The Pencils I Fancy

I can’t even remember how I started collecting fancy pencils, but by the time I left Manila in 2000, I ended up giving away around 300 of them.  My sister, Offie, took the bulk of my collection and gave it to her favorite inaanaks.  I followed Fe’s admonition to let it go and just start a new colleciton when I got here.

I only saved a handful of pencils like the ones I bought in Hong Kong with the Alan Chang designs, and true enough, I started buying pencils again after I started working.  Unlike my postcard collection which I have focused on, I get a pencil as a souvenir when I get the chance to — if I find something nice in a Museum, a souvenir shop, or as a giveaway in the hotel or store.

I collect all types that bear some novelty in them, be it a corporate name, a color, a special property like those fancy pencils they used to sell at TICKLES which changes color when you hold them because it reacts to the heat your hand exudes.  I have the pencils hidden in a box the size of a big shoe box right now and have not purchased any of late.  One of my most memorable acquisitions recently was a year ago when I got a FREE pencil in the children’s store of the Louvre in France.  I wanted to buy it, but they told me it was FREE!

I hope to one day put them all in a tall jar, and stash them in a corner of my attic space.  =)  I got some Spiderman pencils which Angel started to take a fancy to.  Alan brings me one or two from his business trips.. it’s a collection I’m definitely keeping this time.

Out of the War Zone (Thinking of the Pinoys in Lebanon)

I’ve been paying close attention to what has been happening as far as the evacuation of our kababayans in Lebanon are concerned.  It is always difficult to be caught in a war zone, but sometimes, we have no choice if we are to continue to make a living.  As they say, kapit sa patalim.

On the American side, there are thousands of Americans trying to get out of the country, but the US Government is evacuating them after exacting a promise of reimbursement of the cost of a one way trip to Cyprus which is approximately $150-$200.  How appalling is that considering the circumstances?  I just read it in the news  and pity the poor people who need to promise to pay to be saved.  I thought this was all about taking care of your own — so does this mean if you are not willing to sign for lack of money or resources, they will leave you behind?  Even if you say promising to pay is one thing and collecting is another, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth when you think about it.

Then once in Cyprus, you either get out on your own or promise to reimburse the government again for your trip back to the land of Uncle Sam.  While this is still a supposed “plan,” I hope the government reconsiders out of compassion. 

And what about the Pinoys?  They are being herded into the Catholic Churches which are reportedly safe havens.  We Filipinos can get pretty stubborn when it gets to evacuations, and there is always the worry of losing one’s source of income.  But chaos threatens and we don’t know if this will end in a few weeks or develop into a full scale war.  The mere fact that the Americans are evacuating should be ominous.  I hope our brothers over there pay heed and go back home.

Kittichai in 60 Thompson






Alan and I have been married for almost 6 years now and I must say I’m proud of the fact that despite that, we have managed to keep our dynamics as a couple going, even if we now have Angel and both our Moms living with us. (Plus there is the stepson who is with us when he feels like taking a break from his Mom or when his Mom gives him the boot.. it’s one or the other.) It’s a crowded house and one with a lot going on — time management is important because we can no longer go out to dinner in the city on a whim like we used to. We have to time our late night outs to be scheduled far enough apart so as not to unduly burden my Mom with looking after her apo. It’s a little more complicated now, but we continue to try to keep the romance going. We may not do it as often as we used to (at least once a week) but we continue to indulge in our penchant for enjoying the restaurant offerings in New York, Restaurant week or not.

So we decided to invite our friend, Jeff and Jackie, to have dinner with us at Kittichai, the Thai restaurant over at 60 Thompson, one of New York’s more popular hotels. What is most striking is the decor of the bar and the veranda which is a smoking area. (Some establishments pay a fine to be able to allow smoking in their establishments… not many go through that expense, though.)

When you enter, their very able hostess meets you next to an aquarium inside an ornate birdcage. (I tried to take a picture discreetly with my razr but it just didn’t come out nicely.) Once you step into the bar, you are greeted by walls of bottled orchids in water with an incandescense illuminating from within the bottle. It took me a while and a glass of reisling to figure out that there was a bulb inside the cap of the bottle which illuminated the whole fixture. (There are now led-battery operated tea lights available for this purpose.) They were very soothing to the eyes and hypnotized you with their serene appeal. Inside the main dining area was an infinity pool with floating votive candles in ultra small fish bowl-like glass which glided around as if there was a slight current, sometimes bumping into each other like billiard balls and deflecting each other. Cattleyas were hanging from the ceiling by a string, giving the illusion of floating blooms.

We decided to do two appetizers to share: The Chocolate Baby Back Ribs with Thai Spices and the Crispy Rock Shrimp. No, the Baby Back Ribs were anything but sweet, but you could definitely see the cocoa in the color. The ribs were falling off the bone and a filling appetizer even in small portions. What was distinctive about the shrimp was the sweet sauce which was not overpowering. For the entree, I chose to do the special which was pan seared scallos with a sweet glaze, Jackie ordered the Crispy Whole Fish with Tamarind Sauce. Alan ordered the Braised Short Ribs in Green Curry and Sweet Basil while Jeff went for the Chili Smoked Hangar Steak with hot basil, wild ginger, and lemon-grass pepper sauce. It was as authentic as modern Thai dishes can get because Kittichai is actually the signature restaurant of Chef Ian Chalermkittichai.

We ended the evening with individual desserts and while I can no longer remember Jeff and Jackie’s, Alan had the Mango sticky rice and I had the coconut crepes with kalamansi sauce which was basically their take on a french crepe with coconut flavor, swimming in kalamansi instead of the usual orange syrup that crepes suzette are doused with. Yummy! Well worth the $50+/head it cost us, and service was very good, as well! Our Thai server was very helpful with the selections and was very friendly. It’s a place for beautiful people but they serve beautiful food, too. And back to my gauge of authenticity — yes, there were a lot of Asians dining, and being a lover of Thai food myself, Kittichai rates high on my Thai food place to go to!

Heat Wave

It’s been scorching hot all day here in New York.  Tomorrow will even be worse so Alan and I have decided we will just drive to Manhattan so it’s more convenient to get to and from work.

For it to be so hot in New York and busy at work meant my blog brain needed a jumpstart.  I am trying to write something on ambition and education but I’m not quite happy the way the post is so far, so I’ve held off on publishing it for now.  What I would give to go out and just lay down on the shallow end of a wave pool during a lull.  Thank God for airconditioning!

I actually took a dip when Angel played in the kiddie pool.  There were times when I just sat there in the cool water after 4PM — so the sun was a little kinder.

Can’t wait for this heat wave to be over!

To have a baby

I got married at age 34 so the question of having a baby was something that had been answered by the time I walked down the aisle.  Alan and I agreed that we would get our own place first before we tried.  We managed to save enough to put a downpayment on a 2-bedroom co-op unit by our second year anniversary in 2002 and we tried to get pregnant immediately.  I found out just the day before we left for my first homecoming to Manila in December of that year, but I bled during the visit home and an ultrasound at the UST Hospital confirmed I was no longer pregnant.  It didn’t quite hit me then because I had not even homed in on the idea that I was actually pregnant.

We were pregnant again after my next cycle and this time, I was able to start planning and enjoying being pregnant for 9 weeks until it was discovered that the baby had stopped growing on its 7th week.  This time I had to have a D&C to clean out the “products of conception” and I was instructed to wait another 3 months to give my body a chance to heal.  This second miscarraige was a very traumatic loss for me and plunged me into a mild depression.  I quickly overcame it once I started counting the three months, and as soon as we were clear, I got pregnant again after my first cycle.

Now I have a two year old tyke who makes my world turn.  I didn’t realize having a baby was not as natural to some couples nowadays as it was for Alan and me.  Not just the physical act of having a baby per se, but in the last two weeks, I’ve encountered three young couples who look at the prospect of having a child as something truly exciting, but at the same time, they have so much anxiety about the whole thing.

To some it’s just the thought of getting pregnant and having to deal with the prospect of losing a child.  Others are terrified of the thought of raising another human being.  It was a surprise to me that many feared the very prospect of having a child because it was a big responsibility.

It’s sad that so many young people find themselves getting pregnant irresponsibly when others have such a challenge trying.  Two of Alan’s closest friends continue to try to have a child — without success.  I have long stopped mourning my two previous losses, because I know that that is a normal occurrence.  As my doctors assured me, it’s the body’s way of letting go of a fetus that was not viable.  I simply told myself it just wasn’t time, it wasn’t for me — until Angel came and I was blessed by his birth.

Having gotten pregnant at such a late age, there was a lot of anxiety about the tests to be taken.  Here in the US, they give you a chance to terminate a pregnancy for medical reasons, and while there are limitations by state as to up to when you can intervene, there are a myriad of tests to help you decide if there is a medical challenge.

We chose to forego the amniocentisis which meant a needle puncture of the amniotic sac, primarily meant to determine if the baby has any abnormality.  It was not only that there was a slight chance that the puncture would not heal and would lead to a miscarraige, but primarily because Alan and I knew that even if we heard that our child was anything less than perfect, we would not have the heart to terminate the pregnancy.  It was not just about wanting to have a child so badly, but more importantly, we did not want to terminate a life that was given to us.

Choosing to have a baby is not the most difficult part of it.  It’s actually nurturing that child to full term and successfully delivering it into this world.  One it takes in its first breath of air, then you can only try to do your best, you can’t control how the future will be.

Just a word of advice to those worrying about the whole journey — it is worth every ounce of worry in the joy it brings when that little bundle comes out and looks you in the eye.  It’s never going to get easy, but the joys will multiply.

Exhausted Mom

Crossposted on Motherhood, Etc. 

It was a Saturday focused on Motherhood.. (as if other Saturdays have not been…)  We left just before lunch for Splish Splash (our second time there this season) but we decided to do errands first.  Since we needed to go to Target and Home Depot to pick up a few things, we decided to go to their  branches near the water park and pick up what we needed there.

So first off, we had lunch at Boulder Creek Steak House where Angel had chicken fingers for the first time.  (I know it may seem shallow to some that I am all ga-ga over this trivial accomplishment .. but Angel doesn’t really eat much when we eat out.  He has usually stuck to french fries and the bread that they give as appetizer.)  He has also taken to picking on the steamed vegetables I’ve taken to ordering as a side dish.  I had my usual French Dunk (they do theirs with prime rib slices and provolone on ciabatta bread.)  Then we hied off to Home Depot to pick up a new light fixture for the kitchen and a ceiling fan for the dining room.  After that we went to Target to our usual sundries shopping, then a short stop at Tanger, our favorite outlet strip mall which was practically a stone’s throw away from the waterpark.

We went in for the twilight admission (hours before closing) which was really out intention because we didn’t want Angel getting overexposed to the sun again.  (Last time we were in Splish Splash, he had fever off and on for three days!)  Watching him having fun was such a joy and definitely worth the trip.  The place was crowded with excursionists and families like us who sought solace there from the heat of summer but we had so much fun just following him around and having fun with him.

When it was time to go home just before the park closed at 7PM, we had to pull Angel out of the pool and it was a tearful walk to the gate.  Those who saw him crying his heart out couldn’t help but smile in amusement as they knew he didn’t want to go home.  We promised him we would go back soon.  (It is, after all, an hour away by car only.)  Outings like that are precious indeed.  Of course we took pictures again, and several film clips to help keep the memories alive for until when Angel can watch them himself and “remember” those special days with Mom and Dad.

I had to help cook dinner (Mom had already started it with marinating the porkchops and preparing the ginisa for the string beans, and we had to do the laundry tonight.  Just finished folding, at just before 11PM.  I’m wiped out but happy, watching Angel snoring lightly beside me.

Runaway Bolante

The apprehension and cancellation of the visa of former Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante has been big news in Manila.  Not a bleep here — just like the rape case in Subic against the rape/murder case in Iraq, both involving GIs.  Not that I want us to be in the limelight again, but I am grateful to Philippine Star for giving me my daily dose of news from Manila, plus Mom’s daily update after she gets to watch The World Tonight on AZN here.

Are we supposed to be grateful about this turn of events?  Initially I was, until Mom postulated a theory that it might be a ploy to twist Malacanang’s arm about the 4 GIs in the rape case.  Since we have been playing the case to the hilt, they’re giving Malacanang a major headache with Bolante’s case.  That’s just my mom thinking out loud.. (Sometimes Mom’s have a way of putting two and two together..)

It’s up in the air right now.  With no formal charges filed in Manila, Bolante cannot be extradited.  (Due process requirement — and the Americans will be sticklers for this because Bolante’s apprehension does not fall under the purview of the Patriot Act which is the all-powerful Due Process clamper.)  They Americans were within their prerogative to detain him and cancel his visa as per the request of our legislators.  Remember, traveling to the US is a privilege, NOT a right.  It’s their right to let you in or close their doors to you here, even if you have a visa previously issued to allow you continued entry to the land of Uncle Sam.

Still, it’s so easy to just “disappear” — Bolante can still “fly” to another country unless the Philippine Government chooses to be vigilant about returning him to Manila.  (Read: Chain an actual personality to Bolante — not some unknown consular employee who can so easily disappear, too.)  The Senators who have clamored for his return would do well to consider that.  Maybe one of them can pick him up here.. otherwise, he can disappear “in flight”, somewhere between the time the US authorities release him and he boards the plane — or in transit between the Philippines in the US.  With a 3 Billion peso question hanging over your head, you don’t know who’s going to pull the bullet first.  I can’t blame Bolante for running — if he talks, he’s in danger.  If he doesn’t, he’s still in danger.  That’s how dangerous public service can be.

Talking about Mascara

Bride-to-be WengT got curious when I wrote about the L’Oreal Waterproof Panoramic Mascara that I’ve been using.  My personal favorites are not waterproof but I agree that you ought to try it out before your decide on using it for what would probably be a day you’ll be crying tears of joy.  This is my second L’Oreal mascara product but I don’t really stick to one brand.

My big beef about waterproof mascara is that it is difficult to take off, but I think you’ll be good with some baby oil or good old Pond’s cold cream.  I use baby wipes to clean my face and although it takes more than the usual to do it, it cleans it up.

I’m okay with this product because it is as black as can be, I noticed it doesn’t clump badly although it might need more than one coat if you want ultra-noticeable lashes.  If you want it to be noticeable but still look natural enough to blend in with your made up look, this is a mascara you should try.

I have always liked Lancome’s Definicils and The Body Shop’s mascara.  You might want to ask if they have waterproof versions and try them.  Lancome will be rather pricey so one advice I’d give you is try it at the counter.  They will usually indulge you that if you ask even if they don’t have a makeover promo.  They will even suggest other products.

Good luck!