Not Another New Year’s Reflection (.. okay, just kidding, yes it is)

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FROM THE DESK OF: Nina

Dear 2016,

I’m sure you’ve heard this enough already, but you have been one hell of a year. I’m not going to list the reasons why you’ve made me want to pull my hair out more than once these past 360-something days – I’m sure we’ll see plenty of those as we get closer to December 31st – but let’s just say my “good riddance” to you come the new year will be one expressed with lots of gusto.

Now, that said… I do have to thank you for pushing me forward to the next phase of this strange journey I call adulthood. Not one to sugarcoat anything, you pushed me through the Quarter-Life Crisis without resolve and shoved me right into the terrifying preliminary stages of Saturn’s Return; I can’t remember another time when I’ve had to face my fears and confront what makes me so uncomfortable, and on such a regular, consistent basis.

You helped rekindle my love of writing again by encouraging me to start tinydeskwriters with Aiza and Deo, something I probably wouldn’t have done by myself. (And I am so glad I did!)

You gave me an excuse to take the ultimate anthropological excursion to the Motherland, having my Lola volun-tell me to be in the wedding of a cousin whom I’d never previously met (balut snacks, matchmaking lolas, maximum socializing, and python excursions included). I went in not knowing what to expect but returned with a plethora of colorful stories and new friendships.

You taught me some brutally honest lessons on humanity and broke down that illusion of invincibility that so often accumulates when not reminded otherwise. Your not-so-subtle style of dropping hints reminds me that my elders are, in fact, getting older, and that health isn’t something that stays constant throughout time.

You gave me the confidence to stand my ground in the fashion industry and finally say goodbye to it, leaving it to explore the world of food – something I’d been interested in for awhile. Then you decided to play a sick game of hide-and-seek with said confidence when I jumped into that new world, which has thrown me into a bit of a tizzy and existential crisis as of late. I am still presently looking for where you hid the confidence – you sure did pick a tricky hiding place for it – and am hoping I recover it sooner rather than later.

With just a few days left of being together and getting through this thing we call life (RIP Prince), I’ll be reflecting on what you threw my way this past year, looking back with respect (and a little bit of frustration) for what you taught me. You’ve been a year of confrontation, 2016, and I have a feeling those teachings you started with me won’t really be over when I meet 2017. Whereas you were the year to help me open up to the idea of vulnerability and understanding it, I think you’ve left the task of helping me act upon that openness to 2017. I think you’ve passed the torch to 2017 to help me reach the next step in my journey of personal development. At least, I hope you have.

So, on that note, thank you, 2016, for giving me the ass-kicking I probably needed at this point in my life. But I hope you will understand wholeheartedly when 2017 rolls around and I say to you…

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Respectfully Yours,

Nina

Guest List for a Kamayan Dinner

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Photo: http://www.pampalasa.com

FROM THE DESK OF:   Aiza

Kamayan Dinner– Filipino style eating using bare hands instead of utensils.

I am on a serious Filipino food momentum these days. [Our family Thanksgiving lunch definitely helped satisfy my craving issues]. Part of this momentum is likely triggered by all these exciting articles on popular Filipino food trends, up and coming chefs, etc. I also noticed more and more kamayan style dinners popping up all over LA which had me thinking.  If I had the chance to host a dinner with five guests, who would I invite?

Continue reading “Guest List for a Kamayan Dinner”

Trapped in the Bathroom for 30 Minutes

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help me, R Kelly

FROM THE DESK OF: Deo

The doorknob to my bathroom wouldn’t turn so I did what any man would do: I turned it harder. I had just finished showering so I was still wet, eager to get out of the bathroom and make coffee. I turned as hard as I could, because you know, brute strength always solves problems—but then the damn knob just… fell. Now I didn’t have a way of turning the door. I was trapped in the bathroom, R-Kelly style. Continue reading “Trapped in the Bathroom for 30 Minutes”

Thanksgiving: A Big, Fat, Filipino Eating Fest

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A Filipino rendition of Thanksgiving. This isn’t even the full spread – there’s a whole turkey not pictured that’s on the other side of these dishes.

FROM THE DESK OF: Nina

Thanksgiving is that time of year when we reflect on our lives and count our blessings… which we celebrate by gorging ourselves and engaging in some good ol’ communal gluttony.

Traditional American Thanksgiving fixins include turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and usually some veggie dish that’s coated in some creamy substance that negates any health benefits said veggies might’ve contained.

Filipino-American Thanksgiving fixins (or the ones by my family, at least) include all of that, plus lechon, menudo, pancit, macaroni and cheese, oxtail soup, humba, potatoes au gratin, garlic fried chicken, rice, Filipino spaghetti, a whole lotta other dishes I could never identify but name but have definitely eaten frequently in my life, and not a whole lotta veggies.

How the heck do you tackle this beast of a Thanksgiving spread, you ask? Well, let me give you a brief overview of how it usually goes down in my family.

STEP 1: Oxtail soup. Always go for the oxtail. Lolo Joe makes this out-of-this-world soup made from oxtail, greens, and… actually, I have no idea what’s in it. But the broth and the fall-off-the-bone meat with some rice is definitely my go-to warm-up dish to get things going.

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For those unfamiliar, oxtail soup can look a bit scary at first. But trust me: this fall-off-the-bone meat, soaked in a mild broth with greens and rice, is definitely not one dish to miss at the party.

STEP 2: Filipino food plate. Usually, at this point, I’m so pumped to find Filipino food that I go for those dishes first. (I don’t have Filipino food often, so these are the times when I get my fill.) This time, a huge slab of lechon ended up on my plate, so I worked around that by adding just a few other sides like rice, Filipino spaghetti*, lumpia, more oxtail, and some grapes (for color).

*Filipino spaghetti: pasta noodles with sweet, thick red sauce, hot dogs (yes, hot dogs), cheese, and I’m sure loads of sugar somewhere in there. So wrong, it’s right.

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Lolo Joe loaded my plate with a massive slab of lechon meat and skin, so that kind of threw a curveball into my overall vision for my first plate, in terms of variety. So I kinda just added some rice, Filipino spaghetti, lumpia, and a little more oxtail and called it a day. Oh, and a few grapes for produce, since veggies aren’t really a thing with Filipino feasts.

STEP 3: Take a break from the savory and dip into the dessert station. I always need a little sweet as an intermission before I resume my usual entree plate program. A few bites of cassava cake, a taste of ube, a tad bit of flan, maybe some fruit, and then I’m good to get back to business.

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Tiny sweet bites (Hans and Harry’s fruit strudel, ube, flan, cassava, grapes, and hopia) before I get into my next plate.

STEP 4: Back to the savory plates. Maybe a little more American this time. After my sweet fix, I get back to eating another plate. This time, it’s usually to get into traditional Thanksgiving dishes and maybe more veggies. I have no photo of this because today the lechon overshadowed most of my attempts to eat American, but typically this is the time when I go for the turkey, potatoes, mac and cheese, and maybe look for some veggies or fruit somewhere.

STEP 5: Repeat the process throughout the day. Eating is not a finite activity on these days; with the food on sternos throughout the day, it’s completely normal in this setting to keep eating and nibbling on different dishes. You want gluttony? Come check this scenario out. But this is how we spend our quality time together, and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll head back to my food-drunk stupor now.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! Hope you were able to spend it well surrounded by loved ones.

Road Trippin’: Central Valley (CA Hwy 99 Edition)

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I’m always searching for farm fresh food when visiting the Central Valley.

FROM THE DESK OF:   Aiza

I hold a special place in my heart for Central California (in particular, the city of Visalia). From LA, I love the drive through the Angeles Mountains, the views of grape vines, the nut trees, the dairies and more. A trip up to Central Valley, California and any other agriculture regions in the state always reminds me of the hard, grinding work of farmworkers. I truly value the contributions farmworkers make to put food on my table.

What else do I love about the area? The food. First, the food grown and harvested in the area provides an incredible economic source to the state.Per House Committee On Natural Resources: “California’s Central Valley is the state’s agriculture hub, producing over 360   products.”

Beyond the financial impact, throughout the area you will find some of the freshest, tastiest fruits, vegetables and meats. For a self-proclaimed foodie like myself, the Central California area is pleasant, affordable surprise.

Continue reading “Road Trippin’: Central Valley (CA Hwy 99 Edition)”

Post-Apocalyptic Movies Reflect The State of The Union

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This is getting easier to imagine

FROM THE DESK OF: Deo

In the same way that nightmares serve an evolutionary purpose of mentally preparing us for real world dangers, I believe that apocalyptic movies also serve a similar function for society: namely, they prepare us for the worst. This may explain a correlation of historical events to the rise of apocalyptic movies.

Continue reading “Post-Apocalyptic Movies Reflect The State of The Union”

Rivalries and Reality

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In a time of division, is rivalry an escape or a blunt reflection of reality?

FROM THE DESK OF: Nina

A few months ago, I wrote about an annual tradition my alma mater carries on known as Blue and Gold Week. It’s that week prior to the UCLA vs. USC football game, when Bruins show their school pride and rally to face our cross-town rivals in football. Trojans call this week by a different name, of course, but however way you look at it, one thing is sure: it’s one week when both schools do not hold back in painting the town blue and gold and red. And it gets pretty nutty.

I’ve mentioned this before, but when I first started tinydeskwriters with Aiza and Deo, I always thought I’d for sure write a snarky little post (laced with USC burns) about why it’s awesome to be a Bruin when Blue and Gold Week rolled around. (Ideas for possible headlines: Questions for Trojans, or Did You Really Get Fooled By a Giant Toy Horse?; Brilliant Bruin Comebacks; Brown Bears Eat Gullible Humans… the possibilities are endless.) But now that it’s here, I’m finding myself at a slight loss of words. Not because I feel differently about my alma mater – I bleed blue and gold – but because I’m starting to question the merits of rivalries and their outcomes. In this age of politically heavy divisiveness, are rivalries an escape or a blunt reflection of reality?

Continue reading “Rivalries and Reality”