The Starbucks Mug that started the collection

The Starbucks Mug That Started The CollectionI have been meaning to write about my Starbucks mug collection forever, but photographing the mug that started the collection was always a problem.  It was a nondescript undbranded mug in clear glass, and transparent glass is always a challenge.  But here it is, finally.  Note that I had written about this back in 2008, but I can’t even see the graphic anymore, probably because it is an outdated link from the first blog platform I used to house this blog in.

It orinally came as part of a Valentine’s Day gift set of cookies and coffee, if I remember right, and after the 14th, they split up the collection and sold this on sale.  This was in February 2001 when I had just started working.  So this mug does not only represent the beginning of a collection, but it was also one of my first real purchases with my own money.

I don’t normally use my mugs but this one, I do.  Not just because it was the first, but because it has all these pretty pink hearts.  I have been putting away the mugs I have acquired through the last 2-3 years, but I do know I’ve hit the 100+ mug mark a while back.  Life has made me put the collecting on hold, but friends have continued to bring me one from their travels or from just around here– so the collection has been growing.  In fact, it’s the last few mugs that I have received that has prompted me to finally start writing about the collection.  I’m hoping I can finally get a more up to date photo album going.

There were Starbucks mugs in the pantry when I got here, one or two they had purchased in previous trips, but it was a determined effort to get mugs as souvenirs in my travels that prompted me to start the collection.

I actually had a regular mug collection from my teens back home, and there was even a time when I gave them away as Christmas gifts, filled with some chocolates.  I think a mug or two has survived that collection, but I didn’t take any with me when I got here.  Starbucks was already in Manila a year or two before I left, but it never even occurred to me to get the first mug they had as a souvenir back then.  I did get my Manila mug after my first trip back home in 2002.

In time, I found the regular everyday not-city-specific mug a point of interest, more so when they were on sale.  And at the height of my collecting frenzy, I even bought some of their earlier mugs from eBay.  (So yes, I do have some mugs with the original siren logo.)

I had some space on my kitchen cupboard, and I wrapped my mugs in cling wrap and displayed them in two rows until I ran out of space.  With a do-it-yourself redecorating in mind, I’m still trying to figure out the best way to display the mugs when I finally bring the collection together.

Meanwhile, I washed my first mug and drank my morning coffee from it.  Like I said, I have received some meaningful additions the last couple of weeks– not so much for the uniqueness of the new mugs– but for the stories behind them.  I didn’t feel right about just writing about any mug without writing about this one, because collections are always most interesting when you go back to when you started them.  At least it is for me.  The next question is usually how long you have been collecting, and that gives you 16 years as of this writing for my Starbucks Mug Collection.

I don’t go out of my way to collect them, but well meaning friends remember and give them to me without my asking.  I still look at the sale or clearance sections the few times I actually walk into one of the many Starbucks stores around me, but knowing my mugs are mostly hidden stops me from getting more.  I want to catalogue them first and figure out a way to display them or store them as a cohesive collection.

Will I trade?  Only for your city or country mug for my New York City mugs, please.  I have received inquiries about a mug or two in my flickr album, once upon a time even getting a $200 offer for one of my Christmas city mugs.  I had to say no.  What’s in my collection will remain in the collection — at least until that time that I decide it’s time to let the collection go.  Not quite there, and I don’t think I will ever get there.

My Starbucks mugs have a sentimental value to me,  so much so that I have declared them my personal property.  Even if there was a time I had shared the collecting with someone else, the collection is mine.  These mugs embody memories of good times and happy travels, of friendships and warm thoughts that made people think of my collection and contributing to it.  And more happy memories and warm thoughts are yet to come.. I look forward to more mugs joining my collection.

My One Sentence Journal

One sentence journalI’ve been busy drawing letters of the alphabet after joining the Instagram challenge from @handetteredABCs to write the entire alphabet a letter a day this February.  (You can learn more about it at their website here, and jump into my Instagram account and click on any letter you see..)

I jumped in at H and am currently at O.  It’s been a fun journey but I’m in such great company!  I drool over the calligraphers who can create such beauties in literally a stroke of their pen.  I wish I could do that.  I can render lettering but I draw them.  Like most art, it takes practice to improve one’s craft and inspiration hit me last night to start this new journal.

 Just one sentence.  Any other blurbs or write up will have to be elsewhere like here.

Strictly in pen.  I have my art journal for the fancier stuff.

In a small enough size that I can lug it anywhere.  I want to be able to carry it with me easily without lugging a tome.  The page size is also key if I am to do a page without devoting a day to it.  My art journal is always a work in progress because I do the page layouts and then decided on embellishments and then do the actual journaling.  This one is much, much more abbreviated than that.

Should be a notebook I can tear pages off and later pull together into one journal.  I must’ve rendered one line over 20x last night, tearing off the mistakes out.  I will have to grab another one soon. I have these freebies I grabbed from a conference at work from a sponsor which was made of recycled paper.  Perfect.  No expense, and more importantly, the paper takes the ink from the pen with ease.

This is as much to practice my lettering as it is to memorialize words and thoughts that might mean something to me at any given point in time.  Self explanatory.

I have been journaling since I was young, and I still have my handwritten journals  which I began when I arrived in New York almost 18 years ago.  I’m almost done with my first art journal in an altered book, and I’m beginning a new one.  This is both simple and not simple, but it works the same way in giving me a channel of self expression.

In one sentence.

What I’ve learned about being 50 so far

What I've learned about being 50I turned 50 last April, and it’s a milestone I’m very proud to have reached. I revel in hearing people look at me in disbelief when I say I’m half a century old. I’m a self-proclaimed “Golden Girl” and I’ve come to realize that 50 isn’t as “old” as I thought it was when I was looking from the perspective of my then 30 and even 40-something self.  And yet I harbor no illusions of being young. That was a lifetime ago.

So I realize that this post might not resonate with those who are decades away from this milestone, but you might yet pick up a thing or two if you give this post a read. Here, in a random list are the things I’ve picked up and learned about being 50 so far

It feels different, yes.  Life seems to be different and the same as seen through my reading glasses.  (Which makes me wonder if I ought to get my eyes checked for real…). I am calmer, not as quick to react to life in general, more forgiving (or is it unaffected or uncaring?), and more patient with the world.  That’s 50 for me in a capsule– read on for more.

1. 50 isn’t all that old.  I used to think that 50 was ancient until I actually made it to this milestone.  Of course, it helps that touting the age and seeing people looking all surprised to know I’m THAT old has been such an ego booster.  I tell them simply that it’s the Asian skin.  And for that I am eternally grateful.  The melanin helps me to look better and younger, despite whatever wrinkles I have at this point.  I love bragging about being 50 because I enjoy seeing their incredulous look when I declare it and I get showered with compliments for not looking it.  One for vanity!

And seeing all the people I know who are older makes me feel younger — even if I have seen a friend or two pass on.. You will always be younger than someone and older than most.  The thing is to know that we all go through these phases as we age.  Living in and being your age helps you to move through life with more grace– and less signs of aging.

2. I actually like who I am at this point in my life..(which actually means I’m happy with being this age.). Some people my age seem to think their best selves are much younger iterations of them — when they were more youthful looking sans the grey hair and the wrinkles.  I disagree. I think this is my best “me” yet for all the changes that had colored my life through the years.

I like that I have so much experience tucked under my belt — and I’m talking not only of things I managed to do, but more importantly, the lessons I learned in my failings.  There, I believe, lies the true lessons of life that we cannot learn in books or in school.  They are lessons that life teaches us.  The thing is to learn from them and not let them be erased by time. If we keep them tucked inside us, we might yet avoid thanking the same mistake a second time.

I am no longer as hard on myself as I used to be.  I have come to accept my own limitations without beating myself up for it.  I don’t know if it’s good that I am no longer as forgiving or patient with others — when they disappoint, I sigh and I move on.

3.  You can be pretty at 50 without trying to look younger. I remember there was a time I thought I’d be old at 40.  Then it came and went and here I am at 50.  So what if there are wrinkles adorning my eyes?  And what about the blemishes on my face which my dermatologist warns me will just multiply if I touch them so I leave them be.  They look like freckles and there are a couple of facial warts, but that’s what make up is for.  I simply rely on a good concealer and foundation to mask them but not completely obliterate them from view.

Make up is my bestfriend and I have always used it to highlight my better features and mask the ones that detract from the total look.  I have never used it, though, to try and look younger.  I’d like to think I use it to look better.  To me, that’s celebrating my age with grace — and it’s so much easier to go with the flow than to go against it.  So yes, I do use full makeup from foundation to pressed powder.  I apply colors that accentuate my best features without having to wonder which colors works best. There are times when I have to apply a tad bit more foundation or concealer in certain areas, but you have to remember, that’s what those are for!  More than hide my blemishes, I try to minimize them and work on equalizing my tone.

At 50, that requires a bit more effort but it is worth it.  Getting older doesn’t mean letting our looks go down the drain.  We can be old and still look good

4.  I know now that I am important, too, so I take better care of me.  I  regret having “let go” at some point after motherhood took me over in 2004.  I look at pictures of myself even as recent as 3  years ago and further on, and I am saddened by the fact that I did so poorly at taking care of myself.  It took a life changing realization to wake me up from that complacency and get back to the old me.  The vain and make up loving me!

I still can’t believe I stopped caring as much as I used to.  I see the pictures from the past decade and I am just grateful that I “woke up” from that and am now taking better care of myself.  I no longer put myself at the bottom of the list, knowing that I have to be in a good place to be able to take care of those around me.  That self sacrifice has its rewards, but then you will only end up feeling deprived if you do not leave something for yourself.

At the end of the day, you are the only one who can best take care of you.  You cannot rely on others to nurture your spirit and soul — those are parts of you only you can take care of.

5.  People will come and go and that’s perfectly fine.  I used to be such a clinger when it came to my friends — and even the ones I gave my heart to.  There seemed to be such an urgency to keeping them in my life.  And I found myself broken-hearted when someone left or I left someone — until recently.  I finally found myself just being more accepting of people coming and going — because I guess age has taught me that you cannot really make people stay.  That has to be their choice.  Sometimes life just takes us in different directions, and parting is inevitable and unavoidable — and there is really nothing you can do but just go with the flow and move on.  You let go.  

At the same time, I have learned to appreciate the friendships and the unconditional love of family.  That is precious beyond words.

6.  You need to take better care of your body.  There are things about one’s voluptuous body that will never be the same as when you were younger without surgical intervention, so embrace the authentic you.  I know that’s a mouthful but I couldn’t get the thought across with less words.

I’ve been overweight most of my life.  I’ve been “plump” and “chubby” and  — okay, I have to admit, at certain points in my life, — just plain fat.  It doesn’t help that my bulges are distributed proportionately, so I see myself inflating and deflating as if I were taking in and losing air.  You tend to get the illusion that “it’s just a few pounds.”  That is, until the scale tells you it’s another leg you’ve been growing under your skin.  Then you find yourself buying the next size.  Time to watch your health!

There was a time I was enrolled in this and that weight loss program because someone wanted me to be a certain size.  I used to be asked what I ate and was eating at work.  During meals, I had to be mindful of what I ordered not because of the price or budget, but because I was supposed to be watching what I ate.  I was chided in jest  for giving in to my cravings  which was “supposed to be a joke,” but which was actually a reminder not to chomp away.

These days, I diet and try to move around (not really something you can call exercising at this point) more for my health and well-being than to torture myself into a particular size.  With a history of diabetes on both sides of my family, and my own bout with gestational diabetes when I was pregnant at 37, I have been warned time and again that I am wont to be diabetic myself as I get older.

It’s not about just settling and letting things hang — literally at this age, mind you! — but as in cars and much of what we own, we need to maintain our parts to keep them in proper working condition.  But I am not killing myself over the flabs — even if I am wishing so hard to shrink them or make them disappear.  I haven’t quite gotten down to the point of considering surgical intervention, but I think I like myself and my parts — even those I can do without, just fine.  There are so many other things worth spending money on.

If you don’t like something, work on getting rid of it naturally.  Life is a bit more complicated as you get older and your self esteem and your body image should not be at the top of your list if you will conquer the rest of the hurdles life sends your way.

7.  Being 50 brought me face to face with the reality that I am no superwoman.  Try as I might to help as many people as I can, I can only do so much.  It’s not a sense of resignation or a change of heart, but when we are younger, we tend to bend backwards as far as we can to accommodate, or to give until it hurts like people say.

Now that I am older, I’ve come to realize that try as I might, there is only so much we can do, and we should not feel frustrated about that being the case.  It is just how life goes.

I haven’t stopped trying.  It’s just that I have been easier on myself when it turns out I can’t.  I temper my disappointment in not being able to help with the thought that I tried.

We tend to be our worst critics and the source of the toughest pressure on ourselves when we should be the kindest.  I have come to realize that this only leads to more frustration and the last thing you need when you’re trying to keep in step with the pressure from all over is to be putting yourself down.

I guess you can say I’m more accepting of my limitations and more cognizant of my abilities.  Sometimes I surprise myself doing something I thought I couldn’t do.  And when it turns out I cannot, I no longer beat myself up for failing to deliver.  I tried, I tell myself.  That’s what matters.

8.  Age has helped me zero in on what I want and go for it.  I have always been a go-getter, but there has been a lot of self doubt and too much caution in my life choices.  For the longest time, I played safe and stepped back.  I don’t know if it was because I lost part of my identity in my marriage or my self-confidence was diminished by my trying too hard to please others.  In the midst of all this, I became stuck in my comfort zone.  I dreamed and thought about and saw what I wanted, but I lost the drive to aspire and go after the dream like I used to.  

Then came the realization that I was moving on through life.  The years that had passed me by were forever gone.  Whatever time I had invested in life was “ticking away.”  At 50, I saw that there are many things one can no longer put off for another day, because this might be your last day.  Time has a way of reminding you not about time running out, but that it is running.. two different things. 

I keep telling my friends who sigh and bemoan their current state, whatever it is, that I live by a simple guide when I find myself at a crossroads- “What would make me happy?” — then I go for it.  It’s not enough that you know what it is– you have to work towards getting to that happy place.  You have to go for it.

9.  Being 50 makes one come to terms with the reality of one’s mortality.  We tend to postpone the thought of death to “later” or when we are much “older.”  Any talk of death is “morbid”.  Even when a batchmate or two passed on due to cancer, it was always just at the back of my mind — never front and center.  At any given time, there is one person who I know who is terminally ill.  You tend to think that death is still far off and just brush it aside.  It is, after all, happening to someone else.  Until you realize you are moving on in years, and 50 will become 60 and so on and so forth.

I have always been busy writing my will but have never really finished one.  I think I’m trying to be too specific with my provisions and bequests when I ought to keep it simpler, more so since I don’t exactly have millions to give away.  I know I want to be cremated, and my ashes distributed some place.

It’s only recently that I have appointed someone to be my emergency contact — and I still owe my friend a list of final instructions.  I have given the simple instructions to notify someone who can take care of getting to my little guy, but that’s all I’ve specified so far.  Yet I know how important it is that this is taken cared of.  My procrastinating isn’t postponing anything — it is just leaving me “vulnerable” should something untoward happen to me.

My wish is to live long and be up on my feet to the day I die.  I hope that my memory doesn’t go before my body does, and that I continue to be walking about in the twilight of my years.

I have no bucket list, but I want to live my life and learn more and do more.  Even if I always say I’ve accomplished all that I had hoped to and dreamed about, I know that there is a whole world out there for me to conquer.  

So write and finish my will, I will.  

51 is just around the corner.  I am waiting to embrace it with as much fervor as I did 50.  There are more lessons to learn and realizations to come.  I tell myself it can only get better.  Whatever burdens I continue to carry in my heart may not disappear, but I’m counting on being able to go on with my journey unbowed, and even braver now that I have hit my golden year.



Walk with me

It’s rare that I get to take so many pictures chronicling what is an every day trip for me from my home to my place of work.  When I posted them on my Instagram account, I was struck by the way the pictures seemed to be telling a story.  While they are seen as individual photographs on my IG feed, seen together and in my own mind is a single narrative that begins with the first picture and ends just before I go up to my perch to start another day at work.

So come walk with me and see New York City through my eyes this snowy and cold Monday…

I start my day walking to my bus stop to take the ride that will bring me to Manhattan. I always make it a point to look up. I sometimes wonder why people keep looking down, but hardly, ever, look up.
UntitledThere is a ton to be seen if we took the time to just take a moment to train our sights upward for a change.

I ended up taking an alternative route which will be my usual route in a few weeks’ time as we move eastward to our other building.  I really don’t mind.  The two stops are separated by avenues which take me all of 7 minutes to walk if I don’t stop anywhere.  But whenever I can, I say hello to the boss upstairs.  I walk into the Church of St. Agnes on 43rd to pray.


This church is very special to me because it has been a place of solitude for me during my weakest moments.  I have shed tears here.  I have given thanks.  I have simply sat and be.  I listened without saying a thing, not even in my heart.  This is like home to me.

I have walked in and out of these doors many times before, but for the first time, I paid heed to the ornate grillwork that showed the world outside.  Again, we don’t stop enough to admire the beauty around us.

From there I take the scenic route through Grand Central.  Instead of entering through the main corridor, though, I always choose to walk through Grand Central Market for the visual and gastronomic treat.


I notice there are new stores now like the two stores you see on the left.  (EAT gifts and that new SUSHI place.)  I like walking down this way because I get to see my usual favorites and whenever I can, I grab lunch.  This time it was a half pound of French Raclette from my favorite cheese place, Murray’s.  I love the sights and smells of this place, from the smell of bread to chocolates to the pungent cheeses and fish at the end of the row.

It’s food and more food all around — plus a few extras like gifts and flowers.  If you were to throw a last minute party for two or more, or even one you planned ahead — this is a one stop shop for anything and everything you might want to serve.  (You’d just have to walk a few steps away for the vino, though.)  I’m on an almond croissant quest and I had already sampled Eli Zabar’s a few weeks back, but wanted to grab a delectable shot to use when I do write my post on which one wins my heart and tummy.

I can stay here all day and watch the world go by.   I have never seen this place not  busy — less busy, yes, but always abuzz.  And yet it isn’t a noisy or dizzying kind of busy that leaves you with that urge to walk away or leave this place.  It’s that kind of busy hypnotizes you into just letting the world turn as you find yourself a quiet corner to watch spin around.


I don’t know when exactly they put up what is now known as The Great Northern Food Hall, but I’ve visited here a couple of times to grab a sweet treat or a pastry for breakfast. One of these days, or when we finally move perhaps, I might take a quick bite here and write more.  This is the side that greets you when you emerge from the main hall of the terminal, and you will find clusters of their various outlets for you to choose from.  (Each station has it’s own check out counter which precludes any guessing games like bigger food spaces.)


It occupies one half of the huge space that was all of Vanderbilt hall.  With the Food hall there, the event space has been reduced to the other half which isn’t really a bad trade off considering what is now on the other side.

Making my way out to 42nd Street, I walk westward and find myself at one of my favorite spots in the city, Bryant Park, where the New York Public Library is situated.


In the spring and summer this place is awash with green, but even in the dreary months of winter, the tall trees stand majestic providing such a dramatic background as you walk its grounds.


Mornings are my favorite time of the day in the park because it’s practically empty.  As the day wears on, the seats and tables all fill up with regulars from the offices around or the countless tourists both local and foreign who seek out the thrills of New York City.

The snow that was in the forecast started to fall.


I like snow best when it is falling, no matter that it is pouring in torrents or drifting down aimlessly as if the air was cushioning it from crashing down.  I’ve seen these tables covered and buried in white.. then in grey.  I wondered how much snow was coming.


I walked to my favorite bakery kiosk by the edge of the park closer to Avenue of the Americas, and taking shelter from the snow which had started falling heavier, I actually took a film clip panning the area (which, I am trying to upload but have not been successful doing.)  It is uncanny how no matter how many times I take a photograph from any angle or any corner, it never quite comes out the same.

And so I crossed, looking uptown, snapping away as I walked.
Then I decided it was better doing this at a full stop, so I became one of those pedestrians who stands in the middle of the street, whips out a camera and shoots a pic.
UntitledFrom here I enter my building and go up to my perch, starting yet another work day.  This is My New York.