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Monday, January 30, 2006

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Today is the second day of the lunar new year. The other night, my mom read me my fortune for this year. The Year of the Dog seems promising for me, (I was born in the Year of the Tiger), both professionally and personally. On the professional front, there seems to be a lot of opportunity for successful new sales and new business prospects (there are several in the works right now so maybe there’s some truth to this!). On the personal level, there is the strong possibility of a “new addition to the family” (and since Jojo and I are not planning on getting a dog, that could only mean one thing ….). Naturally, I’m very excited by both predictions!

And to usher in all the good tidings, my mom shared several other things we needed to do, which of course Jojo and I just had to make sure we did. First, was to wear new underwear on New Year’s Eve. Since we had some friends over most of Saturday we couldn’t go underwear shopping, so Jojo and I had to make a quick stop at K-Mart to get some new ones! SIDE NOTE: while at K-Mart, we were asked to join a demonstration for a new product and we were promised free gifts afterwards if we participated in the test group. Since I love getting free stuff, I convinced my hubby to participate, and we became part of this test group for a super absorbent, German-made, cloth that was designed to take the place of those chamois-type cloths we use to wash our cars. Actually the cloth was pretty amazing and could absorb large amounts of spilled liquids (water, Coke, and coffee). It could even be used to dry clothes (by wrapping it around wet clothes and squeezing it). The best part was it could be re-used many times and tossed in the washer when it got dirty (which was the problem with the chamois cloth). Anyway, some 30 minutes later, we left K-Mart with our new underwear, and our “gifts” - two bags of the super absorbent cloth and a new kitchen mop.

The second thing we had to do for good luck was to prepare 8 gold coins and 8 chocolate gold coins in a bowl, cover with uncooked rice, and top with 8 gold coins, 8 chocolate gold coins and any kind of gold figurine. This was slightly tougher to do. First of all we did not have any gold coins and had to resort to using copper pennies. I tried to find the shiniest ones hoping they would pass for gold. Next we scoured Asian stores trying to find those chocolate gold coins. No luck at Ranch 99 (Chinese supermarket), Mitsue (Japanese), California supermarket (Korean), and Marukai (Japanese discount store). We didn’t have time to go to Chinatown and were going to settle for leftover Xmas candies shaped like coins wrapped in gold foil but with Santa Claus’ face stamped on each one. Luckily my SIL calls and says there are chocolate gold coins at Walgreens (who would have thought!?). So at 10:00 pm, dressed in our sweats and coats, Jojo and I make a run for chocolate gold coins. We get home and prepare our bowl and top it off with gold-colored figurines of a horse, pineapple, and the pa-qua (octagon-shaped disk with a mirror in the middle).

Third thing we had to do was to eat lucky food on new year’s day. So, together with my brother, Jules, we headed for China Tea House on Sepulveda and had noodles, fish and oranges for lunch. Incidentally, this was our first time at China Tea House, but a good friend of mine has recommended this place numerous times. The ambience of the place was nothing to rave about – it was crowded, noisy, everyone seemed to be walking around, and the cleanliness of the place was quite suspect. We had to wait about half an hour for a table and were just about ready to turn around and leave when we were finally seated at a table by the front door. Since it was past 1 and we were hungry, we decided to stay and I’m glad we did. At around 1:30 (when the lunch crowd had thinned, our servers were actually quite friendly and even gave us complimentary drinks – fizzy pink lemonades – for waiting so long). We each had a bowl of corn soup and then we ordered the House Special Chow Mein (our noodle dish), it was very good with lots of shrimp, scallops, BBQ pork, chicken and vegetables. We had the rock cod with black bean sauce (our fish dish), which was slightly salty (because of the black beans) but went nicely with the sweet red and green peppers it was stir-fried with. Our last dish was half a roasted duck with plum sauce (not one of the lucky foods, but we felt like having it anyway). The duck was fatty but delicious, the skin was crispy and the meat was tender and flavorful (you didn’t even need the plum sauce). For dessert, we had slices of mandarin orange and fortune cookies.

It will be interesting to see how this year turns out for us. Hopefully all our preparations for receiving good fortune pays off. Otherwise, I’m blaming it on the fact that we used copper pennies and not gold coins!

Happy Year of the Dog everyone!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Happy 34th Anniversary, Pop-choo and Mom-choo!

Happy 34th wedding anniversary to my dad and mom! Another milestone and another reason to celebrate. My dad and mom are both very lucky to have each other and to have a truly wonderful marriage. (It is quite rare to find two people who honestly enjoy being around each other after 34 years!). It must help that their marriage is based on mutual respect, trust, friendship and faith in God. Not to mention the fact that they raised 5 kids that were quite a handful growing up. We definitely challenged and certainly tested their sanity, their faith and their staying together – I’m quite sure their bond grew much stronger during those times since they had to put up a united front to show us they meant business!

Really, my folks are the two most different people I know.

Different, well, because my parents are quite the opposite of each other. My dad is funny, gregarious, outspoken and very talkative. He likes to laugh and joke around, is generous almost to a fault, and is quite an emotional man. He is wise, extremely patient, and is a great teacher (we all went thru his Accounting 101). My dad has a brilliant mind, is great at anything finance and investment related, and almost single-handedly built and sustained a successful insurance company from the ground up. My mom, on the other hand, is a domestic goddess with an enviable reign over her home. She is the quiet strength behind my dad, a wonderful mother, a dear friend, and a hostess extraordinaire (think Martha Stewart, Paula Dean, Debbie Travis, and Nigella Lawson all rolled into one!). My mom is level-headed, mild-mannered, and gracious. I don’t think I have never seen her unprepared for any situation (be it having 10 last minute guests over for dinner or having to help us write a 10-page book report the day before they are due).

But also, my folks are the two most similar people I know.

Similar, well, because my parents are quite alike. They were always encouraging, ever supportive, often instilling discipline without ever making us feel fear. They raised us to value our faith, education, family and friends, and ourselves. They taught us respect for others, honesty and integrity, hard work and how to be good, decent human beings. And, believe me, it wasn’t all just talk – my parents certain “walked the talk” as well.

And so to the two most different and to the two most similar people I know, CHEERS to you both and may you have many, many more years together!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Happy Birthday to me!

I turned 31 yesterday. A good friend of mine and I were chatting about this and she asked me if I felt “31”. To be honest, I’m not sure how “31” is supposed to feel. Maybe I’m too new at this because I certainly don’t feel any different from, say, last Friday, when I was “just” 30. Or maybe the last two days have just been a little busy and so I haven’t really given it much thought.

My birthday celebration started at exactly 12:01 am on the 21st when my in-laws came over. Hearing the doorbell ring in the middle of the night usually means bad news. But in this case it meant having my SILs, BILs, nieces and nephew over, bearing gifts and cake, and singing a rousing version of the birthday song. Seriously, I have the best in-laws ever and I’m not just saying that cause the cake they brought happened to be chocolate!

Later that day, Jojo gave me a necklace with a multi-color crystal pendant (of a lopsided heart) and tickets to see “The Importance of Being Earnest” at the Ahmanson Theater. I have yet to decide which present I like better. The pendant is something I’ve been wanting after seeing a picture of it in a magazine, while the play was really amusingly funny. It started off a little dry (I think British humor is always a little dry) but the actors were very good (especially the actor who played Algernon Montcrief) and Oscar Wilde’s writing was sardonically humorous.

The Importance of Being Earnest, a play that pokes fun at the British upper class in the late 1800s, is a story of two men (Jack and Algernon) who both pretend to be someone named “Ernest” in order to win the love of two women (Gwendolyn and Cecily). Add to that mayhem are two wiry butlers, a governess not so secretly in love with the scholarly town minister, and an interfering mother (played by the wonderful Ms. Lynn Redgrave) and you have a charade that ends in hilarious entanglements, comical confusion, and a juicy secret revealed in the end. I thought it was very well done and I’m very glad to note that Jojo enjoyed himself too. (I was secretly watching him). Never mind that 80% of the audience was over the age of 60!

That night as I talked to my family over the phone, my in-laws came over for birthday noodles & chicken wings. Later we gathered in the family room to watch the pay-per-view fight between Erik Morales and the Philippines’ own Manny Pacquiao. I’m no boxing fan but got quite into the spirit as we cheered Pacquiao to victory (he knocked out Morales in the 9th round!). The night ended with tequila shots all around and without naming names I’ll have to say that some of us did more drinking than we should have! :)

I’m lucky since I had a wonderful birthday and was glad to spend it with family and friends – even those who were not quite here physically but remembered nonetheless – like my mom, dad, sisters, brother, as well as relatives and friends from all over. So, now that the excitement has sort of died down, the presents have been opened (BTW, I think the "wish list" I posted on my blog helped cause I got super duper gifts!), the cake is all gone, and I have had some time to think about it. Do I feel like I’m “31”? Well, I guess I do, and so far it’s been great!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Birthday Greetings

Happy Birthday to my very dear friends Jogs (last Wednesday) and Tash (today)!

To two of my very closest friends all thru high school and most of college. Both of you have seen me thru some major ups and downs (and I've been privy to yours!). We've had lots of good times, lots of laughs, and lots of very spirited and "intellectual" banter (if you can call it that).

We sort of lost touch afterwards, not counting once-in-a-blue-moon emails and once-in-a-while messages on Friendster. But inspite of that, you are both really awesome people and I miss hanging out and "philosophizing" with you.

Jogs and Tash - wishing you the very best.

P.S. When are you coming to visit???

Back to School

I’m going back to school! As of 10 minutes ago, I am officially enrolled in Cal State University, Long Beach. I am taking a certificate course in Human Resources Management (HRM). Classes start next week. After careful consideration and lots of deliberation with my hubby, parents and mentors, I’ve decided that this is the next career step for me.

When I got my graduate degree in Organizational Psychology two years ago, my career goal was to work as an Organizational Development consultant doing things like training, coaching, leadership development, change management – all sorts of good stuff for companies and for their employees. I took a personality assessment a few years ago (The Birkman Profile) that best summed up my strengths and interests – I had a very high people score (likes persuading others, marketing, teaching and training) and a very high social awareness score (likes helping others and making the world a better place). So I was on the right track.

In the two years since graduating where I’ve been with this consulting company, that goal sort of happened – but not to the degree that I imagined. Yes, I’ve done some training. Yes, I’ve done some coaching (very minor coaching I have to clarify). Yes, I’ve done some OD. But I don’t feel like I’ve really helped or motivated anyone. As a consultant, you’re in and out of a company in a day or two – or however long it takes to complete a project. As a consultant (for a boutique consulting firm), most of my days are spent selling and marketing our services rather than actually delivering the training.

So, while I certainly do not plan to leave this company any time soon, I thought it would be interesting to consider my future career options. One of which would be to work as a fulltime employee of a company. My rational is that as a permanent member of a company, I can do more good. I can train, consult, coach and motivate people – and stay long enough to see improvements. However, since not all companies have OD or internal training departments, the logical step would be to work in HR. Essentially HR functions are very in-tune with what I’ve been educated in and with what I’ve been doing. But it goes a step further in terms of dealing with employment laws, compensation & benefits, performance appraisal, etc., etc. Hence, the need to take this course.

On the other hand, after this course, maybe I can develop other HR-related services for the company I work for now and still work with the clientbase that I’ve developed. It's another thought.

In retrospect, I've considered that any way I look at it, getting more education is a good thing. As my parents (who are strong proponents of learning) say, how can learning and educating yourself be wrong? So, it’s back to school for me.

I am actually very excited about this. Funny how when I was much younger I didn’t particularly like school. It was such an effort for me to wake up every day and go to class, homework was a drag, and studying, well, let’s just say I did not do my fair share of it in high school. College was not much different. The revelation of the value of education really hit me while in grad school. My rationalization here is I studied more and did so much better because I was studying what I wanted to be studying (none of that algebra, geometry, chemistry and physics nonsense!). Plus the fact that I was older and wiser and knew how much the whole thing cost! Much more so now, with this certificate course, while it’s not as expensive as grad school, it will seem that way since my hubby and I are paying for it! :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Big Bear, Bridal showers, and Birthday shopping

Last Saturday my hubby, in-laws and I spent the day in Big Bear Mountain. We were all gung-ho about going on this particular day since the weather forecast predicted that it would snow. And since we are all from the tropical islands of the Philippines, and now sunny Southern California, snow for us is a welcome change and something to look forward to. (I know many people, especially those who live in areas where snow is a part of life, may think otherwise – but we were really excited about getting to see falling snow). So there we were, dressed in our winter appropriate clothing, driving up to Big Bear.

Big Bear reminds me of Baguio City (the summer capital of the Philippines). The drive up the mountain is similar with the beautiful views and the winding roads. The atmosphere of both places are quite similar too – very crowded, log cabin type buildings all around, small town feel, and a narrow but bustling Main Street. The similarities made me feel almost nostalgic for many of my childhood summers spent in my grandfather’s vacation condo in the Philippines’ City of Pines.

Our first stop was brunch at a tiny cafĂ© called Blanca and Pierre’s. We did not get to meet Pierre, but Blanca was almost single-handedly running the place (she was maitre’d, server, coffee refiller and hostess all in one – she even took out maps and brochures and showed us interesting places to visit). I never found the phrase “handsome woman” appropriate, but I must say that Blanca certainly was quite a handsome woman.

The rest of the day was spent visiting ski resorts (Magic Mountain and Snow Summit), the kids (and the adults acting like kids) whooping it up with mock snowball fights, hiking up and down the trails. I thought it was hilarious when my precocious 2 ½ year old niece, Meredith, who had only seen snow on television, lay on the ground and flapped her arms about claiming to make her very first snow angel (too bad there was only about an inch of snow where we were standing at that time). The highlight of our day was when we were sitting by the ski slopes and snow actually started falling. It was the best part of the day and really worth the 2-hour drive from home. The rest of the day was spent browsing shops in downtown Big Bear (witnessing our second snowfall of the day), slowly driving down the mountain in very dense fog, and then ending the day with dinner at my in-laws' place.

Sunday was my friend, Ann’s, bridal shower brunch. Her theme was “Old Hollywood” and it was really nice the way they set up her sister’s apartment. I know Ann from grad school and have many happy memories of study groups, dinners out, working on projects together, phonecalls, and preparing for tests. But since graduating 2 years ago, I’ve not been as in-touch with her as I would have liked. So, it was really great seeing her again and just catching up.

Ann’s Bridal Shower: 15 women + lots of food + party games + free flowing mimosas = a rocking good time!

My hubby picked me up afterwards and we went to Del Amo shopping center where I shopped for shoes while he picked out my birthday present (what could be a better way to spend an afternoon?). We went to mass and had dinner at home and sat back to enjoy Vin Diesel’s “The Pacifier” on cable – we did not have high hopes for the movie, we just wanted an evening of light, “no thinking required” entertainment. Well, suffice it to say the movie was A-W-F-U-L! I can’t believe Mr. Diesel did that movie after doing blockbuster action movies like xXx and The Fast and the Furious. And what was Brad Garret thinking, acting like a mentally-deranged vice principal?

So all in all we had a pretty good weekend – it would have been great – but watching the scene between Vin Diesel’s Navy Seal turned babysitter character wrestling with Brad Garret’s vice principal / psycho wrestling coach character is seared in my brain and is just too, too awful.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Few of My Favorite Things

One of my favorite movies, "The Sound of Music", shows a scene where Maria, the governess, (played by the ever talented Julie Andrews) comforts the Von Trapp children during a thunderstorm with a song called "My Favorite Things". The song claims that when feeling sad, simply remembering one's favorite things makes one feel glad.

Well, I'm having one of "those days" right now and maybe it'll help if I list my favorite things ...

Family and friends; classic pearl jewelry; scented bath gels; crisp and clean sheets; Elizabeth Arden's Green Tea Cologne; good books; feel-good movies; yard sales and Farmer's markets; Asian art; Fall foliage; scenic drives; slingback shoes; flipflops; Crate and Barrel decor; entertaining at home; scented candles; decorating our home; channel surfing; weekend trips; satchel-style bags; going out for dinner; rainy days; manicures; massages; sleeping in; Friday nights; blogging; chandelier earrings; crystal and bead jewelry; browsing at bookstores; sleepovers; store sales; spicy food; iced lattes, chai tea; dimsum; Jack & Jill BBQ Chippy; pesto pasta; Thai and Indian curries; my mom's homecooking; French onion soup. . . . .

I guess it does sort of work.

"When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad. I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Wish List

One of my favorite things to do is to go over store catalogues and pick out things I’d like to some day buy. I spend long hours pouring over catalogues from Crate and Barrel, Ikea, Kohls, Best Buy, Walmart, Robinsons-May, JC Penney and everything else that ends up in our mailbox. Of course, inevitably, I take mental notes of what things I’d get if and when I have the time and luxury to indulge myself.

Last night before going to bed, my hubby asked me to list my top gift choices to give him an idea of what I want for my upcoming birthday. Naturally my mental wish list is perfect for times like these.

Here is a partial list of the things I told him I wouldn’t mind getting.

Below $20.00
Bath and Body Works Wallflower Refills – (Preferred scents: Mango Mandarin, Coconut Lime and Verbena, French Lavender).
Books from Amazon (Autobiography of a Geisha by Sayo Masuda; Red Azalea by Anchee Min; The Waiting Years by Fumiko Enchi).
Three-tier wrought iron plate racks from Crate and Barrel (preferably with the plates please, although they cost extra).

Below $50.00
Griffin and Sabine boxed Trilogy set by Nick Bantoch (if you are feeling extra generous I’d like the 6-volume version).
Tabletop Chocolate Fondue Fountain.
Pink leather Leanback moccasins with rhinestone buckles from Nine West (size 7).

Below $70.00
SmartSet Alarm Clock / Radio from Brookstone.
Shell stripe 400-thread count sheet set from Target.
“Shu by Ai’ – Shu Uemura Limited Edition Cleansing Oils set.

And if feeling extra generous:
Signature style, Large pocket satchel Coach bag in silver, khaki and gold.

Knowing my hubby’s gift-giving tendencies, I probably will not end up with any of these. Sometimes he purposely asks me these things to throw me off. But whatever the gift may be, I am sure that it will be something he has taken the time to carefully think about and that it is something he knows I will love. Right, Joj??? :)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Who knew?

This is what happens when you have too much time on your hands:

I entered my birthdate (1/21/1975) on this website ( ) and this is what came up about me:

Your date of conception was on or about 30 April 1974 which was a Tuesday.
(Now it's no longer a coincidence as to why my second name is April!).

You were born on a Tuesday under the astrological sign Aquarius. Your life path number is 8.
(Lucky 8!)

The year 1975 was not a leap year.
The date of Easter on your birth year was Sunday, 30 March 1975.
The date of Ash Wednesday on your birth year was Wednesday 12 February 1975.
The date of Whitsun (Pentecost Sunday) in the year of your birth was Sunday 18 May 1975.
The date of Whisuntide in the year of your birth was Sunday 25 May 1975.

As of 1/6/2006 4:58:47 PM EST
You are 30 years old.
You are 372 months old.
You are 1,615 weeks old.
You are 11,308 days old.
You are 271,408 hours old.
You are 16,284,538 minutes old.
You are 977,072,327 seconds old.
Your age is the equivalent of a dog that is 4.42583170254403 years old. (You're still chasing cats!)
(Whew! That makes me feel much better!)

There are 15 days till your next birthday on which your cake will have 31 candles. Those 31 candles produce 31 BTUs,or 7,812 calories of heat (that's only 7.8120 food Calories!) . You can boil 3.54 US ounces of water with that many candles.

Your birthstone is Garnet
The Mystical properties of Garnet. Garnet is used as a power stone
Some lists consider these stones to be your birthstone. (Birthstone lists come from Jewelers, Tibet, Ayurvedic Indian medicine, and other sources) Emerald, Rose Quartz

Your birth tree is Elm Tree.
Noble-mindedness, pleasant, tasteful clothes, modest demands, tends not forgive mistakes, cheerful, likes to lead but not to obey, honest and faithful partner, tends to a know-all-attitude and making decisions for others, noble-minded, generous, good sense of humour, practical.
(Amazingly, this does sound like me.)

There are 353 days till Christmas 2006!
There are 1 days till Orthodox Christmas!
The moon's phase on the day you wereborn was waxing gibbous.

(Someone must have an amazing amount of time on his hands!)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Happy 1st Birthday to our beautiful niece, Sydney!

Happy New Year!

Again, it’s been a while since my last blog entry. I wish I had some fabulous excuse as to why I’ve been so lax in writing. It would sound so glamorous to say we’ve spent our Xmas holidays skiing in Aspen. Or maybe that my hubby and I went on some exotic cruise to usher in the new year.

But truth be told, it’s nothing more than being extremely busy with all the end of the year things (work – seminars right and left; last minute shopping that just never seemed to end; gatherings with family, friends and neighbors; decorating the home; cooking; weeding out my closet; etc, etc). Oh yeah, and the highlight of my Yuletide season – coming down with a nasty, nasty cold/flu virus that took me 7 days to get over. 7 days! My gad, I’m getting old!

But despite that – we did have a wonderful holiday season. This year we took turns hosting the “three main holidays”. Marik (Jojo’s sister) and Roy (her husband) hosted Thanksgiving, Tracy (Jojo’s other sister) and Jojo (her husband) were our Xmas Eve hosts, while Jojo and I had a New Year’s Eve party at our place.

As can be expected (with Jojo’s large family), Xmas Eve was a rambunctious and lively event. There was dinner, followed by Xmas Eve mass at St. Maria Goretti, Bingo games, exchanging Secret Santa presents, Noche Buena (traditional midnight meal), and finally the opening of Xmas gifts (you should have seen the kids – they were opening up gifts right and left!). We ended up with wrapping paper everywhere, good presents, happy faces, and four (5 counting our new born niece) tired but excited kids.

New Year’s Eve was the same – dinner, games of Win, Lose or Draw; Charades; and a version of a married couples game (“how well do you know your spouse”). My hubby and I lost the first round (we came in 4th place – there were 4 couples playing). Lots of good natured teasing and us justifying that we lost because we were the couple that was most recently married (of course that came in handy!). But we made up for it in the second round where we tied with Tracy and Jojo for first place. We ended the night with the traditional midnight meal to welcome in 2006.

Spending Xmas away from home, away from my family, is something I claim I am getting used to (this is my 5th one so far). But in all honesty, it does not get any easier. It's still tough esepcially since the holidays were always a huge part of my growing up and since my family always made a major production of celebrating the season. Lavish Xmas and New Year's Eve dinners at our place where everyone would get dressed up, extra-special homecooked food, wonderful presents under a splendid tree my mom would decorate herself, stockings filled with goodies from Santa every Xmas morning, driving around the subdivision giving Xmas presents to the security guards, going to my grandparents place in San Lorenzo for Xmas Day and New Year's Day lunch, going to mass at Mary the Queen dressed in our new clothes, listening to the choir sing Xmas carols, my friends stopping by in the afternoon, having leftovers for the next few days ... the memories are endless. The one blessing I am grateful for is knowing that everyone is well even if we are apart. It helps too that my hubby has a warm and very close-knit family here and celebrating with them makes my holiday almost complete.

I guess the bottomline is wherever you are and whatever you end up doing over the holidays – it helps to be with the people you love and doing things that you enjoy.

(Belated) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!