Blogmas #25 // Merry Christmas

Hi everyone! I hope you are all having a peaceful and joyful holiday.

I cannot fathom the idea that I posted for 25 consecutive days. For a newbie like me, this accomplishment is quite the feet. Granted, some posts held more time and attention than others, but I still attempted and posted.

Congrats to everyone who participated in blogmas. And to all those who took the time to read, like and respond to my posts, thank you. I appreciate you.

The other day, I received a notification from WordPress that I received 1,000 likes and 150 followers. I don’t share this blog actively, so the idea of getting responses and support from people I’ve never met, warms and lights my heart, especially during this dark time.

Merry Christmas WordPress family.

Blogmas #23 // DIY Holiday nails

A few days ago I posted about my deep longing for long, healthy, decorative nails. I fantasize about painting long esquisite beautiful nails that reflect my personality. On Instagram, I scroll through pictures and admire the meticulous designs, colors, lines, shapes and details that go into nail art. Because I tend to have short nails, there’s less surface space for creativity. I had hoped that this Christmas, I could grow my nails long enough that I could get a manicure and perhaps some nail art. However, I live in California, and all the salons in my county are temporarily closed.

One thing I discovered while I scoured the internet is an alternative- Dashing Diva. This company makes artificial nails that you can easily apply to your reals nails. Now I know this is not a new concept, but I held a disdain for fake nails for many years due to their unnatural look. However, once I received my package and applied my nails today, I must admit that the easy application and believability made me reconsider.

Also fun…there’s so many styles to choose from! I ordered five packets, and it was so hard to choose. I decided on red because Christmas Eve is tomorrow and I wanted to be festive.

Although I didn’t get to grow my nails long this year or visit a nail salon to get nail art. But I was able to stay home, save some money and in less than 15 minutes, have a new set of gorgeous nails.

Blogmas #21 // Christmas Star

There are times during this pandemic that seem hopeless and despairing. Yet, there are moments, especially today when we experience the polar opposite. Today, my husband and I hiked our usual trail — Lime Ridge Trail Head in Concord, California. The hike takes us roughly 2 hours to complete, depending on how slow or fast we approach the incline. Today, we sped our pace because we anticipated when the sun would set.We wanted to be able to have enough light to traverse back to our car. Yet we needed it to be dark enough to see the Christmas Star.

The Christmas Star, or more appropriately the conjunction, took place tonight about an hour after the sun set. The conjunction is when Jupiter and Saturn appear closely aligned in the sky that it’ll look like a double planet. To me, they looked like they were kissing. The last time this happened took place in the Middle Ages. The next time this will happen will be 2080 and then again on 2400.

It’s amazing how when we’re in need of a good omen, especially when we are all experiencing a pandemic, all we have to do is look up at the sky and witness a celestial miracle. Years and decades from now, I can say that in my lifetime, I survived a pandemic but also watched as Jupiter and Saturn could been seen on the cold winter solstice night, seemingly with the naked eye. What a time to be alive!

Christmas at the Grand Canyon // Blogmas #17

Most people tend to visit the majestic Grand Canyon during the summer- where the vast views are unobstructive by snow and rain. Yet, my family decided to visit during winter. The drawback was that many trails and activities were closed and cancelled due to the weather; however, we were able to visit one of the most renowned wonders of the world in such an intimate and unique way. It was like we had the entire park to ourselves.

Lake Tahoe Christmas // Blogmas #19

Yesterday, I wrote about a trip my husband took to Iceland for Christmas. Today, I want to honor my family’s annual trip to the snow- Lake Tahoe.

We live in the Bay Area in California, so we tend to only experience the typical Cali weather, never snow. But if we drive north for about 3 hours, we see snow in South Lake Tahoe.

My mom’s birthday is in early December, so we’ve made it a tradition to drive to Lake Tahoe for a snowy Christmas.

Ironically, since we’ve gone, it seems like every year, we have family from the Philippines as our guests. Two years ago it was my uncle and aunt who had just moved from the Philippines for about 3 months. Last year, our guests was Mel’s cousin who was visiting from Pasig. To see our guests see and experience snow for the first time was definitely a memorable and lasting memory.

In the excitement, we ran out the rented house barely properly dressed just so we could get pictures of snow actually falling.

Iceland for Christmas // Blogmas # 15

A few years ago, for my husband’s birthday, we went to Iceland for two celebrations- his birthday and for Christmas. It was definitely a trip to remember. If you told 5 year old, 15 year old, 25 year old or even 35 year old me that one day I’d be able to visit Iceland, I would have told you – you’re kidding right? I never imagined an Island and Cali girl like myself would visit a country where the sun rises past noon and there’s only about 5 hours of sunlight during the winter. Not only that, but traveling to Iceland is a commitment. We had to fly to NYC then Iceland, roughly 10 hours of travel time. I don’t do well on planes, so this was especially difficult for me,

But once we arrived in Iceland, any qualms I had about the cold, dissipated. The warmth of the Icelandic culture, people and majestic beauty the country offered were utterly alluring.

I will definitely write a longer post that is dedicated to all the things we did. But for now enjoy this picture montage.

Christmas house in the Philippines// Blogmas #14

Yesterday, I posted about a vlog I discovered about a couple of foreigners who were celebrating Christmas in the Philippines. That post got me thinking about Christmases I spent in the Philippines. Thankfully, after my family moved from the Philippines to the United States, we visited as often as we could. My most recent visit was in 2016- for my wedding, but before that was 2014- for Christmas.

It was a wild memory! My parents had just built their house and the furniture that was supposed to be delivered hadn’t arrived yet. According to the shipping company, my parents’ delivery was still at the port. Because there was a backup, there would be no way for them to unload the container until next year. In the meantime, my husband and I were sleeping on an air mattress and the entire family ate in the “dirty kitchen” a term in the Philippines that described the outdoor or separate kitchen where most of the cooking occured because of the smoke and smell. As we approached Christmas Eve my mom was devastated because we were supposed to have a family party, but we had no furniture for the guests.

Then a Christmas miracle happened. As we were eating at a restaurant in Tagaytay, we received a call that the shipping container was on the way. It would arrive in a few hours– about 9:00 PM, on Christmas Eve.

We worked collectively to unload, unpack and move in the furniture for a 5 bedroom house. We unpacked and installed TVs, patio furniture, beds and dressers. I don’t know how we all pulled it off; it was definitely a group effort, and it will be a memory we’ll all share together.

Check out the video here.. the video moving part starts on 5:11

My holiday splurges // Blogmas #10

Yes this is a season for giving, but don’t forget to give to yourself. This year especially required self -TLC, self care and self gratitude. Give yourself props for living through this time. When I think about all that I’ve endured the past 9 months, I’m surprised I’m not clinically depressed or divorced. Shit was definitely trying times, to say the least. I know others had it much worse, but everyone is experiencing challenges , the severity may differ, but that doesn’t take away one’s personal struggles.

We’ve got a few more weeks till the end of the year, why not indulge and spurge a little?

Here is what I plan to do to splurge:

  • Eat cake ( because it’s Jesus’ birthday and because I want to)
  • Give myself a pedicure
  • Paint my nails
  • Go for a hike
  • Buy myself a jacket ( which I already did)
  • Read all morning in bed
  • Buy myself perfume
  • Write poems
  • Take a hot bath
  • Eat taco bell!!!🔥🔥🔥
  • Watercolor
  • Bake and eat cookies

My two – week vacation starts next Friday. Let’s see how much I can check off my list. But then again, I’ll be perfectly content with doing absolutely nothing, except for getting perfume. I just lament the upcoming year with a scent. Something that when I smell it, it’ll make me smile.

Blogmas #8 // Unforgettable Christmas Gifts

Holiday retail in over $700 Billion industry. The average American “will spend nearly $1,050 on holiday gifts, goodies, and travel this year, the National Retail Federation estimates. This is up slightly from last year’s estimate of about $1,000.” Consumerism, especially during the holiday season, continues to rise, yet if I look back on the gifts I received in the past years, not to sound ungrateful, but most of them were given based on obligation, not meaning. A few years ago, my husband and I made the commitment to gift each other with experiences rather than products. So my advice, when it comes to gift giving, is to gift that special person with an experience they will remember forever. Here are some ideas:

  1. a picnic- if you need help arranging this contact Soiree by the Bay. They set up the entire picnic for you, just bring yourself and some food.
  • a class- why not encourage the creative in your life with a class to channel their creative impulse. My favorite places are sfworkshop and verolocal. They offer classes ranging from macrame, painting, cooking, soap, candle, wood working, etc. They even offer digital classes now!
  • cooking – while this falls under the category above, I decided to make this its own category because there’s so many options. Learn how to make sushi, homemade pasta, ramen, thai food, even from the comfort of your home, as many places are offering virtual classes. There are even cooking classes that will deliver the ingredients for you!
  • concert – more and more artists are offering virtual concerts. Justin Beiber is offering a NewYears Eve concert for $25 or free for Tmobile users. Celebs such as Monica and Brandy did a Versus stream on instagram and DJs are streaming on Twitch. Make it even more special by printing out homemade tickets, making concert food like popcorn and nachos and maybe even buy a shirt of the singer. It’ll feel like a real concert! Turn the lights off and flick those lighters!!!
  • virtual trip – pack a bag and go on a virtual trip. Make an itinerary of all the places. monuments you want to see and order cuisine from the place you’re visiting virtually. It you’re visiting Italy, order Italian food and wine. If you’re in Japan, order sushi, if you’re going to NYC, order pizza. Get all these things delivered at home!

Anyone of these experiences will surely be memorable. So before you buy that pair of socks, scarf or piece of jewelry, consider how excited your recipient will be when she/ he opens up your gift and considers the thoughtfulness and time you put to execute it. Remember success is in the details, and with a though-out experience, the details will surely resonate.

Which gift resonates with you?

Blogmas #6 // How to celebrate a birthday in December during a pandemic

December birthdays are sometimes over shadowed, especially if the birthday is close to Christmas. My mom’s birthday in December 7th, weeks before Christmas, but over the years we have kept the tradition of going to the snow for her birthday to make her day feel more special. This year because of COVID, we weren’t able to take our annual trip, but we still made the most of the occasion. Hopefully these are tips that can help you with your December birthday.

  1. Make food or order food that is special for the celebrant

My mom loves fried chicken, so we ordered a bucket of chicken wings, legs and thighs from a local restaurant. You don’t need to have an expensive dinner to show your appreciation for someone. Knowing what they like, whether it’s a particular dessert, drink or appetizer from a restaurant, and having it as a part of the meal can make any person feel special, even it’s something as simple as a chicken wing. My mom loved it!

2. Meaningful gift

Also, a meaningful gift, often not very expensive, can go a long way. For my mom, my sister had the idea of creating a cook book filled with my mom’s recipes. We printed out a cover of what the cookbook would look like and arranged for us to cook with my mom every month to add a recipe to the cookbook. If your celebrant loves to garden maybe give them planting seeds or a framed picture of them in their garden. Or if the birthday person loves music, why not give them virtual music lessons or a dance lessons. If the person loves to read, make them a bookmark or make them a no-sew fleece blanket to wrap themselves up with when they’re reading.

3. Tradition

It may be difficult to get together for the holidays during a pandemic, so a zoom party might be your only option. Keeping traditions going, even virtually, maintains some normalcy and semblance during this time. I’d encourage you to try to incorporate your traditions in the virtual celebration. If you normally eat a cake, try having a cake delivered. If you open gifts, try mailing them or dropping them off. We normally have a cake, so I went out to a special bakery to get a very decadent cake for our dessert. Also, this could also be a time to create new traditions. One that I would like to try is for everyone can share one great memory with the birthday person this year.

Top 8 Christmas Songs // Blogmas #4

Is it me or does anyone else find the classic Christmas songs a little depressing? Sure Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole and Burl Ives can definitely carry a tune, but there are so many more contemporary Christmas songs that have the feel good, Christmas spirit vibes. Below are my top eight:

  1. Sleigh Ride by TLC

2. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays by NSYNC

3. Santa Tell Me by Ariana Grande

4. Christmas in Hollis by RUN DMC

5. O Come Let us Adore Him (feat. Chandler Moore & Jekalyn Carr) – Maverick

6. Joyful Joyful by Choir is Sister Act 2

7. All I want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey

8. This Christmas Live Version from Mary J. Blige

Christmas at the mall// Blogmas #3

This evening I visited a mall for the first time in over a year. My purpose for the visit was to return some gifts I bought online- my preferred method of shopping these days, but I needed to make the returns in person due to sizing. The trip to the mall was actually very somber. On my way there, a former student notified me that she is moving to Las Vegas this weekend with her partner. She’s nearing 30 and moving to LV will allow her and her partner live comfortably. Right now she’s living with her mom and doesn’t want to further depend on her. Although I haven’t seen the student in over 8 years, her news of moving saddened me. We have kept in touch over the years and I even stopped by her prom and high school graduation. We celebrated her 18h birthday together and I visited her when she used to work at a club. One time she called me in desperate need of a ride, so picked her up in Vallejo to take her back to Pittsburg. Recently she invited me to her certification graduation, but I had to decline due to COVID. And I can’t forget about the time, years ago, we went to San Francisco and ate at the Cheesecake Factory. Then we went to Coach where I bought her a small purse as a graduation gift. She also visited me when I lived in Pittsburg then in Hercules. As I said, I haven’t seen her in over 8 years, but there was something comforting knowing she lived in Pittsburg- about 20 miles from where I currently live. Not knowing how to take the news, I told her that I would do a drive -by visit for her going away party on Saturday. I plan to stop by and visit from the safety of my car. I also offered to give her some of my stored furniture – like my dining table, chairs, bar stools and bar cart. It pains me to know that she is moving, but rather than dwell on it, at least I can help her.

While I was in line in the mall, I over heard the person in front of me say that this was his first visit to the mall in over a year. He said that it felt strange, wearing jeans as opposed to sweats, seeing people in person rather than on a screen and that he didn’t realize that baseball hats were two dollars more expensive. The sales person blamed it on COVID. “Business has been slow,” he said as he shrugged his shoulders and bit his lower lip. “I understand” was the other man’s response as he adjusted his face mask. I stood there, feeling more forlorn as I thought about the news of my former student moving, possibly because of COVID and now these strangers in front of me were confessing how COVID had altered their lives- one afraid to be in public, the other afraid of losing his business.

It’s December 3rd. Usually a visit to the mall seems more joyous; you hear Christmas music, take pictures with Santa, have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate as you peruse sales for gift giving. But none of that occurred today. In fact, I think I may have experienced something better. The trip to the mall was a gentle reminder that people are making brave choices all around us- moving during a pandemic , stepping foot in public for the first time , making hard but necessary business decisions, or even me -accepting that a very special person in my life is moving away. It may not feel like the typical Christmas but there are certainly moments of joy and celebration if we look and listen hard enough.

My top five Holiday movies// Blogmas #2

If you’re like me, then this time of the year, nothing sparks the holiday spirit than getting cozy on the couch, sipping on hot chocolate, wearing thick wool socks, putting my hair in a bun and watching a cheesy holiday movie. To me, this is the epitome of relaxation! Watching romance with holiday glee is a recipe for pulling my heart strings. Although the holiday season just started, I was fortunate to get a head start on watching new holiday movies. Below are my top for now:

On the Hallmark Channel

  1. Jingle Bell Bride – I enjoyed this movie because of the leading characters- both people of color. The main character is a work driven Latina New Yorker who unexpectedly finds herself in a small town where the people and relationships inadvertently spark her to reexamine the most important aspects of her life.

2. Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Sweater

When it comes to movies, especially Holiday movies, it’s often difficult to balance romance and comedy; often times, most holiday movies tend to be more romantic than they are funny. What I loved about “Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Sweater” is that it offers the balance of both- love and comedy! Just the title alone is a little obscure and enticing!

On lifetime:

3. The Christmas Aunt

Who doesn’t remember Rudy? I always wondered what happened to Keisha Knight Pullam. I assumed she continued to act, but I pondered if being time casted hindered her from furthering her career. She shined in this movie! Very memorable!!!

4. Feliz NaviDAD

Of course I am not the one to change the channel when Mario Lopez plays a doting single father and a high school principal who also delivers packages on the weekends to make extra money for the holidays. I’m an educator, so I appreciate any movie that offers a small semblance of my life. I may not be a parent, but I know what it’s like to be work with high school kids and be in the need of a second income. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy staring at Lopez’s dimples?!?

5. Merry Liddle Christmas Wedding

I’m watching this tonight, but I already know it’s going to be a home run. Two words: Kelly Roland! If the 1/3 of Destiny’s Child is involved, then chances are it’ll be a success.

I hope you enjoy these movies as much as I did. And let me know any movies you recommend!

Happy holidays!

My Christmas tree is not pinterest worthy

My Christmas tree is not pinterest worthy. It doesn’t have a color coordinated theme or have big cascading ribbons running down it or have vintage ornaments or glass glittered balls. Yet my tree is still very special.

A few years ago my husband and I started the tradition of collecting tree ornaments for all the places we visited. So far we have over 30 pieces which include memories from New York Public Library, Iceland, South Africa, the Oregon Shakespearean festival and even the State capital– Sacramento. However, the most special ornament is the personalized pineapple we purchased in Hawaii. I remember the trip vividly because it was the first time I had visited Hawaii in over 15 years and we were celebrating our two years of marriage. It was 2018 and I had just started a new job, my sister was about 7 months pregnant, and I was planning her baby shower, and Mel and I had just moved into our new condo in South San Francisco. There were many reasons to celebrate that particular year. I can recall all the dishes, places and beaches we enjoyed during that trip in Hawaii, yet every year, when I take out all my Christmas tree ornaments, it the pineapple ornament I enjoy unwrapping and hanging first. I also make sure that I place it in the front center of the tree, eye level to the couch so that when I’m watching TV or relaxing in our living room, it’s within my visual reach with an unobstructed view. Sure, throughout the year, I have the advantage of looking at my digital photos on my phone and reminiscing about our memorable trip, but there’s something about the tradition of holding the ceramic piece in my hand and running my fingers on the scripted engraving and rubbing the smooth edges of the pineapple green leaves and yellow skin that take me back to paradise.

A class with Tony Robles – “The People’s Poet”

Today, I had another great opportunity to take a virtual writing class with Tony Robles,”The People’s Poet”, the author of the poetry and short story collections, Cool Don’t Live Here No More–A letter to San Francisco and Fingerprints of a Hunger Strike. He is the current writer in residence at the Carl Sandburg Historic Home in Flat Rock North Carolina.” More information taken from his website states that “his works have been widely published in anthologies and journals including, Where are you From?, Endangered Species, Your Golden Sun Still Shines, Born and Raised in Frisco and Growing up Filipino Volume II. He was shortlist nominated for Poet Laureate of San Francisco in 2018 and a recipient of the San Francisco Arts Commission Individual Literary Artist Grant in 2018. He is a housing justice advocate and the nephew of the late Filipino-American poet and historian Al Robles.

This is my second class with Tony, and I have to say his classes are life changing. He holds space and provides craft talk while providing ample time to write, share and receive encouragement and feedback. It was a two hour class but because it was so engaging, it felt like 30 minutes.

I’m not a poet; I’m more of a prose writer but, here is one piece I wrote today during class:

Christmas smelled like sizzling garlic and roasted pig

A white ceramic place greeted me – filled with bright greens leaves

cold orange wedges

noodles shaped like the letter S

soft and sinewy, salted with soy and ginger.

Your feet worked in this kitchen

Your belly rested above the plaid waist apron

You pushed the meaty flesh of your skin against the counter,

Pushing the rolling pin covered in white speckled dust like new fallen snow

Christmas movies in October

On top of supporting teachers during distance learning, moving to a new place, occasionally being the moderator for my husband’s twitch show, posting on my blog, I am also taking a class to fulfill my TESOL certificate. Every weekend, I spend about 8-10 hours reading articles and textbooks, watching instructional videos, posting and responding to the class discussion board, and completing tests and writing papers or assignments. At the end of a long work week, although I like learning, the requirements for the class are a bit overwhelming for my schedule. Nevertheless, I’m committed to staying on schedule and taking the classes as they are offered. I started the journey in March and this is my third class. I hope to complete my certification by March 2021.

I usually spend Saturday and Sunday doing my assignments, but this weekend was a little more complicated; I had to complete everything today (Saturday) because I need to focus tomorrow’s time and energy preparing for my reading on Tuesday. I don’t want to be distracted.

When I opened up my computer and saw the long list of assignments I had to do, I was immediately engulfed in panic and stress. There was so much to do! I had to take a test, watch instructional videos, post a comment and respond to two classmates’ comments, read four chapters, and turn in a 4 minute voice recorded assignment. I sat on the couch, and plopped the laptop on my thighs and noticed the time –1:00 PM — and began typing. The next thing I knew, I looked up at it was 5:00 PM. At this point, although it felt irresponsible but at the same time necessary, I took a break– a two hour break! In fact, I actually watched a Hallmark Christmas movie called “Jingle Bell Bride,” and I lOVED it. Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of cheesy, Christmas movies and if they are on Hallmark, even better. When I saw that the Hallmark Holiday movie count down to Christmas started today at 5:00 PM, I had no problem with putting my computer aside and getting hella comfortable with my throw blanket and fluffy pillow. I figured that I had a a strong start, why not celebrate.

Believe it or not, but as soon as the movie finished, two hours later, I went back to working on my assignments. Even my husband looked at my sideways and asked how I can transition so quickly from being cozy to being studious. I told him there was something about the movie that inspired me to keep going.

Who knew that if you ever need to finish a long list of tasks and have impending stress about it, all you need to do is watch a Christmas movie and let it fill you with cheer and hope, knowing that anything is possible, especially when you’re in need of a little bit of Christmas spirit and miracle.

P.S. I highly recommend “The Jingle Bell Bride”. If you want me to post my Hallmark holiday movie recommendations for this year, let me know.

PPS. I completed everything by 9:30 PM today! Hence why I am posting on my blog at 10:15 PM on a Saturday. LOL