Sunday inspiration

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I made some vegetarian lasagna last night which might actually become a go-to recipe for me this season. Like previous years, I have opted to forego beef and pork for the Lenten season as my personal sacrifice. But the lasagna will have to wait another time. It’s not exactly from scratch and more of the semi-home made kind, and I’m pretty proud of how it came out to be. Now if only it didn’t add the pounds the night after. (And I have one more slice left.)

I’ve been taken by M. Night Shyamalan’s “Servant” which I’ve been watching since Friday. I can’t wait until next Friday when the next episode drops. I’ve always been a fan of M. Night’s work because of his story telling mastery. No matter how dark or fantastic a story he might be telling, I don’t mind watching his movies over and over again. So when I saw the series on Apple TV, I decided to give it a try. The first episode was classic M. Night. I paused. When I went back, I couldn’t stop. I’ve watched the entire Season 1 and all of the episodes of Season 2 that had been released so far. Like I said, waiting for the next episode.

I’ve tried to stay away from the postcards today, because it’s preoccupied a lot of my time the last few days. The sorting continues, (Yay!) and I’ve been weeding out the cards for destashing. I’ve also discovered some cards on Amazon to add to my New York and map cards. I’ll say it again, much as postcrossing has changed the world of postcard collecting, I still prefer direct swaps. The disappointments are not as jarring as the surprises that might come your way from some other place of the world.

I have letters to write. One has been popping in and out of my head to a long time penpal and fellow postcard collector I’ve corresponded with for many years. She is like a little sister to me — and we share various passions together. From personal art (although she is undoubtedly the more accomplished artist) to jewelry making and postcards, we have share a friendship via long distance for many years now. I am wondering how she’s doing, and hoping that she has gotten my last postcard. She and I are close enough that I send a small packet for her whenever I send something to Manila in a balikbayan box, I will start the letter tonight.

I am in the February section of my art journal. I have the layout in my head, but I’m trying to make up my mind about the way I will execute it beyond the heart pages that I’ve already cut. It’s a bit problematic with the thinner used Manila folders that make up most of my journal. I can probably use something thicker, or layered pages for the watercolor or acrylic heavy layouts.

So I thought I’d try my hand at maybe thickening the pages by doing collage. I had a color in mind — I’ve been cutting away, but after picking up some pieces decided it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go. Maybe I’ll change my mind later. But I’m keeping the magazine pages that called out to me. I started with this heap below.

Collage

The black and white pages are similar to layouts I had used in last year’s art journal. I like the black dresses which can be drawn over or written on. From this pile, I got to the cut outs below.

Collage

I use straight scissors to cut huge chunks, and a pointy smaller pair for detailed cutting. Lessons from my days with mixed media artist trading cards. While others would prefer to cut with blades or a cutting knife, I have acquired some skill in cutting finely near the border or just outside the border.

Collage

I have the hearts cut out. I had hoped to try to at least assemble the signature together tonight but some cassava got in the way. Given how the folder paper reacts to water, though, I’m thinking if I should paint them first before I pull the section together. Decisions, decision.

My Sunday has been relaxing and busy. I’m thinking of three other chores I can focus on but they can wait. I want to relax and recharge and get my personal projects going this weekend. It’s terribly cold outside but I need to do my walk in a bit. No evening walks when the temperature dips so low, and not on a day when I don’t have to worry about returning to my laptop to continue working.

Last week, I received the health certification from my primary care provider that now entitles me to be vaccinated with the next cohort of qualifiers. Even if I am below 65, the fact that I have a chronic condition that puts me at risk as an asthmatic pushes me up the line. But it isn’t quite that easy. I now have to wait for the vaccine providers to open their system to people of my situation, and then I need to get an appointment.

My letter was dated February 13, in anticipation of the opening of the next tier by the state on February 15, Still, my provider has indicated that they hope to start vaccinating this next set of qualifiers beginning February 23rd. My local pharmacy’s webpage hasn’t quite updated their website to help me qualify just yet. So like the thousands before me, we must play the cat and mouse game of trying to get an appointment. This Sunday, I’m not going to bother myself with that. It can wait another day. And that is altogether another post — soon.

I’m getting ready for Monday and the rest of the week. I think I’ve gotten into a better rhythm after almost of year of working the way we work now. The stress has abated although it has not gotten any less busier. I guess I’m just coping better. Positive thoughts about what the week will bring will hopefully bring me to dreamland with more ease later. Here’s to a better and warmer week for all.

Baking Banana Bread on a cold Friday night

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It’s minutes to 10pm and I just decided I wanted to bake some banana bread. I have three huge bananas that are overripe and ready to be mashed and mixed into some goodies. The recipe I am thinking of following says I only need 10 minutes and bake time of just over an hour. I have time. What I love best about this recipe is it doesn’t call for the mixer. Yay!

I have come to enjoy baking during the pandemic with all the time spent home, and the need to do something different. I do have a mixer but I loathe the washing that needs to be done after the bread has baked and has been sliced. So here’s one for a recipe that actually just needs a mixing bowl and a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon. I’ve done quite a few of these recipes, but I thought I’d try a local Filipino favorite, if only because I found the best pandesal recipe on this website, Panlasang Pinoy.

All done as promised within 10-15 minutes. Oven preheated as I mixed the ingredients and it’s well into its first 10 minutes of the hourlong bake time. I have baked enough banana breads to know which ingredients I could tweak, so I avoided the raisins, and then added walnuts on top, and a sprinkling of chocolate chips but only one side of the loaf. So I’m going to sit it out here watching Blue Bloods and trying to complete a blogpost before the oven timer rings. I don’t know if I was inspired to bake because I wanted to write, or if I got inspired to write because I decided to bake and there was the wait time until my bread came out. But I’m doing both.

It was a very cold week for New York and many parts of the country. We are luckier than others as we are used to this winter onslaught of snow. I didn’t even bother to go out yesterday and today because the temperatures were just freezing, and the weather unforgiving. I decided I would sit this one out, 10,000 steps out the window. I’m trying to be more forgiving of myself for breaking my streak last week when the first big storm hit. One thing living in New York has taught me is you can’t taunt the weather and be smug about the cold. There are days when you just have to concede to Mother Nature. We’re having quite a few of those these days.

Snow in New York

The lady at the checkout register at the neighborhood grocery put it succinctly, when she reminded me we need a good amount of snow to prepare for the dry summer. It’s a long ways away but she was right. And I guess we can’t really complain.

So I’m riding out the snow and the rain and the ice. Work has kept me busy most of the week. It’s been rather hectic but manageable. It was one of those weeks where you found yourself relieved that Friday finally came. I think that was one reason I wanted to write. And there goes an audible sigh of relief.

I can smell the sweet banana scent wafting through my home. It’s that kind of warm and fuzzy that just comforts you on a cold night like this.

I’ve taken a break from writing postcards tonight. It’s been a busy two weeks sending out cards, arranging swaps and posting to my postcard collecting account on Instagram, @ postcard_storyteller. The destashing and organizing continues. I even found a stash of older mint stamps I bought from eBay some years ago when I was doing various swaps. Not just postcards. There was a time I got into Artist Trading Cards or ATCs, journal exchanges and other mail art projects. A lot of people are not aware that older and usable stamps are available online, not only as collector’s items, but for use in regular mail. Most sellers will sell it in lots at a partial discount — say , a lot of $25 stamps for $22. For postcard collectors and stamp collectors, or those who are into mail art, using these unique stamps lent a certain flair to the postal journey of whatever we sent out. It was part of dressing up the envelope or the postcard that went through the postal system.

And although I haven’t been journaling, I’ve been working on the art journal by sprucing up the first signature of the new one. I still have odds and ends to work on with the 2020 book, but I feel so thrilled to see what I’ve accomplished with it last year. Valentine’s Day having come and gone, I have an idea for a love-filled signature I want to pull together this week.

My heart is full.

The line keeps flashing in my head — and ringing in my mind, like an echo waiting to find expression in a bundle of pages of hearts. I have a lot to write about in reflection of how I feel so lucky to be surrounded by so much love. Some people tend to be bitter or cyclical about the commercial aspects of celebrating Valentine’s Day — but it’s not all about lovers. It is, however, all about love. Like last year, I have a bit to say, even if my little guy and I had to forego our valentine date. There is next year.

My weekend has begun and my banana bread is done. It came out a little darker, and I think it’s the chocolate chips that somehow spread out. I tried one end — couldn’t resist — and I’m happy.

My banana bread this Friday

Postcards: My window to the world

For a change, this is not part of my New York Corona diaries, and I’ve decided to start a new section on postcards, after having returned to active trading again in the past few weeks. (Avatar coming.)

I started collecting postcards when I joined the International Youth Service back in high school in the early 80s. That was before the time of the internet, when there was no email, and people communicated with letters and the post office and Hallmark was kept busy.

Sadly, IYS was a casualty of the internet age. We signed up for penfriends by paying for a match with fellow students across the globe. We used International Money Order to pay for the membership, and I found my world open to some great friendships, one of which has lasted to today. (Thank you, Clara.)

Postcards

It was through these penfriends and the exchange of letters, photos and gifts, that I got into postcard collecting. Until then, postcards were occasional mementos I would come across among my mom and dad’s things, but never really something I was interested in. I remember National Bookstore had shelves of them among the greeting cards they imported and eventually printed in association with Hallmark, but I never really paid attention.

But in the course of introducing my country to these newfound friends, I found myself scouring those shelves eventually, to introduce them to the Philippines. As a result, I got postcards in return.

Back then, I was pretty much confined to the Philippines and did not really leave the country until I had started working. International travel wasn’t quite as accessible as it was to everyone back then, and my family had other priorities, so my vacations were month-long stays in Baguio. Postcards were my window to the world. I found myself fascinated with the postcards I received. And then a friend who had left for the US (Caloy) during high school sent me a postcard from California. That remains to be one of my first and most cherished cards in my collection, because it was one of the cards that kicked off this now life long passion.

I got most of my postcards with the letters, so they were unwritten on and unstamped. Because of the many penfriends I signed up for through a period of maybe 4-5 years, I was also able to start a stamp album, along with the stamps from projects an aunt who was a public school teacher in Bulacan had her students do. Sadly, that stamp album disappeared before I entered law school. That’s another story for another time. Disheartened by that loss, I gave up collecting stamps and stuck with postcards. (I would eventually return to collecting them for mixed media projects, that’s why I have a modest stash of modern stamps from all over right now.)

I was eagle eyed everywhere I went, collecting some unusual cards most people would not pay attention to. This postcard from the then fashion entrepreneur pioneer Sari-sari store was one I picked up as I checked out. (For the younger crowd, Sari-sari was one of the pioneering multi-label umbrella concept store where various brands had their space in a stylish spread.). It wasn’t exactly a postcard with a mailing backing, but it was a card you could definitely send out, with interesting photography of one of the cutlery they sold under the label.

Postcards

I attended a fashion show in the 90s featuring Asian fashion designers from all over, and the souvenir, instead of a printed programme, was a fold out map on one side, and the other side divided into postcard panels devoted to one designer with their bio. (The panels were perforated for easy tearing.)

When I went into bookstores or hotel gift shops, my eyes immediately searched for the postcard rack and I would grab several of each design for trade. After maybe 4-5 years of doing this, I started realizing that I should be keeping one of each for my own collection. At that point, some of the postcards were already out of print. Still, I managed to buy postcards and save what I could for my personal collection and still do, every time I go home.

I used to collect anything and everything. I guess when you are a novice collector, you tend to be less discriminating and just marvel at sheer volume instead of looking at what truly appeals to you. My collecting interests were refined through the years, and currently stands at maps, lighthouses, vintage and modern Philippines, New York and Paris.

I managed to save one of the iconic Philippine map postcards that was available until NBS stopped printing it. (Please bring it back!). Other map postcards that followed were more stylized and not quite as impactful as the one that started it all. I am hoping to one day come up with a map postcard I can print in association with a friend’s company who is engaged in the printing of maps and cartographic materials. That is a dream.

When I moved to New York in 2000, I found myself encountering vintage postcards of the Philippines which were a source of fascination for me. I had a postcard store sending me cards to review and buy, there was eBay and the occasional antiquing. Bring me to an antique store and the first thing I ask about are postcards and ephemera. I would go through postcards in boxes one by one — and picked out some prized possessions. I eventually figured out that there were postcards of the Philippines here because Americans back home sent them to family and friends in the US during the early 1900s. Although I had decided early on that I would focus on vintage Philippines, New York and Paris, there were irresistible vintage postcard lots for sale that meant getting the above would come with others I wasn’t particularly interested in.

I have enough vintage postcards that I was able to complete an album of postmarks from 1901 on, and I am continuing to organize the other categories. One of my favorites is the postcard of the Little Church at the Corner in Greenwich Village, which I have at least 3 copies of, and the 4th of which I had gifted to a young postcard friend. (That postcard deserves its own blog post.. soon.)

Postcards

Moving to New York also exposed me to various postcard trading groups which traded through the old style message bill boards (again, something the younger generation would not be aware of), snail mail round robins and postcard lists, etc. (Again another blog post.). This was the point where I found myself drifting towards collecting maps and lighthouses — postcards I traded for with the same or stadiums, cityscapes and other NY-related postcards. When I started out, again, I failed to save one of each of the postcards I sent out, and only started that after around two years of being a New Yorker.

I keep telling newbies not to forget that, because through the years, landscapes change — and the cityscape of New York is one of the most dynamic skylines in the world. Saddest of all was 9/11, which completely changed how downtown looked. I have a special section in my collection for the postcards that depict that part of the city. Recently, I was amazed that I actually found three postcards I sent to Carlos, my young friend, which showed downtown before 9/11, after 9/11 but before the Freedom Tower was built, and then now as it looks with the Freedom Tower standing proud. History in postcards.

Postcards

I stopped trading actively for around 5 years, but have continually sent out postcards to friends who collect as well, and have never stopped buying cards to add to my collection. New York is a treasure trove of postcards of all sizes, shapes, price and kind. From the 10 for $1 tourist postcards to the lenticular or holographic postcards priced at $5 up, and the postcard booklets or sets that go for anywhere from $5-$25, this is postcard heaven. Travel stops, museums, bookstores, airports are also a constant source of additional cards. And now the postcard groups from Yahoo are on Facebook, and there’s Postcrossing and Swapbot. (Yes, I’ve tried them all.). But postcard sources are not always obvious. Some of my most unusual acquisitions were from even more unusual sources. (Which I will write about separately, again.)

Many of my postcards have lain dormant and untended in boxes that I am just getting back to now. I have come to realize that those postcards that don’t fall within my collecting interest need a new home. Some of them have yellowed or have gotten crumpled through the years, because they were not special enough to be kept in the boxes where I have the lighthouses and maps. Still, I am surprised at how some have remained looking like new as the day I received or bought them, perhaps on a trip while passing through that state or country. I also need to take better care of the postcards I do collect and which were recent acquisitions and find the boxes where the rest are. (Somewhere up in my attic.)

Through the years, I have made a practice of sending postcards home to myself, addressed to my son, to chronicle trips or vacations. Depending on where I was, and of course, the availability of postcards, that was a travel diary of anywhere from 3 to 20-something postcards. Yes, even when we go home to Manila every year. It was disappointing that during my last trip to Bicol where my mom hails from in 2019, there was not a single postcard of Mayon Volcano or of the Cagsawa ruins which i visited then for the second time, in the National Bookstore at SM Legaspi. (Shocker.) I ended up getting those postcards from Manila, and writing about the trip belatedly. I’m not too picky about postmarks if it can be helped, but I have sent a whole bunch of postcards to the post office manager of one of the states we visited with the stamped postcards enclosed, and they were promptly mailed back to me.

The other day, my 16 year old son (who has no interest in postcards, Starbucks mugs or the autographed books I collect) were going over the older New York postcards I was scanning to post in my IG account, @postcard_storyteller . We were reading the scribbling on the back and inspecting the postmark and the postcards themselves. Some were from before 1910 and some in the 1950s. The stories these postcards tell. It made me wonder how things were back then — and what was it like sending that postcard, and how was it for the ones who received them.

Postcards

I have also started segregating the postcards I had gotten through the years from fellow postcard collectors in the Philippines. Going through one of my folders from the office, I stumbled upon a postcard from a friend who had passed away recently after a years long bout with cancer. I had met her when she was in remission in 2016, and we had constantly surprised each other with postcards through the years. I knew she wasn’t well, but she had even requested a postcard from me, one of those times I announced a give away in our postcard group for Philippine postcrossers as I started getting back into trading last year. Her postcard was stamped and addressed, just waiting for my scribbling. (I do take the time to write, more so when it’s someone I know.). then I heard she was gone. And just recently, the postcard from way back popped up from that folder, and to me, that was her hello from heaven.

Postcards

Letter writing has always been something I enjoyed immensely. That’s why I have tried so hard to get back into the tradition of sending Christmas cards. (Yay for 2019 and 2020!). Now, I’ve returned to writing and trading postcards, not just for my own collection but to add to others.

When I go through the cards I had acquired through the years, I remember the people and places associated with those postcards. For those acquired during trips, I am brought back to those places again. And even now as I’m weeding out the postcards I do not intend to keep, I marvel at how they continue to give me a window into worlds I would otherwise have not seen. Whether forward looking or retrospectively towards a distant time in the past, these are priceless snippets that these cards have gifted me. So next time you walk past a postcard rack, stop a while and see if a card calls out to you and grab it. Then even if you only have yourself to send it to, try and capture that moment, put a stamp on that card, and send it on its way.

For postcard collectors:

Please leave a comment here (all comments are moderated) or leave me a message on my IG account, postcard_storyteller

All that snow

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AWe had quite the nor’easter Monday which saw New York City buried in over 12 inches of snow. I stopped counting at 12 inches. When I went out Tuesday afternoon to pick up a prescription from the local pharmacy, it was still windy and snowing. The walkways had been plowed but the whole area was still blanketed with thick snow. I cannot imagine how it was in Central Park.

My thoughts about winter haven’t quite changed. I am a warm weather person. Humid, hot, warm.. bring me back home.

It is very pretty when the snow is freshly fallen — when everything is a pure white.. then it melts and turns to slush and then we have to deal with it as we go about our daily business. Then it’s no longer cute.

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The sad news is that after a streak of 169 days of walking over 10,000 steps a day, I got stuck at home and there was no getting around to even attempting any portion of my daily walk. Today was a struggle with thick snow even on the plowed walkways, and it had started to snow again, so I had to head home after just under 4,000 steps. I feel like I need to recalibrate and restart.

I was initially disappointed but I’ve tried not to be too hard on myself. Covid has taught me to be more flexible and to be more forgiving. And forgiveness should really start with ourselves. So I forgive me.. and yes, I will get started on my next streak of 10,000 steps minimum a day soon enough.

I woke up to a cool and grey morning, and I finally got to make my tsamporado or cocoa porridge. Yes, we Filipinos like our sticky rice porridge with cocoa. I tried to do a smaller portion, but still ended up with two servings. Gone in one sitting. LOL. It was one of those mornings when I weighed myself but refused to stick to my calorie limits for breakfast.. just this once.. so I indulged. (I am almost fearful to see how much I ended up gaining tomorrow.). It brings me back to memories of home — even if the last time I had this, I actually made it even I was supposed to be the visiting daughter waiting on Mom’s home cooking! I didn’t mind.. it was all part of the full experience of being home with family. I remembered to use a ratio of 1 portion sticky rice to 5 portions water, and 1/2 portion cocoa. I would normally have put sugar but I opted for sweeteners so I completely omitted that.

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January just bid us goodbye and we are on the second month of the year already. Things seem to be moving faster somehow. And here I am looking at a stack of magazines that came in last month which I need to skim through and make a quick decision to keep or toss. I plead guilty to letting my subscriptions get the better of me — I don’t get to open to read and scan them when they get here, and they end up in a phantom pile which remains untouched for weeks on end. This year, I promised myself I will set aside time to scan, read, and discard what I don’t need. January magazines, you will be scanned this weekend.

I have been busy sorting my beads — again. I’ve made a concerted effort to eliminate the mini-bins I have all over the place containing pieces I had used to work on previous projects. Metal findings, crystals and glass, and gemstones. It’s been slow but I’m proud to have consolidated more than 12 mini containers. I’ve already washed them for use later. (I use dishwashing liquid but don’t use the sponge I used with the dishes and pots and pans. The oil residue tends to be left on plastic surfaces, so I use a half sheet paper towel to apply detergent to the plastic cups.)

The excess Christmas cards are all in one bag, ready to be put away in a special closet where I keep it for the following year. I was fortunate to have caught the after-holiday sale of Papyrus last year, and the subsequent clearance that followed before they closed for good just before Valentine’s Day. I am actually all good for next Christmas, but I’m thinking I might work on making my holiday cards again. Maybe.

It was a very different Christmas this year. I am hopeful that we will have an even more different Christmas come the end of the year — something closer to what we were used to. I’m trying to keep my expectations reasonable, though. We all thought the lockdown would end sooner, and that we would be going back to something akin to normal like back to the office by this time.. We were thinking that in October, but now, it looks like the projected return in May is still up in the air.

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I am patiently waiting my turn to be eligible to be vaccinated. At almost 55 and not being a frontliner, I think mid year or the fall is pretty optimistic given how the rollout has gone. So I’m taking care of the other vaccinations a golden girl like myself needs — like the shingles vaccine. I almost got it this weekend but the pharmacist told me I needed a prescription because I was under 60. (Something they could’ve told me when I called to inquire… they said, come on over and so I did.)

I will confess that my initial reaction to the vaccine was one of skepticism. I kept telling myself I don’t know what the side effects are — and is it worth the risk? Since the rollout started, the waiting has given me time to reflect and think. I’ve seen friends who are qualified to be with the initial batch of recipients get theirs, and I have to admit that I am green with envy. I wish I could get mine.. and shortly after, I wish my boy could get his. But the way they are going by age and risk factor, there are millions ahead of us.

I used to jokingly remind friends about the premise of “I am Legend” — the remake of “Omega Man” — and how a vaccine gone wrong started a mutation in humans that led to catastrophic results. And that was something that was supposedly vetted — even in the realm of cinematic fiction — and science failed miserably to foresee the consequences. What more this vaccine which was rushed through the usual years of trials and tests — not without reason, but still, it makes one wonder if we are taking a bigger risk putting our faith on the vaccine.

I don’t want to dwell too much on it lest it change my willingness to be vaccinated before I actually qualify to get my shot. That’s for another post altogether.

Speaking of other posts, I’ve actually started to trade postcards again — in baby steps, primarily because so much has changed about collecting. And of course there’s the usual burden of postage costs, and the added delays thanks to travel and cargo restrictions across international lines. I paused there and suddenly thought about whether or not it would be better to sit things out in the meantime. But I have the postcards to trade. Again, a product of my efforts to get organized. I’ve actually been going through my spares and have identified the postcards that need a new home. One postcard at a time. It’s given me ideas about writing a post on things I have learned about collecting postcards which the younger postcard collectors might want to read about. I’ve been drafting that post in my head. Next one in all likelihood.

We’re still looking at colder days ahead. And then rain. (Never good when it snows a ton and then it rains. That can only mean ice which no one likes.). I am just grateful the week is halfway done. Work has been busy but an okay kind of busy. I’m dealing with it. No fires to put out just yet. (Fingers crossed.)

I’m trying to wind down now so I can get to dreamland faster. The weekend was a struggle, and I am trying to be optimistic about tonight being easier. There’s the sleep cast.. and a little help.

Goodnight, world. I’m hoping the universe carries me through to a restful sleep tonight.