy with excitement when we found out that Hamley’s was opening a branch here. Originally called Noah’s Ark, Hamley’s was founded by William Hamley in Lindon in 1760, which makes it the oldest toy shop in the world!

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The toy store had a lot of the usual toys – legos, barbie dolls…

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Lots of plushies!

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They have all sorts of bubble makers which would delight any kid. I found them rather expensive though – I got the bubble camera (right-most from the photo below) for Georgie and I was mildly disappointed that for a simple toy worth close to Php 500, it failed to make the different bubble shapes and kept spilling on my hands. My Php 20 bubble canister (the one you always find in loot bags) performed better. Still, it was aesthetically pleasing enough and I guess that’s what I paid for.

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 Arts and crafts!

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The main reason hubby and I were excited to go to Hamley’s was because we wanted to buy old-fashioned toys. You know, the ones made of die-cast metal and wood, and hand-made. These wooden blocks were the closest we got to our wish.

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We also found these cute binoculars and telescopes, similar to the ones by Lonely Planet which I spied at Toy Kingdom a few weeks ago, albeit cuter. I wanted to get one for Joey but he didn’t want it (he only realized later on when he saw we got one for his cousin that he actually wanted one himself).

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Oh, and they have Tokyo Vinyl stuff here, for the collectors out there.

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Hamley’s, given its location at the Central Square, is a nice alternative to the other toy stores since it is less crowded, but, if they plan on opening near a Toys R Us or Toy Kingdom, they’d better stock up on more unique toys to attract customers. As it is, you can find the same stuff in other toy stores so hubby and I were a little disappointed (no die cast double decker buses!!!).

Bruges Lace

I love lace. If I could wear lace everyday I would – oh wait, I practically do! I have dresses, skirts, tops, undergarments and accessories made of lace. My wedding gown was made of lace.

Anyway, enough about my raving about lace. I’m just excited that after two years, I was finally able to use my lace pillowcases from Bruges. Now, Bruges is very well know for its lace, considered by many to be the best in all of Europe. So of course, I made sure to buy some of it to take home with me. I didn’t want to use my old pillows for such special pillowcases and it took me quite awhile to buy new ones (fine, I forgot) but here they are finally!

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Lovely, right? I probably should have bought more. Oh well, I guess this justifies another trip to Belgium. Hahaha!

Christmas Wish List

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Just a few more weeks before Christmas and while I am not materialistic (well, not much), I do have a couple of things I would be more than happy to find in my stocking come Christmas day.

Clockwise, from top left:

  • Metallic gold flats, Repetto – I got my first pair from this renowned ballet shoes maker in Paris last year, and have never looked back since. They’re just too comfortable. A bit expensive, yes, but you do get what you pay for. I only wish they’d come up with more styles and prints.
  • Atlas bangle, Tiffany and Co – I love anything from this store. My heart flutters when I see that robin’s egg blue box. I love the Roman numerals and that not a lot of people know it’s Tiffany (at least not where I am from, where the only design people are familiar with is the toggle bracelet with the return to Tiffany heart charm).
  • Tiffany T Square bangle, Tiffany and Co – I love the classic design and since I’ve taken to wearing bracelets again, I can’t stop thinking about these bangles. I am usually averse to anything that screams the logo or the brand name, but this was so tastefully and subtlely done you hardly notice what it stands for.
  • Tokidoki for London Sole flats – my other favorite flats brand has a collaboration that is so quirky I just got to have them. These flats are also very comfortable and not quite as expensive as Repetto, especially if you stick with the basic designs. Plus, they have lotd of prints and material to choose from.
  • Atlast hoop earrings, Tiffany and Co.
  • Musical jewelry box, Pottery Barn – I just died when I saw this. I can’t even believe I haven’t bought it yet. You see, I used to have a similar one when I was a girl which I really loved. It broke and the I lost the little ballerina but ever since I entered adulthood, I’ve been on the lookout for a similar product. It’s only now that I found one. Heck, I want this so badly I probably woudln’t make it to Christmas without buying it.
  • Return to Tiffany mini-heart tag earrings – I know I just said I hate logos or anything recognizable but I would make an exception for this one for the simple reason that I already have the necklace counterpart (courtesy of the hubby).
  • A shell carved cameo – I am obsessed with cameos, especially those that have lockets. But it’s so hard to find anyone who sells them here in Manila. In fact, I don’t know of any at all. But I would really love to have one. It’s a childhood obsession of mine.

I hope the hubby is reading this. I always make it easy for him to give me gifts but he rarely takes the hint I usually end of buying for myself. Actually, we’ve even gone so far as to go to the mall together so we can get Christmas gifts for ourselves. Hahaha!

What about you? What’s on your list?

*pictures taken from company websites

Christmas Came Early: The Jewelmer Noel Pendant 2014

Okay, as I wrote about here, I am seriously in the middle of a pearl obsession. To make matters worse, my boss, who noticed that I’ve recently taken to wearing pearls in the office, texted me at 6AM to inform me that Jewelmer has just released the Noel Pendant, their annual holiday offering.

IMG_4531It is available in silvery white and golden south sea pearls mounted on a specially designed pin (which changes every year!) made of either yellow or white gold, and hangs on a silver or golden silk cord (depending on your choice of pearl).

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For those who find the other offerings of Jewelmer quite beyond their budget, this is a perfect starting point – I think it’s the most affordable piece in their showroom but will add that oomph to an otherwise ordinary outfit. The Noel Pendant is available until December 31 and if you’re seriously thinking of buying it, I suggest you head over to the nearest store so you get first dibs. I was told by the SA that I am actually the first one to buy the pendant at their branch this year and so, was very lucky because I got to pick the biggest and most blemish free of the bunch.

*Okay, I just realized how bad the photo quality is. But the thing is, I sort of accidentally doused my trusty mirrorless camera back in Europe and even though I’ve spent more than five times the amount it would have cost me to buy a new one, I can’t get myself to do so. Haha, priorities, right?

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!

Tintin Goes to Fully Booked

Hubby and I were in for a pleasant surprise when we went to Fully Booked over the weekend for our usual bookstore trip (nerdy couple alert: our dates almost always involves a trip to the bookstore)- we found that the magazine and poetry sections were renovated to house the Tintin shop!
Now, for those of you who are not familiar, The Adventures of Tintin is a famous comic series written by Georges Remi (pen name Herge), a Belgian cartoonist. The hero of the series, is Tintin, a young reporter, who is oftentimes assisted (or rescued) by his dog, Snowy. Tintin was hubby’s favourite growing up and we had wanted to go to the Herge museum in Brussels when we went to Europe last year but our packed itinerary prevented us from doing so.

 

 Anyway, it was such a treat going into the shop – they had so many cutesy stuff such as shirts for both kids and adults, some really nice bags, and character watches.
I wanted to buy some shirts and a Snowy stuffed toy for Joey; he loves Snowy so much!

I can already imagine buying lots of school stuff for Joey here!