Friday, March 30, 2018

Book Review: Love & Gravity

It is a love story that transcends time. A young Andrea is playing the cello when a wall in her room suddenly cracks open to reveal a young boy from another time. She tries recreating this moment several times after that (sometimes successfully, sometimes not), to the point where she questions her sanity. It is only years later when she discovers that the young boy she saw was Isaac Newton – yes, that Newton who discovered the laws of gravity. She then starts to receive letters from Newton, which eventually guides her to more encounters with Newton, which led to her being transported in time to be with Newton himself. 

love & gravity


Love & Gravity is the second book by Samantha Sotto and it is, in my opinion, even better than her first work. I don’t want to say too much about the events of the book, because that would mean revealing things that are best discovered when they are being read. What I can say however is that without visualizing Isaac Newton, I felt that the book was very romantic, and I was rooting for both characters to end up together (as impossible as it may have been). No offense meant to Mr. Newton, but most of the illustrations/paintings of his likeness doesn’t exactly scream romantic lead material. If I were to dwell on the visual in my mind, it wouldn’t be that romantic at all, so I chose to block that from my mind.

As with most stories that involved time travel, it’s best not to get too serious about the laws of time travel or you’d be poking holes at the story at every turn. If you let yourself be drawn to the story itself instead of looking at the logic of things, it is a good story. Dwell on the time and logic bits too much and you’d think it’s a dud. But since I am more of a romantic, I was more the former than the latter. I just wish there was more to show the development of the romance between Andrea and Isaac. I felt like the encounters with each other was not enough to make them fall in love the way they did. Their love felt a little superficial, something that started as an obsession because of their time travel encounters.  I think their love only developed when they were actually together.

I thought it was interesting to imagine a historical character in a more personal light, to see his struggles and his dreams and the kind of personality he had. Yes, it was mostly fictional, but it was still entertaining to imagine since the only thing I know about Newton is about the law of gravity. I surprised myself that I liked the male lead more than the female one. For some reason, I found myself rooting more for the guys in this one. I was not just rooting for Newton but was rooting for Andrea’s best friend Nate too. I know that Andrea, Newton and Nate were a love triangle, but I still found myself rooting for both guys! They both deserved a chance!

My favorite part of the book was the twist at the end. That reveal about the story was also a nice touch, I did not see that coming at all! It was sad, touching and hopeful all at the same time. I think that was what made the book extra-special to me. It was a good way to end the story and tie up loose ends (and gave an ending that satisfied me). 

If you like romantic novels with a touch of time travel and historical fiction, you will enjoy this book. Just do yourself a favor and don’t look at old Isaac Newton photos before reading so you won’t keep picturing the old guy when you’re reading the book!

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

My Thinning Hair Solution

One problem that I had recently has been thinning hair. I think I’ve had hair fall issues my entire life. It was not a big deal back them because my hair was thick and whatever amount of hair fall I had didn’t affect how much hair I had on my head. I don’t know the reason for the hair fall but the thinning hair could either be one or all these things: my thyroid condition, old age (yes, 41 is old for me) or the fact that I often color my hair.

I only realized that my hair was thinning out when my sister colored my hair. She commented that I didn’t seem to have as much hair as I used to. I always wear my hair up in a ponytail or in a bun so I never really paid much attention to it, but I became very self-conscious about it when my sister brought it up. There aren’t any bald spots or anything like that, but when I let my hair down I did see that it wasn’t what it used to be. 

Maybe it is just natural for my age to not have the thick hair that I used to have when I was younger. Maybe it’s just a phase. I don’t know, I never consulted a doctor about it. But like any person who lives in this day and age, I googled it. I went online to look not for reasons but for solutions to my problem. I’ve discovered a fair share of pricey scalp treatments, serums, creams, shampoos and vitamins that are supposed to help with hair fall and thinning hair. There are a lot to choose from, but most of them do not have real-person assurance/experience that this or that product will work. 

Eventually, I tried to look for more natural solutions. I found that Aloe Vera is good for hair growth. That made me think back to the days when I used to watch my grandmother meticulously use Gugo as her shampoo and Aloe Vera as her conditioner. Her hair, until her last breath, was long and beautiful. I figured if my grandmother could have great hair at her age with Aloe Vera, it could work for me. Honestly though, I don’t know the first thing about where to find or how to use the Aloe Vera plant for my hair, so I decided on the next best thing: I went looking for hair products with Aloe Vera.

I searched online and found good reviews for AloeDerma products. I found the products at Watsons: shampoo, conditioner, hair tonic. Both the shampoo and conditioner are sold for P259.00 while the tonic is sold at P249.00 on Watsons’ store in Lazada. I’ve tried all three products at the same time to see if I can maximize the effectiveness of the Aloe Vera. My hair felt good, but the smell of the Aloe Vera was a bit much for me. I decided to pare it down to just shampoo one time, shampoo and conditioner the next, shampoo and tonic for another time, simply tonic or conditioner for one day and so on and so forth. Basically, I mix things up and don’t use everything all at the same time. Sometimes I’d use one or two at the same time but never all three. 

aloederma set


After a few months, my sister colored my hair again and this time, she told me that my hair felt thicker! Take note that she did not even know that I was trying these AloeDerma products when she said that. Suffice to say, I am very happy with my purchase because it did help me with my hair problem. I don’t use the products all the time (like I said, the Aloe Vera smell can sometimes be overwhelming) but when I feel like I’m having a little more hair fall than usual, I make sure to use some AloeDerma for a week or so just to be sure. 

If you have thinning hair or hair fall problems like me, I suggest you give this a try. It’s not that expensive and is very effective. If you can tolerate the smell, it is definitely worth the buy.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Wanted: Cheap Small Air Conditioner

(Reposting an older entry from an earlier version of my blog because someone has been looking for this!)

The holidays are over and summer is just around the corner. I promised myself over the holidays that I would buy a window type air conditioner for my room that the kids can use for the summer when the heat gets unbearable.

Last month I went on a lookout for a cheap, small air conditioner that I could buy. I had a feeling that air conditioning units would be expensive during the summer season so I decided to buy one over the cold holiday season. That decision paid off when I found a .6 HP window type air conditioner from GE. It cost less than P8,000.00!

GE MABE .6HP Air Conditioner
The AC I bought post installation. I think I need some paint for those edges.

There are several factors that helped me decide on the brand and model that I bought for an air conditioner. When purchasing an air conditioning unit for homes one should take these into consideration:

1. Budget

First and foremost, when buying an air conditioning unit, you must consider your budget. How much can you afford to spend? This would affect the brand and model that you can choose from. It would also mean the difference between buying a window type or a split type air conditioner or a unit that has inverter technology which would mean cheaper energy consumption but a higher purchase price.



2. Energy Efficiency Ratio

EERs are usually posted on the units when you go shopping for them. The higher the value the less energy that the unit consumes when you use it. A more expensive unit does not necessarily mean a high EER so make sure to compare EERs before you go for the known and pricier brands.

3. Room Size

Make sure to know the size/measurement of your room before you go out to buy a unit. This includes how many people will be using the room, the amount of sunlight the room gets as well as the ceiling height. Some rooms do not necessarily need a 1HP or more air conditioner. Upon consulting with the sales person at the store I visited, I found out that my room size is just right for a .6 HP unit.


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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Money Saver: Kindle Freebies

I’ve loved reading books for as long as I can remember. Even as a child I loved sitting in a corner and reading until the sun went down. My paternal grandmother would have to turn on the lights for me as I struggled to read with what little light was left from the window in the afternoons. I was that hooked to reading. It can be an expensive hobby/interest, but it is worth it.

When e-books became a thing, I wasn’t sure if it was something that I would be interested in. After all, part of reading the book was the experience of having one. The feel of the pages on your fingers, the smell of a new book, the creases that develop from a well-read one…it’s just a different experience from the eyestrain and the need for gadget charging that is involved with e-books. I remember owning an early-era Kindle, which I eventually bequeathed to my niece when I discovered that I could install Kindle on my phone, along with other apps where I could acquire e-books from. 

Here's a money saving tip: Reading on a device is not always that easy but it does have its advantages. One of them being the freebies. Did you know that you can get selected e-books for free? I discovered that when I saw a tweet from one of my favorite writers who was releasing her book for free for a limited period on Kindle. You would buy it for $0.00, but you needed to do it fast. Once the free period is done, it goes back to its regular price. I discovered that if I was patient enough, I could find these freebies via a search on Twitter when the writers themselves announce it. I love that they do that because I’ve discovered some writers that way. I would get a free book then if I loved his/her work, I would eventually end up buying future books on Kindle or Kobo (which, by the way, has a section devoted to free e-books for you to discover). 

kindle
photo from Free-Photos on pixabay.com 

Most of the writers I love now are writers I discovered through free e-books. A lot of them do not even have books available in bookstores. I wouldn’t have discovered them any other way. I love that there are free books that introduce me to these writers and later direct me to where I can buy their other books. I feel sad that even when there is a legitimate way to get these books, there are some who take advantage of these writers and sell these e-books illegally. The fact that there are people who buy them from non-legal sources is another issue. People, why are you doing this?

Another freebie discovery that I had was that I could buy magazines from Kindle for free on their trial subscription. I’ve downloaded several issues from their trial subscriptions for me to read and browse over to see if I would be interested in subscribing to them on a regular basis. So far, I haven’t subscribed to anything because I haven’t even gotten around to finishing all the magazines that I was able to get for free!

Think about it. You may not have the physical book or magazine, but you can get some of them for free to try them out. That’s something you can’t do with the physical thing. You can’t try out an author’s book or try a weekly magazine for a month. Plus, you are helping the environment by not wasting paper. Although I admit, the energy taken from using a gadget may also be harmful to the environment but still, you know what I mean right?

If you love books and would like to be practical about your purchases, why not try reading free e-books (legally) then take it from there? If you don’t like the book, move on. But if you do, check out the author’s other books on Kindle and Kobo (these are the ones I’ve tried, this is not an endorsement) and try to make a purchase. If that writer does not have anything for free, you can also download samples of the book from Kindle (not sure if that have that on Kobo) or from Audible (audiobooks from Amazon, you can download a free audiobook during a trial period when you sign up). 

I think that’s the best way to go about this. You don’t spend money on a book or writer you wouldn’t like by trying their free work then you can go and buy them when you decide that you do. That’s fair, right?

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Memories of My Childhood Home

I’ve moved around in the last 40 years of my existence. I’ve lived in several places but there is only one place that I still call home: our family home from back in the 80s and 90s in the south of the Metro. I know it’s cliché but there really is no place like home. I grew up there, my formative years were spent there. That was where I dreamed of the person I wanted to be and slowly grew into the person that I have become today. So many memories were made in that house, both good and bad. I will always love and miss that place.



There are so many memories of my childhood home that I will cherish: summers with my cousins. Holidays spent with my father dressing up as Santa Claus. Friends who come over to play and as we grew up, to hang out. Relatives who stayed for vacations, for times when they were in between homes and for times when we all just wanted to be together.

Our home had three bedrooms, each with their own color scheme and code names that only people who lived in our house knew. I think as I grew up each of those rooms had become my bedroom at one point and I made it my own, even if I did share it with a sibling.

The neighborhood where we lived was pretty safe at the time. We could walk around the area without our parents worrying about us. We could take a bike ride to different parts of the neighborhood on our own. We walked to church. We went to the grocery on our own even as kids.

I miss being in that house. To this day, I have dreams of being in that house. It’s like my brain is wired to think of that house as home. When it thinks of home, it doesn’t think of the house I’ve been in now for about a decade, it still thinks of that house with the terrace and the simple garden up front. The house with the large garage that often had a kiddie pool during the summers and a sari-sari store with wheels when we felt like making a little money when there was no school.

Our family slowly moved out of the house in the late 90s. At first it was just my parents and two of my sisters and then I followed. One of my sisters stayed until she moved as well. We started renting out the house but we were disappointed because the tenants ruined the house after they left. I can still remember going around the house after the tenant left and I was so sad because the house didn’t feel like the home that I grew up in anymore. It looked the same but it felt so different. It was like the childhood home memories I had were not associated with that house but with another one that looked like it.

Eventually, we sold the house and bought a new one at the place we are based in now. We finally settled down elsewhere. The sale made everything final and it was sad to think that our life at that home was finally over. A part of me still hoped that we could move back one day, but now that is not going to happen anymore.



I remember one time we passed by the neighborhood and we just stopped for a while in front of the house and looked at it. I know people who saw us would probably think that was weird but we couldn’t help it. The whole thing felt sad and bittersweet. It would never be our home again, I know that. But it was just nice to see it again.

Looking through my old photos made me realize I hardly had photos of those house in its entirety. I mean, we had photos in the house but you can’t really tell what it looked like based on the photos. I wish we could have taken more photos. I wish we could have kept more to remember the times we had there.

I wonder if this house we live in now will ever feel like home. It’s our house, but the feeling I had from our childhood home just isn’t there. I wish I could get that feeling back.
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Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Trike Experience

It’s been 17 years since I moved from Metro Manila to the rural setting that I am based in now here in the province. It has been a big change, but I have adjusted to it fairly well. In fact, I have gotten to the point where if given the opportunity, I would turn down a good job in the city if it meant leaving home and the province that I have become so used to. Life here is simpler, more quiet and peaceful…plus the traffic in our neck of the woods is virtually non-existent.  Who would want to give that up? 

One of the things that has changed in the way I live my life here in the province is my mode of transportation. Back when I was living and working in the city, I was used to taking buses and cabs to go all over the place. Now I take a tricycle to get around town because it takes me to my destination directly compared to a jeepney and it is much more practical to take instead of bringing your own vehicle to and from anywhere around here. Don’t get me wrong, there are still times when you do need to take your own car, ride a bus or a jeepney but those are for longer trips to other cities or municipalities in the province. But for where I’m from, the tricycle will do just fine. 

tricycle


In the years that I’ve experienced riding a tricycle here in the province I have had so many different types of tricycle stories. Here are just some of them:

  • Not all tricycles are created the same. Some have low sidecars – I always need to bend down in my seat because of how low the seat and the ceiling of the sidecar is. I’ve heard people call it the turtle-style sidecar/trike. If you see one, best advice would be not to ride it, especially if you are tall.
  • When I was new at the whole tricycle riding thing, I was a bit scared to flag down a ride since some tricycles around here are not for public transport and I couldn’t tell the difference from the public and privately-owned ones. There was this one tricycle driver who seemed to notice my dilemma and would drive over to me when he sees me walking from a distance so that he could give me a ride. That way I wouldn’t have to flag down anyone. 
  • Even though some tricycles are not for public transport, some of them still give me a ride for the normal fare when there is no other tricycle around. Unfortunately, that sometimes means that I have to sit next to a bucket of fresh sea food or meat or with a bunch of playful little kids on their way to school. 
  • Being overweight, I sometimes joke around with the drivers when they cannot get the tricycle over road humps: “Kuya, nakaka-offend ang tricycle mo!”
  • In my experience, some drivers love to decorate their tricycles, some simply do not have any. I’ve seen one with a photo of his wife painted onto the sidecar. There is one with tags of all these fancy brands hanging on the sidecar’s window. Another one had small stuffed bears. There are a lot with loud, bass-thumping sound systems fitted into the seat and fancy lights around the sidecar – it’s like a party trike at night!
  • I usually take a tricycle to and from work. I’ve done that for the past decade or so like clockwork that I am familiar with most of the drivers – I don’t know their names, but I know their faces. It has gotten to the point that when I take trips for work or when I’m on leave for a long period of time the drivers would comment and ask where I’ve been when I see them again. They know me too well that they know I do not ride at the back of the motorcycle and they drive me straight home without even asking in the afternoons – I had to correct one of them one time when I wasn’t! They were so used to my routine they seem to go on autopilot with me!
  • Some tricycle drivers are like cab drivers. If your destination is too near, they will not give you a ride. You can be standing right in front of them at the waiting area and these drivers would be watching you desperately trying to look for a ride and saying they just can’t take me to where I’m going. The frustrating part is that the other drivers passing by refuse to take me explaining that the same drivers at the waiting area who wouldn’t take me often complain when other tricycles take their passengers, so they can’t give me a ride.  How messed up is that?
  • In our street we have neighbors who drive tricycles for a living. My sister and I jokingly call them our Uber drivers because we can text them and they will come pick us up and take us anywhere we need to go. Considering some of the situations I get myself into when it comes to riding tricycles, this is a good option for us.
  • My favorite memory/experience by far would be an old tricycle driver who, when he was driving me home, stopped several times to let a few schoolkids hitch a ride home. I thought they were just other passengers until I noticed that he was picking up kids walking home from school and when the kids got off, he refused payment. He was just helping the kids out. Considering how long the stretch of road was from the school to where he dropped them off, I thought that it was a generous thing to do considering how little these drivers earn during the day. That was just a touching sight for me to see.

I may have a love-hate relationship with public transport, but I do like that it has given me a slew of experiences that I will not soon forget. Tricycle rides will be a thing that I will be experiencing for years to come given my life here in the province. I may not always like it, but I have gotten used to it. The trike experience is a way of life here and I am going to embrace it.

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Saturday, March 24, 2018

My Guilty Pleasure: Twinings Tea

Most of the people who know me would be aware that I am every bit a coffee girl. I love coffee, mostly when there is no cream on it and just a little bit of sugar. Not having one cup daily is a challenge for me because it feels like the one thing that gives me energy and wakes me up in the morning so that I can start my day right.

Someone once asked me if I would ever switch to tea in the morning instead of coffee. I said no. For me, tea is equated to times when I don’t feel well and my father would make me drink it to help me feel better. I also tend to think of those diet/laxative types of drinks when I think of tea. It’s a weird thought to have but it’s what made me avoid tea for some time. I always thought of tea as just one flavor: the lemon-ish Lipton kind. I wasn’t aware of the other variants/flavors until I had a panic attack and someone brought me some Chamomile Tea.

Since that first taste of flavored tea I’ve had the urge to search for other types to try. This led me to discover the Twinings Tea Collection. I found several variants at a supermarket and decided to try all the available flavors. Out of all the variants that I found on the Twinings website, there were only a few available. I hope that one of these days I could find some of the other flavors from the Twinings selection so that I can try them as well.

English Breakfast


First one I tried was the Twinings English Breakfast Black Tea. It has a strong flavor and while it’s not exactly coffee, it’s something that I prefer to use as an alternative when I need a bit of a strong brew to start my day. My mother and sisters don’t like it as much but then they aren’t coffee drinkers (or should I say addicts) like me so that could be the deciding factor on why one would like this variant or not.

The Twinings Earl Grey Black Tea is the second one that I’ve tried. It’s like the English Breakfast tea, although it is a bit lighter in flavor and seems to have a lemon-ish hint to it. It’s good, but I still prefer English Breakfast to this one.

Twinings Selection


Another strong-flavored tea is the Lemon and Ginger variant. It’s strong in the sense that if you haven’t tried ginger tea in your life, you’d probably want to steer clear of this or just dip the tea bag for a minute then take it out of your cup. The ginger flavor can be a bit overpowering for you if you don’t like it as much. The lemon flavor is there but it’s mostly ginger in my opinion. It’s a good thing to drink when you have a cold though – it’s helped me when I feel like I’m losing my voice or I have a bad cough and cold.


One other variant that I’ve tried that my family doesn’t seem to like is the Chamomile Tea. I love it because it reminds me of the time when I first discovered flavored tea and it really does have a calming and soothing effect when you take it. I think people get a bit put off when they get a whiff of the floral scent and makes them think of perfume when they try it so they say they don’t like it…maybe it’s more of a psychological, associative thing than a reaction to the flavor.

There are still several flavors I haven’t tried from the Twinings Selection. The ones I’d like to try the most would have to be the China Rose, Darjeerling and White Tea.

One thing I haven’t tried with my tea though is mixing it with milk/cream. It’s the same thing with me and coffee – I feel that it’s already a different drink altogether if you mix it with cream. It loses the flavor that I enjoy from it.

I’ll never say never about trying it but for the time being, since I’m still enjoying experimenting with the different flavors, I’ll enjoy tea plain. I’ll take the experience one step at a time. Cream can come much, much later.



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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Confession: I Was (Am) A Fan of Dennis Trillo

It’s rare for me to be big fan of any celebrity. I may like one celeb here and there but no one has ever made me go on the whole “showbiz fan” ride except for one actor: Dennis Trillo.

The first time that I noticed Dennis Trillo was in his role in the move Aishite Masu 1941 back in 2004. I thought his portrayal of Ignacio/Inya was amazing. I was such a fan of his performance that when I learned that he was going to make an appearance at a nearby mall, I had to drag my sister over so that I could have my DVD of the film autographed. I met and befriended a few of his fans from that day and it all just went super crazy from there. Dennis Trillo movies and TV shows became an addiction for me.

I watched Dennis Trillo in Mulawin (TV and movies) and in all the other shows where he was made into all sorts of supernatural or superhero characters, no matter how corny some of the shows may be.

fan pic
First time I met him.

I never imagined that I would be that kind of person who would go to mall shows. I traveled to see him in his personal appearances, although for the most part it was for appearances that were not too far from where I lived. I’ve even been to GMA 7 to watch him on the Sunday afternoon show he was part of. I’ve also been to a show/ mini-concert featuring Dennis and other GMA male stars, I even dragged my co-workers along for that one.

The thing that I like about Dennis Trillo is that he is a truly talented actor. I wish he could be given more projects that show his range and that he could be given more credit for his work. My Husband’s Lover was TV and while I loved his portrayal as the gay lover, I’d love to see him do a role that would be different, because he’s done a challenging gay role already in a movie. I’d love to see him in a movie role again. Something meaty, something challenging for him because I know he’s someone who is capable of doing it.

As a fan, what I like about him is that he has this approach with people not as an actor or celebrity but as a person. He doesn’t have that attitude that some other celebrities have (I’ve experienced my fair share of this when I was working in marketing). He has that realness, that genuine approach to his fans and I really appreciated that.

After a while though the whole fandom thing had to end for me. I was getting older. I was becoming more and more busy with work and family responsibilities. I had health issues that needed to be a priority. He has changed through the years as well. Dennis Trillo now has a son and in what seems to be a very happy relationship with actress Jennylyn Mercado (who I love in the romantic comedies that she does in movies and TV). Life happens. Last time I saw the guy was during his birthday celebration with his fans in 2008. Now that I think about it, that was almost ten years ago. Wow, time really flies huh?

fan pic
Last time I saw him.

Still, I think I can say that I’m still a fan. I may not be able to go to his personal appearances and all that but I’m still a fan. I still follow Dennis Trillo on Instagram, if that counts for anything.

I think he’s one of the more talented actors we have right now, most of the other actors now may be more popular but they do not have the talent that this guy has. I hope to see more from this guy in the future. I’ll be looking forward to it.

fan pic
Ten years is a long time...

Oh and Dennis, if you’re reading this, if you’re ever in my side of the country I hope I can see you again! It’s been too long!

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

My Love for Peanuts Characters

One of my favorite McDonalds memories was when they came out with some Peanuts character merchandise as part of their Happy Meal. I remember pre-ordering the entire set to make sure that I could have all the characters. I’m always on the lookout for where to buy Snoopy stuff (hopefully the affordable kind) so this was something I had to grab while I could. I remember that my sister was so amused at how happy I was that I had the entire set when we picked it up. I know it’s weird and maybe slightly immature for someone my age, but I can’t help it!

Peanuts Collection from the McDonald's Happy Meal

Peanuts comic books and cartoons were one of my favorite memories from my childhood. I remember watching the cartoons on Betamax tapes that my father bought for us kids. Although the lead was Charlie Brown, I remember liking Snoopy and Linus more, two characters who hardly said a word every time (weird considering how much I talk, hahaha). To this day, I think those two are my favorites out of all the Peanuts characters.

The McDonalds Happy Meal Peanuts set was released to promote the movie that came out in 2015. There were several figures in the set: Snoopy (included in five of them), two Charlie Browns (one a bobble head, the other had a pre-recorded voice), Lucy, Schroeder, Peppermint Patty, Woodstock (on his own and with Snoopy), Sally and Linus. A couple of these toys are standing on my desk at the office, while some are on display in my room at home. Both sets never fail to make people stop and tinker with them once they are spotted. I don’t mind it if they do.

I’m glad that Peanuts came out with the movie and that they released all these Peanuts character merchandise to expose a whole new generation of kids to these characters that I’ve known and loved from my childhood. Seeing my nephew playing with the toys and knowing who they are gives us something we can bond on and I love that.

Like I mentioned earlier, Linus and Snoopy are my favorites among the whole gang. However, Lucy also holds a special place in my heart because of a significant memory: the young daughter of one of the people I work with handed me a Peanuts tumbler with Lucy on the top cover when she topped by the office. According to her mom, they went out to watch the movie and her daughter insisted on buying the tumbler for me because she remembered seeing my Peanuts characters on my desk. To this day, I have kept the tumbler and Lucy in my room to remind me of that sweet gesture. That tumbler now holds some colored whiteboard markers that my young nephew loves to use, which is why when he wants to write, he always asks me for Lucy, because he knows she has the markers.

If there is one thing I regret from my Peanuts-loving phase was giving up the entire set of Snoopy stuffed dolls that I collected from McDonalds Happy Meals back when I was in college in the 90s. I remember Snoopy being all these different characters (I distinctly remember that one was a railway engineer) and that I bought them one by one even if it meant a daily dose of fast food.  I used to pile them all on my bed up way after I graduated from college.

I think I gave those dolls up when I gave everything to my little cousin. This was before my family and I were about to move to another home and I didn’t know if I had space to put it in the new house. Now that I think about it, I wish I could have kept those dolls as a souvenir from my college days. I don’t think my cousin even has them anymore since he’s all grown up now too. Oh well.

I wish there was a place where I can buy similar Snoopy dolls. They were just the right size and were stuffed just right (not too stuffed but not too soft either). It would be nice if the other characters were available too, not just Snoopy.

If anyone knows where I can buy affordable Peanuts characters merchandise (like dolls and such), please leave me a message and let me know. I would really appreciate it!

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Custom Cakes from Karenina's

When most people are thinking about custom cakes online or birthday cakes to order or for delivery, several TV shows come to mind. Ace of Cakes, Cake Wars, Cake Boss…all these shows that feature custom cakes that you once thought would be impossible but end up getting made as cakes. 

For me, when I think about custom cakes, I think about my cousin Karen, who has her business called Karenina’s Cakes. 

wedding cake
A Wedding Cake from Karenina's Cakes





I still remember the day when she mentioned that she wanted to take baking classes and that she was enrolling in a TESDA course for it. I even remember the time when she mentioned that she was about to finish the class and they were having their finals, doing some sort of demo or exhibit at a mall to show off their work. That seems just like yesterday and now, she has become such an amazing baker/cake designer and she just blows me away with the work that she does. 

If anyone ever thought that you needed to go to a fancy baking school to become an amazing custom cake maker, my cousin would make you think you thought wrong. TESDA did a good job teaching her and guiding her to do her thing.

Every time she brings a cake that she’s done to our family gatherings, it’s something that is sure to be a hit with everyone. Her cakes seem to get better every time she brings them and from the looks of her social media accounts that feature the cakes that she makes for her customers, practice makes perfect. Her cakes just keep getting better and better.

custom cakes
She makes cupcakes with her cakes too!

These days, she’s very busy designing custom cakes and delivering these cakes to customers who can be from as far as Quezon City (my cousin is from the South) who are more than willing to pay a little extra just so she could be the one to make their cakes. She’s even been featured on several websites about good custom cakes. She has even made some for a couple of celebrities (ordered for them by their family and friends).

custom cakes
Even Bamboo has received a Karenina's Cake!
I am so proud of her – and so happy that there is someone who will one day make me an amazing birthday (or, if it will ever happen, wedding) cake with a design that will make me wish that I don’t have to eat it (because her cakes are not just creative and artistic, they taste good too). Her cakes just look too good to have to slice up and eat (but when you do, there are no regrets).

custom cakes
Street Food Cake

The thing that makes her cakes amazing is that she can make so many different and creative designs depending on the occasion. Her street food cake was featured online because it was unique and looks realistic (and except for the sticks, they are all edible if I am not mistaken). She even made a hamburger cake and it looks like the real deal too!


Whenever I watch those custom cake shows on TV I am always disappointed with how for the most part, the decorative parts of their cakes are non-edible. You see them constructing things with wood, wire and cardboard then covering them up with icing or fondant and passing it off as a cake. Only the base is the cake most of the time in these shows. That’s probably the reason why I love my cousin’s cakes because you can eat the decorative parts too. 

Don’t let the photos I posted here fool you – my cousin Karen also makes cakes that do not have fondant or all those fancy decorations. She makes good normal cakes with the icing and everything (those are the types of cakes she brings when we get together). Personally, as much as I admire the fondant-decorated cakes and cupcakes that she makes, I love it when she gets creative with cakes that involve just icing (and sometimes bits and pieces of chocolates and other candy).

Are you looking for someone to make a custom cake for you or your loved one? Do you need a cake that would stand out? Leave a message with my cousin Karen and let her know that I sent you her way!


*Photos from Karenina's Facebook Page
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Saturday, March 17, 2018

My Attempt at Eggs in Hell

Whenever I poke around on Pinterest I can't help but pay extra attention to recipes that I would like to try. One of those recipes that I saved and tried was Mario Batali's Eggs in Hell.

Eggs in Hell is an egg and vegetable recipe that is based on the North African and Arab meal called Shakshouka. An Arabic word that means mixture, Shakshouka/Eggs in Hell is a mix of eggs cooked in tomato sauce, chili peppers and onions. 

Mario Batali is an American chef (who has had his share of sexual misconduct allegations recently) who shared this recipe on the TV show The Chew. 

The recipe he shared serves four but it can serve more than that since it does include 8 eggs. Here are the ingredients and instructions as shared by Batali (with some changes I made on it):

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion coarsely chopped (some sites say it should be red onion but I used white)
  • 6 cloves garlic thinly sliced (I opted to chop them to small diced pieces)
  • 4 jalapeño peppers seeded and cut into 1/4 inch dice (since I was serving this to kids, I skipped this part since there are already chili flakes in the recipe)
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili flakes 
  • 3 cup basic tomato sauce (I used Del Monte)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/4 grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino (I used store-bought Parmesan Cheese that was already grated)
  • Shredded basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Instructions

  1. Prepare the olive oil on a skillet at medium to high heat. Leave on until it is slightly smoking.
  2. Add the onions, garlic and chili flakes until softened and light brown. 
  3. Place tomato sauce and allow it to boil. Let it simmer then crack eggs one by one into the sauce. Use salt and pepper to taste and cook until eggs are set to preferred consistency (some say it should be more of a poached thing, but I prefer cooking it a little more than that). 
  4. Allow it to cool then serve the meal in the pan and add the cheese and basil on top. 


According to my family (who love and support me no matter what I do), the Eggs in Hell was very good. The kids enjoyed it and I was happy that I made them happy. Still, I know that I could have done better to improve my version of it. 


My version of Eggs in Hell


For one, I'm sure that using a cast iron pan would have made a difference in how the recipe was cooked. Using basil that was fresh instead of slightly wilting (because there wasn't anything else available) would have made a big difference too. It ended up a bit watery and I couldn't chop it properly. Fresh Parmesan would have given it better flavor too. 

Would I try this again? Yes, I would. I'd try to improve on it but I will definitely try it again. If you enjoy tomato-based dishes or eggs in particular, you would probably enjoy this recipe. I'd recommend it since it is a fairly easy thing to cook and takes a very short time to prepare.

I may not like Mario Batali because of the things people are saying about him, but this recipe is pretty good. 
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Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Birthday

I recently celebrated my birthday. It was my 41st. I have gotten to the age where I know women shouldn’t even be saying their age anymore, much less celebrating their birthdays. I know that it seems a bit much but this year, I truly did not feel like celebrating.

Like most of my birthdays lately, I spent the day with my family. Shared meals with them, blew the candle from a cake given by my sister and just stayed home. The following work day I went out with my workmates for coffee to celebrate. As much as I appreciate the fact that people were celebrating with me, I can’t explain it, but I just felt empty. 



Like what I mentioned in an earlier post, this year is the year of change for me. More than anything the way I felt about my birthday cemented that. Things need to change if I feel that my birthdays are no longer worth celebrating and when the day feels empty. 



Obviously, my life needs to change for things not to feel so empty, so repetitive and yes, boring. I know that resolutions usually happen in the new year but I'd like to make an exception. Besides, it's not so much about resolutions but more about things I want to do for myself now that I am a year older:

I need to be excited about what I do with my life on a day to day basis. 


I want a find a job/career that can help me to find that excitement in my life. I need to have a life that I feel passionate about. Something that would make me feel fulfilled. I want a job that is not just a means to an end, not something that makes me feel like a cog in the machine. I want something that I love, something that I am happy to be involved in. I really need to find that this year.

I want to be healthier. 


I want to have more birthdays to come if I am going to shake things up and change the way I live my life. I keep putting off visits to the doctor because of work and family responsibilities. It's time that I take charge of my life and do some self-care. I deserve it.

I need to stop putting in the time for people who do not matter.


You know how it is: there are people that you have in your life who (honestly) you would rather not be involved with. I want to stop trying to please everyone and just live my life. If it means cutting off the negative people in my life, I will do it. Life is too short to waste my time on toxic people who do nothing but make my life miserable. There are far too many other people who are worthy of my time who I should focus on.


I'm at that point in my life where I don't need a lot of money or material things to make me happy. I just want to feel fulfilled, I want to feel healthy and I want to be surrounded with people that I love who also love me back. It's not too big of an ask, but it is a challenge to get.

Hopefully (fingers crossed) next year I can say that I have accomplished these three things that I want for my birthday this year...although if I can look as amazing as Jennifer Lopez at 42 next year that wouldn't hurt too!

These three things needed to happen years ago...maybe this year will be the one for it! I need to make it happen!

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Kate Was Here

Blogging isn't what it used to be. Back in the day they didn't seem like the online magazines that they are now. I used to write about anything and everything under the sun no matter how boring they might be but that doesn't cut it anymore. 

That being said, there are way too many blogs these days for me to follow, compared to the select few I used to back in the day. Sometimes some blogs and "influencers" end up writing about the same thing every time and it gets tiring to follow so I've decided to limit my reading to a select few. Kate Was Here is one of them.



Kate Was Here is a travel blog by Kate Alvarez, a former fashion and beauty editor who is also a model, actress, freelance writer/ journalist and a mental health advocate. If you think you recognize her, it’s because she has been in several TV commercials and print ads as well as some indie movies. 

A fellow Caviteña like me, Kate's blog focuses on her travels and the discoveries she makes along her journey. As someone who does not get to travel often, I like that I can live vicariously through Kate’s blog and (sort of) experience the places she’s been to through her entries.

Her latest set of entries on her trip to Indonesia (when everyone was avoiding it) were good reads. I can’t wait to read about the travel adventures she recently had with other tourists she met during her Indonesia trip!

I love Kate Was Here because it allows me to discover new places without leaving the comfort of my home. It helps me to decide on places to go to whenever I decide to travel. For someone like me who likes to go over reviews and blogs to find out which places are good, this blog is a must-read! 

The blog doesn’t just focus on travel, there are also features on food, beauty and mental health. As someone who has had anxiety issues, it’s good to know that there are people spreading the word about mental health and how to help people suffering from it. I also appreciate the entries about loving her curly hair, which is something that I share with my curly-haired niece to encourage her to embrace her natural looks.

Kate has been blogging since 2009 so there are a lot of entries that you can go through and discover. I like her entries because unlike other blogs, it doesn’t come off as too scripted as other “influencer” blogs. It does feel like someone who was sharing about places and things and writing genuine reviews about it. 

If you enjoy reading about travel or are a fellow mental health advocate like Kate, please check out her blog Kate Was Here. Tell her I sent you!



*Screen Captures from Kate Was Here Blog
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Sunday, March 11, 2018

My Not So Perfect Life (A Review)

I know it’s an old saying but I think more than ever, this is something that applies: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Back in the day this would refer to us not negatively judging someone because of their appearance but today I think it should be the opposite. We shouldn’t accept the beautiful, bright and shiny at face value because in this age of social media, these perfect lives are not so perfect. This is what Sophie Kinsella’s book, My Not So Perfect Life, is all about.



The book centers on Katie, who loves to make her not so perfect life seem perfect through her Instagram feed. She makes an effort to show that her feed is nothing but perfect even when in reality it’s not. It takes her losing her job and moving in with her father and stepmother to finally find a path where she doesn’t need to make her life perfect to realize that her not so perfect life is perfect just the way it is. 

Like most Sophie Kinsella lead characters, Katie is quirky, funny and determined to make a success of herself in the life she chose to lead, even if that did lead her to a path she didn’t expect to take. I loved that she was very relatable, like someone you know personally or someone that reminded people of themselves at some point. I think that is the thing that makes Kinsella’s books so good: her leads are always people you could picture for real. The fact that Katie moved from the city to the farm and found an even better life in the latter reminds me of my own journey from city to provincial life. I think in some ways I also saw myself in her too. 

I don’t want to give too much away about this book because Katie’s journey goes through a lot of twists and turns, often with hilarious results. Safe to say, this book is not just a personal journey story but also a story about work drama, romance, family, friendships and social media. 

Some parts of the book remind me of The Devil Wears Prada in the sense that Katie and her relationship with her boss Demeter appears very Andy and Miranda. Demeter seems as perfect and flawless like Miranda was in The Devil Wears Prada. But, like Miranda, Demeter also reveals in the end that her life is not as flawless as it seemed. It is the relationship of these two women that make up some of the best parts of the book and I love how everything played out for both characters in terms of their growth and their friendship. 

I love that this book isn’t too focused on the romance but I was a little disappointed that the male lead felt a little flat for me. Sure, that wasn’t what the book was about but still it would have been nice for Alex to have more personality apart from who he was in the lives of Demeter and Katie. He just felt like he was there because he had to, just so that there could be a romantic element in the book. 

If there’s anything that you can take away from the book it’s that social media has a profound effect on people and how they see themselves and the rest of the world. There is so much value placed on image and perfection that we fail to see that sometimes the beauty in life can be found in the imperfections and the failures that go along with what real life actually is. 

I’ve always enjoyed reading Sophie Kinsella’s books. This is one of them. She never fails to entertain me!

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Friday, March 9, 2018

My Spotify Time Capsule

Sometime last year I got a notification from Spotify that they had prepared a playlist for me called "Your Time Capsule." I have no idea how they came up with the list since my saved music is a mix of really really old to the latest pop hits. It's creepy to think about how accurate they are with their list! What kind of algorithm do these people have? What more can they find out about me through my music?

photo from Pixabay

Anyway, my list only has 55 songs. I don't know if there is a standard length but that is all I have on mine, but it is a very good list.



I wasn't surprised to see songs from my high school days, particularly New Kids on the Block. I was obsessed with them! Not a big surprise that they are in my list. There were also some grunge and alternative rock songs on the list...while they weren't my favorites, they were music from a particular time in my life. 

There were the usual boy bands that were popular during my college days on the list. I was a little disappointed that there were only a few on it though since I was crazy about Boyzone at the time. 

Gary Valenciano was also on my list, not a shocker since I loved him when I was in college. I remember that I watched one of his concerts back in those days.

The best part of the playlist however were the older songs: songs from the 80s, songs from my childhood, songs that I sang and danced along to as a child. I remember one of my co-workers broke into a smile when he heard Supersonic playing from my phone, referring to it as a major throwback song. 

Among the notable songs on my list are:


  • Step by Step, NKOTB - I almost always do the counting part in my head whenever I hear this!
  • Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go - A song that is such a feel-good song for me. Never fails to cheer me up.
  • Supersonic - This brings back memories of a school bus in grade school, where I sing this along with my bus mates on the way home.
  • Impulsive - For some reason, I just loved this song from the first time I listened to it. It always makes me smile.
  • Crazy For You - I used this song to audition to a singing contest in grade school. I didn't pass but remembering my schoolmates who took the time to encourage me and practiced with me is something I remember to this day.

Music has always been a part of my life because my father brought me up to have an appreciation of it. I am happy that we now have applications like Spotify that help me to listen to the songs I want when I need them the most. 

This Time Capsule playlist is a nostalgic look back into the past for me when I feel the need to relax and destress from my present worries.  I don't play it often, but I do play it when it counts.

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Thomas and Friends Games

My young nephew is a big fan of the Thomas & Friends characters. For some reason, he isn’t interested in superheroes and other cartoon characters, he just loves vehicles and trains in particular. It is because of this interest that I tried to look for Thomas & Friends games and other train games online that he would love. I was looking for something that would be entertaining but would also be educational at the same time – if that was in any way possible.


I’m an android user so I search for the games on Google Play. Most of the Thomas & Friends games that I found were from a company called Budge, and all the games involve add-ons that require payment. I’ve read reviews of people complaining about these expensive additional items but I’ve found that it’s more practical to purchase the add-ons as a set to save on money. I think that the price is still less expensive compared to buying all the Thomas & Friends characters as toys so it’s not that bad.

The first game that I downloaded for my nephew was Thomas & Friends Express. The game involves using the characters to deliver either people or items to the party all around the island of Sodor to Sir Topham Hatt’s party. It’s a simple game where you control the train forward and backward and click on certain items along the way to pick them up. Once all deliveries are made to the party, there are other trains that can be chosen, but you would have to pay for them to use. Otherwise, you can opt to play the game all over again. Considering that this is a game for young children who don’t really see the difference with one delivery from another, it hasn’t been something that I had to buy add-ons for just yet. My nephew is content with just driving the train around and making deliveries until he gets tired of it.

The second game was tried was Gogo Thomas. This has one player and two player games that involve two trains racing against each other on various tracks/locations. The add-ons for this game are the trains that can be used for two player games. I opted for the entire set at less than P550.00. My nephew loves being able to choose the trains that he can play against each other and he hasn’t gotten tired of the game yet so I think the add-on was worth the money. This by far is his favorite. I’ve downloaded another game but he still goes back to this one. I think this is mostly because it doesn’t take too long to complete since it’s a race. The other games involve deliveries and driving around a track that takes a while. Kids have such short attention spans so this was the best game for that.


The last game I downloaded was Thomas & Friends Magic Tracks. This one involved driving the train around a track while slowly setting up the island of Sodor by accomplishing certain tasks. Again, this is a game that you can play for a while before you have to need the add-ons. The island slowly gets certain structures after every accomplishment but you run out of the free structures after several tasks are completed. You need to buy the add-ons to get the rest. We got the complete set and now my nephew is learning to make decisions, learn left and right and other things that the game makes the player do. Of the three this I think is the most educational one – but don’t think that it will teach your child a lot, it’s still mostly a game/form of entertainment.

So far, my nephew is happy with the games. In fact, it’s the first thing that he asks for whenever I let him use my tablet. I’m just hoping that he doesn’t get tired of the games anytime soon since I’ve spent money on the add-ons for two of the games.

Should you download and purchase the add-ons? Not necessarily. I think the games can be played without them. If the child is not a big fan of the Thomas & Friends characters, using the add-ons will not be a big deal anyway. I think that the train games are all OK for kids and I’d recommend them to parents (or aunts like me) who have kids who love trains.

If I were to rate the games as a set, I’d give it four out of five stars. They’re good, entertaining and somewhat educational but they are not life-changing enough to be a five. It’s good but not crazy good, you know what I mean?
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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Living the Hypothyroid Life

It all started 18 years ago. I was in a bathroom at a restaurant when my cousin commented that there seemed to be something protruding from my throat. I didn't notice it before but when I was staring at it in the mirror it did seem that there was a small lump. My mother told me to go and see a doctor, which I did. 

I found out that I was hyperthyroid and the lump on my throat were possibly nodules due to the disease. I took the required tests (T3, T4, TSH) and I took medication that the doctor prescribed until the tests resulted in normal thyroid levels, otherwise known as euthyroid. My doctor then told me that I would be fine.

A cousin of mine told me that thyroid disease is something that you live with for life and that my doctor (an ENT) was wrong about me not having follow up appointments. She recommended her doctor, an endocrinologist who upon seeing my latest tests told me that I didn't have any thyroid disease since my levels were normal.

How was I supposed to know that these doctors would actually be wrong and that I should be on the lookout for it because it comes back?

Years later I again noticed a lump in my throat. I again went to an ENT for treatment and was (again) diagnosed as hyperthyroid. After a few months the lump, the nodules started to feel like they were restricting my airway, particularly when I lie down. The doctor gave me two options, radioactive iodine treatment or surgery. Since I was told that there was a risk of not being able to have a child with the former, I opted for the latter. The nodules were biopsied and thankfully I told that I was cancer-free.

Today I live with less than 1/4 of my thyroid. I have to take thyroid medicine to help my thyroid function properly given how much of it I have left. Thyroid issues can cause the lack of some of the body's essential hormones due to that there are several meds that I take to supplement the additional nutrients that I need.

photo from Pixabay.com

These days I have one of those medicine containers to help me remember which meds to take durig the day, for the morning and the evening. Then I must make sure that I monitor my thyroid levels on a regular basis -- at least every three months. Depending on how I feel, I must have follow-up appointments with my doctor monthly, quarterly or every six months.

photo from Pixabay.com

The thyroid life is not easy. I am now hypothyroid, which means that my metabolism is slow, and this is something that struggle with so much because I am overweight as a result of it. Because of the excess weight I need to monitor my blood sugar and cholesterol, as well as my blood pressure. It’s not fun. It’s a lot of work.

photo from Pixabay.com

My thyroid levels change from time to time so regular tests are a must so that my medicine can be adjusted accordingly. Sometimes I just wish that I didn’t have to have my blood tested so often but that’s something I must do. It’s something that I need to deal with for the rest of my life, along with other thyroid-related issues (fatigue being the worst of it for me).

I’m thankful that I found a website and community of people with the same issues online. It’s good to be able to read stories from people who are dealing with the same thing and finding other ways to cope with this disease.

Life with thyroid disease is not perfect and I admire those who live with it who do not appear to be having any trouble with it at all. I hope I can get to that level of ease with this disease. I'm thinking of shifting to a new doctor soon so I can try a new treatment plan, which wouldn't hurt because things haven't changed for me positively for a while.

Is there anyone out there with the same disease? How do you cope?




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Monday, March 5, 2018

Digital Loss

Last year I kept putting off buying an external hard drive to back up my photos, videos and documents. I thought those things were just too expensive for me and that there was still enough space for my files on my laptop. I had been planning to upload everything on the cloud since I have a cloud account with a large file space but with the way internet speeds are these days, I haven't gotten around to it.

When my year-end bonus came along I decided to finally buy myself that hard drive. A friend of mine said that Seagate was a good brand, so I bought that from Lazada. I was happy because I got it at a discounted price and it was big enough to fit all my files (and then some). It was two days after Christmas when I finally transferred all my files to the new hard drive. The following day I tested the drive and was satisfied that it was working. Still, I did my best to be careful with the drive and kept it in the case it was delivered in and I put it in the bubble wrap-filled envelope it came in.

Imagine my surprise when just two days later it would not work. My laptop could not detect it at all. I asked our office IT guy and I was told that the drive was corrupted. He couldn't explain why since I was very careful with how I handled it, but he said I could not recover anything from the drive anymore. Nothing. Nada. Not a single file.

photo from Pixabay.com

I couldn't breathe. All my files were there. Photos and videos of the family and friends from the last 18 years, including ones that included my father, who had already passed away. Friends have suggested that I return the drive since it had a warranty, but I don't want to. How can I when it has all my personal files/information? That's too much of a risk. It's an identity theft problem waiting to happen!

I know I can report this to Lazada but what's the point, they will probably just ask me to return the drive (which I won't) and give me a replacement (which I will be scared to use). Even if they did pay me for my trouble, it won't bring back the memories that I lost from using the drive I bought from them. There is no price that can make up for that. A friend of mine speculated that the drive might be old stock and said that could affect the quality of the drive (is that true?). Maybe that’s why it was on sale. Note to self: learn to doubt sales, go for quality over the lower price range.

At first, I thought that maybe there's still something I could do. I let someone open the drive (like I said, I don’t care about the warranty) because I was hoping that maybe there was something wrong inside that could be fixed but there wasn't. I got our work IT guy to consult several other technicians and they all said that there was no chance of recovering anything on the drive. Unless someone has a miracle new solution/ technology that could read my drive and transfer my files to a new external hard drive (with me watching to ensure that none of my personal data is copied), I think I will have to accept that this is a loss I cannot fix.

As I said in an earlier post, I’m just going to take this as a message not to look back to the past too much but to move forward and face the future. As the saying goes, there’s no use crying over spilled milk. It is what it is, move on. I can't get over the fact that I lost so much, but I will choose to learn from it.

OK...moving on. From now on this will be my mantra: The cloud is your friend. You can trust the cloud. Anyone else agree with me?
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Sunday, March 4, 2018

My Japanese Aunt

Back when I was a young girl my uncle, who worked at one of the once-popular resorts in Cavite, met and married a Japanese national named Yoko. Looking back, I realize that I don’t even know what her last name was before she married him, just that she was supposedly a model and was at the resort at the time to do a photo shoot when she met and was charmed by my uncle. It is because of her that I can say that our family has a Japanese connection, although that was a long time ago.

family
Tita Yoko with my sisters and cousins in the 90s

My uncle and Tita Yoko got married when at the San Miguel Church in the Malacañang area in the late 80s or early 90s, I am not quite sure of the year. It was a lovely wedding and she was a beautiful bride. My cousins and I were all part of the wedding entourage. I even remember that my hair was in this French braid for the occasion. After the wedding, they settled down in Japan and came over for visits when they could, sometimes even bringing along some of their friends from Japan to stay at our house for vacations.

It was interesting to have her for an aunt because she seemed very shy. Although she spoke some English, I don’t think she did very well and preferred to speak in Japanese. It was my uncle who learned to speak Japanese and spoke on her behalf most of the time. She was always smiling though. I remember that she always smiled.

Tita Yoko seemed friendly enough in spite of the language barrier. Her friends were very nice people too. I remember this lovely older woman who loved to wear very colorful clothes and had this very animated personality who stayed with us for a time. She hardly spoke English either but she was always trying and loved to laugh. I wonder how she is doing now. I don’t even remember her name!

I remember when they were already in Japan my uncle sent me an English-Japanese dictionary and I decided to take it upon myself to write Tita Yoko letters to say hello, using the dictionary to write to her in my broken Japanese. She wrote back and she seemed to appreciate me making the effort. Looking back my letters must have been so difficult to read considering I used sentence construction that was for English and Filipino and just translated my words from the dictionary when Japanese sentence construction was different. Plus, I had a small, thin dictionary – I’m pretty sure that it didn’t have all the right words and I made do with what was there.

After a few years, my uncle and Tita Yoko split up. I was still young at the time and as adults do, they never told us why they split up. I heard that it was because she didn’t want children, but then I also heard that it was hard to have children in Japan, something about it being expensive to do so or something like that. I never asked my uncle about it because it just wasn’t the proper thing to do, but I felt sad as a hopeless romantic to think that their marriage had ended. They seemed like such a lovely couple and I thought they had such a lovely love story, meeting the way they did.

Anyway, my uncle ended up staying in Japan and met someone else and has a daughter with her now. So, obviously, he has moved on. My cousin is a young woman now and although I’ve only met her once, she was very nice although a bit quiet because she only spoke Japanese.

The reason I remembered Tita Yoko recently is because my mother had mentioned in passing that she had already died. I know that she had split up from my uncle decades ago but it still felt sad to hear. After all, she was a part of the family at one point in our lives and she did stay with us when she vacationed when I was younger.

I wonder if she ever remarried after she separated from my uncle. I wonder what kind of life she led after she moved on. Hopefully, she had a good life before she passed.


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