Thursday, August 11, 2011


     ...while in a crowd, can be such a lonely feeling. While pairs or groups pass you by as you stand by yourself. No one to talk to, laugh with, maybe even cry with. People hurrying past or strolling leisurely, some arm in arm, the connections physical as well as emotional. There is a feeling of isolation akin to being stranded on an island all alone, yet you are in the midst of humanity. No one glances your way. No one offers a greeting of any kind. You are an island unto yourself.

     It might seem that the most sensible thing is to simply reach out. Leave your shell, little by little, to gain entry to the lives of those around you. But you don't have the courage. You like the safety of your shell. You convince yourself that looking in is quite enough. And so once more, in the midst of it all, you stay alone in the crowd.

© Margj Castillo, Between You and Me, 2010 - Present.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

From Fat to Fit...I Hope

     Food, glorious and eating it are two of the pleasures in life that I love, specially the eating part, hehehe. Which leads to a not so desirable side effect - getting fat. In my case, not just being overweight but bordering on obese. Thus the need to get in shape, slim down, get healthy, lose weight. Memories of my previous shape before coming to the USA have me longing to be that slim again. It was time to get physical!
     When I first thought about losing weight, I made do with some exercise DVDs I already had. These were mostly dance routines like hip hop or belly dancing. It was fun and I could do it at home without needing any equipment aside from the DVD player. But it was rather hard trying to do dance moves in our rather cramped bedroom. Plus all that huffing and thumping was scaring the dogs. So after less than a month my interest waned.

The next thing I tried were exercise/sports games on console gaming platforms. All these fitness/exercise games were coming out for various platforms, but the one that caught my eye the most was the sports game on Wii. I would need to be up on my feet to play, so it seemed a guaranteed way to work up a sweat while having fun. It worked out great at first, but lasted about a month before I got lazy and distracted by other games that only involved my fingers. Super Mario Galaxy was particularly entrancing for me.

     Flash forward about a year or so, with a definite increase in pounds. A little discomfort felt here and there, increased heart rate, nothing serious but enough to make me think twice about my widening waistline. It was definitely time to get serious about losing weight. So before I got a chance to change my mind and back out, I finally went to a gym offering comparatively reasonable rates. They also touted their motto of being a no judgement zone. Well, as out of shape as I was, I sure didn't want to work out in a place where other people are checking out how you look and all that. I wanted to get in, sweat it out and get out.

     It's been about three months now since I started going to the gym. I don't have a regimen that I follow but just use the various cardio equipment. A little bit of circuit training. I've tried to go more than three times a week but I'm not that good at sticking to it. And so far, I've lost only one inch, haha! Oh well, it's a work in progress. One that hopefully will bear fruit soon enough. I've got a long way to go but I'll try my hardest to get down to a size six or eight eventually.

© Margj Castillo, Between You and Me, 2010 - Present.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

If I Just Click My Heels Three Times...

     ...maybe I'll be in the Philippines in the blink of an eye.  But I'm not Dorothy and I don't have the ruby slippers on me.  So if I want to get there, I'll have to do it the old fashioned way.  Too bad that costs a lot of money.  Not to mention all the other expenses included in a vacation.  But if money was no object, what would I do during a month long vacation?

     No trip to the Philippines is complete without a trip to the beach.  Every summer, it's de riguer to have a summer outing, either to a pool or to the beach, in some cases to both.  Sometimes even when it's not summer, if I was staying at my sister's place in Laguna we'd go to a pool for a neighborhood outing.  These outings are never fancy, more like plain and simple kind of roughing it type of thing.  The only extravagance, if one can call it such, during these affairs is the food.  We'd bring lots of food, either cooked or to be cooked.  There's always tilapia to be grilled, pork or beef to be barbecued, sometimes pansit, sometimes squid, maybe some mangoes with bagoong to dip them in or made into a green mango salad.  And of course, rice.  Mmmm...just mentioning all that food has made my mouth water, especially at the memory of green mango salad.  I'm not a fan of green mango per se because I don't like sour things, but the way this salad is made has me eating it until it's all gone.  Pairing it with grilled fish makes it even better!  Yum!!!  We also do  a lot of swimming, in all that lovely hot springs water.  That would be so nice right now.  So, yes, an outing to either a beach or a pool will definitely be part of my vacation.

     Another important part of this vacation would be making the rounds of my old stomping grounds.  First on the list is the neighborhood in Marikina where I lived almost all of my life.  I don't know what changes have happened in the years since I left so I'll want to check everything out.  I'm sure my husband will be happy to know that there is a Jollibee a block away from our house.  I'll also go to Cubao, Ortigas and Makati.  These areas were places where I either worked, played or both.  I'll make sure to check out the old and new shops, restaurants, buildings, all the sights and sounds.

     To round out my to do list is spending time with family and friends.  This is actually the most important item on my to do list.  Having been away for so long, I'll want to reconnect with my family, my nephew and nieces in particular.  They'll be so grown up, so different from when I saw them last.  I'll want to spend time with my dear, close friends and catch up on all the stories and news that no amount of chat or email can really cover.  It's quite possible we'll do a few slumber parties with just us girls.  I haven't done one of those in a long time.

     There will be a few other things I'll do on this vacation, what I've mentioned thus far is just half the list.  Hubby will surely want to see and do some things too, including a trip to Cebu and Taguig to catch up with his side of the family.  But I'm sure that whatever and wherever we might be, I'll soak up everything in the Philippines that I possibly can.  Because who knows when I'll be able to go back again.

     Ok, now back to reality.

© Margj Castillo, Between You and Me, 2010 - Present.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Taste of Home

     I've often wished that we had all the Filipino stores that the West Coast has that we don't have here in the East Coast.  They have Goldilocks, Red Ribbon, Jollibee, Max's and all those stores that sell Filipino goods.  Over here we do have some Filipino stores and restaurants but more in New Jersey rather than in New York.  So I was very happy when I learned that Jollibee had opened a branch in Woodside, NY.  And pleasantly surprised when we discovered that Red Ribbon had also opened a branch in the same area.

     The Jollibee in Woodside occupies a small corner location right next to the subway and rail lines.  So while dining one will hear the roar of the number 7 or the LIRR trains roaring past.  Tables and chairs are somewhat cramped in the dining area and when the place gets packed (usually the weekends), just finding a place to sit and eat is a challenge.  The service can get a bit slow, and the last time we were there it seemed like they were short staffed.  Given that it was not busy at the time, their slow service was quite puzzling.  That aside, the food tastes just like it does in Philippine Jollibees.  The chicken joy is just as crispy skinned, tender and juicy.  The palabok has the same saucy topping.  The burgers just as flavorful.  They even have the pearl shakes and pies offered in the Philippines.  They're still coming up with new offerings, some of which they are tailoring to American tastes.  We have yet to try them, but they do look delicious.  I'm glad to say that in the few times we've been there I saw not just Filipinos eating there some non Filipinos as well.

     Red Ribbon bakeshop is a few blocks away from Jollibee and also occupies a corner location.  Though appearing to have the same size venue as Jollibee, there is a more relaxed atmosphere at Red Ribbon.  The dining area is much smaller, with the back area for the kitchen and others seeming to have the lion's share of space.  Perhaps the owners were thinking people would come in more to buy than to dine in?  In the two times that we've been there I barely saw people eating at the tables, so I guess they were right in allotting just that much space.  Shelves of bread are to the left of the door when coming in from the street.  Facing the door is a display counter for their cakes, some other baked goodies like mango bars, and the cash registers.  On the menu above this area one will see that they offer Filipino foods in addition to the baked goods like arroz caldo and palabok.  We haven't had a chance to try any of the other goods aside from the cakes and mango bars.  I'm happy to say that the Rocky Road and Black Forest cakes they have here are just as moist and tasty as the ones I used to have at home.  The mango bars have lots of chewy dried mango bits in the moist and cakey bar.  Their coffee needs improving though.  That aside, I would definitely like to go back to sample their other offerings.

     Now that Jollibee and Red Ribbon are here in New York, hopefully the other Filipino restaurants will soon follow suit.  It's really nice to have a taste of home even when halfway across the globe.

© Margj Castillo, Between You and Me, 2010 - Present.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Who Belongs to this Dog?

     I wonder what is going on in our neighborhood. What's with all these dogs roaming around loose and unable to find their way home? Over the past few months I've seen dogs running towards the main road and I cringe at the thought of one of them getting run over or hit by a passing vehicle. Several months ago we found a pit bull (pictured above) roaming around in our block. She was so sweet and friendly, but she didn't have a collar and no tags. We tried to find out who owned her, canvassing a few blocks near where we live. Alas, no one claimed her. We had no choice but to bring her to the local animal shelter. Hopefully someone came to claim her.

     This afternoon, while shoveling snow, another pit bull came by. This one had a collar, and was walking along with two guys who were looking for houses to shovel snow from for a fee. Of course, we thought the dog belonged to them. To our surprise, after several minutes, the same dog comes bounding back towards us. The two men he was walking along with were about two blocks away from now. And the dog didn't show any inclination of going after them. I was like, what on earth? Another lost pit bull? This one seemed younger than the previous pit bull we'd found and seemed cleaner. So it could've just gotten out by accident. Regardless, the question remains - why no tags? Is it too much of a bother for an owner, a responsible owner, to at least put a tag showing the dog's name and address? But then, that begs the question, did the dog belong to a responsible owner in the first place. I'm starting to wonder, could there be some kind of dog fighting operation in our neighborhood that these dogs are coming from? It's just not right! If you're getting a dog to keep as a pet then you better damn make sure you're gonna take care of it properly! It really is soooooooooooo upsetting!

     Another thing that makes me so angry about the whole thing is how the supposed authorities responded to the situation. Or rather, their lack of response. I dialed 311 to report the found dog in the hopes that someone would come to pick it up. I got transferred to an animal shelter that I assumed was the local one for our area.  Apparently it wasn't, because I was told to call our local animal shelter. So I dial the local animal shelter. This time I was told we need to bring in the animal to the shelter. When I asked if someone could come to pick it up, I was told to call the local police department who would then be the ones to call them so they can come to it up. In my mind I was going, I'm already on the line with you guys telling you about the dog so why don't you just come over and get the poor thing?! What's with all this rigmarole of phone this, phone that? I don't say any of this though but hang up and try to call the local police department. It just rings and rings, no one picks up. By this time my husband is yelling at me to hang up and let it go because obviously no one wants to do their job and come pick up the dog. Our own dogs are going nuts barking at the stranger and gets my in law upset. So now every one is in a rotten mood. And yes, the dog is still out there, still lost. You're probably thinking, why didn't I just bring the dog over to the animal shelter myself? Believe me, if I could, I would. But it just isn't going to happen.

     I just hope this poor dog eventually does find its way home before it starts snowing again. And I really wish all pet owners would be more responsible and make sure their pets will be able to return home in case they do manage to get out by accident. Have a heart people!

© Margj Castillo, Between You and Me, 2010 - Present.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Baby it's Cold Outside

     Ah yes,it's winter once again. Temperatures are staying low, we've already had a snow storm to usher in the season, and although it's been a week since then we are still knee deep in snow. It got so bad that trains weren't able to run, the usually reliable bus service gave up and people were buried for several days in some areas. It may seem wicked of me to say this, but it sure made me glad I didn't have to get up and go to work any more when that storm hit. That was the second storm that I've experienced here, and this one seems to have been much worse than the first.

      Back then I used to think that snow was nice and fluffy and fun. Fla
kes would float gently down from the sky, land on your hair and eyelashes as you walk in a winter wonderland. It would coat everything like magic dust, turning the whole landscape into a marshmallow frosted world. Hah! Try standing outside in a blizzard and see if this cotton candy like image holds. Forget that it's so many degrees below zero. Forget that the fierce wind blowing all around makes it even more freezing. The snow itself has a coldness and ferocity all its own that will make you wonder what you ever found wonderful and fascinating about it in the first place. Snow during a blizzard is not fluffy and does not float down gently to earth. It pours down in blasts that can probably sand down smooth any area exposed to it long enough. I know, I've felt it. Right on the face too. It was an unpleasant surprise for me to discover that snow during a storm feels like an exfoliant scrub; an extreme exfoliant scrub.

      Thank goodness the storm lasted only a day and a night. Imagine if it had gone on for even just two days and nights! Yaiks! In some places people are still digging out and some roads are still a mess. But the bad also has a nice side. Where the snow lay undisturbed it did really look pretty. With all the snow that fell kids were able to go sledding. And all that cold made it perfect weather for hot chocolate/coffee/tea and snuggling. I love having a good excuse to snuggle, don't you?

© Margj Castillo, Between You and Me, 2010 - Present.