Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Inspiring Blogs At The BDJ Blog Circle

This year, I resolved to write more, write better, and write for more rackets (hehe). And to make sure I keep that resolution, I agreed to blog over at Belle De Jour's Blog Circle, where I'm in the company of amazing, inspiring, creative, and smart women generous enough to share their thoughts, inspirations, finds, and pick-me-uppers. Do check it out here.

And while I've been negligent in my blog writing the past weeks, I tried to make up for it with a more introspective blog post today. I'm a bit iffy with sharing personal thoughts online, but my BDJ Blog Circle post for today is probably the most honest I've ever been in the world wide web, not counting my old Multiply posts that don't even exist anymore.

So this is what's on my mind: "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Cuzo Weekender Bag

Remember my gamit na gamit blue Cuzo Anne Satchel? I ended up using it for days after I blogged about wearing it for a week. That's how much I loved that bag.

Last week, I was able to get my hands on another Cuzo bag, this time their aptly named Weekender carry-all in blue. It features a nylon body, striped black and white grosgrain cotton straps, and black leather accents. It also features a gunmetal zipper, with a leather pull, and silver studs to anchor the leather strips that hold the straps in place. It also comes in red.

I admit that I was hoping for a bigger bag. The Cuzo site gives the Weekender's specs as being 40 cm x 23 cm x 23 cm (L x W x D), with a handle drop of 19 cm. I would say it makes for a perfect gym bag, the nylon body making it easy to clean (just simply wipe down using an all-purpose cleaning spray and rag). However, I wasn't sure if it would hold the things I would normally pack for a weekend getaway.

I decided to give the Weekender a test run last week, as my friends and I had planned a short getaway to Bataan during the long weekend.  I was a bit apprehensive when packing for the two night, two day trip—would the Weekender hold all my outfits, toiletries, and a few extra just-in-case pieces tossed in? Surprise, surprise, it did! Here's a peek into what I packed:

I packed two tops, two shorts, a pambahay outfit of a loose tee and drawstring shorts, a sweater, a cover-up dress, a bikini, a regular Aquazorb towel, and their new amazing ultra thin Sports Towel, a freebie from Zalora. On top of that, I had a quart- and a storage-sized Ziplock bag of toiletries, another quart-sized baggie for my makeup, a small pouch for my electronics, and a pair of sandals. They all fit in quite nicely!
Amidst the mess that was our trunk, the Cuzo Weekender stood out like the pretty preppy bag that it is. 
 I was quite pleased at my packing skills. In fact, my friend Jeremy couldn't quite believe that everything I was bringing was in that bag—I don't exactly have a reputation for being a light packer! But yeah, the Weekender is deceptively roomy! I guess it helps that it's a no-frills bag. It has no pockets, or extra compartments. But the nylon material makes it exceptionally lightweight and pliant, and the non-stiff material means it's easier to squeeze in more clothes (even easier if you've learned the trick of rolling them up!)

Not exactly my best outfit, but it was a laid-back trip, so I pretty much wore my flip-flops the entire time. Sweater, H&M; shorts, The Landmark; hat, bought in New York; flip flops, Havaianas. 

There's enough length in the handles to be able to sling it comfortably on my shoulder. 
Today, Pat and I were supposed to go to Bataan again to check out a potential wedding venue (yes, we're already engaged! :D ), but our truck started overheating before we even got out of Manila. Big fat poopie. I bought along my Weekender for the ride though, so might as well share outfit photos of the day.

Tank, Topshop; skirt, thrifted; sandals, Schu; sunglasses, Mango; scarf, vintage from London; cuff, Get Happy, bag, Cuzo.

In the bag: my Macbook, charger,  and the hefty September issue of Vogue. 

Isn't this scarf pretty? Scored this (plus a couple more) at the Camden Markets in London. 
So, would I recommend the Cuzo Weekender? Definitely! I'd call it the perfect "stash" bag to replace those kinda-tacky-but-you-can't-help-but-use-them paper shopping bags. It's your best (and super chic!) alternative to hold the assortment of kalat that won't fit in your handbag. And it's well-priced at P1,500. But if you use my voucher, you'll get a P100 discount off the price. Here are the deets:

Voucher No: Katdyfinds0827012
Validity: Aug 27 to Sept 2, 2012
Minimum amount: P1,000

So go, shop na! Apart from the Weekender, and the Anne Satchel, Cuzo has a few other well-made styles that are worth your hard-earned peso. To learn more about Cuzo, you can also visit their Facebook page, or follow them on Twitter @Cuzobags . 

Before I leave, let me share with you a few photos taken with my iPhone from that trip in Bataan. Some of them have been posted on Instagram, but the rest are here for you to enjoy.

Pigging out on junk food becomes instinctive on these road trips. How can you not? That mammoth Shell Station on northbound NLEX is a heaven/hell of calorific, cholesterolicious treats. 

The scarf with my yellow striped sweater dress. Nice way to mix prints. 

Amazing end-of-day landscape shot, edited on the Camera+ App on my iPhone. 
I volunteered to make my Banoffee Pie, a simple recipe, but didn't realize it would be quite difficult to make without modern kitchen tools on hand. Crushing a packet of Hobnobs turned out to be a callous-forming chore! Here I am patiently crushing the biscuits using a spoon and a sandok.
Biscuit-crushing turned out be a success! The pie was another story, heehee.
We were all amazed at Manong's agility when climbing up that tree to get our coconuts. 
Fresh coco water. Yum!

Pat and Jeremy, ever the resourceful Canadians, playing hockey using wooden sticks and a crushed can of San Miguel Beer as a puck. And yes, that's Pat using his straw hat as a "net," haha!
The unedited sunset. Bow. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Enderun Wine Appreciation Class

I like wine. There is almost always a bottle or two of white wine chilling in our fridge because not a week passes when I'm not having a glass of vino with dinner, or having friends over for a mellow drinking session. I must confess, however, that when dining out, I still get a bit overwhelmed by the thick, intimidating wine menus that servers hand you at fancy schmancy restos. I'm pretty sure that a lot of you feel the same way I do!

One of the bonuses of doing wine tasting tours is that you get to sample excellent wines that are not commercially available. In Bari, Italy, the accompanying food almost rivals the wines. Those juicy green olives and fresh pizza chunks are every bit as scrumptious as they look in the photo! 

However, it's no reason to shy away from appreciating this sophisticated alcoholic beverage . I believe that one of the best ways to get past wine's intimidating persona is to learn more about it. I consider myself lucky to have gone on wine tours in Italy and Australia, number one and seven respectively in the list of top wine-producing countries in the world. It's quite an experience to learn about the history and production of the wine I'm sipping while the verdant sloping terrains where the grapes have been grown are in full view before me. I also have a few friends who are wine enthusiasts, and being around them has afforded me opportunities to sample excellent wines. 

At a wine tasting in Iron Gate Estate, Hunter Valley, Australia, where they explained (with a bit of snootiness,) that they only use real cork for their bottles. They say using cork allows the wine to develop further characteristics as it ages. 

Wine producers also use the latest technology to create their product.

A photo taken quickly. Our guide warned me that there might be snakes around. Yikes!

Even if you can't go on a wine-tasting tour in a celebrated wine region, or don't know someone who is a budding sommelier, you CAN still get an expert introduction to wines right here in Manila. Enderun Colleges, one of the leading hospitality and business administration schools in the country, offers monthly Wine Appreciation Nights that are open to all. The course is run by Enderun Extension, which offers short courses, workshops and certificate programs in various fields ranging from food and art, to fashion and business. 

Pat and I attended the Wine Appreciation night last July 26 upon the invitation of Ms. Florence Elumba of Enderun Extension. Each session tackles a particular wine-producing country, and we had Italy for that night. Monsieur Gérald Savigny was our teacher and he walked us through the finer points of Italian wine. According to Gérald, even if you have one glass of wine a day for 75 years, you will still have not tasted all the wines in Italy.  Imagine that!

Florence welcoming participants to Wine Appreciation Night

Fellow students getting ready for class

One of the interesting things I learned during the session is the system of Italian Wine Classification. Wine production is strictly controlled by the government, and producers follow certain laws when it comes to labeling their wines, depending on a number of factors, such as the geographical boundaries of the wine region, grape varieties that are used, and years of aging. I found a nifty table from the website Italian Wine Coach that breaks down the classification into simple parts.

When you see "Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita" on a bottle, it means you are holding quality wine in your hand. As it is the strictest rank, a DOCG label means the wine is one of the best. On the opposite end is VDT, or Vino da Tavola wines, which are simple table wines with no vintage and no varietal name. Next to VDT wines are IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) wines, which refer to wines that come from a specific region, but do not strictly conform to wine laws within their region. What is surprising is that some of the best wines, called "Super Tuscans" have an IGT classification. Super Tuscans are Tuscan red wines that originated as Vino da Tavolas, since they used other grape varieties in their blends that made them ineligible for the DOCG classification. Despite their IGT classification, Super Tuscans are considered high quality wines, and a well-known Super Tuscan like Sassicaia can set you back by $150.

A DOCG dry white wine that is best enjoyed with food, like a buttery fish or slow-cooked pork.

We tasted four wines in the two hours we had the class. Gérald gave us pointers on how to analyze and appreciate the wine, even before taking a sip. First is to look at the wine's clarity against a white background. If, when you peek into your glass, you can see your thumb holding the stem, it means you have a clear/light, possibly young wine, as white wines darken as they age. Swirling the wine in your glass is another way to "prep" it as the motion releases the aromas present. "Aspirating" the wine is another technique to master. It involves pursing your lips and drawing in air through you mouth after sipping the wine, so you can further distinguish the aromas.

Although we were provided with paper cups for water, Gérald actually recommended NOT drinking the fluid because it distracts from tasting the wine's flavor

This is the part that gets a bit confusing for me. Aspirating is a bit tricky—I have to be careful doing it so I don't end up with wine dribbling down my chin! And up to now, I still don't understand how wine connoisseurs can distinguish things like "flavor" and "aroma." When I tasted a Chianti Classico Passanero, 2009, for example, I could not, for the life of me, distinguish the aroma of "dark cherries and black pepper." I sniffed and sniffed to no avail. Kulang nalang, masingot ko na yung wine! Guess my nose hasn't developed that sommelier talent yet!

Taking notes. There's a lot to remember!
The best tips I can give for figuring out the wine that's right for you is to keep an open mind, not to be ashamed to ask questions, and to take notes. For example, I have long determined that my favorite wine is the sweet and white variety. As such, when I am confronted by a wine list that I do not understand, I simply ask the server if they have any sweet white wines on the menu. When I discover a wine that I like, I take note of the brand, and the variety (I take down notes in my iPhone so I can always consult it!) I find that Rieslings and Gewürztraminers are the best varieties for the kind of wine I like. Moscato is another good variety, but as they are normally used to make desert wines, they can sometimes be too sweet for my taste. When friends order other wines, I try to take a sip to see if I'll like theirs. And of course, attending wine classes, and going on wine tours are highly recommended. This way, you get to taste a variety of wines, and are better able to distinguish and appreciate each kind. 

Enderun Extension's next Wine Appreciation Night happens on August 29, from 7-9 p.m.. To register, contact Florence Elumba at 0917-8811217, or email at extension Fee is P1,000 per participant per course.

Enderun Extension also has other courses worth checking out. They're perfect for working professionals who don't have the time to commit to whole day, months-long classes. They have the usual culinary courses and a Pastry Workshop. There's Beer Appreciation Nights and Spirits Appreciation Nights that I'm sure guys will love. And they also have non-culinary courses like Money 101, Fashion Entrepreneur Dialogue Series, and a Restaurant Management program for those looking to run their own food business. Learn more about them here

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Headware: The All-Around Accessory

Have you heard about Headware? It's a deceptively simple piece of cloth that's amazing in its multi-purpose-ness. In fact, it deserves a standing ovation!

Headware as a headband.

Headware is shaped like a tube, and slips easily over the head.

What is it? It's an all-purpose, stretchable, breathable, seamless microfibre cloth that's shaped like a tube. As a practical accessory, it keeps hair away from the face, helps wick sweat away from skin, and gives protection from the sun, dust, and other icky elements that might be floating in the air. But, of course, we ladies want more from our accessory than form and function. We clamor for fashion, too! So, the brains behind Headware have devised a whole lot of uses for it. Plus, it comes in tons of colors and prints to choose from! 

Some of my favorite Headware prints include this Mayan Blue design.

The Electric Zigzag is very Missoni!

They also have limited edition prints.

Headware claims to have come up with about 20 ways to use this essential accessory. 20??? I found that hard to believe, until I watched this video, featuring Rovilson Fernandez putting in some serious mileage into his Headware. 

I have to confess that I'm not as resourceful with my Headware as Rovilson was. For me, Headware is the kind of accessory that will definitely come in handy when traveling. Still, I enjoyed wearing it around town as a cute accent to my outfits, and even as a tube top! The easiest way to incorporate it would be to wear it as a headband, but I've never looked good in a headband, so that scraps it out of my repertoire. If you're a skinny Minnie, you can even wear it as a skirt. I tried to do that, but I could barely get my hips into it. I looked like an overstuffed dumpling, hahaha!

Here's how I wore it as a tube top:

Urban Behavior tank; Salsa jeans (altered to a cropped hem); stannard inc quartz pendant necklace; Martina-Martina accessories; Zara heels

I love this tank because it's oversized style has a relaxed feel, but the matte sequins add a touch of sheen and luxe. 

That's Martina-Martina's crystal ball bracelet, and a Nina wrap bracelet. And a shy appearance from my beautiful engagement ring. :)

And my favorite, as a neckpiece! Not quite as bulky as a scarf, but just as interesting! Love the leopard print rendered in blue shades.

Headware scarf in Emerald Leopard; Zara striped top, clutch, and heels; Pull and Bear shorts; Mango sunnies and belt; The Landmark bracelets.

Just realized that almost everything I'm wearing I got on sale! 

Love the rich shades of blue!

These Landmark bracelets were such a good bargain! I think they were P179.75 for a set of five. I bought four sets!
If you don't like wearing heavy, bulky accessories, Headware is a great alternative. You can even wrap it around your wrist as a chunky bracelet. Mix in some chains to create a nice mix of textures on your wrist.

How would you wear your Headware? If you're super creative, join their Lifestyle Photo Contest. All you need to do is send in a photo and a few short lines explaining why your Headware has made you ecstatic. Be as imaginative as you can be! If you've found a new way of using it, even better! Heck, you can even dress your pet in it. Complete photo mechanics below. 50 luck winners will get to a Headware Pack. Deadline for entries is on August 31, so you have a month to brainstorm for your entry.

You can buy Headware online HERE or view a complete list of branches on their Facebook page.

Happy Headware-ing!
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