My one word for 2017

The first month of the year is nearly over, and it seems like I couldn’t wait for the year to end. So far, I’ve been dealing with a lot of negativity even before the New Year started. What’s supposed to be a very fun and memorable Christmas vacation at home for my husband was tainted by our vexatious next-door neighbors’ evil schemes. Somehow, there’s just so much evil in them that I wonder if they ever sleep at all at night. And every morning, I would wonder whether the LORD had finally struck them dead.

I’ve been trying to overcome and it’s rather difficult. To keep myself at peace, I have started devoting time to read and study the Bible every morning. Currently, I am into the life of David and there are days when I couldn’t do anything but cry out to God, ask Him to give me a heart like David, a heart after His. I have realized that when I am in distress, there’s no better way to keep my mind off things than reading and meditating on God’s Word and reminding myself how blessed I am, how blessed my family is.

Sometimes, it also helps to just cry out to God and ask Him to strike our enemies dead in the most violent manner I believe each of them deserve and banish all evil men like them from the land. Then I would realize that I don’t even want to live here long and I should not really care about them. Moreover, despite their wickedness, they could never really harm me. And, it’s amazing how they are unable to really do so because the LORD protects us.  Continue reading “My one word for 2017”

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How We Welcome the New Year

The year 2016 has been a very challenging year for our family, though not quite as challenging as 2015, where we encountered the ugliest of monsters in the personhood of some really mean neighbors. Throughout this year, we have managed to overlook and evade any provocation they had set as a trap for us until recently.
Last night, we encountered these monsters again, and it seems that they are bent to continue trying to torment us well into 2017. Once more, I spent the night filing a blotter case against them, and it looks like I’ll be filing another criminal case against them in court too first thing Monday morning, if my family decides to cancel our field trip. 😉
Regardless of everything they’ve done and continue to do against us, my family and I shall rest in the knowledge that we have a God who is just and will avenge us. He is our shield and our deliverer; in times of trouble, we can count on Him. I may feel shaken for a moment and cry whenever I enter into a new battle, but the LORD shall sustain me. I may not understand His ways, but I know that He loves my family and me and He has a plan for us.
I am a Christian. I am an overcomer. I don’t have to do things alone. I shall never be alone. I have Jesus and I have the love and support of my family and friends. Their prayers alone comfort me.

Continue reading “How We Welcome the New Year”

The search for the perfect chewy brownie recipe

I learned how to bake way back in college. My sister bought an oven range and enrolled in short courses on baking with one or two of the country’s renowned chefs, in the hope to start a small business. As an accountant with a full-time job at a bank and as a mother to two kids and a wife, she had very limited time to pursue fully her business plans. With my interest to learn and help, however, she didn’t hesitate to pass on to me what she had learned from those classes. In time, she started taking orders from her workmates and friends, as well as some of their bank clients, and I would help her fulfill those orders.

For various reasons, I have stopped baking over the years until my daughters were old enough to bug me about baking them a cake or cookies. I suppose the idea came from the stories they would read and some of the shows they would watch on TV or the Internet. Since it has been a long time that I had not been baking anything from scratch and I do not have a copy of my sister’s recipes, I resorted to using store-bought cake mixes.

Alas, my daughters are now able to follow simple recipes and cook, including bake, by themselves. As much as I appreciate their efforts, I really wish I could teach them myself. I have recently made the decision to stop buying store-bought cake mixes and start baking something from scratch because that’s supposed to be healthier (and more economical). I have begun stocking our pantry then with various ingredients that we might need for baking breads, cookies, and cakes. And today, I simply could not put it off much longer. I wanted to bake something from scratch. I specifically wanted some chewy brownies.

I started looking up recipes online. If you must know, I’m not the type to settle on the first one Google would suggest or anything that would show a rating of 4–5 stars out of five. I tend to compare recipes, scrutinize the ingredients, read carefully the procedures, and yes, read the comments too. Hence, it took me a couple of hours just to find the kind of brownies I would want to make. I have also sent a message through Facebook to some of my friends, asking them to share with me their favorite brownie recipes. However, since it was taking a while for them to respond, I just continued on my search, and remembered to check out Pinterest–my sister’s advice.

I finally I came across sallysbakingaddiction.com via FoodGawker on Pinterest. I decided to give Sally’s recipe for Chewy Fudgy Homemade Brownies a try after reading the whole article on her website, which also explains in detail the importance of each ingredient and provides tips on how to attain that chewiness in brownies that I was craving for. What really made me decide to try it though was the line where she says that the recipe was borne out of a number of (sweet) trials and errors. I was able to relate to her immediately then and thought about the same thing I had to go through to come up with the creamy carbonara recipe that my family and friends truly appreciate and would even request for me to make at times.

So how did the brownies turn out? Lovely! They’re simply the chocolatiest brownies I’ve ever made or tasted and I was so thrilled because I made it from scratch. It must be because the recipe calls for the use of chocolate block instead of using only powdered cocoa. I didn’t really have enough chocolate block, so I added more cocoa powder than necessary to make up for it. And I’m glad it turned out well. My girls loved it, and I loved it too. In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever use another store-bought cake mix again! Moreover, as soon as I have bought another chocolate block, I’ll definitely teach my daughters how to make it themselves.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll never check out other brownie recipes. I hope I would be able to find one that would yield the same kind of brownies, but calls for cocoa powder only instead of a block of chocolate as well as chocolate chips. So, if you happen to have a favorite recipe, won’t you share it with me? Thanks. ❤

P.S. Here’s a copy of Sally’s Chewy Fudgy Homemade Brownies. I suggest you still visit her blog at sallysbakingaddiction.com though for the tips on how to make this and find other recipes. Enjoy!

“Chewy Fudgy Homemade Brownies

yield: 16-20 BROWNIES prep time: 25 MINUTES total time: 1 HOUR, 10 MINUTES PLUS COOLING

(Chewy fudgy homemade brownies made completely from scratch. Try them with chocolate frosting and sprinkles on top! You will never make a box mix again, trust me.)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (115g) salted butter1

8 ounces (228g) coarsely chopped quality semi-sweet chocolate2

3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar

1/4 cup (50g) packed light brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons (80g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)

2 Tablespoons (11g) unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (180g) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Milk Chocolate Frosting (optional)

1 and 3/4 cups (210g) confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup (22g) unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

2 Tablespoons (30ml) heavy cream or half-and-half

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

salt, to taste

Directions:

Melt the butter and chopped chocolate in a medium saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Or melt in a medium microwave safe bowl in 20 second increments, stirring after each, in the microwave. Remove from the heat, pour into a large mixing bowl, and allow to slightly cool for 10 minutes.

Adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line the bottom and sides of a 9×9 inch square baking pan3 with aluminum foil or parchment, leaving an overhang on all sides. Set aside.

Whisk the granulated and brown sugars into the cooled chocolate/butter mixture. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition. Whisk in the vanilla. Gently fold in the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Once combined, fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 35-36 minutes or until the brownies begin to pull away from the edges of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with only a few moist crumbs when the brownies are done. All ovens are different, so keep an eye on them after 30 minutes and use the toothpick test to see when yours are finished.

Allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack. Once cooled, lift the foil out of the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into squares. For neat squares, I use a very sharp knife and wipe it clean with a paper towel after each cut.

For the optional frosting: sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder to assure there are no lumps. Set aside. With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy – about 2 minutes. Gradually add the sifted sugar/cocoa powder alternately with the heavy cream and vanilla. Beat on low speed after each addition. Once all added, beat on high speed until creamy and combined for at least 2 minutes. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. Frost the brownies before or after cutting into squares, whichever you prefer.

The brownies will stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week.

Make ahead tip: For longer storage, these brownies (both frosted and unfrosted) freeze well for up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

Musings over coffee (and hot chocolate)

Enjoying coffee and/or hot chocolate outside of home has started to become a very interesting experience for me. In fact, I am now already looking forward to the next Saturday that I’ll be able to do it again. It started when I there were no longer seminars at church that I could attend while my daughters have their Awana Club meetings on such mornings. Left with the options of staying at the church building or at the park nearby, or going to a café with my laptop, I chose the last one.

Three Saturdays ago, I was at Bo’s Coffee. I understand that they serve homegrown coffee, and they have become quite popular, but this was the first time I’ve ever been to one of their coffee shops. The place was cozy, neat, and certainly wasn’t as crowded as Starbucks on most days–maybe because it was still rather early. There were a lot of patrons at the time I was there, but many of the seats were still unoccupied, plus the noise level wasn’t enough to make me want to enjoy my coffee somewhere else.

I was able to find a couch where I could work on some translation project, though I had to share the table with a stranger who was having a full meal breakfast. I still wonder why he would eat on a low coffee table though, when there were other tables fit for proper dining! Perhaps he was also after the comfortable couch? The place also offers free WiFi access; however, I still had to resort to using my iPhone as hotspot because the signal strength was rather insufficient for me to upload my work.

Anyway, while I was there, I worked and observed and listened in–I couldn’t help it–to some of the conversations drifting around me, especially each time I would encounter a glitch on the website I was working on. I happened to be seated next to a long table filled with a bunch of people who were preoccupied with planning a wedding.

It seemed to me that the couple has opted to enlist the help of their friends and family in planning their wedding, and I thought that was really sweet and economical, especially that their friends seemed enthusiastic about helping. I had to keep myself though from speaking up and offering suggestions as I remembered my own church wedding and how my husband and a few relatives and friends volunteered to help us with the preparations, too.

I came out of that place feeling happy. For one, my craving to try something new was satisfied. I went to a coffee shop that I’ve never been to before, and while I was in it, I tried one of their cold drinks/fraps, Espresso Crumble, and I really liked it. I think I’ll have it again when I come back. Second, I was reminded of my own church wedding 13 years ago, and that was enough to make me happy.

The other Saturday, however, I decided to leave my laptop at home. I brought instead with me my BDJ planner and pencil case, which contains calligraphy and/or color pens, aside from the regular pens, pencils, and erasers, along with Abbey Sy’s The ABCs of Hand Lettering. I thought I would practice calligraphy/hand lettering while having coffee, er, hot chocolate.

This time, I went to Jollibee at Molito–the very same branch I complained about a few months ago for the utterly poor customer service we received–since it’s closer to where my girls were, plus I didn’t have as much time to spare (we were late for the girls’ club meeting). However, instead of coffee, I had a cup of their rich hot chocolate. Anyway, the crowd I encountered here was different–they just eat and go, except for the group of young men having a Bible study two tables away from where I was seated.

It’s refreshing to see a male group praying together, learning about God together, and encouraging one another. I suppose they’re from the same church as we are, and I couldn’t help but feel both humbled and proud. I admire their zeal to bring honor to God, by making Him known and bringing people closer to Him. I wish my own girls would have that zeal too as they grow. Although I am part of a Bible study or discipleship group (DGroup) at our church and I have my own daughters to mentor now, I also hope that one day, I could lead a group of young ladies and help them get to know more God as I learn from them, too.

Tomorrow is going to be Saturday again, but I have a conference to attend and won’t be in the same area. Nevertheless, I’m sure I’ll be able to find a coffee shop or restaurant that either serves good coffee or hot chocolate that I can enjoy. I wonder what group of people I would encounter tomorrow… ❤

(Featured image downloaded for free @quotesgram.com)

The anxieties and excitement of going away

I’ve been wishing to get on a plane and travel again to Singapore the past few months to be with my husband. However, now that I would actually have that opportunity, I am having second thoughts about it. Silly me, I know!

For the past several years, it has been sort of a tradition for me to be visit my husband in Singapore to celebrate my birthday. Early this year, however, my husband and I have decided that the girls and I won’t be going out of the country this 2016 because we are going to save for our next family vacation outside the country in summer next year. After all, we were out vacationing for nearly three weeks in Laos (and Thailand) last Christmas and didn’t come home until the New Year, so that should count as a trip abroad for this year too, I guess

Anyway, little did I know that my husband won’t let this year pass without me visiting him in Singapore. He had set aside some travel money for me to be able to celebrate again my birthday with him. However, instead of looking forward to his invitation (or following his command, I should say), I started remembering the anxieties I had each time I would travel to the airport and on to another country all by myself, leaving my young daughters behind. And then, on my way back home, I would experience the heart break of having to live miles away from my husband and not see him for seemingly endless weeks.

I tend to easily adjust to the situation once my feet are (literally) back on the ground, but when I’m about to fly and I’m actually up in the air… Oh, you have no idea how heart wrenching each trip could be, knowing that I would be leaving either my daughters or my husband behind! And, guess what, I even had to do it on my birthday last year–now that’s something I don’t think I would want to do again. No, I’d rather not spend hours at the airport waiting for my flight instead of being with my loved ones, even if I would get to enjoy free treats from Starbucks because it’s my birthday.

So, my husband and I have been talking about this trip for the past two weeks now and it’s only this morning that I have decided to purchase my plane tickets. It’s been six months since I got to be with him, and I realize now that as much as I miss him and would love to be with him, this trip actually means so much more to him than probably it is to me. There’s this extra joy and energy in his voice that’s just not there before, it seems. And, he no longer doesn’t mind where we would stay. If you must know, he used to be very picky with the hotels I book, but this time he simply doesn’t seem to care any more as long as I get there and we have a place to sleep in at night.

I have told him about this Air bnb listing I was seriously considering and he surprisingly didn’t argue with it. The thing is, it would take approximately 2.5 hours travel time for him to get to the office from there–he would still have to go to the office on one of those days that I’d be in Singapore–and he just said it would be fine, one day wouldn’t hurt. In the past, he would not even consider staying at an Air bnb apartment because that would mean he would have to wash extra towels when he gets back to his place and we would have to share a bathroom with strangers, too.

Moreover, he didn’t like staying near the red district or any place that is far from his office, which is not only near the airport but also near the condo where he is staying. And yet, when I have also mentioned to him that the more affordable hotels are in Geylang and Little India, and I have found a few that really seemed nice, he just laughed and didn’t argue either. For once, he was also open to it. However, because I now seemingly have more options, the search for that perfect place has jus become more difficult for me.

So first, I had to deal with my emotions and decide whether I really wanted to travel. But now that I have started to feel excited about it, it’s looking for a place to stay that is starting to give me a headache! I’m really trying to budget our finances, since there are house repairs that need to be done almost as soon as I get back from the trip. I don’t think I should book a 3- or 4-star hotel for this short trip like I would normally do in order to stick to that budget. A rating of 2.5–3 stars should do this time.

If only I could stay at my husband’s place like the first time I visited him in Singapore! But the thing is, all the occupants of the three-bedroom condo unit he’s renting are male, and visitors, particularly females, are no longer allowed in their unit. (Hence, we started booking hotels during my stay in Singapore.) On the other hand, the decent hotels I have booked in the past are either not offering any promos at this time–and that makes them out of the budget now or have no rooms available on the duration of my stay.

I think I’ll sleep on it for now. However, if you do have any suggestion, do let me know. We would like a hotel near an MRT or a bus station as well as restaurants or food courts, and yes, away from the red district but not too far from the airport as much as possible. As for the rooms, we’d like one with a comfortable bed, restful ambiance, has a refrigerator so we could stock some food, as well as a stable hi-speed Internet connection plus cable TV, especially for the mister. As for the cleanliness and service, of course, that’s already given and that’s part of the reason I do check guests’ comments and welcome recommendations. Thank you. ❤

(Featured image by pixabay.com)

Addendum:

23 October 2016. I have decided to take on my cousin’s invitation to come and stay with his family next time I visit SG, and he confirmed early this week that the extra bedroom in their house is still available for us to use. Now that’s awesome! I just have to take care of the itinerary now. 🙂

How I came to love traveling

Traveling has always been a fun and memorable experience for me, especially when it’s done with my family. I was in junior high when I first traveled, and I did it with a beloved cousin. We toured Ilocos, both north and south, and she introduced me to my mother’s relatives–our relatives. That was one summer vacation that I would never forget.

For the first time, I got to meet nearly everyone in my mother’s clan. I saw the places she frequented when she was growing up, and I finally acknowledged that I had an Ilocano blood in my veins. We went from one museum to another when we were in Vigan, and  sought out some of our distant relatives in certain barrios. I even got to name a newborn calf at one of those remote places we visited! Of course, I named it after myself so they would remember me. I also got to play not only at the beach, but also in the river banks.

It’s like a whole new world opened up to me when I visited my mother’s hometown, and I finally learned to really take pride in being a Filipino. Moreover, I fell in love with traveling.

When my eldest brother came back from the US for good, I would also travel with him and his family, along with our parents. Since he has already toured the whole Asian region and several states in America, he wanted us to experience traveling too, albeit locally. He would bring us to the beautiful resorts in Laguna and Batangas and we’d stay there for the weekend, once or twice a month during summers. For that, I would always be grateful to him.

I also had friends who either liked going out of town or lived in the provinces, and I would come with them from time to time. Not to mention, as a student leader in college, I tend to be part of leadership and team building seminars that would often be held outside the city, too.

Each time I came to a new place, I would always go home feeling recharged and ready to take on anything. On the other hand, my thirst for travel would also grow. It’s a good thing that my bosses at the PR firms I have joined during and after college either owned a resort (in Boracay) or was a stockholder at an exclusive resort, and I would, of course, join in the company outings held in those beautiful places.

When I left the corporate world to join NGOs though, my free travel opportunities became limited to out-of-town team building programs. However, when I got married (financially unprepared), traveling became an utter luxury. Most of the time, it would only consist of a day trip to Tagaytay.

My husband knew how much I like to travel though. Sometimes I wonder if that’s part of the reason he took a job abroad–so I could visit him and travel. It wasn’t until his third year working in Singapore, however, that I started to enjoy traveling again. I started visiting him annually, with or without my children to travel with me. It’s something that I wouldn’t want to give up and always look forward to at the start of the year, as we plan the places we’d visit.

This year, however, we have decided to cancel my trip to Singapore and not go out of the country again until next year. We spent the last Christmas vacation abroad, after all, and didn’t come home until the New Year. Moreover, we’re trying to save for something bigger, a trip where the girls could both join us once more. We might tour the rest of Singapore and visit Lego Land in Malaysia too, or Japan, mainly to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and hopefully, Tokyo Disney Land as well.  We want our next vacation to be really special for the girls.

I am already getting excited planning this vacation, and although it would still take nearly a year before it happens–by God’s grace–I am now doing some research, looking up other places to see in Japan and Airbnb apartments to rent. If we choose to go there, it definitely would only be for less than a week, probably only three days, since Japan is known to be an expensive place to stay in. I guess I would have to let go of shopping, food deliveries, and dining at restaurants for a year too?

On the other hand, if we go back to Singapore and tour Malaysia as well, we could stay up to 10 days and not worry about accommodation, thanks to my cousin. He happens own a house with a guest room in Singapore in the district near Malaysia. He’s been offering us his home, but we tend to stay at a hotel each time we were there. We intend to take him up on his offer next time we visit though. ❤

Marking history

30 June 2016. Today marks the inauguration of our country’s 16th President and 14th Vice President, Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo, respectively. I was up almost as soon as the alarm on my phone went off and started preparing breakfast by the time the 6AM news coverage on the inauguration started. I can’t recall ever waking up early in the past, although I do remember watching certain parts of the previous Philippine presidents’ inauguration address. In fact, this must be the first time I have learned of the symbolisms used on such occasions, including the going up and down on the staircase of the outgoing and incoming presidents.

It’s a good thing that we’re homeschooling and my girls, especially my 7th grader, are now old enough to pay attention to the program. I honestly wouldn’t take it against them if they prefer to do other things, even if it concerns the country’s history; I know I’d rather play or read a novel if I were their age. Thankfully, I didn’t have to force them to sit down to watch. My 4th grader even got inspired to create a Philippine flag out of paper and balloon stick as she listened/watched the program.

I must admit that I had mixed emotions as I watched former president Noynoy Aquino left the Malacañan Palace. I’m sure he has done his best despite all the criticisms his administration had to endure. We can’t expect him to be perfect and solve all the nations’ problems, can we? And you’ll have to agree that we have started to regain the respect of other countries, our economy has improved, crime incidents became fewer, etc. Well, you get the point.

I never thought that I would actually appreciate Noynoy Aquino as a president. I must say I was only following what is taught to us at our Christian church–to pray for and support our country’s leaders, especially the president, and that’s probably how I started to appreciate our former president. I remember even campaigning against him in favor of his cousin Gibo Teodoro, who was also running for the presidential post then.

This year, I didn’t vote for the new president either. I had thought about voting for him, I really wanted to vote for him, but I couldn’t. I had found myself willing to turn a blind eye on his rumored extra-judicial killings, but not on the joke he made about the Australian female missionary who was raped and killed. You simply do not joke about such things. If you are unable to feel any sympathy at all–which makes you a beast, I suppose–or simply do not know what to say, then just shut up.

Nevertheless, I find myself now wanting to believe that our new president would be right for the job regardless of his unorthodox ways. God allowed him to win after all, and by a huge margin at that. Who would dare doubt that he, indeed, was the nation’s choice? Once more, I find myself praying for a president I had refused to vote at the last election. Once more, I shall be asking God to help me support this leader and believe that he will do great things for our nation. Our journey has just started; it can’t be that bad. If Davao is any indication of what our president-elect can do, then we can all truly hope for a better future, I guess.

As for our country’s new VP, I could only hope and pray that she would make herself worthy, over and over, of the trust I/we have given her and that the new president would be more than willing to work with her in bringing positive and lasting changes to our country.

The Unfriendly Bee

It’s been a while since my girls and I went out with Quinn, our one-year old Boston Terrier, in tow. I attended our weekly discipleship group/Bible study meeting earlier and while my women’s group was studying, my girls were playing with dear Quinn. After the meeting, we headed to the park, which was just outside the church building, and let Quinn walk. We decided to have lunch then at one of the nearest fast food restaurants, one with a famous “bee” for its mascots.

It’s been more than a month since we dropped by the place and we really missed their  famous chicken. As we were eating, Quinn stayed under the table. As usual, Lil Sis was the last to finish her food and I had to help her with it. Of course, it shouldn’t take me long to finish it, so I told my girls to get ready, we would leave as soon as I was done. I was about to put into my mouth the last forkful of spaghetti when my 12-year old daughter picked up Quinn and cradled her in her lap. I have to admit that we thoroughly enjoyed our meal and we were having a good time just hanging out as a family until their security guard appeared and demanded that we bring out “the dog” right at that moment too. Needless to say, all the beautiful memories we were trying to create (with our dear pet) just vanished.

For the record, it wasn’t our first time to eat at this establishment with Quinn. We’ve done so once, when Quinn was much younger. Just like in the past, they allowed us to enter their establishment. This time, one of their crew even helped me bring our food to our table and he saw Quinn, who was still playing then with my girls on the bench. Moreover, Quinn never made a sound nor begged for food from anyone–she just sat quietly under the table eating a bowl of dog food that we have packed while we ate too.

I made sure that Quinn stayed under the table out of consideration for the other patrons who might have allergies to dogs–even if we were seated in a booth, away from the others. It was also one way to avoid having her get excited over the smell of their chicken. Who knows if it would also give joy to an only-dog-food-eating sweet canine like Quinn? And yes, Quinn wears doggie diapers all the time whenever we’re out with her, regardless of the stash of doggie bags we always bring.

I explained then to the burly guard that he need not throw us out. I held up my forkful of spaghetti for him to see and realize that I was still eating, but also told him that we’re about to go as I was almost finished with my food. To my dismay, he continued to talk loudly as if what he had to say was important to the whole world, telling us that animals are not allowed in their establishment and that’s a city ordinance. Continue reading “The Unfriendly Bee”

Welcoming Anya

My family’s excited to receive the newest addition to the family as a guest in our house. A close relative gave birth earlier this morning and she accepted our invitation for her and her newborn to stay with us for 1–2 weeks. Her husband’s away, she has no helper, and not only do we have some space in the house, but so much affection and excitement for the baby, too.

As I was preparing the house to be ready for the baby’s arrival, I also looked for my husband’s childhood pictures, which he needed for a certain activity at the office. I realized that he was such a cutie when he was both a baby and a toddler that I suddenly longed to have a son, who would look exactly like him when he was that age! As much as I love my husband though, I’d say he wasn’t a looker during his pre-adolescent years, and not even just before I met him. (Yup, I’d like to take credit for whatever improvement in my husband’s appearance since he became my beau. I inspire him and I became his personal shopper, especially when he started working in Singapore, you know?)

Anyway, it’s interesting to note how a person’s physical features change as he/she matures. There are people who simply looked bigger as they grow, but there are some whose faces really transformed that you wouldn’t easily recognize them to be one and the same as the ones in their childhood and teenage photos. Like my husband. And then there are those who brought so much joy to their parents when they were young, but only brought pain and shame when they became much older.

I wonder how our young guest would look like when she gets older. I wonder what her favorite colors would be and hobbies she would have. I wonder what her personality is like. Would she always throw a tantrum or live up to the meaning of her name, which is gracious or bringing of goodness?

Whether she looks more like her mother or her father, I hope she grows up to be a wise, gracious, faithful, and kind lady. For now, I pray that she would always be healthy and feel loved.

(Quote image by http://www.quotespie.com resized using Canva)

 

Start of the year realizations

The first month of 2016 is coming to a close and it feels like I have not done enough to reach some of my goals. Some days I’m out all day doing errands and attending to the girls’ needs, while some days I just feel so tired that I would simply rest and sleep for hours. I am starting to feel pressured, but before I start feeling overwhelmed, I think it would be a good idea for me to see go through the things I have learned so far this new year.

  • There’s a thin line between resting and procrastinating. As much as I have learned to value and appreciate rest again–I’m no longer the driven career mom who’s enslaved to the notion that I have to be busy and productive all the time–it has become much easier for me to succumb to procrastination. Unfortunately, I still have a lot of backlog in writing, editing, and translation, not to mention, there are meetings that I still need to organize/attend. When we got back last January 1st from our two-week holiday vacation in Laos, my girls and I just rested and rested. So there goes my few days of rest back home, all spent on the first week of the year. It felt like we did nothing but go out and walk when we were in Laos, and it didn’t help  that the chores to be done around the house make me want to hit the sack all the more. (Some things are simply needed to be done and I’m glad that many of them are out of the way now, done.)
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Tourists in Vientiane
  • I can fast and overcome those desires. Sick of not being able to accomplish much, I decided to join our church’s prayer and fasting the following week. I was certain that doing so would help me become more focused and disciplined. Indeed, it has been a meaningful week for me, and I’m pretty proud of myself for being able to stick to the object and partial food fast that I had set out to do. The good thing about fasting is at the end of the activity, you discover that you actually have the strength to say no to things that seem to keep you out of focus. In my case, I was able to resist chocolates and watching the AlDub Kalyeserye everyday (which has become a noontime habit for me). More, when my mother-in-law sent us some pork chops for dinner, I didn’t even get tempted to eat it!

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  • I really need to be on guard and pray without ceasing if I want to win the battle. I cannot say that everything went well during the prayer and fasting week. My eldest daughter accidentally got bitten by our adult dog Olaf. Apparently, she was trying to keep Olaf from taking away the food she gave to our younger dog Hershey, and it was in the middle of a food fight that Olaf accidentally grazed the palm of her right hand. Now, despite having prayed for a lot of things, including my marriage, ironically, my husband and I started to fight all because of the incident. I chose to see it as the devil trying to distract us, particularly me, from continuing to pray and fast. I must admit that it seemed to have succeeded, though with the help of my friends who were also praying and fasting, by the end of the week, everything was good again between hubby and me. Moreover, our daughter got the treatment she needed and we didn’t have to spend so much on it, thanks to the local government’s Animal Bite Treatment Centers.

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