ROSELLE JAM

The other day my mother brought home a plastic bag of roselle seedpods.  Roselle is a variety of hibiscus plant that grows in shrubs. It is characterized by the fleshy sepals surrounding its seedpods, which are candied or made into tea or juice. These roselle seedpods came from plants growing along University Avenue at the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, Quezon City.  They were given to my mother by the gardener of the Campus Maintenance Office.

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The sepals are removed from the seedpods. To make jam, combine a cup of sugar for every cup of sepals (1:1) and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes. The jam is a beautiful magenta-purple, and tastes tart and sweet, similar to dried cranberries.

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Our 4 cups of sepals and 4 cups of sugar produced about six 200g jars’ worth of roselle jam.

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You can also make iced tea from the sepals of the roselle. Roselle products are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. Roselle leaves are also used as a souring agent in sinigang.

My sister wants to try and make a homemade ink from it, but needs more research.

 

 

 

 

TEA FOR ME

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I love tea, in particular, loose leaf tea. Several years ago, my parents came back from a trip to China with two tall canisters of tea. One was called Oriental Beauty, the other was Dragon Ball. Let me tell you, I was the only one to drink those teas regularly. The rest of my family were not tea drinkers. Oriental Beauty had a rich, delicate flavor, while Dragon Ball was stronger and had more caffeine. Oriental Beauty turned out to be an Oolong tea. Dragon Ball tea leaves were actually rolled into balls.

One day I came to the end of those canisters and looked around for replacement loose leaf teas. A friend from Melbourne gave me two teas from the tea boutique T2, Creme Brulee and Chocolate. They make great dessert teas.

In my search for more loose leaf tea I went to Chinatown in Binondo, Manila, and found at Bee Tin Grocery a pack of Ti Kuan Yin tea.  When brewed too long, it can keep you up awake at night! I also found Waitrose’s Darjeeling loose leaf tea in Rustan’s supermarket. My latest purchase was a kilo of George Steuarts Ceylon black tea (yes, a kilo, and I am steadily drinking it up on a daily basis).  I found it at a Christmas weekend market stall at a mall I go to. I use it to make my own milk tea at home instead of going out to buy it from a retailer.

I think it’s great that there are now more tea salons in Manila, like TWG Tea and da.u.de tea . There are, of course, bubble tea establishments galore, but I mean places where you can actually buy the tea leaves. Of course when this all runs out I don’t mind tea bags, but I’ll keep looking for the loose leaf.

CALLIGRAPHY MEET

I joined a calligraphy group on Facebook called Calligraphy Spot about a year ago. I joined because I liked looking at other people’s calligraphy, not that I wanted to make my own. I know, it’s weird. My focus is on using fountain pens for regular writing, rather than using dip pens for decorative work. But I managed to convince my sister to join the same group.  She even attended a calligraphy workshop and bought all the starter materials – Zebra G nibs, straight holder, oblique holder, Desiderata Daedalus pen, calligraphy pads, walnut ink, you name it.  I feel a little embarrassed that I’m not as determined as her to make art. She’s progressed so much in pointed pen calligraphy in a couple of months since she started.  I still print in my journals, and wonder whether my cursive handwriting will ever improve.

There was a small calligraphy meet scheduled the other day, at a little crepe restaurant in the mall near our house. It was supposed to be a pencil calligraphy and watercolor art meet.  Normally people bring their materials with them, order a snack, and share tips about what materials work best with what style, about techniques, things like that. My sister was there ahead of me, brandishing her Desiderata pen. I already knew some of the people there, they were also members of Fountain Pen Network-Philippines, which I help moderate. My sister explained to them that I just liked looking at other people’s calligraphy, but they said I was welcome anyway, hahaha.

The conversation veered from what fountain pen inks were archival (I participated in that discussion) to pencils being archival, to what pencils were locally available that could work best in calligraphy (Staedtler 6B, Caran d’Ache 9B, Palomino Blackwing, etc.), to special mechanical erasers, to Desiderata Daedalus pens being used as eyedroppers vs. with converters, to regular Zebra G nibs vs. the titanium version, to what locally available papers were worth investing in (Elias calligraphy pads and loose paper by the ream, Craftdoodle calligraphy pads, etc.).  It was all fun and fascinating. I should have brought my fountain pens (even though they don’t flex) and paper and doodled around just for fun.  There were a few one-on-one sessions for pencil calligraphy and how to use a Desiderata pen. The watercolorists were doing florals.

We had to leave before dinner, but we dropped by National Bookstore to buy specialty pencils. I had fun, and met new friends, and bonded with my sister.  I’m game to go to another meet in the future.

#DONTTAXMYBEAUTY

Yesterday I went to the mall and bought some drugstore makeup that was on sale.  The matte lipstick, micellar water, and foundation were very affordable; I only paid about PhP800, or USD16. Now imagine the prices of cosmetics and beauty services increased by anywhere from 10 to 30% in taxes!

There is a proposed bill with an amendment on excise taxes being charged on non-essential goods (like jewelry, perfumes, and other luxury items), by Ako Bicol Partylist Representative Rodel Batocabe. In her blog, Liz Lanuzo of Project Vanity quotes him as stating, “…Any increase of price for beauty and cosmetic products and services shall only be shouldered by those who choose to and can afford it,” and “…Raising the 20 percent excise tax on perfume and toilet waters to 30 percent would be preferable than any rise on our fuel prices.”

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian says the proposed vanity tax is “discriminatory to women”, and “not a viable alternative to excise taxes on fuel”. He is thinking of the welfare of working-class women, like sales ladies and office workers, for whom increased cosmetics prices would be burdensome.

Meanwhile the Department of Finance says that a vanity tax is not part of proposed tax reform packages being pitched to Congress.

The hashtag #DontTaxMyBeauty took off on social media. Here’s what people have to say.  I hope Batocabe’s bill will not be passed.

UPDATE: Batocabe withdrew his bill!  All the protest and uproar worked!

TEMPTATION

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Nakaya Neo-standard in Unpolished Shu, from Nibs.com.

Today I found out that one of my friends is selling her Nakaya neo-standard in unpolished shu, with a rhodium-plated soft medium nib for just under USD500. Unpolished shu is a warm red, a very attractive color. And the nib is the size I’m interested in. It’s USD700 at Classic Fountain Pens (Nibs.com), brand new. What bothers me is that it’s still twice the price I’ve paid for my most expensive pen so far.  Nakaya pens are usually what a lot of people think of as grail pens. Sure, I can rustle up the money, but I don’t think it’s prudent to be spending so much.

There’s also a Montblanc 146 being sold with an EF bicolor nib, for a bit over USD300. It’s a good price, but I already have a 146 with a cursive italic M nib, which I got for lower, and on lay-away, too.

I remember the time I saw a Pelikan M800 brown tortoise being sold for a good price, but wasn’t fast enough to buy it. For a while I felt bad, but then again I already had a green-striped M800 that I was already enjoying.  I guess it was the thrill of the hunt that got to me.

For a year and a half I haven’t bought any new pens, thinking I’ve achieved a kind of inner peace. The two pens I mentioned above have almost seriously derailed that inner peace. Sometimes I think I have too many pens already. I really should enjoy what I already have, until a more reasonably-priced new pen comes along.

 

SHOPPING MY STASH

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Yesterday I was cleaning my desk, and I found a Sheaffer Skripsert, a vintage cartridge fountain pen from the late 1950s. It was a gift to me, from a friend in the US. I looked around some more, and found my three Sheaffer No-Nonsense pens in a previously mislaid pen wrap – translucent purple, translucent grey, and red. The first two were from the 1990s, while the red was from the 1970s. Since they were discontinued about twenty years ago, I guess you could call them vintage. The purple one, in fact, was the first pen I ever bought with my first salary. I hadn’t seen them in over a year – I guess it was time to use them again.

I hadn’t bought a pen in a long time, because I (think I already) had all the significant pens in my usual price range, and couldn’t find any new ones that fascinated me. But seeing my old pens after a long time got me all thrilled all over again – I guess this is what’s called “shopping your stash”.

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The No-Nonsenses still had their original squeeze converters, but I was thinking I would buy modern Sheaffer twist converters in case the rubber in the squeeze converters eventually failed. I asked a friend how much the converter was at National Bookstore, and was astounded that it cost Php500, or roughly USD10. In contrast, a Faber-Castell (standard international) converter from Everything Calligraphy costs only Php120, or USD2.40. Another friend told me I could try fitting a standard international converter in the pens. Alas, while the nipple fit the diameter of the converter opening, the entire converter was too long for the barrel of the No-Nonsense. The modern Sheaffer twist converter from my Prelude fit it perfectly.

The No-Nonsenses have some of the best steel nibs I have ever experienced. I told myself this is the year I’m going to let these humble pens shine.

Daily Prompt: Shine

COLLECTING FOUNTAIN PENS

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Writing with fountain pens is a joy – the pen writes on its own weight, there’s no need for me to press down hard on the paper, and I can use any color ink I want. I have about eight pens inked in different colors at any given time, and use a different color each day when I write in my journal.

I have been collecting (or should I say, accumulating) fountain pens since 2008, but have been using them since 1986. I have about 35 pens of various ages, makes and prices. I don’t really have a focus, I just buy pens based on features that I like (eg.piston-filler or converter, German fine or Japanese medium nib, favorite brand, others). There was a time I was actively buying on eBay, even while worrying whether my pens would safely arrive in the post. Several brick-and-mortar and online stores for fine writing instruments have since opened in my country, which made shopping a lot easier. I joined online fora and Facebook groups catering to my hobby (I even moderate one), where everyone enabled everyone else on their purchases. For some people, the retail therapy can be addicting (“I must have ALL the colors of the Lamy Safari!”). Fortunately, that isn’t the case with me.

I stopped buying on eBay, because the retail stores that opened locally allowed me to handle pens I was curious about. I also didn’t relish the idea of customs fees being charged “creatively” at the post office for purchases made online (after having heard all the horror stories). I stopped buying the cheap and cheerful pens, opting to upgrade to better-made, higher-quality ones. I even sold off a lot of vintage pens, just to be rid of the maintenance required.

I still haven’t broken the USD 250 ceiling. To me, any pen beyond that point may have more expensive materials and be more decorative, but may not guarantee a better writing performance. I’d also be worried about using such an expensive pen outside of the house, where it may be lost or stolen. Still, that hasn’t stopped me from admiring my grail pen, a Pelikan M910 Toledo. I get to handle it whenever some friends of mine and I have a pen meet. I admire it, but I don’t feel bad that I don’t own it and can’t afford it.

The last pen I bought was an Edison Pearl in Cumberland ebonite, with a 1.1mm stub, the 7th anniversary pen of Fountain Pen Network-Philippines. That was in 2015. I haven’t bought anything since then. Apart from a self-imposed moratorium on spending (2016 was the year of expensive dental work), I couldn’t find any pens in the USD 100 to 250 range that I didn’t already have, that I wanted. I finally achieved (as we liked to joke in FPN-P) “inner peace”. It’s 2017, and so far I haven’t been tempted by any new pen, except perhaps for the Faber-Castell Ambition in coconut wood.

I’m not in any rush to get a new pen, so far I have been enjoying the ones that I have.

Daily Prompt: Tempted