Saturday, December 20, 2014

Best Christmas Gift Ever: MacBook Pro with Retina

my first ever mac was the first ever model of macbook pro. i bought it during my first year in Singapore. and it has been my trusted companion for seven years now.

this year, i received one of the best Christmas Gifts ever -- the macbook pro with retina screen:

it came with a very minimalistic clean gift box

english translation: Merry Christmas My Love!

and a "Merry Christmas" it is, indeed! :)

it was love-at-first-sight, just like with my old mac

couldn't really wait for Christmas to open it and start using it

you need an AppleID and have to be connected to the internet to set up everything on initial boot

hubby thought of everything -- he even bought me this laptop slip case... so sweet and so thoughtful! :)

it's a little bit smaller compared to my old mac

a bit of a downside -- i actually prefer the silver keypad as it's not so painful to the eyes in the dark when it gets back-lit

and here i am, using it for the first time... and totally loving it!

i really love the new macbook pro with retina technology. and it's not only this retina screen that i love. i also love how it's using SSD, which makes it noiseless. it's also lighter and it has HDMI.

i know having a mac is a bit expensive compared to the other laptops. but my macbook pro of seven years is still usable up to now. i only had to replace the battery once. and during all the seven years that i had it, you can count with your fingers the number of times it crashed... so in the end, it's really worth all that money. although it's still usable and working perfectly well, it's starting to get behind in terms of the latest technologies... i'm going to miss the old mac just like an old friend. but, sometimes, we need to make room for new things in our lives so we don't get left behind and become obsolete.

Merry Christmas, everyone! :)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

La Ferme aux Grives

December for me is all about reminiscing about the best experiences of the year that is almost about to come to an end. and so this December, i'm starting a blogpost about the best experiences i've had this year. and what better way to begin this than by talking about food.

the best restaurant experience i had was of course back in France during our family visit in the summer. my in-laws took us to this nice restaurant called La Ferme aux Grives in a small ville called Eugenie-les-Bains, in the South of France, not far from where my in-laws live.

the restaurant was set in the middle of a lovely garden, at the edge of a huge farm, and is owned by a two-Michelin starred chef, Michel Guerard.

the ancient stone house that make up the restaurant of La Ferme Aux Grives

Charming signage by the main entrance right on top of a small pear tree

we were seated right across this table with fresh produce, right behind is a huge oven

suckling pig, quietly roasting in a corner

jambons and herbs hung on ancient chandeliers

our table setting -- notice the heavy silverware

no meal is complete without fine wine

the strawberries in this slice of heavenly Charlotte were extraordinarily fresh and delicious

lovely window framing

charming and rustic -- just the way i like it

even the toilet is lovely and full of character

this is the herbs and vegetable garden right beside the restaurant. there were leeks and onions, lavender and lots of sweet-smelling herbs that bring out the characteristic smell of summer in France

dandelions growing through holes on this rusty garden chair

Un rêve accessible (a reachable dream)

i had so much fun taking photos all over the place, until i realized taking photos is not allowed... trop tard!

went for a walk around the farm after lunch... the surroundings took me back to the relaxing, refreshing and familiar countryside setting of my very own childhood

having a meal at La Ferme aux Grives is one of the best experiences i've had in 2014. it was a perfect summer day with family and friends in a lovely setting. the food in the dishes was fresh and each plate was beautifully-presented, the ambience was wonderful, calm and relaxing. the service was impeccable and the staff were friendly. they even made an impromptu birthday cake and bouquet from their garden for my belle-mère. and most importantly, taking pictures was supposed to be prohibited but nobody stopped me from shooting away anyway with my huge camera. i guess they make exceptions for rare asian tourists. :)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Shoe Shopping Season

recently, i have come to love this brand called Yosi Samra, which i stumbled upon online at shopbop. i was a bit hesitant to order shoes online because i wasn't sure i'd get the right fit.

my frist time to go shoe shopping online

i was quite surprised to receive a very small package for my order. when i opened the shoe box, i found out they were folded.

they fit quite nicely, even though it wasn't my exact size. it was a half size bigger.

i actually uploaded this photo on instagram and the official yosi samra instagram liked it! :)

i immediately tried it on with several different casual outfits. since we're on the subject of firsts, it's also worth mentioning that this is my first time to get an animal pattern for anything wearable.

who would've thought it'd go well with this cropped top from Tori Praver? this outfit makes me feel young, sexy and powerful all at the same time. :)

after my first purchase, i couldn't help but browse for more Yosi Samra stuff online. and so i found one that i really, really like, which is luckily on sale at Shopbop. but then, it wasn't my size.

i even actually looked for local shops that sell YS stuff. i found one, but they have a limited selection, and mostly, none of my type.

sexy Steve Madden strappy sandals

but since i had this whole week off work for a restful "staycation" to do some errands and spend some much missed quality time with my little one, i managed to squeeze into my schedule a bit of shoe shopping, the old fashioned way -- i.e., at the mall. and i found something similar to the Yosi Samra shoe that i like, only it's much daintier, sleeker and sexier, which is all the better. and also, right about the same price as the YS one sans the shopbop sale.

trying on the Steve Madden sandals at the store

i was so giddy with happiness. i never thought getting shoes could have an effect like this on me ever. i'm starting to be such a girl. it's kinda weird.

happy feet!

now that my shoe shopping is done for this year (hopefully), i can breathe a sigh of relief. at least my feet are going to be happy this christmas.

what's your shoe shopping story?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Movie Review: Interstellar

gravity is actually one of the very first English words that i've learned about. i first heard it from Bugs Bunny, in one of the episodes where he was telling Elmer Fudd that he has a serious problem running past terra firma at the end of the cliff trying to chase him... and that his serious problem was called gravity. upon mentioning this word, Elmer Fudd plumetted to the ground. and i was like, wow! this gravity is powerful stuff... i should try to use it in a sentence one day!

and then in school we all learn that everything has gravity -- i attract and you attract. amazing!.. and that the moon's gravitational pull affects the tides, and that it dictates a lot about the huge, mysterious goings on in the cosmos -- from the colossal and complex, like the intricate weave of time and space, down to the mundane and inane, like my crazy mood swings. and then very recently, how it is slowly but steadily winning in the age-old battle against everything in your body heading down south. i feel it more and more now as i approach the dreaded 40s.

now, it's been a long time since i have read and heard about this word until last night, watching Interstellar at the cinema...

this movie pulled me in completely with the gravitational strength of a massive black hole, sucking me in with every geeky bit of rich narrative on time and space and gravity and theory of relativity, and putting all of these to good use -- saving our loved ones with planet earth on the brink of death. it was talking about all the mysteries in the universe: black holes, worm holes, time and space and gravity... and that unquantifiable, unsolvable, and very potent mystery called L-O-V-E. for this, it's a little bit cheesy, but not in a regular gooey romantic kind of way... which i really appreciate.

watching this movie (in all its three-hour glory) made me feel like i was reading my favorite book Einstein's Dreams, which was itself written by a Physicist from M.I.T. every chapter in this book is dripping with rich prose, laced with all the poetry that science surprisingly offers.

this movie takes me back to my old habit of star-gazing at midnight, watching the Hale-Bopp comet appear every sunset back in the early 90's, and daydreaming about galaxies while browsing thick volumes of encyclopedia. it rekindled my teenage fascination about time and space and astrophysics and Albert Einstein, back when i believed that all the answers were out there authored by the stars.

and finally, a very short lesson on theory of relativity: after watching this movie, there will be people who would feel that this movie is too long, dragging like a lifetime for three hours; and then, there would be people who wouldn't really feel like this movie took three hours at all!  :)

rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Saint Vincent de Paul

one of the fondest memories of my university life was taking the mass every Sunday at Saint Vincent de Paul's chapel.

i was already not a religious person at the time, but i have always enjoyed good singing. the SVP chapel had a really good choir. and i really liked Saint Vincent de Paul's birthday because it means school holiday. :)

last time i was in France, i took the chance to finally visit his ville-natale.

arriving at Le Berceau de Saint Vincent de Paul in France, which is a short 30-minute drive from my in-laws'

A small church at the center o the small ville

huge tree

Saint Vincent de Paul's house

This is where Saint Vincent de Paul was born

funny message in the guestbook saying "Let me win 1000 euros in the casino" LOL.

inside SVP's house

lighting a candle for loved ones inside the chapel

most of the fond memories in the university was also spent goofing around with my girl friends. going back to the Philippines for a few short days last month has given me one special night to spend with them at the karaoke. it was really great fun, especially with our kids.

it's been 20 years since i first met these pretty ladies!

lovely serenade by Maju and Kuya Keats

the Leons and the Quindozas

 i can't believe i've been friends with these girls for 20 years now! where did the time go? but seeing all the small happy faces of the little versions of ourselves is a comforting proof that all the time that went away were completely well-spent. ;)

have a good weekend, everyone! :)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Le Meilleur de la Toscane Part 4: Chianti, Arezzo and Cortona

driving along the famous SR222 -- the scenic route that cuts across the Chianti Region between Siena and Firenze

the beautiful contemporary architecture of Antinori Winery in the Chianti, famous for its history, restaurant and vineyard visit
breathing in the gorgeous scenery, along with the young vines that make the Chianti Classico

outside the vineyard's restaurant, Rinucci 1180... it had just stopped raining when we arrived.
enjoying the wine sampler

some crostini, charcuterie, olives and pecorino cheese

descending into the reception area for the vineyard visit and wine tasting

inside the cave where the wines are fermented and aged. this cave is constructed of terra cotta bricks.

from Siena, we spent almost two hours driving through the scenic SR222 route. it's basically a road that traverses the whole of Chianti from Siena to Firenze. if you look it up on Google, or click the link i have here, you will see that it is quite famous for the scenery. we were so high on top of the mountains, our trip started out all foggy and rainy. we were a bit scared at first that the GPS was taking us nowhere where we wanted to go because the roads were so long and winding, albeit really breath-takingly beautiful, i had to make several stops to take some pictures. and when we were getting close to the area, we couldn't see any obvious sign of the famous Antinori winery. according to Lonely Planet, it is the best vineyard visit in all of Chianti.

we were not disappointed when we got there. thankfully, the rain had stopped and we were able to see the road signs more clearly. the winery is not very obvious from afar because most of the structure is underground. it was specifically designed to be not-so-obvious like this. and it is indeed a marvelous contemporary architectural structure that very gracefully and beautiful blends with the surroundings.

we first had lunch at the famous restaurant called Rinuccio 1180. the food was so-so but the wine sampler was really good. and you have the view of the rolling Tuscan hills and the vineyard while you eat... which is mostly what we came there for.

the vineyard visit and wine tasting went really well. everything was in English, unlike my first ever vineyard visit in France where everything was in French. the wine, though, was quite expensive. i guess because it is very famous coming from a well-known family of wine makers in Italy. they even have in the building a library and a theater where all their family history and love of wine are documented. it was quite an interesting visit. i learned so much about wine and how the Italians love them.

the entrance to the huge orchard of Relais Residence Borgo San Pietro in Cortona

a beautiful place to have an apéro -- my favorite prosecco and hubby's Spritz

my favorite flowers -- lavender and roses, all seem to be reaching for me. :)

relaxing pool amid the greens

some pears in the vast orchard of the hotel

blackberries in the wild... they were the sweetest!

the hotel's lovely restaurant

the famous Sangiovese of Cortona
inside the Basilica di San Francesco in Arezzo where Capella Bacci is located... that chapel in The English Patient with the Juliette Binoche romantic scene

from Chianti, we actually headed back to Siena for one last night. and the next day, we drove to Cortona. one of the best parts of our Tuscan trip was staying at this lovely hotel in Cortona called Relais Borgo San Pietro. the hotel was set right in the middle of a flower garden filled with all my favorite fragrant flowers -- lavender and roses, and an orchard filled with apples, pears, different varieties of prunes, olives, almonds, etc. it was heavenly and relaxing. we had a lovely dinner in their terrasse with the usual amazing view of the surrounding hills.

we also took an afternoon to visited Arezzo because i've always wanted to visit this chapel which is the setting for the movie, The English Patient. remember that romantic scene with Juliette Binoche? i was quite surprised to find the Basilica di San Francesco quite small. it was charming, nevertheless.

and since i started my Tuscan trip blogs with a video, it's only right that i end it with another video. this one was taken inside the famous Capella Bacci itself. feast your eyes folks:

thank you for reading and i hope i have given you some good tips on how to do a lovely trip tasting, breathing and experiencing life under the Tuscan sun. :)