Sunday, December 31, 2017

First-time Wedding Ninong

Two of my good friends, Geop and Ana, tied the knot in a beautiful ceremony in Angelfields. Interestingly enough, I was just there the previous weekend for Jef and Diane's wedding. Even more interesting was the fact that for the first time, I was a principal sponsor at a wedding. :)

A post shared by Christian Pobre (@xtn_on_ig) on

Clearly, I am now at that age where I get asked to be a wedding ninong. :) But unlike most wedding ninongs and ninangs, I was in the photo of the couple with the principal sponsors and also in the photo of the couple with their friends. Cool! In fact, the wedding videos of the couple included some pics of us hanging out. :)

Another first experience for me was getting seated at the presidential table. My seat was marked by a name card, which I ended up keeping for sentimental purposes. :) This also meant that I didn't have to go to the buffet tables since food was served to us at our table. The food was really good and I guess it comes as no surprise that I ended up overeating.

Their wedding was also like a reunion of sorts, with many of our ex-colleagues there. I got to catch up with many of my friends that night.

The reception was also a lot of fun. Apart from the awesome photos and videos, there were some great musical numbers, not only from the band but also from a few relatives of the couple. It was also amazing that the host actually managed to get everyone to stand up towards the end of the wedding. This led to a big group photo taken with all the guests.

As I told both Geop and Ana, I am truly honored that they asked me to not only part of their wedding but also take on an important role. Congratulations and best wishes, Geop and Ana!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Christmas reunions

Christmas, and consequently the entire month of December, is a time for meeting up with as many of your family and friends as possible so you can celebrate the holidays with them. Technically, I already had my first two Christmas reunions in the last week of November/first week of December. After those two, the next one, my company Christmas party, was the first of a massive succession of parties and get-togethers. During this event, for the first time in a long time, I actually won a minor prize during the raffle: a P500 Starbucks Gift Card. Cool. :)

A few days later, I joined my college friends for dinner and wine at Cav with Weng, who was home for a few days. It was in this trip that we learned that Cav would be closing right before Christmas. That's quite sad considering that I had many fun trips to this awesome place. Lala, our resident wine expert, chose the wines for our group but I also made a few trips to the wine "vendo machines" to try their other selections. I also ordered a shrimp dish for my dinner.

A few more days later and I met up with my friends from my second job. We had dinner at Kushikatsu Daruma in Uptown Mall in BGC. It is known for its kushikatsu or Japanese skewers of fried meat and vegetables. There are lots of signs that remind people not to double dip in the sauces which are really good. I also liked the bright interior and the fun vibe of the place. After dinner, we moved to Paper Moon for coffee and mille crepe cakes. (I really do love this place.)

I was double-booked a couple of nights later. First, our department at work celebrated our own Christmas party. As a new hire, I helped organize the event with the other new hires and I was also asked to emcee and to sing. It's been a while since I emceed and sang at an event but it turned out quite well. I also won a bottle of wine during our raffle. Cool! After the party, I headed over to Marriott in Pasay to meet up with my friend Tim and his fiancee Janice. It's been about a year I think since I saw them last and they were only free to meet up that evening because they were heading to Tagaytay for 3 nights before Tim had to leave for the UK so I made sure to meet up with them.

A couple of days later, I joined my high school friends for our Christmas get-together at Aruga in Rockwell. It was the first time that we had a holiday staycation. Mitch brought their Ticket to Ride: Europe game which they hadn't played yet. I also had never played it before (I had only played the original and the Asia versions) but I was familiar enough with it that I was able to teach everyone else the rules. It was really interesting and the most challenging Ticket to Ride I've played. After the game, we shared stories until the wee hours of the morning before calling it a night.

On Christmas day, I had lunch at my uncle's house where my extended family on my father's side had our annual reunion and celebration. We didn't plan anything on my mother's side - we had just had dinner at Tita Ace's several days earlier to commemorate the death anniversary of my grandfather and I guess that served as our Yuletide celebration - so my mom and I visited my grandmother and we had a simple dinner get-together.

The next day, I met up with my boardgaming friends at Ludo in Makati. I missed the bigger game night we had earlier in the month due to illness so I'm happy that I got to play before the month and the year ended. Unfortunately for us, Ludo closed early that night so we were only able to play one long game and one quick game. The long game was Terraforming Mars. It was my first time playing this highly rated game and it was indeed pretty good. I ended up in 2nd place, only one point behind Jovan.

After that, we had time for a very quick game: Rhino Hero (giant edition). There's a smaller, playing card-sized version but the game we played was massive. The gameplay is kind of like a reverse Uno Stacko since you keep on adding to the stack. The tower we built was really tall so we had to stand on our chairs towards the end of the game. We realized that if we play the giant edition, we have to stack it on the ground and not on a table. :)

The following evening, I met up with my college friends for dinner at Cafe Madrid in Estancia Mall. Considering that it was a weeknight, it was cool that a lot of us were still able to make it. I believe this place is owned by Terry's Gourmet so the food was pretty good, as expected. Unfortunately, I had to leave relatively early because I was already running on fumes and I still had work the next day.

Finally, a couple of days later, I joined my friends from our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) org in my previous company for our Christmas get-together. We wanted to meet in BGC so I suggested Mogu. As it turned out, in our entire group, I was the only one who had eaten there before. I was glad that I suggested this place because everyone enjoyed what they ordered. For dessert and coffee, we moved to Larry's Cafe, where I ordered a souffle (I thought it was just okay).

Amazingly, a few tables away from us were my high school batchmates who were having their own mini-reunion. Kog and his wife Ina were there and I hadn't seen them since I had dinner at their place in Singapore in the middle of last year. Once my CSR friends left, I joined Kog and our other batchmates until we called it a night at close to 1am.

Obviously, it was a very busy few weeks of December and just writing about it now kinda wiped me out. :) I do have more friends that I am meeting up with in January. While it is quite exhausting to have so many get-togethers, I have to say that I am really fortunate and very grateful that I have so many great people in my life who want to celebrate the holidays with me.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Liza Soberano tops list of Most Beatiful Faces of 2017

Congratulations to Liza Soberano for being hailed by TC Candler as the Most Beautiful Face of 2017. This is the third time Liza makes this annual list that TC Candler has been publishing since 1990. She was ranked 6th in 2015 - the first time she made the list - and moved up to 2nd last year. Check out the full list in this video from TC Candler (jump to 9:50 to go straight to the top and see Liza):

video uploaded in youtube by TC Candler

It's amazing that Liza topped this global list which, for its first 20 years, was topped by Caucasian women. The last four years have been more international and diverse, with Nana from South Korea and Jourdan Dunn, who in 2008 was the first black model to walk a Prada runway in more than a decade, being hailed as most beautiful. It's great that this year, someone from the Philippines is #1. Congrats Liza! Well deserved. :)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

This post is late but as a Star Wars fan, I can't not write about this. I watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi on it's opening day and I absolutely loved it!

SPOILER ALERT!!! Please stop reading now if you haven't seen the movie and don't want to be spoiled.

What I do find interesting though is that while critics generally tend to agree that The Last Jedi is really good, audiences seem to have massively mixed reactions. On Rotten Tomatoes, as of this writing, 90% of critics rated the movie positively while only 49% of audiences did. Seriously??? I've generally stayed away from the negative critiques because I don't t really want my enjoyment of the film to be tainted but of the few negative remarks I've seen, I realized that most of the people who were disappointed in the film had certain expectations that the movie didn't meet because its story took a different path.

For instance, people felt let down that Kylo Ren didn't turn full good side, because they felt it would have been such a unique twist in the story. Other felt that Luke, as the last Jedi, should have been more willing to put himself out there and that he should have faced Kylo Ren and the First Order instead of mentally conjuring a hologram of himself. I guess this is the challenge that a megafranchise such as Star Wars faces: fans have grown so heavily invested in it that they end up having a sense of ownership and practically expect Star Wars to cater to how they think the story should flow. My cousin shared this meme that cleverly depicts this (unfortunately, no source was listed so I am unable to provide it):

Obviously, I disagree with many of these detractors. In fact, the reasons they dislike the film are almost the exact same reasons I love it. First, while it would have been cool to have Kylo Ren turn to the good side, I found his conflict in Episodes VII and VIII to be one of the most compelling storylines in this latest trilogy and its unpredictable nature makes for even greater potential. Adam Driver who portrays Kylo Ren put in such an incredible performance and you could really see and feel the continued anguish going on in his head. Also, I felt that Luke generating his hologram was a first - we've never seen a Jedi use this power before - was an incredible display of Luke's immense power.

What I also liked about The Last Jedi was how it was not very predictable (to me, at least). A large part of it was because of how the Star Wars franchise set it up through its two most recent films. In The Force Awakens, Han Solo was killed and in Rogue One, the entire lead cast was killed. Because of this, viewers aren't quite sure which character is going to be killed off next. This uncertainty keeps audiences at the edge of their seats. For me, given how the plot was unfolding, I thought that General Leia, Finn, and Rose would all die. I thought that Rey would turn to the dark side. I thought Vice Admiral Holdo was a traitor. And I also got really worried that Kylo Ren would kill Luke. As it turned out, none of these happened.

There were also many awesome moments that made me want to cheer loudly in the movies theater. (In fact, a large portion of the audience did, but I was seated at the side and most of the people sitting around me were not as vocal nor demonstrative of their appreciation so I just cheered in the inside. :)) Obviously, one of the biggest scenes was at Snoke's throne room when Rey and Kylo Ren fought together against Snoke's guards. I also loved it when Leia showed her ability to use of the force to save her own life after being blasted out of her ship. I loved Yoda's reappearance and the fact that he was able to use the force to generate a lightning bolt (apparently, generating force bolts is a power not limited to the Sith). The audience also cheered when it was revealed that Luke was generating a hologram to face The First Order. I also loved that scene at the end when the little kid showed that he could use the force.

One of the saddest things about The Last Jedi is the knowledge that Carrie Fisher has passed away and that this was her last film. In fact, because of this, I thought they would actually kill General Leia off. They almost did. But she was alive at the end of the movie, escaping The First Order with a small band of resistance fighters. On some level, General Leia's survival in this film makes things a bit sadder, because she could have still been a part of Episode IX but we know we won't see her there anymore. Towards the end of the film, when Luke (or his hologram) meets Leia, he utters the line "No one's ever really gone" and I couldn't help but think how prophetic that line was. Of course, that dedication that flashed during the credits - In loving memory of our princess, Carrie Fisher - was quite moving.

I will let the naysayers criticize this film as much as they want but for me, it is up there among the best. As is always the case with all Star Wars films, I really want to see it again. And I am sure I will be getting the DVD when it comes out. (Or maybe I should just start subscribing to Netflix).

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Star Wars shirts from Folded & Hung

Naturally, I had to get new Star Wars shirts in preparation for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. :)

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Full week

The week started when I had dinner and drinks with Maileen, who was in town to celebrate her grandmother's birthday. Our evening started out over dinner at Museum Cafe in Greenbelt 5 before we moved to the lobby of New World Renaissance hotel (which I had written about in my previous post).

The next evening, I had a reunion with some of my ex-colleagues, who were having a very advanced Christmas celebration. Apparently, they couldn't find any other common date in December so they decided to have it in end-November instead. Mia very generously hosted the party at her beautiful home and she prepared a beautiful feast that included roast beef and baked salmon that could rival that of Conti's. After dinner, we started the exchange gift by making use of some kind of white elephant exchange gift app. (I was actually told that I had to bring an exchange gift only on that day LOL so I decided to swing by Fleur De Lys along Tomas Morato to get some florentines and brownies.) I ended up getting Saporito Gourmet Salted Egg Potato Chips and Sofia's Jar lengua de gato. Unfortunately, I had an early start the next day so I couldn't stay too late but it was really great seeing everyone again, especially since I hadn't seen most of them in months.

On Friday, I met up with my friends from my first job. The last time we saw each other was earlier in the year when Raych was in Manila but what made the evening more special was that almost every Manila-based person was able to join us, including Bett and Lany, both of whom I hadn't seen in a while. As it turned out, Anna was also in town so she could join us too. Since Chari lives far south and Jette lives far north, we opted for Ortigas. Jette requested some place that is easily commutable so I suggested we have dinner somewhere in Shangri-La mall. Bett wanted to try Zao and everyone agreed so we finally had out venue sorted out. :) Our dinner started quite early - Chari and I were there before 630pm - so a couple of hours later, the mall was still open and we had time for dessert. At first, we were thinking of just having dessert in Zao because people wanted to try their mille crepe but unfortunately, it wasn't available that night. Since people suddenly had a craving for mille crepe, we went to Paper Moon instead. We stayed there until the mall closed. This was probably the biggest gathering we've had in a while and the longest time that we spent with each other.

Chocolate Mille Crepe and Coffee at Paper Moon

The long, full week ended the next day when I went to Tagaytay for two special occasions. The first was Me-Ann's birthday. It was a full day event, starting with brunch at Bag of Beans in Twin Lakes before we would go to Sandari Batulao to hang out and spend the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately, I ended up being massively late for brunch, not only because I woke up a bit late but also because of a horrific driving mistake. Since I was already running late, I checked waze to see how long it would take for me to get to Twin Lakes - waze estimated two hours - so I messaged everyone that I would get there by noon. Unfortunately, by entering Twin Lakes in waze, I was directed to the Twin Lakes community at the bottom of the crater instead of at the top which is where Bag of Beans is. Normally, that wouldn't be a problem except that the route from the bottom to the top can only be traversed on foot or by tricycle and it is impassable to cars and larger vehicles. The kicker was that the only way to get from where I was to Bag of Beans was by going all the way back, a one and a half hour trip. That was just about as long as my drive from Manila to Tagaytay!!! By the time I got to Bag of Beans, half the group had gone home. Me-ann had ordered for me before I got there so my food was ready when I arrived. I was absolutely famished and I ate everything pretty quickly. It was close to 2pm when we headed to Sandari Batulao where the rest of us spent a lazy afternoon enjoying each other's company and having great conversation. Alvin and Doray brought their kids and later that afternoon, Alvin and his kids all went swimming.

Sandari Batulao

I left at around 4:30 to get ready for my second event in Tagaytay: the wedding reception of Jef and Diane. I booked a room at Lee Boutique since I knew I would be tired from the long drive and the long day (plus, I wanted an easy way to get ready for the wedding). The reception was held at Angelfields. It turned out to be a bit of a reunion as well since Jef and Diane were ex-colleagues and I was seated at a table with many of our other ex-colleagues such as Karen, Kat, RJ, Julie, and Jojo and a few other ex-colleagues whom I hadn't seen in years, like Walter, Melvin, and Mshel. It was a beautiful and well-prepared and well-executed program - Diane's outfit change for her dance number with Jef was one of the many highlights - and it was shortly before 10 that the program ended. Most people left immediately but RJ, Julie, and I stuck around until pack up because Jef asked us to. :) That gave us an opportunity to catch up with each other and also with Jef and Diane once things had calmed down.

I checked out once I got cleaned up after waking up and I immediately headed over to Breakfast at Antonio's to have their Home-made Bacon Roesti, which is one of my favorite dishes and which I have and enjoy in most of my trips to Tagaytay. I wanted to try something else from Breakfast at Antonio's so I ordered their Croque Monsieur to go so I could eat it for lunch. I have to say, this sandwich is tremendously good too!

Breakfast at Antonio's Home-made Bacon Roesti

On the way home, I had to pass by a few places to get pasalubong for my family. I made three stops. The first was in Rowena's to get pineapple tarts. The second was in Good Shepherd to get ube jam. The third stop was in The Original Buko Pie Bakeshop to try their buko pie. I've been told that it is better than Colette's which is what I usually get. Now that I've tried it, I think I personally still prefer Colette's which is a bit sweeter but people who find Colette's too sweet should try The Original Buko Pie instead.

The Original Buko Pie can be found at the Caltex Station along Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay road.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Hotel lobby nights

I don't really recall the last time I hung out at a hotel lobby with my friends. So it's quite interesting that towards the end of last month, I ended up spending a relaxing evening at two different hotel lobbies in just a little more than a week.

First, I had coffee and dessert at the lobby of the Manila Peninsula with Myna and Mitch. We had a game night in Makati and we wanted to hang out somewhere first before heading home. We initially thought of going to Coffee Bean or Starbucks but the ones we drove by were all closed. Myna suggested that we just go to the Manila Pen lobby and Mitch and I agreed. When we got there, I decided I wanted to have ice cream since they have some pretty cool ice cream creations at the Pen. I didn't want something too decadent so I ordered Berry Berry Much, which has raspberry sorbet, strawberry cheesecake ice cream, and forest berry compote and is topped with fresh berries. It was good but I did find it a bit too tedious to have to deal with the many seeds of the fresh raspberries. :)

It turned out to be an amazing evening because it's not very often that I get to chat about more personal stuff with my gaming friends since we normally just play games and talk about geeky stuff. :) It was a wonderful experience and I am glad that we decided to chill somewhere before heading home.

A little more than a week later, I ended up spending another calm and quiet evening with my college friends at the lobby of the New World Renaissance Hotel. Maileen was in town - it's been a few years since we saw her last - but she was only available to meet up on Monday night. As such, only Letlet, Lala, Anna, and I were able to join her. She was meeting up with a friend along Pasay Road much later in the evening so after dinner at Museum Cafe, we decided to hang out somewhere close to where she needed to go. I suggested the lobby of New World Renaissance Hotel since I knew it would be open until quite late and everyone agreed (Havana would be open too but that is place is too noisy for us).

We ended up ordering a bottle of wine that we all shared. (Anna also got sans rival.) We asked Lala to make our wine selection since she was the expert in our group. She ended up choosing Esser Pinot Noir. It was pretty expensive (which was to be expected given that we were at a hotel) but at least our wine was good. :) Despite it being a Monday evening, there was a whole lot to catch up on so we ended up staying with Mai until close to midnight.

Spending an evening at a hotel lobby isn't the budget-friendly option but it's nice to treat yourself to something a bit more luxurious every now and then. Hotel lobbies have such a relaxing and elegant atmosphere that it does make for a perfect venue for chatting and catching up with great friends.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Amazing, Impressive Ukrainian Hopak

A friend of mine shared this video to me a while back and I was absolutely blown away when I watched it. Hopak (or Gopak) is the national dance of Ukraine To quote wikipedia: "Much of the seemingly improvised parts involve solo dancers, usually male, performing visually and technically amazing acrobatic feats. These include jumps and spins and are usually the highlight of the performance." You definitely get to see these highlights in the video. The leg and knee strength, the jumping ability, the athleticism and the artistry, and the ease with which they do everything was just astounding.

video uploaded in youtube by Денис Печененко

The title of this video in English is "Incredible Ukrainians in the Virsky Ensemble. Hopak." Gotta say, they definitely are incredible.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Movie weekend

After kicking off the month by watching three movies in five days, I now end the month watching two movies in two days. Cool.


I haven't really had a chance to watch Filipino indie movies so when my friend suggested that we go watch Paki which was written and directed by her nephew Giancarlo Abraham, I decided to find the time to see it. This movie had a very, very limited release as part of the Cinema One Originals festival but I managed to find a schedule that worked for me. The cast was led by Dexter Doria whose character Alejandra is the center of the story that features complex family dynamics and fragile relationships. This movie was interesting but what stood out to me the most was the performance of the cast. Dexter Doria and Noel Trinidad, who portrayed her husband, were especially good, but the rest of the supporting cast put in solid deliveries too. A lot of scenes were devoted to shots of Alejandra in her moments of contemplation and retrospection - Dexter pulled these scenes off really well - and I felt it was a good way to show how someone can be surrounded by so many people yet still almost have a sense of loneliness. I do think that the pacing was a bit on the slow side and that a couple of the confrontation scenes were a tad rushed or underdeveloped but it was a good movie overall. I'm happy I was able to see it and support a local indie film. I should really find more time to see other local indie films.

Justice League

I have been hearing negative reviews about this latest DC movie but I still had to see it. Now that I've seen it, I have to say I actually enjoyed it. SPOILER ALERT: Please stop reading if you don't want to know more about this movie. I guess the challenge that DC faces is that it gets automatically compared to Marvel, which did a fantastic job in slowly introducing each of its heroes in individual movies before putting them all together in the Avengers movies. DC hasn't really done that for all its characters in Justice League, with the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg all being introduced at the same time. I didn't really mind that. There's enough of a backstory for Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman (I won't reveal what kind of appearance Superman makes so you will have to see it for yourself). I gotta say though that as cool as Cyborg is, I'm still not quite sure exactly what his abilities are. It will be interesting to see more of him in the future. Also, Wonder Woman's durability is absolutely impressive. She may not be as strong as Superman but boy, can she take a hit and get back up afterwards. I also really liked the final post-credits scene. While a lot of people may not be as interested in the upcoming DC films, I think I will continue to watch. :)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Game nights are back. And with a vengeance.

Last October, I didn't have any game nights for the first time in a couple of years. This November, I ended up having a game night practically every week. :) The cool thing about this month is that I got to play a lot of new games.

My first game night was with my casual gaming friends (plus a few more serious ones). We first played Clank! and I won again. I have now played this game four times and I have won three of them. I really love this game and the fact that I do well in it makes it even more enjoyable to play. We then played Century Spice Road (which I also won) and by then, there were already a lot of people so I pulled out my new game, Steampunk Rally. I hadn't played this game before but I got it because up to 8 players can play it so it is ideal for big groups. There were 7 of us and all were first time players so gameplay was quite slow but it was really interesting. In the end, I managed to place second - I was actually in a tie for first in terms of points but to break ties, the person with the most machine parts wins and I had less parts than Cla who ended up winning. We wrapped up the night by playing Stockpile - another one of my new games which I played for the first time - and this one I ended up in last place out of five players. (And by a large margin LOL.)

Steampunk Rally

I joined my second game night of the month a week later and once again, my evening consisted of a mix of new games and games I had played before. The first one I played was the expansion of Splendor which is Cities of Splendor. This one was pretty interesting because there are four expansions and we got to try two of them - the Cities and the Orient. Tobie won all three rounds we played. After that, Tobie introduced us to Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar. It was my first time playing this game which has a very beautiful board and some pretty awesome art. I actually really enjoyed this game and I would definitely like to play it again. Afterwards, we played Orleans which I had played many times before but which Tobie (and I think Tania) had not played before. The sad thing about this was that I gave an incorrect instruction that may have cost Tobie the game - eep! my bad! - but at least Tobie still enjoyed it. Mitch owns this game and lent it to me so I may just bring it again on our next game night in December. We capped off the evening playing Santorini, which Tobie also hadn't played before. Cool.


The last two games night of the month actually happened within a few days of each other. Mike had just returned from a trip to Europe that included a stop in Essen where one of the biggest game fairs was being held. He came home with Clans of Caledonia which he really wanted to play. One the first night, we started out playing a couple of rounds of Century Spice Road before moving to Clans of Caledonia. This game is actually a really good worker placement game and I ended up winning. Mike really enjoyed playing this game and so we agreed to play again a few days later.

Clans of Caledonia (photos taken by my friend Myna)

The second time I played it, the scores were a lot closer. I was assigned a different clan with a different strength so I had to take a very different approach in playing. Thankfully, it still worked since I ended up winning, but this time by only 3 points (I won by maybe 20 to 30 points the first time around).

I still have more games at home that I haven't played yet so I am looking forward to having more game nights and getting to play my new games. And trying out other games that my friends have. The popular game among my serious gaming friends right now is Terraforming Mars so hopefully I get to play that one soon.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

November hodgepodge

My high school friends and I met up at Novotel in Cubao (next to Araneta Coliseum) to celebrate Iona's birthday. I don't get to go to Cubao very often so I didn't know that there was a Novotel there. The hotel buffet spread is pretty good and I ended up overeating as I tend to do when I go to all-you-can-eat places. I also finally got to give Joyce my birthday gift to her - a Spot It! game - and she ended up playing it with Iona's kids after dinner.

I also finally got my SSS Unified Multi-purpose ID! When I applied for it about 4 months ago, I was told to expect it within 3 to 6 months. I was expecting it to arrive closer to 6 months so I am quite happy to have gotten it sooner than that.

A bit of unfortunate news. One night, I parked my car right next to a waist-high metal post - the kind they hang ropes on to cordon off an area - and I completely forgot it was there when I drove out. Since I left the parking lot very late at night, there were no other cars next to me so I just swung the car wide heading towards the exit. It was then that I heard the metal post scrape against the right side of my car. Crap. The sadder thing is that it scratched two panels. Not sure how much the paint job will cost me but at least the car repair man will earn a bit of extra money in time for Christmas. I just have to view it that way so I don't get too dismayed.

I also got to try Uberpool for the first time. I wasn't in any rush and I was having difficulty getting an UberX so I decided to try Uberpool and I managed to book a car quite quickly. Cool! I tend not to be a very sociable person while traveling - I don't particularly like talking to strangers while in transit, and yes, that includes people sitting next to me on planes - so I decided to sit in front (I was the first to get picked up). Not a bad experience apart from the fact that the guy we passed by wasn't at the pick-up point when we got there (the Uber driver had to message him to say we were there) but I did save about P100. I guess I will try Uberpool again in the future on days or nights that I am not in a rush.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Nadal is the ATP year-end #1!

This post is a month late but I can't let the month pass without congratulating Rafa Nadal for clinching the year-end #1 ranking. This is the fourth time that Rafa ends the year #1. He also achieved this feat in 2008, 2010, 2013 and now in 2017. He is the only player so far - male or female - to regain the year-end #1 ranking three times (interestingly enough, he has never been the year-end #1 on consecutive years). Way to go, Rafa!

Nadal now also holds the record for oldest year-end #1. I do have the feeling though that with the way Roger Federer has been playing, he may actually take this record from Rafa at some point early next year; Roger is just 1000 points behind Rafa right now. I still find it incredibly impressive that Rafa and Roger are at the top of the rankings again this year, and by a pretty good margin (Grigor Dimitrov is #3 but more than 4,000 points behind Roger).

Hopefully Rafa Nadal can maintain or stay close to his 2017 form. I would love for him to stay at #1 for a bit longer and win the French Open again. Whatever happens in the remainder of his career though, there really is no question that Rafa is one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Congratulations, Rafa!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Sugarbee Sansrival Chips

I discovered these Sugarbee Sansrival Chips while in Powerplant Mall one weekend. They usually have a space at the weekend Baker's Dozen at the basement of the mall during weekends and I have purchased cakes and cupcakes from them before. In fact, I was there to get a Salted Caramel cake to bring to a game night with my friends. While there, I saw these Sansrival Chips on the display and I asked the sales person what they were. Apparently they are meringue with cashews. I was offered a free taste and upon trying it, I immediately loved it. Naturally, I had to buy a big container for myself (I think it's about P280).

The problem with these sansrival chips is that they are tremendously addictive. :) Try them when you can.

Tel#: 85-0557, 502-1150
Mob#: 0905-378-4774

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Kitchen Disaster

Now that I have my kitchen stuff sorted out, I decided to try cooking more proper food. (By that I mean something that isn't instant mac and cheese. :)) Unfortunately, my first couple of attempts were miserable failures LOL.

I had a couple of supposedly simple recipes. One was for steak and the other was for mustard pork chops. The mustard pork chop recipe I had was from more than a decade ago: spread dijon mustard all over your pork chops, coat in a good amount of salt and pepper, then fry. I was actually able to make this successfully a couple of times in the past and in fact, I cooked it for other people one time when I was assigned abroad. As such, I was fully expecting to be able to pull it off again this time around. Unfortunately, I did not. My mustard pork chops ended up being too salty and the pork didn't get the depth of flavor I wanted it to get.

The steak recipe I used is from Jamie Oliver and I decided to go with the simplest version: olive oil, salt, and pepper. Unfortunately, this turned out a lot worse than the pork chops. I think it all stemmed from the fact that my steak wasn't as properly thawed as it should. As such, the outside was cooked but the inside was practically more than rare so I had to cook it much longer than expected. The steak ended up being overcooked, tough and rubbery. Yuck.

Not one to throw away any pseudo-edible food, I still ate everything I cooked. I paired both dishes with tagliatelle pasta cooked in bottled bolognese sauce. Even the first batch of pasta I prepared didn't turn out very well since some noodles were not fully cooked. Thankfully, the second batch was better. If the improvement in my second batch of pasta is any indicator, then hopefully I will learn from my horrible mistakes with the pork chops and the steak and cook them better next time. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi "Awake"

OMG I cannot wait to see this!!! Just a few weeks to go...

video uploaded in youtube by Star Wars

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Rest in Peace, Jana Novotna

This is very sad news for tennis fans who followed the sport back in the late 1980s to 1990s. Jana Novotna, the 1998 Wimbledon champion and winner of multiple Grand Slam doubles and mixed doubles titles, passed away. She sadly succumbed to cancer at the age of 49.

Jana achieved a career-high ranking of #2 and her mastery of the serve-and-volley style allowed her to remain competitive throughout her career. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2005, six years after her retirement. While most other players are remembered for their major wins, Jana gained fame from her 1993 loss in the Wimbledon final to Steffi Graf. Jana was up 4-1 in the third set and was a point away from going up 5-1 before having monumental collapse and allowing Graf to regain control of the match and rattle off the next 5 games to win the championship. Jana could not hold back her tears during the awarding ceremony and she ended up crying on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent. She lost another Wimbledon final in 1997 to Martina Hingis before she finally achieved success on her third final appearance.

I join the tennis world and her family and friends in mourning her loss. Rest in peace, Jana.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Three movies in five days

For the first time this year, I watched three movies in a single month. In fact, I watched them all in a span of just five days. I think it's because I knew Justice League was coming out in mid-November and I figured that by the time it hit the cinemas, two of three movies I really wanted to see would no longer be showing. As such, I had to make sure to catch them while they were still being screened.

Bad Genius

This is hands down my favorite movie of the year. I learned about this Thai movie through word-of-mouth. It was supposed to be this really good film so I did a bit of research and I saw that it won all sorts of international awards. I knew then that I had to see it. And now that I've seen it, I can say that it exceeded my already high expectations. Bad Genius is smart, edgy, fast-paced, and well-written. The film is inspired by real-life news of students cheating on the SAT and I first thought that it would be like the 2004 film The Perfect Score but it turned out to be much more complex and layered. Despite reading about all its awards, I didn't think I would feel as tense as I did watching it, which is even more impressive because I still felt the intensity despite having to read subtitles. You also can't help but root for the lead character Lynn, who is portrayed so incredibly well by Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying. Apart from the amazing storytelling and the great performances (I also loved the performance of Thaneth Warakulnukroh who portrayed Lynn's dad), what made this film powerful and compelling is its underlying social commentary. I was so blown away by this film that I was so tempted to applaud once the credits started rolling. :) Seriously, if you get a chance to watch it, you should.

Loving Vincent

I didn't know about this film until my friend mentioned it to me. Shortly after, I saw the trailer and I knew that I had to see it as well. Not only is Loving Vincent the first fully painted film, it is painted in the very unique and recognizable style of legendary Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh and many of the characters and scenes in the movie are inspired by his art. The film is set a year after Van Gogh's death and the story is about the lead character's search for truth regarding the artist's demise. I am a somewhat familiar with Van Gogh's art (I am fortunate to have been able to visit the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam) and the fact that he had mental problems and that he took his own life but this film provided me with more glimpses into his life and the challenges he faced due to his condition. It also provided a bit of intrigue and doubt that kept me really interested to see how the story would unfold. Loving Vincent has its own fair share of awards and I'm really happy I got to see it. Read more about this film in their official website:

Thor: Ragnarok

November hasn't all been about award-winning artistic films. I also got to see a blockbuster in Thor: Ragnarok. I think Marvel has figured out its formula of using lots of solid superhero action sequences framed by many comedic moments that don't take the superheroes too seriously and the same is true in this third installment of the Thor franchise. Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song is played in the major fight scenes, adding a tremendous amount of edge and oomph. Cate Blanchett plays Hela, the goddess of death, and she is a great addition to the film. I also love how Loki, despite being a supervillain, is able to switch quite seamlessly between good guy and bad guy while still maintaining his character's integrity (credit to Tom Hiddleston for being able to pull this off). Thor has always been one of my favorite superheroes so I love how he seems to grown into his power over the last few films. I'm in the minority in that I'm still a bit partial to the more serious superhero film styles so I think I still like the first Thor a bit more than this one but I definitely like this a lot more than the second one. I have to say though that I thought the final post-credits scene was not worth staying in the movie theater for. :)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Lunch at Marcia Adams' Restaurant

When Eugene, one of my closest friends in high school, flew from the US to Manila to join our high school reunion, Mitch and I decided to take him to Tagaytay for lunch. Mitch initially suggested Sonya's Garden but while I do like that place, I had been there a couple of times already so I suggested that we try something new. I had been interested in Marcia Adams' Restaurant for a while now so I recommended this place instead and Mitch thought it would be good for us try it. Cool!

Thankfully, Marcia Adams is on waze so it was pretty easy to find it. This restaurant doesn't have a view of Taal Lake but it does have its own charming view of hills and greenery. While I did make a reservation, when we arrived, there were a lot of available tables scattered over three general dining areas so we asked to be seated in the open area.

We all ended up ordering three courses since you can get a starter and a dessert at a pretty big discount if you ordered a main course. For my appetizer, I selected the Amalfi Prawns, which are prawns marinated in salt, pepper, olive oil, and parsley and coated in bread crumbs.

Amalfi Praws

For my main course, I had the Italian Pork Chop. I really enjoyed this dish. (My friend Mitch ordered the Beef Kebab and that was very, very good too.)

Italian Pork Chop

I was initially tempted to go a bit more traditional with my dessert choice but in the end, I decided to be a tad adventurous and try something new. As such, I got the Lavender Creme Brulee. I have to say, you can really taste the lavender in this dessert.

Lavender Creme Brulee

Marcia Adams has a really charming and cozy atmosphere and we easily spent a couple of hours enjoying the excellent food over great conversation. We also lucked out in that the weather was pretty good while we were there. After our meal, we went around the place to take pictures before heading back to Manila. Needless to say, it was a truly magical day spent with amazing friends.

Marcia Adams' Restaurant is on the expensive side, as is the case with many of the really good restaurants in Tagaytay, but it is definitely highly recommended. I am pretty sure I will visit this place again in the future.

Marcia Adams' Restaurant
J. P. Rizal Street, Alfonso, Cavite 4123
0917 801 1456

Monday, October 30, 2017

October hodgepodge

October had its fair share of sad moments. Two very good friends their dads. Both of them live in the US now so they had to fly back to Manila. I made sure to go to both wakes. Hopefully my presence there was able to provide some support and solace to my grieving friends.

October also had its fair share of firsts. It was the first time I visited Estrel's in Quezon City. Estrel's is very well-known in Metro Manila for their caramel cakes but in this case, I was actually after their leche flan. I tried it once before a few years back and I really liked it. I had been meaning to buy some for myself but I never got around to it. At least not until early this month. The place was full of people when I got there but thankfully it seemed that almost everyone was after the caramel cake since their leche flan was still available. I left the place with three - one for my family, one for my grandma, and one for me. :)

It was also the first time I got to try Tim Hortons. While walking around in the Glorietta area one weekend, I saw a Tim Horton's right next to Anson's near Shangri-La Makati. I'm a big fan of coffee and donuts so I decided to have my afternoon snack there. I realized when I was there that they serve bagels, of which I am also a fan, so I ended up having an early dinner instead. I ordered an Italiano bagel, a Chocolate Graveyard donut (their limited-edition Halloween donut which was only available in October), and coffee. I really enjoyed my food.

I also ended up getting a dozen donuts which I brought home to my family but what I realized was that the Tim Hortons donuts don't last as well as Krispy Kreme or J.Co. A few hours after my purchase, the chocolate glaze on some of them had somehow slid off. Given this, I would recommend eating chocolate glazed donuts as soon as you order them.

While this one is not a first per se, it was the first time in more than two years I think that I didn't have a single game night in the entire month. My friends actually organized a game night in mid-October but I was unavailable on the scheduled date so I had to miss it.

I managed to watch one movie this month: The LEGO Ninjago Movie. I actually enjoyed this film more than the first LEGO Movie. I found the premise to be quite interesting - the hero is actually the son of the villain, but unlike The Empire Strikes Back, in this movie, it is the son who knows about the relationship while the father doesn't. It was such a fun and entertaining film to watch. The fact that Jackie Chan was part of the cast made it even more enjoyable for me. :)

Finally, after living on my own for such a long time, it was only this month that I sorted out cooking stuff at home. I bought a 2-burner electric induction hob a long time ago but I never got around to having a kitchen cabinet built for it. That is, until last month when I finally found a contractor that could build one for me. I purchased a stainless steel cooking set - a skillet, a sauce pan, and a pot - and I matched it with a stainless steel set of knives. The first thing I cooked? Instant mac and cheese LOL. I have a couple of cookbooks at home so I now need to start learning how to cook proper meals.

Speaking of food, I also got to spend a wonderful evening with my friends Doms and Zaza in Lugang Cafe in SM Aura. I suggested this place because I hadn't eaten in Lugang Cafe in maybe 7 or 8 years and I suddenly missed that place. Apart from the good food, I also really like the ambience. I think it was the first time that Doms and Zaza got to try this place and they both enjoyed it as much as I did. We capped off the evening with coffee in Coffee Bean before calling it a night.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Lion King is coming to Manila!

To say that I am really excited about this is a massive understatement. Disney's The Lion King musical is coming to Manila and I already got tickets!

I found out in early 2017 that The Lion King would be coming to Manila next year and that tickets would be on sale by October. As it turned out, tickets would be available to the public on November 2 but there would be a pre-sale for Globe subscribers and Visa credit card holders staring October 25. Since I knew tickets would sell very quickly and I might lose a shot at getting good seats, I decided to skip lunch on October 25 and spend that time buying tickets at the nearest Ticket World. The line wasn't that long - there were only 6 people ahead of me - but each person was being served at a snail's pace. By the time I got to the front of the line, the seats I wanted were gone on all the dates that I checked. I was a bit bummed about that but I am happy that I still got decent seat. In any case, the really important thing is that I now have tickets to a show that I had been wishing would make it to Manila for a really long time now.

I got to see The Lion King back in 2001 in London West End during a trip I took to the UK and I was absolutely blown away. I am now really looking forward to seeing it again, this time with my family.

Saturday, October 28, 2017


One of my closest friends, Mike, got married to Reb this month and he asked me to be one of his groomsmen. The wedding was on a Friday so I had to get permission to take a leave without pay (I had just started and I still didn't have any days off yet). Thankfully, my boss approved my request so I immediately told Mike I could be part of his entourage. Shortly after that, he asked me if I could sing mass songs during the church ceremony. Naturally, I agreed. I initially thought that would be it as far as my role during the wedding. As it turned out, I ended up being a lot busier than I had expected, but thankfully, it all turned out great in the end.

photo of the church ceremony taken by my friend Martin

The wedding was on a Friday and I realized I had a bit of a predicament. I can't drive my car on Fridays due to the color coding scheme. While I was trying to figure things out, Mike messaged the entire entourage asking us to join him in his condo right before his wedding so that we could keep him company, help him get ready, and even have a few photos and videos taken with him. I said I would be there and I asked him if anyone else in the entourage confirmed that they would go. That way, I could hitch a ride with one of them from Mike's condo to the church and from the church to the reception. Mike said that some people confirmed but that the worst case scenario would be that I could just borrow his car and drive him to church. I think the moment Mike came up with that back-up, worst-case-scenario option, it started to appeal a lot more to him and he finally decided it would  be best if I would indeed drive his car. He even loaded the wedding drinks in his car's trunk and the plan was for the wedding coordinator to get the drinks from his car during the church ceremony and bring them to reception venue.

On the morning of the wedding, I suddenly got a call from Mike. Apparently, the person making his wedding story video omitted a couple of key details in the video. He was told that the changes and the re-rendering would take a while and that the final video would only be available at around 5pm. Mike asked me if I could sort out the download of the video since he would obviously be unable to manage it himself at that time. He suggested I drive from the church to his condo, download the video from there, then head to the reception venue. While that sounded like a plan, I decided to bring my laptop, a power bank, and a USB drive just so that I had more options.

Fast forward to shortly before the wedding. Forty-five minutes before the church ceremony and we were still in Mike's condo. The photographers wanted to take more photos but I expressed my extreme anxiety since I hadn't had any practice with the band yet and I was worried we would get caught in bad Friday traffic. We finally made our way to the church and thankfully, we got there quite quickly. I now had about 15 minutes to run through 7 songs with the musicians - obviously not enough time but at that point I had to work with what I had. Once I got my cues on when to come in on each song and after getting a few other instructions, I made my way to the back of the church to get ready for my entourage duties.

That turned out to be quite stressful as well. As the principal sponsors started making their way down the aisle, we realized that (1) there was no coordinator with us at the back to help guide us and (2) there were more bridesmaids than groomsmen. Tensions were mounting since we weren't certain what to do and I myself couldn't really stay calm since I was already worried about singing seven songs with almost no practice with the musicians. Thankfully, one of the groomsmen seemed like he had been through stuff like this in the past. He calmed people down and assigned 2 bridesmaids per groomsman. I was so on edge that I started walking at a pretty fast clip so the two ladies who were with me had to tell me to slow down. As soon as Reb made her way down the aisle, I headed over to the musicians area.

It was a few minutes after that when I had to sing the first song, See Ye First, and I immediately felt the intense difficulty of not having had any decent practice with the band. I was trying to pick up the tempo from how they were playing but apparently they had the same idea and they were trying to adjust to my timing. As such, we ended up trying to feel our way through it too much that the song ended up being so long drawn out. The second song, Take and Receive, started out that way as well, but midway through the song, one of the musicians picked up on my discomfort so he started dictating the timing and I immediately followed. After that, the musicians started controlling the tempo of the rest of the songs and we managed to make it through. Not my best performance by any stretch of the imagination but that's what you get when you don't have time to rehearse properly.

At the end of the church ceremony, I started to think that the only problem left was the video that I still had to download. However, Mike pulled me into a conversation he was having with his dad and the coordinator regarding the drinks. Apparently, the coordinator's vehicle was caught in traffic but the drinks that were in Mike's car had to be brought to the reception venue immediately. That meant that I wouldn't be able to go Mike's condo anymore to download the video. (Good thing I had the foresight to bring my laptop with me. I also felt that if I couldn't download the video from my laptop, I could just beg or even pay the venue to download the video for me.) I drove to the reception venue with the coordinator and the drinks but by the time we got there, parking was completely full. Oh no! I told the coordinator to just bring the drinks down and I then proceeded to look for a space to park. I was getting very desperate so when I saw a guard, I begged him to help me with parking options, telling him that I still had a lot to do for the wedding. He must have seen the very panicked and stressed look on my face because he very nicely held a parking slot for me, telling all other guests that the spot was reserved. Wow! I am so glad I asked that guard for help.

photo of our table at the reception taken by my friend Me-ann

It was past 6 when I settled down at the reception venue and I contacted the video guy, who said that the video was still rendering. Not good. I ask him what time he expected the video would be ready and he said it might be around 7pm. I knew that the video would be shown at 8pm so there was a bit of time. I set up my laptop and tethered it to my phone so that I would be ready to download the video as soon as the link was emailed to me. I checked my data usage and thankfully, I didn't really use a lot of data in October so I could afford to download even a huge file.

I had to explain to so many of my friends who passed by our table (which was next to the buffet spread) that I wasn't working and that my laptop was on because I was sorting some stuff out for the wedding. The link finally arrived and thankfully, it was nowhere near as large as I thought it would be so I successfully downloaded it in just a few minutes. I watched and listened to it to ensure that it would play properly and it did. I copied it into a USB drive, handed it to the coordinator, and I finally breathed a deep sigh of relief. My work for Mike and Reb's wedding was finally done! I felt a great sense of achievement and I was finally able to relax and enjoy the food and the party. After the program, I stayed on so I could catch up with many friends whom I hadn't seen in a while. It was an incredible evening and while there were moments of stress and panic, I felt pride and a huge sense of accomplishment that I was able to do everything that I needed to do. I was also very happy to have been part of the wedding of two very important people in my life.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Adem Dance Crew amazes in Asia's Got Talent 2017

Asia's Got Talent kicked off its second season last weekend and I got to see it. The highlight of the show had to have been Adem Dance Crew from Kyrgyz Republic. (I am like almost everyone who wondered what country it was that they said they were from; I was more familiar with the name Kyrgyztan.)

During the interview, when the guy with the mic said "I think you've never seen this kind of dance before," I was a bit skeptical as to how different their performance would be. When they started doing pop-and-lock moves with some lighting effects in the mic guy's hat, my skepticism started to grow.
Obviously, they were really good but from a uniqueness standpoint, I was thinking "is that it?" Well, apparently it was not. Things just took off in an unexpected and jaw-dropping direction at around the 2:25 mark. The shock value continued all the way until the end. These (I'm guessing double-jointed?) men are flexible beyond belief. Check it out here:

video uploaded in youtube by Asia's Got Talent

That Golden Buzzer from new judge Jay Park was well-deserved. (They also won the Traveloka award, meaning they all get a free trip to Europe.) I decided to check out some of their other videos on youtube and their performances are really incredible. Contortionist pop-and-lockers, what a pretty amazing combination. I am definitely looking forward to seeing more of them in Asia's Got Talent.

Adem Dance Crew

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Starbucks Chicken Pot Pie

My favorite pastry at the moment is the Chicken Pot Pie from Starbucks. I discovered it recently when I was looking for something savory to eat that wasn't too heavy. The moment I saw it in the display, I knew I had to order it.

I like this so much that the moment I got over my stomach problems, this was the first thing I ate. :)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Stomach problems again

I'm not sure if I ate something bad or I suffered from dehydration (or both) but I ended up with some pretty nasty stomach problems mid last week. I defaulted to my "stomach problem diet" of Sky Flakes, bananas, and Gatorade and Pocari Sweat. I also took a couple of Diatabs capsules. Despite all that, I was still having trouble after 3 days. What was a bit worrisome too was that I felt a very slight cramp on both my legs which kind of made me think that I was still badly dehydrated. Which was a bit strange because I was drinking about 2 to 4 liters of fluids - water, Gatorade, Pocari Sweat, and oral rehydration salts - every day. It was then that I decided to head over to the ER of Makati Med.

I ended up getting my electrolytes checked and thankfully, despite my initial concerns, my electrolytes were normal. I was prescribed medication as well as Erceflora, which is a probiotic (read: good bacteria) that helps in proper digestion. It didn't work immediately but after a few more days of sticking to my diet and taking my medication and Erceflora, I finally got better.

Aside from the misery of being sick and not being able to eat any proper food (or even enjoy coffee), another sucky thing about this was that I had to take a few days of leave without pay. (I don't have any sick leaves yet since I am still new.) I also had to do quite a bit of catching up to do when I finally returned to work. The only good thing that came out from this was that I lost some weight, something I had been needing to do for a while now. Whether or not I can keep the weight off is another matter. :)

Friday, September 29, 2017

September hodgepodge

I haven't really been able to blog a lot in the last month because I've been quite busy, both at work and outside. The highlight of the month has to be my high school reunion. It was a milestone anniversary for my batch and because of that, almost half of our entire class went to the event, with many people flying in from other countries to join in the celebration. It was an amazing party and what made it even more amazing was seeing so many people I hadn't seen in such a long time. I was telling one of my friends that while I am still quite connected to many of my high school friends through social media and I get to interact with some of them every now and then, it was still very different seeing everyone together at the same time. It really was an epic night.

It was great to revisit my alma mater

Having many high school classmates in town at the same time meant that there were several smaller reunions organized right around the main homecoming event. My third year section had dinner at Toast at The 30th Ayala Mall and many of my classmates were able to make it: Trish, Edsel, Flo, Jan, Eugene, Elaine, Mitch, and George. I also had lunch at Marcia Adams in Tagaytay with Mitch and Eugene. I will write more about my lunch in Marcia Adams in a separate post.

Marcia Adams

Kingsman: The Golden Circle was the only film I watched at the cinema this month. This was a sequel of Kingsman: The Secret Service which I absolutely loved so I naturally had to watch this second film. I have to say that I liked the first one more and I think it had a tighter story but The Golden Circle was still a lot of fun to watch.

Two of my newest board games are Scythe and Century Spice Road, both which I brought to my September game night. I had played Scythe once before and I have to say that I really like this game, even if I did end up in last place. :) If the rules were easier to explain, I would probably get more of my friends to play it.


Century Spice Road is also pretty interesting. This one has easier rules than Scythe (it's been compared to Splendor but I don't think they are all that similar in terms of their game play) so I am sure I will play this with my more casual gaming friends.

Century Spice Road

I also brought my family to Niu by Vikings to celebrate my nephew's birthday. My nephews are in their teens and they can both eat quite a lot so I thought a buffet would be a perfect choice. It turned out to be a night of some massive feasting, with everyone heading back to the buffet spread for seconds and thirds (and even fourths). Niu is more expensive than a regular Vikings though so maybe for the next birthday celebration, we will go to a regular Vikings. (I think the difference is mainly that Niu has a few more luxury items and it also has wine but none of us had any wine so we ended up not really optimizing our dining options.)