Party Planning: Time to Celebrate

I’ve always been used to planning celebrations for others — so it’s a bit of a new thing for me to be planning my 50th birthday celebration.  We had the party a month ago and I cannot be happier for the way it turned out.  I am just winding down on the celebratory mood of the milestone, but I am celebrating the whole year in ways big and small.

One thing I knew was I wanted to be able to have fun and enjoy the time with my friends.  I wasn’t going for “simple,” but neither was I going for “grand”.  I wanted it to be a fitting celebration of the last 50 years I’ve been around.

I’ve always taken great joy in seeing the celebrant “happy” — and I thought I owed it to myself to come up with a fitting celebration, even though the other half will be at a much later date back home.  


Determine what kind of a party you want to throw.  I’d go with the usual “When, What, Where and Who, ” — in that order.

WHEN:  This is the deal breaker in all events and parties because this is what would determine who goes or doesn’t.  My birthday, April 2, fell on a Saturday, but early on, two of my intended invitees had already said no to that day.  So I said, Sunday it is.  I was never really one to insist on the “day of” celebrations because for the longest time, my birthday parties were “shared” with my brother whose birthday lands on the 7th.  And what’s a day or two or even a week?  I’m actually not even opposed to celebrating months later, and that’s what I plan to do when I finally do a party in Manila when I go home sometime second half of 2016, way past April.  (That’s another blogpost.)

WHAT:  Will it be lunch? brunch?  dinner?  Drinking at some bar?   I knew I wanted my 11-year-old son to be present so that eliminated a bar at night, and it meant shooting for brunch.  Will it be a big party of 30-50 people?  Or a single table of 12-16 guests?  I chose the latter.  I wanted this party to be intimate and personal, not just for me but for my friends as well.

Once you have that figured out, you can determine the WHERE.  From the get go, I had never planned to host this at home.  I wanted to hold it in Manhattan which was the most convenient place for the people on my guest list.   I have had the chance to go out more the last couple of months and have always been intrigued that one of the restaurants I had always wanted to eat at, ABC Kitchen, was forever booked whenever I tried to land a spot there.  So I checked out the menu — looked promising.  Then I called in an inquiry based on the date I wanted.  I was three weeks away to my event, and voila, they could accommodate my party of 16.

It kind of worked out that the longest table they could accommodate was for a party of 16 because that helped me keep a tight leash on my guest list, or we would have to split the party into two tables which wasn’t what I wanted.  My son and I were already 2 — so I had a list of 14 people to fill.

With the above decided, it came to what to me is the most important part of planning a party:  Deciding WHO is coming.

I don’t have that many friends here in New York.  Practically everyone near and dear to my heart is in Manila, but I do have some gems who have added sparkle and joy to my life here in the tri-state area.  Knowing who they were and how many there were was one of the reasons that made it easy for me to decide I would have one long table of guests, and that was that.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love big parties where people mingle and eat and have fun dancing and drinking.  We used to have a lot of that back home, be it the usual Fiesta in San Juan or some birthday or other or the annual Christmas party my parents used to throw for our employees.  But this was not one of those occasions where I wanted to have to hop tables the whole time, trying to spend more than but a fleeting moment with this or that guest.  I wanted an intimate gathering of friends.

The list wasn’t difficult to come up with, but I had just a few criteria in mind:  per BFF Fe, to make the list, it had to be someone who doesn’t give me any crXp.  That made a lot of people fall off the list quick.  Then secondly, it had to be someone who wouldn’t mind trudging into Manhattan on a Sunday.  Again, trimmed the already not very long list easily.  Third, and I told them this on the day itself, it had to be someone who loved me enough to go through the torture of sitting with people they didn’t know from Adam.  I have to admit, half a dozen possible invitees had to be shed from the list because I felt they would have a tough time with that, or worse, I would be worried sick all throughout the brunch wondering if they were okay and having a good time.  I wanted this to be fun and I didn’t want to put pressure on anyone — least of all me.  So with all that in mind, I came up with 14 friends.  12 said yes, so it was a table of 14 with my son and I as host.

I would have invited another table of 12 easily, and I have no doubt they would have said yes, but I would lose the intimacy of the event.   It would have seen me going around like a headless chicken trying to make it all work.  My 12 guests were perfect.  The smaller party allowed me to be comfortable with the venue and the pricing of the menu, more so since I was given a prix fix flat rate meal.


With the details down pat, send out invitations.  I had planned to make invitations for the party and had bought materials, but I ended up doing an e-vite instead.  I was actually all set to make paper invitations but my metal dies or my die cutter (can’t quite figure out which was not working) failed me, so I opted to go for the easiest way to send out the invites: digitally.  I used to use them a lot but had stopped throwing parties or inviting people to events, so I am happy to say they have upgraded and changed for the better!  And in keeping with the times, they even have an app that allows you to monitor and send out evites from your smart phone.  Happiness!

Evite for my 50th bday party
I wasn’t too worried, but I would’ve wanted to send out invites three weeks out.  I ended up sending it two weeks in advance of the event, but by then, I had invited my guests verbally already.  So half of them had made plans or were aware of the event, and I had a pretty fair idea of the attendance.

Once the invites were sent, three of the invited actually asked me for a wish list.  I will share that with you in another post.

Decide on whether or not you will do an informal sit down dinner (everybody just sits and eat) or will you do the “place-settings, games and give aways” kind of a party.  I wanted this to be a real celebration.  I would have wanted pink all over the place, but the best I could do was stick to that as the color theme for the things I was bringing over to the restaurant.  And yes, I definitely wanted place holders (which I felt was necessary because I was sitting strangers next to each other.. well, for the most part.).  I also wanted games!  And lastly, I wanted to put together a loot bag.

The venue thwarted any possibility of balloons which I didn ‘t mind.  I only had minutes to set up so anything elaborate was out of the question.  The smaller size of the party also made it convenient for me to think of items to purchase and just walk into a store, without worrying that I might have to order the actual number I needed.  I was shooting for 16, in case my 2 declines actually made it, and I always made room for extras in case one of the items I purchased was defective — or if I accidentally ripped it apart.  (Yes, I have done that in the past.)  So everything I bought for the party itself had to be 16 of each.

If you have a wishlist, send it out to give your guests enough time to go over it and find something they would want to give you.  I wasn’t comfortable about doing this but it ended up helping my guests out a lot, and they were grateful I did it.  I was also happy that they stuck to what I had written — I loved each and every present I got.  We were happy all around!

Send out any special requests in an email or an update to your evite.  I asked that they wear pink if they could.  Simple enough!


Do an ocular of the place, more so if you haven’t been there.  I was being adventurous.  So no, I have never eaten nor been to ABC Kitchen before I decided this was where I would celebrate my 50th birthday.

The Saturday before my birthday, I thought I’d (1) treat myself to a nearby spa, (2) get some or all of the bits and pieces for the party logistics, and (3) do an actual site visit.  Spa done, I visited a favorite store in Chelsea and grabbed my goodies.  (More on that in a separate blog post), and I headed to the restaurant.  While I had originally planned to eat a late lunch there, I ended up going for dinner at the bar in the back end.  It was an interesting experience on different levels — again, deserving of a blog post in itself (soon) — but I got to size up the venue, saw an actual 16-person table setting for a dinner party happening right at that moment, and I was able to virtually plan my own party.

As someone who had been in charge of events both small and large in previous jobs, I know the importance of familiarizing yourself with the actual venue.  And if the event involves a meal, it doesn’t hurt to try the cuisine.

Purchase all your supplies so you know if you need to make adjustments.  I’m a very spontaneous shopper.  So unless it involves a superhero or some such theme which requires purchasing my supplies from one place, I will walk into a store and find what I need.

I actually shopped from several stores to get things ready for the event (supplies, giveaways, prizes), and I found that the flexibility helped me plan the party with more ease.  I wanted pink but was not bent on having every single bit in pink.  If I had something in mind and it wasn’t available, I looked at what was and tried to make that work.


Produce all the items that need to be crafted or worked on.  I failed miserably at making “Thank you” gift tags, but I figured, that wasn’t necessary.  I did need to print out part of my giveaway and package them all.

Make sure that you have all your supplies and make a list of what needs to be bought before the event to avoid last minute panic buying.


Pack your goodies to make it easy to transport to the venue.  I was commuting to the venue via UBER, so I had to be able to carry everything I needed.  My extra pair of hands were actually not able to lift much, so I prepared everything but did not assemble them all.  Instead, I packed them so I could pull them together with ease at the event.

Someone wrote me: Bring an extra tote bag, but what I had brought the loot bags in with the other party supplies was plenty.

Pack all your supplies and put the bags together the night before.   I have found this rule of thumb most helpful even at corporate events, picnics or even traveling.  The day of the event tends to be very busy and hectic, so minimize your chances of forgetting something by getting everything together with time to spare.

Rest and be ready to party!

Gift of 50 – Postcards and Chicken Sandwich

Gift of 50Life is good.  I keep saying I’m not quite where I want to be yet– but are we ever? And yet I know I’m getting there, because I’m moving towards “happier”.  It’s a deliberate step forward — I’m not waiting for “happy” to find me.  I’m making it happen.

I have much to be grateful for as I hit this birthday milestone, and a few weeks back I started this project for the year I’m calling the Gift of 50. (Please see the navigation bar.).   I have tried to make a list of 50 “gifts” to give back and pay my good fortune forward in thanksgiving for being where I am now.

Postcards on their way. I have been collecting postcards since I was 17 and have amassed a modest collection, but through the years, I have acquired postcards which are not within my collecting category.  I recently rejoined a Philippine Postcrossing group and am well on my way to finding a home for the postcards I don’t want to keep.

It feels good to be able to give someone a card or two (or more) from the cards in my collection which would otherwise just gather dust and turn yellow without much love from me.  I have found the recipients, so I am sorting and putting away the postcards in “packets”, and have started sending out individual ones to those who prefer their postcards sent that way.

As a collector, I know how it feels to receive something to add to your collection, so I am trying to spread the love so to speak.  I am happy to have had the chance to make new friends along the way, and hopefully trim my collection substantially by this time next year.

Chicken sandwiches are in demand, more so since a Chick-fil-a opened nearby.  So far, two meals given out.  I’m still iffy about writing about it, though, although one was impactful in a meaningful sense because I did it while Angelo was with me.  It felt good, he said — and I’m glad to have made that impression.  Paying forward the blessings by sharing with others is one of my goals in doing the Gift of 50.

It’s not just about being good — but being good in a way that makes a difference even to just one individual.

In the mail.  I  have two snail mail cards in the mail:  one to a friend who celebrated a birthday, and one to a classmate from way back who is currently undergoing medical challenges.  I have a second dear friend in the latter category for whom I have a card which will be going out, too.  I have always said time and again that there is something about receiving something you can hold through the post, in this day and age of electronic correspondence.  Nothing beats being able to go back to what was written and said in the card without having to flip a device.  The correspondence is a gift by itself which one can touch and come back to over and over again.

It doesn’t sound like much but I feel I’m moving in the right direction and actually making this happen.. The lunch I had hoped to have with possibly a newfound friend has been scheduled and I am looking forward to that.  I am making my ear candy and other little gifts.  There is a bigger project or two I’m also working on and hoping to get off the ground within the next 11 months or so.  I’ll keep you posted..

Giggle, giggle

Daily Prompt: Giggle

We have a term for the giggly in Tagalog: bungisngis.  It’s that penchant to giggle at the slightest provocation, usually denoting a cheerful countenance.  Someone who is easy to smile or laugh, lighthearted and cheery.  That comes to mind when I think about “giggle”.

We giggle when we are amused, thrilled or nervous.  I believe it’s a natural tendency for laughter to find its way out of the deep core where we usually keep it hidden.  Like one of my former law professors used to say, “in the deepest of our hearts.”  It comes out during that one moment when we actually let ourselves go and allow the imp or the child or the easy going part of us out.

Amused.  Remember those times when you just can’t let a guffaw out or when it isn’t quite that funny but more amusing?  We stifle the laughter and instead let out a giggle.  Like a child.

I cherish the moments when my now almost 12 year old giggles like the child I wish he would always be.  When I hear that deep and hearty sound of delight and laughter that literally racks his body with a deep and sincere laugh if there was ever such a thing.

It’s almost laughter but not quite.. Yet it resonates from within.

Thrilled.  Girls gush and giggle.  There was a time when just hearing our crush say hello or call us by name would lead to a giggle when he was out of earshot.  Or those times when we shared our secrets with our bestfriends and we would feel so over the moon that we let out a bit of the warm and fuzzy in our tummys by letting out one.

Nervous.  I have a tendency to be giggly when I’m nervous — but nervous in a good kind of way.   The giggles come out between sentences, awkwardly punctuating those pauses in the conversation or as one tries to mask the unease.  A lifetime ago when I was younger, someone kissed me and it felt weird and awkward and in my immaturity and girlish impishness, I giggled.  And I guess he found it weird that I did and that didn’t get followed by another one of those.  Nerves.  Why does giggling make it easier?

Fickle Spring

 Spring2016We’re back to freezing weather which, while not impossible during this time of the year, is a tad disconcerting when you are all psyched for less layers and lighter clothes. So the winter coat I had dry cleaned two weeks ago and which I thought I could put away is a staple once again.  I was hoping to finally be able to wear skirts again without the tights, or no leggings under the pants — but Mother Nature has been fickle minded.

I earnestly tried to come up with another Monday Musings post yesterday, but I didn’t really get very far.   I’m hoping that starting this one as I am sipping my morning cup of coffee will help me get a head start and get something published. I have at least four blogposts simmering In my head, and I am always trying to find the time and energy to expound on those initial thoughts.   (1) “Planning a 50th birthday party,”  (2) “My Birthday Wishlist,” (3) “Birthday Reading Haul,” and a lengthy email I need to respond to in a blog post on (4) “The Cost of Dreaming to be a Legal Eagle.”  I am hoping to do all four in the next ten days. (I am not quite as brazen to declare “by the end of the week” because there is work and motherhood in the way.)

There are times when I feel that writing about it here vocalizes it (albeit, in a digital voice) and will summon it in a mystic way to materialize.  Of course I know I actually have to hit the keys to make that happen.

It’s raining in New York today and I am resigned to donning my galoshes.  Just need to figure out which one.  I have the “padded for freezing rain” boots and he whimsical floral feel-like-being-cute boots.  Of course I can actually completely ignore the rain and just wear another pair.  When will spring finally come???

I’m hoping that the weather will improve as promised in the coming days and that I will finally be able to walk in Central Park during springtime, the only season I haven’t had the chance to soak the colors of our city jungle ever.  Fall is still my favorite time to be there, but spring is a visual spectacle if you catch the trees in full bloom.  The tricky thing is to catch them just as they are most colorful before they fade which can be overnight.  

I have a tree in front of my unit which blooms in glorious fuschia pink but sprouts buds and blooms and fades, all in a matter of days.  I had documented it a while back from day to day but failed to post it in sequence as I had hoped to.  Maybe this year.. 

When the changes happen as quickly as they do during this particular season, I can’t help but be reminded about how fleeting life is, and how it pays to be mindful of the way the world keeps changing in both big and small ways.  Now if only Spring will finally make up its mind to stay.

Finding my voice again

Daily prompt: Voice

I believe that we all have our own individual voice, and that each one is uniquely and distinctly our own.  We are born with it but are not always in touch with it.  Some even don’t know that it’s there.

It’s that part of us that speaks to the world about who and what we are.  Sadly, sometimes this voice is muted or suppressed and drowned out by other voices around us.

I have always been loud.  As in booming.  While I may seem to be shy at the start, it’s only because I don’t go in announcing myself to the world.  I’m the one you see making her way around the room introducing herself to you and the rest, one at a time.  I can speak to you or the group — and you will hear me very distinctly.  Even in the midst of the collective noise of individual conversations going on in a disjointed chorus, I can raise my voice and halt that chatter to silence.

I was raised to defer to authority, and I would be the one raising her hand to be heard– not the one who just shouts from the back of the room.  When I was growing up, I was fortunate enough to have been encouraged  to find my voice and speak with confidence.  I was taught to not be afraid and to have my voice heard when necessary.

So I learned how to say no when I wasn’t up to agreeing to something.  If I had a contrary opinion, I would not be one to be intimidated for holding an unpopular view and I would make my point heard.  I sold myself as a candidate to crowds of people.  I won speaking competitions and college student council elections.  I confidently made business pitches to sell ideas.  I found my voice both in the audible and physical sense.  You “heard” me even just by “seeing” me.  I wasn’t the flamboyant one, but I stood out as an individual in a crowd.  It wasn’t so much about colors or hairstyles– it was because I walked with a confidence that made people listen when I needed them to.

That voice helped me to make my way through law school.  It helped me to move around the corporate world after.  And it helped me to make the move to this side of the world because that was what I wanted.  

Yet somewhere along the way, my voice started to fade.  At first, little by little.  Even I didn’t notice it. I didn’t speak up as often, I would just follow other voices.  And then one day my voice just wasn’t me anymore.  I told myself it was me adjusting to my new life.  I didn’t realize, though, that I allowed my voice to be silenced, and I mimicked the voice of another whose approval meant the world to me.

But there is something about suppressing the voice within that eventually sees it struggling to be heard again. Events unfolded and I found myself clearing my throat and searching for that booming sound within.  I never really lost it– I had just let it be buried in the din of others shouting above mine.  I screamed to break free and silence fell, and the collective noise ceased.  When all ears were on me, I declared, “I am back.”

I stopped listening to the voice that tried to mold me into something I wasn’t.  The only voice I listened to was mine, and I had missed that.  I had missed being who I am because I was too busy being someone else.  Lesson learned.  

And everyday, I smile as I hear my inner voice telling me, “I am back.”