December to February is my favorite time of the year. It’s cooler and when amihan (cool northeast wind) blows, life in the suburb feels idyllic. And because the garden is no longer a mess of weeds and overgrowths, we’ve been spending more time outdoors.
When you pause and sit, and just feel everything that surrounds you, you take notice of things that won’t normally command a second glance. On Christmas Day, for instance, after the table had been cleared of soiled plates, bowls, glasses, forks, knives and spoons, we stayed in the garden, sipped our coffee and chatted. We planned menus and we talked about what garden furniture we’d get.
We’ve always had outdoor dining furniture even in the old house—a large round wood table with matching director’s chairs. We brought the entire set when we moved here and arranged it in the gazebo. But when we were constructing an outdoor kitchen a few years ago, it rained one day and Speedy panicked by placing sacks and sacks of cement on the table to get them out of the rain. The table broke in half and we’ve been using Monobloc tables since. Time to replace them. I want a new, decent and sturdy outdoor dining table that doesn’t shake like we got hit by an earthquake when the dog bumps on its legs. Speedy thought we should have lounging chairs too—an idea that Sam echoed. I’m not against it but I still want a dining table and chairs.
When the coffee was gone, we stood up and started to trickle indoors. We were going to my in-laws’ for dinner and we needed to start getting ready. Sam was about to step inside the house when she spotted something unusual in the Japanese bamboo shrub planted beside the door.
Sam called them “some kind of cricket”; they looked like baby grasshoppers to me. Why their mother decided to lay her eggs amongst the leaves of the Japanese bamboo, I have no idea. If it has any significance, the cats and the dog rarely pass by that plant without pulling off a few leaves and chewing on them. Apparently, the attraction is not limited to mammals—even a mother grasshopper thought the Japanese bamboo was special enough to cradle her eggs and shelter her babies until they were strong enough to fly and find food on their own. It didn’t take long. Today, two days later, the baby grasshoppers had moved elsewhere.
We had lunch in the garden again today. We were able to buy an outdoor dining table yesterday for far less than the allotted budget. We thought that yesterday, December 26th, was the best time to avoid crowds so we made the leisurely drive down to the city to go to S&R. The city streets were uncongested, sure, but S&R was so crowded that the four of us kept losing sight of one another. The airconditioning could no longer cool the area sufficiently, the heat combined with the throng was dizzying, but I wanted a new outdoor dining table and I wasn’t going home without one. Speedy and I pulled a few off the shelves and stood them on their feet to see the exact dimensions. We chose a rectangular six-seater that folds in half for easy storage.
So, we used the new table when we had lunch in the garden today. Sam made salad. She tossed and tossed and tossed… while we waited. I was getting impatient so she dropped a few leaves, a few pieces of fruit, a tiny mushroom, a slice of olive and onion, and a sliver of crabstick on my plate. She was very careful to make every component visible.
“What the heck,” I said.
“That’s fine dining,” Sam replied.
Fine dining, my foot. Someone said, “Take a photo!” I wasn’t planning on taking photos of our lunch but the “fine dining” label that Sam used to describe the two tablespoonfuls of carefully arranged leaves, fruits and whatnots on my plate was so hysterical that I took out the camera and the tripod. Yes, we sneer at fine dining like that sometimes. After Sam had her laugh, she filled everyone’s plate with the salad she made.
Lunch ended with coffee, dessert (homemade napoleones which I still have to perfect so there’s no recipe to share at this point) and a discussion of the girls’ business ventures for 2017.
Since the camera and tripod were already in the garden, I decided to take a few photos of the mangoes in the tree.
We’ve been living in this house for eight and a half years, but we rarely enjoyed mangoes from our tree. The clusters were often too high to reach and, most times, the mangoes just fell down on the ground—badly bruised, if ripe; broken in half, if unripe. We’ve been so frustrated that, at one point, we considered building a second floor terrace around the tree just so we can pick the fruits with out hands without putting up a ladder or using a fruit picker with a twenty-foot pole.
Well, we already ditched the terrace plan. Speedy is planning on making a fruit picker with a twenty-foot pole.
Meanwhile, we dream about New Year’s Eve which we’ve considered more fun than Christmas Eve after the girls had grown up. We’re going to roast a whole duck again and grill some seafood. There will be an array of salads and side dishes. And since we haven’t used the fondue in a long time, I’m now thinking that we can have a fruit-and-chocolate fondue for dessert on New Year’s Eve.