Monday, December 31, 2007

Wish upon a star

In a few more hours, it'll be the new year. Instead of listing or asking for new year resolutions, I'd like to pose a different question:

If you had more time for yourself and money was not an issue, what things would you be doing regularly that you're not doing now?

Go on, don't be shy. And don't feel guilty about being selfish—it's just a wish list after all. So indulge and list as many as you'd like. Here's mine:

Monthly facials with a dermatologist
I was acne-prone as a teenager and I still bear the scars of my youth. My skin's still terribly oily too.

Weekly pedicure and manicure at a salon
I'm beginning to have a hard time remaining hunched over my feet while giving myself a pedicure. Age.

Laser hair removal
I don't know the frequency, but target areas will include the eyebrows (for shaping, not removal, okay), upper lip, armpits, bikini area, lower legs and toes (yes, I have hairy toes like a hobbit—but I sure ain't hobbit-sized!).

Hit the gym every other day
Except for my core exercises and stretching in the morning, I hardly get any exercise. Bad.

A concert, dance or play every month
I'd love to be able to watch more performances, and of all kinds.

Complete medical check-up annually
Not just the pathetic minimum our medical insurance currently provides.

A one-week vacation to a different place twice a year
I would have said two weeks each, but I know myself—I'd just get antsy and worried about the house and our dog.

I could go on forever…

Sunday, December 30, 2007

I have my humongous pot!

Kinox, 18/10 stainless steel, 8.8 liters (about 9.3 quarts), steam release valve

And the sweetest things about it is, one, we got it at a 25% discount (took advantage of the post-Christmas sales going on right now) and, two, we bought it in a store where my husband has gift certificates which he won at a raffle so we spent all of 403 pesos (about US$10) for it.

Now my stews won't be forever spilling over!

(See My cookware wish list here.)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Creamy lips

I'm not very picky when it comes to lipstick brands. In fact, I only have two requirements. One, it has to be tasteless and odorless. (Much as I'd like to patronize local brands, it's next to impossible with lipstick—most of them stink! They haven't figured out the right formulation—they smell and taste like rancid oil. Yuck.) Two, I should not feel like I'm buying jewelry rather than just make-up. (Those high-end brands have appalling prices!)

What I am picky about is color. I've always at least half a dozen at a time because the lipstick I use has to complement what I'm wearing. (Not match—I'm not about to use orange lipstick just because I'm wearing an orange blouse!)

It took me quite some time to find a particular brown shade I wanted. I'd always pass by the make-up section during my monthly mall trips and I just couldn't find the right shade. Early this month, I finally did—from our office's Avon lady: My Lip Miracle Lipcolor in Brown Unbound (in the Philippines, at least—in Avon's website, the only lipstick I found in the same form factor is listed as Perfect Wear All-Day Comfort Lipstick).

Anyway, what surprised me about the brand was its texture. All the lip color I've been using the past several years are those ultra-light ones, the ones which feel like you're not wearing any lipstick at all (well, except for the glosses, that is). This one glides on like cream, and the feeling that I have cream on my lips actually stays. And I discovered (or is that re-discovered?) that I like it.

Friday, December 28, 2007

One by one

During a Q&A, in response to a question about how he handles his many tasks and responsibilities, our university president said, "Multi-tasking doesn't work for me. Trying to do many things at the same time makes me less efficient. The trick is to work on things one at a time. These young ones, they're always trying to do several things at the same time and end up doing nothing well."

I always thought of myself as a multi-tasker. But hearing those words made me realize that I'm not. There is a big difference between multi-tasking and many-tasking. Like our president, I'm more of the latter.

I'm also an inveterate to-do list maker. I have to be, if I don't want to forget all the things I have to do. I have a planner for meetings, dates and appointments, but I keep a separate notebook for the to-do's. Not for me those digital personal organizers, whether computer, cellphone or hand-held device. It's a real, honest-to-goodness notebook where I write both work and personal tasks with ballpens. I color-code them though: blue for personal, black for work. And as I finish each task, I draw a nice, thick check mark beside the item. Satisfying.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Have some water and fiber

So far, my husband and I have gone to four family/friends' gatherings, and we've four more scheduled until New Year (plus one more after, but I'm not counting that). This being the Philippines, all these gatherings center around food—mounds and mounds of food.

And whether it's potluck or catered, there's never enough healthy food, if you know what I mean. Beef, pork, dessert—that's it. Sometimes, there's chicken or seafood, but rarely is there salad or other vegetables. Pasta, noodles and rice are always the white kind, never whole-grain. My body's screaming for fiber and sweet, fresh vegetables!

This afternoon, after running errands, we ate at a small vegetarian restaurant where we both had our fill of tofu and mushrooms. And at home, we've stocked up on high-fiber muesli, brown rice, and whole-grain pasta. We just had smoked fish for lunch on the 24th, and my next dish will be a seafood and vegetable stew.

Nothing beats fiber for sweeping away all the excesses of the season, however. Okay, make that everyday! The huskier, the better. Fruits, vegetables, whole-grain cereals. Psyllium in particular has had lots of good P.R. lately, but I think that anything whole-grain should be good, as long as you don't get ones loaded with sugar too. I've discovered that the best time to have a high-bulk meal is breakfast—the full feeling stays with you the whole day. But to help the fiber do its job better, you also have to drink lots of water. (In fact, the psyllium fiber supplement I used to take had a warning: if you don't drink at least a liter of water a day with it, the fiber might clog your small intestines. Yuck. That scared me so I stopped taking it, even though I drink more than two liters of water a day.)

So if you come visit us, my offer of hospitality will be "Have some water and fiber!" They're good for you.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

O blessed day!

Behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
Matthew 2:9

May the birth of our Savior
fill your heart with love and peace

on this blessed day and all throughout the new year.

Christmas Blessings
to you and your loved ones

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Leave me a present, please?

And no, there's no real money involved—this is strictly virtual. Fun! I just wish I saw this earlier.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thank you, Charice. Thank you, Ellen.

After a year marred by questionable government deals and a failed coup attempt led by a rebel soldier elected into the Senate who decided he wanted to hole up in a five-star hotel with his men, this little girl with a big voice from Cabuyao, Laguna gave the Philippines a much-needed morale boost at year-end. Charice Pempengco is all of 15 years old and she appeared in The Ellen DeGeneres Show on December 19.

Enjoy! She's fantastic!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Food, glorious food

Christmas is still four days away and our refrigerator is about to reach its load limit. We're receiving food more than anything else this year. I'm also about to run out of air-tight containers. Here's a partial list of the food we've received as presents so far:

food for the gods
smoked salmon
red wine
liver paté
Boursin-style cheese spread
chocolate chip cookies & bars (loads of this! all different from each other)
candy canes
cheese tarts
caramel tarts
pears and oranges
caramel-coated peanuts

It's a good thing we've been too busy to eat much!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Create a snowflake

One of my nieces sent me a message from Popular Front's SnowDays, saying that she made a snowflake for me there. So I went to the website to look for it and ended up doing one of my own! It was fun! Try it, for a relaxing half hour.

Need a Snow Day?

Then send us your snowflake's I.D. number so we can check it out! My very first snowflake is #5581792.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snowflake pattern

Here's the pattern which I used for the glitter glue snowflakes on the Christmas ornaments. It can be used for other projects using other materials. The "ideal" diameter depends on the thickness of the lines. The glitter glue lines were only about 2mm thick and the snowflakes looked best when they were between 1.5" and 2.5" in diameter. Smaller and it tends to blot, bigger and it looks too thin and sad.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas ornaments for education

There's a Christmas fund-raising project going on in our school right now. For every P200 (US$5) donation, you get a Christmas ball that you can have personalized with a name of your choice and it gets hung on a 10-foot Christmas tree in the lobby of the main administration building. The money goes to a fund which provides assistance to currently enrolled students who run into financial problems in the middle of their schooling, like a death in the family, a failed business and the like. Though the project itself won't raise much—definitely not enough for even one semester's tuition—it's really a marketing project to raise awareness about the fund. And the tree's pretty—it's providing a little Christmas cheer in a building that has never had Christmas decorations in the seven years that I've been here.

The staff of the office heading the project personalize the Christmas balls. Of course, when I got mine, I insisted on bringing them home and doing them myself. I named them for three of my nieces (they live in a different country) and I chose balls of the same color—I didn't want anyone complaining about why I chose that color for her! But I did use different colors of glitter glue for the names, hearts and snowflakes (there are snowflakes on the other hemisphere which you can't see from this angle). There's a slight difficulty with the glitter glue, however. When you apply it thickly, it can actually peel off when it's dry. I may have to re-do some letters before the season's over.

So now, my nieces' Christmas ornaments are on the tree and I get to take them home on January 7 when classes resume and the tree goes down. I'll just re-use them if the same project's done next year. That will give me enough time to embellish the ornaments some more.

Friday, December 14, 2007


So, I finally got my new double-vision glasses last weekend.

Waaahh! Look at the size of those frames! Look at the thickness of those lenses! Nightmares of first year high school right there. Sniff.

The only time I'm going to wear those nerdy things are during meetings in the office when I need to see both faces and what I'm reading and writing.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I read this article from Reuters only a few days ago, and I'm sharing it because since we pretty much can't help being consumers, we might as well be smart ones.

    Consumers: don't be fooled by green promises
    Mon Nov 19, 2007 9:17pm EST
    By Rebekah Kebede

    NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) – Trying to reduce your carbon footprint? Buying products marketed as environmentally friendly may not do much good—if any at all, according to a survey by environmental marketer TerraChoice released Monday.

    A review of 1,018 products—from flooring to air fresheners to mouthwash—carrying 1,753 environment claims showed that the majority of so-called "green" products were labeled in ways that were vague or deliberately misleading.

    The report said that of the products examined "all but one made claims that are either demonstrably false or that risk misleading intended audiences."

    The Pennsylvania-based firm, which refers to misleading environmental marketing as "greenwashing," said it found "six sins of green marketing"—hidden trade-offs, no proof, vagueness, irrelevance, fibbing and the lesser of two evils.

    Top of the list was hidden trade-offs, such as paper products marketing themselves as 10 percent recycled.

    "The other 90 percent could be from an old-growth forest," said Scot Case, vice president of TerraChoice which does market green products under its own label, EcoLogo.

    Another commonly committed "sin" of green-marketing, according to the report, is irrelevance. Labels such as "all natural," the report points out, are meaningless when one considers the fact that arsenic and mercury are also natural.

    Similarly, many products have labels declaring them "CFC-free," even though CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons, which contribute to ozone depletion, have been banned since 1978.

    "What that claim basically says is: 'We're obeying the law.' Well, whoop-de-do," Case said of the CFC labels.

    In some cases, the environmental advertising was false. For instance, a dishwasher detergent that advertised "100 percent recycled paper" packaging came in a plastic container.

    In another example, several shampoos labeled "certified organic" had no proof of certification.

    TerraChoice said a key reason for an increase in products marketed "green"—and "greenwashing"—is surging consumer interest in environmentally-friendly.

    "I blame Al Gore," joked Case, but added the former U.S. vice president's Oscar-winning 2006 documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" is, in fact, one of the factors that spawned wide-spread consumer interest in eco-friendly goods.

    "Marketers are naturally responding… They are desperately grabbing for any environmental claim they can slap on the label because they think it will help them sell more products," Case said.

    For now, TerraChoice won't name "greenwashing" offenders.

    "We are hesitant to believe anyone is doing it intentionally," said Case, whose company is pushing for industry standards for green marketing.

    © Reuters 2007 All rights reserved

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

You've got mail.

You know how a lot of people have quotations, from the Bible or from a favorite book, as part of their email signature? In the office, I have quite a few (aside from my official signature, which I use only for people who don't know me yet), and almost each one is instructional. I set my email program to send them out randomly, but sometimes, I choose a specific one for a particular person if there's some attitude or behavior that I think needs a little influencing in the right direction.

I got them from all sorts of places. Some are quotations, some from those email messages that get passed all over the world, some I made up myself.

So without further ado, here they are:

    Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

    'Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.
    Samuel Johnson

    ...when you are tense or anxious or hurrying,
    you lose half your strength.
    It takes calm to conquer a mountain.
    Isabel Allende, "City of the Beasts"

    In any situation, there is always one thing you can change: yourself.

    Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
    Michael Pollan, "Unhappy Meals"
    The New York Times, 28 January 2007

    It is sometimes a mistake to climb;
    it is always a mistake never even to make the attempt.
    If you do not climb, you will not fall. This is true.
    But is it that bad to fail, that hard to fall?
    Morpheus in "Fear of Falling," The Sandman: Fables & Reflections

    Seek first to understand then be understood.
    When both parties are trying to be understood, neither is really listening.
    Habit 5
    Stephen Covey, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People"

    The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything;
    they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.

    The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.
    The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference.
    The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference.
    And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.
    Elie Wiesel in U.S. News and World Report, 27 October 1986

    Leading others well begins with leading yourself well.

    Authentic knowledge of self. Acceptance. Awareness. Presence. Courtesy.

    A person who is nice to you but is rude to the waiter is not a nice person.

    It's not about you.

    The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You don't blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.
    Psychologist Albert Ellis

    Talk slowly but think quickly.

    It's not who you are underneath, it's what you do
    that defines you.
    Rachel in "Batman Begins"

    If something's worth doing, then it's worth doing well.

    Be where you are.

Monday, December 10, 2007

December 10, 2007

Today is Human Rights Day.

And Human Rights Day 2007 starts a year-long commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Yeah, right.

Visit Human Rights Web for comprehensive lists of human rights resources on the web.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Healing sleep

About two weeks ago, half of our office was starting to get sick. People were coughing and sneezing, getting the sniffles and ache-y joints. I was starting to get worried because December's our busiest month of the year and we couldn't afford to lose the manpower.

I really just don't understand why people will insist on coming to work when they're almost sick because one, they're liable to infect other people, and two, do they really have to wait until they are sick (not just almost) before they start the healing process? I know there's lots of work to be done, but still… one or two days to rest is so much easier to handle than three or more days of riding out an influenza infection! For oneself, for one's family, and for one's officemates.

Then there are those who'll come to work and say, "But I've taken medication for it already." Sigh. To heal properly and quickly, our bodies need to focus on healing. If it has to attend to so many matters, its energies will be dissipated! And the only way for it to focus on healing and repairing itself is if we leave it be and sleep.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Sweet treats

My online friend Lori, in the spirit of Christmas, shared three no-bake recipes for sweet treats in my other blog. But because she posted them in the guest book, they can't be tagged. So here they are in their own posting. Thanks, Lori!

Creamy Pralines

1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter
2 cups pecan halves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup half-and-half

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper and set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the sugars, baking soda and butter. Cook over medium-high (234–238°F) heat to a soft ball stage. Add the pecans and vanilla during the last few minutes of cooking.

Remove from heat, add half-and-half and stir until thickened. Drop onto cookie sheet in small patties and allow to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

Orange Balls

4 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup melted butter
1 (6 oz) can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
powdered sugar

In large bowl, combine crumbs, sugar, nuts and melted butter. Stir in orange juice. Mix well and form into 1-inch balls. Roll in powdered sugar. Chill.

Cornflake Wreaths

1/2 cup butter
3 cups miniature marshmallows
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon green food color
4 cups corn flakes
red hot candies

Melt butter, add marshmallows, stirring until all marshmallows are melted. Add extracts and food coloring; stir until it is a uniform green color. When mixture is smooth, add corn flakes; mix well but gently so as not to crush the cornflakes.

Form into wreath shapes on sheets of waxed paper, decorate with red cinnamon candies. Let cool.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Anti-slip rubber

I first saw a version of this rubber mat on the dashboard of a friend's car. It was an itsy-bitsy piece and she said that it allowed her to place things on the dashboard—like her glasses and mobile phone—without them slipping off every time she braked. So when I chanced upon an entire roll of the material, I immediately bought it. Then I placed it in one of my kitchen drawers where it stayed unused for several months.

Then I had a slight problem with my wooden bedside table. We usually keep a pitcher of water there at night without a dish or tray to put it on (I know, bad thing to do), and though there is a table cloth, the water soaked through and the wooden veneer eventually warped. I didn't have time to have it fixed right away and I remembered the rubber mat. So I cut a piece to fit the table top before putting on the table cloth. My idea was simply to keep the water from soaking through again.

Then I discovered its other advantages: it kept the cloth from slipping and bunching in awkward ways, even when I actually push against it with either my hands or my book. The cloth just doesn't move! And it cushions noise. Now, even when my book bangs a little on the table when I put it aside at night, you can't hear it. Great when my husband sleeps ahead of me.

Now, I've placed more of the mat on my buffet table in the dining room, and the runner doesn't move around and dishes don't make clacking noises when you put them down. I want more. My problem is, I don't remember where I bought the roll. Sigh. Hoping for serendipity to bless me again on my next shopping trip…

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Gifts that give

Two years ago, instead of giving Christmas gifts, my husband and I decided to donate the money we would have spent on gifts to a particular charity. Then, to our friends and family, we just gave Christmas cards explaining what we did and what the group we chose did.

But thinking about it a month later, we thought that that really wasn't fair—if we were going to donate to charity, we shouldn't have to deprive our loved ones of gifts—or ourselves of the joy of giving presents. We wanted both! So we compromised: we started looking around for items that directly benefited poor communities. And so last Christmas, our friends got gifts and we also helped others.

Wherever you may be, I'm sure you'll be able to find these kinds of gifts—gifts that your family and friends will enjoy, gifts that provide education, homes, livelihood to our less fortunate brothers and sisters. And the nice thing is, most of the items are not just for Christmas so we can help all year round!

Pathways to Higher Education is a global initiative of the Ford Foundation to provide higher education opportunities to indigent students. Their approach is different in each member country because of cultural differences. The Philippines office offers this "Grains of Hope" gift pack this year—a bag of organic brown rice in a Christmas-themed cloth bag.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Soft buns

I'm blessed-cursed with oily skin. So at the age when most women are slathering their entire bodies with moisturizer (men should to, actually, but most don't bother—sad), I only need to concentrate on a few spots. A decade ago, I had to start moisturizing my elbows, knees and heels. A year or two ago, I had to add my shins, upper arms and eye area (non-comedogenic facial moisturizer only—I haven't reached the point where I need the intensive, specialized eye creams).

One area that people seem to forget when they're only doing spot moisturizing is the buns. Don't miss it! Underwear rubs against them and the skin can get irritated and bumpy. I don't think all the sitting down we do helps either. After a few months of regular bun moisturizing, I swear you'll notice a "touching" difference!

And boys, this tip is for you too.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Pure gold

I'm not exactly sure why, but I don't like having too many colors in my Christmas tree. For the lights, I only use the yellow ones—not red, green or blue, and no way to multi-colored lights. For the ornaments, I also tend to stick to the more traditional colors (no green, because I only like forest green and that's already the color of the tree): red, white, gold, silver and clear. Part of the reason is practicality—if I follow the "in" color every year, then that means I'll have to buy new ornaments every year (we-ell, I do, but it's more to augment and add on to my existing ones, not to change the entire stock!). But I suspect that the other part of the reason is that I'm just not confident in my ability to mix so many colors. So the most colors I've ever used is three.

This year, I went all gold. But different sizes—the smallest is an inch in diameter (and that's not counting the garland, which is made up of 1/4" beads)—and different textures. I love textures. I've got matte, glittery, and shiny (there's one that looks like a mini mirror ball!) ornaments. Then I stuck in gold satin flowers on those branches that look bare because they're a little to far from each other.

Textures. I just love how they reflect the lights oh so differently.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

First Sunday of Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent.

Whatever your faith or religion, know that during this special season, you will be in our prayers. May you be blessed with a life full of love and all the blessings it brings: peace, understanding, acceptance and happiness.