Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thank you and Goodbye, 2011! Hello, 2012! --

It's the last day of the year!

And I'm only just making my lists!

5 Favorite Movies of 2011
1. Tangled

2. X-Men: First Class
3. Captain America: The First Avenger
4. The King's Speech
5. Bridesmaids/Kung Fu Panda 2

5 Favorite TV Shows
1. Doctor Who

2. Storage Wars
3. Thundercats
4. Batman: Brave and the Bold
5. Octonauts <-- thanks to N for recommending this!

5 Favorite Magazines
1. Yummy

2. Real Simple
3. Every Day with Rachael Ray
4. Food Network Magazine
5. Family Fun

5 Best Purchases for 2011
1. Hotel Vouchers for Mactan Shangri-la (excellent deal at an excellent price!)

2. Accor Advantage Card -- lots of hotels all over the world (we're actually staying at Novotel, an Accor hotel when we go to Singapore in January)
3. My sewing machine -- granted, I haven't really used it as much -- it's still nice that I have one
4. Our new pillows -- brand: Canadian and it's so nice!  I think it's the same thing used in hotels?
5. My Kate Spade Museum Mile Small Louis -- I never thought I would like a black bag -- but this one is so, so nice!

5 Favorite Places in Iloilo
1. Madge Cafe

2. Starbucks
3. Lamesa Grill -- love, love, love the weekday lunch offers
4. Plazuela de Iloilo -- it's great to visit in the late afternoon
5. SM Hypermarket -- just because there's Leylam Shawarma in the Food Court

5 Favorite Websites
1. Facebook -- yes, yes.  I have succumbed.  
2. Book Depository
3. The Season for Romance -- check out the calendar section to see all the new releases for the month
5. Shine on Yahoo 

Also, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and the Philippine Stock Exchange.

5 Things That Made Me Go "Wow"
1. Yesterday's dinner at Stavros
2. All the cool functions on the Kindle app (love the highlight -- love that, when you check out the book on Amazon, there's a section that features the popular highlights by readers.)

3. The iPad 2 -- I am actually thisclose to getting one.  I am just waffling between this and the Samsung 7-inch Tab.
4. Cost of clothes at SM -- was planning to update Anya's wardrobe and was surprised that some cotton dresses can go for as much as 800 pesos!  Expensive!
5. Kimchi Rice -- so, so delicious!

5 Discoveries for 2011

2. Zinio -- not really a new discovery -- but love what it offers and the excellent price points
3. I can bake nicely! =^_^=
4. Lorraine Heath!!! -- it's funny because I actually read Waking up with the Duke first!  (It's the last book in a trilogy.)
5. Globe's Load Tipid Plan -- it's actually a very practical plan that can (potentially) save you a bit of money.  Load never expires but accumulates each month -- there's no bill shock because you set the cap of how much load you get each month.  (If it's an especially busy month, you can just reload using a prepaid card.)

5 Favorite Romance Novels for 2011
1.  Waking Up with the Duke by Lorraine Heath

2.  Unraveled by Courtney Milan

3.  Romancing the Countess by Ashley March

4.  Always a Temptress by Eileen Dreyer

5.  Dangerous in Diamonds by Madeline Hunter

5 Happy Thoughts from 2011
1. Pot-luck lunches with R, F and their kids <-- F gifted us with a pot of Callos for Christmas.  Yummy! 

2. Making Chocolate-Banana cupcakes with whole-wheat flour
3. My kids are in a great school, run by an amazing family with teachers who genuinely love (and openly profess their love) for teaching
4. M. Uygongco finally opened a bakeshop (Maridel's)!  We had dessert there last night.  3 words: Coffee. Chip. Pie. 
5. Family.

5 Things I am looking forward to in 2012
1. Singapore in January!
2. Wicked in Singapore in January!!
3. Sherry Thomas's new series (she took a break in 2011 and didn't publish anything) -- the first book comes out in May.
4. My Kate Spade planner for 2012!  -- I stumble upon someone selling hers at a super-discounted rate.  Who am I to refuse? ^_^
5. Anya's turning 3 in March.  And Seth is "graduating" from pre-school.

Friday, December 30, 2011

December 20: New person --

December 20: New person -- 
She came into your life and turned it upside down. He went out of his way to provide incredible customer service. Who is your unsung hero of 2011?

We have a new person in-charge of the parcels section of the post office.  Manang retired early this year and the new guy used to be a postman who requested for a desk job because he was getting too old to do his usual route.

He's done a good job of keeping the parcels section organized and he's very efficient.

I actually love our local post office.  The guard is helpful.  The lady (Manang Terry) who handles the meter machine (?) has gotten used to me using surface air-lifted (SAL) to send my books for Bookmooch.

Like the postal services of other countries, Philpost is also suffering from poor sales and lack of budget.  (Paging: Philippine Government and President Aquino!) -- but it amazes me how the people at the Iloilo branch of Philpost work tirelessly (and enthusiastically) to get people's mail out.

December 19: Car ride --

December 19: Car ride --
What did you see? How did it smell? Did you eat anything as you drove there? Who were you with?

October 15, 2011.

It was our last car ride with Manong Plas.

The weather had improved and we wanted to bring the kids to Breakthrough.  It's a 30-minute drive from our place -- and we were all commenting on the newly opened Indian restaurant along the way.  Already making plans to visit it with Johann.

Lunch was great as always.  And the kids merrily ate ice cream on the way home.

We were all laughing and talking about Breakthrough.

We decided to stop by a lechon stand to get some lechon for dinner (and then make paksiw with the leftovers) --

Plas was joking about how there were two lechon stands across the street from each other with the same name.

It was a great trip -- and I felt good.  As though I was in-sync with the flow of the universe.

I'm also happy that that was one of Plas's last memories -- I would like to believe that he also enjoyed the drive and the company.

December 18: Shop --

December 18: Shop --
Online or offline, where did you spend most of your mad money this year?

Online, it has to be Book Depository (and their amazing offer of free shipping worldwide) -- and it gets to you in about 2 to 3 weeks!

Second would have to be --

And then for Kindle books and other stuff.

Finally, there's Zinio.  My husband is subscribed to 3 magazines right now and he's a happy little geek because he's updated with all the news.

Locally, it would have to be Booksale.  (But I actually have 1 resolution for next year -- not to buy old magazines anymore -- because I have a huge stack already in my house and I could just re-read them and save money.)

December 17: Word or phrase --

December 17: Word or phrase --
A word that encapsulates your year. “2011 was _____.”

2011 was my year of gifts.

I have had a lavish year -- not in terms of material possessions but in terms of support and love.  My parents and I have a wonderful relationship and I enjoy talking to my mom about the state of the economy (local and national) and the stock market.

My sister provides me with great insight.  Just recently, we were all planning to have dinner out -- and I was fretting about the weather and how the kids might get sick, etc. etc. -- My sister was very no-nonsense and snapped me out of my fretty mode.  (And we all had a great time at dinner and afterwards.)

My husband and I gave our family the gift of travel -- we went to Cebu a few times and then we decided to stay in a different part of Metro Manila -- and had a grand time exploring all the tourist attractions in that area.  (Kids loved, loved the Science Museum and Manila Ocean Park.)

I have also been fortunate to have been gifted very excellent friends.  Dear F who I meet up for coffee at least once a month.  C and I have maintained a private message thread on Multiply for 1 whole year and topics covered ranged from her wedding, to crafts, to fashion, etc.  F, a fellow book lover, who introduced me to Laura Lee Guhrke and Elizabeth Hoyt and now to Lorraine Heath. ^_^  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December 16: Tea of the year --

December 16: Tea of the year. 
I can taste my favorite tea right now. What’s yours?

2011 has got to be the year of the milk tea -- with all the cha places opening up in Manila.

I did try some of the new brands when I was in Manila in November -- but, honestly?  My favorite brand would still have to be Quickly.

I also love the Passion Iced Tea at Starbucks.

Also Doutor's Milk Tea -- the local Lipton Milk Tea is also very yummy.  I love having it at night, after dinner. Quite fortifying.
December 15 Best packaging. 
Did your headphones come in a sweet case? See a bottle of tea in another country that stood off the shelves?

Wow -- this one's hard.  

Top of my head?
1.  C's wedding invitation -- it isn't a conventional invitation -- but I love that I know it was hers and O's.  It had their personal style and it made the invitation (and the whole affair) very intimate.

2.  Kate Spade -- the quirky packaging, the colors, the cute little sayings, etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum.

3.  Japanese mooks -- a mook is a magazine/book that features a specific something.  This year, I got the Kate Spade mook and my brother got me the Tintin mook.  What I love about it is that it usually comes with a free bag/goody. ^_^

4.  Pot of Gold ( seller) -- I bought a cute necklace from them a few months ago and I love the packaging!  Newspaper print + stamps + stickers!  I didn't have the heart to throw it away!

5.  Apple -- I is i-Sheep.  Moo.

December 14: Rush --

December 14: Rush. 
When did you get your best rush of the year?

I get a rush while baking -- and then after, when the cakes are done and everyone is enjoying a slice or two.

This year, I was baking quite a bit for the most part of the year.  I loved that the house smelled like chocolate or vanilla or chocolate and vanilla.  (My skills are limited as is my repertoire.)

I love involving our cook and my kids -- I love that we are all learning something new each time we bake.

Sadly, the baking god seems to have left me -- and the last baking project we made (carrot cupcakes) came out dense, flat and not sweet.

I will try to get back into baking next year -- when we've lost the holiday pounds and are ready to gain the summer pounds. ^_^

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

December 13: What’s the best change you made to the place you live --

December 13: What’s the best change you made to the place you live?

We finally cleaned out all the empty boxes we've been hoarding for the past 2 years.

The impetus?  We discovered a young nest of termites.  I realized that there were areas of the house that we had neglected -- 

Now we are more vigilant about our things -- what should be stored and what should be thrown out.

* * *

About the termites --

We had people check out the situation and they said it was very "young" -- so we were lucky to catch it early.

We are using Exterra because it is the most unintrusive method of dealing with the problem.  According to the supplier, we should be rid of them in 45 days. ^_^

December 12: New food --

December 12: New food --
You’re now in love with Lebanese food and you didn’t even know what it was in January of this year.

It has to be Chef Tony's Limited Edition Belgian Butter with Honey Roasted Walnut -- it is the reason why I gained weight this Christmas.  I've actually made excuses to go to SM just so I can buy a small tub of it.

As for new cuisine, I think we've tried them all here in Iloilo.  I am fortunate that my husband is quite the adventurous eater so I inevitably have to try whatever he's having.

We did just discover how delicious kimchi rice is.  (Korean food is not new to us but we usually order bibimbap.)  Johann ordered it yesterday -- and he had it today ... so I took a spoonful and then another.

Now I want some for tomorrow. O_o

December 11: The best place --

December: 11 The best place
A coffee shop? A pub? A retreat center? A cubicle? A nook?

My favorite places would have to be coffee shops. Madge Cafe, Starbucks and the newly-opened Bluejay at Ayala Technohub.

Coffee shops are usually my only chance to read newspapers (we don't have a regular subscription) -- and to have a bit of quiet.  It also helps that the coffee is extra fuel for the day.

Madge is top of my list because it is the homiest, friendliest, happiest place a person could be in.  And the coffee is delicious.  It's an unpretentious place with a very, very, very long tradition -- and there is comfort and assurance in entering such a place.

Starbucks opened in Iloilo last January -- so they will be celebrating their birthday very soon.  It's very convenient for us to go there because it's near my kids' school.  The greatest asset of Starbucks Iloilo is their staff.  Great set of people -- they immediately put people at ease.  And they are incredibly patient.  

I was once behind someone who couldn't make a decision about what to order -- the barista was so patient and so understanding -- they offered that other person a small taste of a few of Starbucks offerings.

I was at Bluejay just once -- and they claim they have the Best ensaymada in Iloilo.  (It's not -- but it is very, very delicious.)  The place has a nice interior and, when you go at the right time, it's very quiet.

Friday, December 23, 2011

December 10: Album of the year --

December 10 Album of the year. 
What’s rocking your world?

I am fortunate that my husband loves his music -- and his car has an i-device dock so we listen to his music when we're out.

I would have to say, Eraserheads -- no particular album -- but their entire music.  

It. is. genius.

And it amazes me how easily it is able to cross generations.  (Our yaya is 10 years younger than us -- and she finds herself singing to the songs as well.)

So much of their music encapsulate a time and a thought, some melancholy and then some humor -- I honestly think they are one of the greatest things to ever happen to Pinoy Music.

Super favorite songs? O Pare Ko, Ang Huling El Bimbo, Ligaya, and With a Smile.

December 9: Challenge --

December 9: Challenge --
Something that really made you grow this year. That made you go to your edge and then some. What made it the best challenge of the year for you?

I'm ashamed to admit that I've had a very lax year.  I indulged myself -- and I'm actually not happy about how my year is ending.

For those who don't know me -- I'm very tightly-wound up and can get very precise about life.  This year, I decided to try a different approach and let go completely.

Have I grown this year?  Not so much.  I believe I am stuck in a cycle -- and I am too comfortable and lazy to want to step out of it.

I have promised myself (and my husband) -- that I would take better control of my life in 2012.  I have done indulgence and extravagance.  It is time to return to austerity and self-restraint.

December 8: Moment of Peace --

December 8 Moment of peace. 
An hour or a day or a week of solitude. What was the quality of your breath? The state of your mind? How did you get there?

I'm not sure that now is the right time for me to answer this -- because I have been chasing after this elusive peace since the holiday season started.

It's been hectic -- Seth had quarterly exams right before the break and we had to get things ready for their Christmas parties in school.  (Yes, plural because Anya goes as well.)

Then there is the house and getting it ready for Christmas.

Then there are the gifts.  (It is a day before the 24th and I have not yet gotten a gift for my dad.) -- and I did the lazy bit and just got my husband a digital subscription to SciFi Now.

I'm very stressed and I'm just holding my breath and waiting for the season to be over.

I get some quiet time -- the last I remember was 10 minutes at Starbucks -- we were waiting for Anya's class to be finished and I got to read the newspaper!

December 7: Blog Find of the Year --

December 7:  Blog find of the year. 
That gem of a blog you can’t believe you didn’t know about until this year.

It has to be The Season for Romance, which is moderated by Beverley Kendall.  I love the calendar that shows all the new releases for the month.  I also enjoy reading the articles there -- sometimes it leads me to new authors or books.

It's a daily stop -- usually first thing in the morning, when the kids and husband are still asleep. ^_^

Note: Skipping December 6: Workshop or conference because I don't go to any.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Helping Beverley Kendall reach 250k --

Hi, all!

I follow a really great romance novel blog hosted (and written by Beverley Kendall) --

She has an ebook out right now and she's trying to get 250,000 downloads.  (Last I read, she's more than halfway there.)

Clickety click on this ad?

HTML tutorial

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Win a Kate Spade Planner from Fat to Fabulous!

Wow!  Fat to Fabulous has been hosting a KS Holiday giveaway and Day 3 is for a Kate Spade Desktop Calendar --

Clickety click here to join!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Simple pleasures --

One of the things I look forward to everyday is sitting down on the benches of my kids' school and talking to other moms and yayas --

We talk about the kids and their schoolwork.  We talk about who's teeth are wiggling and who has appointments at which doctor.  We talk about ourselves and how busy we are.  We talk about Christmas plans and where we are going.

It's wonderful to know that we are all in this together -- that we are all sharing each other's experiences.  It makes us happy to see Yaya A's alaga dressed up so nicely and we laugh when Manang B's alaga gives chase.

It's nice to have a breather now and then.

* * *

Looking at the contents and not the bottle --

I stumbled upon this wonderful article just today -- and I read it and reread it and cried over it.

This is why I love reading through blogs -- it's wonderful when someone is able to say so clearly what I sometimes think (in jumbled thoughts) about --

I'm Christian, unless you're Gay by Dan, Single dad to Noah

And there's a wonderful response to it.  Click here for that one.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Interesting ingredient --

Today I read a recipe for pancakes that used sparkling mineral water -- I'd imagine the extra fizz will make for lighter pancakes.  Will try it next time.

Also, I want to make this:
Hot Chocolate on a Stick

(Recently, I scandalized my husband by melting a square or two of milk chocolate into my Swiss Miss Marshmallow Lovers mix.  Trust me, the melted chocolate makes a world of difference.)

reverb delay --

I'm about a week behind -- and I'm not sure I can catch up this week.

It's exam week at my kids' school and I've been busy helping my son prepare for his exams.  (God, I dread next year when my daughter will also be taking tests. T_T)

Plus, we're getting ready for Christmas and I still have gifts to send out -- and my mom is asking me to take charge of our workers' Christmas party program.

Right now, I am really, really looking forward to January 2.  (When the holidays are over.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

December 5; Night out --

Did you have a night out with friends or a loved one that rocked your world? Who was there? What was the highlight of the night?

My husband and I rarely get to go out at night.  To my mind, I've had 2 this year --

The first one was for our friend's birthday -- he treated us to Lamesa Grill and we were able to try the pritchon (so expensive -- but very delicious) -- and then we capped the evening with coffee and dessert at Starbucks.

The second one was during our recent trip to Manila -- we had dinner with C (and her new hubby) and I finally got the chance to meet J (one of C's close friends) -- the best part of the evening was going to Swensens for ice cream.

Oh the joy on Seth's face as he was presented with an ice cream creation of whipped cream, wafer and chocolate.

Both times, the company was exceptional -- and the conversation always insightful.

I have very few friends -- but they're all keepers.

December 4: Book --

What book – fiction or non – touched you? Where were you when you read it? Have you bought and given away multiple copies?

Of all the books I've read this year, the one book I could not stop talking about was Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua.

It really polarized parents and their views on parenting.

I read it and felt that Amy Chua was misunderstood -- and that parts of her book were taken out of context.

I really enjoyed reading it.  I was able to gain a lot of insights into my own family life.  (My sister initially hated it and wanted to throw the book away but I told her to continue reading it ... she never did.)

What I took away from the book is that no two parents are alike -- and no two children are alike.  Chua raised both her daughters in the same environment and under the same strict guidance -- but they grew up with very different personalities and tastes -- this forced Amy Chua to reconsider her own style of parenting -- she adapted to suit both her daughters.

I hope I can be as dedicated to my children.  I hope I can be as consistent with them.

But I know, in the end, I can only be myself -- and I will try to try my best with them

Sunday, December 04, 2011

December 2: Restaurant moment --

Share the best restaurant experience you had this year. Who was there? What made it amazing? What taste stands out in your mind?

The one restaurant memory that comes to mind was our lunch at Burgoo, Mall of Asia.  We were tired, hot and hungry --

Normally, we would find a fast food restaurant and grab a quick (and cheap) meal but my husband insisted that we treat ourselves to Burgoo.

We ordered something for Seth and Anya to share from their children's menu and Johann and I split a seafood jambalaya.

The kids entertained themselves with the crayons provided by Burgoo -- and Johann and I got some much-needed quiet time.

The best part of the visit to Burgoo was their bathroom -- it was clean and dry -- and available!  I was able to change Anya's diaper and Seth was able to go before we continued with our trek around MOA.

What I learned from that meal was that we need to be pampered once in a while -- for some people, Burgoo wouldn't be a big splurge but, for my family, it was a big one -- but one that was worth it because we were able to refresh and recharge ourselves.

It also helps to have amazing service -- and our server that day was very attentive and very understanding.  (He made sure the kid's food and drinks were served quickly.)

Friday, December 02, 2011

December 1: Trip -- What was your best trip in 2011?

2011 was a year of local travel for my family.

We went to Cebu twice (May and August) and to Manila twice* (June and November) --

Each trip we take with the kids, we learn something new about how to manage ourselves and our time.  It's also a chance to break away from habits and routines at home.

I have to say our last trip to Manila was my most favorite one -- we did the tourist-y bit and went to the Science Museum and Manila Ocean Park for the kids.  We had wanted to take the kids to the Salcedo Weekend Market and Museo Pambata but we needed a bit of downtime and just enjoyed the amenities at Sofitel.

I'm glad we decided to stay in the Manila area -- it was my first time to visit Mall of Asia and to see places I've only read about (or seen in pictures): Coconut Palace, etc.

I also understand the allure of Manila Bay.  While the kids were playing on the playground, I would just take a few minutes to enjoy the calm in front of me.  (It was a wonderful way to start and end the day.)

We came away with 1 book and 1 toy per kid so I think we are improving in the shopping department.

We're starting next year with a big trip to Singapore -- all the basics have been arranged already and I'm really excited about how we will manage both kids on an international flight.

We're also planning to take the kids to Davao and Bacolod. ^_^

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

No reverb 2011 =(

Last year I joined a 31-day writing/thinking challenge called Reverb10 -- it was hosted by Gwen Bell and 2 other people.

I was really looking forward to this year's reverb when I received sad news in my inbox that Gwen and her team would not be doing one this year for various reasons.  She invites people to create their own reverb --

I decided to backtrack and look at 2009's reverb topics -- and will be writing about those instead.

Best of 2009 Challenge by Gwen Bell (couldn't find the original entry in her blog)

December 1 Trip. What was your best trip in 2009?
December 2 Restaurant moment. Share the best restaurant experience you had this year. Who was there? What made it amazing? What taste stands out in your mind?
December 3 Article. What’s an article that you read that blew you away? That you shared with all your friends. That you Delicious’d and reference throughout the year.
December 4 Book. What book – fiction or non – touched you? Where were you when you read it? Have you bought and given away multiple copies?
December 5 Night out. Did you have a night out with friends or a loved one that rocked your world? Who was there? What was the highlight of the night?
December 6 Workshop or conference. Was there a conference or workshop you attended that was especially beneficial? Where was it? What did you learn?
December 7 Blog find of the year. That gem of a blog you can’t believe you didn’t know about until this year.
December 8 Moment of peace. An hour or a day or a week of solitude. What was the quality of your breath? The state of your mind? How did you get there?
December 9 Challenge. Something that really made you grow this year. That made you go to your edge and then some. What made it the best challenge of the year for you?
December 10 Album of the year. What’s rocking your world?
December 11 The best place. A coffee shop? A pub? A retreat center? A cubicle? A nook?
December 12 New food. You’re now in love with Lebanese food and you didn’t even know what it was in January of this year.
December 13 What’s the best change you made to the place you live?
December 14 Rush. When did you get your best rush of the year?
December 15 Best packaging. Did your headphones come in a sweet case? See a bottle of tea in another country that stood off the shelves?
December 16 Tea of the year. I can taste my favorite tea right now. What’s yours?
December 17 Word or phrase. A word that encapsulates your year. “2009 was _____.”
December 18 Shop. Online or offline, where did you spend most of your mad money this year?
December 19 Car ride. What did you see? How did it smell? Did you eat anything as you drove there? Who were you with?
December 20 New person. She came into your life and turned it upside down. He went out of his way to provide incredible customer service. Who is your unsung hero of 2009?
December 21 Project. What did you start this year that you’re proud of?
December 22 Startup. What’s a business that you found this year that you love? Who thought it up? What makes it special?
December 23 Web tool. It came into your work flow this year and now you couldn’t live without it. It has simplified or improved your online experience.
December 24 Learning experience. What was a lesson you learned this year that changed you?
December 25 Gift. What’s a gift you gave yourself this year that has kept on giving?
December 26 Insight or aha! moment. What was your epiphany of the year?
December 27 Social web moment. Did you meet someone you used to only know from her blog? Did you discover Twitter?
December 28 Stationery. When you touch the paper, your heart melts. The ink flows from the pen. What was your stationery find of the year?
December 29 Laugh. What was your biggest belly laugh of the year?
December 30 Ad. What advertisement made you think this year?
December 31 Resolution you wish you’d stuck with. (You know, there’s always next year…)