Tough Love

There are times when the one you love just tries your patience.

After teasing us with brief spring-like conditions this weekend, another round of Polar Vortex fun is threatening to come our way yet again. Dear old New York has been pummeling us with snowstorms since the year began, and it's getting harder and harder to keep the love going in the face of such abuse. Walking to work in blizzard-like conditions, stepping into ankle-deep slush puddles cleverly disguised as concrete, and playing slip and slide on the sidewalk week after week after week ... it's enough to wear down even the most ardent New York lover. So in my version of couples therapy, I've put together this mini photographic essay to remind us battered lovers of how New York can still make our hearts skip a beat, even as it literally knocks us off our feet.

Yup, New York can still dazzle even when she's being a frigid b*atch. It's been rough but I'm clinging on to the thought that one sweet day we'll wake up, not to snow-covered tree tops, but beautiful spring blooms. For now, we'll put up with the cariño brutal, New York. We know you'll make it up to us.

Let's Sail Away to Annapolis

While New York continues to pummel us with snowballs, I'm digging up untold tales from warmer, sunnier days of summer 2013. For my last trip for the season, some friends and I piled into a car and drove down to picturesque Annapolis, Maryland.

Annapolis is a charming seaport city, with its lovely 18th century buildings and sailboat-ringed marinas, plus scores of strapping young men and women in uniform milling about from the Naval Academy.
Annapolis has been called the Sailing Capital of the US and if you're not one to get seasick, I highly recommend getting your sail on. We took a 2-hour sailing tour on Woodwind II, which took us on a lovely little journey through Cheasapeake Bay, with views of the Naval Academy, some gorgeous waterfront homes, lighthouses, and even a view of a regatta. When they ask for volunteers to hoist the sails, raise your hand stat! It's quite an experience.
If you'd rather relax shoreside, there are plenty of opportunities to do so, too. Put your name down for a table at the popular Cantler's Riverside Inn and if the wait is long, do a little bit of exploration down by Mill Creek.
Don't get too comfortable down there though because the dock is actually out of reach for their handy buzzer system. You do not want to miss your turn because some delicious things await inside! We gorged ourselves on trays full of Maryland crabs, which alone were well-worth the 3-hour drive from New York.

For dessert, head back into the city center, where all-American treats like caramel apples, caramel popcorn, fudge, and ice cream are plentiful.

Before you leave, pay your respects at the World War II memorial. It is solemn and serene, and offers a beautiful view of the Severn River Bridge and the US Naval Academy.

Amsterdam on my mind ...

Last summer, I spent a few days in Amsterdam and was absolutely smitten. Against the backdrop of cerulean skies, the canals lined with colorful boat houses and elegant merchant homes dating as far back as the seventeenth century were just charming beyond belief.

Summer on the canals is quite fun to observe. You can catch folks hopping off boats and into canal-side cafes for an espresso. You might even see a canal packed til bursting with boats for a summer concert.

I sampled the ubiquitous bitterballen, which is basically a deep-fried, battered meatball, eaten with a dash of mustard—is there anything about that not to love? Next time, I'll have to try it with a glass of Heineken. But strangely enough, what Amsterdam has got me jonesing for is Indonesian food, which is widely available here—while for some reason being off-the-radar in both New York and my native Manila!
My darling Dutch guide also took me to the quaint village of Lage Vuursche, just about a 40-minute drive from Amsterdam. It's off the beaten path of international tourists and is just quintessentially Dutch. Nestled within a verdant forest, this hamlet is the location of Princess Beatrix's residence, Drakesteijn, as well as a number of picturesque little Dutch pancake houses. It was here that I got my first taste of Dutch pancakes: just a wee bit thicker than a crepe; loaded with apples, bacon or whatever your heart desires; and simply a big and decadent treat.
On my next visit to the Netherlands, the weather will be colder and more gray, but I don't mind. Winter may have its own charms ... stroopwafel, coffee and cuddles by the Amstel await!

6 Points for Seattle

As little as I know about football, I am, by default, rooting for the Seattle Seahawks on this Superbowl Sunday. It is a testament to the Seattle metro area's charms that my family chose this place to be their home, even though we didn't have any roots in Washington State. While I will perhaps always be a Washington State tourist, I have grown to love the place my family now calls home.

For those who are curious but have yet to fall under's Seattle's many charms, here are the 6 things I love about Seahawk city.

1. Pike Place Market and its riot of colors and flavors
From the salmon-throwing fishmongers to the vividly colored fresh produce, Pike Place Market is a visual and gustatory treat. Tourists flock to the original Starbucks and that monument to icky-ness, the gum wall, but my must visit spot is Piroshky Piroshky! Those freshly baked, delectable Russian pastries, which come savory or sweet, are an absolutely decadent delight. Just have a few post-piroshky doughnut peaches and the guilt goes away, I promise.
At the height of summer, the flower selection is breathtaking and surprisingly fairly priced. Don't these gorgeous colors just make you desperate for warm weather?

2. Salumi
There aren't many people who will line up at 10am in rain and freezing temperatures for a sandwich and an admittedly too-early glass of red wine, but thankfully there's two such people in my family. My sister and I have done the early weekday trek to Salumi a few times now to enjoy their fine selection of cured meats, and it was worth waking up for every time. Salumi is run by the parents of this guy you might've heard of: Mario Batali. It's a Seattle institution and worth a visit if you're ever in town.

3. Mother Nature's finest, right in your backyard
You don't have to go too far outside of the city to see some of Washington State's natural delights. It takes just a short drive from Seattle to see stunning Snowqualmie Falls in all its glory. But what I'm most envious of is that not too far from my family's neighborhood in Mukilteo, there are some gorgeous trails for running. That they can enjoy that crisp fresh air and unspoilt scenery while getting a few miles in is a true pleasure I would love to have in my own backyard.

4. The exploding Asian food scene
You would think that New York would have an edge on this but every time I come to visit, the Seattle metropolitan area just seems to come up with more and more yumminess that we in the East Coast have to live without. They've got personal Japanese hot pot at Boiling Point, the famous xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung, and a mall with a massive Filipino supermarket plus Jollibee, Chow King and Tokyo Tokyo. Your move, New York. 

5. The booze flows freely
Thanks to my oenophile cousins, I have had the pleasure of getting to know the fruits of the Washington State wine trail quite well. No visit of mine is complete without a day of wine tasting, and every family gathering is always blessed with a fine selection of Washington wine. The Malbecs, Cab Francs and dessert wines of Kestrell, Patterson Cellars and Efeste are our family favorites.

Plumbing the depths of the state's craft beer selection so far also seems to be an impossible task. No matter how many microbreweries my sister has taken me to since I came to be of drinking age, there always seems to be more to discover. That, my friends, is always a good thing. 

6. There are so many people to love ... and Washington State lets you love them freely
Of course, I love this place because it is filled with the people whom I love. Nowhere else do I feel, and dish out, as much unconditional love as I do here. 

But what makes Washington State extra special in my book are its progressive laws and views. Last year, we cried bucketloads of joyful tears as my sister finally got to tie the knot with her best friend and partner of 13 years.
For this alone, I will always be greatful to Seahawks city.

Wishing you the best of luck today, Washingtoneans! Go Hawks!