Sunday inspiration

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4A

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

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4A

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

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.

Untitled

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.

Untitled

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.

Untitled

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.

Crafting, Work and Life in general

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4A

I realized that January was creeping away from me when I started looking at February for scheduling things at work. That first month sure went by so fast that I didn’t realize my last post here was in the first half of the month. And we are off..

I’ve been busy at work, busy with life, and trying to get the craft projects going. For the most part, I’ve been trying to get myself better organized — a project I began before the year ended. As always —- be it in organizing my closet, my make up or my craft supplies —- it is just so hard to let go. But I’m trying.

As we all await our turn to get vaccinated, I have come to terms with the fact that at 54 and not being a front liner, I will have to wait a little while longer. So my life in the midst of this pandemic has remained pretty much the same: still working from home, being vigilant about wearing masks, and practicing social distancing as best as I can. I have also adjusted a bit more by being pragmatic about my pining for travel — I have sort of resigned myself to the fact that none of that is happening this year. If I’m lucky, maybe towards the end of the year. Otherwise, realistically, I really cannot picture myself going on any long journeys until at least 2022. So be it.

My days continue to be spent at home. I think I’m doing better with defining my work hours. I try to log off at 5:30pm, then I get ready for my evening walk and brave the cold. And yes, even the snow. My streak remains unbroken since I vowed never to go under 10,000 steps. 165 days. I am amazed at my own determination not to falter, even when I feel exhausted at the end of the day and all I can do is walk briskly. This might not mean anything to those who hit the gym religiously at a given cadence during the week, or who fiercely jog and sprint through the air without a sweat. For someone who has always been at odds with the concept of physical exertion, the mere fact that I have kept my daily walks a ritual this whole time is a personal accomplishment.

I have to admit, though, that the weight loss has been a seesaw the last couple of weeks. I know — the excuse of holiday binging is no longer applicable, but I’ve managed to gain back 5 lbs below my prepandemic weight that I had so valiantly lost in the third quarter. I’m trying to get back on track — and not add any more weight. Somehow, my resolve has not been as firm as it used to be, and for that I am not making any excuses. I am not content with being happy that I had managed to lose the over 15 lbs I gained with all the baking and the cooking I experimented after the lockdown. I have to keep at it to reach my desired goal. So I plod on.

I am trying not to put too much pressure on myself. The last couple of weeks have seen me being restless for hours in bed before I finally find sleep. There are days, though, when I do manage to plop my head on the pillow and drift off without a care. I keep reminding myself that I should try to end the day earlier instead of waiting for the stroke of midnight to get on with my evening routines. It doesn’t help that the 16-year-old has to be chased to bed! And yet when I think about these little “problems”, I have to pause and remind myself I am fortunate that this is all I have to deal with.

One of these days, I will write about the things this pandemic has taught me. I have learned a lot — even beyond my space here. Sometimes a lightning bolt hits me in the mind or in the heart, and I find myself in the midst of a realization — and it sticks.

Sometimes the thought snowballs in my head and I say to myself, I knew that all along but just refused to admit it to myself. And I pause again and let it sink in.

I am busy these days working during the day like always. Then at night, I sit with my boy and we have dinner while watching a favorite show. After everything has been put away and the dishes have been washed and I have freshened up, I fiddle with my craft projects. Sometimes, I write a postcard or a card or letter to send out.

I’m getting into crystals and trying to study more about their properties as sources of energy. Very interesting considering they have always just been gemstones to me. Pretty little things to work with. I have found some new suppliers from mainland China which has encouraged me to research more about crystals and their properties, while at the same time goading me to explore new ways to work with undrilled stones. Lots of avenue to experiment on doing just that — and I am all excited!

Crystals and my creations

I’ve been thinking about picking up the crochet needle to make another beanie or two, but I have enough in rotation right now — all made by me in the last 24 months, so I don’t really need any. It’s just that I keep seeing my yarn stash and I know those can be put to better use. The good news is, even with yarn sale after yarn sale at my beloved Michael’s, I have strongly resisted the urge to grab any more given my untouched spools.

The art journal for 2021 has been languishing in the prep stage — but I am not worried about that. I have at least two signatures left over from what I prepared for the 2020 journal, so once that gets started, I will keep going. That was such a gratifying journey, memorializing my year in pictures and words and what have you. I want 2021 to even be more creative and different — there is just so much to write about.

Time to pause and hit publish on this one, before it ends up staying in my draft folder again. Words wasted are thoughts lost.

Saturday and the week that was

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4A

The first week of the year is just ending and I think mine went pretty well. Busy at work, back to the grind, but in a steady kind of way that was not rushed or overly chaotic. It was not exactly just any other week with the events that unfolded in the Capitol during the middle of the week. That one was a very sad event for me.

Audible sigh.

As someone watching from the sidelines during that day, I felt troubled and worried for the people who were trapped in the building. I feared for those tasked with protecting them. I shuddered to think about the Covid superspreader unfolding with only one in maybe 15-20 people wearing a mask. And I was sad for what the world was seeing as they watched events play out. I prayed for peace.

Things have somehow simmered down but tempers are still flaring. We can only really hope for the best. It seems to have been a wake up call for many politicians — and the leaders who have been tasked to be our voice. Let’s hope they pick up the lessons to be learned from what happened instead of fanning the flames higher.

My screen grab from tv coverage of the Capitol Seige
Screen Grab while I watching events unfold on television

Beyond that, the week was fine. I started off rather slow as the boss took the first day off. I noticed there were a few people that had actually taken the week off instead of hitting the ground running after the holidays. That’s a thought.

My two week holiday (well, almost.. because I worked here and there — for a bit) was long enough to help me get ready for the start of the year. I rested, I did chores, slept in, and enjoyed the spirit of the season. It was not short to make me wish for a day or two more, and not long enough for me to want to wish it was Monday already. I had a good holiday.

Work has been normally busy, so no rest for the weary, but I am grateful to still be working.

I started off the year with a boatload of optimism. Cautious, though. I am well aware that the Covid surge is raging, and while life seems to have almost returned to a sense of normalcy, it is farthest from anything we did or felt this time last year.

So this morning, I gave myself the extra hour or so in bed like I usually do on weekends. I browse the news headlines, checked my emails, look at messages and just enjoy the warmth of my bed. I take it slow and relax. Sometimes I go back to sleep — although that is rare. I saunter off to the kitchen, weigh myself and begin my day.

Sunny but cold today. Breakfast was Egg and tomato hash — one of my weird food faves. My mom always used to ask why I wouldn’t add onions — the usual scrambled egg variation we grew up with. Simply because I like the taste of egg and tomatoes and banana ketchup which I had. Happiness.

I had a list of errands to run which I am ticking off in my head as I write this.

– Stop by the cleaners to drop off some coats for dry cleaning.

– Wash some of the large crochet projects I had done in 2020 which were used — but hardly — before I store them away.

– Maybe head off to the Michael’s around 5000 steps away to grab more storage bins to continue organizing my craft supplies.

– Disassemble the boxes that carried items that arrived over the week for disposal.

– Put away the christmas decor. (My son had actually taken off the tree decor, but I need to organize them into the storage boxes that are up in the attic, and then take out the lights.)

– I have postcards and letters to write.

– Begin my 2021 Art journal. (Excited about this!)

Looks like my weekend is spoken for. Between today and tomorrow, I have my work cut out for me.

Well, the chores are waiting, and I have to head out soon if I am to get out the stuff I need to drop off to the cleaners. The sun is shining high but I can hear the wind blowing fiercely. The temperatures are hovering between almost and below freezing. Here’s to a peaceful and productive weekend for everyone.

Goodbye, 2020 !

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4A

It’s the second day of 2021 and I am just now, saying goodbye to the very eventful and different year just ended. This is all about my 2020 — the year that marked such moving changes in the way we all lived, and continues to do the same in the new year. As a fitting goodbye that I can speak to, this is all about what the year was for me. It touched us in different ways, some good and some bad, but everyone was moved in one direction or another by all that transpired.

My son and I were thankfully untouched by Covid, and for that I am grateful. There were the brushes with positive tests from people my son had interacted with, but his own tests always returned negative. It has taught us to be mindful of our interaction with others — and although the anxiety it brought upon was unwelcome, it was enough to get us to be vigilant about protecting ourselves.

I have managed to make working from home actually work for me, and although my company has moved return to office plans from January to May, I am not raring to go back to the office anytime. We adapt. And so far, it has worked well, even when my boss had to return to work in October. I am lucky that she herself insisted I work from home, and that we will keep the arrangement as long as we can for my safety and my son’s.

Untitled

The pandemic that claimed so many lives has actually made me take a harder look into how I’ve been keeping myself healthy. I walk my steps everyday now, and while the holidays has thrown a curve ball into my diet, I know that I’m on the right track. As one of the people considered “at risk” for being over 50 years of age, and one who has pre-existing conditions like asthma, everything that has happened has given me pause. You have to stop and think what needs to be done to keep yourself safe and healthy. The masks can only do so much, and your body can only take so much as well. This is one of the positive things that 2020 has given me.

I regret that I was not able to go home in 2020, and I honestly don’t see myself crossing the seas anytime soon. It just feels like it’s too much of a risk to put myself and my son in, and there is so much that it entails on both ends of the journey. I can force it if I wanted to, but I don’t. An audible sigh just escaped my lips, and my thoughts were interrupted for a second or two there.

Not being able to travel this year to see my Mom is actually the biggest loss I have felt as a result of the Covid pandemic. I know that this is almost insignificant compared to the lives lost, and the loved ones they left behind. I consider myself fortunate that this is all that I have to sigh about. We will be able to travel again. While I am not counting on this being anytime in the near future, I know it will happen, and I will get to see my family again. I can wait. For all the excitement the thought brings me, I shudder to think that I might be the one bringing them more harm than them doing the same to me, so I will wait. I tell myself: in time.

One thing that I did more of was talk to my mom via video calls — even just to say goodnight or good morning, and have her see that we are well here.

So much has changed in the way we live. I have had the chance to go to the city occasionally the past couple of months, and nothing is the same. So many businesses have shuttered their space for good. Many have lost their jobs. While there is still a stream of people and the occasional tourists (yes, they are still there..), there is such a pronounced thinning of the usual crowds.

I find myself fortunate to be in a state that enforces mask wearing inside establishments. A sign by the door will always greet you saying you cannot enter without a mask. New Yorkers, for the most part, have taken to wearing masks as part of their daily attire. You will still come across people who sometimes wear it below their nose or on their chin or not at all — but rarely. People will usually put it up on their faces when they see someone approaching. That, to me, is a matter of respect for others. It’s not all about what you think, or the discomfort of it all — it’s about being mindful of your neighbor. After the thousands of lives lost in the earlier part of the year when we experienced the worst of it in the big apple, New Yorkers have learned that prevention is key.

It wasn’t an easy lesson to learn. We experienced grocery shortages — and just recently, a second wave of the disappearing toilet paper and other essentials hit us, but things have settled back to a semblance of normal. Back in March, I felt the panic when I saw the meat section practically empty. My grocery delivery had shortages even of the most basic items like diet soda. I succumbed to my own version of hoarding but quickly let it go. If I had rice, cereal, snacks for my son and some canned goods in my pantry, I felt a sense of security. In the beginning, I did not venture out of the house except to get essentials every 3-4 weeks. I relied heavily on contactless delivery. Then we relaxed. When the fear of the virus settled and numbers in New York went down, we let go of the gloves and just kept a bottle of sanitizer in our pockets handy.

Untitled

I went from season to season with most of my usual wardrobe unworn. I went through my closet and realized I had more items than it could hold so I started to weed things out. I didn’t quite go the Kondo way, but I went by the simple rule of asking myself if an item was something I’d wear again. There is a second round in the offing. I also stopped shopping for clothes, save for the activewear I needed to go on my walks, and only because I really never had any. For the holidays, I bought one dress to wear. This winter was the year I was retiring some of my winter coats which had served me well the last four to five years. I was planning on sewing coats and buying one more, but all that has been put on hold. My winter coats are still here, and I have really not worn them outside.

I discovered an entire world of New Yorkers who are down on their luck and asking for the most basic necessities. I joined a Facebook group focused on New Yorkers and there was just such an overwhelming sense of need. I did my part and helped a handful — something I will write about separately. I shared this with my son to show him the reality of an existing problem that was magnified and made worse by the pandemic. But while the local government tried their best to continue to help despite the pandemic, there is only so much that they can do.

Free food is available for all New Yorkers. I remember walking past the school in my area which is the main distribution hub for meals for kids from 7:30-11am or so, and from 11-1:30pm for anyone at all who was hungry. The lines were long — partly because of social distancing — but people needed to eat. That was a jarring reality for me because I live in a predominantly middle class neighborhood. But people’s circumstances have changed and have been affected by the closure of schools. So I no longer found it surprising when I saw the state delivery of a crate of food good for a few days to one of the doorsteps during one of my walks. You even have the option for Kosher, Latino, or regular food. (There might be more, but those are the only ones I had heard of.).

Hotels in the city were turned into homeless shelters to prevent them from cross-contaminating one another in some of the communal dormitory type dwellings. It was that bad that even the Lucerne, one of the more upscale hotels in Manhattan, was turned into a men’s homeless shelter. It created quite a stir among local residents — dividing them sharply between those who were tolerant, and those who wanted the men moved elsewhere. Only in New York.

I think I did pretty okay in 2020. My days were busy with work most of the time, and they were long days, too, but I am not complaining. I work full time — with full benefits. My son has been doing remote learning this whole time, and I think he’s adjusted to it and has actually been doing well.

There were times during the year when I felt the stress of all that was taking place around me take its toll on my peace of mind. I resorted to meditating and lulling myself to sleep using sleep casts, and I continue to have difficulty sleeping sometimes. “Okay” did not mean not being affected — I just coped better than most and I think I managed to adjust to the demands of this whole “new normal” that we find ourselves in. I managed to work around the restrictions we faced — and found my work around. I talked to family and friends. I wrote in my journals. I wrote here.

I am grateful for that.

I managed to continue crafting through it all, working on my art journal. I started sewing masks feverishly but have stopped the last 6-8 weeks to focus on my jewelry making. I am getting ready to start sewing again, though.

I cooked and baked.. gained and lost the weight. I’ve tried to put a semblance of order to my supplies and crafting in general. It kept me sane and distracted. It got me here.

As we begin a new year, I am full of hope for a better one after the challenges that 2020 brought our way. I am cautiously optimistic — and still taking lots of caution in going out into the world beyond my doorstep. Whatever it is that 2020 brought our way, it is far from over. I am praying for continued good health, peace and love. I think I had a good measure of all of that in 2020 — just asking for a bit more for all of us in 2021.

Untitled

Summer walk in Central Park

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AA note from Pinay New Yorker: There are times when I want to write a post in a very detailed manner that it ends up languishing in my drafts folder for ages. There are times when they end up like this one, forgotten. Many months after that walk in my Central Park, I found this and just realized I never published it. Now well into winter, I have finally decided that I will hit the publish button finished or not. It’s my own ode to the summer of the pandemic here in New York City. (12.30.20)

———–

A couple of weeks ago when I braved returning to the city, I had the chance to do my daily walk in Central Park. This is a much delayed post, but before the summer is totally over, I wanted to share my walk around this favorite part of New York.

One of the things I have always tried to aim to accomplish in any given year is to visit Central Park all four seasons. I’m starting a bit late this time, having skipped spring, but I had the chance to explore and visit some of my favorite spots a couple of Saturdays ago. This isn’t exactly this previous weekend, but for this summer, this is my Central Park trek.

Central Park is a big patch of green in Manhattan that spans acres of land. I have yet to reach the upper fringes of the park, but have gone enough times to have my personal favorites. One place I hope to visit with Angelo one of these days is The Gill where he used to play among the rocks. Maybe one day one he is up for a picnic lunch and things are not as different as they are now.

For this particular day in the park, I had my goals set modestly to walk towards the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain. It’s deep enough into the park to be not that easily accessible from the outer perimeter, but close enough that you can go back the same way you came in from 59th street.

I chose it not only for its beauty and serenity, because it’s one of the more iconic spots here. I have beheld it several times before, and I knew from which vantage point to best take the pictures. In all honesty, the best time to visit the park is in the early fall when the leaves change colors, but the trees have not shed its leaves to prepare for winter.

I was ready with my mask, my disposable gloves in the pocket of my leggings, and a small pocket sanitizer tucked in the other pocket. The things you have to bring now that we are all social distancing and trying to be careful.

There were a lot of people in the park, but not quite as many as there used to be on a weekend. Even with the open space, I still try to avoid areas where there is just too big a mass of people breathing into the air that I might eventually breathe. So I walk in the opposite lane or detour six feet away from people.

Central Park Summer 2020
Gapstow Bridge

I always prefer to enter the park from the 59th streets perimeter where the Gapstow Bridge of Home Alone fame can be found. (The pond was dry as the setting was winter in the movie.). If you are ever in New York City and can only spare a few hours in Central Park, this is one of the best places to go to for pictures and to get a taste of our backyard here in the city. The pond itself offers several photo opportunities around it, and there are ducks and sometimes unusual birds that take a dip in the water, or who fly around the lush flora and fauna. The bridge itself is not very long but provides a view of the skyscrapers surrounding this side of the park, and sunsets and the evening lights provide a gorgeous reflection off the water if you are lucky enough to catch it.

Central Park Summer 2020

Looking Up

One thing I like about this part of the park is that it provides such a picture perfect view of the concrete jungle that Manhattan is, with the greenery of Central Park in the foreground. Depending on where you’re standing and what time of the day it is, sometimes you can get lucky and see a mirror reflection of the buildings around in the water in this pond. Not today for me.

If you are ever pressed for time and don’t have the leisure to go in deeper into the park, this iconic spot is representative of the beauty of Manhattan’s backyard.

This wasn’t a random walk. I knew where I wanted to head to. While I have another part of the park that is special to Angelo and I a little further on, my personal favorite part of this expanse is actually the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain seen below.

Central Park Summer 2020

It entails a bit of a walk from 59th street, but is a focal point of the lake that borders it, and will take you through another favorite portion here called The Mall. It is a stretch of walk bordered by elms on both sides, fenced in to help preserve its beauty. The benches that line the entire stretch of this wide walkway are an interesting bunch of names and dedications. One time, I actually found Jim Henson’s bench.

Central Park Summer 2020

When dusk sets in, the lamp posts on both sides are lit and a soft glow descends upon the corridor. You will find musicians and artists dotting the whole area. A staple of this particular patch is Jazz musician Ralph U. Williams, who has been there forever since I first walked this part of the park two decades ago. He is a fixture in the park through all four seasons, filling the air with his music . You can catch him on any given day, and enjoy his park concerts from the benches lining both sides of the mall. If you hear the smooth notes of a sax, it’s him. (I am trying to upload a 3-minute video of his performance which I shot while seated across the way from where he was playing. Rather than wait for that, though, I would like to see this post finally published.)

I found myself walking in circles the day I decided to do my 10,000 steps in Central Park. I actually ended up doing almost double that, but for all the extra steps and exhaustion, it was well worth exploring one of my favorite parts of New York City.

———–

It’s the penultimate day to the New Year, and I have double these pictures to share of that one day that I was able to roam Central Park freely — even if donning the required mask. I haven’t gone in the fall nor yet, this winter. I have always tried to make one year where I can visit all four seasons. Maybe 2021 is the magic year. For now, I write with the memories of this day I took to explore and just bask in the beauty of this huge patch of green in the concrete jungle that is Manhattan. In two days, it will be 2021, and if I can visit in the next couple of weeks, that makes for the first of the four seasons. Central Park will be there, waiting.

“Me” Day on a Covid holiday

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AI don’t get to go around much anymore, and everything has changed so much that things just don’t feel like they used to. Manhattan is still there but with a different “flavor”. Although I work there and used to be there five days a week, I only really got to explore and enjoy the city during those days I got to go around leisurely. Those would be the days I went in specifically to go around and do errands or take visiting friends or family to see the sights. Thursday was an errand: a doctor’s appointment.

Untitled

Like most others, I try to get the usual annual appointments done before the end of the year. I should really do better than that and try for earlier, but insurance will usually not take the appointment until after 12 months from the previous one. (It is supposed to be “annual”.). It went rather quickly with an hour’s wait only– I guess the ladies held their babies in and no one went into labor, so my gynecologist sauntered in pretty much on time. Hooray!

I wanted to get the steps in so I walked from 34th and Madison towards Bryant Park on Fifth and 42nd. It was a cold but beautiful day but I dressed for the weather and had my mask on. I was all set.

Untitled

The steps to the New York Public Library are usually full of people seated on them enjoying the sunshine. Famous for movies like “Sex In the City” (venue of Carrie Bradshaw’s non-wedding) and “The Day After” (where Toby McGuire and company holed up until they could be rescued). To me it was an early discovery way back when I had just arrived in New York in 2000. I would pass the time here between exploring the city and heading home. One day when they let us back in, I will write a post taking me back to that time. For now, no visit to this corner of Manhattan is complete without stopping by to take a picture.

Untitled

The rows upon rows of park tables and benches were mostly empty. Used to be abuzz with locals and tourists, any time of day. One would usually have to walk the length and breadth of the park to find an empty table, or wait for those seemingly about to finish their meal and scoot on over when they stood up to leave. Not this day. Or the previous or coming days.

Untitled

I am hoping they will put up a bigger Christmas tree like in previous years. This clump of regular sized Christmas trees are usually replaced at a later date with a beautiful Christmas tree, a mini version of the one in Rockefeller Center, although it’s not exactly a small tree. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if this is all we get this year.

Untitled

To make way for social distancing, only a third of the shops were allowed to sell in this year’s winter village. My favorite cheese house wasn’t there, so I went for my other favorite: the Crepe Cafe. This is one of the original food outlets that has been here every year.

Untitled

I always order the Banana Nutella Almond crepe here, and this was lunch for the day. I found my space on the periphery by the 40th street side, sat down and took off my mask. There were only a handful of food outlets allowed to open, and the pop up indoor restaurant was not put up this time around.

Untitled

Sitting down and looking around, Bryant Park felt more like a Sunday than the Thursday it usually was. People were walking around and there was a smattering of others trying to enjoy lunch like I was doing, but a very thin crowd it was. But I enjoyed the quiet.. and just taking in a beautiful day enjoying a favorite treat.

So much has changed in our lives since the pandemic began. Any semblance of normalcy is a breath of fresh air in our now masked existence. Literally. I have actually gotten used to going around with a mask, being that I actually do my usual hour and a half walk/jog with a mask on.

Untitled

The children’s carousel was still there. At least the kids still get to have their fun, even if at half capacity. When the weather gets too cold, this beauty will be shrouded and covered until things warm up again.

Untitled

The rink is alive with a six foot barrier to keep those watching on the sidelines safely distanced from the railing that some of the skaters hang on to. There are still tables and chairs around the rink, but socially distanced.

Untitled

The temperatures have held to decent “cold” and we really haven’t had snow yet, so my favorite Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain is staying pretty without a load of ice just yet. Truth is, it’s quite a sight when you see it laden with ice and still flowing. They cannot shut the pipes or it might burst, so they keep it flowing even in the cold of winter.

Untitled

We’re all trying our best to cope. The Bryant Park Cafe run by Bryant Park Grill has put up these dining huts and the park has a few available for groups like the one on the right. (not sure that’s the proper term). For the ones provided by the park, a notice is put up after the space has been sanitized. It’s just sad that the Governor has just shut down indoor dining and outdoor dining might follow next. At the very least, it is good to know that there is this option.

I walked uptown to view the Rockefeller Center but I will save that post for a possible part II of this post.. before I headed back to my bus stop, I had to decide which treat I would go home with. The line to Angelina Paris NYC was too long and I just didn’t feel like taking the chance even when social distancing. So I opted to grab some of my other happy food over at Magnolia Bakery.

Untitled

I miss those days when I could just walk down from my perch at work and grab a cup from the branch in the Grand Central food court. I went to the one on Sixth Avenue. These days, the lines that used to snake around the corner are no longer there, but they are still making their special cupcakes, cakes, cookies and yes, their heavenly banana pudding. I walked in before leaving the Rockefeller Center and found that they now have the banana pudding by the cashier. I was lucky to grab some red velvet banana pudding (a specialty flavor), and a second tub of their old time original. (Calories be damned! Lol)

I did the rest of my errands — stopped by Whole Foods near 42nd Street to grab some steaks and ground beef for my big guy, and headed home. Like always, it was nice to be able to spend an afternoon in a leisurely fashion for some “me” time. It’s a different kind of Manhattan now– and a different way of going about the things we had gotten used to before the pandemic broke out. While things have improved from the second quarter when everything shut down, we are far from normal.

Untitled

The threat of things going from bad to worse is hanging over our heads at the moment. It makes it all the more imperative to enjoy life while we can– without forgetting the new limitations and requirements of being socially responsible while we do it. (Masks on, please..). Life goes on, indeed. Even if not in the same way we used to go about it.

A different kind of holiday season

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4ADecember has always been my favorite time of the year — no matter where I am, and even if memories of Christmases in Manila make me miss home all the more. Christmas in New York is a little less festive because we don’t all do Christmas– depending on one’s faith, it might be a Hanukkah .. or Kwanza..

Last Thursday, I was in the city for a doctor’s appointment and I decided I would go around and visit the usual places which were the festive manifestations of the holiday. This year, the lions adorning the front of the New York Public Library, Patience and Fortitude, have their customary Christmas wreaths, but are now masked.

Untitled

I wanted to check out the shops at the winter village in Bryant Park behind the library and found out that only a third of the usual number of stores and food outlets have been given space to allow for social distancing.

This side of the park right behind the library used to have two rows of shops facing each other but now have been left empty.

No booths on this side of Bryant Park this year

The seasonal restaurant is not up this year, and the skating rink facilities are all outdoor so there is no longer any enclosed waiting/changing station. What few shops that set up still bring us the holiday spirit, but it isn’t quite as festive as years past.

Untitled

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is now cordoned off and the nearest you can get is at least 10 feet away through a directional path, where security personnel and denominated circles on the ground let you make your way closer to the tree.

The crowds were visibly thinner and there was a horde of security and police present.

Untitled

Even going through the main walkway where the angels with their trumpets blaring lead you towards the front view, allowing you to see the tree with the statue of a Prometheus under it as the skaters glide on the rink are now controlled and directed. Which is good given the current state we are in.

Untitled

The usual decorations have sprouted up again but the crowds aren’t there. Although that makes taking pictures a whole lot easier, a visibly thinner audience around all this display of the holidays makes it less festive than we have been used to. But that is life now as we know it.

In a state of siege

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AIt’s Sunday and I’ve done half my step quota for the day, walking/jogging on my way to pick up a 5lb tub of peanut butter. (That’s another post altogether..). I gave myself the luxury of sleeping in this morning, in large part due to waiting up for the 16 year old who went to a friend’s house to watch the boxing match last night. I thought I’d pick up brunch at the Paris Baguette along the way and sit and just enjoy a moment of quiet.

I needed a “me moment” because I know this coming week will be busy at work. I picked up my treats, went to sit at what appeared to be a safely distanced table in the dining area and picked up my phone to read. It was a choice between the New York Times app and my email prompts regarding new reads from fellow bloggers who are among a handful I follow. I chose the latter.

I’ve always enjoyed visiting other blogs when I get the chance — it’s like a silent and extended conversation in my mind. It’s a source of inspiration and helps me to ground my thinking in general. These are the thoughts of people who actually find the same release I do in putting my words down into a corner of the web. I know how it feels — I can relate. I only wish I could do it more often. Alas, there are not enough hours in a day.. and there are a dozen things I wish I could do more regularly but have no time.

I read Island Traveler’s post where he asks the question: What Happens if U.S. Run Out of Hospital Beds and Medical Staff by Christmas? For the first time in a long time, I read a blog post from start to finish, actually tried to leave a comment but somehow didn’t make it through, and was moved enough to write about it here in my corner of the web.

Island Traveler is a blog by a fellow Filipino who had stumbled into me and thus started one of those silent conversations. He is a health care worker on the other side of the country. He has enthralled me with his photography and very profound photo essays. This time, though, he moved me just as another denizen of this great United States of America which, like most of the world, is currently in crisis because of the pandemic.

I felt a need to reply in a longer fashion here because I feel what he is saying. Literally.

Earlier during the infancy of this crisis, New York was the epicenter of fear, panic and death. We froze with the realization that we were being overwhelmed by a force that we had to race against. We applauded our front liners who faced the crisis head on. We appealed for federal assistance and help from the medical professionals from other states and they came. We all came together as a community to grieve the dead who had to be kept in refrigerated vans, with funeral homes backed up.

I watched the news almost the whole time I was awake, as I saw families with medical professionals going into their houses through windows and the basement or garage, and sacrificing not hugging or kissing their children for days on end, afraid they would bring home the virus to them. There were lots of tears for the patients who were dying faster than they could be attended to, and tears of fear for the scarce personal protective equipment they needed. There was burnout and frustration. There still is.

While life is anything BUT normal these days, we managed to get a hold of the situation. The ambulances that came to our aid with their first responders have gone home. The nurses and doctors who volunteered their time and expertise have since returned to their states– and are now battling the virus there. The behemoth Javits Center which was converted into a hospital was hardly even used– but we braced for the surge. It came– just not in the magnitude we were warned it would, because people listened out of fear.

Work and school shifted to home. We learned to plan our resources to cope with disappearing items from the grocery shelves. And while the virus hasn’t totally disappeared from New York, we lived and continue to live with the shadow of the pandemic hanging over our heads. Which is why I find it sad and worrying that many parts of the country continue to be in denial of the dangers of the novel Corona virus.

There was a very striking news interview a couple of days ago of a hospital worker who was in tears, relaying that even in their deathbed, some of those afflicted didn’t believe the Corona virus was real.

There are many who are still raging against the restrictions imposed by states that are now buckling under the pressure of dealing with this crisis. They equate the mandate to wear a mask as an impingement on their personal freedom. I say you wear a mask out of a need for personal protection and as a manifestation of respect for others.

The numbers have not started going down for the country. We are already being warned as a nation that a second wave is coming. That warning is really for places like New York where there was an upsurge and then a decline– but not a total eradication of the problem. The truth of it is, many places continue to be in crisis– where patients are overwhelming the system. What second wave? They are still in the thick of the onslaught of this unseen killer. Even outside the United States, other countries are beginning to feel the effects of an echo of the crisis.

We are a world under siege. And despite the promise of a vaccine or improved cures in the horizon, thousands are continuing to be afflicted and are dying every day. As individuals, we have to come to terms with the reality that although we may be unaffected, many others are not. Whether or not we know someone who has died of the disease, there are many others who are affected by it in their day to day lives.

We’ve had some scares but have managed to steer clear of getting sick ourselves. Negative tests are not a guarantee of safety, and are not a reason to relax our guard. As a non-medical worker or other frontline participant, I feel it’s my responsibility to help ease the burden by doing my part in trying to stay healthy. As we all should.

I say do more than applaud them.. show your respect by doing your part. Even just wearing your mask will help, no matter how inconsequential you might think it to be.

Autumn In New York