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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving Holiday

Our Thanksgiving dinner turned out really well. I have to say I was very impressed with Boston Market’s “reheat and serve” banquet dinner. Not counting the over one hour wait and the abrupt customer service we had to endure at the pick-up place, it was a pretty pleasant experience. I think the best part was not having to do any cooking and yet having a hot, delicious and traditional dinner! The meal came with an 11-pound roast turkey (that we reheated for almost 2 hours in a roasting bag), mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, corn bread and a pumpkin pie. The turkey was very moist and flavorful, the gravy was good, the mashed potatoes were lumpy enough for my liking and the corn bread was yummy. I also served steamed green beans with a dash of garlic salt and melted butter which was well received. The only thing that was barely touched was the stuffing. I guess it’s largely because my mom used to make stuffing with rice and mushrooms – and that’s the kind we grew up on. We never had stuffing made with bread – both its look and texture reminded me of mush and was not very appetizing. For dessert, my brother brought a chocolate chip cheesecake from the House of Pies in Los Feliz. It was very decadent and everyone had a slice to round off the meal. We all enjoyed the food for Thanksgiving dinner and even more so the next day when we reheated the leftovers.

But the best part of the Thanksgiving holiday is the Black Friday sales. The next day we all woke up at 4 AM to head over to the Citadel Outlets for shopping! It was a lot of fun. We arrived there a little past 5 and while it was still dark outside, the place was festive because of the lights and the crowds. We managed to find some pretty good deals. I bought shoes at Bass and several cashmere sweaters at Ann Taylor. My hubby got a winter coast for skiing – although I’m not really sure he’ll find much use for it since LA weather is so temperate and since we never really go skiing! We also got to buy Xmas presents for all our nieces and nephews. Jules got scarves, shirts and a sweater. While my aunt, uncle and cousin did their fair share of shopping too. By around noon, the sun was out and most of the sales were over (most stores were offering sale prices from 5 AM to 11 AM only), so after lunch, we headed home to take a nap.

Good food, family and friends, shopping, napping and snacking on leftovers – what could be a better way to spend the Thanksgiving holidays?!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Thanks

Today is Thanksgiving and while this may sound clich̩, I do have so many things I should be thankful for. Of course there are the big things Рlike a wonderful husband, an incredible family, great in-laws, true friends, a good home, stable jobs for me and Joj, good health (despite the occasional bouts of the flu), enough to live comfortably, and with savings in the bank too. I am truly blessed and truly fortunate.

And then there are the little things … I am thankful for the 4-day holiday off from work. I am thankful for Boston Market’s Roast Turkey Banquet for 12 that will allow me and our guests to enjoy a good dinner without having to labor over a hot stove. I am thankful for Costco’s Pumpkin Cheesecake – it is just scrumptious! I am thankful that Fall weather has finally come back to LA. I am thankful for Black Friday sales and a hubby who is willing to go shopping with me. I am thankful for my uncle, aunt and cousin who are arriving today to spend Thanksgiving with us. I am thankful that I am finally over that cough I’ve had for almost a month. I am thankful for my mom’s hot cider recipe that I will serve tonight (there will be at least one thing homemade for dinner tonight!). I am thankful for Macys, Kohls, and Crate and Barrel’s Xmas catalogue. I am thankful for having some free time to read emails and post blogs. I am thankful for upcoming holiday parties and get-togethers. I am thankful that I found the perfect pair of shoes to wear to my SIL’s upcoming wedding (finding silver sandals in stores during the Winter season is not as easy as we thought!).

The list goes on and on … but before I forget, I am very thankful for for those who take the time to read my blog. That means a lot to me :)

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Tis the Season for Giving

I love Xmas and I’m all for the idea of starting the Xmas season as early as possible and ending it as late as possible. In Manila, Xmas is celebrated as early as October and can last all the way till February. I remember how back home we used to have our Xmas decors up for almost 4 months. It was always so beautifully done, hats off to my mom for creating such a wonderland every year. Family and friends used to come over and take pictures in front of our Xmas tree – that’s how pretty it was!

I think having 4-month long Xmas holidays is just great! After all, Xmas is just too much fun and just too exciting to limit to just one day of the year. Who says it's just a holiday for kids? It's for everyone! And since it brings about good cheer, gift-giving, Xmas carols, beautiful decorations, days off from work, family gatherings and good food, I say we should stretch it out as long as we possibly can!

For my hubby and I, today was officially the start of our Xmas season. Our season officially begins when we can officially cross off the first name on our Xmas list. And today, we got to cross off a few dozen names. Yay for us!

While that may not be such a great accomplishment, it is for us! I know some people who start their shopping as soon as the “For Sale” signs from the previous Xmas go up. I admire folks who get their Xmas shopping done early and avoid the rush as the season draws closer. There are those who are done with Xmas shopping as early as November and spend the days before Xmas shaking their heads at the crazy folks who make mad dashes to the mall! Every year I promise myself that I will be one of those folks who will get my shopping done ahead of time. For starters, I tell myself that every time I see something that I know someone on my list would like, I am going to get it and set it aside for Xmas. If I see a great shirt I know would look good on my dad, I’ll get it even if it’s the middle of July! But somehow, as with many good intentions, that just never happens. I mean, yes, I could find something so perfect for someone and buy it then and there. But I’m usually so excited to see their reaction that there is no way I can last 7 more months before giving it to that person. I'll probably end up giving that person the gift as soon as I run into him just because I know they will love it. I've been guilty of ruining several surprises that way.

And to further justify the madness, I think that one of the joys and traditions of Xmas is shopping for presents amidst the traffic, among the crowds, with the feeling of being rushed. That’s just what Xmas gift-giving is all about. Yes, it is absolutely the thought that counts – but I think, it’s largely the effort too! :)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Childhood Books

When I was much younger, Sunday afternoons meant a trip to National Bookstore with my dad. Together we would spend the afternoon reading books and magazines. We would literally spend hours crouched along the aisles browsing through page after page. At the end of the day, we would each get to choose a book to take home, to last us till our next bookstore expedition.

Those used to be such simple times. But they were times I truly looked forward to. Back then, they made my weekends complete. I strongly believe that it was those Sunday afternoons in National that forged my love for the written word, that paved the way for my overly active imagination, and that developed my appreciation for literature.

My dad was a big believer in books. He would strongly encourage our love for reading by allowing us to buy an unlimited number of books. We didn’t always get every toy we wanted nor did we get to buy all the outfits we thought looked great. But when it came to books – well the sky was the limit.

Through the years, my dad bought me a lot of books. Some of my very favorite books when I was younger include Louisa Mae Alcott’s Little Women. That book has gotten me thru some very tough times. Reading about the March sisters just reminds me of a simpler life and of the things that really matter – things like family, and traditions, and being there for each other. I always thought my sisters and I were very much like the March sisters. I was the Josephine March of my family – headstrong, willful, and ambitious. My sister Jenny was Beth March – kind, caring, and always there for us. Joy was little Amy March – carefree, high-spirited, and full of life. And my mom was a shoe-in for Marmee – the glue that binds us all together.

I also loved all those Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary. I was a huge Judy Blume fan too. I grew up with Fudge and Peter and Sheila the Great. All my copies were were dog-eared from being read too many times. I loved “Are You There God, It’sMe Margaret” and “Blubber”. I loved the Berenstein Bears and Winnie the Pooh. I even enjoyed the Bunnicula series so much that today that’s one of my nicknames for my hubby. I adored the Nancy Drew and the Bobsey Twins series just as much as I enjoyed reading my dad’s old copies of The Hardy Boys.

I had a copy of Black Beauty, and a copy of The Little Prince, and one of Charlotte’s Web. I read my share of fairy tales and bible stories for kids. I had a copy of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and a copy of Robin Hood and his band of merry men. And when I daydreamed about those stories, I was always Arthur or Lancelot or even Robin – but never Guinevere nor Maid Marian. I went thru my brother’s collection of Choose Your Own Adventure books and his Asterix and Obelix comic books. I went thru a Sweet Valley High and Sweet Dreams pocket books phase too.

I wasn’t limited to fiction books either. I had this one book on the Seven Wonders of the World that I spent many hours pouring over. I read our Children’s Encyclopedia series and our Childcraft series over and over. I even read books on Countries of the World and would challenge my brother to quiz me on naming countries and their capitals. (I was a little strange in my childhood, I guess).

I can’t believe that I remember so many of those titles even if it’s been close to twenty or so years since I’ve seen or even read most of them. But they were such a special time in my childhood that just the memory of reading them makes me smile. Very belatedly, I thank my dad for instilling in me the love of reading. It is definitely one thing that I will pass on to my kids some day. I can’t wait to sit my kids down and introduce them to the wonderful characters of my childhood. I can’t wait for their faces to light up and for them to get as excited as I did. I can’t wait to hear them ask me to read them a story. I think it is moments like these that will make up having to change poopy diapers and deal with temper tantrums. :)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I'm Baaack

I’m back. My dad says that almost three weeks of no new posts is a record. I agree. It’s been a while. I guess I owe my loyal readers (or what’s left of them) some sort of explanation to explain my absence. But to be honest, I’m not so sure what to say. The usual excuse of being busy and having too many things to do seems so lame. The fact is the last few days, I’ve been a little bit out of it. Literally and figuratively. Literally, since I did get sick, and having the flu can take a lot out of you. But figuratively, I was not my usual self either. A combination of reasons, I guess.

I didn’t even realize I was out of it – until I had a good long talk with my folks last Friday. As always, my mom and dad were kind enough to help me see straight. I’ve been a bit sad and down lately – and did not even know I was sad and down. I think I did such a great job of hiding it because the people around me never really said anything. I was so convincing – I actually convinced myself that everything was okay. But there’s no fooling my folks! My dad pointed out that they know me so well that even with the thousand or so miles between us – they know when something is wrong. He said that because they care for me so much, they know me better than everyone else (better than myself even) that they knew I was not a-okay. Now, when faced with that kind of discussion, the first thing a normal person would do would be to deny these facts. And I did make a feeble attempt to say I was fine and it was just stress. But when I started being honest with them and myself, I guess I had to admit that they were right and I have been a bit down lately.

I've been trying to figure out what is/was wrong. Retrospection is not easy. Especially since there is no one real reason that is making me sad. Maybe I'm having a mid-life crisis (it could happen – I am in my thirties after all!). But honestly, it’s a lot of little things (work mostly, but also feelings of homesickness, frustration, anxiety). And then there was my attitude as well. I mean, think about it, everyone goes thru ups and downs. And in any situation (whether it’s an up or a down), there are two ways to look at things. You can choose to see the good in something or focus on the negative. In an “up” situation, you can look at the positive and make the already good situation better – or you could look at it negatively and make a good situation turn bad. On the flip side, you could look at a “down” situation with optimism and make it better or you could look at it pessimistically and wallow in the bad. The thing I learned from all this is that the ups and downs are inevitable – they happen whether we want them to or not – that’s just how life is. But the way we look at these situations – our reaction to them and how we handle them – now that’s something we have control over. That’s something we can actually consciously have power over.

It’s obviously a lot easier said then done. Most good advice is that way. But at least I’m making some headway by owning up to this and trying to focus on being more positive. I am going to do my best to think cheery thoughts and be more optimistic. I am going to try and rid my life of things that are getting me down and inhibiting my growth as a person. I am going to focus on the good things. I am going to work on living my life for me instead of trying so hard to please others. I am going to surround myself with my loving family, good friends and my favorite things to see and do. I am going to learn how to relax, to take things in stride and not take things too personally. I am going to do my very best and take it one day at a time. I am an incredibly blessed and an extremely fortunate person and I owe it (at the very least) to myself to be happy.