Tuesday, August 21, 2012


In my teens, I hoarded clothes. I didn't really care much for dressing up while I was in high school because we wore our school uniforms most of the time. When we needed to attend a school activity sans the navy-blue-and-white, we followed pretty strict rules on what we should wear - nothing sleeveless and tight.

High school was in the late nineties so most of us wore 'baby tees' - usually from Guess or Artwork (mine were from Osh Kosh B'Gosh), flared jeans and flat strappy leather sandals. We were in these when it wasn't Giordano Classics shirts and Giordano Blues jeans.

In college, there were no rules on what we could wear to school. My university allowed us to attend classes in whatever we could find. I didn't find this as an excuse to be sloppy. Yes, there were days I simply wore shorts and my high school PE shirts, but most of the time, I dressed up. I didn't wear the fanciest stuff to school (I wasn't Miss Fashionista - Ick, that word) but I WAS a bit more spiffy than your regular University of Philippines Diliman student. I even wore make-up on a daily basis. Ask my friends, Maize and Kmae. I wore jackets (my favorite was a red denim one), skirts (really short ones much to the consternation of my friend, Barns), heels. I matched bags with outfits. Moreover, I studied in Manila where there were shops and stores that weren't available in Cebu yet at that time. I fell in love with Mango and Topshop, with Terranova and Zara. My friend, Leslie, and I went to Divisoria and Greenhills at least once per semester. I had accumulated so much clothes that when I flew back to Cebu after college, I had 18 kilos of excess baggage. My clothes and shoes were in boxes.

Now that I'm an adult, I've been more discerning with my clothes. Yes, I still occasionally give in to the trendy, Korea-/Bangkok-made stuff, but I'm glad to see a lot of well-edited classics in my wardrobe too. When I started earning my own money, I knew I had to buy clothes that weren't disposable - stuff that I could mix and match, and stuff that were generally more durable and well-made.

These being said, here are my top ten closet must-haves. Invest in these pieces and you'll get major outfit mileage.

1. a little black dress

LBDs are so versatile. You can dress them up or down. I love the ones from J. Crew the most. The one below is a good example. You can wear it with a bejeweled belt and sky-high heels to a formal event, or beads and flats if you want to be more casual.

photo from lamainaevents.com

2. great-fitting jeans in a good wash

I like darker blues for mine because again, you can dress them up or down. I like the ones from Mango the most even if I have to alter them, length-wise. They're made for much taller women, see. The fit is incredible. I like the semi-skinny styles the most. I have a pair in dark gray too. The ones below are from Madewell.

photo from denimology.com

3. an awesome crisp white button-down

OMG. I love crisp white shirts. They're so clean and fresh, and you can wear them with a black pencil skirt to work, with shorts to go malling or over your bikini at the beach. Mine aren't pricey. They're from Kamiseta and Terranova. The one below is from Pull and Bear.

photo from chictopia.com

4. a tailored blazer

I LOVE tailored blazers. You don' have to stick to basic black. I have a pink one from Ensembles. It's good to start with black, though, because you can pair it with anything. I found some pretty decent ones from Forever 21. The one below is from Mango.

photo from asos.com

5. a good cami

Good camisoles are hard to come by. I like the ones that aren't too thin, they show your undergarments. I have ones in different colors but it's good to start with white. Mine are all from Mango and Forever 21. You can wear camisoles to work with a skirt and a blazer, tucked into shorts with a pretty belt, or with a skirt and a cardigan to lunch or even to a garden wedding.

photo from warrant.priceinspector.co.uk

6. a good trench coat

Yes, I know we live in a tropical country, but hey, we travel, or we work in chilly, airconditioned offices. A good trench is needed. Mine is mid-length, suede and brown. It's from Mango. A good trench coat will keep you fashionably warm. A good color would be beige. The one below is from Zara.

photo from rosiesdailydose.blogspot.com

7. black pumps

The higher, the better. You can never go wrong with these. They can be platform, peeptoe, in patent or suede. They just have to be well-made. Mine are from Charles and Keith and Rustan's U. There are good ones from Aldo and Call It Spring. The ones below are uhm, Christian Louboutin.

photo from boards.weddingbee.com

Aren't they lovely? Aaaaand if you want something that'll take your breath away, here's another pair.

photo from clouboutinshoesusa.com

8. a good watch

I honestly do not know how some people can function without one. I've only went sans a watch on my wedding day. There is a watch out there for any occasion, believe me. Some are very trendy and casual. Some are fashioned like bracelets and cuffs, and some are very sparkly so you can really wear them to very formal occasions. 

I've always worn watches. In elementary, I wore Swatch. In high school, I wore Guess. In college, I wore Anne Klein. Now, I wear Fossil. They're not expensive. They make for good collections. I love them. I am partial to big-faced ones. Please do not buy cheap ones that fall apart after a month. 

If you only want one watch for now, the one below is a good one to get. It's a good everyday watch but you can also wear it to the next wedding you attend.

photo from kaboodle.com

9. a good bag

Something medium-sized that you can wear dressed up or down would be good. I have a favorite one from Bershka. The one below is from Chloe. Le sigh. 

photo from purseblog.com

10. a good basic white shirt

Wear this with a scarf, with colorful thick beads, with piled on strings of pearls, with a statement necklace... The possibilities are endless. Mine are from Mango and Rustan's U. Hanes crewnecks for women are perfect.

photo from hanes.com

So, there you have it. No more hoarding of dirt cheap, disposable, uhm ugly, clothes, okay?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Raising a Reader

I am so happy that my seven-year-old absolutely loves to read. One of the many ways we bond is by reading a story together. When she was younger, I even read to her using different voices for the characters in the book. She found my doing this very enjoyable, if her giggles and rapt attention were any indication. At seven, she reads with impeccable pronunciation and wonderful intonation.

She reminds me so much of me when I was her age. I grew up with my mom reading to me. She read me Dr. Seuss books and stories of Babar the Elephant.

photo from ebay.com

My dad told me stories, too. He didn't use books. We used our imagination. My favorite memories of us were those times we told stories on the hammock we'd put up in the summer. We told stories after lunch with the late afternoon sunlight seeping through the bougainvillea flowers that canopied our white porch. My dad told me so many stories from popular fairy tales to fables. By the time I was seven, we had exhausted them, so we moved on to mythology. I learned about Helen of Troy and Achilles before I turned nine.

My mom never said no to me when I asked her to buy me a book. During my elementary years, she bought me my Sweet Valley Twins books. 

photo from yaketyyaks.com

I really followed the storied adventures and escapades of the Wakefield twins until they became seventh graders. The Unicorn Club series chronicled that. I collected those books, as well.

photo from goodreads.com

I read The Unicorn Club in high school during my freshman and sophomore years. I then began to read the works of Isabel Allende, Antoine de Saint Exupery, Anne Rice, Lucy Maud Montgomery, John Grisham, Mitch Albom, JRR Tolkien, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Roald Dahl, Louisa May Alcott, Anne Frank, CS Lewis, William Shakespeare, James Fenimore Cooper, Amy Tan, Pearl S. Buck, Charles Dickens and Paulo Coelho. 

In college, I read JK Rowling - Harry Potter had just come out, Dan Brown, Arthur Golden, Neil Gaiman, Miguel de Cervantes, Helen Fielding, Franz Kafka, John Steinbeck, Janet Fitch, Mario Puzo, Ethan Hawke, Lewis Carroll, John Updike, Mark Twain, George Orwell, Douglas Adams, Nick Joaquin, Nicholas Sparks (don't judge! I was eighteen), Emily Bronte, Thomas Harris, Jeffrey Eugenides, Sylvia Plath, Kurt Vonnegut, Jane Austen and JD Salinger.

As an adult, I read anything I can get my hands on - from Elizabeth Gilbert to Chuck Palahniuk, from Haruki Murakami to Edith Wharton, from Emily Giffin to Lauren Conrad, from Nicole Richie to George RR Martin, from John Green to Banana Yoshimoto, and from Lauren Weisberger to Candace Bushnell. I also collect coffee table books on fashion and design.

I take my daughter on these book-buying trips. She enjoys going to the book store as much as I do, maybe even more. She makes a beeline to the kids section, browses the shelves, picks up a copy of something that catches her eye and plops down on the carpet. I find her a couple of minutes later, already immersed and lost in the magical world of words.

I am also very happy that her school encourages them to read, and the encouragement is not half-baked and superficial. They have DEARS time - Drop Everything And Read then Share. They have regular story-telling sessions and have blocked time to visit the Reading Room, which is the library for the first to third graders. They even have library cards. My daughter has borrowed several books already. We read them together before bedtime after dinner, bath time and homework.

I hope her love for reading continues to grow. I'm so happy I have someone to grow our family library with!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Love Story

I got pregnant when I was 22 years old. I had graduated from the country's premier university just a mere year and a half ago and there I was: I was about to become a mother at such a young age. I had a job, yes, but was I capable enough of taking care of someone else? Getting knocked up in your twenties is not as traumatic as getting pregnant in your teens. I have friends who got pregnant in their late teens in college while going to school. And while most of them became amazing moms who love their kids more than anything else, they end their colorful stories with stern warnings of not taking that road.

I had so many other questions. Was I ready to become a mom? What will my friends and family say? Should I get married? Does he want to marry me? Should I ask him?

The Boyfriend (before he became The Husband) and I were dating for four months when I got pregnant. My first trimester of pregnancy went by without me really noticing it. It was not unusual for me to skip monthly periods, plus I had conveniently blamed stress for my bouts with nausea and irritability. Because of this, I only learned that I was pregnant in February of 2005. Turned out I had been pregnant since early November of 2004.

To be fair, the Boyfriend was with me all the way. He didn't leave my side, he stood by me, he asked my parents if he could marry me. I was terrified I was going to screw things up by agreeing to get married. He kept assuring me that he wanted to marry me because he loved me and not just because I was with child. He told me that we were going to make it work. He told me that he planned on marrying me anyway. My getting pregnant just speeded that up.

So on April 22, 2005, the Boyfriend officially became the Husband in a civil wedding ceremony at the Cebu Palace of Justice. With our immediate family and close friends, we took our vows in front of a somewhat impatient judge. We exchanged P2000-peso white gold bands - the only ones we could afford at that time.

signing papers

standing before the judge during my 6th month of pregnancy

We had lunch after at our favorite Chinese restaurant, Big Mao. That night, I moved into the Husband's old room at his parents' house where we would stay for the next five years.

I look back on our love story and I am well aware that it's not of the fairy tale variety. There were no heartfelt proposals, no romantic engagements. I am genuinely thrilled when my good friends go through the whole shebang of dating exclusively, getting engaged, planning a wedding, having a baby... When I know that that's what they want and they get it, I am absolutely happy for them. We didn't get that but that's perfectly okay. 

Our love story might be unconventional but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Life Aquatic

Bikinis are one of those things I don't just buy. I used to buy random ones from just anywhere. I didn't really set standards and I wasn't very discriminating. I used to purchase swim wear outright when a.) the prints are cute or b.) the prints are cute.

I didn't care if it fit right, if it was durable, if it provided support, the whole nine yards. If it was cute and I fit in it albeit awkwardly, I'd snap it up. I'd figured I could make do. However, the constant adjusting and tugging became too much. I then made the decision to invest in good swim wear. 

My friends know how much I love the beach. My friend, Arvy, once told me that I'm one of those people who, when they go to the beach, they really lap it up. True, I don't just put on a suit, pose by the water, and snap photos. I swim, I snorkel, I run up and down the shore, I jump off boats. In short, I don't go there to look cute. My bikinis have to be able to keep up with me.

Friends, meet half of my swim wear collection.

I cannot resist a good bikini. Most of mine are from Billabong and Roxy. I've ones from Wahine, Exhilaration, O'Neill, Rip Curl and Aztec Rose. I have local stuff too - ones I've bought from Nothing But Water and Sassa. The latter has good one-pieces. I want to buy from Stoked but nothing from them has caught my fancy yet. I would love to buy one of their rash guards, though. 

When it comes to style, I favor straightforward low-rise bikinis with triangle tops. There was one summer (was it last year's?) when cut-out maillots were all the rage, but I think I would like to tan evenly, thankyouverymuch. I also found them intimidating to put on, what with all the straps and bands. The summer of 2012 saw the rise in popularity of high-waist bikinis - clearly, an ode to sixties fashion. I found them cute. On other people. 

Some girls like more coverage so they wear bikini bottoms which are styled as boy shorts. I seldom get self-conscious at the beach - even if my figure is less than perfect, but when I do get a little shy (this happens when I'm surrounded by early twenty-somethings with long, lithe, slender frames --- UGH), then I wear board shorts over my bikini bottoms. 

I have awesome memories of my trips to the beach. My bikinis have been with me all the way.

Malapascua Island in Billabong

Alcoy in Roxy

Tambuli Beach on Mactan Island in Billabong with my little one

Sumilon Island in Billabong again

Radisson Blu pool in Billabong with my equally aquatic husband and daughter

Clearly, my bikinis and I have a special bond. I even wear them under my clothes when I run out of proper underwear. I want to buy a tube/strapless black one-piece soon. I plan to wear it with a floral maxi skirt and thong sandals. I'll let you know how that goes. 

In the meantime, happy Monday, world!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ethan Hawke

When I was in high school in STC, I was known to be the hugest Ethan Hawke fan. Any one who hit puberty when the film Reality Bites came out would understand because Ethan Hawke as adorable Troy Dyer was simply irresistible. Reality Bites came out in 1994 while I was in fifth grade, but I fully got to appreciate it when I was in my early teens.

photo from pinartarhan.com

The movie had an awesome soundtrack (hello, The Knack's My Sharona) so that, in itself, already makes it a winner. Ethan Hawke in it was this brooding, sexy, intellectual musician with the killer eyes. Oh, be still my 14-year-old heart.

photo from scaredstiffreviews.com

photo from gothamist.com

To say I was obsessed with Ethan Hawke is an understatement. I memorized lines from his films. I didn't do it deliberately. I watched his movies over and over so naturally, I learned the lines. Memorizing Reality Bites was an easy feat because the sarcasm-laden witty lines made for naturally quotable quotes. I collected photos of him and lovingly placed them in my green photo album. I did it the old-fashioned way too, because I didn't use the WWW when I was fourteen. I had to scour teen magazines like Teen Beat and YM to look for these pictures. Also, when I was in high school, I subscribed to Seventeen US. Well, actually, my godmother in the States did for me and she sent the magazines to me by courier. This helped immensely in my quest to collect anything Ethan-related. I had posters of him - which weirdly enough, I didn't put up so I simply kept them - and I pored over every article written about him. 

I also wrote to him. Uh-huh, I did. I wrote to him twice. He wrote back. Twice. He wrote on postcards with his photo on them and he signed them. At the back, for the first postcard, I remember he wrote something like, "Thank you for your support", and for the second one, he wrote "I appreciate your support." I still have the second postcard somewhere. I lost the first one because I must've brought it to school and it got passed around and I never got it back. I remember receiving those postcards in the mail. I had screamed and jumped around, and my mom had thought I was crazy.

Not a lot of people know that Ethan Hawke is not just a film actor. He is a theater actor, screenwriter, director - he directed Lisa Loeb's Stay video, a basketball aficionado - I remember he was a big John Starks of the New York Knicks fan, and a novelist. I have both his books: The Hottest State (1997) and Ash Wednesday (2002) . When the second novel came out, my friend, who also worshiped Ethan, was in LA when he did a reading at a bookstore. She bought his book for both of us, stood in line and had Ethan sign one for me. He wrote my (real) name! He wrote: To Krst'll. When my friend surprised me with it, I was over the moon.

Ethan Hawke, to this day, remains to be one of my favorite actors. I love his choice of films. He has been nominated for an Oscar twice. Here are my top ten favorite Ethan Hawke films. I won't include Reality Bites because I have already established how much I loved it. Take heed, however, that I won't anymore go into too much detail about what these films that I'm going to include in the list are all about. The fun is in the discovering or the re-discovering, whichever is the case for you.

1. Dead Poets Society 
A very young Ethan stars here. Quoting Invictus has never looked this good, in a very sexy, cerebral manner.

photo from nitasmoviediary.wordpress.com

2. Great Expectations
A pretty good film adaptation of one of my favorite books

Ethan and Gwyneth Paltrow star. Everyone loved that water fountain scene.

photo from 2guys1movie.com

3. Gattaca
Ethan does futuristic. He stars with Uma Thurman and Jude Law in this. I loved how inspiring this film is.

photo by biopoliticaltimes.org

4. Alive
Ethan in a survival-of-the-fittest situation. In the Andes mountains.

photo from community.flixster.com

5. White Fang
Ethan was in a Disney movie. Yes. He was Jack London. I loved the adventure feel of this.

photo from hallmarkmoviechannel.com

6. Before Sunrise aaaand Before Sunset
I know, I know. Technically, they're two films but one is a sequel to the other so they're counted as one. 

OMG. Watch these films. Ethan and Julie Delpy have amazing chemistry. For someone whose love story was founded on conversation, I can definitely relate. 

Before Sunrise
photo from ttcritic.wordpress.com

Before Sunset
photo from nonamemovieblog.wordpress.com

7. The Newton Boys
Ethan as a bank robber. He stars in this film with Matthew McConaughey and Skeet Ulrich. Fun film.

photo from infoplease.com

8. Training Day
The film that earned Ethan an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor

I love this to bits. It's intense and fast and feels so real. Ethans stars in this with Denzel Washington.

photo from swotti.starmedia.com

9. Fast Food Nation
Ethan stars in an all-star cast which includes Greg Kinnear, Patricia Arquette and Kris Kristofferson. A controversial and critically-acclaimed film. I love it.

photo from the cinemasource.com

10. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
A very gritty film

Ethan stars with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Marisa Tomei.

photo from livingincinema.com

There you have it. When you've watched these films, give me a call. We'll talk and swoon and heap praises on this very talented man's formidable acting chops. I'll also show you my high school yearbook wherein I was described as, not just intelligent and fun, but as 'the future Mrs. Ethan Hawke.' Ha!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What Fancy Nancy Taught Me

My daughter discovered Fancy Nancy early last year while browsing the shelves of one of our favorite bookstores, Fullybooked. She loved the illustrations and the fact that the lead character, Nancy Clancy, liked all things fancy. Nancy's goal in life is to live it in the most colorful and resplendent way possible. I love her, too. The girl is overflowing with joie de vivre. And yes, she loves all things French and is a bona fide xenophile. Also, as a communication trainer, I love how the Fancy Nancy series helps my little one expand her vocabulary because now, she likes to use fancy words like exquisite and glamorous.

photo from carmenwiki.osu.edu

My seven-year-old already has around ten Fancy Nancy books. The husband and I never say no when she asks us to buy her one. She also asked for Fancy Nancy books for her birthday and her aunt, my sister, and her godmothers were more than happy to comply to add to her collection.

I also have fun reading them. The stories are very endearing and here are five things I've learned from Fancy Nancy:

1. that one must always - ALWAYS - dress up
Life is too short to be drab.

photo from thechildrensbookreview.com

2. that one must always be interested and curious
Our curly-haired heroine loves to read, loves to ask questions and one of her favorite things to do is to go exploring.

photo from joyfulmusicanddance.com

3. that there's always a reason to celebrate - to throw a party or just to have tea

photo from squidoo.com

4. that friends are awesome
Nancy' best friends are her pet dog, Frenchy, Bree and Mrs. Devine, her fancy neighbor

Nancy and Bree
photo from squidoo.com

5. that family, no matter, how different they are from each other, will always be family
Nancy always laments how difficult it is to be the only fancy one in her family. She thinks her parents and her sister, Jojo, are too plain. Despite this, she loves them fiercely and loves spending time with them.

Nancy and Jojo
photo from enochfamily.com

Nancy really makes me smile. Reading about her escapades with my daughter is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world. I've been feeling a bit lackluster as of late. I didn't know that all I needed was a dose of fancy. So here's to living life with a little more zest and exuberance, although I may have to leave the feather boa and tiara behind at home!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I Play Nice

photo from weheartit.com

I believe that your being and your person can only be trampled upon if you allow it. Today, I stood up for myself. I did it firmly and calmly. You lose your point, no matter how valid; not to mention your dignity, when you are rude.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Birthday Weekend

My daughter's birthday is on August 3rd. I had filed for a leave from work to spend it with her. I did so way in advance because I make sure to never miss it - whether it falls on a work week or not. I was training a class that started on July 23rd. With my Manila manager's permission, I held classes on July 28th so I may graduate my two-week long training on August 2nd. She readily agreed. The Husband was also allowed to go on leave from work. Everything was going as planned but on Wednesday night, my daughter started coughing and sniffling. There was a cold and the flu going around. Naturally, I was scared she would get super sick on her birthday so I made her stay home on Thursday. I went to work on that day because, like I've mentioned, it was my class' graduation day. However, I had to leave early because I got word that she was refusing to rest and take her medicine. The weather was being uncooperative, so I knew I had to keep a close eye on her and not just delegate her care to her nanny, lest her health suffer. By Friday, the morning of her birthday, she was okay and was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, so to speak. Things were good to go.

The Husband and I had planned on throwing her three mini celebrations all throughout the weekend to mark her seventh birthday. Friday was for her carpool-mates. She went to school in the morning while her dad and I bought several boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts after lunch. We brought them to school when classes were over and she shared them with her friends from the carpool. She's the youngest one in the carpool and she gets treated as the baby of the group. The girls had so much fun and they enjoyed the sweet treats.

making the rounds and giving out KKs

sweet toothed-girls

Look at the birthday girl in her little Krispy Kreme paper hat! One of her carpool-mates whipped out her Instax Mini and the husband took a photo of all of them with it. After that, she gave the picture to the birthday girl as a present. How sweet!

Saturday was for her classmates and friends. We threw her a Disney Princesses-themed McDonald's party at J Center. She wore a pink tiered dress from her grandparents - my mom and dad -, white stockings, and pink glitter maryjanes. It was a fun party. It would've been perfect if the staff were more organized and better prepared. They weren't and I made sure to write my comments down on the survey form they gave me after the party. I don't want to dwell on the misses because our guests made the party a surefire hit. The cake was Fancy Nancy-themed, care of The Cupcake Theory. Everyone had a blast.

birthday girl with birthday cake

us three

Sunday was for family and some of the birthday girl's godparents. We had lunch at Siam Thai Cuisine. The restaurant is a family favorite. The food is always superb and the service is great. 

happy because she got a Fullybooked gift card for a present

We are family.

That pretty much wrapped up our not-so-little-one's birthday celebrations. Look at her making double peace signs above with a goofy grin on her face. We're happy we made her very happy for her seventh birthday.

Her dad and I wish her good health, and a long, happy, fulfilling life. Happy birthday, babycakes. ♥ We love you!