Archive of ‘travel’ category

vanilla yankee candle

Oyet’s sister Ate Gigi (Ma. Gracia B. Alcasid) introduced me to Yankee Candle products when we visited her in her former home in North Carolina in 2000. She scattered candles in her favorite scents throughout her house. After cooking, for instance, she would light a votive and leave it on the stove for about an hour. After dinner, a Housewarmer jar candle like this one would waft its sweet fragrance as we gathered around the living room to chat.

That time, she took me to the Yankee Candle store at the mall and she let me fill a tray of twelve Sampler votives to take home.

Now that Ate Gi lives in New York, she still has her love for these candles, as I do. During our visit to her last February 2007, I bought a Housewarmer jar in French Vanilla (just like in the picture), a couple of smaller jars in the same scent, and a tray of votives mostly in vanilla-based scents.

The smell of vanilla soothes and calms me. It’s just one of my favorite things, like strawberries and Corelle dishes and Oneida silverplate. Just a single Yankee Candle votive can fill a room with your favorite fragrance.

Think of it as a necessary indulgence, because you have to take care of yourself too.

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lawrence alma-tadema: spring

In 2002 I was in LA and a friend of mine, Marian Domoje, took me to the Getty Museum. It was an utterly beautiful place. I could have stayed there the entire day, wandering the quiet, well-lit halls, admiring the paintings and photographs, sculpture and antique furniture.

In one of the halls I chanced upon this work. It was hung close to the entrance and reached almost floor-to-ceiling. This and all other photos I have seen do the original work no justice. Up close, it is breathtaking. Each brushstroke is pure genius.

“Spring”,  Lawrence Alma-Tadema

I like my art “traditional realist”. Abstract and modern leave me cold – those splotches of color? Ik could do as well, if not better. It requires genuine drawing and painting skills to create works that live and breathe, that are like windows you could step through to enter another world, the artist’s world that he created from his own imagination.

Immerse yourself in art and visit worlds of wonder. You’d be doing your soul a favor.

See more of Alma-Tadema’s works and those of other realist painters at

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victoria finlay: jewels, a secret history

Jewels: A Secret History, by Victoria Finlay, takes us deep into the glittering, scintillating hearts of gemstones, their history, what they are, and where they come from. She tackles ten different stones and arranged the chapters according to Moh’s scale of hardness of minerals.

The hidden wonders of pearls, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires are revealed. Do you recall the story of how Cleopatra was said to have dissolved a pearl in vinegar and drunk it before Caesar to show off her wealth and power? Finlay experimented with a river pearl, and the results are surprising.

I loved the chapters on jet and amber, since they are almost unknown here in the Philippines.

Reading about these precious materials brings to mind a friend I had in UP, Mona Caccam, whose dad was a mining engineer and actually owned, or had shares in, a jade mine. Mona said that the Philippines is rich in mineral wealth, but strict and obstructive laws make it difficult for mining companies to be profitable.

Meanwhile, us ordinary folks will have to content ourselves with gazing into jewelry shop windows and reading books to enjoy the world of gems and minerals.

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dresden plate quilt

The quilt on the bed, in a Dresden Plate design, is one I made for my sister-in-law, Gigi Alcasid, whom we visited last February 2007 in her home in Baldwinsville, upstate New York. I made it for her around 2001. I’m glad to see she’s still using it. In this photo, Alex poses in the spare bedroom where the quilt is laid out on ate Irma Nuevo’s bed, who was also visiting from the Philippines at the same time.

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victoria finlay: colour

Victoria Finlay’s first book Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox explores the origins of color, or where people obtain the paints, pigments, and dyes used throughout history. I loved her second book, Jewels: A Secret History, and this book is just as fascinating.

I had to learn the color wheel and the lingo associated with it for my quilting. As a visual person, I enjoy reading books that are highly descriptive; it makes the story come to life for me. Apart from being a history of paints, it is also a travelogue, with Finlay travelling all over the world to visit the places where paint is made and talk to the people that make them.

From the blurb:

On her quest to uncover the secrets of colour, Victoria Finlay visited remote Central American villages where women still wear skirts dyed with the purple tears of sea snails; learned how George Washington obsessed about his green dining room while he should have been busy with matters of state; and investigated the mystery of Indian yellow paint, said to have been made from the urine of cows force-fed with mango leaves.

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market coffee

In 30 Oct 2007, some friends and I visited Garing’s (a coffee grower for generations) in Lipa City, Batangas, where they display roasted Excelsa and Liberica (barako) beans in glass cases. You select and buy the beans you want, which are then ground right then and there. Fresh! The aroma is heady and heavenly.

Prices are cheaper in the market – around P170 per kilo of ground barako – compared to manufacturers like Figaro, Siete Baracos, and Merlo. However, the manufacturers offer blends and flavors not available in the market.

To brew coffee the “farm” way: in a saucepan, boil fresh ground coffee and brown sugar to taste.

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