11.17.2014

belatedly

I always end up sleeping much later than I originally intend. After impatiently putting the kids to bed and taking a shower, I spend a good amount of time puttering about, even when I'm completely exhausted. Anyway, I have been neglecting this blog, as I have been neglecting taking pictures with a proper camera. I am always on Instagram though; I think that is the culprit. I want to go back to regular programming around here. I have also been intellectualizing shit to death. On my for-pleasure reading list right now? Walter Ong's Orality and Literacy, and The Cambridge Introduction to Walter Benjamin. Awesome, two Walters. I love critical theory -- and I just realized that it's because Daddy used to always have these discussions with me where he would describe the evil -isms of this world (Capitalism, Colonialism), and how I was complicit in all of them (I was maybe 11 or 12 years old), and I miss him. I miss being told, in an intellectual manner, what I am doing wrong.

I had to write a paper for my photography class, Beginning Digital Editing a.k.a. Photoshop for Beginners. It was about the Larry Sultan exhibition at LACMA, Here and Home, his first posthumous retrospective, which I loved (and which has nothing to do with Photoshop, by the way). I love Larry Sultan. Anyway, so I wrote that paper -- two pages, single-spaced -- and felt alive. Sheesh. I used words like "fetishize" and "appropriation" and "deconstruct" and "recontextualize" in an essay for a friggin Photoshop for Beginners class. (But in fairness, we also talk about a bit of photo history in there, and look at the works of photographers/ contemporary artists, and have critiques and all, not just technical stuff.) "Why do you write so much, Mommy?" Nacho asked in disbelief, upon seeing the pages that had come out of the printer. "I have a lot to say!" I said. "I have lots of ideas, you know!" Defensively. And Imo asks, exasperatedly, "Why don't you go to graduate school??" I don't know. It's really hard to be much of anything else after you've been a stay-at-home mother for seven years, and counting.

Things I have been unable to do:
1. Exercise.
2. Earn a living.
3. Finish books I've started reading. (Except for Murakami's latest novel. I finished reading that.)
4. Sleep early.
5. Be a real morning person. As opposed to morning zombie.

I wonder if there is an Obscure Sorrow name for the above sorrow.

Oh well. I know that November is half over (!) but let me leave you with some photos from Halloween! This year's Halloween was the Halloween of many, many Elsas, and several Anas. But Asha and Yumi went as a ghost bride and a zombie cheerleader, respectively. Don't know what I feel about my girls going as horror-fied (horrified?) female stereotypes, but at least, they weren't Elsa, or Ana. Also, it was drizzling, and then it rained, so we only got to go trick-or-treating at a few houses -- which means less candy, which means, fantastic. (I would be that person giving out granola bars or clementines to trick-or-treaters.) And it was the first Halloween that Nacho went off on his own with friends. Sniff. Well, at least, he still put on a costume -- a Karate guy, not much of a costume -- and went out to trick-or-treat. At least. At least.

yumi & asha it was drizzling boots, dora, zombie, ghost trick or treat! and more candy jack-o-lanterns

11.11.2014

on the obsession with home improvement

living room updates

"The house is the stage set for the drama we hope our lives will be or become. And it’s much easier to decorate the set than to control the drama or even find the right actors or even any actors at all. Thus the hankering for houses is often desire for a life, and the fervency with which we pursue them is the hope that everything will be all right, that we will be loved, that we will not be alone, that we will stop quarreling or needing to run away, that our lives will be measured, gracious, ordered, coherent, safe. Houses are vessels of desire, but so much of that desire is not for the physical artifact itself."

"Maybe the problem is pictures, that we think in pictures, and we want to: the point of a wedding may be to reduce the weather-like volatility of a relationship into an authoritative picture of cake, happiness, lace, and rented tuxedo. Homes too are imagined as they should be — the Platonic version — before the mail begins to pile up on the table, before the collapsible pool dominating the yard leaves a round ring of brown on the grass, before our bodies leave their imprints in the furniture and their smudges on the walls, before the apple tree took on that strange lopsided shape, before the floor lost its sheen, before the last 117 purchases buried the architecture altogether. Dream homes are dreamt in pictures."

- Rebecca Solnit, from The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness

10.08.2014

clementines

My kids (Asha, in particular) are always asking me to get them clementines, but always, a little over halfway through the bag, they just stop eating them. It doesn't matter that I put them in their lunch boxes or offer them as a snack after school or sports (when the kids are very hungry), the clementines stop getting eaten. Maybe the kids tire of them, I don't know, but I am always left with over a handful of clementines that sit in our fruit bowl for days. I guess I can eat them myself, but I've come to realize that I am not a big fan of fruit (!) -- that is, I don't really enjoy eating fruit by itself. I will eat it with cheese or ice cream or chocolate, yogurt or oatmeal or chia pudding or crepes or waffles or sticky rice, in a salad, baked in a pie, even on a pizza. (Pear and gorgonzola pizza? Grape and prosciutto? Yes, please!) But I just am not a fan of fruit on its own. How weird, now that I think about it. (My kids and Imo are the opposite, though -- they are fruit purists.) And since I can't stand having to throw away food, the best solution for me is to use up for cooking the leftover fruit that no one wants to eat. So that's pretty much what happened to the leftover clementines this week. I made, for the second time in two months, Ottolenghi's roasted chicken with clementines and arak, and a kale and pomegranate salad with an orange (clementine) and honey dressing. Both uses were excellent so I am writing about them.

Over the summer, I went on an Ottolenghi cooking spree. God, I love Ottolenghi so much. In a span of maybe two weeks, I made his roasted chicken with clementines and arak, turkey and zucchini burgers with green onion and cumin, chunky zucchini and tomato salad, and, finally, for Nyan's belated birthday dinner, fishcakes in tomato sauce (while Nyan made his mushroom ragout with poached duck egg).

Anyway, a few days ago, the stars aligned and I found myself with fennel in the CSA box and chicken in the freezer, along with the leftover clementines. It was time to make Ottolenghi's roasted chicken with clementines and arak again for dinner. Arak is a Middle Eastern anise-flavored liqueur, which, by the way, I didn't have (have never had), and after reading up on it and researching possible substitutes, I decided to make aniseed- and cinnamon-infused vodka (I had all these ingredients on hand). I just mixed around a half teaspoon of aniseed and a quarter teaspoon of ground cinnamon in 6½ tablespoons of vodka (the recipe calls for 6½ tablespoons of arak) and let the mixture sit for at least 30 minutes. It worked out great! Of course, I have no idea what the dish would've tasted like with arak but, let me tell you, it worked out great.

not yet roasted chicken with clementines & arak

The reason I love Ottolenghi so much is that his dishes are always so vibrant and the flavors are always so surprising. Before the summer, I had never used fresh fennel before, and more, I had never cooked with a combination of fennel, clementines, thyme, mustard -- I was completely intrigued. I love how my kids refer to that scene in Ratatouille where Remy teaches his friend Emile about flavors and how exciting it is to discover new flavor combinations (complete with visualizations in the form of little fireworks) -- to really taste that strawberry and that slice of cheese and appreciate the nuances of each flavor and how well they go to together. (I am so glad that my kids get it, even if it is with the help of Disney and a computer-animated rat.)

Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak
from Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem

6½ tbsp or 100 ml arak, ouzo or Pernod
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp grain mustard
3 tbsp light brown sugar
2 medium fennel bulbs (1 lb or 500 g in total)
1 large chicken about 2¾ lb or 1.3 kg, divided into 8 pieces, or the same weight in skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
4 clementines, unpeeled, cut horizontally into 1/4-inch slices
1 tbsp thyme leaves
2 ½ tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish

Put the first six ingredients in a large mixing bowl and add 2½ tsp salt and 1½ tsp black pepper. Whisk well and set aside.

Trim the fennel and cut each bulb in half lengthwise. Cut each half into 4 wedges. Add the fennel to the liquids, along with the chicken pieces, clementine slices, thyme, and fennel seeds. Stir well with your hands, then leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight (skipping the marinating stage is also fine, if you are pressed for time).

Preheat the oven to 475℉ / 220℃. Transfer the chicken and its marinade to a baking sheet [I use a roasting pan] large enough to accommodate everything comfortably in a single layer (roughly a 12 by 14½-inch / 30 by 37cm pan); the chicken skin should be facing up. Once the oven is hot enough, put the pan in the oven and roast for 35 to 45 minutes, until the chicken is colored and cooked through. Remove from the oven.

Lift the chicken, fennel, and clementines from the pan and arrange on a serving plate; cover and keep warm. Pour the cooking liquid into a small saucepan, place over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, and then simmer until the sauce is reduced by one-third, so you are left with about ⅓ cup / 80 ml. Pour the hot sauce over the chicken, garnish with some parsley, and serve.

roasted chicken with clementines and fennel

The next recipe I want to share is a salad that I served with pork rib adobo. I had a big bunch of kale and two small pomegranates (again, from the CSA box) and wanted to make a salad with those that would complement the salty tartness of adobo. I have two go-to kale salad recipes: this one with lemon juice, fresh garlic and grated Parmesan, and this one with radishes and a honey-mustard dressing. Both are excellent! But I think this one is best with adobo, and makes use of the clementines that I didn't want to go to waste!

Kale and Pomegranate Salad with Orange & Honey Dressing

1 large bunch kale, stems removed and torn or coarsely chopped
½ of a medium onion (preferrably red), sliced thinly
1 cup pomegranate seeds
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
crumbled goat cheese

For the dressing:

¼ cup freshly squeezed orange (clementine) juice
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing. Drizzle over kale and sliced onions in a salad bowl and toss together. Right before serving, mix in pomegranate seeds and pine nuts. Garnish with crumbled goat cheese.

kale salad with orange honey dressing

10.02.2014

palm springs

I can't believe it's October. (But, yay!) Here are some photos from our last hurrah of the summer.

sunset asha 082214 night swimming hot chocolate break selfie

9.30.2014

reluctance

Around noon today, after riding his bike, Imo came home and found the CRV's rear windshield shattered. He called me to step outside and take a look. We stood around the car, examining the damage, trying to figure out what could have happened, trying to wrap our heads around the reality of yet another car-related inconvenience and expense. I spent the next hour and a half making phone calls: to the insurance company, the police, the auto glass company. It was more painful, in a dull headache sort of way, than having to get out of bed at 6:30 a.m. to wake up the kids for school.

I am sometimes stunned by the amount of mundane details one must deal with as an adult: credit, insurance, taxes; and all the trappings of middle-class married existence: property, community presence, over-achieving children, career, networks, schedules, busy-ness. All "matters of great consequence." Sometimes when I really think about the kind of life we have made for ourselves but also, in a way, been sucked into, I feel like I can't breathe. I am wearied by mommy talk while waiting at gymnastics, at school functions, at birthday parties; by the aspirations I must call myself out on whenever I drive past the mansions in San Marino or look at other people's perfectly styled lives on Instagram. I am alarmed by how much I have allowed myself to conform. I mourn all my wasted figs. But I carry on, feeling nonetheless grateful, though at times I need to shut down in the face of exhaustion and/or futility and have to sleep (my only means of escape). When Imo told me that the kids always ask, "Is Mommy awake?" whenever he has to do things in my place, I didn't believe him. But I guess I do retreat more than I'm willing to admit.

I am aware that so much depends on me as a mother. My attitude, my diligence (or lack of it) determines how smoothly or roughly our days are going to go. I wonder, if I had been less tired (lazy) this morning -- if I had made breakfast and packed lunches and made beds and overseen my kids as they got dressed, brushed their teeth, headed out the door, like I usually do, instead of staggering back to my own bed right after shaking them awake -- would the day have turned out better? Perhaps Imo and I would've headed out early to get groceries and the car wouldn't have been vandalized while parked in front of our apartment building; and Asha wouldn't have thrown that tantrum upon coming home because there would've been newly bought after-school snacks. Okay, so maybe I couldn't have prevented the smashing of the car window, but what I'm trying to say is that I am in control of the well-being of this family. I know what to do to make things right and good, and that usually is to do as expected, to not protest so much. Except that I am not always agreeable to socially assigned duties, not always a ray of sunshine. At best, I am a flickering ilaw ng tahanan. Despite my inner conflicts, I do try to be a good mother, responsible adult, whatever, at the very least, if I can no longer be an accomplished writer or teacher or artist or designer or rock star.

quibilan_composite_self-portrait.jpg
self-portrait in mom-mobile. what i sometimes need is three of me.

Tomorrow is Daddy's birthday. He would've been 93. I miss him a lot. Even though I'm sure that right now he would be shaking his head exasperatedly at all my bourgeois angst.

9.12.2014

september

September is probably my least favorite month. (No offense to Nacho who is turning twelve on the 29th. The 29th is practically almost not September, anyway!) What I think it is is the shock of normalcy, and the fact that September, though it's "fall," is really the hottest month of the year in these parts. Temperatures have been in the high 90's these past few days, and will be in the hundreds starting tomorrow, and, according to the weather forecast, rising to 106 degrees on Tuesday. 106!

Anyhow, we've been easing into our crazy weekly "fall" schedule which consists of, on top of the kids' regular school schedule and Imo's irregular work schedule, six hours of photography classes for me, three hours of karate + three hours of soccer for Nacho, and seventeen hours of gymnastics for the girls. I'm really not complaining because, other than all the driving I need to do, the gas consumption and added expenses, this schedule is good for us. It brings order and purpose to our days. The kids are learning time management and self-discipline. At home, I feel more efficient and less bored. At the end of the day, I am dead tired. No time is wasted lying in bed awake for hours, ruminating, getting depressed, though these past few days have been really emotionally taxing (for other reasons).

I've also been cooking more. Since last month, we've been getting twice monthly CSA box deliveries, which forces me to use up all those vegetables and fruits (because they are locally grown, organic, and not cheap). I feel such a sense of accomplishment when nothing goes to waste! I've become pretty adept at throwing seemingly random ingredients together. The other night I made a vegetable ragout with stuff that was lying around in the fridge: heirloom tomatoes, broccolini, artichoke hearts, fresh herbs, and served that over spaghetti. Last night, I made a salad with leftover romaine and butter lettuces, baby arugula, radish. I recently read this article, which pretty much tears down the ideal of the home-cooked meal because it is burdensome for working mothers. Heck, cooking is burdensome even to stay-at-home mothers. But I don't hate it. I get tired, and am sometimes resentful, but ultimately, I find cooking and feeding my family a fulfilling task. I don't know if I will feel the same if I were working, so I start to think that this is actually a good thing, my being jobless and career-less and broke, because then I get to really take care of my family. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I am a joke. No, but seriously, I love to cook. And when I need some kind of affirmation, there's always Instagram. Ha! Sigh.

Speaking of Instagram (that is, photo-sharing), Camille and I are on hiatus from grace. I know that we probably should've posted some kind of note on there instead of just not updating, but we figured that since she and I told each other, we'd pretty much made the announcement to all the people who follow our blog. Haha. I have to admit, though, that it feels good to take a break after posting every day for more than three years. It was good practice, and every now and then, when I think about the daily photos and reflections I haven't been making, I miss it, but I need to rest my eyes (and my mind). I need to come out from behind my big camera and go through the daily mundanities of my life without feeling the need to document or frame or elevate them. I need a moment to think about what I really want to do with photography, and what it's come to mean in my life. More and more, I've been thinking about my photography practice as it relates to being a tourist, and recently -- especially after having read a few pages of The Decolonized Eye -- how it may function as a tool of colonization/decolonization. (Sarita Echavez See writes in the Introduction, "Not surprisingly, literary and cultural scholarship on the colonization of the Philippines and its aftermath has been dominated by photography and the technologies of colonial surveillance [emphasis mine].") I also feel that I need to go back to my first love which is writing -- I've found that all the image-making has somehow rendered me speechless, and there are things that I want to say that my photographs aren't saying. Or at least I think they're not.

Anyway, this is it for now. I will be back soon. I hope.

8.05.2014

saints

We stayed at a hotel in Santa Clara, had dinner in San Jose, spent the whole of Sunday in Santa Cruz, and on the drive back to LA, took a detour through Santa Nella for lunch. This was the second part of our NorCal trip after camping at Big Basin. It was nice to not have to drive the 371 miles back to LA right after camping, and instead come home to relative comfort only an hour away. My kids love hotels (so do I, actually, because I don't have to clean and I love complimentary breakfast buffets, haha). We got to swim twice in the hotel pool -- right after checking in on Saturday, and right before checking out on Monday, which was the best because we had the pool all to ourselves!

all showered isaiah & nacho on the way to downtown san jose san pedro square crossing the street the hotel pool all to ourselves isaiah floating yumi & noodlescabanas

In Santa Cruz, we visited the boardwalk and the kids got to go on the rides. All of us went on the Sky Glider, which was fun and terrifying. In the afternoon, we hung out at the Natural Bridges State Beach where the kids played at the edge of the water (it was cold!) and we also saw tide pools. The tide pools were my favorite -- there were mussels and snails and anemones and different kinds of seaweed in them. Pretty darn cool. But let me just say that that entire day in Santa Cruz, I didn't have my camera with me. I discovered too late, as we were driving into town earlier, that I had left it in the hotel. I was so annoyed with myself and seriously wanted to cry! Anyway, I managed to make it through the day without it and was able to take a few photos with the iPhone. Santa Cruz is definitely worth visiting again because there was so much we didn't get to see and I really need to take some proper photos of it!

boardwalk behind us below us laffing salcreepy as sh*t natural bridges state beach natural bridges state beach asha, bubs, yumi asha

I was a little sad to go on Monday. The trip felt bitin, I'm not really sure why, though my body was exhausted. Driving back home on the 152 (our music choices got better this time, by the way, care of Imo, who had We Are Twin and Mapei on his Spotify play list -- so awesome), I saw a big advertisement for Pea Soup Andersen's, saying it was only 30 minutes away, and it piqued my curiosity. So I Yelped it, saw it got only 3.5 stars, but one review had me (and Imo) at the mention of Huell Howser. Anyway, the restaurant had a Danish theme to it; it even had a huge windmill outside. The food was traditional American diner food and wasn't that great, but, hey, it was an experience.

roadside signs, the drive home before going back on the road

We'd had a good vacation (from which I needed a vacation), and with our bellies full of pea soup, hamburger, fries, mac & cheese, and pot roast, we travelled the remaining 275 miles home.

8.04.2014

core bulok club goes camping

This summer's second camping trip was with Irving & Baloo and the Mendozas (a.k.a. Core Bulok Club) at Big Basin up north. We left at 10 a.m. on Thursday and reached the campsite at 4 p.m. This is, to date, the farthest we've ever gone camping. We love going on road trips, so the ride up there felt like part of the adventure, even though most of the drive was on the long, monotonous 5 freeway. We kept ourselves entertained by listening and singing along to AmericaHall and Oates, Mr. Big. (Our song choices get progressively more baduy and awesome the more miles we travel.)

campsite

Baloo and Irving were already at the campsite when we got there. Save for the camp "amenities" -- the picnic tables, fire pits, big metal boxes for storing food in, water spigots, and toilet shacks -- it was like camping in the forest. Redwood trees surrounded and towered above us. The place was quiet because most of the other sites were still unoccupied, and the weather was surprisingly warm. The Mendozas arrived late from having to make numerous stops for Isaiah, who kept crying in the car. But we all got to pitch our tents, prepare and eat dinner, and clean up before it got completely dark. There were mosquitoes! And bats, and close encounters with a very bold raccoon (Baloo's "best friend"), as well as a deer sighting. The kids roasted jumbo marshmallows, which I had promised to get for Bubs, and made s'mores.

irving & imo dinner, first night my plate bubs eating jumbo marshmallow isaiah in their tent stars in spaces between trees

The next day, after having breakfast and packing our lunch, we set out for a hike. We had originally planned to hike up to Sempervirens Falls, but were told that it just dried out that day (!), so we pretty much just walked around the park, stopped to eat our lunch (and fight off bees), and visited the small museum, then bought cold snacks in the cafe/gift shop. We walked back to camp, took showers, made dinner, made more s'mores, then played three rounds of the Werewolves of Miller's Hollow, where Nacho got to be Werewolf and Irving was the Little Girl all three times.

breakfast c/o baloo & irving crossing a bridge the quibs on the trail "how old is this tree, bubs?" stopping to have lunch bugs quib kids with bubs yumi, olivia & bears dinner, 2nd night baloo's s'more around the firepit

It was kind of a lazy camping trip, haha. So relatively inactive and slow, a complete opposite from the one we'd gone on just a couple weeks before. We didn't do much but eat; we didn't even really get to talk! And we were always surprised to find daylight running out on us. We did eat well though, as always. We had chicken kebabs and tabbouleh, buttermilk pancakes made from scratch, pour-over coffee, artisan sausages, grilled shrimp. We joked about putting together a cookbook of fancy camp food. (Baloo and Irving's bike-camping mushroom bourguignon deserves special mention here. This is just how we roll.) Also, the kids were so... sedate. And though I had anticipated it, there was no need for the well-stocked first aid kit (in case of Nacho) or sleeping aids (in case of Isaiah).

redwoods warming up a cup of coffee

On our last morning, we had breakfast and packed everything up without incident -- except that Bubs threw a major fit shortly before leaving (this was totally Kat's fault, haha). I had never seen or heard her lose it like that before! But she calmed down eventually and we all got to take the requisite group photos before going on our way.

group photo

I got to thinking about the nature of these family outings, and how it changes as the kids grow older. It's funny how the grown-ups are the same people, and the trips are essentially the same, but the kids, they are different each year, and so everything changes. 11, 9, 7, 3, and 7 months is kind of a tricky combination of ages. I wonder what our camping trips will be like when they're 16, 14, 12, 8 and 5. Maybe then we can go on longer (i.e. actual) hikes. Maybe then they can look after and entertain each other, and we grown-ups can enjoy each other's company better, and the tasks of pitching tents, preparing food, cleaning up, etc. will be easier. Maybe five years from now will be the prime camping year for us. 2019. It seems so far away, almost like science fiction. Or could it be that we, the Quibs, have passed our prime camping year, when many things were new and everything was exciting? I hope not!

time capsule

There was a marker for a time capsule at the park headquarters that said it was buried in 1978, and will be unearthed in 2028. Joms was born in 1978. In 2028, he will be 50. We did the math and could barely wrap our heads around it: Nacho will be 26, Asha 23, Yumi 21, Olivia 18, Isaiah 15. It was too much for us to imagine.

cousins

*Family camping trips through the years:
McGrath State Beach, 2010
Lake Isabella, June 2011
Joshua Tree, October 2011
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, 2012