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Friday, December 29, 2006

My Annual Xmas Letter

This Xmas letter was sent to all my dearest and bestest
friends. I try to send one every year since Xmas letters
are a great way to stay in touch - especially if you have
friends who live all over. Ideally, the letter should be
hand-delivered (when I come over and they hand me their
gifts!)or at least mailed with a lovely Xmas card - it
just seems a bit more personal that way. This year, though,
most of my friends will find it in their e-mailboxes instead.
BUT only because I wanted people to get it while it was
still the Holiday Season. Sorry. I'll try to do better next
year, I promise!

Thought I'd post it on my blog in case I missed anyone
and they just happen to be reading my blog ...


Dear Friends,

This letter is long overdue … emphasis on the words "long" and
"overdue". As a result, it begins with an
apology. I am so sorry
for not being better at
keeping in touch. No excuses –
just an apology.


Before I go any further, wishes for a Belated Merry Christmas
and a Wonderful New Year to everyone. I
hope, that as you
find yourselves in the midst of the
holiday season, you can
find it in your hearts to
forgive a friend who has been so
bad at keeping in
touch.

The past year has gone by in one big whoosh! Lots of things
have happened. For starters, I joined a new
company in July.
After working as an external
consultant for a consulting firm
for almost 3 years, I
decided to make the switch and move to
being an
internal consultant / trainer for an Asian financial
company.
At first, I asked myself – “What was I thinking”
– I know nothing about finance! My math skills are sadly
lacking. And despite being born
Chinese – my 13 years at
ICA has not taught me to
speak Chinese even if my life
depended on it! It’s
been a tough 5 months – but these days
I am slowly
able to catch my breath and am learning to "wing it".

Jojo started a new job as an IT Specialist last October. He no
longer works for an anime company (no
more free comics for
him – which is the only downer).
His new company manu-
factures and sells printers and
ink cartridges (yay! free ink!).
He does have a much shorter commute
though. I guess we are
THE lucky LA couple since we
both live 15 minutes away from
where we work. Unheard
of in LA. It’s sweet! What we save on
gas money we’ve
been able to pour into other more exciting
activities
… I’ll let you know when we have the time to come
up
with them!

The past year we have had many out of town visitors. Always a
good thing. The highlight was having my
entire family over last
May. All 7 Js. It was
awesome. Lots of people and only 3
bathrooms –
but awesome nonetheless! We also had lots of
friends
come visit. It's been great. There were times when we
had several groups overlap – which prompted my dad to
suggest
we hang up a whiteboard with a calendar to
make sure we didn’t
overbook our hotel/home. But,
Jojo and I don’t mind, it’s
always great to have
friends over :)

We didn’t get to do much traveling this year, since with new jobs,
we were trying to get adjusted before
taking any time off. But we
did have lots of time to
work on our home and grow a garden.
Okay, okay, so Jojo
did most of the garden work – but I “helped”
too!
Next year we are hopefully planning on taking a few much
needed and well deserved vacations!


More of our 2006 highs and lows: I’ve started a local bookclub
which is all about a group of great women and
getting to read
great books. I’ve had several dental
dilemmas (a crown, root
canal and lost filling all in
one year!). Jojo got a new car (since
we have no kids
or pets – we have started naming our cars!
Is that
sad?). We went to Las Vegas twice in 3 months (not to
gamble but to hang out in our hotel rooms – my kind of
vacation).
Had grand, grand reunions – with high
school friends and
friends from Jewelmer. Jojo’s
sister got married two weeks ago
– and it was just
beautiful. We’ve enjoyed our nieces and nephews
and are still the reigning
"cool aunt and uncle". We celebrated
my 31st
this year, and Jojo’s 38th, as well as our 2nd wedding
anniversary. Time flies! My brother, Jules graduated
from his
MBA and the twins are done with college. It
was great to celebrate
that with them too. I went
back to school earlier this year to get
certified in HR and my hubby is going thru self-schooling hoping
to get CISSP certified too.


More news: I went thru about 3 months of job searching which
was
a true test of patience and one’s self-confidence until finally
landing the job I now have. Then it was
tough saying good-bye to
my old job and leaving
familiar faces and friends. On the other
hand, my hubby found his new
job without even trying – after
one interview! And
had no trouble saying good-bye to his old job.
How
fair is that! My blog turned 1-year old this year. Our
backyard
orange tree turned two (sadly still no fruit!).

It’s
been a tiring, exciting, happy, wonderful, stressful, hectic,
super, great year.


And as for the question that I know is on everyone’s minds, the
answer is “NOPE, we are not pregnant yet”.
But we are hoping
that 2007 will be THE year.
Hopefully my next Xmas letter will
have some baby news
included. Wouldn’t that be great?

On that note, I hope you are all having the happiest of holidays.
God bless you and your families. Have a wonderful 2007. AND,
I am really looking forward to hearing
about what’s up with each
one of you!


Love,
Joanne and Jojo

Lists

Ten Reasons why I’ve been “missing in action”:

1. My SIL, Tracy, got married last Dec. 16th and we were all busy helping with the wedding.

2. My hubby’s family from out of town came for the wedding.

3. We celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary last Dec. 18th – 2 years, can you believe it?!

4. Had to travel to Northern California for work last week – did training in three of our offices up there.

5. Last minute Xmas shopping – and wrapping – and shopping – and wrapping – and some more shopping!

6. Office Xmas party.

7. Having my cousin, Chris, over for the holidays.

8. Year-end stuff to finish for work.

9. Sending out Xmas cards – that are turning into Happy New Year cards instead.

10. Celebrating the holidays!


Ten Things I Loved About Christmas 2006:

1. Christmas mass and singing Christmas carols – literally gives me the chills! Especially when the choir broke out into “Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit” – It was a mixture of the Xmas spirit and homesickness all rolled into one :)

2. Watching my nieces and nephews opening their Xmas presents.

3. Noche Buena (a Filipino tradition my hubby and his family have taught me to appreciate).

4. Annual Xmas letters from friends that helps me catch up with the year that went by.

5. Our traditional Xmas Eve phone call to Manila – since it’s Xmas Day there, it’s the one time everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) is there. Got to talk to my guama (grandma) and hear her voice which is always nice.

6. Snuggling in bed with my hubby on Xmas morning.

7. My in-laws’ annual Bingo tournament.

8. Secret Santas (with my family and at work).

9. Catching up with neighbors and exchanging homemade goodies (we’re constantly rushing in and out of our homes during the year – this is the only time we get to slow down and actually talk to each other).

10. Yummy leftovers that last pretty much the whole week!


Ten Things That I Am Looking Forward to This Weekend:

1. Yesterday was my last day of work for 2006 – I have a 4-day weekend starting today!!!

2. Celebrating New Year’s at my SIL/BIL’s place in Cerritos.

3. Meeting up with my cousin, Leeanne, who I have not seen in more than 5 years!

4. Attending New Year’s Eve mass.

5. Sydney’s (my niece) 2nd birthday, my father in law’s birthday and my 32nd birthday – all coming up!

6. Our planned weekend trip to San Diego.

7. Using up all those gift cards we got for Xmas!

8. Attending 3 simultaneous baby showers for people at work.

9. Getting our Garmin Nuvi and going for long, adventurous drives :)

10. The start of 2007 – endless possibilities!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Holiday Home

Due to insistent public demand ... here are some pictures of our home decked out in holiday splendor. Since I'm not that great a photographer, I'll have to include very detailed captions to share each of the special pieces showcased.


This is our formal living room. The ornament-shaped candleholders that I mentioned my mom and I both have is on the side table (barely seen here) and on the nesting tables (not seen here at all!). The snowman platter that Auntie Carrie gave is behind the coffeetable books (again barely seen here). I guess what can be seen are the Xmas teddy bear, Santa Clauses and colorful Xmas pillows on the couch and loveseat.





This is the little spot between the formal living room and the formal dining area. Normally we stash our mail, keys and other last minute stuff on that little table (which my dad and I assembled!). For Xmas we have the Nativity figurines that Jojo and I bought and some gold colored pillar candles. The Xmas baskets (with holly and red ribbons) were made by my mom for my wedding give-aways 2 years ago).




Here is our formal dining area. Usually our cabinets are filled with our wedding china and glassware, treasured gifts from special friends, and the usual knick-knacks we've collected from here and there. For Xmas I've added deep red poinsettias, my three Xmas Santas up on top (sort of like the 3 wise men), my santa and snowman candy jars, and my Xmas dishes (given by Uncle Raniel). My centerpiece (barely seen) includes the crystal snowmen and santa figurines my parents got us from Sausalito. I'll be adding Xmas balls to surround them later on. Check out my new tablecloth and runner - Xmas theme this year is red and gold!


Last but not the least, our 6-foot Xmas tree! I am so excited and so proud of our tree. It may not look like much - but in person, it is absolutely gorgeous! The camera flash does not show the beautiful twinkling lights and the red and gold Xmas ornaments. I love it and I love how Jojo and I worked on decorating this together. On the right is the snowmen figurines (climbing a fiber-optic mini-tree) that Uncle Junior and Auntie Lillian gave us last year. And on the right is the "Seasons Greeting" sign that Auntie Lilian cross-stitched herself and was our present the Xmas before.

I would have posted the decors in the family room - but the place is a mess since I'm in the middle of wrapping Xmas presents. And the Xmas stockings in the hallway are great too - but because of the angle of the hallway, I could not get a good shot. Also, each of the doorknobs have Xmas ornaments hanging on them that jingle every time a door is opened. But I thought it would be odd to take pictures of all our doors. So suffice it to say, and you'll have to take my word for it, our home is ready for the holidays :)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

2006 Wish List

I went to another dentist who performed a root canal procedure on me today. I went for a second opinion, hoping not to have to go see a specialist. But mid-way thru my root canal she finds that one of the roots of my tooth is blocked and it turns out I do have to go see a specialist. There’s just no getting around it. I’m bummed since even with dental insurance the cost is pretty high and not only that I’ll have to take another afternoon off from work. And last but not the least, I will have to go thru the whole ordeal all over again. On the bright side, my tooth has not been hurting lately and the procedure today was not too bad. At least not as bad as I had feared.

To cheer me up I’ve decided to work on my annual wish list. I had fun putting my wish list together last year that I though what better way to forget my dental dilemma than to go on-line and catalogue shopping! So, here it is – my 2006 holiday wish list.

Above $150.00
1. Michael Kors or Ellen Tracy large leather satchel style bags (white or tan).
2. Anne Klein Herringbone Toggle Winter Coat.
3. Tumi messenger bag / laptop carrier – (Elements style in copper color)
4. Aquamarine leverback earrings (rectangular cut) set in white gold
5. Garmin Streetpilot (with at least a 3”x3” screen)
6. Fieldcrest 400-Thread Count, Egyptian Cotton Sheet Set from Target

$50.00 - $150.00
1. Shu Uemura Moisture Recovery Cream and Recharging Night Cream
2. Multi-gem, Semi-precious, lauriat necklaces from Necklaces So Chic
3. Cuisinart Ice Cream Machine
4. Stainless Steel Chaffing Dishes from Crate and Barrel
5. Ann Taylor Cashmere Wrap (Silver)
6. Sunbeam Queen-sized electric blanket

Below $50.00
1. Whitebarn Wallflowers Home Frangance Kits and Refills (Bartlett Pear or Lavender)
2. TV Tray Tables from Target
3. Coupon for a Manicure, Pedicure and Facial
4. Barnes and Noble Gift Card
5. Old Navy, Dark Chocolate, Faux Fur-Lined Hooded Vest
6. Hamilton Beach Electric Carving Knife (the one with a carving fork in a stainless steel case).

I realize this list is both frivolous and extravagant. But in the spirit of creating “wish lists” these are definitely things that are “nice to have” but definitely not “must haves”. And by the way, I do feel better after putting this together :)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Decorating Our Home for the Holidays

I don’t think I’ve been remiss in writing about how much I love the holidays. One of the things I love is decorating our home for Xmas. This is largely attributed to my growing up in a home that was always considered a Xmas wonderland. Every year, around September, for as long as I can remember, I would wake up and go to school not suspecting anything. After class, I would come home and the house would magically be transformed. There would be beautiful Xmas decors everywhere (and I mean EVERYWHERE!). But the best and most glorious decor of all would be a beautiful Christmas tree in the center of our living room. My mom and our helpers would spend the better part of the day taking things from storage and beautifying our home. I’ve always been so proud of our home, most especially during the holiday season. Every year, I would invite different groups of friends to come for dinner (evenings were even more special because of all the lights) and every year everyone would compliment my mom on a job well done.

Since moving to the States and having my own home, I’ve done my best in trying to recreate that special holiday magic. It’s a tough act to follow since I don’t have the time, budget and creativity. But I’d like to think I’ve inherited some of my mom’s talent since I’ve managed to make my apartment in Berkeley, the two in LA, and now our home in Torrance, a little bit more special for the season.

This year also marks our 2nd Xmas as a married couple and my hubby and I have found another tradition that we hope to keep for many more years. Decorating our home for the holidays together. We chose today a really nice and lazy Sunday afternoon to do the job. The weather was cool and the house was surprisingly quiet. For once, Jojo and I had the whole place all to ourselves. It’s always nice having out-of town guests and family and friends over. But there are days when it’s nice to just rewind and relax alone.

To set the mood, I made a home-cooked dinner that would be our reward after we got the job done. I turned on some Xmas music and we got to work. Jojo took down the boxes from the garage and while he opened up the boxes and took our wrapped decors out, I started putting things around the house. In the short time we’ve lived here, I was surprised and touched at how many happy memories our Xmas decors brought. My favorites include a framed and cross-stitched “Seasons Greeting” banner that my Auntie Lillian gave us and a pair of stuffed snowmen figurines climbing a lighted Xmas tree that she and Uncle Junior sent from Modesto. There’s the beautiful ceramic snowman-shaped serving platter that Auntie Carrie’s family sent last year and the tiny snowmen and Santa Clause ornaments that my mom and dad bought us from Sausalito. There’s the poinsettia-wreath that my hubby and I bought for my first apartment in LA and the Snowman and Santa Clause Candy Jar that last year was filled with chocolate wrapped in Xmas foil that my nieces and nephews loved. There’s the Xmas-ornament shaped candleholders my mom and I bought at Kohls. She brought hers home to Manila last year while mine are displayed in my living room (I love how I have the exact same ones since it makes me feel we’re somewhat cosmically connected!). There’s the Xmas dishes my Uncle Raniel gave us last year that I’ve set up in our dining room and the nativity set with the Holy Family that Jojo and I bought three Xmases ago. There’s the cuddly stuffed teddy bears with santa hats and colorful Xmas pillows strewn around our living room and family room.

But my favorite has got to be the Xmas stocking my mom brought from Manila. There are 6 in all (one for Jojo, one for myself, and one each of my brothers and sisters), decorated with different designs and our names stitched across the top. Back home in Manila, my mom would hang our stockings in the banister and I remember how we would wake up early on Xmas mornings to dig into the stockings to find goodies “Santa” left us. This time, with no banister of our own (we live in a one-story home), Jojo and I hung the stockings in the hallway. Hopefully they’ll still be filled with Xmas goodies this Xmas morning!

Dental Dilemmas

Yesterday I was at my dentist’s office at 10:00 AM prepared to spend a good part of my Saturday getting a root canal. Not the best way to spend a weekend, but I had no choice. For the last 4 nights, I’ve been kept awake by a sharp pain on my upper right molar. When I stopped by the dental clinic after work on Thursday, the prognosis was not good. I needed a root canal and a crown. I knew it would hurt but after 4 nights of toothache-hell, I was ready for anything! I think compared to having a toothache every night, I would have taken a root canal procedure any day!

However, after getting x-rayed and prepped, my dentist tells me my nerves are not visible in the x-ray and therefore he would have to refer me to a root canal specialist. I would be given a 4-day respite and would have to come back on Wednesday to see Dr. Park. I was worried – 4 more days of pain??? Then and there I actually considered just getting my tooth extracted but Dr. Hameed read my mind and promised he would give me painkillers to help me get thru the wait. Aaah. Painkillers. Thank God for these little white pills. Because of them I got to spend the weekend relatively pain-free. And what a good weekend it was -- my niece’s first birthday on Saturday and shopping and decorating our home for the holidays with my hubby on Sunday.

Of course, my hubby spent a good part of the weekend teasing me about my dental dilemmas. In the last 3 or so years I have had my fillings replaced, gone for a crown, had one of my wisdom teeth extracted, got my chipped tooth re-shaped, went for several cleanings, and now am facing a root canal. It hardly seems fair since I religiously brush, floss and gargle twice a day. It is my hubby on the other hand who I have to remind, cajole, and nag to brush his teeth every night. But in the last three years, he has never had any dental issues. I mean it’s not that I want Jojo to have any dental problems, it’s just ironic that I’m the one who keeps getting them! I know there are a lot of other factors apart from daily brushing – like nutrition and heredity – that bring about problems like this - all I can say is it's also a lot of “dumb luck” !