EST. 2009

June 29, 2015

That English Channel






THE ENGLISH CHANNEL IS THE BODY OF WATER that separates England from France, while also being the body of water under which the Eurostar connects the two countries. It is 350 miles long, 150 miles wide and 571 feet at its deepest, with a history of its early 19th-century seaside tourism being a significant influence to resorts worldwide.

The English Channel has also borne witness to our first few weeks in England, spent mainly in the town of Brighton. Although the stay is no holiday, there's no ignoring the breathtaking view of the seaside, unfolding behind endless grassy fields, or peeking in through lanes of Regency-style buildings. Down by the water is lovely too, where the four-mile seafront is interrupted only by some gulls, a ferry's wheel and fair ground lights. For reference, four miles is about the length of six hundred seventy-seven double-decker buses lined up.

Close to where we lodged was the Undercliff Walk, east of the Brighton Marina where magnificent chalk cliffs run all the way to Saltdean. In my experience at least, the wind is always wild. But on a sunny day, the violent hair-whipping and skirt-blowing is worth the vistas of raging turquoise and sea foam. Hectic days don't look at all that frantic against such a backdrop and walking the dog has never been so scenic.

Still, we couldn't have been readier to move into our new London home. This switch to the English channel will now at last resume regular programming. Thank you for the spectacular views.

Undercliff Walk, Brighton. visitbrighton.com

June 24, 2015

That Standstill


DERIVED FROM THE LATIN WORDS SOL FOR SUN AND SISTERE, TO STAND STILL, summer solstice took place recently in the northern hemisphere, and was celebrated so exuberantly on my social media feeds. Back in my previous home of Barcelona, folks observed the Verbenas de Sant Joan with a long night of city-wide firecrackers and fiestas, followed naturally by a non-working holiday. Further back in my hometown of Manila, summer solstice is not exactly a celebrated event, but Saint John's feast day is nonetheless met with a splash, literally, as the saint's namesake district baptizes itself in an annual water festival.

Meanwhile, no merriment met the longest day over where we are. A little over a week into moving to England, we are still on the hunt for a new home, encountering much difficulty due to restrictions on tenancy with pets. Nine days have never felt so long and unsettled, with life yet again in limbo and all things only temporary. Who knew London would be so un-pet-friendly?

These days surrounding the solstice though, however long and laborious, do have their charm. Jacqueline Osborn's Table in The Corner captures our nightly congregations as of late, against 10pm twilights that paint the evenings prettier than on any other time of year. Dinners have become the one pleasurable part of our temporary standstill, especially since there hasn't been any time for lunch at all. It appears we're not in Spain anymore.

Days gradually grow shorter after the summer solstice. Perhaps demandingly long days will now gradually grow shorter too.

Table in The Corner by Jacqueline Osborn, jacquelineosborn.com

June 11, 2015

That Angel Style











WITH 70S FASHION MAKING ITS BIGGEST COMEBACK YET, who better to turn to for guidance than the original heaven-sent darlings of bell bottoms past? Sabrina, Jill and Kelly came into my life through afternoon reruns in my teens, long before Lucy, Drew and Cameron throttled into the millennium. The original Charlie's Angels provided a delightful contrast to the early 2000s, when volume-deprived rebonded hair had just become what would be at least a decade-long trend, along with the equally volume-deprived, seemingly-undying skinny jean.

Fortunately, nothing lasts forever. The past five years or so began to see denim loosen up a little with boyfriend and mom jeans gaining their moments and adherents. Men don't particularly love them but they've never been ecstatic about us wearing the pants anyway. So, carry on.

Spring-Summer 2015 saw denims measuring wide from bottom to bottom and long from high waist to floor. Accompanied by fluttering fringes and billowing blouses, the volume-valiant cuts lend grace and stature, unabashedly declaring "more is more." Farrah Fawcet wore a pair in her iconic skateboard chase at Griffith Park, obviously with the help of a stunt double, but memorable nonetheless. She may have been the most popular of the angels but I feel compelled to take my cue from Jaclyn Smith, the super-sleuth namesake of yours truly: Lady Jacklyn San Pedro.

So will I in fact emulate the Charlie's Angels alumna and embrace lush, volumized hair and jeans? Vogue's Laura Weir posits that "Only now does it feel entirely credible to covet and cavort in flares and fringing without it feeling like a costume." That's comforting. But who minds looking like an Angel anyway? And where are my hair rollers?

Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett-Majors and Jaclyn Smith from Charlie's Angels, 1976 - 1981.

May 21, 2015

Those Crowning Moments



















"THEY ARE NOT LONG, THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES." reads the first line of the second stanza of Ernest Dowson's appropriately short poem. Neither are the nights, if I may add, in which friends and flavors go so pleasurably together, and before you know it, the night has run out with the wine. That wasn't entirely the case however at the Viñedos Singulares dinner party, where wine outlasted the whole bunch of us who had to head back home.

Celebrated at the brand's cellar, dressed to the nines for a night, the dinner was dedicated to the pairing of flavors in the company of friends. Degustation kicked off with a teriyaki tuna tataki paired with the clean and brillant Vino Afortunado. A pear and salmon canapé accompanied a second white: the fresh, easy Albariño-varietal Luna Creciente. Iberian pork with cranberry sauce came with the lightly mineral Corral del Obispo, sirloin tartare with the fruity Jardín Rojo, and oxtail in raspberry sauce with the intense Entrelobos. Big Band tracks encouraged dancing, interrupted only by cheese platters served with the subtly spicy El Veïnat.

Pairing seemed recurrent that evening. With dishes prepared in Caravan Made's vintage roving kitchen, and wines seemingly plucked fresh from Viñedos Singulares' warehouse shelves, there is a sense of matching old and new, vintage and young. Resurrected from the 1970s, Caravan Made's food truck literally brings gastronomy to markets and festivals dominated by a hashtagging crowd. Viñedos Singulares dedicates to the same set, with fresh, easy flavors that stay essentially true to their Designation of Origin. Never more than a couple years old, the wines move at the same pace as its consumers, driven by trend culture and the natural restlessness of youth.

Founded in 2007, the cellar works with six wineries in La Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Bierzo, Rías Baixas, Rueda and Montsant, visiting each zone to administer the winemaking process from birth to bottle. On this particular night they followed through to the table and on the dance floor, joined by some of Barcelona's food and lifestyle propagators. Such was the night of "wine and roses", or in this case, wine and grapevine, which made for excellent crowns. After all the careful prepping and pairing, what food and wine really provide us are a few delightful and fortunate moments. Here's to the next!

Vino Afortunado, Luna Creciente, Corral del Obispo, Jardín Rojo, Entrelobos and El Veïnat by Viñedos Singulares, vinedossingulares.com Gastronomy by Caravan Made, caravanmade.com Photos by Raúl Muñoz.

May 14, 2015

That Pleasure of Your Company






IT’S MOST NOTICEABLE JUST BEFORE THE START OF A TRIP, after the pet sitter had picked them up to stay with him at his farm. Once the pets have gone, gone too are the rustlings, the rolling around, the relocating to and from different corners of the home, and the nuances that have come to make the house whole. "I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul." said Jean Cocteau. Indeed, for creatures who spend half the time sleeping, pets sure know how to make both their presence and absence felt.

We’ve had Sunny and Kitty since puppy and kittenhood in three apartments across two continents. Sunny is a seven-year-old golden retriever and Kitty Bang Bang is an eight-year-old Persian cat. Like all well-loved pets, they are very much family, taken into consideration for most any decision on lifestyle and living. The color of our linens camouflage the cat hair. The Roomba deals with both pets shedding. Having a terrace and a nearby park were decisions made mostly with the dog in mind. The country we live in too had to have permitted their entry. Waste is a chore. Travel is a chore. As we are a household of two, both of us going on trips means the pets need a sitter able to watch them. We’ve grown accustomed to the planning and expenses by now, but more and more with each new trip, the attachment grows.

It would be stating the obvious to list the joys of pet companionship. But studies do in fact show strong points for having a pet, on top of the pleasure their company brings to our lives. A study by the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition and the United States Food and Drug Administration revealed that the heart rates and blood pressures of pet owners increased less when they had to solve math problems with their pets around. Another study by the State University of New York at Buffalo found that when people with hypertension adopted a cat or a dog, they had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than did those without pets. Cat purring has also been found to help lower stress and blood pressure, while playing with both cat and dog species elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.

The positive effects pets have on humans make you wonder why society hasn’t set up life to maximize the benefits of animal companionship. Why can't we have pets around during job interviews? At court hearings? At airports? Or during exams? Perhaps if we were all a little less stressed in our daily dealings, the world would be a happier place to live in. Until then, we can head home for some cuddles.

Illustrations from Fantasio, by Jacques (Lehmann) Nam, Vald'Es (Valvérane & D'Espagnat) and René Préjelan. Available on hprints.com

May 4, 2015

That Monastic Beauty












FASHIONABLE PORTRAYALS OF CHARACTERS IN NEW YORK, PARIS AND ROME have become definitive of Audrey Hepburn, the sprite-like style icon in Givenchy. But it was her role as Sister Luke in The Nun's Story that film critic Henry Hart was determined "will forever silence those who have thought of her less an actress than a symbol of the sophisticated child/woman" she continues to be regarded as.

No funny face. No little black dress. In The Nun's Story, Hepburn relies on neither elfin frame nor iconic pixie cuts to sustain a 149-minute presentation of life as a nursing sister in 1920s Belgium. Based on a book by Kathryn Hulme, which was based on the life of Marie Louise Habets, the film follows the experiences of Sister Luke as she struggles with the obedience and humility stipulated by her vows. A brilliant nurse exceeding her peers, she grapples particularly with pride and self-will, confessing that "When I succeed in obeying the rule, I fail at the same time by having pride in obeying."

Challenges and disappointments plague Sister Luke's experience, including an instance of being ordered to fail her medical exams to prove humility. She was also to maintain neutrality during the war. After years of inner struggle, Sister Luke realizes she is unable to attain the obedient perfection of monastic life, eventually deciding to leave it altogether. Music was a point of discussion for the scene of her departure; after all, what tone is appropriate for a nun walking away from her vows? Of the film's writing, Dominican advisers were said to have reviewed the script thoroughly, debating between such phrasings as "against nature" and "above nature." The Nun's Story nonetheless depicts the dictates of religious life to be both.

Hepburn received an Academy Award nomination for the role, as did the film in seven other categories. Although it failed to win in any, it is considered the most financially successful of Hepburn's films, not to mention her favorite. Today being the actress' birthday, it's perhaps not a bad time to spotlight the character often eclipsed by Holly Golightly, Sabrina Fairchild and other far more popular nun movies that involve a lot of singing.

Long before Maria von Trapp left the abbey, Sister Luke had already been there, done that.

The Nun's Story, 1959. Directed by Fred Zinnemann.
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