Home and Kitchen Diaries

‘Adobo Queen’ as domestic diva: ‘I knew how it felt to be dumb and dumber’

My random thoughts on home life, positive thinking, and other ‘nansense’

Nancy Reyes-Lumen

I learned many lessons in my new role as housewife, i.e. cook, duster, sweeper, vacuum cleaner, bed maker, gardener, opener/closer of the garage door, and once in a blue moon, sex slave.

My new “toys” were the Swiffer (highly recommended by my ex-classmates who became my lifeline whenever I had questions), the vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, washing machine, and the many kinds of specific cleaning solutions for the mirrors, bathtub, faucets, dishes, toilet bowls.

I knew how it felt to be dumb and dumber, but with my sturdy sense of humor, it was fun learning from bloopers.

The old model washing machine won’t run until the lid is down. I kept waiting for it to start, looking down at it (water—check, detergent—check, plugged?—check!), and it wasn’t working. It was as if the washing machine was staring back at me: “Hey stupid! put down the lid.” So I did, and it worked.

Our dishwashing machine is nosey. It has too many questions. On cycles: heavy? Normal? (What is normal? Not heavy?) Eco? Hi-temp? Sani-rinse? Heat-dry? It was starting to sound like a shampoo in the salon.

I never learned to use bleach, so Bob (husband—Editor) taught me how. Get bleach, mix with water, and put in your stained white aprons. Leave for a day, and voila—pure white aprons like on TV! So I did all this—pour bleach, add water, mix and immerse the white aprons. For a whole day my hands smelled like a clean bathroom. I did not know what those long rubber gloves were for until then.

  • The sink grinder/disposal: I’m always scared of this, like it’s ready to turn my fingers into pulp. I got the stern warning not to throw anything that will cause the grinder to conk out with a blood-curdling noise. No bones, no plastic, no metal, nothing! I never knew when to use it or for what things; there was a plastic garbage bag anyway for my kitchen waste. But in time I had heard assorted sounds, all scary, from underneath my sink where the grinder had chewed on aplastic spoon (firecracker sound), a safety pin (car engine clanging sound), egg shells (broken plates), a barbecue stick (wood chopping).

‘Where’s the remote?’ he would ask of me when I’m in the mood for you-know-what

  • On words that will start a fight: “Didn’t you know that?”—when I did not separate the whites from the dark clothes; “Just Google it,” when I asked Bob what “au pair” means because a neighbor teasingly asked me if I was Bob’s au pair. “Of course,” I replied. I thought it meant we were, you know, a pair. “Where’s the remote?” he would ask of me when I’m in the mood for you-know-what; “I don’t know” when I know he knows how to change the printer from print to scan; ”They’ll grow back in spring” when I ask him to water the plants that look near-dead; “You missed a spot!”—flying broom!

  • Each waking day, we lose an estimated 100 hairs! These would usually fall on our pillows, bedsheet, on the bathroom floor. Some loose hair strands get combed out—let these fall into the sink. If your sink is white, good! You can easily see the strands, but make sure they do not fall down the drain! Managing fallen hair is part of my everyday ‘do. Black hair, dyed brown hair, and some white hair—they are all mine, my DNA, and I need to get rid of them neatly. Here’s how I do it:

  1. For the pillow, I use the sticky roller paper. Easy! Whoever invented this was probably a woman (with falling hair like mine).

  2. Then I have my small room broom to sweep the bedroom floor for whatever, if any, have fallen. (I confess, this is not done every day, though.)

  3. Now the bathroom procedure: I gather the strands using my “swirl method.” With a wet tissue, gather them in one spot, swirl the strands or dirt off the bathroom floor. This way you gather the dirt into a round neat clump. Squeeze the clump straight into the trash bin.

  4. This works with the strands that you gathered by the sink, on the toilet bowl, by the shower.

  5. Of course, when you are a house guest or hotel guest, be an angel and do the swirl method to pick up your fallen DNA easily, neatly—wet tissue to the rescue.

  • Being someone of a golden era (not 50 years old golden, but golden, as in golden jubilee in high school!), I find it heavier by the day to dry myself (hair, body) with those big, furry towels that weigh like 10 lbs each. Yes, they do look fancy, especially after I had B & N (Bob and Nancy) monogrammed instead of His and Hers—but those are now a pain for frozen shoulders.

I learned to make my hair drying easier and lighter when I was booked in a hotel. For the sake of Planet Earth, I skipped using the big towel and used two face towels to dry my hair, my body. I used one of the hand towels (el bimpo!) to dry my body below the waist, ending with my feet, and in between my toes. It felt good knowing that I saved the hotel laundry some soap and water and ironing.

Now, at home, I have switched to face towels for drying the upper half of my body and a trusty bimpo for my bottom half. Keeping oneself clean and dry this way is a feel-good thing!

  • Don’t wait for someone to make you feel good or look good. Let it come naturally; you were made to be so. (As an aside, I do sense a bit of uncertainty when a fiancée says she likes her BF because he makes her “feel good,” because he makes her laugh a lot. Well, woman, think 10 years ahead.) But anyway, back to feeling good:

Resolve to be efficient while staying a happy human being. Multi-task!

  1. To feel good through the day, start by thanking the Lord for waking you up. You’re alive!!

  2. After getting out of bed, start with reflections that make you look good. Buy a mirror that makes you look pretty close to your reality. Did you know that there are different grades of mirrors? I bought a cheap one and I looked like Humpty Dumpty, which depressed me every waking morning. So, like this guy who didn’t want to change his diet and changed doctors instead…Seriously, buy and invest in a real nice “honest” mirror like those beveled ones found in high-end hotels, salons, studios. The room lighting also helps put you in a “look-good mood.”

  3. Fight the robot trend. Are you a robot? No, you’re not—but that also means you’re not as efficient as one. Robots tend to downscale us humans because we still make mistakes, while robots don’t. So fight the thought that someday your husband/kids/boss will replace you with one. Resolve to be efficient while staying a happy human being. Multi-task! While brushing your teeth, what’s your other hand doing? Wipe the dresser or the faucet, or pick up some things from the floor or move your feet in a sweeping motion to gather dirt and then pick up after.

  4. As the Japanese anti-clutter princess Marie Kondo says, clean up, be simple. Discard clothes you have not touched, worn, or just tried out in two years.

  5. When you’re in a store and fitting something, remember that department store fitting rooms (most of them) have mirrors that can make you look thin, so be realistic. Scrutinize yourself really well. Even be skeptical. View yourself from all sides. Do not pose like in a fashion magazine, since in reality you will not be walking that way. My mistake is that whenever I fit clothes/pants with pockets, I put my hands in the pockets (which has a tendency to make you look thinner), shrug my shoulders, keep my stomach in, feeling like a “mowdel” inside the fitting room. Once I am out with my new outfit, I have to remind myself that I will not always walk with both my hands in the pockets, or shrug my shoulders, that I’ll not always be “stomach in” and oh my—did I check if the tops I just bought are long enough to cover camel toes? (Look it up or ask a teenage girl.)

Did I check if the tops I just bought are long enough to cover camel toes? (Look it up or ask a teenage girl)

  1. Here’s how to know if you really look good: Ask your grandkids or those 50 years younger than you. Classmates won’t tell, significant others might not, moms might tell but you don’t want to hear it from her. Kids will not lie. If they give you a funny face or laugh at you, then you got your answer. If they don’t mind your look—then perhaps, just maybe, you’re cool.

  2. Treat yourself to a good merienda-movie day off, a good cup of coffee and a cake, red wine and steak or salmon and white wine dinner, buy something for less than P500, buy a new notebook, execute 50 smiles, say “Jesus” 50 times in a day, try on false eyelashes, go to a Japanese store and buy something you don’t really need—like erasers? Erase your stress!

I once asked a friend to visit the Philippines for a family reunion, since she had not been back in years, and missed out on visiting their province. She didn’t like the idea that much. After trying to coax her, she told me the real reason why. The last time she visited, all she heard from her province folk were, “Ay, ang taba mo!” and “Uy pinsan, tumaba ka yata ah—mayaman ka na kasi!”

 The last time my friend visited, all she heard from her province folk were, ‘Ay, ang taba mo!’

To this day, my friend has retained her AlisBayan status (and her poundage).

All of us must have been on the receiving end of embarrassing questions and comments. These happen during class reunions, or chance meetings, family gatherings, barkada nights, sports meets, blind dates, etc.  Some tactless, inane examples:

  • When someone loses a lot of weight: 1. “Hoy, ang payat mo na… diabetic ka ba?” ; 2. (whispered to another) “Nagshashabu siguro…”; 3. “Uy, sexy mo…kanino ka nagpa-lipo?”; 4. Hey, you lost weight—how’s the marriage?; 5. (whispered or thought balloon) “Baka may cancer”; 6. “Wow ha…ang sexy mo na…who is he/ she/? Confess!”; 7. “Bakit ka pumayat ng ganyan? Anorexic ka ba?” ; 8. “Woot-woot (wolf whistle)…what did you do with yourself ? You look good…anong diet mo? Intermittent? Naging vegetarian ka ba? Senior ka na ba?” ; 9. “Your clothes are so loose on you. You were SO FAT before, di ba?”; 10. “Adik ka?” (joke lang—pero baka nga!)”; and  11. “Anak mo?” (to your associate or spouse?)

  • When someone gains weight: 1. “Uuuy…tumataba ka…in love kasi…”; 2. (whispered to another) “Buntis ba siya ?”; 3. “Galing kang abroad, no?”; 4. “Nag-shrink yata yung clothes mo”; 5. “Hiyang sa pag-aasawa”; 6. “Masarap siguro si Misis magluto”; 7. “I remember I dated you when you were 25 lbs lighter”;  8. “Baka nagme-menopause na—you’ll get fat talaga”;  9. “Di ba dati ikaw yung naka-bikini sa outing natin? What happened !?”;10. “ANG TABA-TABA MO! PROMISE!”

  • Couples married with no kids—yet: 1. “O, kalian ba magkaka-baby?”; 2. “How long have you been married?”; 3. “Di ba you’re 12 siblings?”; 4. “I know a good OB-GYN”; 5. “O, anong reaction ni mother-in-law?”; 6. “I’m sure cute yung baby niyo pag…”; 7. “Eat a lot of okra, malunggay, eggs, chicken liver….”; 8. “Try niyo dog-style”; 9. “Do you know our classmate _______, she adopted two boys!”; 10. “Take a long vacation—extended honeymoon, pero lose weight muna.”

  • Non-marrieds/singles or singled: 1. “O, may boyfriend ka na ba?”; 2. O, may lumiligaw na ba ulit?”; 3. “Gusto mo ng blind date? Senior na rin.”; 4. “Not yet married? HAH???”; “Baka gusto mo pa mag madre?”; 5. “Maraming biyudong naghahanap din”; 6. “Sige na…move on!”; 7. “Find a partner. Kahit pang holding hands or watching movies na lang, wala nang sex.”; 8. “Type mo ba mas bata sa yo? Ten years younger, okay sa ‘yo?”; 9. “May kilala ako, nurse. Old maid.”; 10. “Ano bay yan?! Naiwan ka na sa pier!”

Credit: Adobo Kitchen/YouTube

About author


She is a well-known cookbook author, columnist. She became the country’s “Adobo Queen” after publishing book on the Filipino staple dish and doing YouTube. Check out her Amazing Seniors on YouTube.

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