Announcing my first design available via my first stockist starting this Friday, June 24th at noon on the Vinta Gallery online shop! I'm very exited to roll this out. These illustrations were inspired by my little Rumi, of course. I worked on an illustration recently for a client and it inspired me to draw some more. I've always liked clean line art illustrations. I wanted to see my baby wear my own creations and got excited about silk screening them onto clothes. I shared my ideas with a few friends and they encouraged me to go for it. Why not? I also like the idea that these onesies can be worn by any gender baby. There's not enough cool baby wear out there in my view. I am full of ideas and I look forward to sharing them in the next few months. Follow me on @rayagoods on Instagram to see the latest.
I'm excited to introduce something I've been working on for the past little while: Raya Goods - a new product line featuring my own illustrations printed on baby onesies, bags, t-shirts, etc. RAYA (pronounced rah-yah) in Tagalog and Spanish means a drawn or printed line or stripe. In Sanskrit Raya means flow of a river, zeal, ardour, quickness, force or velocity. Raya also means king, prince. My little Rumi is the inspiration behind all of this, of course. I can't wait to share them with you in the next few weeks! Please follow @rayagoods on Instagram to check them out.
Babyhood is SO short. I am reminded all the time. People feel compelled to remind me, too. Like, constantly. I believe every parent comes to this realization pretty quickly and all on their own anyway. What might be easy to forget (especially if you're not really into kids - not everyone has to want/like kids) is that who they become once they are done being these cute, little creatures is... FAMILY. I look forward to those next stages with excitement and humility. I couldn't imagine a baby for many years. I hesitated to want to tackle parenthood on my own (side note: bravo to single parents!). But when Rudy and I got together, I thought: it would be nice to have family around. It's the reason we women put our bodies through the trauma of pregnancy and birth. Both physically, mentally and emotionally. But I'm humbled and grateful to have had the chance. Changes are happening fast with Rumi. Daily. I'm in awe. I'm focused on every amazing moment of his babyhood.
My little angel passed away this weekend. She was ripped away from us by sudden heart failure. My heart has never been so broken. She's recovered from other health issues (like hip/back problems) before and although she was diagnosed with a mild heart murmur early on, it had never bothered her before. She had a tumour in her mouth surgically removed last month but recovered quite well from that. She was back to her old self immediately after. She seemed really happy to have the tumour gone.
I want to honour and celebrate her life today. Lexie was my sidekick and travel companion for the past ten years. I was living in Brooklyn when I adopted her. She's been with me through thick and thin. Her Toronto home was quieter than Brooklyn and she really loved it here.
Lexie started her life in rural Arkansas. I adopted her from a breeder there who was using her to breed puppies. She wasn't even two years old and she had just had her second litter of pups. The breeder was giving her up because, apparently, she had trouble with labour. I don't know much about dog breeding but I thought she was too young to be bred. I also suspect she was neglected and bullied by other dogs. I like to think I rescued her from a less happy life. I fell in love with her the moment I saw her. I still believe she is the prettiest little dachshund I have ever seen.
One humbling lesson I learned not long after I adopted her was while on my commute home from work in NYC. She rode the train to and from work with me every day. An animal behaviourist struck up a conversation with me when she spotted me carrying Lexie in a bag. Having seen ‘The Dog Whisperer’ on television, I thought to ask her if she had a tip for how I could train Lexie to be less nervous on the subway and/or of loud noises. What she told me almost left me in tears. She said that there is no trick. I just had to learn how to love and accept Lexie for who she was. I instantly felt so guilty for thinking that she needed fixing. Learning this actually made me want to love and protect her all the more.
Lexie stayed exactly the same her whole life. I kept her nervousness in mind and did my best to work around it. She was a shy, delicate and sweet creature. But she was wise, serene and polite. She made up her own mind about who she loved and how much attention she wanted. She was occasionally aloof - which I must say, I respected. She didn't like everyone indiscriminately nor needed everyone to like her. She loved with conviction. I was lucky enough to be on the receiving end of that love. She and my husband adored one another. She was loyal and gently protective of us. When I brought our baby home three and a half months ago, she squealed with joy, wagging her tail, running in circles and kissed our baby's face. I was moved to tears. She had seen my life journey and welcomed big changes with so much love. Her joyful greetings and kisses whenever we came home never got old. What I will miss the most are her long, soulful stares. Those eyes told me a lot. I understood her.
I am filled with so much sadness. I still expect to see her little body coming around the corner in our apartment. I still expect to feel her stand on her hind legs to ask me to lift her up. She didn't care for toys but LOVED food more than anything. My husband (a chef) would add his special touch to her dog food and fed her the best meals. We both miss spoiling her. She was such a good girl. She gave me life. I hope she's watching over our little family now, that she's somehow still around us.
Wherever you are, Lexie, I wish you peace. I hope I gave you the happiest life. I will miss you forever and ever.
So much love,
Lexie's life was well documented. In many ways, I celebrated her life in photographs. I've put these images together (in rough chronological order). This is mostly for me and my husband, but feel free to take a look. :)
I'm very excited to share a new venture with my husband, Chef Rudy Boquila. It's called: KALSADA Filipino Street Food. Toronto can look forward to Rudy's thoughtful and tasty twists on the Filipino food he grew up with and loves dearly. Many have regarded his food to be full of heart and soul. I absolutely agree! The word kalsada in Tagalog means street (calzada in Spanish). There's so much in Filipino street food for Rudy to explore creatively. He can't wait!
We're starting to plan some fun dining events around Toronto (and beyond). My sister Caroline and I are playing supporting roles. Although this is a new area for me, professionally, in many ways it makes a lot of sense. Graphic design will be a mainstay in my life – as well as the other major soon-to-be role – MOMMY! But I'm also really looking forward to this new venture with my talented husband. We will revealing more in the coming months. So please follow along to see it unfold!
“We're having a baby!”
I never imagined I’d ever be making this announcement. Yet, there it is. It's very surreal, terrifying and exciting all at once. If you know me well or have read my blog before, you’re familiar with my thoughts on marriage and love. My thoughts on children are similar. I spent my late twenties and thirties navigating the occasionally fun but often brutal dating scene in New York. Dating in Toronto wasn’t much better. The whole experience made it difficult to imagine children. I just didn’t see any potential partners I could truly share that experience with. My devout urbanite self wondered if I was even cut out for parenthood. New York was a grind. Would I dare have one on my own? I was in the toughest (and the most expensive) city to attempt single parenthood. How could I even afford childcare on my own? As I reached my late thirties, I found it more difficult to even imagine. Unlike my parent's generation and traditionalists, I saw parenthood very clearly as a choice and NOT an obligation. I still feel this way now. It's time to look at the big picture and evolve just a little. The self-righteous, sexist traditionalists need to get over it. Children aren’t for everyone and it's TOTALLY FINE.
“There are no have-to’s, just choices”
― Eleanor Roosevelt
That being said, Rudy coming into my life made me look at everything through a whole new and different lens. My life really changed. A child suddenly became easier to imagine and something that I genuinely wanted. Canada somehow feels like a kinder place to have children. Watching my little nephew grow has been an incredible, moving experience as well. Rudy felt exactly the same way. He hadn't imagined a child of his own before we met either. He and I talked about it over many months. Aware of the potential obstacles (like our age, possible health concerns, etc.), we made the choice to try. NOT because we felt obligated to fulfill some kind of duty, convention or societal pressures. But because we simply wanted to experience a little family unit of our own. When we got married, we both agreed that if a child truly wasn’t meant to be, we'd be just fine too. We looked to experts in February of this year for a professional assessment to confirm what, if any, problems there may be. Fast forward to today and I’m 17 weeks pregnant! So far, everything looks very well and we’re full of hope and excitement. Having this baby will be THE biggest project either of us will undertake. I'm so fortunate to have a partner who is as generous, patient and kind as Rudy. He's going to be the sweetest father! Neither of us ever really thought we’d be in this position. But we're so looking forward to it. ALL of it!
Please send positive thoughts our way for a healthy and safe pregnancy (and delivery). :)
I'm very excited about my new limited edition letterpress recipe holiday cards BEAUTIFULLY printed by Graven Feather here in Toronto. They feature recipes by my husband, Chef Rudy Boquila. You can now purchase (single cards or packs of 6) online on Etsy or Gravenfeather.ca.
They are also available at the following Toronto stockists:
As part of this year's much anticipated 9th annual Kultura Filipino Arts Festival is this fantastic food fest called ‘Get Nostalgic’ featuring two of Toronto's most celebrated chefs: Chef Rudy Boquila (Lamesa Filipino Kitchen) and Chef Basilio Pesce (Porzia). It will feature innovative menus (via stations) with childhood and family nostalgia-inspired dishes, an open bar, art created by Kapisanan's flagship arts mentorship and cultural immersion programs AND live music (featuring 1960s Filipino pop music classics) . All proceeds benefit Kapisanan Filipino Centre for Arts & Culture's (where my sis Caroline is Executive Director) youth arts programs. This event will be held at the beautiful Twist Gallery on Thursday, August 7th at 6pm. Great food, great cause and a fun party. I cannot wait! Get tickets and info about this and all the Kultura 2014 events at kultura.ca before it sells out! You don't want to miss this, Toronto.
A little secret about Chef Rudy's menu for this event (and those with familiarity with Filipino food) there will be SQUID INK PALABOK. I cannot wait!
note: kultura.ca mobile site will be available by this weekend!
Amrita Singh, founder and editor of Pretty Frugal Living, resident Frugalista on CBC's Steven and Chris and CTV's Canada AM today. The segment features Frugal Hostess Gifts for Garden Parties, I designed some cute downloadable gift tags for gift makers/givers to print at home for the fab hostess gifts featured in Amrita’s tv appearance. Watch the segment here.
Click HERE to download a printable pdf of these gift tags for Pretty Frugal Living.
1) Download pdf file (click the link above)
2) Print out pdf on your colour printer
3) Cut out gift tags and attach or hang on jars
A big change descended upon my life recently. I fell in love. I got engaged. Although I've never really felt compelled to write publicly about my personal life, I've had things on my mind that need to be expressed. Here it goes.
Being loved by Rudy sometimes makes my heart want to burst – in the best way possible. It was a big, wonderful surprise for us both. We redefined what dating meant to each other. Being a free agent (for the most part) all these years has been ... entertaining. Needless to say, I’ve had a full life. It’s been quite an adventure. I found someone great who was busy having his own multifaceted, interesting journey. And for many reasons, joining forces just made complete sense. What finding love didn’t do is suddenly validate me nor made me more ‘whole.’ I find the notion that women are these sad, incomplete beings without a partner terribly insulting. But let's face it, society hasn’t evolved all that much. But we don't need partners to have children or survive anymore. It's 2014! I also didn't cross some imaginary finish line by getting engaged. It isn’t some kind of noble achievement. The way I see it is stars just aligned, love found me. I think it is FANTASTIC. It is worth celebrating. But I'm not suddenly more dignified because of it. Anything that alludes to this just gets under my skin.
When I told my mom that Rudy expressed that he wishes we met in our twenties instead of now, her immediate reaction was “Oh, but you’re both SO much more interesting now!” I thought: Wow, SHE’S RIGHT! I love her for that. I love my parents for never, ever making me feel like being single made me somehow feckless or lacking. They didn't try to dictate how my story should unfold. My story was my own.
I have always been an idealist. I’m not what most would consider a traditionalist. At 18, I didn’t want the (obligatory) big debutant ball – or a ‘debut’ as Filipinos call it. I traveled instead. I was never going to be someone who settled. I found it difficult to imagine having a child before I was with Rudy. In my world, there are no requirements – only choices. Being a free agent makes you self-sufficient and resilient. Of course, I wanted love. Along the way, there was trial and error. There was fear. There were a few near disasters. Dating in New York was occasionally fun. But It often felt like I was on a bad reality dating show. The idea of ‘settling’ terrified me more than flying solo. I’ve been accused of being too picky, too independent (seriously?) and just ‘too much.’ Eventually, I realized that people were simply projecting their own inadequacies and/or religious righteousness on me.
I knew I wanted and deserved more. I wanted the kind of love that took my breath away. Unfettered by artificial societal pressure. Something that would let my whole being shine, exactly as I am. And it would be undeniable. That is Rudy for me. He inherently understood all this. His choices aren’t shaped by convention. He is vastly different from anyone I've had the experience of knowing. It's a grown up relationship. We're not a couple of 20-somethings still in the midst of angst-filled self-discovery. We’ve lived some. We also just have this joy together. And maybe I needed to leave New York to be ready for it. I’m glad no one else got it exactly right until this precise moment. To me, this was the best kind of surprise there is. <3
“To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides.” - David Viscott
I held out for the real thing. It happened at precisely the right moment for us both. Rudy completely changed the game for me in the love department. It was as unexpected as it is wonderful. I've never felt so loved and at peace.
2013 was good to me. Lessons. Gifts. Love.
Looking forward to 2014. Happy New Year all!
When Rudy Boquila isn't busy being a chef, he makes music with his band, DATU. On Wed, Dec 4th, special guest Scratch – from The Roots (yes!) is performing live with DATU at ProjectLiftPH #Haiyan #YolandaPH fundraiser event!
Here's DATU performing this year at The Canadian Philippine Fashion Week
There will be great food from: Lamesa Filipino Kitchen, Porzia, Sukho Thai among others.
For more info on the full line-up of amazing performers and participants on Facebook.
Get your tickets here now:
Please share and support :)
Toronto: Come dine (very well) for a good cause on Dec 2, 2013 at Lamesa. They have has begun an ongoing benefit dinner series called Konektado. The first guest chef collaborating with Chef Rudy will be Dennis Tay of Richmond Station, Keriwa Cafe and Top Chef Canada. Menu details to come. All donations will be going directly to a member of our community who's family was affected by the typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. This dinner will be fantastic. Tell your friends and family. Don't miss this!
The final installment of Porzia's 4suppers is on Sunday, September 22nd at 7pm. Every one of the past three have been incredible. This one featuring a collaboration between Porzia's chef and owner, Basilio Pesce and Chef Jason Carter will be no exception. Contact Melissa Clemente at email@example.com or call the restaurant at 647-342-5776 to book tickets.
There are only a couple of tickets left!
I'd like to preface this post by saying that I don't claim to be a culinary expert of any sort. I am simply someone who has grown up with a deep appreciation for food. I was inspired to write this post following conversations I had with a friend as well as the chefs during (another SUPERB) 4suppers last night. It's also because of other thoughts and observations I've had about the food scene in Toronto.
The most significant thing I've noticed in the past couple of years after having moved to Toronto from New York is how collaborative and supportive the culinary community is toward one another. I've made more connections in Toronto's food scene compared to when I lived in New York, so perhaps it isn't fair to say. There seems to be a great deal of mind melding and camraderie going on (uniquely) in Toronto than other cities (like New York, Montreal too, apparently). If the same types of collaborations are happening in New York, perhaps I'm just not plugged in. The chefs I've discussed this with in Toronto agree with me. Is New York just too competitive a place in general for the same thing to happen? Maybe? Naturally, there is still competition in Toronto. For the most part, it seems to be a friendly and supportive sort. Toronto chefs seem genuinely excited about what their peers are doing – at least for the most part. The competitive creative energy seems to yield positive results. I witnessed this energy at this year's fantastic Terroir Symposium. I see it in the 4suppers at Porzia (not only because I co-host this event!), in The Group of 7 Chefs, at the many different chef battles at 86'd hosted by Ivy Knight, at Food Truck Eats, at Death Row Meals events, La Carnita's pop-up roots and today at Slurp Noodlefest, etc. I could go on and on.
What results from these collaborative relationships are dining experiences that are not only incredibly inspired but also really innovative. My friend Socky last night commented that the camraderie is very Canadian. But I'm not sure whether the same energy is happening on this scale in other Canadian cities. What is very Canadian to me is to be shy and humble about the fantastic food that's coming out of this city's best chefs. Is it also very Canadian to wait until people like David Chang or Anthony Bourdain recognize the creative energy and talent that's happening in Toronto for the city to realize it?
It's the very innovation and inspiration that is making this moment in Toronto a very exciting place to be. Any others in Toronto agree with me?
Toronto, be ready for the next 4suppers this Sunday, August 25th when the charismatic Matty Matheson of Parts & Labour Restaurant will be teaming up with Porzia's chef and owner, Basilio Pesce. Chef Matheson is much celebrated in Toronto and known for his spectacular, farm-to-table-meets-modern-bistro dishes. Prepare yourselves for over-the-top goodness this Sunday!
If you haven't booked your spot, I highly recommend doing so asap by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 647-342-5776.
See you there :)
featuring Chef Matty Matheson of Parts & Labour
pork rind, avocado, watermelon
BREAD & BUTTER / SALAD
rye crisp with smoked goat butter
smoked belly, ‘nduja, figs & mostardo
king oyster, scallop, 62 degree egg & dulce
lamb sweetbreads, clams & celery broth
marinated ontario fruit & ice cream
*subject to last minute changes
One of my oldest and dearest friends in New York, Sparrow Hall, recently launched a fantastic digital experience dedicated to travel, culture, and design in Upstate New York: An Upstate of Mind. I've written a roadtrip diary about one of many wonderful weekends spent upstate. Check it out :)