I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts (And Mangoes Too)

As I mentioned in my last blog post, both of my grandparents ended up in the sticks because they were educators. I failed to mention that my grandpa was also a full time hustler. Besides running an elementary school he ran a copra business that my cousin continues to run to this day. He also has a mango plantation because …the Philippines…. but it’s actually not mango season so I pretty much missed out on any knowledge drop about that.

According to Wikipedia, Copra is the kernel of a coconut. It is dried and then pressed to make coconut oil. My family has been doing this for generations so when I tried to explain to my cousin that coconut oil was so in right now in the US he looked at me like I had ten heads.

thumb_IMG_1129_1024

Copra has a unique earthy, meaty, tropical scent that I can only associate with the Saluyong. As soon as I arrived and breathed in the air, I immediately traveled back to my childhood in the Philippines. It’s a delicious scent.

My family gets our coconuts from native mountain people and from what I hear they are an interesting bunch. They did not like dealing with my cousin because he looks young so he ended up growing a big gnome-like beard to fit in better. They are pretty demanding group in terms of copra pricing so if they don’t like the price you quote them they will start to stroke their bolo (Filipino machete) and look you down menacingly.

The rest is all business — we dry the copra event more at our family compound and then they watch the rise and fall of copra prices and then sell it to wholesalers at the city. It’s almost like the stock market but island style.

It’s definitely a heart-racing type of job so I am pretty happy that I work in front of a computer all day and so far my run-in count with machetes at the job is zero.

And that my friend is how you get coconut oil! The next time you’re slathering it on your eggs think about my family and the countless other islanders who risk their lives on a daily basis to make sure you get your fill of heart-healthy fats.

thumb_IMG_1131_1024 thumb_IMG_1140_1024   thumb_IMG_1166_1024

thumb_IMG_1167_1024

thumb_IMG_1142_1024

Mabuhay Philippines!

Hola! Or should I say Mabuhay!

Today is my first day back to work after almost a month away in the Philippines. Fortunately (or unfortunately?!?!) jet lag + Daylight Savings Time caused me to wake up at 3 am so I went from over 450 unread emails to just 13. By 8:00 am, I had already eaten a spaghetti dinner, cleaned my apt, and caught up on all of the latest episodes of ‘Once Upon a Time.’

With all of this extra time, I thought I’d take you on a little walking tour of my mom’s hometown.

thumb_IMG_1151_1024
Nestled among the foothills of the mountains, Saluyong is rather removed from the comforts of the outside world. Yet it is rich in natural resources — I showered with water from a fresh spring, had access to all the coconuts I could eat, and woke up to the sounds of roosters crowing every morning. At first it was a bit annoying since roosters wake up really early, but with a sunrise view like this…how can you be mad? #HashBrownNoFilter

thumb_IMG_1108_1024
My family lives almost directly across from the elementary school, where both of my grandparents were sent away to teach when they were younger (think Laura Ingalls Wilder but island style). They were one of the first people to help develop the school and my grandfather eventually became principal. He told me that he was the first person to have a motorcycle in the area and my grandma used to ride in the back!

thumb_IMG_1044_1024
This is my niece hanging out in our family garden right before pre-school. Isn’t her uniform adorable?

thumb_IMG_1121_1024
There’s no WiFi here (which meant I -TOTALLY- missed out on the drama that unfolded between Khloe and Lamar while I was gone) so kids have to entertain themselves in other ways. These children are part of the local scouting program and here they are learning to build tents out of palm leaves since there is no REIs or LL Beans in Saluyong.

thumb_IMG_1126_1024
Tug of War is an international game but instead of rope these kids are using bamboo. Like most American kids, basketball is life for many Filipino youths…but their courts sure do not look anything like the courts at home.

thumb_IMG_1070_1024
Rob and I are seriously scratching our heads on how children play basketball on a grass court. Not pictured in this frame, a loose piglet about three feet away.

thumb_IMG_1116_1024

One of (pretty much the only) main attraction in Saluyong is a natural spring pool that is owned by the family of one of my the family of my mom’s childhood best friend. To get there we walked past the school, into a bunch of random coconut trees, crossed the river, past the water buffalo, past the chicken and dog playing together, up a small mountain and finally beautiful, sweet, cool relief.

thumb_IMG_1060_1024
thumb_IMG_1102_1024
thumb_IMG_1073_1024
thumb_IMG_1071_1024
thumb_IMG_1096_1024

That’s it for now! If I’m still jet lagged tomorrow check back for information on the secret world of coconut oil.

 

Once Upon a Thai

IMG_4958

IMG_4901

IMG_4944

IMG_5075

IMG_5089

IMG_5114

IMG_5116

 

Thailand is not just beaches and elephants. It has a long storied history and a very rich culture. We loved riding a long boat through the waterways of the Chao Phraya River, climbing the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya, and the more modern temples in Bangkok.

Here are a few fun facts that I learned!

  1. If you find a white elephant you must present it to the royal family where it will live out the rest of his life in luxury. White elephants are considered sacred a sign of virtue and wealth.
  2. At almost every building or house you will see a miniature, highly decorative shrine in front of it. These are called spirit houses and are designed to provide shelter for the spirit’s of a previous building’s occupants.
  3. Transgenders (or kathoeys) are considered the third gender in Thailand. They are widely accepted into society  and I can tell you for myself that their contouring skills would put any Kardashian to shame. The average sex change operation (male to female) cost is approximately $8,000.
  4. Chang and Eng, two of the most famous Siamese twins are from Thailand (originally called the Kingdom of Siam). After they joined the PT Barnum Circus they adopted the name “Bunker” and became American citizens. They married two sisters and had 21 children in total.
  5. The sky’s the limit when it comes to ice cream toppings. Think: sticky rice, sweet potato, corn kernels, water chestnuts, pumpkin, red beans, gooseberries, and mung beans!

Eating My Way Through Thailand

When Rob and I first started dating, we became obsessed with the show No Reservations. My favorite episodes were always the ones where he went to a Southeast Asian country and tried their street food. It vaguely reminded me of my childhood in the Philippines and everything (except the rats and the crickets) looked so mouthwatering delicious that when we planned our honeymoon to Thailand we decided we would only exclusively eat at street cafes. #ShopLocal

IMG_4971
Bangkok is the capital of street food! It was impossible to turn a corner and not run into a purveyor or something delicious. The first few days we were so jetlagged that we would wake up past midnight to eat dinner. While most of the restaurants were closed, night markets ruled the scene. It awesome to fulfill our pad thai craving at all hours of the night.

IMG_4975
I’ve always had an aversion to eating any food where the colors were not found in nature. That being said, I was super impressed with this plastic contraption that allowed us to tote our beverage easily throughout the market. I wish I could bring my own to cocktail parties so I don’t have to live in fear of spilling my wine anymore.

IMG_4976
Roasted pork with extra crispy skin, gravy, rice, AND a soft boiled egg? It must be my birthday! Bring on the cholesterol pills!

IMG_4978
Rob was obsessed with the meat on a stick vendor. Pretty much every time we walked past it, he HAD to grab one to snack on.

IMG_5015
These little griddle cakes are hollow in the middle and filled with coconut custard. It was pretty much the best thing I’ve eaten ever.

IMG_5127
Street market jerky. It’s a little bit sweet and a lot more pliable than Ameircan jerky. It tastes fantastic with sticky rice.

IMG_5434
I wanted to take this giant bag of fried fish skin home but it would not fit in my luggage. I settled for a more portable version but it just wasn’t as beautiful as this one.

IMG_5797
I’m a true believer of the mantra that it’s not a true island vacation unless you’re drinking out of a coconut.

IMG_5812
On our last few days at the beach the boy and I subsisted wholly on fish — roasted, fried, grilled and fresh from the ocean! Our waiter commended us on our ability to eat pick fish like a local. #Skillz

IMG_4964
I could smell this chicken simmering from over a block away.

IMG_5435
Fresh produce at the local market! Look how tiny those little eggplants are in the bottom left corner. My dad likes to pickle them and eat them as a side dish at home!

IMG_4978
Rob was absolutely obsessed with this meat on a stick vendor and made me stop here every time we passed by (which was pretty much every time we left our hotel in Bangkok). It’s the perfect nightcap!

IMG_5788
Fruit shakes are a must in Thailand. It’s the perfect way to beat the heat! Rob’s favorite flavor was mango but mine was coconut.

 

Antiquing in the Country

Goodbye City. Hello Country.

About an hour away from Washington, DC is the small, sleepy town of Lucketts, Virginia. Nestled between fields of sheep and several vineyards, a day trip to the Old Lucketts Store is one of my favorite ways to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon. The rickety rooms are stuffed to the brim with all types of treasures….from weathered furniture, to tiny cordial cups to mink hats from the 1950’s.

Amber and I had so much fun exploring all the nooks and crannies of this store. After we packed up all of our vintage finds, we headed out to The Wine Kitchen in Historic Leesburg for red wine flights and chocolate cherry cake. I can’t imagine a more perfect day with my best friend!

IMG_8446

IMG_8447

IMG_8449

IMG_8450

IMG_8451

IMG_8453

IMG_8455

IMG_8458

Welcome to the Jungle!

The highlight of Rob and I’s trip to Khao Sok National Park was getting up close and personal with elephants but to stop there would be an insult to the majestic beauty we encountered along the way. We were able to explore the area several ways: via canoe, speedboat, vintage Burmese junk ship, and by foot. But enough words, I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story!

unnamed
The day we arrived it was pouring rain, but that did not stop us from jumping in a river canoe. The craggy limestone cliffs and fog give the whole scene a Lord of the Rings feel…Am I right?

IMG_5458
We took a speedboat to explore a nearby mangrove where we encountered monkeys, snakes, birds and other wildlife. Also, I’m too cool for a life jacket.

IMG_5460
Thai people greet each other with the ‘wai’ (demonstrated above) which can be used to express respect, gratitude or apologies.

IMG_5480
We took this classic Burmese junk ship right to the mouth of the Andaman sea where we got to picnic and swim on a private island for the afternoon.

IMG_5490
Originally we thought this jellyfish was a pink plastic bag floating in the water. Boy were we wrong! I am still amazed that our ship captain picked it up with his bare hands.

IMG_5483

IMG_5507
Our jungle trek included a raft ride! There were tons of fish in the water and they jumped through the little slits of the bamboo when we threw food in the river.

IMG_5535
After our trek, we were led to a small little open hut where we got to participate in a Thai cooking class.

IMG_5525
Roasted pork and chicken grilled over open coals. We also learned to make coconut milk from scratch!

 

 

 

This Post is Completely IrrElephant

IMG_5236

IMG_5285

IMG_5326

IMG_5360

IMG_5383

IMG_5398

IMG_5411

Step aside current dream job, when I grow up I want to be a mahout. In between all of the eating and beaching Rob and I did in Thailand, I made sure to schedule a few days at Elephant Hills, a luxury tented camp set in the middle of Khao Sok National Park, the largest jungle in all of Thailand.

At the camp we were able to help out with the elephant preserve’s daily activities such as scrubbing their thick skin with coconut husks, hosing them down, preparing their daily meals and feeding them.

Did you know….
+ Elephants can be picky eaters? We fed the elephants a mixture of sugar cane, palm leaves, bamboo, and tamarind. The elephants immediately went for the sweet stuff and threw their veggies on the ground.
+ If you come across a white elephant in Thailand you must immediately notify the king. White elephants are considered sacred and often live the remainder of their lives at royal palaces and are often given royal titles.

PS: How funny is it that Rob wore a Swedish Tourist Shirt in Thailand?

Sippin Crist-o with Some Freaks from Frisco

It’s only six months into 2012 and I’ve already got to travel all over California — San Diego, LA, up and down the OC and as of last week, San Francisco!  I feel so incredibly blessed.  If you have not heard, I recently accepted a job with Yelp.com as a Community Manager/Marketing Director for Northern Virginia.  I have been eying this job since I was a fresh-out-of-college intern so to me this is a dream come true.  Although, I will be based in Northern Virginia, Yelp gave me the opportunity to fly out to their headquarters in San Francisco and my brief trip out there was nothing short of amazing.  It was so exciting to be in a young, fresh atmosphere with tons of people who are passionate about what they do every day.  They put me up at the W Hotel which is a few blocks away from their main office and let me tell you — I am never going back to the Holiday Inn again!  Chingy is trippin’, the W is where its at.

I didn’t get the chance to take too many photos because I was trying to live in the moment but here are a few that I managed to take!

This picture describes exactly how I felt for the entire four days I was there!

Yelp has an onsite kegerator with rating system that is powered by an Ipad. It is one of many things that I love about the company.

Can't believe I'm finally here!

Fantastic comfort food at Slow Club in the Mission

Was able to continue my yoga practice at the San Francisco airport! How cool is that?

Two beds all to myself! Coming from a one bedroom apartment this place was a dream.

Classic San Francisco along with the Golden Gate Bridge, Full House home, and Rice-a-Roni

No trip to California is complete without a steaming hot bowl of ramen.

 

Let’s Hear it for New York

A couple of weeks ago, Rob and I woke up and decided to go to New York.  After booking last minute transportation through Vamoose and a hotel room through Tablet, we were off!  We literally had no plans when we arrived which was nice because we really got to explore the city.  Some of our favorite stops included:

  • The Mansfield Hotel – A cute, historic boutique hotel right in the heart of Midtown.  My favorite part was their library room which had many leather bound books and smelled of rich mahogany.
  • 53rd and 6th Halal Cart – Even though there are tons of halal carts in the city, this one in particular strikes a chord in the hearts of many.  You can’t go wrong with their chicken and rice platter with their special white sauce!  (I skipped out on the sauce because of my condiment fear but Rob can vouch for it’s deliciousness).
  • Brasserie Les Halles – I’m a huge Anthony Bourdain fan so I made sure to drop by for some wine, escargot and banana flambe.  We were able to walk in with “No Reservations”…zing!
  •  Joe’s Shanghai – We didn’t get the opportunity to shuck it over to Chinatown but luckily Joe’s Shanghai had a Midtown outpost so we could get a taste of their famous soup dumplings.
  • Central Park – I’ve been to NY many times but I never took the opportunity to take a leisurely walk through Central Park.  We saw many famous sites along the way such as Strawberry Fields and the sailboat pond where Jenny Humphrey became a drug mule on Gossip Girl.
  •  Toys R Us – I only went in because Rob wanted to check out their action figure collection but after wandering around for a few minutes I became absolutely enthralled with their life size Barbie house and gigantic candy section.
  • Times Square Forever 21 – Open till 2am every day this store was able to fill all my impulse buying needs.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...