The last two months of 2013 were a blast. And FATTENING.
We all know what November means to Americans: turkey. This year, my husband and I went to Long Branch, NJ to share a meal with our relatives. It was our first time spending it with relatives on my side of the family, and it was awesome! Apparently, my aunt gives her turkey a cold bath and massage the night before, and then wraps it in cheese film (I think!) before storing it in the fridge for the next day. A 20-lb bird all juicy and tasty greeted us when we finally sat down to have dinner. Besides the turkey, there was ham, baked mashed yam with marshmallows (OHMYGODITWASAMAZING), pecan pie, my cousin’s popular mashed potatoes.
That’s all I remember now. And the resulting bloated feeling. We went home with very full stomachs and some packed treats.
Wrapped boxes under a festive tree
December went by in a blur of work and food. Our first Christmas party was on Friday the 13th. My aunt’s friends go all-out every year. It was our first year to join them, and we heard that he hurt his ankle days before, which didn’t give him enough strength/movement to spruce up the place more. Apparently the already-spruced up apartment lacked its usual Christmas sprucing. If you were there, you’d say (out loud): “Are you crazy?!” Their place was decked out in all its Christmas splendor. That’s what we think, anyway.
Also a first for us was our church’s “Simbang Gabi”. This year, I not only attended it; I participated in the Christmas play, too. It dragged on for more than an hour, was a bit cold by the time it ended, but I still enjoyed it anyway. We started making friends with some Filipinos in church. Hopefully that’s the start of building our Filipino network here.
Already becoming a tradition, my husband and I visited the Rockefeller Christmas tree one evening after work and took A LOT of pictures to celebrate the occasion. There were so many tourists around, and I think there were quite a number of New Yorkers there, too. We were blessed with a not-too-cold evening (it rained all day the next day), and we came home tired but happy.
Christmas Eve was a free day for me, which gave me ample time to prepare dinner. Filipinos celebrate Christmas over a midnight meal which we fondly call “Noche Buena”. Even if it’s just my husband and me, I made sure we could have our own Noche Buena. On my feet all day, I managed to prepare kaldereta (beef stew in tomato sauce), ham (boiled about 30 minutes in pineapple juice+water+sugar, and then baked about 20 minutes in a little pineapple juice, then drizzled with reduced pineapple juice+sugar), peach float (refrigerator cake) and bibingka (Filipino rice cake). I made a boo-boo with the bibingka, left it too long in the oven and nearly torched the whole thing. He was sweet enough to eat huge servings of it.
And this year’s Christmas was one of the few times when he managed to pull off a surprise without spoiling it himself! I was speechless (a very rare moment) when he suddenly came down from the upstairs bedroom after dinner, carrying a HUGE unwrapped brown box, still sealed and labeled with a FedEx sticker. He was sorry for not wrapping it with a gift wrapper, but it definitely didn’t matter to me anymore. More than the contentS of the box (there were three gifts inside!), I was amazed at how he managed to pull off the surprise. I was definitely giddy like a little girl!
On Christmas day, we tore through the wrappers and boxes we received from his sisters. I adored the AJ 10 Retro he got, probably his most prized gift this year. Despite the simplicity (and practicality) of what he received from me, he chose to wear it to mass that morning and wore it still for our now-a-tradition Christmas photos. God, I love him!
2013 coming to a close
To celebrate Christmas AND the approaching new year, we braved the cold and rainy last Sunday of 2013 to sit down with my cousins and aunt over fried chicken, crispy pata (pork leg, very crispy, delicious and sinful) and pork sisig (chopped parts of pig’s head and liver) at Max’s of Manila in Jersey City, NJ. We had a lot of catching up to do, especially with my cousin (once removed) whom we haven’t seen since she got married in September. Then the servers at the restaurant sang me a “Happy Birthday”, with a small slice of flan with whipped cream and syrup, after my husband discreetly asked our server. It suddenly turned into an impromptu advance birthday celebration for me. Despite the wet weather, it was another amazing day with family.
Two days before the new calendar year, I celebrated MY new year with the enthusiasm of a five-year old. NYC weather was in the teens that night, but my husband and I ventured out in the cold to celebrate in our favorite Chinese restaurant. We stuffed our mouths with dimsum, pan fried noodles and Peking-style porkchop. The celebration continued at home, with a small refrigerator cake and a #5 candle. Yup, I blew that candle. That candle for a five-year old’s birthday cake. HAHAHA!
Although we live in New York City, spending new year’s eve crammed in Times Square was not something we considered. We preferred staying inside where it’s warm, and just watch the ball drop on TV. We heard mass first, and then had dinner with friends, in their son’s apartment. We stuffed ourselves silly (again), and came home 2 hours before 2014 officially began. To usher the new year, I prepared simple hors d’oeuvre and uncorked a bottle of Beringer white Zinfandel (which I, eventually, had to finish on my own). It was another quiet new year’s eve for us, quiet and intimate. We’re enjoying the intimate moments now, before little kids start running around the house.
I hope you all had an amazing (and, perhaps, fattening) year-end festivities!
Cheers to another amazing year!